Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, February 04, 2012
Homophobia Starts in Elementary School and Teachers Do Little to Stop It
Afraid of push back from parents and others in the community? We all know who that means: vicious, sanctimonious Christianists and the douche bag politicians who pander to them. Once again, religion proves itself to be a great evil.Now, the first survey of its kind, "Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States," reveals that homophobia is pervasive in elementary schools and, unlike Clare's school, most teachers do little to intervene. At this age, bullies use words to attack those who are different, but if not curtailed early, warn advocates, verbal teasing turns to violence at the middle school and high school level.The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) examined homophobia and gender nonconformity among 1,065 students in grades 3 to 6 and 1,099 teachers in grades K to 6 in a survey conducted by Harris Interactive.An estimated 45 percent of students and 49 percent of teachers said that the word "gay" was most often used in a negative way, for example, "That's so gay." Many also report regularly hearing students make homophobic remarks, such as "fag" or "lesbo," and negative comments about race and ethnicity. Three quarters of the students report that children are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity.
Victims were most often targeted because of their body size, not being good at sports, how well they did their schoolwork, not conforming to gender roles or because others thought they were gay.But only 24 percent of teachers report having personally engaged in efforts to create a safe and supportive environment for families with LGBT parents, even though nearly half of them regularly heard students making homophobic remarks.Studies in grades K through 12 reveal that when children reach middle school, 40 percent of all LGBT students report having been physically assaulted because of gender expression or identity.In addition, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, in a review of studies from 13 countries, found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide. GLSEN's own research indicates that LGBT youth may be more likely to think about and attempt suicide than heterosexual teens.
"Your child may be afraid to come forward and name bullies because they are afraid [the bullies] will not be punished and dealt with and [the child] will be attacked," she said. "When you don't handle the problem, it gets worse."[M]any teachers do not intervene because they are afraid of "push back" from parents and others in the community, according to Peter DeWitt, a New York elementary school principal and author of "Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students.""More and more kids, especially in our public schools, are coming from diverse families and some have had no exposure to LGBT people," he said. "In my school there was a hate blog for awhile." "Nobody's pushing an agenda on kids," he said. "It's about accepting and creating an inclusive climate where all kids are accepted. It's not just about gay kids. When they go to the work force, they will be exposed to all types of people. It's a skill you need to know."
The GOP's False Attacks on Europe
Lately it seems that not a day goes by without a Republican presidential candidate portraying Europe as a socialist nightmare. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum paint a picture of the Old World as unfree, strangulated by bureaucratic and inefficient welfare systems, and unable to reform and modernize. To these Republicans, Europe seems to be the antipode to everything America is meant to be.
[W]hen Romney, Gingrich and Santorum warn about “socialist Europe,” they sound as though they are talking about the Soviet empire, which vanished long ago. Europe is the European Union, a modern entity of 27 democratic countries that, despite many commonalities, greatly differ in history, culture, language, sociology and politics. Europe is difficult to comprehend, but viewing it through a single lens is like calling the United States a Third World nation because there are very poor areas in the South where some people live in shacks or have little access to health care . . .
My problem as a European living in the United States is that it is not Joe the Plumber who is bashing Europe but three longtime politicians who want to be president — people who should know better. . . . those who seek to be president of a global superpower — and may perhaps one day sit at a table with leaders of the Old World — should know a few things:
All 27 E.U. members believe, more or less, in mandatory health-care insurance and public education. They believe that government should offer a helping hand to struggling businesses and people during economic downturns.
[S]ome countries have carried out necessary economic reforms, engineered their comeback and managed the storm of the Great Recession quite well. To some extent they can now present better results than the United States.
Several European states run their mandatory health-care systems more efficiently and at lower cost than the United States while guaranteeing every citizen access to affordable and up-to-date services. The population’s health remains an important economic factor.
Romney pointed out in New Hampshire last month that, despite the economic downturn, the average U.S. worker still takes home a bigger monthly paycheck than the average European (and even the average German, who makes more than, say, Romanians). That’s true, but the comparison doesn’t take into account the much greater wealth gap in the United States nor the fact that Americans have to spend larger portions of their income on medical care and education.
A college education is still free in most Old World countries and produces generally better results than in the United States.
[H]igh school students in a number of E.U. countries scored better in reading, math and science than their U.S. counterparts. Another OECD report shows that it is much easier for Germans, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Spaniards to climb the socioeconomic ladder than Americans.
[F]raming Europe simply as inflexible and outdated, or backward and socialistic, is shortsighted and wrong. Romney, Gingrich and Santorum should know as well as anyone that the globe is no longer flat.
Portland, Maine Diocese Launches "Ex-Gay" Program
PORTLAND, Maine — Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, announced Thursday the formation of a new ministry to support people with same-sex attraction. Malone announced in a press release the establishment of a local chapter of Courage, a worldwide spiritual support group based in Norwalk, Conn.
Courage was founded in 1980 in the Archdiocese of New York. The organization now has has more than 100 chapters and more than 1,500 people on its electronic mailing list worldwide, according to information on its website. The program is patterned after 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Rev. Mark Doty, pastor of Hammond Street Congregational Church and a gay man, said Thursday in an email that he was offended by “the notion that ‘persons with same-sex attraction’ would require a support group.
