Tuesday, August 30, 2016

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Colin Kaepernick and the Ugly Aspects of the Star-Spangled Banner

I never ceased to be amazed at the ignorance of seemingly the majority of Americans when it comes to knowing the true history of America.  If one bothers to really research the nation's history, its territorial expansion was fueled by genocide against the Native American population, Texas was acquired as a result of American emigres who settled in what was a part of Mexico and then revolted and overthrew Mexican rule, and Hawaii became a territory after American business interests engineered the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.  Somehow, the "patriots" ignore all of this and adopt an attitude akin to right wingers from the Vietnam War days: "America, love it or leave it" and "America right or wrong."

By his refusal to stand for the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick has earned the wrath of these very same Neanderthals who simply cannot countenance anything that challenges their fairy tale version of America and their idolatry of the American flag. Loving one's country doesn't mean one ignores it flaws and past heinous acts and treats pieces of cloth as if it was Christ returned.  That mindset only allows a repeat of past mistakes and horrors.  Had we remembered the real truth about the Vietnam War, it's possible the Iraq War would never have occurred. But back to the Star-Spangled Banner.  A piece in the New York Daily News  among others looks at the full truth about the national anthem (only since 1931) and its very unpleasant, racist author. These excerpts from The Intercept set the stage:
Before a preseason game on Friday, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When he explained why, he only spoke about the present: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. … There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Twitter then went predictably nuts, with at least one 49ers fan burning Kaepernick’s jersey.
Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.
Few people know this because we only ever sing the first verse. But read the end of the third verse and you’ll see why “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not just a musical atrocity, it’s an intellectual and moral one, too:
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
[O]ne of the key tactics behind the British military’s success was its active recruitment of American slaves. . . . Whole families found their way to the ships of the British, who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their “owners.” Adult men were trained to create a regiment called the Colonial Marines, who participated in many of the most important battles, including the August 1814 raid on Washington.
So when Key penned “No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,” he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.

Don't believe me?  Here's a link to the Smithsonian webpage that provides all of the words.    Oh, and check out the fourth verse and its reference to "freemen."  In 1814, that term did not include enslaved blacks.  Here are excerpts from the Daily News piece:
While it has always been known that the song was written during American slavery and that when those words about this nation being the "land of the free" didn't apply to the millions who had been held in bondage, few of us had any idea that the song itself was rooted in the celebration of slavery and the murder of Africans in America, who were being hired by the British military to give them strength not only in the War of 1812, but in the Battle of Fort McHenry of 1814. These black men were called the Corps of Colonial Marines and they served valiantly for the British military. Key despised them. He was glad to see them experience terror and death in war — to the point that he wrote a poem about it. That poem is now our national anthem.
While I fundamentally reject the notion that anyone who owned other human beings was either good, moral, or decent, Francis Scott Key left absolutely no doubt that he was a stone cold bigot. He came from generations of plantation owning bigots. They got wealthy off of it. Key, as District Attorney of Washington, fought for slavery and against abolitionists every chance he got. Even when Africans in D.C. were injured or murdered, he stood strong against justice for them. He openly spoke racist words against Africans in America. Key said that they were "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community."
 While San Francisco 49ers quarter back Colin Kaepernick has refused to stand for the national anthem because of the overflowing abundance of modern day injustice in America, he has helped bring to light the fact that this song and its author are deeply rooted in violent white supremacy.

I don't think I will be singing the song again.  

