Saturday, July 05, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Refusing Sanctuary to Children in Need


Throughout its history, America has done some very horrific things ranging from what equates to the genocide of Native Americans, stealing Hawaii by overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy, retaining slavery decades after many European nations banned it, to mistreatment of the unfortunate.  Today, we are seeing the ugliest aspects of America along our southern boarders where "real Americans" - many who hypocritically claim to be Christians - are demonstrating and engaging in hateful behavior rather than allow children from Central America into this country.   If you want to know why I hold conservative Christians/Tea Party folks in such open contempt, just watch their behavior in parts of California, Texas and Arizona.  It is particularly telling that it is us agnostics, atheist and deists - liberals if you will who are upset by the horrible behavior of our fellow Americans.  A piece in the Dallas Morning News looks at the disgraceful behavior of these foul individuals.  Here are highlights:

Exactly 75 years and one month ago the St. Louis, a German trans-Atlantic liner carrying 938 Jewish refugees, was turned away from the United States, forced to return to Europe. U.S. law didn’t allow them sanctuary.

Today we are preparing to send 45,000 children back to Central American countries controlled by drug cartels that routinely torture, rape and kill children who refuse to work for them. So routinely, so often are children menaced that their families sent them away, alone, across thousands of miles on just the slimmest of hopes that they might be safe.

U.S. law doesn’t allow them sanctuary.

The St. Louis is famous now as a failure of compassion that haunts American history. It is so easy to imagine the despair of those passengers, forced to return to countries that would soon be overrun by the Nazis. It is difficult to imagine an America that would be so cruel and insensible to the terror of others. President Franklin Roosevelt is still held accountable for his failure to respond.

And now we have President Barack Obama promising to send the children back. We have an America demanding that he do so, and in fact, blaming his administration for not securing the borders more tightly so that those desperate Central American families would have had no hope at all that their children might find sanctuary.

There are differences, of course, between these children and Jews on the St. Louis.

These children didn’t arrive on an ocean liner. They walked through some of the most hostile, hot, barren, dangerous country in the world. No one knows how many died. Their parents weren’t with them. They were sent by poor families so terrified for their safety that they paid many thousands of dollars and entrusted their children to criminals hoping they might arrive in America and be safe.

We have heard their stories now. Stories of children who are publicly stripped naked and gang raped by drug syndicates. Stories of children maimed. Stories of children murdered.

Hearing how callous the world was to the suffering of Europe’s Jews, we are baffled. We wonder how that slaughter could have been allowed to happen. We wonder why countries closed their borders.

I don’t wonder anymore. I’ve listened to the politicians, read the editorials and heard the voices of American citizens demanding that terrified children be sent back into harm’s way.

Our hearts are not touched by these children. We want the law enforced. This is our country. Ours. And we don’t have to share it. Not now. Not 75 years ago.

We haven’t changed at all.

Why? It’s simple, really. A matter of us and them. Yes, these are children whom we’ll send back to be raped, maimed and killed. But they aren’t our children. Our children are precious.

If there is a Hell, I suspect that the largest numbers of those there will be the falsely pious "godly folk," the fundamentalist preachers, the bitter Catholic clergy and, of course, countless members of the Tea Party and members of falsely named "family values" organizations that market hate and bigotry against others. 


Destroying the Right's "Christian Nation" Myth





Fourth of July weekend is a good time to remember the driving principles of the Founding Fathers that launched the United States as the world's first democratic, secular nation.  And those principles - despite the efforts of the Christofascists and Dominionists to claim otherwise - had little to do with Christian dogma.  Indeed, leading Founding Fathers were widely seen as "infidels" and "heretics" by the professional Christian classes of their day.  Sometimes described as deists, the roots of their principles often derived from pagan Greek and Roman philosophers.  On the celebration of America's founding, it is important to remember this truth and not be duped by the lies  of the "godly folk".  A new book, "Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic," looks at the true principles of the founders which would horrify today's bellowing Baptist preachers and Tea Party crowd.  Here are excerpts from a review in the Los Angeles Times:

Matthew Stewart wants to make one thing perfectly clear: The United States was not founded as a Christian nation. The principles that inspired the American Revolution, he argues in "Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic," belong to an intellectual tradition dating to ancient Greece and reviled by every variety of Christian — early church fathers, Catholic clergy and Protestant divines alike.

[T]his tradition flowered in the 17th century to produce wide-ranging inquiries into the nature of God, humanity, religion and society that got Benedict de Spinoza labeled "the atheist Jew." Meanwhile, the more circumspect John Locke (careful to mask his iconoclasm with boilerplate declarations of conventional piety) ended up praised by historians as "the single greatest intellectual influence on America's revolutionaries."

Yet Spinoza the radical, no less than Locke the moderate, shaped an agnostic world view that shook America loose from Britain.

Contemporaries called them deists when not calling them infidels or atheists, and Stewart devotes considerable care to explaining that Deism, the philosophical engine of the Revolution, is not the Christianity Lite some 21st century conservatives have proclaimed it.

"America's revolutionary deists," Stewart writes, "saw themselves as — and they were — participants in an international movement that drew on most of the same literary sources across the civilized world." His detailed explication of those sources ranges from Epicurus and his Roman popularizer, Lucretius, through early modern Italian freethinkers Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini (both executed at the stake for their apostasy) to the diverse array of English and French intellectuals reacting to Spinoza and Locke.

"Jefferson's vision for the future of American religion … featured nothing but Unitarian churches from sea to shining sea."

His main point is serious. The tradition the deists honored was opposed to the religious doctrines of their day, and they knew it. Epicurus asserted that nature operates according to laws that can be discovered and defined. As Copernicus and Galileo learned, discovering natural laws that contradicted Catholic dogma was a risky business, and Protestant sects were equally insistent on divine judgment as exempt from explanation.

Jefferson was one of many deists appalled by the Calvinist God, doling out salvation and damnation in a manner human beings must accept but could not understand. In place of this punitive figure, deists proposed "Nature's God ... a God of publicly promulgated laws, not of private and inscrutable acts." For them, Stewart states, "belief [was] a matter of evidence, not choice." When American deists applied that concept to the civil sphere, they found contemporary political systems as unsatisfactory as revealed religion.

Stewart spells out the present-day implications of all this in his closing chapter, "The Religion of Freedom." The government created by our deist Founding Fathers does of course protect religious belief, he writes, "but only insofar as that belief is understood to be intrinsically private. It does not and ought not tolerate any form of religion that attempts to hold the power of the sovereign answerable to its private religious belief."

It's become a conservative commonplace to argue that the Constitution establishes freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, but Stewart's eloquently argued book makes a strong case that freedom from religion is precisely what America's founders had in mind.
The next time you hear some professional Christian huckster ranting that America is a Christian nation, remember the truth and don't hesitate to call the lying ignoramus out for peddling untruths.  They deserve no deference and certainly no special rights whatsoever.  Also remember that ignorance and religious belief are a choice - unlike one's race, national origin or sexual orientation. 


America - the Land of Divisions


Throughout history religion has been a great divider.  After perhaps disease and famine, religion has claimed more lives through wars of religion and persecution of those of different faiths than any other force.  Yet, bizarrely, religion is given deference and special rights despite its historic toxicity.  Now, with Christofascists demanding exemptions from the laws that govern everyone else and embracing ignorance and opposing school curriculum  that teach science and a policies to confront climate change, is America poised to be divided between secular citizens and "religious" citizens?  That's the premise of a piece in Slate.  The article also looks at other causes for division many of which demonstrate the need for policies actively opposed by Republicans and their "real American" base. Here are highlights:
[F]or me, at least, Independence Day is also an opportunity for reflection on who we are as a nation and where we’re headed. I’ll admit that I’m worried.

Earlier this week, Belgium eliminated the United States from the World Cup. But consider that there is a decent chance that Belgium might not exist by the time the next World Cup rolls around, because of the bitter divide between its Flemish speakers and its French speakers. I say this with a heavy heart. Yes, Belgium. Congratulations on scoring your goals. Now enjoy the dustbin of history as your nation is torn apart by deep-seated ethnopolitical resentment. Meanwhile, the United States, a sprawling and spectacularly diverse continental republic with a heavily armed and famously irascible population more than 28 times that of Belgium, will almost certainly be around come 2018 . . .

[W]e Americans should not rest on our laurels. America is big, awesome, and beautiful. We’re also divided in ways we can’t afford to ignore.

Could America break apart along religious lines, with devout Christians going one way and the rest of us going another? Think of the old “Jesusland” meme—the map of a North America divided between “Jesusland,” the states that backed George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and “the United States of Canada,” consisting of the states that backed John Kerry and Canada that delighted liberals enraged by Bush’s re-election. At least some devout religious believers fear that as the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated grow, and as secular Americans insist on imposing their values on others, the faithful might face persecution. 

But there are other threats to American national unity looming on the horizon. My admittedly unscientific sense is that we are living through a period in which Americans’ sense of solidarity or group cohesiveness is declining. Liberals tend to see this decline in solidarity as a symptom of income and wealth inequality. Conservatives blame it on a rising emphasis on ethnic identity over national identity, or the turn to moral relativism. I see it as a product of the economic and social isolation of huge chunks of our population.

One challenge is a thoughtless immigration policy, which makes it hard for immigrants currently living and working in the United States to find a foothold in American life.

Poverty among naturalized immigrants—that is, those who have become U.S. citizens—is lower than poverty among native-born Americans. Poverty among unauthorized immigrants, however, is extremely, heartbreakingly high, both because it is hard to make a living when you’re living in the shadows, but also because unauthorized immigrants tend to have the lowest skill levels. 

Then there is the intense concentration of poverty, the issue that keeps me up at night. While 14.9 percent of the U.S. population was below the poverty line in 2010, a quarter of all poor Americans lived in neighborhoods with poverty rates above 20 percent. These “poverty areas” are, as a general rule, disconnected from employment opportunities and high-quality educational options, and their inhabitants suffer from disproportionately high rates of violent crime and incarceration. The result is that the legitimacy of American institutions—the criminal justice system in particular, but other institutions as well—is on shaky ground in these parts of the country, as they seem to be rigged against those who live in them.

So as we celebrate the United States, let’s remember the forgotten corners of this country, where the promise of American life has yet to be fulfilled.

Friday, July 04, 2014

4th of July Male Beauty


Supreme Court Broadens Hobby Lobby Ruling - Are Gay Rights Next?


Showing the utter lie of the majority's "narrow" ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the same all male majority expanded that ruling's scope by ordering lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.  As stated before, the thrust of the majority ruling in Hobby Lobby is the granting of special rights to Christofascists and granting one set of religious beliefs above all others.  The ruling is a desecration of the concept of religious freedom set forth in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Mother Jones looks at the out right lie contained in Justice Alito's majority opinion.  A quote at Joe My God lays out how the Christofascist will be gunning for LGBT anti-discrimination laws next.  First these highlights from Mother Jones:
Less than a day after the United States Supreme Court issued its divisive ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it has already begun to toss aside the supposedly narrow interpretation of the decision. On Tuesday, the Supremes ordered lower courts to rehear any cases where companies had sought to deny coverage for any type of contraception, not just the specific types Hobby Lobby was opposed to.

 The science was against Hobby Lobby—these contraceptives do not prevent implantation of a fertilized egg and are not considered abortifacients in the medical world—but the conservative majority bought Hobby Lobby's argument that it should be exempted from the law.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the the 5-4 opinion, used numerous qualifiers in an attempt to limit its scope, but a series of orders released by the court Tuesday contradict any narrow interpretation of the ruling.

The court vacated two decisions by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit—Autocam Corp. v. Burwell and Eden Foods v. Burwell—and commanded the appeals court to rehear the cases in light of the Hobby Lobby decision. In both instances the Sixth Circuit had rejected requests from Catholic-owned businesses that sought to exempt the companies from offering insurance that covered any of the 20 mandated forms of birth control. The Supreme Court also compelled the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reopen a similar case, Gilardi v. Department of Health & Human Services. "With Tuesday's orders," wrote The Nation's ZoĆ« Carpenter, "the conservative majority has effectively endorsed the idea that religious objections to insurance that covers any form of preventative healthcare for women have merit."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg predicted this outcome in her dissent, noting that the logic of Alito's decision went far beyond the limited scope he initially claimed. "The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield," Ginsburg wrote.
What could these rulings mean for LGBT non-discrimination protections?  Matt Foreman makes a frightening prediction via Joe My God:
"Hobby Lobby dramatically escalates the harm that will be caused if President Obama succumbs to growing pressure from religious and anti-gay forces and (with implicit or explicit approval from HRC) puts an ENDA-like religious exemption in the promised Executive Order (EO) to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. While largely under the radar, this is, in fact, a crisis situation.

"Such an exemption would have been bad enough before Hobby Lobby, but the decision makes it even more deadly. The Hobby Lobby majority said the decision shouldn't be read to undermine employment nondiscrimination laws. BUT if the EO contains the ENDA exemption, there's nothing to stop the reasoning in Hobby Lobby from having full force and effect in justifying anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors - pushing the door even more widely open for discrimination against our people for essentially any reason whatsoever.

"The only acceptable religious exemption is the one long-contained in Title VII. Anything else can spell disaster for years to come, including profoundly weakening the impact of future federal nondiscrimination laws and our hopes to secure meaningful civil rights protections in the 29 states that still lack them. There is no moral or political justification for President Obama to cave and endorse LGBT people having less protections from discrimination than other Americans. This issue is not a side show; it is core to our equality."

The Christofascists are a pervasive force of evil that seek to do violence to the rights of others and secure for themselves special privileges shared by no one else.   Their power and influence needs to be destroyed once and for all. They deserve absolutely no special rights.

The Disruptive Force of Equality

At the time that the Declaration of Independence was penned, the concept embodied by the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" were foreign concepts around the entire globe.  Most nations were ruled by monarchies or were colonies of nations ruled by monarchies.  Indeed, it would be another 143 years before most of the European monarchies which were the norm in 1776 were to fall in the aftermath of World War I.   Worse yet, slavery still existed in many parts of the globe, including in America itself.  One might wonder whether or not Thomas Jefferson who slipped the language into the Declaration fully foresaw the power of his selected language or the difficulty which America would encounter in delivering on the lofty concept.  Today's struggle for LGBT equality is but the latest installment on America's journey to live up to the Declaration principles.  A column in the Washington Post looks this difficulty journey which, ironically, is being impeded most by the Christofascists, Tea Party set and today's Republican Party who claim to cherish American ideals.  Here are excepts:
On July 9, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was publicly read to the citizens of New York City — “We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .” — they responded by decapitating an equestrian statue of King George III, cutting off his nose and placing his head on a spike outside a tavern. Metal from the statue was later turned into 42,088 bullets, intended, by one account, “to assimilate with the brains” of the British.

The “glorious cause” split the fledgling country roughly into thirds — patriots, the uncommitted and loyalists (who sometimes were roughly treated). The Civil War was not the first American conflict that divided families. William Franklin, Ben’s illegitimate son, was the last royal governor of New Jersey. His father disinherited him. 

And the ideals of the new nation were immediately rendered hypocritical by the presence of about 600,000 enslaved human beings. The British took full (and appropriate) propaganda advantage. “How is it,” said Samuel Johnson, “that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

Yet one of those slave owners, Thomas Jefferson — bookish, retiring, possessing what John Adams called a “happy talent for composition” — injected a philosophic statement into a protest movement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

America could have declared itself independent from Britain without declaring all men equal. The various “injuries and usurpations” relating to the traditional rights of Englishmen would have been enough. But something more ambitious and universal got planted. 

The seed lay dormant for decades. . . .  While Lincoln had little respect for Jefferson as a political figure, he praised him for “the coolness, forecast and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document an abstract truth . . . and so to embalm it there, that today, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.” 

Because Jefferson inserted an abstract truth into a bloody, fratricidal struggle, Lincoln could claim the mantle of the Founders during a bloodier struggle, essentially refounding the country on the best interpretation of its principles. After a further century of African American suffering, striving and demand, Lyndon Johnson could sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and hand a pen to Martin Luther King Jr. Slowly, awkwardly, America was learning to understand its own language. 

This story justifies a mix of realism and idealism. Our advance toward the ideals of the Declaration has been protracted, violent and often hypocritical. And yet: All men are created equal. The phrase is enough to cause a catch in the throat.

The idea of equality still drives people to amazing, almost irrational, sacrifices. It remains the most disruptive, hopeful force of history: All men are created equal. Just a whisper of the words is enough to cause humble people to sacrifice everything; enough to cause tyrants to fear. 

This is not, in the end, just an American language. Shortly before his death, Jefferson reflected that the Declaration was “pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world.” A difficult delivery, no doubt. But long expected.

The take away?  That it is those who continue to decry immigrants, those who oppose LGBT equality, and those who still hold segregationist beliefs that are the betrayers of America's founding principles, not the targets of their hate and animus.

The GOP and Christofascists Perversion of America's Founding Principles


NOTE:  This is a modified repost of a piece from four years ago which is applicable today as it was when first written:
Many, many newspapers across the nation are carrying the text of the Declaration of Independence as their main editorials. Many will also carrying a number of letters and statements from individuals reverently considered among the Founding Fathers. The irony is that many of the concepts espoused in these writings are rejected daily by the far right GOP base and the Christianists who would rewrite history. The most obvious part of the Declaration of Independence rejected by these self-anointed "patriots" is the following:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
*
These false patriots who claim to revere the founding principles of this nation would have everyone believe that all are created equal so long as they are white, heterosexual, non-Hispanic, non-immigrant, and preferably conservative Christian. Hopefully, those whom these individuals would exclude from equality will be inspired today to redouble their efforts to oppose those who would destroy the founding principles of this nation. While not available online, the Daily Press provides interesting insights with letters written by the Founders. Here is a sampling of highlights:
*
Benjamin Franklin in a speech to the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787: "most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steele, a Protestant, in a dedication tells the Pope that the only difference between our Churches in their opinion of the certainty of their doctrine is, the Church in Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never wrong. . . . I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who still may have objections to it [the proposed Constitution], would with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and make manifest our unanimity, put his hand to this instrument."
*
Thomas Jefferson on funding public education and teaching science on January 6, 1816 in a letter to Charles Yancey: "If the legislature would . . . forever maintain a system of primary or ward schools, and a university where might be taught, in its highest degree, every branch of science . . . . If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
*
George Washington to the United Baptist Churches in Virginia on May 10, 1789: "For you, doubtlessly, remember that I have often expressed my sentiment that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious pinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."
*
Abigail Adams in a letter to John Adams on March 31, 1776: "And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire that you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not out such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. . . . . Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us [women] as the (servants) of your sex; . . ."
It takes little analysis to realize that those who oppose equality for LGBT Americans , look down on blacks and Hispanics with contempt, and who would force all citizens to live in accordance with one set of religious beliefs are the enemies of these founding principles of this nation. We owe a duty to the Founders to never let the likes of the Christianists, the white supremacist, today's Tea Party/Christofascists Republicans and others like them prevail in their effort to subvert the Constitution. Hence why I will always continue to tell the truth about such people and anti-democratic religious denominations even as they continue to lie about us and the true intent of the Founders.
 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty


Two Millenia Later - Not learning from History and Unwinnable Wars

Bust of Alexander the Great
At the risk of beating a dead horse, the history major in me - my degree focused on British, Russian and Ancient History - is about ready to scream as worthless news outlets continue to give Dick "Emperor Palpatine" Cheney platforms from which to attack Barack Obama and spew utter drivel about how "Obama lost Iraq" and other putrid bullshit.  On virtually every issue, Cheney is wrong and one has to wonder why reputable journalists will even give the man the time of day.  Especially when virtually EVERY lesson of history tells us that America was on an unwinnable fools errand in Iraq.  A piece on Oxford Press Blog underscores why Bush/Cheney are little better than brain dead if they cannot grasp that America should never have gone to war in Iraq, throwing away the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (who done count in the minds of the "godly Christians" of the GOP.    Here are some excerpts:

Recent events in Iraq, as the militant group ISIS (or ISIL) strives to establish an Islamic state in the country that threatens to undo everything that western involvement achieved there after 9/11, illustrates well the volatility of the entire region and the interplay of religion and politics. Sunnis who felt cast aside to the periphery of political affairs by the Shiite government are rallying to ISIS. American-trained Iraqi forces (at a cost of several billions of dollars) have proved ineffectual, and who knows if the Iraqi government could fall, and what the country will look like — and be doing — in a year’s or even a matter of months’ time.

For well over a decade we have witnessed Western involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, ostensibly to benefit the wellbeing of the native peoples and in the case of Iraq, to stamp out the exploitive and murderous dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The result was going to be the introduction of democracy for an oppressed nation; the diverse factions and different religious faiths would unite, and ties with the West would thus enter a new (and grateful) phase. But the Iraqi war that Dick Cheney confidently asserted would take only six weeks and certainly not more than six months took far longer than that and cost an inexcusable number of lives. And the strategies to what might be called nation building failed miserably. The last few weeks are proving that. The campaign in Afghanistan likewise hasn’t met its objectives. Taliban influence remains strong and even growing, and as the death count for military and civilian personnel bloodily grew, people realized Afghanistan was the unwinnable war. So the question is inevitable: will Afghanistan go the way of Iraq as well?

There is a lot to be said for the phrase “history repeats itself,” and a lot of lessons to be learned from history. Although analogies have sometimes been made to the earlier and unsuccessful British and Russian involvement in Afghanistan, Alexander the Great’s campaigns in the former Persian Empire and Central Asia over two millennia ago need to be studied more. He was the first western conqueror in the east, and the problems he faced in dealing with a diverse subject population and the strategies he took to what might be called nation building shed light on contemporary events in culturally dissimilar regions of today’s world.

[A]s Alexander [the Great] discovered to his detriment, and as makers of modern strategy know all too well, defeated in battle doesn’t mean conquered. Moreover, he hadn’t anticipated how he was going to rule a large and culturally diverse subject population, whose religious beliefs and social customs weren’t always understood by the invaders and even disregarded. When the last Great King of Persia, Darius III, was murdered, Alexander faced a dilemma: how to rule? There had never been a Macedonian king who was also ruler of Persia before. Alexander had to learn what to do on his feet, without a rulebook or foreign policy experts.

He couldn’t proclaim himself Great King as that would create stiff opposition from his men, who wanted only a traditional Macedonian warrior king. So he opted for a new title, King of Asia, and even a new style of dress, a combination of Macedonian and Persian clothing. In doing so he pleased no one — his men thought he had gone too far and the Persians not enough. Alexander also didn’t grasp — or didn’t bother about — the personal connection between the Zoroastrian God of Light, Ahura Mazda, and the Great Kings, whose right to rule was anchored in that connection. The religious significance of the great Persian palace centers were disregarded by the westerners, who saw them only as seats of power and home to vast treasuries. Then in what is now Afghanistan, Alexander banned the Bactrians’ custom of putting out their elderly and infirm to be eaten alive by dogs kept for this purpose. A barbaric practice to us, for sure, but another instance of high-handedness and imposition of western morality in a foreign land.

It is little wonder that Alexander was always seen as the invader, that his attempts to integrate his various subject peoples into his army and administration failed, and that “conquered” areas such as India and Afghanistan revolted as soon as he left so they could go back to how things used to be. 

Unwinnable wars indeed, then and now. Alexander’s dilemma of West meeting East set a pattern for history. He unashamedly set out to rule a great empire by force, and failed. Today, the West might embroil itself elsewhere to help spread democracy, but those best intentions can fall apart without understanding the peoples with whom you’re dealing. The problems Alexander faced in dealing with a multi-cultural subject population arguably can inform makers of strategy in culturally different regions of today’s world. But at the end of the day politics and religion are so tightly interwoven and misunderstood, and animosity towards the invader, be it Alexander then or the West now, so great, that for anyone from the West to talk of imposing stability and a new order is hubris. Iraq now is proving that, no different from the Persian Empire to outside rule two millennia ago.


Alexander the Great was perhaps one of the greatest generals in all of history - deliciously, he was also gay and a male friend, Hephastion, was the great love of his life -  and compared to Chimperator Bush and Emperor Palpatine Cheney was the consummate diplomat (he married Roxanne and the daughter of the last Persian emperor for diplomatic reasons).   If Alexander could not tame the religious and social infighting and volatility of the region, no one could or can.  As the piece notes, America's delusion that it could do what no one before had done was total hubris - something that seems to plague America too much of the time.  

Bigoted Twins Equate HGTV Show Cancellation to D-Day, Martyrdom and "Braveheart"


I often wonder what type of mind altering drug or head trauma (or form of  mental illness) afflicts the "godly folk" who seem to suffer from a level of self-absorption that one simply does not encounter among normal individuals - or even most high drama queens.  A case in point?   David and Jason Benham who were set to start a reality TV career on HGTV involving house-flipping until word got out that the two were nasty anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-Muslim extremists.  Once the true despicable nature of the evil twins got out, HGTV quickly killed the show.  Ever since the twins have been bleating and whining and playing the martyr card.  The Raw Story looks at the self-absorbed batshitery of the Benham twins.  Here are highlights:

A pair of anti-LGBT twins compared losing their proposed reality TV show to religious martyrdom, the D-Day invasion, and the movie “Braveheart” earlier this month at a religious right gathering.

“We just remember June the 6th, 1944,” said Jason Benham at the Road to Majority conference. “We know what happened at D-Day. We know what happened on Omaha and Utah beach. There’s something about those men that our dad taught us when we were kids, and he said, ‘Boys, don’t you ever run from bullets. You run toward the bullets.’”

HGTV called off its plans last month for a reality series “Flip It Forward” starring the brothers, who have compared same-sex marriage to Nazi Germany and taken part in rallies against LGBT and reproductive rights, after the pair’s views were publicized.
“There are cultural bullets flying, all over today, especially religious liberty, and what’s happening right now is many spiritual leaders, elected leaders, they are running from bullets,” Jason Benham said. “But there’s a remnant of people that are ready to stand and say ‘I’m not running from these bullets any more. I’m going to take this beach.’”

Right Wing Watch reported Friday that the Benhams took part in the June 20 gathering, which was organized by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, and are scheduled to take part in the Values Voters Summit in September.

“Just like in the movie Braveheart, when all the Scottish Army was standing there, and they all had their gear on, and they were lined up and they were unified, and they were ready to fight but not a single one of them wanted to fight,” Jason Benham said. “And then as William Wallace and a few men rode in on horses with blue face paint on. They were ready to pick a fight, and what I see before me right now are a bunch of people with some blue face paint on – so let’s go get it.”

The brothers, who are the sons of anti-abortion activist Flip Benham, have portrayed themselves as victims who were silenced by satanic forces for voicing their Christian beliefs.
In my view, the Benhams are examples of what is wrong with conservative Christianity.  They are all about condemning and hating others and demanding religious freedom only for themselves.  It's small wonder that the under 30 generations are fleeing institutional Christianity.  If there is anything Satanic going on, I'd say its the Benhams and their modern day Pharisee allies.


Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Tea Party/Christian Extremists Block Buses of Undocumented Children


Why do I state "Tea Party/Christian Extremists" in the title to this post?  Because 85% or more of the Tea Party crowd identify themselves as "conservative Christians."  Just as these people have turned the Republican Party into something ugly, so too have they transformed Christianity into something that is increasingly the antithesis of the Gospel message.   The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the protests by the "real Americans" who care nothing about poor and unfortunate children.  These people truly seem unable to see the humanity of others.  Here are highlights:
Chanting "USA! USA! USA!," "go home!," "deport!" and "impeach Obama!," about 150 Tea Party extremists, who call themselves "patriots" and claim to represent all Americans, yesterday did what they did best: they waved the American flag, held misspelled signs, and protested three buses of young undocumented children who were headed for a federal processing facility. No doubt the children, most of whom are here without parents or other family members, must have been hungry and terrified. But these "pro-family" protestors told reporters they won a "victory," comparing it to "Omaha Beach."

The epicenter of yesterday's Tea Party protests and illegal action against federal agents and the 140 young children was the California town of Murrieta. Mayor Alan Long actually told residents to protest -- and they did. The children were to be processed, given physical exams, and readied for deportation. Some were to be temporarily released into families willing to take them while awaiting deportation hearings.

The children are being housed, sleeping literally head to toe, side by side, with barely room to even turn over:

Ultimately, the buses were forced from Murrieta and headed for a federal facility in San Ysidro.
These people literally sicken me.


Why the Civil Rights Act Could Not be Enacted Today


A piece in Politico looks at the political toxicity that envelops Washington and why the Civil Rights Act of 1965 could not secure passage today.  There are details in the piece but the reason why the Act could not be passed nowadays boils down to one word: Republicans.  Today's GOP bears no resemblance to the political party in which I grew up or in which I was an activist for the better part of a decade.  Today, the embrace of ignorance, hypocrisy filled religious extremism, and thinly veiled racism are the pillars of the party's current agenda.  Here are excerpts from the article:
It was a painful tableau: The bipartisan leaders of Congress linking hands in the Capitol Rotunda and swaying to the strains of “We Shall Overcome” as they commemorated the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi sang along with the crowd, but Mitch McConnell and John Boehner’s lips were frozen in silent, self-conscious smiles.

The climate in today’s Washington is so different from the one that produced what many scholars view as the most important law of the 20th century that celebrating the law’s legacy is awkward for Republicans and Democrats alike. Neither party bears much resemblance to its past counterpart, and the bipartisanship that carried the day then is now all but dead.

“The Republican Party today doesn’t really honor its past,” said Geoffrey Kabaservice, author of “Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the Tea Party.” “The Republican Party that had been ceased to be sometime in the 1980s, and the modern party — the radical conservative party — not only has little or no interest in honoring its history, it is actively hostile to it.”

Part of the problem is this: Although the Civil Rights Act passed the Senate by 73-27, with 27 out of 33 Republican votes, one of the six Republicans who voted against it was Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who weeks later became the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer and started the long process by which the Party of Lincoln became the party of white backlash, especially in the South. Today, Republicans hold complete legislative control in all 11 states of the Old Confederacy for only the second time since Reconstruction.

The position of the GOP’s congressional wing on issues from immigration, to voting rights, to the minimum wage (while helping to rack up Republican victories in individual districts) is broadly alienating to most African-American voters. So are efforts at the state level to impose new voter identification laws or other limits on access to the ballot box that disproportionately affect black voters. All that makes it hard for today’s GOP to lay plausible claim to its undisputed legacy on civil rights.

[R]estoration of a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down last year — is given no chance of passing the House, despite co-sponsorship from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) for creating new criteria for determining which states must obtain approval from the Justice Department before changing their voting laws.

“There are no real Republican leaders on civil rights or voting rights, aside from Sensenbrenner,” said Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the Election Law Blog. “And it’s only going to get more awkward, because we’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The anniversaries of all these just serve to show how different things are today.”