“In my view, it is presumptuous and wrong-headed to equate homosexuality with addictive behavior,” said Doty, who was ordained by the United Church of Christ. “Same-sex loving people reflect an orientation, a way of viewing the world. To my mind, what takes genuine courage is for people to love and serve God and openly acknowledge that they are also lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
Courage support groups practice a policy of anonymity and confidentiality. The local chapter will meet where there is a need and the locations will be disclosed only to those who plan to participate.
Newt Gingrich’s Long Ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Two of the sponsors for part of the Ireland trip were frequent partners of Mr. Gingrich: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — the government-backed housing industry giants that Mr. Gingrich has denounced as he fights to stay in contention against Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries.
Mr. Gingrich has faced many questions recently about the more than $1.6 million in consulting fees he got from Freddie Mac since leaving Congress in 1999. But part of the relationship started years earlier, as records and interviews show that Mr. Gingrich, as House leader in the 1990s, aligned himself with Freddie and Fannie on a number of key issues — defending them in Congress against political attacks, joining with them on housing projects and seeing top aides go work for them.
While Mr. Gingrich has minimized his past connections to the two closely related companies on the campaign trail, his Congressional record shows that his political and financial ties to the firms run deeper and farther back than he has acknowledged publicly and, in fact, set the stage for the lucrative consulting work that followed.
Mr. Gingrich, whose campaign declined to comment on his ties with Fannie and Freddie while in Congress, has been blistering in his recent criticism of the mortgage finance companies. He has blamed them in part for the 2008 housing collapse, said they should now be “broken up,” and in an October debate he declared that Representative Barney Frank should be “in jail” for associating with lobbyists close to Freddie.
But while in Congress, Mr. Gingrich had kind words for the companies. Announcing a housing partnership in Atlanta in 1995, for instance, he held up Fannie as “an excellent example of a former government institution fulfilling its mandate while functioning in the market economy.”
Mr. Gingrich’s help was seen as particularly crucial after the Republicans took control of the House in 1994, as Freddie and Fannie tried to turn back rising hostility from some Republicans over their mission, structure and financing. Once he became speaker in 1995, Mr. Gingrich’s support loomed large as the companies sought to shore up flagging confidence among the Republicans and bolster the case for home ownership, officials said.
In a showdown critical to the companies’ fortunes, Mr. Gingrich played an important behind-the-scenes role in helping block a proposal in 1995 that would have forced Fannie and Freddie — rather than taxpayers — to pay potentially billions of dollars in increased fees, according to interviews and press accounts at the time.
[M]onths after Mr. Gingrich left Congress, his direct involvement became clear, as his consulting company signed a $25,000-a-month contract with Freddie. In 2006, he signed a second contract with Freddie as a strategic adviser, a role he described initially as a “historian.” Mr. Romney has branded the work as “influence peddler.”
The bottom line is that Gingrich is slimy and definitely challenged when it comes to truth and veracity.
Susan G. Komen's Foundation's Self-Inflicted Wounds
Much of the controversy dates back to Komen’s decision to hire Karen Handel, an outspoken anti-abortion politician who vowed to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood during her unsuccessful gubernatorial run in Georgia. Komen officials denied that Handel, who was hired as the organization’s vice president of public policy in April 2011, had a hand in the decision. But many observers couldn’t help but make the connection.
Personally, I will never donate again until the Komen board is completely purged of those who gave in to the Christianists. The Washington Post looks at this case study in why giving in to the far right - which despite the volume of its anger, does not represent mainstream America - is not wise move for charitable organizations or businesses. Here are highlights:
Caught in a maelstrom of public reaction to its decision to cease funding Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation announced Friday that it would reverse course.
“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives,” the Komen foundation announced in a statement Friday morning.
But officials across the organization said they were still reeling from the fallout of what many described as a public relations fiasco created by Komen’s leadership. “I felt like we were eaten alive,” said Logan Hood, executive director of Komen’s Aspen affiliate in Colorado. “We had no advance warning.. . . We were sent into battle without armor.”
Still unclear is the long-term impact on a charity long regarded as unassailably apolitical.
“Honestly, we have been turned into a political association without any political skills,” said Laura Farmer Sherman, executive director of the San Diego Komen affiliate. “There was not a crisis-management plan. I think they were completely caught off guard.”
The affiliate has already lost $50,000 in corporate sponsorship for a Race for the Cure in the fall. Farmer Sherman said she has scheduled meetings Saturday to try to make amends with supporters. “There are some relationships that are, perhaps, irrevocably damaged,” she said.
Hogan and Farmer Sherman were among a slew of Komen regional officials who had publicly criticized the national group this week. E-mails flew between affiliates Wednesday and Thursday, with multiple Komen chapters sending letters to the Dallas headquarters opposing the defunding policy.
Meanwhile, several Planned Parenthood affiliates said they had been deluged with offers of financial support. When Gina Popovic, a vice president at Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Northern Idaho, arrived at her office Thursday, she found multiple donors waiting for her, checks in hand. . . . . The national group said it has received a total of $3 million from more than 10,000 donors since Tuesday.
