Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Ashley Madison Hack - The Gift that Keeps on Giving

As previously noted on this blog, hypocrite extraordinaire - and sexual predator - Josh Duggar has been "outed" thanks to the disclosure of hacked information from the Ashley Madison adultery site.  But Duggar is hardly along in the ranks of the "godly folk", professional christian crowd and, of course, anti-gay Republicans who are proving that it is they themselves, not gays, who are the real threat to the "sanctity of marriage."  So far joining Duggar are first, Christian YouTube star Sam Rader, as reported by Joe Jervis:
Christian YouTube star Sam Rader, who first came to our attention for a viral clip in which he tried to convince his five year-old daughter that gay marriage is a very bad thing, has been busted for having an Ashley Madison account. Last night Rader posted a clip in which he announces that Jesus has already forgiven him. . . . The Raders reportedly make into the mid-six figures from their YouTube channel.
Perhaps even more fun is the "outing" of anti-gay Executive Director of the Louisiana GOP, Jason Doré, who is incredibly claiming he had an Ashley Madison account for "opposition research."  Admittedly, the GOP trends towards being stupid, but even local Louisiana yahoos may find Doré excuse to be too far fetched to believe.  The Times Picayune looks at his ridiculous attempt to mount a smike screen:
Louisiana GOP executive director Jason Doré said Thursday that his name is on a list of accounts released as part of the Ashley Madison cheating website hack because the site was used for "opposition research."

The director of the statewide Republican Party said via text message that an account was created under his name and his former personal credit card billing address in connection with the work of his law firm, Doré Jeansonne. He declined to say who he was using the account for.

The database shows Doré spent $175.98 on the site, which he signed up for in 2013.

Ashley Madison, the site known for connecting people looking to cheat on their spouses, was targeted by hackers and the data of millions of account holders was released Thursday.

The Louisiana GOP has been outspoken about issues connected to infidelity in the past, having asked former U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister to resign his 5th District congressional seat last year after he was caught on camera kissing a married staffer.  GOP Chairman Roger Villere Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.
As Towleroad notes, Bill Maher is having a field day with the outing of these lying hypocrites:
Career homophobe Josh Duggar’s latest fall from “grace” proved to be the perfect fodder for Bill Maher on Friday’s Real Time monologue, with the late night host saying “forget building a wall around Mexico, let’s build one around Josh Duggar!”

Regarding Duggar’s apology, Maher had this to say:

It must be so great to be an evangelical Christian. You know cause Jesus always forgives no matter what you do. I ask Jesus forgiveness, ah there it is again.”

Maher also poked fun at Alabama being the most adulterous state in the Ashley Madison hack:

“You know can’t say they didn’t warn us. They said when gay people get the right to marry, the Christians are going to go ‘ah, f–k it'”

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump, Alabama and the ghost of George Wallace

Donald Trump continues to play to the racism that has become one of the strongest undercurrents of today's Republican Party.   Not surprisingly, he found a sizable audience in Mobile, Alabama last night, albeit only about half the numbers Trump had boasted about prior to the event.  I lived in Mobile for four years over three decades ago and in many ways the state is more extreme now than it was back then.  I continue to wonder what is being added to the drinking water.  Perhaps the only good news is that Trumps cavalcade of racism drew a smaller crowd than expected.  Perhaps there is still hope for Alabama.  Here are highlights on the spectacle from Politico:

MOBILE, Ala. — It was immigration, not segregation, that brought some 20,000 southerners — far fewer than predicted — out for Donald Trump on Friday night, but the ghost of George Wallace loomed large.

Wallace, an avowed segregationist, was the last presidential candidate to win electoral votes as a third-party candidate. The threat of Trump doing so, propelled by a hardline immigration stance that many have condemned as racist, looms over the Republican Party now as it did over the Democratic Party then, even as the enthusiasm of his following, for once, fell far short of expectations.

Trump also panned birthright citizenship as a bad deal for the U.S., saying, “We’re the only place just about that’s stupid enough to do it.” Trump’s recently released immigration plan calls for ending birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, according to the legal consensus, though Trump disputes that point.

Trump invited Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, one of Congress’s most ardent immigration hardliners who helped the businessman craft his immigration plan, to the podium, where the two embraced.
He also attacked his favorite punching bag, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, on the issue. “ Jeb Bush, ugh,” said Trump, pausing for dramatic effect, before calling the former governor “totally in favor of Common Core, weak on immigration.”

There were also vestiges of Wallace’s Alabama, including on the sample editions of “The First Freedom” newspaper one man handed out to drivers as they entered the parking lot. The paper’s front page included a story about “black-on-white crime in South Carolina” and an editor’s note about German media’s silence about “the actual programs these peaceful ‘neo-nazis’ stand for.”

The vast majority of supporters where white: of over 1,000 people waiting to enter on the east of the Ladd Peebles Stadium at 5 p.m., eight were black.

