Saturday, February 25, 2012

Do Republicans Want to Abolish Public Schools?

Here in Virginia the far right and their GOP puppets constantly attack public education and catering to home schooling Christianists and ultra-conservatives who don't want their children in public schools but do want them to be allowed to participate on public school sports teams. With the GOP presidential debates this type of rhetoric has moved to the national level and has become so extreme that a GOP icon such as Reagan would likely be deemed "too liberal" by the increasingly lunatic GOP base. With the GOP increasingly controlled by Christianists, public education is hated because it forces (i) children to learn subjects that are frowned upon and disputed - e.g., science and evolution - and bars religious instruction, and (ii) children intermix with "those people" - e.g., blacks, minorities and, oh the horror, non-Christians and gays. A piece in Religion Dispatches ties this anti-public school mindset to the agenda of Christian dominionists. Here are highlights (Note how Taliban Bob McDonnell's name figures in the article):

In the latest GOP debate, all three candidates who are not Romney showed themselves to be to the right of Reagan-era conservatives who sought to abolish the Federal Department of Education, presumably to return control of public education to the states.

Santorum (who has been talking about this recently anyway) started the round explaining that as a “homeschooling father of seven,” he believes “the state government should start to get out of the education business and put it to the local and into the community.”

The religious right has long had the goal of eliminating public education. Candidates don’t need to be closet Reconstructionists to be influenced by the work of Reconstructionists, but it's worth noting that when R.J. Rushdoony wrote the Messianic Character of American Education in 1963 he argued that education is not a proper function of government. “Government schools” were the vehicle for promoting the anti-Christian religion of humanism and should ultimately be abolished. Few outside his small circle took him seriously.

In Rushdoony’s vision, the single most important tool for transforming the whole of culture to conform to biblical law (i.e. the exercise of dominion), was to replace public education with biblical education. The decades since have brought the rise of the Christian school and the Christian homeschool movements, both of which are rooted philosophically and even legally in Rushdoony’s work.

“How are we going to abolish the public schools? Little by little,” one of them wrote, advocating deliberately overwhelming government schools with meaningless “accountability,” undermining the teachers unions, opposing efforts to build facilities or improve schools, and seeking out people who will work as teachers for incredibly small amounts of money to reduce overall salaries. Another Christian Reconstructionist author (on whom Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell relied in the writing of his Master’s Thesis) said this:

If you run for the public school board, do it with one intention only: to create an orderly transition to exclusively private education. If you can’t be elected on this platform (as seems likely), then become the candidate who wants to reduce waste. (The Biblical definition of wasteful public schools: “public Schools.”) Your real agenda: no more pay increases for teachers, no more school building programs, and a reduction next year in property taxes. Forever.

Again, candidates need not be Reconstructionists in order to be influenced by the work they’ve done over the last half century. In the 1960s, they set out a goal so extreme no one took it seriously; by the 1980s, the goal and certain tactics to achieve it were promoted in their literature and institutions. In the 2012 presidential election, the only candidate not moving in the direction they advocate is the Mormon candidate, Mitt Romney.

Imagine what would happen to the country if the Christianists had their way and ignorance was openly embraced, science was rejected, and religious based lunacy became official policy. It's beyond ironic that the far claims that liberals are destroying the country when their plan would doom the nation to fall decades and centuries backward in time. Indeed, the USA would become the Christianist equivalent of fundamentalist Islamic nations where education is held back by religious dogma.

Philadelphia Cardinal Ordered Destruction of Memo On Predator Priests

I noted in a prior post how Ireland closed its embassy to the Vatican over anger and frustration with the Vatican's refusal to cooperate with civil authorities investigating the sexual abuse of children and youths by Catholic clergy. As CNN and the Philadelphia Inquirer are reporting, the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua - who very conveniently died before having to testify - ordered aides to shred a 1994 memo that identified 35 priests suspected of sexually abusing children. Needless to say, such actions if true immediately bring up issues such as obstruction of justice, interfering with police investigations and a number of other things for which the late cardinal should have been criminally prosecuted. Yet we see politicians and the media giving the equivalent of political and/or journalistic fellatio to the Catholic bishops. It's disgusting. First these highlights from the Philadelphia Inquirer story:

Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua ordered aides to shred a 1994 memo that identified 35 Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests suspected of sexually abusing children, according to a new court filing.

The order, outlined in a handwritten note locked away for years at the archdiocese's Center City offices, was disclosed Friday by lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church administrator facing trial next month.

They say the shredding directive proves what Lynn has long claimed: that a church conspiracy to conceal clergy sex abuse was orchestrated at levels far above him.
"It is beyond doubt that Msgr. Lynn was completely unaware of this act of obstruction," attorneys Jeffrey Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom wrote.