Abortion opponents expressed dismay at Friday’s announcement. . . . . Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, the antiabortion group that pushed for the congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood, said the “clear intent” of the Komen foundation’s latest move is “them trying to get out of the box that Planned Parenthood has put them in. . . . I see this as a large organization trying to bring closure to end this.”
Jewish Press Stands Firm Against Homophobes
It’s been more than six months since The Jewish Press published an op-ed titled “Orthodox Homosexuals and the Pursuit of Self Indulgence.” In the article, the writer, while not mentioning my name, calls me shameless and self-indulgent and suggests that I learn to suffer in silence. He was referring to an anti-suicide video I made for the “It Gets Better” project. In the YouTube video I talk about the endless bullying in my childhood, the trauma of reparative therapy and my suicide attempt as a result of a frum community that seemed to not want me to exist simply because I was gay.
[S]imply because I talk about how I was bullied for being gay, the author tried to make me feel horrible for simply sending a message of hope. He succeeded in embarrassing me and making me feel unwanted by this community.
I wish I could say that this is the exception. But the truth is that despite the fact that I would never talk publicly about private personal behavior or engaging in sin, the frum world seems to see me as part of a “gay agenda” simply because I won’t stay quiet.
So do I think that I was “born gay”? I don’t know and I am not sure how important that is. What is important is that it certainly is not something that I chose or had anything to do with. And I felt immense pressure to somehow change who I was.
After much time and research I found a well-known organization that “specialized” in reparative therapy. . . . . Every day, every session, I was working and waiting to feel a shift in my desires or experience authentic change. That moment never came. I didn’t change, I never developed any sexual desire for women, and never stopped being attracted to men. Instead, I only felt more and more helpless because I wasn’t changing. The organization and its staff taught us that change only comes to those who truly want it and are willing to put in the work. So if I wasn’t changing, I was seen as someone who either really didn’t sincerely want it, or would not put in the necessary work. In other words, there was no one to blame but myself.
The recent Torah Declaration, signed by so many rabbis, only serves to perpetuate the notion that all homosexuals in the Orthodox community must change in reparative therapy. Unlike the helpful recent RCA statement on welcoming homosexuals or the “Statement of Principles” written and signed by over 200 responsible rabbis, the Torah Declaration does not demand that therapists must be board licensed. Unlike these other statements, it does not allow those for whom this kind of therapy is harmful or not working to seek other options. It kills me that this Torah Declaration will be used by parents to force their children into therapies that may be harmful to them. It frightens me that this Torah Declaration says that “change is mandated by the Torah,” when I know personally that change therapy has not worked and was so harmful for me. It hurts me to know that I am now being blamed by these rabbis and therapists for this failed therapy.
The op-ed goes on for several pages and not surprisingly, the reaction of the hate merchants was explosive and the Jewish Press received threats and its advertisers received threats from the pious, godly folks. No one it seems is better at hating others than the religious crowd and their leaders who make a living fleecing the sheeple. Face with these attacks, many publications would have knuckled under to the forces of ignorance and bigotry. Fortunately, the Jewish Press refused to take the coward's way out and published an editorial firing back at the forces of bigotry. Here are some excerpts:
For more than 50 years The Jewish Press has been the voice of the Jewish people. We have stood up for the Jewish people, for the nation and for individuals. We have stood up when everyone else has been silent. We have stood up when it was unpopular to do so. We have stood up to praise, protect, and even reprimand our people when needed.
And we will continue to be the voice of the Jewish people, no matter who threatens us. Last week we ran an op-ed article by Chaim Levin, a young man who has identified himself as both religious and homosexual.
We did not run this article to promote homosexuality. We did not run this article to condone anti-halachic behavior. We did not run this article to intimate that homosexual behavior could be a Jewish life choice.
We ran this article because, whether one wants to admit it or not, there is a serious problem that some members of our religious community face – day in and day out. It could be your chavrusah (study partner) in yeshiva, the guy sitting next to you in shul, or your brother in your very own home. And this is true whether you wear a black hat, a streimel, or a knit yarmulke.
Pretending that there are no frum Jews with homosexual inclinations won’t make the truth go away. It won’t make the internal conflicts they fight with their yetzer hara (evil inclination) disappear.
A significant number of suicide attempts are committed by boys from not just religious but rabbinic homes — because they thought they were homosexual and had no place in the Orthodox world they grew up in, even if they had never acted on those impulses.
A situation where religious Jews are provoking children and adults who are different to consider suicide is unthinkable and unacceptable.
Following the publication of this op-ed, a number of Jewish Press advertisers were approached and threatened. They were told to stop advertising with The Jewish Press. The Jewish Press won’t give in to threats and we won’t be silenced.
We thank our advertisers who have notified us that they plan to continue with us despite the threatening letters and that they won’t give into threats either, particularly when an article like this one may have very well have saved a Jewish life. People can do teshuvah (repent) for many acts against halacha, but what forgiveness can there be for pushing someone so far that he or she would commit suicide?
I agree. What forgiveness is there for those who push others to suicide? Are you listening Bob McDonnell, Victoria Cobb, Bob Marshall, Ken Cuccinelli and others in Virginia who continue to wage a relentless war against LGBT citizens? And as for the Jewish Press, it deserves great praise for its integrity. I doubt you'd see such a stunning editorial from the Virginian Pilot which won't even publish stories exposing homophobes. Rather than have a spine, the Pilot labels such stories as "not newsworthy."
