Saturday, March 03, 2012

The True History of "Traditional Marriage"

As the image above indicates, the "family values" crowd needs to learn some accurate history.

Irish Archbishop: Catholic Church In Ireland at Breaking Point

Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin (pictured at left) has been one of the very few members of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy who has indicated a desire to clean house and admit to the fact that Catholicism is collapsing in Ireland - a nation once considered among the most Catholic countries on earth. Unfortunately, the rest of the hierarchy and many in the laity around the world refuse to open their eyes to the magnitude of the moral bankruptcy of the Church leadership, including Benedict XVI and his anything but saintly predecessor John Paul II who did nothing to weed out predatory priests. Indeed, John Paul II was far more concerned about the reputation of the church than he was about stopping child rapists within the Catholic clergy. Here are highlights from an article in The Guardian that reports on Martin's prognosis for Catholicism in Ireland:

Irish Catholicism is at "breaking point" over the child sex abuse scandals involving the clergy, the leader of Ireland's largest Catholic diocese will say on Sunday. The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, will also warn that the paedophile priest controversy is far from over for the Irish church.

In a frank admission of the church's failings on American primetime TV , Martin will say: "There's a real danger today of people saying: 'the child abuse scandal is over, let's bury it, let's move on'.

Regarded as one of the most progressive thinkers in the Irish Catholic church, Martin will appear on CBS's top current affairs show 60 Minutes. He is one of the most senior Catholics to openly criticise the way the hierarchy has handled the abuse allegations.

The head of Dublin's Catholics will tell the programme that "now is not the time to forget" and that the "problems are still there" when it comes to the scandals that have rocked the church and undermined its political power and authority in the Irish Republic.

Archbishop Martin has warned that the church in Ireland needs to make further progress and carry out major reforms before any visit by Pope Benedict could take place.

When Martin was appointed archbishop of Dublin he handed over 65,000 files to the Murphy commission, which was tasked with investigating clerical child abuse in the Irish capital. In his sermons he also confronted the church's leadership over the way they covered up past child abuse scandals by moving priests suspected of being paedophiles into new parishes in other parts of Ireland or abroad. He also met organisations representing the victims of clerical abuse.

It is noteworthy that Martin's predecessor had refused to turn the files over to Irish authorities. An Irish Central story also has some interesting items on what Martin will likely say on 60 Minutes tomorrow night:

Bob Simon’s report looks at how the sexual abuse scandal in Ireland has transformed the way of life.

He shows how the child sex abuse crisis and cover-up in the Catholic Church in Ireland has taken a devastating toll on one of the most Catholic countries in the world. Some parishes that once saw 90 percent Sunday Mass attendance are down to two percent.

A country that once produced so many priests that they were considered an important export now doesn’t have enough for its own churches the report finds.

If the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church were smart, they both launch major initiatives to attract Catholics who want to remain churchgoers but who are fed up financing the morally bankrupt monsters in the Catholic Church hierarchy. Where the laity likes to face reality or not, by continuing to support their parishes, they are supporting Rome and all of the corrupt protectors of child rapists throughout the Church hierarchy.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell’s Not-So-Magic Wand

I will confess that part of me revels in seeing Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell - a/k/a Taliban Bob - taking a continued beating because of his coddling of extremists in the Virginia GOP and slavish pandering to the Christofascists at The Family Foundation. Now he's even taking a beating in the venerable UK publication The Economist. Bob, I hope you've given Victoria Cobb and Bob Marshall a resounding "thank you" for what they and their fellow religious extremists have likely done to your political career. Here are some highlights from The Economist's take down of Taliban Bob:

BOB MCDONNELL’S landslide victory in the election for Virginia’s governor in 2009, coming one year after Barack Obama carried the state, lifted the conservative Republican to national fame. In short order, Mr McDonnell set his sights on another job: vice-president.

His ambitions may now be threatened by a seeming inability to control the excesses of his party: in particular, a requirement pushed through the legislature that women seeking abortions must undergo a vaginal ultrasound test.

Pundits and satirists have been eager to link Virginia’s bill to the rows over contraception now convulsing the Republican Party as Mitt Romney dukes it out with Rick Santorum. Republicans in Richmond hastily rewrote their bill, requiring merely an obligatory abdominal ultrasound rather than the use of a vaginal probe.

The fact that Mr McDonnell had not foreseen a public backlash to the vaginal-ultrasound requirement seems, to some, to illustrate his tone-deafness and inattention to detail. Both could have adverse consequences for the governor, who, as a prospective running-mate for Mr Romney, fancies himself as a bridge to conservatives wary of the moderate front-runner.

He originally billed himself as a non-threatening conservative more interested in budget-balancing and job creation than in social or cultural matters. But since taking office two years ago, despite an approval rating that hovers around 60%, he has been knocked off-balance by avoidable controversies.

In April 2010 Mr McDonnell signed a proclamation celebrating Virginia’s Confederate past, but failed to make any mention of slavery.

This latest embarrassment recalls one that threatened Mr McDonnell’s candidacy for governor: his thesis as a law student in 1989 at a university founded by Pat Robertson, the television evangelist. In it, Mr McDonnell argued that feminists are “detrimental” to the family and that public policy should favour married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators”. When it comes to Republican politics in 2012, he was clearly ahead of his time.

Whitewashing the Democrats' History on Gay Rights

While today's Republican Party has made it easy to picture that party as the party of anti-gay bigotry and intolerance in general, the Democrats have a less than pretty history of their attitude towards LGBT citizens if one looks back not all that far back in time. Indeed, some of the laws that continue to deny LGBT Americans full equality such as DOMA were put in place under a Democrat President and for cynical and calculating political purposes. Yes, the Democrats have improved and 21 U.S. Senators support making marriage equality part of the Democratic Party plank. But we need to ever mindful that politicians often do things for perceived political expediency as opposed to because it's the right thing to do. Many who now are viewed as champions of LGBT equality have a less than pretty past record and have shown that political expediency is their true god. Frank Rich has a long piece in New York Magazine that reminds us of the convenient amnesia that some Democrats like to exhibit. Here are some highlights:

When the news came last June that the New York State Senate had voted to legalize same-sex marriage, I was at a dinner party that felt like New Year’s Eve, only with genuine emotions. Everyone at the table—straight, gay, young, old—was elated. Later, as my wife and I headed home past an Empire State Building ablaze in the rainbow colors of Pride Week, we were still euphoric at having witnessed one of those rare nights when history is made. Same-sex-marriage adversaries constantly proclaim that gay unions threaten “traditional” marriage.

[T]he dawning of marital equality and the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell” are twin peaks in the checkered cavalcade of American social justice. Since that night, the good news on gay civil rights has kept coming. This month alone, legislative and judicial actions have made same-sex marriage the law in Washington State and Maryland and nudged it closer to reality in California and, Chris Christie notwithstanding, New Jersey. A Valentine’s week New York Times–CBS News poll, echoing others over the past year, found that Americans now favor marriage over separate-and-unequal civil unions as the legal option for gay couples; less than a third of the public believes that gay families should be denied both.

Compared with the other civil-rights battles in America, especially the epic struggle over race that has stained and hobbled the nation since its birth, the fight over gay equality is remarkable for its relative ease, compact chronology, and the happiness of its pending resolution. There’s no happier ending to any plot than a wedding. But, as last June’s celebration has gradually given way to morning-after sobriety, it’s also clear that something is wrong with this cheery picture. Two things, actually.

The first is obvious: Full equality for gay Americans is nowhere near at hand. One of America’s two major political parties is still hell-bent on thwarting and even rolling back gay rights much as Goldwater Republicans and Dixie Democrats (on their way to joining the GOP) resisted civil-rights legislation and enforcement in the sixties. In most states, sexual orientation can still be used to deny not only marriage but also jobs and housing, as well as to curtail adoption rights. America’s dominant religions remain largely hostile to homosexuality, and America’s most cherished secular pastime, professional sports, is essentially a no-gay zone. The bullying of gay and transgendered children remains a national crisis.

The second thing that’s wrong with the picture is far less obvious because it has been willfully obscured. In the outpouring of provincial self-congratulation that greeted the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, some of the discomforting history that preceded that joyous day has been rewritten, whitewashed, or tossed into a memory hole. We—and by we, I mean liberal New Yorkers like me, whether straight or gay, and their fellow travelers throughout America—would like to believe that the sole obstacles to gay civil rights have been the usual suspects: hidebound religious leaders both white and black, conservative politicians (mostly Republican), fundamentalist Christian and Muslim zealots, and unreconstructed bigots. What’s been lost in this morality play is the role that many liberal politicians and institutions have also played in slowing and at some junctures halting gay civil rights in recent decades.

It was, after all, the trustees of the Smithsonian Institution, not a Bible Belt cultural outpost, who bowed to pressure from the militant Catholic League just fifteen months ago to censor the work of a gay American artist who had already been silenced, long ago, by AIDS. It was a Democratic president, with wide support from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who in 1996 signed the Defense of Marriage Act, one of the most discriminatory laws ever to come out of Washington. It’s precisely because of DOMA that to this day same-sex marriages cannot be more than what you might call placebo marriages in the eight states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized them.

The history of liberal culpability in such government-mandated discrimination should not be locked in a closet now. To forget any history is to risk repeating it. To forget this particular history is to minimize or erase the struggles of gay men and lesbians whose lives and fundamental rights were trampled routinely for decades in America, with cruel and sometimes deadly results.

Remembering what happened is essential if politicians, particularly liberal politicians, are to be prodded or, if need be, shamed into bringing the unfinished tasks of equality to the finish line.

One relevant chapter of this often-obscured past unfolded during the not-so-distant year of 1977. . . . It was also in 1977 that Anita Bryant, a pop singer and onetime Miss America runner-up, mounted her “Save Our Children” campaign to repeal a Miami ordinance protecting homosexuals from discrimination in jobs and housing. Bryant called gay people “an abomination,” but such invective didn’t prevent her cause from winning the endorsement of the Dade County Democratic Party—or of Florida’s governor, Reubin Askew, a Democrat so progressive that George McGovern had offered him the vice-presidential slot on the 1972 ticket. The anti-gay rage whipped up around Miami by this crusade inspired the bumper sticker KILL A QUEER FOR CHRIST and the beating and hospitalization of a gay man.

What most New Yorkers did not know about gay people in 1977 could — and did—fill a five - column article in the Times (albeit relegated to page 41). It breathlessly reported that “increasingly, the homosexual community is very much one of lawyers, physicians, teachers, politicians, clergymen, and other upper-class professional men and women,” many of whom “tend to live like their heterosexual counterparts.

In 1978, The Village Voice published a front-page polemic arguing that gay civil rights shouldn’t be a matter of public concern.

It’s this atmosphere that explains why another woman of Miss America fame—Bess Myerson, who, unlike Anita Bryant, had won the crown—was dragged into a New York mayoral contest between two liberals. Koch was a Greenwich Village bachelor, at the time a scarlet letter of assumed homosexuality second only to being a hairdresser. Myerson was drafted as his steady campaign companion—if not a girlfriend, exactly, a hand-holding BFF—to stave off the accusation that dare not speak its name except in below-the-radar whispers. . . . As Election Day approached, posters of mysterious provenance reading VOTE FOR CUOMO, NOT THE HOMO appeared in Brooklyn and Queens.

Both Cuomos have long denied having anything to do with those posters. They could not, however, deny their ostentatious playing of the “family man” card.
Whatever went down in 1977 was enough to move Andrew Cuomo to later apologize privately to Koch for the tone of the race.

What we do know is that Andrew Cuomo deserves every bit of credit he has received for making same-sex marriage a top priority of his young governorship and for moving heaven and earth—deep-pocketed donors, recalcitrant Albany politicians, and sometimes-disorganized gay activists—to get the job done. If that feat of governance, among others, makes Cuomo a likely presidential prospect for the post-Obama Democratic Party, it’s well earned. But it doesn’t obliterate the record of what came before, including his standoffish relationship to gay-civil-rights battles for much of his preceding three-decade public career.

By the time Cuomo could act as governor, the issue was a win-win for him in Democratic politics, locally and nationally, the path having been paved by other fighters before him and by fast-moving polls confirming an ever more gay-friendly America. Yet even the preeminent gay magazine The Advocate failed to confront him on his record in its worshipful cover story marking New York’s marriage law; that past was journalistically Photoshopped out of existence.

Bill Clinton has also worked hard to spin and skate away from his history on gay issues. His presidential record looks good only when contrasted with the literally lethal passivity of Ronald Reagan, who didn’t think AIDS warranted a speech until 1987, six years into the epidemic and his presidency. Reagan is a very low bar, and that lets Clinton off the hook for a legacy that’s had a far more lasting and egregious impact than any failings, youthful or otherwise, of Andrew Cuomo. Clinton knows it, too. In his thousand-page memoir, My Life, he somehow didn’t find the space to so much as mention the Defense of Marriage Act.

The bill was strictly a right-wing political ploy cooked up for the year of Clinton’s re-election campaign. It had no other justification. In the spring of 1996, same-sex marriage wasn’t legal anywhere in the country or a top-tier cause for many gay leaders; it was solely in play in a slow-moving court case in Hawaii. But fear and demonization of gay men was off the charts: In 1995, a record 50,877 Americans with AIDS died—a one-year count rivaling the 58,000 Americans lost in the entire Vietnam War. The Christian Coalition, under the Machiavellian guidance of the yet-to-be-disgraced Ralph Reed, saw an opening to exploit homophobia to galvanize a Republican base unenthusiastic about Bob Dole. In a consummate display of bad taste, Clinton announced that he would sign DOMA that spring just two days after the Supreme Court, in a rare national victory for gay rights, struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment that had barred anti-discrimination laws benefiting gay men and lesbians. In the months to come, Clinton’s stand on DOMA gave political permission to many nominally liberal Democrats to join Rick Santorum, Jesse Helms, and Larry Craig in voting for the bill that September—among them Charles Schumer (then in the House) and the senators Joe Biden, Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg, Patrick Leahy, Joe ­Lieberman, Carl Levin, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, and Harry Reid. Only fourteen senators, also Democrats, had the courage to vote against it.

Two years later, Matthew Shepard would be strung up in Wyoming, and a decade later George W. Bush, in league with Karl Rove, would make a statement almost identical to Clinton’s when he endorsed a constitutional marriage amendment in a similar election-year pander. “As this debate goes forward,” Bush intoned in 2006, “every American deserves to be treated with tolerance and respect and dignity.” Like Clinton, he knew he was enabling the exact opposite.

It’s Clinton who has done the rewriting, and not slightly, claiming that DOMA was “a reasonable compromise in the environment of the time.” Reasonable for his own political calculation, yes, but hardly for the gay Americans who have paid for it ever since.

Andrew Cuomo has traveled far from the late seventies—as so many of us have—and so has Bill Clinton from the nineties. The former president came out for same-sex marriage in 2009. But words are cheap. Clinton’s lip service might actually mean something if he spent his own current financial and political capital to help undo the second-class citizenship for gay Americans that was codified on his watch. Whatever his good works overseas, it’s past time for the entrepreneur of the Clinton Global Initiative to phone home—and to galvanize the liberal Democrats who followed his lead in ratifying DOMA, many of them still in office.

We are now in another election year, and one in which both leading presidential candidates in the GOP preach the most hard-line anti-gay positions of their respective churches. Nothing is ever certain in politics and, unlikely as it may seem, one of them could win. . . . . Though a cadre of conservative financiers, at least one with a gay son, helped bankroll Cuomo’s successful strong-arming of Republican same-sex-marriage votes in Albany, there doesn’t seem to be a single major Republican donor or leader, or even a mainstream conservative pundit, with the guts to call out these candidates or the party’s congressional leadership on their corrosive anti-gay rhetoric and agenda.

The GOP is on the wrong side of history for sure, with gays no less than Hispanics and every other minority group. Generational and demographic turnover is remaking America even as the right tries to turn back the clock. But over the shorter term, the party’s hard line will continue to inflict real injustice on citizens of all stripes—not just on gay adults (whether they are seeking marriage or not), but on gay kids struggling to find a safe place for themselves in the world and straight children who love their gay parents. So uninhibited is the animus of the Republican base that it thought nothing of booing a gay Army captain serving in Iraq when he presumed to ask a polite question via YouTube during a campaign debate on Fox News. Not one of the nine presidential candidates onstage spoke up to defend the soldier.

That’s why the celebrations in New York last June, while merited, must be seen as provisional. That’s also why Democratic leaders who profess fierce advocacy of gay civil rights must be held to account. Back in a day that was only yesterday, too many of them also fell silent—and when it counted most.

Rich makes many good points and the reality s that LGBT citizens need to be vigilant and ALWAYS go out in vote. Bitching amongst themselves doesn't cut it if they've stayed home on their ass while the Christofascists have gone out in droves on a modern day anti-gay crusade. And it's important that Democrats know that we are only too aware of their past failings and we are watching their every move.

Who The Presidential Candidates Care About

Via Andrew Sullivan. Obviously the response to the last question is not good news for Romney. or Santorum

Maine Catholic Diocese Will Not Publicly Campaign Against Gay Marriage

In 2009 the Roman Catholic Church actively and very publicly campaigned to overturn Maine's same sex marriage law. Now that a repeal of the repeal of the marriage aw will be on the ballot in November, the head of Maine's Catholic Diocese claims that the Church will not be actively campaigning against same sex marriage. Of course, that's not to say lots of money will not be secretly routed via the Knights of Columbus or the National Organization for Marriage which seems in many ways to be a front organization for the Catholic Church - and possibly the Mormon Church. Frankly, I believe the truthfulness of anything a Catholic bishop about as far as I could throw an aircraft carrier. Thus, it will be telling to see whether this claim holds up. Obviously, with the worldwide sex abuse scandal still in full swing, the Church has better things it could be focusing its efforts on besides persecuting loving, committed same sex couples. Here are highlights from the Morning Sentinel:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine will take no active role in a political campaign against a same-sex marriage referendum that's expected to be on the November ballot, Bishop Richard Malone announced today. Instead, the diocese is expanding an existing educational program to better inform church members about the qualities and benefits of marriage between one man and one woman.

Malone issued a pastoral letter on marriage today that will be used extensively to teach 185,000 Roman Catholics in Maine about the gift of traditional marriage and the need to preserve it as it is.

The largely in-house educational initiative represents a significant departure from the major role that the diocese played in supporting a successful 2009 referendum against gay marriage. The diocese contributed more than $500,000 to that $3.8 million campaign and its public affairs director took a leave of absence to lead the effort.

This time, Malone said, the diocese won't be taking up special collections, buying TV ads or contributing staff to a political campaign against same-sex marriage.

Last month, same-sex marriage advocates in Maine turned in more than enough signatures to put a gay-marriage question on the November ballot. First, the question will be considered by a Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican governor. If both approve the measure, then same-sex marriage would become legal. If either rejects the measure, which is expected, the state will hold a referendum.

Opponents of gay marriage are poised to file paperwork with the Secretary of State next week, establishing a political action committee or a ballot question committee that will be called Protect Marriage Maine, said Carroll Conley Jr., executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine.

Personally, I look forward to the day when Christians are a minority and their rights can be put to referendums. It would certainly be a fitting pay back for all the misery and heartache they have inflicted on society and the world.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Rick Santorum and the Sexual Revolution

Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum continues to be obsessed with the sex lives of others and seems to want the nation to a time of back alley abortions, gays hidden deeply in the closet and women bare foot and pregnant. It's not exactly a world that most of us want to see return and Santorum seems Hell bent to poison the younger generations toward the GOP. Having been raised Catholic, I am fully aware of just how badly one can be psychologically damaged by the Church. But therapy can help one escape the damage and Santorum's long into adulthood and could have found help if he but wanted to do so. A column in the New York Times looks at Frothy Mix's bizarre sexually obsessed world. Here are some highlights:

Rick Santorum wants to bring sexy back ... to the 1950s, when he was born. That is because Santorum seems to have an unhealthy fixation with, and passionate disdain for, the 1960s and the sexual freedoms that followed.

To fully understand Santorum’s strident rejection of the 1960s, it’s instructive to recall a speech and question-and-answer session he gave in 2008 to a course on religion and politics at the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life in Washington. The speech was interesting, but the answers he gave to the questions that followed were truly illuminating.

In response to a question about the kinds of words he had heard “attached to religion and politics” during his years in the Senate, Santorum ventured off onto sex:

“It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to do with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at.”

“Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. They prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom. All of the things are about sexual freedom, and they hate to be called on them. They try to somehow or other tie this to the founding fathers’ vision of liberty, which is bizarre. It’s ridiculous. That’s at the core of why you are attacked.”

While explaining what he saw as a shift in the Democratic Party away from “blue-collar working-class folks with traditional values” Santorum said: “What changed was the ’60s. What changed was sex. What changed was the social and cultural issues that have huge amounts of money because if you look — I haven’t seen numbers on this, but I’m sure it’s true — if you go socioeconomic scale, the higher the income, the more socially liberal you are. The more you know you can buy your way out of the problems that sexual libertinism causes you. . . . . And the aim is a secular world. It’s a, in my opinion, a hedonistic, self-focused world that is, in my opinion, anti-American.”

Santorum’s stances are not about our Constitution, but his. He views personal freedoms as a personal affront. His thinking exists in a pre-1960s era of aspirin-between-the-knees contraception and read-between-the-lines sexuality.

The kind of conservatism that Santorum represents has been described as a war on women, but I would rephrase that. It’s a war on sex beyond the confines of traditional marriage and strict heterosexuality in which women, particularly poor ones, and gays, particularly open ones, are likely to suffer the greatest casualties.

Virginia's Few Moderate Republican's May Face Wrath of Christianists

While a great deal of horrible legislation has been passed by the Virginia GOP controlled Virginia General Assembly this session, it could have been far worse but for a few of the increasingly rare moderate Republicans in the Virginia GOP. Of course, friends in the Democratic Party such as Janet Howell also played very important roles. One such moderate is Senator Frank Wagner who I first got to know years ago as an advocate for strong public education in Virginia Beach. Now, some of these moderates will likely have to face the wrath of the extremists at The Family Foundation and their network of religious zealots across the state. The Washington Post looks at the behind the scene goings on and the grumbling from the Kool-Aid drinking set. Here are some highlights:

After early success, Virginia conservatives have seen some of their highest priorities thwarted in the General Assembly. Several marquee bills related to home-schooling and welfare, abortion and illegal immigration were killed or gutted in the past two weeks at the hands of four moderate Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City).

That has frustrated and even angered some conservative lawmakers and activists, the core of the Virginia Republican Party.

“The base out there is looking at this, and they were told for years that it’s the Democrats holding things up,” said Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William). “We hold an election, we take charge and guess what? It’s the Republicans holding things up. This is not good news for the conservatives around Virginia at all.”

Four longtime moderate Republicans — Norment and Sens. Harry B. Blevins of Chesapeake, Frank W. Wagner of Virginia Beach and John C. Watkins of Powhatan — were behind many of the defeats.

More than Southern civility was at stake. If conservatives pushed too hard too quickly, they could turn off swing voters in this year’s presidential and U.S. Senate races, political observers have said. Nor would it do much for McDonnell’s national political ambitions, because signing a host of divisive bills might make him a liability with moderate voters.

But with Republicans controlling every lever of power for the second time since the Civil War, some conservatives saw no reason to wait. . . . They had some wins . . . They overturned a 19-year-old law limiting handgun purchases to one per month; passed a bill allowing faith-based adoption agencies to turn away, for religious reasons, gay applicants; and approved a $10 million-a-year tax credit for a private school vouchers for poor and middle-class students. And then the conservative revolution seemed to hit a wall . . . .

Moderate Republicans helped kill measures that would have allowed home-schooled children to play public school sports; subjected welfare recipients to drug testing; defined a fertilized egg as a person; denied state-funded abortions to poor women with grossly deformed fetuses; and freed schoolgirls from a mandate to get immunized against a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer.

The tide seemed to turn about the midway point in the session, as comedians and commentators on national television fanned an uproar over a bill requiring that women have an ultrasound involving a vaginal probe before getting an abortion.

[S]ome conservative activists see the defeats as nothing short of a betrayal. Some said they saw this coming, having vowed at the start of the session to keep an eye on suspected moderates. But others’ expectations for the session have been dashed.

“You had a lot of people that had their hopes up,” said Mark Kevin Lloyd, chairman of the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots. “They thought by putting more conservatives in office, it would give the rest of them a spine. It hasn’t happened yet — to the satisfaction of many.”

Anti-gay Bigotry Alive and Well in Hampton Roads

While many have applauded the photo of Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan kissing his partner Dalan Wells upon Morgan's return from a deployment to Afghanistan, the knuckle dragging Neanderthals and Bible beating Christofascists in Hampton Roads reacting to a story in the Virginian Pilot have demonstrated why the region remains a cultural and economic backwater that is non-appealing to progressive and innovative businesses. From the comments, it's obvious that many of those leaving homophobic comments (i) want special rights from far right Christianists and (ii) hold open hostility to some of the concepts enshrined in the nation's founding documents. Concepts such as this one:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Thankfully, the majority of the comments are supportive of Morgan and Wells, so perhaps there's hope for the region as the nasty bigots die off. Here's a sampling of the mindset that shows that Hampton Roads is still a bigoted backwater:

I cant wait until we see the serviceman kissing his sheep or blow up doll on the pier without discrimination.

Thank goodness he wasn't waering lipstick and carrying a purse. Semper Fi?????????????????????

Absolutely disgusting

Yep, these are the same folks who probably voted for members of the Virginia GOP who support invasive vaginal ultrasounds for women, want to buy unlimited numbers of guns, and view women as chattel. They probably go to church on Sundays too and congratulate themselves on their godliness. Here are highlights from the story that prompted the homophobic batshitery:

[L]ast weekend a friend posted a photo of their embrace on the Gay Marines page on Facebook. Morgan, in desert camouflage, is seen wrapping his legs around Dalan Wells' legs. A large American flag, draped floor to ceiling inside an aircraft hangar at a Marine base in Hawaii, is in the background.

Photos of exuberant servicemen and homecomings aren't new. But this one, taken some five months after the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gay servicemen from openly acknowledging their sexuality, is among the first showing a gay active duty serviceman in uniform kissing his partner at a homecoming.

More than 40,000 people have clicked the "like" button for the photo on Facebook, and thousands have shared it with their friends on several social media sites. Journalists are inundating Morgan with interview requests, and supporters from as far away as Italy are flooding his inbox with messages of thanks and encouragement.

Many of the more than 10,000 comments on the Gay Marine page's posting of the photo page celebrated the image. Luis Perez wrote "Best to you and your loved ones. You inspire so many people with your bravery, including this wonderful homecoming."

Few disparaged Morgan for kissing a man. The critical comments generally questioned the appropriateness of a Marine in uniform wrapping his legs around a partner.

Feedback from fellow Marines has been positive too, Morgan said, though he has some regret for jumping on Wells. He called that "excess amount of public display of affection." His superiors have talked to him about it, he said, and he agrees he went a little too far. The Marines have rules, even at homecomings, Morgan said.

Meanwhile, via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here's a photo from the homecoming of the aircraft carrier USS Stennis on Friday, March 2, 2012 in Bremerton, Washington, as the USS Stennis returned to home port after a seven-month deployment in which the aircraft carrier launched the last Navy air mission over Iraq and more than 1,000 flights over Afghanistan.

The Neanderthals need to crawl back into their caves and under the rocks where they belong. Like it or not, the world and society are moving on.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Why the GOP - Thankfully - Won’t Win the Senate

With the decision of Olympia Snowe to resign from the U. S. Senate and not seek re-election, the GOP has likely given the Democrats a new seat after the November elections. In a column in the Washington Post Snowe lays out why she decided to retire, but unfortunately she fails to lay the blame for the toxicity in the Senate and elsewhere in government where it properly belongs: at the feet of the GOP which has become ever more extremist and of a mindset where winning politically trumps what's best for the nation. The other problem with the GOP is that it is staking its future on a demographic base which is literally dying off and seems obsessed with destroying the country rather moving forward with society. A column in The Daily Beast suggest why November, 2012, will not see the GOP gain control of the U. S. Senate. Here are highlights:

When the votes were counted, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe stood alone, the only Republican to oppose a hotly contested amendment that would have granted employers the right to withhold insurance coverage for any health service they find objectionable for religious or moral reasons. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell runs a tight ship, and that was one of the reasons Snowe announced earlier this week that she is ending her campaign for reelection and leaving the Senate. As one of the few moderates left in the Republican caucus, she had grown tired of the pressure to always toe the line. Snowe’s isolation was stark as the amendment was voted down, 51 to 48: almost all Democrats were on one side and Republicans on the other.

Democrats said it [the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act”] was so broadly written that employers citing moral objections would be empowered to cut off everything from prenatal care for children of single mothers to HIV screening.

A Republican activist who worked on Capitol Hill and who does not want to be quoted says the debate over the availability of contraceptives is “way bigger than a wedge issue” because it goes against settled thought for two generations, and makes the Republican Party look out of touch. “Younger people hear [a debate about contraception] and think those people are Martians. They are unlike me or anybody I know or care about. Republicans risk becoming irrelevant to a whole generation of people, and I include Catholics in that.

Six months ago, Republicans were talking confidently about taking the Senate next November, widening their lead in the House and having a really good chance to win the White House. A debate about social issues that many think has gone off the rails capped by Snowe’s surprise resignation is the latest evidence that their predictions are widely off the mark, particularly in the Senate where Republicans need four seats to gain control. That seemed easy enough with 23 Democrat-held seats being contested, some of them in red states, but Snowe’s departure will likely put Maine into the Democratic column, and Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken consumer advocate, is probably the one Democrat with a chance to defeat Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

That has not escaped the notice of Republicans, who say that if McConnell had let Warren’s nomination go through to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the GOP wouldn’t be sweating Brown’s seat. “He can chalk that up to his own stubbornness,” says the GOP activist about McConnell. “He may be running a tight ship, but it’s a small ship, a nice small ship of white guys.”

Russia Update: St. Petersburg’s Homophobic Law

I've long advocated boycotting anti-gay countries (e.g., Jamaica) in terms of both product purchases and blacklisting in terms of travel destinations. It seems that Russia is striving hard to become a pariah because of its treatment of LGBT citizens. I've always wanted to visit Russia and St. Petersburg, but that's not going to happen now and I hope many others will scorn Russia and spend their tourism dollar elsewhere. At the same time, I cannot help but note the parallels with the anti-gay atmosphere in parts of Africa where government incompetence and corruption always seem to go hand in hand with launching homophobic campaigns, apparently in the hope that the populace will be distracted from the real issues facing their home cities and nation. A video by All Out urging a travel boycott is posted below. Human Rights Watch also looks at the deplorable fines and penalties against individuals or organizations "promoting homosexuality." Here are some highlights:

St. Petersburg Governor Georgiy Poltavchenko should veto a homophobic bill adopted by the city’s parliament, Human Rights Watch said today.

The St. Petersburg city parliament on February 29, 2012, adopted a bill that would impose fines on people engaging in “public activities to promote sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexuality” that might be observed by minors. The bill passed by a vote of 29 to 5 with one abstention. The governor has two weeks to veto the bill or sign it into law.

“February 29 was a dark day for St. Petersburg and for Russia as this damning anti-gay bill came one step closer to becoming law,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.“The governor now has an opportunity to uphold the rule of law and stop this discriminatory and dangerous initiative in Russia’s northern capital.”

The bill would introduce two amendments to the St. Petersburg Law on Administrative Offenses. In addition to the amendment banning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered, (LGBT) “propaganda,” the bill would ban propaganda promoting pedophilia, insidiously linking two unrelated issues, Human Rights Watch said. People found guilty of violating the law would face fines of up to 50,000 rubles (US$1,700), and organizations would face fines of up to 500,000 rubles (US$17,000).

The bill’s language is so vague and broad that it could lead to a ban on displaying a rainbow flag or wearing a T-shirt with a gay-friendly logo or even on holding LGBT-themed rallies in the city. The vote in St. Petersburg followed the approval of similar laws in other parts of Russia – in Ryazan in 2006, in Arkhangelsk in September 2011, and in Kostroma in February 2012. Those promoting the bill claim it is aimed at protecting minors from LGBT “propaganda.”

The bill has already caused international outrage. Many nongovernmental organizations and activists have spoken out against it and called on the Russian authorities to stop the bill from being adopted. The US State Department, the UK Foreign Office, the Australian Government, and the European Parliament have also expressed profound concern.

The environment for LGBT people in Russia is very hostile, and LGBT activists are vulnerable to harassment and physical attack. The authorities routinely ban and violently disperse gay demonstrations. In October 2010 the European Court of Human Rights found Russia in violation of freedom of assembly for repeatedly denying activists the right to hold gay pride marches.

It's disgusting and all too typical of sleazy politicians kissing the asses of religious zealots to distract the public from their own corruption and incompetence.

The Price of GOP Extremism: Navy Cuts "Non-Essential" Personnel

The Republican Party and its Tea Party element are obsessed with making huge budget cuts and at the same time have been obstructing measures to turn the economy around in the hope that economic malaise will help they drive Barack Obama from office in November. While the feigned concern for budget deficits is disingenuous at best given the fact that every foolish spending measure brought forth by Chimperator Bush and his unfunded wars were quickly rubber stamped by the then GOP controlled Congress, nowhere along the way is the human toll ever considered by these ideologues. Now locally some in the Navy are finding out that blind allegiance to the GOP and mindlessly mouthing Rush Limbaugh talking points can carry a heavy price. For every budget cut, real people lose their jobs and real families are impacted - something those of the far right who like to wrap themselves in the cloak of religion fail to understand or, mostly likely, even give a damn about. The Virginian Pilot looks at the fate facing some 3,000 U.S. Navy personnel being forced out through no fault of their own. I'm sure the Kool-Aid drinkers will seek to blame Obama rather than take a good look in the mirror. Here are some story highlights:

The day that Amanda Humburg's husband found out he would be involuntarily discharged from the Navy, his command sent him home early to give him time to absorb the shock. He walked through the door of their house in Chesapeake with a blank expression on his face and a pile of papers in his arms that explained what came next - severance pay, six months of health coverage, free advice on how to write the first resume of his life.

Humburg's husband, who chose not to be interviewed for this story, is one of about 3,000 sailors who will lose their jobs in the coming months as part of an unprecedented and drastic effort to thin the Navy's ranks in overcrowded job fields. It marks the first time the service will lay off thousands of sailors who are in the middle of enlistment contracts, including hundreds in Hampton Roads. In the months since the move was announced, it has become widely unpopular and controversial.

Navy officials contend they had no other choice. Faced with record-high retention because of the economy, the service's usual mechanisms for keeping the ranks in balance have not done enough, said Rear Adm. Anthony Kurta, head of manpower plans for the chief of naval personnel. He said the decision to resort to breaking enlistment contracts was not made lightly, and the method the Navy used to determine who would stay and who would go - panels of senior enlisted sailors and officers dubbed an "enlisted retention board" - was the fairest way to do it. For those selected by the board for discharge, the Navy is doing everything in its power to help them find new employment and successfully transition to civilian life, Kurta said.

Still, he acknowledged several facts that affected sailors and their families say are making the layoffs especially hard to swallow: Many of those being forced out have been in the Navy for well over a decade, and many have good service records. In most cases, they were chosen for discharge based simply on their rank and job classification in order to meet set quotas.

While the Navy's ranks are slowly shrinking - the service now keeps 324,000 active-duty personnel, about 50,000 fewer than a decade ago - officials say the enlisted retention board layoffs are not simply about cutting, and they're not directly driven by larger efforts to reduce military spending. Rather, they are about rebalancing the force.

The Navy explains it this way: Because of the economy, far fewer sailors are leaving the service than in years past. As a result, 31 of the Navy's 85 enlisted fields have become badly overcrowded. For sailors in those job categories, such as aircraft maintenance, that has meant fewer opportunities for promotion, which has swelled the midcareer ranks. While the Navy can compensate to a degree by enlisting fewer new sailors into overmanned fields, it cannot stop altogether; for budgetary reasons and for longer-term force effectiveness, it needs to keep a particular number of sailors in each field and in each pay grade.

The Navy couldn't say exactly how many Hampton Roads-based sailors are being discharged through the enlisted retention board layoffs, but if 1 percent of the service's total force is affected, that amounts to roughly 700 personnel here. It's a number large enough that efforts have sprung up to fight the dismissals, including Facebook pages and a White House petition. At least one sailor is suing over his discharge, according to the publication Navy Times, and even among sailors who haven't been affected, the enlisted retention board has become a source of consternation and anger.

Ward Carroll, the editor of and a retired naval aviator, said the service's decision to break the enlistment contracts of so many sailors could have wider consequences for recruitment and morale.

I feel badly for those being discharged who have done nothing wrong. The military are now discovering the harsh reality faced by far too many in the private sector. I don't what the solution is, but I do wish that the extremists in the GOP and Tea Party would at least for a moment contemplate that their budget cutting obsession does harm real people and real families.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

More Thursday Male Beauty

Catholic School Fires Gay Teacher Planning Gay Wedding

We saw recently how the leadership Roman Catholic Church talks out of both sides of its mouth while claiming to require that gays be treated with compassion and respect even as gays are publicly humiliated such as the lesbian who saw the presiding priest walk out on her mother's funeral. Yet another example of the disingenuous blather and hypocrisy from the enablers and protectors of child rapists comes to us from St. Louis, Missouri, where a teacher (pictured at right) at a Catholic school has been fired upon the hierarchy's discovery that he was planning to marry his partner of 20 years in New York. Covering up for the rape of children and youth is perfectly fine with the "princes of the church" but a loving and committed relationship is grounds for firing. Talk about f*cked up priorities not to mention hypocrisy. Here are highlights from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

A popular music teacher at St. Ann Catholic School in north St. Louis County recently was fired after church officials learned that he planned to marry his male partner of 20 years in New York, one of a handful of states where same-sex marriage is legal.

The teacher, Al Fischer, confirmed to the Post-Dispatch that he was fired Feb. 17 from his job of four years at the school. When asked to comment on his firing, Fischer declined and referred to a letter emailed to his students' parents shortly after his termination.

In the letter, Fischer tells parents of "my joyful news, and my sad news" — the former being his plans to marry his longtime partner in New York City, and the latter, "that I can't be your music teacher anymore."

Fischer's partner, Charlie Robin, executive director of Washington University's Edison Theatre, told the Post-Dispatch that the couple's relationship was in no way a secret at St. Ann and that Fischer was fired after a representative of the St. Louis Archdiocese overheard him talking to co-workers about his wedding plans.

The Rev. Bill Kempf, St. Ann's pastor, said in an emailed statement that the parish was "recently informed by one of its teachers of his plan to unite in marriage with an individual of the same sex. With full respect of this individual's basic human dignity, this same-sex union opposes Roman Catholic teaching as it cannot realize the full potential a marital relationship is meant to express. As a violation of the Christian Witness Statement that all Catholic educators in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are obliged to uphold, we relieved this teacher of his duties."

The Christian Witness Statement, which educators sign when applying for Archdiocese work, says all who serve in Catholic education should, among other requirements, "not take a public position contrary to the Catholic Church" and "demonstrate a public life consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church."

One parent at St. Ann Catholic School who asked not to be identified said many parents were upset over Fischer's firing, considering his impressive work with the school's music program and his popularity among students and parents. The parent and others with ties to the school told the Post-Dispatch that Fischer's sexual orientation was well-known.

Frankly, were I to walk into a Catholic Church, I'd feel dirty by mere physical association with an institution that has made the molestation a worldwide scourge and which has made lying and cover ups of crimes against children and youth a near art form. One does get much more depraved that aiding and abetting the molestation of children and working to shield the child rapists from justice. The Catholic hierarchy makes the most tawdry whore look virtuous.

Abortion Bill Hurts Taliban Bob McDonnell’s V.P. Prospects

I've written a number of times that Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell, Virginia's current governor and V.P. nominee want to be, may have cut his own throat by slavishly supporting the extremist, theocracy supporting agenda of The Family Foundation and Virginia GOP lunatics like Del. Bob Marshall who seems to hate all gays and women with equal vigor. While the image immediately below comes from Oklahoma where GOP extremists are pushing measures akin to what the culture wars obsessed Virginia GOP has sought to inflict on all Virginians, it sums up what many women are feeling in Virginia and will hopefully remember when they are in voting booths in November, 2012, and November 2013:

A column in the Washington Post looks at Taliban Bob's self-inflicted damages and pretty much mirrors my analysis and that of my former undergraduate classmate, Larry Sabato, which I noted in a previous post. Here are some column highlights:

When Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) asked antiabortion zealots in the General Assembly last week to soften the controversial ultrasound bill, he faced a dilemma in explaining his move: Shall I appear ill-informed or weak-willed?

McDonnell chose the former. He says he just didn’t realize the measure he had been broadly supporting would require many women desiring to end a pregnancy to undergo a particularly invasive ultrasound in which a probe is inserted in the vagina.

Because of McDonnell’s intervention, the bill soon headed for his signature would require only an abdominal ultrasound, performed outside the belly. That’s still an outrageous violation of women’s rights, for abortion defenders (like me). But abortion opponents view it as a disappointing compromise.

I’m skeptical that the governor’s explanation is the whole story. I agree with the hard-core social conservatives who said he had “suddenly gone squishy,” as one blogger wrote, when faced with an outpouring of opposition. That included having the law (and by extension, the state) become a punch line for late-night comedians.

Unfortunately for McDonnell, the nuances of his position drowned quickly in the raging ideological whirlpool that is abortion politics, particularly at the national level. It doesn’t matter to the Democratic Party — much less MSNBC commentators or “Saturday Night Live” satirists — that McDonnell repeatedly urged GOP legislators not to “overreach” on social issues.

As a result of the uproar, he has probably sacrificed whatever chance he had of being picked as the GOP vice presidential nominee this year, said a wide range of political analysts, including Republicans sympathetic to the governor.

Assuming that the Republican presidential candidate is Mitt Romney, it would be much harder for him now to tap McDonnell as a running mate. The two of them would immediately have to devote time to defending the ultrasound bill, in addition to McDonnell’s controversial 1989 master’s thesis saying, among other things, that working mothers hurt families.

“I think the moment in the sun is over,” said a Republican source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the governor’s prospects. The ultrasound controversy “was probably very unhelpful to the calculus that Romney will make at the convention. Together with the thesis, this creates a second object of ridicule,” the source said.

McDonnell didn’t help his own cause when he signed a bill to repeal a longtime law limiting firearms buyers to one handgun a month— which he supported when it originally passed.

If Democrats win Virginia in November as a result, with both the White House and U.S. Senate in play, the Republicans might wish they had better heeded McDonnell’s counsel.

As noted in prior posts, Bob McDonnell needs to talk to Virginians outside The Family Foundation/Christofascist bubble and if he refuses to do so, he does so at his own peril. And on a personal level, it's not the first time that McDonnell has refused my advice and learned the hard way that I may be gay, but I'm not stupid or lacking in political sense. What am I talking about? Several things, but the most memorable is when I told McDonnell - actually the entire Virginia GOP delegation to the Virginia General Assembly - that they had a problem in the form of former Congressman Ed Schrock and that if the Virginia GOP anti-gay agenda did not cease, Schrock was going down. Did Taliban Bob listen? Of course not, and ultimately Mike Rogers outed Schrock with some help from yours truly.

I don't wish McDonnell ill, but he has made a pact with the Christianist devils and needs to pay the price for his betrayal of concepts such as freedom of religion for all citizens. If McDonnell wants to repent, he can start by firing Victoria Cobb's husband from his cushy state government job, veto the anti-gay adoption bill, and start looking after the interest of Virginians who don't imbibe Christianist Kool-Aid by the gallon full. Will he do it? I doubt it and it could be why he may never get the VP nomination.

Quote Of The Day - Sgt. Brandon Morgan

Like the photo of a returning female sailor returning to port in Virginia Beach being kissed by her partner not so long ago, the photo of Sergeant Brandon Morgan kissing his partner (I posted about the homecoming recently) has become emblematic of the new U. S. military where gay and lesbians can proudly serve their country without hiding who they are and constantly fearing witch hunts and forced discharge. In this region with a huge military personnel presence, the repeal of DADT has been a wonderful development.

Brandon Morgan spoke with The Daily Beast and it is instructive that like so many of us in the LGBT community for a period of time he threw himself into religion in an effort to deny that God had made him gay. Having engaged in that pattern myself for roughly 37 years, I fully understand why so many of us try to deny our reality. I also know all too well the amount of wasted energy and hidden internal strife (and outright self-hatred) that such denial engenders. Here are some highlights from The Daily Beast interview:

When Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan, 25, returned home to Hawaii on Feb. 22 from a deployment in Afghanistan, he found partner Dalan Wells, 38, waiting for him. When a friend snapped a photo of their welcome-home kiss and posted it online, it quickly went viral and has been viewed tens of thousands of times on blogs and Facebook. It has been interpreted as a sign of a more open military in the wake of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Sergeant Morgan tells Matthew DeLuca how the photo came to be.

I used to be a very, very fanatical Christian, not that there’s anything wrong with being a Christian, but my beliefs, my core beliefs, definitely have changed as I’ve grown up because of the way I live, the way I am. I joined the Marine Corps because I felt I wanted to be the voice of God in the Marine Corps.

I’m pretty sure people very close to me like my mother, my father, and my sister always knew that there was something different about me. I was always at the church, and had those values, had that idea that homosexuality was wrong according to the Christian faith.

Eventually, nature comes out.

I was married at one point to a woman, but that was a huge mistake, because looking through my faith beliefs I mistook a friendship and thought it was love
, which it wasn’t. It took so many mistakes in my life to have the courage to know who I was.

Dalan works on the base and we actually met at the Single Marine and Sailor Program. I walked in and I saw him, and I have to say it was love at first sight. I’ve loved that man ever since I first saw him.

Dalan and I have known each other for four years, and we’ve been really good friends. He helped me through the divorce. As time went on and we were ramping up to deploy, I asked him out, as I knew who I was but couldn’t come out under the DOD policy [“don’t ask, don’t tell”]. He said no because there is a significant age difference.

Every email he sent me I would read a hundred times. Weeks just flew by and I couldn’t wait to get home, and I was like, “When I get home, I’m going to give him the best kiss I can think of.”

All my superiors are happy for me that I finally have a love, someone to be with, that I’m not always hanging out at the single Marine center on the weekend. I believe that the general consensus was that the military didn’t want this, but the people who say that can’t really speak on the behalf of my Marines. My Marines, my family, have welcomed me, they’ve been very happy for me. We’re a family. They care for me the way they always have.

I was a little worried, to be honest. I was afraid that some people’s views of me might change. But that was just my own personal misgiving, a fear I had to overcome. I should have had more faith in my Marines than that. I’m not always right, and I was very glad I was wrong about that.

No doubt this beautiful story of love and two souls finding each other will have Elaine Donnelly, Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher and similar hate merchants in convulsions with sheets of spittle flying across the room. But, love is love and who are we to presume that God, the creator, Allah, or whoever made a mistake when he/she made some of us gay and allowed us to find pure, sincere and unselfish love with some of the same sex? To me, it's those who question God's creation who are the blasphemers, not LGBT individuals.

Grand Ayatollah or Grand Old Party?

I often refer to American far right Christians as the "Christian Taliban" and with good reason. While they have not resorted to murder and violence - at least yet except in isolated instances - like the Islamic Taliban, the far right Christian elements concentrated mainly in the Republican Party have an avowed goal of forcing all Americans to live their lives under the dictates of the Christian Taliban. Moreover, they have an almost hysterical version to modernity and a secular society.

Give that Rick Santorum, the self-designated high priest of the Christian Taliban, is chaffing at the bit to launch the USA into a war with Iran - apparently he's learned nothing whatsoever from the Chimperator's fool's errand in Iraq or he want s to launch a 21st century version of the Crusades - Foreign Policy has an article that compares Santorum with his opponents in Iran. The comparison is telling and yet more proof as to why far right Christians pose a clear and present danger to America. Here are some article highlights:

One is a religious fanatic railing against secularism, the role of women in the workplace, and the evils of higher education, as he seeks to impose his draconian moral values upon the state. The other is the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As we move ahead to Super Tuesday -- March 6 -- and what could be the deciding factor in this overlong primary season, Santorum still has one last chance to pull off an upset. If that happens, the former senator from Pennsylvania may finally get his chance to bomb Iran, as he has promised to do.

But before that happens, let us pause for a moment and become a bit more familiar with the dramatis personae who, if given the opportunity, may soon plunge the world into holy war.

It's time to play: Khamenei or Santorum? Who said what?

Can you guess which of the two said the following?
No cheating!

1. "We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth."

Answer 1: Santorum

2. "We believe in democracy and we also believe in freedom, but we do not believe in liberal democracy."

Answer 2: Khamenei

3. "Although the literal meaning of socialism is equitable distribution of wealth, it is associated with other concepts which we hate. Over time, socialism has come to be associated with certain things in society that are unacceptable to us."

Answer 3: Khamenei

4. "The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."

Answer 4: Santorum

5. "This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war."

Answer 5: Santorum

6. "This is a war between two willpowers: the willpower of the people and the willpower of their enemies."

Answer 6: Khamenei

7. "Go back and read what the sirens did once you arrived on that island.… They devour you. They destroy you. They consume you."

Answer 7: Santorum

8. "The American people's hatred for Iran is profound." Oh wait, we got that one backward. Sorry. It should read:

8. "The Iranian people's hatred for America is profound."

Answer 8: Khamenei

So, how did you score?

7-8 correct: Supreme leader

5-6 correct: Religious warrior

3-4 correct: Agnostic

1-2 correct: Radical secularist

0 correct: You make me want to throw up.

While the article is written somewhat tongue in cheek, the image of Santorum that is revealed is just about as frightening as that of Khamenei. Both men appear to have major psychological issues and both seek to use religion as a route to power and despotism.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Lady Gaga Launches 'Born This Way' Foundation

Yesterday at Harvard University Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta launched their Born This Way Foundation. The launch event included a panel with Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Neil Patrick Harris' partner and actor David Burtka. One of the stated goals of the Foundation is to fight bullying - something that will no doubt have the Christianists foaming at the mouth since they want to have free license to denigrate and abuse LGBT individuals and others whom they hate and despise. I applaud Lady Gaga's and her mother's efforts to stop insidious bullying. What's striking is that while the far right malign her endlessly, Lady Gaga practices the true Gospel message of love for others far better than the self-congratulatory, sanctimonious professional Christians and many. many pastors in pulpits. Here are some highlights from the Boston Globe's coverage:

When Lady Gaga stepped on stage at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre yesterday to launch her youth foundation, it was hardly a typical appearance for the pop star who has built her reputation with over-the-top theatrics.

She didn’t hatch from an egg, or appear in a dress made of raw steaks. Instead the 25-year-old Gaga wore a subdued full-length black dress and spoke to a polite audience of students, academics, and educational specialists about the Born This Way Foundation, a nonprofit charity whose mission is to “foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated.’’

The official rollout of the foundation was held at Harvard because the university’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and its Graduate School of Education are offering assistance to the fledgling organization.

Gaga - who was joined by Oprah Winfrey, spiritual leader Deepak Chopra, and Kathleen Sebelius, the US Health and Human Services secretary - is counting on her supersize persona, which has already had a major influence on pop culture, to help encourage and fund the foundation’s programs.

“The goal of the Born This Way Foundation is to challenge meanness and cruelty by inspiring young people to create a support system in their respective communities,’’ she said. “This is about changing . . . the school environment, and not putting the power in the hands of the teachers or the government.’’

The foundation is planning a nationwide bus tour, which it says will teach teens about getting involved in civic groups and allow them to connect with mentors. The “Born Brave Bus’’ will also follow the route of Gaga’s next North American tour.

While yesterday’s Harvard launch was no Lady Gaga concert, hundreds of fans gathered outside in the afternoon snow for a glimpse of the singer.

The star power behind the group immediately makes it one of the nation’s highest-profile efforts against bullying, which has been gaining more attention from education specialists, policy makers, and politicians. Some recent suicides tied to bullying, including the death of Phoebe Prince in South Hadley in 2010, have led to new laws meant to combat such behavior. According to the Berkman Center, 48 states have enacted some form of legislation that requires schools to form bullying policies.

But Gaga said laws won’t make bullying disappear. “There is no federal law that can change these problems,’’ she said. “The only way to solve the problem is to change the environment.’’

In recent years, Gaga has been outspoken on various social and political issues. She campaigned against the military’s now-abandoned “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy, which allowed gays and lesbians to serve as long as they hid their sexual orientation. She has also advocated in favor of laws allowing gay marriage.

No matter what message she wants to promote, Gaga can wield an enormous virtual bullhorn to attract attention: She has almost 20 million Twitter followers and 48 million Facebook fans.