Marty Hughes, 47, wore a camouflage hat with Confederate flag detailing and said he liked Trump’s stances on immigration and taxes. He called the removal this year of Confederate flags from government property across much of the South “stupidity” and said he didn’t think a President Trump would stand for it.

[T]he city said it expected 40,000 supporters at the rally, but various media outlets estimated that the total was in the ballpark of 15-20,000, leaving the stadium looking less than half full.

Religious Scam Artists

Franklin Graham: con artist and modern day Pharisee
A piece in the Kansas City Star looks at the obscene salary of anti-gay bigot Franklin Graham - who has parlayed his fathers fame into a truly lucrative gig - and other leaders of so-called Christian charities.  The take away is that for those who have no real skills, waving a Bible around, manufacturing "threats" to the family and civilization, marketing hate, and duping the ignorant and gullible can make for a very, very good living.  In almost any realm other than religion, many of these folks would be seen for what they are - con artists and parasites living off of others.  Note that is what I refer to as the "professional Christin" crowd that is raking in the big bucks compared to many pastors who make paltry amounts in comparison.  These professional Christians obviously have forgotten the parable about selling all of one's belongings and following Christ's Gospel message.  And yes, thanks to undeserved tax-exempt status that many of these "charities" hold, all of us are indirectly subsidizing these obscene salaries.  Here are some story highlights:
Franklin Graham’s annual compensation of $880,000, revealed in a Charlotte Observer story, has some worrying that too many top Christian nonprofit leaders as well as pastors are seeing themselves as CEOs instead of as God’s servants.

Graham, son of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, is head of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief agency based in Boone, N.C.

“Basically they are saying if Satan pays well, God should pay better,” said Maria Dixon, a Southern Methodist University professor of corporate communications and public affairs.

Read more here:

CEOs at the top 50 U.S. charities, including Samaritan’s Purse, earn in the $350,000 to $450,000 range, which makes Graham’s $622,000 salary from his aid organization alone about 40 percent to 50 percent higher than average, according to a Forbes story. He receives the rest of his $258,000 compensation as CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Read more here:

Graham was not available to answer questions.

By contrast, pastor salaries at the nation’s biggest Christian churches are much lower for all but a select number. Only 3 percent of churches with more than 1,600 people in attendance pay senior pastors more than $300,000, said Warren Bird, research director at Leadership Network. At the other extreme, a recent study by the National Association of Church Business Administration found that the average American pastor with a congregation of 300 people earns a salary of less than $28,000 a year.

Read more here:

In a 2011 comparison of megachurch pastors’ salaries, two senior pastors made $1 million and $1.1 million. Others were a fourth to less than half of that.

Among the exceptions: Southern Baptist the Rev. Ed Young, senior pastor at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, pulled in well over $1 million, according to a 2012 Dallas television news report. And in 2013, his last year as pastor at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, the Rev. Mark Driscoll was drawing a $607,000 package, with a $150,000 raise promised.

Read more here:

the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability asks for more.  “Compensation-setting practices should be consistent with generally accepted biblical truths and practices,” according to its guidelines.

“It’s a moral issue particularly for a man of faith,” Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership, told the Observer. “And also you have to remember that (compensation is) partly paid for by the taxpayer. In a sense, we the taxpayers are subsidizing Frank Graham’s salary and his relatives who are paid.”

Read more here:

Not all of the big Christian charity CEOs are making huge salaries.  Lutheran Charities, a $21 billion organization, pays $181,858 to its highest-paid employee. At Cru, the college campus ministry, the highest salary is $150,787, according to Forbes magazine.

Read more here:

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Click image to enlarge

Gay and Marked for Death

Although modern science and knowledge confirms that homosexuality is both normal and simply one form of sexuality in nature, conservative religion and its continuing embrace of ignorance and reliance on the writings of unknown Bronze Age authors or those who would likely be deemed mentally ill due to "hearing voices" and "God speaking to them continues to be the scourge of the existence of LGBT individuals in far too many parts of the world.  At present, fundamentalists Islam is perhaps the most dangerous scourge, but throughout time, Christianity has certainly wracked up plenty of death and misery for those who were born LGBT.  Now, the United Nations is working to draw attention to the plight of those not born in conformity with the beliefs of the ignorant, simple minded, and power mad who use religion to justify brutality and murder against others.  A column in the New York Times looks at the development.  Here are highlights:

AS he tried to concentrate on his final college exams, he couldn’t erase the terrifying images in his head, an endless replay of a video he’d seen. It showed two men being killed — their necks noosed, their bodies dragged through the streets and set on fire.  They had burned, he told me, because they were gay.  Just like him.

Islamic extremism was sweeping through Iraq, and terror coursed through his veins. It became unbearable when, in mid-2014, the Islamic State seized control of the city where he lived. He fled, traveling furtively across Iraq for nearly a month, looking for a point of exit, finally finding one and boarding a flight to a city in the Middle East where he wouldn’t be in danger.

“The greatest moment of my life was stepping on that plane,” said the man, in his mid-20s, who asked that I not use his name or any identifying details, lest harm come to family members back in Iraq. “I was able to breathe again. I hadn’t been breathing.”

