Saturday, September 21, 2013

More Saturday Male Beauty

House Republicans Propose Nationwide Religious Based "‘License To Discriminate"

Proving once again that today's Republican Party is caught in the stranglehold of the Christofascists and hate groups like Family Research Council, etc., Republicans in the House of Representatives led by Raul Labrador (pictured above) have introduced a bill that would allow far right Christians to discriminate at will against those they deem offensive to their narrow, hate and fear based religious beliefs.  Naturally gays and also unmarried heterosexual couples "living in sin" are targets.  It's a recipe for chaos and arguably seeks to set up conservative Christianity as America's established religion.  So much for the U. S. Constitution and non-discrimination laws.  As I have repeated over and over again, the Christofascists are nasty, selfish, self-centered people who do not give a damn about the rights of others.  The rest of society needs to see them for the foul force in society that they are.  Think Progress looks at this dangerous batshitery.  Here are highlights:

A group of House Republicans, led by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), has proposed a new bill that would provide a nationwide “license to discriminate” against married same-sex couples. Though Labrador claims the bill protects “religious liberty,” it is nothing less than a blanket invitation to deny benefits to same-sex couples that they are entitled to under law.

According to the draft of the bill (HR 3133), there would be no consequences for any organization or individual that chooses not to recognize a same-sex marriage:
The Federal Government shall not take an adverse action against a person, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
Under the guise of “religious freedom,” this bill specifically endorses one particular set of religious beliefs without concern for any others, a pretty clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The consequences of this legislation would be immense, such that a few individuals could short-circuit the rights of gay and lesbian couples across the country. Given its prudish inclusion of opposition to premarital sex, these consequences could likely apply to many straight couples as well. Here are a few possible examples of the potential for abuse:

  • Businesses could refuse to provide leave for an employee to take care of a sick same-sex spouse.
  • Federal workers processing tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security filings could refuse to do their job if it meant providing benefits to a same-sex couple.
  • Federally funded programs like homeless shelters and substance abuse programs could turn away LGBT people.
  • A church-run hospital could refuse to provide visitation privileges to a married same-sex couple without fear of endangering their tax-exempt status.
[T]he National Organization for Marriage has enthusiastically endorsed the legislation and the Heritage Foundation claimed it will “encourage tolerance.”
As for Rep. Labrador, one can only wonder how long it will be before we learn that he's been busted in a sting for soliciting a blow job in a rest room somewhere.

GOP Nightmare: What Happens When Whites Are No Longer the Majority?

As noted many times, I am a former GOP activist and held a city committee seat in Virginia Beach for 8 years.  In the well over a decade since I resigned from the GOP due to the party's inability to separate religion (i.e., far Christianity) and the civil laws, things have gone from bad to worse.  During the same time period, the GOP has become increasingly racist.  True, we hear blather about non-whites being welcome, but the truth is it's not true as demonstrated by GOP efforts and elsewhere to (i) disenfranchise minority voters and (ii) block any meaningful immigration reform.  As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and GOP actions show the lie to claims that the party is welcoming to all.   Indeed, the open racism of the far right is escalating and becoming more and more hysterical as the GOP base of aging far right, white Christians declines as other groups increase in number and influence.  A piece by a fellow Bilerico Project blogger looks at what is now the GOP's worse nightmare: when whites become a minority in America.     Here are excerpts:

The GOP is burdened with a base too steeped in racial denialism and resentment to allow Republicans to reach out to minority voters. Republicans have painted themselves into a corner through decades of appealing to racial fears and stoking the racial resentments of their base.

Staying in that corner is a one-way ticket to political irrelevance. Getting out of it is going to be messy.  

How messy? Last weekend, Nina Davuluri became the first Indian American to be crowned Miss America. No sooner was the tiara on Davuluri’s head, then racist attacks against her popped up on Twitter. Some accused her of being an Arab, a Muslim, a terrorist, and even a member of Al Qaeda. Others claimed Davuluri -- who was born and raised in New York state, and whose parents who came to the U.S. 30 years ago -- wasn’t even an American.  It’s becoming a trend.

The over-the-top anger unleashed against Davuluri, President Obama and others on Twitter is fueled by a profound sense of loss felt by some white Americans. After the election, I described it as a loss of primacy -- the feeling of being “primary, preeminent, or more important” than other groups.

