Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Pope Francis Didn't Say About Gay Marriage

Conservatives - okay, let's call them what they are, extremists - are trying to find anti-gay condemnation in Pope Francis' statements to date during his papal visit to the United States, the reality is that he has said nothing.  And when he has talked about the family, he did not use any of the favorite phrases of the Christofascists and parasitic professional Christian crowd such as "one man and one woman" or "children need a mother and a father."  Even some anti-gay Catholic bishops may be flummoxed that Francis missed his golden opportunity to condemn marriage equality.  Michelangelo Signorile looks at Francis silence on the issue most important to the anti-gay crowd and the bottom feeders of the GOP presidential candidate pool. Has Francis changed official Church doctrine?  No, but compared to the Nazi Pope, Benedict XVI, he was downright conciliatory through his silence.  Here are highlights from Huffington Post:
The United States this past June did something that the Catholic Church and the Vatican have for years railed against: granted marriage equality to its gay and lesbian citizens.  Yet, Pope Francis had nothing to say about it. Not then and not now. 

Considering that Pope Benedict often vocally expressed harsh condemnation of marriage equality -- even traveling to Spain to speak out against it when that country was among the first to legalize marriage for gays and lesbians and called it a "threat to the future of humanity"-- it's astonishing how silent Francis is on the issue. I've noted in the past how he had no comment as country after country in Europe legalized marriage for gays and lesbians. And then this past June, he had no comment after the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

And yet, while some of the American media noted the significance of his non-mention of the issue during his address to Congress, others were determined to read into his comments something that simply was not there.

All of this seemed to be part of an insistent mainstream media narrative that the pope, on his trip to the U.S., is making comments that "both sides" -- mostly meaning Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and progressives -- will be happy about. This is simply not true. The pope spent little time in his address to Congress on abortion -- without mentioning the word -- while going full force against the death penalty and emphatically using the term. From climate change to immigration, his passions are clear. Even conservatives are noting that on abortion and gay equality, the pope was subdued.

No mention of marriage being between a "man and woman" or children needing a "mother and a father"? Really? No mention of passing laws that could inhibit marriage for gays and "protect" those opposed to it, like the Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis? That, again, is astonishing. Francis was, after all, speaking to the legislative body that could do something about it -- and which is trying to, with Republicans having introduced the odious First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow clerks like Kim Davis and bakers and florists and others to deny services to gay and lesbian couples.

Also sitting right before Francis during his address to Congress were three of the five Supreme Court justices -- a majority of the majority -- who ruled for marriage equality in June: Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Kennedy. The pope had his big chance to be clear and emphatic about the terrible thing they'd supposedly done and he blew it? Maybe he just didn't care all that much.

The pope's main concern about the family, according to what he said in his comments to Congress, is that people -- children in particular -- seem to be "disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair." That sounds more like someone promoting social programs to help the poor and stop gun-violence than someone trying to end same-sex marriage.

Francis may still be more emphatic at the conference on families he's attending in Philadelphia after his trip to New York. We'll know for sure in a couple of days.

But so far, the pope at best spoke in code -- as when, during his address at the White House, and sounding like Republican political candidates, he talked of defending "religious liberty" in the context of also protecting people against discrimination -- and at worst (for anti-gay conservatives, of course) he completely dodged the issue during his address to Congress, focusing instead on other forces plaguing the family. Whether or not it's all calculated, and though it represents no change of any kind in the doctrine of the church, it's still a win for LGBT people and an angering loss for anti-LGBT forces in America.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

RIP; Rev. John McNeill, Gay Rights Pioneer

Rev. John McNeill, second from right, in New York’s gay pride march in the 1980s. He wrote “The Church and the Homosexual.” Credit Charles Chiarelli
When I first came out, one of the first tasks that I had to overcome was the anti-gay poison I had been fed being raised Roman Catholic where almost all things sexual were sinful, but where homosexuality topped the list of what was too horrible to contemplate.  One of the early books that I read was The Church and the Homosexual by Rev. John McNeill, a Jesuit and openly gay man.  The book was the first to challenge the Catholic Church's mistreatment of gays and to challenge its false theology.  Combined with therapy sessions with a Ph.D psychologist who was also an ordained Presbyterian minister and other reading, I eventually rid myself of the self-hate sown by my religious upbringing.   Earlier this week, Rev. McNeill died at age 90. The New York Times has details on McNeill's remarkable life.  Here are highlights:

The Rev. John McNeill, an openly gay Roman Catholic priest who, from the 1970s onward, publicly pressed the church to welcome gay men and lesbians — and who was expelled from his order as a result — died on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 90.

His death was announced by DignityUSA, an organization that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics. Father McNeill had helped found its New York chapter in 1972.

A Jesuit who was ordained in 1959, Father McNeill was known in the decades that followed as an author, activist and psychotherapist specializing in the needs of gay clients. He first came to wide, explosive attention in 1976 with the publication of his book “The Church and the Homosexual.”

That book was the first extended nonjudgmental work about gay Catholics, a subject that had long been taboo in official church discourse. It has been credited with helping to set in motion the re-evaluation of the religious stance toward gay people — not only among Catholics but also among those of other faiths — that continues today.

 ‘The Church and the Homosexual’ became the primary text that is still considered the key in transforming the conversation on religion and homosexuality.”

For Father McNeill, the book, and his disclosure soon after its publication that he was gay, would lead to years of public opprobrium, censure by the church, exclusion from his order and, in the end, a newfound level of activism that sustained him to the end of his life.

