Saturday, May 04, 2013

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Loss Of Government Jobs Is Holding Back The Economy

The latest jobs report was welcomed news with unemployment down to 7.5% and 165,000 new jobs.  In addition, the lack luster figures for the two prior months were sharply adjusted upward.  But despite this good news, continued cuts in government employment is undermining the private sector gains.  Also creating further drag on the economy are sequester cuts which in this area are hitting families with 20% pay cuts even as their built in expenses are at their old levels.  We have personal friends suffering this experience right now.  The ultimate irony from it all is that GOP demagogues accuse Obama of being a big spender while it was their moron president George Bush who blew the nation's budget.  A piece in Think Progress looks what the loss of government jobs is doing to the over all economy.  Here are article highlights:

The jobs report out this morning was full of good news: unemployment fell to 7.5 percent as the economy added 165,000 jobs, while big upward revisions to the past two months’ jobs numbers were added. The private sector carried those figures, adding 176,000 jobs in April. Yet the number was dragged down by the loss of 11,000 public sector jobs.

This has been a steadily recurring trend with each monthly jobs report: even when the private sector adds a solid number of jobs, the overall figure is pulled down by losses in the public sector. 741,000 jobs have been lost in the government sector since the beginning of the recovery period in June 2009, with 89,000 gone since this time last year. 

Overall, the government has shed 718,000 net jobs since President Obama took office. While often accused of bloating the government, the trends show exactly the opposite: Obama has overseen a sharp decline in public sector payrolls as compared to his predecessor President George W. Bush, as can be seen in this chart [see chart above] from Calculated Risk.

While government workers have been maligned as lazy paper pushers, many of them perform vital work that benefits their communities. Take, for example, the loss in teaching jobs. “Local government education” jobs, or in other words teachers, dropped by 1,500 last month and have declined by 355,500 since the recovery began.  

The drop in public spending and, in turn, public employment has had big consequences for the recovery. If public sector rolls hadn’t been shrinking so steadily, the unemployment rate would likely be a full percentage point lower. The furloughs and potential job losses from sequestration cuts don’t even show up in these numbers. When the full pain of those cuts is felt later in the year, the trend may look even worse.

The Republicans keep touting austerity but somehow never seem to understand - perhaps they simply don't care - that real lives and real American families are being harmed. Meanwhile, of course, the rich are getting richer.

The Trouble With Ted Cruz

In my view, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas personifies much of what wrong with today's Republican Party.  Like Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli here in Virginia, Cruz isn't stupid.  Rather he's just plain crazy - and arrogant and abrasive as well while he spouts his batshitery.  Also, like Cuccinelli, he seems to be having a mad passionate love affair with himself.  It's all about him.  Of course, the fact that he bears an frightening resemblance to the infamous Joe McCarthy doesn't help matters either.  While the most insane elements of the far right love him, Cruz seems to rub even some of the Kool-Aid crowd the wrong way.  Perhaps they haven't drunk enough Kool-Aid.  David Frum take Cruz apart in a column in The Daily Beast.  Here are highlights:

Ted Cruz is brilliantly positioning himself to run in 2016 as the true leader of the party's conservative wing: a Spanish-surnamed Princeton grad and Harvard lawyer who checks all the ideological boxes, who stood apart from the Gang of Eight immigration deal and by the general weirdness of the Paul family's conspiracy-mongering.

Yet … there is something about him that even the hardest-liners just cannot accept. First Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post and now today Kimberley Strassel in the Wall Street Journal have each thrown their full weight at the Texas senator.

[D]isagree with Mr. Cruz on his filibuster strategy, and you are a "squish." Take a different line from the Club for Growth on pre-existing conditions (or any of its poorly vetted Senate candidates), and you are "the establishment." Think slightly different than Jim DeMint—now at Heritage, serving as maestro of the rebel orchestra—and you are not "conservative." These terms are used with great calculation. Take our orders, or we will brand you a RINO in a primary.

These days, the squishes apparently include groups like Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks, which supported the pre-existing conditions bill. They include rock-ribbed conservatives like Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, who did not join the gun filibuster threat—issued before the bill was written. "I've done more filibusters than Rand Paul is old," said Mr. Coburn at the time—adding that his rule is to first read what he's filibustering.
Yet seriously there cannot be any doubt about Ted Cruz's "smarts." He's just smart for different ends - his own ends. It's this that rubs so many conservatives the wrong way, and that may yet prove Cruz's undoing. A little while ago I asked a Texas conservative I know to unpack the antipathy aroused by Cruz. He recently returned from a Cruz fundraiser to fire off the below e-mail:

Ted Cruz was just a lawyer until 20 minutes ago, and a nerdy one at that. He was a high school debater, and essentially still is. He has no military, business, or government experience. And now he's being feted as Cicero even though his speeches are mostly banal broadsides against Barry, Janet Napolitano, and Big Government. He has no legislative accomplishments, but "bold leadership" now is bragging to your friends that you called all of your Senate GOP colleagues "squishes" to their faces. He made an ass out of himself by trying to cross-examine Diane Feinstein, trying to trap her into saying that the Bill of Rights only applies to some people, but she ate his lunch. Still, he's Cicero.

But more than anything, he's of the Jim DeMint/Mark Sanford mold of "movement conservatives" strangely uninterested in actually legislating. They like to think that they're speaking truth to power in government, when in reality they are just pundits who rail against the feds while they and their staffs are receiving nice government paychecks. Say what you will about Rush Limbaugh, but he pays his own bills.
Perhaps there is hope for Texas yet.  I don't like Cruz.  Like Cuccinelli, he's dangerous and needs to be beat down and discredited.   The sooner the better.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Homophobia In the Locker Room

T.J. Graham (Buffalo Bills)
But for the harm they do to others, the macho types who seemingly need to prove their own manliness - usually to themselves, first and foremost - by wanton displays of homophobia.  I have yet to meet a straight man who is comfortable with his own sexuality who needs to use displays of homophobia to bolster his own sense of adequacy and normality.  Yes, Jason Collins has come out, but we continue to see display of homophobia from assholes like Atlanta Falcons corner back Asante Samuel who had to whine about Collins "flaunting" is sexuality.  As if the straight pro athletes don't flaunt theirs.  An op-ed in the Washington Post by Patrick Burke, the a founder of the You Can Play Project and a scout with the Philadelphia Flyers, looks at the continuing problem of players like Samuel.  Here are highlights:

In the same week that much of the country was congratulating Washington Wizards center Jason Collins for coming out as the first openly gay male athlete on a major league sports team, I met with a National Hockey League player about why tweeting “no homo” is unacceptable, and I addressed a Major League Soccer team whose player had taunted an opponent with an anti-gay slur.

While many sports fans were shocked by the ignorance of Miami Dolphin Mike Wallace, who questioned, right after Collins came out, why any man would be gay when there are “all these beautiful women in the world,” I just sighed. Wallace’s question wouldn’t even make the top 10 list of ignorant things I’ve been asked by professional athletes in the past year.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled for Collins. As a straight guy, I can’t imagine how free he must feel to start living on his own terms. I also have huge admiration for what he is doing. He’s both a role model and a reference point for understanding what it can mean to be gay.

