Saturday, October 29, 2011

The United Staes Flunks At Social Justice

UPDATED: Beneath the chart I have set out some highlights from a related column in the New York Times. I find it extremely disturbing to see the direction in which this nation is headed. Again, the facts disclose the utter hypocrisy and toxicity of the Christianist/Tea Party/Republican version of Christianity which now seems best defined by unbridled greed and hatred of others.

I am not one to advocate handouts to the lazy and shiftless. That said, I do believe in helping those in need, including the poor and hungry and the ill. Moreover, with one of the nation's main political parties wearing Christianity on its sleeve almost incessantly, one would expect that the USA would stack up decently on a measure of the social justice available to it's citizens. As the chart below (click the images to enlarge them) from the New York Times reveals, that expectation would be sadly mistaken. Indeed, it is the policies advocated by the quasi-religious party a/k/a the Republican Party and its adherents that bear much of the responsibility for the USA's pathetic score. The disconnect between the feigned religious belief of the far right and their actual adherence to Christ's message could not be more stark. The fact that supposedly far less religious nations score far better that America is nothing less than an indictment of conservative Christians and the political whore in the GOP.

We are slowly — and painfully — being forced to realize that we are no longer the America of our imaginations. Our greatness was not enshrined. Being a world leader is less about destiny than focused determination, and it is there that we have faltered.

We sold ourselves a pipe dream that everyone could get rich and no one would get hurt — a pipe dream that exploded like a pipe bomb when the already-rich grabbed for all the gold; when they used their fortunes to influence government and gain favors and protection; when everyone else was left to scrounge around their ankles in hopes that a few coins would fall.

We have not taken care of the least among us. We have allowed a revolting level of income inequality to develop. We have watched as millions of our fellow countrymen have fallen into poverty. And we have done a poor job of educating our children and now threaten to leave them a country that is a shell of its former self. We should be ashamed.

Poor policies and poor choices have led to exceedingly poor outcomes. Our societal chickens have come home to roost.

This was underscored in a report released on Thursday by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation of Germany entitled “Social Justice in the OECD — How Do the Member States Compare?” It analyzed some metrics of basic fairness and equality among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and ranked America among the ones at the bottom.

Among the damning finds on the USA, 21.6 percent of America children are affected by poverty. In contrast that figure is 3.7 percent in Denmark. The Christian Right can bad mouth "old Europe" all they want, but the truth is secularized Europe does a far better job at applying Christ's Gospel message to public policy than the falsely pious in the USA.

Tea Party Group Asks Michele Bachmann to Quit GOP Race

I always love it when conservatives turn on one of their own as is happening now with the Tea Party group "American Majority" which has released a statement saying that Michelle Bachmann needs to quit the GOP presidential nomination contest. What kills me the most is that the faults with Bachmann that are cited have always been in plain view - not to mention that the woman is nuts and unqualified to be dog catcher much less president of the United States. Most of us recognized from the start that Bachmann's bid was all about self-promotion and that her only real plank was social issues and religious fanaticism. Better that some have finally opened their eyes and one can only hope that Michele and "Marcia" Bachmann will soon return to relative obscurity. Here are some highlights from CNN:

A tea party group has a surprising and harsh urging for long-time tea party favorite Michele Bachmann: Quit the presidential race. "It's time for Michele Bachmann to go," reads the first line of a statement from American Majority President Ned Ryun. His group operates in seven states, trains thousands of tea party supporters and is "liked" by over 371,000 people on Facebook.

"Bachmann, the leader of the so-called tea party caucus in the House and the most vocal about her affiliation with the Tea Party than any other Presidential candidate, has consistently presented herself as a champion of the movement and its values," Ryun's statement continued. "Bachmann has ridden her tea party credentials from obscurity to a national platform like no other."

American Majority's rebuke of Bachmann marks the first time a well-known tea party group has turned on one of its own in the presidential race – a candidate who so frequently pushes tea party values it's become a key underpinning of her White House bid. The group explained its reasons why it's grown incensed with Bachmann.

"I think it's pretty obvious that Michele Bachmann is about Michele Bachmann," American Majority Executive Director Matt Robbins said.

"Anyone who knows the congresswoman, and knows her record, we appreciate a national figure standing up for the tea party types," Robbins added. . . . . "Let's face it: she's a back-bencher and has been a back bencher congressperson for years," Robbins added. "This is not a serious presidential campaign."

The group explains another reason it believes Bachmann should quit the GOP presidential race.

"Bachmann's resulting plunge in the polls is troubling for the tea party, not because 'one of their own' is losing her footing, but because the longer Bachmann stays in the race, the more likely we will see her shift to the right," Ryun wrote in the statement. "This rightward shift will come as the campaign works to hold on to its more conservative base of support in advance of the release of Bachmann's new book next month."

Ryun continued: "There is nothing wrong with addressing your base during a campaign. However, I suspect that we will hear more from her about social issues and religion to accomplish that goal. As an evangelical who is deeply pro-life, I can say that while many inside the tea party movement are socially conservative, social issues are not what drive the Tea Party."

As for criticism of Bachmann's focus on social issues, Martin said, "When you're running for president, you're appealing to more than just tea party people. And you have to answer questions on other issues as well. So I'm not surprised when any of the candidates are talking about the other issues because those are things that come up in presidential campaigns."

Ouch!! But again, all of Bachmann's many limitations should have been obvious to anyone who wasn't drinking large quantities of Kool-Aid.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Fred Karger Demands Copies of NOM's Tax Returns

I have long viewed the National Organization for Marriage as a thinly veiled criminal enterprise. The organization flouts the election campaign finance laws of one state after another and now it seems has never filed required tax returns. Why? I believe in my heart because NOM is a front organization for the Catholic and/or Mormon Churches or perhaps a handful of wealthy extremists. Therefore, NOM will go to nay lengths to avoid having its financials scrutinized or the identity of its funding sources revealed. Indeed, NOM seeks to operate above the law as if it were part of an organized crime syndicate. As Jeremy Hooper reports, Fred Karger is again in the forefront trying to expose NOM's bank rollers and make NOM comply with he law. Here are some highlights of Karger's letter to NOM via Good As You:

I am writing to alert you that the 2010 federal tax returns (990’s) of the National Organization for Marriage are missing. They were due in May 2011, and an extension was granted until October 15, 2011. We stopped by your Washington, DC office this week and there were no 990’s available for viewing as required by law. They are not up on your web site nor are they on Guidestar. No IRS returns available again this year at the tiny national NOM office in Washington DC.

Who is NOM Trying to Protect? NOM has not filed its tax returns on time with the Internal Revenue Service for both its 501©3 and 501©4 organizations for any of the four years since it began.

As I am sure you are aware, NOM and its former officers are under investigation by the state of Maine for money laundering on a referendum NOM put on the ballot in November 2009. The active investigation of the National Organization for Marriage by the State Ethics Commission and the State Attorney General is in its third year.

