Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Male Beauty

New Questions for Obama on DADT

With the federal court decision this past week striking down DADT as unconstitutional, Barack Obama finds himself on the hot seat where he has to put up or shut on on DADT. He has claimed that he opposes the policy and supports its repeal, yet has bent over backwards kissing the bigoted asses of senior military officers who seem to believe the year is 1910 rather than 2010 when it comes to accepting modern knowledge about sexual orientation and homosexuality. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set the example that Obama ought to follow if he has meant any of the statements made to LGBT Americans: simply refuse to appeal the ruling and let DADT die. With polls showing some 70% of the public supporting the repeal of DADT (even 56% of Republicans support repeal), it ought to be a no brainer. Unless, of course, Obama has been lying all along. It's time Obama stand up and state that he concurs with the Court's ruling and direct his minions in the Justice Department to let the appeal period lapse. He has the court ruling for cover so it's time to put up or shut up. Personally, I am NOT holding my breath that Obama will do the right thing. Here are highlights from a New York Times piece looking at Obama's pickle of a situation:
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In many ways, the ruling on Thursday by a federal judge that found the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay and bisexual members of the military unconstitutional is good news for the Obama administration.
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But things are rarely as straightforward as they seem in Washington, and in other ways the decision presents the White House and Congressional Democrats with a problem. To begin with, the administration, compelled to defend existing laws, may well appeal the ruling by Judge Virginia A. Phillips of Federal District Court in California declaring the existing policy unconstitutional.
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Further, while groups that support a ban are now ratcheting up pressure on members of the Senate to vote on a measure ending the policy, there is a slim chance that the bill will make it to the floor before Congress heads home next month to campaign for the midterm elections.
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The government has 60 days to file any appeal of the ruling, which puts the administration in an awkward position among the liberal base voters who have been pressing for repeal of the policy.
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[A]t least one Democrat, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, has expressed concerns about such a repeal, and it is not clear whether Democrats have the necessary 60 votes to move the legislation.

Abraham Lincoln – Was He Gay? Part 2

I recently did a post on the growing number of historians who are concluding that Lincoln was gay or bisexual. A variation of the post was cross posted to The Bilerico Project where it created quite a bit of commentary and several personal attacks in comments that I did not approve for publication because of their nastiness. I was particularly surprised by the number of comments by authors who were incensed that I referred to Lincoln as “gay” as opposed to “bisexual.” My own experiences as a closeted gay man who married were likewise disparaged and I was accused of “gaywashing” history. Apparently, to some, the fact that one has had sex with someone of the opposite sex – regardless of what thoughts and fantasies were going through one’s mind during the process – makes one bisexual no matter what. Indeed, to these folks it was nothing short of heresy to recognize that someone gay can have sex with an opposite sex partner – even if it is merely only the result of trying to do “what’s expected by church and society” - and still be GAY. I continue to believe that the issue IS relevant and it is through accurate history that minds can sometimes be opened and prejudice defeated.
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Since writing the post, a reader forwarded me a copy of the last segment of William Hanchett’s piece in the Lincoln Herald (which apparently is not available on line, but I can e-mail a copy to anyone who wants a copy). Hanchett has been described as one of the foremost authorities on the Lincoln assassination and in this article he challenges those who have had a knee jerk reaction to suggestions that Lincoln was homosexual as follows:
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The thesis C. A. Tripp presents in The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln requires either that it be refuted or that Lincoln biography and American history be revised. So far it has been denounced but not refuted. . . . . they have shown no interest in testing Lincoln's character and biography against the Tripp thesis. As editor Lewis Gannett put it, "If Tripp is right, they are wrong in a very big way,"
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Hanchett then proceeds to review some of the evidence himself and makes the case that, indeed, Lincoln could well have been a homosexual in his sexual orientation. He also dismantles some of the myths and stories often cited to prove Lincoln’s interest in women. He also looks deeply at the secret memorandums of Lincoln’s one time law partner, William Herndon and Herndon’s motivations to protect Lincoln’s memory – as well as the political considerations that argued for keeping Lincoln a heterosexual for posterity. Here are some highlights:
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In 1887 Williarn Herndon wrote a correspondent that "I know a good deal about Lincoln - rnore than I dare state in a book."' Near the beginning of his great collaboration with Jesse Weik, he told his young associate that there were things about Lincoln he could not tell him, "especially in ink." In another letter to Weik, Herndon observed that though Lincoln was informal and familiar, he kept people at a distance . . . . When someone asked him if he thought Lincoln would have wanted his life to be investigated, he responded with an emphatic No, Lincoln, he explained, was "a hidden man and wished to keep his own secrets." Herndon thus recognized his investigations into Lincoln's personal history were trespasses on the sacred ground of his friend's privacy.
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Whatever he thought of the ultimate disposition of his material, he knew that the secret of Lincoln's sex life was safe with him. He would withhold knowledge of it indefinitely or forever rather than release it prematurely. In Lincoln's interests, he would not only suppress evidence by confining it to his secret Memo books, he might even invent history. It is conceivable that that is what he was doing when he seized upon a few fragments of information about Lincoln's friendship with Ann Rutledge and turned them into a love story whose tragic ending darkened the rest of Lincoln's life. . . . . For most of the years of his mature life, marriage would provide adequate cover, as it did for many other men hiding the same secret.
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It may even have occurred to Herndon that in giving Lincoln a heterosexual past, he was also protecting the achievements of his presidency. For if Lincoln's enemies - unreconstructed rebels, diehard Copperheads, opponents of the centralization of power in Washington - sensed in some post-Reconstruction era that their causes not lost after all, they might sooner or later seek to undo the accomplishments of his presidency, what better way to turn back the clock than by discrediting the president responsible for the wartime revolutions in American government and society, and how better discredit him than by exposing his personal immorality? A major rewriting of history would necessarily follow, and the image of a gay Lincoln transformed from a national icon to a national embarrassment would be helpless to do anything about it.