Friday, February 03, 2012
"Frothy Mix" Santorum: Gay Relationships Don't Benefit Society
Rick Santorum told a gay man in Fulton, Missouri Friday afternoon that he didn’t deserve the “privilege” of marriage because his same-sex relationship does not “benefit” society in the same way that opposite-sex marriage does. Marriage, Santorum explained is an “intrinsic good” in which gay and lesbian people should not be allowed to partake in:SANTORUM: You’re not entitled “to special treatment under the law…[Marriage is] not a right, it’s something that has existed since the beginning of human history as an institution where men and women come together for the purposes of forming a natural relationship as God made it to be. And for the purposes of having children and continuing that civilization. It is an intrinsic good…And as a result of that, we extend a privilege. We extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior. [...]
Two people who may like each other or may love each other who are same-sex, is that a special relationship? Yes it is, but it is not the same relationship that benefits society like a marriage between a man and a woman.
Virginia House Approves Anti-Gay Adoption Bill
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Legislation that would allow private adoption agencies to deny placements that conflict with their religious or moral beliefs, including opposition to homosexuality, sailed through the Virginia House of Delegates by a wide margin and without debate Friday.
The House passed the Republican-backed bill 71-28 a day after rejecting several amendments offered by Democrats aimed at softening the measure. Earlier Friday, the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee endorsed its version of the bill on an 8-7 party-line vote, sending it to the floor for a vote next week. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
The conservative Family Foundation lauded Friday's developments. "We are grateful that the House of Delegates and the Senate Rehab and Social Services Committee both see the need to protect private child placement agencies that are doing incredible work helping children and families around Virginia," foundation president Victoria Cobb said in a written statement.
Sen. Mark R. Herring, D-Loudoun, said the legislation goes well beyond protecting the religious rights of faith-based agencies. He said any private agency would be able to discriminate based on moral or policy objections. "What this bill is designed to do is allow any agency to discriminate based on sexual orientation," Herring said at the committee meeting.
He said agencies that are strictly private can do what they want, but when they contract with the state to provide child placement services and receive state funding for that purpose "they should do it in a nondiscriminatory manner."
Personally, I think Victoria Cobb would be please to see every LGBT teen in the state commit suicide. She is, in my opinion, a truly vile human being and, if there is a God, I suspect Ms. Cobb will get her just deserves on Judgment Day when she finds herself in Hell. She has done her utmost yet again to make life a living hell for LGBT Virginians. Her organization might be better named "The Hate Foundation" since it is truly a hate group in my estimation.
Romney Would Savage "Safety Net" for the Poor
If you’re an American down on your luck, Mitt Romney has a message for you: He doesn’t feel your pain. Earlier this week, Mr. Romney told a startled CNN interviewer, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”
Faced with criticism, the candidate has claimed that he didn’t mean what he seemed to mean, and that his words were taken out of context. But he quite clearly did mean what he said. And the more context you give to his statement, the worse it gets.
First of all, just a few days ago, Mr. Romney was denying that the very programs he now says take care of the poor actually provide any significant help. On Jan. 22, he asserted that safety-net programs — yes, he specifically used that term — have “massive overhead,” and that because of the cost of a huge bureaucracy “very little of the money that’s actually needed by those that really need help, those that can’t care for themselves, actually reaches them.”
This claim, like much of what Mr. Romney says, was completely false: U.S. poverty programs have nothing like as much bureaucracy and overhead as, say, private health insurance companies. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has documented, between 90 percent and 99 percent of the dollars allocated to safety-net programs do, in fact, reach the beneficiaries. . . . . how could a candidate declare that safety-net programs do no good and declare only 10 days later that those programs take such good care of the poor that he feels no concern for their welfare?
[T]he truth is that the safety net does need repair. It provides a lot of help to the poor, but not enough. Medicaid, for example, provides essential health care to millions of unlucky citizens, children especially, but many people still fall through the cracks: among Americans with annual incomes under $25,000, more than a quarter — 28.7 percent — don’t have any kind of health insurance. And, no, they can’t make up for that lack of coverage by going to emergency rooms.
Similarly, food aid programs help a lot, but one in six Americans living below the poverty line suffers from “low food security.” This is officially defined as involving situations in which “food intake was reduced at times during the year because [households] had insufficient money or other resources for food” — in other words, hunger.
Mr. Romney, however, wants to make the safety net weaker instead. Specifically, the candidate has endorsed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan for drastic cuts in federal spending — with almost two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts coming at the expense of low-income Americans. To the extent that Mr. Romney has differentiated his position from the Ryan plan, it is in the direction of even harsher cuts for the poor; his Medicaid proposal appears to involve a 40 percent reduction in financing compared with current law.
I believe Mr. Romney when he says he isn’t concerned about the poor. What I don’t believe is his assertion that he’s equally unconcerned about the rich, who are “doing fine.” After all, if that’s what he really feels, why does he propose showering them with money? And we’re talking about a lot of money. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Mr. Romney’s tax plan would actually raise taxes on many lower-income Americans, while sharply cutting taxes at the top end.
