Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Uganda Passes Foul Anti-Gay Law; Gays Now Face Life Imprisonment

Backwardness, ignorance and bigotry rule in Uganda
While progress is being made for equality in Cuba, New Mexico and even Utah, things in Uganda and other parts of Africa are grim.  Uganda has just passed an anti-gay law that will leave gays facing the possibility of life imprisonment.  It bears repeating that American Christofascists played a large role in whipping up anti-gay hysteria.  Having largely lost their anti-gay jihad in America, these foul individuals and organizations set their sights on backward, ignorant areas of Africa as fertile ground for the toxic agenda of hate and bigotry.  Among the lies disseminated by the "godly folk" is the lie that gays prey on children.  Never mind that most pedophiles are heterosexual males.  Hate, hypocrisy, and bigotry are what conservative Christianity is all about nowadays.  It is a cancer that needs to be eradicated.  Towleroad has details on the vicious law passed in Uganda:

Despite previous failed attempts to pass the so-called "Kill the Gays" bill, the Ugandan parliament has today successfully passed an amended version of the legislation that criminalizes "aggravated homosexuality" though removes the death penalty as a punishment, opting instead to imprison offenders for life should they suffer the maximum penalty. The AP has the report:
Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalised sexual acts "against the order of nature", but the Ugandan politician who wrote the new law argued that tough new legislation was needed because gay people from the west threatened to destroy Ugandan families and were allegedly "recruiting" Ugandan children into gay lifestyles.

The Ugandan gay community has disputed this account, saying that Ugandan political and religious leaders had come under the influence of American evangelicals who wanted to spread their anti-gay campaign in Africa. They have singled out Scott Lively, a Massachusetts evangelical,who they sued in March 2012 under the Alien Tort Statute that allows non-citizens to file suit in the US if there is an alleged violation of international law...

Despite criticism of the bill abroad, it was highly popular among a lot of Ugandans who said the country had the right to pass laws that protect its children.

One can only hope that western nations will severe all aid to Uganda and leave it to suffer the consequences of its embrace of ignorance and bigotry.  Uganda is a political and social hell hole - I have a friend who is working there - which deserves every misfortune that befalls it.

"Duck Dynasty" Racism and Quackery

FRC's Tony Perkins addressing a white supremacist group

Having followed a number of "Christian" organizations - many of which are designated hate groups - for many years, one constant under current one finds in these organizations is racism and white supremacist yearnings.  This holds for American Family Association, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and, here in Virginia, The Family Foundation.  Racism is a twin pillar with these organizations hatred towards gays. It's all part of a mindset that America belongs to white conservative Christians and that everyone else is unwelcome.  While the "Duck Dynasty" brouhaha has focused on the homophobic statements of Phil Robertson, blatant racism and an effort to promote the myth of the "happy and fell treated Negro" was prominent as well.  These fundamentalist simply put are NOT nice people.  A column in the New York Times looks at the racist element of the controversy.  Here are excerpts:

I must admit that I’m not a watcher of “Duck Dynasty,” but I’m very much aware of it. I, too, am from Louisiana, and the family on the show lives outside the town of Monroe, which is a little over 50 miles from my hometown. We’re all from the sticks.

So, when I became aware of the homophobic and racially insensitive comments that the patriarch on the show, Phil Robertson, made this week in an interview in GQ magazine, I thought: I know that mind-set. 

Robertson’s interview reads as a commentary almost without malice, imbued with a matter-of-fact, this-is-just-the-way-I-see-it kind of Southern folksiness. To me, that is part of the problem. You don’t have to operate with a malicious spirit to do tremendous harm. Insensitivity and ignorance are sufficient. In fact, intolerance that is disarming is the most dangerous kind. It can masquerade as morality.

I don’t want to focus on the employment repercussions of what Robertson said, but on the content of it.

In particular, I want to focus on a passage on race from the interview, in which Robertson says:
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. ...They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word! ...Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” 
While this is possible, it is highly improbable. Robertson is 67 years old, born into the Jim Crow South. Only a man blind and naïve to the suffering of others could have existed there and not recognized that there was a rampant culture of violence against blacks, with incidents and signs large and small, at every turn, on full display.
Louisiana helped to establish the architecture for Jim Crow. First, there were the Black Codes that sought to control interactions between blacks and whites and constrain black freedom. The Jim Crow Encyclopedia even points out that in one Louisiana town, Opelousas, “freedmen needed the permission of their employers to enter town.” 

Then, in 1890, the State Legislature passed the Separate Car Act, which stipulated that all railway companies in the state “shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored races” in their coaches.
Robertson’s comments conjure the insidious mythology of historical Southern fiction, that of contented slave and benevolent master, of the oppressed and the oppressors gleefully abiding the oppression, happily accepting their wildly variant social stations. This mythology posits that there were two waves of ruination for Southern culture, the Civil War and the civil rights movement, that made blacks get upset and things go downhill. 

Furthermore, Robertson doesn’t seem to acknowledge the possibility that black workers he encountered possessed the most minimal social sophistication and survival skills necessary to not confess dissatisfaction to a white person on a cotton farm (no matter how “trashy” that white person might think himself). 