Anti-racist author and activist Tim Wise said during a 2011 CNN interview that cultural and economic changes have hit many white Americans particularly hard, financially and psychologically. White Americans who were taught that they would be rewarded if they worked hard, are now working harder than ever for less than ever. And increasingly whites are also sharing space in the unemployment line with “those people” -- black and brown people.

“For the first time since the Great Depression,” Wise said, “white Americans have been confronted with a level of economic insecurity that we’re not use to. It’s not so new for black and brown folks, but for white folks, this is something we haven’t seen since the Depression.”

That economic insecurity is compounded by demographic and cultural changes. As the country becomes more diverse, and more of our icons -- political leaders, celebrities, sports heroes, beauty queens, etc. -- are people of color, many white Americans feel as excluded from popular culture as they do from any economic recovery.

The face of America, and for white Americans it is no longer a reflection of their own. The definition of what it means to be an American is changing, and white is no longer norm.

For older white Americans who grew up in a time when America’s icons were virtually all white, this loss of primacy is an alarming development. Their alarm fuels at least some of the fury of tea partiers waving signs blaring “I want my country back.”

The election of Mitt Romney would have been a restoration of primacy. The re-election of Barack Obama, instead, confirmed the worst fears of white conservatives about where the country was headed and their inability to stop it.

The white-hot anger  . . . . is fed by an unreality that Republicans have preached to their base for decades. 

Denialism -- the refusal to accept reality, established theory, facts, or evidence in order to avoid dealing with and uncomfortable or inconvenient truth -- comes in many varieties.

[T]he GOP spent decades stirring the pot of racial fear and resentment.  For a long time, it worked. Republicans could rely almost entirely on white voters to win elections. It may have worked too well.

What was an advantage is now a disadvantage. Running in all-white or nearly all white districts worked for Republicans, when white vote-share exceeded minority vote-share, and the party had a lock on the white working class vote. But, as Robert Brownstein pointed out in a recent National Journal piece, demographic trends have increased the minority vote share, while vote-shares of white groups the GOP has long relied upon have declined.

Instead of asking “Why don’t more blacks, Latinos, women, etc., join us?”, Republicans should ask “How are we failing to address the concerns of blacks, Latinos, women, etc., so that more of them will want to join us?” That’s a question that Republicans can’t ask, because answering would mean changing their tone and their policies. Republicans can’t do that without having the very same rage they encouraged in their base turned against them.

But if Republicans are to remain politically viable, that’s the question they have to ask and answer for themselves, however painful.

The GOP establishment set this train to disaster on course when far right, white Christofascists were welcomed into the GOP and then allowed to infiltrate county and city committees and caucuses.  The rise of the often openly racist Tea Party within the GOP merely accelerated the process.  At this point, absent sustained period of electoral losses, I do not candidly see how the GOP pulls out of its long term death spiral. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Consol Energy: Ken Cuccinelli Seeks to Paint His Assistant AG As Rogue Agent

Not surprisingly, Ken Cuccinelli is striving desperately to depict Senior Assistant Attorney General Sharon Pigeon - who improperly aided Consol Energy affiliated litigants in a lawsuit against Virginia landowners - as a rouge operative who needs to be thrown under the bus.  Having had numerous dealings  with the Attorney General's office - and a former law partner who was Virginia Attorney General - I find it incredible that Ms. Pigeon would have engaged in such extensive assistance to energy company litigants on her own.  Stated more directly, I can only conclude that Cuccinelli is lying to try to save his sorry ass.  He apparently believes that all Virginia voters are gullible cretins (he obviously needs to spend less time in the GOP/The Family Foundation bubble).  The Roanoke Times looks at the fairy tale that Cuccinelli is trying to spin.  Here are highlights:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office is distancing itself from the staffer who in a series of emails appears to have advised energy company lawyers in their defense of an ongoing lawsuit over natural gas royalties in Southwest Virginia.

Senior Assistant Sharon Pigeon “was not writing the emails at the direction of anyone in Richmond,” Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein wrote in a recent email to the Bristol Herald Courier.
Pigeon is now barred from further discussing with corporate lawyers their federal battle against regional landowners seeking gas royalties, Gottstein wrote, and her job of scrutinizing the cases’ potential impact on Virginia’s gas drilling laws has been handed to someone else.