He is opening up new frontiers in American politics. Even conservative politicians used to find it necessary to pretend that they cared about the poor. Remember “compassionate conservatism”? Mr. Romney has, however, done away with that pretense.
At this rate, we may soon have politicians who admit what has been obvious all along: that they don’t care about the middle class either, that they aren’t concerned about the lives of ordinary Americans, and never were.
One Town's War on Gay Teens
Like many 13-year-olds, Brittany knew seventh grade was a living hell. But what she didn't know was that she was caught in the crossfire of a culture war being waged by local evangelicals inspired by their high-profile congressional representative Michele Bachmann, who graduated from Anoka High School and, until recently, was a member of one of the most conservative churches in the area. When Christian activists who considered gays an abomination forced a measure through the school board forbidding the discussion of homosexuality in the district's public schools, kids like Brittany were unknowingly thrust into the heart of a clash that was about to become intertwined with tragedy.
When she told administrators about the abuse, they were strangely unresponsive, even though bullying was a subject often discussed in school-board meetings. The district maintained a comprehensive five-page anti-bullying policy, and held diversity trainings on racial and gender sensitivity. Yet when it came to Brittany's harassment, school officials usually told her to ignore it, always glossing over the sexually charged insults. Like the time Brittany had complained about being called a "fat dyke": The school's principal, looking pained, had suggested Brittany prepare herself for the next round of teasing with snappy comebacks – "I can lose the weight, but you're stuck with your ugly face" – never acknowledging she had been called a "dyke." As though that part was OK.
Sam was even helping to start a Gay Straight Alliance club, as a safe haven for misfits like them, although the club's progress was stalled by the school district that, among other things, was queasy about the club's flagrant use of the word "gay." Religious conservatives have called GSAs "sex clubs," and sure enough, the local religious right loudly objected to them. "This is an assault on moral standards," read one recent letter to the community paper.
Brittany admired Sam's courage, and tried to mimic her insouciance and stoicism. So Brittany was bewildered when one day in November 2009, on the school bus home, a sixth-grade boy slid in next to her and asked quaveringly, "Did you hear Sam said she's going to kill herself?"
No one saw the rest of them coming, either. Sam's death lit the fuse of a suicide epidemic that would take the lives of nine local students in under two years, a rate so high that child psychologist Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Minnesota-based Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, declared the Anoka-Hennepin school district the site of a "suicide cluster,"
There was another common thread: Four of the nine dead were either gay or perceived as such by other kids, and were reportedly bullied. The tragedies come at a national moment when bullying is on everyone's lips, and a devastating number of gay teens across the country are in the news for killing themselves. Suicide rates among gay and lesbian kids are frighteningly high, with attempt rates four times that of their straight counterparts; . . . and that internalized homophobia contributes to suicide risk.
Against this supercharged backdrop, the Anoka-Hennepin school district finds itself in the spotlight not only for the sheer number of suicides but because it is accused of having contributed to the death toll by cultivating an extreme anti-gay climate. "LGBTQ students don't feel safe at school," says Anoka Middle School for the Arts teacher Jefferson Fietek, using the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning. "They're made to feel ashamed of who they are. They're bullied. And there's no one to stand up for them, because teachers are afraid of being fired."
"We are not a homophobic district, and to be vilified for this is very frustrating," says superintendent Dennis Carlson, who blames right-wingers and gay activists for choosing the area as a battleground, describing the district as the victim in this fracas. "People are using kids as pawns in this political debate," he says. "I find that abhorrent."
Ironically, that's exactly the charge that students, teachers and grieving parents are hurling at the school district. "Samantha got caught up in a political battle that I didn't know about," says Sam Johnson's mother, Michele. "And you know whose fault it is? The people who make their living off of saying they're going to take care of our kids."
For years, the area has also bred a deep strain of religious conservatism. At churches like First Baptist Church of Anoka, parishioners believe that homosexuality is a form of mental illness caused by family dysfunction, childhood trauma and exposure to pornography – a perversion curable through intensive therapy. It's a point of view shared by their congresswoman Michele Bachmann . . . . Though Bachmann doesn't live within Anoka-Hennepin's boundaries anymore, she has a dowdier doppelgänger there in the form of anti-gay crusader Barb Anderson. A bespectacled grandmother with lemony-blond hair she curls in severely toward her face, Anderson is a former district Spanish teacher and a longtime researcher for the MFC who's been fighting gay influence in local schools for two decades, ever since she discovered that her nephew's health class was teaching homosexuality as normal.
When the Anoka-Hennepin district's sex-ed curriculum came up for re-evaluation in 1994, Anderson and four like-minded parents managed to get on the review committee. They argued that any form of gay tolerance in school is actually an insidious means of promoting homosexuality – that openly discussing the matter would encourage kids to try it, turning straight kids gay.
The policy became unofficially known as "No Homo Promo" and passed unannounced to parents and unpublished in the policy handbooks; most teachers were told about it by their principals. Teachers say it had a chilling effect and they became concerned about mentioning gays in any context.