NOM has sued 23 states to try and keep the names of all your funders secret. It was, however, gratifying to see NOM lose its California case this week in federal court (the same case you subpoenaed me in). CLICK HERE:

So, as NOM’s new Chairman, I am writing you in the hope that finally there may be a modicum of integrity at the National Organization for Marriage.

I also have to wonder why the IRS has not taken action against NOM. Who is protecting NOM even though its an obvious violator of the nation's tax laws? Is it Barack Obama's BFF Rick Warren? Something clearly doesn't add up and an explanation is needed from the IRS.

ABC News Picks Up Ohio Assault on Ohio Gay Student

Thankfully, ABC News has run with the story of the 15 year old gay student who was savagely assaulted while his attacker yelled out anti-gay epithets. The attack is in my view the direct by-product of the incessant anti-gay mantra voiced virtually daily by Christianists, disingenuously named "family values" organizations and their political whores in the Republican Party. One can only hope that as members of the general public watch the video that captured this gratuitous violence they will connect the dots that lead back to the religious extremists and hate merchants of the far right such as Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, Linda Harvey, Don Wildmon - and yes, Pope Benedict XVI. Each of these falsely Christian individuals and their respective organizations bear responsibility for this attack because they help foster an atmosphere and mind set where anti-gay bigotry is deemed acceptable. I sincerely hope that the beating victim's mother (pictured at right) will hang tough and settle for nothing less than maximum criminal prosecution against her son's attacker. A lawsuit against the school division would also be most welcome. Here are nightlights from ABC's coverage:

An Ohio high school student waited in a classroom to attack a 15-year-old gay classmate, beating him repeatedly in a vicious assault captured by a bystander on a cellphone.

"I covered myself and shielded my body, and he kept hitting," the gay student, who did not want to be identified, told ABC's affiliate WSYX in Ohio. "Nobody did anything."

Now the boy's mother, Rebecca Collins of Chillicothe, has said she would seek justice for the Oct. 17 beating. The Ross County Sheriff's office said it is investigating the attack but so far has not made any arrests. James Osborne, principal at Union-Scioto High School, located about 50 miles south of Columbus, confirmed the "unfortunate" attack, and said "charges have been filed."

"It turns my stomach," Collins told ABC's affiliate station. "It's my son. I don't care, and they did it just because he's a homosexual." Other students watched as the attacker waited for his victim to arrive in the classroom. He then shoved his prey to the ground, and repeatedly punched him in the face.

Osborne, the principal at the 550-student high school, said, "We have never had an incident of this nature. "I am not saying we have never had any reports of bullying -- we have just as much as any school. But we've never had anything of this magnitude." He would not release the name of either the attacker or the victim.

He said the school did not have a gay-straight alliance but had an anti-bullying policy in force. The student who initiated the attack was suspended for three days.

Collins' son said that he had been regularly bullied, including a recent comment that appeared on a posting of his picture on Facebook: "Check out the definition of a faggot."

Currently, an anti-bullying law is pending in Ohio's state legislature, proposing the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity among other enumerated protections to the state's existing anti-bullying law.

I truly hope that the Ohio legislature will close its ears to the hate and lies of the "godly Christian" set and enact the amendments to the state's anti-bullying laws. The blood on the hands of conservative Christians seems to grow by the day. When will the larger public open their eyes to the fact that the far right form of Christianity is toxic and a threat to society?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Andrew Cuomo Calls for Same Sex Marriage in All States

Andrew Cuomo in his successful effort to bring full marriage equality to New York State has shown the example of how Barack Obama might have made a push for same sex marriage across the country - or at least bravely lead the charge for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"). Such action, of course, would involve leadership and courage, two thinks starkly lacking in the White House at present. In all likelihood, those who oppose marriage equality won't vote for Obama in any event, so the net loss of being on the right side of history would likely be negligible. But back to Cuomo. Last night Cuomo was feted at the Empire State Pride Agenda where, for the first time, he made the case for marriage equality across America. The New York Times looks at Cuomo's comments. Here are highlights:

Mr. Cuomo, who choreographed the successful push this year to win legalization of same-sex marriage, received a standing ovation that lasted for more than a minute from supporters of the group, the Empire State Pride Agenda.

Shifting his sights beyond New York in a way he has not done before, Mr. Cuomo demanded that the federal Defense of Marriage Act be repealed. His voice rising in intensity as he spoke, he also called for federal legislation that would bar discrimination against gay men and lesbians in housing and employment.

And in his most forceful terms to date, Mr. Cuomo called for his counterparts across the country to embrace what he framed as an issue of equal rights and to push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in their own statehouses.

“We need marriage equality in every state in this nation,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Otherwise, no state really has marriage equality, and we will not rest until it is a reality.”

In his speech, he praised gay rights advocates for their hard work and also thanked many elected officials, including his predecessor, Gov. David A. Paterson, and the four Republican state senators who provided the critical votes to pass the marriage bill and whom Mr. Cuomo named one by one to some of the loudest applause of the evening.

Imagine an America where all citizens are treated equally under the law regardless of their sexual orientation and where anti-gay Christians are not afforded special rights. I often wonder if I will long enough to see that day.

Who Is Responsible for Destroying the Republican Brand?

I take some degree of grief at times from readers for my - in my view, justified - pummeling of today's Republican Party for its many moral failings not to mention off the charts hypocrisy. Being critical of the GOP doesn't mean I'm in love with the Democrats, merely that if one has to pick from one of two evils, then the Christianist/Tea Party controlled greed loving GOP is the worse of the two evils. And it's the GOP which has worked to to destroy itself and make it increasingly impossible for rational, thinking, non-religious extremists and non-greed driven individuals to want anything to do with the GOP brand. As I have noted many times, once upon a time I was a Republican in an era when before the Party has degenerated into something foul. The Democrats did not do this to the GOP, the GOP leadership did it by catering to religious extremists, the Tea Party and selling out the middle class. David Frum, one of the shrinking group of rational conservatives looks at this phenomenon on his blog. Here are some highlights:

Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza describe a new CBS/NYT poll:

The poll also asked which class voters thought the Obama Administration and Republicans in Congress favored. While people were pretty evenly split on whether the administration favors the middle class, the rich or the poor, they were all but unanimous about which class the Republicans favor; 69 percent said Republicans in Congress favor the rich, while just 9 percent said the middle class and 2 percent said the poor.

Voters say the darndest things! The identification of the GOP as mouthpiece for the selfish interests of the wealthy is a stubborn image, difficult to overcome at the best of times. For three years, however, Republican leaders have been doing their utmost to confirm the stereotype – and to quash and quell any attempt to counter that stereotype. Did we really spend months and months arguing that one of the things most wrong with the US tax code is that the poor and unemployed pay too little tax? Yes we did. Head shake. Face slap.