On Monday, he will tell his story at a special United Nations Security Council meeting on L.G.B.T. rights. American officials involved in it arranged for me to talk with him in advance by phone.

Although Monday’s discussion isn’t a formal one that Security Council members are required to attend, it’s nonetheless the first time that the council has held a meeting of any kind that’s dedicated to the persecution of L.G.B.T. people, according to Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations.

And it’s an example, she told me, of a determined push by the United States and other countries to integrate L.G.B.T. rights into all discussions of human rights by international bodies like the U.N.

There have also been enormous victories for L.G.B.T. people in nations as different as Nepal and Malta over the last few years. This year alone, a popular referendum legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland and a Supreme Court decision did so in the United States.

But, Power noted, “Unfortunately, internationally, those trends are not being paralleled in very large swaths of the world.” This divide is becoming ever starker, creating new diplomatic tensions, challenges and responsibilities for countries like the United States.

[Obama] said at a news conference with the Kenyan president, going on to add: “The idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong. Full stop.”

Our own country can’t wholly congratulate itself. Federal legislation to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation has languished for many years.   But American officials were among those who pushed back successfully earlier this year when Russia fought to overturn a policy to grant benefits to the same-sex spouses of U.N. employees.

The Security Council meeting, which the United States is co-hosting with Chile, will focus on the Islamic State’s brutality against gays as a way of getting countries who might not be sensitive to the plight of gays, but who have profound concerns about the Islamic State, to pay attention.

Even so, there’s no telling whether such Security Council members as Chad, Angola, Nigeria, Russia and China will send high-level representatives or any representatives at all. The meeting is also open to countries that aren’t on the council, but it’s closed to the public and members of the news media.

Power said that it’s vital that the Islamic State’s treatment of gays not be omitted from discussions of its atrocities against other vulnerable groups.

And that’s partly because the terror felt by gays in areas controlled by the Islamic State is an extreme form of their victimization in far too many other places. It’s a summons to action for enlightened countries that could open their arms wider to L.G.B.T. refugees.
I continue to believe that religion, especially fundamentalist religion of all faiths, is one of the great evils in the world.  It is a pestilence that needs to be eradicated from the face of the Earth. 

1 in 3 American Young Adults Identify as Bisexual

Brace yourself for spittle flecked rants that "the gay agenda" is turning America's youth gay or at least bisexual.  A study (which can be found here) that followed on the heels of one in the UK looked surveyed Americans an just shy of a third of young Americans said that they aren’t “100% heterosexual."  Bryan Fischer, Maggie Gallagher and Victoria Cobb will be no doubt apoplectic.  Older Americans claim to be much less bisexual, although the older generations are much more experienced in denial - both to themselves and the rest of society.  The Advocate looks at the study findings.  Here are story excerpts: 

[H]alf of the U.K.’s young adults aren’t “100% heterosexual,” new research indicates one-third of American young adults feel the same way.  [R]esearchers for YouGov used a modified Kinsey scale to measure sexuality by asking participants to place themselves on a range between "exclusively heterosexual" and "exclusively homosexual."

According to the study, “Overall 78% of Americans say that they are completely heterosexual while 4% say that they are completely homosexual. 16% of American adults say that they fall somewhere in between. In this group, the bulk of the respondents (10%) said that they are more heterosexual than homosexual, while 3% put themselves in the middle, and another 3% say that they are predominantly homosexual.”

Yet a percentage of those who classified themselves as heterosexual admitted to having same-sex experiences. “A large number of Americans who classify themselves as heterosexual still admit to having had same sex experiences. 12% of heterosexual American adults say that they have had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. “

Notably, the study found that the older someone is, the less likely they are to say their sexuality is on the bisexual spectrum. According to the researchers, “24% of people aged 30 to 44 say that they're somewhere on the scale of bisexuality, compared to 8% or less of over-45s.”

Click image to enlarge

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bernie Sanders: GOP Opposition to Gay Marriage Part of Economic Con Game

I often lament that today's republican Party uses racism, homophobia, nativism, anti-immigrant bias, and other types of division to con voters into voting against their own financial and economic interest.  Stated another way, their bigotry towards others is used to dupe them into voting for GOP politicians who are raping their futures as they work for a new Gilded Age.  Now, in typical form, Bernie Sanders has shouted this truth out.  He has also slammed members of the mainstream media for their failure to look at serious issues and expose the toxicity of GOP policies for the average American.  Here are highlights of Sanders' call out via Towleroad:
Speaking after a campaign appearance in Iowa, Sanders said same-sex marriage is among issues Republicans have used to divide people to get them to vote against their own economic interests:

“I think the Republicans have done a brilliant job over the years — they’re very smart guys — in dividing people on a million different issues. They divide people on gay marriage. They divide people on abortion. They divide people on immigration. And what my job is, and it’s not just in blue states, believe me, we’re going to go to red states, we’re going to conservative states, is to bring working people together around an agenda that works for their kids and works for their parents. Raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, having a trade policy that creates jobs in America, not in China, making sure all our of kids can get a college education regardless of their income, fighting for pay equity for women workers. We have an agenda that I believe can bring people together, and when we do that, we’re going to win this election very easily I think.”