It’s impossible to know if Robertson recognizes the historical resonance and logical improbability of his comments. But that’s not an excuse.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Utah's Gay Marriage Ban

In a surprising but welcomed move, a federal judge has struck down Utah's gay marriage ban ruling that the U.S. Constitution requires the same equal protection and due process rights for same-sex individuals to marry the person of their choice that are given to heterosexual individuals. Expect howling and spittle erupts from the Christofascists and their Mormon cousins.  Simply put, religion has no place in the civil laws governing marriage and while knuckle dragging, bigoted individuals and ignorance embracing denominations are free to do whatever they want within their houses of worship, they should have zero influence on the civil marriage laws.  In his ruling, Judge Shelby rightly found that the motivation of the ban on gay marriage was aimed at demeaning gays and that the ban had no reasonable basis.  The full opinion can be found here.  Sadly, Utah's governor and attorney general support the dangerous belief that the majority should be able to deny rights to minorities.  In contrast, Salt Lake City Mayor Becker began performing marriages immediately.  Here are highlights from the Salt Lake Tribune:

A federal judge in Utah on Friday struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the U.S. Constitution offers the same equal protection and due process rights to same-sex individuals to marry the person of their choice that it gives heterosexual individuals. 

"The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason," wrote U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby in the 53-page decision. "Accordingly, the court finds that these laws are unconstitutional."
In the ruling, Shelby enjoined the state from enforcing two different statutes that ban same-sex marriage as well as Amendment 3 to the state’s constitution, approved by Utah voters in 2004.

As news of the ruling broke, hundreds of people descended on county clerk offices around the state to request marriage licenses. At the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office, a First Baptist pastor was on hand to conduct wedding ceremonies.

Hours later, the Utah attorney general’s office appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and also filed a motion asking Shelby to stay the ruling while it seeks to defend Utah’s Amendment 3.   "The federal district court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right has never been established in any previous case in the 10th Circuit," it said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert released a statement that said he was "very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah" and said he would work with Acting Attorney General Brian L. Tarbet "to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah."

The ruling is the first federal decision on a state law banning same-sex marriages or denying recognition of legal same-sex marriages since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision this summer that struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). 

The Utah judge ruled just 16 days after he heard arguments in the case and well before his self-imposed deadline to render a decision by Jan. 7, when the next hearing in the matter was to be held, relying on extensive briefs filed in the case by both sides.

Cuba Passes Ints Version of ENDA

You know that America's claim to be the land of liberty and religious freedom is a lie when Cuba now provides more employment non-discrimination protections for its LGBT citizens than 29 states in this country, Virginia naturally being one of the 29.  This strange state of affairs underscores the need to eliminate the special deference and special privileges afforded conservative Christianity - which is neither truly Christian nor a positive force - in America.  One can only hope that anti-gay Republicans in Congress will be embarrassed that Cuba is now more protective of its LGBT citizens than this country.  

In what Cuban LGBT advocates are calling a historic victory the Cuban parliament has reportedly adopted changes to the island's labor codes to include language that explicitly bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We now have the 1st law that protects gays, in this case at the workplace. The intense parliamentary debate left it almost for certain that the labor law will also ban discrimination based on gender identity. [President Raul Castro's daughter] Mariela Castro proposed banning discrimination based on gender identity and obtained the support of Christian and intellectual parliamentary leaders."

In a follow-up blog post in which he expanded his thoughts Francisco stated that a majority of the parliament voted in favor of banning discrimination based on sexual orientation at work ("We succeeded! The first Cuban law to protect LGBT people's rights").

He also said that while other protections had yet to be approved Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro and newly elected member of the parliament, stood up and called for additional language banning employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity, HIV status and disability.  Francisco says that while some deputies spoke against the measures they received immediate support from Miriam Ofelia Ortega Suárez who is also the first woman to be ordained as pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Cuba as well as deputy Pablo Odén Marichal who is an Episcopalian pastor as well.

Cuban vice president Miguel Díaz-Canel, who also has a seat in the parliament, said he recognized the political value of Mariela Castro's proposals and suggested the creation of a parliamentary commission to study and implement the suggestions.  President Raul Castro who led the Friday parliamentary sessions backed the proposal and a majority voted in favor of sending the additional proposals to a committee.
 It is long past time that Congress enact ENDA.  It is also long past time that America normalize relations with Cuba and open up trade and tourism with and to that country a mere 90 miles from Key West.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Release the Torture Reports

Some of the darkest deeds done in recent American history were done under the Bush/Cheney regime which authorized torture, committed war crimes and willfully violated the Geneva Conventions.  Many Americans would like to sweep those crimes under the rug and pretend that they never happened at the direction of a sitting president and vice president of the United States.  But they did, and the best way to make sure that such crimes never happen again is to release the reports on the torture and crimes done in the name of the American people.  We need to learn from this dark chapter of American history so that it may never happen again.  It is important that Barack Obama stop stonewalling in an apparent effort to avoid embarrassment to America and those who cooperated in lawless torture.   The New York Times concurs and is call for the release of the full reports.  Here are editorial excerpts:

A dozen years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it is appalling that official reports about the extent and nature of the rendition, detention and torture that came in their aftermath are still being kept from the American public and even members of Congress charged with overseeing intelligence activities. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s exhaustive 6,000-page report was completed last December. But it has yet to be declassified. Likely the closest to a full accounting the nation is going to get, the report is said to contain unsparing criticism of the program. News reports have said it chronicles the Central Intelligence Agency’s repeated misleading of the White House, Congress and the public about the value of brutal and lawless methods that yielded little valuable intelligence despite the claims of former Vice President Dick Cheney and other defenders of torture.