What Collins is not, unfortunately, is a sign that professional sports have gotten over their confusion and concern about gay athletes.

People talk a lot about the testosterone-fueled culture of sports, but I think this problem has more to do with insularity. .   .   .   . male athletes end up being behind in their sexuality education.

[My late younger brother] Brendan was patient with me, answered my stupid questions and got me to see the locker room through his eyes. He helped me realize what anti-gay slurs, tossed around casually, sound like to a closeted athlete. He helped me appreciate how much focus and energy it takes to hide who you are.

The questions [from straight athletes], too, are remarkably similar from one place to the next. The most common one I hear: “Will he look at me in the shower?” I say no. After that, it’s often: “I’m Christian. How do I deal with this?” I suggest that treating those around you with respect is a central tenet of Christianity. The hope is that providing a space to ask questions will clear up the confusion and alleviate the concerns.

I also always speak alongside a LGBT athlete, so that the voices most affected can help drive the discussion and so that it’s not so abstract. Players may think they don’t want a gay teammate. But if they see someone who is a great athlete and fun to hang out with — and who happens to be gay — they might change their minds.

The sports world is about as politically incorrect as you can get, and it always will be. Collins’s teammates will make fun of him for being gay. And that’s a good thing. If his teammates weren’t cracking jokes at his expense, that would mean they were uncomfortable about his coming out and felt the topic was off-limits. The usual banter is much better than silence.

But the key is understanding the difference between joking that reinforces team bonding and language that offends. Until that’s clear, I’ll keep going from going from city to city, team to team, league to league, making the long walk down the locker room hallway to a roomful of athletes with questions. I’ll fight to be patient, no matter how absurd the questions may seem.

Kudos to Burke and his efforts to end homophobia.


Religious Based Ignorance Stifling Climate Change Action in U.S.A.

Hatteras Island looking north from Buxton
UPDATED:The May 5, 2013, Virginian Pilot has a lengthy article on what rising sea levels are doing to North Carolina's Outer Banks.  Unfortunately, the North Carolina GOP refuses to have any discussion about climate change and global warming.

Our home in 2009 - the entire block and many other parts of the neighborhood were flooded

As yet more evidence that fundamentalist Christianity and the embrace of ignorance that goes with it constitutes a threat to America's future and security, a new study has found that fundamentalism and belief in the "end times" is preventing America from taking much needed action on climate change.  Here in Virginia and GOP controlled North Carolina where rising sea levels and the increasing intensity and frequency of tropical storms is a very real problem, the Christianist controlled Republican continue to refuse to admit that global warming and the related sea level rises and storms is even happening.  It's lunacy and dangerous public policy, especially for those of us who live in coastal areas.  Here in Tidewater Virginia, coastal flooding is a growing problem and we've had four serious storms and flooding in the last 10 years.  An article in The Raw Story looks at the study findings:
The United States has failed to take action to mitigate climate change thanks in part to the large number of religious Americans who believe the world has a set expiration date.

Research by David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado uncovered that belief in the biblical end-times was a motivating factor behind resistance to curbing climate change.

“[T]he fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them,” Barker and Bearce wrote in their study, which will be published in the June issue of Political Science Quarterly.

“[I]t stands to reason that most nonbelievers would support preserving the Earth for future generations, but that end-times believers would rationally perceive such efforts to be ultimately futile, and hence ill-advised,” Barker and Bearce explained.

That very sentiment has been expressed by federal legislators. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said in 2010 that he opposed action on climate change because “the Earth will end only when God declares it to be over.” He is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.

Though the two researchers cautioned their study was not intended to predict future policy outcomes, they said their study suggested it was unlikely the United States would take action on climate change while so many Americans, particularly Republicans, believed in the coming end-times.

“That is, because of institutions such as the Electoral College, the winner-take-all representation mechanism, and the Senate filibuster, as well as the geographic distribution of partisanship to modern partisan polarization, minority interests often successfully block majority preferences,”

To these religious zealots, the writings of unknown, uneducated and ignorant nomads and herders trump modern scientific knowledge and the objective evidence that we see all around us.   What's amazing is that these same folks ridicule and condemn fundamentalist Muslims for the same knowing embrace of ignorance of which they themselves are guilty.  They are a menace plain and simple.

As for the picture of our home, it was built in 1958.  Yet the serious flooding issues have only arisen in the last 10 years.  Obviously, something is happening whether the cretinous Christofascists want to admit it or not.  I'm sorry, but religious belief has no place in the civil laws or in public policy.

American Christian Zealots Are Fighting Back Against Gay Rights—Abroad

Despite their best efforts and expenditure of millions of dollars in America, the ever growing support for gay rights and gay marriage in particular indicates that American Christofascists are losing the cultural war.  And their loses will only get worse as more of their aging, angry white power base literally dies off.  So what do do you do if you are a gay hating religious fanatic?   You export hatred abroad to places where your message of hate is an easier sell.  No place better represents such fertile ground than Africa where there are large ignorant populations and corrupt and dysfunctional governments only too happy to accept Christofascist money and use the supposed threat of gays as a distraction from the utter hell hole status of their respective countries.  Uganda is perhaps most often mentioned of these countries, but pretty much all of sub-Sahara Africa qualifies with the exception of South Africa.   For example, Ethiopia is reportedly considering instituting a death penalty for homosexuality:
An anti-gay organisation says it is hopeful a death penalty for homosexuals will soon be introduced in Ethiopia.  United For Life Ethiopia, a Western Evangelical Christian organisation which receives funding from the UK and the US, last week held a workshop to discuss the social “evils” and “disastrous” effects of homosexuality in the country, Egypt-based Bikya News reported.

Gay Star News reports the presence of a member of the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality (EICAH), who apparently told participants homosexuality “is a result of inappropriate upbringing, identity crisis and moral decay.”

It adds: “At the conclusion of the workshop, the EICAH representative stated that the council is ‘making progress’ in convincing the government to be stricter on homosexuality and introduce the death penalty to punish ‘such acts’.”
A lengthy article in The Economist looks at the large picture of the efforts of the American Christofascists to export anti-gay hate and violence.  And parts of the former Soviet Union and Central America have likewise been targeted fro the exporting of anti-gay hate.   It's ugly, but then conservative Christianity is an ugly religion separated from Islamic extremism only by a matter of degrees.  Both are hate and fear based at their core.  Here are article highlights:

As gay rights advance in the West—France and New Zealand are the latest countries to legalise same-sex marriage—homophobia is on the rise elsewhere. But these apparently contradictory trends may be related. Confounded at home, a crusading squad of American conservative Christians are taking the fight abroad.

In an unusual case, brought under the Alien Tort Statute, a judge in Massachusetts is pondering a claim by Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a gay-rights group, against Scott Lively, a preacher and co-author of “The Pink Swastika” (which argues that Nazism was fuelled by homosexuality). Mr Lively visited Uganda in 2009, meeting politicians, appearing on television, and sharing his theories about homosexuals’ recruitment of youngsters.