Their motion asks Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to dismiss the conspiracy and endangerment charges against Lynn, or to bar prosecutors from introducing Bevilacqua's videotaped testimony at trial. The cardinal died Jan. 31.

After becoming secretary for clergy in 1992, they say, Lynn began combing the secret personnel files of hundreds of priests to gauge the scope of misconduct involving children. He did it, his lawyers said, because he "felt it was the right thing to do."

The result was his February 1994 memo that identified 35 priests suspected of abuse or pedophilia. Lynn allegedly gave it to his superior, Msgr. James Molloy, the assistant vicar for administration, who shared his duties documenting abuse complaints.

Bevilacqua discussed the memo in a March 15, 1994, meeting with Molloy and Bishop Edward P. Cullen, then the cardinal's top aide, the filing says. After the meeting, Bevilacqua allegedly ordered Molloy to shred the memo.

One week later, Molloy allegedly destroyed four copies, with the Rev. Joseph Cistone as a witness. "This action was taken on the basis of a directive I received from Cardinal Bevilacqua," say Molloy's handwritten notes. But Molloy apparently had second thoughts. Without telling anyone, he took a copy of the memo, and his notes, and placed them in a portable, locked safe.

During 10 appearances before a grand jury in 2003 and 2004, Bevilacqua denied knowing details or playing a significant role in the handling of sex-abuse complaints, saying he delegated those duties to Lynn. "I saw no evidence at any time that we did any cover-up," he testified.

Lynn's lawyers also contend that Cistone, now the bishop of Saginaw, Mich., and Cullen, the retired bishop of Allentown, misled the grand jury by not acknowledging the memo or the cardinal's order to shred it. Neither responded Friday to messages left at their dioceses.

In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Molloy described reaching a point when "I couldn't be sure that I could trust my superiors to do the right thing." So, he said, he became diligent about documenting his actions. "I wanted my memos to be there if the archdiocese's decisions were eventually put on the judicial scales," Molloy said then. "This way, anyone could come along in the future and say, this was right or this wrong. But they could never say it wasn't all written down."

The CNN coverage reports much of the same. However, these highlights are instructive:

As revealed in court papers filed on Friday, Molloy's handwritten memo dated March 22, 1994, informed Bevilacqua that the secret list of 35 priests had been shredded per his instructions.

"On 3-22-94 at 10:45 AM I shredded, in the presence of Reverend Joseph R. Cistone, four copies of these lists from the secret archives," Molloy's memo stated. "The action was taken on the basis of a directive I received from Cardinal Bevilacqua at the Issues meeting of 3-15-94 ...."

The grand jury also concluded that Lynn had carried out the cardinal's policies exactly as the cardinal directed.

"It should not be surprising to learn documents about child abusing priests were destroyed," said Marci Hamilton, an attorney who has represented victims in many clergy sex abuse cases, including suits against the Philadelphia archdiocese. "That is consistent with the pervasive pattern of secrecy and the rule against scandal."

Given the utter moral bankruptcy of the Catholic bishops and the likely criminal actions of some of them, why does Barack Obama or any ethical politician even give them the time of day? I remain dumbfounded how anyone with a shred of moral decency can remain in the Catholic Church as more and more of the cesspool nature of the hierarchy comes to light.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Rudi Giuliani on Santorum and Gay Marriage

I will confess that I'm not a big Rudi Giuliani fan. But the man does get it right from time to time. A case in point is where Giuliani made statements recently on CNN where he said the Republican Party's stance against gay marriage makes it look like it doesn't understand the modern world. He's totally correct and as I have noted before, the vast majority of younger voters support full marriage equality for LGBT citizens. the GOP is engaging in a slow form of political suicide. Here's a clip from CNN:

The GOP, Religion and the Politics of Division

If one follows the GOP presidential nominee candidate clown car one thing you'll likely never hear is talk of unifying the country or working for a common purpose. Rather, it's all whining and snarling about those the Christianist/Tea Party controlled GOP base dislikes - blacks, gays, Hispanics, non-Christians, foreigners, etc. - and protecting the privileges and benefits of the top 1%. Woven throughout all of the negativity and division is the common thread of conservative/fundamentalist Christianity which focuses great attention of the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament but ignores the Gospel message almost entirely. And anyone who doesn't subscribe to this foul hate and fear based version of religion is labeled as "the enemy." Topping the enemy list, of course, is Barack Obama who is doubly curse for being part black and a non-Bible beater. An article in the Washington Post looks at the constant efforts to divide the populace that is a hallmark of today's GOP. Here are some highlights:

Last week, the Christianity police, in the persons of Rick Santorum and Franklin Graham, came forward to discredit the president’s religious beliefs. First, Santorum called President Obama’s theology “phony”; then, on “Morning Joe,” Graham refused to accept Obama into his Christian band of brothers: “He has said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is.”

