Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011 - Year End Reflections

This time of year always leaves me feeling inexplicably sad. I guess it's a mix of sadness for what was lost in the past year and the prospect of uncertainty in the coming year. A lot has happened in 2011, both for gay rights and in my life. Here's some brief reflections on 2011:

January began 2011 in the most sad and harsh way for me: I lost my mother on January 5th. We had known that she was failing and she had needed to move in with one of my sisters in July, 2010. None of us, however, expected her to go so suddenly. It is as if she knew what was coming in terms of the likelihood of nursing home care and said "no thank you." On January1, 2011, I saw my mom happy and alert for the last time. A mere four days later she was gone. She will never be forgotten. I want to extend a sincere thank you to readers who have made contributions to the scholarship endowment. It has meant so much to me.

Later in the year, the Boyfriend and I made our annual pilgrimage to Key West and we had a wonderful time, even if my mother's loss and some of the family drama haunted me at times. The photo below was taken at Lattitudes at Sunset Key - part of the Westin Hotel property - which I recommend highly for lunch (with cocktails, of course). I will always be grateful to the Boyfriend for introducing me to Key West and taking me at his expense went I was in a financial time of trouble.

In April, 2011, working with the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and with the blessing of HRBOR, I established the George D. and Marion Phelps Hamar/HRBOR scholarship to aid graduating LGBT high school seniors (April also marked the point where I was able to pay my former wife the balance of what I owed her under the less than gay-friendly final divorce decree that was entered against me by a judge who thought that being gay was a "choice"). I was very blessed by the fact that my parents never wavered in their love and support of me when I came out of the closet after 37 years of torment and self-hate. Too many LGBT youths do not have such loving and loyal parents and the scholarship was my way of both honoring my parents and hopefully making a difference in the lives of young LGBT individuals over the future years.

In May, one of my nieces got married and we experienced a family reconciliation after the drama that had immediately followed my mother's death. The boyfriend's gift was to do the entire wedding party's hair (OK, all the women) and that of my other sister. It was a great day and a beautiful event on the beach in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach.

June saw the largest Out in the Park ever with estimates of up to 17,000 people at downtown Norfolk's Town Point Park. The Boyfriend and I were sponsors and were thrilled with the huge success of the event. Out in the Park 2012 will return to downtown Norfolk and as a member of the Hampton Roads Pride board of directors, my efforts will be aimed at making the event in 2012 even bigger and better (the video at the link shows the 2012 launch party).

July was an emotional time as my oldest daughter headed west to Olympia, Washington, to join her fiance. Her going away party marked the first time that my former wife (pictured below with my two daughters) and I were at the same social event, and happily, the event went very well. My former wife has a new significant other in her life and I wish them much happiness. I hope that as time goes by we can build upon the civil experience and be good parents working in tandem for my three children.

August was not kind as the Boyfriend and I suffered the effects of Hurricane Irene which swept through the Hampton Roads area at extreme high tide and once again subjected our home to flooding, albeit not as bad a situation as it might have been because of the things we had done in the wake of the Nor'Ida storm of 2009. One of the things we are looking to do in 2012 is to add a third floor to the house so that all of the main living area can be moved out of the potential flood zone. If we can pull it off, the first floor will remain largely as is to be used as an entertainment area for larger events.

In September, we made our usual Bay Days Weekend trip to New York City and once again enjoyed the restaurants and things to do. We also saw "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" and had a nice visit with my niece and her boyfriend. Later, we so the long overdue demise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell - a case where religious based discrimination what been written into the nation's laws. Hopefully, 2012 may see the demise of DOMA.

October was a month blessed by the western Mediterranean cruise that I took the Boyfriend on as a "thank you" for standing by me through all of the drama of 2009, including a desperate suicide attempt when the continuing divorce drama got the best of me. He is a true sweetheart - at least most of the time - and he has made such a huge positive difference in my life. We loved Barcelona and the ports we visited in France and Italy before returning to Barcelona.

November brought Thanksgiving which I shared with the Boyfriend's family and my youngest daughter (pictured below) and her boyfriend. Throughout my coming out saga, she was always a lifeline to me and I treasure her more than she will ever know. I truly might not have made it without her love and support.

December brought the Christmas holidays and a wonderful visit with my oldest daughter who was back east visiting. She's doing well in her new career and her boyfriend (they are pictured below) is a delight. Spending some time with her over the holidays made the season for me. I am so very, very proud of her. I was also lucky enough to have some great conversations with my son who remained out west for the holidays (search "Appalachian Trail" to see photos of his amazing adventure in 2008). My children and the Boyfriend are the greatest treasures in my life.

It's definitely been a year of great sorrow, but also of great happiness. Throughout it all, I've enjoyed the love of the Boyfriend (pictured below) and the moral support from my wonderful readers and my friends in the LGBT blogosphere. Many of you will never know how much your loyalty and words of comfort and support have meant to me. I wish all of you health and much happiness in 2012.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

1987 Ron Paul Book: AIDS Is the Result of A Victim's "Lifestyle"

Among the would be GOP presidential nominees, it continues to seem to be a contest as to who can most thoroughly trash gay Americans as candidates move to further prostitute themselves to the Christianist/Tea Party base of the Republican Party or as new information about their views hits the mainstream media from past writings and affiliations. Among those looking increasingly nasty is Ron Paul who in 1987 stated a line that must warm the hearts of Christianists everywhere: AIDS is the consequence of the victim's "lifestyle." Apparently Paul thinks sexual orientation is a choice - I wonder at what age he chose to be heterosexual - and is chanting the refuted Christianist line that medical and mental heath experts say is false. Does Paul still believe this trash? It's a question he needs to be forced to answer. Candidly, anytime I hear someone reference that being gay is a "lifestyle choice" I write them off as an ignorant bigot.Think Progress has coverage on Paul's thoughts on gays and AIDS. Here are some highlights:

In recent days, Ron Paul has tried to distance himself from damaging newsletters from the late 1980s and 1990s by attributing racist and anti-gay statements to ghost writers and disavowing the most incendiary sentiments. “It wasn’t a reflection of my views at all…I think it was terrible,” Paul said of the letters, which blamed AIDS on the gay community and likened black people to criminals. “It was tragic, and I had some responsibility for it, because the name went out in my letter. But I was not an editor. I (was) like a publisher.”