The attorney general’s spokesman, when asked Friday to clarify what working outside the Richmond headquarters had to do with the emails, replied that he will no longer answer the newspaper’s questions because of the way it has covered the story.

“I’m not dealing with you anymore,” he wrote.

Pigeon is the legal adviser to the Lebanon-based Virginia Gas and Oil Board, which oversees the state-mandated escrow account now holding at least $30 million in disputed natural gas royalties. She swapped at least 52 emails from 2010 through 2012 with attorneys representing CNX Gas and EQT Production in their fight against regional landowners seeking those royalties.

A Herald Courier review of those emails shows that Pigeon suggested such courtroom tactics as combating a likely information request to discover other landowners who were owed royalties, as well as countering arguments against the amount of royalty proceeds they sought.

Her electronic messages — and questions about the relationship between the state’s highest legal office and corporate energy lawyers — have become a hot topic in the state’s gubernatorial race. Cuccinelli is the Republican candidate running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Adding to the debate is the role that CNX parent company CONSOL Energy has as one of the top financial contributors to Cuccinelli’s campaign. The company has dropped $140,044 into his campaign since he took over the AG’s office in 2010, according to campaign watchdog Virginia Public Access Project.

Cuccinelli defends Pigeon’s dealings with energy company lawyers as “overzealous” . . . . 

[C]onstitutional law expert Carl Tobias, of the University of Richmond School of Law, questions the contents of Pigeon’s emails and how they appear to offer legal help.  “It’s not in good judgment to be helping one side or the other,” Tobias said. “In this case, it’s sounding like she’s helping the defendants.”

Again, I find Cuccinelli's story line to be  unbelievable.  Like most Christofascists, Cuccinelli believes that the Commandment against lying and bearing false witness does not apply to him.

Does This Homophobic Federal Judge Have a Gay Porn Past?

Once again we are seeing the possible unmasking of a virulently homophobic Republican.  This time, however, it's not a GOP elected official but instead a federal judge in Alabama.  William Pryor does seem to fit the usual mold: married, "devout Catholic," ultra-far right, and anti-gay, anti-woman and anti-minority.  Indeed, he seems cut from the same cloth as Rick Santorum and Ken Cuccinelli.  A piece on Pryor during the time period a decade ago when he was being considered for the federal bench described him this way:

He holds the ignominious honor of being the only attorney general to file a brief attacking the Violence Against Women Act. Ever the defender of prudish virtue, Pryor threw himself into a defense of Alabama’s Dildo Law, which forbade the sale of vibrators. Dredging deep into the recesses of Federalist Society legal theory, Pryor argued that there is no right to privacy in Alabama and that the state had the authority to outlaw any kind of pleasure devices it wanted, even when accompanied by a doctor’s prescription. Naturally, Pryor is unwilling to apply the same legal mumbo jumbo to assault weapons.

His homophobic sentiments rival those of Senator Rick Santorum, the famously anti-gay Republican from Pennsylvania. In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in the Texas same-sex sodomy case, Pryor urged the court to uphold the ban. "A constitutional right that protects ‘the choice of one’s partner’ and ‘whether and how to connect sexually’ must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia." Santorum and Pryor must have attended the same Christian Coalition prayer breakfast.
Hence, that Pryor may have a gay porn past is just way too delicious (Ken Cuccinelli must be freaking out given the gay rumors I've heard about him).   Stories are exploding on the Internet, but here are highlights from Instinct Magazine that correctly notes that Mr. Pryor could be in big trouble if he lied to the FBI while being vetted for the federal bench.  (Two of my former law partners are federal judges and the FBI does extensive research on nominees' background under oath).  The Bilerico Project also has fun coverage.  Here are highlights:

The Alabama Bureau of Investigations (ABI) is looking into images that appeared on then-popular gay porn site in the '90s. Reportedly working on a few tips, the ABI is concerned that the full-frontal images feature federal circuit Judge Bill Pryor. If the ABI confirms that the images are in fact those of the conservative Bush-appointee, there is a chance Pryor could be indicted for falsifying his background during his Congressional confirmation hearings. 