Justin [Aberg] was more than ready to turn the corner on the horrors of middle school – especially on his just-finished eighth-grade year, when Justin had come out as gay to a few friends, yet word had instantly spread, making him a pariah. In the hall one day, a popular jock had grabbed Justin by the balls and squeezed, sneering, "You like that, don't you?" That assault had so humiliated and frightened Justin that he'd burst out crying, but he never reported any of his harassment. The last thing he wanted to do was draw more attention to his sexuality.
Just 11 days after Sam's death, on November 22nd, 2009, came yet another suicide: a Blaine High School student, 15-year-old Aaron Jurek – the district's third suicide in just three months. After Christmas break, an Andover High School senior, Nick Lockwood, became the district's fourth casualty: a boy who had never publicly identified as gay, but had nonetheless been teased as such. Suicide number five followed, that of recent Blaine High School grad Kevin Buchman, who had no apparent LGBT connection. Before the end of the school year there would be a sixth suicide, 15-year-old July Barrick of Champlin Park High School, who was also bullied for being perceived as gay, and who'd complained to her mother that classmates had started an "I Hate July Barrick" Facebook page.
The silence of adults was deafening. At Blaine High School, says alum Justin Anderson, "I would hear people calling people 'fags' all the time without it being addressed. Teachers just didn't respond." In Andover High School, when 10th-grader Sam Pinilla was pushed to the ground by three kids calling him a "faggot," he saw a teacher nearby who did nothing to stop the assault. At Anoka High School, a 10th-grade girl became so upset at being mocked as a "lesbo" and a "sinner" – in earshot of teachers – that she complained to an associate principal, who counseled her to "lay low"; the girl would later attempt suicide. At Anoka Middle School for the Arts, after Kyle Rooker was urinated upon from above in a boys' bathroom stall, an associate principal told him, "It was probably water." Jackson Middle School seventh-grader Dylon Frei was passed notes saying, "Get out of this town, fag"; when a teacher intercepted one such note, she simply threw it away.
The story goes on for several more pages, but you get the drift. It's sickening and disgusting that the Christofascists have largely had free rein to silence those who might protect LGBT students. The pattern is similar to what Christian Taylor's mother said was the norm in the nearby York County School division - and the outcome was equally tragic: Christian took his own life at age 16. Once again, it's a case of the pervasive evil done in the name of religion. Fortunately, a lawsuit has been filed against the school district and the Civil Rights of the Department of Education is currently conducting an investigation. Time will tell if anything meaningful will come of it. The clearest solution is to drive religion out of education policy. Every student has the right to a safe school environment and the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness without constant attacks encouraged by the hate merchants of the professional Christian set and their fellow Christianists. The special privileges and deference given to conservative Christianity need to end immediately.
Thursday, February 02, 2012
Pro-Equality Starbucks Attacked as a “Hater of God”
But God forbid that a business of a more enlightened political/social issue persuasion speak out publicly against the Christianist agenda. A case in point is Starbucks and the denunciations flowing from delusional Christofascists who are beside themselves over Starbuck's public support for same sex marriage in Washington State. I hope readers will make a point to patronize Starbucks to make it clear that many of us support the company's support- something seemingly confirmed by a Seattle TV station's survey. The Advocate looks at some of the hateful vitriol coming from religious extremists and Neanderthals. Here are some highlights:
Claiming that Starbucks’ support of marriage equality means it “hates God,” ultraconservative minister Steven Andrew is calling on Christians to get their caffeine buzz elsewhere. The Seattle-based coffee purveyor is among more than 100 companies that have pledged support for marriage equality in Washington State.
In an online post published this week, Andrew, president of a California-based group called USA Christian Ministries, says all Christians and their churches should boycott Starbucks. Christians are upset with Starbucks for turning against God, but we are glad to know that Starbucks doesn’t pretend to be for Christians,” he says in the post. He cites Bible verses that call homosexuality “an abomination” and those who oppose biblical tenets “haters of God.”
He also claims gay people are only 1% to 2% of the population, says they have major “health concerns,” and calls on them to “receive Jesus’ forgiveness for sins.” “Starbucks can follow Satan if they want to,” he says. “However, pastors are to help Christians. Are you on the Lord’s side? Will you help the USA be blessed by God?
Seattle TV station KING conducted an online poll (admittedly unscientific) in which only 12% of respondents said they would cease buying products from a company that supported same-sex marriage rights, but 51% said they would be more likely to patronize such a company. Another 33% said the company’s stance would not affect their buying habits.
The sooner religious extremists like "Rev." Andrew are driven back into the social and political wilderness, the better off this country will be. Hate, the embrace of ignorance, and contempt for other citizens is not leading this country forward to compete and succeed in the 21st century.
Is Eric Cantor Trying to Kill the Congressional Insider Trading Ban?
During his State of the Union address, President Obama said “send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress; I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact.” The remark stemmed from a 60 Minutes investigation showing that House Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) profited from information he received in private briefings during the economic crisis of 2008.
The Senate, in a rare display of bipartisanship, opened debate on an insider trading ban by a vote of 93-2. However, the bill has since become bogged down under a sea of unrelated amendments.