The lack of transparency was underlined on Tuesday during a hearing on the nomination of Caroline Krass to be the C.I.A.’s top lawyer. Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, disclosed the existence of an internal study done by the C.I.A. under Mr. Brennan’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, that contradicted the agency’s response to the Senate study. Mr. Udall said he believed it was “consistent with the Intelligence’s Committee’s report.” Mr. Udall said: “This raises fundamental questions about why a review the C.I.A. conducted internally years ago — and never provided to the committee — is so different from the C.I.A.’s formal response to the committee study.” 

The committee must insist on the Obama administration’s cooperation in making public all three documents — the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the official C.I.A. response to it, and the internal C.I.A. study. 

Rendition, illegal detention and torture did not arise on President Obama’s watch. He has repeatedly denounced the use of torture and ended the detention program as one of his first White House acts. But his expansive claims of secrecy have succeeded in blocking victims’ lawsuits and helping to keep details of rendition and torture secret, denying the country a reckoning necessary for the historical record, establishing accountability and avoiding similar human rights violations in the future. 

Mr. Obama has a duty to ensure prompt public release of the documents — minimally redacted to protect genuine national security secrets, not to avoid embarrassment. 

GOP Hopefuls Strive to See Who Can Most Prostitute Themselves to the Christofascists

In the grand scheme of things "Duck Dynasty" and the grossly bigoted and racist Phil Robertson do not add up to much.  However, the scramble of the potential 2016 Republican candidate field to support Robertson's hate filled and bigoted comments underscores just how sick today's Republican Party has become.  These individuals - Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, etc. - might just as well have a tattoo saying "I'm a whore" emblazoned across their foreheads.  And its all about winning over the fetid swamp that is now the GOP base where racism, religious extremism, rampant homophobia and attacks on anyone deemed "other" are the guiding principles.  My Republican fore-bearers, all of whom valued knowledge and intellect, must be rolling over in their graves.  Note how the usual hate group leaders are also rushing to Robertson's defense.  The Washington Post looks at this race to go as low as conceivably possible.  Here are story highlights:

Few could have predicted that the story lines of the hit A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty” and the 2016 presidential contest would converge.

But that unexpected mash-up played out Thursday as conservative politicians rushed to defend Phil Robertson, the shaggy-bearded, homespun star of the breakout series, who was suspended by the cable network after his published comments about gays stirred a storm of controversy.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), a likely White House contender whose state is home to the show about a family that runs a duck-hunting gear enterprise, called Robertson and his family “great citizens.” 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), another probable 2016 candidate, chimed in on Facebook, writing: “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson.” 

Their embrace of Robertson — who in an interview with GQ described “homosexual behavior” as sinful and compared it to bestiality and infidelity — underscored how gay rights remain a potent political issue for many religious voters on the right. 

Conservative Christians “feel like they’re under siege in a culture that is increasingly intolerant and discriminatory toward their views, and they don’t feel represented,” said Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, who noted that Robertson paraphrased from the Bible’s Book of Corinthians in his interview. “I did not get any impression at all that there was animus expressed,” Reed said.   By jumping into the “Duck Dynasty” maelstrom, conservative leaders such as Jindal and Cruz sent a clear message to evangelical voters: We’re on your side.

Fred Sainz, spokesman for the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said that “the days of making gay a wedge issue are dated.”  “I think they are outliers,” he said of Jindal, Cruz and Palin, adding that he believes they jumped into the “Duck Dynasty” controversy to appeal to “a niche base.”  But that base remains a powerful force in the Republican Party, particularly when it comes to presidential primaries in states such as Iowa and South Carolina.

[T]he Faith & Freedom Coalition called on its members to launch an e-mail and phone campaign to let A&E know they will boycott the network until Robertson is reinstated.

Fundamental evangelical Christianity is a cancer on American society.  Any good works that might be done are far outweighed by the hate, bigotry and division that are its principle fruits.  That the GOP continues to prostitute itself to this putrid element of society underscores that the GOP is engaged in a slow form of political suicide. 


Lockheed Martin Ends Gifts to Boy Scouts Over Anti-Gay Bigotry

Hate and bigotry do have a price as the Boy Scouts of America continues to learn as Lockheed Martin joins the list of major corporations that will no longer make financial gifts to the Scouts because the Scouts' homophobic policies.  We can expect more howling from the Christofascists who will claim their religious liberty is under attack even though it is not.  They can still engage in their bigotry and corporations like Lockheed Martin can exercise their right to not underwrite hate filled policies. As noted in a previous post, a former seminarian summed up the source of the Scouts' "deeply held religious beliefs" that condemn gays: the Old Testament, a work properly describes as follows: "the Hebrew scriptures were [are] altogether fictitious, plagiarized versions of other ancient mystery religions with a desperate agenda to galvanize and perpetuate an ethnic minority."  The Scouts agenda and that of Christofascist hasn't departed from the original Old Testament agenda of galvanizing and perpetuating a minority that has a desperate need to feel superior over others. The Virginian Pilot reports of Lockheed Martins rejection of this agenda:

Defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin is halting its donations to the Boy Scouts of America over the organization's ban on gays serving as adult leaders after a review of the company's philanthropy guidelines, the company said Thursday.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the company decided it will not support nonprofit organizations that do not align with its corporate policies or commitment to diversity. The company did not disclose how much it has contributed to the Boy Scouts.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed follows UPS Inc., Merck & Co. and computer-chip maker Intel in withdrawing support for the Boy Scouts over its no-gays policy in the past two years.