Given the terrible economic fundamentals, this reckless self-branding by Republicans may not in the end be enough to save President Obama from himself. But if he does manage to eke it out, the CBS/NYT result is the beginning of wisdom as to how and why.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

FRC Continues the "Persecution of Christians" Lie

The dishonesty and lies of self-labeled "Christian" organizations truly makes me want to vomit at times - and never refer to myself as a Christian again in my life time. Who wants to be associated in any way with such foul people. One of the big lies now being disseminated by the Christian Right is that Christians are being "bullied" and "persecuted." In the objective world, that means that people are beginning to stand up and oppose Christianists from inflicting their hate and fear based religious beliefs on all of society. Is this bullying or persecution? Not hardly. For a glimpse of true bullying and persecution one need only look at yesterday's post with the video of the 15 year old Ohio student being beaten as the attacker yelled anti-gay slurs. Nonetheless, the Christianist liars and hate merchants continue to play the victim card even as they seek to bully, disparage and victimize gays, immigrants, Muslims, non-Christians and racial minorities. Here's a sampling of FRC's disingenuous bullshit:

I've had the pleasure of chatting in person with Barry Lynn and the man is amazing. He knows his facts and data and equally importantly, he believes in the concept of separation of church and state. A concept that hate groups like FRC and its allies would like to eradicate. One can't help but wonder when Congress is going to stop giving a platform to groups like FRC. Would they allow testimony from the KKK or Aryan Nation? FRC and its allies should not receive any different treatment than the KKK or other white supremacy groups. Hate and bigotry is still hate and bigotry even when wrapped in the Bible.

Abraham Lincoln: A Life in the Closet?

Somewhat over a year ago I wrote several posts on this blog and on the Bilerico Project that looked at evidence that increasingly suggests that Abraham Lincoln may have been the nation's first gay president, albeit a largely closeted one. Now, Mark Segal, founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, has written a lengthy piece on Linclon as part of the 2011 National Gay History Project. The piece can be found here on The Bilerico Project and deserves a full read. Despite what seems to be rather convincing evidence, I'm sure many historians - and particularly anti-gay Christianists - will continue to deny the facts and bad mouth those like Segal who believe that history needs to reflect the truth not merely cherry picked facts that support certain prejudices and don't run afoul of discriminatory sensibilities. Here are a few highlights (again, you need to read the full piece):

Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) may likely be the most studied and researched of the United States presidents. The first reference to him possibly being "homosexual" came from notable Lincoln expert Carl Sandburg in his 1926 biography, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.

In describing the early relationship between Lincoln and his close friend, Joshua Fry Speed, Sandburg wrote "a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets." This line got historians talking about an issue from which many had previously shied away. Still, the biography was written in the early 20th century, a time when such topics were only discussed in whispers. But by including the line, Sandburg felt the relationship deserved acknowledgement. It wasn't until 2005 when the first book was published on Lincoln's relationships with men, C.A. Tripp's The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.

Detractors of Lincoln's possible homosexuality, such as historian David Herbert Donald, often say there is no new evidence on Lincoln. Yet historians continue to draw fresh conclusions from Lincoln's letters.

Yet history, like everything else, is open to interpretation and influenced by new findings. Bias also motivated the retelling of historical events. The best example of bias in American history is the story of Thomas Jefferson and his slave/concubine Sally Hemings, which was not accepted as a truthful account until 1998 -- and only after DNA proof.


In 1830, when Lincoln's family moved to Coles County, Ill., he headed out on his own. At age 22, he settled in New Salem, Ill., where he met Billy Greene -- and, as Greene told Herndon, the two "shared a narrow bed. When one turned over the other had to do likewise." Greene was so close to Lincoln at that time that he could describe Lincoln's physique. However, Lincoln was poor at the time and it was not unusual for men in poverty to share a bed.


In 1837, Lincoln moved to Springfield, Ill., to practice law and enter politics. That's where he met the two men who would be his greatest friends throughout his life. One, Joshua Fry Speed, became his bed partner for a while; the other was law partner Herndon. Beyond the revelation that Lincoln and Speed had an intimate friendship, little has been written about how diligently Speed worked for Lincoln's legal and political career. Speed's name popped up in many of Lincoln's legal filings and on the Illinois Whig Party's central committee. The two were almost inseparable. Most Lincoln historians agree this relationship was the strongest and most intimate of the president's life. What they don't agree on is why they slept in the same bed together for four years when they had the space and means to sleep separately, as was expected of men their age.

Lincoln's most emotional and intimate writings were contained in his letters to Speed. From the time they lived together until shortly after Speed married and moved to Kentucky, Lincoln always signed his letters "forever yours" or "yours forever."


After Speed and Lincoln's marriages, there were no traces of other men in Lincoln's life until Elmer Ellsworth in 1860. . . . . Lincoln met Ellsworth through these displays and the two became friends. Lincoln invited Ellsworth, who had been a law clerk in Chicago, to move to Springfield to study law. Ellsworth became devoted to Lincoln and adored by the entire Lincoln family. One author wrote that it seemed Lincoln had a "schoolboy crush" on the much-younger Ellsworth. He first worked in Lincoln's law practice, then moved on to his political career and eventual campaign for president. Once elected, Lincoln asked Ellsworth to accompany his family to Washington.

Ellsworth would be the first Union soldier killed in the war. After hearing of the tragedy, Lincoln wept openly and went with Mrs. Lincoln to view the soldier's body. Lincoln arranged for Ellsworth to lay in state in the White House, followed by a funeral. The president was inconsolable for days.


In 1862, Lincoln met Capt. David Derickson, who served as his bodyguard, providing protection for the president when he commuted from the White House to his cottage at the Soldier's Home. Lincoln spent about a quarter of his presidency at the cottage, which allowed him some escape from D.C.'s summers and from public interruptions at the White House.

Lincoln and his bodyguard became close, and historians Tripp and David Herbert Donald noted two recorded mentions that Lincoln and Derickson slept in the same bed: Derickson's superior, Lt. Col. Thomas Chamberlain, and Tish Fox, the wife of Assistant Navy Secretary Gustavus Fox, both wrote about it. Tish wrote in her diary that Derickson was devoted to Lincoln and "when Mrs. Lincoln was away, they slept together."

But there were more than just two eyewitnesses to this relationship. After the war, Chamberlain published an account of the regiment called "History of the 150th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, Second Regiment, Bucktail Brigade." Before it was published, many members of the company reviewed the manuscript . . .

The Bucktails witnessed the relationship between the president and his bodyguard, which was public enough that they knew Derickson kept him company when Mrs. Lincoln traveled, and wore his nightshirt. Historical interpretations aside, why would the president, then in his 50s, sleep with his bodyguard?


