Saturday, April 05, 2014

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Internet: Bad for Institutional Religion

Over at Civil Commotion Bob Felton raises an interesting question:
I’ve wondered through the years if the clergy’s hostility to the Internet was really about porn and online-dating and -gaming, or if they sensed the danger to them of easy information sharing — about their own misbehaviors, about life outside the church bubble.

A new study described in MIT Technology Review suggests that thatthe answer is the latter.  The that more information is available through a medium that the"godly folk" cannot censor or restrict, the harder it is to maintain religious based myths and outright untruths.  Here are highlights from the review:

Back in 1990, about 8 percent of the U.S. population had no religious preference. By 2010, this percentage had more than doubled to 18 percent. That’s a difference of about 25 million people, all of whom have somehow lost their religion.

That raises an obvious question: how come? Why are Americans losing their faith?

Today, we get a possible answer thanks to the work of Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, who has analyzed the data in detail. He says that the demise is the result of several factors but the most controversial of these is the rise of the Internet. He concludes that the increase in Internet use in the last two decades has caused a significant drop in religious affiliation.

Downey’s data comes from the General Social Survey, a widely respected sociological survey carried out by the University of Chicago, that has regularly measure people’s attitudes and demographics since 1972.

He finds that the biggest influence on religious affiliation is religious upbringing—people who are brought up in a religion are more likely to be affiliated to that religion later.

However, the number of people with a religious upbringing has dropped since 1990. It’s easy to imagine how this inevitably leads to a fall in the number who are religious later in life. In fact, Downey’s analysis shows that this is an important factor. However, it cannot account for all of the fall or anywhere near it. In fact, that data indicates that it only explains about 25 percent of the drop.

He goes on to show that college-level education also correlates with the drop. Once it again, it’s easy to imagine how contact with a wider group of people at college might contribute to a loss of religion. . . . . But although the correlation is statistically significant, it can only account for about 5 percent of the drop, so some other factor must also be involved.

That’s where the Internet comes in.  In the 1980s, Internet use was essentially zero, but in 2010, 53 percent of the population spent two hours per week online and 25 percent surfed for more than 7 hours.

This increase closely matches the decrease in religious affiliation. In fact, Downey calculates that it can account for about 25 percent of the drop.

That’s a fascinating result. It implies that since 1990, the increase in Internet use has had as powerful an influence on religious affiliation as the drop in religious upbringing.

“For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally,” says Downey.
I have long maintained that ignorance and lack of education (and perhaps psychological problems) are prerequisites for adherence to fundamentalist religious belief.   Now, it seems that lack of access to uncensored information provided via the Internet is another prerequisite.  Knowledge and access to information are mutually exclusive with fundamentalist belief.  No wonder the "godly folk" hate the Internet and easy access to the truth.  Interestingly, the decline of religion mirrors what happened in the former Soviet Union: once information and other views became increasingly available, it became harder and harder to maintain the lie that communism was working.  So too with fundamentalist religion.


It's Time for Swift Action From Pope Francis on Child Sex Abuse

At times I feel like a broken record on the issue of the need for swift action from the Vatican on addressing the worldwide sex abuse scandal in a serious, meaningful way.  Nice words and the appointment of likely do nothing commissions do not address the problem or create a meaningful deterrent against future abuse and cover ups.  Something that would is the sacking of bishops and cardinals who covered up abuse in the past. And when I say sacking, I mean complete firing and defrocking, with no retirement, no stipend, no nothing.  Put them on the street penniless.  Were this to ever happen, be assured that suddenly dealing swiftly and severely with predator priest would quickly become the norm.  Will it happen?  Not likely.   Despite his vastly better PR skills, Pope Francis is still leaving dogma and entrenched mindsets untouched.  An op-ed in the Seattle Times lays out why swift action is needed.  Here are excerpts:

A WEEK ago, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Episcopal Conference, defended the Vatican’s policy of not requiring clergy to report child sex abuse to the authorities. “The Vatican requires national laws to be respected, and we know that there is no such duty (to report abuse) under Italian law,” he told reporters.

It was a disappointment because Pope Francis had just appointed a commission to advise him on sex-abuse policy. Bagnasco’s comments sounded like business as usual.

Pope Francis can begin by conducting the sweeping investigation of all cases of abuse the U.N. committee on human rights has requested. He can require the mandatory reporting of abuse to police. He can encourage victims to come forward even if statutes of limitation have expired. He can compensate victims and hold accountable those who covered up clergy abuse.

For starters, Francis could defrock, demote or discipline Bishop Robert Finn of St. Louis, Mo., who was convicted of shielding an abusive priest. The pope should extradite Archbishop Józef Wesolowski of Poland, who is wanted by law enforcement for allegedly molesting five children. Action against both prelates would scare other bishops into obeying secular laws and helping, rather than hindering, the prosecution of predators.

Pope Francis should order all bishops to post on their websites — as 30 U.S. bishops have done — the names, photos, whereabouts and work histories of proven, admitted and credibly accused child-molesting clerics.

Then, publicly praise and promote the first few who do so. Francis should mandate bishops across the world to begin lobbying for better secular child-safety laws, then publicly praise and promote the first few who do.

