Saturday, July 02, 2011

Saturday Male Beauty

NOM Targets GOP Senator - Meanwhile Catholics Support Cuomo

The self-enriching bigots and professional Christian whores at the National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") - like Maggie Gallagher at left who makes tawdry prostitutes look virtuous - are continuing their disingenuous campaign of intimidation and dissemination of lies in the wake of New York State's legalization of same sex marriage a week ago. Among the intimidation tactics are the targeting of Buffalo-area state senator Mark Grisanti who clearly understands the concept of separation of church and state and that one religious belief system does not get to control the civil laws. The other irony is that while the Catholic bishops and NOM - which I continue to suspect is a Catholic Church front group - continue to rant and rave as if someone had defecated in their Cheerios is that a new poll shows that 62% of Roman Catholic continue support Andrew Cuomo. Clearly the Church hierarchy and NOM no longer are representative of Roman Catholics. Now, if these dissenters would cease giving to the Church financially, the hierarchy could be forced into its deserved place in history: the trash heap. First these highlights from YourNewsNow on NOM's intimidation tactics and threats against Grisanti:
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In a fundraising email to supporters, the National Organization for Marriage announced its pledging $2 million to help reverse the gay marriage law and oust the lawmakers who supported it. "These Republicans, especially who betrayed their party, betrayed their voters, are going to need to be held accountable, and we pledged $2 million to make sure that that happens," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
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Brown says one Republican lawmaker in particular is the top of the list. "Mark Grisanti's vote was an absolute and total betrayal. Mark Grisanti asked us in his first bid for the Senate in 2008 to support him. He promised that he would protect marriage as the union between a man and a woman,” said Brown. “He not only betrayed us, he betrayed his voters. He is at the top of our target list."
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"I'm comfortable with my decision and my vote because I think it was a balance, and whatever NOM wants to do, as I said, that's what makes this country great. Go ahead and do what you’ve got to do" said Sen. Grisanti, (R).
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Grisanti defends his vote, saying it was based on fairness, not his religious beliefs or political survival. "It was not going to be a political vote. It was a vote of my conscience and it was a vote basically, definitely of fairness, and a balance that personified what I stated on the floor, that same sex couples should have the same right that I enjoy with my wife that I love,” said Grisanti. “The other side of it is that the religious organizations, the non-profits and the benevolent organizations, they're all protected,” said Grisanti.
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Personally, I plan on sending a check to Grisanti's campaign and I hope others will do so as well. As for the growing disconnect between the Roman Catholic laity and the bitter old men in dress in Roman and bishoprics across New York State, Capital Tonight has a story on a new poll showing overwhelming Catholic support for Andrew Cuomo. Here are some highlights:
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Today’s Q poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to enjoy a high job approval rating of 64-19 in spite of – or perhaps because – his successful push to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. Cuomo’s numbers put him on top of the heap as far as the nation’s governors are concerned. He’s 20 points ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is sometimes mentioned (or, rather, hoped for) as a potential Cuomo opponent in the 2016 presidential race.
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Cuomo’s numbers haven’t moved, statistically speaking, since June when he was at 64-16, which means his end of session sweep appears to have neither helped nor hurt him. The governor’s championing of gay marriage did not hurt his standing with fellow white Catholics, who approve of him 62-22 percent.
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He’s at 53-26 percent with Republicans, 75-13 among fellow Democrats, 61-19 with independent voters and 63-20 in union households. (That last one is particularly noteworthy, considering Cuomo’s hard line with state worker unions and ongoing fights with PEF and NYSUT).

Gay Pride? Not in Gloucester, Virginia


Yesterday one of the topics I wrote about was a new study that identifies prejudice and closed mindedness as an impediment to economic development and regional financial success. Well, the folks in relatively nearby Gloucester have sent a loud and clear message that they are backwards and want to remain in the bottom tier of economic success. A simple display on Gay Pride month in the local library was too much for the homophobes and bible beaters and the library was intimidated into removing the display. Truth be told, Gloucester is already a backwater and given the mentality of some on the county board of supervisors things are not going to be changing for the better. I can't but wonder how those complaining - yes, I'm talking about you, Gregory Woodard (pictured at far left) - would have scored in this study that shows that homophobes are the most turned on by gay porn! Local columnist Tamara Dietrich rightfully takes these bigots to task in the Daily Press. Here are some highlights from here column:
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I don't know which books, CDs and DVDs were displayed in the Gay Pride Month exhibit at the Gloucester Public Library. Unless you checked it out earlier, neither will you — the library dismantled the exhibit two-thirds of the way through Gay Pride Month. Why? A few library patrons complained, and county Supervisor Gregory Woodard objected to the idea of "promoting gay rights."
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Woodard even pressured the county administrator to push the library director to ditch the display, and tried to get the issue on the agenda for a supervisors meeting. But Vice Chairman Christian "Buddy" Rilee declined, saying supervisors had more important matters to discuss.
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Woodard's response, Rilee told me, was that Rilee had the right to his own opinion, but "we can't pick and choose what items to respond to based on our comfort level." Comfort level? Seriously? It's the queasiness of people like Woodard with people who happen to be gay that ruins even innocuous public expressions of what should be, yes, pride.
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It's Woodard who chose to sabotage a display in a public library based on his own discomfort with members of the public who are different from him.
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Woodard didn't respond to requests for comment — he's also exceedingly uncomfortable with the Daily Press over its coverage of a massive petition drive to remove him and three other supervisors from office. But Jody Perkins of the library Board of Trustees did speak up after discovering that the exhibit — two little shelves of materials — folded last week. She's not happy the library would "cave in to bigoted individuals." I'm with her.
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According to Kent Willis, head of the ACLU of Virginia, removing the exhibit early wasn't illegal because the library put it up, not an outside group. "The decision was clearly wrongheaded and backwards," Willis said in a phone interview. "And it's shameful that this kind of thing still happens in Virginia. But, from our analysis, it's not illegal."
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Meanwhile, the message delivered to gay residents of Gloucester, their families and friends? That they have nothing to be proud of. That guardians of freedom will sometimes abdicate to the lowest common denominator, and one elected official isn't above throwing his bigotry around.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday Male Beauty

Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker: No Hospital Visitation for Gays

While conservative Christians always claim that they hold no hatred in their hearts towards LGBT Americans, their actions - and those of their political puppets - tell a far different story. That story reveals a deliberate on vicious agenda to dehumanize LGBT citizens and make our lives as much of a living Hell as possible. Like just about every thing that comes out of the mouths of conservative Christians, their claimed "love" for LGBT individuals is a lie. The state of Wisconsin provides a picture window view of the real "Christian" agenda as Wisconsin Family Action pushes a lawsuit to repeal a 2009 measure that allowed same sex couples to have hospital visitation privileges for one another. The loving Christians at Wisconsin Family Action claim that the visitation privileges violate an amendment to the state constitution that bans same-sex marriages or similar legal agreements. The goal, of course, is to treat same sex couples with less dignity than one has towards one's pet in a veterinarian hospital. Union busting, middle class hating Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (pictured above) and his GOP attorney general are refusing to defend the state law in favor of same sex couples. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has details. Here are highlights:
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Gov. Scott Walker wants Wisconsin to abandon legal defense of a new state law that gives same-sex couples the right to visit partners who are hospitalized. A Democratic-controlled Legislature, in 2009, approved a new law in which same-sex couples can sign domestic partnership registries with county clerks “to secure some — but not all — of the rights afforded married couples,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
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The law has been challenged by an anti-gay rights group, Wisconsin Family Action, saying the visitation privileges violate an amendment to the state constitution that bans same-sex marriages or similar legal agreements. Republican State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has refused to defend the law, saying he believes the registration procedure violates Wisconsin’s constitution.
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“Governor Walker, in deference to the legal opinion of the attorney general that the domestic partner registry . . . is unconstitutional, does not believe the public interest requires a continued defense of this law,” says a brief from Walker, filed by his counsel Brian Hagedorn.
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Hagedorn told Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser that if he could not withdraw from the case, he would like to amend earlier filings to reflect Walker’s belief that the registries conflict with the state constitution,” the Journal-Sentinel reported.
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When Walker took office in January, he fired an attorney retained by outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle to defend the law. A gay rights group called Fair Wisconsin will continue to defend the 2009 law.
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Increasingly, Christianity is a source of hate and prejudice. Yes, there are "good Christians" but they largely stay sitting on their hands too afraid to challenge the hate merchants head on. By their silence, I believe, they are hastening the death of Christianity - which is a good thing if the haters are going to be allowed to define that faith tradition.

Social Prejudice Slows Economic Development

I've often maintained that prejudice and Bible beaters are holding back much of Virginia's economy. It's one thing to offer businesses a positive tax/financial setting to do business (Virginia rates high in these terms), but that alone doesn't close the deal in terms of attracting new, progressive businesses. Most of Virginia's growth remains in Northern Virginia where the liberal influence of the District of Columbia is just across the Potomac. The regions of Virginia that most need new investment and businesses are the very regions that are the most inhospitable to anyone who isn't a white evangelical Christian. And then the local leaders wonder why their economic development efforts are getting no where - e.g., Martinsville, Virginia and Southwest Virginia in general. Now a new report has tied a region's level of prejudice with under performance in the economic realm. CNBC has coverage on the report which ought to be required reading for Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonald and Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli who seem to go out of their way to make prejudice synonymous with Virginia in the minds of many. Here are highlights:
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The report found that there was a strong correlation between social inclusion, competitiveness and economic development, and argued that "prejudice, in whatever form – including racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance – irrationally destroys the value of human capital."
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While prejudice is something that rarely features in investment decisions, the destruction of human capital through social prejudice in the 21st Century is at least as significant as that the destruction of physical capital wrought by the Luddites, the anti-technology groups who sabotaged machinery during the industrial revolution, Donovan wrote.
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The relationship between prejudice and development is two-way, the UBS report said. Societies that are poorer are more likely to exhibit prejudice. "A more advanced society is less likely to be prejudiced and a less prejudiced society is likely to be more advanced," Donovan said. Extreme examples, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the expulsion of South Asians from Uganda in the 1970s serve to highlight the negative effects of extreme prejudice, Donovan said.
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"This century is when we need to be a lot cleverer about how we achieve our growth. Human ingenuity is going to be the main driver of economic productivity in the 21st Century. We need to enhance productivity through human capital," he explained.
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"Hypothetically, what would happen if the secret of energy efficiency, or to greater food productivity is locked up in the mind of somebody who is denied the ability to develop because of their race or their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation? That's the sort challenge that we now face," Donovan said. As a micro-level effect of prejudice of this type, Donovan cited the example of Alan Turing . . . He committed suicide in 1954, "effectively denying the world of his intellect, his undoubted experience and potential achievements, and doing considerable damage to the development computing in the 1950s," according to Donovan.
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"We believe that this is a very critical issue, it's one that markets absolutely need to pay attention to and as far as investing is concerned, any society, or indeed any company, that exhibits prejudicial behavior is essentially sending out a major sell signal, as far as we're concerned," he said.
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Yep, Virginia under the Christofascist controlled Republican Party of Virginia is sending out a major signal to stay away if you're a progressive business owner. Virginia is also encouraging innovators and entrepreneurs to leave the state for more progressive regions. It's precisely why Hampton Roads is experiencing a brain drain of college educated young people who refuse to return to the Commonwealth after college. Is anyone taking notes in Richmond? Or are they too busy listening to Victoria Cobb and the hate merchants at The Family Foundation?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Pope's War on the Church

As a former Roman Catholic, I will concede that I hold the Church hierarchy in utter contempt. Particularly, because of the manner in which the hierarchy, including Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, aided, abetted and protected child/youth rapists. Every one of them involved ought to be behind bars for lengthy prison sentences. But Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI have much more dirt on their hands than just the sexual abuse scandal according to a new book by Matthew Fox, a former Catholic theologian who was ultimately driven from the Church by Benedict XVI, chief inquisitor of the Inquisition under John Paul II. The book is entitled The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade has Imperiled the Church and How it Can be Saved. Religion Dispatches has an interview with Fox (he doesn't hold his punches) and here are some highlights:
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The Catholic Church is ripe for another reformation. That’s the message theologian Matthew Fox sends in his new book . . . Fox is a former Catholic priest who was silenced by Pope Benedict XVI (who was then Cardinal Ratzinger) after a 12-year-long battle over his writings. The book points to scandals, from the best-known to the unfamiliar, that are rotting the church from the inside out. The current pope, Fox contends, has filled the Church with yes-men (all men, of course), and it's up to the Catholics in the pews to "push the restart button on Christianity."
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I take people through Ratzinger and how he came to be who he is, his childhood and adulthood. I also take people through who I call Ratzinger’s enemies—that would be liberation theology and Creation spirituality—and then Ratzinger’s allies, who are really scary. With allies like that you don’t need enemies—like Opus Dei, the Legion of Christ and Father (Marcial) Maciel,. .
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So there are three scandals here: one of them is pedophilia and its cover up. The second is the financial scandal, and the third, but by no means the least, is this intellectual/political destruction of theology.
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I think John Paul II was given a teflon papacy. He appointed Ratzinger as his chief inquisitor. He brought the Inquisition back. Everything Ratzinger did was supported by John Paul II, including his ugly documents about gays. He wrote two of them when he was chief inquisitor and one since he’s been pope and each one of them is uglier than the other, and meaner. This was signed off on by John Paul II.
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Also, John Paul II stood by while all this pedophile stuff was going on, including his close friend Father Maciel who he took on airplanes with him. That’s how close they were. He was utterly passive. . . . John Paul II did nothing. His hands are not nearly as clean as some people would like to imagine.
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John Paul II is the one who linked up with Opus Dei and Communion and Liberation, which is another far-far-right wing movement in Italy. They canonized (Josemaria) Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, and Escriva actually praised Hitler. He was a card-carrying fascist. Now, they’ve appointed all these Opus Dei and fascist bishops and cardinals all over Latin America to replace liberation theology. We should not be na├»ve about either of these popes.
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[T]he Vatican in its present state is beyond redemption. I think it is a very closed boy’s club. I have a section in the book on bullying. Ratzinger is a bully. I know him. He was in a 12-year battle with me before he won, I guess, and expelled me. Part of bullying, according to the studies that I’ve found, is that the bully likes a wolf pack. That wolf pack is the Curia (the central governing body of the Roman Catholic Church).
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The point I make in the book is that the laypeople have to take over the church, period. It’s not going to be reformed from the inside, or from the top down, at all. It’s rancid, and so, these people have to assert themselves and that’s the next step, for laypeople to realize it’s their church. They should only hire ministers who are willing to serve and not to be served, and that means starting over.

Bachmann's Husband Attacks Gays and Calls Us "Barbarians"

As readers have likely figured out by now, I view Michelle Bachmann as a dangerous, delusional lunatic. Her lisping (see the video below) - how do we say closet case - husband is equally dangerous because he's even more anti-gay than his lunatic wife and is an outspoken devote of the ex-gay myth. Or at least he is until he pulls a Larry Craig or Ed Schrock type move and gets outed. Meanwhile, Marcus Bachmann, who has described himself as his wife’s “strategist,” runs a Christian-based counseling center in Minnesota which inflicts who knows how much religious brainwashing and damage on its patients. Here's a video of Marcus Bachmann's anti =gay comments via Think Progress (he makes Pope Benedict XVI look really butch):
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Think Progress also provides these additional highlights on Bachmann and her husband:
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Along with offering faith-based counseling at his clinic, Bachmann also gives presentations at various conferences. In November 2005, he and Rep. Bachmann both ran sessions at a “Minnesota Pastors’ Summit” in Eden Prairie, Minnesota: hers focused on the gay marriage amendment she was trying to push through the state legislature, and his was titled “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda.”
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After seeing her husband’s virulent remarks, it’s no surprise then that Michele Bachmann has fiercely disparaged the gay community and has announced she’s in favor of an anti-gay marriage amendment on the campaign trail. What’s the most terrifying isn’t what Dr. Bachmann said, but the threat that the United States could elect a president who believes that homosexuality can be disciplined out of someone.

Washington Post Joints the "Evolve Already" Chorus

I posted earlier today about Barack Obama's failure to grow a spine and stand up and endorse same sex marriage as a civil right. Unbeknown st to me, the Washington Post editorial board made a similar statement in its main editorial this morning. If he refuses to take a supportive stand on marriage equality, Obama will be merely merely playing games to sucker LGBT voters and contributors without investing any political capital. Here are highlights from the Post's slap down of Obama:
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PRESIDENT OBAMA had plenty of nice things to say about equal rights for gay men and lesbians at Wednesday’s news conference. . . . . And he said that the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York last week was “a good thing.” But what Mr. Obama didn’t say and steadfastly refuses to say is that he believes that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally wed.
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When asked about same-sex marriage last December, the president said that his views on the issue were “evolving.” At the time, this was viewed as a step forward. Not anymore. . . . . With 53 percent of the American people in separate polls by The Post and Gallup supporting gay marriage, Obama is effectively behind the country on this equal rights issue.
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[H]e is wrong is in withholding his decisive voice on this issue. The opinion of the president matters. His speaking out in favor of gay marriage could push forward the broader acceptance that he says “is a good thing.” This could be of great significance, for example, in Maryland, where advocates are gearing up for a second shot at legalizing gay marriage next year. Mr. Obama’s clear voice and unambiguous stance could be what’s needed to ensure success.
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With a presidential campaign that promises to be closer and more contentious than the one that got him elected four years ago, Mr. Obama and his team might be reluctant to embrace a controversial social issue when the economy and jobs are of paramount importance to voters.
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At some point, though, doing the right thing must trump politics. If Mr. Obama does come out in favor of gay marriage, his base would surely rally around him. And all supporters of gay rights should be girding themselves for battle with those who would use the president’s position to deny him a second term.
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The first question at the news conference [yesterday] was about Republican recalcitrance on tax increases. “Hopefully leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Obama said. Later, he would say, “If you know you have to do something, you just do it.” The same words apply to him on marriage equality.

Thursday Male Beauty

New York to Get Billion-Dollar Gay-Wedding Boost

New York City is one of the places the boyfriend and I visit yearly - typically in September when Hampton holds its "Hampton Bay Days" weekend festival and he needs to close the salon down for four days due to crowds and blocked off streets. This year, we have another reason to look on New York fondly: we can get married there if we so desire and can pretend while we are there that we are almost full U.S. citizens. We are hardly alone in making the trip from Virginia and with gay marriage soon to be legal, estimates indicate that New York State can expect a huge financial windfall as out of state LGBT couples travel to New York to get married. The result, of course, is a net financial drain from their bigoted and backward home states. Perhaps as much as billion dollars flowing to New York and out of states like Virgina. Bigotry does indeed carry a financial price. Here are highlights from a Daily Beast article that looks at the likely financial gain coming to New York:
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There’s never been a better time to be a wedding planner in New York. Aside from the social or political impact of the state legalizing gay marriage late last week, the rise in weddings will offer an unprecedented boost to the bottom line of every business involved in the wedding industry. More weddings mean more business for hotels, reception venues, caterers, airlines, bakeries, and boutiques.
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Considering New York City’s ingrained tourism appeal, the state’s most populated city is certain to become a destination for thousands of American same-sex couples wanting to wed. “Of course there will be a rush of City Hall weddings,” says Roney, “creating a mini gay Vegas.” The city’s official tourism arm, NYC & Co. is already developing a global marketing campaign to encourage tourists to say “I Do” in the Big Apple.
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So how much will this mean for the Empire State? Officially, a report from the Independent Economic Conference projected that same-sex unions would generate about $284 million in additional wedding revenue and tourism and put another $27 million in taxes and license fees into the state’s coffers over the next three years.
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But these figures are—intentionally—very conservative, using an average spend of $4,000 per wedding. Given that the average wedding in New York City costs about $70,000, while national average spend is closer to $30,000, according to The Knot, the impact is likely to be far, far bigger. Using the IDC’s estimate of 66,000 couples to marry in the next three years, that means at least $2 billion will be spent on same-sex weddings. Add in the amount spent on wedding rings and on gifts from guests, and the total injected income will average nearly $1 billion a year for the next few years.
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[T]he added dollars from tourism are enough to create and sustain more than 2,000 additional jobs, according to The Williams Institute.
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Of course, just as there are lots of local winners, there are more losers (from an economic standpoint). As thousands of couples descend on the Empire State to say their vows, their home states are missing out on the millions they spend. It seems even in marriage, there’s a first-mover advantage.

Obama Throws Gay Relationships Under the Bus Yet Again

Yesterday, Barack Obama - the Follower in Chief - addressed gay marriage at a White House press conference and then disingenuously held a Pride reception at the White House. Obama's message to LGBT citizens like me and the boyfriend in states hostile to any form of LGBT equality is basically - "o f*ck yourself, I'm fine with discrimination on a state by state basis." I find it pretty sad when the issue of whether or not one has the full rights of a United States citizen depends on what state one lives in. In Washington, D.C., or soon on July 25, 2011, in New York, LGBT citizens have far more equality than in backwater states such as Virginia. And according to Obama, we're supposed to believe it's just fine that we are 4th class citizens. Has the man heard of the U.S. Constitution and concepts such as equal protection and freedom of religion? Obama can fluff up his list of "accomplishments" for the LGBT community all he wants, but since I live in a state where LGBT citizens can be fired at will, can be openly discriminated in housing and are afforded ZERO legal recognition of their committed relationships, I am NOT impressed. Obama needs to grow a spine and get his head out of his ass. Here are highlights from The Advocate on this latest betrayal:
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President Barack Obama did not directly address a question during Wednesday’s news conference on whether marriage is a civil right, referring instead to his track record on LGBT issues and his support for states to decide the issue.
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The president enumerated LGBT accomplishments under his administration, including hate-crimes legislation, signing repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (which remains in effect pending certification), and his decision to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court challenges against the 1996 law. “And so we’ve said we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose" into what states decide, he said. DOMA, he reiterated, is unconstitutional, his Justice Department has concluded.
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However, the president noted, “What I’ve seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week, was a good thing. What you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues; it was contentious, it was emotional, but ultimately they made a decision to recognize civil marriages. And I think that’s exactly how things should work. And so I think it’s important for us to work through these issues, because each community is going to be different and each state is going to be different to work through them.”
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So there you have it. If I want to be more than a 4th class citizen, I'm supposed to move to another, friendlier state. For those who cannot move, they are simply screwed. And I'm supposed to happily support this man? I don't think so!

Virginia Juvenile Justice Board Defies Cuccinelli and Retains LGBT Nondiscrimination Rules

Despite the objections of Virginia Attorney General Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli - who seems to think Virginia and the Virginia General Assembly are somehow exempt from federal equal protection requirements - the Virginia Juvenile Justice Board vote to retain a ban on discriminating based on sexual orientation at its residential centers. Sadly, Cuccinelli can never rest unless LGBT Virginians are subject to open discrimination and abuse on every front. To say that the man is an utter assh*le is an understatement. Common decency should require that no one be mistreated and subjected to discrimination yet Uber-Christian Cuccinelli and his puppeteers at The Family Foundation don't grasp that fact. The Virginian Pilot has coverage with these highlights:
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Virginia's Board of Juvenile Justice retained a ban on discriminating based on sexual orientation at its residential centers, despite concerns that it doesn't specifically have that authority. . . . The board voted 4-1 — with Chairman Barbara J. Myers the lone dissenter — to reaffirm including specific protections based on sexual orientation in Department of Juvenile Justice regulations.
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The group went against advice from a staff lawyer from the attorney general's office who said the state constitution equally protects all people and that sexual orientation hasn't been designated for specific protection under the Virginia Human Rights Act.
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Lara K. Jacobs said that in adopting the anti-bias language, the board risks creating a right that hasn't been enumerated by the General Assembly. Board member Aida L. Pacheco responded: "We're not creating a right, we're trying to prevent discrimination."
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About 800 young offenders are in the Department of Juvenile Justice system on a daily basis.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Wedneday Male beauty

Why Being Out and Proud Matters

In the wake of the historic vote last Friday in New York State, the New York Times ran an editorial by a Frank Bruni, a gay man that discussed the impact that out gays have on the attitudes and acceptance of LGBT citizens by family members and friends. The column spoke both of Bruni's personal story but also how gay family members played a huge role in garnering GOP donor support for marriage equality. I missed the column but a local straight friend saw it, clipped it out of the Sunday Times and mailed it to me. She said reading it, she immediately thought of the boyfriend and me. Nothing confronts and destroys the anti-LGBT stereotypes disseminated by the Christianists and professional Christian set as effectively as a living breathing LGBT family member or friend. The stereotypes quickly become lies in the minds of those who know us and are rejected. In my own experience, clients, fellow parishioners and others have been forced to rethink the prejudice that might otherwise be unthinkingly accepted. Here are highlights from the op-ed column:
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The fact that same-sex marriage was drawing such serious attention at such high levels was public proof of what I could see in my private life — in my own family. Where we are is a long way from where we were.
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Outside New York, five states, along with Washington, D.C., already permit same-sex marriages. Twenty-one states, along with D.C., outlaw anti-gay discrimination. And both numbers will grow. That’s what recent polls telegraph, and that’s what the shape and flavor of the campaign for same-sex marriage in New York irrevocably demonstrated. This issue will increasingly transcend partisan politics and hinge less on party affiliation or archaic religious doctrine than on the intimate, everyday dynamics of family and friendship.
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As The Times’s Michael Barbaro and Nicholas Confessore have reported, the biggest and most influential donors to the New York campaign were Republicans. . . . . . Why such widespread backing, from such surprising quarters? One major reason is that the wish and push to be married cast gay men and lesbians in the most benign, conservative light imaginable, not as enemies of tradition but as aspirants to it.
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But an even bigger reason is how common it now is for Americans to realize that they know and love people who are gay. . . . . Same-sex marriage is personal for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, whose longtime companion, Sandra Lee, has a gay brother. It’s personal for Paul E. Singer, the most impassioned of the Republican donors. At a fund-raiser for same-sex marriage last year, he recalled leafing through the wedding album of “my son and son-in-law,” married in Massachusetts. “At the moment they are pioneers,” he said, according to a transcript, “although I felt like a loving father and father-in-law, not a pioneer, as we were looking at the pictures.” It’s personal for the New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser, who on Monday wrote, “I give in.” She recounted the recent Massachusetts wedding of her niece and another woman.
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In voicing his support for same-sex marriage, Mayor Bloomberg has mentioned — and appeared with — his niece Rachel, who is lesbian. . . . . To reckon with the gay people right in front of you is to re-examine your qualms. I’ve seen that in my father, a 76-year-old Republican.
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Years ago he would quietly leave the room whenever my sexual orientation came up in a family conversation. But when he urged me to attend a Halloween party he gave for his friends last fall, he insisted I bring [my partner] Tom, whom he has come to know well over the two and a half years we’ve been together. And as he introduced us to his golf partners from the country club, he said, “This is my son, Frank. And this is my other son, Tom. Or at least I think of him that way.
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Do you support gay marriage?” I asked him. “I don’t know,” he said, explaining that it still seemed strange. He added: “But not if you know the person.” “Meaning me?” I said. “No,” he said. “I mean Tom. He’s a good person. If you and he got married? I guess that would be O.K. Yeah, that would be fine.”
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Yes, there are real risks to being out - I was forced from a law firm because of it - but by being out you are an activist in more ways than you may ever know.

Eric Cantor's Glaring Conflict of Interest

I make no bones about my view that Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor is a despicable weasel. Frankly, I think he'd sell his mother for the right price in order to gain political power - and the price would not be very high. Similarly, he apparently doesn't mind endangering the nation's economic well being in exchange for potential personal financial gain. Why do I say this? Because as Salon is reporting, Cantor is investing in a fund that skyrockets in value as U.S. Treasury bonds plummet in vale. And who is doing his utmost to cause a debt crisis that will make U.S. Treasury bonds plummet in value? Why, Eric Cantor, of course. Eric Cantor exemplifies what is wrong with today's GOP. He is, in my opinion, devoid of honor, integrity and honesty. Here are some highlights from Salon:
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When Eric Cantor shut down debt ceiling negotiations last week, it did more than just rekindle fears that the U.S. government might soon default on its debt obligations -- it also brought him closer to reaping a small financial windfall from his investment in a mutual fund whose performance is directly affected by debt ceiling brinkmanship.
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Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, had between $1,000 and $15,000 invested in ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury EFT. The fund aggressively "shorts" long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, meaning that it performs well when U.S. debt is undesirable. (A short is when the trader hopes to profit from the decline in the value of an asset.)
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According to his latest financial disclosure statement, which covers the year 2010 and has been publicly available since this spring, Cantor still has up to $15,000 in the same fund. . . . . Unless an agreement can be reached, the U.S. could begin defaulting on its debt payments on Aug. 2. If that happens and Cantor is still invested in the fund, the value of his holdings would skyrocket.
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[S]ince Cantor abruptly called off debt ceiling negotiations last Thursday, the fund is up 3.3 percent. Even if an agreement is ultimately reached before Aug. 2, the fund could continue to benefit between now and then from the uncertainty.
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[S]omeone negotiating the debt ceiling should be invested in this kind of an ultra-short. We can only guess how much he understands what’s in his portfolio, but you’d think a politician would know better. It looks pretty bad."
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One would think that someone in Cantor's position in Congress would want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. But in today's GOP arrogance and a disregard to appropriate conduct seem to be the norm.

Eight Myths to Terrify an Old-School Republican


As I have noted before, I grew up in a family of Rockefeller Republicans where education, reason and intelligence were valued and it was considered unseemly to worry about what others were doing in the privacy of their homes/bedrooms. Moreover, GOP stars at least made an effort to appear to put the welfare of the nation ahead of political party and/or ideology. Obviously, that Republican Party no longer exists due to a combination of a takeover by the Christian Right and the Tea Party and unsavory political whores like Eric Cantor, one of Virginia's members of Congress (more on Cantor in a upcoming post). In an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (the source of the illustration above) today takes today's GOP to task and underscores just how depraved and irresponsible the party has become. Here are column highlights:
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When Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., quit the (no longer) bipartisan deficit-reduction talks last week, it was not exactly a "Profiles in Courage" moment.
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Serious deficit reduction can't be — and shouldn't be —accomplished without tax increases and broad elimination of tax expenditures, which would have the effect of raising taxes. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform last year acknowledged that. But tax increases, in whatever guise, fail the current Republican purity laws.
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It's sad to see what has happened to the Party of Lincoln, and for that matter, the party of lesser mortals like George H.W. Bush of Texas, Bob Dole of Kansas and Jack Danforth of Missouri. No one ever would mistake them for liberals, but they were statesmen who put country before party.
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Today we have the spectacle of smart, patriotic men and women putting their brains and integrity on ice to please a party dominated by anti-intellectual social Darwinists and the plutocrats who finance and mislead them.
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Consider the mythology that makes up GOP orthodoxy today. Imagine the contortions that cramp the brains and souls of men and women of intelligence and compassion who seek state and national office under the Republican banner.

• They must believe, despite the evidence of the 2008 financial collapse, that unregulated — or at most, lightly regulated —financial markets are good for America and the world.

• They must believe in the brilliantly cast conceit known as the "pro-growth agenda," in which economic growth can be attained only by reducing corporate and individual tax rates, especially among the investor class, and by freeing business from environmental rules that have cleaned up America's air and water and labor regulations that helped create America's middle class.

• Though rising health care costs are pillaging the economy, and even though health care in America is now a matter of what you can afford, Republican candidates for office must deny that health care is a basic right and resist a real attempt to change and improve the system.

• GOP candidates must scoff at scientific consensus about global warming. Blame it on human activity? Bad. Cite Noah's Ark as evidence? Good. They must express at least some doubt about the science of evolution.

• They must insist, statistics and evidence to the contrary, that most of the nation's energy needs can be met safely with more domestic oil drilling, "clean-coal" technology and greater reliance on perfectly safe nuclear power plants.

• They must believe that all 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States can be rounded up, detained, tried, repatriated and kept from returning at a reasonable cost.

• Even though there are more than four unemployed persons for every available job, GOP candidates should at least hint that unemployment benefits keep people from seeking jobs.

• They must believe that the Founding Fathers wanted to guarantee individuals the absolute right to own high-capacity, rapid-fire weapons that did not exist in the late 18th century.
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Like the Christianist version of Christianity, today GOP deserves to die - hopefully sooner as opposed to later - because of the damage it knowingly does to the nation in the quest for power and control.

Africa’s Imaginary Gay Crisis

Another member of the Insider/Out list serv that I belong to shared a link to this op-ed column which appeared in The Guardian, a newspaper in Nigeria. The column looks at the manufactured "gay crisis" in Africa which is the handiwork of corrupt political regimes that want to blame a scapegoat for the declining economic conditions in their nations - which are generally the result of the politicians own misdeeds and incompetence - with the help of largely USA based Christianists. While extreme in some ways, the column also gives a glimpse of what the United States would look like as a nation should the Christianists ever succeed in imposing the form of theocratic government for which they yearn. As I continue to maintain, the Christianists and their flunkies in the GOP are a clear and present danger to constitutional government and freedom of religion for all citizens. Here are some column highlights:
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A SPECTRE is haunting Africa - the spectre of homosexuality. But it is an unusual spectre: it does not exist. It is a phantom. Over the past decade, a curious and totally unlikely coalition of religious leaders, the ruling class, and sections of the mainstream media, has launched a vigorous campaign against homosexuality and perceived homosexuals. Trading in the most spiteful rhetoric and symbols imaginable, members of this alliance have sung from the same hymn book, affirming, implausibly, that homosexuality is a recent import into Africa, and that homosexuals are responsible for the continent’s post-colonial throes. Not unpredictably, the alliance’s investment in hate has yielded bountiful dividends of violence and murder.
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I advance two preliminary explanations. The first is economic.
It is hardly a coincidence that the two countries where anti-gay rhetoric has been most strident in Africa - Zimbabwe and Nigeria - are also two of the most economically destitute. In both countries, the percentage of the population ‘living’ on less than a dollar a day has risen steadily over the past two decades. Average life expectancy, according to the 2011 Failed States Index (where both are ranked 6th and 14th respectively) is 33.5 for Zimbabwe, and 48.3 for Nigeria. In both countries, a frustrated quest for a rational explanation for economic crisis has produced an implausible demonology in which gays, lesbians, and sexual deviants of all sorts apparently team up with sundry ‘demonic forces’ to ambush not just those countries’, but Africa’s economic progress (incidentally, South Africa, with the most liberal sexual laws in Africa, is also the continent’s most economically advanced country).
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The situation in both Zimbabwe and Nigeria seems to validate the link between material privation and political suggestibility. Where people are poor and poorly educated (or not at all), they are more susceptible to political manipulation by demagogues who parrot easy explanations for complex and fundamentally rational economic problems. In most of Africa today, the insidious fiction that the ‘gay next door’ bars the way to economic progress has been cue for a massive pink-hunt.
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None of this politico-economic explanation can be meaningful without a connection to the expanding influence of religion in Africa. This is my second explanation. Over the past three decades, much of the continent has fallen under the scourge of Pentecostal Christianity. As a social phenomenon, one with key transnational connections, Pentecostal Christianity in Africa has carried a moralist and doggedly anti-intellectual banner.
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As an anti-intellectual force, Pentecostalism in Africa is profoundly ahistorical in that it eschews human, especially political, agency in favour of pseudo-spiritual ‘explanations’.
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This is the overall anti-intellectual, anti-rationalist climate in which gays have become, quite literally, African societies’ whipping boys. I emphasize this climate in order to drive home an important point, to wit: given the atmosphere of pervasive irrationality, gays are only one among many other ‘enemies’. In Nigeria for instance, an ever growing list of ‘demonic forces’ has recently expanded to include so-called child ‘witches’ who are blamed for even economic problems that pre-date their conception. In the most tragic examples, brainwashed parents have colluded in the killing of their own children.
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With many evangelical upstarts naively promising salvation in exchange for gays’ renunciation of ‘sodomy’, the continent is once again chasing shadows at the expense of real solutions to its serious problems. Such problems may vary in manifestation and degree, but they are unified by their being traceable to a common set of factors, foremost among which are elite myopia and failure to invest in human capital and physical infrastructure. These problems require urgent attention, and as it is, African governments’ capacity to deal with them is hobbled by their failure to keep their young men and women at home. These are the things we should be obsessing about, not what the dude next door is up to when the lights go out.
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Ignorance, irrationality, and economic decline are the fruits of evangelical Christianity. Yet this is precisely what the political whores within the GOP are willing to unleash on the USA as they prostitute themselves to the Christian Right for short term political advantage.

Wednesday Male Beauty

NOTE: Due to a Blogger malfunction, photos could not be uploaded earlier in the day. Sorry that some readers may have been disappointed.

San Diego Catholic Church Reconsiders Gay Man's Funeral

The Roman Catholic Church gives lip service to treating LGBT individuals with dignity and compassion. Like so much that comes out of the Church, that story line is an outright lie and Church's actions and constant denigration of LGBT individuals speak far louder than disingenuously spoken words. Once in a while, the Church's true attitude comes through in such a blatant way that the shocked public reaction causes the bitter old men in dresses to rethink their actions. A case in point comes from San Diego, California, where the family of a gay business owner (pictured at left) was refused a Catholic funeral mass in a Catholic Church. Several media outlets picked up on the story and apparently the powers that be thought some PR damage control was in order. Hence the decision to allow the funeral after all. Personally, a Catholic Church is about the last place I'd want my funeral, but grieving should not be treated in the manner the Church first acted. Note that even as the Church reverses course, it likely is lying about how the PR disaster happened. Here are highlights from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
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A San Diego man’s Catholic funeral was moved from a church in Little Italy to a cemetery across town this week after a priest objected because the man was gay. For some, the situation evoked a 2005 incident when San Diego Bishop Robert Brom denied gay nightclub owner John McCusker a Catholic funeral, leading to a protest from the gay community and a subsequent apology from Brom.
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Tuesday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego said in a statement that the funeral Mass for 70-year-old John Sanfilippo — who owned SRO Lounge, a gay hangout in Bankers Hill — “may take place.” The statement, from Chancellor Rodrigo Valdivia, said the person objecting to the initial funeral arrangements was “a visiting priest substituting during the pastor’s vacation” and “not familiar with local practice.”
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The funeral was scheduled at Our Lady of the Rosary in Little Italy, where Sanfilippo was raised in a family of fishermen. It will now occur Thursday morning at Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum.
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The refusal to hold a Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary prompted a small group of gay Catholics to gather outside the church Monday night to say the rosary and leave a note for the diocese seeking a clear policy on funeral Masses and last rites for Catholics who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
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Among those six or eight people were Nicole Murray Ramirez, a member of the San Diego Human Relations Commission, and Tom Kirkman, former president of Dignity/San Diego, the local chapter of a national advocacy group for gay Catholics.
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“The church should make a statement and issue that statement to all parishes that to make a knee-jerk reaction to reject a person’s funeral just because that person is gay is not appropriate,” Kirkman said.

Housing is Killing the Recovery

At the risk of beating a dead horse, it's time again to look at the engine that drove the Great Recession and which is now killing any real recovery: the housing market. Both the Los Angeles Times and FrumForum have pieces that look at the continuing debacle and the abject failure of Congress and the White House to do anything meaningful to address the problem. Dealing with distressed homeowners every day, I can testify that the so-called Home Affordable Modification Program is little more than a joke. And a sick joke at that. Lenders have no accountability and frankly, most personnel one deals with are utterly incompetent and have about as much reasoning skill as a trained circus dog - no offense intended towards dogs. For almost FOUR years now I have been railing about this issue and nothing meaningful has been done other than a huge bailout to lenders who have done nothing to assist homeowners with legitimate hardships. First, here are highlights from the LA Times:
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Almost anywhere you look, assessments of the state of the economic recovery are muddled — job growth is positive but fading, consumer spending ebbs and flows, corporate profits are surging but corporate spending is not. The exception is housing, on which everyone agrees. The housing market stinks.
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The latest national Case-Shiller index of home prices fell again in April from a year earlier. It was up modestly from March, but since that month marked a new recession low, pushing average prices back to levels not seen since 2002, at best we're bumping along the bottom. About 4.5% of all mortgages are still in foreclosure, more than four times the historical average . . .
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Yet housing is the area in which the government's remedial efforts have been consistently the weakest. The gap between the government's effort to bail out bankers and its effort to bail out homeowners is a national scandal. Under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the government's bank bailout, some $50 billion was earmarked for mortgage relief; by late last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, only $8 billion had been committed and much less had been spent.
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HAMP hasn't been a total flop. The redefault rate of less than 20% on its mortgages is about half that of other mortgage relief programs. But it's enough of a disappointment that Treasury officials recently took a step almost unique in their regulatory record: They penalized three big banks for their shortcomings in managing HAMP. The banks are Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase.
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The shame of HAMP is that federal mortgage relief didn't have to be so halfhearted. HAMP's drafters had a successful model to work from. That was the New Deal-era Home Owners' Loan Corp., or HOLC, a program that saved 1 million homes from loss in the depths of the Great Depression and completely remade the country's mortgage market in the process.
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What really enabled HOLC to succeed was that its incentives were all aimed at keeping borrowers in their homes. That's not the case with today's mortgage market, where the incentives are canted toward foreclosures. HAMP has done very little to correct that.
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The key to keeping a financially strapped borrower in a home is to modify the mortgage to cut the monthly payment, whether by cutting the interest rate or loan balance or by stretching out the repayment term. What makes this difficult is that often the loan servicer — the bank or office that bills the homeowner and tracks his or her payment history — doesn't own the loan, which has been packaged and sold to investors.
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In fact, servicers have powerful incentives to do the wrong thing — wrong for borrowers, wrong for investors, wrong for the economy. They make more money, and have better guarantees of payment, if they delay modifications, even if they force homeowners into foreclosure.
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[A] bigger flaw is that the government's housing policy doesn't acknowledge that a genuine, lasting solution to the housing crisis means reducing the loan balances of financially stressed homeowners to levels that make sense in terms of today's sharply reduced home values.
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No stimulus program would be as effective today as fixing the residential market. Yet, typically, the momentum in Congress is in the other direction, with House Republicans plotting to repeal HAMP. It's not that they have any better idea; it's that when it comes to helping the economy, they abhor anything but a vacuum.
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The FrumForum column repeats much of the same territory and flat out says that the continued housing disaster is killing the economy. Here are some highlights:
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For those who may think that the housing market has bottomed out and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, think again. That isn’t a light at the end and it’s not a train coming either. It might just be a blistering ray of solar radiation that could evaporate everything it is path, a wave of housing supply that will quickly overwhelm any hope for home price stabilization, much less an actual recovery. There is a shield, however, if politicians, policy makers and regulators can find the fortitude to redefine the American Dream.
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Over the last 6 months, the nation’s housing supply has been artificially (and temporarily) held at bay by moratoriums imposed on the big servicers over foreclosure practices while buyer demand has remained relatively constant. Econ 101 would instruct us that, under this scenario, home prices should rise. Instead, during the same period home prices continued their decline, falling an additional 4-5% on an adjusted basis. According to an increasingly number of economists, including Robert Schiller, we should expect to see this trend continue another 20-25% over the next several years. Why? Because the supply of homes expected to hit the market is more than double all of the homes sold in 2010 and YTD 2011 combined. Large banks, private investors and the GSE’s know this and are racing to the bottom to unload their existing homes before the tsunami hits.
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Recent CNNMoney headlines are telling. “Walk Away from your Mortgage: Time to Get Ruthless” (June 7) highlights the driving force behind all of this supply: underwater homeowners. The number of “strategic” defaulters is accelerating as more people make a basic economic decision to walk away.
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In a recent Fannie Mae survey, 27% of homeowners would consider walking away from their mortgage if home prices keep falling, nearly double from a year ago, and more than 50% no longer believe owning a house is a good investment.
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The number of people who fit into these buckets is staggering: More than 4 million mortgage borrowers are either in foreclosure or are seriously delinquent. Most of their houses will end up on the market as short sales or foreclosure sales. Private estimates put the figure, often referred to as “shadow inventory” at more than 6 million.
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Supply will increase and demand will decrease, driving home prices down, which in turn will create a self-perpetuating cycle. So how do we stabilize home prices if there is limited homeowner demand? The answer, of course, is to reduce the supply through other means.
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What are required are bold governmental initiatives to promote renting as a means to stabilize home prices. Start by accelerating the sale of entire GSE and FHA REO positions, which are worth on the order of $40-$50 billion, to private investors who could form large scale leasing portfolios. Divert what remain of federal and state funds from loan modification programs to rental-assistance programs. Rather than pay mortgage servicers to modify deeply delinquent borrowers who, after modification of the payment, are still underwater on their homes, reward servicers to convert them into tenants at reduced housing payments. Keeping people in homes and kids in schools while avoiding foreclosure signs on front lawns is almost always a good thing. Modifying borrowers to buy time without addressing negative equity is rarely an optimal outcome. And maybe, just maybe, adjust tax incentives to take into account all forms of housing payments, not just mortgage interest.
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I don't necessarily agree with the proposed solution, but at least it would be doing SOMETHING as opposed to nothing which is what is the current reality.

Obama's Bubble World

I used to talk about Chimperator Bush existing in a bubble within the White House and being out of touch with reality. Based on the reception Obama's minions are receiving at the Aspen Ideas Festival Obama seems to be sliding into a similar bubble world existence. Things are NOT good with the economy and people are VERY unhappy, yet Obama's minions seem shocked by the reaction they are receiving. Among the points of controversy are (1) Obama's lack of leadership and (2) willingness to capitulate to Republicans before he's even begun to negotiate. Surrounding one's self with ass kissers is not an effective way to run a country. A Daily Beast article looks at the apparently detached world within the White House. Here are highlights:
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If David Axelrod thought he was going to be love-bombed at the Aspen Ideas Festival—the week-long conclave of well-heeled do-gooders and big thinkers who, stylistically at least, would be expected to wish President Obama the very best—he had another think coming.
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“This is a moderate crowd, both Republicans and Dems—you’re not looking at Tea Party Nation,” Time magazine columnist Joe Klein told Obama’s political guru on Tuesday evening during an onstage interview in the fashionable Colorado resort town. “And there’s a sense of disappointment here. They know he’s smart and trying hard. They wonder why he hasn’t been more forceful—why he hasn’t cut through.”
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“I’m so mad, I want to kick his butt,” said nominal supporter Cynthia Brill, who was attending the panel discussions and earnest disquisitions with her husband Steve, the journalist and high-tech entrepreneur. “They think everything is just fine—they don’t seem to know what’s going on.”
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Outside of Axelrod’s hearing, Brill, a lawyer, told me that even before the outcome of the debt-limit negotiations is known, Obama has given up far too much in his back and forth with congressional Republicans over increasing the U.S. government’s ability to borrow money and prevent a market-shaking credit default. “He’s already lost the battle,” she claimed.
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At an earlier panel discussion Tuesday involving various political practioners, Axelrod—who left the White House a few months ago to spearhead the president’s reelection campaign—was put in the surprising position of trying to defend his boss from Jane Harman, a veteran Democratic member of the House who resigned her California seat in February to run the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. . .
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A couple of hours later during his onstage interview, Axelrod heatedly disputed Klein’s contention that Obama has been a passive leader and a poor salesman for his successes. Klein said Obama “is the first president I’ve ever encountered that has given the voters three tax cuts and never told them about it. What’s up with that?” Axelrod argued that his boss’s leadership efforts are focused on results, not style, and that history will judge Obama’s accomplishments kindly.