Over in the House, meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) — who reportedly blocked Bachus from bringing up a ban on congressional insider trading in committee — wants to expand the legislation to include bans on other sorts of transactions, such as land deals. UCLA Law Prof. Stephen Bainbridge notes that this is likely an attempt by Cantor to kill the bill by making it so overly broad that no one will vote for it:[Cantor's] now trying to extend the STOCK Act “so it includes land deals and other types of transactions and not just stock trades.” Classic taking a good idea too far. The problem is insider trading in stocks, not insider trading in land deals. Cantor obviously hopes that including a vast array of economic activity within the bill, exposing members of Congress to disclosure obligations and other restrictions, as well as increasing their liability exposure, will make the bill sufficiently unpopular so as to prevent its passage.
Cantor is a despicable sleaze. One has to wonder what's in the water in his district that causes his constituents to vote for someone who, in my opinion, is such a douche bag.
Catholic Church is Largest Backer of Minnesota Anti-Gay Amendment --- Meanwhile Milwaukee Archdiocese Uses Bankruptcy to Avoid Sexual Abuse Claims
About 550 people are asking for restitution for alleged sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee — more than in any of the other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy protection, according to a lawyer involved in the Milwaukee case. The Milwaukee Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection last year, saying pending sex-abuse lawsuits could leave it with debts it couldn't afford.
The archdiocese has paid more than $30 million in settlements and other court costs related to allegations of clergy abuse and more than a dozen suits against it have been halted because of the bankruptcy proceedings. One priest alone is accused of abusing some 200 boys at a suburban school for deaf students from 1950 to 1974.James Stang, a bankruptcy lawyer who represents creditors in the Wisconsin case, estimated that about 550 claims had been filed by the Wednesday afternoon deadline set by the bankruptcy court.
Those who filed claims will end up splitting a settlement amount that will be determined by the creditors' committee, archdiocese and its insurance company. The archdiocese had only $4.6 million in assets to be applied to claims in 2010.
The other seven Catholic dioceses in the U.S. that have filed for bankruptcy since the clergy abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in Boston are in Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Wilmington, Del. Two other religious orders have also filed for bankruptcy.
Stang predicted the payouts wouldn't be on the generous side in Wisconsin. The creditors committee, archdiocese and its insurance company will negotiate a dollar amount. After that, those who filed claims will negotiate between themselves on how to divide the money.
"Insurance-coverage issues in Milwaukee cases haven't been very good for survivors," he said. "The rulings by courts there have not been survivor-friendly."
Frankly, the Archdiocese's claim that it only had $4.6 million in assets seems very suspect. Especially since the Church as a whole has found millions of dollars to direct towards anti-gay constitutional amendments and other anti-gay initiatives. Indeed, what the Church hierarchy and the Knights of Columbus - the latter, laughably, a supposed protector of families and children - have spent in California, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington State - to keep gay Americans third class citizens far exceeds the amount of assets the Milwaukee Archdiocese claimed it had available to compensate victims. Candidly, these victims were raped first by predator priests and now they are being raped again by the Church hierarchy and its dioceses. Here are highlights from a piece in The Uptake that looks at Catholic Church funding for the anti-gay constitutional amendment on the ballot in Minnesota:
The Catholic Archdiocese of Minneapolis & St. Paul and the Catholic Dioceses of New Ulm contributed $700,000 last year to support an anti-gay Minnesota constitutional amendment.
The church claims that money has not come from contributions it has received through its parishes, but from investment income.
The constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman, effectively banning gay or lesbian marriage, is scheduled to be on this November’s general election ballot. Half of that money, $350,000 has been donated to Minnesota For Marriage which is spearheading the push to get the constitutional amendment approved.
Increasingly, I cannot understand how rank and file Catholics don't feel morally dirty remaining a part of such a morally bankrupt and despicable institution. Like it or not, through their continued financial support of the Church and their local parishes, they are accessories to a worldwide conspiracy trafficking in the sexual abuse of children and youths.
Retired Philadelphia Cardinal Conveniently Dies in His Sleep
Anthony J. Bevilacqua, a former cardinal and archbishop of Philadelphia whose passion for Roman Catholic causes like helping the poor and fighting abortion was eclipsed in retirement by accusations that he had covered up sexual abuse by priests, died on Tuesday at a seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He was 88. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the death. Cardinal Bevilacqua had dementia and an undisclosed kind of cancer.
Cardinal Bevilacqua was archbishop from 1988 until his retirement in 2003. Pope John Paul II elevated him to cardinal in 1991.
Cardinal Bevilacqua’s last years were caught up in investigations of priests accused of sexually abusing altar boys. In September 2005, a grand jury report on a 40-month investigation of clerical sex abuse accused him and his predecessor of allowing hundreds of abusive priests to go unpunished and ignoring the victims. Cardinal Bevilacqua did not respond publicly to the allegations.
The grand jury said weak laws prevented it from recommending criminal charges. After Pennsylvania’s child endangerment laws were strengthened in 2007, another grand jury revisited the case last year and indicted a former underling, Msgr. William J. Lynn, and three priests. Its report said it had “reluctantly” chosen not to recommend charges against Cardinal Bevilacqua.
His declaration that homosexuals, even ones who accept celibacy, cannot be priests enraged gay-rights advocates. He said a heterosexual gives up “a very good thing,” a wife and children, to be a priest. A homosexual, by contrast, he said, gives up “what the church considers an aberration, a moral evil.”
