Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Eve Male Beauty

Is Pope Francis Driving a Wedge Between Catholics and the GOP?

As noted in a number of posts since Pope Francis ascended to the throne of St. Peter, Francis has regularly condemned much of the GOP agenda, be it his condemnation of unbridled capitalism  - vulture capitalism if you are Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan - or his soon to be released encyclical on climate change.  Some even credit Francis with having a hand in the change in USA-Cuba relations.  Yes, the Vatican remains very anti-gay and has supported GOP backed bans on gay marriage, but on many issues, Francis has charted a course away from the Christofascist/GOP platform.  A piece in The Hill looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
Pope Francis is increasingly driving a wedge between conservatives and the Catholic Church.

The magnetic pope has sparked new enthusiasm around the world for the church and has flexed his political muscles internationally, most recently by helping to engineer a new relationship between the United States and Cuba.

But Francis’s agenda, which also includes calls to address income inequality and limit climate change, is putting him at odds with Republicans, including GOP Catholics in the United States.

Hours after President Obama announced moves to ease trade and travel restrictions to Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a practicing Catholic and potential 2016 presidential candidate, criticized the deal and Francis's role in it.

It's not the first time Francis has clashed with conservatives.  Since his papal inauguration in March 2013, the pontiff has publicly made policy remarks about income inequality and the environment that many American Catholics weren't used to hearing coming from the Vatican, and not just from the pulpit.

“Inequality is the root of social evil,” Francis tweeted in March, after months earlier slamming “trickle-down” economics as a “crude and naïve” theory.

Catholics have long been considered an important voting block in American politics and have turned out for the winning presidential candidate in the last three cycles.

A closer look at the Catholic vote reveals that white Catholics have supported the Republican candidate in each of those elections, while Hispanic Catholics have supported the Democratic candidate, according to Pew Research polling.

Progressive Catholics, however, such as Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization, are cheering Francis on as he calls for the world's elite to do more to help the poor. 

“Oh my gloria, this is a definite change in tone from being a 'scolder-in-chief' to being the one who identifies with the pain in our world,” said Simone, who organized the “Nuns on a Bus” cross-country tours.

“Pope Francis's message and tone are making Catholic Republicans a little uncomfortable,” Simone said. “He's stirring the concern on issues like poverty and the economy.”
Meanwhile, evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants remain look step with the GOP and diametrically opposed to the true Gospel message.  Their hypocrisy is stunning. 

Can the Internet Defeat Vladimir Putin?

Russian dictator Vladimir "Adolph Hitler" Putin continues to mimic the tactics of Adolph Hitler in the 1930's and Joesph Stalin from the mid-1930's through the date of his death.  These tactics include controlling the news media, shutting down opposition news outlets and kangaroo trials for political opponents.  The one factor that has changed the playing field is the Internet.  Yes, it can be blocked for a time, but as China has discovered, for every effort to shut out news and the truth, there are computer geeks who will quickly devise a work around.  A column in the New York Times ponders whether the Internet will lead to Putin's eventual undoing.  If it does, it will have done Russia and the world a huge favor.   Here are some article excerpts:
ON Tuesday, a court in Moscow convicted Russia’s top opposition blogger, Aleksei A. Navalny, of criminal fraud. Mr. Navalny, who has been under house arrest for nearly a year, was given a suspended sentence and spared jail time. His younger brother Oleg, however, was sentenced to serve three and a half years. Aleksei Navalny is an anti-corruption activist and outspoken critic of President Vladimir V. Putin, and the verdicts were seen as a cynical strategy to punish him without turning him into an imprisoned martyr.
Mr. Navalny responded furiously, rallying protests in Moscow’s Manezh Square. He even defied his house arrest to attend the demonstrations himself, which led swiftly to his detention and a return to his home.

Mr. Navalny, a 21st-century Russian dissident, presents a new kind of threat to the Putin regime. He was the first Russian activist to have used the Internet as an effective tool of political resistance. In the past, he and his followers have demonstrated that Russia’s opposition activists are not simply “virtual,” but are also capable of getting people onto the streets.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon. For a long time, the Internet didn’t matter in Russia, at least as a weapon of the opposition. . . . . The Internet just reflected offline realities. Most Russians didn’t think they had any impact on their political situation. Elections were viewed as predetermined. Opposition protests were sparsely attended, and often ended with protesters’ being rounded up by the police. The Internet, simply by existing, was not going to change this overall picture.

Enter Mr. Navalny, who understood that his countrymen were tired of pointless street demonstrations. He decided to show Russians that they could make a difference, from the comfort of their homes. . . .  He didn’t ask people to revolt, he just called on them to file online complaints. He provided detailed instructions for appealing to the authorities, and asked his supporters to report everything from unrepaired potholes to suspicious government contracts. Success is a powerful antidote to apathy. Years of these campaigns showed individual Russians that together, they could get things done.

[T]he Kremlin didn’t really worry about online activism until late 2011 and early 2012, when tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in antigovernment protests that were largely organized on social media. This finally got Mr. Putin’s attention.  . . . . Moscow was facing the largest demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Now, Russian authorities have greater powers to block sites, allegedly in an attempt to protect children from harmful content. Popular bloggers are required to register with the government. Facebook and Twitter could be blocked entirely if they refuse to comply with a new law that requires them to keep data on their Russian users on local servers. Mr. Putin also passed a law to criminalize street protests.

The opposition’s main obstacle will continue to be public apathy, which is an authoritarian government’s best protection. The Internet alone is not enough to overcome it.

But something else could: the flailing Russian economy. An economic crisis caused by declining oil revenue, Western sanctions and a plummeting ruble could make Mr. Putin more vulnerable and eventually spark a mass uprising. And thanks to the Internet, Mr. Navalny and his supporters will have the tools to take advantage of a revolutionary situation if it does arise.
I am currently reading a book on the daughters of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II.  Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, were clueless and in way over their heads when it came to running a sprawling empire.  Moreover, much of their ill-advised political motivations came from religious brainwashing - brainwashing that focused on maintaining the political/religious status quo, especially for the Russian Orthodox Church, which enjoyed immense privileges and shook down the ignorant  for money that they could ill-afford to give to the Church.  In contrast, Putin is motivated by personal greed and megalomania.  The man is despicable.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

The Bob/Maureen McDonnell Soap Opera Continues

As the sentencing of former Governor and now convicted felon, Bob McDonnell approaches, the unseemly soap opera "family values" of the Virginia GOP continue to make the stomach turn.  Earlier in the week, as reported by the Richmond Times Dispatch, two of the McDonnell children, Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin Young, threw their mother under the bus in a letter to the Court asking for leniency for their father.  As a column in the same paper notes, however, all of the McDonnells were in on the take and showed a rapacious greed that reflects on the true "conservative Christian values" of the Virginia Republican establishment.  First, highlights on the trashing of Maureen McDonnell:
Two children of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell say his stunning downfall and conviction on public corruption charges can largely be attributed to the corrosive effects of just one person: Their mother.
Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin Young wrote in blunt — and at times scathing — letters to a federal judge that it was former first lady Maureen McDonnell's materialism and mental-health issues that derailed the rising political career of her husband. The letters of support for Robert McDonnell were part of a trove of 440 submitted by his attorneys, who are seeking leniency at his Jan. 6 sentencing in Richmond.
"My mom . . . has always been concerned about getting discounts or freebees," McDonnell Zubowsky wrote. "She hid her coordination with people for free or discounted things or services and she didn't communicate with my dad because she knew he would not approve. . . . The testimony about my mom was not just part of a defense strategy and was not an attempt to 'throw her under the bus,' but unfortunately, was the reality."
 The column in today's Times Dispatch gives a truer view of the matter.  Here are highlights:

One of the more dramatic moments of the Bob and Maureen McDonnell corruption trial was the testimony of an FBI agent who was asked by a prosecutor to identify item-by-item the Rolex wristwatch, golf equipment, designer clothes, shoes and handbags that Jonnie Williams Sr. showered on the former first family.
For more than a half-hour, the swag was paraded across the courtroom, handed by the bailiff to jurors for their examination. It was a display of legal theater that made clear the eye-popping, cash register-ringing scale of Williams’ beneficence.
Christmas, it seems, came almost every day for the McDonnells — all of them.

It’s a point overshadowed, if not altogether lost, by the orchestrated appeals of the five McDonnell children for leniency for their father. In letters to the federal judge who next week could send him to prison — 10 to 12 years for trading on his office, if the prosecution gets its way — the three daughters and twin sons, all recipients of Williams’ sometimes-garish largesse, say that Bob McDonnell doesn’t deserve to be locked away.

If it was OK for mom and dad to avail themselves of Williams’ generosity, then it was OK for the kids, too. Children learn from their parents, especially from their parents’ conduct. Some of the most powerful lessons from this are absorbed by children when parents don’t think the children are watching.

Privately, Bob McDonnell set a different example. There are few indications that, before the former first couple came under federal scrutiny, they or their children fully considered how unseemly it was to accept or solicit gift after gift after gift from a rich man looking for favors from the government that McDonnell led.  But maybe that’s because the family, in general, and McDonnell, in particular, didn’t think anyone would notice. 

Under Virginia law, it was up to McDonnell — and McDonnell, alone — to make public the goodies that he and his family harvested from Williams.  Two features of the ethics statutes allowed him to obscure, if not conceal, the gifts and sweetheart loans: First, the law relies on the official to police himself or herself. Second, that allows the official to determine whether a benefactor is a relative or personal friend. Gifts from either do not have to be disclosed.

Are not their [the McDonnell children] appeals to Spencer, while emotionally moving and emblematic of a deep devotion to their father, somewhat diminished by a troubling fact? They were a party to this tawdry enterprise.

Cailin’s 2011 wedding at the Executive Mansion was paid for, in part, with $15,000 from Williams. Daughter Jeanine and her husband took $10,000 from Williams as a wedding present, only returning it — as Jeanine testified in a scripted utterance at her parents’ trial — “after we realized he was a criminal.”

Sons Sean and Bobby were given golf clubs, a bag and shoes by Williams as well as occasional privileges at his exclusive country club outside Richmond. The twins, both of whom have had dust-ups with police over their after-hours conduct, resisted pressure from their father to return the equipment. They dismissed his concerns that it was inappropriate for them to accept it.
The "conservatives" in the Virginia GOP disparage gays and many others as "sinners" and "immoral."  Perhaps they need to take a good look at themselves in the mirror.  They are modern day Pharisees who daily exhibit behavior that makes the case for walking away from Christianity.

Republican Are Already Doing Damage Control

Republicans will not take control of Congress until later next month but find themselves frantically doing damage control in the wake of the admission the House majority whip, Steve Scalise spoke at a Neo-nazi, white supremacy convention, and the resignation of Michael Grimm, a New York member of Congress convicted of felony tax evasion.  Scalise's excuse that he did not know the nature of the group he addressed defies belief and, if true, indicates that the man is too stupid to be in Congress much less majority whip.  As for Grimm, his conduct is all to familiar to Virginians who await the sentencing of former Governor Bob McDonnell.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's damage control efforts - Note Boehner has not pushed Scalise to resign, apparently out of fear of alienating the white supremacist base in the GOP.  Here are highlights:
Republican leaders moved forcefully on Tuesday to control the damage from a pair of scandals that have suddenly disrupted the party as it prepares to take full control on Capitol Hill.

In back-to-back moves, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) pushed out Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.), who pleaded guilty last week to federal tax-evasion charges, and backed Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who acknowledged that he once ­addressed a white-supremacist group before coming to Congress.

Some Republicans praised Boehner for his actions, expressing their eagerness to start the new Congress in a position of strength to fully exploit their gains in the midterm elections. But others worried about the potential political fallout from a fresh racial controversy for a party eager to show its broadening appeal to minorities ahead of the 2016 presidential election. 

John Weaver, a GOP consultant who advised the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said in an e-mail that Scalise “cannot serve in leadership in our party as we’re in the process of trying to show the American people we can handle the burden of governing, especially in a country so divided across all demographic lines.”

The twin controversies could also derail the carefully laid plans of Boehner and the incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to shape the party’s message and Washington’s political agenda in the coming weeks. . . . . A controversy involving race could complicate Republican bargaining power.

In a flurry of phone calls late Monday into Tuesday, Scalise reassured his colleagues that he had been oblivious to the racist and anti-Semitic associations of the group when he addressed it in 2002 as a state legislator.

Grimm’s announcement that he will resign next Monday ended months of controversy for the lawmaker, a former FBI agent once considered a star GOP recruit. He left the powerful House Financial Services Committee in the spring after federal prosecutors unveiled a 20-count indictment, but he refused to resign and won reelection for a third term in November despite his troubles.

[C]onservative activists and more mainstream operatives were fretting about the Scalise controversy’s implications for the party’s image.

“It’s always a step forward and two or three steps backward with this kind of stuff. We’ve got to get beyond that,” said Michael Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor and past chairman of the Republican National Committee.  One of his party’s most prominent black members, Steele suggested that Scalise might have to relinquish his leadership position . . . .

“How Do You Show Up at a David Duke Event and Not Know What It Is?” Erick Erickson, a widely followed radio talk-show host and conservative blogger, said in a Twitter message. 

Sadly, the GOP has become a party of racists and extremists - a trend that has intensified since the Christofascists were allowed to hijack much of the party base and grassroots.  I continue to wonder when the party's racism will be made official with KKK robes handed out at the beginning of every local city and county committee.   

2 Year Old Kills Concealed Weapons Carrying Mother

The idiocy - at least in my view - of the nation's gun laws continues despite the increased frequency of mass shootings and statistics that show that having a gun in the home increases the likelihood of gun deaths within the home.  Sadly, the NRA and idiots in the public that drink the gun manufacturers' Kool-Aid continue to bar sane and rational gun control laws and a reduction of huge number of weapons held by private citizens.  A story out of Idaho illustrates how having a gun (no doubt for "protection") can end one's life rather than save it.  Here are details from MSN News on the accidental shooting of a woman with a concealed hand gun by her two-year old child:

A 29-year-old woman described as a "beautiful, young, loving mother" was fatally shot by her 2-year-old son at a northern Idaho Wal-Mart in what authorities called a tragic accident.

The little boy reached into Veronica J. Rutledge's purse and her concealed gun fired, Kootenai County sheriff's spokesman Stu Miller said. The woman was shopping Tuesday with her son and three other children, Miller said.

The woman had a concealed weapons permit. Miller said the young boy was left in a shopping cart, reached into his mother's purse and grabbed a small-caliber handgun, which discharged one time.  Deputies who responded to the Wal-Mart found Rutledge dead, the sheriff's office said.

Hayden is a politically conservative town of about 9,000 people just north of Coeur d'Alene, in Idaho's northern panhandle.

There do not appear to be reliable national statistics about the number of accidental fatalities involving children handling guns.

In neighboring Washington state, a 3-year-old boy was seriously injured in November when he accidentally shot himself in the face in a home in Lake Stevens, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

In April, a 2-year-old boy apparently shot and killed his 11-year-old sister while they and their siblings played with a gun inside a Philadelphia home. Authorities said the gun was believed to have been brought into the home by the mother's boyfriend.

Idaho lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year allowing concealed weapons on the state's public college and university campuses.
I don't mean to sound heartless, but from the news reports, seemingly, Rutledge was intelligent and not some white trash redneck, yet she apparently believed the lies and propaganda of the gun lobby - it cost her her life.  We need serious gun control and a huge reduction in the number of  guns in the hands of those obviously not responsible enough to have them in their possession.  The NRA claims another life. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Frank Schaeffer - Confessions and Warnings of a One-Time Religious Right Icon

I've written about Frank Schaeffer before. His father was a famous founder of the Christofascist forces that have infected America and the base of the GOP.  Frank Schaeffer has a piece in Salon where he laments his past work with his father and what conservative Christians have done and continue to try to do to America and society. The most important part of his message is what the Christofascist controlled Republican Party still seeks to do.  Here are excerpts:
[T]the American right is not about politics as most people understand it but about religious absolutes. As the New York Times noted on the single-minded desire to subvert President Obama’s overhaul of the broken immigration system, “And in their most audacious plans, Tea Party groups are preparing to recruit challengers to run against high-profile Republicans they accuse of betraying them — as they did when they toppled Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader.”

This zealous negativity has a long history. I was part of it as the nepotistic sidekick to my religious-right evangelist father. The 1970s Evangelical anti-abortion movement that Dad (Evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer), C. Everett Koop (who would be Ronald Reagan’s surgeon general) and I helped create seduced the Republican Party. We turned it into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built.

The difference between now and then is that back then we were religious fanatics knocking on the doors of normal political leaders. Today the fanatics are the political leaders.

You can’t understand why the GOP was so successful in winning back both houses of congress in 2014, and wrecking most of what Obama has tried to do, unless you understand what we did back then.

[The] strategy was simple: Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, “we” would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights. They have a majority on the Court to back them up.

No one seemed to notice (or mind) that the Republicans weren’t really doing anything about abortion other than talking about it to voters. And by the mid- to late 1980s the cause shifted: We Evangelicals paid lip-service to “stopping abortion,” but the real issue was keeping Republicans in power and keeping evangelical leaders in the ego-stroking loop of having access to power.

Fast-forward 30 years to the early 21st century: The messengers, leaders and day-to-day “issues” changed. For instance, we were into taking away a woman’s right to choose. Today it’s about gay bashing and denying climate change — and now the nakedly racist anti-immigrant movement threat is part of the reaction to the black man in the White House.

Mark my words, the subtext to the GOP assault on us in 2016 will be religious extremism — again. And now it has a racist twist. Look at the right’s reaction to the events in Ferguson. Look at the continuing anti-Obama ugliness far past mere political difference. For the Republicans the next election won’t be about politics. it will be a holy war — again.

Transgender Teenager Leaves Suicide Note Blaming her Christian Parents for Her Death

I am on record as calling LGBT youth being raised by Christian fundamentalist parents a form of child abuse.  The heartbreaking suicide of 17 year old Leelah Alcorn over the weekend underscores this reality.   Leelah, who born male in a moving suicide note blamed her Christian parents for her decision to end her tortured life.  Rather than accept her or get her the legitimate therapy she needed, her parents forced her to see "Christian therapists" who shamed her and relied on the supposed teachings of the Bible, that book responsible for so much bloodshed and misery over the centuries, to try to force her to reject what she knew was her true self.  In my view, her parents (and the "Christian therapists") should be indicted, tried and convicted of felony child abuse.  Leelah's sad story underscores why "ex-gay" therapy needs to be banned nationwide and quacks parading as "Christian therapists" need to be put out of business. The Daily Mail looks at this sad story.  Here are excerpts:
A transgender teenager who committed suicide by walking in front of a tractor trailer in Ohio left a heartbreaking letter in which she blamed her religious parents.

Leelah Alcorn, 17, died in the early hours of Sunday on highway I-71 in Warren County, Ohio, a few miles from her family home.

The high school student left a poignant suicide note accusing her devout Christian parents of refusing to acknowledge her gender and forbidding her from transitioning.
The suicide note was posted on Leelah's tumblr account through scheduled publishing just a few hours after her death.

The note begins: 'If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.' 

Leelah goes on to reveal that her parents refused to allow her to transition and instead took her to 'Christian therapists' who told her that she was 'selfish and wrong'. 

'I formed a sort of a “f*** you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. 

'Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. 

'They wanted me to be their perfect little straight Christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.'

'On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.'

Leelah then adds: 'I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself.  
It's telling to me that Leelah'sparents said that she was "selfish."  If anyone was selfish, it was her parents who in all likelihood were more worried about what people would think of them than the welfare of their child.  If there is a Hell, her parents deserve to burn in it for eternity.   Here are excerpts for her suicide note: 
If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.
Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.
I cannot know what it feels like to be transgender, but it has to be far worse than being gay in a homophobic society. With two serious suicide attempts in my past, I can understand how Leelah came to the point where suicide seemed the best solution.  She wanted the pain and misery to stop and not much beyond that.  As for her parents, I hope they come to realize they murdered their child.  As for other "godly Christian" parents who reject their LGBT children, they have only my utter contempt.  I hope with time society as a whole will come to treat them with contempt and derision and make them social outcasts.  They deserve such treatment.


Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

The Pope and American Catholics See Climate Change as a Crisis

In yet another bad sign for the ignorance embracing Republican Party, the Pope is preparing to release an encyclical—or "papal letter"—that will be sent to churches worldwide which calls for call for action on climate change.  Surveys show that a majority of American Catholics agree with the Pope's assessment of the crisis. No doubt Fox News, GOP Senator James Inhofe, and American fundamentalist Christians will describe all of this as part of an international conspiracy to further the climate change "hoax" as they call it.  Mother Jones looks at the Pope's planned action and Catholic support for it.  Here are excerpts:

Pope Francis, the leader the Catholic Church, is closing out 2014 in his typically headline-grabbing fashion. . . . Next on his list? Climate change.

Over the weekend, the Guardian reported that the pope will issue the first-ever comprehensive set of Vatican teachings on climate change, in the form of an encyclical—or "papal letter"—sent to churches worldwide. He will also personally lobby for climate action action in a series of high profile meetings ahead of the all-important UN global warming negotiations in Paris next year. From the Guardian:
Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated…by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world's 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners. According to Vatican insiders, Francis will meet other faith leaders and lobby politicians at the general assembly in New York in September, when countries will sign up to new anti-poverty and environmental goals.
Mobilizing believers to embrace climate action could be a very big deal, given the sheer number of people who identify as Catholic in the US—around 75 million—he said. "If we had just a fraction of those acting on climate change, it would be bigger than the networks of some of the biggest environmental groups in the US," he said. "That could help change the way we live our lives, and impact our views on public policy."

The impact would be felt beyond Catholicism too, said Mary Evelyn Tucker, director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University. She called the forthcoming letter "one of the most important documents on the moral implications of what we are doing to our planet." 

[W]ould America's Catholics welcome climate advocacy from the pope? Recent polling by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion suggests that many would.
** Nearly three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics surveyed agree that climate change constitutes a "crisis" or a "major problem." The same is true for a majority (53 percent) of white Catholic respondents.

** Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of Catholics surveyed said climate change is the "most pressing" environmental issue we face.

** Majorities of all groups surveyed—including 69 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 63 percent of white Catholics—agree that dealing with global warming now will help prevent economic calamities in the future.

Major Corporations Back Gay Marriage in Florida

As Anita Bryant want to be Pam Bondi, the GOP Attorney General of Florida, continues to try to throw road blocks and delays in front of court rulings striking down that Florida's ban on same sex marriage (all to prostitute herself to the "godly folk"), a who's who of the corporate world have filed an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit asking that court to end the fight against gay equality and strike down the Florida ban.  Amazon, Bloomberg, CBS, and General Electric are among the dozens of companies that signed the brief which can be viewed here.  Among other things, the corporations argue as follows:

“State laws and constitutions denying marriage to gay and lesbian citizens are bad for our businesses,” . . . . .  “Amici are forced to bear unnecessary costs, complexity, and risk in managing our companies, and we are hampered in our efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible—all of which places us at a competitive disadvantage.”
“Our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees, without distinction.
The burden—imposed by state law—of having to administer complicated schemes designed to account for differential treatment of similarly situated employees interferes with our business and creates unnecessary confusion, tension, and ultimately, diminished employee morale. We write to advise the Court of the impact on employers of the disparate treatment mandated by states that refuse to permit or recognize marriages between same-sex couples.”
We, and many of our peers, recognize that diversity is crucial to innovation and marketplace success. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) community are one source of that diversity.   An April 2013 Small Business Majority survey reported that sixty-nine percent of small  business owners support non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT workers. As of 2014, ninety-one percent of Fortune 500 companies provide non-discrimination  protection for their LGBT employees, . . .
Republicans claim to be "pro-business" but ignore the calls of big business preferring to whore them selves to the religious extremist who with overt racist now control the party's base.

Bad News for the GOP: The Rise of Mixed Race Families

Two of the pillars of today's Republican Party are overt racism against non-whites and religious extremism even as mixed race families are increasing rapidly and more and more Americans join the "None" category with no religious affiliation.  The long term implications, when added to the growing minority population, are a slow political suicide.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the rise of mixed race families and children which make overt racism increasingly toxic with the larger public outside of the shrinking and delusional GOP base.  Here are excerpts:

[T]he number of interracial married couples reached an all-time high in 2012, three years after President Obama took office, jumping from 7 percent in 2000 to 18 percent. Those numbers don’t include those who are dating or cohabitating, an indication that the number of interracial couples is actually higher, as American marriage rates are at an all-time low.

And while a majority of Americans may not be in interracial relationships, a large number of Americans are now either related to someone or know someone who is in one or has been in one. Furthermore, mixed race children are the fastest growing population in the country. Someone who once may have been less evolved on race relations could very well now have a grandchild, niece, nephew, or godchild who is of mixed race, which will likely spark an evolution of some sort. That evolution can be seen in Gallup’s tracking of national attitudes on interracial relationships. In 1958 4 percent of Americans approved of such couples. By 1997 half of Americans approved, and by 2012 the number was 87 percent, a steady year-to-year increase in the years since the Obama presidency began.

[H]ighlighting the new America doesn’t generate the clicks or the TV ratings that highlighting people spewing angry, racially charged rhetoric does. So the story has become “America is divided by race,” and though that doesn’t represent most Americans’ day-to-day experiences, some of us are buying into the media’s toxic narrative. . . . . here’s a piece of advice: Turn your TV off.
The evolution of gay rights suggest that familiarity is the wooden stake for intolerance.  As interracial families grow in numbers - both the husband and I have relatives in mixed race marriages - acceptance and an unwillingness to listen to racist political dog whistle signals will drop.  Has anyone in the GOP thought through the long term implications?  It seems the answer is no as white supremacists' role in the GOP grows.  Just look at the new House majority whip if you don't believe this point. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

More Monday Male Beauty

GOP’s New House Majority Attended White Supremacist Convention

Try as it might to pretend that it is not the party of choice of white supremacists and flaming racists, the Republican Party just cannot escape the reality of the actions and affiliations of its members and elected officials.   A case in point? Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the newly elected House of Representatives majority whip, who has belatedly admitted that he attended and spoke at a white supremacist convention some years back.   Scalise's defense/excuse? Ignorance - he did not know what the group was all about even though press coverage makes that hard to believe.  Also, is Scalise so stupid that he hasn't heard of the term "Google search"?  One has to wonder whether Scalise thought he could keep this information hidden from view or if he merely thinks voters are too stupid to check out his past.  The Washington Post looks at Scalise's admission which ought to give minority voters of all races pause.  Here are highlights:
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the newly elected House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering hosted by white nationalist leaders while serving as a state representative in 2002, thrusting a racial controversy into House Republican ranks days before the party assumes control of both congressional chambers.

The 48-year-old Scalise, who ascended to the House GOP’s third-ranking post earlier this year, confirmed through an adviser that he once appeared at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization.

That organization, founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In a statement, Scalise’s spokesperson Moira Bagley emphasized that the then-state lawmaker was unaware at the time of the group’s ideology and its association with racists and neo-Nazi activists.

Scalise’s political circle worked furiously late Monday to quell the storm, with his confidants e-mailing reporters and House members, assuring them that Scalise did not know the implications of his actions in 2002, and described him as a disorganized and ill-prepared young politician who didn’t pay close attention to invitations.

Scalise’s defense — that he was not fully cognizant of the group’s leanings and the nature of the meeting — contrasts with the local press coverage generated by the Duke-coordinated conclave that spring.

The Gambit Weekly, an alternative publication in New Orleans, wrote days before the conference that the hotel distanced itself from Duke’s group and expressed its discomfort.

Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour (R), said in an interview Monday that Duke’s views are “awful and indefensible and wrong,” but declined to comment on Scalise’s situation.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), a rising star in the Democratic Party considered among the most prominent Hispanics in Congress, said that if the incident is true, it “raises serious questions about the judgment of an elected official who would eagerly agree to join a group like that for an event.”

“It’s hard to believe, given David Duke’s reputation in Louisiana, that somebody in politics in Louisiana wasn’t aware of Duke’s associations with the group and what they stand for,” Castro said in a phone interview. “If that’s the case and he agreed to join them for their event, then I think it’s a real test for Speaker Boehner as to whether Congressman Scalise should remain in Republican leadership.” 
Me thinks Scalise is both a racist and a liar -traits all too prevalent in today's GOP.

Jeb Bush Moves to 2016 GOP Frontrunner

Based on a new CNN/ORC poll, it doesn't take much to be frontrunner for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination.  The poll which followed a similar poll last month placed Jeb Bush in the lead with a meager 23% of respondents naming him their choice for 2016.  Meanwhile between them, the utterly delusional Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum had support of 15% of the respondents.  Here are highlights from CNN:

Jeb Bush is the clear Republican presidential frontrunner, surging to the front of the potential GOP pack following his announcement that he's "actively exploring" a bid, a new CNN/ORC poll found.

He takes nearly one-quarter — 23% — of Republicans surveyed in the new nationwide poll, putting him 10 points ahead of his closest competitor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who tallied 13%.

Ben Carson comes in third, with 7% support, and Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are both tied for fourth with 6%. That marks a drop in support for all but Christie and Bush from the last CNN/ORC survey of the field, conducted in November.

GOP primary voters are about evenly split on whether his support for allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the United States makes them more or less likely to support him, or has no difference on their opinion of him.  Forty-two percent say his description of illegal immigration as an "act of love" make them less likely to support Bush, but another 39% say it makes no difference to them.

Out of all of the seven head-to-head GOP match-ups with Clinton tested, Bush fares the best, trailing her by just 13 points. She takes 54% support to his 41% support.

The Bible: Myth or Revisionist Propaganda?

I'm a frequent critic of Christofascists, biblical literalists and the politicians who prostitute themselves to them.  Some readers - and some friends - say I am too harsh, especially when I comment on articles that question, gasp, the horror, whether or not Christ even existed.  A piece in Newsweek has prompted outraged among the "godly folk" by taking a good look at the truth about the Bible and its sketchy origins.  While they mutter about sacrilege, attacks on Christians, the real unspoken issue may be that these folks have possible lived their lives based on myth and/or revisionist lies.  The take away, for me, is that no serious minded person should take the supposed claims of the Bible very seriously and that those who do deserve little of no deference. Here are some highlights from the piece which deserves a full read:
They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

This is no longer a matter of personal or private faith. With politicians, social leaders and even some clergy invoking a book they seem to have never read and whose phrases they don’t understand, America is being besieged by Biblical illiteracy. 

The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established.  

The Barna Group, a Christian polling firm, found in 2012 that evangelicals accepted the attitudes and beliefs of the Pharisees—religious leaders depicted throughout the New Testament as opposing Christ and his message—more than they accepted the teachings of Jesus.

Newsweek’s exploration here of the Bible’s history and meaning is not intended to advance a particular theology or debate the existence of God. Rather, it is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others.   When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists.

This examination—based in large part on the works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries—is a review of the Bible’s history and a recounting of its words.

At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times. About 400 years passed between the writing of the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament.  . . . . The first books of the Old Testament were written 1,000 years before that. In other words, some 1,500 years passed between the day the first biblical author put stick to clay and when the books that would become the New Testament were chosen.

[I]n the past 100 years or so, tens of thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament have been discovered, dating back centuries. And what biblical scholars now know is that later versions of the books differ significantly from earlier ones—in fact, even copies from the same time periods differ from each other.

Scribes added whole sections of the New Testament, and removed words and sentences that contradicted emerging orthodox beliefs.  Take one of the most famous tales from the New Testament, which starts in John 7:53. A group of Pharisees and others bring a woman caught committing adultery to Jesus. Under Mosaic Law—the laws of Moses handed down in the Old Testament—she must be stoned to death. The Pharisees ask Jesus whether the woman should be released or killed . . . . .

Unfortunately, John didn’t write it. Scribes made it up sometime in the Middle Ages. It does not appear in any of the three other Gospels or in any of the early Greek versions of John. Even if the Gospel of John is an infallible telling of the history of Jesus’s ministry, the event simply never happened.

[T]he earliest versions of Mark stop at 16:8.  . . . . .  The 12 verses that follow in modern Bibles—Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples and then ascending to Heaven—are not there. A significant moment that would be hard to forget, one would think.

The same is true for other critical portions of the Bible, such as 1 John 5:7 (“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one”); Luke 22:20 (“Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you”); and Luke 24:51 (“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven”).  

Then comes the problem of accurate translation. Many words in New Testament Greek don’t have clear English equivalents. Sentence structure, idioms, stylistic differences—all of these are challenges when converting versions of the New Testament books into English. And this can’t be solved with a Berlitz course: Koiné is ancient Greek and not spoken anymore. This is why English translations differ, with many having been revised to reflect the views and guesses of the modern translators. . . . . In other words, religious convictions determined translation choices.

In other words, with a little translational trickery, a fundamental tenet of Christianity—that Jesus is God—was reinforced in the Bible, even in places where it directly contradicts the rest of the verse.

[W]here does the clear declaration of God and Jesus as part of a triumvirate appear in the Greek manuscripts?  Nowhere. And in that deception lies a story of mass killings.

Christians are believed to have massacred more followers of Jesus than any other group or nation.  Those who believed in the Trinity butchered Christians who didn’t. Groups who believed Jesus was two entities—God and man—killed those who thought Jesus was merely flesh and blood.  . . . .  Indeed, for hundreds of years after the death of Jesus, groups adopted radically conflicting writings about the details of his life and the meaning of his ministry, and murdered those who disagreed.

At Nicaea, rules were adopted regarding the proper positions for prayer on Sundays—standing, not kneeling; nothing was said of the Jewish Sabbath or Saturday. Many theologians and Christian historians believe that it was at this moment, to satisfy Constantine and his commitment to his empire’s many sun worshippers, that the Holy Sabbath was moved by one day, contradicting the clear words of what ultimately became the Bible.  . . . . .  Constantine sided with those who believed Jesus was both God and man, so a statement of belief, called the Nicene Creed, was composed to proclaim that. Those who refused to sign the statement were banished. Others were slaughtered. After they had returned home and were far from Rome, some who signed the document later sent letters to Constantine saying they had only done so out of fear for their lives. 

About 50 years later, in A.D. 381, the Romans held another meeting, this time in Constantinople. There, a new agreement was reached—Jesus wasn’t two, he was now three—Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The Nicene Creed was rewritten, and those who refused to sign the statement were banished, and another wholesale slaughter began, this time of those who rejected the Trinity, a concept that is nowhere in the original Greek manuscripts and is often contradicted by it.

None of this is meant to demean the Bible, but all of it is fact. Christians angered by these facts should be angry with the Bible, not the messenger.

The declaration in 1 Timothy—as recounted in the Living Bible, the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version Bible and others—could not be more clear: Those who “practice homosexuality” will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the translation there is odd, in part because the word homosexual didn’t even exist until more than 1,800 years after when 1 Timothy was supposed to have been written. So how did it get into the New Testament? Simple: The editors of these modern Bibles just made it up. Like so many translators and scribes before them, they had a religious conviction, something they wanted to say that wasn’t stated clearly enough in the original for their tastes. And so they manipulated sentences to reinforce their convictions.

The original Bible verse in Koiné used ἀρσενοκοῖται for what has been translated as “homosexual.” For the Latin Bible, it was as masculorum concubitores. The King James Version translated that as “them that defile themselves with mankind.” Perhaps that means men who engage in sex with other men, perhaps not.  The next thing to check here is whether 1 Timothy was based on a forgery. And the answer to that is a resounding yes. 
There is more which deserves a full read.  Again, the take away?   Those who believe in the Bible as inerrant or that it is the "word of God" are engaged in either deliberate self-delusion, suffer from shocking ignorance, or merely want to believe in fairy tales and myths.  What's even more sad is that so many lives have been damaged or lost based on supposed belief in a book that isn't much more that frequently manipulated fiction.  Belief in the Bible and its supposed strictures have no place in public policy or the civil laws.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Will 2015 Be the Year for Full Marriage Equality?

On January 9, 2015, the justices of the United States Supreme Court will reportedly consider taking one or more gay marriage ban cases.  This action will follow moves by the court to reject appeals of rulings that have struck down state marriage bans, thus suggesting the Court may be preparing to make marriage equality nationwide.  Indeed, in several petitions for extending stays, only two justice - the insane Scalia and cretinous Thomas - have supported granting such petitions.  A column in Huffington Post makes the case of why the Court needs to rule and strike down all state bans once and for all.  Here are excerpts:

The Supreme Court will decide shortly whether to review and decide a marriage equality case before its current term ends in June. Many are praying for this, eager to wrap up an issue long past the tipping point that folks are sick of discussing. 

But there is a more important reason the Court should act now: to halt the severe harm that continuing denial of the freedom to marry inflicts every day on countless same-sex couples, their children, and their extended families and friends. It matters whether this harm ends in June 2015 or lingers into the future.

The long-building national consensus for marriage equality reached critical mass after the Supreme Court's 2013 Windsor decision held it unconstitutional for the federal government to refuse to recognize the lawful marriages of same-sex couples. A flood of state and federal court decisions over the last eighteen months has applied Windsor to invalidate the marriage bans of the majority of states. 

The Court's denial of review delayed the nationwide elimination of discrimination and its harms -- but it also made all those favorable decisions final, allowing marriages to go forward in five more states (up from 19) and setting off a ripple effect that has now brought the freedom to marry to thirty-five states (with Florida coming on line in a few days as number 36), plus four with pro-equality rulings on appeal. In comparison, only thirty-four states permitted interracial couples to marry when Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967. 

[A] handful of courts have gone the other way -- most significantly, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in one fell swoop in November reversed pro-equality rulings in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Marriage rights advocates are now asking the Supreme Court to review this decision and one issued by a federal district judge in Louisiana upholding that state's marriage ban. Their chances are good, because the Sixth Circuit created a classic "circuit split," though it is still possible the Court will opt to let litigation play out first in the remaining states. 

In the 15 states without the freedom to marry, families suffer concrete harm every day, deprived of literally hundreds of government benefits and protections as well as private benefits awarded based on marital status. 

Exclusion from marriage also inflicts severe dignitary injury -- the impact of being treated as second-class citizens with second class relationships. These injuries can be quite tangible, particularly the psychological harm to children of being told by society that their families are less real and worthy of respect than those of different-sex parents.

Even couples deemed married in their home states are harmed by continuing marriage discrimination in other states. Every time they travel to a non-recognition state they risk being treated as unmarried in the event of a medical or other emergency.

There is simply no good reason to inflict these risks and harms on American families for another day, much less another year. The country is ready for full recognition of the freedom to marry. Let's hope the Supreme Court is as well.
 Personally, the husband and I avoid non-marriage states and hope the issue in Florida is finally resolved before we decide whether or not to go to Key West this year.  As for the harm being done, there is no reason for it other than the desire of fat cows like Maggie Gallagher and Cardinal "Porky Pig" Dolan to feel smug and self-satisfied with themselves.