According to LegalSchnauzer, Congress commonly asks federal judicial appointees about "potentially embarrassing or compromising information in their backgrounds." Sources indicate that Pryor was aware the pics were public on the gay site (which was dubbed the "Wal Mart of gay porn") in 1997, a few years ahead of his appointment. 

Pryor reportedly posed for the shots while he was a student at Northeast Louisiana University from 1980 - 1984, and sources indicate that the porn appeared in print during that time before finding new life on the Internet in the '90s. 

But that's not the juicy part. 

Judge Pryor is a notoriously staunch right wing conservative. Though he was cool with gay guys ogling his fully erect, full frontal naked self, he's not cool with gays and lesbians walking the streets as free people. According to People for the American Way, Judge Pryor "would deny gay men and lesbians the equal protection of the laws. He believes that it is constitutional to imprison gay men and lesbians for expressing their sexuality in the privacy of their own homes and has voluntarily filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court urging the Court to uphold a Texas law that criminalizes such private consensual activity."

Of course, Pryor insists the pictures are not him, though apparently, a republican colleague in Alabama was quick to confirm that they are. "Holy cow, that's Bill Pryor!" he said.

Pryor denies he did porn in college and the investigation is ongoing, so take it all with a grain of salt. But do you think these pics are of Judge Pryor?
For the NSFW version, click here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Morning Male Beauty

British Parliament Moving Toward Posthumous Pardon of Alan Turing

Homophobia and religious based anti-gay laws continue to cause untold tragedies for LGBT individuals.  The godly folk continue to leave in their wake a trail of damaged and/or ruined lives.  And because of religious based ignorance hate and bigotry, gays continue to lose their lives around the world.  And for what?  So that the falsely pious and those suffering from forms of psychosis can feel better about themselves or avoid facing the reality that their faith system is a false house of cards.  Among the lives destroyed by the pious and their political hacks is that of Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science and breaker of the Nazi enigma code.  Now, many years after Turing's prosecution for being gay and after his resulting suicide, the British government is considering a pardon for Turing.  Obviously, it's too little too late, but it is at least a recognition of past error.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

A founding father of the modern computer, Alan Turing devised a machine that unraveled the enigma of Nazi codes and aided the defeat of Adolf Hitler. Convicted of homosexuality after World War II and sentenced to chemical castration, Turing — an avid fan of the film “Snow White” — was found dead in 1954 from cyanide poisoning, a bitten apple by his bedside.

More than half a century after his apparent suicide and following global strides in gay rights, a movement is cresting to reboot the record of the British mathematician’s short but luminous life.

Responding to a campaign by laureates such as Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, the British Parliament is moving toward granting Turing a posthumous pardon. The act would recognize the humiliation of one of computer science’s leading intellects who, after being sentenced by a British court to forced treatment with female hormones, became impotent and budded breasts before being found dead by his housekeeper in a lonely room near Manchester. Some academics are even calling for a reopening of the inquest that quickly declared his death self-inflicted, despite the lack of a suicide note.

The push comes amid a new swell of international attention for a man who scholars say made conceptual breakthroughs that laid the groundwork for everything from mainframes to ­iPhones.

“Every time you turn on your computer, every time you check your e-mail, every time you share a photo,” it is because of Turing’s concepts, said Teddy Schwarzman, producer of the “Imitation Game,” a multimillion-dollar biopic on Turing due out next year starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Yet the campaign to pardon Turing’s 1952 conviction — which came after he acknowledged having a same-sex relationship and declared he saw nothing wrong with it — is also igniting a debate over the tricky business of rewriting history.

Opponents argue that what’s done is done and that a pardon could spark an avalanche of petitions from families of other deceased convicts whose punishments in their day now seem barbaric. Still others say the parliamentary proposal does not go far enough. If Turing is pardoned, why not the writer Oscar Wilde, the actor John Gielgud and the thousands of other less-notable Britons once punished for the love that dare not speak its name?

Since last year, living Britons convicted under the 1885 law that largely targeted gay men — popular myth says Queen Victoria did not believe lesbians existed — can apply for pardons. But Parliament has yet to extend the same right to families wishing to clear the names of dead relatives who were sentenced under the law — which was overturned in 1967 in England and Wales and 1980 in Scotland.