In a written statement, Johndroe said Lockheed seeks to support nonprofit groups that value diversity.

"We believe engaging with and funding an organization that openly discriminates is in conflict with our policies," he said. "While we applaud the mission of the Boy Scouts and the good things they do in our communities, their policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and religious affiliation conflict with Lockheed Martin policies."

The sooner the American public puts divisive and antiquated - and fiction based - religious beliefs behind it, the better the future  of this country will be.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

Why The Advocate's Choice of Pope Francis for Person of the Year is a Mistake

I will concede that compared to his predecessor the Nazi Pope, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air.  But that is not to say that Pope Francis is the answer to the plight of gay Catholics, Catholics who have divorced and remarried, and/or Catholics who use contraception.  A change in tone does not equal a change in Church dogma.  Despite this reality and the fact that nothing has changed doctrinally (and that no one in the Church hierarchy who participated in the sex abuse cover up has been punished), The Advocate followed Time Magazine and named Pope Francis as it person of the year.   A column in Religion Dispatches rightly takes The Advocate to task for this mistaken choice.  Here are column highlights:

In case the editors of The Advocate did not notice, the Pope’s statement flying back from Brazil for World Youth Day was not a change in Catholic teaching, but in tone.

The Pope’s “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge” is not an encyclical, but a statement. Granted, it was a statement that shocked the world with its compassion, but the follow-up proved that it was not a change in church teaching.

What Pope Francis is doing is walking a tightrope. Instead of pushing dogma, he’s pushing a change in tone, not in substance. Because he is carefully eliding the church’s teaching and focusing on compassion, many liberals and media pundits—including The Advocate—believe that he is opening a door to a changed theology. That is not the case. What the Pope is doing is opening a door for discussion, but not necessarily change.

If a mere change in language can move The Advocate to make Pope Francis their Person of the Year over Edie Windsor, whose case helped DOMA to crumble, I’m stunned.

The disappointment that will come in the future when Catholic church teachings do not change will not be a surprise to those of us who know the history of the glacial pace of change in the Catholic church. Personally, unless Pope Francis calls a council on human sexuality, I very much doubt his papacy will change much about the corpus of Catholic teaching on homosexuality—defined by that tradition as ‘intrinsically disordered,”

While I very much appreciate the change in focus and tone from Pope Francis, I would caution everyone: “don’t get it twisted.” Pope Francis is still the Cardinal Bergoglio who opposed same sex marriage in Argentina.

As for a meritorious person of the year in the realm of religion, the column author says this:
If I had to pick my person of the year for the intersection of religion with LGBT justice, it would be a neighbor of mine, Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who has decided not to give up his United Methodist credentials for performing a same sex marriage ceremony of his son earlier this year.

By refusing to give up his credentials, he is forcing the United Methodist church to perhaps take him to trial and strip him of his credentialing—simply because of his belief that the Methodist Book of Discipline is discriminatory.

Rev. Schaefer is not just talking, but he is walking the walk—standing up for his son, same sex marriage, and his deeply held beliefs. That is the mark of a person of the year. While I like Pope Francis as much as anyone, I need concrete actions to back up the sentiments. Until the dogma changes, talk is cheap.

New Mexico Supreme Court Affirms Same-Sex Marriage

In a unanimous ruling that will send Christofascists into spittle fleck convulsions, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld to rights of same sex couples to civil law marriage.  Indeed, the Court held that to bar gays from marriage would violate the equal protection guaranties of the New Mexico Constitution.  The Court also rejected the Christofascist argument that marriage should be reserved to those who can procreate, noting that no such bars apply to the elderly, the infertile or those who choose to not have children.  As noted in the previous post, love, commitment, companionship, and shared goals are the real substance of marriage, not legalized sex.  Here are highlights from the Albuquerque Journal:

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of same-sex couples, granting them all the same rights of marriage enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The court’s 31-page opinion states, in part, that: “All rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.”

New Mexico joins 16 other states, the District of Columbia, and several Native American tribes in recognizing same-sex unions.

Justice Edward Chavez, who authored the unanimous opinion, rejected arguments made during an October hearing by opponents of same-sex marriage.

“Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying,” Chavez wrote in his opinion.

However, the ruling also stipulated that religious clergy who do not agree with same-sex marriage are not required to perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

The court ruled that county clerks must issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender, and that licenses issued to same-sex couples prior to the ruling must be recognized. More than 1,400 same-sex couples have been issued marriage licenses in New Mexico since August.

ACLU-New Mexico’s Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives said in a release, “As a state, we have always strived to treat all families with dignity and respect, and today’s decision allowing loving, committed same sex couples to marry continues that tradition. The more than 1000 same-sex couples who have already married in New Mexico can now rest certain knowing their marriages will be recognized and respected by our state.”
 The full opinion can be read here.

Whore Like Republicans Rush to Support "Duck Dynasty" Bigot While Decent People are Repulsed

Proving once again that there are no limits to how low today's Republican elected officials and Tea Party mouthpieces will go in order to prostitute themselves to the Christofascist element of the GOP base, one Republican after another has rushed to support redneck bigot, Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" notoriety after he was suspended indefinitely by A&E for his verbal diarrhea in a recent GQ Magazine interview.  These Republicans  - and fame seekers like the mindless Sarah Palin - literally fell all over themselves rushing to defend Robertson.  Politico looks at some of the pandering whore-like behavior.  Here are excerpts:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday criticized the “politically correct crowd” following the suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson over comments he made about homosexuality and religion in a recent interview with GQ magazine.