Taken individually, accounts of Lincoln with other men may not offer enough proof that he was gay. But the pattern reveals a man who, in his sexual prime, slept exclusively with another man for four years -- two of those years (according to Donald) without romancing someone of the opposite sex; who wrote a poem about a boy marrying a boy; and who, as president, slept with his bodyguard.

From historical records, one can conclude that Lincoln enjoyed sleeping with men. He did so when it was acceptable in youth and poverty, and also when he was older and successful. While it is documented that Lincoln slept with several men, there is only one confirmed woman who shared his bed -- Todd.

Speed was apparently the love of his life. Lincoln resisted marriage as long as he could, only marrying after Speed was well-entrenched in his own marriage -- a phase that coincided with Lincoln's "mental distress."

The Real Proponents of Class Warfare

While Obama continues some what fecklessly to to try to get some type of jobs bill passed a meaningful deficit reduction package through the super committee, the demagogues in the Republican Party - e.g., Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and John Boehner who have about the same level of truth and veracity as Tony Perkins, Linda Harvey, Maggie Gallagher or Pat Robertson - continue the disingenuous mantra that Obama and the Democrats are engaging in "class warfare." One can only surmise that these lying douche bags are looking in the mirror when they make such statements. While the wealthiest Americans continue to do quite well during this time of economic hardship, I continue to daily see clients who have had their financial/economic dreams wiped out. Yet these every day individuals are the people the Republicans want to saddle with the burden of deficit reduction even as the income disparity in the nation widens further. For a political party that gives lip service to religiosity and worship of Christ, the hypocrisy is numbing. Eugene Robinson looks at the real truth in a column in today's Washington Post. Here are some highlights:

The hard-right conservatives who dominate the Republican Party claim to despise the redistribution of wealth, but secretly they love it — as long as the process involves depriving the poor and middle class to benefit the rich, not the other way around.

That is precisely what has been happening, as a jaw-dropping new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office demonstrates. Three decades of trickle-down economic theory, see-no-evil deregulation and tax-cutting fervor have led to massive redistribution. Another word for what’s been happening might be theft.

The gist of the CBO study, titled “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007,” is that while we’ve become wealthier overall, these new riches have largely bypassed many Americans and instead flowed mostly to the affluent. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I don’t remember voting to turn the United States into a nation starkly divided between haves and have-nots. Yet that’s where we’ve been led.

For those at the bottom — the one-fifth of households with the lowest incomes — the increase was just 18 percent. . . . . By contrast, look at the top 1 percent of earners. Their after-tax household income increased by an astonishing 275 percent. For those keeping track, this means it nearly quadrupled. Nice work, if you can get it.

This is not what Republicans want you to think of when you hear the word redistribution. . . . . If Americans were to realize they’ve been the victims of Republican-style redistribution — stealing from the poor to give to the rich — the whole political atmosphere might change. I believe that’s one reason why the Occupy Wall Street protests have struck such a nerve. The far-right and its media mouthpieces have worked themselves into a frenzy trying to disregard, dismiss or discredit the demonstrations.

[T]he system is rigged. Wealthy individuals and corporations have disproportionate influence over public policy because of the often decisive role that money plays in elections.

Second, and more broadly, the real issue is what kind of nation we want to be. Thomas Jefferson’s “All men are created equal” is properly understood as calling for equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. But the more we become a nation of rich and poor, the less we can pretend to be offering the same opportunities to every American. As polarization increases, mobility declines. The whole point of the American Dream is that it is available to everyone, not just those who awaken from their slumbers on down-filled pillows and 800-thread-count sheets.

We believe in individual initiative and the free market, but we also believe that nationhood necessarily involves a commitment to our fellow citizens, an acknowledgment that we’re engaged in a common enterprise.

As I noted yesterday, when "Old Europe" offers more opportunity for upward social mobility than the United States, something is seriously f*cked up in this country.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Thusday Male Beauty

Ohio Antigay School Beating Caught on Tape

Anti-gay violence and bullying seems to continue unabated despite the efforts of decent citizens to stop such heinous behavior? Why? Most likely because of the anti-gay lies and venom disseminated by individuals like Linda Harvey and falsely named "family values" organizations - read hate group - such as Family Research Council, America Family Association and the National Organization for Marriage on virtually a daily basis. The latest shocking example of the fruits of the Christianist hate campaign took place in Ohio where a 15 year old gay student was severely beaten while in class. Even more shocking, the episode was captured on the cell phone camera of another student (see the video above). The Advocate looks at this disturbing incident. Here are some highlights:

A brutal case of antigay bullying in an Ohio high school has been caught by cell phone video and is emblematic of violence experienced or feared by LGBT students every day.

The video catches the attacker waiting for the gay student, a 15-year-old boy named in the report as "Zack" by ABC's WSYX in Ohio. The station interviewed the victim's mother, who describes what she saw of the vicious beating on tape.

The mother told the station that her son might have a concussion and chipped teeth, and that she wants that attack pursued as a "hate crime." The mother is certain it was motivated by her son being gay.

"It's my son," she said, "and they did it just because he's a homosexual."

"I was waiting for somebody," says the boy, whose identity is hidden in the news report. "I covered myself, I shielded my body, and he just kept hitting me and nobody did anything." The station reports that antigay comments were made on the attacker's Facebook page two days earlier.

I truly hope that the boy's parents stop at nothing less than having the attacker prosecuted for assault as well as a hate crime. The attacker needs to be expelled from school and spend a lengthy period of time behind bars - as should his mentors like Ms. Harvey, Tony Perkins, and Maggie Gallagher, et al.

Nutcase Lind Harvey Wants Gays Driven from Christianity and Threatens to Sue Wayne Besen

Over the years I have had some interesting e-mail exchanges with some of those in the Christian Right who in my opinion are certifiably crazy. One such Christian Right nutcase was Linda Havey of Mission America. Harvey holds herself as an expert on numerous issues and makes pronouncements on all types of topics. The problem is that Harvey holds no degrees that would qualify her as an expert on any of the topics she rants about, especial anti-gay issues. In an e-mail that I still have, Harvey herself confirmed that her only degree was in marketing. That's right, marketing. Not sociology, not mental health, not medicine, not even theology. Just marketing. Candidly, when I encounter someone as insanely extreme as Harvey, I have to wonder what dark psychological issue or form of mental illness could explain such hate, viciousness and derangement. Right Wing Watch looks at Harvey's latest lunacy. Here are some highlights:

To try to slither around sin is not a novel idea, but to organize a group of folks to proudly renounce the teaching of Scripture is fragrantly defiant. They have bought the idea that there are people who are born to be homosexual or bisexual or in the wrong-sex body, it defies not just the teaching of Scripture but common sense, what kind of a Creator puts someone in the wrong-sex body? Or creates people destined to mate with just the same-sex, never being able to create new life together and always having problems making the anatomy work.

