Thursday, October 30, 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook: I'm Proud to Be Gay

Many have long conjectured the Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay, but Cook has always refrained from publicly "coming out" or discussing his sexual orientation.  That is until now.  In a piece in Business Week, Cook not only comes out, but goes on to say that he is proud to be gay.  It's a feeling I understand having shed all of the religious brainwashing that had damaged me growing up and made me feel ashamed of who I am. Our enemies seek to marginalize us and make us feel shame.  We must resist that temptation and stand up proudly for who we are.  Here are highlights from Cook's essay:

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant. Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.

So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

The company I am so fortunate to lead has long advocated for human rights and equality for all. We’ve taken a strong stand in support of a workplace equality bill before Congress, just as we stood for marriage equality in our home state of California. And we spoke up in Arizona when that state’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill targeting the gay community. We’ll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same. And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up.

Kudos to Cook.  Each of us can make a difference by living openly and honestly.  I does open minds and change hearts - and save lives.  I can imagine that spittle flying in Christianist circles.  We had best brace ourselves for an Apple boycott by the One Million Bitches Moms and other hate merchants.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Working to Protect Others from "Ex-Gay" Harm

Despite the unanimous positions of every legitimate medical and mental health association in America that "ex-gay" or "reparative therapy" doesn't work and, in fact, is harmful, the Christian right continues to market the myth that gays can "change" and become heterosexual.  To me, it is part of the incessant campaign of lies disseminated by the "godly folk" who in my experience are perhaps the most dishonest people one will ever meet.  If the lies further their theocratic agenda, then they give themselves a pass from the strictures of the Commandment against lying and bearing false witness. Anything to avoid facing the reality that their world view is based on myths and fairy tales.  Thankfully, some who have fallen victim to the "ex-gay" myth are admitting that the "ministries" are bogus and speaking out.  One such individual is Tim Rymel who once worked for the charlatan organization "Love in Action."  Think Progress looks at the message that Rymel is seeking to broadcast.  Here are excerpts:
“The religious right continues to tout, ‘We have thousands of ex-gay people,’ and they don’t exist. The thousands do not exist.”

Earlier this year, a group of former ex-gay leaders — individuals who made a career at some point in their lives promoting or administering ex-gay therapy — published an open letter decrying all forms of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). “It is our firm belief,” they wrote, “that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives.” The letter helped launch the National Center for Lesbian Rights’ BornPerfect campaign, which calls for more laws protecting people from the harms of reparative therapy.

Among the signatories was Tim Rymel, who at one point in his life was an evangelical Christian minister and a vocal advocate for ex-gay therapy, offering his own personal testimony to support his cause.
Rymel now identifies as gay and is working against the harms of ex-gay therapy. He details his journey of self-acceptance in a new book called Going Gay, and he spoke with ThinkProgress about what he learned along the way and what he’s now trying to teach others about homosexuality and Christianity.

He’s been writing about his journey out of ex-gay therapy to correct “20 years of silence.” He said it took that long to come to terms with what had happened — including not only coming (back) out, but also divorcing his wife and the mother of his two children. In turn, he’s mostly been hearing from others who’ve gone through a similar process. “The audience seems to be the middle aged — late 40s, early 50s — people who are saying, ‘That was my experience,’ or, ‘That’s what happened to me in the church.’”

Still though, Rymel is committed to having these important conversations with his detractors.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Rymel’s story is the juxtaposition he draws between his understanding of his own sexual orientation and the very different process of understanding who gay people are culturally.  . . . “When you come from that [church] environment and you step into the gay community, there is no place that you feel more insecure,” he recalled, . .

He unequivocally now says, “I feel bad about the message we gave out. We were wrong. I was wrong.” And he also wants people to know that he takes responsibility for the harm he might have perpetuated, adding, “I certainly apologize to people who have been affected by my words or what we have done in the past. I hope that they’re able to pick up and move on and pull their lives back together as we have tried to do.”

