Saturday, July 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Douglas!

We are looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks.  In the meanwhile, I suspect this will bring a smile to your face!

Happy Birthday!!

Obama Will Not Exempt Religious Institutions On LGBT Employment Discrimination Rule

On Monday Barack Obama is to sign an ENDA executive order that bars federal contractors from discrimination against LGBT employees.  Thankfully, Obama seemingly has listened to his party's base and is rejecting calls from Republicans and, of course, Christofascists to allow special rights to those consumed with anti-gay animus to discriminate at will.  It goes without saying that the professional Christian class and leaders of hate groups such as Family Research Council and The Family Foundation here in Virginia will be launching into spittle flecked rants attacking Obama and claiming that anti-gay bigots are being persecuted.  The response to them is easy: if you want to discriminate, then don't put your hand out for federal money  It's really that simple.  These bigots do not get to have their cake and eat it too.  Here are highlights from Think Progress:
Federal contractors will not be able to discriminate against LGBT people in hiring even if they have a religious objection, the Obama Administration will announce on Monday. 

Last month, the administration announced it would amend two executive orders barring employers who rely on federal funds from discriminating against a series of traits. The current order includes race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Now, it will also include gender identity and sexual orientation. The move is a Band-Aid solution to the broader problem of Congress not passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would bar all employers from discriminating against people based on their sexuality.

When the announcement came last month, though, there remained an open question as to whether religious objectors would be exempt. About 140 religious leaders requested broad exemptions, while more than 100 members of clergy specifically asked Obama not to include such an exemption. On Friday, Politico reported that the administration will not heed the former requests, and will instead make the rule apply more broadly to all federal contractors.

“This is a tremendous victory for those of us who believe that as people of faith we should be exemplary, not exempted,” said Rev. Fred Davie, Executive Vice President at Union Theological Seminary. Rev. Davie will be a guest when the President signs the executive order on Monday. “Religions of the world across the ages have engendered and supported discrimination and bigotry from deceptively genteel to utterly horrific. 

[T]he order will actually effect over a million LGBT workers in the United States, and will be the largest expansion of LGBT workers’ rights in the nation’s history. In 29 states, it is legal to fire someone for being gay. In 34, an employer can fire someone with no recourse if they are transgender. 

The executive order will keep in place an exemption established by President George W. Bush in 2002 that allows religious contractors to favor employees with the same religion for religious roles.

Elizabeth Warren Rallies Liberal Base

Some say that Democrats have an enthusiasm deficit compared to the GOP going into the midterms.  In some ways that is perhaps true since Democrats done have the insane and hate driven Christofascists and Tea Party cretins that comprise the core of the GOP base.  I like to think that that is a good thing and means that the Democrats have sane and rational followers that don't act like a mob of Islamic fundamentalists the way the Christofascists do. Some are trying to energize and rally the liberal base of the Democratic Party and make them realize that complacency in the face of the menace that today's GOP comprises for average Americans.  Politico looks at Warren's campaign stops for other Democrats and to speaking engagements with liberal activists.  Here are some highlights:

Elizabeth Warren received a thunderous reception at Netroots Nation on Friday as she pledged to fight a “rigged” system in a country of rising income inequality.

The Massachusetts Democrat ascended the stage here at this annual liberal gathering to chants of “Run, Liz, Run.” Many in the audience touted “Elizabeth Warren for President” signs and some sported hats bearing the same message. The senator, smiling, shushed the 2016 cheers, urging everyone to “sit down, sit down. Let’s get started.”

In the speech, which clocked in at a little more than 15 minutes and sounded at times like a campaign address, Warren depicted America as a place of gross inequality, where the wealthy few are on the rise while everyone else gets squeezed out.

“The way I see this is, we can whine about it, we can whimper about it, or we can fight back,” she said to cheers. “I’m fighting back. I’m ready to fight back. Are you ready to fight back?”

Employing the populist language she frequently embraces, Warren charged that “the game is rigged and the rich and the powerful have lobbyists and lawyers and plenty of friends in Congress. Everybody else, not so much.”

her fans see Warren as an aggressive champion for working people, willing to take the fight to Wall Street, to big corporations and to Capitol Hill. And in the address, Warren embraced that image.
“We don’t win every time,” said Warren, who has recently been hitting the trail to stump for Democrats running in the midterm elections. “But we’re learning to win. We’re learning to win, and we will keep winning. We will fight and we will win.”

“We believe —I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014 —we believe in equal pay for equal work, and we’re willing to fight for it,” she said to big applause. “We believe that equal means equal and that’s true in marriage, that’s true in the workplace, that’s true in all of America, and we’re willing to fight for it.”

Some of the loudest applause of the morning came when she dinged the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which allows some private companies to claim religious exemptions and not pay for contraceptive coverage mandated under the health care law. Democrats see the ruling as one way to galvanize base enthusiasm ahead of the midterms.

“Oh, and we believe that corporations are not people,” Warren said, a reference to a comment Mitt Romney made in the last presidential election. “That women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it, we will fight for it.”