“Phil Robertson and his family are great citizens of the State of Louisiana. The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with,” Jindal said in a statement released by his office. “I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV. In fact, come to think of it, I find a good bit of it offensive. But I also acknowledge that this is a free country and everyone is entitled to express their views.”
Not surprisingly, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and others stampeded to join the parade of willing political prostitutes.  It is little wonder that the younger generations are turning their backs on the GOP in drovers. 

Meanwhile, serious thinking people are feeling revulsion towards Robertson and the hate-filled and bigoted mindset he represents.  Civil Commotion summed up well the reality that anti-gay animus is only part of the larger racist and bigoted world view that now permeates the GOP and the far right:
The Wartburg ladies give that bunch the heave-ho they deserve.

We believe that things said in public get to be critiqued in public. While many “gospel” conservatives are jumping up and down about A&E’s response to Phil Robertson’s views on homosexuality, they seem to be quite silent on some other views expressed by Robertson in GQ.  In the January issue of GQ, the Duck Dynasty star also comments on growing up in a pre-civil-rights-era Louisiana.

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson claims. “Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash.”

He adds, “They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

While not totally condemning Robertson - given the freakish reality show format that his show represents - Andrew Sullivan takes umbrage that Robertson only equates homosexuality with a specific sex act:
This is a fascinating glimpse into the fundamentalist mind. You’ll notice that, for the fundamentalist, all sin – when it comes down to it -  starts with sex. This sexual obsession, as the Pope has rightly diagnosed it, is a mark of neurotic fundamentalism in Islam and Judaism as well as Christianity. And if all sin is rooted in sex, then the homosexual becomes the most depraved and evil individual in the cosmos. So you get this classic statement about sin: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.”

This emphasis is absolutely not orthodox Christianity. . . . And to posit gay people as the true source of all moral corruption is to use eliminationist rhetoric and demonizing logic to soften up a small minority of people for exclusion, marginalization and, at some point, violence. . . . . What we’re seeing here – and it’s very much worth debating – is how fundamentalist religion seizes on recognizable, immoral minorities to shore up its own sense of righteousness.
All we’re seeing here is the effect of cultural isolation. The only thing I find objectionable about it – and it is objectionable – is the reduction of gay people and our relationships to sex acts. Mr Robertson would not be happy – indeed, rightly be extremely offended – if I reduced his entire family life and marriage to sex with a vagina.
Bob Felton also chimed in to remind us of the depraved view of marriage held by the fundamentalist Christian crowd:
Sullivan is right about the cultural isolation and the reductionism, but it shows that he hasn’t spent much time amongst southern fundamentalists. If he had, he would know that they define marriage as sex — or, more precisely, as cosmic permission for sex. The mutual loyalty and shared ambitions that actually make a relationship a marriage are specifically and relentlessly condemned, for those things are presumptions upon … Him, who is to have all your loyalty and who will let you know what are your ambitions.  It’s childish, and it’s odious, but Robertson’s exposition of southern fundamentalist ideals is definitely authentic.
These fundamentalists - and this includes Robertson - are not nice, decent or moral people.  Hate and bigotry are the stock in trade.  More Americans need to recognize this reality and treat these people like the pariahs they deserve to be.

The Boyfriend and I Are Getting Married

12-15-13 at a friend's home in Kingsmill near Williamsburg
A number of readers of this blog have followed it from the beginning and have followed me through the horrors of my divorce after coming out, my struggles to find full self-acceptance and freedom from internalized homophobia, moments of deep depression and other life time events and challenges.  Now, after five and a half years together, the boyfriend and I have set a date and will be getting married in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April 20, 2014.  We will be using the same marriage commissioner that friends used and found to be wonderful.  

As for the timing, we had thought of waiting until marriage became legal in Virginia, but in the wake of the DOMA ruling and with the boyfriend's dad growing older - we want him to co-officiate since he is a retired pastor - we decided that waiting would be a mistake.  The ceremony in Washington, D.C. will be small.  We will have a larger reception back in Hampton at a later date which has not yet been finalized.  So far the support from friends and family, including all three of my children, has been amazing.  

More details will follow as the plans become finalized.  My life has come a long way since the dark days of the past.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Hillary Clinton Says She Will Decide on Presidential Run in 2014

While most political junkies believe that she has already made her decision to seek the presidency in 2016, Hillary Clinton told Barbara Walters that she will make her decision during the coming year.  Clinton may be playing coy, but time will tell for certain.   Politco has some highlights from the Walters interview:

Hillary Clinton says she’ll make the decision next year on whether she’ll run for president in 2016.  “I will look carefully at what I think I can do and make that decision sometime next year,” Clinton told ABC’s Barbara Walters in an interview that aired Wednesday night.

Clinton, named Walters’s “Most Fascinating Person of 2013,” said insisted she is still hasn’t made up her mind.
“It’s such a difficult decision, and it’s one that I’m not going to rush into and I don’t think we should be looking at the next election,” the former secretary of state said.  “I think we should be looking at the work that we have today,” Clinton said, noting issues such as unemployment, food stamps and the economy.

She said that for the first time in decades neither her nor her husband were in public office, and called it a relief.
When asked if Bill Clinton wants her to run, Clinton said her husband has been “very respectful” and that he wants her to “do what I think is right.”
Clinton said it is important that the country has a female president but said, “I don’t know the exact timing of it or who that might be.”  ”Of course I want to see a woman in the White House,” she added.

Duck Dynasty Bigot Suspended by A&E

I never cease to be amazed at how the Neanderthals of the far right feel that they have a license to say any kind of horrible and untrue thing they want about gays.  No other minority in this country is such open game for overt hate and bigotry - even white supremacists have learned some level of decorum as to where they unleash their racists vitriol.  But not so with the homophobes.  A case in point is "Duck Dynasty" star (if star is the correct term) Phil Robertson who let loose with a rant in an interview in GQ Magazine.  Thankfully, A&E was not amused and suspended Robertson's bigoted and prejudiced ass.  Not surprisingly, the usual hate merchants are crying foul.  What's truly foul is the hate and bigotry that comes from the "godly folk."  It is little wonder that less than a third of the Milennials see clergy as honest and why a third of them no longer identify with institutional religion.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the Robertson saga.  Here are highlights:
A&E’s popular reality series “Duck Dynasty” has just entered the culture wars. The father of the clan, Phil Robertson, told GQ Magazine in an interview published today that being gay is illogical. The 67-year old Louisiana patriarch also compared homosexuality to bestiality, adultery, prostitution, alcoholism, lying, stealing — and terrorism. He also, unsurprisingly, says gay people are not going to heaven.

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” Robertson says. “That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer.

GLAAD is speaking out, calling the comments “littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.” And they’re talking with A&E about it.

Robertson’s “statement is far outside of the mainstream understanding of LGBT people,” GLAAD, in a press release notes. “In Louisiana, which passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, 56% of the population support some sort of legal recognition, marriage or civil unions, for gay and lesbian couples according to Public Policy Polling released in August 2013.”

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz says. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans – who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples.
Unfortunately, Robertson is becoming more and more representative of the types of individuals who make up the Republican Party base.  

New York Times: Reign in the Lawless NSA

Numerous posts on this blog have looked at the unrestrained domestic spying that has gone on under the National Security Agency that has left no American's telephone or Internet usage free from scrutiny.   Sadly, until Edward Snowden released massive amounts of information most citizens foolishly thought they enjoyed at least some small amount of privacy.  A commission appointed by Barack Obama has released a report that calls for numerous reforms to reign in the lawless behavior of the NSA.  It is also important to remember that this lawless behavior began under the Bush/Cheney regime, one of the most lawless in history.  The New York Times endorses the commission findings and calls for action in a main page editorial  Here are editorial excerpts:

In the days after one of the biggest national security leaks in United States history revealed the existence of vast, largely unchecked government surveillance programs, President Obama said he would “welcome” a robust national debate over the appropriate balance between protecting national security and respecting individual privacy and civil liberties. 

he answer has now landed squarely on Mr. Obama’s desk, with the release late Wednesday afternoon of a remarkably thorough and well-reasoned report calling on the government to end its bulk phone-data collection program and to increase both the transparency and accountability of surveillance programs going forward. 

The recommendations demonstrate how far afield the National Security Agency has wandered in its zeal to vacuum up the phone and Internet data of virtually every American, not to mention world leaders and other non-American citizens.

They also show the lack of regard for the Constitution that has led those efforts, and the virtual absence of supervision and restraint by Mr. Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush. 
The most far-reaching recommendations are also the most common sense. For example, the report calls for legislation requiring the government to meet a higher standard before it can order a company to turn over private customer records.
It also calls for an end to the government’s mass storage of those records, recommending that they be kept by the companies themselves or a private third party in order to prevent government abuse. Otherwise, the report warns, “high-level government officials will decide that this massive database of extraordinarily sensitive private information is there for the plucking.” 

Among its many other important recommendations, the report singles out the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose judges hear arguments in secret from the government alone, with no opposition, and issue classified rulings on significant constitutional issues. The panel said Congress should establish an advocate to argue in those hearings for the privacy and civil liberties interests of the public. And the selection of the court’s judges, which now resides solely in the hands of the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts Jr., should be divided among all the justices of the Supreme Court.

Perhaps most damning of all, the report calls into doubt the central justification for the surveillance dragnet: preventing terrorism. Echoing the finding of a federal judge who ruled on Monday that the phone-data collection program was probably unconstitutional, the report said the data sweep “was not essential to preventing attacks.” 

Mr. Obama need not wait for Congress to act to implement the reforms he said he wants. He can quickly adopt his panel’s recommendation and end the ineffective and constitutionally dangerous dragnet surveillance. 

Virginia GOP's Problems Still Not Over: Justice Department Likely to Indict Bob McDonnell

With the Democrats now holding all statewide offices in Virginia for the first time since 1969, the Virginia GOP still has another shoe that may drop soon after the new year begins: a federal indictment of out going GOP governor Bob McDonnell and his greed mad wife, Maureen.  Sources indict that the Justice Department was ready to indict  the first couple but decided to delay based on appeals from the McDonnell's attorneys.  While an indictment does not guarantee a conviction, it would still be another blow to the GOP brand in Virginia.  The Virginian Pilot reports on the situation:

Federal prosecutors told Gov. Bob McDonnell last week that he and his wife would be charged in connection with a gift scandal, but senior Justice Department officials delayed the decision after the McDonnells' attorneys made a face-to-face appeal in Washington, according to people familiar with the case.

Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told the McDonnells' legal teams that he planned to ask a grand jury to return an indictment no later than this past Monday, people familiar with the conversations said.

The governor and his wife, Maureen, would have been charged with working together to illegally promote a struggling dietary supplement company in exchange for gifts and loans from its chief executive, the people said.

They also argued that if prosecutors proceeded with charges, they should wait until after McDonnell left office Jan. 11 to allow a smooth transition of power to Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe.

Some element of the lawyers' arguments apparently persuaded the Justice Department to delay, according to people with knowledge of the case. They spoke on condition of anonymity because its sensitivity.

A final decision about whether to press charges is now not expected before Jan. 2 and could come as late as February, they said.

It is not unusual that a high-profile target, especially a sitting governor, would be allowed a chance to appeal a U.S. attorney's charging decision to top officials of the Justice Department. It would be very rare, however, for the Justice Department to ultimately overturn a decision made by a U.S. attorney.

McDonnell's attorneys have been pressing Justice Department officials to reconsider or delay - at least long enough for McDonnell to complete his four-year term and avoid becoming the first sitting governor in state history to face criminal charges.

It will be interesting to see what happens.   I still suspect that Maureen McDonnell is the one who began this saga.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The GOP’s Civil War Has Just Begun

Recently, the daughter of a Republican candidate contacted me in reaction to a post I wrote about her father.  We ultimately spoke by telephone and surprisingly agreed on many issues, particularly the toxic problem of the GOP base's stranglehold on the nomination process which either (i) forces sane candidates to have to stake out insane positions to get nominated or (ii) allows true lunatics to beat sane and rational candidates.  As noted in an earlier post today, Mark Obenshain's concession to Mark Herring has already reignited the war over whether or not the Virginia GOP will continue to use state conventions which lead to more extremist candidates or revert back to primaries.  The same civil war is being waged all across the nation.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the growing civil war.  Here are excerpts:

The Republican civil war, like all civil wars, is even messier than it looks. It’s a battle between two different conservative establishments, complicated by philosophical struggles across many other fronts. Its resolution will determine whether we are a governable country.

Because the GOP fight is so important, it’s a mistake to dismiss the passage of a real, honest-to-goodness budget through both houses of Congress as a minor event. The deal negotiated by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may be small, but it represents a major recalibration of forces inside the Republican Party.

The tea party certainly still wields power in GOP primaries, one reason why only one of the seven Republican senators facing tea-party challengers, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, supported allowing a vote on the deal. But Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner calculated, correctly, that the wreckage from October’s shutdown strategy allowed them to breach the tea party’s barrier against deal-making. 

Let’s be clear about what this GOP brawl is not. It is not a clash between “conservatives” and “moderates.” Most genuine Republican moderates either lost primaries or were defeated by Democrats. Liberal Republicans, once a hearty breed, disappeared long ago. The Republican Party is unequivocally in conservative hands.

Nor is this a fight in which “the Republican establishment” is being challenged by its “grass-roots” enemies. Boehner denounced conservative fundraising behemoths (they include FreedomWorks, Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity) because he understands that they now constitute an alternative Republican establishment. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was even more explicit, arguing that “many of the outside groups do what they do solely to raise money.” 

The showdown involving the two conservative power centers is not the only dispute that matters. There are crisscrossing divisions between foreign policy hawks and non-interventionists; between those who care passionately about social issues such as abortion and gay marriage and those who would play them down; between purist libertarians and pro-business pragmatists; and between supporters and opponents of a more open policy on immigration.

The governing wing won this round. But Ryan’s comments on the debt ceiling, coupled with similar remarks from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, suggest that Republicans will face another internal struggle over how much to demand in exchange for expanding the government’s borrowing authority. 

If Boehner cedes that decision to the party’s confrontational wing, the gains of this week will evaporate. And given the hostility among conservatives to Obama, the habit of seeing compromise as a form of capitulation could prove very hard to break.

The Public Distrust of Clergy Is Growing

Click image to enlarge
The results of a new Gallup survey will warm the hearts of those who believe religion and clergy are afforded too much deference: Americans' rating of the honesty and ethics of the clergy has fallen to 47%.  Perhaps more encouraging or discouraging depending upon one's prospective (I see it as encouraging), only 32 percent of Millennials (those age 18 to 34 years) view clergy as trustworthy.  same.  Given the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church - and the fact that no one has been punished - combined with sleazy televangelists (why does Pat Robertson spring to mind?) and the overt racism of many self-styled Christian "family values" organizations, it is easy to understand the revulsion toward the clergy of Milennials.  These finding on the declining view of clergy also further underscore the long term idiocy of the GOP in its quest to totally prostitute itself to Christofascists.  Here is a summary of the survey findings:
Americans' rating of the honesty and ethics of the clergy has fallen to 47%, the first time this rating has dropped below 50% since Gallup first asked about the clergy in 1977. Clergy have historically ranked near the top among professions on this measure, hitting a high rating of 67% in 1985.
As Christianity Today noted, trust in the clergy varied significantly depending on one's political affiliation and age:
Americans are divided along party lines, as well as age. Gallup found more trust in clergy among Republicans (63%) than Democrats (40%). Similarly, clergy members appear more trustworthy to older Americans than millennials: half of Americans older than age 55 trust clergy members, while only 32 percent of millennials (18 to 34 years) report the same.
In an unrelated post, Bob Felton looks at another possible reason for the decline in trust in clery: the clergy are lying to the sheeple and they know that they are lying but they keep on lying.  The following quote comes from a former seminarian:
Without devolving into extraneous details, I will say that it was my seminary courses, the texts, coursework, lectures and research, which cast into question Biblical authority and thereby theology. While I had studied the Bible devotionally for years, it was only in the context of seminary that I was expected to study it critically. In other words, is the Bible the inerrant, infallible, unchanging word of God? Was it what it purported to be? Learning that the bulk of the Hebrew scriptures were altogether fictitious, plagiarized versions of other ancient mystery religions with a desperate agenda to galvanize and perpetuate an ethnic minority, and then to learn that the Gospels were not in fact the actual words or deeds of Jesus, since they were authored in thousands of variant forms generations after the death of Jesus, all produced an intellectual and theological crisis for which I could no longer authenticate myself as a minister of the gospel.

