Saturday, September 27, 2014

More Saturday Male Beauty

Jeb Bush Will Not Save the Republican Establishment.

This weekend at the misnamed Value Voters Summit - the attendees at which share a mindset akin to that of those who backed the Salem witch trials - Ted Cruz, a demagogic lunatic in my view, won the so called straw poll for preferred GOP presidential candidates. The prospect of a Cruz candidacy ought to terrify the GOP establishment and anyone who hopes to steer the GOP back towards some remote semblance of sanity.  Some hope that Chris Christie will rehabilitate himself sufficiently to secure the GOP 2016 nomination, although the death grip of the Christofascists on the grassroots and nominating process could derail any such Christie effort.  Others hope that Mitt Romney will throw his hate in the ring again, although I and others believe that he is too damaged to successfully challenge someone like Hillary Clinton as the echos of Romney's "the 47%" comments continue to resonate.  That leaves potential savior number three, Jeb Bush.  A piece in Slate makes the case that Jeb Bush is dead in the water even before he starts.  Here are excerpts:
On Wednesday, Jeb Bush went to Greensboro, North Carolina, to stump for Thom Tillis, the state House speaker and the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate. This wasn’t a policy seminar or think tank event, it was a party rally and Bush had one job—to give red meat and boost enthusiasm for a flailing campaign.

And he failed. Speaking to an audience of conservative North Carolinians, Bush made the case for immigration reform—“Fixing a system that doesn’t work is a big thing that I think will restore and sustain economic growth for this country”—and voiced his support for Common Core standards, a verboten stance among Republican voters.

That put Tillis in the uncomfortable position of needing to distance himself from his advocate, telling Bush that—on immigration—“You have to make it clear that amnesty shouldn’t be on the table,” and attacking the federal Department of Education as “a bureaucracy of 5,000 people in Washington.”

The New York Times called this “rough,” and it was—the tone-deaf showing of an amateur. Which gets to the problem of Jeb Bush.

At every turn, the former Florida governor is hailed as a savior for the Republican Party, and for good reason. Even with the baggage of his brother, he brings powerful advantages, from the network of the Bush dynasty and fundraising prowess, to policy chops, potential Latino support (on account of his time in Florida), and the enthusiasm of the GOP establishment.

But as almost anyone can tell you, there’s a huge step between “good on paper” and good, and, judging from his recent performance, it’s hard to say that Bush stands as a genuinely good candidate. Instead, he seems like a cipher—a vessel for the hopes and wishes of wealthy Republican donors, who fear another cycle of embarrassing candidates and lackluster campaigns.

The Tillis affair is representative of Bush’s flaws as a candidate. A more talented politician would have tailored his message to his audience. Indeed, it doesn’t take a savant to know that—if you’re supportive—immigration and Common Core are areas to avoid with a conservative audience. But then, Bush isn’t in the same world as rivals like Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, or even Gov. Chris Christie.

It’s possible that Bush could abandon this and shape himself into a warrior for Republican conservatism. But I doubt it. As a major advocate for Common Core (his Foundation for Excellence has collected millions from pro–Common Core groups) and immigration reform, he’s too removed from the world of conservative politics to adapt. And even if he could make the shift, he’d have to stand against more genuine competitors like Sen. Marco Rubio and (potentially) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Put another way, even after Bush flipped on a path to citizenship last year, he was still behind the curve on anti-immigration rhetoric.

Here are the facts: Jeb Bush has been out of the political game for almost a decade. If he had the intensity of a Richard Nixon or a Ronald Reagan—who had long respites from national politics before winning the presidency—it would be different. But he hasn’t done the usual work of regular campaigning and fundraising that defines the active candidate. If there’s a fire that defines a presidential contender, he doesn’t seem to have it.

Yes, Republican elites want a champion. But in Jeb Bush, they don’t have a fighter, they have a Fred Thompson. For a genuine contender, they’ll have to look elsewhere.

Part of me almost - "almost" being the operative word - feels sorry for Jeb Bush.  He, rather than the Chimperator, should have been the candidate in 2000.  Had he run and won, I suspect that much of the batshitery that the Chimperator and Emperor Palpatine Cheney unleashed on America and the world might not have come to pass.  Now, however, Jeb is both haunted by the horrid legacy of his brother and a political party that has gone ever more insane as the influence of the Christofascists has grown even stronger.

Pew Study: Influence of Religion is Waning; 1/3 Of Republicans Oppose GOP Gay Marriage Stance

It's no secret that I believe religion is a toxic element in society - both here in America and across the globe.  While some try to point to charity work done by religious bodies to argue that religion is no a source of evil, if one totals up the deaths world wide from religious strife, especially over the centuries, and the hate and division that religion breeds, those "good works" pale in comparison to the carnage.  And not surprisingly, the Abrahamic religions seem to lead the way in their toxicity.   In the political realm, the GOP's opposition to marriage equality is seeing more Republicans complain that the GOP is too conservative.  And Catholic support for gay marriage suggests that the issue is a loser for the GOP, especially among Hispanic Catholics (the Vatican hopefully is paying attention) Commonweal looks at some of the new findings.  Here are highlights:
Yesterday Pew Research released the results of a new survey of public attitudes on the place of religion in political life. The major finding, as you may have seen, is that nearly three-quarters of Americans now say the influence of religion is waning. That figure is up more than twenty points--from 51 percent to 71--since 2001, when Pew first began measuring the trend.

Pew's research turned up a bunch of interesting findings related to same-sex marriage. Some of that data may surprise you, as it may prove frustrating to leading opponents of gay marriage.

The new survey shows a slight drop in support for gay marriage: 49 percent of Americans support it--that's down five points from February's survey. That may mean nothing. (Just as the finding that a five-point rise in the percentage of Americans who believe homosexuality is sinful may hold little meaning.) The year-over-year trend in support of gay marriage remains clear.

Less clear, however, is how the GOP will negotiate its positions on gay marriage, given how many self-identified Republicans are unhappy with the way their party handles that issue.

Pew Research asked Republican respondents how well the GOP was representing their own views. When it comes to gay marriage, just 34 percent of Republicans agree that the GOP is doing a good job. Of the 53 percent who think the Republican Party is doing a bad job, nearly one-third say it's because the party is too conservative on the issue. Just 22 percent say it's because the GOP is too liberal.

While most white Evangelicals are unhappy with the GOP's handling of gay marriage--no surprise there--among non-Evangelical Republicans, more say the party is too conservative than say it's too liberal.

Just 44 percent of all Catholics believe "homosexual behavior" is a sin, while 49 percent say it's not. For white Catholics, those numbers are just about reversed, but not for Hispanic Catholics. Fifty-six percent say homosexual behavior is not a sin--just 38 percent say it is.

Fifty-two percent of all Catholics support gay marriage, while 35 percent oppose it. Among whites, just 32 percent oppose gay marriage, while half support it. Hispanic Catholics favor same-sex marriage by 55 percent--29 percent are against it.
[P]erhaps leaders of the anti-gay-marriage movement might consider what this data means for the way the people they're trying to persuade receive their message.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Koch Brothers' Toxic Empire

Few figures in today's political scene represent a bigger threat to average Americans and a functioning democracy than Charles and David Koch.  Between trying to buy Congress, dismantle safety and environmental regulations, and restoring the worse excesses of the Gilded Age, they seek to make average Americans little better than serfs eking out a meager living while the Kochs luxuriate with their billions of dollars.  If there is such a thing as the sin of greed, the Kochs truly embody it.   A long piece in Rolling Stone looks at not only the Koch brothers' political machinations but also their toxic industries from which their wealth flows.  It also traces their family's racist and far right views over the years.  These men are despicable and any decent Christian ought to be opposing their policies rather than embracing them as the Christofascists have done.  Here are article highlights:
The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they've cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today's GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year's midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers' fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America's second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company's stock response to inquiries from reporters: "We are privately held and don't disclose this information."

But Koch Industries is not entirely opaque. The company's troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions – augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle­-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.

Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch's pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.
The volume of Koch Industries' toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America's air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation's waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch's climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell.

The toxic history of Koch Industries is not limited to physical pollution. It also extends to the company's business practices, which have been the target of numerous federal investigations, resulting in several indictments and convictions, as well as a whole host of fines and penalties.
Koch Industries is not a major oil producer. Instead, the company has woven itself into every nook of the vast industrial web that transforms raw fossil fuels into usable goods. Koch-owned businesses trade, transport, refine and process fossil fuels, moving them across the world and up the value chain until they become things we forgot began with hydrocarbons: fertilizers, Lycra, the innards of our smartphones.
The company controls at least four oil refineries, six ethanol plants, a natural-gas-fired power plant and 4,000 miles of pipeline.

Koch's hunger for growth is insatiable: Since 1960, the company brags, the value of Koch Industries has grown 4,200-fold, outpacing the Standard & Poor's index by nearly 30 times. On average, Koch projects to double its revenue every six years. Koch is now a key player in the fracking boom that's vaulting the United States past Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer, even as it's endangering America's groundwater.
Koch is also long on the richest – but also the dirtiest and most carbon-polluting – oil deposits in North America: the tar sands of Alberta. . . . . Over the past dozen years, the company has quietly acquired leases for 1.1 million acres of Alberta oil fields, an area larger than Rhode Island. By some estimates, Koch's direct holdings nearly double ExxonMobil's and nearly triple Shell's.
Fred [David and Charles' father] also became a major benefactor and board member of the John Birch Society, the rabidly anti-communist organization founded in 1958 by candy magnate and virulent racist Robert Welch. Bircher publications warned that the Red endgame was the creation of the "Negro Soviet­ Republic" in the Deep South. In his own writing, Fred described integration as a Red plot to "enslave both the white and black man."

Koch wasn't just cutting corners on its pipelines. It was also violating federal environmental law in other corners of the empire. Through much of the 1990s at its Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota, Koch spilled up to 600,000 gallons of jet fuel into wetlands near the Mississippi River. Indeed, the company was treating the Mississippi as a sewer, illegally dumping ammonia-laced wastewater into the river – even increasing its discharges on weekends when it knew it wasn't being monitored. Koch Petroleum Group eventually pleaded guilty to "negligent discharge of a harmful quantity of oil" and "negligent violation of the Clean Water Act," was ordered to pay a $6 million fine and $2 million in remediation costs, and received three years' probation. This facility had already been declared a Superfund site in 1984.
The Smalley trial underscored something Bill Koch had said about the way his brothers ran the company: "Koch Industries has a philosophy that profits are above everything else." A former Koch manager, Kenoth Whitstine, testified to incidents in which Koch Industries placed profits over public safety. As one supervisor had told him, regulatory fines "usually didn't amount to much" and, besides, the company had "a stable full of lawyers in Wichita that handled those situations." When Whitstine told another manager he was concerned that unsafe pipelines could cause a deadly accident, this manager said that it was more profitable for the company to risk litigation than to repair faulty equipment. The company could "pay off a lawsuit from an incident and still be money ahead," he said, describing the principles of MBM to a T.
The jury was emphatic, awarding Smalley $296 million – then the largest wrongful-death judgment in American legal history. He later settled with Koch for an undisclosed sum and now runs a pipeline-safety foundation in his daughter's name. He declined to comment for this story. "It upsets him too much," says an associate.
There is much, much more.  Read the entire article and you will be both disgusted and outraged.

The Quickening Pace of Gun Rampages

According the NRA - which is documented to be a front for gun manufacturers rather than "sportsman - more guns make Americans safer.  It's a lie, of course, like so much of what comes out of the far right.  Now, a new FBI study confirms what many of us have sensed: shooting rampages with numerous deaths are increasing in frequency.  Another take away?  Most of the shooters use guns that were legally purchased thus demolishing the NRA myth that its criminals using stolen to commit the carnage.  The New York Times in a main editorial looks at the disturbing findings which underscore the need for serious control in this nation.  Here are excerpts:
It is a sorry commentary on the shooting sprees that regularly afflict the nation that only recently has the Federal Bureau of Investigation been authorized to delve into how prevalent the threat has become. The bureau’s new survey across the past 13 years concludes that horrific shootings like those in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., are occurring with greater frequency.
The average annual number of shooting sprees with multiple casualties was 6.4 from 2000 to 2006. That jumped to 16.4 a year from 2007 to 2013, according to the study of 160 incidents of gun mayhem since 2000. (In 2000, The Times examined 100 spree killings, all those that the paper’s staff could find going back 50 years.) The F.B.I. report makes the shooters’ terrible effectiveness clear: 486 people were killed — 366 of them in the past seven years — and 557 others were wounded, many of them gravely incapacitated for years afterward. Sixty percent of the sprees ended before police could arrive, and 40 percent of the shooters committed suicide. F.B.I. analysts found that many of the gunmen had studied earlier gun massacres and were attracted to the attention mass killers received.

Part of the gun lobby’s grip on timorous congressional lawmakers has involved the suppression of studies and information vitally needed to enlighten the public and galvanize support for stronger gun safety laws. Congress ducked the need for effective controls after the Sandy Hook massacre, which left 20 children and six adults dead. The new F.B.I. survey is the first such federal study, despite decades of gun carnage.

[T]he bureau’s report did not address the issue of easily available military rifles and pistols that enable crazed shooters to spray crowds with bullets in a matter of seconds. The report’s casualty count of innocent Americans is undeniable. And the likelihood that gun sprees will continue is inescapable.
The far right is obsessed with terrorist threats from groups like ISIS, yet the never ending opposition to serious gun control has made it easy for American born terrorist sympathizers to arm themselves to the hilt to maximize the deaths they can inflict.  Any sane person - which sadly rules out far right "conservatives" - can see the idiocy of this situation.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Race and the Modern GOP

As I have noted many times, the Republican Party in which I grew up and in which I was very active for the better part of a decade no longer exists.  In its place one finds a sectarian party that embraces white supremacists and celebrates the embrace of ignorance - also so it can woo some of the nastiest elements of society to get out and vote.  The rise of the Christofascists within the GOP has fueled this decline into something ugly, especially the growing embrace of white supremacy.  Anyone who denies what has happened is either lying to themselves - usually because they don't want to admit that it is their own greed that motivates them to continue to support the GOP - or they have been living under a rock or imbibing vast quantities of Kool-Aid.  Apiece in Politico Magazine looks at the racism than now suffuses the GOP.  Here are highlights:
In the past few years, we’ve celebrated the 50th anniversaries of many seminal events and landmark achievements of the civil rights movement, from the nonviolent direct action campaign waged in Birmingham, Alabama, to the March on Washington and Freedom Summer. An award-winning play devoted to Lyndon Johnson’s shrewd stewardship of the Civil Rights Act ran on Broadway for most of 2014. And next year, we will commemorate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which restored to Southern blacks the franchise that had been unconstitutionally denied them during the Jim Crow era. These are all, certainly, accomplishments to celebrate.

But the legacy of the all these landmarks is much more complicated and tinged with—make that drenched in—irony than the conventional story of courage and triumph lets on. It is time to state the obvious. Forget about weak explanations for today’s deep political divisions like “the culture of Washington,” gerrymandering or the rise of cable TV: The civil rights movement, while a victory on many levels, was also the origin of our present morass. It spawned a powerful national “white resistance” countermovement that decisively altered the racial geography of American politics, pushing the national Democratic and Republican parties off center and toward their ideological margins, undermining the centrist policy convergence of the postwar period and setting the parties on the divisive course they remain on today. Many will blame today’s unprecedented political polarization on recent events, such as the rise of the Tea Party or Obama’s election in 2008, but they will be wrong. The seeds of America’s dysfunction were planted 50 years ago. And the ugly politics of race had everything to do with it.

In just 8 years, the number of liberal Republicans in Congress fell by 75 percent and the number of conservative Republicans quintupled. The policy preferences of the two parties essentially flipped. As Democrats moved sharply left on matters of race, the GOP delegation moved even more dramatically in the opposite direction.

In 1956 the “solid South” holds true to its historic allegiance to the Democratic Party, even in the face of Eisenhower’s sweep of the rest of the country. Eight years later, the South is out of step with the nation once again, this time in a way that no one could have imagined in 1956. The votes of the Deep South now belonged to the Republican Party and, more tellingly, to its conservative, anti-civil rights candidate, Goldwater.

The shift was not just limited to the South: By the middle of the decade the southern segregationist resistance to the civil rights struggle had morphed, as the mainstream media proclaimed, into a nationwide “white backlash” movement.

Seeing an opportunity, an increasing number of Republicans began to embrace more conservative racial politics designed to appeal to Wallace supporters throughout the country. “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so,” said Ronald Reagan during his 1966 campaign for California governor, in which he also decried welfare and opposed government efforts to encourage neighborhood integration.

In a scant eight years, the Party of Lincoln had gone from being the more racially liberal of the two major parties to something more closely resembling a coalition of white racial conservatives, with the South as its natural geographic home, at least when it came to presidential politics.

In short, the essence of today’s GOP—overwhelming white and disproportionately Southern—was evident by the late 1960s. This is not, of course, the whole of the story. The evolution of the party and the broader racial geography of American politics would continue in fits and starts over the next 45 years. But unquestionably it was the civil rights movement, and white resistance to it, that put the Republican Party on its demographic and ideological trajectory.  . . . .  the GOP has moved from its broadly centrist, racially liberal, geographically diverse base in the postwar period to the ideologically extreme, overwhelming white and disproportionately Southern party it is today.

These politics were on full display in the 2012 Republican primaries, a half a century later, with the candidates seemingly trying to outdo one another in impugning the poor and African-Americans in particular. Newt Gingrich accused Obama of being a “food-stamp president” and opined that, “poor people should want paychecks, not handouts.” Rick Santorum was even more explicit when he offered up the following quote: “I don’t want to make black peoples’ lives better by giving them someone else’s money.”

Even Mitt Romney played the race card, blaming his defeat on the policy “gifts” that Obama had bestowed on the very “dependent” segments of the population he had alluded to in his notorious “47 percent” video. “Especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community, and young people,” he clarified, . . . . 

The imprint of race and racism on today’s GOP is not only a matter of rhetoric. It was also reflected in the party’s transparent efforts to disenfranchise poor and minority voters in the run-up to the 2012 election. Throughout the country, Republican legislators and other officials sought to enact new laws or modify established voting procedures that, in virtually all instances, would have made it harder for poor and minority voters to exercise the franchise.

America's Continued Fool's Errand in Afghanistan

After 13 years, thousands of squandered American lives and billions of wasted dollars, Afghanistan remains a disaster and horrific backwater rivaled only by some of the failed nations in Africa where colonial rule gave way to gross corruption and often a worsening of local economies.   Yet if one listens to statements by politicians and perhaps worse yet, military leaders, they continue the myth that America has accomplished something in Afghanistan and that democracy and societal modernization are just around the corner.   Not only is such blather wishful thinking, its an outright lie.  A column in the New York Times looks at the reality in Afghanistan and what politicians of both parties and the ever eager for war generals prefer Americans not understand.  Here are excerpts:
John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, apparently is the only official in Washington who dares speak truth to power. In a Sept. 12 speech at Georgetown University, he said that Afghanistan “remains under assault by insurgents and is short of domestic revenue, plagued by corruption, afflicted by criminal elements involved in opium and smuggling, and struggling to execute basic functions of government.” His comments were largely ignored by the American media, and there was no immediate reaction from the Obama administration.

And yet anything less than a heavy dose of honesty and fresh thinking by Afghans and their Western supporters will almost certainly mean the relapse of Afghanistan into civil war and the emergence of groups even more extreme than the Taliban, as has happened in Iraq and Syria.

Moving from the lengthy U.S. military presence to full Afghan sovereignty was premised on the completion of four distinct transitions. But none has been successfully carried out, despite more than $640 billion in U.S. direct spending in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2013.
The most critical transition, the one on which everything else rested, was political. Rather than build state institutions or carry out much-needed electoral reforms, President Hamid Karzai spent his long tenure encouraging a form of crony politics that failed to sap the power of the warlords. He won a second term in 2009, after a vastly fraudulent election. The following year, according to U.N. officials, he asked that the United Nations stop supervising elections in the country, and Washington and NATO went along.

The second promised transition was military. U.S. forces were to hand over security matters to Afghan forces, proving that the new, U.S.-trained Afghan Army would then be able to hold back the Taliban on its own. Yet Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai told Parliament in Kabul on Sept. 16 that the previous six months had been the deadliest ever for the Afghan police. Today there is fighting in 18 of 34 provinces, Afghan and NATO officials have told me. In many areas, Afghan soldiers are barely able to secure their own bases, much less retake lost territory. Helmand, the critical drugs-producing province in southern Afghanistan, is at risk of being taken over by the Taliban. If it falls, all of southern Afghanistan might too.

The third failed transition has to do with economics.  . . . . here has been little large-scale investment in agriculture or basic industry; instead, the bulk of the economy has focused on servicing foreign troops and on their spending. And now the troops are about to withdraw.

When I first visited Afghanistan in the 1970s, the country was desperately poor, but it was almost self-sufficient in food and had a small yet thriving export trade in fruit, handicrafts, furs and gems. Today, Afghanistan imports much of its food and it produces very few commercial goods. The service economy, which is run by the middle class, has been collapsing, as both educated people and billions of dollars in capital have left the country. 

The fourth contribution expected of the U.S. presence was insulating Afghanistan from foreign interference, which many Afghans fear as much as the Taliban . . . . that, too, has not happened, and the country remains vulnerable to meddling from outside.

2015 is supposed to mark the start of Afghanistan’s “Transformation Decade.” But if the country is to even get to 2015 in one piece, its new leaders must act fast to correct course after the failed transformation of the last decade.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Real Threat to Heterosexual Marriage: The Economy and Straight Men

If one listens to the Christofascists and the professional Christians who have made a cottage industry out of demonizing gays, educated single women, and of course, racial minorities, the number one threat to straight marriages is loving same sex couples getting married in civil ceremonies.   Indeed, same sex marriages according to the Christofascists threaten Western Civilization itself.   Interestingly, the Pew Research Center has released the results of a new study that find that the real threats to marriage are (i) the bad economy - which is a result of the GOP policies the Christofascists support - that prevents young men from finding decent, steady jobs, and (ii) a shortage of non-dead beat young men.  The take away is that if the Christofascists truly support the "sanctity of marriage" - which they don't - they would be supporting jobs programs, infrastructure investment, and economic stimulus programs.  A piece in Salon looks at the Pew findings.  Here are excerpts:
In 2012, a record one-in-five Americans 25 or older had never been married, the Pew Research Center reported today. This wasn't surprising, as matrimony has been on a decline for decades now. However, Pew did offer an extremely elegant, two-part illustration of the role economics have played in that process.
Part I: What are America’s young, unmarried women looking for in a mate? A steady job.

Part II: What do young, unmarried men lack? Steady jobs. For every 100 never married women between the ages of 25 and 34, there are just 91 employed and never-married men the same age. Where once America had a surplus of working single men, now it has a shortage.

A dearth of eligible bachelors isn't the only reason marriage has been on the wane. Young people are getting married later in part because they spend more time in school. Back in the day, couples got hitched, then got settled financially; today, they prefer to get their finances in line first. Oh, and then there's birth control, changing social mores about sex out of marriage, etc.
But economics are an obvious and unavoidable dimension of the issue. That's why it's far-fetched to think we can revive the institution of marriage in a meaningful way without addressing the underlying forces that have left young men in such shabby financial shape.  
 Despite these realities, don't expect the Christofascists to change their politics or cease demonizing gays.  The real threat that gays - and our increasing acceptance in society - is that we make it harder and harder for Christofascists to continue to cling to their myth based religious beliefs.  For those afraid of thinking for themselves, nothing is more terrifying than facing the reality that much - if not most - of the Bible is fiction.   Adam and Eve never existed, so get over it!!

TheGathering: A $1-Billion-a-Year Right-Wing Conspiracy

I've written about the Christofascist organization, The Gathering, which works to deny civil rights to many Americans and which ultimately would gut, if not over throw the United States Constitution if it could have its way.  Sadly, the media too often fails to cover the extremist, if not seditious, actions of Christofascists organizations and most politicians - especially self-prostituting Republicans - fear condemn such actions lest they be charged with being "anti-Christian."  Thankfully, a piece in The Daily Beast lays into The Gathering and its participants and hopefully will help more Americans to realize the threat Christofascist pose to constitutional government and rights and freedoms of other Americans.  As I have said many times, they are a clear and present danger and need to be treated accordingly.  Other than the level of violence utilized, their theocratic goals are not so far removed from those of ISIS and Islamic extremist organizations save the fictional work that the swear allegiance to.   Here are article highlights:
Have you heard of the $1,750-per-person “Gathering,” which starts Thursday in Orlando, Florida?
Probably not. But if you’re female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state, your life has been affected by it.

The Gathering is a conference of hard-right Christian organizations and, perhaps more important, funders. Most of them are not household names, at least if your household isn’t evangelical. But that’s the point: The Gathering is a hub of Christian Right organizing, and the people in attendance have led the campaigns to privatize public schools, redefine “religious liberty” (as in the Hobby Lobby case), fight same-sex marriage, fight evolution, and, well, you know the rest.

Featured speakers have included many of the usual suspects: Alliance Defending Freedom President and CEO Alan Sears (2013), Focus on the Family President Jim Daly (2011), and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins (2006).

The Gathering is as close to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” as you’re likely to find. So with this year’s conference about to get under way, Wilson gave The Daily Beast an exclusive interview over email—heavily redacted here—about this shadowy, powerful network of hard-right funders.

The Gathering promotes “family values” agenda: opposition to gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, and also a global vision that involves the eventual eradication of all competing belief systems that might compete with The Gathering’s hard-right version of Christianity. Last year, for example, The Gathering 2013 brought together key funders, litigants, and plaintiffs of the Hobby Lobby case, including three generations of the Green family.

The evangelical right financial dynasties and foundations that meet each year at The Gathering dispense upwards of $1 billion a year in grants. But even that is overshadowed by the bigger sums that The Family and The Gathering have managed to route from the federal and state government to fund their movement via the Faith-Based Initiative program, USAID, PEPFAR and other multibillion-dollar programs.

The NCF was created, back in 1982 or so, to maximize hard right-wing evangelical Christian philanthropic giving. It was so novel and complex, the architects got a special ruling from the IRS, to make sure it was legal. The NCF has multiple overlapping legal entities and holding companies, but at the core is a huge donor-advised fund. The NCF is now the 12th biggest charitable foundation in America that raises money from private sources.

One reason the NCF, a donor-advised fund, has been so successful is that it ensures anonymity for its philanthropists. Many of these individuals may fear a backlash, given the controversial causes that they support.

But we do know about the NCF’s leadership. Two of the NCF co-founders were tied to Campus Crusade for Christ, and the late Larry Burkett, a NCF co-founder, was also one of the co-founders of the Alliance Defense Fund/Alliance Defending Freedom, now the religious right’s preeminent umbrella legal defense fund. NCF’s other co-founder, Atlanta tax lawyer Terrence Parker, sits on the board of directors of the Family Research Council, and also The Gathering Foundation, which puts on The Gathering.

The Green family—who were at The Gathering in 2008 and 2013—have said they intend to leave much of their fortune to it. And in 2009, Hobby Lobby-related contributions were the No. 1 source of NCF funding (about $54 million), which we know because Eli Clifton, funded by The Nation Institute, somehow got hold of an NCF 2009 990 Schedule B form, which shows NCF’s top funders that year (Hobby Lobby was No. 1, Maclellan Foundation No. 2).

Over the last decade, he NCF has pumped over $140 million into groups that oppose action to curb climate change and portray concern over global warming as part of a satanic conspiracy to impose a tyrannical “One World Order” or “New World Order.”

[T]he story of the politicized religious right is one of the biggest untold stories of our time. It’s the story of how a covert political movement, driven by a well-organized, -funded, and committed minority, has perturbed the political arc of the biggest, wealthiest, and most powerful nation on Earth—and how it has subverted the national dialogue.

I'm annoyed at the basic dishonesty of religio/political phenomena such as The Gathering that lay claim to the Christian tradition but ignore its underlying mandate of truth-telling.
The donors to The Gathering and its principals need to be identified and, if they are business owners, their businesses and their products need to be shunned by decent people who believe in constitutional liberties.  As for the NCF, it needs to lose its tax-exempt status in light of all of the political involvement it and its affiliates have.  I'd even argue that ALL religious based charities need to lose their exempt status unless they cease ALL political activity. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Philadelphia Anti-Gay Attack Suspects Arrested

On September 11, 2014, a gay couple was severely beaten in Philadelphia by a band of white 20 somethings after the couple was taunted by anti-gay slurs.  Now, three of the attackers have been arrested.  One is the daughter of Chalfont, Pennsylvania Police Chief Karl Knott, which makes one wonder what gays must face in Chalfont from police.  The take away is that it is still dangerous to be gay in America even in progressive cities like Philadelphia. Too many of us forget the danger that lurks out on the streets.   The New Civil Rights Movement reports on the arrests:
The three, left to right, are Kevin Harrigan, 26, Kathryn Knott, 24, and Philip Williams, also 24. They are all charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person (REAP), and criminal conspiracy in the September 11, anti-gay hate attack that left a same-sex couple in the hospital.

At least one of them is accused of of having called the two gay men "dirty faggots," and asking one of the victims if the other victim was his "fucking boyfriend" before allegedly assaulting them.  
It is perhaps telling that the police chief's daughter, Kathryn Knott has a history evidenced by her twitter account of embracing the usual Christofascist/Tea Party agenda:
In addition to the homophobic tweets, there appears to be evidence of excessive drinking, a belief she is owed things, including money, anti-immigrant beliefs, and disturbing claims of privilege for being the daughter of a police chief.
Here's how police described the incident that gave rise to the arrests:
On September 11, 2014, at 10:45 pm, the complainant, a 28 year-old male, along with a friend, a 27 year-old male, were on the 1600 block of Chancellor Street when they were approached by a group of unknown white males and females. As the group approached the complainants they made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation. The group then attacked the complainants holding them while other members of the group punched them in the face, head and chest. During the assault one of the complainants dropped his bag containing his cell phone, wallet and credit cards. When police approached one of the suspects picked the bag up from the ground. The group then fled and were last seen north on 16th Street towards Walnut Street. Both complainants were transported to Hahnemann Hospital for multiple injuries. One complainant was treated for fractures and deep lacerations to his face requiring surgery and his jaw wired shut.

Suspect Description: A group of approximately 10-12 white male and females all in their early 20′s “clean cut” and well dressed. One suspect was described as having a husky build, brown hair, wearing a brown shirt and shorts.
One member of the group is believed to have been Fran McGlinn, a former student and assistant basketball coach for Archbishop Wood Catholic High School. It is suggested that a number of the attackers were former students at Archbishop Wood Catholic High School.  Thankfully, McGlinn has been fired from his assistant coach position.

Pro-Warner Super Pac Slams Sleazy Ed Gillespie

Things are heating up in the Mark Warner v. Ed Gillespie race for the U.S. Senate.  Gillespie has been running disingenuous ads and trying to deceive Virginians into believing that he's offering something new instead of the same failed GOP economics of the last 30 plus years (as well as the GOP's anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-minority platform).  Of even more concern is his preference for speaking to elements of the GOP base in gatherings from which the press is barred, suggesting that Gillespie is spouting statements like Mitt Romney's 47% statement that helped immolate Romney's campaign.  In return Mark Warner has run fairly tame ads.  Thankfully, a super PAC is hitting Gillespie hard and underscoring his sleazy past.  The Richmond Times Dispatch looks at the ad war (it's noteworthy that Warner supporters are major players in the business community which Gillespie claims to represent and suggests that Gillespie, like Ken Cuccinelli, is too extreme on social issues).  Here are excerpts:
As Ed Gillespie, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, teamed up with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to tap into wealthy Republican donors at a private fundraiser in McLean on Wednesday,
Sen. Mark R. Warner is getting outside help from prominent Democratic backers.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt; Janice Brandt, vice chair of America Online/Time Warner; and investment banker Mark J. Kington each have contributed $100,000 to Virginia Progress, an independent super PAC that had raised $1.7 million by June 30 to back Warner’s re-election bid.
Virginia Progress has spent $1.4 million in TV ads this election season to oppose Gillespie, according to the Federal Election Commission. 

Some political analysts interpret the super PAC’s spending as an indication that Virginia’s Senate race may be closer than the polls suggest — most have Warner up by a comfortable lead over Gillespie.
But Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said there is no objective indication that the contest is especially close.
“I see no evidence that it is being treated as such by GOP groups,” Sabato said. Warner campaign spokesman David Turner said the campaign would not comment as Virginia Progress is an independent PAC.

As of June 30, the most recent reporting deadline, Warner’s campaign has raised $9.9 million and had $8.9 million cash on hand. Gillespie had raised$4.2 million with $3.1 million in cash.

More False Hopes For Change in the Catholic Church?

I recently noted that columnist/blogger Andrew Sullivan seemed to be reaching a point of realizing that the Roman Catholic Church is not only incapable of change, but seems headed on an anti-gay jihad as gay church employees are fired and married gays are denied the sacraments and told that they must divorce their legally wed spouses if they wish ti return to the fold.  Yet there remain those who continue to cling to the misbegotten hope that Pope Francis will usher in change and halt the Church's slide into irrelevance with more and more American Catholics even though officially NOTHING has changed to date doctrinally and Francis has yet to fire some of the reactionaries in the Church hierarchy.  A case in point is a column in the Washington Post which wants to believe that the appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich as the new archbishop of Chicago is the harbinger of needed change.  Sadly, I think the column is little more than a lot of wishful thinking.  Here are excerpts:
Leaders can make decisions that signal big changes in the political, religious and ethical landscape. In naming Bishop Blase Cupich the new archbishop of Chicago, Pope Francis did just that.

Cupich, now the bishop of Spokane, Wash., has been described in media accounts as a “moderate” within the Catholic Church. Temperamentally, this is exactly what he is, an advocate of dialogue and civility. He’s also wise about rejecting labels.

He has been a courageous voice inside the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops against a culture-war approach to evangelization and politics that pushes so many away from the Gospel.

He has also been as tough as any prelate in his candor about the church’s profound failures during the sex abuse crisis. “Catholics have been hurt by the moral failings of some priests,” Cupich wrote in 2010, “but they have been hurt and angered even more by bishops who failed to put children first.” He knows the church will never get beyond this scandal until it’s obvious to the faithful that the hierarchy understands how deeply Catholicism was marred by institutional sin, not only by individual crimes.

His appointment will have an impact beyond the Catholic Church because it tells us a great deal about the role Pope Francis wants the church to play in American life. Cupich played this down, too. “I think he sent a pastor, not a message,” he told reporters.

But in his case, the pastor is the message. Because of appointments made by Pope John Paul II and, to a lesser degree, Pope Benedict XVI, the bishops’ conference has moved to the right over the past quarter-century. Many conservative bishops have expressed uneasiness or even skepticism about Francis’s leadership — notably his rejection of the idea that issues such as abortion and homosexuality take precedence over economic justice and care for the marginalized. Francis has also caused discomfort by insisting on a church that accompanies people on their journeys rather than expending most of its energy condemning and judging them.

Of the four most politically potent posts in the American hierarchy — the archbishops of Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington — Chicago was the first to come open since Francis’s election. In naming Cupich, the pope sent the strongest possible hint that he wants the American church to move in his direction.

There is more to the column and I truly would like to believe that the author is correct, but I will not be holding my breath.  The only thing that will bring real change to Catholicism is the massive exit of Catholics who are fed up with the Church's hypocrisy and the sexual obsession of neurotic old men in dresses.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

International Olympic Committee Adds Anti-Discrimination Clause to Olympic Host City Contract

In the lead up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Adolph Hitler want to be Vladimir Putin's Russia the International Olympic Committee ("IOC") made numerous mealy mouthed statements about opposing anti-LGBT discrimination even as the IOC gave the equivalent of politico fellatio to Putin.  For many, the IOC's disingenuous statements went nowhere near far enough.  Now, in the aftermath of the blow back from the Sochi Games, the IOC has amended the contract that future host cities/countries must sign.  For some future host cities/countries, the new non-discrimination requirements will be a problem (e.g., South Korea).  Some would be hosts may no longer even be able to pass selection criteria.  Let's hope similar requirements are adopted by additional sporting organizations and that scheduled events are moved out of anti-gay countries.    Here are highlights from an All Out press release on the development:
September 24, 2014. Following the international outcry over Russia’s anti-gay legislation that overshadowed the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced in a letter to prospective host cities that it would be adding a new anti-discrimination clause to its host city contract. This important change comes in the wake of enormous public pressure on the IOC from All Out and and other human rights organizations in Russia and around the world in the lead up to the Sochi Games.

In March this year, more than 80,000 All Out members called on the IOC to add human rights provisions to the host city contract. In addition, an unprecedented coalition of human rights organizations led by All Out, Athlete Ally, and Human Rights Watch, sent an open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach, urging the IOC to make these changes. All Out, in partnership with Athlete Ally, also launched the Principle 6 campaign last year to highlight the Olympic principle of non-discrimination and give athletes and fans a way to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws before and during the Games. More than 50 Olympians, including a dozen competing in Sochi, joined the campaign.
According to IOC Sports Director, Christopher Dubi, the new clause will include “the prohibition of any form of discrimination, using the wording of Fundamental Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter." This clause will ensure that future host cities must abide by international human rights standards in order to host the games, including the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens and athletes.

“By adopting a non-discrimination clause into its host city contracts, the IOC is showcasing its own realization that we must protect the rights of every athlete to live free and openly,” said Hudson Taylor, Executive Director of Athlete Ally. “The Principle 6 campaign sought to shed light on the responsibility of host countries to uphold the olympic values, and this action validates all of the hard work by organizations and individuals across the world who’ve engaged in the fight for LGBT equality. Though there’s work to be done, this is a major step in the right direction.”

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Why I Can’t Resign Now

In some respects one of the most important aspects of presidential elections in America is the power of the president to nominate appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court.  But that power of appointment is not unlimited.  Nominees still must pass approval by the U.S. Senate.  Something that is not as assured as it once was given the non-stop obstruction of today's Congressional Republicans.  A piece in Politico looks at Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's explanation of why she will not retire for as long as possible.  Here are article excerpts:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is pushing back against suggestions that she should soon retire, saying President Barack Obama would be unable to get a justice like her through the Senate.

“Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have?” the 81-year-old justice told Elle Magazine in an interview excerpt released Tuesday. The wide-ranging interview portrays Ginsburg — seen as a member of the court’s liberal wing — as attuned to the dynamics in Congress and some of the greater political and social discussions in the U.S.

In the interview, she suggested that Senate Republicans would likely block any potential nominee like her.

“If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court,” the oldest member of the high court said. “[A]nybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided,” later adding that she can “do the job full steam.”

Tuesday’s excerpt focused largely on the court’s conservative shift in recent years and Ginsburg’s disappointment with its rulings on women’s issues.

When asked why the court has become “very conservative” on women’s rights, Ginsburg singled out a particular justice.

“To be frank, it’s one person who made the difference: Justice [Anthony] Kennedy,” she said,
the justice often seen as the court’s swing vote given the court’s relatively entrenched liberal and conservative camps of four justices each. Ginsburg said that since upholding Roe v. Wade, Kennedy has been largely responsible for the upholding of several abortion restrictions.

When asked which decisions she thinks will be considered most significant 50 years from now, Ginsburg pointed to June’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the court said corporations could use religious exemptions to avoid paying for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“Well, I think 50 years from now, people will not be able to understand Hobby Lobby,” said the justice, who wrote a blistering dissent in the case.