Rymel opposes any ex-gay therapy for minors: “I have no qualms about saying that’s wrong and that that needs to be stopped,” because he worries about “a parent forcing a child into something that is ultimately going to harm them.” Laws have already passed in New Jersey and California protecting young people from being enrolled in the treatment, and conservatives’ attempts to challenge those laws have failed.

“There is no such thing as ex-gay,” Rymel now asserts, but he acknowledges that beliefs don’t change so easily. He hopes that conservatives can they see themselves in his story: “I was one of you… I was as far right as you can get as a Republican, so I completely understand religious liberties, I completely understand where you’re coming from and faith and all of those things, but this doesn’t work.

I spent 37 years trying to "change" without success.  Much of those years was filled with self-hate and inner unhappiness I shared with no one.  "Ex-gay" therapy is soul killing and, given the impossibility of really changing, has the danger of convincing some that death is the only solution, hence my two suicide attempts as I tried to come to self-acceptance.  I survived the ordeal, but not everyone does, and these "ex-gay" advocates have blood on their hands in my view.

Racial Politics and the 2014 Midterm Elections

Like Millenials mentioned in a post yesterday, black voters too often stay home in non-presidential elections.  The result?  Here in Virginia we have a Republican controlled legislature that basically longs for the days of segregation or worse, seeks to disenfranchise minority voters, and panders to Christofascists and hate groups like The Family Foundation whose ancestors - and many current members - used the Bible to justify slavery and segregation.   The phenomenon is not unique to Virginia and, in fact, is even worse the farther one ventures into the Deep South.  As the New York Times reports, Democrats seem to have finally waken up to the need to galvanize blacks to get out and vote with ads that use race to underscore the agenda of the modern day Republican Party where white supremacists are welcomed with open arms.  Here are some article highlights:

In the final days before the election, Democrats in the closest Senate races across the South are turning to racially charged messages — invoking Trayvon Martin’s death, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and Jim Crow-era segregation — to jolt African-Americans into voting and stop a Republican takeover in Washington.

The images and words they are using are striking for how overtly they play on fears of intimidation and repression. And their source is surprising. The effort is being led by national Democrats and their state party organizations — not, in most instances, by the shadowy and often untraceable political action committees that typically employ such provocative messages.

In North Carolina, the “super PAC” started by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, ran an ad on black radio that accused the Republican candidate, Thom Tillis, of leading an effort to pass the kind of gun law that “caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.”
In Georgia, Democrats are circulating a flier warning that voting is the only way “to prevent another Ferguson.” It shows two black children holding cardboard signs that say “Don’t shoot.”

Democrats say Republicans need to own their record of passing laws hostile to African-American interests on issues like voting rights. The decision to use such overt appeals reflects just how much they are relying on black voters in the states in the old Confederacy, where key Senate races could decide which party controls the chamber.

One way to hang on is to increase the share of the black vote that typically turns out in a midterm election. To do so, Democrats are seizing on racial mistrust and unease, the same complicated emotions often used against them in the South.

The attacks have been most aggressive in North Carolina, where Democrats have said they need to raise the share of the electorate that is African-American to 21 percent, from 19 percent in the last midterm election in 2010, to prevail over Republicans . . . 

Ms. Hagan’s campaign has often referred to remarks in which Mr. Tillis appeared to equate reparations for slavery with social welfare programs. Governments created such public assistance programs, he said in 2007, based in part on the “belief that we should provide additional reparations” to those whose ancestors were enslaved.

In Arkansas, voters are opening mailboxes to find leaflets with images of the Ferguson protests and the words: “Enough! Republicans are targeting our kids, silencing our voices and even trying to impeach our president.” The group distributing them is Color of Change, a grass-roots civil rights organization.

In Georgia, the state Democratic Party is mixing themes of racial discrimination with appeals to rally behind the only black man elected president. “It’s up to us to vote to protect the legacy of the first African-American president,” one flier reads.

For many African-Americans, feelings of persecution — from voter ID laws, aggressive police forces and a host of other social problems — are hard to overstate. And they see no hyperbole in the attacks.  “It’s not race-baiting; it’s actually happening,” said Jaymes Powell Jr., an official in the North Carolina Democratic Party’s African-American Caucus.

My late father-in-law was a retired Baptist minister.  As a result, Republican and far right groups inundate the mail with mailings which are overtly racist and anti-black and anti-minority in general.  We thrown the foul materials in the trash.  I for one am happy to see the Democrats calling out the GOP for what it has become.  Better late than never. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Matt Barber - Still a Hate Merchant and Advertisement for Leaving Christianity

Yesterday this blog an others noted that Matt Barber - Assistant Dean at Liberty University's toxic law school - was promoting a columnist who advocated the execution of gays base, naturally, on the "literal word of God" found in Leviticus and a few other phrases in the Bible.  In apparent reaction to the firestorm that resulted (or perhaps the disclosure that the promoted "columnist" had a lengthy criminal record), Barber took down the post advocating for the murder of gays.  Now, Barber seems to think that he is exonerated from all his promotion of anti-gay violence.  This, of course, is anything but the case given Barber's ugly anti-gay history.  Indeed, if Barber is typical of "godly Christians," then decent people should be hastening to flee Christianity entirely.  A piece at Right Wing Watch reminds us of Barber's true role as a constant hate merchant and the ugliness that he promotes daily. Here are some highlights:
[Philip] Stallings’ column has disappeared, and today Barber tweeted at us, “Wow! Thanks for the tip. We obviously weren’t aware of that & find the position appalling. The answer is life in Christ.”
Well. It’s good to have Matt Barber say he finds the idea of executing gay people appalling. We agree.

But if that’s the case he ought to consider vetting the material he promotes a little more carefully. Just over a week ago we noted that BarbWire had run a column praising Pastor Steven Anderson, who has called for the execution of gays, and has said, “You want to know who the biggest hypocrite in the world is? The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not for homosexuals.”

And given how much anti-gay extremism is promoted by Barber and his Religious Right allies, that got us wondering if anything else short of calling for the killing of gay people would cross the line for Barber.

We collected some other statements that Barber apparently doesn’t find appalling, because they’ve all been in columns promoted on his site:

·       * Gays are degenerates.
·       * Transgender people are demonic.
·      *  Gays “have your children as a target”
·       * Pastors who marry same-sex couples are “servants of Satan.”
·        * “The homosexual leaders are the most vile, vicious, and vitriolic people in the world.”
·      *“ISIS is truly the manifestation of the purest form of the homosexual agenda: sodomizing men as both torture and pleasure, and killing those who disagree with them.”
·      * “The fictional ‘rights’ based on homosexual deviance and the genuine, God-given, First Amendment-protected rights of the vast majority of Americans cannot coexist.”
Here are some other things we find appalling that Matt Barber seemingly does not:
Jeff Allen, a BarbWire editor, compares the gay rights movement to “a malignant cancer” and says, “Each victory for the homosexual activists represents another nail in America’s coffin.”  Allen has supported brutal anti-gay laws in Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, which include imprisonment not only for sexual conduct but also for joining social clubs or advocating for equality. Allen was upset when criticized for his “innocent mistake” of calling a fake photo of “NAMBLA for Obama” an example of “the undeniable link between homosexuality and pedophilia.” More Allen: “Satanism, sodomy, and slaughter are each part of the Devil’s sinister agenda to destroy America.”

This spring, BarbWire published a column by former Indiana lawmaker Don Boys recounting his attempt to recriminalize homosexuality. In a similar column a few years earlier, Boys had explained that he wanted to make homosexuality a crime punishable by up to twelve years in prison.

Robert Oscar Lopez wrote for BarbWire that almost every situation “involving a same-sex couple with exclusive custody of small children is adult misconduct at best or a crime against humanity at worst.”

BarbWire publishes notorious anti-gay activist Scott Lively, who wrote this summer that the US and its State Department had become “The Great Satan” of the world for opposing anti-gay legislation overseas. Lively has promoted anti-gay policies in Uganda and around the world.

And that’s just a sampling of the anti-gay extremists who have found a home on BarbWire. Not to mention Barber himself, who says he has been “called by God” to “sound the alarm” about the fact that gay sex is always sinful, and “The wages of sin is death.”
Barber is indeed a foul piece of work.  It is individuals like Barber that make me increasingly not to even the moniker of being a Christian.  

Millennials: Throw Them Out, Especially the Republicans

One of the big problems with midterm elections is getting voters out to the polls for midterm elections which lack the fan fare and higher drama of presidential contests.  A new study shows that Millennials are not pleased with either political party or Obama for that matter, but overall, they prefer Democrats - and a Democrat Congress - over the Republicans.  Thus, the question becomes, how do the Democrats both engage Millennials and get them to realize that staying home from the polls does NOT make things better.   Politico looks at the findings.  Here are excerpts:
According to a Harvard University Institute of Politics poll of of Americans ages 18 to 29, 56 percent of the so-called millennials say President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats and Republicans are all responsible for the dysfunction in Washington. And 53 percent of millennials say they would recall and replace all 535 members of Congress today.

Millennials disapprove of both parties in Congress by at least 60 percent. Thirty-five percent of respondents approve of congressional Democrats, compared with 60 percent who disapprove; 23 percent approve of congressional Republicans, with 72 percent disapproving.

Forty-two percent say they consider themselves to be independent voters, compared with 33 percent who call themselves Democrats and 22 percent who say Republicans.

Millennials, widely viewed as more liberal than the rest of the country, would prefer a Democratic Congress, with 50 percent saying they would want a Congress controlled by Democrats following the midterm elections and 43 percent saying they prefer a Republican-controlled legislature. But young adults, fed up with both parties, appear to be largely up for grabs on major issue areas.

“Millennials could be a critical swing vote,” IOP Director Maggie Williams said in a statement accompanying the results. “Candidates for office: Ignore millennial voters at your peril.”

Millennials give a slight edge to Democrats over Republicans on which party they trust to handle several issue areas, including the economy, foreign policy, immigration policy and health care. At least 39 percent of young adults, though — a plurality in all four areas — say they are not sure which party they trust to handle those issues.

Millenials may be unhappy with both parties, but if they stay home next week, they will find that by default they will elect Republicans who are totally adverse to their interests and concerns.  Yes, the Democrats have their failings, but at least they are not anti-equality on all fronts and anti-modernity to boot.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Report Shows Mass Surveillance of Citizens by Postal Service

Just when you thought there's little more the U.S. Government could do to spy on you, a new report comes out that confirms that in addition to spying on Americans telephone calls, e-mails, and Internet usage, the government has been snooping through our snail mail too.   And the oversight is lacking. As noted before on this blog, Americans' expectations for personal privacy rank on a par with Russia and China, not exactly pinnacles of American ideals of freedom.  Meanwhile most of Europe and South America rank far better when it comes to citizens' privacy rights.  A piece in Slate looks at this new exposing of domestic spying on Americans.  Here are some highlights:
In a post-Snowden world, most people are aware that the government—any government—is pretty interested in emails. They’re not that into you, just your metadata, so the theory goes. In national security-speak, governments like to call the words that we use to make up the sentences we write that are then sent to people we know via electronic mail—data. We used to call data, you know, postcards, and thank you notes, but times have changed. Or have they?
A buried internal audit by the United States Postal Service popped up in the New York Times on Tuesday, showing the USPS approved a whopping 50,000 requests to secretly monitor Americans’ mail last year alone. The justification for the surveillance effort was familiar one—the data was needed to aid criminal and national security investigations. Even more unsurprising is the audit showed “the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax,” the Times reports. “The audit, which was reported on earlier by Politico, found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization.”

At the request of state or federal law enforcement agencies or the Postal Inspection Service, postal workers record names, return addresses and any other information from the outside of letters and packages before they are delivered to a person’s home. Law enforcement officials say this deceptively old-fashioned method of collecting data provides a wealth of information about the businesses and associates of their targets, and can lead to bank and property records and even accomplices. 

The Postal Service also uses a program called Mail Imaging, in which its computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail sent in the United States. The program’s primary purpose is to process the mail, but in some cases it is also used as a surveillance system that allows law enforcement agencies to request stored images of mail sent to and received by people they are investigating.

Feel like you have any privacy left?

What Happens if the GOP Doesn't Take the Senate?

While most prognosticators are predicting that the GOP will take control of the U.S. Senate - something I fervently hope does not happen - there's been little discussion of what will happen if those predictions do not come true.  At the presidential level, each time the GOP loses, the lunatic base and professional Christian class lament that the loss was due to the GOP's failure to nominate a sufficiently conservative candidate (something I believe is a hallucination)Will we see the same thing happen if the Senate remains in Democrat control?  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the circus that could ensue if the Democrats manage to hold on.  Here are highlights:
[W]hat if, somehow, the polls are wrong? Seven Senate seats is a lot, after all. And with seven days to go until the election, any number of factors could go against the GOP, allowing the Democrats to retain control, if by the slimmest of margins. What happens then?

When asked about that scenario, one top GOP fundraiser, who has raised money for Mitt Romney and a host of Republican congressional candidates over the last several election cycles simply paused for several seconds, as if time was needed to merely wrap one’s head around such a dire outcome.

“It would be an unbelievable disaster. The party would be devastated. The fundraising would dry-up. It would just become suddenly non-existent.”

Making matters worse, Republicans say, is not just that enthusiasm for the party heading into 2016 would be diminished, but that the divisions within the GOP, which have simmered on a low boil for four years now (flaring up during the government shutdown and debt-ceiling face off) would at last break out into all-out civil war.

In 2014, party elders decided that the nation had seen enough of the Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnells and Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akins, and tried to keep the firebrands at bay.  They were largely successful, with every Republican incumbent or establishment candidate winning his or her primary.

But the Tea Partiers and grassroots groups will be looking for blood—even after following orders and standing down in 2014—the GOP doesn’t retake the Senate.

For the Tea Party wing of the party, a loss next Tuesday would have one obvious culprit: a GOP establishment that forgets to excite the base, which interfered in local elections, and which ran “Democrat-lite” candidates instead of opting for bold contrasts.

For the establishment wing, this would be precisely the wrong lesson. . . . establishment GOP figures say that if the party had not had these and other primary nuisances, they would have been able to put their firepower on the Democrats even earlier.

“I know the Tea Party guys will be saying at the end of this, ‘We could have 64 seats if only we had picked Chris McDaniel! If only we had gone with Milton Wolf!” said Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist. “And my response is ‘Crack kills. Consider rehab.’”

While scenarios where the party takes seven seats are a lot easier to map, there is still a chance for the Democrats to hold on.
What Republicans fear most is that a 2014 loss will provide a major boost to some Tea Party figures as the party gets set to hold its nominating primaries for president. Those like Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush who have urged the party to broaden its appeal will find little enthusiasm for their arguments, while hardliners like Cruz or Mike Huckabee become party saviors.

[S]ome Republicans have the opposite concern: that a win in 2014 will merely paper over the party’s weaknesses in a way that a loss would force them to address. Namely, the concern that winning a midterm in a slew of white, conservative-leaning states will mean that Republicans will cease attempting to broaden the coalition to include more minorities, women, and young people.

I hope the Democrats hold on for a number of reasons.  But an additional reason is so that we can watch with glee the civil war that will wrack the GOP.  The truth is that unless and until the Christofascists/Tea Party element is permanently defeated, the GOP will never evolve to face reality in the 21st century.  If failing to win the Senate begins this battle, then long term the GOP benefits by losing.