Saturday, March 30, 2013

Marie Osmond Endorses Gay Marriage

In a striking break for the Mormon Church, Marie Osmond has come out in support of gay marriage.  The video clip is above.  More will follow in another post on the Mormon Church launch of a fraudulent "ex-gay" program.  The boyfriend and I are off to a memorial service for a friend's mother.

Scalia’s Dishonest Gay Adoption Claim


Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases, this blog reviewed a number of the amicus briefs filed in the two cases, including the filings by the American Sociological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, both of which supported gay marriage and stated that there was no legitimate research - i.e., research not funded by and manipulated by Christofacist organizations and their stooges such as the deliberately flaw study by Mark Regnerus - that supported the claims by Prop 8 and DOMA proponents that children suffered if they had same sex parents.  Despite these filings, bigot in chief on the Court, Antonin Scalia made statements that “there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not.”  Ezra Klein takes Scalia to task in a piece in the Washington Post for his deliberate effort to distort the real science on the issue.  Here are highlights:
On Wednesday, I wrote about Justice Antonin Scalia’s comment that “there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not.”

That’s not what the American Sociological Association thinks. Here’s its official statement on the matter:
The claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than opposite-sex parents—either because such families lack both a male and female parent or because both parents are not the biological parents of their children—contradicts abundant social science research. Decades of methodologically sound social science research, especially multiple nationally representative studies and the expert evidence introduced in the district courts below, confirm that positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources. Whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on a child’s wellbeing.

The clear and consistent consensus in the social science profession is that across a wide range of indicators, children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents when compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.
Pretty definitive. And here’s the punchline: That paragraph isn’t buried in a press release on its blog or in an editorial from its trade magazine. It’s from the amicus curiae brief that the ASA filed in the very case Scalia was commenting on.

In other words, the official organization representing American sociologists went out of their way to provide the Supreme Court with their “consensus” opinion on the effect of same-sex parents on children. And yet, when struggling for a “concrete” harm that could come from gay marriage, Scalia went with “considerable disagreement among sociologists.” So we’ve gone from a weak claim — “considerable disagreement” over harm is not the same thing as actual harm — to an explicitly wrong claim. Scalia offered no details or evidence of this considerable disagreement among sociologists, and it’s hard to believe he’s a better judge of the profession than the ASA, whose brief he notably declined to mention.
As this blog has argued before, Scalia is so bigoted and so unable to demonstrate even a shred of objectivity on a host of issues that the has come for him to either resign or be removed from the Court.  His continued presence on the Court undermines its integrity and standing.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Nature’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage


One of the constant cries of the Christofascists is that gay sex and same sex romantic love are "unnatural" and against "natural law."  David George Haskell, a professor of biology at Sewanee, The University of the South, has an op-ed in the New York Times that debunks this myth used incessantly by the Bible beaters who prefer to cling to the writings of uneducated nomads rather than face the facts shown by science and modern knowledge.  The truth is that homosexuality and bi-sexuality are found all across nature.  It is only in man-made "natural law" first concocted in the Christian realm in the 13th century that homosexuality isn't normal.  Here are op-ed excerpts:

BIOLOGY has returned to the nation’s highest court. It’s not Darwin’s theory of evolution on the docket this time, but the nature of sex. Defenders of Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, base their case on what they call the “objective biological fact” that procreation is an exclusively heterosexual process. Citing the 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, they argue that marriage should be “founded in nature.”

References to biology coat these arguments with a gloss of scientific rigor. But before we write nature into law, let’s take a stroll outside the Supreme Court’s chambers and check those biological facts.

If these birds and bees were the first to teach us about sex, we’ve forgotten part of the lesson. Just as some species that are mostly hermaphroditic contain unisexual individuals, some insects and vertebrates cannot be simply called male or female. Human biology joins in this rejection of binary claims of male and female. 

Of course, sexuality is more than an arrangement of cells. Bonds form between sexual partners that help define the social structure of each species. What does nature on the Mall teach us about these relationships? Look, for instance, at the mallards paddling in the nearby reflecting pools. If they are like mallards elsewhere, then one in 10 of them engage in homosexual sex. 

Stepping from the northern border of the Mall into the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, we come face-to-taxidermied-face with our great ape relatives. Before these apes were sequestered in museum cabinets, homosexual bonds were a natural part of their lives. This is especially true for our closest living cousins, the bonobos and chimpanzees. 

The facts of biology plainly falsify the oft-repeated notion that homosexuality is unnatural. Every species has evolved its own sexual ecology, and so nature resists generalizations. Does humanity’s natural inheritance include homosexual bonds and behaviors? Certainly. This conclusion is reinforced by the growing evidence that our sexual orientation is influenced by both our genes and the environment that we experience in the womb

A wide, living rainbow arcs across the natural world. Diversity rules in sexuality, just as it does in the rest of biology. This natural variety does not provide ready-made moral guidance. But to claim that the only natural forms of sex and pair bonding occur between unambiguous males and females is to ignore the facts of human biology. Let those who wish for marriage to be “founded in nature” take note: the view outside the Supreme Court is full of life’s beautiful sexual variegation.

Haskell gives many other examples of bi-sexuality and homosexuality in the op-ed, but you get the point.  Like so much else that the Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP claim, the claim that homosexuality is "unnatural" is a lie. 


The GOP's Inability to Change Its "Messaging"

The Republican National Committee recently issued a report that was a post mortem on the GOP's disastrous 2012 election cycle.  One of the key findings was that the party was killing its future through its negativity and inability to attract younger voters and Latinos.   As a result, the report said the party need to greatly improve its messaging to make itself more welcoming to those other than the party 's core base of angry white Christofascists.  So what does GOP Rep. Don Young (Alaska) do?  He calls Latinos "wetbacks." Now that will certainly help endear the GOP with Hispanic voters, won't it?  Of course, it's not just Hispanics that are routinely offended by GOP racists and bigots.  Blacks, gays and women likewise are routinely trashed and denigrated.  An article in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's inability to grasp the fact that racist remarks and off the charts homophobia do not help broaden the GOP tent.  Here are highlights:

For a Republican Party embarked on a mission of modernization, an ethnic slur uttered by a senior House Republican this week offered an unwelcome reminder of the past.  Rep. Don Young (Alaska) used a derogatory term for Latinos in a radio interview Thursday, less than two weeks after the Republican National Committee issued a post-election report that called for broadening the party’s tent.

The comment, coupled with an anti-gay remark that an RNC official posted on his Facebook page this week, highlighted the challenge Republicans face in their nascent effort to woo a more diverse cross section of America as they grapple with issues including immigration reform and same-sex marriage.

“We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks and — to pick tomatoes,” Young said in the interview with KRBD. “You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

Republican consultant John Weaver said the comment “hurts us,” describing Young as “a dinosaur on the bridge of political insanity and irrelevance.”  “Republicans like him will soon be extinct, and that’s a good thing for the GOP,” Weaver said. “But in the meantime, when they make these remarks, it makes it harder for those of us who are trying to grow the base of our party.”

Earlier in the week, an RNC official from Michigan argued that being gay is an unhealthy lifestyle — posting an article to his Facebook page that labeled homosexuality as “filthy.” The RNC committeeman, Dave Agema, declined to take down the post.

GOP leaders were quick to denounce both Agema and Young, a 21-term House member who has long had rocky relations with the Republican establishment.  RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who last week launched a GOP effort to reach out to minority communities, issued a statement Friday saying, “The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party.” 

On Thursday, Priebus also criticized Agema, saying that “all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”  House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement Friday that Young’s remarks “are offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. I don’t care why he said it. There’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”

Message to the GOP: until the Christofascists and  white supremacists - who the leadership has pandered to in the past - are driven from the GOP, things are not going to get better.


Irish Bishops To "Boycott" Weddings Over Gay Marriage





There are few countries in which the Catholic Church is in a bigger free fall in terms of popular support than Ireland thanks to government commissions that have disclosed rampant sex abuse of children and minors along with a concerted effort by the Church hierarchy to cover up the disgusting abuse and even protect the predators among the clergy.  Yet the nasty old men in dresses at the bishoprics still do not get the message that few in Ireland any longer give a rat's ass about what the Church's position is on almost anything.  The percentage of nominal Catholics who still attend mass is down in the single digits and the government may soon enact full blown gay marriage.  So what are the Irish bishops doing?  Threatening to cease performing their civil law role in performing marriages.  Ultimately, it might be a good thing and result in the Church being removed from the civil marriage process altogether.  The Irish Independent looks at the unfolding saga.  Here are excerpts:


IRELAND's Catholic prelates are leading the charge against gay marriage, warning that they will not perform the civil aspects of weddings if marriage is extended to gay couples.

The Irish Bishops Conference (IBC) has asked to make oral submissions to oppose any provisions for same-sex marriage to the Constitutional Convention.

The Constitutional Convention received more than 1,000 submissions on the deeply controversial issue and will finalise, next week, what interest groups and individuals will be invited to make oral submissions.

The stage has been set for an intense debate ahead of the possibility of a referendum on same-sex marriage.

In a detailed submission, Ireland's Catholic bishops have warned that the church "could no longer carry out the civil element" of marriage if there was any change to the legal definition of marriage.

Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Equality Authority and Irish Congress of Trade Unions are among nine key groups who will press for full marital rights to be extended to same-sex couples.

Given the crimes committed by the Church, one can only hope that the Church's demand to submit comments is denied.  It speaks volumes about the moral bankruptcy of the Church leadership that the widespread rape and abuse of children and minors was fine, but a loving, committed same sex couple receiving CIVIL law rights is the proverbial end of the world.  It makes me proud to no longer be a Catholic when I see how foul the institutional Church continues to be.


The Bible as Justification for Hate

Click image to enlarge
My likely distant cousin, James Hamar, shared this image on Facebook which to me illustrates the utter hypocrisy of the anti-gay Christofascists who cite the Bible as inerrant and something to be taken literally - only when it's convenient, of course.  As I have said many times, if the Bible is inerrant and must be taken literally, you do not get to pick and choose which passages to follow.  You have to take all of it, no matter how batshit crazy the result.  And the "godly Christians" wonder why it is they themselves who are beginning to be stigmatized.  Their hypocrisy is truly unbelievable. 

Former 49er and Raider Kwame Harris: Coming Out is Important

While no current pro football player has yet to come out, more former pro players are coming out.  And one of those player, who joins David Kopay, Roy Simmons, Esera Tuaolo, and Wade Davis in coming out after retirement, is Kwame Harris.  Candidly, I am no fan of much of pro sports and believe that most athletes, especially are grossly over paid.  Nonetheless, I do hope for the day when gays involved in such sports can  has be out and succeed openly.  Harris expounded on why coming out is important and the critical role that it plays in breaking down anti-gay stereotypes so often disseminated by our enemies.  The San Francisco Chronicle has details and here are excerpts:

Former 49er and Raider Kwame Harris is one of the few to come out as a gay man following his NFL career. He joins former 49er David Kopay, Roy Simmons, Esera Tuaolo, and Wade Davis. It adds more kindling to the raging debate over homosexuality in sports and particularly in the NFL.

Harris came out in an interview on CNN conducted by a former Stanford teammate, Coy Wire. An incident with a companion compelled Harris to declare his sexual orientation, but he says he’s glad he did.

So why is adding another name to those former NFL players who have come out, important?  It further breaks down the resistance in sports to homosexuality, particularly in lucrative North American men’s team sports of football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer. As most of us know, an active player has never declared his homosexuality while still playing.

Other traditionally homosexual-resistant institutions such as police departments and the armed forces have long since integrated sexually divergent individuals into their work places. Sports remains a last holdout.

Recognizing gayness in the big five sports would further normalize homosexuality, something that could be critical, particularly for youth. Suicide rates for non-heterosexual youth are high; theLastCloset.org writes that 30 to 40 percent of gay youth consider suicide and unfortunately, many follow through.

With more former players coming out, and with players who make homophobic comments, like 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, getting called out, a social stigma is changing. It used to be that being gay came with a stigma, particularly in sports. Now it appears, that being anti-gay and homophobic is the new stigma. 

Harris’ courageous admission opens up sports to divergent sexual orientations that much more. And while that might not seem important or impactful in the short term, eventually it could help lessen the burden on kids who want to follow Harris’ lead. 

It is of course the growing stigma that attaches to being anti-gay and homophobic that is driving the Christofascists to hysterics.  They are so accustomed to stigmatizing and denigrating others that they truly cannot cope with the reality that finally the shoe is beginning to be on the other foot.

An America Polarized by Religion





Through out the ages religion has mixed with politics and has been all too often used by rulers and politicians to motivate - or just as frequently dupe - subjects and voters into doing their bidding.  And the amount of ensuing blood shed has been horrific.  Yet in America, unlike Europe and other advance developed countries which are increasingly secularized, religion continues to cause hate and and discord at high levels and works against national unity.  Thankfully, it seems religion is perhaps finally loosening its foul hold on society.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the phenomenon.




[T]he overwhelming majority of Americans in the mid-20th century identified themselves culturally as Protestants, Catholics or Jews, no matter their personal beliefs.  This cultural expectation has begun fading in American life. The fastest-growing religious affiliation today is the lack of religious affiliationthe rise of the “nones,” as in “none of the above,” who now constitute nearly 20 percent of the population. 

For some, this is an indication that America is finally on the path of secularization taken by much of Europe, where non-religious funerals have become common and half of Europeans have never attended a religious service. Much of modern sociology has been premised on the notion that modernization and secularization go together. 

In America’s case, the hypothesis remains unproved. While Americans have become less attached to religious institutions, there is little evidence they have become less religious.  .   .   .   .  America is not a secularized country. But the relative decline of institutional religion has public consequences. While the number of the devout has remained steady, fewer of those in the religious middle identify with the organizations and values of the devout. What we are seeing, according to Luis Lugo of Pew, is not “secularization but polarization.” Institutional religion has gained a larger body of critics. 

On the level of politics, this trend aids cultural liberalism and the Democratic Party. About 70 percent of the nones voted for President Obama. They are more liberal than the religiously affiliated on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.   .  .  .  .   This sets up some possible conflicts within the Democratic Party. Its second-largest religious group is black Protestants, among the most religious of Americans. 

But the main tension is emerging between the parties. Religious conservatives remain the largest constituency within the Republican Party. So America is moving in the direction of having one secular party and one religious party, bringing polarization to a new level of intensity.

For America, this could be a dangerous source of social division, with each side viewing the other as theocrats or pagans. There is no contempt like the contempt of the true believer or the militant skeptic.  .  .   .   .  Individualism can easily become atomization. Whatever else you may think of the communitarian creeds, they help create community. 

Can these creeds adapt to changed cultural circumstances and renew their appeal? Sociologists such as Roger Finke and Rodney Stark provide evidence that it has happened before.


Two things strike me from this: (i) even conservative Michael Gerson admits that the GOP has become a religious party of sorts, and (ii) conservatives believe that institutional religion can and will rebound.  On the latter, I suspect Gerson is wrong.  Increasingly, Christianity's story line is running head long into the brick wall of expanding scientific knowledge that indicates that Christianity's main truths such as Adam and Eve, The Fall, etc. are not historically true.  If Biblical literalism doesn't give way to something new, I see Christianity dying.  The only question will be how quickly and the Christianists seem to be doing all in their power to alienate even more Americans from religion.
 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Morning Male Beauty


The Tyranny of the Billable Hour - Lawyers' Nightmares

Newly minted attorneys in large firms quickly learn one thing: the only thing that really matters to the firm head honcho's is how many billable hours one racks up.  While you hear platitudes about firm's respecting attorneys' home lives and valuing families, etc., it is all really a lie.  I experienced it myself fresh out of law school and associates at big firms are still living the nightmare of horrific hours at work and little or no social life.  Indeed, many of the very successful attorneys that I have known - success being defined by the amount of money earned - typically have been through one or more divorces and have been absentee parents.  Despite what the law firms claim, you do not get to have it all and you must often choose between family and "success."  A piece in the New York Times looks at the continued dysfunction in the world of law firms.  Here are excerpts:

“THAT bill shall know no limits,” wrote one DLA Piper lawyer to another in 2010 in what the firm is now calling “unfortunate banter” between associates about work for a client. But what is truly unfortunate is the underlying billable-hour regime and the law-firm culture it has spawned. 

Lost in the furor surrounding one large firm’s current public relations headache are deeper problems that go to the heart of the prevailing big law-firm business model itself. Regrettably, as with previous episodes that have produced high-profile scandals, the present outcry will probably pass and the billable hour will endure. 

It shouldn’t. The billable-hour system is the way most lawyers in big firms charge clients, but it serves no one. Well, almost no one. It brings most equity partners in those firms great wealth. Law firm leaders call it a leveraged pyramid. Most associates call it a living hell.

In a typical large firm, associates earn far less than the client revenues they generate. For example, a client receives an invoice totaling the number of hours each lawyer spends on the client’s matters, multiplied by the lawyer’s hourly rate, say $400 for a junior associate. Most big firms require associates to bill at least 1,900 hours a year, according to a survey last year by NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals. 

At $400 an hour, a hypothetical 2,000-hour-a-year associate generates $800,000 a year for the firm. But the firm typically pays the salaried lawyer one-fourth of that amount or less.

For associates, the goal is simple: meet the required (or expected) minimum number of billable hours to qualify for annual bonuses and salary increases. Billing 2,000 hours a year isn’t easy. It typically takes at least 50 hours a week to bill an honest 40 hours to a client. Add commuting time, bathroom breaks, lunch, holidays, an annual vacation and a little socializing, and most associates find themselves working evenings and weekends to “make their hours.” Most firms increase financial rewards as an associate’s billables move beyond the stated threshold. 

For partners, billable hours are a key measure of associate and partner productivity. More is better. The resulting culture pushes everyone harder. Meanwhile, each partner strives to maximize individual client billings that he or she controls. Those billings in most cases determine a partner’s annual share of the firm’s profits. Their clients also become tickets to other firms. That makes partners reluctant to share too many important client responsibilities with their associates and fellow partners. 

For clients, the consequences of the billable-hour system can be absurd. Fatigue through overwork can produce negative returns — the critical document missed during a late-night marathon review; the error in the draft of a corporate filing that goes unnoticed.

There’s a way out of the mess. But it requires clients to press harder for alternative fee arrangements, courts to back away from policies that embed the billable hour, law firm leaders to stop rewarding excessive associate hours and senior partners to consider the deleterious consequences of their myopic focus on short-term profit-maximizing behavior. 

In fact, a cottage industry has now developed in auditing outside law firm invoices to clients. Even so, as the deceit associated with the billable hour continues undetected, equally insidious consequences of the entire system endure. The episodes of public embarrassment will remain infrequent, and the triggers producing them will be idiosyncratic. DLA Piper’s current notoriety began when a former client refused to pay his roughly $675,000 bill. The firm sued him last year, and its internal e-mails about the matter became subject to discovery. Before long, they landed on the front page of The New York Times. 

DLA Piper said that the comments of its lawyers were “an inexcusable effort at humor.” What’s really not funny is the toll that the flawed system is taking on a vital profession. 

Candidly, life in a big firm is a nightmare and I'd only wish it on my worse enemy.   Most of my clients now want flat fees if the work involved allows it.  I may use an hourly rate and estimated number of hours required to set the flat fee, but once set the temptation to pad hours so prevalent in big firms vanishes.  The result is that clients do not continually get ripped off. 


Will Multiple Gay NFL Players Come Out?

With many NFL fans holding views much like that of the GOP base there is swirling speculation that one or more gay NFL players may be about to come out.  Personally, I'd like to see it happen because it would be a further proof that gays do not fit the stereotypes disseminated by the Christofascists and likely self-loathing macho jocks.  Will it happen?  Who knows. But it would be entertaining to see the reaction of the Neanderthal crowd if one of their favorite players turned out to be gay.  An article at NBC Sports looks at the wild speculation.  Here are excerpts:

This week’s story that a gay NFL player is considering coming out was met with an interesting reaction from Domonique Foxworth, the former NFL cornerback who is now president of the NFL Players Association.

Foxworth said that not only does he think it’s inevitable that a gay player will come out, but he believes multiple gay players are going to come out. Foxworth said on WNST in Baltimore that there are already multiple gay players in the NFL, and that when one of them comes out, others will see that they have nothing to fear.

“It doesn’t have to be one player,” Foxworth said. “When one player comes out, multiple players will come out, because they are in our league right now.”  Foxworth said an openly gay NFL player would be a much bigger deal in the media than it would be to other players.

“When the public finds out about it, it’s going to be a media storm and it’s going to be a lot of press and a lot of attention, and probably not all of it’s gonna be positive,” Foxworth said. “But the NFLPA, as long as I’m president of it, is going to be behind that player and providing support.”

The first gay player to come out will be making a difficult, courageous decision. But if Foxworth is right, the second gay player to come out will already know he’ll be supported within the fraternity of NFL players.

Chris Christie’s Gays & Guns Problem





Chris Christie increasingly personifies the difficulties that Republicans in liberal states face should they have ambitions for higher offices:  the positions that make them electable in their home states are anathema to the drooling, knuckle dragging Bible beaters who dominate the primaries for the presidential nomination.  And it goes without saying that gays and guns are two litmus tests for the primary voters.  One simply cannot hate gays enough or want to allow any restriction on the arsenals being amassed by the lunatic fringe that believes fantastic stories that Obama is raising a black army to murder and/or subjugate whites.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this quandary Christie faces.  Here are highlights:


Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey and one of the Republican Party’s best hopes to win the White House in 2106, is about to find out how hard it can be to be both the governor of a blue state and a potential presidential aspirant.

That’s because a pair emotionally charged bills—one legalizing same-sex marriage, the other calling for stricter restrictions on firearms—are working their way through the New Jersey legislature. Each has the overwhelming backing of New Jersey voters, with recent polls showing that more than twice as many voters supporting each bill than oppose.
But if signing either will win Christie plaudits back home, it could be suicide for his presidential ambitions—just ask Romney, who was hailed in Massachusetts for signing a universal-health-care bill into law, only to be pummeled for it when he appeared on the national stage.
New Jersey already has some of the strictest gun-control measures in the nation, but last month, the State Assembly passed 22 measures that would, among other provisions, limit magazine size, ban the online sales of guns and ammunition, and require a firearms safety training class as a condition to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm.

Right-wing blogs and websites have been urging conservative activists to mobilize against the bill as the State Senate prepares to draft their own gun-control measures.
“[The Christie camp] doesn’t want to accept it, but this is a bright red line test,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP strategist. “Conservatives may be evolving on gay marriage or drug legalization, but they are not evolving on this. They are digging in. If you are in a Republican primary, do you want to be on the side of Mike Bloomberg or do you want to be on the side of the Second Amendment?”

On same-sex marriage, the Assembly and Senate passed bills last year that would have made marriage equality the law of the state. Christie promptly vetoed both measures, saying he supports the state’s civil-unions law, and telling supporters of marriage equality to put the issue to a state referendum. Advocates have resisted that move, saying fundamental rights shouldn’t be won or lost at the ballot box.

For both issues, the stakes may be higher for Christie than for any of the other top 2016 contenders. While Christie appeals to party insiders for his ability to govern as a pro-life, fiscal conservative in a liberal state, party regulars in early primary states view anyone from “Blue Jersey” with suspicion.

But if Christie is pushed by CPAC and social conservatives on one side, on the other are a number of his most prominent supporters. Some of those who promised to bankroll a possible 2012 presidential campaign are also major supporters of marriage equality, including hedge-fund magnates Paul Singer, Clifford Asness, and Daniel Loeb, all of whom gave money to a similar legislative effort across the river in New York state.

[S]upport for marriage equality in New Jersey tops out at 64 percent, more than any other state, and has the backing of older voters and even, by a slight margin, Republicans.   Such numbers, Stevenson said, should be enough to move the governor.  .  .  .  .  Advocates are hoping that, at the very least, Christie will quietly signal to Republican lawmakers in Trenton that they are free to override his veto of last year’s equality bill. So far, supporters of same-sex marriage say they are three votes short of an override in the Senate and 12 in the House.

Plenty of Iowa Republicans are already grumbling at him. If he were to go another step further and sign into law the gun thing, or the marriage thing, I think it would almost disqualify him as a national candidate.”

So instead of nominating someone who might actually be able to win nationally in a general election, the GOP base would rather give the White House to a Democrat in 2016.  The party base's lunacy just seems to be growing.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty


Newtown Shooter Had NRA Certificates and Virtual Arsenal


As the NRA continues its campaign of lies and disinformation against rational gun control  - because its financial backers, the gun manufacturers want to restrictions whatsoever - new information is coming out about Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre last December.   Among the new details is information on the extent of the weapons arsenal in his home, the insane amount of ammunition in the home, and the presence of NRA certificates.   Thanks to the high volume magazines so loved by the NRA, Lanza was able to fire 154 bullets in less roughly five minutes.  The NRA may try to disclaim Lanza, but the evidence puts him and his at best foolish (I would argue criminally negligent) mother right in the NRA camp.   The Hartford Courant has details.  Here are excerpts:

Newtown shooter Adam Lanza's home contained an arsenal of guns, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, samurai swords, a bayonet and knives, search warrants released Thursday show.
The warrants show that police found the items after searching Lanza's home and car following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six women.

The warrants state that investigators found two rifles, a BB gun and a starter pistol in the house, including the .22-caliber rifle that he used to kill his mother, Nancy Lanza, before going on his killing spree. Lanza had taken four additional guns with him to the school.

A gun safe, where some weapons were stored, was in Adam Lanza's bedroom, a warrant indicates. The list of more ammunition filled nearly two pages. Investigators found full boxes of shotgun shells with buckshot, hundreds of rounds for the .22-caliber rifle, numerous boxes of ammunition for handguns as well as the instruction manual for the Bushmaster AR-15 used in the shooting.
Investigators found 12 knives, three samurai swords, a bayonet, eye protection, ear muffs for a gun range, Simmons binoculars, paper targets and Lanza's National Rifle Association certificate.

Police found three photographs of a dead person covered in plastic and blood. The warrants do not indicate whether authorities know the identity of the person.

They also found a bank check to Lanza from his mother for "the purchase of a C183 (firearm)," one of the warrants states. Although investigators identified the "C183" as a firearm, it is unclear if any such weapon with that designation is made. Police confiscated a military-style uniform from Lanza's bedroom, a warrant indicates.

Families of the victims were briefed late Wednesday night about what details were going to be released in the search warrants.

Sedensky said in his report that police recovered from Lanza's body three, 30-round magazines for the Bushmaster, each containing 30 rounds. They also located in the area of the shootings six additional 30-round magazines, three of which were empty and the others containing 10, 11 and 13 live rounds. There was one 30-round magazine on the gun.

Lanza blasted his way into the school by shooting out the front glass and then proceeded to two classrooms, firing 154 bullets in less than five minutes. He killed himself with one final shot as police were closing in.

Lanza killed 17 people in Lauren Rousseau's classroom, including 15 children, shooting most of them at point-blank range as they tried to hide in a bathroom in the back of the classroom. One girl survived by playing dead.

He then backtracked into the classroom of Victoria Soto and killed seven more, including five children. All were shot multiple times.

The NRA and politicians that do its bidding literally have blood on their hands.  One can only hope that members of Congress will remember the faces of those murdered when it comes time to vote on gun control rather than the dollars the NRA and its lobbyists pay to them

Falsely Aggrieved Christian Soldiers

Burning of two sodomites at the stake outside Z├╝rich, 1482, by Spiezer Schilling
In addition to attacking gays and gay supportive Republicans as noted in a prior post, the Christianists have shifted into hysterical high gear shrieking and lamenting that it is they who are now being persecuted.  The phenomenon would be laughable but for the fact that far too many sheeple will stupidly - there really is no other word applicable - believe the rants and lies of the professional Christian crowd and hate groups like Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage and a host of other similarly foul and dishonest groups.   A piece at Shakesville looks at the ridiculousness of the Christianist whining and false claims of persecution.  Here are highlights:

Over at The American Prospect, Paul Waldman documents the outpouring of self-pitying aggrievement from a number of conservative Christian commentators who are lamenting their "second-class citizenship" because they support the "traditional definition of marriage."
Here's CBN's David Brody lamenting the sorrows of Kirk Cameron and Tim Tebow. Here's Red State's Erik Erikson predicting the coming pogrom ("Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God's own established plan."). Here's Fox News commentator Todd Starnes on the oppression that has already begun ("it's as if we're second-class citizens now because we support the traditional, Biblical definition of marriage").
And here's Pat Robertson (of course) warning that "the foundation of our society since the founding of our great Republic is under attack" by "a few people [who] want to have their way doing of sex affirmed by everyone else." Solid commentary as always from the biggest bozo in the hate biz.

It is execrable that there are conservative Christians—whose paternalistic, retrofuck, unscientific, indefensible views on reproductive rights and women's agency are currently being legislated all over the nation with nary a peep from the office-holding pro-choice president—who have the temerity to whine about how oppressed they are simply for having their undiluted right to legislate how every other person should be allowed to use their bodies and live their lives minimally eroded via marriage equality.

Losing the capacity to oppress is not oppression.  And there's no equivalence, none, between a position that wants to reserve marriage for some and deny it to others, and a position that wants to extend marriage to all, for anyone who wants to take part in whatever way they wish, with no one compelled to participate.
It's a theme I have touched on before although I may noy have enunciated it so well.  The real grievance of the Christofascist is that they are losing their ability to  persecute others at will and without restriction.  If you want to see what true persecution looks like, Andrew Sullivan has a post that looks at what the "godly Christian" folk have done to gays over the centuries.   Here are highlights:

There’s a dangerous tendency to believe that somehow, this was the first time in human history that gay people had sought marriage, or deemed themselves worthy of it. That’s not true – and my anthology finds examples from 14th century China to Native American culture to African matriarchies. Here is Montaigne, writing in the late 16th Century, of an incident he had heard of:
On my return from Saint Peter’s I met a man who informed me humorously of two things: that the Portuguese made their obeisance in Passion week; and then, that on this same day the station was at San Giovanna Porta Latina, in which church a few years before certain Portuguese had entered into a strange brotherhood.

They married one another, male to male, at Mass, with the same ceremonies with which we perform our marriages, read the same marriage Gospel service, and then went to bed and lived together. The Roman wits said that because in the other conjunction, of male and female, this circumstance of marriage alone makes it legitimate, it had seemed to these sharp folk that this other action would become equally legitimate if they authorized it with ceremonies and mysteries of the Church.

Eight or nine Portuguese of this fine sect were burned.
“This fine sect”… “these sharp folk”. Montaigne was one of the first supporters of marriage equality. But he had to tell us in code. As we congratulate ourselves, let us recall the profound pain this stigmatization caused for so many throughout history, and the brutal repression they had to endure – even being burned alive for seizing their own destiny and declaring the church their own.

I continue to believe that if one added up all the good Christianity has done(mainly through relief services for the poor and medical assistance) and weighed it against all the evils that have been done and all the lives lost as a result of wars of religion and the persecution of non-believers, the net result would be that the world would have been a better place had Christianity never existed.  Yes, this assessment is harsh and unfair to those who actually practice the Gospel message.  Unfortunately, their good deeds are far outweighed by the evil done under the Christian banner.   Sadly, today's Christianists continue the tradition of hatred, persecution of others and evil deeds.


On Gay Marriage, Moderation Could Be Disastrous



Harvard law professor Noah Feldman has an interesting piece at Bloomberg.com which suggests that, if the U. S. Supreme Court takes the cowardly approach and punts on directly confronting gay marriage nationwide yet strikes down DOMA, the result may well be legal chaos and a huge volume of lawsuits against states that do not recognize gay marriage or against the federal government brought by gays in anti-gay states.  The piece makes a lot of sense and suggests that if the justices are smart, they will go whole hog and strike down DOMA and find a federal constitutional right to same sex marriage.  Thus, the biggest question may be whether or not the Supreme Court gives in to cowardice rather than hand down a broad progressive ruling.  Here are excerpts from the article:

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the perennial swing voter, might well prefer some gradual way to introduce gay marriage without producing the headline “Court Grants Gay Marriage.” But the problem with this gradual strategy envisioned by court observers and attributed to Kennedy is that it would create anomalies leading to a nightmarish barrage of new litigation. Instead of attenuating criticism of the court by avoiding a single“Eureka” moment, the court would put itself, along with lower courts, at the center of hundreds more headlines for years to come. And they would all be of the same ilk: “Court Creates Legal Nightmare; Citizens on All Sides Angry.” 

To understand the mess that would result if the court struck down DOMA without finding a general right to same-sex marriage, consider what would happen if the federal government recognized marriages performed in states that allow gay couples to marry while continuing to deny marital status to couples in other states.   .  .  . Gay couples would return to their home states with a piece of paper that should, in principle, entitle them to federal marital tax status, immigration benefits and more. But their home states would probably decline to recognize those out-of-state marriages, and deny them state-level marriage benefits. 

If the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA depended on finding that states have an inherent right to define marriage in which the federal government cannot infringe, then the home states’ policy would probably be upheld. The result would be couples who are both married and unmarried for purposes of the same tax returns, mortgages and hospital visits. Each of these conflicts would be brought to the courts. State and federal courts would probably render divergent conclusions --across all 50 states and 13 federal circuits. If this isn’t legal chaos, nothing is.

[Or] the anomaly would arise when legally married gay couples moved to states that didn’t recognize their unions. Presumably they would nevertheless bring their federal benefits with them -- giving rise to the same legal issues just described.

[T]he problems that already exist in a world where some states recognize same-sex marriage and others don’t would be compounded and thrown into the federal courts. 

The court’s supposed motivation to avoid declaring a general right to same-sex marriage is to allow the political process to take its course, and not impose a unified federal solution before everybody’s ready to accept it.  .  .  .  .  But this theory relies on the assumption that even a messy political process would be superior to judicial fiat because it would leave the courts out of the equation. A partial or split decision on same-sex marriage would have the opposite effect. Instead of promoting what the great Alexander Bickel called the“passive virtue” of judicial prudence, it would put judges front and center on the issue for the foreseeable future. From the court’s perspective, it would be easier just to do the right thing. Here’s hoping Anthony Kennedy sees it that way. 

Stated another way, if the Court strikes down DOMA and the boyfriend and I get married in New York or Washington, D.C., are we married for federal purposes even though Virginia could ignore our marriage absent a broad ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry?   Candidly, I don't know, but it would be a fun case to litigate.  The bottom line is that all gay marriage bans need to be struck down as unconstitutional under the U. S. Constitution.  


Spittle Flecked Matt Staver Denounces Gay Friendly Republicans as “Cockroaches”

The batshitery and spittle flying from the Christofascists in the wake of (i) yesterday's Supreme Court oral arguments which suggest that the Defense of Marriage Act is  likely to be struck down and (ii) statements by a minority of Republicans indicating a possible shift on gay marriage is unbelievable.  And the Christofascists are not only attacking gays but also Republicans who are signalling that they may stop prostituting themselves to the Christofascists and hate spewing "family values" organizations.  Among those vociferously attacking members of the GOP is Matt Staver, dean of Liberty University Law School, an embarrassment to and blight on the Commonwealth of Virginia.  As Right Wing Watch reports, Crosstalk, a Christianist radio outlet.  Here are highlights on Staver's venom and whining:

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver yesterday spoke to Vic Eliason of Voice of Christian Youth America on Crosstalk, where the two agreed that legalizing same-sex marriage nationally “would be the same as pronouncing the death sentence on America.”

Staver, who is also the dean of the Liberty University School of Law, even went so far as to say that marriage equality would “obliterate” morality, marriage and “the idea that there even is a God,” along with harming children, parents and society at large.

He later cited California’s law barring the use of ex-gay therapy on minors as an example of how gay rights represent “a direct assault on the very core of our liberties and morality, marriage and even God.”

Staver described Rob Portman, Karl Rove and Reince Priebus as “cockroaches” which “start running” once “you flip on the lights” over their comments on gay marriage, and Eliason said of the Log Cabin Republicans: “Is there nobody to clean the cockroaches out?”

After discussing George W. Bush’s failure to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, Staver joined other Religious Right leaders like Mike Huckabee, Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer in warning about the emergence of a “third party” and a “mass exodus” from the GOP “if the Republican Party were to adopt same-sex marriage.”
STAVER:  .  .  .  So now you have Karl Rove and you have [Reince] Priebus and some others, [Rob] Portman, they’re going down a way that ultimately will split the Republican Party. I can tell you what, if the Republican Party were to adopt same-sex marriage, if they were to do that, evangelicals will leave en masse and that will create a third party. No one wants to create a third party, they want to work within the system, they want to make sure that it advances freedom and liberty and the sanctity of life and marriage, but if the Republican Party goes down that road you can bet that there will be a mass exodus from that party and it will not win elections again for many, many years in the future.

Message to Staver: where are the evangelicals going to go?  Does he seriously believe that a third party pandering to the evangelical vote would have a snowball's chance in Hell of winning elections?  These people truly are living in a fantasy world.


Thursday Morning Male Beauty



Kentucky Legislature Overrides Veto of Bill Protecting Right to Discriminate Against Gays


Illustrating the problems facing the GOP is the state of Kentucky where the GOP controlled legislature passed a bill that would allow Christofascists to discriminate against gays and largely ignore any law they did not like based on professed religious belief.  Kentucky governor Steve Beshear vetoed House Bill 279. Now,the knuckle draggers and Bible beaters in the legislature have overridden Beshear's veto.  The selfishness and belief that they can ride rough shod over the rights of others are among the most notable aspects of today's conservative Christians.  Put simply, they are NOT nice people.  USA Today has details:

The Kentucky legislature voted Tuesday night to override the governor's veto of a controversial "religious freedom" bill.  The House's 79-15 vote sent House Bill 279 to the Senate, which voted 32-6 to override the measure.

During the House debate Tuesday, Democratic state Rep. Darryl Owens said the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions already protect religious freedom -- a freedom he said he does not see under threat.
"This is a piece of legislation looking for a reason," Owens said.

But Republican Rep. Stan Lee said, "It wasn't so long ago we had prayer in the schools, but they made us take it out."  

Gay-rights and human-rights groups have warned that the bill could be used to challenge local laws in Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco designed to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

Gov. Steve Beshear added additional concerns in his veto message Friday, saying the bill's unintentional consequences also could harm economic development efforts and enforcement of drug laws.

Kentucky has sent a clear message to the world: if you're not a far right religious nutcase, you probably do not want to locate to Kentucky.   Hopefully, businesses will get that message and locate in states that embrace modernity and equality for all citizens.

A Republican Left Turn?


With the Christofascists increasingly viewed negatively by a majority of voters and the country's rapid change in position of gay rights, the Republican Party is facing a day of reckoning.  Much like it is on the issue of immigration reform.  Continuing to hang on the the hate and fear based policies and social views of the aging white racist and homophobic elements of the GOP base simply is courting long term political suicide.  Yet this element of the GOP base has largely taken over the grassroots of the GOP and wields an undue influence on the part nominating process.  The question thus becomes for those who want the GOP to survive is how does the party change yet keep the allegiance of the Christofascists.  It may be a case of mission impossible.  A column in the New York Times looks at this quandary.  Here are excerpts:

If the Republican Party concedes defeat in the culture war, as a number of commentators on the right and the left argue it should, what what will happen to the conservative coalition? Can hard-line stands on social issues be set aside?

On one side of the intraparty battle stands Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has suggested again and again over the past week that party leaders need to reduce the salience of culturally divisive issues. “We don’t have time to divide our party. We’ve got to go back to welcoming anyone who walks through that door,”

Not everyone in the Republican Party was on board. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, counterattacked on March 20:
Reince Priebus has decided that the way for his party to win over voters is to parrot the Left’s policies. The grand strategy, which calls for throwing the party’s social conservatives overboard, demands the G.O.P. be more “welcoming” and “inclusive” to people that are actively working against the conservative principles in the Republican platform.
Rush Limbaugh warned that if party leaders abandoned the right’s social agenda, “they are going to cause their base to stay home and throw their hands up in utter frustration.”

The potential gains from a softening of the party’s hard-right stand on social and cultural issues could be huge: a return to full competitiveness and a reversal of a widespread, sharply negative view of the Republican Party. The pollster Andy Kohut, former president of the Pew Center, described the chasm between Republican Party loyalists and the voting public in a March 22 article in the Washington Post . . . .

Jonathan Haidt, a professor at the Stern School of Business at N.Y.U. and the author of “The Righteous Mind,” wrote in an e-mail to The Times that intraparty Republican divisions go beyond social and cultural issues and that
the left-right divide politically reflects an underlying psychological dimension, related to openness to experience vs. threat sensitivity and preference for order/stability.
The Republican Party has begun to move to the left on social and cultural issues, as well as on immigration. Despite the warnings of mass defections of white evangelical and born-again Christians, these shifts will not be as costly as some people, both inside and outside the party, claim. 

The fact is that on pretty much every noncultural issue – government spending, taxes, the regulatory state and national defense – the Christian right holds orthodox Republican views virtually identical to those of mainstream Republicans. Its members are unlikely to bolt the party.

The non-addressed issue is the fact that the GOP establishment should never encouraged the Christofascists to infiltrate the party.  While the GOP may survive killing off the Frankenstein monster it created, it will be a messy business given the extremism and high levels of hatred within the ranks of the "godly Christian" folk.