But despite his denials, CNN’s Peter Hamby reports that Paul included many of the controversial ideas in his 1987 book, “Freedom Under Siege: The U.S. Constitution after 200-Plus Years.” That work — published under Paul’s name — attributed AIDS to the gay “lifestyle” and suggested that victims of sexual harassment should simply quit their jobs:

In one section of the book, Paul criticized people suffering from AIDS or other contagious diseases for demanding health insurance coverage. “The individual suffering from AIDS certainly is a victim – frequently a victim of his own lifestyle – but this same individual victimizes innocent citizens by forcing them to pay for his care,” Paul wrote. [...]

“Employee rights are said to be valid when employers pressure employees into sexual activity,” Paul wrote. “Why don’t they quit once the so-called harassment starts? Obviously the morals of the harasser cannot be defended, but how can the harassee escape some responsibility for the problem? Seeking protection under civil rights legislation is hardly acceptable.”

Yes, he also blames victims of sexual harassment on the job for their own victimization. In his view, they should have sought other employment. It's sick, but then today's GOP is a pretty sick phenomenon.

Hate Group Ordered to Obey Donor Disclosure Laws

One thing that is striking about anti-gay hate groups is their reluctance to disclose the identities of their donors as required by campaign finance disclosure laws. I'm not sure if the refusal to obey the law stems from (i) open arrogance and a mindset that the Christianists are above the law, (ii) cowardice on the part of donors who don't have the integrity to publicly stand behind their hate-filled convictions, or (iii) an effort to hide the fact that the source of funding in reality flows only from a small handful of individuals. Perhaps it's a mix of all three, although my money is on option (iii) based on some of the information that has come out indicating that the National Organization for Marriage is largely funded by a dozen big donors and that it is anything but the grassroots organization it pretends to be. In any event, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has told Family Policy Institute of Washington - an affiliate of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council and also linked to National Organization for Marriage - that they can’t hide the identity of donors to their political action committee “Family PAC“. This statement from Pam's House Blend sums up how these hate groups seek to operate:

They want to lurk in the shadows and attack LGBT families in secret, but the Constitution penned by our Founding Fathers and the laws passed under its authority mandate sunshine.

These "family values" organizations have about as much integrity as organized crime rings or the Klu Klux Klan and are probably even less truthful given their constant dissemination of deliberately false information about LGBT individuals and false claims that the "religious freedom" of Christianists is being threatened. Here are additional highlights from Pam's House Blend:

Yesterday a 3-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit released a 23-page opinion affirming an earlier federal district court ruling that upheld Washington’s campaign donor disclosure laws.

Washington’s Pulbic Disclosure Law and related code requires political committees to disclose the names and addresses of contributors giving more than $25, and in addition the occupations and employers of contributors giving more than $100. FPIW alleged that these laws are unconstitutional because potential donors to Family PAC “have indicated that they are unwilling to donate if Family PAC is required to report their name and address.” They offered no evidence to back up that claim, however.

In their opinion yesterday the Court of Appeals concluded that “the requirements impose only modest burdens on First Amendment rights, while serving a governmental interest in an informed electorate that is of the utmost importance.” That important governmental interest is in “allowing voters to ‘follow the money‘ behind ballot measures”.

FPIW is an affiliate of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council and is linked to National Organization for Marriage. NOM has been a major donor to FPIW’s past efforts. FPIW believes that “discrimination is not only appropriate, it is necessary for survival” and created Family PAC in 2009 to help finance anti-gay ballot measures. Family PAC’s campaign manager and treasurer is FPIW’s executive director Joseph Backholm.

Kudos to the 9th Circuit. My question is, when will the folks at FPIW begin to be criminally prosecuted if they continue to refuse to comply with the law? Nothing warms my heart more than the thought of these spineless thugs behind bars.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Feel the Love: Linda Harvey, A Queen of "Christian" Hate

I've noted before that I had some e-mail exchanges some years ago with Linda Harvey, head of her cottage industry hate "ministry." Like most of the Christianists who hold themselves out as experts to the gullible sheeple who listen to their blather and even more foolishly contribute money (so that the faux experts can live comfortably without having a real job), Linda Harvey has ZERO credentials that qualify her for pontificating on issues of sexual orientation, civil rights, legal rights of minorities, public policy issues or virtually anything else. Like so many of these hate merchants she set up a "ministry" and selectively picked Bible passages that support her prejudices and bigotry and has been living off of the ignorance of her followers ever since. Given that LGBT Americans had some advancement of their civil rights as American citizens in 2011, Ms. Harvey is big time pissed off and has been spewing some real "Christian" love towards LGBT people. Here are some highlights of her despicable comments via Jeremy Hooper at Good As You:

If Linda Harvey's year-end assessment of LGBT rights in 2011 isn't an all-out attempt to make people hate us, then I don't know what is:

Dare I say the obvious? We need non-effeminate men in the military. Does anyone really believe that a prancing drill sergeant won't detract from readiness? Where women are serving, they should be women of high character, not those who embrace homosexual conduct and publicly declare a "sin" identity. These folks have truly lost their way, their shame, their innate sense of God's touch on and design for their lives.

Friends, this list [compiled by World Net Daily] is a call to action. We need to first understand the decline into barbarism that homosexual and sex-change activism brings. Then, we need to each be that person who gets it, who understands that these folks with their radical ideology are purposely endangering families, children, our nation's security, our economy and the religious freedom of all who don't go along.

God has warned us in the pages of Scripture that these sinful impulses will end in catastrophe. It's not true that this is just another way to love, but these activists, as you can see, intend to overturn the beauty of traditional sexual morality.

Why do the words "modern day Pharisee" spring to mind? One has to wonder how someone like Harvey has become so consumed by hate. What sort of severe psychological/mental health problems might be behind it? Oh, and as for the thought of engaging in "beauty of traditional sexual morality" with Harvey, the thought is down right terrifying!

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Gay Marriage Is Coming To Cancun

Yet another portion of Mexico is poised to grant to LGBT citizens the rights denied them in much of the United States - which falsely bills itself as "land of the free" and a champion of freedom of religion. That's right, the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, home to popular vacation destinations like Cancun and Cozumel, is allowing same sex couples to legalize their unions thanks to a quirk in the local civil code. And the local tourism industry is expecting a positive uptick as a result. Here are highlights from Hispanically Speaking News:

Cancun and other resort areas on the Mexican Caribbean will have a new attraction for gay and lesbian couples from the United States, Canada and Europe, allowing them to legalize their unions thanks to a quirk in the local civil code, activist Patricia Novelo told Efe.

“This market niche ... is very attractive for European, Canadian and American (homosexual) couples,” said the spokesperson for Colectivo Diversidad. Novelo said that in January the first same-sex group wedding will be held in the resort area as part of local support for the human rights of the gay community.

[S]he said, agreements have begun to be struck with different airlines and hotel chains to hold these marriages all along Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Novelo said that this “is something very positive. Besides the social part there are many economic benefits because the gay community generates between 45 and 60 percent more income on top of conventional tourism.”

She said gay and lesbian marriages are possible in Quintana Roo, “thanks to a legal gap in the Civil Code,” which only makes mention of “people interested in getting married,” without specifying their gender.

In Mexico, same-sex marriages have been expressly authorized in Mexico City, where through Dec. 15 1,246 such unions had been legally finalized, many involving citizens of other countries.

While the Christianists and the Republican Party strive to subvert the Constitution and drag America back into the Dark Ages, other parts of the world continue to step forward and offer the civil rights and equality that America fails to grant to all of its citizens.

Full-Page Ad Calls for Cardinal "Gays Are Like the KKK" George to Resign

Click image to enlarge.

I and countless other bloggers have noted the despicable comments of Cardinal Francis George who has equated gay rights activists with the Klu Klux Klan and alleged that gays are demonstrating against the Catholic Church. In response to my post, I received a bullshit response from the Chicago archdiocese via e-mail. It's ironic that George is talking about others supposedly breaking the law, etc., when according to a report by, George was an aider and abettor of priests who sexually molested children and youths. Rather that disseminating lies and having his ass kissed by moronic Catholic, a jail cell might seem a more appropriate place for the good cardinal.

To better help the Chicago public understand George's behavior and statements, a full page ad - pictured above - will appear in the Chicago Tribune this Sunday compliments of Truth Wins Out. The Advocate has these highlights on the ad and the controversy:

The LGBT rights group Truth Wins Out is taking out a full-page ad in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune calling on the city’s Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Francis George, to resign because of his comments comparing a gay pride parade to a Ku Klux Klan march.

The ad is headlined, “Hey, Cardinal Francis George, Gay is not like the KKK,” and it calls his remarks “offensive” and “unconscionable.”

The parade’s start time was then moved from 10 a.m. to noon so as not to inconvenience worshippers, and George made conciliatory comments but then reiterated the comparison in an official statement on the archdiocesan website this week.

“This is not a legitimate fight over religious liberty as George wrongly implies, but a vivid example of religious bigotry fueled by a mean-spirited analogy that linked innocent, law-abiding families with the KKK,” said Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen in a press release. “We will stand up against such lies and speak out when LGBT people are unfairly maligned.”

I continue to hope for the day when the rank and file members of the Catholic laity will get their heads out of their ass and leave the Church or cease all financial support until foul members of the hierarchy are removed (of course, this would mean Benedict XVI resigning as well).

Titanic Artifacts Are Up for Auction Come April

Through strange circumstances the fate of artifacts from the famed but short lived White Star liner Titanic has continued to involve the federal district court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Perhaps because some of the first recovered artifacts came ashore right at the Otter berth on the downtown Norfolk waterfront - I was there when the unloading began and being a Titanic history buff, I had my books on the ship autographed by members of the salvage team, and the boyfriend and I plan on attending a "Last Dinner" event at The Mariners' Museum this coming April. In any event, the Norfolk court seems destined to continue to be involved as Premier Exhibitions and its subsidiary, RMS Titanic, announce the hiring of the New York auction house Guernsey's to seek auction bids on the artifact collection. The Virginian Pilot has coverage on the proposed sale and issues that will surround the effort. Here are highlights:

With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaching, fans of the doomed steamship can relive the journey on a memorial cruise, attend one of myriad Titanic festivals, or watch the re-release of "Titanic" in 3-D.

But one lucky devotee can buy 5,500 Titanic artifacts plucked from the wreck site in the North Atlantic. Asking price: around $200 million.

The company that owns thousands of artifacts plans to auction off the collection in April - the same month, but 100 years later, that the cruise liner struck an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew.

Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions and its subsidiary, RMS Titanic, announced the hiring of the New York auction house Guernsey's to seek bids on the collection. The results of the auction are expected to be announced around the 100th anniversary date of the Titanic sinking, April 15, the company said in a news release.

The process will likely be scrutinized by a Norfolk federal judge who has presided over a civil action involving the salvage operations and preservation of the artifacts.

The artifacts had been in a sort of legal limbo for more than a decade as the company, and its predecessor, sought permission from the court to obtain full title to the collection. Earlier this year, Norfolk U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith granted Premier the title it sought with the condition that the collection be maintained as a whole forever.

The company filed papers in federal court alerting the judge to the upcoming sale. She has not issued any orders on the matter. The Justice Department, which has monitored the court proceeding, may also take a position. The local U.S. Attorney's Office had no comment on the latest developments.

Sellers and company attorney Brian Wainger of Virginia Beach said the company remains committed to preserving the collection as a whole and finding a suitable home for it. They said there can be no better time to do it than the 100th anniversary.

The 5,500 artifacts - including china, jewelry, playing cards, musical instruments and light fixtures - are exhibited in tours around the world. The company also maintains a large chunk of the ship's hull. The artifacts were collected during seven expeditions more than two miles below the ocean surface over nearly 25 years.

The company, and its predecessor, spent millions on those trips, renting expensive ships and submersibles. The company has seen little in profits from the touring exhibits, and Sellers and Wainger acknowledge that part of the reason for the sale is to satisfy shareholders. They say they understand there will be detractors. Some have already begun criticizing the company, on various Titanic blogs, about the sale.

He [Wainger] also noted that the sale is allowed under the covenants and conditions approved by the court and agreed to by the government. Compliance with the covenants and conditions is an absolute condition of any sale of the artifacts, he said.

Rick Perry: Texas' Village Idiot

Would be GOP presidential nominee has already demonstrated that when it comes to debating, a mediocre high school debate team member can easily outshine him. Lack of debate skills is bad enough, but Perry seems to be insistent on proving his down right stupid not to mention utterly uninformed. A case in point, Perry told people at a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that he did not know the details of the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas. Even though Perry was governor of Texas at the time of the ruling striking down Texas' sodomy statute (and Virginia's at the same time). An even though Perry has shown that there are few limits to his willingness to prostitute himself to the vilest anti-gay elements of the Christianist/Tea Party base of the GOP. ABC News has coverage of Perry's self-acknowledged ignorance. Here is that story:

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Texas Gov. Rick Perry admitted Thursday that he didn’t know about the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, a case decided while he was governor which struck down the state’s anti-sodomy law and similar laws in 13 others.

A voter at a meet and greet asked him to defend his criticism of limited government in the case. “I wish I could tell you I knew every Supreme Court case. I don’t, I’m not even going to try to go through every Supreme Court case, that would be — I’m not a lawyer,” Perry said at the Blue Strawberry Coffee Shop here. “We can sit here and you know play I gotcha questions on what about this Supreme Court case or whatever, but let me tell you, you know and I know that the problem in this country is spending in Washington, D.C., it’s not some Supreme Court case.”

In 2003, the Supreme Court deemed Texas’ anti-sodomy law to be unconstitutional in a 6-3 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, and the case nullified anti-sodomy laws in 13 other states at the same time. Perry, a strong opponent of gay marriage and the ability of homosexuals to serve openly in the military, served as governor when this case was decided.

Asked by Ken Herman, a columnist with the Austin American Statesman, for clarification on whether he knew what the case concerned, Perry responded, “I’m not taking the bar exam…I don’t know what a lot of legal cases involve.”

When told that the Supreme Court case struck down the Texas sodomy law, Perry said, “My position on traditional marriage is clear and I don’t know need a law. I don’t need a federal law case to explain it to me.”

The Texas governor referenced Lawrence v. Texas in his 2010 book Fed Up!, calling it one of the court cases in which “Texans have a different view of the world than do the nine oligarchs in robes.”

Perry had a previous Supreme Court trip up earlier in the month when he misstated the number of justices on the Supreme Court and stumbled over the name of Justice Sotomayor during an editorial board meeting with the Des Moines Register.

Perry clearly isn't a lawyer, and he clearly isn't very intelligent. Indeed, his comments make you wonder who really wrote his 2010 book. Texas is a great state in many ways. Sadly, it seems to have a penchant for electing GOP morons to the governorship over the last two decades.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

More Thursday Male Beauty

Why the Youth Vote Will Make or Break Obama

One of my long time frustrations during the now two decades that I've been actively involved in politics is the hit or miss nature of securing the youth vote. Even though young voters face the biggest long term consequences of failed political/government policies, the youth vote often cannot be relied upon to get to the polls. Fortunately, my children do not suffer from the apathy that plagues many of their compatriots, but overall the inconsistency of the youth vote is disappointing. One can only hope that 2012 will not be a repeat of 2010 when many youth voters stayed home and the consequence was the current GOP lunatics who were elected to the U, S. House of Representatives. I sincerely hope that Lady Gaga or someone can wake them up to the absolute importance of going to the polls and voting in 2012. A piece in The New Republic looks at why the youth vote could make or break Obama's reelection chances. Here are some highlights:

Americans are polarized like never before as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign, and the greatest dividing line of all seems to be age. Indeed, President Obama has astoundingly consistent support from Americans less than 30 years old, the so-called Millennial generation. In a recent Pew survey, this cohort favored Obama over Romney by 24 points, 61-37. The generation least likely to support Obama, on the other hand, is the "Silent generation"—the generational group slighter older than Baby Boomers, and the group now dominant among the ranks of seniors. He trails Mitt Romney in this generation by 13 points, 41-54. This is the same generation that moved so sharply against Democrats in the 2010 election, contributing heavily to the GOP wave that swept the country.

Those polling numbers clearly dictate an electoral strategy: What Obama needs to do is perform a kind of generational pincer movement on the GOP, driving up support and turnout among the Millennial generation while breaking into GOP support among the Silent generation. There’s also a straightforward way for him to accomplish both goals.

Millennials are exceptionally sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its goals. Obama’s attack on inequality and the way that an unfair economy thwarts economic mobility strikes a very responsive chord among these voters.

In addition, Obama’s argument that government must play a strong role in reestablishing healthy economic growth also plays well among this group. In the same Pew poll, Millennials are most likely to select jobs as their top election issue. And, in distinction to older generations, they still believe government spending helps the economy recover—indeed, they believe spending should be a higher priority for the federal government than deficit reduction.. . . Finally, a whopping two-thirds of this generation believes the Affordable Care Act should either be expanded or left as is, rather than repealed.

[T]he other side of Obama’s pincer movement[:] He needs to draw a very strong contrast between his approach and that of the GOP, which proposes to replace the current Medicare system with underfunded vouchers. Silents, more than any other generation, believe it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are (64 percent) than reduce the budget deficit (27 percent).

Nationally, he [Obama] could break-even or a bit worse among middling age groups (30-64) but still win if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly more than he loses seniors, as he did in 2008, . . . But if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly less than he loses seniors, as congressional Democrats did in 2010, he will lose.

in contrast to 2008 where the youth vote put Obama over the top in only two states, North Carolina and Indiana, there could be many instances where the youth vote makes the difference in 2012. Consider Ohio. . . . Virginia and Nevada follow the same pattern. Obama carried 18 to 29-year-olds by 60-39 while losing seniors 46-53 in Virginia. Keep that relative relationship, fight the GOP candidate to a draw among middling age groups, and the state is his.

All over the country, in other words, from the Midwest to the New South to the new swing states of the Southwest, Obama’s generational pincer movement could be key to his electoral prospects. Motivate and inspire youth while giving seniors second and third thoughts about the GOP. It’s a good game plan and Obama’s already made an excellent start at implementing it.

Atlanta Constitution Op-Ed Slams Catholic Charities

I wrote yesterday about the despicable lies being disseminated by the U. S. Catholic bishops that claims the furtherance of gay rights and the civil law recognition of same sex couples by states (alas, not Virginia) is threatening the religious freedom of Catholics and the Catholic Church. As I noted, the bishops' story line is pure unadulterated bulls shit and underscores in my mind why absolutely no government money - that's right zero dollars - should be given to religious denomination affiliated organizations. Likewise, and as a commenter on a post I wrote for the Bilerico Project noted, the current faux controversy being generated by the Catholic bishops, a number of evangelical Christian groups, and many of the pandering whores in the GOP presidential nominee clown car demonstrates why the White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives needs to be abolished. A column in the Atlanta Constitution has chimed in on the debate and validates my views. Here are some highlights (the column also begs the question as to whether the Church would be cut any slack whatsoever if the targets of its bigotry was blacks or Hispanics, two common targets of the Christianist/Tea Party base of the GOP):

I would argue that the church is not being persecuted. It is not persecution to be held to the standards that are applied to every other contractor that does business with the state. To the contrary, the church is demanding “special rights” to violate the law and to use taxpayers’ money to do so. It’s akin to some church or social agency taking state money to run soup kitchens to feed the poor, but demanding the right to deny aid to black people or Hispanics.

The church, using its own funds, would have every right to refuse to assist in gay adoptions. The First Amendment gives it that protection. But by accepting taxpayer dollars, it accepts the conditions that come with it. As the Times reports, “Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations).”

A couple of other points:

– There is no evidence that children raised by same-sex parents are harmed by the experience. Quite the contrary. In other words, the church’s objection may be based on moral grounds in its eyes, but it cannot be justified in terms of policy or pragmatism.

– It’s a shame that Illinois church leaders decided that discriminating against gay couples was more important to them than continuing to provide much-needed services to orphans and neglected children. Catholic leaders in other parts of the country have made the opposite decision.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Uncertain Hispanic Voters Favor Obama Over GOP Rivals

With Hispanics comprising the fastest growing segment of the nation's population I have often wondered at the Republican Party's concerted effort to alienate Hispanics - as well as younger voters - while kissing the bigoted asses of older white voters. It seems I'm not the only one to have noted the GOP's open hostility to Hispanic voters. Hispanic voters themselves have picked up on the dare we say hatred that is the principal GOP emotion towards Hispanics who seemed to be viewed as if they were all illegal immigrants who sole into America across the Rio Grande. A piece in the Washington Post looks at how the GOP's anti-Hispanic policies are pushing the Hispanic vote to Barack Obama. Here are highlights:

President Obama holds a wide lead among Hispanic voters when matched against potential Republican challengers, even as widespread opposition to his administration’s stepped-up deportation policies act as a drag on his approval ratings among that group, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, revealed a general-election weakness for Republicans among an increasingly influential voting bloc — with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry each winning less than one-fourth of the Hispanic vote in hypothetical matchups against Obama.

The president’s strong position with Latino voters comes even as Hispanic adults overall express disapproval with the way his administration is handling deportations of illegal immigrants, by 59 percent to 27 percent.

The findings suggest major challenges ahead for Republican strategists, many of whom believe the party cannot win the White House unless it slices into Obama’s support among Hispanics.

In the latest available data from Gallup, Obama’s numbers among Hispanics have recovered alongside a rise among the broader public. Fully 60 percent of all Hispanic adults interviewed by Gallup in late December said they approved of Obama’s overall job performance, a high in polls back to May.

[M]any Republican strategists said failing to improve that number in the future could doom Republican presidential contenders in battleground states with fast-growing Hispanic populations, such as Colorado and Florida.

Some Republicans have expressed concerns that Hispanics would feel alienated by hard-line rhetoric against illegal immigration in the GOP primary campaign — particularly from Romney, who has used the issue to attack Perry and former House speaker Newt Gingrich from the right. They worry that the debate might squander an opportunity to take advantage of Obama’s declining support among Hispanics, particularly centrists and conservatives.

The new Pew poll found that immigration is “extremely important” for a third of Hispanic voters, although that issue trails jobs, education, health care, taxes and the federal budget deficit on that list.

Democrats retain a strong advantage when Hispanics are asked which party they identify with, with two-thirds of voters picking Democrats and one-fifth siding with the GOP.