As Hitler’s blitz began raining fire on British cities a year later, Turing and others worked round the clock to turn the tide of the war by cracking Nazi messages encoded by the infamous Enigma machines. Even among the great minds gathered at Bletchley Park for the war effort, scholars say, Turing stood out.

“As one of his colleagues once said, it was a very good thing that the government didn’t know that Turing was a homosexual during the war, because if they found out, they would have sacked him and we would have lost,” said Lord John Sharkey, sponsor of the Turing pardon in Britain’s upper house.

It was not Turing - or others convicted under anti-gay laws - who committed a crime.  Rather it is the godly churchmen and political prostitutes in Parliament and other legislative bodies who committed crimes by falsely criminalizing others to protect their misplaced belief in myths written by ignorant herders over 2,500 years ago.  That so many suffered for ultimately no reason is a huge, huge crime.

Money and Self-Enrichment - The Real Motivation of "Family Values" Groups

There's more behind the agenda of "family values" groups and organizations besides bashing gays and disenfranchising blacks and other minorities so as to maintain white privilege.  And, yes, they want to maintain a pre-modern world and society in many other ways as well.  But the real motivation for many of the leaders of such groups is money.  Cold hard cash.  They live the good life while duping the gullible and ignorant like slick con artists and peddling hate and bigotry.  What's even more disgusting is that many of these groups purport to be "educational" in their efforts and shockingly hold tax-exempt status which significantly ups the gravy train for their leaders.  Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher have made out like bandits at the National Organization for Marriage, locally, Pat Robertson has made many millions of dollars, Catholic League blow hard Bill Donohue reportedly makes between $350,000 and a cool half million a year.  The list goes on and on.  To show how the system is milked, Think Progress has done a review of how the Joseph Goebbels like Gary Bauer (pictured above) has lived well while peddling "family values" hate.  Here are highlights:

Gary Bauer has been one of the nation’s most visible and outspoken social conservatives since his work in the Reagan Administration — fighting against LGBT equality, pushing to restrict women’s reproductive rights, and promoting Islamophobia. But while the former Republican presidential hopeful’s myriad political organizations and tax-exempt groups claim to support conservative values, a ThinkProgress analysis suggests that of late he uses them primarily to funnel money into his own pockets.

As president of American Values, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) “charitable” organization focused on “defending life, traditional marriage and equipping our children with the values necessary to stand against liberal education and cultural forces,” Bauer received an annual salary of about $120,000 in 2011 — and another $30,000 in other benefits. His wife Carol, who worked 10 hours a week as secretary/treasurer for the organization, received an additional $60,000 in annual compensation for her efforts.

But Bauer augmented this . . . .  by hiring himself as a “consultant” for the various political committees he controlled.   . . . . With hundreds of thousands left in the bank, Bauer hired a campaign strategy and communications consultant: Gary Bauer. In the 2005-2006 cycle, he took $40,000 in fees; in recent years his figure has risen to $3,000 a month. So far, Americans United to Preserve Marriage has paid Bauer more than $260,000 — and between 2009 and 2012, Bauer received more than half of the committee’s total spending.

Finally, Bauer turned to his oldest available account for his most lucrative work.  . . . . starting in March, Bauer began paying himself $13,750 a month for “political and admin” consulting — $68,750 over the past five months, and several times more than the $8,250 the committee has given, total, to federal political candidates so far this year. At these rates, his annual consulting fees for these committees would project to more than $200,000. This would be in addition to his full-time American Values job . . .

As I said, spreading hate, lies and bigotry can be very, very lucrative as financially stretched widows and ignorant individuals are fleeced of money that cannot afford to be giving away to charlatans like Bauer et al.  The IRS truly needs to revoke the tax exempt status of these scam operations.

Ken Cuccinelli Wanted to Make Divorce Harder for Women

Too many voters I fear still do not fully understand the extent of Ken Cuccinelli's extremism.  Yes, he wants to reinstate Virginia's sodomy statute which has been historically used to persecute gays.  He wants to end all abortions (even in cases of rape) and wants a "personhood" provision added to Virginia's Constitution that would outlaw many forms of contraception.  But many do no realize that he wants a 18th century approach to women's rights and would make it far more difficult for women in abusive marriages to divorce.  Women are in short to be near chattel property of their husbands.  A piece in Slate looks at this aspects of Cuccinelli's anti-modernity, anti-woman agenda.  Here are excerpts:

As reported in the Huffington Post, when Cuccinelli was a state senator, he filed not one but two laws that were aimed at eliminating Virginia's no-fault divorce law—which would make Virginia the only state in the country not to have a law protecting its citizens’ ability to unilaterally end a marriage without giving a specific reason—though the legislation died in committee.

