Saturday, April 04, 2015

Support Don Shaw - Let's Retire Bob Marshall

Don Shaw and his family
A few days ago I wrote a post about the need to defeat GOP Del. Bob Marshall in November.  Marshall is perhaps one of the most hate-filled homophobes in the Virginia General Assembly and once boasted that he'd like to drive all the gays out of Virginia.  I noted in the post that Marshall has a Democrat challenger who needs our support.  Much to my surprise, I received the following e-mail from Don Shaw, Marshall's opponent:
Thank you for the blog post yesterday.  It's definitely time to Retire Bob Marshall.  He has furthered his anti-LGBT hate agenda at the expense not only of those against whom he campaigns, but also at the expense of progress and economic security here in Virginia.  I'm a strong ally of the LGBT community not only because I'm a Democrat, but because I absolutely believe in equality for all.  As was mentioned in the WaPo article, my 23-year-old son is gay.  I am unequivocal in my assertion that equal rights should not be contingent on his sexual orientation, but on the fact that he is a person.  I also have a 21-year-old daughter who has special needs.  Contrary to what Marshall has said, she is not God's punishment for abortion.  On the contrary, she's a blessing I count fortunate to have received every single day.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention our youngest.  She believes, and I agree, that she deserves equal pay for equal work and that she should be able to make her own healthcare decisions.  My wife is a wonderful and accomplished person in her own right, without whom I wouldn't be where I am today.  My family keeps me grounded and inspired me to step up and run for office to put an end to the continuous social war being waged by Bob Marshall.

Anyway, I wanted to send you a personal note of thanks for picking up on the WaPo story and blogging about it.  I've read some of your entries; I wish I had the time to go back and catch up on all of them.  You have a powerful story in your own right and I thank you for sharing it.  

Please share information about the campaign liberally and encourage those in a position to contribute to do so.  We're fighting the good fight and we will win!  Thank you!


Don Shaw
Democratic Candidate
VA House of Delegates
13th District

The Sad State of Non-Discrimination Protections in Virginia

The GOP's approach to LGBT rights in Virginia

While the firestorm over Indiana's falsely named "religions freedom restoration act" prompted Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to invite Indiana businesses to come to Virginia, the sad reality is that Virginia is little better than Indiana in its treatment of its LGBT citizens.  And that's not because of the efforts of McAuliffe and Democrats - including Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring - to move Virginia into the 21st century.  Rather, as is the case across the nation, it is because of the Republicans' self-prostitution to Christofascists (and carefully gerrymandered districts to keep Republicans in "safe" districts) that LGBT Virginians remain third class citizens even though we finally have the right to marry.  A column in the Richmond Times Dispatch looks at the state of LGBT rights in Virginia.  Here are highlights:

[E]ven as Indiana lawmakers scrambled to amend a law that made the state a pariah, amid assertions that businesses were being given the right to refuse service to gay people, Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population remains vulnerable to the same biases that Indiana sought to justify and codify in its Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Some people might be surprised to learn that Virginia has no law that requires places of public accommodation to serve gay and transgender people,” Parrish said, citing restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctor’s officers and other places where they could be denied service without recourse.

Also, “we have no law to ensure that those who are gay or transgender are not fired just because of who they are, and we have no law that protects gay or transgender people from discrimination in housing. We must change that.”

Earlier this week, it was ironic to see Gov. Terry McAuliffe inviting Indiana businesses to relocate to Virginia while touting our bona fides as an “open and welcoming” state. Although McAuliffe’s support of the LGBT community is unimpeachable, the record at our GOP-dominated statehouse is another matter altogether.

“We have the freedom to marry here,” Parrish said. But “we can still be fired and denied public accommodations and housing. ... You can still be denied service in a restaurant.”

in Virginia, the LGBT community is not recognized as a protected class by the state and has few local protections with teeth.

Such relief is hard to come by on the local level in Virginia, where cities and counties have substantial limits to their autonomy. Virginia operates under a concept known as Dillon’s Rule, in which localities largely derive their powers from the state.

“Because of that, we aren’t able to do what other localities in other states can do,” said Richmond City Council member Charles Samuels.
How do we change this?  One way is to vote a straight Democratic ticket in EVERY election - local, state and federal in EVERY election cycle - until eventually, Republicans who back discrimination and bigotry are out of office.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Will the Iran Deal Bring a New Political Order to the Middle East?

"Iran topo en". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
While the Republican response to the announcement of an agreement with Iran to control its nuclear program has been to (i) attack Barack Obama, (ii) declare that the GOP will torpedo the deal, and (iii) claim war with Iran is the real answer - never mind that the disaster would make the Iraq War fiasco look good in comparison - and would bust the federal budget and throw away countless American lives - saner response believe the deal is a good starting pint and that it could readjust the political landscape of the Middle East.  To date, American policy has been to prop up Israel and pander to extremist Saudis while alienating everyone else, including Iran, the most populous nation in the Middle East.  (For comparison, Iran has 78.4 million inhabitants versus Iraq's 36 million - Israel has 8.2 million and Saudi Arabia has 30.7 million).  As a piece in the Washington Post reviews, the Iran agreement could shift much of this.  Here are article excerpts:
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged Friday that his country would honor what he called a historic agreement to curb its nuclear program, provided that world powers uphold their end of the deal to ease economic pressures.

“We don’t cheat. We are not two-faced,” Rouhani declared in an upbeat televised address to the nation a day after negotiators reached a framework on the nuclear deal. He added: “If we’ve given a promise . . . we will take action based on that promise. Of course, that depends on the other side taking action on their promises, too.”

But a range of other views across the Middle East — including cautious hope in Saudi Arabia, internal dissent in Iran and open hostility in Israel — underscored the potentially difficult diplomatic and security challenges facing Washington among even some of its strongest allies, and how the region’s political dimensions could be reordered by the possibility that the United States and Iran might move beyond an estrangement that reaches back more than 35 years.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood firm on his opposition to any deal

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman staked out less confrontational ground, telling President Obama that he hoped it would strengthen “stability and security” in the region.  The remarks by Salman suggested no major policy shifts by Saudi Arabia or its Persian Gulf Arab partners. . . 

Iran insists it only wants to produce nuclear fuel for energy-producing reactors and medical applications. Israel and others worry that Iran could one day use the same enrichment process to make warhead-grade material.

Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Muslim states in the gulf view Shiite-led Iran as their main regional rival. Tensions have further escalated as a Saudi-led coalition carries out airstrikes in Yemen aimed at weakening a Shiite rebel force, which gulf leaders say receives support from Tehran. 

“The gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, fear the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran is premised on a recognition of rising Persian power in the gulf and the region,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics.

Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born regional affairs lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, an academic and research center, predicted a sharp increase in defense spending by the gulf states despite being hit by a sharp drop in oil prices. . . . . they are very likely to challenge Iran’s influence in the region, in places such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria with even more vigor than before, and in a unified manner,” he said.

America has pursued largely the same Middle East policy for 35 years and, if one looks at the state of the Middle East - and the fact that wealthy Saudis have been said to be funding Islamic extremists - it is difficult to say that it has been a success.  Returning Iran to the world economic fold may be the best way to moderate the county's leadership over time and bring the rulers back into line with modernity - something most rank and file Iranians seemingly support.   America's biggest mistake, of course, was not supporting the Shah in 1979 against the religious extremists. 

Fights Over "Religious Freedom" And Gay Rights Are Costing Republicans

Opponents of an Arkansas religious objection measure chant outside the Arkansas state Capitol -
Danny Johnston AP
I have pondered before why the Republican Party as a whole continues to pander to a shrinking aging white, racist, religious extremist base when anti-gay, anti-Hispanic, and anti-women policies are alienating the emerging majority of Americans.  Then I remember something: the party base has been taken over by people out of touch with objective reality who believe that their view of the world is the only one - even if history and objective facts prove otherwise.  When people unquestioningly base their lives and world view on a selective reading of myths and fairy tales written largely by Bronze Age herders - i.e., the Jewish Old Testament - that even most Jews no longer believe in, political insanity is easier to understand.  The latest battles over "religious freedom" s\laws that are thinly veiled licenses to discriminate, and not just against gays, under score just how sick the GOP has become.   A piece at West Virginia PBS looks ate how the GOP is slowly committing suicide (even West Virginia defeated a "religious freedom act).  Here are higlights:
Following a firestorm of criticism, Republican governors in Indiana and Arkansas signed revised versions of their states' Religious Freedom Restoration bills Thursday night. In Indiana the language was adjusted, and in Arkansas it was significantly scaled back to more closely align with the federal law.

National Republicans, especially the ones running for president, have to hope it's enough to get them out of the hole they dug themselves on religious freedom and gay rights. It's worth taking a look at what the whole brouhaha has cost the GOP.

[H]ere are four questions about what this issue means for the GOP: 

1) Why didn't Republicans anticipate this firestormIt's possible that Republicans' big electoral victories in November blinded them to just how controversial this would be. Gov. Asa Hutchison, R-Ark., and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., seemed genuinely taken aback by the demand for boycotts and the backlash from big corporations like Eli Lilly, WalMart and Apple, as well as the NCAA.

It's as if Republicans — particularly in the deep-red states of Arkansas and Indiana — operate according to a different political calculus, insulated from the divide between their own conservative constituents and changing national opinion. . . . . moving forward with an agenda that satisfies their base of social conservatives but is seen as intolerant and divisive by the business community and a growing majority of voters in the country. This week, those two opposing dynamics reignited the culture war, with Republican politicians as the first casualties.

2) Is this about more than just religious freedom?  Yes! It's about a much bigger, much more fundamental problem for the GOP. A new Pew poll showed that 61 percent of young Republicans favor gay marriage. Hutchinson said his own son signed a petition asking him to veto the bill that he instead sent back to the Legislature for revision.

The Republicans can't appeal to young voters if they're on the wrong side of gay marriage, because gay rights is a symbol of tolerance for so many young voters — not to mention suburban women. The same is true for one of the fastest-growing parts of the electorate — Hispanics. How do Republicans show Hispanics that they are welcoming and inclusive if they oppose a path to legalization for hard-working immigrants here illegally?

The views of the GOP's white, older, conservative primary electorate are farther away from the center of American public opinion than the Democratic base is right now.

3) [H]ow will Republican candidates resolve this larger tension?   Good question! The debates during the primaries will, presumably, reveal the answer. . . . . Of all the GOP presidential hopefuls, Jeb Bush has given this the most thought. He seems determined not to fall into the trap that Mitt Romney did in 2012. . . . Bush has said his strategy is to run as if he's willing "to lose the primary in order to win the general."

4) How's that working out for Jeb Bush so far?    Not so great. All the leading Republican presidential hopefuls, including Bush, came out in favor of the Arkansas and Indiana bills. By Wednesday, though, Bush was backtracking, insisting that religious freedom is a core value but that we also shouldn't discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has no doubts about what side he's on. In Iowa on Wednesday, Cruz blasted the "big business" wing of the GOP, saying they are "running shamelessly to endorse the radical, gay marriage agenda over religious liberty. "
Personally, I don't see how the GOP adjusts to the changing American majority unless and until it admits that evangelical Christians are radioactive with the rest of America and efforts are made to begin purging them from local county and city committees.  How this will be done is hard to say given how entrenched the religious extremists have become.  Moreover, moderates like myself and my entire extended family have fled the GOP and what former moderates that are left seem to be drinking the "Kool-Aid" by the gallon full.  The GOP establishment created a Frankenstein monster and now it doesn't know how to kill it.  Anyone with common sense should have been able to see where allowing Christofascists to gain power would lead.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Will Indiana's RFRA Spur the Virginia GOP to Increase Legalized Discrimination?

TFF's Queen of Hate and Bigotry, Victoria Cobb
While Indiana has come up with a less than acceptable "fix" to the furor that the Indiana GOP unleashed on that state, including condemnation from a who's who of the business world, some of the usual suspects in Virginia may perceive an opportunity to increase the existing license to discriminate under Virginia's existing RFRA which parallels the federal act.  Leading the charge is Del. Bob Marshall and, not doubt acting as puppeteer behind the scenes is The Family Foundation ("TFF"), a toxic anti-gay hate group with strong white supremacists leanings.  With the entire House of Delegates up for re-election in November, it is a safe bet that TFF will be calling in chits from incumbent Republicans and would be Virginia GOP candidates.  It is also worth remembering that LGBT Virginians have ZERO statutory non-discrimination protections thanks largely to the efforts of TFF and its Republican minions. A column in the Roanoke Times looks at the maneuvering that has already started.  Here are excerpts:

The national controversy over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has reignited the debate over the meaning of a 2007 Virginia statute.

It also has renewed discussion about the fine line between protecting religious liberty and what some view as a license to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
The Indiana law, criticized by the state’s business leaders as discriminatory and as a detriment to hiring the best and the brightest for their companies, this week prompted Gov. Terry McAuliffe to try to lure its businesses to the commonwealth.  . . . . McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy on Thursday clarified that the governor didn’t want to downplay discrimination against gays and lesbians in Virginia, “but that doesn’t mean we aren’t in a place where we’re making serious progress.”

Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, said that with his letter, McAuliffe conceded that there is not discrimination of LGBT Virginians.  “It’s very hypocritical of the governor to come to the General Assembly and say we need a law elevating sexual orientation to a protected class and then go to Indiana and say that we don’t discriminate,” Cobb said. . . . “Our law has served us well, simply providing people of faith their day in court,” she said.

Carl Tobias, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Richmond School of Law, said that the cultural and judicial acceptance of same-sex marriage has reignited interest in passing laws to protect religious liberties.  “But RFRAs haven’t been used that way before, they have mainly been used by prisoners to gain protection for their religious beliefs,” Tobias said. “The concern is now that this will be turned into a device to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBT people. That is a fairly legitimate concern.”

This year, during the legislative session, Marshall proposed his own tweak to Virginia’s law on religious liberty.  But his measure, that would have allowed anyone holding a state license, including business owners, lawyers and doctors, to deny services to gay people without facing disciplinary action, was defeated by a Republican-led House panel in January.  Virginia ACLU director Gastanaga said Marshall essentially “was trying to do the Indiana thing.”

The mere fact that some lawmakers want to strengthen Virginia’s religious liberty law is perceived as a threat by advocates for LGBT rights — in spite of legalized same-sex marriage and McAuliffe’s executive order protecting Virginia state employees from discrimination based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.  “Gay people can still be fired, be denied housing, be denied public accommodation,” said James Parrish, executive director of the gay rights group Equality Virginia.

“We get calls from people who were not hired because they are gay, and because gays and lesbians are not included as a protected class, there is no legal recourse,” Parrish said.  Said Gastanaga: “The reality is, we do not have a general non-discrimination bill. We have one of the weakest civil rights laws in the country. We are like Indiana in that respect.
Stay tuned for more Virginia GOP and TFF efforts to strengthen the right to discriminate based on false claims of "religious freedom."

The Lies and Legal Gymnastics of Gay Marriage Opponents

As the Christofascists and their political lackeys have steadily been losing the war over same sex marriage, the lies and farcical arguments that they have put forth to justify animus based bans on gay marriage have become increasingly incredible.  Indeed, one could argue that the attorneys signing briefs and pleadings ought to face sanctions for their far less than honest claims and arguments (in many states, by signing court filings, attorneys vouch for their truth and veracity).  In short, legal counsel for the anti-gay faction have becomes as big of liars as the "godly folk" who think any and every lie is justified if it furthers their agenda of hate and division.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this phenomenon.  Here are highlights:
Gay-marriage bans don’t discriminate against gays because they apply to heterosexual people, too.

At least, that’s what Kentucky is arguing — apparently with a (ahem) straight face — to the Supreme Court. This and other Onion-worthy arguments illustrate how desperate gay-marriage opponents have become, and how nakedly their logic now mirrors that used to justify the bigoted anti-miscegenation laws struck down a half-century ago.

In most states, conservatives realize they’ve basically lost the war against gay marriage, both in the court of public opinion and the literal court of law. . . . . . That’s why many opponents to gay marriage see “religious freedom” laws, such as the one now igniting a firestorm in Indiana, as the last remaining policy tool available to them. 

But in a large chunk of the country, gay marriage is not quite a fait accompli. On April 28, the Supreme Court will hear cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee relating to both bans on same-sex marriage and refusals to recognize such marriages performed in other states. The justices’ reaction to these cases is expected to finally, formally determine whether gay marriage must be legal in all 50 states.

States have thus been forced to get more creative about how they justify their remaining marital prohibitions and how they can plausibly claim that their knee-jerk restrictions on matrimony, which the court has repeatedly called a “fundamental right,” don’t violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. 

And so we arrive at Kentucky’s legalistic gymnastics. . . . . the Bluegrass State’s Democratic governor argued that gays are not being discriminated against because they’re still allowed to get married — so long as they disregard whom they’re sexually attracted to.

According to the brief: “Men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are free to marry persons of the opposite sex under Kentucky law, and men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex under Kentucky law.”

Kentucky’s argument closely resembles one used, and rejected, in a landmark Supreme Court case about marriage restrictions: Loving v. Virginia, decided in 1967. Virginia presented similar logic as to why its law banning interracial marriage — like those then on the books in 15 other states, including Kentucky — was not discriminatory. Both blacks and whites were allowed to marry inside their race, after all, and both were equally punished for marrying outside of it. The court didn’t buy it.

These and other arguments contained in the four states’ briefs often imply that gay men and lesbians can ignore and switch their sexual orientation at will, despite the scientific community’s consensus to the contrary. In the absence of the ability to legally marry, the states suggest, gay couples will simply shrug, break up and decide to procreatively pair up with a member of the opposite sex instead. This scenario is almost funny, in a sitcom-y sort of way. Or at least it would be, if so many loving couples’ fates didn’t hang in the balance.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

2016 Presidential Candidate Family Members Likely To Make Trouble

Most of us do not get to pick our family members other than perhaps who we choose to be our spouse.  Even then, in the world of politics, typically family members are supposedly "off limits" - at least until they do something or say something that is over the top.  In the line up of of would be Republican presidential candidates, Talking Points Memo looks at three who have family members who may rock the boat and cause headaches.  Here are highlights:
It is a cardinal rule of politics that families ought to be off-limits for attacks in campaigns, no matter how heated things get. But sometimes family members have a way of making trouble own their own for candidates.

When it comes to family members of presidential candidates, the 2016 election is shaping up to feature an unusually colorful cast of characters who could make plenty of trouble for their son, spouse or brother.  Here they are.

Rafael Cruz  The father-son resemblance is strong between Rafael Cruz and Rafael Jr. — better known as Ted — when it comes to being a conservative flamethrower. An evangelical pastor from Texas, the elder Cruz has logged a variety of incendiary remarks about President Barack Obama that surpass his son's rhetoric. Highlights include saying the president should go "back to Kenya," accusing him of wanting to "destroy all concept of God," describing his views as "classical Marxist philosophy" and comparing him to Fidel Castro. . . . . One of his [Ted Cruz's] chief obstacles to the nomination is his lack of support among party elites and big donors, precisely because of the rabble-rousing ways for which Rafael Sr. serves as an unhelpful reminder.

Ron Paul The former Texas congressman and father of Rand Paul had a proclivity for toying with conspiracy theories during his 35 years in office, and that tendency has kicked into high gear since his retirement in 2013. Just in 2015, his organization, the Ron Paul Institute, has suggested that the massacre of Charlie Hebdo by Islamic militants was a "false flag" and even called into question the "official story" of the 9/11 attacks.  His son, a Kentucky senator and presidential hopeful, more in tune with political reality and working to shed the outside-the-mainstream image he inherited. If his father keeps at it, that won't be an easy task.

George W. Bush  The most recent former president left office as one of the most unpopular in history, and — almost as troubling for his aspiring younger brother Jeb — was subsequently cast by the conservative base as an emblem of spendthrift Republicanism gone wrong. The Bush name is a liability with most constituencies other than evangelicals and wealthy GOP donors. Although George W. Bush has actively avoided the limelight since he left office, he recently resurfaced in the public eye to attend a fundraiser for his brother. And it's a safe bet that Democrats will seek to paint Jeb as the second coming of his brother.

The piece also makes note of the challenges Hillary Clinton may face as she tries to keep husband Bill reined in. 

Tom Cotton and the Republican/Christofascist Cavalcade of Hate

One aspect of the controversy over the "license to discriminate laws" being pushed by the Christofascists and their political whores in the Republican Party is that perhaps at last the general public and self-loathing gays who still vote Republican may finally understand just how foul the Republican Party and the "godly folk" have become.  Leading the charge of hate and loathing is GOP Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas who stated that gays needed to "get some perspective" and realize that discrimination should impliedly be acceptable since we are being executed as in Iran.  Meanwhile, after the Indiana GOP and Mike Pence have hurriedly enacted a "fix" to Indiana's "religious freedom restoration act," the godly folk have been spewing anti-gay hate and attacking the businesses that condemned Indiana's foul legislation.  First, here are highlights from The New Civil Rights Movement on Tom Cotton's unbelievable statement:
Freshman Republican U.S. Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, made headlines recently when he convinced 46 of his GOP colleagues to sign an open letter to the leaders of Iran, essentially denouncing President Barack Obama and his attempts to secure a nuclear deal.   That of course ended disastrously for the GOP.

Now, Sen. Cotton is making headlines again, this time for telling gay people they're lucky to be alive.  "I think it’s important we have a sense of perspective about our priorities,” Sen. Cotton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Wednesday. "In Iran, they hang you for the crime of being gay."

Think Progress, which first reported on the story, notes that "While Cotton is correct that LGBT people in America are not routinely executed, violence against LGBT Americans remains a significant problem."

And in an Editor's blog post titled "Really Stupid People," Talking Points Memo publisher Josh Marshall called Cotton "a one-noter."
Cotton, in his Iran comment, seemingly only stated what the "godly folk" would like to do to gays.   Fanning the flames of hate are some of the usual suspects from "Christian" organizations.  Meanwhile, others in the GOP piled on.  Here is a sampling:
Mike HuckabeeHuckabee told FRC president Tony Perkins, the host of the program, that the gay community has turned the controversies surrounding “religious freedom” legislation in Arkansas and Indiana into a “phony crisis.”

Perkins contended that gay people who are denied service by a business should simply try to find another shop that will serve them rather than filing a lawsuit against discriminatory business owners. “Where will it stop?” he asked Huckabee.

“It won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel,” Huckabee replied, “and I’m talking now about the unabridged, unapologetic Gospel that is really God’s truth.”

Mat Staver: Mat Staver once again compared gay rights advocates to terrorists, telling WND radio host Greg Corombos that the LGBT community won’t stop until it wins a “special, protected, preferred status for homosexuality” and “then if they get that, boy are they going to come and hammer you hard with it.”

“Their agenda doesn’t stop until they are completely dominating anybody who ultimately does not not only agree but promote and affirm their lifestyle,” Staver said. “Their agenda will not stop, it will ultimately result in fines and prosecution. This is an intolerant agenda.” He went on to liken gay rights supporters to the Hamas terrorists.

Pat Robertson: Hampton Roads' own village idiot again shot off his mouth to the embarrassment of the entire region:.   Pat Robertson repeated his criticism of the gay community in the wake of the controversy surrounding a new Indiana law which gives businesses the right to deny service to LGBT customers, among others. 

This led Robertson to a tirade about how gay people will force others to embrace anal sex and bestiality.  “It doesn’t matter what custom you’ve got, it doesn’t matter what holy thing that you worship and adore, the gays are going to get it,” Robertson said. “They’re going to make you conform to them. You are going to say you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality.

There are many more chilling and/or insane quotes.  The take away?  There is little wonder that 33% of Millennials have walked away from religion.  Frankly, I cannot blame them.  It is far, far past time that religious belief and the "godly folk" cease to be afforded any deference whatsoever.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

It Is Time to Retire Del. Bob Marshall

Speaking of Republicans who are a scourge on decency, here in Virginia, no one is more anti-gay and opposed to modernity and equality for all citizens than Del. Bob Marshall.  Marshall has been a blight on Virginia's reputation for years and can be relied upon to back every racist and reactionary cause favored by the Virginia GOP.  Indeed, Marshall is usually leading the Virginia GOP effort to return to the 1950's.  Marshall - along with the rest of the House of Delegates - is up for re-election this year and his anti-gay batshitery and support for Indiana's license to discriminate law is rightly becoming an issue in his re-election campaign.  Marshall needs to be defeated and sent into permanent retirement.  The Washington Post looks at how events in Indiana are becoming an issue in Marshall's re-election effort (NOTE: like every good Christofascists, Marshall is lying when he says the Indiana statute is no different than Virginia's statute):
The national firestorm over an Indiana law that some say legalizes discrimination against gay and lesbian people has spilled over into a Virginia House of Delegates race.

Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) is defending the Indiana law, to the chagrin of his Democratic challenger, Don Shaw, who called the effort “offensive.”

“Virginia has the same law. We passed it in 2007. The sky did not fall!” Marshall wrote in a letter to the Indianapolis Star.

Marshall wrote the letter in response to one that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) wrote to the newspaper imploring Indiana businesses to consider relocating to Virginia for its “open, inclusive and thriving business environment.”

Shaw and the governor’s office said there are significant differences between Virginia’s law — and similar ones in other states — and the law under scrutiny in Indiana.

They say Indiana’s law was designed to give private companies legal cover for discrimination against gay and lesbian people, while Virginia’s law seeks to protect an individual’s freedom of religion from government intrusion.

Shaw said he is running in part to support laws protecting his 23-year-old son, who is openly gay.  “Bob Marshall wants to basically allow people to discriminate against my son and I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “I want to live in a robust and thriving Virginia economy and I believe Bob Marshall is doing everything he can do to prevent that.”

During the recent legislative session, Marshall introduced two bills that Shaw said mirror the Indiana law.  One would have blocked McAuliffe from making nondiscrimination against people because of their sexual orientation a condition of entering into a government contract. The other said anyone who gets a license or authority from the state would not have to serve or counsel same-sex couples if he or she has moral or religious objections.

Marshall, one of the most conservative members of the Virginia House, was the author of Virginia’s now defunct 2006 ban on same-sex marriage.
Businesses in Marshall's district need to make it clear that Marshall is a liability to economic growth and prosperity and that he must be defeated in November.


How Big Business is Pushing the Fight for Equality

As Republicans continue to reel over the reaction to Indiana's animus inspired "religious freedom restoration act" - a/k/a license to discriminate law - one thing that has caught them most by surprise is the sharp condemnation and threats of boycotts spearheaded by big business.  In the past Republicans pandering to Christofascists and hate groups like Family Research Council and the American Family Association have believed that they would suffer little push back for their bigotry and subversion of the religious freedom rights of non-Christofascists.  Now, that dynamic seems to have flipped and retribution by the business community seems assured.  The CEO of Starbucks even has gone so far as to tell anti-gay shareholders to sell their stock if they don't like the company's pro-gay stances. Hence on reason Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had a sudden epiphany and declared that he would not sign the Arkansas bill without a number of changes.  Hopefully, the GOP is learning a harsh lesson.  Here are highlights from a Washington Post column on this new dynamic:
The outrage directed at the Hoosier State and others is being led by big business. And that’s awesome.

In a terrific column yesterday, Catherine Rampell wrote about how “the economics of discrimination seems to have been flipped on its head.” In the past, if the employers, employees and customers of a business “had a taste for discrimination” then that business had every incentive to condone it. It wasn’t bad for business. Today, the dynamic has changed. “If … firms feared that customers would punish them for inclusiveness,” Rampell writes, “today firms fear customers will instead punish them for exclusiveness.”

Here’s another way the dynamic has changed. The loudest voices demanding integration of lunch counters and other public accommodations in the 1960s belonged to African Americans. Through courage and moral conviction they changed hearts and minds on civil rights and racial equality. Today, in this current fight over equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, what we are seeing is business not so much acting out of fear, but acting out of conscience.

“Men and women have fought and died fighting to protect our country’s founding principles of freedom and equality,” wrote Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook against the Indiana law. “We owe it to them, to each other and to our future to continue to fight with our words and our actions to make sure we protect those ideals.” Apple is ranked No. 5 on the Fortune 500 list, is worth $700 billion and has $178 billion in cash on hand.

“This is just plain wrong and … and we will not stand for it,” said Arne Sorenson, president of Marriott International, of the Indiana law.

And after a religious-freedom bill passed the state House yesterday on its way to the desk of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), Wal-Mart Chief Executive Doug McMillon urged a veto.  . . . .  Wal-Mart, headquartered in Bentonville, Ark., ranks No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list and is the largest private employer in Arkansas and in the United States. Surely this explains why Hutchinson announced today that he would not sign the religious freedom bill on his desk until it was changed to reflect the federal version.

They didn’t do it because of public pressure from LGBT rights groups. They all did this of their own volition. So, “Where the f— are the gay groups?” For once, they are following as the allies they’ve spent decades cultivating take the lead in a fight for their rights and dignity without having to be asked.
Decent, fair minded Americans are growing in numbers while the Christofascists become a shrinking toxic force in society.  Hopefully, big business will continue to support equality for all and the GOP will ultimately be forced to cast the Christofascists into the political and social wilderness where they belong. I hope the Virginia GOP is watching closely what's happening in Indiana and now Arkansas and will opt to come into the 21st century. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Death of Mike Pence's 2016 Dreams

Mike Pence - a pandering political whore
In some circles Indiana Governor Mike Pence was considered a possible contender for the GOP presidential nomination.  The events of the last week have seen the death of Pence's presidential dreams.  His signing of Indiana's foul "license to discriminate" law has brought down the condemnation of big business - today, 39 tech companies slammed Pence and Indiana - and his outright lies in press conferences have done immeasurable damage.   Meanwhile, Pence is being attacked by the Christofascists and talking heads of the far right because of his efforts to "clarify" the toxic law and end the economic firestorm raining down on Indiana.  Apparently intimidated by Indiana's thrashing, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has now refused to sign that states equally foul license to discriminate act.  A piece in Politico Magazine looks at the death spiral of Spence's presidential aspirations.  Here are highlights:

With the black marble of the Indiana House of Representatives behind him, Gov. Mike Pence in January trumpeted a laundry list of accomplishments achieved in the first half of his first term: Two balanced budgets. A falling unemployment rate. More than 100,000 new jobs created. It seemed the predicate for a potential 2016 run.

Basking in the glow of the moment, Pence dropped his customary aw-shucks Hoosier persona and let himself boast: “Tonight, there are 49 other governors across this country who wish they could be me!”  Maybe then. Not anymore.  Not three short months later, amid the biggest crisis of his political life, that line rings comical.

At least three of those 49 governors Pence taunted—from Connecticut, New York, Washington and counting—have banned nonessential government travel from their states to Indiana in just the six days since Pence signed Senate Bill 101, the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Pence is in trouble, because there is already collateral damage.

At least 10 national conventions are threatening to pull out of commitments to meeting in Indianapolis, according to city tourism officials, who have spent late nights talking down convention organizers in an attempt to keep a grip on the industry that brings in $4.4 billion annually and supports 75,000 jobs.

The optics of the moment—a governor once mentioned as a potential 2016er now trying to sort through political wreckage . . . . seemed to suggest one potential outcome of Pence’s rightward lurch: Were Pence’s presidential chances history now, too?

Even the traditionally conservative business community, both local and national, seems to be quickly turning its back on Pence—a fact that has left Pence backpedaling in surprise. . . . . Pence ally and donor Bill Oesterle, the Republican CEO of Angie’s List and former Gov. Mitch Daniels’ one-time campaign manager, canceled plans to add up to 1,000 jobs and expand its headquarters in Indianapolis, on account of the religious freedom bill.

 Pence willingly prostituted himself  to the Christofascists and representatives of hate groups.  It is fitting that he is now reaping the consequences of his self-prostitution.  I have no sympathy for Pence and hope his political career is over.  I also hope that other Republicans may be finally realizing that the Christofascists are becoming increasingly radioactive and need to be thrown from the GOP tent.

How the Christofascists Invented a White Supremacist Jesus

If one follows the websites of the leading "family values" organizations all of which constantly proclaim their allegiance to the Bible as I have done for many years now, one that quickly becomes apparent is that these organizations are shockingly lily white and seem to reach out to minorities only when they want black pastors in particular to act as their water carriers and perform as trained circus dogs.   The other thing that quickly becomes apparent is that most of these "family values" Christians have white supremacist roots and truly are open to white, conservative Christians who look and think like themselves.  Blacks, Hispanics and other ethnic minorities are not welcome.  This same mindset is now the norm for the Republican Party in the wake of the Christofascists' cancer like growth in the GOP.  A piece in Salon looks at how these "godly folk" have turned Jesus into a white supremacist savior.  Here are excerpts:
Just in time for Holy Week, the State of Indiana has passed a new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law explicitly permits for-profit corporations to practice the “free exercise of religion” and it allows them to use the “exercise of religion” as a defense against any lawsuits whether from the government or from private entities. The primary narrative against this law has been about the potential ways that small businesses owned by Christians could invoke it as a defense against having to, for instance, sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding.

Any time right-wing conservatives declare that they are trying to restore or reclaim something, we should all be very afraid. Usually, this means the country or, in this case, the state of Indiana is about to be treated to another round of backward time travel, to the supposedly idyllic environs of the 1950s, wherein women, and gays, and blacks knew their respective places and stayed in them.
And given our current anti-Black racial climate, there is no reason to trust that these laws won’t be eventually used for acts of racially inflected religious discrimination, perhaps against Black Muslims or Muslims of Arab descent, for instance. Surely this kind of law in this political climate sanctions the exercise of Islamophobia.

As a practicing Christian, I am deeply incensed by these calls for restoration and reclamation in the name of religious freedom. This kind of legislation is largely driven by conservative Christian men and women, who hold political views that are antagonistic to every single group of people who are not white, male, Christian, cisgender, straight and middle-class.
Nothing about the cultural and moral regime of the religious right in this country signals any kind of freedom. In fact, this kind of legislation is rooted in a politics that gives white people the authority to police and terrorize people of color, queer people and poor women. 

This white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, gun-toting, Bible-quoting Jesus of the religious right is a god of their own making. I call this god, the god of white supremacy and patriarchy. 

The Christian lawmakers seeking to use the law to discriminate against gay people are indicative of every violent, unrighteous, immoral impulse that organized religion continues to represent in this country. I have said elsewhere recently that it is a problem to treat racism as if it will simply go extinct. But as I watch the religious right engineer pain and obstacles for queer people in America’s heartland, I find myself wishing that this particularly violent and vicious breed of Christianity would die off.

What this vocal contingent of the religious right is seeking to restore is not religious freedom but a sense of safety in expressing and imposing dangerous, retrograde and discriminatory ideas in the name of religion. I continue to support the free and unimpeded expression of religion.

We need to reclaim the narrative of Jesus’ life and death from the evangelical right. They have not been good stewards over the narrative. They have pimped Jesus’ death to support the global spread of American empire vis-à-vis war, “missions,” and “free trade,” the abuse of native peoples, the continued subjugation of Black people, and the regulation of the sexual lives of women and gay people.

Is Pope Francis Serious About Catholic Church Sex Abuse Reforms

Besides waffling on bringing real change to the Roman Catholic Church's 13th century dogma on issues of sexuality and gender equality, Pope Francis is now facing questions about his seriousness in pushing through meaningful reforms to squelch rampant sexual abuse by priests - and cover ups by members of the hierarchy.  The catalyst for the questions?  The controversial the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno, Chile.  The International Business Times looks at the controversy around Barros.  Here are highlights:
Criticism of the Catholic Church’s effort to promote accountability on clergy sex abuse is poised to intensify as the Vatican stands by its decision to back a controversial Chilean bishop who has been linked to an alleged cover-up of child abuse. The controversy over the appointment of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno is raising doubts about the pace of reforms promised by Pope Francis, who has made a zero tolerance approach to clergy sex abuse a cornerstone of his papacy.

A spokesperson for the Holy See announced Tuesday that the Church’s Congregation of Bishops had "carefully examined the prelate's candidature and did not find objective reasons to preclude the appointment," in the Vatican’s first official comment on the divisive case. The news comes amid a growing controversy over the bishop’s appointment in Chile, where protests broke out last week during his installation ceremony at the cathedral of the southern city of Osorno. About 3,000 people gathered to protest Barros on Saturday, demanding that he resign his post.

The outrage stems from Barros’ connection to one of Chile’s most notorious pedophile priests, Father Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty of abusing teenage boys over the years in a 2011 Vatican investigation. Critics allege that Barros was not only aware of the abuse but also helped to cover it up in his capacity as Karadima’s protégé.

Catholic clergy in Chile have voiced their opposition to Barros’ installation, with one of the most vocal critics, Father Alex Vigueras of Santiago’s Congregation of the Sacred Heart, saying the appointment was “not attuned with the zero tolerance [policy on pedophilia] that is trying to be installed in the church,” the Guardian reported.

Barros’ appointment is making waves beyond Chile, too. Several members of Pope Francis’ sex abuse advisory board, known as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, have expressed their concerns about his decision to appoint the bishop despite the allegations.

The reaction from members of the commission and from within Chile shows that the appointment was not a prudent decision by the Vatican, said the Rev. James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College. “I believe it is sending the wrong message. The fact that [Barros] was named shows a certain tone deafness or lack of sensitivity even today among people involved in these decision-making processes.”
Some things seemingly never change within the Church hierarchy.  Real change will only come when rank and file Catholics walk away and take their financial support with them.  If that were to happen on a large scale, I suspect we'd see real change if the Catholic Church doesn't want to become an African church that preys on the poor and ignorant.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Indiana Drags GOP Presidential Hopefuls into the Culture Wars

Many in the Republican Party had hoped that the 2016 presidential campaigns and elections could skirt the culture wars and thereby avoid divisive social issues that, outside of the lunatic Christofascist base of the GOP, typically cost Republicans votes in the general election.  Thanks to Mike Pence and Indiana - and now the Arkansas GOP - that hope is likely shot to Hell and would be Republican presidential candidates are being dragged into the culture war fray.  Some like the always despicable Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum welcome it, others realize that they are in a catch 22: they must court the Christofascists to win the nomination, yet by doing so, they decrease their chances on election day in November 2016.  A piece in the Washington Post looks ate what's happening.  Here are highlights (I wish the Post would drop the "social conservatives" label and call these people what they are: bigots and religious extremists):
The national debate over an Indiana religious-liberties law seen as anti-gay has drawn the entire field of Republican presidential contenders into the divisive culture wars, which badly damaged Mitt Romney in 2012 and which GOP leaders eagerly sought to avoid in the 2016 race.

Most top Republican presidential hopefuls this week have moved in lock step, and without pause, to support Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) and his Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which has prompted protests and national calls for boycotts by major corporations.

In Arkansas on Tuesday, Republican legislators approved a similar measure that Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is expected to sign. The action prompted the chief executive of Arkansas-based Walmart to ask Hutchinson to veto the bill . . . 

The agreement among the likely GOP candidates illustrates the enduring power of social conservatives in early-voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina, which will help determine who emerges as the party’s nominee next year.

But the position puts the Republican field out of step with a growing national consensus on gay rights, handing Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats a way to portray Republicans as intolerant and insensitive. Some Republicans also fear that Indiana is only the first in a series of brush fires that could engulf the party as it struggles to adapt to the nation’s rapidly changing demographics and social mores.

“This is another case where the Iowa caucus beckons,” veteran GOP strategist John Weaver said. “Politically, it’s a difficult issue for a general election. After watching the Romney campaign in 2012, a lot of people said, ‘Do no harm to your general-election chances while trying to win the nomination.’ Having said that, you have to win the nomination first.”

As Steve Deace, a conservative talk-radio host in Iowa, put it: “This is the first litmus test of the race. Everyone in the party is watching to see how the candidates respond. For evangelicals, this is the fundamental front of culture issues.”

Vin Weber, a former congressman and Bush ally, said he is concerned about the general-election implications and whether the Indiana debate damages the Republican brand with moderate and independent voters. “Everyone likes Mike Pence, and they’re concerned about the primary politics of the marriage issue, but I’m a little worried they’re not thinking of the broader perceptions of the party,” he said.

But other Republican strategists argued that the Indiana imbroglio could have the opposite effect. They suggested that the harsh reaction to the law has become a rallying cry for the tens of millions of evangelical voters. 

After Pence’s rocky appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Christian conservative leaders around the country organized a frantic outreach effort to pressure likely candidates to defend the legislation, according to several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications.

Personally, I think the size of the so-called evangelical vote is over estimated.  Moreover, seeing what the GOP is doing to gays reminds Hispanics and other minorities - and many women - that the GOP likewise has no use for them and, if allowed to do so, would trample on their rights as well.  Aging, far right white bigots is not the face of the GOP that will win in November 2016.  I hope the Christofascists - the GOP's own self-created Frankenstein monster - will lead the GOP to yet another defeat in November 2016.  I suspect Hillary s smiling to herself as she watches this circus of spittle flecked bigotry.

Homophobia and America's Huge" Closet"

Sarah Rice—Getty Images
Despite advances in gay rights compared to even 15 years ago, the number of men who remain in the closet remains shockingly large and demonstrates that homophobia and fear of becoming a social outcast and/or losing one's job is very much alive and well, especially in "conservative" states an regions.  Don't believe me?  Try a simple experiment: check out Craigslist and see how many "MWM" - married white male - and "DL" - down low - individuals that you will find on any given day.  There are LOTS of them.  Odds are these individuals do not respond to surveys admitting their true sexual orientation.  Hence, the true umber of gays is, in my view still, way under reported.  A piece in Time Magazine looks at America's huge closet and the damage that it does. Here are some highlights:
After determining that the percentage of men attracted primarily to men is roughly equivalent in states throughout the country, based on dating site and adult-content searches, Stephens-Davidowitz was able to draw some preliminary conclusions. The barriers preventing men from building openly gay lives in certain parts of the country are clearly specific to the local social climate. For instance: The rate of Craigslist searches by men seeking casual encounters with men is higher in Mississippi than in New York, while there’s a higher rate of gay men seeking dates and relationships on in New York than in Mississippi.

“The closet doesn’t just mean you don’t announce your sexuality on Facebook,” Stephens-Davidowitz said. “It’s influencing people’s lives in a big way.” For a closeted gay or bisexual man in Mississippi or someplace like it, in other words, a relationship with a man may seem impossible. Some men in this situation are married to women or are trying to pass as heterosexual while seeking secretive, casual encounters on the side.

Stephens-Davidowitz points to one horribly confining and terribly sad effect of homophobia in conservative parts of the country and even in conservative areas of more liberal regions: It allows gay and bisexual men in these regions to seek only furtive, often dangerous sexual encounters with other men rather than making free choices about their sexual and emotional interactions and enjoying the rites of passage of dating and relationships just as heterosexuals do.

Looking at Google searches, Stephens-Davidowitz found that the question “How do I know if my husband is gay?” is far more common than “How do I know if my husband is cheating?” or “How do I know if my husband is depressed?” Moreover, the highest percentage per capita of “How do I know if my husband is gay?” searches come from conservative parts of the country, with South Carolina at number 1, followed by Kentucky and Louisiana.

Stephens-Davidowitz determined that, . . . about half of gay men nationally do not identify publicly as gay or bisexual. In more conservative places, again using Mississippi as an example, that figure goes up to 80%.

Far fewer people are openly gay (or, we can assume, openly lesbian or bisexual) than we have come to think, even in perhaps the most liberal places, and it’s extremely difficult to be out in many parts of the country. The presumption of victory whitewashes the hardship of millions of Americans — not just lesbians and gays themselves but also the spouses and children of people living in the closet.

“In Gallup polls, among people under the age of 30, more than 6 percent of adults tell pollsters they’re gay,” Williams Institute Demographer Gary Gates told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2013 . . . a large piece of that is younger people are growing up in an environment where this is acceptable, so they’re willing to identify themselves as gay.”

The closet is very damaging, both for gays and their families - I know, I lived in the closet for 37 years.  It made me miserable much of the time and certainly prevented me from being as good of parent as I might otherwise have been.  Self-hate and self-loathing and living in fear of having one's "secret" discovered does not make for a happy life or quality relationships.  Yet, thanks to the "godly folk" and the embrace of ignorance and bigotry, millions still suffer because of homophobia and the closet.  This needs to end NOW.