“He was a gay man who was a Jesuit priest — and being a gay man who is a Jesuit priest, by the way, is not an unusual thing,” Mary E. Hunt, a Roman Catholic feminist theologian and longtime friend of Father McNeill’s, said on Friday. “The difference is that John McNeill was honest, and he was honest early. And being honest early meant that he paid a large price.”

In the book, he argued that a stable, loving same-sex relationship was just as moral, and just as godly, as a heterosexual one and should be acknowledged as such by church leaders.

After an extensive review of the manuscript by a panel of theologians, “The Church and the Homosexual” was published under the imprimatur of the Vatican.  Translated into several languages, the book caused an international sensation.

At 17, he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 87th Infantry. While serving in France, he was taken prisoner by the Nazis. Transported to a prisoner-of-war camp near Leukenwald, Germany, he was kept in a sealed boxcar for days without food or water. He licked frost from the boxcar nailheads until his tongue bled.

After the war, he graduated magna cum laude from Canisius College in Buffalo and earned graduate degrees from Bellarmine College in upstate New York and Woodstock College in Maryland. In 1959, he was ordained by Cardinal Francis Spellman, the archbishop of New York.

Father McNeill began doctoral studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium, in 1961. He was achingly lonely, he recalled, and considered suicide. Then he fell in love with another man.
“The experience of the joy and peace that comes with that — it was a clear indication to me that homosexual love was in itself a good love and could be a holy love,” Father McNeill said in the film.

By 1970, keenly aware of the self-hatred and depression that many gay Catholics experienced, he began ministering to them. He later trained as a psychotherapist at the Institutes of Religion and Health in New York.

He began speaking publicly on gay Catholic issues in the early 1970s, and in 1976 published “The Church and the Homosexual.”

Though the church had approved the book, it reneged over the next year, as Father McNeill became widely known as a gay-rights champion. In 1977, the Vatican ordered him not to speak or write publicly on the subject. Out of his deep fealty to his religion, and his feeling that the church needed time to come to terms with the issue, he agreed.

He obeyed the order for nearly a decade, though he continued quiet pastoral work with gay men and lesbians. Over time, however, two things spurred him to speak out, though he knew that in doing so he risked expulsion from his order.

The first spur was the AIDS epidemic, to which he increasingly turned his attention. With the Rev. Mychal Judge, Father McNeill, then living in New York, established an AIDS ministry, serving homeless people in Harlem. (Father Judge, a Roman Catholic priest who privately identified himself as gay, was killed in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center while aiding New York City firefighters.)

The second spur was an official document, “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” issued by the Vatican in October 1986. It was released above the signatures of Archbishop Alberto Bovone and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. . . . .The document, known as a pastoral letter, declared that homosexuality was “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”

In November, Father McNeill condemned the letter in a statement issued to The New York Times and The National Catholic Reporter. Cardinal Ratzinger responded by ordering him to keep silent on the subject, and to cease his pastoral work with gays and lesbians, or risk expulsion from his order.

Father McNeill demurred, and in early 1987, on the Vatican’s orders, he was expelled from the Jesuits. . . .  He continued his psychotherapy practice and became more visible than ever as an activist. In 1987, he was the grand marshal of the New York City gay pride parade.

Father McNeill, who also taught at Fordham University and elsewhere, had lived in Fort Lauderdale in recent years. Mr. Chiarelli, whom he married in Toronto in 2008, is believed to be his only immediate survivor.

His other books include “Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families and Friends” (1988) and “Freedom, Glorious Freedom: The Spiritual Journey to the Fullness of Life for Gays, Lesbians and Everybody Else” (1995).
John McNeill underscored the reality that one person can help change the world for the better.

Peter King: Boehner Resignation = "the Crazies Have Taken Over the GOP"

New York Republican Peter King is not what most would consider a moderate, but in today's utterly insane Republican Party, King actually looks more and more sane in relative terms.  With John Boehner's sudden announcement that he will resign as Speaker of the House and from Congress entirely by the end of October, King has lamented that it is clear that "the crazies" have taken over the GOP.  While I have never liked Boehner - who I see as a largely spineless man - his main role has been to try to rein in the utterly insane in the House GOP.  With him gone, what type of utter lunatic will the swamp fever ridden Christofascit/Tea Party controlled political whores try to put in Boehner's place.  Here are highlights from Politico:

House Speaker John Boehner's sudden resignation Friday "signals that the crazies have taken over the party," New York Republican Peter King said Friday.

“I think it signals the crazies have taken over the party, taken over to the party that you can remove a speaker of the House who’s second in line to be president, a constitutional officer in the middle of his term with no allegations of impropriety, a person who’s honest and doing his job. This has never happened before in our country," King said in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Friday afternoon. "He could have stayed on.”

“There was actually, I thought, like a hush in the room for a few seconds where no one — people like looked at each other — they couldn’t believe it. And then he read the prayer of St. Francis, which was very moving," King said of the moment when Boehner told fellow lawmakers that he was leaving office. 

"I’m not a psychologist but I think John probably pretty much decided that the more he did, the more friction would be caused, and that he probably thought it was best for him to leave soon anyway, which I think is wrong," he said. "But having the pope here yesterday just sort of put John in the frame of mind [that] it’s time to leave."

Boehner's decision to resign is "like throwing raw meat" to more extreme factions of the caucus who are trying to "hijack and blackmail the party," King said. "They’re not going to see it as a gesture of peace, they’re going to just look for more."