Sanders’ comments were part of an epic response to reporters who’ve continued to try to get him to attack Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. In response to a question from a Wall Street Journal reporter about his differences with Clinton, Sanders said “the corporate media likes to talk about all kinds of issues except the most important issues”:

“Time after time, I’m being asked to criticize Hillary Clinton, that’s the sport that you guys like. The reason this campaign is doing well is because we’re talking about the issues that impact the American people. … The issue I want to be talking about is the collapse of the American middle class. You guys don’t to write about? Is that an important issue? The need for millions of decent-paying jobs, the obscenity of the kind of income and wealth inequality that we have today. The reason our campaign is doing well is because people are responding to those issues, so I’m not going to get into the game of sitting around attacking Hillary Clinton.”

In other words, the media’s endless game of gotcha — just like the GOP’s opposition to same-sex marriage — is nothing more than a distraction.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Bellicosity is a Threat to the World

America still has not extricated itself or the Middle East from the instability and chaos triggered by the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq and an utter mishandling of Afghanistan (assuming, of course, anyone can fix the mess that has been Afghanistan for centuries).  Now, Republicans are quick to condemn the Iran nuclear arms agreement and seem ready to rush America into another ground war in the Middle East that America cannot win, squandering American lives and billions, if not trillions, of dollars in the process.  Part of the GOP's bellicosity stems from the Christofascist base of the party that has near orgasms at the thought of killing Muslims and non-Christians.  Another part comes from GOP ties to the so-called defense industry that needs unending war to maximize profits - think Halliburton and Dick Cheney.  The last part comes from today's GOP and its detachment from objective reality and the fantasy world in which it exists.  A piece in Salon looks at the danger the GOP poses to the world:
Throughout the world there is great relief and optimism about the nuclear deal reached in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Most of the world apparently shares the assessment of the U.S. Arms Control Association that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons for more than a generation and a verification system to promptly detect and deter possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons that will last indefinitely.”

There are, however, striking exceptions to the general enthusiasm: the United States and its closest regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. . . . Prominent sectors of U.S. power and opinion share the stand of the two regional allies and so are in a state of virtual hysteria over “the Iranian threat.” Sober commentary in the United States, pretty much across the spectrum, declares that country to be “the gravest threat to world peace.”

The current Republican primaries illustrate the proclaimed reasons. Senator Ted Cruz, considered one of the intellectuals among the crowded field of presidential candidates, warns that Iran may still be able to produce nuclear weapons and could someday use one to set off an Electro Magnetic Pulse that “would take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard” of the United States, killing “tens of millions of Americans.”

The two most likely winners, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, are battling over whether to bomb Iran immediately after being elected or after the first Cabinet meeting.  The one candidate with some foreign policy experience, Lindsey Graham, describes the deal as “a death sentence for the state of Israel,” which will certainly come as a surprise to Israeli intelligence and strategic analysts — and which Graham knows to be utter nonsense, raising immediate questions about actual motives.

Keep in mind that the Republicans long ago abandoned the pretense of functioning as a normal congressional party.  They have, . . . become a “radical insurgency” that scarcely seeks to participate in normal congressional politics.

Since the days of President Ronald Reagan, the party leadership has plunged so far into the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector that they can attract votes only by mobilizing parts of the population that have not previously been an organized political force.  Among them are extremist evangelical Christians, now probably a majority of Republican voters; remnants of the former slave-holding states; nativists who are terrified that “they” are taking our white Christian Anglo-Saxon country away from us; . . .

Israel, of course, is one of the three nuclear powers, along with India and Pakistan, whose weapons programs have been abetted by the United States and that refuse to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). . . . .  The NPT, in turn, is the most important arms control treaty of all.  If it were adhered to, it could end the scourge of nuclear weapons.

Repeatedly, implementation of the resolution has been blocked by the U.S., most recently by President Obama in 2010 and again in 2015, as Dhanapala and Duarte point out, “on behalf of a state that is not a party to the NPT and is widely believed to be the only one in the region possessing nuclear weapons” — a polite and understated reference to Israel. 

A nuclear-weapons-free Middle East would be a straightforward way to address whatever threat Iran allegedly poses, but a great deal more is at stake in Washington’s continuing sabotage of the effort in order to protect its Israeli client.  After all, this is not the only case in which opportunities to end the alleged Iranian threat have been undermined by Washington, raising further questions about just what is actually at stake.

There is also a world outside the U.S. and although its views are not reported in the mainstream here, perhaps they are of some interest.  According to the leading western polling agencies (WIN/Gallup International), the prize for “greatest threat” is won by the United States.  The rest of the world regards it as the gravest threat to world peace by a large margin.  In second place, far below, is Pakistan, its ranking probably inflated by the Indian vote.  Iran is ranked below those two, along with China, Israel, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

The authoritative SIPRI review of global armaments ranks the U.S., as usual, way in the lead in military expenditures.  China comes in second with about one-third of U.S. expenditures.  Far below are Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are nonetheless well above any western European state.  Iran isscarcely mentioned. . . . . the Gulf Cooperation Council states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — outspend Iran on arms by a factor of eight, an imbalance that goes back decades. . . . When it comes to Israel, of course, the imbalance is even greater.

The United States, as is well known, holds the world championship title in regime change and Israel is no laggard either.  The most destructive of its invasions of Lebanon in 1982 was explicitly aimed at regime change, as well as at securing its hold on the occupied territories.  The pretexts offered were thin indeed and collapsed at once.  That, too, is not unusual and pretty much independent of the nature of the society — from the laments in the Declaration of Independence about the “merciless Indian savages” to Hitler’s defense of Germany from the “wild terror” of the Poles.

Who, then, would be concerned by an Iranian deterrent?  The answer is plain: the rogue states that rampage in the region and do not want to tolerate any impediment to their reliance on aggression and violence.  In the lead in this regard are the U.S. and Israel, with Saudi Arabia trying its best to join the club with its invasion of Bahrain (to support the crushing of a reform movement there) and now its murderous assault on Yemen, accelerating a growing humanitarian catastrophe in that country.

For the United States, the characterization is familiar.  Fifteen years ago, the prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington, professor of the science of government at Harvard, warned in the establishment journal Foreign Affairsthat for much of the world the U.S. was “becoming the rogue superpower… the single greatest external threat to their societies.”
“In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States.” As we have seen, global opinion supports this judgment by a substantial margin.

Furthermore, the mantle is worn with pride.  That is the clear meaning of the insistence of the political class that the U.S. reserves the right to resort to force if it unilaterally determines that Iran is violating some commitment. 

These are among the critical matters that should be the focus of attention in analyzing the nuclear deal at Vienna, whether it stands or is sabotaged by Congress, as it may well be.

ILLINOIS: Governor Signs Bill Banning Ex-Gay Torture

The "ex-gay" myth and claims that sexual orientation are a choice have been among the weapons the Christofascists have used in their war against LGBT equality.  Never mind that every legitimate medical and mental health association - i.e., those not bankrolled as fronts for anti-gay "family values" organizations - condemn "ex-gay" therapy and bogus church affiliated "ministries."  Slowly states are belatedly beginning to recognize the evils and fraud perpetrated by these voodoo like ministries and unethical therapist.  Now Illinois has joined the list of states banning the practice.  Here are highlights from a the Human Rights Campaign press release:
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed House Bill 217 into law, making Illinois the fifth jurisdiction—behind California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and Oregon—to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangers of conversion therapy. House Bill 217, which protects LGBTQ youth from mental health providers attempting to change their sexual orientation or gender identity through these practices, which are linked to substance abuse, extreme depression, and suicide, was overwhelmingly approved by the Illinois House of Representatives and General Assembly.

The law will go into effect January 1, 2016. “We are thrilled that Illinois has joined the rapidly growing number of states leading the way to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy,” said the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator and Staff Attorney Samantha Ames. “Illinois families can now have confidence that the mental health professional they turn to in times of uncertainty may not use their state license to profit from their children’s pain. Most importantly, Illinois kids can now rest easy in the knowledge that they cannot be forced or coerced to undergo dangerous and discredited treatments to fix who they are. Today brings us one step closer to the day when all LGBTQ youth know they were born perfect.”
No doubt the usual hate merchants will be crying as if someone had pissed in their Cheerios.  I wish legislatures would go a step further: make subjecting one's child to ex-gay therapy a felony child abuse offense.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Lance Black's Anti-Bullying Coca-Cola Campaign

Here in Virginia, LGBT students have little anti-bullying protections.  Every attempt to enact meaningful protections die in the GOP controlled House of Delegates and school administrators are left free to giving lip service to banning bullying, yet the bullying goes on and on occasion LGBT students find suicide as their only perceived escape.  Would that Coca-Cola would launch a anti-bullying campaign such as the one it has launched in South America with the help of Lance Black of Milk fame and a founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights which helped win marriage equality for all Americans.  A piece in The Advocate looks at the Coca-Cola campaign that needs to be replicated far and wide.  Here are highlights:

With marriage equality established across the nation, Oscar-winning activist Dustin Lance Black is, once again, taking to the screen to affect change. His upcoming ABC special, When We Rise, is an eight-hour exploration of the interconnectedness of activists from the LGBT, civil rights, women's rights, and peace movements,

Black recently directed a pro-equality commercial for Tylenol, featuring same-sex couples, which was well received in the United States. He's also channeling his energy south of the border, directing a series of three short anti-bullying films for Coca-Cola to be aired across Latin America. One, 'El SMS' (or 'The Text'), revolves around LGBT youth.

Black discussed the project.  On the reaction:
"The campaign in general is doing quite well, but the response in the LGBT community to 'The Text' was remarkable. I heard from one of the heads at the ABC network about how much it moved her. I heard from Cleve Jones, one of the leaders of the LGBT movement, about how much it moved him. And these aren't people I sent it to. They found it, which I find remarkable, since it's in Portuguese on the Internet. For Coca-Cola to take a pro-diversity, pro-equality stance creates a lot of goodwill in the LGBT community. It's heartwarming for the LGBT community to see that a global brand would embrace this community because, let's be honest, there are places in the world that know about Coca-Cola where it is still a death sentence to be gay."
On cynics doubting Coca-Cola's sincerity:
"Some of them are very critical of what the intent of the brand might have been. And I say, 'Yes, their intent was to win a market, and their intent was to sell their product.' My intent was to send the message that diversity is a good thing and LGBT people and their families deserve respect and love. Well, I'm not going to skip an opportunity to send a pro-equality message just because they're selling a product alongside it."
Read the full interview on Adweek.

The GOP Follows Trump to the Bottom on Immigration

The Republican Party already rightly has the reputation of being the party of whites and holding hostility toward non-whites.  With the rise of Donald Trump in the GOP presidential candidate polls, the GOP has accelerated its descent to the nastiest positions on immigration and by extension, anti-minority animus.  Let's be honest.  If the tide of immigrants across America's southern border was made up of white Protestants, we'd likely not be hearing much from the GOP on the issue. Indeed, more white Protestants would help shield the GOP from the angry white males' biggest fear: the day when America is no longer a majority white nation.  An editorial in the New York Times looks at the GOP's race to the bottom.  Here are highlights:
Before Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidates could deflect tough questions on immigration with vague promises to secure the border and oppose all “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Not anymore. Mr. Trump has offered a plan to “take back our country” from what he calls the rapist-murderer-job stealers being exported from Mexico. He is full of ideas. He would expel 11 million immigrants, and their families, and let only “the good ones” back in. He would restrict legal immigration, and impose a national job-verification system so that everyone, citizens too, would need federal permission to work. He would build a 2,000-mile border wall and force Mexicans to pay for it. He would replace the Constitution’s guarantee of citizenship by birth with citizenship by bloodline and pedigree, leaving it to politicians and bureaucrats to decide what to do with millions of stateless children. He would flood the country with immigration agents and — it almost goes without saying — dismantle the economy and shred America’s standing as an immigrant-welcoming nation.

Because his plan is so naked — in its scapegoating of immigrants, its barely subtextual racism, its immense cruelty in seeking to reduce millions of people to poverty and hopelessness — it gives his opponents the chance for a very clear moral decision. They can stand up for better values, and against the collective punishment of millions of innocent Americans-in-waiting. 

But as Mr. Trump swells in the polls, his diminished opponents are following in his wake, like remoras on a shark. Several have shuffled onto the anti-birthright-citizenship bus, including Rick Santorum, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ben Carson and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Even Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who once fought for smart bipartisan immigration reform, wants to repeal birthright citizenship.  . . . . As for Mr. Trump’s other restrictionist proposals, several are firmly lodged again in the playbook of a Republican Party that briefly tried to reform itself after the Mitt Romney debacle.

Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida understand immigration issues deeply and presumably want the Latino vote and are well aware of the dangers of having their party hijacked by far-right ideas. They should be opposing Mr. Trump at every turn. But in the face of Mr. Trump’s success, their objections are mild, and oddly muted. The danger is that when the campaign is over, no matter what becomes of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, he will have further poisoned the debate with his noxious positions, normalized an extremism whose toxicity is dulled by familiarity and is validated by a feckless party.  

The solutions are well known. Americans strongly support an earned path to citizenship for immigrants, strengthening families and industries and giving strivers the chance to pay this country back.

Ideas like these are realistic, practical and have the added benefit of being morally defensible. It has long been a hard job to keep the highly combustible immigration debate on the right side of sanity and reality. That progress is now being undone before our eyes in the presidential campaign, courtesy of the faux-populist billionaire who says immigrants are the reason this country is weak and frightened and going to hell.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Case Of The Disappearing Dubya

Among other things that Jeb "Jebbie" Bush has acting as a sea anchor on his would be presidential campaign is his idiot brother who Jebbie on the one hand wants to pretend he doesn't even know and the other hand is the source of many of Jebbie's supposed policy advisers.   A piece in Talking Points Memo looks at George W. Bush's disappearing act as Jebbie disingenuously tries to convince Americans that he isn't simply a warmed over version of his cretin brother.  Here are story excerpts:
This upcoming election marks the latest great GOP purge of history. The disappearing Dubya isn't a coincidence. It's part of a larger trend of former Republican presidential candidates being faded to black by the party whose mascot, ironically, is the elephant, an animal known for memory and longevity.

Nobody has pulled a more thorough disappearing act than George W. Bush. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Democrats and independents do have functioning memory cells. They can recall two disastrous wars, mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina, the war profiteering of Vice President Dick Cheney, rampant Wall Street deregulation, and huge tax cuts for the rich that helped the national debt to balloon out of control in tandem with defense spending. Unlike Reagan, there is no health reason for Dubya’s lack of public appearances. In fact, he is still around and healthy as a horse, perhaps due to all his vacation time as president.  (Bush holds the title of all-time great presidential vacationer, clocking in at more than 400 days of R&R.) 

The RNC solution to a mountain of damning evidence is a campaign to erase and displace—that is, erasing Bush from the public memory and displacing as many disasters as possible on to Obama. This is a test of the RNC propaganda machine to see how many people they can get to believe whatever they want.

The philosophical roots of erasing Bush from GOP history exists with neoconservatives and their patron saint. Leo Strauss is the neoconservative philosopher and darling of the Republican party. Strauss coined such semi-comical terms as reductio ad Hitlerum (comparing your opponent to Hitler). He also advocated civic mythologizing as more important than fact-based history in order to establish a new age of American exceptionalism. As a post World War II reactionary against Communism, Strauss devised radical theories about rewriting history. Ironically, his approach of bending and altering history was similar to Stalinist purges of records and erasing dissidents from public archives . . . .

If Reagan is an empty suit to be filled like exaggerated feats of heroism in a conservative piñata, Dubya is a dark political vortex that sucks away light and hope for another Republican president. Financially, militarily, diplomatically, and by every managerial standard of leadership, Dubya is a presidential tragedy brought to you by conservative philosophers. His two terms were devastating in every major category of judging a president. There wasn't one element of government that escaped being damaged or compromised by his policy.  By the time Bush left office, it was very easy to buy into the mythology that government doesn't work, because it was many of his advisors who helped wreck the system so thoroughly that a sense of hopelessness pervaded.

What is surprising is that when he was in office the GOP establishment couldn't get enough of him, tying their party's fate to his misguided policies. Now that his policies have had time to show results (No Child Left Behind, Clean Air Act, cutting taxes for the rich and promising growth), it's Democrats who are desperate to remind the country of the results of Bush's policies, because we are still suffering from the consequences.

Josh Duggar Had a Ashley Madison Account While The Head Of FRC Action

I swear that there are days that the hypocrisy of the "godly folk," professional Christians and, of course, GOP politicians, truly seems to know no limits.  Josh Duggar, former head of hate group Family Research Council's FRC Action has already been revealed to be a sexual predator with victims that included some f his sisters.  Now that hackers have revealed information on members of infidelity website, Ashely Madison, we now learn that Duggar (pictured above with Virginia's own queen of mean, Victoria Cobb, and the, in my view, utterly insane "Bishop" Jackson outside of the Norfolk Circuit Court) had a paid up account while he was a member of Ashley Madison.  Like so many of the "godly folk,"  Duggar preached "family values" to the ignorant, gullible and down right stupid, even as he seemingly was looking to have an affair with a woman not his wife. One has to wonder what the next Duggar scandal will be.  Meanwhile, based on Duggar's track record, one can't help but wonder when Victoria Cobb will be revealed to have been convicted former Gov. Bob McDonnell's maîtresse-en-titre!  Here are highlights from Gawker:

In 2013, conservative reality TV star Josh Duggar—of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting fame—was named the executive director of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group in D.C. which seeks “to champion marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society.” During that time, he also maintained a paid account on Ashley Madison, a web site created for the express purpose of cheating on your spouse.

In May 2015, Duggar was forced to resign after In Touch Weekly reported that he had molested five young girls (four of whom were his own sisters) beginning in 2002. When the accusations became public, the family went into crisis mode, insisting that Josh had reformed and that the media covering the claims was intent on “exploiting women.”

Josh himself took to his family’s Facebook page to absolve himself of his past indiscretions and assure the world he was back on a righteous path . . . But data released online in the wake of the hack on Ashley Madison’s servers certainly seems to show otherwise. Someone using a credit card belonging to a Joshua J. Duggar, with a billing address that matches the home in Fayetteville, Arkansas owned by his grandmother Mary—a home that was consistently shown on their now-cancelled TV show, and in which Anna Duggar gave birth to her first child—paid a total of $986.76 for two different monthly Ashley Madison subscriptions from February of 2013 until May of 2015.

According to the data, Josh Duggar was paying Ashley Madison in order to find an extramarital partner for the following acts:
“Conventional Sex,” Experimenting with Sex Toys,” One-Night Stands,” “Open to Experimentation,” “Gentleness,” “Good With Your Hands,” Sensual Massage,” “Extended Foreplay/Teasing,” “Bubble Bath for 2,” “Likes to Give Oral Sex,” “Likes to Receive Oral Sex,” “Someone I Can Teach,” “Someone Who Can Teach Me,” “Kissing,” “Cuddling & Hugging,” “Sharing Fantasies,” “Sex Talk.”
The two accounts overlap by a period of a few months. When he launched the second account, Duggar paid an initial fee of $250 that appears to have gone toward the purchase of an “affair guarantee” . . . .
There's more if readers want to be totally disgusted.  Loving, committed same sex couples are daily denigrated and maligned by "godly folk" like Duggar who claim to want to "protect the sanctity of marriage when meanwhile it is they who are making a mockery of marriage and marriage vows.   These people need to become total social and political outcasts.

Click image to enlarge

The only thing that would make all of this more fun would be if Victoria Cobb was also revealed to have had an account!

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Clerks Opposed to Gay Marriage Should Resign

Photo: Timothy D. Easley/AP
The Richmond Times-Dispatch is among Virginia's most conservative newspapers.  Such being the case, it often hawks reactionary Republican talking points, especially in its editorials.  Thus, it was a surprise to see the Times-Dispatch  commuting political heresy in an editorial that said court clerks who oppose same sex marriage and refuse to do their jobs need to resign.  The piece argues that once one takes a position as a public official, personal rights on religious belief and other issues often go out the window.  The same, of course, should be true of organizations accepting taxpayer funds: once you take public dollars, your right to discriminate against members of the public must cease (it's a concept lost on Catholic agencies here in Virginia).  Here are editorial highlights:
Kim Davis, the county clerk in Rowan County, Ky., is carrying out her own form of massive resistance. Despite a federal court order, she refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. A few other clerks across the country are doing the same.

The clerks claim to be exercising their First Amendment right to religious liberty, just as a few bakers, photographers and others have exercised theirs by declining to provide services for gay weddings. But the two situations are not the same.

Individuals can exercise many rights as private citizens that they cannot exercise as government officials. Teachers, for instance, are free to stand on the street corner on the weekend and urge everyone within hearing distance to accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. They can’t do the same thing in the public-school classroom.
Religious scruples are a legitimate reason for a church not to perform marriage rites for gay couples. They are not a legitimate grounds for government to deny marriage licenses; the Supreme Court has ruled that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry. Davis cannot turn her own interpretation of Christianity into public policy for Rowan County. If she sincerely believes that abetting gay marriage is an affront to her conscience, then she has only one option left: Quit.

Note the interesting correlation made to Davis' conduct and "massive resistance," one of the most shameful parts of Virginia's history when public schools in some counties were closed rather than  allow black students attend.   There is a direct correlation between racists and segregationist and folks like Davis who are raising the false cry of "religious liberty" whether or not the godly folk are willing to take a good look at themselves int he mirror.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

The Economist: The Economic Detriments of Anti-LGBT Discrimination

via WikiCommons/Daniel Chapma, Chensiyuan, Dmitry Andeev

The Economist is a well respected British magazine that includes serious stories and articles so often missing from American publications.  Thus, it is significant that the magazine will be hosting the world's first ever global summit on the detrimental economic effects of LGBT discrimination.  The event will take place March of 2016 with simultaneous sessions in New York, London and Hong Kong.  Past studies have shown that anti-LGBT discrimination and persecution hold localities and nations back economically.  It's a message that the Republican Party refuses to hear, especially in economically depressed areas - e.g., Southwest Virginia - where the GOP dominates and furthers discrimination that keeps progressive businesses from thinking twice about relocating to the regions.  Here are highlights from Out Magazine on the summit: 

The United Kingom-based Economist announced that it will be hosting the world's first ever global summit on the detrimental economic effects of LGBT discrimination in March of 2016. The 24-hour rolling event, Pride and Prejudice, will be held concurrently across three continents, in New York City, London, and Hong Kong. It's professed aim is to "challenge policymakers and industry leaders to rethink the future of the global LGBT movement and its impact on business."

Daniel Franklin, executive editor of The Economist told Gay Star News:
"The Economist has long supported equal rights for LGBT individuals. Nearly 20 years ago in our cover story, ‘Let them wed’, we argued in favor of same-sex marriage. Progress since then has been huge but uneven—hence the need for a global conversation on the costs of LGBT discrimination."
Elena Sukacheva, a Senior Vice President, added:
"The Economist will drive to uncover the true cost of discrimination to businesses and communities through research and discussion with a wider array of stakeholders than ever before, including business, politics, academia and civic society. Three consecutive events within a 24-hour period will be a first for the group."
From its website for the event, the Economist states in part as follows:
Businesses see competitive advantage in creating a reputation for inclusiveness. Yet global acceptance of LGBT people is not evenly distributed. Worldwide, the situation ranges from mild intolerance to hostile rejection and violence. In many businesses, the “glass closet” remains a formidable barrier to advancement or authenticity. Discussion about same-sex relationships is controversial in many countries, but in a globalised world, gay rights are now a significant issue.

Companies in competitive, talent-driven sectors like banking and the law have developed sophisticated policies to ensure LGBT inclusion, while other businesses struggle quietly with the need to manage diverse workforces. Apple, one of the world’s most innovative companies, believes the creativity associated with diversity helps drive its success. Can inclusive workplace policies give other companies the same advantage?

Participants in Hong Kong, London and New York will take part is a series of globally oriented conversations and tackle the thorny questions pertinent to their region, with a common question in mind: what is the cost of LGBT discrimination?