New York City – 9-11-2010

This morning it is strange being in lower Manhattan as the various 9-11 memorial events unfold. Right now the TV is on and the names of all who died are being read off. So many lives needlessly lost. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who lost loved ones in the attacks of nine years ago. I can only hope that we learn from this horrible example of what religious extremism and religious based hate can unleash. Religious extremism of ALL stripes and all faiths needs to be defeated and recognized for the pure evil that it is in fact.
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On a happier note, yesterday was a great day and I cannot say enough good thinks about the Frick Collection. Housed in a once private home that extends for a full block on Fifth Avenue across from Central Park, the collection is amazing – particularly when one realizes that this was a private collection and that much of the house was built to accommodate the collector’s beloved works of art. If the art is not enough to awe, the house is a work of art as well. The cost to build such a home today would be incredible. Back in 1913-1914 the cost was an amazing $5 Million. In the creator of such splendor will, he stated that he wanted his home to be turned into a museum and that the collection be forever open to the public. I recommend a visit to the Frick Collection to any readers coming to the City who want to try something a bit different.
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After touring the Frick Collection, we had lunch at a great deli and then hit Macy’s to use a gift card one of the boyfriend’s clients had given to him – his women definitely take good care of him. We walked God knows how many blocks in total, but it was a gorgeous day. We finished the day with diner at a restaurant called Phillip Marie on Hudson and then a visit to the Monster Bar for some dancing and listening to the singers at the grand piano. Anyone visiting the Monster should look for Mike at the main bar – he’s a cutie and very friendly.
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Today, we are meeting my late sister's daughter who lives in New York for lunch. This evening, we are having dinner with the daughter of one of the boyfriend's clients who likewise now lives here in the City.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tragedy for Gay Couple in Kiss Photo that Rocked South Africa

I did not write about it at the time that I saw the photo even though I thought it was beautiful and was a glimpse of a world not polluted by anti-gay prejudice. The photo was of two college students - Mark Dean Brown and Bjorn Czepan shown above - in South Africa who decided to join in a kiss-in that takes place annually. The photo landed on the front page of the university newspaper and triggered huge controversy. All over a simple and pure photo of innocent love. Now, the story has turned to tragedy and one of the lovers/friends is dead and the other in critical condition following a car accident. My heart goes out to the families of both young men (and that of a third injured in the crash). I cannot help but contrast the love shown in the photo with the hatred disseminated daily by anti-gay Christianists. These young men understood the message of love. Far too many Christians do not. Here are highlights of the sad story from the Guardian:
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Theirs was a kiss that stunned a conservative town. When a moment of passion for two men was published on a newspaper front page it provoked fierce debate in one of South Africa's oldest communities.
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In a single photograph Bjorn Czepan and Mark Dean Brown became unwitting symbols for tolerance and gay rights at the predominantly Afrikaner, rugby-playing Stellenbosch University.
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Just a month later, there is a tragic postscript. Czepan is dead and Brown is critically ill in hospital.
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The students were involved in a car crash in the suburb of Woodstock, last week, the Cape Times reported. Czepan, from Germany, was killed, and Brown was put on a ventilator at the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital.
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Thefleeting moment of fame for the Cape Town University couple came at last month's annual Soen in die Laan (Kiss in the Avenue) event at the nearby university, when lesbian and gay students joined the traditionally heterosexual occasion .
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The photograph was published on the front page of the student newspaper Die Matie, triggering furious debate on social networking sites. Copies were torn up or defaced in protest but there were supportive comments from gay students.
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Matthew Gardiner, a friend of Czepan, told the Cape Times: "Bjorn couldn't understand [why] the Soen in die Laan situation could make so much of an impact, but he was also very proud that he had been able to help people come to terms with their sexuality through that kiss."

Muslim Prayer Room Was Part of Life at Twin Towers

With the big mouths at Fox News and other demagogues continuing the rant about the proposed construction of a Muslim community center with blocks of the former world trade center, today the New York Times belatedly has a story that shows the rank idiocy of the "mosque" opponents. It seems that for over a decade, a Muslim prayer room existed in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center - a prayer room that was destroyed by the 9-11 terrorists along with the lives of Muslims who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers along with others of varying religions and nationalities. Given this belated story, the anti-Muslim religious bigots appear even more ridiculous that before. I continue to believe more and more that a world devoid of religion might be a far better place. Here are some story highlights:
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“So where do you pray at?” And so he learned about the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower.
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He went there regularly in the months to come, first doing the ablution known as wudu in a washroom fitted for cleansing hands, face and feet, and then facing toward Mecca to intone the salat prayer.
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On any given day, Mr. Abdus-Salaam’s companions in the prayer room might include financial analysts, carpenters, receptionists, secretaries and ironworkers. There were American natives, immigrants who had earned citizenship, visitors conducting international business — the whole Muslim spectrum of nationality and race.
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Leaping down the stairs on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had been installing ceiling speakers for a reinsurance company on the 49th floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam had a brief, panicked thought. He didn’t see any of the Muslims he recognized from the prayer room. Where were they? Had they managed to evacuate?
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Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.
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Given the vitriolic opposition now to the proposal to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, one might say something else has been destroyed: the realization that Muslim people and the Muslim religion were part of the life of the World Trade Center.
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Opponents of the Park51 project say the presence of a Muslim center dishonors the victims of the Islamic extremists who flew two jets into the towers. Yet not only were Muslims peacefully worshiping in the twin towers long before the attacks, but even after the 1993 bombing of one tower by a Muslim radical, Ramzi Yousef, their religious observance generated no opposition
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[T]he room’s existence is etched in the memories of participants like Mr. Abdus-Salaam and Mr. Sareshwala. Prof. John L. Esposito of Georgetown University, an expert in Islamic studies, briefly mentions the prayer room in his recent book “The Future of Islam.”
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Such memories have been overtaken, though, by others. Mr. Siby’s cousin and roommate, a chef named Abdoul-Karim TraorĂ©, died at Windows on the World on Sept. 11, as did at least one other Muslim staff member, a banquet server named Shabir Ahmed from Bangladesh.
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Fekkak Mamdouh, an immigrant from Morocco who was head waiter [at Windows on the World], attended a worship service just weeks after the attacks that honored the estimated 60 Muslims who died.
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I hope that facts, reason and the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom will prevail. Meanwhile, the anti-Muslim Christianists and Fox News demagogues are little better than the Islamic extremists they claim to condemn. Their share that same mind set of hate.

The Travails of a Gay Parent - Bigotry in Sports

From time to time I receive an e-mail that truly strikes a chord with me and resonates in a huge way. I received another such e-mail from a gay parent who is wracked with worry and concern that his sexual orientation and his life relationship with his partner has the potential to negatively impact his child who is being recruited heavily for college sports scholarships. Give the homophobia that continues to be so widespread in athletics, his fear is that his son might be turned down because of his father's "lifestyle" as the bigots like to call it. Hence, he must pretend to merely be "divorced" and his ex-wife plays the role of the second parent. His partner remains invisible despite his significant role in his partner's son's life. It is truly a f*cked up situation.
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Some would argue that the gay dad should be himself and tell the college athletics crowd to do something rude and crude to themselves. Yet, having come out after years of marriage and experienced first hand some of the hatred and bigotry that impacts the children of the newly "out" parent, I understand this parent's worries. Like this parent, I have been there and done that. It is so draining to worry that one's acceptance of who they are might harm those you love. And it's all too easy surrender to the tendency to say to yourself "it all my fault" - even though it's no one's fault or the fault of a sick society. As a parent (at least for me) no urge is stronger than the urge to protect your child and to try to make everything alright for them in their lives. It continues to truly sicken me that bigots - and most of all I'm sad to say self-congratulatory Christians - will make life Hell for a child merely because of who that child's parents might be. NONE of us had the luxury of choosing our parents, and one would hope that alleged mature adults would know better than to harm a child, or in this case potentially damage the college sports career of a talented young man merely because his dad is gay.
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Obviously, I cannot tell this parent what is the best thing to do. I respect his decision so far to put his child's interests first and keep within the closet in terms of interactions with college recruiters. He needs to do what he feels best. But meanwhile, I hope more and more of us will demand that this type of bigotry cease. People need to be judged for their character and their integrity and talents - not for the color of their skin, who their parents are, or their sexual orientation.

Friday Male Beauty

Dedicated to Douglas - Thank's for the use of the apartment!!

DADT Ruled Unconstitutional

WOW! I have long believed that DADT was unconstitutional for a number of reasons - equal protection and the right to freedom from religious based discrimination being but two - and now a federal court has at last struck this vile law down. It's interesting that the judge ruled precisely on the 1st Amendment and Due Process clause issues - arguments I made to the Virginia Supreme Court in the Michael Moore case and which the Court refused to even touch. Obviously, the litigation is far from over, but it's a start and may ultimately lead to repeal faster than waiting for our worthless faux "fierce advocate" in the White House and Congress to act and call the law as rank religious based discrimination. As with Perry v. Schwarzenegger, in Court real evidence has to be used to defend discrimination and once again the proponents of bigotry failed to deliver. The Court's opinion can be found here: The Los Angeles Times has coverage (Elaine Donnelly no doubt must have wet herself upon hearing of the ruling). Here story are highlights:
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A federal judge in Riverside on Thursday declared the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members unconstitutional, saying the "don't ask, don't tell" policy violates the 1st Amendment and due process rights of lesbians and gay men.
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U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the policy does not preserve military readiness, contrary to what Justice Department attorneys and many supporters have argued, because evidence shows that the policy in fact has had a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed services.
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Phillips said she would issue an injunction barring the government from enforcing the policy. However, the Justice Department, which defended "don't ask, don't tell" during a two-week trial in Riverside, will have an opportunity to appeal that decision.
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In her 85-page ruling, Phillips offered a scathing critique of the ban on gays serving openly. She noted that the military has since permitted more convicted felons to enlist and that both President Obama and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have called for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
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The judge found convincing evidence that the military's own actions showed that having gays and lesbians in the service did nothing to impede military capabilities. The branches have routinely delayed discharging service members suspected of violating the policy until they have completed their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the number of discharges has declined significantly since the start of the Afghanistan war in 2001.
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Phillips said the evidence showed that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy had harmed military capabilities. The policy has hindered recruiting efforts, led to the discharge of service members the military considers "critical" — including medical professionals and Arabic and Persian linguists — and has caused the military to enlist recruits who earlier would have been rejected because of their criminal records or lack of education or because they were out of shape, she said.
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The policy also violates the right to free speech because heterosexual service members are free to state their sexual orientation, while homosexuals face discharge if they do the same, she said.
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Phillips' ruling is expected to intensify political pressure in Washington to act on legislation to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" that remains stalled in the Senate despite support from Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.
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"I think it's a very, very interesting and sound opinion, and I think it will place a lot of pressure on Congress to move on this issue," said constitutional scholar Kenji Yoshino of the New York University School of Law. "From a gay rights perspective, it's a very exciting development." Yoshino predicted the case would be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court if Congress fails to act.

New York City - 9/10/10


We arrived uneventfully last night and after dropping our things at the apartment went out to dinner and then had a nightcap at the Monster Bar which is 1/2 a block from the our friend's apartment. The only downside so far has been Internet access at the apartment - your's truly is at the Starbucks off of Sheridan Square at the moment. The plan for today is the go to the Frick Museum and mansion, and then amuse ourselves doing whatever strikes our fancy.
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Being in New York City underscores what a different world it is from the all too pervasive backwardness of Tidewater Virginia. For dinner, we went to a Mexican restaurant and ended up seated next to a very attractive Latino family: mom, dad, two daughters, a son and the son's boyfriend. Everyone acted - and rightly so - as if having a sons with a boyfriend was 100% normal and ordinary. I have yet to see anything comparable in Virginia. Leaving the restaurant, a lesbian couple walked by holding hands - again with no one batting an eye about it. It's HEAVEN compared to Virginia. It's the way things ought to be. And then, there are all of the great looking guys.
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At the Monster, I danced for a while and then we sat at the piano - the boyfriend seems to know the words to every show tune - and enjoyed listening to some wonderful singers. I don't know if any of them perform professionally, but the voices were amazing - and a couple were gorgeous.
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We hope to fix the Internet problem. If not, posting will be reduced.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Thursday Male Beauty

The McCain Women with Rachel Maddow - Tony Perkins Must be Wetting Himself

You have got to love this picture of Meghan and Cindy McCain with Rachel Maddow. Both women - unlike the increasingly senile John McCain - support gay marriage and Meghan seems to be forward looking compared to most in the GOP. Meghan in particular seems to realize that the Neanderthals of the Christian Right are (thankfully) dying off and that, unless the GOP wants to become extinct in not too many years, the party's homophobia and far right extremism need to end. Here's a video clip of the interview:

California Supreme Court Will Not Order California to Defend Prop 8

The opponents of civil marriage equality continue to grasp at straws as they seek ways to force the State of California - i.e., the governor and/or attorney general - to defend the unconstitutional Proposition 8. After filing a suit in the 3rd Circuit - which was promptly dismissed - the loonies at Pacific Justice Institute sought to get the California Supreme Court to force Schwarzenegger and/or Brown to appeal the ruling of Judge Walker in Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Like the 3rd Circuit, the California Supreme Court quickly dispatched the frivolous filing by Pacific Justice Institute, a Christianist "law firm" that in my view ought to be hit with sanctions for filing such garbage. Like most of the "Christian law firms," Pacific Justice Center thinks the law should be whatever it wants it to be and to Hell with the concept of the separation of powers between the branches of government, not to mention the freedom of religion for others besides Christian Taliban types. Here are highlights from the Houston Chronicle:
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California's highest court on Wednesday refused to order Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state's attorney general to appeal a federal ruling that overturned the state's gay marriage ban. The state Supreme Court denied a conservative legal group's request to force the state officials to defend the voter-approved ban.
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The court did not explain why it rejected the emergency petition filed by the Pacific Justice Institute. The institute had argued that the attorney general and governor were required to uphold all laws, including initiatives passed by voters.
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Earlier Wednesday, lawyers for Attorney General Jerry Brown and Schwarzenegger filed letters with the court maintaining state officers have authority to choose which laws they challenge or defend in court. "The governor, like any litigant, has complete discretion over his own litigation strategy, including whether or not to appeal an order," counsel Andrew Stroud wrote for Schwarzenegger. "Here, the governor exercised his discretion and decided not to file an appeal."
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Schwarzenegger, who has been under pressure from fellow Republicans to appeal Walker's decision, has said he supports the judge's verdict. Brown, who is the Democratic nominee to succeed Schwarzenegger as governor, has said he cannot defend Proposition 8 because he agrees it is unconstitutional. "Although it is not every day that the attorney general declines to defend a state law, the state Constitution or an initiative, he may do so because his oath requires him (to) support the United States Constitution as the supreme law of the law," Deputy Attorney General Tamar Pachter wrote on Brown's behalf Wednesday.
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If the federal [9th Circuit] appeals court dismisses the appeal because the ban's proponents lack legal standing, Walker's ruling would become final unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take up the case. If the high court refuses to intervene, gay couples would be able to marry in California again.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

New York Weekend

Tomorrow evening the boyfriend and I are flying to New York City for a long weekend (we have a house sitter watching after the house). It's becoming an annual event since the Bay Days celebrations in Hampton basically close down downtown Hampton (The Cousteau Society is one of the sponsors) and force the boyfriend to close his salon for the long weekend. As we have done in the past, we will take advantage of a friend's apartment on Christopher Street in the West Village since our friend - one of the Yah Yah Brotherhood get together in Somerset, Pennsylvania each August - is never in New York on the weekends.
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I'd love to meet readers and fellow LGBT bloggers while we are in the City. PLEASE drop me an e-mail so that we can get together for a drink, coffee or whatever. We are booked for lunch (with my niece) and dinner (with one of the boyfriend's clients) on Saturday and will be doing a Broadway show on Sunday afternoon, but otherwise we are flexible. Our friend's place is at Sheridan Square on Christopher Street just down from the Stonewall Inn and the Monster Bar. I hope I will hear from some of you!

September HRBOR Third Thursday Networking Event

The September, 2010, HRBOR business networking event will be on Thursday, September 16, 2010 and is being hosted by Becker-Osburn Financial. As always, HRBOR networking events are a great way to meet LGBT business owners and professionals, as well as LGBT friendly business allies. My involvement in HRBOR (I was one of the original founders) has brought me numerous clients, but equally importantly, many friends. Some would even say the boyfriend who I got to know better through HRBOR even though we had known each other casually for a number of years. Don't own your own business - ask about HRBOR's 1/2 price associate memberships which give membership holders free access to all HRBOR networking events. I will happily be some one's sponsor - just drop me an e-mail. Here are the details on the September event.


Date: September 16, 2010

Time: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Cost: Free to Members
**Guest fee: $15**

Location: Waterside

333 Waterside Drive, Norfolk, VA 23510

Parking: Plenty of Parking in the Waterside Garage

Becker Osburn Financial, LLC.

Wednesday Male Beauty

Misplaced Priorities - The Gospel of Wealth

I often do not agree with David Brooks' columns in the New York Times. Today, however, he has one that is very much on target in terms of looking at one of the examples of the extreme sickness of Christianity in America: the concept that if one is religious, then one ought to be raking in the money. Locally in Virginia, one need only think of Pat Robertson as an example of unbridled greed dressed up as the reward of piety. Related to the concept is the phenomenon of churches spending immense amounts on buildings and plush facilities at the expense of feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless and being the good neighbor described in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Too many congregations of every denomination act more like the Pharisees roundly condemned by Christ rather than following Christ's message. Having attend the local equivalent of the mega-churches - where services are more like a contemporary rock concert than what I as a former Catholic and now Lutheran consider to be church - described by Brooks I can identify with the lament: self-satisfied individuals riding to church from their mcmansions in bloated, gas guzzling SUV's and similar gas hogs. Here are highlights from Brooks' op-ed piece:
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In the coming years of slow growth, people are bound to establish new norms and seek noneconomic ways to find meaning. One of the interesting figures in this recalibration effort is David Platt.
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Platt earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At age 26, he was hired to lead a 4,300-person suburban church in Birmingham, Ala., and became known as the youngest megachurch leader in America.
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Platt grew uneasy with the role he had fallen into and wrote about it in a recent book called “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.” It encapsulates many of the themes that have been floating around 20-something evangelical circles the past several years.
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Platt’s first target is the megachurch itself. Americans have built themselves multimillion-dollar worship palaces, he argues. These have become like corporations, competing for market share by offering social centers, child-care programs, first-class entertainment and comfortable, consumer Christianity.
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Jesus, Platt notes, made it hard on his followers. He created a minichurch, not a mega one. Today, however, building budgets dwarf charitable budgets, and Jesus is portrayed as a genial suburban dude. “When we gather in our church building to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, we may be worshipping ourselves.”
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But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: “God actually delights in exalting our inability.” The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but “success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up.” Platt calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. Live as if you made $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away.
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[T]he country is clearly redefining what sort of lifestyle is socially and morally acceptable and what is not. People like Platt are central to that process. The United States once had a Gospel of Wealth: a code of restraint shaped by everybody from Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie. The code was designed to help the nation cope with its own affluence. It eroded, and over the next few years, it will be redefined.
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One can hope that Brooks is correct. Being a cynic, however, I doubt that folks like Maggie Gallagher, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Joel Osteen and other professional Christians/leeches will get on board. They still see religion - or at least feigned religious belief - as the road to self enrichment. WWJD?

Illinois City Pursues Gays and Lesbians to Improve Its Quality of Life

Back during the summer, I wrote about a meeting between the City of Hampton, Virginia department of economic development and members of Hampton Roads Business OutReach ("HRBOR"), the local LGBT and LGBT friendly chamber of commerce in an effort to secure LGBT involvement in revitalization efforts for the Phoebes section of the city. Apparently, folks in Berwyn, Illinois, has some things in common with the City of Hampton - it too is reaching out to LGBT couples in the hope they will move to and invest in Berwyn and boost the city's quality of life. As one friend noted after the HRBOR-City of Hampton meeting, maybe the new LGBT Motto should be "You'll Thank Us Later - After Your Property Values Increase." Berwyn has even inaugurated an ad campaign to encourage LGBT couples to come to the city and boost its quality of life. Here are some highlights from the Chicago Tribune:
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Marge Paul can sit on the front porch of her Berwyn home, look at the crisscrossing, bungalow-lined streets to the north and south, and smile about something many don't realize.
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"I know there's a gay or lesbian couple on just about every block," said Paul, Berwyn's 3rd Ward alderman and the city's first openly gay elected official. "But I think there are some gays and lesbians in Berwyn who still think they're the only ones."
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Berwynites — from the mayor to Paul to everyday citizens — are trying to alter that view, using an aggressive marketing campaign in Chicago neighborhoods such as Lakeview and Andersonville to convince people that their suburb is both affordable and amenable to people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
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The broader, $70,000-a-year campaign — titled "Why Berwyn?" — targets people of all walks of life and features billboards and radio advertisements across the Chicago area. But part of it is directed specifically at the LGBT community. "That was the key demographic we were looking for," Lennon said. "Not the only demographic, but the key one."
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From a real estate standpoint, few would argue with the city's approach. It has been well-established anecdotally and through academic research that an influx of gay or lesbian residents often boosts property values and can lead to improvements in the appearance of a community as well as the amenities it offers.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

More Tuesday Beauty

Catholic Students Protest Firing of Lesbian Teacher for Marrying

I have noted before that the younger generations are not buying into the homophobia of their parents and the bigots in many pulpits. The folks at Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts are finding out this reality first hand as students have begun protesting the firing of Christine M. Judd, who served as athletic director and dean of students. And why was she fired? Because she married her same sex partner last month - an act that is 100% legal under Massachusetts law. The Republican has this on Judd's firing:
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The athletic director at Cathedral High School lost her job this week, saying she was pressured to leave after marrying her female partner in August. Christine M. Judd, who served as athletic director and dean of students, said she is no longer an employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield school system after a meeting Wednesday with administrators of the Catholic high school.
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The diocese listed her departure as a resignation, but Judd said she is still exploring her legal options.
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“I married my partner this summer,” Judd said. “I was hoping that my loyalty, my professionalism the last 12 years would supersede the current hypocrisy that has already been shown with the Diocese of Springfield.”
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Asked to elaborate on her claim of hypocrisy, Judd said she questions if there are lay persons who work for the Catholic diocese who divorce and remarry without an annulment, or employees who use birth control, or men who have had vasectomies, or individuals who are pro-choice on abortion.
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WWLP-TV 22 News has coverage on the dozens of protesters who came out to voice their displeasure with the modern day Pharisees at Cathedral High School. Ms. Judd makes a good point when she says she suspects that gays get subjected to a different standard than others who break with the Catholic Church's 12th century views. Sadly, Catholicism has become increasingly synonymous with anti-gay bigotry, homophobia and hypocrisy. Here are highlights:
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Dozens of students and friends of Christine Judd came out to St. Michael's Cathedral to protest her resignation. Students told 22News she was forced to resign because she married her same sex partner this summer.
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"When I found out she was terminated and I found out why she was terminated, I was outraged and disgusted with the decision that was made. They have people working for them who are divorced, they have people who are using contraceptives, they have students who go to the school who are pregnant, and they don't make them leave, so why should they decide to act on those principles now?" said Martin Boyle, a Cathedral High School Senior.
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"If we're going to preach tolerance, we need to practice tolerance and I think the old ways are prohibiting us from doing that. We just think it's time for the church to progress,” said Alexandra Nicolai, a Cathedral High School Senior.
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22News spoke with some parishioners coming out of mass and asked them what they think about the diocese's decision.
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"I hear them screaming out there and they're absolutely correct. Who are we to judge? That's one of the main things we believe in church. We are not the ones to judge anybody, because God almighty does that," said Tatiana Flores, a parishioner.

Petraeus Condemns Church Plan to Burn Qurans - Church Flips Him the Bird

While constantly wrapping themselves in religiosity and the American flag as they push an agenda of hate -n this case against Muslims rather than gays, their other preferred target - U.S. Christianist in reality do not give a damn about fanning anti-America flames or even endangering the lives of U.S. service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, its all about the Christianists and their over powering egos and lust to disseminate hatred. Even the objections of General Patraeus, commanding general in Afghanistan, who says that burning Qurans will endanger American lives, means nothing to egomaniac wingnut pastor Terry Jones, who has basically told Patraeus to go f*ck himself. The irony, of course is that pastor Jones is no better than the Islamic extremists that he purports to condemn. Change the holy book in their hands and Jones and Islamic terrorists are nearly interchangeable. Here are highlights from the Wall Street Journal on Patraeus' remarks:
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The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said the planned burning of Qurans on Sept. 11 by a small Florida church could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort.
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Gen. David Petraeus said the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes, drumming up anger toward the U.S. and making it harder for allied troops to carry out their mission of protecting Afghan civilians.
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"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort," Gen. Petraeus said in an interview. "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community."
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Hundreds of Afghans attended a demonstration in Kabul on Monday to protest the plans of Florida pastor Terry Jones, who has said he will burn copies of Islam's holy book to mark the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Afghan protesters chanted "death to America," and speakers called on the U.S. to withdraw its troops. Some protesters threw rocks at a passing military convoy.
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Mr. Jones, head of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., said in a statement that "We understand the General's concerns. We are sure that his concerns are legitimate." Nonetheless, he added, "We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam. We will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats." Mr. Jones has been denied a permit for the demonstration, but has
said he plans to go forward with the protest.
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[M]ilitary officers said they hoped that Gen. Petraeus's statement—an unusual move since military commanders rarely get involved in politics—would convince Mr. Jones to change his plans.
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Gen. Petraeus declined to elaborate on the nature of the threats or violence that could occur, but westerners in Afghanistan have been warned away from restaurants and other public places amid the rising tensions.
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Military officials also fear that if video of the Quran burning is broadcast in Afghanistan, tensions could rise between NATO forces and the Afghan military and police. Allegations of mishandling the Quran have interrupted Afghan security training at least twice this year, Gen. Caldwell said.
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If pastor Jones represents true Christianity, then I want nothing of it.

GOP Candidate Scott Rigell Led Anti-Gay Split of Historic Episcopal Parish

I have written previously concerning the far right religious views of Scott Rigell (at left), GOP candidate for the Virginia 2nd Congressional District. With the election getting closer, it is timely that I more fully document Mr. Rigell's extremism and just how strongly he opposes equality under the civil laws. Many locals in Virginia Beach, Virginia are likely to know of Galilee Episcopal Church, a historic parish that is a landmark on Pacific Avenue in the northern portion of the resort strip. What many voters in the 2nd District do not know is that Scott Rigell played a leading role in splitting this historic parish asunder back in 2006-2007, the result of which was the founding of fundamentalist Trinity Church by Rigell and others vehemently opposed to LGBT rights and the ordination of gay clergy. The Virginian Pilot had coverage at the time of the split (fortunately, the Galilee parish has survived without the departing homophobic element). Here are highlights from that coverage:
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In a split echoing the debate within the Episcopal Church, seven leaders of Galilee Church have quit to launch a new congregation outside the denomination they accuse of heresy. . . . Scott Rigell, one of the departing Galilee leaders, said he could no longer endure the Episcopal Church's "modern" approach, which he said was at odds with the denomination's historical "orthodox" stance on scripture.
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Just how many other Galilee members may leave will become clearer when Hauser's Trinity Church holds its first service today in space at First Baptist Church of Virginia Beach on 35th Street. Hauser called Trinity an "orthodox evangelical congregational church" unconnected to any denomination.
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In leaving Galilee, they chose not to emulate several Episcopal churches in Northern Virginia that voted last year to take both their parishioners and church property out of the denomination. . . . Bishop John C. Buchanan, the diocese's interim leader, said he would never let the parish split away. "This property is a legacy from good, faithful Episcopalians," he said then. "There will always be a parish affiliated with the Diocese of Southern Virginia in this location and on this particular site." In the end, it was the prospect of a fight within Galilee, not with Buchanan, that tipped Hauser against pushing for a parish pullout.
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A portion of a statement signed by Rigell to the Galilee congregation confirms what he thinks of gay citizens (as well as more progressive denominations that are gay accepting):
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[W]e disassociate ourselves from Resolution A-095 which opposes "any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions." This resolution gives, in effect, the endorsement of the Church on same-sex civil marriage.
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No doubt, Rigell is hoping that this four year old story stays under the radar. However, if elected to Congress, there is little doubt in my mind that Rigell will take his decidedly anti-gay and stridently Christianist views with him to Congress. Having known Rigell from years ago when I was active in the GOP and from living in the same neighborhood as Rigell before I came out, I know first hand that Rigell has no regard whatsoever for the concept of separation of church and state or for the right to religious freedom for all citizens. To put it bluntly, Rigell needs to be defeated on November 2, 2010.

Tuesday Male Beauty

Legal Loopholes Rob Children of Gays of Rights and Protections.

The Irish Times has a story on an Irish report into the experiences of children of gay parents reveals the closeness of such families, but also the anguish caused by legal loopholes that rob them of basic rights. While the report looks at situations in Ireland, the parallels with the USA and anti-gay states such as Virginia in particular are many fold. Sadly, Christianists have no qualms about injecting homophobia into the civil laws and punishing children merely because they have same sex parents - yet another illustration that Christianity is not a positive in the lives of many people. Indeed, it is yet another example of extremist religious belief constituting an active evil (and why each time I read such stories, I slip further away from wanting to be associated with Christians whatsoever). Here are some story highlights:
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Tomorrow marks the launch of a groundbreaking report from the organisation Marriage Equality called Voices of Children . The report documents for the first time the experiences of children growing up in Ireland with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents. The often complex social and legal issues raised in the report will be discussed at a one-day conference being held as part of the launch.
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Like the other young people interviewed for the report – there were 12 participants, all of them the children of lesbian couples, in what is a modest qualitative research study – Barry believes it is important that awareness is raised about their legally precarious status.
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The recently published Civil Partnership Act does not give children of civil partners the same rights as those of married people. Nor does it recognise the relationship between a child and its non-biological civil-partnered parent. The children of gay parents are left in limbo with regard to a range of issues such as the protection of the family home, maintenance, succession rights, divorce, guardianship and custody.
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Does having gay parents mean they are more likely to be gay? This question makes Christine Irwin-Murphy (22) from Darndale in Dublin laugh out loud. “I just find that question hilarious; it always makes me laugh,” she says. “Sexuality is not predetermined by what your parents are. It’s who you are and who you find attractive or, more importantly, who you don’t find attractive.
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Having an unconventional family arrangement made school life difficult for many of the children in the group, except where they attended a more progressive school or had teachers who were “nice” enough to respect their families. The report contains several examples of everyday homophobia, especially concerning the policy in some schools not to let sick children go home with their non-biological parent.
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Another example was one group member’s memory of being discriminated against by her friend’s homophobic parent with the apparent approval of the school principal. “That friend’s parents found out that I had a gay mother, and went into school and told the principal that she didn’t want her child playing with that other child. And the principal actually accepted that,” she said.
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Young people in LGBT families are excluded from adoption and Civil Partnership legislation, despite warnings from the Ombudsman for Children that this could give rise to violations of international human rights. For campaigners, the upcoming referendum on children’s rights is an opportunity to address these very real concerns.

Have the Voters Learned Nothing?


Given the apparent willingness of voters to forget which political party gave us the economic meltdown and the budget busting Middle East fiasco, the cartoon by Tom Toles seems to sadly reflect current political reality. Obviously, the GOP is relying big time on the idiocy of the voting public in its effort to retake control of the House and maybe the Senate.

And Christians Say Islam is Anti-Women?

As Islamophobia continues to run rampant in the USA and all types of anti-Islam statements flow from the mouths of Christianists, it is necessary to remember precisely what type of poisonous anti-female thread exists throughout Christianity's history. The Old Testament combined with statements of Christian leaders and thinkers over the centuries confirm that Christianity has just as many dark and frightening threads as Islam. Bob Felton at Civil Commotion has assembled some quotes that drive home the fact that the Christianists should not be throwing stones at Muslims since Christianity itself as practiced is a glass house itself. The statements also make it clear that Christianity has a long history of despising women and subjugating them. Here are some highlights from Bob's post on the subject:
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Lest good Pious folk smugly indulge some Islam-bashing, a few words from a few of Christianity’s most influential thinkers:

Clement of Alexandria: “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.”

Tertullian: “Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil’s doorway. You led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It was your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags.”

Ambrose: “Adam was deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam… it is right that he whom that woman induced to sin should assume the role of guide lest he fall again through feminine instability.”

Augustine: “Woman was merely man’s helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God.”

Pope Gregory I: “Woman is slow in understanding and her unstable and naive mind renders her by way of natural weakness to the necessity of a strong hand in her husband. Her ‘use’ is two fold; [carnal] sex and motherhood.”

Thomas Aquinas: “[Woman] was made only to assist with procreation.”

John Knox: “Woman was made for only one reason, to serve and obey man.”

John Wesley: “Wife: Be content to be insignificant. What loss would it be to God or man had you never been born.”

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Not exactly a proud heritage, but one that more Christians need to remember. This mindset still runs strongly through the Roman Catholic hierarchy and many conservative Protestant denominations. It's but one of the very ugly aspects of what self-professed Christians have done to Christ's Gospel message. Here's local buffoon, Pat Robertson's thoughts on women:
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"I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period." –Pat Robertson
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"(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." –Pat Robertson

Monday, September 06, 2010

Monday Male Beauty

1938 Deja Vue

With the Neanderthals in the GOP demanding that government spending be slashed - of course without identifying what they'd cut - Paul Krugman has a timely column that looks at the parallels between 2010 and the situation in 1938. Krugman makes the case that only more government spending can get the economy truly headed back in the right direction. The question is whether we will learn from history or go down the wrong path and the resulting economic stagnation that is taking such a heavy toll on so many American families. Unfortunately, I fear that those inside the belt-way who worry only about short term political gain will convince a public woefully ignorant of true history, including economic history, to move in the wrong direction. The possible winners will be the GOP that created the financial bubble in the first place and then opposed corrective action. Especially, given the leadership vacuum in the White House and Obama's insane reliance on economic advisers who were deeply involved in creating the current mess. Here are some column highlights from the New York Times:
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Here’s the situation: The U.S. economy has been crippled by a financial crisis. The president’s policies have limited the damage, but they were too cautious, and unemployment remains disastrously high. More action is clearly needed. Yet the public has soured on government activism, and seems poised to deal Democrats a severe defeat in the midterm elections. The president in question is Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the year is 1938.
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Now, we weren’t supposed to find ourselves replaying the late 1930s. President Obama’s economists promised not to repeat the mistakes of 1937, when F.D.R. pulled back fiscal stimulus too soon. But by making his program too small and too short-lived, Mr. Obama did just that: the stimulus raised growth while it lasted, but it made only a small dent in unemployment — and now it’s fading out.
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And just as some of us feared, the inadequacy of the administration’s initial economic plan has landed it — and the nation — in a political trap. More stimulus is desperately needed, but in the public’s eyes the failure of the initial program to deliver a convincing recovery has discredited government action to create jobs.
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The story of 1937, of F.D.R.’s disastrous decision to heed those who said that it was time to slash the deficit, is well known. What’s less well known is the extent to which the public drew the wrong conclusions from the recession that followed: far from calling for a resumption of New Deal programs, voters lost faith in fiscal expansion.
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From an economic point of view World War II was, above all, a burst of deficit-financed government spending, on a scale that would never have been approved otherwise. Over the course of the war the federal government borrowed an amount equal to roughly twice the value of G.D.P. in 1940 — the equivalent of roughly $30 trillion today. Had anyone proposed spending even a fraction that much before the war, people would have said the same things they’re saying today.
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The economic moral is clear: when the economy is deeply depressed, the usual rules don’t apply. Austerity is self-defeating: when everyone tries to pay down debt at the same time, the result is depression and deflation, and debt problems grow even worse.
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But the story of 1938 also shows how hard it is to apply these insights. Even under F.D.R., there was never the political will to do what was needed to end the Great Depression; its eventual resolution came essentially by accident.
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I had hoped that we would do better this time. But it turns out that politicians and economists alike have spent decades unlearning the lessons of the 1930s, and are determined to repeat all the old mistakes. And it’s slightly sickening to realize that the big winners in the midterm elections are likely to be the very people who first got us into this mess, then did everything in their power to block action to get us out.

Bush and Cheney Wanted to Invade Syria

Not content with debacles in both Afghanistan and Iraq, new revelations by former Prime Minister Tony Blair confirm that the Chimperator Bush and Emperor Palpatine Cheney wanted to spread the war to Syria as well. How Obama can continue to give a pass to these war mongers - who have needlessly bankrupted the USA with their perpetual war model - is dumbfounding. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and with Bush and Cheney escaping all accountability for the squandered lives and wasted trillions of dollars the stage is clearly set for a repeat of the Middle East disaster in the future. Personally, I believe BOTH Bush and Cheney should be tried for war crimes and suffer the consequences. Of the two, I continue to put the majority of the blame on Cheney who led the brainless Bush down the primrose path. War crimes charges would be the best method to prevent future needless wars and deliberate flouting of the Geneva Conventions. It might also help improve the USA's batter moral standing with the rest of the world. Here are highlights from the National:
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Syria always feared that the White House of George W Bush and Dick Cheney would invade Damascus once it had dispatched with Baghdad in 2003 and, in his newly released memoirs, the former British prime minister Tony Blair confirmed those fears were well founded.
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Describing the former US vice president as an advocate of “hard, hard power”, Mr Blair said Damascus was next on Mr Cheney’s hit list. “He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hizbollah, Hamas, etc,” Mr Blair wrote in his autobiography, A Journey. “In other words, he thought the whole world had to be made anew, and that after September 11, it had to be done by force and with urgency.”
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Syria’s correct assumption that powerful US forces wanted to attack it had profound implications, domestically and in Iraq. Although no friend of Saddam Hussein, Damascus had every reason to want the American occupation to fail and, therefore, no incentive to stop Islamist militants crossing the border to fight US troops.
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Faced with this very real US threat, the Syrian authorities also moved to quash growing domestic dissent, arresting and jailing dozens of pro-democracy activists. That crackdown continues to this day.

Catholic Church Accuses BBC of "Anti-Christian' Bias"

What do you do when the media spotlights a religious institution's hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy? If you are the Roman Catholic Church, you accuse the news media of bias and bigotry - anything to try to change the spin in the hope that some of the sheeple in the pews won't begin to realize that they are being played for fools and suckers. With Papa Ratzi's upcoming trip to the United Kingdom - a trip that will cost British taxpayers a great deal of money in terms of providing security for God's Rottweiler - it is only natural that the British media is focusing on the Catholic Church, including some of its less than savory aspects. It is also only natural that, given all of the horrific stories of sexual abuse by clergy, that many Britons are upset at the public cost of the Pope's visit when they flat out wish he'd either stay in Rome or pay for his own security costs. Now, further igniting high emotions, Cardinal O'Brien has accused the BBC of being "anti-Christian" and "anti-Catholic" merely because it has reported the truth about the Church. If the Church leaders spent as much time cleaning their own filthy house as they do attacking those who report the news, the Church would be a far less corrupt institution. Here are highlights from The Telegraph on the issue:
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Cardinal Keith O’Brien said the BBC’s news coverage is contaminated by “a radically secular and socially liberal mindset”. . . . He also accused the corporation of plotting a “hatchet job” on the Vatican in a documentary about clerical sex abuse on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Britain.
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“Our detailed research into BBC news coverage of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, together with a systematic analysis of output by the Catholic church, has revealed a consistent anti-Christian institutional bias.”
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Cardinal O’Brien also voiced fears that the broadcaster will use a forthcoming documentary called Benedict –Trials of a Pope to humiliate the pontiff on the eve of his visit to Britain. The programme, which charts the clerical child abuse crisis that has dogged the Catholic church, has been made by Mark Dowd, a homosexual former Dominican friar. It will be aired on September 15.
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The BBC dismissed Cardinal O’Brien’s criticism of its religious coverage and denied that it had marginalised mainstream religious issues, which it said were placed “at the heart” of its schedule. A spokeswoman said: “The BBC’s commitment to religious broadcasting is unequivocal. BBC news and current affairs has a dedicated religion correspondent, and works closely with BBC Religion, ensuring topical religious and ethical affairs stories are featured across all BBC networks.”
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My advice to the cardinal - if the truth hurts, clean up the Church's act and get rid of the rampant anti-woman prejudice and homophobia for starters.

Labor Day Weekend Five Years Ago - Katrina Aftermath

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a repost of a post I did roughly three years ago that described the efforts of my former b/f and I in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation to New Orleans, my late grandmother's home town. Perhaps we were a bit crazy to undertake the adventure, but I know that we touched some lives and helped individuals who had largely lost everything. I continue to believe that the story line based on our experiences would make for a hysterically funny screenplay - sort of a "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!" in nature. Here's the post:

Since we are in the midst of hurricane season (June 1 through November 30), I wanted to recount an adventure [my former partner], Raymond and I had Labor Day weekend of 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Having lived on the Gulf Coast and loving the City of New Orleans, in the aftermath of Katrina, Raymond and I were so so sick of watching the television images of Hurricane Katrina victims that Raymond felt we had to do something. Perhaps it was craziness in some ways, but what followed is a trip I will never forget.
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Raymond began calling the Red Cross and various telephone numbers shown on TV seeking to find a way to bring some evacuees to live in our house and/or assist in getting back on their feet. Finally, he made contact with a woman in an office in Baton Rouge assisting evacuees. Through her, we had a contact and arranged to go to Baton Rouge to pick up people to come back to Norfolk. Thinking that we had firm plan in place, we rented a van and drove south, carrying extra tanks of gasoline (some given to us near the Alabama border by a Baptist Church team head back to Georgia) and slept in rest areas during the trip. We got as far as Jackson, Mississippi and hit a wall. Our contact who was supposed to meet us in Baton Rouge disappeared in the confusion generated by Chimperator Bush's PR visit to Baton Rouge the day we were to arrive.
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Unable to confirm any arrangement, we were reluctant to drive another 120 miles each way to Baton Rouge where chaos was in full reign. Hence, we went to the Jackson Mississippi Coliseum where the Red Cross was warehousing evacuees like animals. Our volunteered assistance was turned down by the Red Cross because of "liability concerns." Next we headed northward to Meridian, Mississippi where a large Methodist Church had several hundred evacuees. We nearly had a family decide to go with us, but the father - who was a basket case - in the last resort wanted to stay in the false hope of being able to return to New Orleans.
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Leaving Meridian, we finally stopped at a cute little restaurant called the Santa Fe Cafe in the tiny town Forrest, Mississippi, since we had not had a normal meal in several days. Upon being seated, the waitress immediately says to us "You boys aren't from around here, are you?" Thinking we were probably about to be beaten up or killed, we explained the basis for our quest. When the waitress told other employees, we soon had them all talking to us and we ended up with food - a fabulous southern style buffet - on the house. They refused to let us pay for anything. Anyone traveling from Meridian to Tuscaloosa should look up this restaurant, which is just off the interstate.
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Finally, we wound up visiting a Red Cross relief event at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama. There, we met some evacuees who gave us the phone numbers of several evacuees stranded in Atlanta who were about to run out of hotel vouchers. We finally picked up seven evacuees in Atlanta - by chance all seven were gay - and drove back to Norfolk. Some of the members of our church, First Lutheran of Norfolk, began helping the evacuees with funds and support. One older couple took in three of the evacuees since nine people in our house was madness.
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We and our evacuees were very frustrated—having faced adversity at every turn as they try to find jobs and housing in the area. It was a maze of bureaucratic red tape since day one. People have been very critical of New Orleans officials and they way they handled things, but from what I saw, the Norfolk area would be just as bad if it happened here this year at some point.
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An account of our adventure was printed in the Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Without a doubt, I have to be one of the most out attorneys in the Commonwealth of Virginia after that September 2006 article.