Curiously, my seminary professors cautioned us that the churches we served, that the congregations we pastored, weren’t ready to understand the Bible in these terms . . . 
 All things considered, I continue to view religion - especially fundamentalist denominations - as an overall negative force in the world.  Hate, hypocrisy, violence towards others, and bigotry are religion's main fruits and outweigh any positive benefits that might flow from it.  Hopefully, more and more Americans are figuring this out.

Obenshain Concedes and Confirms Democrats’ Advantage in Virginia

Thankfully GOP far right candidate Mark Obenshain conceded the Virginia Attorney General race to Democrat Mark Herring (pictured at right) this afternoon as the recount showed Herring's margin of victory increasing to over 810 votes per an earlier Washington Post story.  By doing the right think Obenshain saved Virginia from what some had feared would be an attempt to steal the election by pushing the election results to the GOP dominated Virginia General Assembly.  With the Democrats now having had a clean sweep in the off year election that for over 30 years has seen the party not occupying the White House prevail, the postmortems and back biting in the GOP will likely go over the top.  Not that the Christofascist/Tea Party base of the Virginia GOP will be likely to admit that the majority of Virginians do not want the toxic policies and embrace of ignorance which are the hallmarks of today's GOP.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the growing Democrat advantage in statewide elections.  Here are excerpts:
Democrat Mark Herring’s victory in the exceedingly close Virginia attorney general’s race, which Republican Mark Obenshain conceded Wednesday, ought to end any debate about two key questions regarding politics in the Old Dominion.

First, in statewide elections, it’s now beyond doubt that Democrats start with a significant advantage. It turns out the 2009 GOP landslide, led by Gov. Bob McDonnell, was an exception fueled by the initial, tea party-led backlash against President Obama.

Since then, Democrats have won five straight statewide elections: for president and U.S. Senate in 2012, and for governor, lieutenant governor and now attorney general in November. Democrats hold every statewide elective office for the first time since 1969.

“In a statewide election, this is a state with a bluish tint. Republicans can win, but they can’t win easily,” said Bob Holsworth, a veteran Richmond political commentator.

Minority and immigrant voters, who tend to support Democrats, are growing as a share of the electorate. Populous suburbs such as Fairfax County, which used to be up for grabs, are now reliably blue. Those that once leaned red, such as Prince William and Loudoun, now lean the other way.

Second, to be competitive, the GOP needs to nominate candidates with more moderate views, especially on social issues. Republican support for low taxes and less government regulation is popular. But the GOP loses many voters because of its positions on issues such as abortion and immigration.

He [Obenshain] lost primarily because the Democrats were able to link his views to those of Cuccinelli, especially on social issues. A Herring ad pictured Obenshain riding in the same car as Cuccinelli. The Democrats called attention to Obenshain’s sponsorship of a bill that would have required women to report miscarriages to police within 24 hours.

Republican Tom Davis, a former U.S. congressman from Fairfax, said the 2013 election “should be a wake-up call” for his party. He blamed its right wing for insisting on a convention that nominated candidates who couldn’t appeal to moderates.  “It was a rebuke of the Republicans,” Davis said. “They lost it because they have a very exclusionary process for recruiting candidates. They do not understand the changing demographics of the state, and they’re not talking about issues that people care about.”

The GOP’s advantage in the House can restrain the Democrats’ agenda for now. If the Republicans wish to advance their own, however, they’ll have to win the top offices. On some issues, that will require a shift toward the center.
The comments on a post at the conservative Bearing Drift blog illustrate what the Virginia GOP  has in store for it as efforts are made to nominate candidates who are electable.  One comment sums up the mindset of the Neanderthals who do not grasp that Virginia and the nation are changing and rejecting the Christofascist/Tea Party agenda:
This is just incredibly sad. Not just for Mark O. and the VA GOP, but for Virginia. I am very much afraid that this beautiful state is going to become perverted and leftist. There is a reason why I didn't move to Maryland at one time in my life. I hope we don't lose our soul to whatever kind of "marriage" Hollywood is promoting on network t.v. this week, illegal immigrants calling the shots in the state legislature, and Medicaid expansion at the cost of our long-term access to health care providers, because it was dictated by the Federal administration.
 Meanwhile, the boyfriend and I are extremely happy that Mark Herring will be our next Attorney General and that we had the honor of holding a fundraiser for him in our home.