Saturday, February 13, 2016


Having been out at a dinner party and having partaken of a number of cocktails, my thoughts of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will have to wait until morning.  As regular readers know, I have argued for quite some time that Scalia needed to be removed from the Court because of his refusal to remain non-partisan and to adhere to the rules of judicial conduct that govern other federal judges. That said, a few comments from friends and fellow activists may sum up the feelings of many.  One said "He might not be in a better place. But we certainly are."  Another said "I know it's wrong but, it's hard not to feel happy about this news. It's wrong wrong. But, I cannot find another emotion that fits." 

Scalia was stridently anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-minority.  If there is a God and a Hell, Scalia may be learning how wrong he was on so many things.  I would be lying if I said that I would mourn the man's passing. In many ways he embodied what is wrong with the nation's judiciary.  It is very telling that Republicans in the U.S. Senate are vowing to block any Obama appointee even though their office requires that the consider and vote up or down on presidential nominees. All they are showing is that they are as unfit for office as Scalia had become.

In Partisan Vote, Virginia Senate Passes License to Discriminate Bill

Yesterday, the members of the Virginia GOP in the Virginia Senate confirmed that they are truly the tawdry political whores of the Christofascists and the hate merchants at The Family Foundation, by passing SB 41, a bill that would grant Virginia government employees and judges to discriminate based on their alleged religious beliefs.  Senator Adam P. Ebbin rightly went off on the GOP supported bigotry.  Here are details via Joe My God:   
By a 20-19 vote, today the Virginia Senate approved a bill which allows government employees to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages because Jesus. The bill was sponsored by GOP state Sen. Charles Carrico, who has introduced a slew of other anti-LGBT bills.

Democratic Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin reacts via press release:
Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) expressed deep concern following the party-line vote to pass SB41, legislation that would allow marriage celebrants to refuse to solemnize a marriage if doing so would violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Speaking on the Senate floor, Ebbin said, “This bill is thoroughly unnecessary. It sanctions discrimination by government employees. We are the birthplace of the Statute for Religious Freedom. We enjoy one of the richest histories of any state when it comes to that freedom. Proposals like these — licenses to discriminate — desecrate the very things they claim to protect. This bill carves out a space for bigotry cloaked under the guise of religious freedom.”
If SB41 were to become law, it would allow all persons authorized to perform marriage ceremonies in Virginia, including judges and public officiants, to refuse to conduct marriages that violate a “sincerely held religious belief.”
Ebbin continued, “The legislation would allow judges to turn away certain couples at the courthouse door. Government officials should not be allowed to pick and choose which of their duties they will fulfill or which services they will provide and to whom, especially when the result would be blatant discrimination and the service to be denied involves a fundamental human right. Nor should government employees be allowed to impose their personal religious beliefs on those whom they serve.”
The bill now heads to the House of Delegates where Republicans hold a 2-1 majority.
Thankfully, Gov. McAuliffe has vowed to veto this foul bill when it passes the GOP controlled House of Delegates.

Is the Vatican Lying About Addressing Sex Abuse by Priests

With the Roman Catholic Church continuing to disseminate anti-gay lies and untruths, it seems only appropriate to continue to disseminate the truth about the Church and its continued refusal to act decisively to stop sexual abuse of children and youths and, more importantly, fire every bishop and cardinal who participated in cover ups.  True, the latter move would likely decimate the Church hierarchy, but absent such a severe move, don't expect anything to change the mindset of the bitter old men in dresses in Rome and bishoprics across the globe. Meanwhile, members of Pope Francis’s special Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors who are critical of the Commission's failure to act are being asked to take forced leaves of absence.  In short, nothing seems to be changing despite lip service to the contrary and the molestation of children and youths remains a form of droit du seigneur for Catholic priests.  The Daily Beast looks at the Vatican's refusal to take the steps that need to be done.  Here are article excerpts:
One might think that a commission designed to rid the Catholic Church of its predator priests and try to heal decades of suffering by sex abuse victims might actually be involved in, well, doing just that.
On the contrary, it would seem that Pope Francis’s special Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that he created in 2014 is not exactly getting its hands dirty when it comes to actually teaching bishops how to deal with the problems it has been tasked to deal with.

It’s not clear whether there is just a lapse when it comes to integrating commissions and groups that actually do the work, or if it is because of a more intentional oversight. Before the commission started its meetings last week, they secretly gathered at the Santa Marta Domus, where Pope Francis lives, to watch the Academy Award-nominated movie Spotlight, about The Boston Globe’s stellar reporting on exposing the sex abuse scandal in the Boston diocese.

The news of the “unofficial screening” came out when Peter Saunders, one of two child sex abuse survivors on the commission, told the Los Angeles Times that he also wished Pope Francis might see it so he truly understood the full extent of the cover-up in dioceses like Boston.

“The film is extremely worrying about the cover-up of abuse in the Catholic Church, and I think it would be a good moment for the pope to see it,” Saunders said. The pope did not attend, and the next day, Saunders was asked to take a leave of absence from the commission. 
“It was decided” that Saunders would take a leave of absence to “consider how he might best support the commission’s work,” the Vatican said in announcing the move. Saunders held his own press conference and told reporters that he wouldn’t step down until and unless Francis himself asked him.

Saunders had been increasingly frustrated with the commission’s slow pace, telling the media that their work was futile. “The last meeting in October was a non-event,” he said. “I was told that Rome was not built in a day—but the problem is that it takes seconds to rape a child.”

Other survivors have expressed similar concerns. “The Pope’s abuse panel will issue recommendations. The Pope will adopt them. And nothing will improve. Why? Because there will be no enforcement,” says David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, called SNAP. “Why? Because the church hierarchy is an entitled, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy. No new protocols or policies or procedures will radically undo a centuries-old self-serving structure that rewards clerics who keep a tight lid on child sex crimes and cover-ups.”

Clohessy says the clear answer to this crisis remains outside of the church hierarchy “with victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers speaking up and with police, prosecutors and secular authorities stepping up.”  

But if the Vatican’s own special commission can’t even get a word in to help solve the problem, it seems an impossible dream that anyone else might have better luck. 

The Vatican and the Church hierarchy remain one large criminal conspiracy when it comes to the sex abuse scandal.  Decent people should simply walk away from the Church if they do not want to be accessories to sex crimes against children.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

White Texas A&M Students Taunt Black High School Visitors

The increasingly blatant racism of the Republican Party and the remaining occupants of the GOP clown car seems to be sending a message that racist conduct is acceptable. Under the GOP's ideology, the First Amendment gives free rein to all nature of bigotry be it hate-filled racism or anti-gay bigotry.  As written and intended by the Founding Fathers, the First Amendment granted limited rights: (i) no government censorship of the press and political statements, (ii) no forced taxpayer support of an established church, and (iii) the freedom to worship in the denomination of one's choice without government interference or sanctions. The New Civil Rights Movement looks at a recent incident in Texas that shows how badly the Founder's vision has been perverted.  Here are highlights:

In yet another bitter reminder that racism is alive and well on college campuses in the South, white students at Texas A&M University reportedly taunted and harassed a group of black high school juniors who were touring the campus in College Station on Tuesday. 

The incident began when a white woman approached two of the visitors from Uplift Hampton Preparatory in Dallas — a charter school that helps economically disadvantaged students get into college — and asked what they thought of her Confederate flag earrings, according to an account from Democratic state Sen. Royce West, whose district includes the high school. 

Then, white male and female students from Texas A&M began taunting the group of 60 visitors from Uplift Preparatory, telling them to "go back where you came from" and "using the most well-known racial slur that's directed toward African Americans," West said. 

Texas A&M officials who were escorting the visitors witnessed the incident and called campus police. An officer who responded initially said the A&M students were merely exercising their First Amendment rights, but police eventually took a report. 

In an example of the systemic racism that still exists, some have pushed back, trying to claim it didn't happen, despite witnesses, or that it shouldn't be addressed.

In its 2016 college rankings, The Princeton Review ranked Texas A&M University fourth in the nation for "Most Conservative Students," 14th for "Most Religious Students," and 13th for "LGBTQ-Unfriendly." 

The Texas A&M student body is just 3 percent black, the lowest percentage among 15 public and private universities in the state, according to the National Center for Education statistics.
Note the correlation between the university's racism and religiosity.   Sadly, many - if not perhaps most - conservative Christians - are racists even as they congratulate themselves on their piety.  Here in Virginia, scratch the back of a follower of The Family Foundation and you will find a potential KKK member or other form of white supremacist.  Conservative Christianity is a societal evil. 