McAuliffe's campaign is right to be suspicious of Cuccinelli's gendered intentions. It is true that Cuccinelli has been pointedly gender-neutral in his public statements about the bills, defending his attacks on no-fault divorce by saying, "This law has everything to do with the breakdown of the family. The state says marriage is so unimportant that if you just separate for a few months, you can basically nullify the marriage." No doubt that's how he'd like it to appear to female voters.
However, a deeper look suggests that his desire to eliminate no-fault divorce is about more than a gender-neutral concern for the "breakdown of the family." The bills Cuccinelli drafted were specifically about empowering spouses who resist the divorce. As the Washington Post reported, Cuccinelli has ties to the "fathers rights" movement, a group of men who agitate to give men more power over divorce proceedings. These groups supported Cuccinelli's bid to end no-fault divorce presumably because they saw it as a way to make it harder for women to end their marriages.

[W]hen relationships are abusive, it's very often the case that the victim wants out but the abuser wants to hold it together. Even though there was technically an exception for abuse in Cuccinelli's bill, those victims—who are largely female—would have had to cobble together evidence that would be necessary to meet Cuccinelli's standards for the exception, a process that would require many to stay in the marriage and endure abuse while gathering proof. Cuccinelli may not see this as a problem, but McAuliffe is right to bring it to voters' attention.

Cuccinelli's world view - and that of his religious extremist backers at The Family Foundation - is both antiquated and frightening.  Gays, women, blacks and others who are deemed "other" by the white Christofascists who make up most of Cuccinelli's support need to turn out in force on November 5th and not only make sure that Cuccinelli loses but that he loses big time.  The GOP forces of hate and bigotry need to be sent a resounding message.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

Quote of the Day: Ken Cuccinelli is the Polar Opposite of Pope Francis

The previous post looked at some of the surprising and in some ways cataclysmic remarks of Pope Francis.  With election day here in Virginia fast approaching, Francis' remarks are especially relevant given GOP gubernatorial Candidate candidate Ken Cuccinelli alleged allegiance to his Catholic faith.  GOP demagogues Rick Santorum and failed VP candidate make similar disingenuous claims.  Blue Virginia sums up the hypocrisy of these Republicans - and horrible individuals well.  Here's the money quote: 
I wonder what Ken Cuccinelli and Company have to say about this? While they're at it, I'd also love to hear their thoughts on the Pope's teachings that "the world's rich must do much more to wipe out vast inequalities between the haves and the have-nots," and that everybody "should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices."

In other words, Pope Francis' teachings, whether on economic fairness, social justice, or human sexuality, are the POLAR OPPOSITE of what Ken Cuccinelli, EW Jackson, Mark Obenshain, and the rest of the unhealthfully-sex-obsessed, LGBT-persecuting, women's-rights-depriving, soak-the-poor-and-enrich-the-wealthy Virginia Republican Party believe in. Not that they care, of course.
Cuccinelli epitomizes the hypocrisy of today's GOP and right wing Catholics who bear a striking resemblance to the Pharisees so roundly condemned in the New Testament.

Pope Francis: Church Cannot "Interfere" With Gays and Must Not Obsess About Abortion, Contraception and Homosexuality

On his flight back from his visit to Brazil earlier this year Pope Francis made statements that sounded as if they might signal a softening in the Catholic Church's stance on gays and homosexuality.  Anti-gay members of the Church hierarchy rushed tot the forefront to state that nothing had changed and the Francis' comments should not be misconstrued to mean that any kind of doctrinal shift was occurring.  Now, a new 12,000 word interview with the editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal, Francis stated views and positions that must be giving many hard right elements of the Church hierarchy and Extreme Catholic organizations such as opus Dei and the Catholic League absolute apoplexy.   What did Francis say?  That the Church needed to end its obsession with teachings on abortion, homosexuality and contraception.  And much more, none of which is consistent with what one hears incessantly from Catholic pulpits across the world.

