Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Male Beauty

Historic Decision at the United Nations: Gay Rights Are Human Rights

Eighty-five nations have signed on to a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The resolution was passed by a vote of 23 in favour, 19 against, and 3 abstentions. The resolution tasks the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a study on violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and calls for a panel discussion to be held at the Human Rights Council. Needless to say, this development will increase pressure on anti-gay nations to cease the persecution of their LGBT citizens. The resolution and signatories can be found here on the Arc International webpage. Here are some highlights:
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Delivered by Colombia to the 16th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on behalf of the following 85 States:
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Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
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1. We recall the previous joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, presented at the Human Rights Council in 2006;
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2. We express concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity brought to the Council’s attention by Special Procedures since that time, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions;
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10. We call on States to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, encourage Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these issues within their relevant mandates, and urge the Council to address these important human rights issues.

NYT: Cuomo Expects Passage of Gay Marriage Bill

I hope the New York Times and Andrew Cuomo are correct in the prediction that the GOP controlled New York State Senate will ultimately pass a gay marriage bill. Passage would be all the sweeter because it would be a slap in the face to Archbishop Timothy "Porky Pig" Dolan (as I will henceforth call him) who has made ever effort to make sure all New Yorkers live in accordance with the religious beliefs of child rapist enablers like himself. I applaud the fact that Cuomo has called out the Catholic Church on its disingenuous screed that gay marriage threatens religious freedom. It is the Catholic Church, not gay marriage that threatens religious freedom not only in New York but in every state where the Church is lavishly spending to curtail the civil rights of LGBT Americans. Obviously, if New York State passes same sex marriage, the pressure on other states - such as the backwards cesspool known as Virginia - will increase markedly. In the interim, the hysteria of the Christian Taliban will continue to rise. Here are highlights from the Times story:
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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday that he expected same-sex marriage legislation to be approved before the end of the legislative session next week, and indicated that to win passage of the measure he is prepared to yield to Republican concerns for greater protections of religious groups.
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“I am a proponent of marriage equality, and I’m working very hard to make that a reality in New York,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters on Friday as lawmakers prepared to go home for the weekend. “I am also a proponent of religious freedom, and separation of church and state, so these are both very important principles. I don’t see one in competition with the other.
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With signs pointing to a vote on the marriage issue in the State Senate next week, there are widespread expectations that it will pass. A number of Republicans are said to prefer that the matter not be allowed to come up for a vote, but 31 of the Senate’s 62 members have expressed support for the measure, including two Republicans.
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Senator Stephen M. Saland, a Hudson Valley Republican who is seen as one of the most likely tie-breaking votes, is one of the lead negotiators for the Senate Republicans over the marriage issue. Both the governor and the Republicans described negotiations as cordial and productive.
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Mr. Cuomo did not address specific concerns in his comments to reporters, but said he was prepared to respond to the Senate’s concerns. “They want to make sure that the line between church and state is intact and is clear, and that however the state defines marriage is the state’s business and it will not be imposed on a religion,” he said.
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The exemptions Senate Republicans are seeking are similar to those in the same-sex marriage law in New Hampshire, a model that Senate Republicans have studied. Same-sex marriage advocates appear willing to agree to language changes to make a deal.
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Ross D. Levi, the executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said: “The states that have passed either marriage or civil unions have a range from either nothing — Iowa and Massachusetts have no religious exemptions — to very, very extensive, and I think what the governor is working on is finding that balance. And I agree that it’s appropriate to find that balance.”
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Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the state’s top Roman Catholic leader, called in to an Albany radio talk show to warn that the proposed legislation posed an “ominous threat” to society.
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Likening the prohibition on same-sex marriage to earlier bans on interracial marriage, Mr. Cuomo said he was encouraged after talks with Republican lawmakers and confident that a marriage measure and his broader agenda would both be approved next week. “This state has a proud tradition and a proud legacy as the progressive capital of the nation,” he said in a hallway outside his office. “We led the way, and it’s time for New York to lead the way once again.”

Southern Baptists Can't Have It Both Ways on Homophobia

The Baptist Press is reporting that Albert Mohler (pictured at right), the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is making the case that Southern Baptists need to repent of a “form of homophobia” that keeps gays and lesbians out of their churches. Frankly, I don't know how Mohler plans to pull that move off as long as the Southern Baptist Convention ("SBC") - like the Catholic Church - rejects all modern medical and mental health knowledge on the immutability of sexual orientation and expects gays to live lonely celibate lives. Until the SBC stops selectively clinging to Bible passages written by ignorant individuals, puts aside an archaic and ignorant understanding of sexuality, and stops condemning same sex relationships, the SBC is certainly not a place I'd find even remotely inviting.
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Indeed, I believe that it is denominations like the SBC and the Roman Catholic Church that will ultimately be responsible for the death of Christianity. As knowledge and science continue to advance, a point will come where most people (there will always be some who due to their own psychological and emotional issues are fair game for charlatan preachers) simply will refuse to accept what is obviously untrue. Here are high lights from the Baptist Press piece:
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Mohler said at the convention “there is no way anyone in fair mindedness can be confused about what I believe about homosexuality,” because he has written more than 200 articles about it, but that “the reality is that we as Christian churches have not done well on this issue.”
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“Evangelicals, thankfully, have failed to take the liberal trajectory of lying about homosexuality and its sinfulness,” Mohler said. “We know that the Bible clearly declares – not only in isolated verses but in the totality of its comprehensive presentation – the fact that homosexuality not only is not God’s best for us, as some try to say, but it is sin.”
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“But we as evangelicals have a very sad history in dealing with this issue,” he continued. “We have told not the truth, but we have told about half the truth. We’ve told the biblical truth, and that’s important, but we haven’t applied it in the biblical way.”
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“We have said to people that homosexuality is just a choice,” Mohler said. “It’s clear that it’s more than a choice. That doesn’t mean it’s any less sinful, but it does mean it’s not something people can just turn on and turn off. We are not a gospel people unless we understand that only the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ gives a homosexual person any hope of release from homosexuality.”
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Mohler has appeared on television programs and been quoted in mainstream media many times over the years in opposition to gay marriage, ordination of gay clergy and other aspects of what he has called attempts to “normalize” homosexual behavior.
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Sound like a church home you'd want? Not to me!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Male Beauty