Washington Post Slams Sanders' Denial of Reality

In a stinging main editorial, the Washington Post has slammed Bernie Sanders and, in my view, correctly accused him of denying reality.   That reality being the limited ability a president has to force through change given the divided nature of the federal political structure that requires Congress to enact legislation to solidify change and the fact that presidential executive orders have their limits in what they can accomplish.  As noted before, Sanders and Donald Trump have great sound bites that they like to use, but where are the detailed policy positions, and can any of their proposals realistically be put in place without Congress' support?  Similarly, can sound bites win them the general election.  Here are editorial highlights:

“MADAM SECRETARY,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said to Hillary Clinton at Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate, “that is a low blow.” But was it? Ms. Clinton had just finished pointing out that Mr. Sanders has at times strongly critiqued President Obama. While she made his criticisms out to be more personal in nature than they were, her core point was nevertheless true: Mr. Sanders is running a campaign based on a blistering — and simplistic — critique of the status quo under this Democratic president.

Ms. Clinton, pointing out that Mr. Obama had to fight tooth-and-nail even for relatively centrist solutions such as the Affordable Care Act, draws the lesson that the next president must have a strong sense of practicality and realism; big rallies cannot wish away the complex politics of Congress. Mr. Sanders, by contrast, claims that Mr. Obama had insufficient revolutionary zeal. That’s why he proposed that the incumbent Democratic president be challenged by a primary opponent in 2012.

Of course, Mr. Sanders’s rejection of realism didn’t start when Mr. Obama stepped foot in the White House. At another point in Thursday’s debate, Ms. Clinton pointed out that the senator from Vermont voted against a 2007 immigration reform bill, a bipartisan deal brokered by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), that would have made the country’s immigration system a little more rational. Mr. Sanders replied that the guest-worker program it envisioned would have been “akin to slavery” and that groups such as the AFL-CIO and the League of United Latin American Citizens opposed it. Such kowtowing to interest groups and indulgence in hyperbole are not uncommon for senators, who are rarely held accountable for failing to get results. But they would make for a disastrous presidency.

Mr. Sanders regularly assures his audiences that he respects Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton. But he attacks the pragmatism they have built their legacies on, even though they had no other option. The system — and by this we mean the constitutional structure of checks and balances — requires policymakers to settle for incremental changes. Mr. Obama has scored several ambitious but incomplete reforms that have made people’s lives better while ideologues on both sides took potshots. A key question in the Democratic race is which candidate would duplicate the president’s work and which would settle for rock-throwing.

Quote of the Day - Pope Francis Meets Patriarch Kirill

I will admit that I am a total cynic when it comes to organized religion, especial denominations that proclaim to be following God's word even as their main fruits are hate and division.  The photo above, you see Pope Francis, the leader of an institution that disseminates anti-gay and anti-woman propaganda daily and still will not step up and protect children and youths from sexual abuse by priests, and the  Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, an institution that  likewise promotes anti-gay hate and whose history shows it nearly always siding with dictators and despots, a tradition alive and well today as the Russian Orthodox Church is firmly in bed with Vladimir Putin.  Blogger friend, Tony Adams, a one time priest stationed at the Vatican sums up a meeting of Francis and the Patriarch in Cuba exceedingly well:

Two costumed old men - the pope of the Roman Catholic Church and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church - met in Cuba today to pretend to further the reunification of their churches, knowing full well that neither will give up his tiara. They got right down to business, signing a declaration that same-sex marriage is horrible. Stupid and silly old goats.
I continue to ponder how decent, moral individuals can support either church given their foul histories and the hate and division that they continue to foster.

Poll: Majority of Virginians Oppose "Religious Freedom” Laws

It continues to amaze me how out of step the Virginia GOP is when comes to following the wishes of a majority of voters in the Commonwealth.  A new CNU poll (the full report is here) shows that the Virginia GOP opposes the will of the majority of Virginians when it comes to Medicaid expansion - 61% of Virginians support expansion; the restoration of felons voting rights - 69% support it; and misnamed "religious freedom" laws - 57% oppose them.  Sadly, because of the gerrymandered districts that the Virginia GOP pushed through, many of the members of the General Assembly who flip the proverbial bird to voters - while prostituting themselves to The Family Foundation, a hate group, the NRA and Tea Party extremists - will be difficult to dislodge from office.  A piece in GayRVA looks at some of the poll findings. Here are highlights:
Virginians do not think businesses should be able to refuse services to same-sex couples trying to get married.

The poll, released today, suggested “Virginia voters solidly oppose a proposal to allow businesses to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples based upon religious beliefs” with 57% saying they oppose such a proposal.

The poll goes on to say opposition falls along party lines, but with moderates and independents both opposing such measures by at least 62%.

“The Virginia electorate has moved dramatically on same sex marriage since voters banned it by approving the Virginia Marriage Amendment in 2006,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd who oversaw the poll. “Today, a fairly decisive majority say businesses should not be able to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples even if homosexuality violates their religious beliefs.”

Del. Todd Gilbert and Sen. Charles Carrico both have so called “religious freedom” bills before the current General Assembly session. Carrico’s bill passed it’s first full reading yesterday, though could face opposition before next week’s crossover. Gilbert’s bill is set for subcommittee hearing today after the House adjourns.
The number one obstacle to Virginia moving forward in today's changing economy and society is the Virginia GOP and the extremists it panders to, many of whom seemingly long for the days of segregation, the Jim Crow laws, and the blatant mistreatment of LGBT citizens. All the while, of course, the GOP base pats itself on the back for being "godly Christians" even as they most resemble the Pharisees condemned in the New Testament.  Can we say hypocrites?

Friday, February 12, 2016

For Friday Male Beauty

George Washington: The Gay Friendly Father of Our Country

As a former Bilerico Project contributor, I am thrilled that the blog has been resuscitated through its acquisition by LGBTQ Nation.  Better yet, Bil Browning, the blog founder is now back in charge.  One of the goals of Bilerico was to provide unique, original pieces that addressed relevant issues  from an LGBT perspective and countered some of the propaganda of the enemies of LGBT equality and civil rights.  Keeping with this tradition, Bilerico has a piece that looks at the falsity of the right wing history revisionists who claim that America was founded as a "Christian nation" and that the Founding Fathers were conservative Christians. The truth, naturally, is the exact opposite.  The piece in particular looks at George Washington's gay friendly attitude and policies during the Revolutionary War (which this blog has noted in the past).   Here are lengthy excerpts from a piece that looks at the true nature of the Founder's view of religion.  Here are excerpts:

Tea Party leaders have taken a revisionist view of early American history, insisting that the Founding Fathers were not revolutionaries and radicals, but arch-conservatives. Among the Republican presidential contenders for 2012, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann both contended the men who built America (with slaves who were, according to Bachmann, deeply grateful to be slaves) were red-staters before there were even states.

Delving into the Founding Father’s own papers indicates something altogether different. Some of the Founding Fathers leaned right, but the majority were anti-monarchists, Freemasons and atheists who held what modern historical language would term a secularist and globalist view. In some cases — like George Washington’s — this included a strongly gay-friendly attitude.

Among the Founding Fathers there were definitive class biases. Most of these men, like Washington (1732-99) and Thomas Jefferson, were wealthy land- and slave-owners who led aristocratic lifestyles and were elitist toward the “lower” classes. (Washington noted in a letter, for example, that those not of the upper classes were to be “treated civilly” but to be kept “at a proper distance, for they will grow upon familiarity, in proportion as you sink in authority.”) Socialists these men were not. Yet some of their personal ethics and standards would reveal that they were more open to what would be considered a “modern,” 21st-century perspective on life, love and sexuality than might be presumed in the stodgy, post-Puritan 18th-century colonies. 
This was particularly true of Washington, whose stance on homosexuality, which at the time was punishable by imprisonment, castration and even death throughout the colonies, was noticeably — even dramatically — relaxed in comparison to many of his cohorts. His personal correspondence and diaries bear this out.

As his letters (over 17,000 have been collected at the University of Virginia) and diaries affirm, Washington was above all a pragmatist. 

Washington’s views on democracy, liberty and the codified “pursuit of happiness” that current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cited specifically in his ruling in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which overturned federal sodomy laws, were straightforward. Washington’s letters, diaries, military papers and conversations with friends and colleagues of his era were all succinct: He believed in freedom with discipline; he was left-leaning, but no anarchist. He looked the other way on matters that may have otherwise raised eyebrows when it was the pragmatic thing to do, as he would throughout his tenure as both military leader and leader of the nation.

One of these issues was homosexuality in the military. . . . . Washington’s stance on homosexuality, which evolved well before his views on slavery as has been chronicled by historians and military documents (Washington’s own and others) from Valley Forge.

Part of Washington’s genius as a strategist was his ability to rally troops — literally. All the documentation from the era states without equivocation that Washington inspired tremendous loyalty in all levels of his military. By all accounts, a man’s man, Washington was superb at all kinds of sport. Considered the best horseman of his time — Jefferson wrote extensively about Washington’s prowess — and one of the strongest men any of his compatriots had ever met, his feats of strength were regularly recorded.

Washington’s letters state that he was less than thrilled with marital life (“not much fire between the sheets”) and preferred the company of men — particularly the young Alexander Hamilton, who he made his personal secretary — to that of women, as his letters attest. His concern for his male colleagues clearly extended to their personal lives. This was especially true of Hamilton, who he brought with him to Valley Forge, giving Hamilton a cabin to share with his then-lover, John Laurens, to whom Hamilton had written passionate love letters which are still extant.

Letters of Washington’s make clear that while he cared deeply for Martha and her children, there was no passion between them. Nor are there records of Washington’s dalliances with other women, as there are with Thomas Jefferson, for example, who was a womanizer with both colonial and slave women.

Washington’s passion was reserved for his work and for the men with whom he served closely, notably Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette. When Hamilton was a young soldier – later to be made Secretary of the Treasury by Washington and then president himself – he was engaged in relationships with other men, as love letters he sent during the Revolutionary War prove.
Historians assert that passionate same-sex friendships were normative in the 18th century. At the same time, however, sodomy and open homosexuality were punishable by imprisonment, castration and even death, both in and out of the military.

Washington was a gay-friendly pragmatist who put the importance of the revolutionary struggle above the concerns of civilian life.

While some have tried to make the case for Washington being gay predicated on his special friendships, there’s nothing in his papers that could be considered proof the way his growing queasiness about slave-owning was proven by his will. Nevertheless, Washington was certainly gay-friendly.

The most succinct evidence for this was Washington’s clear “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy when it came to same-sex coupling among his regiments at Valley Forge.

Renowned gay historian Randy Shilts makes the case for Washington’s ever-pragmatic as well as compassionate approach to same-sex relationships in “Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. military.”

Shilts details how Washington merely signed the order for discharge of a soldier caught in flagrante with another soldier, and suggests that if Lt. Col. Aaron Burr had not forced the issue, the soldier might have remained at Valley Forge instead of being the first documented case of a discharge for homosexuality in the Continental Army on March 15, 1778 at Valley Forge. . . . The soldier just walked away. What makes this so stunning and an irrefutable proof of Washington’s leniency on homosexuality in the military is the context.

That Washington looked the other way with same-sex couples is most obvious in his dealings with Maj. Gen. Frederich Wilhelm von Steuben, the Prussian military genius he enlisted to help him strategize at Valley Forge. Von Steuben arrived at the encampment two weeks before Enslin’s discharge and arrived with his young French assistant, Pierre Etienne Duponceau, who was presumed to be his lover, in tow, making Enslin’s subsequent discharge ironic and reinforcing the theory that it was Burr, not Washington, who compelled the action.

Von Steuben is perhaps the best-known gay man in American military history. Although his sexual orientation is rarely mentioned and has been excised from standard history books, his role in winning the Revolutionary War was incomparable and second only to Washington’s own. . . .
He authored the “Revolutionary War Drill Manual” which was used through the War of 1812 and his other maneuvers were used for more than 150 years.

Von Steuben also came to Valley Forge as a known homosexual: It was Benjamin Franklin who provided the letters of recommendation to Washington, but Franklin was aware that von Steuben had been implicated in relationships with boys and young men and had been expelled from the court of Frederick the Great for homosexual behavior and was on the verge of being prosecuted when he left Germany for France.

Von Steuben’s relationship with Washington was close and there were no conflicts with Washington over von Steuben’s sleeping arrangements at Valley Forge with his young Frenchman, Duponceau. What’s more, because von Steuben’s English was limited, but his French was perfect, Washington assigned his own secretary and one of his aides-de-camp to von Steuben.

Who were the men? Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton and Lt. Col. John Laurens, who shared a cabin at Valley Forge at Washington’s bequest. And as noted historian Jonathan Katz details, Hamilton and Laurens were lovers.

It’s not revisionist to assert that Washington’s pattern of ignoring same-sex relationships at Valley Forge was both indicative of his pragmatic nature (without von Steuben, Hamilton, Lafayette and others, America might still be a colony of the British) and of his seeming lack of concern over homosexuality.

Washington obviously considered morale in what was inarguably the most horrific battle station in U.S. military history, the winter at Valley Forge, needed to be upheld. Allowing men their one solace — each other — made sense from a general’s point of view. The less miserable the soldiers, the better they would fight. If keeping each other warm in the bone-crushing cold and abject misery (2,500 soldiers died at Valley Forge from starvation, disease and exposure) made life somewhat more bearable, then Washington had no issue with ignoring homosexuality in his ranks.

Washington didn’t just look the other way but specifically sought to help these gay soldiers as well as that passing woman, Sampson. This is irrefutable proof — in Washington’s own records and that of others — that the Father of Our Country was gay-friendly toward his key military personnel at the most pivotal point in American history. Washington didn’t think morale suffered with gay soldiers serving under him or even, in the case of von Steuben and Hamilton, being his key strategists. Rather, he saw these men for their value to him and to the nation — a fact that should be added to every American history textbook. 
The take away is this: when you hear Christofascist proclaiming that America was founded as a "Christian nation" and/or that the Founding Fathers were "conservative" it is essential to understanding that they are lying. The one constant with the "godly folk" is that NO ONE lies more often and less apology that the "godly Christian" crowd.  If their lips are moving, the safest assumption is that they are lying.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

How Far Left Has America Moved?

While the Republican Party has veered to the far right over the last two decades or more - pushed mostly by the Christofascists who want a form of Christian Sharia law imposed on the nation, and by the white supremacists who want to deport Hispanics and restore the Jim Crow laws - there is an argument to be made that the nation is actually moving to the left, at least outside of Fox News viewers who live in their own fantasy world.  The number of those professing no religious affiliation has soared, locally, once conservative country clubs and yacht clubs are accepting same sex couples as members, and many want the government to do more to rein in the vulture capitalism so loved by right wing Republicans.  An op-ed in the New York Times by a former Mitt Romney strategist suggests that the country is moving to the left.  Here are highlights:

FROM the earliest days of Barack Obama’s presidency, a comforting assumption developed among much of the center-right political world. The thinking went like this: President Obama was far more liberal than the majority of the country. But given his extraordinary political talents, the fatigue of the George W. Bush years, the economic crisis and the excitement of electing the first African-American president, the country picked him not because of his ideology but in spite of it.

Once this unique political figure was no longer on the ballot, America would revert to the less liberal, more center-right direction that was the norm after World War II. Under this scenario, President Obama wasn’t some profound historical shift but more of an eccentric diversion.

Now it’s February 2016 and an obscure socialist — O.K., a Democratic Socialist — from a tiny state just beat one of the most powerful forces in the Democratic Party in the New Hampshire primary. On the Republican side, a man whom National Review, the conservative movement’s flagship publication, has vigorously denounced, also won New Hampshire in a rout.

Though only 16 years separated the election of Bill Clinton and that of President Obama, the two politicians seemed to represent the same party in name only. The 1992 campaign was dedicated to defining “a different kind of Democrat.” That was basically a nicely packaged phrase to stress that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were not crazy — or weak — liberals like the party’s recent lineup of losers.

By 2008 a different set of issues emerged, addressed with a new vocabulary. Mr. Obama made the case that he and the Democratic Party were best able to deal with the crushing pain of disappearing jobs and escalating inequality. The urgent need to prevent any more terrorist attacks had morphed to an urgent longing to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Liberals now called themselves progressives and embraced the label.

The Barack Obama legacy debate is just beginning. One point up for discussion: whether the president pushed the country left, or whether he was just in step with how people felt. He passed the Affordable Care Act, announced support for same-sex marriage, and has argued passionately (if unsuccessfully) for more gun control.

For Republicans, this mostly proves that the president is out of sync with the majority of the country, though on same-sex marriage, the country has clearly changed.  . . . . But so far into the 2016 election, conservatives are on the run. Democrats are battling over who can really move the country left. And the leading Republican candidate is a man who has previously praised Canada’s single-payer health care system and described himself as “very pro-choice.”

This starts to paint a very different picture of the direction of the country. Instead of President Obama representing a quirky left shift engendered by his charisma, Iraq and the Great Recession, what if he turned out to have been a transitional figure to a considerably more leftward tilt? What if in 10 or 20 years we look back on the Obama years and they seem as conservative as the 1992 “Different Kind of Democrat” years do now?

It’s happening elsewhere. Canada has turned left, and a socialist, a long way from the days of Tony Blair, leads Britain’s Labour Party. In this global economy that everyone talks about but no one seems able to define, maybe larger forces are nudging the United States left. Unemployment is low and yet only 23 percent of the country believes we are headed in the right direction. Something clearly is wrong.

Perhaps the reality of the new American economy is becoming too exhausting.

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare,” opponents of the president’s health care bill once demanded. Like that confused, plaintive cry, will this be the election cycle when voters in both parties accept that they want a growing benevolent government, as long as they don’t have to admit they need it?
The Republican Party still believes it is 1980.  However, the world and society have changed radically.  Just maybe the larger public is waking up to the fact that what the GOP is selling just doesn't work anymore and that progressive - or, gasp, liberal - policies are what are needed to face the changed circumstances. 

Democrat Debate Winner and Loser

I watched the Democrat presidential debate last night and was once again struck by the difference between it and the largely substance free Republican debates that focus mostly on sound bites and pandering to the racism, religious extremism and general misogyny of the GOP base.  Last night - as in the prior Democrat debate - real substance was discussed and when there were vague generalities, most often they came from Bernie Sanders.  As a piece in the Washington Post notes, the night overall went to Hillary Clinton.  Here are some excerpts:
* Hillary Clinton: Beginning to end, this was Clinton's best debate of the election.  In the first half hour, Clinton poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast the Vermont senator as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.  She was calm and cool throughout -- even when fighting on Sanders's home turf on wage inequality. Clinton also effectively cast Sanders as insufficiently loyal to President Obama, a point that will resound with black voters among whom Obama remains extremely popular.

Clinton was helped by the dearth of questions about uncomfortable topics for her (paid speeches, State Department investigations); when pressed on her super PAC being financed heavily by a few individuals, Clinton was uncomfortable and gave one of her worst answers of the night. But, those moments were few and far between. If she -- and her campaign -- were knocked back after her massive loss in New Hampshire, it didn't show.  She was in total control all night.

* Bernie Sanders: If the challenge for Sanders was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal Thursday night. Sanders did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past -- a low bar -- but he struggled to score clean hits on Clinton during the first hour of the debate, which focused exclusively on domestic policy, which should have been his strong suit. Sanders, at times during that first hour, sounded like a broken record -- citing millionaires and billionaires and Wall Street to explain almost anything he was asked.

Then there was Sanders's insistence that he would be better on race relations than Obama, a slip that you can be sure that the Clinton campaign will make sure African American voters hear about (and then hear about some more) in the coming days and weeks.

Perhaps Sanders' biggest problem, as noted by the husband who is usually good at picking up on average voter reactions is that Sanders comes across as always angry - something that in general election could prove damaging. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

Heidi Cruz: Nutcase or Pandering Whore for her Foul Husband?

Just when you think things in the GOP presidential nomination contest can't get any crazier, one of the candidates - or in this case, one of their spouses - says something that demonstrates that these folks belong in an insane asylum, not the White House.  Heidi Cruz, campaigning for her sinister looking and sleazy husband, said that the election of her husband, Ted Cruz, would "show the face of the God we serve" to the nation and the world.  Cruz's god, of course, is very terrifying if one is gay, non-Christian, and anyone else deemed"other" by the Christofascists and white supremacists who make up the core of the GOP party base.  Right Wing Watch looks at the batshit craziness  of Ms. Cruz and by extension, her thoroughly nasty husband.  Here are highlights:
Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi, who has been campaigning for her husband full-time over the past several months, explained the role of faith in the Texas Republican’s presidential campaign yesterday, telling a South Carolina radio host that Cruz is running to “show this country the face of the God that we serve.”

Cruz’s father Rafael made a similar statement last month when he said that Ted, whom he has implied was chosen by God for the White House, was running for president to “share the love of Jesus Christ” with “every person in America.”

Heidi Cruz told South Carolina radio host Vince Coakley yesterday that even if she were not married to Ted, she’d be trying to work on his campaign because “this country is in crisis and this individual has an incredible talent to bring us out of this crisis.”

This is in a large part, she said, because “this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country” and people need to be reminded that “Christians are loving people, are nonjudgmental people, but there is right and wrong, we have a country of law and order, there are consequences to actions and we must all live peaceably in our own faiths under the Constitution.” 

[I]t also became clear to me that we are at a cultural crossroads in our country and if we can be in this race to show this country the face of the God that we serve — this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country, our country was built on Judeo-Christian values, we are a nation of freedom of religion, but the God of Christianity is the God of freedom, of individual liberty, of choice and of consequence.

And Ted is uniquely able to deliver on that combination of the law and religion.

The last parts are utterly ludicrous given the reality that the Christofascists want their faith forced on all other citizens and a special license to discriminate against those who do not knuckle under to their faith demands.  Perhaps Ms. Cruz needs to get her head out of her ass before she suffocates.

Vatican: Catholic Bishops Not Obliged to Report Clerical Sex Abuse

Sometimes one has to wonder what planet top Vatican officials are from.  They surely seem utterly detached from reality and what most would consider basic morality and decency.   With the movie Spotlight garnering increased attention and set to get even more during the Academy Awards ceremony, the official Vatican training program for newly appointed Catholic bishops informs the new appointees that they have NO obligation to report sexual abuse of minors to local police authorities.  That's right, no obligations to report crimes against children.  The Church prefers to deal with the problem internally.  As Spotlight has so wonderfully demonstrated, the Church's track record on self-discipline and protecting children and youth  is nothing less than abysmal.  The Guardian looks at this shocking Vatican position.  Here are highlights:
The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.

A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.

“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.

The training guidelines were written by a controversial French monsignor and psychotherapist, Tony Anatrella, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family. . . . . Details of the Catholic church’s policy were first reported in a column by a veteran Vatican journalist, John Allen, associate editor of the Catholic news site,

Allen noted that a special commission created by Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, had appeared to play no role in the training programme, even though it is supposed to be developing “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.

Indeed, a church official familiar with the commission on abuse said it was the committee’s position that reporting abuse to civil authorities was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not”. The official said the committee would be involved in future training efforts.

The current guidelines written by Anatrella make only passing references to prevention policies. The French monsignor is best known for championing views on “gender theory”, the controversial belief that increasing acceptance of homosexuality in western countries is creating “serious problems” for children who are being exposed to “radical notions of sexual orientation”. He did not return a request for comment.

The guidelines reflect Anatrella’s views on homosexuality. They also downplay the seriousness of the Catholic church’s legacy of systemic child abuse, which some victims’ right groups say continues to be a problem today. . . . . the training guide emphasises statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assaults against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbours, not other authority figures.

Pope Francis has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors  . . . .  . He said in a 2012 interview – when he was still a cardinal – that he was once called by a bishop asking him for advice on how to deal with an allegation of sex abuse. Cardinal Bergoglio – as he was then known – allegedly told the bishop to take away the priests’ licences and begin a canonical trial that would deal with the matter internally.

SNAP, a US-based advocacy group for abuse victims that has been very critical of Pope Francis on the issue, said the news outlined in John Allen’s Crux article proved that the church had not substantially changed.

It’s infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary – like this disclosure by Allen – emerges,” the group said in a statement.

The news comes just days after the abuse commission forced one of two abuse survivors who had personally been appointed by Pope Francis to leave the committee following a vote of no confidence.  Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor and vocal critic of the church’s alleged lack of action on abuse, said he was blind-sided by the vote.
The Vatican declined to comment.
I continue to baffled as to how good and moral individuals can continue to remain in the Church, must less continue to finance such a morally bankrupt institution.