Once you buy into the ‘born that way’ idea then self-delusion is not that far behind. There’s no evidence there are different humans called LGBTQ people, these are sinful behaviors, not in-born identities. . . . . They would be more respectful if they simply walked away from Christianity. But to try and stay and change it is worse than hypocrisy—it’s deception.

With more than sufficient provocation my activist Wayne Besen described Harvey as "The Most Homophobic Woman in America." Wayne went on to state as follows:

Unlike her more sophisticated counterparts, Harvey is a zealot without a filter who appears unable to finesse her fanaticism. She is outright paranoid of an imagined gay menace that in her diseased mind is lurking to corrupt children on every street corner. For example, Harvey's latest screed warns naïve mothers about the threat of openly gay doctors and nurses treating their children.

Harvey is also opposed to openly LGBT schoolteachers and claimed on her website that that, “These teachers then become role models, in-house activists, and possible confidants for students who want to start homosexual behavior. Student molestation becomes a real risk.”

In addition to this bullshit, Harvey also has more or less endorsed Uganada's reintroduced "kill the gays bill." In short, from what I have seen of Harvey's latest anti-gay screeds, Wayne is 100% on point. Nonetheless, Harvey had a "shit fit" and in a tweet - yes, it's amazing she knows how to use tweeter - threatened that she should sue Wayne for defamation. Wayne's response was as follows:

“Bring it on,” says Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “We hope that such a case would be aired on television so we can expose Harvey’s vile words in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. It’s bizarre that Harvey is upset because we quoted her verbatim, which tells me that on some level she is ashamed of her own hateful rhetoric.”

“Linda Harvey’s legal threats are frivolous and if they rested on any shakier legal ground they would be measured by the Richter Scale. I can only surmise her tweets are a pathetic and desperate ploy for attention,” said attorney Norm Kent. “We look forward to her next move and will take appropriate action.”

Some years back I received a similar threat from "ex-gay for pay" Stephen Bennett after I had challenged him on some of the anti-gay lies on his website that relied on "facts" proffered by Paul Cameron which had been previously proven 100% false. When I welcomed a lawsuit where the rules of evidence and discovery rules would have yielded a treasure trove of information against Bennett, Bennett suddenly became conciliatory and the bogus information was removed from Bennett's website.

I hope Wayne keeps up the pressure on Harvey and, if she's stupid enough to sue, it will be most delicious to see her proven to be a liar and fraud in court.

SLDN Files Landmark Lawsuit Challenging DOMA

As regular readers know I view the Federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") as nothing less than unconstitutional religious based discrimination writ large in the federal law. Under DOMA, anyone who doesn't buy into the far right Christian view of marriage is deprived of equal protection under the laws of the United States. In my opinion, religious belief - especial hate and fear based Christianist religious belief - needs to be totally stripped from the civil laws. Thus, I applaud the lawsuit filed by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (called McLaughlin v. Panetta), which challenges both DOMA and Title 10, Title 32 and Title 38 of U.S. Code, which prevent the military from providing benefits to the partners of gay troops. The Washington Blade looks at the new lawsuit filing. Here are some story highlights:

Gay troops and veterans joined the fight against the Defense of Marriage Act in court on Thursday by filing new litigation challenging the law on the basis that it precludes service members with same-sex partners from receiving crucial benefits.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed the lawsuit, called McLaughlin v. Panetta, behalf of eight plaintiff couples in the District Court of Massachusetts. In addition to challenging DOMA, the litigation also challenges Title 10, Title 32 and Title 38 of U.S. Code, which prevents the military from providing benefits to the partners of gay troops.

Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN’s executive director, said during a news conference at the National Press Club that troops involved in the lawsuit are ”seeking equal recognition, benefits and family support for their same-sex spouses that the services and the Department of Veterans Affairs provides to their straight married peers.”

Federal law prohibits the U.S. government from providing numerous benefits to gay troops. According to SLDN, among them are health insurance benefits, surviving spouse benefits and the issuance of military identification cards.

The lead plaintiff is Army Maj. Shannon McLaughlin, a judge advocate general who serves in the Massachusetts National Guard as chief of legal assistance and is a judge advocate general. She has served for 13 years and is married to her partner of more than three years, Casey McLaughlin. The two are raising ten-month old twins: Grace and Grant McLaughlin.

“For us, this inequity means that Casey is not eligible for health insurance and is unable to come onto post to make use of facilities services and family support that otherwise would be available if we were of the opposite sex,” Shannon McLaughlin said. “It boils down to this: we’ve been serving our country too long, working too hard and sacrificing too much to see our families denied the same recognition, support and benefits as our straight, married counterparts.”

High-ranking members of the Obama administration are named in the lawsuit: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

The Obama administration has stopped defending DOMA in court, so it’s likely the Justice Department will side with the plaintiffs in this case. Spokespersons for the departments involved in the litigation said the lawsuit remains under review.

“The court has already ruled on the [un]constitutionality of DOMA, it wouldn’t be very hard for it to apply that same analysis to our case,” Man said. “And because the president and the attorney general have indicated they will no longer be defending DOMA, it shouldn’t be must of a contest.”

The litigation is one among several lawsuits challenging DOMA that are making their way through the judicial system. In two cases, Gill v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, plaintiffs were set to file a reply with the U.S. First Circuit of Appeals on the same day that the SLDN litigation was initiated. Another case, Pedersen v. OPM, has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut.

America's Declining Social Mobility

The far right in America loves to talk about American exceptionalism and the myth that anyone can make it in America regardless of their humble roots. In some ways there is still truth to the claim. But increasingly, the USA which now has a wealth disparity worse than many former banana republics, the opportunity to move up socially is more available in other industrialized nations rather than in the USA. The above chart that tracks inter-generational earnings mobility that was prepared by the Institute for the Study of Labor shows that even in France - the far right's favored whipping boy - social mobility opportunity now exceeds that of the USA. And Scandinavian nations which are much maligned by the Christianist crowd lead the pack in terms of opportunity.

Repeating a lie often enough may convince the ignorant and gullible, but it doesn't make the lie true. Americans need to wake up to what is happening to this country.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Cain Touts Skills as Manager; Ex-Aides Describe Chaos

Personally, my view of Herman Cain is that the man's an ego maniac nutcase. How he ever rose to the position he did at Godfather's Pizza is baffling based on the interviews of the man and such that I have seen. Yet, Cain touts himself as a skilled manager - even though logic and objective facts don't appear to figure very high a priorities to Cain. His ideology and ego seem to trump everything else. Now, some of his former aids are speaking out and they do not paint the picture of Cain that he's trying to sell to the public. Admittedly, logic and rationality are not things considered important by the Christianist/Tea Party base of the GOP, yet one would think large, well heeled GOP contributors would want at least some semblance of these qualities. The New York Times looks at the emerging conflicting image of Cain. Here are some highlights:

If Herman Cain feels his management skills are up to any challenge, some of his former staff members think he should have started with the disorder in his own campaign.