Progressives 'Break Up' With Obama

As readers know, I lost faith in Barack Obama a long time ago and find the efforts of Organizing for America to get me to resubscribe beyond annoying. If you want my support, then do something and act like a leaders as opposed to a timid follower. I am hardly alone in this feeling. Many at the Netroots Nation gathering in Minneapolis hold similar views and are even more outspoken about their dissatisfaction with Obama's leadership - or more accurately, the lack thereof. A piece in the Huffington Post looks at Obama's alienation of progressives through his timidity and spinelessness. Here are some highlights:
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MINNEAPOLIS -- President Barack Obama is decidedly "not [the left's] boyfriend anymore," progressive supporters of gay- and immigrant-rights said on Thursday, rebuking the White House for breaking promises to the left while also asking them for money.
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The message to those in the room for "What to Do When the President is Just Not that Into You," a Netroots Nation panel, was be more demanding, don't take no for an answer and compromises aren't good enough.
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The four panelists -- Choi, immigration reform supporter Felipe Matos, America Blog writer John Aravosis and Fire Dog Lake Founder Jane Hamsher -- said they are planning to hold the White House's collective feet to the fire for its decisions on civil rights, whether it would hurt Obama's reelection chances or not.

"I would probably vote for the president in the end, but I'd also do everything that I can to shame him," said Aravosis, who writes about gay rights issues. "But I don't think they realize how damaging that is." Although Obama signed a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in December, the panelists decried his failure to take a hard stance for gay marriage.
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"We always say we simply expected what he promised," Aravosis said "The White House would rather not engage at all -- at least with the big stuff. We were told he'd be a fierce advocate, and he's been not fierce at all and not much of an advocate."
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On immigration, Obama has been even worse, panelists said. . . . At the same time, the White House has courted the votes of the gay and immigrant community. "We're angry, and we know he's courting our vote right now," said Matos, an undocumented man who lives in Miami. "He went to Puerto Rico, he went to Texas... we're onto him. [As] a friend of mine said, we are not the type of people he wants to mess around with."
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Immigrants rights supporters are beginning to mobilize against Democrats -- including Obama -- for 2012. "That's the big threat that the president is scared of: That we're not scared to stand up anymore," Matos said. "We're willing to go as far as we have to go to pressure him to stop the deportation of DREAM Act students."
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One way to ensure Democrats do not take progressive votes for granted is to stop voting for Democrats, Choi said.

Letting Go of Your Internalized Homophobia

AUTHOR COMMENT: This post is a re-posting of a piece I posted over two years ago. I was prompted to republish it based on an e-mail I received from a reader yesterday who finds himself in territory I once knew: married with children, unable to any longer keep up the denial of the truth about himself, and contemplating how to find the strength/courage to tell his wife he's gay. It's a horrible place and is frightening in so many ways as one wonders how they will survive the coming out journey and what will be the reaction of loved ones, friends and colleagues. Because of the response the post originally received, I wanted to re-post the piece for the benefit of newer readers. This is a message which so many individuals - both those still in the closet and those struggling with religious instilled guilt - need to take to heart. It took me a long time to let go of the homophobia I had internalized over many years. Here's the post:
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The battle over Proposition 8 in California has not surprisingly made me think a great deal about the homophobes who are pushing for the measure's passage so as to deprive LGBT citizens full equality under the civil law. Those who hate us - they disingenuously claim that they don't but let's be honest, they do hate us - have been saying all kinds of hateful and divisive things about gays including how allowing us to marry "threatens western civilization." Or at least so says Tony "Klu Klux Klan" Perkins of the deceptively named Family Research Council.
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With all the hate being disseminated, I've also found myself thinking about the effort it was for me to finally put my internalized homophobia and self-loathing behind me as I made my journey through the coming out process. Suffice it to say, it was not an easy journey and included one nearly successful suicide attempt. But I survived it and now I can rightfully look with disdain/contempt on those who continue to preach hate and loathing against gays. Their goal is to not only make others hate us but to try to make us hate ourselves as well. So, how does one finally let go of the ingrained homophobic baggage accumulated over many years. For me, there were a number of things that I think allowed me to finally let go of my internalized homophobia. I will share them since I know I have many readers still going through the coming out process or living in the closet based on the e-mails I receive.
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1. If you haven't already figured it out on your own, do some reading and get yourself up to date on the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice. If you are religious, accept the fact that God/Allah (or whatever deity you worship) made you gay and it's not going to change. Why did it happen? You'll never know, so move on with your life and make the most of the hand you have been dealt.Most importantly, do NOT let others try to make you feel guilty about your sexual orientation.
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2. If you belong to a strongly anti-gay religious denomination, leave it. The sooner the better. Having been raised a Roman Catholic, other than being a Muslim, Mormon or Evangelical Christian, it would be hard find a less gay friendly denomination - particularly under the current Nazi Pope (not that the less than sainted John Paul II was any better). For me, the concurrent timing of the explosion of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal made it all the more easy for me since it highlighted the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Church's leadership. In my case, I found the ELCA to be a much better church home for me. While it's not perfect, it is far better than remaining in a denomination that calls me "inherently disordered."
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3. Related to the second item, if you are from a strong religious background, do your own reading and research. There are many other interpretations of the Bible besides the ones claimed by the anti-gay Christianists. In addition, do some reading on Bible history and you will soon learn that there were all kinds of political and non-religious issues that shaped the Bible. It's not inerrant and it's not the literal word of God, so learn the historical facts to throw back in your detractors' faces (it will have the added bonus of driving them crazy).
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4. Get a good therapist. It's most unlikely that you can make the coming out journey all alone. In my case, I found two great individuals. The first, who is actually an ordained Presbyterian minister with a Ph.D. in psychology helped me deal with the religious guilt issue. The second helped me come to see that there was a future even after a horrific divorce where I was largely put on trial for being gay. Leaving you former life is not easy - especially when you do not know what will ultimately replace it. If you don't like one therapist, then find a different one who can help you with the transition.
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5. Make gay friends - and not just the bar and/or chat room crowd. Better yet, get involved in some gay causes and organizations where - based on my experience - you will meet some amazing people. Getting to know them and observing how at peace they are with themselves and who they are will help you to further let go of the indoctrination you have received in terms of what gays are like. I can honestly say that I have met more truly genuine and decent people in the gay community since I have come out than I knew in my closeted life in my artificial and supposedly perfect former neighborhood and social circles.
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6. If possible, live your life totally out. Remaining semi-closeted be it at work or with family will continue to subconsciously tell you that being gay is bad. After all, the message you receive is that being gay is so bad that your boss/fellow employees will not want you around. Likewise, thinking that "it'll kill my parents" or that "they won't love me anymore" is giving yourself a constant message that it's wrong to be gay. Admittedly, I was lucky in that my entire extended family accepted me and treated my ex-partner as part of the family. They are likewise embracing the new boyfriend. As the father of three children, I cannot understand any parent who would disown their child because they are gay. If your parents were to disown you, remember that it is THEM, not you, who has the problem.
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7. If you feel anger at times, do not direct it at your self. Harness it for constructive purposes whether it be in working on gay rights causes, writing a blog (which I find to be good therapy), or something else.
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8. Always remember that you are a good, decent person entitled to all the rights and respect that others receive and that the fact that you are gay doesn't change that. The goal is to be able to stand in front of a mirror and say to yourself "I'm gay and that's OK and I'm proud of who I am."

Safeway Cashier Fired After Anti-gay Slur - Meanwhile Nothing Happens at United Continental

In a stark juxtaposition with what has been experienced by the gay travelers I wrote about recently - where apparently no one has been fired or disciplined much less a real apology proffered - a cashier at a Safeway store in Southwest Washington, D.C., has been fired after making an anti-gay slur while referring to a gay couple in the store. Obviously, some corporations believe in treating customers with respect and will take action against employees who fail to live up to that policy requirement. Others clearly do not. In the Safeway situation, the couple filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights. Unfortunately, neither Texas or the home state of the gay couple violated by United Continental employee(s) have such protections. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
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An employee at a Southwest D.C. Safeway has been fired after a Saturday incident in which a cashier used a homosexual slur, a Safeway spokesman said Thursday.
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The cashier, who worked at the Safeway at 1100 4th Street SW, used a slur when referring to a gay couple in the store, Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle said Thursday. The couple has filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights, reported Metro Weekly.
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On Thursday, Muckle said Safeway’s human resources department had conducted an investigation, which resulted in the cashier’s termination.
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“We are truly sorry this happened in our store and are taking decisive and urgent action to ensure it does not happen again to any customer in any of the communities we serve,” said Safeway Eastern Division President Steven Neibergall in a statement. “No one should face what these customers faced, and we are humbly sorry it happened to them in our store.”
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“There are people at all levels of the organization on this,” Muckle said. “We’re trying to deal with the immediate fallout, then we’re going to look at [current policies], and we’ll determine whether changes need to be made.”
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After reading initial reports Wednesday, D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) went on the social media web site Twitter to complain. “Unbelievable and absolutely unacceptable,” Wells wrote.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Catholic Conference: Marriage Equality Bill Against Religious Liberty

Before writing this post I had to take a deep breath. The audacity of those who have aided and abetted child rapists to make the disingenuous statement that allowing CIVIL law marriage to same sex couples makes my blood boil. If there is any threat to so-called religious liberty, it is embodied in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and their allies in the Christianist Protestant denominations who seek to impose - is inflict a better term? - their religious beliefs on all. All the while as they - or at least the Catholic hierarchy - ought to be standing trial for obstruction of justices and/or as accessories to crimes against children and youths. These people truly have no same and they have no credibility as leaders on moral issues. Indeed, they are morally bankrupt. Again, why does anyone listen to these men, a significant number of whom are basically little better than criminals? A lead spokesman for this attempt to subordinate the CIVIL laws to sectarian religious doctrine is the corpulent and disingenuous archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan who looks like he's living very high on the hog off the offerings of the ignorant and intellectually lazy. It's time that this red herring of "religious liberty" be exposed for the total lie that it is. The Advocate has details on this bullshit. Here are highlights (try not to vomit):
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The New York State Catholic Conference, which is lobbying to stop the state Senate from voting on the marriage equality bill, argues that support for the bill as currently worded would constitute “a vote against religious liberty and against the very ministries and services that New Yorkers cannot do without.”
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“Do they really want to close adoption and foster care agencies and other religious ministries?” asks the New York State Catholic Conference. “Are they seeking to label faith-based institutions as unlawful discriminators? Will they go after the tax-exempt status of these ‘discriminating’ institutions? Can the Church trust assurances from the same lawmakers who forced Catholic schools and hospitals to pay for contraception insurance or who are trying to make Catholic hospitals allow abortions? Who's kidding whom?”
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[Governor] Cuomo has indicated no inclination to negotiate the language, which New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg described as adequate after his meeting with Senate Republicans in Albany Tuesday.
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However, even with the addition of more religious exemptions, it it difficult to imagine any marriage equality bill that the Catholic Church would not lobby to defeat. A spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference was not immediately available for comment.
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As I have argued before, either the Catholic Church stops meddling with CIVIL law legislation or it needs to lose its tax exempt status. No longer should the Church be allowed to act like a PAC yet receive indirect tax payer subsidies via tax exempt status.

Thursday Male Beauty

The USA's Medical Crisis and Stalled Life Expectancy Increases

Click image to enlarge

In my view, for millions of Americans the USA's medical system is the equivalent of a car owner who continually defers routine and preventive maintenance until suddenly faced with a catastrophic and hugely expense problem that sets off a financial crisis. Millions of citizens have no access to regular preventive medical care. Their only viable options are visits to non-profit hospitals and/or Medicaid coverage. The result is that problems that could have been detected and either cured or managed go unaddressed until a major illness and grossly expensive procedures are required. Meanwhile, the rest of us are paying for this ass backwards approach through higher medical charges as hospitals pass along their unreimbursed costs for treating the uninsured and taxes that support. Now, with Medicaid funding dropping even as demand is soaring as reported by the New York Times, the problem will only get worse. One side effect is that the increase in the life expectancy for Americans is slowing and in some regions - typically so-called Red States - almost stagnated with the result that some third world nations score better. A new report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has the details (see the map above too). First, this from the Times story:
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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration injected billions of dollars into Medicaid, the nation’s low-income health program, as the recession deepened two years ago. The money runs out at the end of this month, and benefits are being cut for millions of people, even though unemployment has increased.
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From New Jersey to California, state officials are bracing for the end to more than $90 billion in federal largess specifically designated for Medicaid. To hold down costs, states are cutting Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals, limiting benefits for Medicaid recipients, reducing the scope of covered services, requiring beneficiaries to pay larger co-payments and expanding the use of managed care.
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As a result, costs can be expected to rise in other parts of the health care system. Cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors, for example, make it less likely that they will accept Medicaid patients and more likely that people will turn to hospital emergency rooms for care. Hospitals and other health care providers often try to make up for the loss of Medicaid revenue by increasing charges to other patients, including those with private insurance, experts say.
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“Medicaid is very much on the chopping block,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. “Seniors vote. But if you are poor and disabled, you might not vote, and if you are a child, you do not vote — that’s a lot of Medicaid’s population. They don’t have money to do lobbying.”
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Yet despite this nightmare reality, members of the GOP oppose "Obamacare" and make the claim that the USA has the best healthcare system in the world. Talk about denying objective reality. As for the life expectacy issue, here are these highlights from the new report:
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June 15, 2011 - While people in Japan, Canada, and other nations are enjoying significant gains in life expectancy every year, most counties within the United States are falling behind, according to a new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
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When compared to the international frontier for life expectancy, US counties range from being 16 calendar years ahead to more than 50 behind for women. For men, the range is from 15 calendar years ahead to more than 50 calendar years behind. This means that some counties have a life expectancy today that nations with the best health outcomes had in 1957.
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The researchers suggest that the relatively low life expectancies in the US cannot be explained by the size of the nation, racial diversity, or economics. Instead, the authors point to high rates of obesity, tobacco use, and other preventable risk factors for an early death as the leading drivers of the gap between the US and other nations.
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Five counties in Mississippi have the lowest life expectancies for women, all below 74.5 years, putting them behind nations such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Peru. Four of those counties, along with Humphreys County, MS, have the lowest life expectancies for men, all below 67 years, meaning they are behind Brazil, Latvia, and the Philippines.

Barack Obama's "Learned Heplessness"

A column in yesterday's Washington Post looks at an issue that drives me to distraction: Barack Obama's failure to exhibit bold leadership and willingness to allow himself to be played by Republicans time and time again. Given the economic situation gripping the nation, bold measures and leadership are needed. Instead, we get timidity and a capitulation to GOP demands often even before serious discussions begin. This lack of leadership is what would make me consider voting for someone else in 2012 were the Republicans able to nominate a viable opponent - something that's admittedly a long shot given the manner in which the GOP leadership has come to be controlled by the twin Frankenstein monsters that control the GOP base: the Tea Party and the Christian Taliban. Here are some column highlights:
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Is Barack Obama a president or a pawn? And is there any difference nowadays? Seeing how narrow the boundaries of debate have become on the biggest issues facing the country makes the question unavoidable.
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On the central near-term economic issue – jobs – Paul Krugman has trenchantly described the “learned helplessness” gripping the White House. As a result we hear only timid ideas that can’t make a real dent. Ditto on the long-term debt, . . .
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But the phenomenon goes far beyond jobs and debt. On the issues of bank capital and Afghanistan, both of which will be the targets of momentous decisions in the weeks ahead, the options being debated seem just as inexplicably narrow and out of touch.
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Take bank capital first – specifically, the amount of capital large banks are required to hold as a buffer against loss. Inadequate capital at “systemically important” financial institutions was the main reason the housing meltdown led to epic taxpayer bailouts. Yet higher capital rules are being fought by big bankers, because such rules threaten their ability to pay themselves outrageous bonuses . . . . Why would we listen (again) to the self-interested pleas of the same folks that helped tank the economy even as they got rich, escaped prosecution, and passed the bill to the rest of us?
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Or take Afghanistan, where 100,000 U.S. troops will run through upward of $150 billion this year chasing what the CIA guesses are 30 to 100 members of al-Qaeda. No one supporting this decade-old war can define what “success” really means. Yet the troop withdrawal options the president will review starting this week range from 3,000 on the low side to perhaps 20,000 on the high. How can the “boldest” withdrawal option leave us with more troops in Afghanistan than Obama inherited?
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When the voices at the table are so deeply invested in the institutions and habits of mind that brought the economy low, or that have made Afghanistan a quagmire, how likely is it that the options they present to a president will really change things?
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A president’s power to shape events are more limited than we generally think. But a president’s power to shape the boundaries of debate are limited only by his imagination and by his appetite for political risk. From the looks of it, Barack Obama has plenty of imagination. So if he chooses not to challenge these boundaries, he’s a prisoner not only of entrenched forces arrayed behind the status quo; he’s a pawn, ultimately, of his own ambition.
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Frankly, but for the likelihood that the GOP nominate a nut case or someone out of the mainstream, Obama does not deserve re-election at this point. Millions of us voted for a leader but instead we got a timid follower.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Secretary of Education: Gay-Straight Alliance Groups Protected

The minions of the Christian Taliban and self-enriching professional Christians like Maggie Gallagher and Tony Perkins to name just two will go to any lengths to bar public schools from hosting gay straight alliances ("GSA") based on disingenuous claims of threats to "religious freedom" or parental rights. As is typically the case with Christianists, the rights of others - including LGBT students who deserve a safe and non-threatening learning environment - mean nothing. Instead, it's all about allowing self-congratulatory Christianist to run rough shod over the rights of everyone else. They want special rights, plain and simple. A letter released by the U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, will surely have the anti-gay Christianists in convulsions and the spittle will be flying by the bucket full. Duncan (pictured at has taken the position that GSA's are protected under the 1984 Equal Access Act, which requires that public secondary schools receiving federal funds ensure equal access for student extracurricular groups. In other words, if schools refuse to allow GSA's, they risk the loss of all federal funds. Talk about hitting them where it hurts. Here are highlights from The Advocate:
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“Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and similar student-initiated groups addressing LGBT issues can play an important role in promoting safer schools and creating more welcoming learning environments,” Duncan wrote in the "Dear Colleague" letter.

“But in spite of the positive effect these groups can have in schools,” he continued, “some such groups have been unlawfully excluded from school grounds, prevented from forming, or denied access to school resources.”

Duncan wrote that GSAs are protected under the 1984 Equal Access Act, which requires that public secondary schools receiving federal funds ensure equal access for student extracurricular groups.
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The law, Duncan wrote, applies “to groups that address issues relating to LGBT students and matters involving sexual orientation and gender identity, just as they apply to religious and other student groups."
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Department of Education general counsel Charles P. Rose issued guidelines in conjunction with the letter that "[affirm] the principles that prevent unlawful discrimination against any student-initiated groups,” Duncan wrote.
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Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, called Secy Duncan’s letter “a clear signal to schools and school districts that they may not discriminate against students who seek to form Gay-Straight Alliances.”

Michele Bachmann's Extremism Exposed

I'm on record in my view that Sarah Palin is certifiably insane. But Palin is hardly the sole female lunatic within the GOP. Her in many ways separated at birth twin, Michelle Bachmann, is no better. While she managed to not make a fool of herself in the largely unwatched GOP debate carried by CNN earlier in the week, any examination of her background and her views underscores the fact that Bachmann is a total extremists and not much better on the issue of separation of church and state than a Christian dominionist like Mike Huckabee. The Daily Beast has a story that tracts Bachmann's religious extremism and other beliefs that while popular with the untethered GOP base set her far outside the mainstream of Americans. Hopefully, the media will will fully wake up to this reality and begin to focus on just how frightening Bachmann's views are to most Americans - LGBT citizens in particular. Here is the lead in to the Daily Beast article:
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Her anti-gay platform has alienated parts of her family. A mentor she described as a "great influence" has a history of addresses to white supremacists. A book she collaborated on advocates theocracy. Rep. Michele Bachmann's impressive performance at Monday's debate has catapulted her near the front of the GOP pack, but the radical roots of her ideology remain poorly understood. The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg reports.
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Pretty strong stuff but totally on target. Here are some highlights from the body of the article:
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Lots of politicians talk about a sinister homosexual agenda. Bachmann, who has made opposition to gay rights a cornerstone of her career, seems genuinely to believe in one. Her conviction trumps even her once close relationship with her lesbian stepsister.
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Her ideological radicalism should not be mistaken for stupidity. On Monday, Bachmann didn't talk a lot about her religion. She didn't have to—she knows how to signal it in ways that go right over secular heads. In criticizing Obama's Libya policy, for example, she said, "We are the head and not the tail." The phrase comes from Deuteronomy 28:13: "The Lord will make you the head and not the tail." As Rachel Tabachnick has reported, it's often used in theocratic circles to explain why Christians have an obligation to rule.
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Indeed, no other candidate in the race is so completely a product of the evangelical right as Bachmann; she could easily become the Christian conservative alternative to the comparatively moderate Mormon Mitt Romney. "Michele Bachmann's a complete package," says Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition wunderkind who now runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "
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"Michele Bachmann says certain things that sound crazy to the general public," says author Frank Schaeffer, Francis Schaeffer's son and former collaborator. "But to anybody raised in the environment of the evangelical right wing, what she says makes perfect sense." Bachmann honed her view of the world after college, when she enrolled at Coburn Law School at Oral Roberts University, an "interdenominational, Bible-based, and Holy Spirit-led" school in Oklahoma.
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At Coburn, Bachmann studied with John Eidsmoe, who she recently described as "one of the professors who had a great influence on me." Bachmann served as his research assistant on the 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution, which argued that the United States was founded as a Christian theocracy, and that it should become one again.
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Eidsmoe, who hung up the phone when asked for an interview, is a contentious figure. Last year, he withdrew from speaking at a Wisconsin Tea Party rally after the Associated Press raised questions about his history of addresses to white-supremacist groups. In 2010, speaking at a rally celebrating Alabama's secession from the Union, he claimed that Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than Abraham Lincoln.
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n the statehouse, Bachmann made opposition to same-sex marriage her signature issue. Both she and her husband, by all accounts her most trusted political adviser, believe that homosexuality can be cured. Speaking to a Christian radio station about gay teenagers last year, Marcus, who treats gay people in his counseling practice, said, "Barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined, and just because someone feels this or thinks this, doesn't mean that we're supposed to go down that road."
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Over the years, several letters from disgruntled Bachmann relatives have appeared in local newspapers, though they usually don't mention their relationship. "I have a suggestion for Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, since she's interested in watching gay people," Cielinski wrote in a letter published in the Pioneer Press in 2005. "Instead of hiding behind bushes with a security guard, go to the grocery store, a PTA meeting, ballgames, concerts, church, the movies, or take a walk around the lake…[T]hey are our friends and family members who have added so much to our lives." Bachmann never responded.
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None of this is likely to sour her many devoted fans. Indeed, it's precisely her unwavering ideological commitment that endears her to them.

United/Continental Sends Gay Travelers a Foul Message

 













AUGUST 2012 UPDATES: For a further updates on this story, check the following newer posts here and here.  They address the newly filed lawsuit and the thoughts and motivations of the plaintiffs.

UPDATED: Some have asked how the individuals who vandalized the gay couple's bags might have known they were gay. The answer is that they had both their names and shared address on the bag. The main point, however, isn't whether they are gay or straight, but rather why the airline employees did nothing to limit their humiliation and embarrassment. Also, why does the airline seem to simply be blowing the matter off.

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During the ongoing Great Recession, one of the brighter lights for the travel industry has been the LGBT travel niche which has remained far more stable than other segments where tourism levels and tourist dollars have plummeted. Many cities are actively courting gay travelers – even Richmond, Virginia, of all places has added an LGBT page to the city’s visitor and convention bureau website and the City of Norfolk recently issued a proclamation in honor of Hampton Roads Pride’s Out in the Park event. American Airlines has recently done a video for the “It Gets Better” project. Indeed, it makes good business sense to court the LGBT market.
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Yet strangely enough, employees at United/Continental Airlines at Houston Intercontinental Airport sent two gay travelers returning from a luxury trip to Costa Rica (they first contacted me roughly two and a half weeks weeks ago) a very different and disturbing message. One of the pieces of baggage of this young professional couple (who were legally married in Canada nearly four years ago) was deliberately vandalized in a manner to cause the couple maximum embarrassment and humiliation. This message – as explained below – is apparently viewed either as being perfectly fine or certainly no big deal by the powers that be at United/Continental headquarters.
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The image above shows what this couple’s bag looked like as it circulated around the luggage carousel before an entire plane load of travelers in their conservative home city’s airport. The fact that the bag was deliberately sabotaged is confirmed by the fact that the zippers on the bag continue to be fully functional and the bag can be securely sealed without any difficulty. That’s right. Someone opened the bag, extracted the “toy” and then taped it to the outside of the bag with clear “Continental” tape. Oh, and did I mention that some type of lubricant was smeared on the toy in order to insinuate that it had just been used? Here are brief highlights from the e-mail I received describing the couple’s ordeal (the first paragraph deals with the condition of their luggage in Houston. The second and third, address what they encountered at their home city airport):
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As we arrived in Houston, Texas (IAH), we shuffled through the line for Immigration, and then picked up our two (2) checked bags as required by law upon our return into the US from a foreign country. With bags in-hand we continued while making our way through a security checkpoint, then approached the area we were to check the bags-back-in, picked up our bags which were in sound and undamaged condition prior to handing them to the attendant who then sent them through the X-ray machine that housed a conveyor belt which sent them to wherever they go from there.
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After arriving at our home airport while waiting around the baggage carousel, [he] kept looking for our last bag to come out. Then, a bag did in-fact emerge that had a similar appearance to ours; however, it appeared to be wrapped sporadically with CLEAR plastic tape bearing the logo “Continental” and seemed strangely malformed. As it got closer and much to his surprise...and moreover, his HORROR, he saw a sex toy we had packed, had been removed from the middle of the bag and taped right on top of the bag for everyone to see. SO EMBARRASSED, ABSOLUTELY MORTIFIED...just knowing that everyone in sight had already seen it and after looking at their faces that depicted disbelief, some were snickering, others completely astonished, and of course, disgust was ubiquitous. . . . .
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[He] grabbed our bag . . . . then began quickly striding for the exit while clenching the bag towards his chest, struggling to conceal the open end of the bag while in total discomfiture and despair. [Our friend who was picking us up] is a witness. She saw it. She was completely flabbergasted and appalled that United/Continental Airlines OR ANYONE for that matter would do such a thing to begin with . . .
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And what has United/Continental’s response been to this travesty? They faxed a letter two days after the couple’s 10-day deadline for a response/apology had passed that read: ”they’d look into it.” The demand for a response/apology was e-mailed to United/Continental CEO Jeff Smisek (jeff.smisek@united.com) (312-997-8000) - who claims that he reads every one of his e-mails – and confirmed via a letter. What really scares me is that my partner and I are scheduled to fly to Barcelona on United/Continental in the fall. I’m currently debating whether to look into seeing how much it will cost to cancel our reservation so we can rebook with another airline.
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The airline industry collected $3.4 BILLION from baggage fees last year alone (up 24% from the previous year) of which approximately $655 MILLION went directly to United/Continental, which makes one wonder where all of those profits may be going exactly? Evidently, at least for United/Continental, not towards employee training programs consistent with maintaining HRC’s Equality Index ratings regarding “Sensitivity Training” and “Positively engaging the external LGBT Community” or “Responsible Citizenship.”
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How long do Airlines really think they can continue charging ludicrous fees in exchange for tumultuous service that provides for intentional infliction of emotional distress, discrimination, invasion of privacy, etc.? Even after being confronted with their abominable actions, United/Continental has unbelievably refused to act as if they actually give a damn. The all-so-familiar “Please wait…” just became intolerable.

Wednesday Male Beauty

Bigot of the Day: Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Picking the top anti-gay bigot of the day isn't an easy task given the nastiness of the Christian Taliban leadership and their allies in the Roman Catholic Church. But given the hypocrisy of statements made by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on his blog in a post aimed at New York State legislators wherein he equates gay rights legislation and pro-gay court rulings with dictatorial acts by Communist China's government. Oh, and then there's his blather about the rights of children from which he omits an important piece: the right not to be raped by a Catholic priest and then not have the crime covered up by porcine hypocrites like Dolan. Here's a sampling of Dolan's hypocritical drivel:
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The stampede is on. Our elected senators who have stood courageous in their refusal to capitulate on the state’s presumption to redefine marriage are reporting unrelenting pressure to cave-in.
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[S]houldn’t we be more upset – and worried – about this perilous presumption of the state to re-invent the very definition of an undeniable truth – one man, one woman, united in lifelong love and fidelity, hoping for children – that has served as the very cornerstone of civilization and culture from the start?

Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America – not in China or North Korea. In those countries, government presumes daily to “redefine” rights, relationships, values, and natural law. There, communiqu├ęs from the government can dictate the size of families, who lives and who dies, and what the very definition of “family” and “marriage” means.
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We cherish true freedom, not as the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought; we acknowledge that not every desire, urge, want, or chic cause is automatically a “right.” And, what about other rights, like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad?
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Marriage is not simply a mechanism for delivering benefits: It is the union of a man and a woman in a loving, permanent, life-giving union to pro-create children. Please don’t vote to change that. If you do, you are claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because you say so.
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Funny how for centuries the Catholic Church has been claiming the power to change what is not into what is, simply because it says so. Apparently, Dolan's okay with that type of dictatorial power as long as he and his morally bankrupt Vatican cronies are the ones wielding the power.

Has Obama's Relationship With Gays Thawed in Time for 2012?

A piece in the Huffington Post rambles on about the supposed manner in which Barack Obama's relationship with the LGBT community has thawed in time to help Obama's 2012 re-election bid. But have things really thawed? Or has Obama simple won back the good graces of self-anointed "leaders" of the community - many of whom at times seem more interested in being on the Washington, D.C., and other top tier cities' cocktail party circuit list than going to the mat for our rights. I will admit that I continue to be a skeptic of Obama's good intentions towards the LGBT community. Yes, he's done more that a GOP president would have done, but too often he has refused to exercise leadership. Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters, is quoted as saying:
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"I think that people always took the president at his word that the commitments he made in the 2008 campaign were heartfelt and that he meant them,"
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I'm not overly comfortable with that assessment. Frankly, the only thing I feel confident in saying is that Obama was "heartfelt" about was wanting the LGBT vote - and, of course, our money. No doubt there will be those who condemn my cynicism, but Obama's refusal to put his private beliefs aside on the issue of gay marriage and many of the inconsistencies of his supposed support leave me questioning what the man really believes. Here are highlights from Huffington Post and the quotes of representatives of Gay, Inc.:
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WASHINGTON -- The relationship between President Barack Obama and gay rights advocates appears to be thawing after two years of mutual distrust, in which each side was more likely to assail the other's motivations than find room for collaboration.
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On Monday, the president's reelection campaign formally announced that he would attend a high-profile LGBT gala in New York City on June 23. The event is set to be emceed by Neil Patrick Harris. It will also feature former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.), chief sponsor of the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal legislation, as well as Joel Burns, the Fort Worth council member whose emotional plea to stop anti-gay bullying helped make the "It Gets Better" series viral. The event is expected to raise a nice chunk of change for the Obama Victory Fund 2012.
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[E]ven jaded gay rights activists seem eager to find more amicable ground with the administration. "I think that people always took the president at his word that the commitments he made in the 2008 campaign were heartfelt and that he meant them," said Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters who does not count himself among the jaded.
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Deal-sealing would be a boon to the President's reelection campaign, which has strategically eyed gay rights advocates as lucrative sources of campaign funds. . . . Obama has managed to shore up his position in large part through incremental action, behind-the-scenes maneuvering and subtle winks and signals.
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[I]nstrumental in earning LGBT support was Obama's decision to instruct his Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of a controversial provision of the Defense of Marriage Act in courts. "It was something only he could do, and it sent a strong message," said Steve Elmendorf, a prominent Democratic strategist and gay rights advocate. "It signaled that he is moving on marriage."
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Still, Elmendorf said, Obama is "not where he needs to be on marriage. The energy in the community is obviously focused on marriage right now, but they also realize it is a state issue and there is nothing immediate Obama can do so long as John Boehner is Speaker."
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There will be some concerned with LGBT issues who, out of apathy or disappointment, simply sit out the 2012 cycle. But the majority are expect to overcome their grievances. "If you look at [Monday's] Republican presidential debate, any one of those people are very scary for gay Americans," said Socarides.
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Once again, we will be supporting the candidate who is "less scary" and be expected to throw our money at that candidate like Pavlov's dog.

Pat Robertson: Hollywood Forcing Straights to Play Gay

One thing that is always a constant living in Hampton Roads: Pat Robertson can be counted on to say something to further confirm that he's a bigoted ass and in the process make the region look like an ignorant, intolerant backwater. Time and time again Robertson uses his platform of the 700 Club to project the worse face of Christianity - all, of course, while milking the ignorant and gullible for money. Robertson's latest batshitery is his allegation that Hollywood is forcing straight actors to play gay roles. Joining Robertson in his lunacy is conservative mouth piece Ben Shapiro who strikes me as an example of a self-loathing closet case of the type I blogged about recently. Right Wing Watch has this on Robertson's and Shapiro's little hate fest:
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Conservative writer Ben Shapiro joined Pat Robertson on The 700 Club to discuss his new book, Primetime Propaganda, and Hollywood’s advocacy of gay-rights and progressive values. Shapiro’s book argues that shows from ‘Sesame Street’ to ‘Friends’ are pushing left-wing beliefs to viewers, and tells Robertson that what is most despicable are television shows that back gay-rights. Shapiro believes that television shows exclude conservative actors and writers while increasingly include openly gay characters in order to manipulate people into supporting marriage equality.
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Robertson lamented, “the American people overwhelmingly vote for traditional marriage between a man and a woman, what is it with Hollywood, I mean they are inserting gays one after another, as a matter of fact straight actors are being forced to play gay roles.
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I'd say that what is despicable is leeches like like Robertson and Shapiro who sell snake oil to the masses and make a nice living off of peddling hate and bigotry.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Housing Crisis Is Now Worse Than Great Depression

I know that I sound like a broken record, but when is somebody - indeed ANYBODY - in Washington going to wake up and try to stem the continued free fall of the housing market? I don't care if its a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or member of some other group that wakes up to the ongoing disaster so long as somebody wakes up and puts in place policy and regulatory reforms that stop the constant downward spiral. Why am I so exercised? Because a new report discloses that nationwide the crash and burning of the housing market is now worse than what happened during the Great Depression. Yet Congress and the White House continue to do nothing of any substance. Here are highlights from CNBC:
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It's official: The housing crisis that began in 2006 and has recently entered a double dip is now worse than the Great Depression. Prices have fallen some 33 percent since the market began its collapse, greater than the 31 percent fall that began in the late 1920s and culminated in the early 1930s, according to Case-Shiller data.
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"The sharp fall in house prices in the first quarter provided further confirmation that this housing crash has been larger and faster than the one during the Great Depression," Paul Dales, senior economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, wrote in research for clients.
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More than four in every five mortgages now require a down payment of 20 percent, and credit history standards have tightened. At the same time, foreclosures continue at a brisk pace, pushing more supply onto the market and pressuring prices downward. Then there is the issue of underwater homeowners—those who owe more than their house is worth—representing another 23 percent of homeowners who cannot leave or are in danger of mortgage default.
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Indeed, the foreclosure problem is unlikely to get any better with 4.5 million households either three payments late or in foreclosure proceedings. The historical average is 1 million, according to Dales' research.

U.S. Students Remain Poor at History - And An Easy Targets for Demagogues

I have lamented many times about the utter ignorance most American students display when it comes to a knowledge of history - even U. S. history. This ignorance plays directly into the hands of Christian dominionists like David Barton who seek to re-write history to further their goals of a Bible based theocracy. It also plays into the hands of Demagogues - principally on the GOP side of the isle - who count on an ignorance of accurate history so as to convince the ignorant that they are the protectors of the nation and all kinds of other bullshit. The New York Times looks at this very, very dangerous deficit in knowledge among not only our school students but also far too many adults. Here are some highlights:
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American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.
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20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency . . .
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Diane Ravitch, an education historian who was invited by the national assessment’s governing board to review the results, said she was particularly disturbed by the fact that only 2 percent of 12th graders correctly answered a question concerning Brown v. Board of Education, which she called “very likely the most important decision” of the United States Supreme Court in the past seven decades.
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History advocates contend that students’ poor showing on the tests underlines neglect shown to the subject by federal and state policy makers, especially since the 2002 No Child Left Behind act began requiring schools to raise scores in math and reading but in no other subject. The federal accountability law, the advocates say, has given schools and teachers an incentive to spend less time on history and other subjects.
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“History is very much being shortchanged,” said Linda K. Salvucci, a history professor in San Antonio who is chairwoman-elect of the National Council for History Education.
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Many teacher-education programs, Ms. Salvucci said, also contribute to the problem by encouraging aspiring teachers to seek certification in social studies, rather than in history. “They think they’ll be more versatile, that they can teach civics, government, whatever,” she said. “But they’re not prepared to teach history.”
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This abysmal lack of knowledge is how someone like Sarah Palin - a certifiable idiot in my opinion - can be taken as credible despite their constant gaffes in factual accuracy.