For a study of contrasts that Francis' comments underscores consider his words:

In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.

Now consider recent statements by  Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John C. Nienstedt:

"Today, many evil forces have set their sights on the dissolution of marriage and the debasing of family life," Nienstedt said. "Sodomy, abortion, contraception, pornography, the redefinition of marriage, and the denial of objective truth are just some of the forces threatening the stability of our civilization. The source of these machinations is none other than the Father of Lies. Satan knows all too well the value that the family contributes to the fabric of a good solid society, as well as the future of God’s work on earth."
One can only assume that Nienstedt dropped to the floor in convulsions upon learning  of Francis' statements.  The same holds true for Brian Brown and the gay haters at the National Organization for Marriage and Catholic demagogues like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

Other bombshells in Francis' remarks that must be anathema to far right Catholis include the following:

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. . . . . The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, . . . 

[T]he proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”

Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.

If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation.

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. 

There are ecclesiastical rules and precepts that were once effective, but now they have lost value or meaning. The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.  . . . . “When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. 

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. 

These random statements suggest that much of what Francis said is anathema to far right Catholics and members of the Church hierarchy like Nienstedt and the far too many like him.  The queation will be whether or not Francis, if he was sincere in his interview, will have the strength to stand up to those in the Hierarchy and the pews who prefer to disseminate hate and bigotry and who have made today's Catholic Church exceeding ugly.  If Francis is sincere, I hope that he will force reform and return the Church's focus to practicing the Gospel message rather than control and power over the lives of individuals.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Backed Spending Cuts Cause Drop in Virginia’s Median Household Income

To listen to demagogues of the Republican Party, tax cuts for the wealthy and government spending cuts are supposed to magically spur the economy.  This false vision, of course, ignores the fact that when government spending cuts kick in, this means fewer goods are purchased and even more significantly, government employees are fired or laid off and their purchasing power and family income is decimated.  Especially in an economy where jobs are scare and wages are falling.  Of the 50 states, Virginia is particularly vulnerable to the impact of GOP backed government spending cuts.  And new data shows that Virginia's median household income has fallen thanks to the GOP's distorted voodoo economics.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

Virginia’s median household income fell more than 2 percent last year, the most significant drop in the country at a time when most states saw their incomes go flat, according to Census Bureau figures.

Several economists said the declining figure is the result of budget cutting in Washington that rippled across the state even before the sequestration-mandated cuts took effect this year.

The median income for Virginia households fell in a single year by $1,400, to less than $62,000, the Census Bureau said. Adjusting for inflation, that is almost $1,000 less than it was in 2000.

Median household income is considered a broad measure of economic well-being, and Virginia’s loss stood out in a year in which, according to the Census Bureau, incomes and poverty rates finally leveled off after four straight years of decline during the recession and an uneven recovery.

A Washington Post analysis of census data by county shows that almost every region in Virginia experienced a decline in that critical yardstick. In every county in Northern Virginia, the median income slipped, just as it did in most counties and cities around Hampton Roads and the areas around Richmond and Roanoke.

In contrast, the median household income plateaued in Maryland, which has the highest median figure in the country. It rose in the District and in Montgomery County
The federal government spends about $17,000 in Virginia for every resident in the state, one of the highest per capita levels in the country and almost double the national average. About one in 10 state workers is employed by the federal government.

“Virginia is very vulnerable to cuts in federal spending because roughly a third of its economy is tied to the federal government,”
[I]ndicators suggest that Virginia’s economy has been struggling, especially in contracting. The state’s economy grew by 1.1 percent in 2012, less than half the rate of such neighbors as Maryland and North Carolina.

“A lot of large organizations are having to cut their overhead,” he said. “It means folks are losing positions. It’s been a progressive annual decline — 2012 was worse than 2011.”

Many people who have lost jobs are support staff — such as maintenance employees — whose work cannot be billed directly to the government, Antonelli said. Often, the cuts have led to less work for subcontractors, he added.

There is more in the article.  The lesson: when you see some moron driving around with a Tea Party license plate, remember that they are part of the problem and are fueling Virginia's economic decline.  And if a government shut down does occur, things will only get worse.