Quote of the Day: Sexual Repression Costs Lives

Having grown up Catholic and remained a member of the Catholic Church until a few years before I came out, I am all too aware of the Church hierarchy's total obsession with all things sexual and the manner in which anything other than procreative sex is evil.  Of course, homosexuality and/or same sex physical relations was about the fastest ticket to Hell outside of possibly murder, although their were some clergy who seeming equated the two as the same in heinousness.  Meanwhile, as well all know, priests, bishops and other clergy were sexually molesting children and youth with abandon, knowing that the hierarchy would cover up the crimes and rarely, if ever, report the criminal conduct to police authorities. Yet there remain Catholics who blindly parrot the Church's official condemnation of sexuality while ignoring the fact that from many Popes on down, a vile, worldwide criminal conspiracy was going on.  Candidly, I cannot understand this mindset other than to assume that such right wing Catholics cannot let go of the Church teachings that in many cases made their lives miserable.  To admit they were wrong apparently would be too painful of an admission.  A letter to the editor in the Bucks County Courier-Times has a wonderful come back to such bitter right wing Catholics.  Here are some excerpts:
Older people jaded by their loss of youth and turning that dissatisfaction outward on the world is nothing new. But I don't think I've ever seen it put on display so outlandishly that it makes "All in the Family" look like a documentary.
In a column last month, J.D. Mullane conjured up a whirlwind of excuses to not only defend the Catholic Church from accusations of being "sex-obsessed," but to turn around and blame, well, everyone and everything he possibly could, it seems. To him, our evolution into a much more sex-positive nation is a disaster, and if the once pure holy beacon of Catholic theology on sex is now tarnished, it's because of this rising tide of naughtiness.
Most offensively, he lists Disney's attempt at transgender inclusiveness as an example of what he perceives as the moral degradation of society that's truly to blame for making the Catholic Church seem out of touch. Never mind the shockingly high suicide rate of transgendered people who feel they lack an identity -- 41 percent have attempted it!
It's likely as high as the suicide rate of those who, as children, were sexually assaulted, though that statistic is harder to come by. And while it's generally estimated that child sex abuse rates among Catholic priests are actually comparable to that of the general population, the depravity of it comes from the years -- decades even! -- that it was kept secret, allowing it to happen over and over again to more and more children.
Perhaps if we as a society had been more open to and accepting of the spectrum of human sexuality, instead of hushed by an invisible Victorian code of sexual conduct, these crimes could have been caught years earlier, and thousands of lives could have been saved.
[L]ook to the parts of Africa where the Catholic Church dominates. Its insistence that the use of condoms is wrong is causing preventable deaths from HIV/AIDS to continue to flourish, year after year. From the relative safety of America and western Europe, they preach abstinence instead, implying that they'd rather see whole swaths of the impoverished die from AIDS than compromise on a rule that, as far as I can tell, Jesus wasn't concerned with.
In short, sex positivity is hardly a moral ill; rather, it is sexual repression that costs lives, even if it makes suburban columnists nostalgic for the good old days. The truth is, these good old days were a time before the HIV/AIDS crisis, when LGBT people were free to be beaten and exiled from their communities, when mothers living in poverty were forced to give birth, and when children were being raped by priests by the thousands but were too ashamed to say anything about it.
 As I have said before, the moral bankruptcy of the Catholic hierarchy - including Pope Francis - is complete. These bitter old men in dresses should be the last people anyone should consult or defer to in matters of sexuality or anything else. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

A Putin-Sponsored October Surprise?

The previous post looked at fears that Russian hackers might try to either steal the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump or at least try to seriously disrupt voting returns - Arizona is one state that they apparently have targeted.  The perhaps more serious concern is that bogus or re-written documents could be released - particularly with the help of pro-Putin Wikileaks - that would seek to damage Hillary Clinton and Democrats.  Russia has a track record of such activities in other countries, but never before in America.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the unsettling possibility that malicious efforts could strike American - and how the increasingly irresponsible media which seems to care only about sensationalism, could play right into Russia and Putin's hands. Here are column highlights:
The Russians have just given us an August glimpse of a potential October surprise.
We learned earlier this summer that cyber-hackers widely believed to be tied to the Kremlin have broken into the email of the Democratic National Committee and others. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima reported Monday night that Russian hackers have also been targeting state voter-registration systems. And, in an apparent effort to boost Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, they’re leaking what they believe to be the most damaging documents at strategic points in the campaign.
Last week, we learned something else: The Russians aren’t just hackers — they’re also hacks. Turns out that before leaking their stolen information, they are in some cases doctoring the documents, making edits that add false information and then passing the documents off as the originals.
Foreign Policy’s Elias Groll reported last week that the hackers goofed: They posted both the original versions of at least three documents and their edited versions. These documents, stolen from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, were altered by the hackers to create the false impression that Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was funded by Soros. A pro-Russian hacking group, CyberBerkut, had inserted Navalny’s name, bogus dollar amounts and fabricated wording.
This raises an intriguing possibility: Are Vladimir Putin’s operatives planning to dump edited DNC documents on the eve of the presidential election?
Russian “dezinformatsiya” campaigns such as this go back to the Cold War; the Soviet portrayal of AIDS as a CIA plot was a classic case. But this type of cyberwar — email hacking and, now, the altering and release of the stolen documents — is a novel escalation. It’s tempting to wonder how differently the Cold War might have gone had there been cyber-hackers back then. 
But it’s clear that Russia’s disinformation wars are as active as ever. On Sunday, Neil MacFarquhar wrote in the New York Times about Russian attempts to undermine a Swedish military partnership with NATO. The campaign is spreading false information that there’s a secret nuclear weapons stockpile in Sweden and alleging that NATO soldiers could rape Swedish women with impunity. This Russian use of “weaponized information” helped cause confusion in Ukraine in 2014, when conspiracy theories spread by the Russians about the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet helped Russians justify their invasion of Crimea.
So does this point to a Putin-sponsored October surprise?
Putin has meddled in domestic politics in France, the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere, helping extreme political parties to destabilize those countries. He appears to be doing much the same now in the United States, where, in addition to the DNC and state voter system hacks, there have also been reports this summer about Russia hiring Internet trolls to pose on Twitter and elsewhere in social media as pro-Trump Americans.
The hyper-competitive American media environment is vulnerable to the sort of technique the Russian hackers used in the Soros case — stealing documents, altering them, then releasing them as the original. If Putin’s hackers were to release such a doctored document smearing Clinton in, say, late October, it’s likely that competition would lead outlets to report on the hacked documents before they had a chance to see whether and how they were altered.
We don’t know what, if anything, Putin’s hackers have planned for this fall. But the doctored Soros documents could be a clue.

