Saturday, January 05, 2013

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Former Navy Chaplain: Newt Gingrich "Worthy of Death" for Gay Marriage Stance

As noted in the previous post, the hate and open animus towards LGBT individuals isn't unique to Scott Lively.  There are a multitude of "godly Christian" folk who seem to do nothing but preach hatred while utterly ignoring Christ's Gospel message.  And the hatred extends beyond gays to LGBT allies or now, even to politicians like Newt Gingrich who are pragmatic enough to realize that the GOP needs to get off the anti-gay bandwagon or face extinction in the long run.  One such hatemonger is former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt (pictured at right) who has a long history of anti-gay animus.  In the wake of Gingrich's admission that the GOP needs to accept gay marriage, Klingenschmitt has pronounced that Gingrich caved to "demonic voices" when he changed his stance on gay marriage, and that, therefore, Gingrich is "worthy of death" as are gays.  Klingenschmitt, Scott Lively and a host of other hate merchants are the face of today's conservative Christians.  It is little wonder that the under 30 generations are fleeing institutional Christianity in droves.  Here are highlights from Huffington Post on Klingenschmitt's batshitery:

A former Navy chaplain says that Newt Gingrich's stance on same-sex marriage was influenced by "demonic voices" and makes the former Republican presidential candidate "worthy of death."  

Gingrich spoke about the issue of same-sex marriage during an interview with The Huffington Post in December. Although he defended his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, the former House Speaker said the GOP needs to progress with the times.

"It is in every family. It is in every community," he told HuffPost. "The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to ... accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states -- and it will be more after 2014 -- gay relationships will be legal, period."

On Thursday, Right Wing Watch posted a video response to Gingrich's same-sex marriage comments made by Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt, according to Raw Story. In the video, the chaplain says Gingrich is wholly misguided in pandering to the left and "homosexual sin." 

The chaplain cites a Bible passage from Romans, Chapter 1, which says “homosexual acts are worthy of death.”

“It’s not like Newt is personally engaging in homosexual activity, but the Bible condemns him now because he takes pleasure in those that do that sort of thing,” he explained. “When the Bible condemns his endorsement of homosexual sin then he has become one of the sinners condemned by Romans, Chapter 1.”

The chaplain, who belongs to an evangelical sect of the Episcopal Church and was disgraced in 2006 for disobeying an order, is not the only one to speak out against Gingrich's evolved view on same-sex marriage. Frank Schubert, National Political Director for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), called the politician's comments both "stupid" and "ridiculous." 

Scott Lively's Crimes Against Humanity Trial to Begin on Monday

There are countless gay haters who wrap themselves in religion as they preach nothing short of open hatred towards LGBT individuals.  But few have taken their animus to the level of Scott Lively (pictured above), author of the totally debunked faux history saga entitled "The Pink Triangle" which claims gays were behind the Nazi regime in Germany.  Lively has played a huge roll in agitating for the "Kill the Gays Bill" in Uganda and has disseminated outrageous and, of course untrue,  claims against gays, including that we sodomize children.  For background, homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but bill supported by Lively proposes to impose the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for a second time, as well as for gay sex where one partner is a minor or has HIV. It would also criminalize what it describes as "the public promotion of homosexuality"  -- including activities by LGBT rights groups -- with a sentence of up to seven years in prison for anyone convicted.  

Because of Lively's role in the active persecution of LGBT individuals in Uganda which has gone far beyond statements of religious belief, the group Sexual Minorities Uganda has filed suit in federal court in Massachusetts charging Lively with violating international law by inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda. The Washington Post has details.  Here are excerpts:

It’s easy to laugh at wingnuts, but they have millions of followers and their hate, in the name of some perverted concept of God, gives moral cover to the queer bashers and bullies everywhere.

Lively’s unique contribution to this anti-gay agenda is his persecution consulting in other countries, most notably Uganda, where he brags he is known as the “father” of the anti-gay movements. 

Many Americans have heard of the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, which has been introduced in several parliamentary sessions since it arose out of an anti-gay conference that Scott Lively headlined in 2009. But the day-to-day reality for LGBT Ugandans is already violence, death threats, severe discrimination and oppression. Meetings of LGBT activists are raided and shut down, and advocates have been arrested for exercising their rights to speech, assembly and association. LGBT Ugandans’ advocacy, indeed their existence, is already criminalized.

No one has done more to orchestrate this situation than Scott Lively. Since 2002, he has worked systematically to strip away human rights protections from LGBT people in Uganda and elsewhere around the world, to silence them and make it impossible for them to organize and defend their rights. While he peddles the usual, age-old lie that LGBT people are pedophiles in order to deliberately provoke the rage that feeds the growing repression and violence, he combines that myth with a new twist, that gays were also responsible for the Holocaust and that Hitler’s Germany is what can happen when a gay movement grows unchecked.

But this case isn’t simply about Lively’s “hate preach.” He long ago moved beyond “mere” hatemongering when he became a kind of persecution consultant, strategizing with influential leaders and cohorts in other countries about ways to further silence and remove LGBT people from basic protections of the law, in particular by criminalizing their advocacy. Persecution, defined as the “severe deprivation of fundamental rights” on the basis of identity, is a crime under international law; to be exact, it’s a “crime against humanity.” 

This deprivation of fundamental rights of LGBT communities is exactly what Lively aims to bring about. Under U.S. law, foreign citizens who are the victims of crimes against humanity can sue American perpetrators of such crimes. And so Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) is suing Scott Lively for persecuting them. Staff from SMUG and other LGBT advocates who have suffered persecution --arrests, raids, and other severe deprivations of basic rights --will be there on Monday, when the Center for Constitutional Rights will have the honor of representing them in court.

The theology of hate, which blames LGBT people for disasters, natural and man-made, for the destruction of the family and everything in between, has to stop. And it won’t stop if LGBT advocates continue to be denied their fundamental rights to express themselves, to associate and assemble, to defend and assert their basic human rights. It won’t stop if plans like Lively’s are allowed to proceed.

Religion has often been misused as a justification for maintaining inequality and denying the humanity and dignity of others. Persecution by political forces using the Christian religion is not a new tactic, from the Inquisition to the Salem Witch Trials, but in the 21st Century we have laws against it and it’s time to hold the perpetrators accountable. 

What needs to be understood is that while Lively is perhaps the most heinous of those American Christofascists who seek to strip LGBT citizens of or deny them basic civil rights, he has many allies who have supported the Uganda effort.  These include Tony Perkins at Family Research Council, the Wildmons at American Family Association and James Dobson's Focus on the Family.  While not as extreme, others who indirectly support such crimes against humanity include the Vatican and the National Organization for Marriage.  And in Virginia, these co-conspirators that welcome Lively's crimes against humanity include The Family Foundation - the puppet master of the Virginia GOP.  Should Lively be convicted, perhaps a suit against Victoria Cobb, head of The Family Foundation, should be considered since she most certainly actively advocates for the deprivation of basic civil rights for LGBT and spreads anti-gay lies and animus.

That these horrible people and organizations are allowed daily to be the public face of Christianity is an indictment of what I call the "good Christians" who act much as the "Good Germans" did during Hitler's rise to power.  They have complicity in these horrors by their inaction and silence.

Lunatic Fringe Threatens Republicans Who Voted For Fiscal Cliff Deal

In a post yesterday this blog noted that the so-called GOP establishment is finally waking up to the reality that it created a Frankenstein monster when it cynically embraced the Christiofascists and later the Tea Party crowd and began electing these knuckle dragging Neanderthals and religious zealots to positions on city and county committees and caucuses.  That's right, these people were voted on out of expediency to maintain ranks rather than adjust party policies and principles to  attract a wider participation by sane individuals.  Indeed, I remember when the process began in the Virginia Beach City Committee before I resigned over the GOP's increased fusing of religion into the civil laws.  Ridding the GOP of this cancer will not be easy as is evidenced by an article that looks at Christofacist/Tea Party threats in the wake of the fiscal cliff vote earlier this week.  Here are highlights:  

Republicans in Congress who took the politically risky step of voting this week to raise taxes now find themselves trying to fend off potential primary challenges next year from angry conservatives.

These lawmakers wasted little time in attempting to deliver an explanation that would be acceptable to the tea party and the GOP's right flank, and, perhaps, insulate themselves from a re-election battle against a fellow Republican. They've started defending the vote as one that preserves tax cuts for most Americans, while promising to fight for spending cuts in upcoming legislative debates over raising the nation's borrowing limit.

It was the first time in two decades that a significant number of Republicans voted for a tax increase; 33 Senate Republicans did so and 85 House members who broke with their GOP majority to support the bill that avoided the nation going over the so-called fiscal cliff but that also raises taxes on upper incomes.

"The ones that voted for it, I think they will rue the day," Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby proclaimed after opposing the bill. And Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, put it this way: "It's not too early to be looking at 2014. I think there are going to be a lot of primary challenges. People are fed up."

Most if not all of these Republicans who voted to raise taxes are likely mindful of their party's recent history of nasty primary battles that have pitted incumbents against tea party-backed insurgents. And none of them is likely to be immune to the scrutiny - rising stars, powerful committee chairmen and Republicans in reliably Republican seats - expected to confront them when they return to their districts to stand for re-election in November 2014.

The party got some cover from Grover Norquist, a leading anti-tax figure who described the bill, which preserved a series of tax cuts for most incomes, as "clearly a tax cut."  Even so, the tea party wasn't on board. Neither were many of the party's most conservative lawmakers in Washington.  "It's a really tough vote. And it's a really tough vote to explain to Republicans," Michigan Republican consultant Stu Sandler said.

Lawmakers who could be vulnerable to a challenge include Michigan Rep. Dan Benishek and South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem, who bucked her tea party base and backed the bill, calling it "damage control."   "This makes her vulnerable and there will be discussion that she should have a primary challenge," former South Dakota Republican chairman Joel Rosenthal said. "Whether it materializes depends on votes down the road."

Rep. Steve Womack, in just his second term representing heavily conservative northwest Arkansas, could be forced to answer to tea party concerns over his yes vote if he seeks a third term. And he will almost certainly face questions about it should he run for U.S. Senate or governor, the subject of GOP speculation on which Womack has been silent.

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton's backing of the measure might rile up conservatives enough in his right-leaning district in the western part of the state that he could face a challenger. But his stature may be enough to prevent a serious one: he has easily fought off recent primary opponents and, as chairman of the Energy and Commerce commission, would likely have the fundraising edge.

Upton's Michigan colleague, Benishek, also voted for the bill and could have a bigger concern. He eked out re-election to a second term in November, carrying less than 50 percent of the vote in his northern district, and spurning tea party activists there could invite a threat from an opponent.

Among Senate Republicans, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia backed the measure and may have further agitated conservatives who were already cranky with him over his participation last year in the so-called "Gang of Six," a bipartisan group that discussed fiscal plans including tax increases and changes to entitlement programs.

What ought to frighten sane Americans is the fact that the GOP extremist would rather have potentially damaged the nation's economy, sent the country back into recession and left millions of the unemployed literally out in the cold rather than raise taxes.  And sane Americans need to understand that it is those who most often wrap themselves in religious piety and feigned worship of the Gospel who are at the heart of these greed driven mean spirited elements of the GOP base.  They are horrible people plain and simply, not to mention total hypocrites who make the Biblical Pharisees pale in comparison. 

The Virginia GOP's Failed Transporation Solution

Rather than raise the state gasoline tax which has not seen an increase in 25 years or raise the state sales tax to pay for Virginia's increasing crisis transportation funding, the Virginia Republican Party's solution has been to slap tolls on road projects build either completely by private money or in what are euphemistically called public-private partnerships.  In these later scenarios, there is no partnership and the real intended relationship is that the public gets screwed and the private interests get rich. As with all of their funding approaches, the Virginia GOP tells the gullible public that they did not raise taxes - the public just ends up paying in some other way be it "user fees," increased license fees or, in the case of the new Jordan Bridge which spans the southern branch of the Elizabeth River by allowing a private interest to reach into the tax payers' pockets.  I'm sorry, but maintaining a first class transportation system is the state's responsibility - especially if Virginia's economy is to be protected from strangulation due to transportation gridlock.  Also distressing is that Hampton Roads has been disproportionately targeted for financial rape by public- private road projects.

Interestingly, an article in the Virginian Pilot shows the other fallacy of the Virginia GOP's approach: people will change their travel habits to avoid tolls.  So far the new bridge has seen traffic levels drop by 90%.  Here are article highlights:

The new South Norfolk Jordan Bridge is a nice place for a stroll. The span's snaking white walkway provides unparalleled views of surrounding cities as it climbs 145 feet over the Elizabeth River's Southern Branch.

And for deep thinkers, the path provides plenty of silence, even during rush hour.
After opening in late October, the privately owned bridge drew 35,271 E-ZPass customers from Nov. 1 to Dec. 21, according to data provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation. That equates to fewer than 700 a day or, assuming no traffic on weekends or Thanksgiving, about 980 per weekday.  The old Jordan Bridge averaged about 7,000 vehicles per weekday before it was closed in 2008 for safety reasons.

Kevin Crum, the new bridge's general manager, sent a statement by email that said the crossing "averages 2,500-3,500 vehicles per day (depending on the day)" and that the owners "are pleased with where we are."  The bridge cost $142 million to build and was financed entirely by private investors. 

Jason Ewell, the owner of SoNo Auto Sales, said he suspects the $2 toll, combined with the E-ZPass membership, has kept drivers from trying the bridge.  "Before, if you had 75 cents laying in the ashtray, you could go across it," he said.

Ewell said he expected the bridge to continue to draw more traffic as people become more familiar with it. The beginning of $1.84 rush-hour tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels in early 2014 also could persuade more people to take the Jordan.

And what happens if the traffic never comes? The city is protected in a development agreement by a clause that says it can begin the process to take ownership of the bridge if it is ever closed for more than three months, for reasons other than acts of God, labor strikes, war or scheduled improvements.

When the tolls hit the Midtown Tunnel next yea (to enrich private interests, of course), I have already decided that I will adjust my commuting schedule and my use of the Midtown will become a thing of the past - at least until VDOT  and the Virginia GOP empower some private interest to butt rape commuters on the commuters on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel as well or I decide to relocate the law firm to Hampton.  As at the national level, the Republican Party in Virginia is proving that it is unfit to govern and that average citizens and the needs of the public are the last on their priority list.  One can expect regionalism between the Peninsula and south side to take a huge step backwards as the populace is strangled with tolls - all because the Virginia GOP and Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell are afraid to stand up to the lunatic elements of their party base.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Illinois Catholic Priest Calls 911 To Help Get Him Out Of Handcuffs

While Cardinal George are busy pushing the Catholic Church's anti-gay jihad and opposing all efforts to enact marriage equality in Illinois, it appears that George and his fellow anti-gay senior clerics should perhaps be paying more attention to what is going on within the ranks of the clergy.  Let's face it, there's something bizarre about a Catholic priest (pictured at left) having to call 911 to get released from a hand cuffs.  Oh, and the priest was apparently gagged.  His diocese is staying mum as to whether this was some sort of kinky sex play gone wrong or what.  Here are highlights of details from the Illinois Times:   

The pastor of St. Aloysius church on Springfield’s north end has been granted a leave of absence after he called 911 from the rectory and told a dispatcher that he needed help getting out of handcuffs.

“I’m going to need help getting out before this becomes a medical emergency,” Father Tom Donovan told a dispatcher who sounds a bit incredulous during the Nov. 28 call.

“You’re stuck in a pair of handcuffs?” the dispatcher asks.

“(I was) playing with them and I need help getting out,” Donovan responds.

Donovan told the dispatcher that he was alone in the rectory. It’s not clear exactly how he ended up in handcuffs or why he feared a medical emergency. His voice sounds garbled or muffled on the tape, and sources say that police discovered some sort of gag on the priest when they arrived.
The diocese has been tight-lipped about the matter, saying only that Bishop Thomas Paprocki granted Donovan’s request for a leave of absence at some point before Christmas. The diocese knows about the incident, given that Brad Huff, an attorney for the diocese, has been given a copy of the 911 tape by the Sangamon County Emergency Telephone System Department. Kathie Sass, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Springfield, said that the diocese also has a copy of a police report on the matter.

Sass would not disclose Donovan’s whereabouts or say whether he is staying at a church-affiliated location.

“He came to the bishop before anyone was aware of the incident,” Sass said. “He came to the bishop and asked for help and was granted leave.”  Paprocki reviewed the police report after speaking with Donovan, and the police account jibed with what the priest told the bishop, Sass said.

Seriously, it would be hard to make up stuff this bizarre.  Obviously, there is more to the story that the diocese is suppressing.

More Friday Male beauty

Will The GOP Threaten a Partial Government Shutdown?

The GOP establishment, as noted in a prior post today, seems to have realized that it needs to retake control of the party primary process to lessen the odds of lunatics and anarchists being elected to Congress.  However, that does nothing to rein in those lunatics, rabid dogs and near anarchists Republicans already in Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives who seem hell bent to destroy the nation's economy - along with the finances of countless American families - in their quest to cut government programs and federal spending on programs the Christofascists and Tea Party loons dislike.  The country has made it past the "fiscal cliff" crisis, but now there is the upcoming debt ceiling crisis where some wonder how much damage the Congressional Republicans will do in their quest to pander to extremists.   A piece in Huffington Post looks at this question and speculates on what may be upcoming.  Here are excerpts:

The just-completed deal to resolve the so-called fiscal cliff has created an even greater cliff down the road. By the end of February, lawmakers will have to grapple with $1 trillion in sequestration cuts that are scheduled to take effect and the need for a debt limit increase. Shortly thereafter, they will have to deal with the end of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded

Any one of these issues on its own would be difficult to resolve. Taken together, they could produce complete gridlock, which itself would have deep economic consequences.

President Barack Obama has pledged that he won't negotiate over the debt ceiling as a matter of principle. But Republicans are still insisting that they will extract as many concessions from the talks as they can.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this week, "we Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown" in order to achieve spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

On Friday morning, meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told members that he was prepared to use the debt ceiling fight as leverage to get spending cuts.

A Republican Senate aide added on: "We all know this deadline is coming. In regards to the CR [U. S. government credit rating] vs the debt ceiling, a downgrade will likely occur if spending is not cut, not if Congress were to refuse to debt ceiling temporarily."

But there would, indeed, be different consequences depending on which event is used to extract spending cuts. If, for example, Congress passes a debt limit increase but fails to pass a continuing resolution, the government can continue to borrow funds to pay its existing bills. But it would cease to operate as normal. As the Congressional Budget Office noted in a 1995 report:
Failing to raise the debt ceiling would not bring the government to a screeching halt the way that not passing appropriations bills would. Employees would not be sent home, and checks would continue to be issued. If the Treasury was low on cash, however, there could be delays in honoring checks and disruptions in the normal flow of government services.
On the other hand, if Congress were to pass a continuing resolution but not raise the debt ceiling, the government would be operating on dwindling funds. Over time, the Treasury would fail to meet its obligations on salaries and wages, retirement funds and social security benefits.

And then there would be the macro and global impact. As a 1979 Government Accountability Office report noted:
At a minimum, however, the government could be subject to additional claims for interest on unredeemed matured debt and to claims for damages resulting from failure to make payments. But even beyond that, the full faith and credit of the U.S. government would be threatened. Domestic money markets, in which government securities play a major role, could be affected substantially.
More recently, JP Morgan's managing director outlined the consequences in a letter to the Treasury Department. Among the impacts projected were the following:
  • A rise in Treasury's long-term funding costs;
  • A contraction of credit;
  • A reduction in the purchase of Treasuries by foreign investors on a permanent basis or even sell off exiting holdings;
  • A downgrading of the U.S. sovereign credit rating;
  • A possible run on money market funds;
  • The destruction of market confidence.
Every American needs to be concerned about what the GOP extremists may do - and needs to understand that we are no longer dealing with rational individuals when it comes to the Tea Party members of Congress.  These individuals live in some alternate universe.

Christianists and the Non-Existence of Adam and Eve

As noted before on this blog, new advances in the human genome have more or less conclusively confirmed that the Adam and Eve of the Bible did not exist as historical people.  For those not obsessed with Biblical literalism, this reality is perhaps not unavoidably fatal to their faith/religious belief construct.  But for those who foolishly continue to claim that the Bible is literally true in every respect - except, of course for those inconvenient passages such as the ones that condemn divorce, instruct the wealthy to give all they have to the poor, etc., that they ignore with abandon -  the non-existence of Adam and Eve as historical figures threatens to destroy their entire artificial faith world.  As Bob Felton at Civil Common notes, some of the extremists in the Southern Baptist Convention are in a particular dither over the collapse of the Adam and Eve myth:

Hey! What do you know? Albert Mohler and a buddy are giving a talk next April about the historicity of Adam and Eve.

Are Adam and Eve Historical Figures?
Recent challenges to the historicity of Adam in evangelical settings make it essential that we discuss the necessity of our first parent’s existence and origin according to the biblical record. Mohler and Chapell will discuss both the importance of Adam to our understanding of humanity, our world and salvation, as well as, the “field and fences” of what should be considered consistent with biblical fidelity.
The answer is … No. Adam and Eve were not historical figures.  Y’all are not going to believe I’m saying this, because it’s no secret that I loathe Mohler unreservedly, but he is right about at least this much: Adam and Eve are necessary, absolutely indispensable, to the Christian narrative.
  • IF no Adam and Eve, then …
  • No Fall, and …
  • No such thing as Original Sin, and …
  • Jesus doesn’t save us from our Just Cosmic Death Sentence.
Read Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Kierkegaard … Adam and Even are not a poor metaphor for the idea that we could all be nicer to each other. No. In Christian theology, that couple’s actual criminal guilt is transmitted from parent to child and at the very instant of your ‘ensoulment’ you were sentenced to eternal torture because of that guilt.

 Bob is correct.  Without Adam and Eve, the entire far right Christian - and that includes reactionary Catholics like the current Pope - face seeing their entire story line collapse.  And as science and knowledge continue to progress and expand, the challenges to Christianity will only intensify.  Bishop John Shelby Spong has correctly argued that unless Christianity changes, it will ultimately die.  Those unintentionally leading the charge to kill it are the Mohlers and Benedict XVI's of the world.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Can the GOP Establishment Fix the Party's Primary Problem?

This blog has noted frequently the the GOP's descent into insanity began when the Christofascists were allowed into local city and county committees from which they slowly took over much of the GOP primary process like a slowly metastasizing cancer.   The result has been that sane and moderate candidates find themselves unable to get nominations in the typically low turn out primaries that are populated by the religious extremists - here in Virginia, The Family Foundation rallies the nutcases - and their Tea Party cousins.  The result has been that even Ronald Reagan could not win a nomination contest nowadays because he would not be extreme and crazy enough to satisfy the Christianists.  Belatedly, the so-called GOP establishment has realized that their short term expediency of embracing the lunatic fringe is turning into a form of political suicide.  An article in Politico looks at the so-called establishment's first effort to regain control of the primary system.  Here are excerpts:

The disastrous 2012 election and embarrassing fiscal cliff standoff has brought forth one principal conclusion from establishment Republicans: They have a primary problem.

The intra-party contests, or threat thereof, have become the original sin that explains many of the party’s woes in the minds of GOP leaders. It’s the primaries that push their presidential nominees far to the right (see “self-deportation” and “47 percent”); produce lackluster Senate candidates (Todd Akin has almost become a one-word shorthand); and, as seen most vividly in the last two weeks, dissuade scores of gerrymandered House members from face-saving compromise while politically emasculating their speaker.

What to do about the primaries has become Topic A in many a post-election Republican soul-searching session, and now the first steps are being taken to address the issue. For Senate Republicans, that means a modified return to their 2010 posture of openly playing in primaries. A retiring House Republican is starting a super PAC to help House members challenged from the right. And an RNC commission is mulling over changes to the party’s presidential primary.

In the Senate, where at least five GOP losses in the past two election cycles could be attributed to primaries, Republican leaders are planning to intervene in selected 2014 races to ensure preferred candidates win the nomination.

High-profile Senate Republicans are going to try to pre-empt bloody primaries with aggressive, early recruitment and support — effectively trying to clear fields.

Further, top Senate Republicans have made clear to outside groups that they’d like the third parties to not exist simply as entities that air attack ads against Democrats in general elections but to play a more hands-on role in GOP primaries.  .   .   .   .  Translation into non-Senate speak: The big-money establishment Republican super PACs like American Crossroads need to serve as a counterbalance in primaries to conservative outfits such as Club for Growth and former Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund.

In the House, look no further than the Plan B debacle and the 151 Republican “no” votes on the final compromise to understand how primaries have become the chief political threat in a GOP caucus in which more than half the members faced nominal general election opposition this year.

“A lot of the Republican Conference strategy has been to not put members in a difficult primary situation and that makes it tougher for us to sign off on a deal,” lamented former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), a Boehner ally.

“When a center-right Republican is in a primary and is being targeted by some group as a RINO, we’re going to make sure we have their back,” said LaTourette. “Not just with speeches and press releases but with money.”

There is more that is worth a full read.  Personally, I believe the effort will be difficult since the lunatic fringe is now far too entrenched in the local committees.  The patients have taken over the asylum and putting them back on the fringe will take a great deal of work and money - and calling out the crazies for what they are.

Rhode Island Senate and House Introduce Marriage Equality Bills

On the same day that the Illinois Senate advanced a marriage equality bill in that state, both houses of the Rhode Island legislature saw the introduction of marriage equality bills as well.  It goes without saying that the Catholic Church hierarchy, the National Organization for marriage, a likely Catholic Church front organization, and its allied hate groups will be wailing and gnashing their teeth.   The Boston Globe looks at events in Rhode Island.  Here are highlights:

Gay marriage legislation has been introduced in both chambers of Rhode Island’s General Assembly, setting the stage for another high-profile debate over the contentious issue in the only New England state that doesn’t allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.
Democratic Rep. Art Handy of Cranston introduced his bill in the House Thursday afternoon. More than 40 members of the 75-member House signed on as co-sponsors.
Moments later, Democratic Sen. Donna Nesselbush of Pawtucket introduced her version of the legislation, which has 11 sponsors in the 38-member Senate.
House Speaker Gordon Fox has called for a gay marriage vote in the House this month. The measure faces a potentially bigger challenge in the Senate, however.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, NOM - which is still defying campaign disclosure laws and not revealing the sources of its money - is threatening any GOP legislators who vote for marriage equality in that state, justifying NOM's depiction as a Christofascist organization.  Think Progress has details:

The National Organization for Marriage has committed to another campaign of vengeance against any Republican lawmakers in Illinois that votes to support marriage equality. According to a press release today, NOM has committed $250,000 toward a state PAC dedicated to defeating pro-equality Republicans:
“Any Republican in Illinois who betrays the cause of marriage will be casting a career-ending vote and will be held accountable to their constituents,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “We will spend whatever it takes — hundreds of thousands of dollars if necessary — to remove them from office, just as we did three of the four turncoat Republican state Senators in New York who were responsible for gay ‘marriage’ passing there. We will not hesitate to support pro-family Democrats to replace them, as our record in New York proves.”
As usual, NOM grossly distorts its campaign in New York. Not only did its vengeance campaign make no impact on marriage equality in the state, two of the three Republicans who were replaced lost to pro-equality Democrats, not “pro-family Democrats” as Brown implies.
 It is a travesty that to date no one knows where NOM continues to derive all of its money from.  As I have noted before, you don't brazenly ignore the laws unless you have something to hide.  I continue to believe that discovering the sources of NOM's funding must be a real potential bombshell.  

Thursday, January 03, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

The GOP's Token Black Senator

As the 113th Congress was sown in, all signs are that the Republican Party is convinced that better "messaging" and a few token non-white faces among the Congressional GOP will be enough to attract the votes of the very minorities that GOP policies and talking points either out right demonize or seek to disenfranchise.   A GOP authored op-ed in the Washington Post bloviates on these very points.  Meanwhile, a piece in  Politico looks at the reality of the political field as opposed to the GOP fantasy land still inhabited by many GOP members of the House of Representatives not to mention the objective reality untethered GOP base.  Here are highlights from the Politico article:

The flawed hypothesis that Rep. Tim Scott’s appointment as a new senator from South Carolina will serve to attract African Americans to the GOP is certainly more hype than whole.

Many African Americans are confounded by the consistently popular but baseless assumption that a candidate’s skin color is the determining factor in our political consideration. However, it is important for Republicans to understand their appeal to African Americans is not contingent on supporting African Americans for public office. To be sure, there is value in such racial inclusion. But the value lies not only in the outreach — endorsing black Republican candidates, or buying political commercials on black media outlets — but the efforts to reach beyond antiquated campaign tactics to the black community that matter more in determining our political affinities.

It would be an exorbitant, mindless expectation to think the GOP will hold its own without alterations and transformations. Only policy and ideological modification will bring black Americans to take their first serious look at the GOP since FDR captured their political loyalty in the 1940s.

It is in the long-term political interest of African Americans that the Republican Party becomes a viable alternative.  .  .  .  .  However, this interest does not trump the promotion of inclusionary social policies that respect the diversity of our country. With more inclusionary policies and unrestricted access to leadership, the GOP may see increased loyalty from African Americans and from other minority communities.

Some black Americans embrace conservative principles, as Scott does. However, they remain a small minority. Contrary to what many Republicans seem to believe, black voters could support the party with the thickest commitment to racial amity and the willingness to reduce racial friction to a fraction as they do with the Democratic party.

Despite the token appointment of Scott to the Senate, it would be foolish to expect the GOP to change substantively.  Too much of the GOP base is comprised of angry white Christianists who view blacks with only slightly less hate than they hold for LGBT Americans.

The Pentagon's F*cked Up Priorities - Banning LGBT Sites While Squandering American Lives

Click image to enlarge
Supposedly American troops in Afghanistan and other parts of the world are fighting and risking their lives to protect American values.  Values like religious freedom, freedom of thought and opinion and freedom from state sponsored censorship.  At least that's the message trumpeted by politicians ranging from Barack Obama to far right wing nuts in the House GOP.  But apparently, the Pentagon hasn't received this message.  Or the message that honoring and supporting our men and women in uniform means not sending them out on futile fools' errands in unwindable wars like the fiasco in Afghanistan foisted on America by Chimperator George Bush and Emperor Palpatine Dick Cheney. 

First, with respect to the Pentagon's disdain for claimed American values, Towleroad and Americablog are both reporting that the Pentagon is blocking blogs and webs sites labeled as "LGBT" - a label that certainly applies to this blog.  Seemingly, some folks at the Pentagon did not get the news alert that Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been repealed and that LGBT service members can come out of the closet and that they should be freely able to surf the Internet for LGBT news and outlets (some do somehow make it to this blog from Afghanistan).  It's also disturbing that far right GOP sites are not being blocked.  Here are highlights from Americablog:

It’s bad enough the United States Department of Defense censors Towleroad and AMERICAblog – banning the gay civil rights Web sites from being accessed on DOD computers – and it’s even worse that the Pentagon has no problem permitting their computers to access Ann Coulter’s and Rush Limbaugh’s hate-filled Web sites.

But what’s really offensive is that at least one of the Pentagon’s safe-surfing Internet filters has a censorship category called “LGBT.” And if you’re deemed “LGBT” by the Pentagon, they ban you.

I wonder if the Pentagon has a censorship category titled “Jewish,” “African-American,” or “Latino.”

The LGBT filter existed before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but still has not been fixed. And the Pentagon was notified of the problem as early as last summer, 2012. Yet no one’s gotten around to doing anything about it. I’m also told that the censorship varies depending on service and geographical region – it’s not entirely clear why the Pentagon doesn’t use the same bans/filters nationwide and agency-wide, if it’s going to censor the Internet at all. This problem has to be fixed Pentagon-wide.

Our site, AMERICAblog, was previously banned for being “LGBT,” but now we’re only banned at least by the Air Force, for being “political” and “activist.” The Air Force is banning my Web site for being “political” while permitting other Republican “political” Web sites. Daily Kos is banned as well. Anyone else smelling a Big Brother constitutional problem with that?

I had a few different contacts try accessing a variety of sites on DOD computers, in order to confirm this, including Zeke Stokes, communications director for OutServe-SLDN, who confirmed via one of their military members. Note what they found. Towleroad – Banned for being “LGBT”

While the Pentagon worries about censoring LGBT sites, liberal "activist" sites and liberal political sites, it still has absolutely no problem throwing away the lives of young Americans not to mention billions of dollars which might just as well be put in a huge piled, doused with gasoline and burned.  Here's the latest sacrificial offering to American hubris and the Pentagon's betrayal of our troops:

 Pfc. Markie T. Sims, 20, of Citra, Fla., died Dec. 29 in Panjwal, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 38th Engineer Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, under control of the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
For regular readers, you guessed it.  Sims was in my son-in-law's Company and while my son-in-law is lucky enough to be recovering (he still has a long way to go even after 7 weeks), Pfc. Sims will not have that option.  Dead at 20 years old for, in my opinion, absolutely nothing.  This country and most certainly the Pentagon learned nothing from the Vietnam fiasco as we repeat the same exact disaster except in an arid climate rather than in the jungle.  Meanwhile, as always, the generals strut around like peacocks surrounded by attendants while lying to the American public and those only too happy to believe the lies in the White House and Congress.  We are not "making progress" in Afghanistan.  We are merely squandering young lives and bankrupting the country.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Chicago Tribune Endorses Gay Marriage

As the political battle rages in the Illinois legislature between proponents of CIVIL marriage equality and the forces of bigotry and ignorance, the Chicago Tribune in a main page editorial has come out in support of civil marriage equality.  Among other reasons for approval, the editorial cites increased security for the children of LGBT couples and increased societal stability in general.  Rather than weakening marriage as an institution, same sex civil marriage will strengthen it.  The editorial also addresses the issue that underlies opposition to same sex marriage - religious based discrimination, something that has no place in the civil laws of a secular nation.  In this regard anti-gay churches such as the Catholic Church remain free to set the rules within their club and need not perform same sex marriages.  Sadly, the Christianists continue to demand that their beliefs control the lives of other citizens.  Here are editorial highlights:

The Illinois Senate may vote soon on a bill letting same-sex couples enter matrimony on the same terms as their opposite-sex counterparts. Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, the chief House sponsor, thinks it has a good chance of success. Gov. Pat Quinn has indicated he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.

Let's hope he gets the opportunity. Marriage equality is a once-radical concept that has rapidly gone mainstream.  .  .  .  .  Nine states and the District of Columbia permit it. In November, voters in three states approved it by popular referendum — the first such victories after 32 defeats.

President Barack Obama, who was once opposed, is now in favor, and he has urged the General Assembly to act. So has Mayor Rahm Emanuel. On Wednesday, the bill got a surprising endorsement from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady.

It's time for the Legislature to authorize same-sex marriage as a matter of policy that would advance social goals valuable not only to gays and lesbians but to everyone in the state.

The most crucial gain is to afford protections to the young.
Many gay couples have biological children by one partner or the other, and many others are adoptive parents. With gays as well as straights, marriage serves to promote commitment, stability and financial solvency. If same-sex couples can make the legal commitment and choose to assume all the obligations that come with matrimony, they will be more likely to stay together.

That's good for kids. It's also good for communities, since it minimizes the unwanted side effects of broken homes.

Authorizing same-sex marriage also works to break down age-old prejudice, discrimination and even violence against gays. Their growing acceptance as full members of society has been one of the most dramatic civil rights stories of our time — but it still has some distance to go.

Much of the opposition stems from religious concerns, such as those cited by Cardinal Francis George, who has urged a "no" vote. We fully understand and respect the cardinal's view that same-sex marriage violates natural law. But nothing in this bill affects the church's authority to define what is right for Catholics. It recognizes the difference between religious rites and civil institutions.

About 250 Illinois clergy recently signed a statement affirming, "There can be no justification for the law treating people differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."  That's exactly right. The General Assembly should waste no time making marriage equality a reality.

Quote of the Day: The Hypocrisy of and Harm Caused By the Pulpit

Pastor Glenn Harvison
The falsely pious and always self-congratulatory homophobes that occupy far too many pulpits in this country and across the world never seem to tire of denigrating and endeavoring to stigmatize LGBT people.  Never mind the new knowledge about sexual orientation and never mind the fact that science increasingly demonstrates that the Bible (and the Koran in Muslin countries) that this self-righteous bigots cling to desperately as a prop to feel better about themselves is not based on fact or accurate history.  In their quest to feel justified and just as often in order to shake money from the purses and wallets of the ignorant and gullible, these foul individuals care nothing of the harm they do.  Jeremy Hooper sums it up well:

A congregant asked Pastor Glenn Harvison of Greenwich, Connecticut's Harvest Time Church whether or not he could, in good conscience, attend a gay friend's upcoming wedding. So naturally, this led the theologian to equate people like me with people who are addicted to drugs, slothful, perverted, violent, and generally Satan-lured, with my "rescuable" sexual orientation something that is both "a sign of societal decay" and a "sign of the end of the age." All this before he absolves himself (in his mind) of the considerable harms that his teachings are by telling a story about how he was nice to a lesbian at her deceased partner's funeral.

It must be freeing, in a way, to be able to end any conversation about a complex subject matter with a smug "Satan did that!" Freeing for everyone except the countless many tormented LGBT people that this reductive blame game has troubled, denied, and enslaved.
Harvison is pictured above and a video of his denigration of gays is here. Of course gays aren't the only ones that are disliked.  One generally needs to add in blacks, immigrants, non-Christians, etc.  These pious folk are truly horrible people and have hate and division as their principal stock in trade.  They deserve no respect and certainly no deference.  Thankfully, the younger generations seem to be recognizing this as they increasingly turn their backs on institutional Christianity.  Frankly, I increasingly see being a truly good and moral person and being a conservative Christian as being mutually exclusive.  Yes, people have the right to believe what they want, but that doesn't mean they deserve respect or deference whatsoever.

California Gov. Jerry Brown Appeals 'Ex-Gay' Therapy Ban Injunction

This blog frequently looks at the lies and harm done by Christofascist backed "ex-gay" ministries and reparative therapy - a voodoo form of therapy condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in the country.  Seeking to end what is little more than child abuse, the state of California enacted legislation that banned therapist from subjecting minors to such therapy.  As was to be expected, Christianists desperate to make a quick buck and to keep alive the myth that sexual orientation is changeable, filed suit and an appeal is now before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which granted a stay of the law's effectiveness pending a full hearing of the case.  As the Los Angeles Times is reporting, California Governor Jerry Brown has appealed the stay.  Here are story excerpts:

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday appealed a court injunction that has blocked enforcement of a new law that prohibits providing gay minors with therapy aimed at converting them to being heterosexual.

The notice of appeal was filed on behalf of Brown and the Medical Board of California by state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided Dec. 21 to block the law that took effect Jan. 1 pending a decision on its constitutionality.

A small group of therapists and religious groups argued that the law infringes on their rights to free speech, but Harris has called conversion therapy "unsound and harmful."

Harris asked the court Wednesday to look at a recent decision by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller upholding the law.

"Defendants wish to apprise the 9th Circuit of a related case currently pending before it … denying a motion for a preliminary injunction that would have enjoined enforcement of Senate Bill 1172," Harris wrote. "Both appeals involve the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1172 and raise the same and/or closely related legal issues."

One can only hope that the 9th Circuit ultimately revokes the stay and upholds the law.  Similar legislation is needed nationwide to stop what is child abuse.  Religious fanatic parents have no right to torment and psychologically and emotionally abuse their children.

"Stand Your Ground Laws" Linked to Inreased Homicide Rates

In many ways the National Rifle Association ("NRA") seems determined to bring back the gun slinging days of the Old West.  We hear from the NRA and its political whores ad nausea that law abiding citizens should have the right to be armed for self protection - including with assault weapons.  Yet a new study at Texas A&M University suggests that rather increasing safety and reducing homicide rates increased gun ownership and so-called "stand your ground" laws that have increased the sphere where lethal force is permissible have increased homicide rates, not lowered them.  An NPR story looks at the findings of the study and the reality that the actions of the NRA and its adherents are making us all less safe.  In reading the article and this post, as previously stated on this blog here, the real financial backers of the NRA are gun manufacturers who are always seeking to increase gun sales, not your neighbor who may go hunting from time to time or who may have a basic hand gun.  Here are some highlights:

If a stranger attacks you inside your own home, the law has always permitted you to defend yourself. On the other hand, if an altercation breaks out in public, the law requires you to try to retreat. At least, that's what it used to do.

In 2005, Florida became the first of nearly two-dozen states to pass a "stand your ground" law that removed the requirement to retreat. If you felt at risk of harm in a park or on the street, you could use lethal force to defend yourself. The shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., drew national attention to these laws.

Now, researchers who've studied the effect of the laws have found that states with a stand your ground law have more homicides than states without such laws.

Now, researchers who've studied the effect of the laws have found that states with a stand your ground law have more homicides than states without such laws.

Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.
"Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn't pass the laws over the same time period," he says.

As to whether the laws reduce crime — by creating a deterrence for criminals — he says, "we find no evidence of any deterrence effect over that same time period."

[B]ased on the available data, it appears that crafters of these laws sought to give good guys more latitude to defend themselves against bad guys. But what Hoekstra's data suggest is that in real-life conflicts, both sides think of the other guy as the bad guy. Both believe the law gives them the right to shoot.

In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate.

That study also tracked the increased homicides by race. In contrast to the narrative established by the Trayvon Martin shooting — many people believe black men are more likely to be the victims of stand your ground laws — this analysis found the additional deaths caused by the laws were largely concentrated among white men.

Stanford law professor John Donohue, on the other hand, praised the study done by Texas A&M's Hoekstra. Donohue has been studying crime and violence for more than two decades and is working on his own independent analysis of stand your ground laws. So far, he says, he's getting the same results Hoekstra did.

In short, what the researchers are seeing is more death and mayhem compliments of the NRA and the gun manufacturers who fund it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Chris Christie Unleashes Fury at Boehner and House GOP

Proving once again that he is more concerned with representing the people of New Jersey than kissing the asses of GOP potentates, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went on a rant over the GOP controlled House of Representatives decision to not hold a vote on additional Hurricane Sandy relief for the States of New Jersey and New York, both of which send much more tax revenues to Washington, D.C., than they typically receive back.  The move by the House is despicable, but all too typical of today's rabid dogs in the Republican Party delegation.  Politico has coverage.  Here are highlights and video clip (above) of Christie exploding:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie unleashed his full anger and scorn on John Boehner Wednesday, saying the House speaker’s decision to cancel an expected vote on an aid bill for Hurricane Sandy victims was “disappointing and disgusting to watch” and an example of the “toxic internal politics” of the Republican majority.

“They are so consumed with their internal politics, they’ve forgotten they have a job to do,” Christie said. “Everything is the subject of one-upmanship. It is why the American people hate Congress.”

The governor made his comments at a nearly 40-minute news conference in New Jersey. It was extraordinary spectacle: A popular national figure for the Republican Party publicly castigating the House Republican leader for showing “callous indifference” to the Northeast and being consumed with “palace intrigue.”

“Every day that we don’t get this aid are days that we can’t help people get back in their homes, get businesses reopened, get our economy really moving in our state again,” Christie continued. “It’s absolutely disgraceful. This used to be something that was not political. Disaster relief was something that you didn’t play games with.”
Christie wasn’t done.

“I’m not going to get into the specifics of what I discussed with John Boehner today but what I will tell you is there is no reason at the moment for me to believe anything they tell me. Because they have been telling me stuff for weeks, and they didn’t deliver.”
I haven't forgiven Christie for vetoing the gay marriage bill that passed the New Jersey legislature, but at least he gets it that ideology must give way to pragmatism - especially when the lives and well being of citizens are at stake.

Illinois GOP Chair Urges Party Members to Support Marriage Equality

In a move that must be making the heads of hate group leaders and Christofascists explode,  Illinois Republican Party chair, Pat Brady(pictured above) is calling on Republican members of the Illinois legislature to vote for passage of the marriage equality bill coming before the legislature.  One can only imagine the shrieks and flying spittle that must be engulfing the offices of NOM, the Illinois Family Institute and Family Research Council.  Unlike too many in the GOP, especially the Christofascist element, Brady apparently sees the GOP's opposition to be a self-inflicted gun shot to the head in terms of the future.  Here are excerpts from The Advocate on Brady's common sense and fair minded move:

As Illinois legislators prepare to consider a marriage equality bill, the chairman of the state’s Republican Party is asking party members to support it.

Pat Brady said today that he was making calls to Republican lawmakers, doing so as a citizen, not in his official party role, reports the Daily Herald, a newspaper in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. “I think it’s time for people to support this,” Brady said.

Equally, encouraging for equality advocates is the fact that a number of African American leaders have also come out in support of passage of the bill.  Here are highlights from the  Windy City Times:

As a crucial vote in Springfield nears, twelve prominent African American leaders came together to announce their support for the passage of marriage equality legislation in Illinois. 

The leaders affirmed their support in an open letter urging lawmakers to give Illinois gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry, declaring the bill's passage would lead the state and country in the right direction. Notable supporters who signed the letter include Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp, former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, and Rev. Dr. Richard Tolliver.

The backing from African American leaders comes at a time of increased support for marriage equality in the United States. In Illinois, a December 2012 poll commissioned by Public Policy Polling shows that 60% of African Americans surveyed supported same-sex marriage. The open letter touches on how marriage has evolved throughout history to reflect the progress of society.

"We remember that not long ago, some states defined marriage as limited to people of the same race," the letter states. "Today in Illinois, the rights of gay and lesbian couples to be treated as equal citizens are being violated. Treating any group of people as second-class citizens hurts us all, because discrimination is wrong no matter whom the target is."
Obviously, the National Organization for Marriage's desire to drive wedge between blacks and the LGBT community has blown up in NOM's face.  One doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the white Christofascists hate gays and blacks will nearly equal vigor.

More Catholic Church Lies, Hate and Hypocrisy on Gay Marriage

Just as the Illinois legislature is poised to consider a same sex marriage bill (more on this in the next post) Cardinal Francis George (pictured at left) of the Archdiocese of Chicago has issued a "pastoral letter" to archdiocese parishioners basically directing them to pressure legislators to vote "No" on the marriage bill.  Here's how Salon described George's action:

On Tuesday, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George and his six auxiliary bishops sent out a letter to parishioners urging them to oppose same-sex unions, insisting that they “create a legal fiction … the state has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible.”

It treats matrimony as an organic entity rather than what it truly is — a human-made state, replete with ritual and contractual obligation. And it completely ignores that the Church’s rule book, the Bible itself, has some seriously wonky notions of what constitutes marriage.
[W]hat we see of late, in the Church’s sputtering gasps of outrage about the rights of pregnant women and LGBT couples, are the vestiges of a declining order. They’re the outward expressions of old beliefs forged in ignorance and fear. They have nothing to do with “nature” and they have even less to do with anything that Jesus himself ever had to say.

Yes, laughably, George has the audacity to cite" natural law" as supporting the Catholic hierarchy's anti-gay jihad.  Why do I say laughably?  Because the Church has been wrong on so-called "natural law" more times than it has been right.  Remember Galileo who suffered for saying that the earth revolved around the Sun instead of vice versa?  Or how about the issue of slavery and the "natural law"?  Here's what Pope Pius IX  had to say about slavery and the "natural law:

Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery, and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons … It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given".
Shockingly, it wasn't until 1888 that Pope Leo XIII condemned slavery and not until 1981 that the Code of Canon Law was amended to condemn the selling of people into slavery.

And then there's the issue of Cardinal George's own lack of any credibility on issues of morality.  Yes, you guessed it: George has been documented to have enabled and protected predatory priests - as has the current Pope, Benedict XVI.  Bishop Accountability quotes the following about Cardinal George from the 2002 Dallas Morning New's investigative report on cover ups by the  Catholic bishops in America:

He is facing allegations that the archdiocese had protected several priests with histories of abuse. The cardinal removed a former top aide, the Rev. R. Peter Bowman, from a parish. in late May. That was a month after a man accused the priest of molesting him many years ago - and at least a year after the archdiocese dismissed another complaint against Father Bowman because, in a church spokesman's words, it involved merely "horseplay that could have been misinterpreted." This spring, Cardinal George suspended a priest who had been a top aide to his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The Rev. Robert Kealy had remained a pastor after being accused last year of abusing a teenager in the 1970s, then was removed in March after more information surfaced. He used to help Cardinal Bernardin handle abuse allegations against colleagues. Neither he nor Father Bowman has responded publicly. A third priest accused in April of abuse in the 1960s remained on the job for more than a month; the church spokesman said internal investigations have lagged because so many complaints are emerging. There are also allegations of recent abuse and archdiocesan misconduct. One lawsuit, for example, has charged that the archdiocese knew three years ago that the Rev. Walter Strus was sexually harassing parishioners but let him keep working. Father Strus has since fathered a child with a Polish immigrant, who has accused him of raping her and pressuring her to have an abortion. He has denied the allegations. "We had no indication of [the priest's] propensity for sexual assault," the church spokesman said. Another recent scandal involves the Rev. Sleeva Raju Policetti, who fled to his native India in May after being accused of abusing a girl. Church officials waited two days after learning of the allegation to call criminal authorities, who "advised us not to confront him ... until they had the chance to gather more information and question him," the spokesman said. "Somehow he found out ... anyway, and he left the country."
More recently, in 2007 Bishop Accountability compiled a list of 85 priests (that is considerably longer than the list of 55 priests that Cardinal George released) that raises serious questions as to Cardinal George's efforts to obstruct justice and protect sexual predators.  

In short, Cardinal George has no moral standing whatsoever on matters of morality.  Just as the Vatican has no moral standing to be quoting "natural law" given its own continued failure to protect the weak and oppressed and/or its documented failure to accept new knowledge and modernity in general. One can only hope that archdiocese parishioners and Illinois legislators will utterly ignore George's disingenuous and morally challenged pontificating.  Indeed, they need to be asking why George has not been criminally prosecuted.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Another Republican Backs DOMA Repeal

While it is possible that the U. S. Supreme Court will strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") during the coming year, there is also a push to repeal the religious discrimination based act in Congress.  To date three Republicans have signed on to repeal, the latest being Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) (pictured at left), who sees DOMA as contrary to the Tenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.  Think Progress looks at Hanna's conversion which may represent a strategy for other Republicans to buck the Christofascists who seek to keep anti-gay discrimination writ large in the nation's civil laws despite the huge generational shift taking place in respect to same sex marriage.  Here are highlights:

The Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that remains one of the biggest obstacles to marriage equality today, has lost another supporter, this time a GOPer swept into Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) announced in a statement late last week that he has signed onto the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to repeal DOMA. Since its passage in 1996, DOMA has defined marriage on a federal level as between one man and one woman, purposefully excluding gay and lesbian couples. DOMA also denies gay people who have legally wed in their states countless federal benefits and protections, such as Social Security survivor benefits if one partner dies.

[M]ost Democrats now oppose it, and are gaining momentum in bringing Republicans on board. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) already opposes DOMA, and now Hanna becomes the 2nd GOPer to pull his support, as he detailed in an announcement Friday:
“New York State allows all its citizens the freedom to marry the person they love,” he said. “Under the Tenth Amendment, the federal government has a Constitutional responsibility to respect New York’s right to set its own laws. It’s my job to see that it does.

“It is right to extend equal protection under federal law to all couples who are legally married without infringing upon religious freedom and beliefs,” Hanna continued. “This legislation does not tell states who can be married or who must be treated as married, nor does it require any religious institution to violate their own convictions.

“I respect the deeply held beliefs on both sides of this issue,” he said. “The simple fact remains that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure all legally married couples are treated equally under federal law – and this bill would achieve that proper standard.”
[T]he entire debate in Congress over DOMA may be academic if the Supreme Court strikes it down next year. It will hear a challenge to DOMA in the first quarter of 2013 and issue a ruling in June.

Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan on Future GOP Shenanigans

As noted in the previous post, I do not foresee a sudden return to rationality on the part of the Congressional Republicans.  However, their maneuvering room may be limited - especially if they seek to avoid totally poisoning the public outside of Christofascist and Tea Party circles against the GOP brand. Andrew Sullivan sifts through the tea leaves and sees the following:

Does the promised debt-ceiling hostage-taking by the GOP render all this strategy moot? Maybe. But it seems to me that the GOP has hurt itself so far since the election on fiscal matters - appearing, especially last week, as a herd of feral, foam-flecked cats. I don't see their threatening to ruin America's credit unless they get to cut Medicare by $500 billion over a decade as a particularly strong political hand. Any party triggering a self-imposed credit crisis as the economy recovers will not be rewarded politically. On that, especially after 2011, the president has the upper hand. Americans do not like monkeying around with the national credit rating as a way to cut medical care for grandma. 

More to the point, the GOP has yet to even lay out the details of its proposed entitlement cuts (and campaigned in part against them). One way out would be for both parties to focus on cutting the Pentagon bloat - but that's not going to happen any time soon. And so I can see revenue-raising tax reform returning as a way to alleviate some of the political pain on both sides.

In other words, I can see Obama's logic here. What he's getting - which is a gradual shift toward more fiscal responsibility, with key protections for the working poor and the unemployed in place - is all he really wants right now.

It's not great, but it will do. Sometimes, the little advances are preferable under certain circumstances to big breakthroughs. And Obama has to face a rabid Republican House probably for his next four years. They self-destructed on Plan B. They will almost certainly have to swallow hard and vote for big tax increases in the next day or so [and, in fact, now have]. And a campaign to slash Medicare is their next major goal.  

Time will tell whether or not the Republicans regain a connection to objective and political reality.   I continue to hope that, if given enough time, the Christofascist and Tea Party lunatics will either completely destroy the GOP or themselves be driven from the party.