"Last Supper" Flap Dredges Up the Real Ken Cuccinelli

Once again the Virginia GOP and Ken Cuccinelli have garnered negative national attention for Virginia.  This time the negative image arose from the joke told by cretinous John Whitbeck, the Virginia 10th Congressional District Republican Committee chairman, at a campaign rally in Northern Virginia that disparaged Jews.   It's a strong reminder that today's Virginia GOP - and the national party as well - is all about exclusion.  If you are not a white, racist, anti-Semite, homophobic Christofascists, you are not welcome in the GOP.  Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain have been trying to blow smoke screens in the campaigns to hide this truth ("Bishop" Jackson is seemingly too delusional to grasp that extremist insanity doesn't win over most voters).  As a piece in The Daily Beast notes, the anti-Semitic brouhaha is a good reminder of what the real Ken Cuccinelli is all about.  Here are highlights:

Once again, wordplay and ethnicity wounded an office-seeking Virginia Republican. On Tuesday John Whitbeck, Virginia’s 10th Congressional District Republican Committee chair, made the news as he warmed up a Constitution Day rally at which Ken Cuccinelli was the featured speaker by telling a joke that ran counter to the spirit of Vatican II, to say the least, and again brought into focus the Virginia GOP’s dual problems with modernity and electability.

Whitbeck got the crowd going by reciting a tale about how the head of the Jewish religion presented the pope with a bill for the Last Supper. Apparently, there’s nothing like the tropes of deicide and frugality to get voters to the polls. Or not.

Within hours, the Twitterverse lit up like an ecumenical Christmas tree, the Virginia Democratic Party circulated a video of Whitbeck’s attempt at a few yuks, and the Cuccinelli campaign sought to put some distance between Whitbeck and its candidate, who wasn’t yet on the stage.
Virginians had seen this movie before. Sort of. 
Back in 2006, then–U.S. senator George Allen (R-VA) hurled the North African pejorative “macaca” at his opponent’s video tracker, S.R. Sidarth, an Indian-American. Allen went on to lose his reelection bid by less than 1 percent to Jim Webb (D-VA) . . .

As a practical matter, Whitbeck’s remarks will personally offend only a sliver of the electorate, with Jews making up only 3 percent of Virginia’s voters in 2012, according to exit polls. More broadly, though, Whitbeck’s attempt at humor will likely remind folks about things that Cuccinelli & Co. wish people would just forget, things like Cuccinelli’s own brushes with birth, ethnicity, and nationality.

In a 2010 interview, Cuccinelli raised the possibility of tying Virginia’s challenge to Obamacare to the president having been born in Kenya and thus ineligible for office—despite that Obama’s mother was American born, raised in Kansas, and a descendant of New England abolitionists.

[T]he Cuccinelli campaign sought to quickly douse the fire of Whitebeck’s Last Supper joke.  . . . . For good measure, LaCivita added, “I don’t even know who the guy is.”

Dissociation is one thing, but denial is another—especially when it is false, especially when the guy you claimed not to know is the guy who actually nominated your guy for governor, and especially when the guy you claimed not to know previously emceed a campaign event for your guy.

Alas for Cuccinelli, as his brush with modernity now appears to be short-lived. For the next 24 hours, the candidate will likely be left to clean up a mess that was not of his own making—for once.

Back in the spring, the race appeared winnable for Cuccinelli, as polls showed him leading by as many as 10 points. Not anymore. Since then Cuccinelli has been saddled with defending his own record on social issues and ethics and with a running mate for lieutenant governor, the Rev. E.W. Jackson, who makes Cuccinelli look, well, moderate. Back in May, Cuccinelli announced that he was “just not going to defend” Jackson’s “statements at every turn.” Now, with time running out, Cuccinelli has embraced the once unembraceable.

It would do the New Jersey–born Cuccinelli well to remember that Virginia is very much part of the 21st century.
Ouch!!  That's right, Cuccinelli was once again caught lying.  He knows Whitbeck well and probably laughed it up when he heard the joke until he realized it would not play well outside of the GOP bubble.  It is also laughable that Cuccinelli claims that Terry McAuliffe "isn't a Virginian" when he himself was born in New Jersey.  McAuliffe has lived in Virginia as long or longer than Kookinelli as an adult.