Mr. Cain has hardly shown up in New Hampshire and Iowa, they said, spending the bulk of his time on a book tour through the South. He occasionally mishandled potential big donors or ignored real voters. His campaign churned through the small staff; last week, his campaign announced the appointment of the veteran campaigner Steve Grubbs, his third Iowa leader in four months.

And then there was that e-mail to the staff about traveling in a car with Mr. Cain: “Do not speak to him unless you are spoken to,” the memo said.

[I]nterviews with Mr. Cain’s former staff members, volunteers and supporters give a glimpse of a candidate who appeared to show ambivalence toward basic campaign management, which led to problems in hiring, scheduling, fund-raising and messaging.

Together, these problems are at odds with a central theme of his candidacy. Because Mr. Cain does not have a legislative or political track record, his campaign rests heavily on the contention that he would bring proven, executive-level expertise from the business world to the White House.

Several former workers interviewed for this article said they were directed by the campaign not to speak with reporters. (Two said they had signed nondisclosure agreements, a rare demand within political campaigns, and they had been reminded, they said, by the campaign not to speak with the news media.)

Management problems extended to important events. In July, a businessman and Tea Party supporter, Bill Hemrick, invited some 200 friends to the private Standard Club in Nashville to meet Mr. Cain. Mr. Hemrick said the Cain campaign had asked him to serve as its financial chairman for Tennessee.

After speaking to the crowd, Mr. Cain was to attend a private club dinner for a select group of conservatives, who were in a position to donate the $2,500 maximum. But somehow Mr. Cain forgot, or his staff failed to follow through. After his speech, Mr. Cain called to thank Mr. Hemrick for the evening. “I said, ‘I’ll see you upstairs,’ Mr. Hemrick recalled, where the potential donors had gathered. “He said, ‘Well, I’m at the airport.’ ”

On a trip to Iowa last weekend to participate in the Faith and Freedom Forum, a meeting of evangelical conservatives, Mr. Cain stayed on his campaign bus until it was time to take the stage, while other candidates worked the crowds. Shortly after he finished speaking, he left the room.

This is clearly not a picture of how one would want to see an occupant of the White House to conduct business. Add to this Cain's extremism and one can only hope he soon crashes and burns in the polls.

Norfolk Actor Lands Gay Love Interest Role on "Glee"

One of the things I advocated for years ago when I was an activist for gifted and talented education was funding for the Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk, which served students from Hampton Roads school divisions. The efforts of the parent organization I led at the time also successfully brought several magnet programs to the Virginia Beach public schools. As the Virginian Pilot is reporting, a graduate of the program (pictured at left) has just landed a role on "Glee" as a gay love interest who will try to split up the characters Kurt and Blaine. One of the favorite targets for spending cuts with the Republican Party of Virginia and its Tea Party loon allies is the arts and gifted education which is described as unnecessary frills. With Hampton Roads' exodus of college graduates to more progressive and culturally dynamic cities and regions, if anything funding for the arts and programs such as the Governor's School should be increased to make the area more competitive. Here are some story highlights:

The show will be Gustin's first TV gig, and the 21-year-old talked about the "Glee" job by telephone Wednesday from Los Angeles.

For years, Gustin was a familiar face on the local theater scene. He studied musical theater at The Governor's School for the Arts in Norfolk and was a regular performer with Hurrah Players.

"He was with us from the time he was about 9 years old till he was about 18," said Hugh Copeland, artistic director of Hurrah Players. "The fact that he's good-looking and charming supports the talent. He has always worked hard."

On "Glee," Gustin will play Sebastian, a gay member of the Dalton Academy Warblers, an all-male glee club that often competes with the show's central characters, who perform in the group New Directions at the fictional McKinley High in Lima, Ohio.

Sebastian, a popular athlete, sets out to come between couple Kurt and Blaine. The episode will air Nov. 8. . . . . The appearance of Sebastian, Gustin said, will force Kurt and Blaine to decide whether they are meant for each other. The show's producers aren't giving any clues as to what will happen.

"Maybe I will split them up, and maybe I won't," Gustin said. "No one knows yet. I don't even know." Gustin has signed on as a guest star. Whether the role will be recurring or permanent hasn't been decided, the actor said, but he expects it won't be a one-time appearance.

Gustin filmed his first "Glee" episode two weeks ago. "I was a little insecure, because I'd never been on camera and a set before," he said. "But it's a good transition. I get to dance and I get to sing, and that's what I'm used to doing."

Congratulations to Grant Gustin. And shame on the Neanderthals who left negative comments on the Virginian Pilot article. They more than confirm why so many young people with brains and talent choose to leave Hampton Roads (and Virginia) after completing their college education.

Conservative House of Delegates Candidate Admits Past Lesbian Affair with Student and Claim's She's No Longer Gay

I guess Lisa Miller isn't the only woman in Virginia who claims that "Jesus" made her straight. It turns out that Linda Wall, a conservative running for a House of Delegates seat from Appomattox, is putting out the same kind of "ex-gay" bullshit that Miller has blathered about in her high profile split up with Janet Jenkins and her subsequent kidnapping of her daughter. If Wall is peddling ex-gay claims, that ought to disqualify her from office because she's obviously a liar on a scale worse that that of most politicians, especially those of the conservative ilk. Wall also blames "heavy pot smoking" as a cause of her sexual affair with one of her underage students. I could perhaps buy a heartfelt plea of "I made a foolish mistake" far more easily than the ex-gay lie and a insane marijuana excuses. Not surprisingly, Wall has connections to The Family Foundation which always eats up ex-gay lies and bullshit. Here are highlights from the Daily Press:

A conservative independent seeking a House of Delegates seat from Appomattox says when she was a junior high teacher 40 years ago she had an affair with a female student but that she was a "different person" back then.

"I've never tried to hide that I was in homosexuality. If anybody Googles me, they would find that out there," Wall said. "Forty years ago I was a different person. I was a heavy pot smoker with … impaired judgment and made some bad choices," she said.

She credits a Christian conversion years ago with turning her from drugs and changing her sexual orientation. She also has lobbied Virginia's General Assembly on behalf of the conservative Family Foundation, a staunch opponent of gay marriage, adoption by same-sex couples and abortion.

Wall resigned from the school after the district superintendent confronted her about the affair, according to the transcript deposition. She was never criminally charged.

The disclosure came two weeks before the election in which Wall, Democrat Connie Brennan and Republican Matt Fariss are vying for the vacant seat of Del. Watkins Abbitt, an independent from Appomattox who is retiring after 26 years in the House.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Why Occupy Wall Street is So Angry with Big Banks and Wall Street

I have voiced my frustration and anger with the big banks and their mortgage lending arms many times on this blog. Rather than work out loan restructures to keep homeowners in their homes - and prevent the continued depression of home prices - the banks dither around and ultimately push properties into foreclosure knowing that they will ultimately be bailed out by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, HUD, VA, etc. The bill ultimately gets stuck on tax payers who pay for the bailout of these mortgage loans. Meanwhile, the banks flout the law and grant unconscionable bonus to employees who more or less committed securities fraud in selling bundled mortgages as securities. But the transgressions of the big banks do not stop there. A piece on The Daily Beast looks at some of the other fraudulent and arguably illegal gambits of the big banks. What's truly upsetting is that few of the big fish have been held accountable or suffered serious consequences. Instead, prosecutions focus on petty ante loan fraud cases while the wrong doers who committed massive misdeeds and put the economy in the toilet continue to live the good life. Here are some column highlights:

Here’s a taste of the deadliest sins committed by the banks, followed by a full account of all the gory details at each bank. Warning: It isn’t pretty

Seven Deadliest Sins of the Big Banks

1. JPMorgan Chase kicks 54 military families out of their homes—despite a law against doing so.

2. Wells Fargo gives bonuses to loan officers to put minority borrowers into high-priced subprime mortgages—internally dubbed “ghetto loans.”

3. Citigroup, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs all pay huge fines to settle charges they duped their own clients.

4. Goldman Sachs assists in Europe’s economic collapse by helping Greece mask the truth about its finances.

5. JPMorgan turns a blind eye to Bernie Madoff’s deceptions.

6. Bank of America pays $137 million to settle government claims it rigged the municipal-bond market.

7. Despite these and other unpardonable sins, banks showers tens of millions of dollars in bonus money on top executives.

Where to start? JP MORGAN CHASE

There’s the $211 million fine JPMorgan paid in July to settle charges that it defrauded local governments in 31 states—along with the $130 million it returned to municipalities it was accused of duping.

There’s the $722 million in fines and restitution payments it made after JPMorgan confederates were caught paying off officials in Jefferson County, Alabama (home to Birmingham), to secure a municipal finance deal that nearly bankrupted the county.

There’s the fact the bank was in so great a rush to evict people from their homes that it admits that some of its people might have forged foreclosure documents—a problem so widespread that it felt compelled to suspend 56,000 foreclosures while it investigated its own behavior.

WELLS FARGO Wells might seem small, at least when compared to giants like JPMorgan or Bank of America, and therefore not as worthy of revulsion as the other big boy banks, but then looks are deceiving. Wells is the country’s second largest bank in terms of deposits and its stock is valued at more than that of JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America, or Goldman Sachs. It’s also the bank with the most shameful record on race.

CITIGROUP The sins of Citi start with Sandy Weill—the perfect poster boy for the subprime era. It was in 1986 that Weill, then a 53-year-old Wall Street castoff looking for his next act, bought a mangy, third-rate lender called Commercial Credit. You’re buying a loan shark, his otherwise loyal personal assistant said of this chain of storefront lenders in the business of gouging working-class customers looking for financing on small purchases like refrigerators and bedroom sets. But Weill saw its potential, aggressively moving Commercial Credit into subprime mortgages and then using the profits to go on a buying spree. A dozen years later, he merged his company with Citibank and took over as co-CEO.

It wasn’t just the origination of subprime home loans that drove profits. Like JPMorgan Chase and other goliaths born with the end of Glass-Steagall, Citi played the securitization game as well. The bank wrangled more than $20 billion in mortgage-backed deals in 2006 alone. On October 19, Citi agreed to pay $285 million (without denying or admitting guilt) to settle a complaint filed by the SEC charging that the bank had defrauded its own clients by selling them shares in a rigged mortgage-backed security. It was just another slap on the wrist, really, given that two days earlier, the bank reported profits of $4 billion in the year’s third quarter.

BANK OF AMERICA Bank of America was the first major bank to get into the subprime-mortgage business when it purchased a multibillion-dollar subprime lender in 1992 (it bought a second huge player several years later). Its employees have as much explaining to do as any bank about the "robo-signing" scandal—which saw bank employees swearing they had done the necessary due diligence to prove the bank had the right to seize an individual’s home, when they had not. During a deposition, for instance, one Bank of America employee asked how she could be expected to actually look over the paperwork when she was signing 7,000 to 8,000 foreclosure documents per month.

Customers of all the big banks complain that being behind on your payments means a Kafkaesque journey through a maze where straight answers are impossible to come by and the odds are high that you’ll need to send in your paperwork several times before the right person actually receives it. Still, Bank of America distinguishes itself even among this crowd. A study by Moody’s released at the end of last year found that Bank of America took longer than any of the other major banks to resolve a delinquent loan. And data from HAMP, the program the Obama administration set up to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, shows that Bank of America has the highest number of customers eligible for a loan modification under HAMP—but the lowest rate of success: it provided loan modifications to fewer than one in three homeowners eligible for the program.

Personally, I moved my accounts from Bank of America a number of years ago during my hostile divorce and related bankruptcy. B of A's idea of "helping you" proved to be little better than consenting to being gang raped. As a consequence, I managed to have my accounts with them discharged. It is truly tragic that institutions that helped create the nation's economic collapse continue to go unpunished and get bail outs while hard working Americans who have suffered job loss, medical bill catastrophes, and other legitimate hardships continue to get shafted with no relief from the government.

HRC and Rachel Maddow Call Out NOM for Faked Photos

I wrote yesterday about the story broken by fellow Blogger Summit attendee, Jeremy Hooper of Good As You, who caught the ever dishonest National Association for Marriage ("NOM") photo shopping Obama rally pictures to give the utterly false impression that NOM has large, wide spread support for its anti-gay jihad. Hopefully, the expose will go viral now that Rachel Maddow did a segment on NOM's dishonesty which can be viewed here. To further ratchet up scrutiny of NOM's sleazy practices, HRC has released a letter condemning NOM's dishonesty. Here's the text of the letter to NOM which was disseminated via press release:

Dear Mr. Brown:

Your organization has sunk to a new level of deception by manipulating photographs from an Obama campaign event in Ohio to trick Granite Staters into believing support for the National Organization for Marriage is much greater than it really is. And while I know that NOM has never been above misleading the public to further its cause, this new phoniness is an example of just how far you will go to make people believe your pursuit - the denial of equal treatment under the law -- is supported by New Hampshire voters and Americans in general.

There's no mistaking the facts: 62 percent of Granite Staters oppose repealing marriage equality.
In addition, polls reflect that a majority of Americans support marriage equality nationwide. And it's no secret that support is growing as Americans from all walks of life come to the understanding that all that gay and lesbian families seek is to have our love and commitment recognized and legally protected. Yet NOM futilely and painstakingly attempts to convince otherwise.

The fact that you had to "steal a crowd" from someone else's event to create the illusion that people support your cause is evidence that you and your cohorts are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Americans want the truth. And the truth is voters in New Hampshire want the legislature to leave the popular marriage law alone and focus on the economy and budget matters.