On the issues, Warren is correct.  The system is rigged.  I see it all the time in the real estate and financial sphere.   What I find the most ironic is that Warren's message and values are much more in keeping with the Gospel message that are the policies supported by the Chrisofascists who hate her.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Dear Evanglicals - An Open Letter to Those Played for Fools

As Evangelical leaders and their political whores in the Republican Party increasingly embrace ignorance and reject modernity itself, many of the sheeple they con preach to are being played for fools and lead down a path to self-marginalization.    Frank Schaeffer has an open letter to Evangelicals at Huffington Post that looks at the manner in which these people are being played and challenges them to wake up and open their eyes - and minds.  Will they listen?  Probably not, but thankfully, more and more of the younger generations are walking away from their poisonous beliefs.  Here are excerpts from the letter:
Your real enemies are not progressive Christian/Atheist/Backsliders like me. Your real enemies are some of the influential people who pretend to be your friends. They are your Nemesis.

I'll bet the board members of Gordon College, Wheaton College and Christianity Today have no idea about the real reasons behind a bad set of choices they were duped into making in order to serve a purely political agenda masquerading as a "religious liberty" issue. They've been had.

A day is fast approaching where ordinary evangelicals will be cursing Wheaton College, Gordon College and the other evangelical establishment bastions that demanded the right to discriminate against women and gays as a matter of "religious liberty."

So many evangelicals live in bubbles that they have no idea how the real world functions. They are going to find out that outside the comfortable inner circle of home-school, Christian school, Christian radio, TV and publishing, churches and Bible study groups, to the larger world people who want to discriminate against gays and women are weird outcasts to be shunned.

I mean what young man or woman wants their university degree to be from a pariah institution? Who wants to teach someplace that has the moral standing of the old apartheid regime of South Africa?

The argument will soon be made that if Christians can "legally" discriminate against gays and women then secular institutions should be able to exercise their consciences and discriminate against evangelicals. Just wait.

[T]he evangelical institutions that are making the anti-women and anti-gay headlines are going to discover that their more moderate religious and secular peers are going to punish them. They will also be losing their young people in droves.

Re-accreditation? "Forget it, you have a policy of discrimination against gays and women." Find sports teams to play your students? Want your professors to publish and deliver papers at national conferences? "Forget it, you have a policy of discrimination against gays and women..."

Neoconservative activists like George and his Beckett Fund, and Colson helped set the stage for the Tea Party and what should be called the Biblical Patriarchy Restoration Movement. They gave a gloss of intellectual respectability to what was a theocratic wish list targeting gays and women as a means to target President Obama and the Democratic Party. That's the real game. It is a game worthy of Karl Rove, in fact it is his game...
The aim was not freedom for religion but a chance to deliver a blow against a president that many evangelicals have never accepted as legitimate but that the racist Republican establishment hates. The result risks fulfilling Justice Ginsburg's "minefield" prediction where the rule of law and equal protection fade into chaos.
The larger American community will not stand for this. Most evangelicals won't either. They are good  loving people. Wheaton, Gordon and Christianity Today Magazine at al are mere tools in a larger fight. Now they are marked as bastions of intolerance. They will pay a heavy price. They have been abused. That is a shame. Evangelicals deserved better. The cause of Christ did too.
In point of fact, Gordon College is already paying a price for its demands for t he right to discriminate.    The City of Salem, Massachusetts is severing all ties to the college because Gordon's discriminatory policies violate the city's non-discrimination policies.  Hopefully, more cities and even states will join this tide and severe ties and cut funding to discriminatory "christian" colleges and universities.  Back2Stonewall has details on the City of Salem's decision to dump Gordon College:

In response to Gordon College President D. Michael Lindsay’s recent actions signing a letter in support of an religious exemption from federal regulations that bar employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the current policies at Gordon College that require strict adherence to behavioral standards for students, faculty and staff that are discriminatory towards LGBT individuals -the city of Salem. Massachusetts has terminated all contracts with the college.

In a letter from Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll to Gordon College President Lindsay:
“I am truly disappointed in the stance you have taken, which plainly discriminates against the rights of LGBT individuals, both on and off campus. These actions fly in the face of the City of Salem’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance, which prohibits our municipality from contracting with entities that maintain discriminatory practices. While I respect your rights to embed religious values on a private college campus, religious freedom does not afford you the right to impose those beliefs upon others and cannot be extended into a publicly owned facility or any management contract for a publicly owned facility, like Old Town Hall. Moreover, I hope you realize how hurtful and offensive these “behavioral standards” are to members of the greater Salem LGBT community, some of whom are Gordon alumni, staff and/or students.

It saddens me to curb our contractual relationship in this manner, despite a long and positive relationship with Gordon College over the years, however, not doing so would be a violation of our Non-Discrimination Ordinance and even more troubling, allow a contractual relationship between the City of Salem and an institution that enables, and now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community. As Mayor, I most certainly cannot let that stand.”
 Let's hope Regent University and Liberty University soon find themselves as pariahs.

The End of Russia’s Fairy Tale

2014 aggression

1930's aggression
Following up on the last post, the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 has hopefully exposed the lie of Russia's fairy tale that it is ethnic Russians in Ukraine who are driving the separatist effort in the eastern portion of the country.  Without Russia's active support, training and supply of weaponry, the movement would not exist.  And the chess master behind it is Vladimir Putin (I loved the description of him as "rat faced" in the Times column).  A column in the Washington Post continues to focus on the lies and dangerous agenda of Putin and his efforts to sow hate and discord which cost 298 individuals their lives, including 100 some top AIDS researchers and humanitarians..  Here are highlights:
Before there is any further discussion of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, it’s important that one point be made absolutely clear: This plane crash is a result of the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, an operation deliberately designed to create legal, political and military chaos. Without this chaos, a surface-to-air missile would not have been fired at a passenger plane. 

From the beginning, the Russian government did not send regular soldiers to Ukraine. Instead, it sent Russian mercenaries and security service operatives such as Igor Strelkov — the commander in chief in Donetsk and a Russian secret police colonel who fought in both Chechen wars — and Vladimir Antyufeyev, the Donetsk “deputy prime minister” who led the Latvian KGB’s attempt to overthrow the independent Latvian government in 1991.

With the help of local thugs, these Russian security men besieged police stations, government offices and other symbols of political authority to delegitimize the Ukrainian state. In this task, they were assisted by the Russian government and by Russia’s state-controlled mass media, both of which still constantly denigrate Ukraine and its “Nazi” government. Just in the past week, Russian reporting on Ukraine reached a new pitch of hysteria, with fake stories about the supposed crucifixion of a child and an extraordinary documentary comparing the Ukrainian army’s defense of its own country with the Rwandan genocide. 

In recent days, the separatist forces were openly using man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) and boasting of having taken down large Ukrainian transport planes, clearly with Russian specialist assistance. Indeed, Strelkov on Thursday afternoon reportedly boasted online of having taken down another military plane before realizing that the plane in question was MH17. The blog post was removed.

This is the context within which a surface-to-air missile was aimed at a passenger plane: a lawless environment; irregular soldiers who might not be so good at reading radar; a nihilistic disregard for human life; scorn for international norms, rules or standards. Just for the record: There weren’t any Ukrainian government-controlled anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine because the separatists were not flying airplanes.

Until now, these unorthodox methods have worked well for the Russians. They unnerved and distracted the Ukrainian government while allowing foreign governments, and European governments in particular, to turn a blind eye. Because the war was not a “real” war, it could be described as “local,” as “containable,” it could remain a low priority for European foreign policy or indeed for anybody’s foreign policy.

If it has done nothing else, the crash of Flight 17 has just put an end to the “it’s not a real war” fairy tale, both for the Russians and for the West. Tragically, this unconventional non-war war just killed 298 people, mostly Europeans. We can’t pretend it isn’t happening any longer or that it doesn’t affect anyone outside of Donetsk. The Russians can’t pretend either.

Without the fairy-tale pretense, some things are about to become clear. For one, we are about to learn whether the West in 2014 is as united and as determined to stop terrorism as it was 26 years ago.

It is insufficient to state, as President Obama now has , that there must be a “cease-fire” in Ukraine. What is needed is a withdrawal of Russian mercenaries, weapons and support. The West — and the world — must push for Ukrainian state sovereignty to be re-established in eastern Ukraine, not for the perpetuation of another frozen conflict.

The echoes of Hitler's tactics in the 1930's must be opposed and stopped.  Appeasement and willful denial will only lead to more tragedies and needless deaths.   Putin needs to become an international pariah and Russians need to understand that the wisest thing they can do is overthrow his corrupt and brutal regime.

Putin’s Deadly Doctrine Reprises Hitler

While we are nearing the 100th anniversary of World War I, events in Ukraine and the downing of a civilian airliner by Russia backed separatists/terrorists is in some ways more reminiscent of the eve of World War II when Adolph Hitler used a doctrine now being copied by Vladimir Putin to justify the invasion of Czechoslovakia, then Austria, and then Poland: protecting ethic Germans just as Putin claims to be protecting ethnic Russians.  Recently Andrew Sullivan aptly described Putin as a 21st century would be fascist Tsar.  An even better description would be to say it like it is: Putin is recycling Hitler's dangerous agenda both in terms of the claims to be "protecting" ethnic Russians and of scapegoating minorities like gays to fuel xenophobia.  A column in the New York Times calls out Putin.  Here are excerpts:
SOMETIMES, just sometimes, you should pay attention to annoying things said by tiresome people at worthy conferences.

In 1994, I was half asleep at a round table in St. Petersburg, Russia, when a short, thickset man with a rather ratlike face — apparently a sidekick of the city’s mayor — suddenly piped up. Russia, he said, had voluntarily given up “huge territories” to the former republics of the Soviet Union, including areas “which historically have always belonged to Russia.” He was thinking “not only about Crimea and northern Kazakhstan, but also for example about the Kaliningrad area.” Russia could not simply abandon to their fate those “25 million Russians” who now lived abroad. The world had to respect the interests of the Russian state “and of the Russian people as a great nation.”

The name of this irritating little man was — you guessed it — Vladimir V. Putin, and I know exactly what he said back in 1994 because the organizers, the Körber Foundation of Hamburg, Germany, published a full transcript. For the phrase that I have translated as “the Russian people,” the German transcript uses the word “volk.” Mr. Putin seemed to have, and still has, an expansive, völkisch definition of “Russians” — or what he now refers to as the “russkiy mir” (literally “Russian world”). 

The transcript also records that I teased out the consequences of the then-obscure deputy mayor’s vision by saying, “If we defined British nationality to include all English-speaking people, we would have a state slightly larger than China.”

Little did we imagine that, 20 years later, the St. Petersburg deputy mayor, now uncrowned czar of all the Russians, would have seized Crimea by force, covertly stirred up violent mayhem in eastern Ukraine and be explicitly advancing his 19th-century völkisch vision as the policy of a 21st-century state.
It is impossible to overstate the degree to which this is a threat not just to Russia’s Eastern European and Eurasian neighbors but to the whole post-1945 international order. Across the world, countries see men and women living in other countries whom they regard as in some sense “their people.”

Poland has expressed concern for the position of Polish speakers in Lithuania. Hungary has handed out both passports and voting rights in national elections to citizens of neighboring countries whom it deems to be members of the Hungarian people. To pin down what is illegitimate, we have to explain more clearly what is legitimate.

As of Friday, American and Ukrainian officials were saying it was likely that a Russian-made antiaircraft missile had brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in yet another harvest of sorrow on Ukrainian fields already blood-soaked by history. It was not clear who fired it. But it is hypocrisy on an Orwellian scale for Mr. Putin to maintain, as he did on Friday, that “the government over whose territory this happened bears the responsibility for this terrible tragedy.” There is undoubtedly bitter discontent among many self-identified Russians in eastern Ukraine, but the violence of their protests has been stirred by a massively mendacious narrative on Russian television, and their paramilitaries have been supported, to put it no more strongly, by Mr. Putin’s Russia — including the presence of members or former members of Russian special forces.

It is precisely the ambiguous mixtures created by Mr. Putin’s völkisch version of the “responsibility to protect” that produce such disastrous possibilities. He subverts and calls into question the authority of the government of a sovereign territory, and then blames it for the result.

So if an obscure deputy mayor starts sounding off in alarming terms at some conference you are attending, my advice is, Wake up. Of course, most such ranters do not rise to the top. But when they do, their ideologies of resentment may be written out in blood.

In the early 1930's people did not see Hitler as a serious threat and the world paid a huge price for such inattention.  Putin has all the same megalomania of Hitler and  has shown that he is only too willing to recycle the Furher's deadly tactics.   What is equally sad is that with Putin, the Russian people are again being betrayed and harmed by a failed ruler.  In Russia, history keeps repeating itself.

10th Circuit Rules Oklahoma Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

As it did with Utah's anti-gay animus based Christofascist backed ban on same sex marriage, yesterday the United States Court of Appeals ruled that Oklahoma's similar ban was likewise unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution (meanwhile, here in Virginia, the 4th Circuit continues to sit on its thumbs and has not released its ruling in the Bostic appeal).   Meanwhile, the Supreme Court yesterday stayed the 10th Circuit's ruling in the Utah case pending the outcome of Utah's desperate last ditch effort to allow Christofascists to force their religious beliefs on all Americans.  Here are highlights from the Tulsa World on the 10th Circuit decision:

Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages moved closer to being lifted Friday.

A federal appeals court struck down the ban as unconstitutional, bringing measured celebrations within Tulsa’s LGBT community and strong words from Gov. Mary Fallin.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law for everyone.

“States may not, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, prohibit same-sex marriages,” the judges wrote.  The court stayed its opinion, putting it on hold pending an expected challenge.

Fallin criticized the court’s decision in a prepared statement.

“Today’s ruling is another instance of federal courts ignoring the will of the people and trampling on the right of states to govern themselves,” Fallin said. “In this case, two judges have acted to overturn a law supported by Oklahomans. Their decision will be appealed and, I hope, overturned.”
Friday’s 46-page decision by the two-judge majority rejected arguments by opponents of same-sex marriages that children have an interest in being raised by their biological parents and that a ban on same-sex marriages is valid because only opposite-sex couples are capable of being procreative.
The Court's full decision can be read here.  It is noteworthy that Gov. Fallin favors mob majority rule and conveniently forgets that once upon a time majorities favored slavery, and  later segregation and bans on bans on interracial marriage. Just because a majority supports something doesn't make it right or constitutional.  As noted many times before, I long for the day when Christians are a minority in America and when what they have sown may come back to haunt them severely.  Suddenly, you will not hear them preach for mob majority rule.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

9 Sinister Things Christofascists Do in the Name of God

Through the centuries religion has caused untold evil and, as continues to be the case today, the evil is done in the name of God.  And with the Christofascists the basis of their evil efforts is always supposed biblical authority.  Never mind that they disregard huge portions of the Bible and act in a manner usually diametrically the opposite of the Gospel message.  A piece in Salon looks at some of the evil done by today's Christofascists - who make the Pharisees of the Bible look like wonderful people in comparison.  Here are some article excerpts:

Christians may be a super majority in the U.S. They may control the U.S. Congress and, as we all were reminded recently, the Supreme Court. But that hasn’t stopped Bible believers from preparing their children for martyrdom. Web resources abound for church youth leaders who want to make sure their young charges are ready when the lions come for them. Titles include, “Expect to be Persecuted” “Persecution Equals Reward” and “Adventure Game—Persecution of Christians and Paul of Tarsus.”

The Christian persecution complex is absurd. Modern American Christians are not persecuted or under attack.  But for Christians who are truly concerned about hostility toward their faith, I have a bit of advice: Don’t be evil. And don’t let your co-religionists get away with being evil either.

A huge part of the antagonism that even moderate Christians face from outsiders is due to the fact that too many devout believers claim a righteous mandate to say and do things that are truly horrible.  Let me spell it out.

1. Opposing protections and rights for children is evil.Thanks to the influence of biblical Christianity, the U.S. stands alone with Somalia in failing to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Why? Because the Bible instructs parents to hit their children, among other things. Laws that give rights to children go head to head with biblical texts which say in no uncertain terms that children are the property of their fathers, to be punished or even killed in accordance with the father’s religious beliefs and other priorities.

2. Denying young people accurate information about their bodies is evil.The U.S. government just spent a decade and a billion dollars on failed abstinence-only education programs concocted by Bible believers who live in some delusional world where prohibition works and virginity is next to godliness. . . . Instead of medically accurate information and thoughtful conversation about intimacy and childbearing, teens get promise rings and slut shame.

3. Demeaning and subjugating women is evil.When it comes to dignity and equality for women, instead of acting as moral torchbearers, Bible believers have been at the back of the pack for generations, along with conservative factions from other Abrahamic traditions ranging from Islam to Mormonism.

4. Obstructing humanity’s transition to more thoughtful, intentional childbearing is evil.“If a woman dies in [child]bearing, let her die; she is there to do it.” So spoke Martin Luther. But beyond the horrors of women dying after days of labor or bleeding out after unwanted childbirth, lies the incontrovertible evidence that children, families and whole communities do better when parents can plan their families. As one medical student put it, “The failure of any sect to support the benefits to humanity that could be obtained through the use of contraceptive technology is blasphemy.”  

5. Undermining science is evil.Science has been called what we know about how not to fool ourselves.The discovery of empiricism and falsification—a method of inquiry that forces scholars to ask the questions that could show them wrong—is what has differentiated modernity from the Middle Ages. . . . .But the scientific method has also become an existential threat to Bible belief. We know now that the Genesis creation story is myth, neurotransmitters rather than demons cause mental illness, mandrake roots and dove blood don’t improve female fertility or cure skin diseases, and the cognitive structures of the human mind predispose us to certain kinds of religious belief.

6. Promoting holy war is evil.What first flipped my bit, what transformed me from an agnostic into an outspoken full-time antagonist of Bible worship was a conversation with my Evangelical relatives about the Iraq war. From the vantage of my relatives and my childhood church “family,” George Bush needed no diplomatic or cultural expertise; he was Born Again. He didn’t need to seek input from his earthly father about the invasion, because he asked his Heavenly Father. Besides, Jesus is coming soon and war in the Middle East is predicted in the Bible. That makes it not only inevitable, but—in a manner of speaking—desirable.

7. Abusing and killing queers is evil.The Bible’s clobber verses may be open to interpretation, but the fact that those verses have caused centuries of suffering is not. For much of American history, the common term for queer was the biblical “sodomite,” implying that gays are so offensive to God that they pose a threat to society as a whole. Thanks to Christian missionaries, African and Latin American queers also have now lived for centuries now under the threat of violent death.

8. Destroying Earth’s web of life and impoverishing future generations is evil.The book of Genesis may say that only man is made in the image of God and that God gave man dominion over everything that grows or walks the earth. The book of Matthew may say that the return of Jesus is imminent and that his disciples shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, which will take care of itself. The book of Revelation may teach that this world is just a prelude to streets of gold.   But some of us think the lives and loves of other species have moral weight of their own. And some of us think that the intricate web that gave us birth is both precious and precarious, and that the wellbeing of future generations matters.

9. Trying to suck vulnerable people into your poorly researched worldview is evil. It’s one thing to latch onto the supernatural worldview you were raised in or the one that first triggered for you some radically cool temporal lobe micro-seizure or similar altered state. But then failing to do your homework before using your position of adult American privilege to foist your religion on kindergarteners, or families who live in desperate poverty, or people who just got hit by a natural disaster—in other words people who trust you because you are older or richer or more powerful or have more access to the very information that you have failed to use—now we’re talking about a violation of ethics. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

It is quite an indictment, but all too true.

Russian Backed Separatists Shoot Down Civilian Airliner

Driven by a huge ego and a fantasy of returning to the glory days of the Russian Empire, Vladimir Putin has continued to fan the flames of civil war in Ukraine - a war largely drawn along religious lines with the Catholic west of Ukraine seeking closer ties to Europe while the Orthodox east seek Russian ties.  Now, based on reports so far, it appears that pro-Russia separatists shot down a Malaysian Airlines jetliner with 298 civilians aboard.  Sadly, Putin could end this conflict by cutting off supplies to the separatists, but likely will not given his insatiable ego and maniacal desire to restore Russia to greatness even as his own corrupt policies hold it back  The New York Times reports on the latest victims of Putin's ego.  Here are highlights:
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 298 people aboard exploded, crashed and burned on a flowered wheat field Thursday in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists, blown out of the sky at 33,000 feet by what Ukrainian and American officials described as a Russian-made antiaircraft missile.

Ukraine accused the separatists of carrying out what it called a terrorist attack. American intelligence and military officials said the plane had been destroyed by a Russian SA-series missile, based on surveillance satellite data that showed the final trajectory and impact of the missile but not its point of origin.

There were strong indications that those responsible may have errantly downed what they had thought was a military aircraft only to discover, to their shock, that they had struck a civilian airliner. Everyone aboard was killed, their corpses littered among wreckage that smoldered late into the summer night.

Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, blamed Ukraine’s government for creating what he called conditions for insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where separatists have bragged about shooting down at least three Ukrainian military aircraft. But Mr. Putin did not specifically deny that a Russian-made weapon had felled the Malaysian jetliner.

Flight 17, which had been bound for Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, from Amsterdam with 283 passengers, including three infants, and 15 crew members. Aviation officials said the plane had been traveling an approved and heavily trafficked route over eastern Ukraine, about 20 miles from the Russia border, when it vanished from radar screens with no distress signal.

Mr. Najib said he had spoken with the leaders of Ukraine and the Netherlands, who promised their cooperation. He also said that he had spoken with President Obama, and that “he and I both agreed that the investigation must not be hindered in any way.” The remark seemed to point to concerns about evidence tampering at the crash site, which is in an area controlled by pro-Russia insurgents.

By Thursday night, American intelligence analysts were increasingly focused on a theory that rebels had used a Russian-made SA-11 surface-to-air missile system to shoot down the aircraft and operated on their own fire-control radar, outside the checks and balances of the national Ukrainian air-defense network.

In Amsterdam, a Malaysia Airlines official, Huib Gorter, said the plane had carried 154 Dutch passengers; 45 Malaysians, including the crew; and 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Belgians, four Germans, three Filipinos and one Canadian. The rest of the passengers had not been identified.

Florida Judge Rules State's Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Following the reasoning of other state and federal judges, Monroe County Florida Chief Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia ruled that Florida's ban on same sex marriage violates the rights of gays and lesbians under the United States Constitution.  Not surprisingly, GOP Attorney General Pam Bimbo Bondi has said that she will appeal the ruling in typical GOP political whore fashion as she prostitutes herself to Christofasist and hate groups.  While the ruling appears limited to Monroe County - which includes Key West - it obviously puts more pressure on Florida to throw out its anti-gay animus based laws.  Here are details from the Miami Herald:
In a decision some called “the beginning of the end” of Florida’s ban on gay marriage, a Monroe County judge ruled Thursday that two Key West bartenders and other gay couples must be allowed to marry.

Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia ordered the county clerk’s office to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples as early as Tuesday morning. In doing so, he sided with Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who argued that the ban on same-sex marriage in the Florida Constitution violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

“The court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority,” Garcia wrote in his opinion. 

Though Garcia’s order applies only to Monroe County, it would allow same-sex couples from around the state to flock to the Keys to get married. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, however, quickly filed a notice of appeal Thursday, putting Garcia’s ruling on hold and leaving open the possibility that nothing will change next week unless Garcia forces the issue with further action.

Despite the uncertainty, Garcia’s ruling set off both a wave of celebration from Key West to Tallahassee and vows from conservative Christian groups to protect Florida’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Meanwhile, Democrats hoped to capitalize on the ruling, with the state party chairwoman declaring Thursday that “love wins.”

Huntsman and Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, told the Miami Herald they were “ecstatic.” The couple sued the Monroe County Clerk in April for a marriage license, and said the wait felt like forever.

Read more here:

Meanwhile, support flowed out from the state’s Democratic politicians.

Bondi’s opponent in the November election, Perry Thurston, called on the incumbent attorney general to “stop wasting taxpayer dollars on her ideological crusade” against same-sex marriage. Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist followed with his own statement: “Today was a great step towards equality in Florida.”

Crist, who held office as a Republican before becoming a Democrat in 2012, was governor when Florida passed the constitutional amendment banning the recognition of same-sex marriages. He has since called the ban “discriminatory.”

Read more here:

The dominoes continue to fall even as the Christofascists continue to force their sick, psychologically disturbed religious beliefs on all citizens.  They are a threat to the religious liberties of others and need to become political and social pariahs.

Read more here:, support flowed out from the state’s Democratic politicians.
Bondi’s opponent in the November election, Perry Thurston, called on the incumbent attorney general to “stop wasting taxpayer dollars on her ideological crusade” against same-sex marriage. Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist followed with his own statement: “Today was a great step towards equality in Florida.”
Crist, who held office as a Republican before becoming a Democrat in 2012, was governor when Florida passed the constitutional amendment banning the recognition of same-sex marriages. He has since called the ban “discriminatory.”

Read more here:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Want to Screw Iran? Give it Iraq

Since the post World War I division of the Middle East by the European powers, the region's artificial nations have been more or less in constant chaos on one level of another.  The few periods of "stability" have largely stemmed from brutal dictators who for a time could keep the lid on ethnic and religious hatreds and rivalries.  Indeed, one of the few nations in the region with a true historic identity is Iran which still dreams back to the days of glory of the Persian Empire.  Despite the ranting delusions of war criminal Dick Cheney and his fellow neocons, no amount of American blood and money will fix the problems in Iraq.  Thus, one perverse proposal: give Iraq to Iran and destabilize Iran.  Think I am kidding?  Here are excerpts from a piece in The Daily Beast that looks at the perverse logic:
Back in the George W. Bush administration’s darkest days occupying Iraq, I ran into a guy who was about as close to Bush as you could get without being Bush himself. We were at one of those Davos cocktail parties where you can barely hear what you are saying yourself, much less what’s being said to you. But I wanted to press this guy on all that had gone wrong in Iraq, especially the fact that the mullahs of Iran were gaining so much power and influence on the American dime.
“All that blood and treasure and we might as well have handed Baghdad to Tehran on a platter,” I shouted.

The Bush clone looked at me—and I don’t know if this was just an off-the-cuff kiss-off, or a half-considered bon mot, or some perverse quasi-serious notion of his (not speaking for the president, of course)—but what he said was, “If you really want to fuck Iran, let ‘em have Iraq.”

[T]he idea stayed with me as one of those notions that is so logical, yet so outside the box, that nobody ever will take it seriously.  Well, now, maybe we should.

It's time the Iraqi Pottery Barn rule—“you break it, you pay a trillion dollars for it"—applied to someone else. And Iran's a very good candidate.

The people of the United States have done all that they should do, giving their lives, their taxes and their sacred honor to try to set straight the mess created on the basis of bad intelligence, bad judgment and bald lies.

One of the supreme ironies in the tragedy playing out before us now is that the Iranians were supposed to be so much smarter than we were in dealing with the region. Ask 'em, they'll tell you. Neighboring nations often hold each other in contempt, but the Persian view of Arabs—"lizard eaters," as the saying goes—is beyond the Aryan Iranian pale.

Again and again we were told by sundry Middle East experts that the wise mullahs had every interest in maintaining a stable Iraq. And maybe the wise ones did. But they were not the ones who went into action.

The consequences of this devastation in the Fertile Crescent are almost incalculable for the people, for the land, and for the ancient history that is rooted there. But, much as we might mourn the losses, why should the United States be in the business of trying to hold it all together now?

Let's see: There is a humanitarian argument, yes. There is probably an oil argument, as always in the Middle East. But the only argument that holds any real weight with the American people is that terrorists will make the newly self-declared caliphate in the ISIS-conquered lands a base of operations against the United States. You remember the old Bush-era slogan that helped get us into Iraq in the first place? "We've got to fight them over there (Iraq) so we don't have to fight them here (meaning, say, Kansas)."

Think again. There's a risk to the U.S., yes. But very little of the ISIS ethos has to do with hitting the Freedom Tower or the Capitol Dome. It's all about slaughtering Shiites, like, you know, the Iranians.

Did I mention the nuclear negotiations with Iran? No. What's striking about them now is their irrelevance.  All along, the atomic minuet with Tehran has been built on assumptions—ours and theirs—that are, as it turns out, erroneous.

Embarrassments Pile up for Boehner’s Obama Lawsuit

It is no secret that I despise John Boehner who is not only a failed Speaker of the House of Representatives but also a moron in my view.  Unable to control GOP saboteurs in the House GOP and constantly looking fearfully over his shoulder to the lunatics in the Christofascist/Tea Party base of the GOP, he is a loser who cares more about holding onto his position as Speaker than what is good for America.  His latest stunt to appease the spittle flecked cretins of the GOP base is his lawsuit against Barack Obama.  Thankfully, the lawsuit seems to be generating embarrassment and negatives that are Boehner's just reward.  Salon looks at the potentially backfiring effort.  Here are highlights:

It’s getting more and more difficult with each passing day to view John Boehner’s long-shot lawsuit against Barack Obama as anything but a ridiculous political stunt. Boehner’s own arguments for suing the president are illogical and it’s impossible to escape the fact that he’s trying to force implementation of a law he wants repealed, but there was always a chance that backers of the suit would try and put together a coherent case for why it should be taken seriously. That apparently was too much to ask as well.

Boehner’s suit began its slow march through the legal system today as the House Rules Committee convened a hearing to deliberate the matter and hear testimony from a panel of constitutional lawyers. In practice, the panel testifying before the Rules Committee was equally divided: two legal minds in support of the lawsuit, two against. On paper, however, the split wasn’t quite so equal.

Jonathan Wiesman of the New York Times reported earlier today that one of the witnesses testifying in support of the House’s ability to sue the president, law professor Elizabeth Price Foley, wrote an Op-Ed for the Daily Caller just few months ago arguing that Congress cannot sue the president because it does not have standing. She was unambiguous about it, and specifically cited Obama’s move to delay enforcement of the employer mandate – the exact issue she’s now arguing the House has standing to sue over:
When a president delays or exempts people from a law — so-called benevolent suspensions — who has standing to sue him? Generally, no one. Benevolent suspensions of law don’t, by definition, create a sufficiently concrete injury for standing. That’s why, when President Obama delayed various provisions of Obamacare — the employer mandate, the annual out-of-pocket caps, the prohibition on the sale of “substandard” policies — his actions cannot be challenged in court.
So the pro-lawsuit side weren’t just arguing against precedent and established legal principles, they were arguing against themselves.

And they’re also apparently basing their argument on a legal fiction.

If these were the only embarrassments for the pro-lawsuit faction, then their day would have been bad enough. But they’re also catching rebukes from key Republicans. After Boehner said last week that immigration reform was officially dead for the year, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart took a swipe at his own leadership by arguing that the best way to curb the threat of Obama’s executive action on the matter was to actually pass legislation – an implicit rejection of the rationale behind Boehner’s lawsuit.

And yesterday, during a speech at Hillsdale College, Rep. Paul Ryan offered his own thoughts on asking judges to intervene in political fights:
Finally, there is the temptation to ask courts to intervene and solve our problems for us. Some conservatives think of judges the way Progressives think of bureaucrats: technical experts with the solutions to our constitutional conflicts. But judges, like bureaucrats, are often the problem. . . . .
None of this, of course, will stop Republicans from voting to approve the suit. It’s clear that victory in court is not the endgame and never was. It’s always been about riling up conservatives ahead of the election by sticking it to Obama.

Saving an American Icon

The super liner SS United States was built less than 10 miles from where I live and there are many in the area still living who worked on its construction.  To this day it holds the speed record for Atlantic crossings by an ocean liner - its top speed still unknown, but having averaged 44 miles per hour on one crossing.  Not bad for a ship 990 feet long.  Built in 1952 (the year of my birth) the United States was among the last of the great liners that once were representatives of national pride and prestige.  Now the ship lies tied up in Philadelphia- for years it languished in Norfolk where I had the opportunity to go on board -  and her fate is uncertain although there is talk of moving her to New York City for conversion into a hotel/convention venue.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the ship which should be preserved as a national symbol.  Here are excerpts:
Once upon a time, it carried princes and potentates across the Atlantic in high style and at great speed.

Then it was towed ignominiously to Ukraine where the partitions and bulkheads that once divided luxurious cabins and glittering ballrooms were torn out to remove acres of asbestos.

And since 1996, the steamship United States has been tied to a Delaware River pier beside a South Philadelphia shopping mall, while chunks of paint peel off its black hull and red-and-white funnels.
Now, the 990-foot-long ocean liner that plied the Atlantic from 1952 until 1969 is the focus of what its financially struggling owner, the SS United States Conservancy, says is a final effort to save it from the scrap yard.

Saying the ship could be only months away from being broken up, the conservancy is in talks with three developers about its potential to become a hotel, museum, shopping and restaurant mall, entertainment complex, conference center, educational facility, or some combination of all options for reuse.

Conservancy officials say the ship has about 500,000 square feet of usable space that represents both a business opportunity and a means of rescuing the historic vessel, 45 years after losing its trans-Atlantic market to commercial aviation.

Scrapping the ship would destroy a piece of American social history and an engineering landmark that still holds the record for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing by an ocean liner, said Susan L. Gibbs, executive director of the conservancy and granddaughter of the ship’s designer, William Francis Gibbs.   “There is no other American ocean liner left,” she said in an interview. “This is the last one.”

Redevelopment is expected to cost $170 million to $300 million, depending on the combination of uses, and “seed capital” of about $15 million will be needed for an initial phase of the project, Mr. McSweeney said. Putting the ship back into the cruise market could cost as much as $1 billion, which is too expensive to contemplate, he added.

He declined to identify the potential developers but said all would move the ship to New York, its former home port, where its commercial potential would be most likely to be realized.

Mr. McSweeney said that the conservancy — which bought the ship from Norwegian Cruise Line for $3 million in 2011 — also considered locating the ship in Miami, Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia and other cities but that none matched New York.

The ship’s future may have parallels with the Rotterdam, another liner that sailed the Atlantic for Holland America Line from 1959 until 1997, and is now a mixed-used center in its home port.
After leaving service as a liner, the Rotterdam was bought by a Dutch government-backed company for 250 million euros and converted into spaces for businesses.

Since 2010, it has been occupied by shops and restaurants, a theater, a meeting center and a hotel, which together attract about 500,000 visitors a year, according to Casper van Hooren, a former investor in the project and now an adviser to the SS United States Conservancy.

Mr. van Hooren said the Rotterdam’s businesses over all are profitable, and he predicted that the liner United States would succeed as a result of New York’s many tourists.

Inside the ship, cabins once occupied by notable figures such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Harry Truman and Rita Hayworth are now marked by low dividers in the steel floor, while the ballroom where Duke Ellington once played for first-class passengers in tuxedos and ball gowns is a dimly lit shell overhung with disconnected pipes and wiring.

America routinely destroys its historic buildings and sites.  I hope the United States is saved.  If moved to New York City, we'd certainly visit it.