“I think whoever runs for speaker should make it clear that he’s not going to give in to these people. We’re not going to appease them," he concluded. "The time for appeasement is over.”

Why Pope Francis Terrifies the Right and GOP

No one has done more to inject religion into politics than the Republican Party and its masters among the Christofascists and the nations plutocrats such as the Koch brothers.  The former have done so in an effort to force their increasingly foul religious beliefs on all Americans - and to crush out anything that threatens the fairy tale world they live in - while the latter have do so out of cynicism and a desire to feed their greed and push a vulture like version of capitalism.  While Francis drinks from the dame Kool-Aid when it comes to obsession with all things sexual, on most other fronts he remains in touch with objective reality and part of that reality is that the far right's efforts to build a new Gilded Age and to rape the Earth of its resources run directly afoul of the Gospel message.  Stated another way, Francis sees the so-called "prosperity gospel" so loved by the professional Christian crowd (with themselves a prime beneficiaries) as a lie and blasphemous.   His pounding of the idols of the far right terrifies them because (i) the fear others will see that their economic policy emperor has no clothes, and, worse yet, (ii) that they are utterly wrong.  A piece in Salon looks at this phenomenon.  Here are excerpts: 

Republican legislators who attended Pope Francis’ address to Congress were apparently relieved that he didn’t threaten them with fire and brimstone, and that he said that human activity is causing “environmental deterioration,” rather than using the dreaded words “climate change” or “global warming.” What remains clear, however, is that they won’t listen to anyone about this subject – not the overwhelming majority of scientists, not economists, not public policy analysts, and not the world’s most famous religious leader.

All of this raises an interesting question: Why exactly are the Republicans so determined to ignore reality? Why won’t they listen to anyone? The answer is actually simple: The reality of climate change demonstrates that progressives are right and they are wrong. Not just wrong about the effect of human activity on the environment, but wrong about their basic approach to the problems of the modern world.

Republican ideology is based on the idea of freedom for capitalists (another concern voiced by Pope Francis). For progressives, freedom involves the ability of ordinary people to express themselves, to choose their own level of religious observance and, increasingly, to receive the education and healthcare that they need to function in modern society. For conservatives, it means the ability of property owners and large corporations to use their economic power any way they wish, to determine exactly how they will treat their employees and what they will say to the consumers who depend on the products they produce.

Americans have rejected this approach for over 100 years, perhaps since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. . . . . we have insisted that the impact of these enterprises on the environment needs to be regulated as well, and that they cannot be permitted to pour poison into our waters and fumes into our air at will.

Recognizing the reality of climate change will necessarily lead to further forms of regulation. That reality emphasizes what physical and social scientists have come to recognize in recent years: that the most recent geological era (usually called the holocene) has ended, and that we are now in an entirely new situation, often described as the anthropocene – the era of human domination.

All this means that conservatives are simply wrong. We’ve gone past the point where the large enterprises that determine the health of the economy, our working people, our environment, and now our planet, can be left to do what they wish.

People don’t like to admit that they are wrong, however. Children stamp their feet or burst into tears. Adults concoct bizarre conspiracy theories (tens of thousands of scientists, from all over the world, have joined together to perpetrate a hoax), engage in outright denials in the face of overwhelming evidence (Marsha Blackburn says that someone – she won’t say who — told her that the Earth is getting cooler) and insult anyone who tells them something they don’t want to hear (even if that person is the leader of a religion they’ve been touting as the truth for decades). But the conservatives are wrong — wrong about climate change and wrong about their entire approach to governing our nation. It’s time for everyone else to stop listening to them.

It is far past the time that conservatives cease being afforded credibility.  Sadly, lazy  journalists cling to their "fair and balanced" fantasy which allows them from having to do the work to challenge bullshit statements and lies from both Republicans and foul Christofascists such as Tony Perkins. Pope Francis may be wrong on matters of sexuality and the control of women's bodies - why is it the celibate men with no sexual or head of family experience claim to be the authorities? -  he is right on the basic falsehood the conservative agenda in America. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Pope Francis And The Right-Wing Bubble

While Pope Francis has yet to do anything to change the Roman Catholic Church's anti-gay, anti-women, and sex obsessed dogma - much of which traces back to the 13th century - it is nonetheless most entertaining to see him making pin pricks to the GOP bubble that is (i) tethered from objective reality, and (ii) mostly in direct contradiction to the Gospel message.  A piece in  Salon looks at the phenomenon. Here are excerpts:

Despite all the talk that Pope Francis’ address to Congress wouldn’t be political or partisan, it turns out it was both. And, as I predicted here in Salon, it definitely leaned to one side of the aisle. In fact, if you were a conservative Republican, Thursday morning in the Congress was not your finest moment, as Pope Francis laid bare all the ways that the Republican agenda counters Catholic social teaching, from its harsh treatment of immigrants to its fossil fuel-burning disdain for the natural world.

And Francis’ call for politicians to work for the common good was an implicit rebuke to the do-nothing, obstructionist GOP agenda that’s in service to their corporatist, Chamber of Commerce overlords.
Here are the five key moments in Francis’ speech that made conservatives squirm more than any others:

The shout-out to Dorothy Day. Francis commended four Americans in particular, whom he held up as examples of pursuing the common good: Abraham Lincoln, for his pursuit of liberty; Martin Luther King Jr., for his commitment to nonviolence and pluralism; Trappist monk Thomas Merton, for his commitment to dialogue and peace; and Dorothy Day, for her “social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed.” . . . None of them are exactly conservative, but Day in particular is noted as a radical social activist. . . . Day was outspoken in her support of pacifism and labor rights.