Shortly afterwards a Ugandan MP introduced a parliamentary bill that would stiffen existing penalties for homosexual behaviour; among other drastic measures it mandated the death sentence for “aggravated” homosexuality.

This episode is part of a wider campaign. Other preachers, such as Lou Engle, a fundamentalist pastor at a megachurch in Kansas, have also been to Uganda. A new documentary, “God Loves Uganda”, depicts co-ordination between the visitors, resident missionaries and American-trained Ugandan priests. Offshoots of the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, in Kenya and Zimbabwe, are said to have resisted gay-friendly changes to their constitutions. (The ACLJ insists it “does not export an agenda”.)

In Africa campaigners adopt the language of anti-colonialism, portraying gay rights, and even homosexuality itself, as Western impositions; opponents counter that the criminalisation of gay sex is itself largely a legacy of empire.

Two bills trundling through Ukraine’s parliament, for example, would criminalise gay “propaganda” (a similar bill is on the stocks in Russia’s Duma). To be sure, indigenous hostility (sometimes violent) towards homosexuality abounds. But Jim Mulcahy, a retired priest now ministering to gays in Ukraine, thinks the anti-gay lobby’s resources and multimedia techniques bespeak American involvement.

Both Paul Cameron, an American psychologist who likens homosexuality to drug use, and Mr Lively, have toured eastern Europe. Gay activists in Moldova say that outsiders’ influence helped to reduce the prominence of sexuality in a recent anti-discrimination law. In Latvia Mr Lively fraternised with a church whose members have harassed gay-pride marches.

A third front is the Caribbean and Central America. Caleb Orozco of UNIBAM, a gay-rights group in Belize, is arguing in court that its criminalisation of homosexual sex violates the constitution. According to Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American civil-rights watchdog, a coalition of churches resisting the move is supported by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), another American outfit. (The ADF, like Mr Engle, could not be reached for comment.) Belize’s most prominent anti-gay cleric is American;

The American fundamentalists see themselves as defending biblical values and stemming degeneracy. Abroad, the policies they advance in that cause are often more extreme than those they espouse at home (though Mr Lively would like to “re-criminalise adultery, fornication and homosexuality” in America, too, albeit as minor misdemeanours). Several would like to usher in a global theocracy.

In America exponents of such ideas are liable to be dismissed as cranks and bigots; for their part they regard their own country as morally lost. But on their travels abroad they receive a respectful hearing, addressing parliaments and appearing on mainstream television..

That sort of reception boosts morale, but can offer practical benefits, too. Influence, visibility and access, in countries where (as the faithful see it) righteousness remains unvanquished, all help with fund-raising. The activists often traverse the same circuit, in what could be seen as a kind of competition.

The suffering of homosexuals in such places, he says, is “collateral damage” in America’s culture wars.
Fundamentalist religion - especially those seeking theocracy - need to be stamped out.  They are a pervasive evil and their fruits are hate, bigotry and the dehumanizing of others.  Western governments need to do much more to limit the ability of American Christofascists to take their poison overseas.

Is Iraq Descending into Chaos - Did Bush/Cheney Make Us Less Safe?

I have never supported the war in Iraq and I can still see my former living room where I watched the televised address of George W. Bush announcing that he had sent America to war.  We now know that his entire premise for the war was based on deliberate lies - lies which a lazy media never bothered to expose.  As of the lies of Bush and Dick Cheney, thousands of American died needlessly, billions of dollars better spent on America's infrastructure were squandered, and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis died.   Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the war was ultimately all for nothing.  Current circumstances in Iraq show a county spiraling towards chaos and an internal religious war that must have extremists in Iran salivating.  And Bush and Cheney set it all in motion.  And committed war crimes along the way.   Yet many American still can't understand why some Muslims came to hate America even if they had not done so before.   American actions have been the best terrorist recruiting program Islamic extremists could have asked for.  A piece in Foreign Policy Magazine looks at what Bush/Cheney and American hubris has likely wrought.  Here are excerpts:

Iraq is spiraling out of control. Following the arrests in December of the bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafi Issawi, Sunnis took to the streets, revealing their widespread sense of alienation in the new Iraq and demanding the end of what they consider a government policy to marginalize them. As with other protests in the Arab world, they were initially driven by legitimate grievances. But against the backdrop of provincial elections, little was done to address the concerns of the protesters -- despite calls to do so from the top Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sistani. Politicians instead exploited the demonstrations for electoral gains. President Maliki took the opportunity to distract attention away from the lack of services and rampant corruption, presenting himself as the defender of the Shia, in the face of Sunni regional powers intent on overthrowing Shia regimes -- Syria first, then Iraq. Sunni politicians, for their part, sought to benefit from the demonstrations to rail against government oppression to gain support for their own electoral campaigns.

Last week, the Iraqi Army entered Hawija, near Kirkuk, to arrest people accused of attacking Iraqi Security Forces. In the ensuing violence, 200 people were killed. There are reports of desertions from the Iraqi Army. Kurds have moved peshmerga into positions in the disputed territories. Tribes are forming militias to protect themselves from the Iraqi Army. Five Iraqi soldiers were killed in Anbar -- and the province has been put under curfew. Ten satellite channels, including al-Jazeera, have been banned, accused of spreading sectarianism. Bombs exploded in Shia towns. The speaker of parliament called for the government to resign and for early elections.

By seeking to eliminate his Sunni rivals, Maliki has removed the wedge that the U.S. military drove between Sunni extremists and the Sunni mainstream during the Surge, at such great cost. There is a growing sense that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are merging into one, with Shia regimes, backed by Iran, battling against Sunnis, including al Qaeda elements. We may be witnessing the breakdown of the post-WW I settlement and the nation-states established under the Sykes-Picot agreement. 

Will our legacy from the Iraq war be a regional power struggle ignited by the resurgence of Iran, the contagion of sectarianism into Syria, the horrific violence of jihadist groups? Is this in our national interest? Can we not do more to make Iraq a more positive influence in its neighborhood? 

There were those who saw the likelihood of this disaster even before the fools and power made in the Bush/Cheney regime took America to war on a campaign of lies.  Sadly, their voices were drowned out by jingoism and the willingness of too many Americans to fall into the dangerous "America, love it or live it" mindset which always seems to bring disaster.  Remember Vietnam?  America learned nothing.  I continue to believe that sometimes the most patriotic thing one can do is challenge the conventional thinking, especially if it is sourced in ultra conservative factions.  Time and time again, America has been the loser when patriotic critics of adventurism in foreign policy over rides logic, reason and hard objective facts.  For what they did, I remained convinced that Bush and Cheney are war criminals who deserve to be tried and severely punished.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Friday Morning Male Beauty

44 Percent Of Republicans Think Armed Revolution May Be Necessary To Protect "Liberties"

The descent of the Republican Party into a fetid swamp of insanity continues unabated despite the efforts of some to pull the party out of a long term death spiral.  A new survey reveals that 44% of Republicans (obviously the Christofascist and Tea Party elements) believe an armed revolt may be  needed to protect their "liberties."   Of course, by "liberties" they mean their ability to force their religious and social views on the rest of America.    As a former GOP activist, I am still amazed at how insane the GOP has become and again trace it to the rise of the Christofascists within the party.  When those who embrace ignorance, reject science and modern knowledge and yearn for a return of segregation and the sodomy laws gain control, insanity is what follows.  Here are highlights from The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the survey findings:
Forty-four percent of Republicans believe “an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties,” according to a new poll just released by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind.

