Saturday, August 11, 2012
Since the boyfriend and I have been engaged in family stuff most of the day and evening here in Somerset, Pennsylvania, I've been out of the loop on the reactions to Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. Personally, I see the selection as fraught with danger for Romney and a sign of desperation to change the narrative. It certainly is a move to appease the far right and the Tea Party crowd much as McCain's selection of Sarah Palin seems to have been. While Ryan is light years more intelligent than Palin, he too may be the straw that breaks the camel's back for many voters sitting on the fence. I believe that Palin lost the 2008 contest for McCain. Ryan may do the same thing for Romney if the Obama campaign can successfully tie the extremism of Ryan's budget proposal around Romney's neck. Senior citizens and older baby boomer ought to be terrified at what a Romney-Ryan victory might portend. Ezra Klein does a good job of summing up some of this in a Washington Post piece. Here are excerpts:
1. Both Democrats and conservatives are going to get the exact debate they wanted. I’m not so sure about Republicans.
2. This is an admission of fear from the Romney campaign. You don’t make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals favor your candidate. You make a risky pick like Paul Ryan if you think the fundamentals don’t favor your candidate. And, right now, the numbers don’t look good for Romney: Obama leads in the Real Clear Politics average of polls by more than four percentage points — his largest lead since April.
3. Related point: Two of the top contenders in the Romney campaign’s veepstakes were Ohio’s Rob Portman and Florida’s Marco Rubio. Given that there’s fairly good evidence that vice presidential candidates are worth at least a point or two in their home states, the Romney campaign’s decision to pick Ryan is evidence that they feel they need to change the national dynamic, not just pick off a battleground state.
4. Romney’s original intention was to make the 2012 election a referendum on President Obama’s management of the economy. Ryan makes it a choice between two competing plans for deficit reduction. This election increasingly resembles the Obama campaign’s strategy rather than the Romney campaign’s strategy.
5. It’s worth recalling how Ryan became a semi-household name. It wasn’t a Republican strategy to put him forward. As Ryan Lizza recounts in his New Yorker profile of Ryan, it was a Democratic strategy to put Ryan forward. Ryan, he writes, “was caught between the demands of the Republican leaders, who wanted nothing to do with his Roadmap, and his own belief that the Party had to offer a sweeping alternative vision to Obama’s. Ryan soon had an unlikely ally, in Obama himself.” While Republicans were trying to keep Ryan quiet, the Obama administration was trying to make him famous. They saw his plans as the clearest distillation of the GOP’s governing philosophy — and they thought it would drive voters towards the Democrats. We’ll know in November whether that was a genius strategy or an epic miscalculation.
6. Consider the case for Romney until today: He’s a relatively moderate businessman running because his experience in the private-sector gives him crucial insight into how to manage the economy. Now consider Ryan: He’s worked in politics his entire life, beginning as an aide to Sen. Bob Kasten, then working for Sen. Sam Brownback and as a speechwriter to Rep. Jack Kemp. He’s known as a relatively ideological politician who has put forward a detailed policy plan to remake the federal government. It’s a rather different message about what’s important. And how does Romney say the problem with Barack Obama is that he’s “never spent a day in the private sector” and then put Ryan a heartbeat away from the presidency?
7. Ryan upends Romney’s whole strategy. Until now, Romney’s play has been very simple: Don’t get specific. In picking Ryan, he has yoked himself to each and every one of Ryan’s specifics. And some of those specifics are quite…surprising. For instance: Ryan has told the Congressional Budget Office that his budget will bring all federal spending outside Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050. That means defense, infrastructure, education, food safety, basic research, and food stamps — to name just a few — will be less than four percent of GDP in 2050.
8. It’s not just that Romney now has to defend Ryan’s budget. To some degree, that was always going to be true. What he will now have to defend is everything else Ryan has proposed. Ryan was, for instance, the key House backer of Social Security privatization. His bill, The Social Security Personal Savings Guarantee and Prosperity Act of 2005, was so aggressive that it was rejected by the Bush administration. Now it’s Romney’s bill to defend. In Florida.
9. Joe Biden has a lot of debate prep ahead of him. I’ve interviewed Ryan three times. Twice on health care (here and here), and once on economics (here). He’s very quick on his feet, and he’s got a lot of experience explaining his plans to skeptical audiences. . . . Democrats underestimate his political skills at their peril.
10. Everyone always says they want an election focused on the issues. For better or worse, we’ve got one.
I believe that if voters truly come to understand just how extreme Ryan's proposals have been, they will run to the Democrats. The big issueis whether Obama can truly educate folks sufficiently before November.
If one puts aside the moral bankruptcy of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy demonstrated by its many decades - possibly centuries - of protecting child rapists and sexual predators within the clergy, the Catholic leadership still comes up morally deficient in the way in which it has now thrown away the goal of social justice. Now, the sexual obsessions of the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican and in bishoprics around the world (San Francisco's new archbishop is a case in point), trump what had been perhaps the Church's most noble endeavor: social justice for the down trodden and unfortunate. A letter to the editor in the Spokesman-Review sums up well the face of Catholicism has become under Benedict XVI and his Nazi like lieutenants:
A Catholic priest invented the term social justice in the 1830s and, for a time, especially from the 1930s through the 1970s, the Catholic Church was a refuge and a beacon for oppressed people, workers, peasants, women and minorities because the Sermon on the Mount was taken seriously as Jesus’ guide for living a spiritual life.
Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the church, and some of the laity, have visibly retreated from this role, and the public face of the Catholic Church now is that of a medieval institution whose only concerns are abortion, birth control, opposition to gay rights, the bashing of women and nuns, and the stifling of theological dissent.
The Catholic Church has acknowledged the broad consensus of science that homosexuality is innate, but that acknowledgment has not prevented it from oppressing gay people at every turn and doing everything in its power to prevent them from living fulfilled lives. That’s exactly comparable to kicking someone because he was born blind. Where’s the social justice in that? Where’s the “Jesus-inspired-life” in that?
Years ago at a Republican function I met Pat Robertson and let's just say that I was not impressed. He came across as an individual having a tempestuous love affair with himself and as someone who thought that he had an entitlement to the tons of money he shakes down daily from his simpleton followers. Stated more succinctly, he came across as an egotistical and arrogant ass. If he's a man of God, then I'm Queen Victoria, Empress of India. His latest statement on the 700 Club further underscore that he's a nasty bigot as well. True, this is not anything new, but to basically challenge gays to either deliver babies out of their ass or shut up about Marriage equality is pretty crude. Not to mention that in Roberstson's mind same sex love doesn't exist. Our relationships according to this snake oil merchant asshole are only about anal sex. Right Wing Watch has details on Robertson's foul batshitery:
[O]n the 700 Club, Pat Robertson said that activists who don’t want Chick-fil-A on their college campus due to the company’s anti-gay advocacy should keep quiet: “I defy these homosexuals to bring forth a baby from that part of the anatomy which they concentrate on, when that happens I will change everything I’m saying; until that happens, I wish those demonstrators would shut their mouth.” Robertson warned that legal abortion and homosexuality are violations of God’s law and are “the reasons why land will vomit out its inhabitants.”Robertson: . . . . I was reading today in Leviticus, which is the law of the Old Testament, but it lays out the reasons why land will vomit out its inhabitants and it goes through a category of stuff we are calling Constitutional rights: killing babies, offering them to Moloch, and it says it is an abomination for a man to lie with a man as with a woman. It’s what it says. That is the moral law that God set forth and now we’ve got people at a university petitioning because somebody said I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I defy these homosexuals to bring forth a baby from that part of the anatomy which they concentrate on, when that happens I will change everything I’m saying; until that happens, I wish those demonstrators would shut their mouth.
I'm sorry, but it is individuals like Robertson who ought to make the land want to vomit. All things considered, over the course of history, religion has brought more horrors and suffering to mankind than any of the positives in the form of charitable works that it has fostered. I suspect the death toll thanks to religion totals in the many millions. And for what? Self-gratifying and self-promoting beliefs that allow bigots and the ignorant to feel good about themselves at the expense and lives of others.
Both the Virginian Pilot and the Washington Post are reporting that Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan - architect of the GOP budget plan that even the child rapist protecting Catholic bishops describe as immoral for what it does to the neediest Americans - as his vice presidential running mate. The official announcement is reportedly to be made in little more than an hour aboard the decommissioned battleship Wisconsin that comprises part of Norfolk's maritime museum on the Norfolk Waterfront. While the irrational and ignorant GOP base may be rejoicing, anyone with a shred of compassion for the less fortunate ought to be appalled. Ryan will serve to solidify Romney and the GOP as the antithesis to the Robin Hood legend: they will rob from the poor and middle class and give to the most wealthy elements of society. Grandma might truly find herself subsisting on dry dog kibble and with greatly reduced health care options should Romney win the White House and the GOP take control of Congress. Here are highlights from the Washington Post coverage (which also looks at the con job Romney hopes to work at the GOP convention to reverse the growing realization that Romney is a reverse Robin Hood):
NORFOLK — Mitt Romney has selected Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate in the presidential race and will make the long-awaited announcement here Saturday morning. Romney’s campaign told supporters at about 7 a.m. via an iPhone app that the seven-term congressman would be the Republican vice presidential nominee.
Romney plans to announce his decision about 8:45 a.m., when he tours the USS Wisconsin, a decommissioned World War II-era Navy battleship named to honor the state.
If Romney announces Ryan as his running mate, he would offer voters the starkest possible choice on how to address issues of spending and taxing, embracing Ryan’s single-minded focus on reducing the nation’s debt without raising taxes by dramatically altering Americans’ relationship to their government.
It is a fight Democrats, too, have savored, believing the details of Ryan’s budget will convince voters that they offer a fairer path to reduced deficits through a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthy.
“To borrow a phrase, the convention has the potential to be an ‘Etch a Sketch moment,’ ” said Mark McKinnon, a longtime Republican image-maker who advised the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain. “Conventions often wipe the slate clean. A crucial bloc of undecided voters, though there aren’t many this year, will just start paying attention when the convention starts.”
Romney’s advisers are putting the finishing touches on plans to reintroduce the candidate to the nation. They have filmed new videos with Romney and his family at his lakefront vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H., and are devising a prominent role onstage for Ann Romney and their extended family.
For Romney, a big moment couldn’t come soon enough. Weeks of pummeling by Democratic ads depicting Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat and possible tax evader appear to have taken a toll.
Three national polls released over the past two days show Obama widening his lead over Romney to as much as nine points. The surveys of registered voters, all conducted between Aug. 2 and Aug. 8, also show Romney’s unfavorable ratings rising. Two of the polls show his support among independents slipping.
A Fox News poll found the largest deficit, with Romney trailing by nine points — 49 percent to 40 percent — the widest gap Fox has reported all year.
A senior Romney adviser played down the new polls at a news briefing Friday morning at Boston headquarters, saying that they must be midsummer flukes because there had been no “precipitating event” to move the numbers so much.
Part of me feels that even Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell would have been a more compassionate individual for the VP slot - and that is something down right scary.
Friday, August 10, 2012
As a history major in college and a firm believer that only by knowing true and accurate history can we avoid mistakes and horrors of the past, I have long been appalled by the work of supposed historian David Barton who would have fit right in with the Goebbels propaganda machine for the Nazi Party. The man constantly spews deliberate lies and has been a leading advocate of the myth that the United States was founded as a "Christian nation." It's a total lie and the real truth about the Founding Fathers reveals that they were extremely suspicious of religion and that virtually none of them were of a mindset like today's evangelical Christians who live in some kind of deranged alternate universe from objective reality. And not surprisingly, Barton is a huge proponent of Bible based civil laws that would make homosexuality a crime worthy of severe punishment. Barton's latest book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson, sought to rewrite the history of Jefferson into some kind of fantasy that turned the truth about the man upside down. Fortunately, the books publisher has ceased distribution of the book in the face of blistering condemnation. Here are highlights from NPR:
Citing a loss of confidence in the book's details, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson is ending the publication and distribution of the bestseller, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.
The controversial book was written by Texas evangelical David Barton, who NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty profiled on All Things Considered Wednesday. The publishing company says it's ceasing publication because it found that "basic truths just were not there."
Since its initial publication, historians have debunked and raised concerns about numerous claims in Barton's book. In it, Barton calls Jefferson a "conventional Christian," claims the founding father started church services at the Capitol, and even though he owned more than 200 slaves, says Jefferson was a civil rights visionary.
"Mr. Barton is presenting a Jefferson that modern-day evangelicals could love and identify with," Warren Throckmorton, a professor at the evangelical Grove City College, told Hagerty. "The problem with that is, it's not a whole Jefferson; it's not getting him right."
Warren Throckmorton and I have dueled over the years on reparative therapy - he has since changed his positions supporting the "therapy" - but he believes in honesty. That's something unknown to Barton. Bob Felton has some commentary on Barton's lies about Jefferson:
In order of the provocative ‘truths’ Barton proposes to set the record straight about:
There is much to admire in Jefferson, and even his flaws are not so bad when we consider his time and place. To recreate him as some sort of American saint is dishonest, though, and it is gratifying that Barton’s revisionism has fallen with such a clunk.
- Did Thomas Jefferson really have a child by his young slave girl, Sally Hemings? Almost certainly. DNA tests performed in the late 90s established that the descendants of Sally Hemings have DNA that matches Jefferson’s descendants. Most historians think that settles the question, but others point out that the common DNA may have entered the family line through the Randolphs, Jefferson’s wife’s family. The Randolph descendents have refused to submit to DNA testing and so, strictly, the matter is unresolved. Rumors of Jefferson’s relationship with Hemings were a commonplace during his lifetime, however, and it is undisputed that there were a lot of red-headed slave children running around Monticello, and that Hemings and her children received privileged treatment in Jefferson’s will.
- Did he write his own Bible, excluding the parts of Christianity with which he disagreed? The truth is more complicated than the question implies. Jefferson was an admirer of Jesus, but skeptical of the magic-man persona and the miracles. Jefferson cut-and-pasted the gospel narratives into an order he thought more coherent than in the traditional Bible, and omitted the miracles. Jefferson was carefully ambiguous about his religious beliefs, which, given his Enlightenment temperament, probably signifies agnosticism or deism.
- Was he a racist who opposed civil rights and equality for black Americans? Jefferson wanted to send the slaves back to Africa, and intimated toward the end of his life that he thought slavery might someday lead to exactly the civil war we got. It’s not clear whether he was a racist per se, so much as that he believed the race problem was irreconcilable and dangerous to the union. He was instrumental in the colonization movement that culminated in the founding of Liberia.
- Did he, in his pursuit of separation of church and state, advocate the secularizing of public life? Yes, emphatically so. Though his public pronouncements on religion were few and ambiguous, his private letters speak plainly and often of his contempt for the clergy.
I know I comment on this repeatedly, but no one lies as much or as often as the "godly Christian" crowd. It's ironic that the "godless liberals" do a much better job at being honest and avoiding constant outright lies.
Mitt Romney certainly fits the mold of GOP politicians who wrap themselves in religion and then shred the Bible message. Not to mention that when their lips are moving, it;'s a safe bet that they are lying. They've apparently learned well from their Christofascist masters in the GOP base. A case in point is the Romney campaign claim that Barack Obama has gutted welfare requirements that recipients need to be working. It's not true by Mr. Romney - who seems to believe in a reverse Robin Hood social order where you steal from the poor and give to the rich - is running with the lie nevertheless. The lie is apparently too much for the editorial board at the Washington Post which has called Romney out as a liar. They were more diplomatic in the language they used, but distilled to its essence, that's what it comes down to. Romney's a liar on this and so many things. Here are excerpts from the editorial:
THE 1996 WELFARE reform law wrought dramatic change. It reduced the rolls from 4.6 million families to 1.7 million by 2009. Child poverty rates fell and single-mother employment rates went up. Mitt Romney and his campaign claim the Obama administration has gutted this landmark law. Says a 30-second ad paid for by the Republican National Committee: “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. Welfare-to-work goes back to being plain old welfare.”
This is false. The disputed July 12 memorandum from the Department of Health and Human Services offers to waive certain provisions in the current law for states that want to try new methods of meeting the work requirement. Even if those waivers did “gut” the work requirement, the main pillars of reform — a fixed federal block grant to the states of $16.5 billion per year, a five-year lifetime limit on federally funded benefits and aggressive caseload reduction goals — would still stand.
Mr. Romney’s sloppy, hyperbolic attack is doubly unfortunate given that welfare was historically a racially fraught issue that reform defused.
When Congress reauthorized welfare reform in 2005, . . .
included more specific work definitions, coupled with stricter reporting requirements for the states. Additionally, it told states that they would be held accountable for keeping caseloads below the 2005 level, not the 1996 level, as the previous law did.
States chafed at the new norms, arguing that the administrative burdens made it hard to meet the ambitious new caseload reduction norms. There is some evidence that they’re right. But Congress has failed to agree on a new version of the law, so the 2005 version has been repeatedly extended.
Ironically, some of the states that were whining are under GOP control, so once again we see the GOP talking out of both sides of its mouth - certainly not anything new - as they first asked for waivers and now act as if it's Obama who began the process.
In the wake of the mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin, the headline of this post is not something to make one warm and fuzzy. Yet, thanks to Governor Bob"Taliban Bob" McDonnell and the GOP controlled General Assembly, there is no limit on the number of guns one can legally purchase, and the headline I used is straight from the Virginian Pilot. And as police in New York and other states know, these guns often do not stay in Virginia. Now, once again, Virginia will likely be the main source of guns used in many states to commit crimes. I find it disgusted and frightening since the Colorado and Wisconsin murders show how easy it is for nutcases to "legally purchase" guns. Guns that no law abiding citizen needs to be stockpiling. Knowing that Virginia has over 30 or so KKK and white supremacy groups doesn't make me fell any better. Here are highlights from the Pilot article:
Firearms have been flying off store shelves all year in Virginia, but last month - the first in 20 years that didn't limit buyers to one handgun - saw the most sales yet. Background checks for firearms transactions spiked accordingly. In July, 29,072 checks were conducted by the Virginia State Police, a 29 percent increase over the same month last year.
The actual number of guns sold could be much higher. Background checks are required only for firearms bought from licensed dealers, and one check is good for any number of guns, as long as they're part of the same transaction.
That's what upsets those who supported Virginia's one-handgun-a-month restriction. When the law was passed in 1993, the state was known as an easy mark for gun traffickers - a place where the bad guys could get unlimited weapons directly from law-abiding dealers simply by sending in a purchaser who could pass a background check.
Guns from Virginia have been a plague in neighboring states. On Wednesday night, a police officer was shot in New York City with a 9mm Ruger that's been traced to a gun shop in the commonwealth. "Unfortunately, that's just the latest tragedy," said John Feinblatt, chief policy adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "It's a pattern. Virginia is the top out-of-state source for crime guns in New York City. By repealing that law, you just took a step backwards."
Some closest to bloodshed remain unconvinced. Families and survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007 fought to keep the handgun limit, calling its end a "sad day." Feinblatt, in New York, agrees.
"Making it easier for guns to fall into the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and drug addicts is a lethal decision," he said.
It's all typical of the Virginia GOP and McDonnell - whose other nick name is "Governor Ultrasound" - who care nothing about average voters and citizens and only seek to kiss the asses of far right fanatics and religious extremists. Once again, I hate living in this state where ignorance and bigotry pass for statesmenship and political leadership.
Thursday, August 09, 2012
You know it's bad when Catholic nuns - some of the few Catholic Church clergy who seem to believe in the true Gospel message - are deriding Mitt Romney for being insensitive and clueless about the plight of the poor. Worse yet, they call the Paul Ryan GOP budget which Romney has endorsed to be immoral and contrary to Catholic social justice principles. Romney may have resorted to running ads featuring the late Pope John Paul II as an attack of Obama - apparently forgetting that John Paul II's legacy includes massive cover ups of sexual abuse literally around the globe - but he's clueless on social justice issues. Enter the nuns who have invited Romney to join their bus tour so that he can be educated about reality. Will Romney accept the invitation? I seriously doubt it. Here are some excerpts from a Think Progress post:
The group behind the Nuns On A Bus tour that highlighted the ill-effects of the House Republican budget in congressional districts across the country is now setting its sights on the party’s presidential candidate, inviting Mitt Romney to spend a day with the nuns to learn about the plight of America’s poorest citizens.
. . . . The group is specifically targeting Romney a day after his campaign released a misleading ad about welfare reform that Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK’s executive director, said “demonize[s] families in poverty” and shows Romney’s “ignorance about the challenges” the poor face in America:
“Recent advertisements and statements from the campaign of Governor Romney demonize families in poverty and reflect woeful ignorance about the challenges faced by tens of millions of American families in these tough economic times,” stated Sister Simone Campbell. . . . .Romney has endorsed the House GOP budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). It was that plan, which includes deep cuts to food stamps and other safety net programs that benefit the middle class, that NETWORK’s Nuns On A Bus tour targeted, with Campbell and other sisters blasting it as “immoral” at the tour’s conclusion in Washington D.C. Romney has also proposed massive tax cuts for the rich that would likely come at the expense of lower- and middle-class families, which would see higher taxes or significant cuts to the programs they depend on.
Those policies, Campbell told ThinkProgress, show that Romney “doesn’t have clue” about the struggles the poor face. “The fact is, his policies shift wealth to the upper class,” she said. “Yes, it hurts the middle class, but it devastates those at the margins of our society.” If Romney were to accept their invitation, Campbell said she would take him to places like St. Augustine’s in Cleveland, where food programs “provide a hand up” to the community’s neediest members. “He thinks they’re lazy,” Campbell said, in reference to Romney’s misleading welfare reform ad. “It is hard work to keep things together when you’re poor. He doesn’t have a clue. Let him talk to them, and maybe they’ll touch his heart. And his mind too.”
In a case of strange irony, Ann Romney - whose husband has pandered to the nastiest anti-gay elements in the Christofascist GOP base - had her horse, Rafalca, go down to defeat in the Olympics to a gay rider on the British team (pictured above) AND a gay rider on the Dutch team. Either God (i) doesn't take sides in the Olympics, (ii) isn't out to smite gays to favor the modern day Pharisee set when it comes to athletics and horseback riding, or (iii) doesn't like the greedy out of touch Romneys. Whatever the case, I personally found the irony most sweet. Here are highlights from The Advocate:
Great Britain's dressage team, which includes out equestrian rider Carl Hester won gold on Tuesday, while Team USA, featuring Jan Ebeling riding Ann Romney's horse Rafalca, placed sixth. Tuesday's win earned Hester, 45, his first Olympic medal.If Ann Romney sees herself as a GOP version of Evita Peron who can connect with what I'm sure she sees as the lower classes, she needs to seriously think again.
The German team won the silver medal and the Dutch team, featuring out rider Edward Gal, took the bronze.
Romney, wife of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, said she was not disappointed that Ebeling and Rafalca would not advance to the individual round.
I frequently bemoan the fact that far too many black pastors act as water carriers for "family values" organizations that have strong white supremacist leanings such as The Family Foundation here in Virginia - or in the case of FRC's Tony Perkins, actual past involvement with white supremacy groups. At times I have attributed this trained circus dog like behavior to ignorance and a lack of knowledge of history and just whose water these black pastors are carry. But now we know there's another reason for this slavish obedience to their white masters: money. And in the case of so-called Bishop Harry Jackson, we now know that he was paid at least $20,000 by the National Organization for Marriage ("NOM"). The documentation confirming payments to Jackson was part of additional releases in the Maine lawsuit where NOM is under investigation for campaign disclosure law violations. Jackson gives new meaning to the terms whore and prostitute. One can only wonder if his dwindling followers know that Jackson has been bought lock stock and barrel by those who seek to divide the LGBT community from the black community as one of their cynical anti-gay agenda. Here are excerpts from Mother Jones:
As Maryland has become ground zero in the culture war, [Bishop Harry] Jackson is on the front lines. In February, the state legalized same-sex marriage. Now a ballot initiative to overturn that law awaits voters in November, and activists led by the National Organization for Marriage believe they can prevail by appealing to African Americans, particularly socially conservative churchgoers. Some of the biggest mega-churches in the country are in Maryland, notes Derek McCoy, an associate pastor at Jackson's church and the director of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, an umbrella group bankrolled in part by NOM. "The difference is they're African American."
NOM believes that stirring up anti-gay-marriage fervor among black voters has helped it win referendums in other states by pitting two groups of loyal Democrats against each other. As internal documents released during Maine's investigation into the group's finances asserted, "The strategic goal is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots."
Jackson is exactly the kind of African American spokesperson the NOM memo envisions. "There's been a hijacking of the civil rights movement by the radical gay movement," he said on CNN after backing California's Proposition 8 in 2008. "You can't equate your sin with my skin." He has received $20,000 from NOM's education fund and has rallied support for same-sex marriage bans in Florida and Washington, DC, where he joined Councilmember Marion Barry to oppose a marriage equality bill in 2009.
Details on the funding for Jackson's personal organization, the High Impact Leadership Coalition, are also murky. The group, which shares an address with Jackson's church, spent $40,700 trying to defeat marriage equality in DC. It describes itself as a nonprofit and solicits tax-deductible donations on its website. However, it is not listed in current IRS or charity databases, and its trade name registered with the state of Maryland lapsed in 2011. HILC's name was originally registered by an organization headed by Jackson's wife that lost its tax-exempt status after failing to file federal tax forms. (Mother Jones sought comment from Jackson but received no response.)
NOM and its allies may be overestimating the power of their wedge strategy. "It's wrong and disingenuous to pit blacks against gays, which is what the media has done," says Baltimore Delegate Jill Carter, who supports same-sex marriage rights. "I'm not wedded to my religion over civil rights and the Constitution."
Reverend Delman Coates, who testified in support of marriage rights in the Maryland Legislature, explains that . . . . . "There's a difference between the 'black church tradition,' and a church of blacks," Coates says. Pastors like Jackson "are often selected by interests outside of our community, and funded and promoted in ways that represent interests that are not in keeping with the historic tradition of freedom and equality. That's the black church tradition."
The house sitter is all lined up and the bags are almost packed as we prepare to head to the boyfriend's family reunion weekend in the Somerset, Pennsylvania (the county courthouse is pictured above) area. We will stay in Somerset although the actual reunion on Saturday is just across a large hill from the Flight 93 memorial site). As I have noted in the past, in addition to the family reunion activities each year we have what we call meetings of the "Ya Ya Brotherhood" - a group of gay friends some of whom are local and some of whom likewise have family reunions the same weekend each year. Sadly, one couple - and they know who they are - are supposedly not coming this year. We are NOT happy!! And since I know they read this blog daily, they are hereby put on notice that we WILL talk about you if you're not present to protect your interests. Since you know the members of the brotherhood all too well, you know just how catty and bitchy we might be. We hope you reconsider! The boyfriend and I are bringing the martinis for tomorrow night and dinner reservations have been made for Sunday night. Hope you reconsider!!! Call us if you change your mind. xoxoxo
Fox News - or Faux News as I call it - is the far right's preferred noise machine and propaganda organ. But lately, in what can only be viewed as heresy by the Christofascists, Fox News seems to be losing its unanimous anti-gay voice. BuzzFeed looks at the trend and conjectures that the motivation behind the softening of the anti-gay stridency comes down to money. If it alienates younger viewers, over a period of time Fox News will be committing financial suicide. And as noted in an earlier post, anti-gay rhetoric is increasingly less popular with even younger Republicans. Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher must fell as if someone has peed in their Cheerios. Here are excerpts from BuzzFeed's coverage (the image above is from that article):
Fractures in conservative opposition to gay rights and even same-sex marriage have now widened to include the core of the right’s message machine, the Fox News Channel, where a cadre of younger voices have begun to defend same-sex relationships and even advocate openly for same-sex marriage.The channel’s heterodox posture on gay rights comes despite Fox’s siding comfortably with mainstream Republican positions on other divisive social issues of the day, such as abortion and contraception.But like the Republican Party, whose leaders have begun to step away from anti-gay positions that are deeply unpopular with younger voters, Fox appears to be feeling pressure both from its younger staff and key audience segments to reflect what polls suggest is a rapidly shifting consensus. And over the past year, Shepard Smith, the host of afternoon news show Studio B, has emerged as a vocal champion of same-sex marriage.“In television people are worried about the demo,” said Margaret Hoover, a former Fox News contributor and former Bush administration staffer who left the network last year, referring to television advertisers preoccupation with viewers between 18 and 49. “‘Are you getting the demo?’ And the demo supports gay rights.” Smith’s May marriage remarks provided a shock both to elements of Fox’s conservative audience and to liberals, whose enmity with Fox has only deepend through the Obama years.Smith hasn’t stopped since then — quipping recently that “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” was “the national day of intolerance.” And he’s been joined by Megyn Kelly, while other voices on the network — John Stossel, Andrew Napolitano — have shied away from conservative dogma on gay marriage.Whether Fox’s on-air talent is going rogue or the mandate is coming from on high, some of the network’s most prominent names have started to speak louder and more favorably in support of a cherished liberal cause — winning grudging praise from the left and outrage from the right.Fox is tracing, and perhaps at times leading, a broad and at times disconcertingly fast shift inside Republican politics. Some of the party’s most important donors, organized in part by out former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, now double as donors to marriage equality campaigns. . . . . And Republicans are shying away from making gay marriage a campaign issue this year, Politico noted recently, as polling shows that the country is moving towards broader support of the issue.[Megyn] Kelly joined Smith on his side of the gay marriage debate while interviewing Dr. Robert Jeffress:"This country has a long history of discrimination against certain groups. Eventually we wind up getting it right. Right? Against women, against blacks, the civil rights movement and so on. And in justifying that discrimination when it was in place, some folks turn to the Bible and turn to their religious beliefs and said we have to have slavery because it’s in the Bible. Women have to be second-class citizens because that’s in the Bible. Blacks and whites can’t get married because that’s in the Bible. That wound up in a case. A judge wrote that in an opinion, which the Supreme Court ultimately struck that down, saying that’s not right, judge—the Equal Protection clause says you can't do that. Why is gay marriage any different?" she asked.
I hope those feathers continue to be ruffled big time. And despite the seeming shift, I won't be tuning into Fox News anytime soon. Drinking Kool-Aid isn't one of my favored activities.
With the murder of 6 people at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin not even a week behind the country, Mitt Romney again demonstrated that he's only too willing to prostitute himself to the vilest elements of the Christofascist GOP base. What am I talking about? Romney held a meeting with supporters of Michele Bachmann's lunatic anti-Muslim witch hunt. The meeting included a veritable who's who of religious extremists, some of whom are members of registered hate groups. One has to wonder when Romney will meet with KKK leaders and avowed white supremacists. It's disgusting, but not surprising with Romney. Think Progress has details and as I said the list of participants includes some pretty foul individuals. Here are highlights:
Mitt Romney held a meeting Thursday [of last week] with a group of right-wing activists that included several leaders who have been vocal supporters of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) Islamophobic witch hunt, deepening his association with right-wing, anti-Muslim sentiment.
One of the guests at Thursday’s event was Vice President of the Family Research Council Jerry Boykin, who has a long history of Islamophobia, and once said that Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment.” Most recently, Boykin piled on to Bachmann’s baseless indictment that top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot. “I believe in some aspects of this situation there is support for the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into our government, that sounds extremist but it is just a fact, it’s a reality,” he said.
Three others in attendance at Thursday’s event — American Values president Gary Bauer, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins — penned a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) defending Bachmann’s witch hunt. In that letter, they argued there is legitimate concern about “senior federal officials or branches of the federal government could be animated or influenced by groups affiliated with, or a philosophy grounded in, radical Islam.”
Boehner ended up rebuking Bachmann and her Islamophobic effort — which is more than Romney has done. The presidential candidate has refused to condemn Bachmann saying, “I’m not going to tell other people what things to talk about.”
An article in the New York Times must be disturbing to the hate merchants at Family Research Council, American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, etc., who seek to make their stridently anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-modernity issues to top GOP priority. Based on the article young Republicans are increasingly rejecting the Christofascists efforts to keep the GOP a quasi-religious party. Added to the mass exit of members of the millennial generation from organized religion entirety, with these changes in the views of young Republicans the future doesn't bode well for the Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallaghers of the world. While their message of hate, bigotry and ignorance still plays well with older voters, their audience is literally dying off. And at some point the GOP will have to either swing back to modern reality or begin to die. Here are some article highlights:
“Social issues are far down the priorities list, and I think that’s the trend,” Mr. Hoagland, 27, said. “That’s where it needs to go if the Republican Party is going to be successful.”Zoey Kotzambasis, vice president of the College Republicans at the University of Arizona, considers herself a conservative. But she supports both same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Those are not just her opinions.“A lot of the College Republicans I know share the same liberal-to-moderate social views,” she added. “And I think that’s changing the face of the party.”In a break from generations past and with an eye toward the future, many of the youngest leaders of the Republican Party are embracing views on some social issues that are at odds with traditional conservative ideology — if they mention such issues at all, according to interviews, experts and some polling.Polls show that Americans under 30 are the least likely to identify as Republican, and those in the millennial generation support President Obama by a wide margin. But in an effort to win votes by capitalizing on disenchantment with the recession and its slow recovery, Republicans are placing a renewed emphasis on fiscal issues, with hopes of energizing their young people . . .A poll this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the percentage of Republicans ages 18 through 29 who favor same-sex marriage has grown to 37 percent, up from 28 percent eight years ago.“The students I know who are conservative are far less so on social issues than our parents,” Ms. Kotzambasis, 19, said. “People are more accepting of different lifestyles.”Younger Republicans are also the most likely members of the party to say that “more people of different races marrying each other” and “more women in the work force” have been changes for the better, according to a separate Pew study conducted last year.All of their characteristics taken together, young Republicans present a nuanced mix of political ideals that may well change the face of the party over time, experts say. “There has to be room for them or the Republican Party won’t exist, at the pace this generation is evolving,” said John Della Volpe, polling director at the Harvard Institute of Politics.At least two members of her College Republican group, one of whom is a lifelong friend, recently revealed that they are gay, she said. And the open discussions that ensued greatly influenced the entire club, and solidified Ms. Kotzambasis’s own view.“I think people have become much more at ease and comfortable about it,” she said. “Honestly, there’s about zero judgment from the people in our club, and I think that reflects the direction my generation wants to take the party in.”
Personally, I continue to view being gay and involved in today's GOP as something akin to being Jewish and supporting the Nazi Party or being black and supporting the KKK. But I hope that in time the Christofascists find themselves without a viable home in the GOP. They need to be driven back into the political wilderness where they belong.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
Just when you think Bain Capital can't possibly become a bigger headache for Mitt Romney another shoe falls. This time it is reports that Romney founded Bain Capital with funding from Central American families with ties to death Squads. A column in Huffington Post makes the argument that Romney - unless he's a total idiot - had to have known that he was dealing with some not so nice folks. But time and time again, making a buck (and avoiding taxes) is Romney's true passion in life and that he'll do whatever it takes to make a profit. Even if it includes closing his eyes to evil. (NOTE: For the record, I'm not anti-Central America; my mother was born in Honduras and I likely have Honduran citizenship myself. I just have a real problem with those who put money ahead of all else). Here are some column highlights:
When Romney struggled to raise funds from other traditional sources, he and his partners started thinking outside the box. Bain executive Harry Strachan suggested that Romney meet with a group of Central American oligarchs who were looking for new investment vehicles as turmoil engulfed their region.
Romney was worried that the oligarchs might be tied to "illegal drug money, right-wing death squads, or left-wing terrorism," Strachan later told a Boston Globe reporter, as quoted in the 2012 book "The Real Romney." But, pressed for capital, Romney pushed his concerns aside and flew to Miami in mid-1984 to meet with the Salvadorans at a local bank.
It was a lucrative trip. The Central Americans provided roughly $9 million -- 40 percent -- of Bain Capital's initial outside funding, the Los Angeles Times reported recently. And they became valued clients.
"Over the years, these Latin American friends have loyally rolled over investments in succeeding funds, actively participated in Bain Capital's May investor meetings, and are still today one of the largest investor groups in Bain Capital," Strachan wrote in his memoir in 2008.
"I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent," he said at a dinner in Miami in 2007. . . . .
Romney could also have thanked investors from two other wealthy and powerful Central American clans -- the de Sola and Salaverria families, who the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe have reported were founding investors in Bain Capital.
While they were on the lookout for investments in the United States, members of some of these prominent families -- including the Salaverria, Poma, de Sola and Dueñas clans -- were also at the time financing, either directly or through political parties, death squads in El Salvador. The ruling classes were deploying the death squads to beat back left-wing guerrillas and reformers during El Salvador's civil war.
The death squads committed atrocities on such a mass scale for so small a country that their killing spree sparked international condemnation. From 1979 to 1992, some 75,000 people were killed in the Salvadoran civil war, according to the United Nations. In 1982, two years before Romney began raising money from the oligarchs, El Salvador's independent Human Rights Commission reported that, of the 35,000 civilians killed, "most" died at the hands of death squads.
When The Huffington Post asked the Romney campaign about Bain Capital accepting funds from families tied to death squads, a spokeswoman forwarded a 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article to explain the campaign's position on the matter. She declined to comment further.
"Romney confirms Bain had investors in El Salvador. But, as was Bain's policy with any big investor, they had the families checked out as diligently as possible," the Tribune wrote. "They uncovered no unsavory links to drugs or other criminal activity." Nobody with a basic understanding of the region's history could believe that assertion.
By 1984, the media had thoroughly exposed connections between the death squads and the Salvadoran oligarchy, including the families that invested with Romney. The sitting U.S. ambassador to El Salvador charged that several families, including at least one that invested with Bain, were living in Miami and directly funding death squads.
The connection between the families involved with Bain's founding and those who financed death squads was made by the Boston Globe in 1994 and the Salt Lake Tribune in 1999. This election cycle, Salon first raised the issue in January, and the Los Angeles Times filled out more of the record earlier this month.
There is no shortage of unsavory links. Even the Tribune article referred to by the Romney campaign reports that "about $6.5 million of $37 million that established the company came from wealthy El Salvadoran families linked to right-wing death squads."
Jeffery Paige, author of "Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America" and a professor at the University of Michigan, has studied the political economy of Central American oligarchies. Romney's claim to have checked out the backgrounds of the families and come away satisfied befuddles Paige.
As Romney now seeks support from the Latino community in his campaign for president, his knowledge of Bain's all-too-few degrees of separation from Salvadoran death squads may become a topic of interest.
There is a great amount of detail on just how dirty Romney's investor buddies were and how no one with their eyes open could not have known what was going on. But for Mitt Romney, making money and supporting the wealth trumped all else. Personally, I don't the man has changed one bit.
The National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") has consistently shown that it believes it is above the laws that bind others. A prime example if the way in which NOM ignores campaign finance disclosure laws in virtually every state where it takes its increasingly virulent anti-gay message which has expanded to include far more than "protecting the sanctity of marriage." NOM now supports reparative therapy and has been parroting standard anti-language that even includes the lie that gays have shorter life expectancies. Thus it would be no surprise if NOM were found to be improperly funneling - i.e., basically laundering money - through other like minded entities, including 501(c)(3) entities that are barred from political activity. An article in the New Civil Rights Movement looks at an IRS complaint that has been file against NOM and the Witherspoon Foundation which provided the bulk of the funding for Mark Regnerus' discredited anti-gay parenting study. Here are exceprts:
Regnerus’s known total of $785,000 for the study was arranged by The Witherspoon Institute and The Bradley Foundation, where Robert P. George – head of the anti-gay-rights, scientifically disreputable National Organization for Marriage (NOM) — holds positions of authority. Witherspoon president Luis Tellez is a NOM board member.
Bradley and Witherspoon are organized as 501(c)3 tax exempt entities. One arm of NOM, by contrast, is a 501(c)4 organization. NOM apparently would not have been legally able to fund the Regnerus study and to use it subsequently as a political weapon in the 2012 elections. Likewise, Bradley and Witherspoon as 501(c)3s charities are limited in the extent of political involvement legally allowed them.
There thus is some appearance that the Regnerus study money could have been political money, laundered for NOM through Bradley and Witherspoon — (with the money perhaps laundered coming from as-yet-unidentified donors) — even though the Regnerus study was schemed up above all for NOM and Republican Party uses as a political weapon in the 2012 elections.
The appearance is that as a NOM proxy — and as a loophole in the differences between what is legally allowed to 501(c)3s and to 501(c)4s — Bradley/Witherspoon funded the Regnerus study for NOM — with laundered money — for a known minimum of $785,000.
Accordingly, a 501(c)3 tax exempt laws violations COMPLAINT has been filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), against Bradley, Witherspoon and NOM.
The COMPLAINT noted that NOM and Witherspoon formerly shared the address of 20 Nassau Street, Suite 242, Princeton, New Jersey 08542.
The central allegation is that The Bradley Foundation (“Bradley”) and The Witherspoon Institute (“Witherspoon”), both 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations, laundered money for political projects for — and/or of — The National Organization for Marriage, which is a 501(c)4 political advocacy organization subject to tax laws different from those pertaining for 501(c)3 organizations.
The Study could apparently not legally have been funded by NOM, and then later used by NOM as a political weapon in the 2012 elections. Furthermore, Bradley and Witherspoon apparently could not legally have funded such a study and then subsequently have promoted it as heavily as NOM is doing, in political contexts in the 2012 elections.
There is an appearance that NOM officials who also have official positions with Bradley and Witherspoon knowingly subverted the letter and spirit of tax laws applying to 501(c)3 organizations compared to 501(c)4 organizations, in order to further political goals shared by those same NOM, Bradley and Witherspoon officials and their corresponding, common organizations.
NOM is very heavily invested, and involved in the 2012 elections nationwide. NOM and/or its various state affiliates are involved in 1) the 2012 presidential campaign; 2) congressional and senatorial campaigns on both the national and state levels; 3) campaigns involving candidates for other elected offices and; 4) campaigns involving state ballot initiatives.
Most of NOM’s political campaigns rely to no small extent on demonizing homosexuals based on known falsifications of scientific records. NOM, for example, demonizes homosexuals by quoting works by Paul Cameron, who in the 1980s was expelled from multiple professional organizations because of his documented falsifications of scientific records.
In various states, NOM is in the courts fighting charges of campaign finance law violations. In California, where NOM has connections to — among other political entities — “ProtectMarriage.com” and “Yes on 8” — campaign finance law violation complaints were filed by Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger, with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission. The aforementioned NOM-linked entities admitted to 18 counts of violating campaign finance laws, and want to settle by paying $49,000 in fines. The Fair Political Practices Commission has not yet decided whether to accept a settlement.
There's more to the article. The biggest question of all, of course is that of where NOM's money is coming from. Until NOM is forced to reveal its funding sources, it is safe to assume that more games of breaking disclosure laws will continue. It never ceases to amaze me how the self-proclaimed "godly Christian" crowd act more like racketeers than true followers of Christ.
The trial of Kenneth L. Miller, 46, of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, is about to commence in Vermont. Miller is on trial for helping and abetting Lisa Miller (who farcically claims to now be "ex-gay") in kidnapping her daughter, Isabella, and absconding to to Nicaragua in violation of Vermont custody orders. The Virginia Supreme Court twice upheld the validity of the Vermont court orders. Not indicted but believed by many to be involved in the kidnapping are staff members at Liberty University Law School. Obviously, I would be delighted to see evidence come out at trial that might lead to additional prosecutions against these gay-hating religious extremists. NBC News has coverage. Here are highlights:
The trial of an Amish-Mennonite minister accused of helping an American woman spirit the child she had with her former same-sex partner out of the country just before she lost custody is getting under way this week.
Kenneth L. Miller, 46, of Stuarts Draft, Va., is charged with aiding and abetting Lisa Miller in taking her child, Isabella, to Nicaragua with the intent to obstruct the parental rights of her former civil union partner, Janet Jenkins, according to the court indictment. He is not related to Lisa Miller and could face a three-year sentence if convicted.
Federal agents haven’t been able to locate Isabella or Lisa Miller, who was indicted on international kidnapping charges in 2010.
The case has drawn attention in part because it involves an international custody dispute, but also because it touches upon two major issues in the public square: gay rights and religion. A jury was selected Tuesday in Burlington, Vt., and opening arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.
Kenneth Miller allegedly helped arrange the pair’s exit from their home in Lynchburg, Va., to Canada, where they crossed the border from New York on Sept. 22, 2009. He then facilitated the purchase of plane tickets to Nicaragua and set up contacts for them in the Central American country, according to an affidavit filed by Deputy U.S. Marshal Max Galusha.
The court determined in November 2009 that Jenkins would have sole physical and legal custody of Isabella starting on Jan. 2010, ruling that Miller had willfully interfered with her visitation rights. But Miller had already fled her home in Lynchburg, Va., with her daughter in tow.
Hopefully, Kenneth Miller will be convicted and a message sent to Christianist extremists that they are not above the civil laws.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
The Christofascists and the con-artists of the professional Christian set love to insist that the Bible is "the inerrant word of God." Except, of course when the actual language of Bible proves to be inconvenient - e.g., prohibitions against divorce, polygamy being the true biblical marriage structure in the Old Testament, prohibitions against lying, commands to feed the poor rather than amassing wealth, etc. - or, worse yet, cuts them off at the knee caps. A column in the Huffington Post brings up another situation where the New Testament portion of the Bible proves unhelpful in the jihad against same sex couples. What am I talking about? The passage where Jesus heals the Roman centurion's lover or "pais" in the early Greek versions of the New Testament. Here are column excerpts:
In this year's battles over same-sex marriage (there are referenda on the issue in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, and Washington), opponents have tried to depict the issue as a choice between traditional religious values and some sinister homosexual agenda, between God and gay. . . . some people argue, what about the fact that the only sanctioned relationship in the Bible is between a man and a woman?
Well, in fact, that's not quite the case. The story of the faithful centurion, told in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, is about a Roman centurion who comes to Jesus and begs that Jesus heal his pais, a word sometimes translated as "servant." Jesus agrees and says he will come to the centurion's home, but the centurion says that he does not deserve to have Jesus under his roof, and he has faith that if Jesus even utters a word of healing, the healing will be accomplished. Jesus praises the faith of the centurion, and the pais is healed. This tale illustrates the power and importance of faith, and how anyone can possess it. The centurion is not a Jew, yet he has faith in Jesus and is rewarded.
But pais does not mean "servant." It means "lover." In Thucydides, in Plutarch, in countless Greek sources, and according to leading Greek scholar Kenneth Dover, pais refers to the junior partner in a same-sex relationship. Now, this is not exactly a marriage of equals. An erastes-pais relationship generally consisted of a somewhat older man, usually a soldier between the ages of 18 and 30, and a younger adolescent, usually between the ages of 13 and 18. Sometimes that adolescent was a slave, as seems to be the case here.
However, it is a same-sex relationship nonetheless. (It is also basically the same as the soldier/armor-bearer in the model of David and Jonathan, which I'll explore in a future article.) And what is Jesus's response? Does he spit in the centurion's face for daring to suggest that he heal the soldier's lover? Hardly. He recognizes the relationship and performs an act of grace.
Now, could pais really just mean "servant"? There are several reasons why this makes no sense. First, one would not expect a Roman centurion to intercede, let alone "beg" (parakaloon), on behalf of a mere servant or slave. Second, while Luke refers to the young man as a doulos (slave), the centurion himself specifically calls him a pais; this strongly suggests that the distinction is important. Third, we know that the erastes-pais intimate relationship was common practice among Roman soldiers, who were not allowed to take wives, and whose life was patterned on the Greek model of soldier-lovers.
If I and dozens of other scholars (some of whom are listed below) are correct, this is a radical act. Jesus is extending his hand not only to the centurion but to his partner, as well. In addition to Jesus' silence on homosexuality in general (he never mentions same-sex intimacy, not once, despite its prevalence in his social context), it speaks volumes that he did not hesitate to heal a Roman's likely same-sex lover. Like his willingness to include former prostitutes in his close circle, Jesus' engagement with those whose conduct might offend sexual mores even today is a statement of radical inclusion, and of his own priorities for the spiritual life.
No doubt local loon Pat Robertson, Bryan Fischer, Rick Warren, and Maggie Gallagher all pretend that these passages are a part of the Bible as they relentlessly denigrate gays and same sex love.
Other takes on these New Testament passages can be found here and here. The former looks at the historical basis for Hebrew opposition to homosexuality: the Hebrews looked down upon their neighboring nations and people and deliberately set themselves apart as God’s Chosen People through the strict dietary and living codes of the Torah. Here are relevant highlights:
Hebrew scripture and culture had roots in the same Mediterranean soil as their neighbors, but also the Hebrew people quite deliberately set themselves apart as God’s Chosen People. The Torah governed every detail of life from cradle to grave and served as an impenetrable wall around the Jews. One aspect of the Torah was a strict prohibition of homosexual activity among men. (The Hebrew scriptures contain no prohibition of lesbian activity.) Some scholars maintain that the Torah prohibition of male homosexual activity among the Jews was meant to protect the ritual purity of the Jews and cannot be seen as a condemnation of homosexuality in general. In other words, maybe the neighbors do those things, but we would never do them (Countryman, 1988).
The apostle Paul, whose letter to the Romans is often cited to condemn homosexual activity, could hardly be expected to have been comfortable with homosexuality. Paul began life as a Jew and a Pharisee, a strict observer of the Jewish Law. He inherited his tradition’s harsh attitude toward homosexual activity, probably without understanding the boundary-marking aspect of that condemnation. This attitude hardened in the three hundred years before Christ, as the armies of Alexander the Great and his successors occupied the Levant. Alexander brought in Greek ideas, including the glorification of the body and the idealization of physical beauty, both male and female. The former found expression in the gymnasium, where young men and boys exercised their bodies gymnos, or naked, as older men looked on, offering encouragement. Alexander also erected statues of their pagan gods that boldly displayed the virtues of the male body, often modeled after the beautiful, naked young men in the gymnasium. The revolt of the Maccabees against foreign occupation in 160 BCE began with the establishment of a gymnasium in Jerusalem and the erection of a Greek idol in the Jewish Temple (I Maccabees 1:14 and 54). For 300 years Jews had reason to connect the abhorrent idea of idolatry as practiced by the Greeks in the temples to their suspicious fascination with each other’s bodies at the gym.The Romans, who of course absorbed much of Greek culture, arrived in Palestine as political and military occupiers in the first century BCE. The Jews increasingly set themselves apart from these foreigners. . . . Jewish culture and attitudes contributed to the context of the centurion and his servant, and so did Roman culture. The two cultures diametrically opposed each other with regard to homosexuality.
Unfortunately, ignorant preachers - many of whom attended two bit bible colleges that could not even meet normal accreditation standards - know little about the real history of the ancient world. Consequently they are all too often among those who mindlessly repeat the far right lie that societies that have embraced homosexuality have fallen. Yes, the Roman Empire ultimately fell, but not because of homosexuality. Indeed, as previous blogs have explored, the Church itself was a leading force that undermined the Empire. And, whatever their failings, the Roman Empire and the city states of classical Greece endured for longer than the United States has existed and surely surpassed the levels of art and knowledge in Judea throughout their combined nearly 1,000 year duration.
34 registered hate groups in Virginia. All but five (5) are white supremacy/anti-immigrant/anti-Muslim groups. As a result, it is not surprising that Richmond provided a popular venue for a gathering of those who support so-called hate rock as CNN has described it:
The weekend killings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin have brought a furious fringe genre of American music out of the background and to the front of the mix.
So called hate-rock bands like the one once led by temple gunman Wade Page are increasingly important to the U.S. white supremacist movement, drawing in new recruits and bringing in cash, according to groups that keep tabs on those groups.
[W]hite-power music comes in," he said. "It bridges the gap between healthy youth rebellion and hardcore white supremacy, providing that kind of Aryan identity." . . . . "It really provides the bulk of the financing, such as it is, that neo-Nazi and related kinds of groups are able to earn in this country," added Mark Potok, who tracks white supremacist groups for the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
So what role did Page play in organizing a hate fest in the Richmond area in March, 2012? Here are some highlights from Realcourage.org:
Wade Michael Page, the terrorist killer behind the mass murder attack on a Sikh temple on August 4, 2012, was also one of the organizing coordinators of a white supremacist hate group concert in Richmond, Virginia on March 17, 2012. Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) has investigated his white supremacist associations, and we have identified national and international contacts who have been involved with this white supremacist terrorist.The March 17, 2012 Richmond, Virginia concert organized by terrorist Wade Michael Page featured one of his bands, called “Definite Hate,” as well as other white supremacist musical bands including “Open Season Australia” (Australia), “Chaos 88″ (New Jersey), Landsknecht (Germany), ”FucFace88″ (Florida).The terrorist Wade Page assisted a white supremacist group, called the Confederate Hammerskins (CHS), in organizing the event. Most of the information regarding the CHS events are maintained behind a wall of secrecy to their members. But a web cache of certain files led to discovery of communications and context on how the Confederate Hammerskins and their associated white supremacists organized such white supremacist hate concerts.
[T]he flier promoting the event was created by someone with the screen name “End Apathy,” undoubtedly [Page] himself; ”End Apathy” was the other band that Wade Michael Page led. “End Apathy” used Internet tool “Photo Bucket” to control and distribute the final event brochure, and the CHS communications show how this was approach was used to ensure secrecy of white supremacist concert planning. “End Apathy” distributed their first flier for the Richmond, Virginia concert on October 7, 2011.
|Click image to enlarge|
The gruesome images on the terrorist’s albums clearly communicated his hatred for others, especially the image on the first album, Definite Hate – Violent Victory, which shows a white individual bludgeoning a black individual with a chain. The cover of this white supremacist hate group album clearly demonstrates that goal to promote violence, as does the second “Definite Hate” album with a blood-covered axe used by a white supremacist.What is very disturbing is that literally while I was typing this post, MSNBC was reporting on the racist messaging being used against Barack Obama by Mitt Romney's campaign and supporting PAC's. As I said in an earlier post the Republican Party is knowingly fanning the flames of hate that already burn too high in the hearts and minds of people like Wade Michael Page.
The question for the Richmond community should be – how will they address this ongoing racial hatred in Richmond that led to members of its community cheering for the hate of a white supremacist band which last weekend resulted in murder on people of a minority group?