Pedophile priests cannot be deterred. Complicit bishops can. Only the pope can do this. He can do it quickly and simply, by defrocking or demoting them and making it crystal clear why he is taking such actions. Consistent discipline is the missing piece. And that’s why the cover-ups continue.

Prayers, policies, pledges, apologies and meetings with victims aren’t enough. They are public-relations tactics, all said and done before. They don’t safeguard a single child, expose a single predator or deter a single cover-up. Symbolic moves are actually hurtful because they support a sense of complacency and give people false hope that real reform will follow, when it hasn’t and isn’t.

ON ENDA Obama Throws Gays Under the Bus Yet Again

As noted before,while marriage equality is important, also critically important in 29 states is the utter lack of employment protections.   Despite calls from LGBT advocates and Democrat members of Congress, Barack Obama continues sit with his thumb up his ass on his hands when it comes to protecting LGBT employees - notwithstanding his promise six years ago(that's right, six years ago) that he'd sign an ENDA executive order if elected to the White House.  Now, to add insult to injury, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the administration believes the executive order would be “redundant” if ENDA passed into law.   Never mind that ENDA doesn't have a snow ball's chance in Hell of passing the GOP controlled House of Representatives.  With important elections in November, it is once again time to send Obama a message that, if he wants gays to rally for the Democrats, we want something in return.  It's a message that I will tell Mark Warner and others tonight to their face if I see them at tonight's Commonwealth Dinner event.   Think Progress looks at Carney's insulting and ridiculous statement:

In 2008, then-candidate Obama pledged that if elected president, he would use an executive order to protect the LGBT employees of all federal contractors from discrimination. After several years of pressure from LGBT advocacy groups, the Obama administration still refuses to act on this executive order, explaining that it would prefer that Congress pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Advocates have called for both, but this Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the Washington Blade that the administration believes the executive order would be “redundant” if ENDA passed into law. When the Blade pointed out that the executive order would protect people that ENDA would not, Carney stayed committed to the administration’s ENDA-only position, calling such other possibilities of discrimination “hypothetical.”

In reality, the two would work in conjunction. On its own, the executive order would extend protections to an estimated 11 to 16 million employees of federal contractors who are not already protected by their companies. Though ENDA would extend to all public and private employers instead of just contractors, the executive order would still protect many workers that ENDA wouldn’t. There are at least two significant reasons why ENDA — watered down after decades of haggling — and a nondiscrimination executive order would not be “redundant.”

First, ENDA does not cover small businesses. In its current form, passed by the Senate in November, the bill defines “employer” as a business that has “15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.” This means that there are many small businesses that would be totally exempt from the protections ENDA extends to LGBT employees. Any such business that provided at least $10,000 of service to the federal government, however, would be bound by the expectations of an executive order, regardless of how many employees work there daily.

Secondly, ENDA has a glaring religious exemption that would allow many organizations and some businesses to continue discriminating against LGBT employees. . . . Thus, ENDA would still allow religious corporations and schools, for example, to either refuse employment because of someone’s LGBT identity, or condition employment on conformity to anti-LGBT doctrine. Any such organization that was also a federal contractor, however, would be bound by an executive order to not discriminate.

All of the major LGBT organizations that the Blade reached out to disagreed with Carney’s description of the executive order, including the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Freedom To Work. In particular, Freedom to Work pointed out that an executive order would allow the Labor Department to proactively investigate companies for discrimination, whereas ENDA would only provide relief after a victim of discrimination files a complaint.

[N]ot only would an LGBT nondiscrimination order protect millions of employees until Congress passes ENDA — which House Speaker John Boehner says won’t be happening this year — it would continue to protect many employees that would not be covered by ENDA.

In the meantime, it remains legal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in 29 states and on the basis of gender identity in 32 states (once Maryland’s new law takes effect).

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Federal Judge Plans To Strike Down Ohio Marriage Recognition Ban

In yet another defeat for those who seek to keep gays inferior under the civil laws, a federal judge in Ohio has announced that he will be issuing a ruling that will strike down Ohio's ban on recognition of same sex marriages legally performed in other states.  He is not striking down the ban across the board despite his announced reasoning for why he plans to strike down the ban on recognizing out of state marriages due to the posture of the case before the court..  Faced with yet another loss, oOne has to wonder when the National Organization for Marriage is going to close down and Brian Brown will have to find a real job.  BuzzFeed has details on the judge's announcement. Here are highlights:

Following a hearing Friday, a federal judge in Ohio announced he plans to rule that Ohio has to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples granted out of state.

In a docket entry summarizing the hearing, the court stated, “The Court anticipates striking down as unconstitutional under all circumstances Ohio’s bans on recognizing legal same-sex marriages from other states.”

Ohio’s 2004 law and constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marrying also bar the state from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere. The case is not about whether Ohio must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but only the recognition portion of the state’s laws.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black previously ruled in December 2013 that the state had to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples for the limited purposes of listing a couple as married on a death certificate of one spouse. The state has appealed that ruling to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This case, brought in February on behalf of Brittani Henry and Brittni Rogers, initially was about birth certificates, and being able to have parents’ marriages recognized on them, but, per Friday’s docket entry, the decision will be finding the recognition ban unconstitutional “under all circumstances.”