With the example of supposed Christians like Brian Brown and similar professional Christians, it is little wonder that the "no-religion" category is the fastest growing among young adults. How can anyone with a shred of integrity and honesty want to wear the Christian label if it puts them in the same ranks as the liars and hate merchants at NOM and its allied "family values" organizations.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Pat Robertson Thinks GOP Base Voters Are Too Extreme

Those of us who live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia are accustomed to cringing whenever we hear that resident loon, Pat Robertson, has made some new pronouncement because Pat's pronouncements are typically, racist, anti-gay, anti-non Christian, or batshit crazy in general. In short, he's a lingering embarrassment to the region even though the Norfolk Airport Authority continues to display large posters of Pat and Regent University in some bizarre belief that show casing religious based extremism and craziness is somehow good for the region. That said, it's truly frightening when out of the blue Robertson says something sane that you find yourself in agreement with. A case in point is Robertson's recent pronouncement that the voters who comprise the GOP base are too extreme and pushing candidates to take positions so extreme and crazy that they render themselves unelectable. Right Wing Watch has coverage on Robertson's surprising statement. Here are highlights:

Today on The 700 Club televangelist and past Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson warned that the Republican primary base is pushing their party’s potential nominees to such extremes that they will be unelectable. While Robertson has said that he will not make an endorsement this cycle, in 2008 he caught flak from many in the Religious Right for supporting Rudy Giuliani. After a segment on Herman Cain’s ever-changing and completely incoherent views on abortion rights, Robertson told viewers that he thinks that the Republican presidential nominee may be unelectable if he or she embraces all of the policy positions of the party’s far-right base.

When even Pat Robertson thinks the Republican Party has shifted too far to the right, you know there is a problem:

"I believe it was Lyndon Johnson that said, ‘Don’t these people realize if they push me over to an extreme position I’ll lose the election? And I’m the one who will be supporting what they want but they’re going to make it so I can’t win.’ Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the frontrunners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election. Now whether this did it to Cain I don’t know, but nevertheless, you appeal to the narrow base and they’ll applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying and then you hit the general election and they say ‘no way’ and then the Democrat, whoever it is, is going to just play these statements to the hilt. They’ve got to stop this! It’s just so counterproductive!" . . . Well, if they want to lose, this is the game for losers."

GOP Scare Tactics and Drivel

One thing that was noteworthy on my recent travels in Europe was the contrasts in outlooks between people and cities that we encountered and what one finds within the so-called conservatives in America. The Europeans honor and protect their heritage and historic buildings yet are extremely forward thinking in the approach to where they want their countries to go in the future. They embrace the best of the old but realize that to thrive in the 21st century one needs to embrace facts and reason. They also seem to grasp that all citizens are in a common boat so to speak. In contrast, here in the USA, conservatives seem to be in a frantic race to see who can drag the nation backwards in time the fastest and most thoroughly destroy the social safety nets and toss the most people to the economic wolves. Given these backward thinking efforts, it's no wonder the USA is falling behind in life expectancy, educational achievement and a host of other measurements. Blather about "American exceptionalism" doesn't change the reality that other nations are moving forward while the USA dithers and lags behind. An op-ed in the Washington Post looks at the scare tactics and drivel that now pass as policy in the ranks of the GOP presidential nomination contestants. Here are some excerpts:

Rick Perry should have backed off. Instead, he doubled down, and in a way that was doubly illuminating — about Perry himself and the degraded state of modern politics. The issue, amazingly enough, is President Obama’s birthplace — months after the release of his long-form birth certificate should have laid the matter to rest.

Is this a presidential campaign or a middle-school playground? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours? By the way, if I had Perry’s grades, I wouldn’t be mentioning them. Certainly not if I were running against a former president of the Harvard Law Review.

Now we have Perry, who has a decent if fading shot at the Republican presidential nomination, openly practicing politics as poke-fest. The point isn’t to debate whose solutions are best for America — it’s to get under the other guy’s skin.

2012 is shaping up to be an astonishing campaign. Witness Herman Cain’s bizarre, substance-less new ad in which the candidate is endorsed by, yes, the candidate’s campaign manager. Who is actually smoking (literally) during the ad. “I really believe that Herman Cain will put United back in the United States of America,” says the aide, Mark Block.

The country is facing serious problems. This will be a fateful election. Voters deserve better than scare tactics and drivel.

I cannot in honesty say that I am optimistic about America's future if something isn't done to drive the crazies and Christianists back into the political wilderness where they belong. Sadly, the GOP seems to be swinging further and further into lunacy. The rest of the world must be appalled as they watch such ignorant political discourse.

Marriage Equality Advnces in Denmark and Brazil

I have noted before how the United States - self0style land of the free and home of religious freedom - is falling further and further behind in delivering on its purported promise of equality compared to other nations. Denamark will join the ranks of European nations allowing full same sex marriage next year and now an appellate court in Brazil has upheld same sex marriage. Meanwhile most of the USA continues to enshrine religious based anti-gay discrimination in the form of state laws and/or state constitutional amendments. And let's not forget the insidious discrimination set forth in DOMA. Indeed, the USA increasingly demonstrates itself to be a hypocritical farce. Here are highlights from the Copenhagen Post on developments in Denmark:

In just a few months, homosexuals will get the right to marry in the Church of Denmark – they will, in any case, if the new church minister has his way.

The government plans to introduce a bill just after the New Year that will allow same-sex couples to hold weddings in the Church of Denmark and be ‘married’ under Danish law. Same-sex couples are currently allowed to have ‘registered partnerships’, a civil status, but are barred from marriage and church weddings. “The first same-sex weddings will hopefully become reality in Spring 2012.

In 1989 Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize civil unions between same-sex partners. But the country stopped short of calling it “marriage” and same-sex couples still are not allowed to have marriage ceremonies in the Church of Denmark.

Polls taken over the years, and right up until last week, have consistently shown that around 69 percent of the population supports same-sex marriage in the church. The Danish clergy and politicians have lagged behind popular opinion, however.

Meanwhile, in South America, Brazil appears headed towards joining Argentina in recognizing marriage equality. The Chicago Sun Times looks at a new appellate court ruling in Brazil. Here are highlights:

Brazil’s top appeals court has ruled that two women can legally be married. It’s the highest court in Brazil to uphold a gay marriage.

In June, a state court judge ruled that two men could legally change their civil union into a full marriage. In May, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that gay civil unions could be recognized. But it stopped short of recognizing full marriages.

Since then, several couples have petitioned to have their civil unions recognized as full marriages. Some of those have been approved by lower courts, others have been blocked. Tuesday’s ruling by the Supreme Appeals Court overturned two lower court’s ruling against the women.

It is long past time that religious based discrimination be stripped from all laws in the United States - including the backwater known as Virginia - and other countries that allow the hate and bigotry of extremists to deprive other citizens of full civil law equality.