Only eighteen percent of Democrats and twenty-seven percent of Independents agreed. Regardless of party, sixty percent of those with a college degree did not agree an armed revolution might be necessary.

“Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Democrats say that Congress needs to pass new laws to protect the public from gun violence, but the views of Republicans are almost completely opposite: 65 percent don’t think new laws are necessary,” the survey states.

If those “armed revolution” numbers aren’t shocking enough for you, try these.  “Turning to attitudes toward the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012, which prompted the recent debate over the need for new gun control laws, the survey finds that overall, a quarter (25%) of Americans think that facts about the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary last year are being hidden and an additional eleven percent are unsure.”

But wait — there’s more.   “Republicans are more likely to think that the truth about Sandy Hook is being suppressed, with 32 percent agreeing,” the survey notes.

Rhode Island Approves Gay Marriage

Yesterday the Rhode Island Legislature took its final vote and enacted gay marriage in the state bring the number of states providing for gay marriage to 10 - nowhere near the percentage of states with gay marriage in Brazil, a former bastion of Catholicism.  Needless to say, the Christofascists are far less than happy and the state's Roman Catholic bishop ranted that Catholics should not attend same sex marriage ceremonies.   The powers of anti-modernity simply cannot cope with the steady erosion of their power to inflict their hate and fear based religious views on the rest of society.  The tantrums and conniptions will surely continue even as the rest of society moves forward.  Here are highlights from a Washington Post piece on the historic vote yesterday:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island on Thursday became the nation’s 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, as a 16-year effort to extend marriage rights in this heavily Roman Catholic state ended with the triumphant cheers of hundreds of gays, lesbians, their families and friends.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law on the Statehouse steps Thursday evening following a final 56-15 vote in the House. The first weddings will take place Aug. 1, when the law takes effect.

“I’ve been waiting 32 years for this day, and I never thought it would come in my lifetime,” said Raymond Beausejour, a 66-year-old gay North Providence man who has been with his partner for 32 years. “For the first time in my life, I feel welcome in my own state.”  

After Chafee signed the bill, the hundreds of people who gathered on the Statehouse grounds erupted into cheers as a chorus sang “Chapel of Love.”

Once consigned to the political fringe, gay marriage advocates succeeded this year thanks to a sprawling lobbying effort that included support from organized labor leaders, religious clergy, leaders including Chafee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and hundreds of volunteers. Their efforts overcame the opposition of the Catholic church and lawmakers including Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who voted no but allowed the issue to come to a vote anyway.

Supporters framed the issue as one of civil rights, arguing in daylong legislative hearings that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and protections given to opposite-sex married couples. The Catholic church was the most significant opponent, with Bishop Thomas Tobin urging lawmakers to defeat what he called an “immoral and unnecessary” change to traditional marriage law.

On Thursday, Tobin repeated his opposition, writing in a letter to the state’s Catholics that “homosexual acts are ... always sinful.”

Delaware could be the next state to approve gay marriage. Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage has narrowly passed the Delaware House and now awaits a vote in the state Senate.

Advocates in Rhode Island say that while they’re proud the state is the 10th to legalize gay marriage, they expect other states to follow quickly as support for same-sex marriage grows around the country. According to a November Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans support giving gay and lesbian
couples the right to marry, up from 27 percent in 1996.
 Bishop Tobin, what's really sinful is denigrating and stigmatizing others.  Oh, and did I mention protecting and abetting child rapists?

Bob McDonnell's Gift to Virginia - $1 Billion Bill for Tunnel

The antiquated Mid-Town Tunnel

In general rather than raise taxes and revenues for transportation, Governor Bob McDonnell and the Republican Party of Virginia have pursued "public-private partnership" projects which generally equate to private interest being given the right to screw the taxpaying public.  A case in point is the deal for construction of a second Mid-Town Tunnel tube that basically gives taxing powers to VDOT and private interests.  On Wednesday, a circuit court judge ruled that the deal violates the Virginia Constitution.  The result?  Virginia may be on the hook for the $1 billion project.  This disaster, combined with the growing Star Scientific scandal, would seem to make McDonnell's national aspirations about as unsinkable as the Titanic.  An article in the Virginian Pilot looks at the court ruling and possible fall out.  Some of the comments are delicious and would underscore that McDonnell's "legacy" may be tanking fast.  Here are some highlights:

The state would be on the hook for more than a billion dollars of debt if a judge's ruling striking down the Midtown and Downtown tunnel tolls stands, according to a ratings agency.

Portsmouth Circuit Judge James A. Cales Jr. declared the tolls unconstitutional Wednesday, saying the General Assembly exceeded its authority by delegating to the state transportation department "unfettered power" to set the rates "without any real or meaningful parameters."

Gov. Bob McDonnell said the state will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia, and representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation and its private partner said work will continue on the $2.1 billion project.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to Cales' ruling have maintained since filing their challenge in July that the state was proceeding with the project at its own risk.

Fitch Ratings told investors in an April 9 report that if the litigation stopped Elizabeth River Crossings from collecting tolls, the state would be required by its contract to repay the debt that has been incurred for the project.

That amount includes $663.75 million in private bonds that were issued in April 2012 and a $422 million federal loan, according to the Fitch report. Elizabeth River Crossings bears the risk of repaying that debt under the normal terms of its agreement with the state, with tolling.

Fitch assigned a rating of BBB- on the debt, the lowest rating for investment-grade debt. Ratings lower than that fall into a category that investors consider speculative, said Scott Zuchorski, Fitch's primary analyst on the Elizabeth River Crossings account.
"If it's not resolved by the end of next January, then it could become more interesting," Zuchorski said.  Ratings downgrades cause the price of bonds to fall, potentially leading to losses to investors.

Again, for real fun, read subscriber comments on the piece.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

American 'Ex-Gay' Movement Exports Global Hate and Harm

Just as Catholicism and religion in general is slowly dying in the developed western world, so too is the marketability of the fraudulent ex-gay industry.  So what does one do in this line of snake oil marketing?  Focus on ignorant undeveloped nations where selling lies and and "faux science" to an ignorant populace is ever so much easier.  The problem is that the American Christofascist exporting of hate involves real threats of physical harm a even death to LGBT individuals.  The Advocate looks at this pernicious phenomenon.  Here are article highlights:

Is the “ex-gay” movement over yet? Certainly not at the global level. Though the movement shows signs of weakening in the United States, international organizations like Exodus Global Alliance still pose a serious threat to public health, human dignity, and human rights. It’s time to take a good look beyond our borders at the widespread influence of the “ex-gay” movement and its impact on the lives of LGBTQ people around the world, with the help of a new report from Political Research Associates, which examines the problems caused by Exodus in Latin America.

The American Psychological Association has made clear that homosexuality is not a disorder and warns that trying to “cure” it can lead to “intimacy avoidance, sexual dysfunction, depression, and suicidality.” Exodus International president Alan Chambers recently denounced the idea of a “cure” for homosexuality. But Exodus International is in fact only the U.S. arm of a global network. Exodus Global Alliance, the umbrella group for Exodus affiliates all over the world, continues to push the harmful idea that “change is possible.”..

Political Research Associates, a think tank devoted to exposing movements that undermine human rights, has been tracking the mutating Christian right’s anti-LGBTQ agenda for some time. In 1998, PRA published Calculated Compassion: How the Ex-Gay Movement Serves the Right’s Attack on Democracy, a report looking at the growing use of the “ex-gay” myth as a “kinder, gentler” face to the Christian right’s anti-LGBTQ agenda.

Since the time that report was written, public opinion has continued to evolve and respect for diversity has increased. But the “ex-gay” movement continues to adapt. In some cases it even has gained more mainstream approval, particularly abroad. In October 2010, Cape Town, South Africa, hosted 4,000 global evangelical leaders from 198 countries for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, the biggest gathering of global evangelical leaders in modern history. Endorsed by major evangelical figures such as Billy Graham and Rick Warren, Lausanne mingled all sorts of evangelicals from around the world for a rare convening. Among them were members of Exodus Global Alliance, a network of “ex-gay” groups. And not only as observers. The alliance was tasked with leading a discussion on “Sexuality, Truth, and Grace.”

No doubt organizers knew the “ex-gay” topic could be controversial. One journalist was told that organizers deliberately left sessions on homosexuality off the schedule “to avoid pre-conference publicity” — yet “each of their daily sessions were full.”

Exodus Global Alliance puts the face of “Christian compassion” on homophobia — and by hiding in “ex-gay” ministries, prevents governments and psychological associations from cracking down on their “religious liberty” to help those suffering from unwanted same-sex attraction. However, the idea that they are offering solicited aid is specious at best.  

The claim that gays can and should be “healed” is repeated by such antigay Ugandan pastors as Archbishop Henry Orombi (chair of the Africa Host Committee of the 2010 Lausanne Congress) and Martin Ssempa, and politicians like David Bahati, the sponsor of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

As the Christian right’s anti-LGBTQ agenda continues to spread globally, we must have a unified and vigilant approach to stopping it. Cross-border solidarity among those challenging “ex-gay” ministries is vital and worth additional investment. U.S. advocates can challenge the international “ex-gay” organizations and the companies that benefit from them.

Like fundamentalist religion, the "ex-gay" ministries are a vile and dangerous evil that must be stamped out.  The ugliness and hate that underlie these  fraudulent "ministries" need to be exposed and proponents shown to be the political and self-enriching whores that they are in fact. There is nothing nice about these people and they deserve no respect or deference.  The exult in ignorance, hate and bigotry.

Immigration Reform and the GOP’s Anti-Gay Suicide Mission

In a follow up to previous posts, I remain amazed at the Republican Party's opposition to immigration reform and in particular any reform legislation that might protect same sex couples.  Just today at my law office, I received a call fro a bi-national couple seeking advice on what to do about the visa status of the non-U.S. citizen member of the couple.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at what appears to be the GOP's death wish/suicide pact over anti-gay bigotry.  Even here in knuckle dragging Virginia, EVERY would be Democrat candidate for statewide office supports gay marriage and LGBT employment non-discrimination protections.  Here are some highlights from the Daily Beast article:

According to The New York Times, key Senate Republicans threaten to sink the entire immigration reform initiative if it includes a provision allowing gay American citizens to bring their life partners into the country. “It’s a deal-breaker for most Republicans,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told the Times. In a radio interview (quoted by the Times), Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is considered reform’s indispensable Republican, was blunt: “If that issue is injected into this bill, this bill will fail. It will not have the support. It will not have my support.”

Really? Republicans will deep-six the entire effort and demolish themselves with Latino voters, business interests, and young people to prevent gay people from having someone to take care of them?
Even to write those words is to wonder whether they can possibly be true. Surely Republicans know that, according to many polls, support for same-sex marriage has tipped above the majority level and is rising. Perhaps some also know that, according to a recent Huffington Post poll, partner immigration enjoys solid 7-percentage-point support. They certainly know that, from a political point of view, the perception among younger voters that a pro-Republican vote is an anti-gay vote is toxic to the GOP brand.
These days, opposition to gay equality is heavily concentrated among white evangelical Protestants, who are heavily concentrated in the Republican base. But they are increasingly isolated from the electorate as a whole. Even a solid majority of Catholics now supports gay marriage. And Republicans themselves are split down the middle on the more general question of whether “same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.”  Even among Republicans, in other words, the constituency for policies disadvantaging gay and lesbian couples is withering. And this is where Senate Republicans want to make their stand?

Back in the day, advocates of gay equality used to shake their heads ruefully over the willingness of many politicians, many Democrats as well as almost all Republicans, to throw gays under the bus for political expediency. But today’s opponents of allowing residency for gay partners fail even the expediency test. If the idea is to demonstrate that the Republican Party is hostage to a declining and increasingly isolated share of the Republican base, or to make the party seem more irrelevant and intolerant to the younger voters on whose future it depends, one could hardly imagine a better way to do it. Or a better way to improve the political prospects of liberals and Democrats.

If you are the kind of social conservative who wants to discourage gay people from having stable, committed relationships—a very intolerant and inhumane and unconservative thing to want, but just supposing you do—then breaking up other people’s marriages might seem to make sense. But it will not encourage marriage, gay or straight. It will not encourage commitment. It will not encourage family values. Instead it causes gay misery, discourages personal responsibility, and increases the burden on society.

Even from a conservative point of view—in fact, especially from a conservative point of view—it makes no sense to distort and disrupt gay families by depriving binational couples of the tools they need to care for each other. It makes even less sense to do that while providing aspiring newcomers with the tools they need to work, providing businesses with the tools they need to hire, and providing children who grew up in America with the opportunity to live as Americans. Unless your policy goal is to distort and disrupt gay families.

The GOP indeed seems to have a death wish and, given the GOP's current incarnation, nothing would be better for the nation that to see the GOP die a speedy and decisive death.  Now that the GOP is basically a far right Christian sectarian party with a  strong element of white supremacy.  The GOP indeed needs to die.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

5-Year-Old Kills 2-Year-Old Sister With Rifle He Got as a Gift

Many of the Christofascists and their allies in the political far right love guns and they love to claim that same sex couples are unfit parents.  A horrible sad story out of Kentucky not only makes the case for gun control but also shows that many gay couples would make far better parents than many moronic heterosexual couples.  In Cumberland County, Kentucky, 5-year old Kristian Sparks shot and killed his 2-year old sister with the .22 caliber rifle that he had been given as a gift.  I'm sorry, but who in the right mind would give a rifle to a 5-year old and then allow him to play with it while it was loaded.  Equally shocking is that the gun involved is one of a group made and marketed for children.  It's insanity of the highest level, but typical, in my view, of the mindset of the gun crowd.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

BURKESVILLE, Ky. — In southern Kentucky, where children get their first guns even before they start first grade, Stephanie Sparks paid little attention as her 5-year-old son, Kristian, played with the rifle he was given last year. Then, as she stepped onto the front porch while cleaning the kitchen, “she heard the gun go off,” a coroner said.

In a horrific accident Tuesday that shocked a rural area far removed from the national debate over gun control, the boy had killed his 2-year-old sister, Caroline, with a single shot to the chest.

“Down in Kentucky where we’re from, you know, guns are passed down from generation to generation,” Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said. “You start at a young age with guns for hunting and everything.”

In this case, the rifle was made by a company that sells guns specifically for children — “My first rifle” is the slogan — in colors ranging from plain brown to hot pink to orange to royal blue to multi-color swirls.  Kristian’s rifle was kept in a corner of the mobile home, and the family didn’t realize a bullet had been left in it.

White said the shooting had been ruled accidental, though a police spokesman said it was unclear whether any charges will be filed.  “I think it’s too early to say whether there will or won’t be,” Trooper Billy Gregory said.

White said the boy received the .22-caliber rifle as a gift, but it wasn’t clear who gave him the gun, which is known as a Crickett.  “It’s a little rifle for a kid. ... The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun,” White said.  The company that makes the rifle, Milton, Pa.-based Keystone Sporting Arms, has a “Kids Corner” on its website with pictures of young boys and girls at shooting ranges and on bird and deer hunts. It says the company produced 60,000 Crickett and Chipmunk rifles for kids in 2008. The smaller rifles are sold with a mount to use at a shooting range.

Sharon Rengers, a longtime child advocate at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, said making and marketing weapons specifically for children was “mind-boggling.”  “It’s like, oh, my God,” she said, “we’re having a big national debate whether we want to check somebody’s background, but we’re going to offer a 4-year-old a gun and expect something good from that?”

It sounds like the parents, and certainly the mother need to be charged and prosecuted.  The insanity of the far right and rural America is down right frightening.  If Caroline Sparks had had two moms or two dads, she likely be alive today.

No Fundamental Change in Catholic Church Sex Abuse Policy

Throughout the sex abuse scandal that has raged over the last decade or more, the Catholic Church hierarchy has worked hard to (i) paint the problem of priestly sex abuse as a problem of the past, and (ii) convince gullible Catholics and the larger population that the Church has changed its ways.  The problem is that both of the Church's PR efforts are not true as repeated stories from around the world reveal.  A piece in the National Catholic Reporter looks at the current situation and concludes that no fundamental change has really occurred whatsoever.  The bigger question is why, if this article is correct, anyone gives the Catholic bishops the time of day?  Especially, politicians who ought to be running from ties to child rapist enablers.  Pope Francis may talk tough, but nothing has really changed to date.  Here are some article highlights:

Rumors that the Roman Catholic church's clergy sex abuse crisis is a problem of the past have been greatly exaggerated.

"The bishops' public relations machine has persuaded the people that it is a problem that was, not that is," Jeff Anderson says, "and that is a living lie. There have been superficial changes, but not fundamental changes."

Anderson, one of the most well-known lawyers to bring a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic church, was part of a panel to promote the publication of Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal, a new book by journalist Michael D'Antonio.

The event took place April 23 in New York City's Bleecker Street Theatre, one week before new revelations that, just across the Hudson River, Newark's Archbishop John J. Myers allowed a priest who admitted to groping a 14-year-old boy to attend youth retreats, travel with a youth group on a pilgrimage to Canada and hear the confessions of minors.

In addition to Anderson, the panel, moderated by D'Antonio, included some of the biggest names in advocacy against child sexual abuse, all of whom figure prominently in Mortal Sins: canon lawyer Fr. Thomas Doyle, psychotherapist Richard Sipe, former priest Patrick Wall, and Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Much of the conversation among the five panelists focused on why these abuses continue to persist given that in the past decade, the institution has suffered severely negative press, a mass exodus of followers, and more than $3 billion in settlements worldwide.

D'Antonio traces the root of the problem to the church's unusual relationship to spiritual and political power, which he said began in 1870, when the pope was given a new form of authority called infallibility. Then, 60 years later, the Vatican's civil status was defined in a concordat signed by then-Prime Minister Benito Mussolini.

"Catholicism became the only religion in the world with the status of a country, ruled by a churchman who was also a monarch," D'Antonio explains in Mortal Sins.  For Doyle, it's the church's monarchical structure that has made the global sex abuse cover-up possible. "In the office of pope, there is the power to demand complete obedience and to require secrecy in order to preserve that power."

Anderson said the obedience requirement has resulted in the "absolute exclusion of critical thinking" among the clergy, who are threatened with "the loss of pay, power and pension" if they refuse to obey.

"I have a deep respect for church as the body of Christ, but no respect left for the institution, the pope or the bishops," Doyle said. "There is corruption from the top down."  .   .  .  . What changed me was meeting the victims of sex abuse and their mothers and fathers," Doyle told the panel audience.

Like Doyle, Sipe trusted the institutional church would eventually fix this crisis, and he, too, said the cover-ups "reach the highest corridors of the Vatican."

"We will not see radical change under this pope or any other pope unless there is a change in the system that says the pope and cardinals are above everyone because God made them that way," Doyle said. "The men at the top need to be fired."  "We must demand and require legally and culturally that the Vatican disgorge itself of its secrets and that they obey civil laws," he said.
There's more to the article, but readers can see where it is going.  I remain of the view that until more Catholics simply walk away, the powers that be in the hierarchy will see no reason to change.   Until the hierarchy's power, money and undeserved privilege is seriously threatened, there will be no change.  Meanwhile, members of the laity who continue to drop checks in the collection basket help finance the criminal enterprise.

The GOP’s Demographic Time-Bomb

Click image to enlarge
Some would depict Nate Silver as a geeky nerd, but on the 2012presidential  election, his analysis proved to be dead on.  Now, Silver has been using his analytical skills and data to explore what the future may hold for the Republican Party if it doesn't change more than its "messaging" as demographic change continues across the country and the number of angry, typically elderly, conservative/religious extremist whites declines as a percentage of the overall population.  If Silver's analysis is correct, the GOP ought to be scared as Hell that it will be a permanent minority party.  So far, reality does not seem to be sinking in with most members of the GOP who continue to focus on angry whites and Christofascists as their sole audience.  Silver's piece in the New York Times is interesting reading.  Here are some excerpts:

A bill to allow unauthorized immigrants to gain citizenship carries electoral risks and rewards for the Republican Party. On the one hand, if the bill were passed, some of those immigrants would eventually vote. Roughly 80 percent of illegal immigrants are Hispanic, and about 10 percent are Asian — groups that voted heavily Democratic in the last two elections.

On the other hand, such legislation could plausibly improve the Republican Party’s brand image among Hispanics and Asian-Americans, perhaps allowing the party to fare better among these voters in future elections. Which of these effects would outweigh the other?

I’ve designed a tool, in the form of an interactive graphic, that allows you to make different sets of assumptions about immigration reform, population growth and racial voting patterns. Although the graphic contains a number of simplifications, we hope it will be useful to experiment with.

The graphic begins with 2012 voting results as a baseline. In each state, and the District of Columbia, I’ve estimated the vote for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the five racial categories (white, black, Hispanic, Asian and “other”) that are tracked in exit polls.

Because the exit poll data is incomplete — 19 states did not have exit polls last year, and the polls often did not break down the results where a racial population was small (for instance, Asian-Americans in Montana) — I had to rely on various forms of extrapolation and interpolation to fill in the missing data points.

The interactive graphic then allows you to make three sets of assumptions to consider how the vote might change going forward.

Step 1: Population Growth
Immigration reform is being contested against a background of an increasingly nonwhite electorate. Seventy-two percent of voters were white in 2012, down from 74 percent in 2008 and 81 percent in 2000.

The graphic allows you to consider the effects of further population changes by entering growth rates for the five major racial groups. As a default, it assumes that the number of white voters will grow by 0.5 percent a year, the number of black voters by 1 percent a year, the number of Hispanic and “other” voters by 3 percent a year and the number of Asian voters by 3.5 percent a year. These figures represent a rough consensus of various population growth estimates.

Step 2: Unauthorized Immigrants
The graphic also allows you to consider the effects of legislation that would introduce new citizens to the electorate. These changes are assumed to have a one-time effect: that is, they would affect the status of the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants who are already in the United States, but not future groups of immigrants. The calculation assumes that this impact is separate from the long-term changes in the voter population evaluated in the previous step.

Step 3: Changes to Racial Voting Patterns
Finally, the graphic allows you to evaluate the effects of changes in the share of votes going to each party from each racial group. The changes are assumed to be uniform across states. So, for example, if your assumption is that the G.O.P. does five percentage points better with Hispanics nationally than it did in 2012, the Republican share of the Hispanic vote is assumed to grow to 44 percent from 39 percent in Florida, to 23 percent from 18 percent in Illinois, and so forth.

The most interesting application, however, is in seeing how the various positive and negative effects for Republicans might play out against one another.

Suppose, for example, that the voter population grows in accordance with the defaults assumed in the model. This would produce a net of 6.3 million new votes for Democrats by 2028.

And suppose that 25 percent of the immigrants currently here illegally gain citizenship and vote by 2028. The model calculates that this would provide another 1.2 million votes for Democrats.

But suppose also that, as a result of immigration reform, the Republicans go from winning about 28 percent of the Hispanic vote and 24 percent of the Asian vote (as they did in 2012) to 35 percent of each group by 2028. That would shift about 4.8 million votes back to the G.O.P. — about four times more than it lost from the immigrants becoming citizens and voting predominantly Democratic. However, it wouldn’t be enough to outweigh the Democratic gains from long-term population growth.

I remain dumbfounded that the GOP still does take demographic change seriously  - or not seriously enough.  Racism, bigotry and embracing white supremacists may continue to allow some successes in the short term, but in the long run, the GOP seems bent on suicide.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Hampton Mayor Molly Ward Endorses Aneesh Chopra for Lt. Governor

The boyfriend and I count Hampton Mayor Molly Ward among our good personal friends.  She has been an outstanding advocate for LGBT issues locally and is one of only three Virginia mayors the last time that I looked who have signed the national mayors for marriage equality resolution.   I have yet to meet Aneesh Copra in person, although I suspect that will change now that Ward has endorsed him in the race in the lieutenant governor Democratic primary (we seem to frequently be invited to attend many politic events at her home).  Her endorsement cannot be good news for Chopra's opponent, Norfolk State Senator Ralph Northam who regrettably seems to be aligning himself with some of the most reactionary elements in the Norfolk political power structure, including Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim who I regard as a major homophobe who seems to act as if gays are communicable disease carriers.  I know Northam personally and historically he has been very gay friendly.  However, some of his alliances of late are very troubling.  Here are excerpts from Chopra's campaign website:

HAMPTON, VA - Today, Molly Ward, Mayor of the City of Hampton, endorsed Aneesh Chopra for Virginia Lt. Governor. Ward, who is currently serving in her second term as Mayor, praised Chopra's vision for Virginia's future.

"Aneesh's positive vision for Virginia is exactly what we need," said Ward. "He knows we must turn the page on the politics of the past and work to respect and empower all Virginians. He represents the future of politics in the Commonwealth, where we dedicate ourselves to finding innovative new ways to address our greatest challenges."

"As a Mayor in the Hampton Roads area, I am confident that Aneesh Chopra will be a Lt. Governor who represents all corners of the Commonwealth," Ward continued. "His experience working for Governor Kaine and President Obama have prepared him to be an effective leader on day one."

Upon receiving the endorsement, Chopra said, "I am honored and excited to have the support of Mayor Ward. She has been an incredible leader for Hampton and I am thrilled to work with her to move Virginia forward."

Ward joins a growing list of Virginia mayors in endorsing Chopra, including most recently Mayor Dwight Jones of Richmond.
Molly Ward has shown herself to be the most gay friendly mayor in Hampton Roads and has been instrumental in Hampton's close ties with HRBOR, the local affiliate of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.   It should be noted that Richmond mayor Dwight Jones also has a pro-gay rights track record.  I plan on digging more on this race between now and the primary on June 11th.   Stay tuned for updates.

Two More Staes in Brazil Grant Gay Marriage

While the USA sits waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue rulings in Hollingsworth v. Perry (the case challenging Proposition 8) and United States v. Windsor (the case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act), Brazil has again demonstrated what equality under the civil laws means as two more states grant full marriage equality to same sex couples.  With this action 14 out of Bazil's 27 states and federal district (i.e., 52%) allow full marriage equality  while in America - the alleged "land of liberty" and religious freedom, only 10% of the states grant such civil law equality.   Also, unlike in the USA under DOMA, gay marriages performed in any state allowing gay marriage are recognized in every state in Brazil.   All in all, it is a sad commentary on the USA and underscores the lie that religious freedom extends to all American citizens.  Freedom to Marry looks at these latest events in Brazil.  Here are highlights:
Yesterday, marriage continued moving forward in Brazil when the Corregedor Geral de Justiça in two additional states - Paraíba and Santa Catarina (Articles in Portuguese) - authorized marriages between same-sex couples. Now, fourteen of the 27 jursidictions in Brazil (13 states and the Federal District) have approved the freedom to marry. Earlier this month, Rio de Janeiro and Rondônia saw similar developments.  

In these states (and the federal district), couples can marry in Brazil without the two-step process: Alagoas (December 2011), Sergipe (July 2012), Espíritu Santo (August 2012), Bahía (November 2012), the Brazilian Federal District (December 2012), Piauí (December 2012), São Paulo (December 2012), Ceará (March 2013), Paraná (March 2013), Mato Grosso do Sul (April 2013), Rio de Janeiro (April 2013), Rondônia (April 2013), and now Paraíba and Santa Catarina (April 2013). 

Now, nearly 60% of the population of Brazil live in states where same-sex couples can marry without the two-step process.  

The news out of Brazil is the latest international victory for the freedom to marry. This month, the legislatures in Uruguay, France, and New Zealand have taken definitive votes to pass the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide.

After marriage legislation takes effect in Uruguay, France and New Zealand, same-sex couples will be able to share in the freedom to marry in 17 countries.   

Of course, it is not just in terms of gay marriage that America is lagging behind.  Much of Europe provides more upward social mobility, and the USA's position  is falling in terms of life expectancy, and our health care system is the most expensive and least cost effective in the world over all.  And what's holding America back?  The Republican Party and its Christofascist base.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Jason Collins' Matthew Shepard Tribute

One surprise that came out during NBA star Jason Collins' coming out is that he chose his jersey number to honor Matthew Shepard who was murdered in 1998.  Even Shepard's parents were surprised to learn of the tribute to their son.  Huffington Post covers this disclosure.  Here are excerpts:

In his Sports Illustrated editorial, the 34-year-old Collins reveals he wore the number 98 in 38 games this season while playing for the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards as a silent tribute to Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay college student who was beaten and left to die outside Laramie, Wyo. in October 1998.

Collins writes:
"My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found.
That same year the Trevor Project was founded. This amazing organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to kids struggling with their sexual identity. Trust me, I know that struggle. I've struggled with some insane logic. When I put on my jersey I was making a statement to myself, my family and my friends."
You can read Collins' full editorial here.  Matthew's parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, told Fox Sports they were honored by the tribute.

Meanwhile, the Christofascists are grumbling and having a cow over the positive reception that Collins has received to date.  AFA's hate merchant in chief, Bryan Fischer was his usual vicious self:

"Everybody is talking about how brave and courageous Jason Collins is and I'm going to submit to you that he's not being brave and courageous at all," Fischer declared. "This is just a shrewd marketing move to wave the rainbow flag right at the time when it can be of the most benefit to him. A year from now, when he's been out of the NBA for a year, nobody is going to care.  This is the only time this would be of any benefit to him ... This is why this is not courageous; he's become a hero to the deviancy cabal and their allies in the political world and academia and the media, like President Obama"

Abercrombie’s Buff Twink Models Kiss One Another

Get ready for spittle flecked hysteria, another American Family Association boycott, and screeching from the One Million Bitches Moms crowd.  While it is all too common to see straight couples in an embrace or kissing in magazines and fashion spreads, rarely does one see a male on male kiss.  It seems that Abercrombie & Fitch may be about to change that and one can already contemplate the reaction of the Christofascists who already have no love for the clothier.  Back in 2008 Virginia Beach police made themselves national laughing stocks when they seized promotional photos (one of the offending "obscene" photos is below) at an Abercrombie & Fitch store and charged the manager with obscenity charges after a "godly Christian" shopper complained.  The case was dropped, but it illustrates what may be forthcoming from the godly set if Abercrombie goes forward with the new ads.  Queerty looks at the campaign shot by Bruce Weber.  Here are highlights:

Between the gay dance anthems playing in the store and vintage-porn-looking hunks modeling barely-there clothes in ads, Abercrombie’s marketing strategy has always been super-gay.

But though their ads ooze homoerotic pyrotechnics, they’ve never actually gone and shown us the full monty, the real act of affection between two hot dudes. Until now!

Homorazzi alerts us to a series of Bruce Weber-directed which feature standard buff-twink Abercrombie boys training for wrestling. The most explicit one, titled, um, Other Sports Require One Ball, features two toned studs sparring in the shower and then, voila, kissing one another.

Here are the others, which are just as homoerotic without any actual boy-on-boy action:
Do you think Abercrombie will actually run these ads in the store, or did Weber take it too far for them to?

The Virginia GOP’s Deepening Scandal

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying watching Bob McDonnell and to a lesser extent, Ken Cuccinelli continue to sink in the quicksand of the Star Scientific scandal.  Both men, apparently through greed and hubris, were only too happy to accept gifts and campaign donations from the company nad its CEO, Jonnie R. Williams Sr.  But now, their behavior has boomeranged and is biting them in the ass and raising questions in some circles as to whether the former chef at the governor's mansion is being prosecuted by Cuccinelli for spilling the beans to the FBI rather than because of any actual thefts from the governor's mansion.  The whole saga increasingly looks like something out of a night time soap opera rather than what ought to be occurring in the highest circles of Virginia's government.  Wonderfully, the story just keeps growing just as Cuccinelli seeks to seriously launch his campaign for governor.  The Washington Post looks at the shady situation in an editorial.  Here are excerpts:

WHAT SPELL WAS CAST by businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. to induce forgetfulness and truth-shading from Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and the man who would succeed him, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II? What powers of alchemy does Mr. Williams, a major campaign donor, possess that prompted those two officials, the state’s most powerful elected Republicans, to flagrantly disregard Virginia’s already flimsy disclosure laws?

Already, we have seen Mr. McDonnell strain veracity by dodging disclosure of a $15,000 donation from Mr. Williams, in payment of a catering bill, on the grounds that it was a gift to the governor’s daughter for her wedding. Facts that have emerged since that claim suggest that the money was a straight-out contribution to the governor, who signed the catering contract.

Then it turned out that Mr. Cuccinelli, the presumptive Republican candidate for governor, somehow suffered a multi-pronged amnesia attack that led him not to report more than $5,000 in contributions from Mr. Williams, owner of a firm that makes dietary supplements. Among other things, the money paid for Mr. Cuccinelli’s summer vacation last year; a catered Thanksgiving dinner in 2010 for the attorney general and his family; and a flight to New York.

Now The Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman and Jerry Markon report that the FBI is looking into the relationship between Mr. McDonnell, his wife, Maureen, and Mr. Williams .  .  .  .  As for Mr. Cuccinelli, he finds himself in a rapidly thickening ethical morass related to the whistle-blower who first alerted federal and state authorities to the McDonnell-Williams back-scratching. In what appears to be a flagrant conflict of interest, Mr. Cuccinelli — who has counted on Mr. Williams for gifts and travel and Mr. McDonnell for political support — gave the green light to embezzlement charges against the whistle-blower, Todd Schneider, former top chef at the Executive Mansion.

Here we have the attorney general of Virginia, who aspires to be governor, prosecuting the chief tormentor of two of his most important patrons. That’s not just a failure of common sense on Mr. Cuccinelli’s part; it’s an ethical lapse.

The troubling questions about the McDonnell-Cuccinelli-Williams affair are mounting. Did the governor and his wife accept unreported gifts from Mr. Williams in return for political favors? Did Mr. Schneider’s role as whistle-blower factor in any way into Mr. Cuccinelli’s pursuit of criminal charges against him? How could Mr. Cuccinelli not have remembered that Mr. Williams paid for his family’s summer vacation last year? Virginians deserve answers.

From my experience over the years, it is always those who loudly profess their religiosity and support of "family values" who turn out to be the biggest crooks.  The way things are going, it looks like McDonnell and Cuccinelli fit that mold.  And what makes this entire mess so delicious is that it is all self-inflicted.   Cuccinelli needs to be defeated this November.  He's not only an extremist, but also sleazy beyond belief.