Presuming the state will appeal this coming ruling as well, expected by April 14, the case would join the other Ohio recognition case, as well as Tennessee and Kentucky cases about marriage recognition and the Michigan case about full marriage equality in that state, on appeal before the 6th Circuit.

Per The Independent, the judge said he based his decision on the fact that not recognising out-of-state same-sex marriages denied their “fundamental right to marry a person of their choosing and the right to remain married.”

Richmond Bound for the Commonwealth Dinner

We have the house/dog sitter lined up as we get ready this morning to drive up to Richmond for the 11th Annual Equality Virginia "Commonwealth Dinner" this evening.  The event is Equality Virginia's largest fund raiser and has become quite a political event given the number of elected officials - sadly, almost all Democrats - who attend.  I suspect once again, we will have U.S. Senators, members of Congress and a host of other members of the General Assembly and down the line in attendance.  It is always a fun event and it is one time each year when activists and allies from across the state get to interact.  The corporate sponsors are quite impressive and Republicans would do well to check them out here (scroll down) so that they know who their anti-gay policies may be alienating.

This year is a special treat - last November at the Legends Gala, the boyfriend was the high bidder on a silent auction package for tonight's event provided by Tysinger Motors that included  2 tickets to the dinner, a hotel room for the night, and use of a 2014 Mercedes E350.  We picked up the car yesterday, and it is amazing:

Sadly, we will not be buying one any time soon!  If any reader are at the event, I hope you will say "hello" if you see us!

A Marine Silent No Longer on Gay Marriage

Discovery that one knows someone who is gay is often the most powerful force in causing one to rethink past prejudices and bigotry.  It's one of the reasons that being "out" and living your life honestly and openly is such a powerful tool to advance LGBT equality.  Yesterday, while I was stuck in a court hearing in Norfolk, the boyfriend was at a judicial retirement ceremony in Hampton for a friend retiring from the bench that included a "who's who" of the Hampton/Newport News legal community.  Later he remarked at dinner with friends at the country club (where we are always made to feel welcome) that he had been amazed at the number of congratulations he received at the judicial retirement party on our upcoming marriage.   Yes, it can be a little nerve wracking at times being "out" living in Virginia, but it does make a difference and it furthers the cause of equality for all.  A heartfelt op-ed in the Washington Post by a former Marine Corps sergeant underscores how knowing and respecting someone gay is not only an eye opener, but also a vehicle to change hearts and minds.  Here is the op-ed in full:
I slept with a gay man for six months in Afghanistan.  No one asked. He did not tell.
In 2005, I and 200 Marines in my squadron deployed to Afghanistan to support the global war on terrorism. We were stationed at Bagram air base, a deep bowl surrounded by snowcapped mountains, where it rained and snowed while the sun beamed, prompting one Marine to remark, “Welcome to Afghanistan, the only place on Earth where you get all four seasons and a rocket in the same day.”
We lived in “B-huts,” wooden houses with no internal structure, subdivided into “rooms” by flimsy plywood boards. Every moment was spent in close quarters: working in small offices, eating meals in the chow hall, sleeping in our racks, exercising. We saw each other at our best and our worst, shared secrets and fears, lost patience with and supported one another through the duration of deployment. 

Sgt. Santiago and I spoke often, if casually. He routinely had one of the highest physical fitness test scores in our unit and never missed a chance to go salsa dancing stateside with fellow Marines, including our senior enlisted Marine and his wife, whom he persuaded to join a few times. He also proudly displayed his Puerto Rican flag in his barracks. Nevertheless, he was a reserved man, quiet, private. I assumed these were inherent personality traits. I didn’t realize that he was hiding something.

I believed I knew the men in my B-hut better than I knew most of my friends at home, yet the man sleeping next door had a secret he dared not reveal for fear of being removed from active duty. It never crossed my mind that he was gay — or that I could have done so much more to be his friend.

Even as a kid, Andy was exceptionally affable, the kind of person who could talk to a trash can. He never met a stranger, and he unfailingly seemed to know where he was going. Andy was surrounded by a close group of friends, always together, always laughing. It’s fair to say everyone enjoyed being around him.
In our teens, Andy and I would go on mission trips around the country, helping to clean or build homes, with a little vacation Bible school on the side. Perhaps Andy knew then that he was gay — it seems likely — but he flirted with girls, same as the rest of us. If he did know, he kept it to himself, and I lived in ignorance about it.

It would be 20 years before Facebook told me what I didn’t know about my childhood friend. About the same time, Sgt. Santiago’s news broke through the same social network: Both men were engaged to be married. To men.

There was suddenly nothing I wanted more than make amends.

No, I never gay-bashed. I didn’t bully, I didn’t hate, I didn’t torment.

But I did say “fag” to a fellow Marine in front of Sgt. Santiago. I did stay seated in the pew when my minister challenged, “Don’t let anyone tell you that this church is soft on homosexuality.” Silence is a most powerful consent.