Could The Election Itself Be Hacked?

Given that Russian hackers have successfully attacked the DNC computers and purportedly those of the Clinton campaign as well, and that Putin loving Wikileaks has threatened to release hacked documents harmful to Hillary Clinton prior to election day, it may not be too far fetched to have worries about efforts to hack election results themselves.  Indeed, the FBI has warned two states to take action to protect their voting systems after apparent foreign efforts to hack the same.  Then, of course, there is the growing desire on the part of the GOP to win election costs through voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandered districts and other means.  Hacking would in some ways be the next logical progression for the GOP and its shrinking base of angry, often uneducated, white voters.  A column in Talking Points Memo looks at the fears of a hacked election.  Here are excerpts:
A few weeks back, when I was writing about possible Russian efforts to influence the US election, a number of security experts pointed me to concerns about hacking or tampering with the actual US voting apparatus. Now the FBI has reached out to local election officials after hacks were detected in two states. Whether something has Russian fingerprints on it is obviously hugely inflammatory and polarization. I think the emphasis here is something that someone may be trying to do this - at least on first blush, precisely who it is is less important to taking precautions to prevent problems.
For years, I've generally poo-poo'd claims about how elections had been or could be hacked. Mainly this is simply an evidence based criticism. Back in the aughts "Diebold" became the Dems equivalent of GOP "vote fraud" claims, an amorphous and generally evidenceless explanation for why your party is losing elections you wanted to win.
People get confused sometimes and believe that arguments that something can happen is proof that something has happened. Logic is hard.
There is one huge and incredibly important difference: none of the black box voting folks ever proposed solutions targeted at making it harder for one class or race of people to vote, which is what the GOP's 'vote fraud' nonsense is entirely about. So I'm not equating the two. The proposed remedies for combatting electronic or cyber-attack based election tampering may not be as necessary as some claim. But they don't do any harm. We should make these things as secure as possible.
If a political party or people working on its behalf want to hack an election that is not only an inherently difficult thing to do. More importantly, it's hard to do without leaving evidence. It also involves a lot of little explored complexities: to know what's going to be a 'reasonable' shift in the totals, you need some real time idea of what the actual results are. It's a complicated proposition that would likely involve a number of people working in concert and thus difficult to keep secret.
But here's the thing. If foreign hackers of any source or domestic hackers for that matter want to disrupt an election, that's much simpler. Perhaps you've hacked into the servers in advance and then you simply erase the data late in the day? Or shift it to all Clinton or all Trump. If it's being done from somewhere in Senegal or Bangkok you're never going to track down and apprehend the culprits. And the changes to the numbers don't need to be credible to severely disrupt the election. Complete hypothetical: what if 10 critical precinct tallies in Florida and Ohio are simply erased or tampered with so that the numbers bear no confidence? What do you do then? We're not in a high trust climate in our politics where something like that could be easily resolved. Precisely because we are already in such a low trust political era, even a tiny number of demonstrated cases of cyber-tampering would cast a penumbra of doubt over the whole process, especially for the losing party.
The point is that disruption doesn't really require hiding your tracks. It's enough to disrupt, delete, alter. It can also be done by people who don't have any particular concern with the actual election outcome, have no need to make the results credible and have none of the legal or reputational vulnerabilities that might deter people within the political system itself from trying to tamper with election results.
The country has enough things to freak out about as a country. I'm not saying we should start wigging out about this. But it's definitely worth being concerned about and hopefully one that federal law enforcement authorities are focusing on and proactively working with local authorities to prevent. And it's something qualitatively easier to pull off for bad actors whose aim is disruption rather than winning.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Evening Male Beauty

Catholic Principal: The Church Cannot be Trusted to Run Schools

While outside of Pennsylvania where the Roman Catholic Church has recently fought tooth and claw to stop an effort to extend the statute of limitations for filing sex abuse lawsuits, the Catholic Church's never ending sex abuse scandal has been somewhat under the media radar.  The same cannot be said for the Church's situation where a royal commission continues to investigate the seeming institutionalize practice of permit the sexual abuse of minors and then covering up the offenses.  Now, a long time lay Catholic principal has stated that the Church simply cannot be trusted to run schools.  Indeed, he makes the case that the Church leadership not only turns a blind eye to abuse, but also attacks those who speak out to stop it.  The Age has a piece on the statements of the principal.  Here are excerpts:
A Catholic principal has blasted the Catholic Church, saying school leaders are being pressured into "inappropriate" situations and silenced.
Paul Tobias, the outspoken principal of St Joseph's College Geelong, has called for an urgent review of the governance of Catholic primary and secondary schools.
In a strongly worded submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Mr Tobias said people who expressed different views to the church could "expect to be penalised, isolated or have their careers impacted".
"Principals like myself, who express a view in relation to the pastoral needs of young people in their care, risk suffering the cultural consequences implicit in the statement, "You are either one of us or you are not,' " he said.
Mr Tobias also spoke of the "muted response" he received from Cardinal George Pell – who was then Archbishop of Melbourne – when he apologised in 2000 to former students who had been sexually abused.
He said Catholic principals had been largely silent throughout the royal commission – despite their schools being "prolific providers" of sex abuse victims.
"This silence does not indicate a lack of conviction but to me indicates a culture whereby those who are outspoken can expect the consequences," he said.
He also raised concerns about bishops appointing directors of the Catholic Education Office, sometimes without advertising the position. He suspects they appoint people who "tell them what they want to hear, rather than challenge them, especially around matters such as sexual abuse".
This led to issues being "glossed over", he claimed.
The sad truth is that one's child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a priest or Protestant pastor than by other members of society.  Every "Black Collar Crime" section in each issue of the Free Thought newspaper is truly shocking.  Every Christian denomination seems to be represented and the sexual crimes of clergy are a complete moral cesspool. 

Gloucester County Asks Supreme Court to Deny Transgender Rights

The anti-LGBT Gloucester County school board - a study in ignorance, bigotry and cowardice

As noted in previous posts, Gloucester County, located on the periphery of the Hampton Roads area is for the most part an utter backwater where ignorance and bigotry flourish, especially among the members of the Gloucester County school board. Indeed, the ignorance of the board members is exceeded perhaps only by its spinelessness in the face of the demands of local Christofascist who seek to vilify anyone and anything that challenges (i) their ignorance based beliefs, and/or (ii) their ability to inflict their beliefs on all members of society.  Thankfully, Gloucester County is letting the world know that it is a place that decent people and progressive business should avoid through its war against Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student.  After receiving a equivalent of a spanking from the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the school board has now petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take an appeal from the 4th Circuit.  BuzzFeed looks at the appeal.  Here are highlights:
The [Gloucester County] Virginia school district seeking to limit restroom use to people’s biological sex — effectively barring transgender students from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity — on Monday asked the US Supreme Court to hear its appeal.
The Gloucester County School Board asked the high court to take the case and reverse an appeals court decision that sided with a transgender student and the Obama administration.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued an order allowing the school to keep its policy in place while the justices decide whether to hear the appeal. If the justices agree to hear the appeal, per the earlier order, the court’s order allowing the policy to stay in place will remain in effect until the justices reach a decision in the case.
The student, Gavin Grimm, is represented by the ACLU. The Obama administration, through interpretation of existing laws and regulations, has determined that the sex discrimination ban in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 includes a ban on anti-transgender discrimination.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the administration’s interpretation was a permissible interpretation, leading the district court in Grimm’s case to issue an injunction against Gloucester schools. The Supreme Court’s order, however, stayed that injunction for the time being — meaning Grimm, and any other transgender student, could not use the restroom that accords with their gender identity.
The lawyers for the school district frame the case as one not about transgender rights, but rather one about “agency behavior” in setting policies such as the Title IX interpretation advanced by the Obama administration.
In addition to the Virginia lawyers from Harman, Claytor, Corrigan & Wellman — which has been representing the school district — the legal team representing Gloucester schools now has expanded to include some of the leading national lawyers fighting the administration’s pro-transgender policies. Kyle Duncan is listed as the counsel of record in the case, and he is joined on the brief by his law partner, Gene Schaerr, as well as St. Louis lawyers from the James Otis Law Group, Jonathan Mitchell and D. John Sauer.
Once briefs are filed responding to the school board’s Monday filing, the justices generally schedule a private vote on whether to hear the case.
The current composition of the Supreme Court — it has operated with only eight justices since Antonin Scalia’s death in February — could become a key factor in what happens next with the case.
It takes four justices to grant the certiorari petition and hear an appeal. It takes five votes, however, to reach a majority opinion. If the court accepted the case, and split down ideological grounds 4–4, the lower court’s decision in favor of Grimm and the administration would be left in place — but no national precedent would be set by the case.