Some Republicans think that tapping Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), a Cuban American son of immigrants, as the party’s vice presidential nominee could offer a quick fix to their Hispanic problem. At the moment, the poll found, Rubio remains largely unknown to Hispanics nationally, with a majority saying they had not heard of him, couldn’t rate him or didn’t know whether they viewed him favorably.

"Manscaping" is Overtaking Straight Males

The boyfriend and I were recently at a largely gay holiday party and in the course of a discussion with an older straight woman she remarked how the men at the party were overall so much better groomed that what she was used to seeing at parties with large numbers of straight men. She said she wished more men paid as much attention to grooming as gay men. Obviously, she had not frequented many "bear" parties or else here comments might have had some caveats. But, she seems to be onto something in terms of straight men learning a think or two from the gays. At least in terms of the growing "manscaping" boom among heterosexual men. Here are highlights from an article that looks at the trend:

The Atlantic reported this month that female pubic hair in America is on the road to extinction, but that’s a bit like noting the spotted owl is an endangered species. Grooming and waxing experts say the latest trend in pubic hair removal isn’t targeted at women—it’s for the guys. There’s evidence of this all around us (if you dare to look). . . . . The same is true of other celebrities’ trimmed full-monty shots, from football player Brett Favre to Fall Out Boy Pete Wentz.

In ancient times, removing male pubic hair had less to do with aesthetics. Egyptians did it to stave off fleas and lice. Romans removed adolescent boys’ body hair as an initiation into adulthood. In the 16th century, Europeans were aghast when Michelangelo’s statue of David featured a sculpted tuft above his penis; they thought it looked ungodly. The modern manscaped man is a product of today’s post-mextrosexual society, where even the alpha male indulges in spa treatments and $50 Diesel boxer briefs.

“Part of it has to do with shared roles,” says Nicole Caldwell, the editor of Playgirl, who has seen such a steep decline in male pubic hair recently that she has to remind her models not to shave everything off. “I don’t want to say there’s no distinction between men and women, but it’s more acceptable for them to share a space. Guys can occupy salons and it’s not totally bizarre.”

While little scientific research exists on male hair-removal habits, a 2008 study conducted by researchers at Flinders University in Australia concluded that “hairlessness is rapidly becoming a component of the ideal male body.” Of the 228 heterosexual males who participated in the anonymous survey, 66 percent said they had removed their pubic hair at least once, in comparison to 82 percent of homosexual males.

Manscaping has gone so mainstream that stores like Kohls and Bed, Bath & Beyond stock body trimmers right next to facial ones. “The Mangroomer Private Body Shaver is one of our best-selling products,” says Mike Gilman, co-owner of the Grooming Lounge in Washington D.C., an upscale Barber Shop that serves scotch to its clients. Brian Boye, GQ’s grooming editor, agrees that body-grooming products have flooded the men’s market in recent years.

For those seeking a silky smooth undercarriage, there’s always the waxing option. In London, the Strip: Ministry of Waxing reports that one out of every three male customers requests a “Boyzilian.”

Martha Frankel, who co-wrote Brazilian Sexy with Janea Padilha, one of the founding members at Manhattan’s infamous J Sisters salon, is bowled over by the manscaping boom. According to Frankel, waxing used to be a strictly gay phenomenon, particularly in Brazil, where gay men strolled the beach in barely-there banana hammocks. Today, she hasn’t come across a single straight guy under 25 who doesn’t trim, shave or wax.

The study cited in the article can be found here. Meanwhile, one has to wonder when Tony Perkins or Maggie Gallagher and the National Organization for Marriage will launch a campaign against manscaping since it is "too gay" and threatening to "traditional sex roles" or some similarly insane batshitery. Oh, and for waxing, I tried it once and it hurts like Hell!! Never, ever again.

Republicans Are Going Extreme on Abortion

I have noted many times that I am not a proponent of abortion which should be resorted to rarely and not used as a form of birth control. That said, making abortion illegal in all cases is wrong and not only tramples of individual rights but is dangerous and would put the lives of many women at risk. Nonetheless, the many of the GOP presidential candidate clown car - Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann and Santorum to date - have signed on to the so-called "personhood" movement even though a ballot initiative in Mississippi, by far and away the nation's most backward and reactionary state, was defeated by a wide margin back in November. For those living under rocks, the "personhood movement wants to define a fertilized egg as a human being. The phenomenon demonstrates just how extreme and sectarian the GOP is becoming and it ought to wake people up to the fact that the Christianists want to ban not only same sex marriage, but also abortion and ultimately contraception. Indeed, the enactment of nothing less than a Christianist version of Sharia law seems to be the ultimate goal. Michelle Goldberg's piece at The Daily Beast looks at the growing insanity of the GOP. Here are highlights:

In November, when the personhood movement tried to pass a ballot initiative in Mississippi defining a fertilized egg as a human being, it lost by 58 percent. It was a staggering defeat in one of the country’s reddest states, and a sign of just how extreme personhood is.

That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s too extreme for the Republican presidential field. Last night, four GOP candidates—Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry—took part in a “tele-town hall” sponsored by Personhood USA, which was broadcast on the radio program of Steve Deace, an influential Iowa evangelical. The event demonstrated that a commitment to banning all abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, and threats to a woman’s health, is now the normative position among the party’s presidential contenders.

Each of the candidates, who spoke separately and took a couple of questions each, took the same hard-line position. The differences were on the margins. Bachmann distinguished herself with her dishonesty, claiming at one point that Obama is “putting abortion pills for young minors, girls as young as 8 years of age or 11 years of age, on [the] bubblegum aisle.”

Gingrich sounded rather more rational, but his argument may have been the most radical of the four. In response to a question about how he would respond to a Supreme Court ruling against a personhood law, he insisted that the legislative and executive branches can “rebalance the judiciary.” He referred listeners to a paper on his website (PDF) which, among other things, suggests that Congress abolish uncooperative courts and judgeships, and argues that in certain rare cases, “the executive branch might choose to ignore a Court decision.” Rather than overturn Roe v. Wade, he proposes to overturn the entire system of judicial review.

Given that Mitt Romney will likely be the nominee, we probably don’t have to worry about Gingrich’s dreams of extrajudicial power. Still, it’s worth paying attention to the sort of views expressed last night. After all, they’re the views of the majority of the current Republican field, a field in which the position that Rick Perry held on abortion until last month is unacceptably moderate.

It is truly frightening just how unbalanced and extreme the Republican Party has become. At times I wonder how the knowledge of the Roman Empire was lost and the Dark Ages ensued. One need only look at what the GOP is becoming to see how the wholesale move towards ignorance can occur.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Newt Gingrich Declares That He Wants to Pack the Courts with Christianist Judges

The utter batshitery of thrice married serial adulterer and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is getting more bizarre and insane by the day. While Gingrich's insanity may be playing well amongst some in the Christianist/Tea Party base of the GOP, it ought to be scaring the Hell out of rational sentient citizens. Especially, Gingrich's new pledge to pack the courts with judges from Law Schools like Pat Robertson's Regent Law School and the dead Jerry Falwell's Liberty University Law School. It's be the Christianist equivalent of putting an mullah on the bench. Right Wing Watch looks at this frightening declaration. Here are highlights:

Newt Gingrich appeared on Monday’s program of WallBuilders Live with David Barton and Rick Green, where Gingrich once again praised Barton’s right-wing pseudo-history and activism. In fact, Gingrich gave Barton credit for helping him develop his plan to assault the “judicial dictatorship” if elected president. He told Barton and Green that his plan is sending shockwaves through the “the secular left, which has been using the courts to replace the America we grew up in” by legalizing abortion, “driving God out of public life” and making same-sex marriages become “legitimized as if they were the same between traditional marriage between a man and a woman.”

Gingrich added that he would appoint judges in the mold of Robert George, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage and a drafter of the Manhattan Declaration who has called people to defy Supreme Court decisions on issues like marriage that they disagree with, and graduates of Regent University and Liberty University, the schools founded by the far-right televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, respectively. . . . . Liberty University School of Law even pressured students to disobey U.S. law if it conflicts with what they believe is “God’s law” in situations such as the Lisa Miller kidnapping case.

GINGRICH: What you have is, the secular left, which has been using the courts to replace the America we grew up in, the secular left which is desperately committed to Roe v. Wade and abortion, desperately committed to marriage between same-sex couples becoming legitimized as if they were the same between traditional marriage between a man and a woman, desperately committed to driving God out of public life, and they are suddenly faced with the possibility that we the people are going to take back our authority, that we are going to take back our rights, that we are going to redress the balance. The level of hysteria, I predict, will grow as they come to realize at the American Bar Association and elsewhere that this really is an effort to limit the power of lawyers to redesign America.

GINGRICH: You start looking at people of the caliber of Robbie George of Princeton, you look at Regent University, you look at Liberty University, you start looking around and realizing there is a whole crop - Vince Haley of University of Virginia graduate who is a deeply, deeply committed Christian who clearly understands these kinds of issues - I think people would be surprised that the Federalist Society has many members who agree that we need a balance of power between the three, not a judicial dictatorship.

The Catholic Church's Insidious Lies About Threats to "Religious Freedom"

The New York Times has a major story on the nation's Roman Catholic bishops' deliberate, misleading lies that depict the furtherance of gay rights as a threat to the Catholic Church's religious freedom. If one reads the article it quickly becomes apparent that what the bishops really outraged about is the erosion of the special rights too long granted to Catholic organizations to line up like fat sows at the trough of government money - to the tune of $2.9 billion in 2010 - and then have an unfettered hand to freely discriminate against some of the very citizens whose taxes have been given by the government to the very same bigoted Catholic institutions. Let's be clear, requiring institutions that receive taxpayer derived government funds to abide by non-discrimination laws in no manner restricts the religious freedom of the recipients. No one is forcing them to accept government funds and every such institution has have the option to say no to the funds and to enjoy unrestricted exercise of their religious based bigotry.

The bottom line is that bishops and Catholic institutions want to have their cake and eat it too if you will. And the government and the courts need to firmly say no to the bishops' petulant tantrums. Better yet, the media needs to expose the bishop's lies for what they are: lies. In addition, they need to make sure voters are educated on the amount of taxpayer money being sucked up by Catholic organizations. The public needs to understand that taxpayers are propping up the Catholic Church's institutions even as the Church continues to stonewall and protect sexual predators within the ranks of the clergy.

Here in Virginia, the theocratic regime of Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli allowed Catholic Charities and other religious organizations to have these special rights and receive state funds even as they are allowed to discriminate based on religion, sexual orientation and even political belief. Frankly, this situation is outrageous - and unconstitutional. Not that the spineless Supreme Court of Virginia would have the integrity to strike down McDonnell/Cuccinelli policies. Fortunately, as the Times story notes some states such as Illinois are finally saying no to Catholic institutions and withdrawing juicy funding contracts. Truth be told, it is the bishops and the Church that threaten religious freedom, not gay rights or gay marriage. Here are highlights from the Times story:

Catholic Charities in Illinois has served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children. But now most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois are closing down rather than comply with a new requirement that says they can no longer receive state money if they turn away same-sex couples as potential foster care and adoptive parents.

For the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, the outcome is a prime example of what they see as an escalating campaign by the government to trample on their religious freedom while expanding the rights of gay people. The idea that religious Americans are now the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals.

The Illinois experience indicates that the bishops face formidable opponents who also claim to have justice and the Constitution on their side. They include not only gay rights advocates, but also many religious believers and churches that support gay equality (some Catholic legislators among them). They frame the issue as a matter of civil rights, saying that Catholic Charities was using taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Critics of the church argue that no group has a constitutional right to a government contract, especially if it refuses to provide required services.

The controversy in Illinois began when the state legislature voted in November 2010 to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, which the state’s Catholic bishops lobbied against. . . . Bishops in Washington and Massachusetts had already decided to jettison their Catholic Charities’ adoption services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws.

Catholic Charities affiliates received a total of nearly $2.9 billion a year from the government in 2010, about 62 percent of its annual revenue of $4.67 billion. Only 3 percent came from churches in the diocese (the rest came from in-kind contributions, investments, program fees and community donations). In Illinois, Catholic Charities in five of the six state dioceses had grown dependent on foster care contracts, receiving 60 percent to 92 percent of their revenues from the state, according to affidavits by the charities’ directors.

Taking a completely different tack was the agency affiliated with the conservative Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, which like the Catholic Church does not sanction same-sex relationships. Gene Svebakken, president and chief executive of the agency, Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, visited all seven pastoral conferences in his state and explained that the best option was to compromise and continue caring for the children.

The work will be carried on, but the Catholic Church’s seminal, historic connection with it has been severed, noted Mr. Marlowe, the spokesman for the state’s child welfare agency. “The child welfare system that Catholic Charities helped build,” he said "is now strong enough to survive their departure.”

Illinois has gotten it right so far. Again, the rule is easy: accept government funds and you must abide by applicable nondiscrimination statutes. If you want to be bigots and discriminate, simply don't ask for government funds. It's really so very simple - unless one is seeking special rights. As for the bishops and Catholic Charities, the sooner they cease to be partially government funded the better.

Global War Against the Rights of Gay People

While it is easy to become blinded to the larger world wide struggle for LGBT rights given the fact that many of us feel as if we are fighting a never ending war in both our home states (e.g., anti-gay Virginia, North Carolina were hate groups are pushing for an anti-gay constitutional amendment, and other states) and America. But sadly, despite our third or fourth class citizen status, those of us in the USA have it good compared to many in other parts of the world such as in Islamic nations and in Africa where American Christianists have been working in overdrive to export anti-gay hate and bigotry to the uneducated and easily deceived. Johann Hari an award-winning journalist who writes twice-weekly for the Independent, one of Britain's leading newspapers, and the Huffington Post, wrote a column with Elton John a while back that sums up just how bad things are in many parts of the world where things are going from bad to worse. As always, religion is the underlying poison that fuels the hate and violence. Here are some column highlights:

There has been a strange hole in Western gay politics — until now. We have, understandably, been focused on our own national battles for dignity: to get married, and not get fired for being gay, or bullied into despair as teenagers. But while we were starting to win, millions of gay people were starting to lose — and lose badly. There are seven countries where the punishment for homosexuality is death, and the number is growing. In dozens more, gay people are being terrorized into the closet, or a prison cell, or the hands of a lynch mob, today, now. To pluck one example at random, this summer, a senior official in Ghana ordered gays and lesbians “rounded up”, and announced: “All efforts are being made to get rid of these people.” Imagine a thousand Matthew Shephards, lynched with the approval of the state.

In every human society ever recorded, some people — around 3 to 5 percent — have been sexually drawn to their own gender. It is as universal and as harmless a quirk as left-handedness. Yet somewhere along the way, a whole cluster of fears and paranoias furred around homosexuality. There were myths that gay people were subversives or pedophiles or enemies of an invisible deity. For a long time, these myths killed gay men and women in our societies — and now they are killing people just like us in swelling numbers abroad.

Among some people, there is an unspoken assumption that gay equality inches forward of its own accord — but in many countries, the situation is dramatically deteriorating for gay people. In Uganda, to name just one, there has been an attempt to reimpose the death penalty that has not yet been conclusively defeated. Campaigners on the ground warn that if the international pressure lets up, it will be reintroduced into parliament very quickly, and pass.

This doesn’t have to happen. None of this is fixed by nature. It’s patronizing and false to claim that poor countries are inevitably homophobic: in 2007, Nepal – a bitterly poor country — introduced binding legal protections for gay people. It’s equally patronizing to think that intensely religious countries are inevitably homophobic. Argentina is highly Catholic, but has legalized gay marriage.

The big human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have done some incredibly valuable work on individual countries, but nobody is even compiling a list of who across the world is in prison or designated for death just for being gay. What are their names? What are their stories? What support do they want?

A remarkable group called Kaleidoscope has been set up in London, with global reach and a simple goal. Any gay person running for her life, or any gay group banding together to be treated like a human being, will be given the support they need, in the way they want it.

But so far, most of the pressure flowing from the US and Europe has been in the other direction — supporting the murderous homophobes. A battalion of US evangelicals flooded Uganda prior to the move to reintroduce the death penalty for homosexuality, announcing that homosexuality can be “cured”, and gays were determined to recruit African children. For example, the Atlantic Monthly has revealed that one of Michele Bachmann’s closest advisors, Peter Waldron, is a close personal friend of the man who most aggressively promoted the bill to hunt down and kill all of Uganda’s gays.

Yet Bachmann’s advisor has not done anything to distance himself from this crazed hatred. On the contrary: we now know that Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, teaches and preaches the central idea behind the movements to hunt down gay people across the world: that homosexuality is a choice, and so gay people who persist with their sexuality are being willfully deviant.

There is a global war going on against the right of an entire group to fall in love. The US hard right is aiding the side of the persecutors and bigots. We need to aid the side of the people who want to live and love. That is the goal of Kaleidoscope.

This doesn’t have to happen ever again. . . . . if Kaleidoscope attracts the support they deserve, we believe we will live to see the day when gay people are able to embrace openly on the streets of Kampala and Kingston and Kandahar. Grab your jacket and your instinct for justice — the global Stonewall riot has begun.

For local readers not in the know, the Elton John Foundation has provided funding for the long needed LGBT Center in Norfolk. Until the horrors propelled by religion are defeated, we all must continue the fight and give out time, talent and treasure to opposing anti-gay evil. Donate to Kaleidoscope here.