I would think: Civil unions, what’s wrong with that? I considered myself “accepting” and “tolerant,” excusing the soft discrimination that’s easy to shrug off, the implicit inequality of separate but equal.
The irony was that I had always imagined that if I’d lived in the time of segregation and the civil rights movement, I would be the white Southerner who was proud to march with the NAACP — that I would tear down bigoted beliefs and demand equality for all, even putting myself at risk if need be.
But I didn’t do those things. I watched the fight right in front of me without question, inactive and accepting — just like the generations before me.

Well, no longer.

Andy and Sgt. Santiago both happen to live in New York now, and in a single visit I managed to apologize to and feel the weight of my embarrassment before each of them.

I blinked back tears as I spoke to Sgt. Santiago, who slept next door in Afghanistan, watching for my life as I watched for his:

“I’m sorry I let you down.”

To Andy, my childhood friend who still worships the same God as I do:
“Finding out you are gay has been instrumental in my supporting gay marriage. I’m sorry it took this long.”

And to both of them:

“I aim to do everything I can to make up for being late to the party.”

We don’t need to look backward for a chance to stand up for principles. Life isn’t about always being right — I was wrong for a long time — but about learning from mistakes and making amends. So I started with those conversations and writing about the effect these two men had on me, about how someone raised a Southern Baptist can love everyone equally and can advocate marriage equality.

If you’re reading this and you go to church every Sunday but you know that discrimination is wrong, or you’re serving overseas and worried that you or others in your squadron can’t be themselves, there is something you can do. Write. Speak out. Find the Andys and Sgt. Santiagos in your life and make amends. There is still time to be on the right side of history.

Virginia Catholic Conference Files Anti-Gay Brief

In what ought to be another wake up call to Catholics and others who have been duped by the PR style of Pope Francis, the Virginia Catholic Conference filed an amicus brief in Bostic v. Rainey supporting Virginia's same sex marriage ban and state sponsored anti-gay discrimination.  Besides revealing that absolutely NOTHING has changed in terms of the Catholic Church's anti-gay jihad, the filing demonstrates again why the Catholic Church needs to be striped of its tax exempt status for intrusion into civil law matters.  I'd also note that if Bishops DiLorenzo and Loverde were truly "child focused" they would be demanding that bishops and cardinals who aided and abetted sexual predator priests.  Their silence on this issue says all one needs to know about this disingenuous, bitter old men in dresses.  The Richmond Times Dispatch looks at the filing.  Here are details:

The Virginia Catholic Conference on Friday filed a brief with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Virginia’s definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
In the amicus brief, attorneys for Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington note that changing the legal definition of marriage would “unavoidably change the way Virginia’s citizens view marriage” and make the state’s marriage laws “adult-focused rather than child-focused.”

“If the message and function of marriage is changed in concept, the cultural significance attached to marriage will also change,” the brief states.

DiLorenzo and Loverde said in a statement Friday that while they “affirm the intrinsic dignity of all people, including those with same-sex attractions,” they also seek to preserve the one institution “that was designed to protect children and the family: marriage, rooted in natural law as the union of one man and one woman.”
“Marriage has an original, unalterable design that existed before any religion or government. No religion, government, or court should redesign it,” they said.
I'm sorry, but these nasty men are full of shit.  saying that they "affirm the dignity of all people" even as they support discrimination is like slave owners of old using the Bible "slaves obey your masters" to justify slavery.  The hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy truly knows no limits.

Bush/Cheney and CIA Torture

Unrepentant War Criminals
Today's Washington Post has a piece noting that after years of being near political outcasts the Bush family is back in the lime light - sadly, the family that brought us the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan and threw away thousands of American lives and squandered countless billions of dollars is in the limelight for the wrong reason.  Does anyone really give a damn about the paintings by the cretinous George W?   If they do, it is a testament to just how fucked up many Americans' values have become.  The more important piece in the Washington Post looks at the CIA torture program launched by Bush/Cheney and the war crimes that are the true defining aspect of those eight dark years of America's history.  Worse yet, the American public was lied to by both the CIA and Bush Cheney.  I remain of the view that both Bush and Cheney need to be tried for war crimes and dealt with as the Allies dealt with German and Japanese officials following World War II.  Until that happens, America has no moral credibility in the world.  Here are article highlights:
A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.

The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document. 

The 6,300-page report includes what officials described as damning new disclosures about a sprawling network of secret detention facilities, or “black sites,” that was dismantled by President Obama in 2009. 

Classified files reviewed by committee investigators reveal internal divisions over the interrogation program, officials said, including one case in which CIA employees left the agency’s secret prison in Thailand after becoming disturbed by the brutal measures being employed there. The report also cites cases in which officials at CIA headquarters demanded the continued use of harsh interrogation techniques even after analysts were convinced that prisoners had no more information to give.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to vote Thursday to send an executive summary of the report to Obama for declassification. U.S. officials said it could be months before that section, which contains roughly 20 conclusions and spans about 400 pages, is released to the public.

The report’s release also could resurrect a long-standing feud between the CIA and the FBI, where many officials were dismayed by the agency’s use of methods that Obama and others later labeled torture.
The Senate report is by far the most comprehensive account to date of a highly classified program that was established within months of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a time of widespread concern that an additional wave of terrorist plots had already been set in motion.

Officials said millions of records make clear that the CIA’s ability to obtain the most valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda — including tips that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 — had little, if anything, to do with “enhanced interrogation techniques.

The American public needs to be forced to realize that its government under Bush and Cheney engaged in conduct more akin to Nazi Germany than what those who wrap themselves in the American flag like to hold up as this nation's image.  Again, until those who ordered such barbarous practices are held accountable, America has no moral credibility.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Until laws on Gays Change, Virginia Will Lose Good People

I do not make any effort to hide the fact that but for the boyfriend's (soon to be husband's) successful salon, I'd be pushing to leave Virginia in a heartbeat - and I'd shake the dust off of my feet as I left.  In point of fact, we know a number of people who have left the state and moved to more gay friendly states taking their talents and assets with them.  Even within Virginia, gays routinely leave backward rural areas for more tolerant regions and cities.  The net impact is a lose for Virginia and, for the rural areas, they sink further into a "Deliverance" mindset which guarantees that much desired new businesses and corporations will avoid the areas.  And rightly so.  An op-ed in the Virginian Pilot bemoans the fact that because of the Christofascist/Virginia GOP maintained homophobia in this state, good and talented people continue to leave.  Here are excerpts:
The state's hostility toward gays and lesbians - both implicit and explicit - forced Laura Laing and her partner to leave Virginia nearly a decade ago.  It was the Commonwealth's loss.

Laing and Gina Foringer lived in Norfolk, and they had a daughter. Laing was the biological parent, but Foringer's rights were limited here - partly because of a 2004 state law that "put into question contracts that (same-sex) couples had together," Laing told me Wednesday.  The Affirmation of Marriage Act also prohibited same-sex unions. 

"We felt Virginia wasn't going to protect our family," said Laing, who formerly worked for Inside Business and  In 2005, the couple and their 5-year-old daughter moved to Baltimore. The change has been dramatic.

They visited schools where same-sex parents weren't a big deal.  Then last year, Laing and Foringer got married. Maryland is one of several states that allow civil unions or gay marriages.

Their daughter is now 13 and in the eighth grade. And Foringer recently started an environmental contracting firm.   Virginia missed out on that, too," said Laing, who remains a writer.

Her views are worth noting, following a March poll on attitudes toward gays and lesbians in the commonwealth. Virginians might be more hospitable today, but we've lost folks who got tired of fighting for equality and simple common decency.

And what's behind Virginia's continued anti-gay legal climate?  The desire of folks like Victoria Cobb at The Family Foundation who seek to impose their beliefs on all and make a living peddling hatred.  People who have a sick need to feel superior to others whom they want to look down upon as "sinners" and who they want to keep inferior under the civil laws.  It is time that this end once and for all.

Federal Judge Rules Gays Are Protected by Sex Discrimination Laws

Library of Congress
Today it remains perfectly legal in 29 states for employers to fire gays because of their sexual orientation regardless of how well they perform their job duties.  Religious based bigotry is allowed to trump all else.  Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House of Representatives are blocking a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ("ENDA") and Barack Obama blathers and sits on his hands rather than sign an ENDA executive order - evens as Democrats daily demand money from LGBT citizens.   It is a disgusting situation.  Now, a federal judge has very sensibly ruled that gays are protected under current laws barring discrimination based on sex (I would add that bans on religious based discrimination should apply as well as suggested by the judge).  The Advocate looks at the development which will no doubt have Christofascists howling.  Here are highlights:

A federal judged has determined that gays and lesbians who have experienced bias in the workplace can find relief under existing sex discrimination laws.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has ruled that Peter TerVeer, a gay man who is suing his employer, the Library of Congress, because his supervisor created "a hostile environment in which he imposed his religion and sexual stereotypes," falls under the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In a preliminary ruling that allowed the lawsuit to move forward, Kollar-Kotelly found that discrimination that stems from noncomformity to “gender stereotypes associated with men” is prohibited by Title VII, which prohibits workplace discrimination due to sex.

As Kollar-Kotelly notes in her preliminary ruling issued Monday, “Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating ‘against any individual … because of such individual’s … sex.’ Under Title VII, allegations that an employer is discriminating against an employee based on the employee’s non-conformity with sex stereotypes are sufficient to establish a viable sex discrimination claim.”

“Here, Plaintiff has alleged that he is ‘a homosexual male whose sexual orientation is not consistent with the Defendant’s perception of acceptable gender roles,’ that his ‘status as a homosexual male did not conform to the Defendant’s gender stereotypes associated with men under Mech’s supervision or at the LOC,’ and that ‘his orientation as homosexual had removed him from Mech’s preconceived definition of male," she continued.

“As Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant denied him promotions and created a hostile work environment because of Plaintiff’s nonconformity with male sex stereotypes,” she concluded, “Plaintiff has met his burden of setting forth ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief’ as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim (Count I) for failure to state a claim.”

Because TerVeer’s boss, John Mech, also allegedly imposed antigay religious views upon his employee, TerVeer may also be able to find relief under religious discrimination, noted Kollar-Kotelly. The preliminary ruling listed several instances of such acts. On June 24, 2009, Mech told Vermeer “putting you … closer to God is my effort to encourage you to save your worldly behind.” A few months later, TerVeer also received an email from his Catholic boss that contained photographs of assault weapons. The caption read “Diversity: Let’s Celebrate It.”

In 2012 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made the landmark ruling that Title VII does not simply prohibit discrimination based on biological sex, but also includes “protections sweep far broader than that, in part because the term 'gender' encompasses not only a person’s biological sex but also the cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.”

Since this ruling, several transgender people have found relief under Title VII, but TerVeer would be the first to obtain a ruling that these protections cover sexual orientation.

As I have said over and over again, special rights based on adherence to ignorance based religious beliefs need to end.  For too long Christofascists have been allowed to punish others who do not conform to their fear and hate based belief systems.  Kudos to Judge Kollar-Kotelly

Thursday, April 03, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Tom Daley: 'I Am a Gay Man Now'

I have one friend - he knows who he is - who just loves British diver Tom Daley.  With Daley's new announcement that he's gay, not bisexual, my friend DW must be in seventh heaven.  Here are excerpts from The Bilerico Project:

Tom Daley, the cute 19-year-old British diver and reality television star who won the bronze medal in the 10-metre platform in the 2012 London Olympics, announced in December that he's "dating a guy and... couldn't be happier" but that he also "still fanc[ies] girls."

But last night on the UK television show Celebrity Juice, Daley told the world that he does not identify as bisexual, but as gay. "I am a gay man now," Daley said.
He went on to explain:
"I came out on YouTube as I wanted to say what I wanted to say without anyone twisting it. I told my family before I told the world. I was terrified. I did not know what the reaction was going to be. I did it on YouTube because people were constantly digging and asking questions."

As to his relationship with Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, Daley said things are "all good."
Hopefully, Daley's example and that of other recently out athletes will continue to inspire other athletes to come out of the closet.  Meanwhile, DW, sweet dreams!

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Resigns

I noted recently that Mozilla - the creator of Firefox and other Internet and computer platforms - had found itself after Brendan Eich (pictured at left) was promoted to CEO.  Why?  Because Eich had contributed to the Proposition 8 campaign in California through which far right Christians and the Mormon Church sought to impose their religious beliefs on marriage on all citizens.  In the wake of blistering condemnations and boycott efforts, Eich resigned as CEO of Mozilla today.   Some like Andrew Sullivan - who I read daily, but do not always agree with are acting as if Eich is a free speech martyr.  I strongly disagree.   If Eich had stated his beliefs and been happy to practice his religious beliefs, I would have no issue with him.  But the entire goal of Proposition 8 was to inflict one set of religious beliefs on all and to trample on the religious freedom of others.  That is something far different than merely exercising one's right of free speech.  Unlike Sullivan, Mozilla got it right in a press release:

Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.

We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.

Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better.

The Christofascists believe "religious liberty" consists of being able to inflict their beliefs on all.  The irony is that they are endeavoring to do exactly what the Founding Fathers sought to avoid: one set of religious beliefs forced on all regardless of individuals' personal beliefs.   Eich and his supporters need to be honest with themselves and admit that their supposed "free speech" was aimed at depriving others of their constitutional rights.  Other businesses - and states - would be wise to learn from Mozilla's self-inflicted injury.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Mississippi Enacts "Turn Away the Gays" Law

The state of Mississippi seems dead set on maintaining its reputation as perhaps the most backward and reactionary state in America.  How else to explain the passage of a "turn away the gays" bill by the Republican controlled legislature.  Not surprisingly, Republican Governor Phil Bryant says he will sign the bill.  The law - like that passed and then vetoed in Arizona - purports to address the growing restrictions on "religious freedom" which in reality equates to allowing Christofascists to ignore laws they don't like and to discriminate at will.  The last laugh on the anti-gay bigots in the Mississippi legislature is that they have unwittingly give Muslims and others a loophole to strike back at Christofascists who could be on the receiving end of discrimination by those of other faiths.  The New Civil Rights Movement has details.  Here are excerpts:

Gov. Phil Bryant has announced he will sign Mississippi‘s highly-controversial and nationally condemned bill that is being called a license to discriminate against LGBT people, women, and minorities. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was rammed through the state senate last night by Republicans after it had been returned to a committee several weeks ago. Many had believed the bill was dead.

The bill, SB 2681, ”protects” people of faith from having to bend to laws or other government policies that they claim violate their deeply-held religious beliefs. A pharmacist could refuse to fill a prescription for HIV medication or contraception. A teacher could refuse to teach children of a same-sex couple. A DMV worker could refuse to administer a driving test to a person who is transgender. A waitress could refuse service to a gay man or lesbian. In the extreme, a man could refuse to take direction at his job from a female supervisor.

The bill could allow any religion — regardless of how mainstream or far from the mainstream — to establish a foothold in Mississippi, as no particular religion may be “protected.” Observers of all religions, including Sharia law, Satanism, and other non-Christianist religions, will also have the right to act, or not act, based on their deeply-held religious beliefs.

“From its inception,” Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality told The New Civil Rights Movement yesterday by telephone, the goal of the bill has been “to create a license to discriminate under the guise of protecting religious freedom.”
The law will go into effect July 1.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid Mississippi.  Now there is another one.

Virginia GOP Appoints Far Right Nut as Executive Director

I frequently read the conservative Virginia blog "Bearing Drift" to know what the enemy is up to if you will.  One of the more extreme contributors to that blog is Shaun Kenney who often seems to live in an alternate universe detached from objective reality.  Under Kenney, it is safe to say that the Virginia GOP will continue its gay-baiting, anti-women, anti-modernity formula and no doubt remain an arm of the Christofascists at The Family Foundation.  All of this is good news for Democrats as most citizens  of the Commonwealth (outside of Southwest Virginia and religious extremist circles) move forward into the future.  The Washington Post noted Kenney's appointment:

The Republican Party of Virginia hired a new executive director Wednesday and announced that former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II had made a $25,000 donation to boost the organization’s depleted coffers. Party Chairman Pat Mullins appointed Shaun Kenney, a veteran Virginia political operative, former party spokesman and blogger, as executive director.  

Kenney served as the party’s communications director in 2007 under then-chairman Ed Gillespie, who this year is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). He has been frequent contributor to the conservative blog Bearing Drift.

Kenney takes a top job at a party eager to change its fortunes after losing the last two presidential contests and seeing Democrats sweep all three statewide offices last year.

The state GOP is also trying to overcome fundraising woes that it blames on the 2013 election cycle, which went into overtime with a recount in the attorney general’s race and several special elections. Before Cuccinelli’s donation, the state GOP had less than $70,000 in cash on hand between its state and federal accounts, compared to about $230,000 available to the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Anyone who hoped that the Virginia GOP might return to sanity should be disturbed by Kenney's appointment.

Iraq Vetreran with PTDS Kills Three and Self at Fort Hood

The hawks in the GOP who all rubber stamped the Bush/Cheney lead fool's errand/fiascoes in Iraq and Afghanistan blather all the time about "supporting our troops," but when it involves more than a photo op for campaign ads or just insincere talk, they are missing in action.  Indeed, these supposed supporters of our troops would limit benefits and most dangerously do not want to fund treatment of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") and other emotional/mental disorders resulting from the horrors they were required to endure.  Yesterday, the consequence of such lip service and lack of action took the lives of three individuals at Fort Hood in Texas, plus the life of a troubled Iraq War veteran.  As noted in previous posts, my son-in-law was one of the "lucky ones" after his serious injuries in Afghanistan, but many are not given what they need.  Here are excerpts from a piece in the New York Times on yesterday's tragedy:

A soldier who was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder opened fire at Fort Hood on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding 16 before killing himself, the authorities said. The shooting set off a huge police response and shut down the sprawling Army base, the same facility where a deadly rampage by an officer resulted in 13 deaths in 2009.

Fort Hood’s commanding general said the gunman, an Army specialist who had served in Iraq and was being treated for behavioral and mental health issues, had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The commander, Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, told reporters that the soldier’s motive remained unclear, but that the shooting did not appear to be related to terrorism. 

A Pentagon official said the suspected gunman was Army Specialist Ivan Lopez. General Milley, while not identifying Specialist Lopez by name, said the gunman had served four months in Iraq in 2011 and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder, but had not yet been diagnosed with the condition. There were indications that he had self-reported a traumatic brain injury when he returned from Iraq, General Milley said. 

The episode appeared to have unfolded around 4:30 p.m. at a medical support building. Witnesses described chaos as gunshots rang out. 

The authorities said Specialist Lopez appeared to have walked into one building, then gone inside a vehicle and fired shots from the vehicle with a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol that had recently been bought in the Killeen area. He got out of the vehicle, walked into another building and opened fire again, and then engaged with a female military police officer before shooting himself. 

He put his hands up, General Milley said, then reached under his jacket. The female officer pulled out her weapon, and then Specialist Lopez put his weapon to his head and fired.
We have countless ticking time bombs among our veterans, many of whom have complained of inadequate treatment and support after serving in the hell holes that are Iraq and Afghanistan.  Again, anyone who really supports our troops ought to be demanding funding to address their serious medical and mental health needs - just don't expect to see such action from Republicans who only truly care about the wealthy. 

Supreme Court: Politicians Can Now Be Totally Bought By the Rich

The rationale behind campaign finance laws has always been to stem government corruption with a view that if the wealthy or corporations could give unlimited funds to candidates running for office it ultimately was no different than bribing them once they were in office.  Sadly, a majority on the United States Supreme Court apparently has no problem with politicians literally being for sale to the highest bidder and bribes contributions made before they are elected somehow do not matter.  Or at least that is the only conclusion to be reached from yesterday's ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission limiting what can be considered bribes under any rational basis is a "unconstitutional" restriction on free speech.  Anyone who doesn't believe there is a direct "quid pro quo" for huge campaign contributions is living in a fantasy world.  The Washington Post looks at this devastating ruling which will likely spur the nation on towards a return to the worst aspects of the Gilded Age.  Here are editorial highlights:

THE SUPREME Court on Wednesday overturned yet another federal law meant to check corruption and influence-peddling in national politics. The ruling shows two things: The Roberts Court’s destructive view on these matters wasn’t changed by the backlash to its Citizens United holding, and Congress must respond by designing new rules that can pass the court’s overly skeptical review. If lawmakers tackle the issue forthrightly, they have some workable options.

The court eliminated an overall limit on how much donors could give to candidates, parties and various other committees over the course of an election cycle. The idea had been to make it harder for big donors to circumvent limits on direct donations to candidates by siphoning them through other channels, or for political leaders to ask for large checks from wealthy individuals.

In the plurality opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. held that the overall donation ceiling is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech because the government can regulate political giving only in order to prevent “quid pro quo corruption,” which is something like direct bribery. The chief justice insisted that combating the purchase of political influence and access is not a sufficiently worthwhile goal. Elsewhere, and without really owning up to it, he overturned a previous court holding in Buckley v. Valeo , the controlling precedent on the constitutionality of campaign finance limits. So much for the judicial restraint that Justice Roberts once promised. 

Individuals, corporations and unions could spend vast amounts of money to manipulate federal elections, sometimes secretly, under fig-leaf restrictions that hardly reduce the potential for corruption or the appearance of it.  

There is one particularly productive response to the Roberts Court that lawmakers should be able to enact immediately: requiring more prompt reporting about where political cash is coming from and where it is going. Americans would be able to evaluate the interests behind the candidates competing for their votes, and members of the court have repeatedly said that new transparency rules would promote accountability and fight corruption without impermissibly infringing on free speech. 

Too bad, then, that Republicans have lately opposed this common-sense reform.
Expect things in the political realm to get much worse.  We will now have the best government one can buy.  The Koch brothers must be celebrating. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Homophobia, Africa and the Perils of Not Knowing Accurate History

Perhaps it is the history major in me, but one of the things that drives me to distraction is seeing people who do not know and understand accurate history being played for fools and often duped into acting against their own interest.  The phenomenon ranges from working class American whites who are duped into doing the bidding of the Koch brothers who view such people as little better than useful vermin to black pastors tricked into acting as water carriers by thinly veiled anti-black organizations such as The Family Foundation here in Virginia.  Don't these pastors understand that they are being used as tools by the descendants of the very same people who supported slavery and segregation?  But perhaps nowhere is such ignorance of history more dangerous than in Africa where corrupt politicians and American Christofascists are using ignorance to fan the flames of homophobia.  A piece in Think Africa Press looks at accurate African history and how the populace in many countries in Africa are being played for fools.  Here are excerpts:

At a time when more countries are moving towards inclusive human rights, Africa is taking steps backwards. Backwards, that is, specifically on the issue of gay rights, though sadly not to before colonialism, the era in which anti-gay legislation has its roots.

Most Africans don’t recognise homophobia as a colonial legacy even though before colonialism, many traditional cultures were tolerant of different sexualities and gender relations. For instance, in my tribe, the Ganda or Baganda, (Uganda’s largest ethnic group) women from the royal clan are addressed with male titles and may or may not be required to perform duties expected of women. More broadly, from the Azande of the Congo to the Beti of Cameroon, and from the Pangwe of Gabon to the Nama of Namibia, there is ethnographic evidence of same-sex relationships in pre-colonial Africa.

By preying on African values of inclusive difference, however, Africa’s colonisers rewrote its history, the effects of which haunt Africa to this day. Tribal chiefs and village courts of law which were traditionally the hallmark of conflict resolution were traded for a European Penal Code system which included the criminalisation of homosexuality. It is also important to stress that so-called sodomy laws would not have impacted African sexual politics without the influence of Christianity. Christianity was used to whitewash African culture as primitive and to demonise traditional interpretations of African intimacies. The bible became the credo of African morality, disordering African sexuality to missionary positions of heteronormativity (i.e. the idea that heterosexuality is the only 'natural' sexual orientation).

But sexuality is not all that the colonisers rewrote about Africa. European colonies were established through military conquest, perpetuated through the politics of divide and rule, and religion. The colonisers understood that to conquer Africa they had to turn Africans against Africans such that Africans would blame themselves for their divisions, most of which culminated in ethnic hostility. Amongst other things, colonial policies of divide and rule spurred ethnic tensions.
In today's postcolonial world, the influence of US conservative evangelicals on Africa’s sexual politics cannot be understated. They have picked up where their colonial predecessors left of and are providing the propaganda, by way of religious brainwashing, for Africa’s antigay campaigners to make the case for harsher laws against LGBT communities. This is why holding American missionaries like Scott Lively and Lou Engle to account is crucial to the protection of LGBT people in countries where they evangelise.

What needs to happen in Africa is an honest discussion on human sexuality in the African context before, during and after the colonial period. This is a conversation local activists, civil society, academics, and the media should begin to shape.Africans will have to reclaim their forgotten pasts as peoples who traditionally refused to hate but stood side-by-side and embraced their differences.
If Africans were truly interested in honoring their own history, the first thing that they would do is kick the Scott Lively's and Lou Engle's of the world out on their lying asses.  Sadly, it isn't likely to happen.  To flourish conservative Christianity needs an ignorant and uneducated - something that is all too abundant in most of Africa.