 The abortion switcheroo. In defiance of the specific guidance not to try to score political points by clapping at partisan applause lines in Francis’ speech, congressional conservatives leapt to their feet the moment Francis delivered the Vatican’s standard coded language about abortion, mentioning “our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” Imagine their shock when he immediately followed that with, “This conviction had led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.” Psych.

Calling arms deals “money drenched in blood.” Speaking of death, what about all those arms deals the Republicans are so fond of? Francis wanted to know who is selling the bad guys all these weapons and why: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?” The answer, according to the pontiff, is “money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.” I’m sure the GOP and all the defense contractors who give them money will get right on that.

Reminding the GOP we’re all foreigners. As in his speech at the White House on Tuesday, Francis felt the need to once again remind those who are making intolerance toward immigrants their political stock-in-trade that they, like him, are likely the descendants of immigrant families.
In one of the most moving passages of his speech, Francis said, “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

Confronting the climate naysayers. Francis made it clear that combating climate change, development and technology can coexist. He explicitly rebuked many conservative critics of his climate change encyclical “Laudato si,” who claim that he is anti-commerce and wants to stifle development or reduce the world to subsistence-level farming to stop climate change. “The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable,” he said, adding, “In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.”
On the plus for conservatives side, Francis did talk about the need for “the voice of faith to continue to be heard,” but in the case of this particular voice, conservatives probably wish he would just be quiet.

The GOP's Betrayal of America

I typically do not read columns by David Brooks in the New York Times because he is, in my view, generally wrong and takes a regressive position.  But even the perennially wrong can on occasion get it right as Brooks does today in a column bemoaning what has become of the Republican Party and American conservatism in general and how the trend is harming the nation and betraying its founding principles and mindset.  While he looks at the the trends in the conservative movement, he fails to look at the real root cause in my view: the rise of fundamentalist Christians within the GOP.  Personally, I generally view religion as a scourge on the soul of mankind.  But that scourge becomes a raging cancer when the religion is fundamentalist - whether Christian or Muslim - because it focuses on hatred of others and anyone and anything that threatens its ignorance embracing tenants.  The good news, if any, is that the GOP is hopefully headed towards a eventual much deserved death.  In the process its devotees are likely also hastening the decline of Christianity in America.  Here are excerpts from the column:
Today there are some conservative commentators and Republican politicians who talk a lot about American exceptionalism. But when they use the phrase they mean the exact opposite of its original meaning. In fact, they are effectively destroying American exceptionalism.

These commentators and candidates look backward to an America that is being lost. Ann Coulter encapsulated this attitude perfectly in her latest book title, “Adios, America.” This is the philosophy of the receding roar, the mourning for an America that once was and is now being destroyed by foreign people and ideas.

Out of this backward- and inward-looking mentality comes a desire to exclude. Donald Trump talks falsely and harshly about Hispanic immigrants. Ben Carson says he couldn’t advocate putting “a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

During George W. Bush’s first term there wasn’t much difference between how Democrats and Republicans viewed the overall immigration levels. Republicans were about eight percentage points more likely to be dissatisfied with the contemporary immigration flows. But now the gap is an astounding 40 percentage points. Eighty-four percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats are dissatisfied with the current immigration level, according to Gallup surveys.

As Peter Wehner, a longtime conservative writer who served in the Bush administration, wrote in the magazine Commentary: “The message being sent to voters is this: The Republican Party is led by people who are profoundly uncomfortable with the changing (and inevitable) demographic nature of our nation. The G.O.P. is longing to return to the past and is fearful of the future. It is a party that is characterized by resentments and grievances, by distress and dismay, by the belief that America is irredeemably corrupt and past the point of no return. ‘The American dream is dead,’ in the emphatic words of Mr. Trump.”

It’s not exactly breaking news that this is ruinous to the long-term political prospects of the party. 

But it’s also bad for the spirit of conservatism. American conservatism has always been different than the conservatism found on continental Europe and elsewhere. There it was based on blood and soil, here on promise.
American free market and religious conservatives have traditionally embraced a style of nationalism that is hopeful and future minded. . . .But this hopeful nationalism is being supplanted in the G.O.P. by an anguished cry for a receding America.

This pessimism isn’t justified by the facts. As a definitive report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently found, today’s immigrants are assimilating as fast as previous ones. They are learning English. They are healthier than native-born Americans. Immigrant men age 18 to 39 are incarcerated at roughly one-fourth the rate of American men.

It is one thing to think Democratic policies are wrong. It is another to betray the essential American faith and take a reactionary attitude toward life. This is an attitude that sours the tongue, offends the eye and freezes the heart.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Real Islamic Enemy: Saudi Arabia

Hanging bodies of beheading victims
Republicans continue to whine and stamp their feet over the nuclear weapons agreement between Iran and the United States and its allies.  All kinds of over heated and vitriolic remarks have been made and along the way condemnation of Iran's human rights record - which is horrible - are routinely thrown into the mix as to why America should reject the agreement and impose its own unilateral sanctions and/or launch a war against Iran.  The hypocrisy of these critics is off the charts because in the next breath, many say that America has betrayed its allies: Israel, of course, and Saudi Arabia.  Meanwhile they ignore the even worse human rights abuse taking place in Saudi Arabia and the fact that the number one financier of Islamic terrorism and extremism is Saudi Arabia, not Iran.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at this reality.  Here are excerpts: 
During the discussion on the Iran nuclear deal, it has been strange to hear US politicians fiercely condemn Iranian human rights abuses while remaining silent about worse abuses by US ally Saudi Arabia. Not only is the Saudi regime repressive at home and abroad, but US weapons and US support for the regime make Americans complicit. So let's look at the regime the US government counts as its close friend.

1. Saudi Arabia is governed as an absolutist monarchy by a huge clan, the Saud family, and the throne passes from one king to another.The Cabinet is appointed by the king, and its policies have to be ratified by royal decree. Political parties are forbidden and there are no national elections.

2. Criticizing the monarchy, or defending human rights, can bring down severe and cruel punishments in addition to imprisonment. Ali al-Nimr was targeted and arrested at the age of 17 for protesting government corruption, and his since been sentenced to beheading and public crucifixion. Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for writing a blog the government considered critical of its rule. Waleed Abulkhair is serving a 15-year sentence for his work as a human right attorney. New legislation effectively equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism. The government tightly controls the domestic press, banning journalists and editors who publish articles deemed offensive to the religious establishment or the ruling authorities. Over 400,000 websites that are considered immoral or politically sensitive are blocked. A January 2011 law requires all blogs and websites, or anyone posting news or commentary online, to have a license from the Ministry of Information or face fines and/or the closure of the website.

3. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world, killing scores of people each year for a range of offenses including adultery, apostasy, drug use and sorcery. The government has conducted over 100 beheadings this year alone, often in public squares.

4. Saudi women are second-class citizens. The religious police enforce a policy of gender segregation and often harass women, using physical punishment to enforce a strict dress code. Women need the approval of a male guardian to marry, travel, enroll in a university, or obtain a passport and they're prohibited from driving. According to interpretations of Sharia law, daughters generally receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers, and the testimony of one man is equal to that of two women.

5. There is no freedom of religious. Islam is the official religion, and all Saudis are required by law to be Muslims. The government prohibits the public practice of any religion other than Islam and restricts the religious practices of the Shiite and Sufi Muslim minority sects. Although the government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private, it does not always respect this right in practice. The building of Shiite mosques is banned.

6. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia spent $4 billion per year on mosques, madrassas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let's not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as well as Osama bin Laden himself.

7. The country is built and runs thanks to foreigner laborers, but the more than six million foreign workers have virtually no legal protections. Coming from poor countries, many are lured to the kingdom under false pretenses and forced to endure dangerous working and living conditions. Female migrants employed in Saudi homes as domestic workers report regular physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

8. The Saudis are funding terrorism worldwide. A Wikileaks-revealed 2009 cable quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide....More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba and other terrorist groups." In Syria the Saudis are supporting the most extreme sectarian forces and the thousands of volunteers who rally to their call. And while the Saudi government condemns ISIS, many experts, including 9/11 Commission Report lead author Bob Graham, believe that ISIL is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money and Saudi organizational support.

9. The Saudis have used their massive military apparatus to invade neighboring countries and quash democratic uprisings. In 2011, the Saudi military (using US tanks) rolled into neighboring Bahrain and brutally crushed that nation's budding pro-democracy movement. In 2015, the Saudis intervened in an internal conflict in Yemen, with a horrific bombing campaign (using American-made cluster munitions and F-15 fighter jets) that has killed and injured thousands of civilians. The conflict has created a severe humanitarian crisis affecting 80 percent of the Yemeni people.

10. The Saudis backed a coup in Egypt that killed over 1,000 people and saw over 40,000 political dissidents thrown into squalid prisons. While human rights activists the world over where condemning the brutal regime of Al Sisi, the Saudi government offered $5 billion to prop up the Egyptian coup leader.

The cozy US relationship with the Saudis has to do with oil, weapons sales and joint opposition to Iran. But with extremism spreading through the globe, a reduced US need for Saudi oil, and a thawing of US relations with Iran, now is the time to start calling for the US government to sever its ties with the Saudi monarchs.
The Saudi royals and their regime are nothing short of barbaric.   Remind me again why we are in bed with the Saudis?  Oh, I forgot, so that "real Americans" can drive their jacked up pickup trucks and huge gas guzzling SUV's and/or live in homes far larger than what they need - just to name a few reasons.

GOP Insanity - Ben Carson vs. Evolution

If one wants to see just how low the Republican Party has fallen, look no farther than presidential nominee candidate Ben Carson.  The once renown neurosurgeon - who some him knew him in the past have shared that they wonder if the man has had a nervous breakdown or what some other mental breakdown -  has stated that Darwin was in league with Satan when he developed the theory of evolution.  And video tape documents Carson's lunatic statements, so denial will be difficult.  At est, he can claim he did not mean what he said and was merely prostituting himself to Christofascist.  The take away? Do we really want a man who (i) is an opportunistic liar, or (ii) seemingly suffers from mental illness and/or out right insanity in the White House?  Little Green Footballs looks at Carson's troubling batshitery.  Here are highlights:

At LGF we’ve written several times about GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s rejection of the scientific theory of evolution in favor of young Earth creationism. But here’s a video that graphically demonstrates just how regressive Carson’s anti-science beliefs are.

In this speech delivered to the Adventist News Network’s “Celebration of Creation” in November 2011, Carson shows ignorance of basic geology, attributes fake quotes to “evolutionists,” ridicules scientists, and last but not least, says Charles Darwin was influenced to come up with the theory of evolution by none other than… yes, Satan. The Horned One. His Nibs. In Carson’s words, “the Adversary.”

It’s shocking and disturbing that one of the frontrunners in the GOP campaign for president holds these kinds of Dark Ages anti-science beliefs. But while Carson’s statements may seem extreme, nearly all of the GOP candidates in this race are creationists.

In addition to everything else that’s wrong with them in 2015 (and that’s plenty), the Republicans are the party of hard core science denial.

Some quotes from the video, transcribed by Daniel W. VanArsdale:
[20:56] “… there is abundant evidence, geological evidence, that there was a worldwide flood. Go up into the Andes Mountains and see all those fossils on the top of those mountains.
[24:34] “So we should be able to find intermediate species at any given point in time, and we should be able to find how they line up. You know Darwin said his whole theory depended on the fossil remains and he said we should be able to line up from a single cell organism to man several miles long and just walk right down the fossil trail and see how everything evolved. And he said the only reason they didn’t have the fossils was because they were not geologically sophisticated enough, but that we would be in fifty to a hundred years. Well that was a hundred and fifty years ago. We still haven’t found them. Where are they? Where are the fossil remains?

[31:03]. “Well, now what about the big bang theory? I find the big bang really quite fascinating. Now here you have all these highfaluting scientists, and they are saying there was this gigantic explosion and everything came into perfect order. [31:19] … [32:16] Well, but I mean it’s even more ridiculous than that, because our solar system, not to mention the universe outside of that, is extraordinarily well organized to the point where we can predict 70 years away when a comet is coming. Now that type of organization, to just come out of an explosion? … [32:43] And then even if you want to use their own scientific theories, you know you’ve got this mass spinning and then it explodes. In physics we have something we call angular momentum and it is preserved, so it should be preserved in any orbit of anything that is effected by gravity around a planet, which means everything has to traverse in the same direction. Well it doesn’t! There are many planets that have satellites and moons that go in the opposite directions. So that doesn’t work with angular momentum.” [33:19]
[36:49] “How are flowers able to reproduce? Pollination. How does pollination occur? Bees and other creatures. Now according to evolution, plants came along before the bees. So how did the plants reproduce? … [37:41] … according to evolutionary model, you know we really came from an ameba. And amebas, they just like split and then there’s two amebas. So it seems to me like according to evolutionary model you do things that are efficient. So rather than going out and looking for a mate you would just divide, and then there would be two of you. … [38:16] But, you know, things are supposed to work in an efficient way, so according to the evolutionary model we would be less pugilistic, we would be much more logical, we would be much more creative, we wouldn’t be going around fighting each other and cutting off people’s heads anymore. Because that stuff would be extinguished and we would have evolved into something much better. According to the creation model, in which we have an adversary, it’s very easy to explain why people act that way, it’s because they have choice and because there is an adversary out there. [38:57]

[answering a woman’s question, 45:07] “I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary [Satan], and it has become what is scientifically politically correct. Amazingly, there are a significant number of scientists who do not believe it but they are afraid to say anything.”
As I have said before, I increasingly view conservative/fundamentalist religious belief as demonstrative of serious emotional and mental illness.  If that is the case, then all of the GOP candidates belong under psychiatric care.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Pope Francis Poses a Threat to the GOP Economic Order

Up until now, Republicans have been only too happy it inject religion into politics and make one's adherence - at least outwardly, if not in fact - a litmus test for running for office and, most of all, to hold public office. Ben Carson's recent anti-Muslim statements illustrate this reality.  Now, however, the same folks who readily prostitute themselves to Christofascists as a means to garner votes are up in arms that Pope Francis is pushing for action on climate change and arguing that religion and churches, such as the Catholic Church, have no business in raising the issue of, much less discussing climate change.  They take similar offense at the Pope's targeting the evils of vulture capitalism and support for labor unions.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP hostility towards Francis and his message.  Here are excerpts:
The pope addresses Congress Thursday, and conservatives are fearing the worst. Their belief systems can tolerate a lot — laissez-faire economics, xenophobia — but Pope Francis’s emphasis on the Roman Catholic Church’s historic antipathy to capitalism has them in a dither.

The Wall Street Journal laments his overt embrace of the “progressive political agenda of income redistribution.” My Post colleague George F. Will writes that, “Americans cannot simultaneously honor him and celebrate their nation’s premises.”

It’s not clear, however, whether the Journal and Will’s argument is with the pope or with the Christianity of the saint whose name he took, or even more fundamentally, with the Nazareth carpenter whom Christians believe was the son of God.

Suppose, for instance, that the pope elects, in his address to Congress, to repeat one of that carpenter’s most famous quotes: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

Based on past performance, can we expect some Republican congressman to leap to his feet and shout, “You lie,” or Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to shake his head in dissent? Both occurrences greeted addresses to Congress by President Obama, speeches that were nowhere remotely as inflammatory as those in a recent papal encyclical, much less the Sermon on the Mount.

In place of our current system, Francis has recommended giving workers more power — in particular, promoting worker-owned and -run cooperatives. . . . . On the U.S. political spectrum, this kind of advocacy for worker control plunks you down firmly on the left: Indeed, the primary author of legislation that would promote worker co-ops if Congress ever sought fit to pass it is one Bernie Sanders. But Francis’s critiques of capitalism aren’t peculiar to the left wing of the church. 

Where Francis has departed from his predecessors is that he has moved from talking the talk to walking the walk. The simplicity of his lifestyle, his emphasis on spending time among the poor and giving workers more control of economies where the deck, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has said, is stacked against them, are all radical departures from past papal practice. So, too, is the tolerance he has shown to gays, lesbians and divorcees — a tolerance that has roused the ire of church conservatives, for whom intolerance to these and kindred groups seems to express the essence of their Catholicism.

These conservatives lament that Francis has de-emphasized the church’s traditional fear and loathing of women and sex. How a church governed by male celibates should have come to view its areas of core competency as gender relations and reproduction is a good question.  By returning to the kind of issues that St. Francis and the Nazarene focused on — stewardship of the Earth, championing of the have-nots — Francis has been a great disappointment to those Catholics nostalgic for the spirit, if not the letter, of the Inquisition. 

A pope infused by the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi and Jesus poses a threat to the current economic order. Conservatives are right to fear and despise him, as they would be right to fear and despise his role models.

The final scene of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Saint Joan” places Joan of Arc in a dream sequence in which all her persecutors, once she’s safely dead and canonized, praise her and acknowledge her sainthood. When she asks them if she should return to Earth and live again, however, they answer with fear, loathing and a resounding “no.” That, in essence, is the conservatives’ response to Pope Francis, and to the spirit and faith he embodies. 
It would be delicious to see the tables turned on the GOP which has insidiously used religion to do evil and support greed.

Why They Hate So Much: the History Behind the Right's Intolerance

One of the stark commonalities between the Christofascists and far right Republicans (to the extent they aren't one and the same) is their hatred towards others.  And "others" includes a lengthy list of people: gays, blacks, Hispanics, Jews, non-Christians, Muslims, etc., etc.  Behind this hate is a desire to maintain power and control - privilege, if you will - and to combat anything and everything that challenges their world view, much of which is based on a selective reading of a book of fiction: the Bible.  As a piece in Salon notes, through out America's history there have been those who have used hate and related paranoia to further their own interest, often to the detriment of most of society.  This hasn't changed and the GOP has perfected the use of hate towards the "other" to dupe the ignorant and bigoted into voting against their own interests,  Here are column highlights:
Is Ann Coulter an anti-Semite? What’s interesting to me about Coulter’s notorious tweet (“How many f—ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?”) isn’t what it does or doesn’t reveal about her, but the light that it sheds on the deep archetypes of American conservatism.

Watching the two Republican debates, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d come, in Kurt Vonnegut’s phrase, “unstuck in time.” Ted Cruz looks to me like a silent movie villain from the 1920s, and he talks like a wax cylinder recording of a Texas governor from the 1920s. Jeb Bush is, well, another Bush. Mike Huckabee is a beefier, more homespun Pat Robertson. And for all that he is a product of New York real estate and reality TV, Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the rural Populism that arose in the late 19th century.

Populism Populism is all about fear and hatred, and starting around the 1890s, when the myth of Jewish money power and the tide of Eastern European Jewish immigration were both at their peak, the fear and hatred of Jews in particular.

The so-called Jewish plot to undermine the economic and moral foundations of Christendom and rule it from Jerusalem was laid out in detail in the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a libelous forgery that was first published in Russian in 1903 and widely translated and circulated in the 1920s, when, not coincidentally, the Nativist Ku Klux Klan was enjoying a huge revival in this country and one of America’s richest and most powerful businessmen, Henry Ford, was weighing a run for the presidency. Ford also published a newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, that was almost entirely dedicated to the “Jewish problem.”

Elizabeth Dilling, an anti-Communist crusader of the 1930s whose book “The Roosevelt Red Record and its Background” has often been compared to Ann Coulter’s “Treason,” also wrote a book-length indictment of “Talmudism,” “The Plot Against Christianity.”

Racism runs deep in the Republican Party, as we have all learned, seven years into the presidency of Barack Obama. But the kinds of hatreds that animated Elizabeth Dilling, if not Ann Coulter, run much deeper than nasty tweets or even racial gerrymandering and voter suppression. 

Historically, the American Paranoid’s reigning obsessions were:

1) Papism. Back in the 1600s, American colonists worried about Jesuit subversion. From the 1830s to the Civil War, the Know Nothing movement attacked Roman Catholic Irish and German immigration. A second great wave of anti-Catholic feeling arose during the Populist era, between the 1890s and into the 1920s (the KKK was as anti-Papist as it was anti-black and anti-Jew).

2) Atheistic intellectualism. There were McCarthy-esque witch hunts against Masonry and Illuminism in the 1790s and again in the late 1820s and ‘30s. To its historical enemies, Masonry occupied much the same space that secular humanism does today; its chief sin was that it elevated reason and science above revealed religion.

3) Calibanic Demonicism. This is my own coinage; I use it as a shorthand for what our forebears saw as the unbridled sexuality and unregenerate sinfulness of natural man, as embodied in blacks and indigenous Americans—attributes that would also be ascribed to Suffragists and to birth control advocates, both then and now (Google “Sandra Fluke” and “Rush Limbaugh” to see) and to LGBT people today. A simpler shorthand might be “sex.”
4) The Anti-Christ. This last includes Jewish bankers, Jewish arms dealers, and Jewish pornographers, which is to say Hollywood producers and popular culture purveyors, as well as the “left wing media.” . . . . In the classic American Paranoid understanding, Communism was fundamentally Anti-Christian and shared the same goals as the Rothschilds and their heirs.

The corporate interests and other deep pockets that have historically exerted the most power in this country, and that are the most deeply invested in the Republican Party today, have never been monolithic in their aims or beliefs; . . . . But they haven’t necessarily disbelieved them either, and they’ve never stopped using them to manipulate debt-burdened dirt farmers, struggling artisans, and exploited (or nowadays discarded) factory workers to vote against their economic interests. 

The deep substructure of Hate remains pretty much as it was, but its superstructure has changed beyond recognition. Hitler made anti-Semitism disreputable, as, after much struggle, the civil rights movement did the most overt forms of racism . . .  Nativism is resurgent, as Donald Trump’s continuing success daily proves. With Catholicism, anti-Semitism, and overt white supremacism off the table, Islam and Sharia have taken their place, alongside sex and anti-scientism (which never went away).

The party of Lincoln has become the home of many neo-secessionists, who left the Democrats en masse after LBJ’s great betrayal in the 1960s, and to numerous Libertarians, who believe that all government is tyranny.

All of these people–many of whom wouldn’t have 10 words to say to each other if they had to sit next to each other on a long airplane flight–have crowded into the Republican big tent, along with the usual suspects who think that their taxes are too high and their businesses over regulated.

Seen in this light, it makes perfect sense that Carly Fiorina would have singled out Iran and Planned Parenthood as America’s two greatest existential threats, or that the legendary brain surgeon Ben Carson would attest to his disbelief in evolution (and that all of the candidates would dismiss the science behind climate change).

As for Trump, one thinker who wouldn’t be surprised by his success is the economist F.A. Hayek, one of the GOP’s patron saints. When a minority is looking to hijack a democracy, he wrote in “The Road to Serfdom,” it needs to attract a hard core of true believers. They will look to bring in comparatively less-educated people, he wrote, because “the higher the education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values.” The program they will be offered, he adds, must be negative: “the hatred of an enemy…the envy of those better off….the contrast between the ‘we’ and the ‘they,’ the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Is Marco Rubio an Empty Suit?

With Rick Perry and Scott Walker having bailed from the GOP clown car, pundits are casting about to discern who the beneficiary or beneficiaries of their exit might be.  Some would name Marco Rubio as the principal beneficiary.  However, given the swamp fever that prevails amongst the GOP base, it takes very little to excite the swarm of cretins, racists and religious extremists that now dominate the GOP base. A piece in Huffington Post under scores why Rubio is an empty suit and unfit of the office of the presidency.  Here are excerpts:
[T]here is little of substance to commend promoting Rubio to president in the political blink of an eye. His policy positions seem to involve positioning himself with the party's right-wing base. Though forcefully delivered, his foreign-policy prescriptions are no more novel than Dick Cheney's: disavow the opening to Cuba and the Iran nuclear deal, pledge allegiance to Benjamin Netanyahu, consider intervening militarily in Syria and Iraq, and bulk up the military to project American power. His anodyne budget proposals include that chestnut of political fantasies, the balanced budget amendment. The current Rubio is so pro-life that he grants no exception to victims of rape or incest.

His switch from believer to climate change denier was augured when he coined the dodge "I'm not a scientist" -- which, given that he is also not a general, an economist, or an educator, if taken literally would seem to limit his role as president to pardoning turkeys and lighting Christmas trees.

The most egregious example of Rubio's evanescence on principles may be his head-spinning about-faces on immigration. Running for the Senate in 2010 he disdained a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But by 2013, he became instrumental in a bipartisan group of senators whose comprehensive immigration reform bill included just such a path, underscoring his zeal with impassioned speeches inside and outside the Senate. To his apparent surprise, the Republican base erupted in anger. When his legislation passed the Senate, Rubio did not appear with his colleagues at the press conference that followed. And four months later, he publicly opposed his own bill's passage in the House. These dizzying changes seem particularly soulless in a man who asserts that his parents' immigrant experience is at the core of his political soul.

Equally problematic, Rubio is the poster child for the post-Citizens United systemic distortion which surfaced in 2012: candidates disproportionally financed by wealthy patrons (e.g. Newt Gingrich/Sheldon Abelson; Rick Santorum/Foster Friese). But Rubio's ties to Florida billionaire Norman Braman suggest more than a short-term rental. Once Rubio became a Florida legislator, Braman funded his campaigns, financed his legislative agenda, and subsidized his personal finances, employing Rubio as a lawyer and his wife as a philanthropic advisor. While Speaker of the Florida House, Rubio helped steer $85 million in state funds to Braman's favorite causes. And now Braman is expected to spend at least $10 million to help Rubio become president.

But Rubio is also a leading contender for the largess of Sheldon Adelson, the right-wing ideologue who spent $100 million in the presidential campaign of 2012. In addition to courting Adelson at a half-dozen private meetings during which he laid out his foreign policy vision, this summer Rubio cosponsored the casino mogul's top legislative priority, a bill to outlaw Internet gambling. Lest Braman's and Adelson's interests seem merely parochial, both men vehemently oppose the Iran nuclear deal and criticize the proposed two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. For whatever reason, Rubio now espouses both positions, vowing to hamstring implementation of the Iran nuclear pact by rear-guard legislative tactics.

The presidency is serious business -- too serious, one would hope, to entrust to inexperienced candidates with malleable ideas and wealthy patrons whose desires are far from malleable. In more serious times, Rubio would be running for reelection to the Senate or, perhaps, for governor of Florida, hoping to benefit his state while preparing himself for national leadership.

. . . .  Rubio is a political adolescent, still dressed in short pants, dependent on a scholarship funded by powerful benefactors.