The accusations about his role in the sex-abuse scandals did not surface until two years after his retirement, after he testified 10 times before the first grand jury. Its report concluded that he had not taken an accusation against a priest seriously unless the priest expressly confessed. “He tried to hide all he knew about sex abuse committed by his priests,” the report said.
If there is a God, one can hope that Bevilacqua will finally be held accountable for his apparent misdeeds.
Where are the GOP Moderates?
The most embarrassing moments to watch this political season have occurred as Mitt Romney has pretended to be an angry, fire-breathing true conservative. The evidence suggests that in his soul he’s a moderate pragmatist . .
Newt Gingrich, Romney’s main rival for the Republican presidential nomination, is denouncing Romney with one of the ugliest slurs in the Republican lexicon: a Massachusetts moderate. Other moderate Republicans are savaged as RINOs — Republicans in name only — as if they emerged from an ugly mutant strain.
Yet, in fact, as a new history book underscores, it is the Gingriches and Santorums who are the mutants. For most of its history, the Republican Party was dominated by those closer to Romney than to social conservatives like Rick Santorum, and it is only in the last generation that the party has lurched to the hard right.
“Much of the current conservative movement is characterized by this sort of historical amnesia and symbolic parricide, which seeks to undo key aspects of the Republican legacy such as Reagan’s elimination of corporate tax loopholes, Nixon’s environmental and labor safety programs, and a variety of G.O.P. achievements in civil rights, civil liberties, and good government reforms,” Kabaservice writes. “In the long view of history, it is really today’s conservatives who are ‘Republicans in name only.’ ”
[T]he original Massachusetts moderates were legendary figures in Republican history, like Elihu Root and Henry Cabot Lodge. Theodore Roosevelt embraced progressivism as “the highest and wisest form of conservatism.” Few did more to promote racial integration, civil rights and individual freedoms than a Republican, Earl Warren, in his years as chief justice.
Dwight Eisenhower cautioned against excess military spending as “a theft from those who hunger and are not fed.” Richard Nixon proposed health care reform. Ronald Reagan endorsed the same tax rate for capital gains as for earned income. Each of these titans of Republican Party history would today risk mockery for these views.
What happened? That’s a long and gradual story beginning with Senator Joe McCarthy’s success in galvanizing working-class suspicions of government elites and continues with an angry backlash at changing mores and liberalized abortion laws. Conservative Southern whites moved into the Republican Party. Newer media voices like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck made extremism seem congenial — while making bipartisanship feel treacherous.
[S]ocial conservatives staged a grass-roots overthrow of the moderate Republican apparatus in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and focused on abortion and gay rights. “Moderates simply gave up participating after being ostracized,” Bladine remembers. “It became almost impossible to nominate a Republican for statewide office who had any chance of winning in a statewide vote.”
The question becomes one of when and how - if it's even possible at this point - the GOP can be wrenched back from the haters and ignorance worshipers of the so-called "social conservatives" and Tea Party morons who are now the core of the GOP base. The recapture of the GOP needs to happen for the best interest of the country and a positive future. The current GOP only seeks to drag the nation backward in time.
Washington State Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill
The state of Washington looks like it's on its way to becoming the seventh state to offer marriage equality, with the senate passing a bill 28-21.
The bill is almost certain to pass the house this week or early next, and governor Christine Gregoire has promised to sign the legislation, meaning Washington will likely to become the first West Coast state with marriage equality
Though dozens applauded when the vote came down in Olympia, rightwing groups are already mobilizing a referendum effort to overturn it. Democrat Brian Hatfield, a crucial swing vote, endorsed same-sex marriage, but he also supported a November referendum that would allow voters to overturn the legislation. "I believe that ultimately this question should be decided by the voters of Washington," Hatfield said, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Sen. Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) urged senators to not push for a voter referendum on the matter, saying it's wrong for the majority to vote on the rights of a minority. Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester) came out adamantly against same-sex marriage, saying it would alter the definition of same-sex marriage. "It's an issue I am compelled to fight," said Swecker, one of many older Republican men to rail against marriage equality.
Sen. Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma) urged support for same-sex marriage; she was visibly emotional and near tears when she described how her interracial marriage was illegal at one point. Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-San Juan Island) was also emotional as he described how his gay father survived a lifetime of discrimination and still offered his son unconditional love and support. Cheryl Pflug, a Republican, urged passage of the bill. She was one of four Republicans to vote for marriage equality.
Kudos to the corporations that backed equality. I sincerely hope that the referendum effort of hate groups fails. Meanwhile, I continue to believe that fundamentalist religions of all faiths - and their ignorance embracing, bigoted followers - are among the principal evils in the world today.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Does Bob McDonnell Support Janet Howell's Cialis Amendment ?
Democrat Senator Janet Howell recognizes hypocrites when she sees them. Therefore, she sought to underscore the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the GOP ploy by introducing a proposed amendment to the GOP bill pending in the Virginia Senate. What was it? That before men can receive a Viagra of Cialis prescription, they would have to undergo safety related exams: a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test given the dangerous health risks these drugs can trigger. Here's a video of the proposed amendment being read and Janet's explanation of her reasons for her amendment: