Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Ted Cruz Spews Hate and Myth of Christian Persecution

In a shameless effort to court evangelical Christian voters - or possibly a display of he's mental illness - Ted Cruz is playing up the theme that Christians are facing persecution and that the nation faces the choice of allowing gay rights or "religious freedom" for Christians.  The irony, of course, is that for centuries in America it is the Christians who have persecuted those of other faith traditions from Native Americans who were depicted as pagan savages to the unofficial establishment of Christianity as America's quasi-established religion.   What's really going on is the hysteria of Christofascists over the fact that their ability to persecute others is being belated and deservedly eroded.  Right Wing Watch looks at Cruz's anti-gay harangue. Here are highlights:

During a presidential candidate forum hosted by an Iowa homeschool group yesterday, Ted Cruz lashed out at the gay community for waging a “jihad” against so-called religious freedom laws in states such as Arkansas and Indiana.

Cruz, speaking at a panel moderated by conservative talk show host Steve Deace, who regularly castigates the “Rainbow Jihad,” told the crowd of homeschooling activists that they should fear “the jihad that is being waged right now in Indiana and Arkansas, going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

By condemning this gay “jihad,” Cruz said, he could “bring people together” to defend religious freedom.

Other likely candidates present at the forum included Gov. Bobby Jindal and past Iowa caucus victors former Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

As the Dallas Morning News reports, this was not the first of Cruz's hysterical anti-gay rants:

On his first Iowa stop as a presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz warned Wednesday that a Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage nationwide would be “fundamentally illegitimate.”
In the hour-long appearance at Morningside College in Sioux City, in Iowa’s conservative northwest corner, Cruz kept a tight focus on social issues even as he presented himself as a candidate who can appeal to many facets of the GOP.

“Religious liberty is not some fringe view. It is the basis of this country,” he said. He blamed gay rights activists and Democrats for the recent uproar over an Indiana law that would protect businesses who refuse to provide certain services on religious grounds.
 “Every one of us is concerned about the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision likely coming in June,” he said. “The first thing and I think the most important thing every one of us can do, is pray. Lift up in prayer.”

He reiterated his vow to press for a constitutional amendment that would clarify the power of state legislatures to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If the high court does legalize gay marriage nationwide, he added, he would prod Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, a rarely invoked legislative tool.

Cruz’s proposal for a constitutional amendment leaving the issue to state legislatures all but ensures a patchwork, with bans in some states and legalized same-sex marriage in others.

Asked about that after speaking to the crowd, Cruz likened the situation to marijuana laws and other laws pertaining to marriage.

Some states set a minimum age of 16 to marry. Others say 17 or 18, he noted, saying: “We have 50 states that adopt different standards.”

He hasn’t explained how, in his system, same-sex couples married in Vermont would be treated if they move to Texas.

What I personally find so bizarre about Cruz is that he is prostituting himself to evangelical Christians, many of who don't even view him as a "real American" because he is Hispanic - plus he was born in Canada.  If being born in Hawaii makes Obama not an American, WTF does being born in Canada make Cruz?

What To Look For In Media Coverage Of Hillary Clinton

Sadly, the main stream media likes to merely parrot the talking points of the GOP and other far right organizations (e.g., FRC's Tony Perkins is constantly given a platform and never seriously challenged on his batshitery or asked about his white supremacist ties), so during the coming slug fest of the presidential campaign, it will be telling to see how willingly the media allows itself to be used to further anti-Hillary, sexist propaganda coming form the usual suspects.  Likewise, it will be telling to see how much of a pass nutcases like Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum are given when they utter insane statements or send dog whistle messages to racists, religious extremists and male chauvinists.   Think Progress looks at things to watch for.  Here are excerpts:
Now that Hillary Clinton appears to be officially tossing her hat in the ring in an announcement expected this weekend, activists are bracing for what could be a second round of sexist coverage.

From one person at a rally yelling “iron my shirt” to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews calling her a “she-devil” on air, the coverage of Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign sparked a national conversation on how female candidates should be talked about in media coverage. As Clinton steps into the spotlight again nearly a decade later, the real question becomes whether anything has really changed.

“The big difference between 2008 and 2016 is that there’s now research that demonstrates the harm that sexist media coverage does to women who run for office,” said Rachel Larris, communications manager for the Women’s Media Center, which co-released a project with She Should Run to guide media coverage on key language that can can harm female candidates.

“The conversation that is evolving between 2008 and 2016 is seen as not just the sexist insults but the soft sexism,” Larris continued. “There’s a wider conversation being talked about and what actually is sexist coverage of women.”

Though many are joking that a Clinton candidacy is a blast from the past, a lot of things have changed since the last time she ran for office, including the composition of the media itself. The New York Times has two full-time reporters covering Hillary Clinton, both women. Even Fox News, which often comes under fire for its sexist coverage, has more women in the anchor chair than they did in 2008. But even though more women might be writing and presenting the news, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the coverage will be worlds better.

“We all live in this culture, and unfortunately this culture can be sexist,” Larris said, cautioning that female reporters can fall prey to sexist narratives.

[O]ver time, as more and more and more women enter journalism, we’ve seen more attention to women in politics. We’ve seen more attention to treating them in a fair way and treating them like their male counterparts,” she said. She also pointed out that the Clinton campaign itself has changed since the last time she ran, and they’ll likely emphasize a different message and her newer experience.

Lawless said that she felt the straight news coverage of Clinton last time around was reasonably fair, but that it was the punditry class that was more of a problem. But when asked if she thought it might be better this time around, she said it would be mixed. 

“The thing that’s tricky about Hillary Clinton is that she’s an incredibly unique candidate. It’s difficult to disentangle whether things said about her are necessarily examples of sexism or whether they’re Clintonisms,” she said. “Somebody goes to a rally and says ‘iron my shirt’ – that’s sexism. If somebody pushes her 87 times after a question and kind of never lets her off the hook – I don’t know, that’s a more ambiguous situation.”

Ultimately, the important thing is to point it out, argues WMC’s Larris. “When voters are made aware of the differences in coverage they respond positively that these messages shouldn’t be part of our election coverage. … People can call out media coverage, you don’t have to have a high position to do it.” 
I suspect that there will be many coming opportunities to call out the media!

Lead Plaintiffs in Virginia Marriage Case Plan Wedding

Attending friends' weddings is always moving.  Particularly the weddings of gay friends whose relationship has been challenged by anti-gay bigotry still prevalent in America and, up until recently, non-recognition under the civil laws - even when the relationship has endured for longer than many, many heterosexual relationships.  But on May, 2, 2015, the husband and I will attend a wedding that has special meaning to us.  Because the efforts of couple getting married, our own marriage in the District of Columbia became legally recognized in Virginia.  The couple I am referring to are Tim Bostic and Tony London, a couple who have been together for over two decades. The wedding will be something amazing from the ceremony in a gorgeous church to a reception that will have a stunning venue.  The Washington Blade looks at Tim and Tony's wedding planning (the article is written by Tim).  Here are highlights:

As a gay man who never thought getting married was possible, I tuned out when people started talking about weddings. We were so concerned about being able to get married it never occurred to me to think about the wedding itself. The one thing I would advise anyone is make sure you have people you can rely on. Our caterer, Cathy Carter with East Beach Catering, and our wedding planner, Ivory Morgan-Burton with Storybook Events, have helped me as I slowly came to understand all of the ins and outs of planning a wedding. The number of things that have to be done meant we had to choose between our wedding or our honeymoon. We had hoped to go on a safari after the wedding. The wedding won.

When we started our fight for marriage equality in Virginia, we were cautioned that it would not be a fast process. The attorneys told us it would probably take five years, so I wasn’t thinking about the wedding because I was focused on obtaining the right to marry the man I love. Thus, when the Supreme Court decided in October not to hear our case and uphold the 4th Circuit Court’s decision, I found myself with no more fight on my hands but a wedding to plan instead. The day after the decision, we met with the rector of our church and picked the first Saturday available, May 2. When I sat down with my caterer Friday of the same week, she knew I had a date set and she asked where the reception was going to be. I told her that I didn’t know, and that was why I was there.

Blanching, she looked at me and said, “You are getting married May 2nd, and you don’t have a venue?” I told her, “Cathy, I didn’t know we could get married until this week!” Bless her heart, she got on the phone, made about 10 phone calls in as many minutes, and found us a venue. The problem was it only held 200 people, so our hope of being able to invite all of the people in the community who supported us was shot. Of course, as I begin to understand the costs involved in a wedding, I guess it worked out.

While much of the planning has been stressful, there have also been some amazing moments. Once we had the church and our venue, I started to reach out to my friends to ask them to be attendants. It felt awkward calling people and asking them to spend money on clothes, airline tickets and hotel rooms. As I asked them to stand up with us, I apologized about them having to spend so much money. All of my straight friends laughed and said they’ve done this numerous times and they know what’s involved. They told me this is one time they were truly happy to do it.

Having a wedding provides a unique opportunity to bring the people in one’s life together. The female attendants, who are spread around the country, came in for the dress fitting and we had an amazing time. Our best men had everyone over for a dinner party. As we were getting ready to leave, I stood on the front porch looking in at these people who mean the world to me and realized there’s never been a reason to have all of these people, who represent my support structure from birth until today, together in one place.

Waiting for everyone to say their goodbyes, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, illustrating another reason to be grateful that Tony and I can get married. About three weeks after the decision, we went to a dinner party with three other couples from our neighborhood. As we sat down at the table, the hostess told us our next-door neighbor Jim brought champagne to toast our engagement. It seemed a little strange since we have been together for 25 years, but it also felt good. As he raised his glass to toast us, he said if 20 years ago someone had told him that this conservative, Virginia Military Institute graduate would support marriage equality, he would have told them they were out of their mind. However, he was so grateful that Tony and I moved in next door to him and opened his mind and heart. He thanked us for making him a better person. I think straight people understand just how important marriage is and these experiences illustrate how important it is that LGBT folks have the opportunity to partake in this major societal rite.

So on May 2, Tony and I will stand in front of our friends, family and community and pledge ourselves to each other for life, and while I know a piece of paper doesn’t make a difference in terms of our love for one another, it validates us a couple in the eyes of the law and our community. When we wake up on May 3, I don’t know if we will feel any different. But, I do know that on May 3, 2015 Tony and I will finally be married, just like everyone else.

We are looking forward to the event!  From my own experience, in some ways being married after being together for six years was anti-climatic.  But in other ways just knowing that we were finally recognized as a couple - we are going through the throes of having our accountant determine if we should file a joint return or not - makes a huge difference.  As does the ability to have the husband on my health coverage.   

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Onion's All Too True Take on "Ex-Gay" Therapy

Sadly, this image from the Onion is all too accurate on the travesties done by "conversion" therapists.  Moreover, the "ex-gay" myth pushes ignorant, self-centered parents to believe their child's sexual orientation is a "choice."  The blight of "ex-gay" therapy needs to be made illegal nationwide.  Unfortunately, Republicans put self-prostitution to the Christofascists ahead of the well being of  LGBT youth.  They have blood on their hands.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Will Hillary Clinton Announce on Sunday?

Now that she has inked a lease for her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, speculation is rampant as to when Hillary Clinton will make her formal announcement as a presidential candidate.  Some now say that her announcement will come on Sunday.  Or so reports the New York Daily News.  Here are article highlights:

The long wait’s almost over — Hillary Clinton’s official campaign announcement is expected Sunday, a source close to the campaign told the Daily News.

The former secretary of state is likely to throw her hat in the ring via video and social media as she kicks off her long-expected second shot at the White House.

She’s then expected to begin her campaign with a series of smaller events in early-voting states including Iowa and New Hampshire — though it remains to be seen how low-key the high-profile candidate will be able to keep her trip.

Clinton appears to have an easy path to the Democratic nomination — her poll numbers among Democrats have remained strong for months and no serious challengers appear likely to dent her in the primaries.

She’s also led most of her GOP foes in national and state-level polling for much of the past year, though those numbers may be taking a bit of a hit — a new Quinnipiac University poll Thursday showed her slipping in the swing states of Iowa, Colorado and Virginia in the wake of stories about the private email server she used as secretary of state.

Democrats are hopeful the official announcement will let her get out there and help right the ship.

“I think this is great news. As far as I’m concerned the quicker she gets in the better everything will be,” said veteran Democratic strategist Jim Manley. “Among other things, now that she’s getting in she’ll have a full operation to help her not only define her policies but to ward off all these attacks that are coming from the right as well.”

Sources close to Clinton have said for more than a month that she was aiming for an April announcement coinciding with the beginning of the fund-raising quarter, and her campaign’s move toward renting office space in Brooklyn last week confirmed that timeline.

Clinton will be by far the best known of the candidates to jump into the White House scrum. Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas have also thrown their hats into the ring, and Marco Rubio of Florida is expected to do so on Monday.

Republican-turned-Democrat former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced he’s looking at the race in a surprise Monday video, joining former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb in the field of little-known Democrats looking to challenge Clinton. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is also mulling a challenge from the left, as is former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Once she announces, the slug fest with the GOP clown car will begin. 

The Far Right’s “Religious Freedom” Push is Just the Beginning

Under the regime of the Shah of Iran, Iran rapidly modernized and embraced education and modernity.   Critics called the Shah's regime brutal and America largely sat back as religious extremists swept into power ostensibly to bring more democracy and freedom - something, that, of course never materialized, and the Shah quickly appeared to be a gentle charity worker compared to those who took control of the country.  Iran symbolizes how religion can drag a country back in time and revive Medieval mindsets.  Here in America, evangelical Christians seek to do something similar as well as grant themselves special rights and privileges.   Their agenda is to undermine the U.S. Constitution and, unfortunately, opportunists and political whores in the Republican Party are only too willing to cooperate as the true concept of religious freedom is under daily attack by the "godly folk" and their sycophants.  A piece in Salon looks at how the problem of the far right is perhaps just beginning.  Here are highlights:

By now, it’s clear that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was crafted to empower piously bigoted entrepreneurs and companies desirous of freelancing with their own “Jim Crow for gays” restrictions, and to let them cite as legal justification for doing so their precious religious sensibilities.  The RFRA, said the original text, sought to give judicial succor to those who found that their “exercise of religion . . . has been substantially burdened,” or was just “likely to be substantially burdened” by performing services for people their faith’s sacred credos enjoin them to abhor (gays, in this case). 

The danger, however, has by no means passed.  RFRAs already exist in 21 other states (in three of which, bills are pending to fortify them), and three more are considering adopting similar measures.  The RFRA just passed last week in Arkansas may allow faith-based discrimination; we now await a test case.  

Yet the real menace to our priceless heritage of secular governance comes from the Supreme Court, which a year ago (in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby) ruled that corporations, on the basis of their religious convictions (yes, the Court decided corporations have those), can exempt themselves from the Affordable Care Act’s relevant articles and refuse to pay for contraceptives in their employee health plans.  

RFRAs don’t define religion or specify to which religion they pertain.  But a lot hinges on how we define religion.  Everyone knows what dictionaries say it is.  We’re also all too familiar with another definition, one by which faith is an entirely spiritual affair, a matter of transcendental, miraculously elastic interpretation never to be held accountable for the witless antics, casual brutality and gross atrocities committed by its practitioners. . . . Both definitions lend an aura of dignity and gravitas to what is essentially sordid gibberish that we should dismiss out of hand, as we now do necromancy, phrenology or alchemy, or simply laugh off.

Yet religion is far too dangerous to our liberties to be laughed off or mischaracterized as harmless.  In its Abrahamic strain, it is a triad of antiquated, largely pernicious ideologies of control and exclusion suffusing various “holy” books that detail a phony cosmogony, a fairy-tale version of humankind’s origins, and a plethora of strictures meant to regulate and restrict our behavior. . . . . A fictitious celestial tyrant superintends the almost ceaseless slaughter playing out in the Bronze-Age phantasmagoria of his alleged creation.

His pronouncements are regarded as binding on all humans.  Hence, if the fictitious tyrant says, for instance, that gay sex is an abomination, it just is, and gays have to be abominated, like it or not.  Nothing personal – it’s just what the magic book says.

[U]nknown humans came up with these magic books in a time before people knew what germs were, what gravity was, or that the earth orbited the sun, or that the earth was round.  But the magic books, because they are magic, have to be believed.  Why?  Because the magic books say so.  Failure to believe in said magic books is a great sin.  Why?  So the magic books themselves decree.  According to one of the magic books, those who announce they’ve stopped believing in it deserve to die. 

How would this restaurateur prove to a judge that he actually believes what’s written in his magic book?  After all, most of it is pretty crazy stuff – talking snakes, burning bushes, suns standing still, virgin births, walking dead folk, and so on.  A lawyer for the gay plaintiffs might challenge the restaurateur to present concrete evidence that he really does believe, and so has truly been “burdened.” 

Given that RFRAs don’t specify to which religion they pertain, if they do legalize discrimination, they will do so ecumenically, offering adherents of all denominations a chance to bully both rationalists and believers of other cults.  Presumably followers of the Torah, say, could deny service to those who have performed any of thirty-nine types of activity forbidden on the Sabbath.   . . . Jews and Christians might wish to unite in denying service to Muslims, because, obviously, neither of their magic books recognizes the Islamic magic book.. . . .How long would it be before Christians revive the age-old charge of deicide against the Jews and halt all service to the “murderers of Christ?”  Muslims, in turn, could deny service to Jews and Christians for having rejected the Prophet Muhammad.

Such are the farcical dilemmas and rank absurdities with which religion threatens to swamp us if it infests our judicial system and trumps secular law, as any RFRA legalizing faith-based discrimination would do.  The ghastly morass to which RFRAs will one day probably lead speaks to nothing but the ahistorical ignorance of their drafters. 

The Founding Fathers never meant for religion to play a role in our affairs of state.  . . .
James Madison declared that “An alliance or coalition between Government and religion cannot be too carefully guarded against,” and thought that “Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.”

John Adams authored a treaty, signed by none other than George Washington, proclaiming that the United States was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.“  

Thomas Jefferson, one of the architects of the Constitution and the author of the “wall of separation between church and state,” had this un-Christian prediction to proffer about Christianity: “the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.“  The Book of Revelation he dismissed as “merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.”

These days, sadly, with the godly on the legislative march, and the Roberts Court sitting in Washington ready to back them up, we find ourselves facing an unprecedented threat to what remains of our democracy. 

Would religious folk, if they succeed in passing laws that empower them to use their faith as a bludgeon, prove restrained in invoking them?

In answer to the last question, one need look no farther than Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries where religion is joined with the supposed civil laws.  It's ugly and down right dangerous for non-believers and those who embrace knowledge and science.  Yet this is what the "godly folk" and the GOP want to bring to America.  They must be stopped. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

The GOP Pretends That 9/11, ISIS and Iraq Were Not the GOP's Fault

With the run up to the 2016 presidential elections in the offing and increase focus on foreign policy issues thanks to the Iran nuclear arms agreement, the GOP is again sabre rattling and in the process striving to make Americans forget that 9/11, ISIS and the Iraq fiasco all trace back to the bungling and fabricated facts of the Bush/Cheney regime that were all happily rubber stamped at the time by Congressional Republicans.  Clues were ignored that might have prevented 9/11, the Iraq war was based on deliberate lies, and the rise of ISIS is the result of Bush/Cheney's failure to have an post war plan to address the poisonous influences of Islamic extremists and Sunni/Shiite hatred.  A piece in Salon looks at the GOP effort to whitewash history and lead America into yet another debacle that will squander lives and again bankrupt the country.  Here are excerpts:
T]the trajectory of resurgent international conflict during Obama’s second term—epitomized by ISIS, though not limited to it—has already infused the 2016 election with much higher levels of foreign policy concern. If 2012 was all about trying to blame Obama for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular domestic economic catastrophe, then 2016 is shaping up—at least in part—to be about blaming him for not adequately fixing Bush’s spectacular foreign policy catastrophe, either.

At the moment, Obama’s historic nuclear deal with Iran is center stage, but the much more widespread geopolitical problem typified by (though not limited to) ISIS has a much more pervasive political influence. Case in point: the emergence of ISIS, with its provocative spectacles of violence have unexpectedly renewed American’s willingness to send troops to fight overseas, completely forgetting that this was precisely bin Laden’s reason for 9/11 in the first place: to lure the U.S. into a “holy war” with Islam. Election year dynamics being what they are, there’s no telling how badly this could turn out.

So before we go off and blow several trillion dollars recruiting the next wave of terrorists, perhaps it would be a good idea to reconsider what we did the last time around.

Republicans, naturally, want to blame the rise of ISIS on Obama, which is absurd. Three extremely foolish actions undertaken by Bush were absolutely crucial for the emergence of ISIS: First, by responding to 9/11 as an act of war, rather than a crime, Bush gave al Qaeda and its future ISIS off-shoots the holy war and the status of holy warriors they so desperately craved, but could never attain on their own. Second, by invading Iraq—which had nothing to do with 9/11, and was actually a counter-weight both to al Qaeda (ideologically) and to Iran (both theologically and geo-strategically)—Bush destabilized the entire region, creating a tinder-box of multifaceted incentives for sectarian violence.  Third, by disbanding Iraq’s Sunni- and Bath-Party-dominated army, Bush both ensured an intense power struggle and civil war in Iraq (with vastly more power in Iran-friendly Shiite hands) and provided Sunni terrorist ideologues with hardened, experienced military command personnel.

The combined effect of all three Bush actions was to turn Iraq into a virtual hell—along with various portions of several other countries as well.  America had one 9/11, one massive loss of 3,000 innocent civilian lives, and that was enough for us to lose all sense of proportion, restraint, and good judgment. Why should the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan respond any better?  . . . around 400 Iraqi, Afghani, and/or Pakistani civilians have died for every American who died on 9/11 . . . It puts the total dead in in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at around 1.3 million, roughly two orders of magnitude more than most Americans realize.

Given how heavily the drums of war have been beating lately, this is a timely reminder what a huge role Bush’s post-9/11 response played in creating the current violent conditions throughout the region and beyond.

The U.S. authorities have kept no known records of such deaths. This would have destroyed the arguments that freeing Iraq by military force from a dictatorship, removing Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and eliminating safe-havens for terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas has prevented terrorism from reaching the U.S. homeland, improved global security and advanced human rights, all at “defendable” costs.   However, facts are indeed stubborn. Governments and civil society know now that on all counts these assertions have proved to be preposterously false.

[T]he estimates of U.S. military casualties were strikingly accurate, while the estimates of Iraqi civilian casualties were wildly under-estimated—by at least a factor of 7, and probably more like 70.  Clearly, if Americans had had anything close to a realistic view of the war, their level and intensity of opposition would have skyrocketed—as might their expectations of terrorist blowback, as well. There was nothing defendable about the costs involved—which is why those costs had to be hidden. Tragically, as the new report makes clear, the media itself has been deeply implicated in hiding the true cost of war in its most brutal form—the extent of lives lost.

“The numbers relayed by the media (previously 43,000 and now 110,000) should in themselves be terrifying enough, as they correspond to the annihilation of an entire city’s population. But apparently they are still perceived as tolerable and, moreover, even easy to explain given the picture of excessive religiously motivated violence,”

The original pretexts for going to war quickly turned out to be spurious, and from then on only the “liberation of the country from a violent dictatorship” and the “democratization” and “stabilization” of Iraq remained as justification for the war and occupation. This picture, laboriously constructed with the help of the media, is of course impossible to reconcile with the many hundreds of thousands of war casualties.

Perhaps, if we think of how America rallied behind George Bush after 9/11, and we think of 400 9/11s (or maybe “only” 200 9/11s) being suffered through since by the people whose countries we’ve invaded, perhaps then the horrific, barbaric savagery of ISIS might begin to become comprehensible—not, of course, excusable, but comprehensible, meaning something we can figure out and respond to effectively. More importantly, if we actually understood how we got where we now are, we might begin to figure out how to get out, get someplace else, someplace better.  The question of how to get someplace better has been staring us in the face at least since 9/11. It’s high time we began to face up to it.

Otherwise, we will simply be repeating the same foolish response to 9/11 that bin Laden was counting on.
Failed GOP policies created the disaster in the Middle East.  Therefore, more GOP advice that wants to compound the disaster further should be the last thing anyone sane listens to. 

AmericansTrust Obama More than Congressional GOP on Iran Deal

A new survey reveals that a majority of Americans have more trust in Barack Obama to handle the nuclear deal with Iran than than the Congressional Republicans.  The spread is 12 points in favor of Obama.  And as with most things, a high percentage of Republicans - i.e., the aging, racist and religious extremist crowd - favored the delusional Congressional Republicans such as Arkansas village idiot, Tom Cotton, who things a couple of days bombing Iran would settle the matter.  A majority of Americans do believe that Iran's nuclear ambitions are a threat. Elderly Americans are most concerned about the perceived threat.  Here are the findings via MSNBC:
A majority of Americans – 54% – trust Barack Obama to do a better job handling an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, compared to 42% who say they trust the Republicans in Congress. But nearly 7 in 10 Americans say that Iran is not likely to abide by the agreement that has been reached—and that mistrust may have a lot to do with one’s age.

The latest NBC News Online Survey conducted by SurveyMonkey found that half of Americans say they have been following the Iran nuclear talks somewhat or very closely, and nearly the same number think that Iran’s nuclear program is a major threat to the United States (53%).

There is a stark difference in opinion on how closely Americans are following this issue by age as well as how they evaluate Iran as a threat. Those who were witnesses to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-81 – Americans who are 45 years old and up – have followed this issue much more closely – with more than 6 in 10 following it very or somewhat closely. Attention among younger Americans between the age of 18 and 44 drops by nearly half (35% say they have followed it closely). Six in 10 Republicans say they are closely following the news of the negotiations, compared to about half of Democrats and independents.

Perceptions of Iran’s nuclear program as a threat also divides by age. About 6 in 10 older Americans perceive Iran to be a major threat, whereas about 4 in 10 of those under 45 think that Iran is a major threat.

Americans are divided over the president’s handling of the situation with Iran, with 48% approving and 50% disapproving. The poll also found the president’s overall approval rating similarly divided (51-48), while his handling of the economy was 7 points higher on the approval side (53-46).

Do I trust Iran's leadership?  Definitely, not.  But I see another insane Middle East war that America cannot win as an even larger threat.   Those in favor of endless war forget that, in addition to the rise of Christianity, one of the downfalls of the western Roman Empire was the incessant strain of war on too many fronts.  Oh, and let's not forget the decline of the Roman middle class. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Today’s GOP is the Party of Jefferson Davis, Not of Lincoln

I constantly bemoan what has become of the Republican Party that I once knew.  A party where knowledge and learning and science were respected, a party that was moderate on social policies, and where racism wasn't openly celebrated.  That party is dead and gone and, in my view, its demise all tracks to the rise of the Christofascists - many of whom are racists from the South - in the GOP.  A rise that was cynically welcomed by the GOP leadership as a short term - and thoroughly misguided - strategy for winning elections.  The Frankenstein monster thus created now rules the GOP and few GOP elected officials have the moral decency to stand up to these foul elements in the party.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this sad transformation of the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Eisenhower.  Here are excerpts:
One hundred and fifty years ago Thursday, after Union infantry effectively encircled the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee sent a note to Ulysses S. Grant proposing a meeting to discuss terms of surrender. With that, the Civil War began to end. 

And at some point in the future, it may yet.

[B]ut the old order also managed to adapt itself to the new circumstances. The subjugation of and violence against African Americans continued apace, particularly after U.S. Army troops withdrew from the South at the end of Reconstruction. Black voting was suppressed. The Southern labor system retained, in altered form, its most distinctive characteristic: unfree labor.

Indeed, one reason the race-based subjugation of labor was so resilient was that it was a linchpin not just of the Southern economy, but also of the entire U.S. economy. For much of the 20th century, the prevailing view of the North-South conflict was that it had pitted the increasingly advanced capitalist economy of the North against the pre-modern, quasi-feudal economy of the South. In recent years, however, a spate of new histories has placed the antebellum cotton economy of the South at the very center of 19th-century capitalism.

[T]oday, one of America’s most fundamental problems is that the alliance between the current form of Southern labor and the current form of New York finance is with us still. The five states that have no minimum wage laws of their own are in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Southern-based corporations such as Wal-Mart are among the leading opponents of workers’ right to organize, and as Wal-Mart has expanded into the North and West, so have the “right-to-work” statutes of Southern states been enacted by Republican governments in the Midwest. 

The Southernization of the Republican Party and the increasing domination of Wall Street’s brand of shareholder capitalism over the nation’s economic life have combined to erode both the income and the power of U.S. workers. Unions are anathema to Wall Street and the GOP. Federal regulations empowering consumers and employees are opposed by both.

Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it. 

Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and Methodists File Briefs Opposing Marriage Equality

Proving yet again that conservative, ignorance embracing religious dogma is one of the main enemies to the rights of LGBT Americans - indeed, LGBT individuals world wide - the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Evangelical, Mormon, Baptist, [Missouri Synod] Lutheran, Methodist and other religious organizations have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting bans on same sex marriage.  Among the bullshit arguments put forth are claims that CIVIL law same sex marriage "threatens" religious freedom."  What this really translates to is that these denominations - and the bitter old men in dresses in bishopric across the country a number of whom deserve to be criminally prosecuted for covering up sex abuse of minors - are livid that they are losing the ability to force their Bronze Age beliefs onto all of society.   (The good news is that far more businesses and other groups have filed briefs asking the Court to strike down all such bans.)  Christian Today looks at the continued evil done in the name of religion.  Here are excerpts:
More than 60 groups have filed briefs against same-sex marriage to the US Supreme Court, with most of the opposition coming from religious organizations . . . 

By comparison, more than 370 businesses and groups including employers such as Google have filed "friend-of-the-court" briefs in support of gay marriage. Many prominent Republicans have also filed briefs in support.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops along with evangelical, Mormon, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and other religious organizations have warned that legalising same-sex marriage will lead to serious future conflicts between Church and State.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is among those organizations that have warned of threats to freedom of speech among traditional believers, and that people of faith face being marginalized if they continue to hold to their view that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Religion News Service listed 16 states led by Republican governors as among those calling for bans to be upheld . . .
The self-prostitution of Republican governors to the "godly folk" is utterly stomach wrenching.  What happened to the GOP I grew up in?

White House Supports Efforts to Ban "Ex-Gay" Therapy

The Obama White House has given Christofascists and homophobes another reason to hate this president:  in response to a petition to a petition submitted to the White House, the Obama administration has announced that it supports efforts to ban "ex-gay" or "conversion" therapy, a form of voodoo like therapy that needs to be banned nationwide.  Despite being condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America, because of the ridiculous and undeserved deference give to so-called "religious belief" quacks and charlatans continue to be ale to inflict this poisonous, psychological - and sometimes physical abuse - on minors in all but a handful of states in America.   Here are highlights from the White House response:

The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.

As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.

The medical and mental health communities have long made clear that they reject the practice of conversion therapy, aimed at “changing” one’s sexual orientation. Recently, efforts to change an individual’s gender identity have also been shown in countless instances to have dangerous effects. More than 40 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and in 1998 released a statement “[opposing] any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy.” It asserted that “such directed efforts are against fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized attitudes.”[2]

Similarly, the American Psychological Association has repeatedly affirmed its stance against these practices, recently stating that efforts to change an individual’s sexual orientation can pose serious health risks to LGBTQ+ individuals. Numerous other accredited medical and mental health organizations have echoed this sentiment, including the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Counseling Association.

As part of their duty to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens, several states have taken their own steps to protect minors from the potentially dangerous effects of conversion therapy. California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia have all banned licensed professionals from using conversion therapy on minors. Since last year, lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced similar legislation.

In a 2013 signing statement for his state’s legislative ban, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed that “exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of the benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate.”[3] In February 2015, a New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled that advertising a service that could change a person’s sexuality is fraudulent and violates the state’s consumer protection laws.

While a national ban would require congressional action, we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence combined with the actions taken by these states will lead to broader action that this Administration would support.
Submitting minors to "ex-gay" therapy is child abuse plain and simple.  Parents that force their children into such bogus therapy need to permanently lose custody of their children.  "Conversion" therapy needs to be seen to be no different than depriving a child of life saving medical treatment.  Parents that place their children in such programs need to be criminally prosecuted for child abuse.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Another Police Murder - This Time South Carolina

I am not anti-police per se, but the reality is that America has far too many police officers who have no business wearing a badge and carrying a gun.  Far too many are bigots hiding behind a badge and too many internal affairs departments are focused solely on protecting police officers and the department's reputation.  (As I have noted before in prior posts, I got to see the anti-gay bigotry of some Norfolk, Virginia, police officers when Wayne Besen I were headed to a local gay bar).  Now,in the wake of incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York, New, York, yet another police murder in North Charleston, South Carolina, is filling the media airwaves with the shooting of an unarmed black man caught on video.  Once again, we hear that residents "are not surprised."  One take away is that it should be mandatory that police officers wear body cams.  A column in the New York Times looks at this latest police atrocity.  Here are excerpts:
I am truly weary, deep in my bones, of writing these columns about the killings of unarmed people of color by the police. Indeed, you may be weary of reading them. Still, our weariness is but a dim shadow that falls near the darkness of despair that a family is thrust into when a child or parent or sibling is lost, and that family must wonder if the use of deadly force was appropriate and whether justice will be served.

And so, we can’t stop focusing on these cases until there are no more cases on which to focus.

Which brings me to the latest case, a truly chilling one: A video shows an apparently unarmed 50-year-old black man, Walter L. Scott, running away from an officer after an incident during a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, fires his weapon eight times, striking Scott in the back, upper buttocks and ear.

The Times continues:

“Something — it is not clear whether it is the stun gun — is either tossed or knocked to the ground behind the two men, and Officer Slager draws his gun, the video shows. When the officer fires, Mr. Scott appears to be 15 to 20 feet away and fleeing. He falls after the last of eight shots.

“The officer then runs back toward where the initial scuffle occurred and picks something up off the ground. Moments later, he drops an object near Mr. Scott’s body, the video shows.”

In fact, the video appears to dispute much of what the police reports claim.  Scott, of course, dies of his injuries. 

After the video surfaces, the officer is charged with murder and fired from the police force.

A life has been taken. And, if the video shows what it appears to show, there may have been some attempts by the officer to “misrepresent the truth,” a phrase that one could also argue may diminish the severity of what is alleged to have happened.

This case is yet another in a horrifyingly familiar succession of cases that have elevated the issue of use of force, particularly deadly force, by officers against people of color and inflamed the conversation that surrounds it.

And it further erodes an already tenuous trust by people of color in the police as an institution.

This case has also refocused attention on the power of video evidence and is likely to redouble calls for the universal implementation of police body cameras (the video in this case came from a witness). What would have happened if video of this incident had not surfaced? Would the officer’s version of events have stood? How many such cases must there be where there is no video?

But I would argue that the issue we are facing in these cases is not one of equipment, or even policy, but culture.
There's more, so read the entire column.  The take away is that some lives - those of blacks, immigrants, gays and transgendered -  simply do not matter as much as white heterosexual lives.  Yes, body cams on all officers is a step in the right direction.  The real answer is a change in mindsets where ALL citizens are viewed as worthy and with inalienable rights.  That mindset, of course, is diametrically opposed to the agenda of today's GOP.