With rhetoric like this, these Christian conservatives are playing an ancient game. They are using religion to separate the world into “us” and “them.” They are saying, “The president is not like us.”

The president’s Christian beliefs are hardly unusual. He was raised by a mother whom he has called “agnostic” and who today might be dubbed “spiritual but not religious.”

Religion has done much good in the world, but it becomes dangerous when the “us and them” worldview grows rigid — when “we” claim moral (or theological) superiority over others. No one should know this better than Santorum, for Roman Catholics have been among the most persecuted groups in America. Yet for Santorum, history has had no modulating effect.

One major theological disagreement between Obama and religious conservatives concerns salvation. Obama happens to be the kind of Christian who believes non-Christians, including his beloved mother, can go to heaven. . . . Most Americans are with Obama on this. According to a 2008 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, more than half of American Christians believe there are many paths to heaven. The data say it best: No matter what exclusivist doctrines pastors preach from the pulpit, Americans are more open-minded.

America was founded by people who hoped that by allowing religious diversity to flourish, they might discourage extremism from growing. Counter to the claims of so many Christian conservatives, the intent of the First Amendment is not to protect any particular brand of Christianity from government encroachments, but to allow all kinds of believers to practice freely.

“I hate polemical politics and polemical divinity,” a politician once said. “My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; on the hope of pardon for my offenses; upon contrition . . . in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation of which I am but an infinitesimal part.” It is only unfortunate that these sentiments were those of John Adams — and that they are two centuries old.

As I have noted many times before, it is the Christianists and the far right who seek to destroy the Founding Fathers' design for religious freedom, not liberals, gays or non-Christians. Once again, it's those who claim to be most godly who are the biggest threat to freedom.

Lack of Vatican Cooperation on Sex Abuse Pushed Ireland to Close Embassy

While politicians in American continue to grovel disgustingly before the Roman Catholic bishops, a better model of how to deal with liars and hypocrites - not to mention in some case criminals - comes from Ireland. There, after government reports confirmed a systematic cover up of crimes against children and youths, the government closed its embassy to the Vatican. Why? Because the Vatican refused to cooperate with Irish authorities and it was documented that Pope Palpatine had ordered all case of abuse to be reported to him rather than to police authorities. It is far past time in America that all deference to the Catholic Church - and particularly members of the hierarchy - cease until all those involved in aiding and abetting child rapists are removed from office. The Irish Times looks at the complicity of the Vatican in the cover up of crimes against children. Here are highlights:

[T]here are the usual suspects, lay voices who make a living from defending the institutional church when it is safe to do so, when outrage is settling after the Cloyne report. It was the same after the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports. Their immediate reaction is practised horror. Then, with time, they’re back to their slithering ways, diluting truth, minimising the wreckage, playing it all down.

The central issue over Ireland and the Vatican has been Rome’s lack of co-operation with two inquiries set up by this State to investigate criminality – the systematic enabling and cover-up by Catholic Church authorities of the rape of Irish children over decades.

Their determination to hide the truth, through lies and mental reservation, rested on what was understood to be required in Rome. Then in May 2001 the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope) contacted every Catholic bishop in the world, including then archbishop of Dublin Desmond Connell and then bishop of Cloyne John Magee.

He directed them to send all clerical child sex abuse allegations “with a semblance of truth” to him.
On foot of this and prior Vatican decisions the Murphy commission, which investigated abuse in Dublin, wrote to the congregation in September 2006 seeking co-operation. It got none.

Instead the Vatican complained to Dublin that the commission had not used proper channels, ie it had not gone through the Department of Foreign Affairs. As should have been known in Rome the Murphy commission could not use the Irish State’s “proper channels” as it was also investigating this State’s handling of allegations.

So, in February 2007 the commission wrote to the papal nuncio in Dublin asking for relevant documents. There was no reply. In early 2009 it again wrote to the nuncio, enclosing a draft of its report for comment. There was no reply.

During its later investigations into Cloyne diocese it also wrote to the nuncio. This time he responded to say he was “unable to assist”. That was how the Holy See treated two inquiries set up by our government to investigate the gravest of abuses of thousands of Irish children by priests. It ignored them. This had nothing to do with Catholicism but centrally involved inter-state relations. Because of it, and whatever may happen in the future, the decision to close the Irish embassy to the Holy See was appropriate and proportionate, regardless of the costs argument.

The Church hierarchy views itself to be above the law and for far too long, the civil authorities have allowed the Church to ignore the law. If the Church wants to intrude into political affairs and seek to limit the civil rights of citizens it dislikes, then it had better have been complying with the letter and spirit of the law. Until that happens, the whining and blathering of the bishops should be bluntly disregarded and ignored. Better yet, we need some government investigations into the sex abuse of children by Catholic clergy which has occurred all across America. Some bishops behind bars would be a most welcome development.

Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Belatedly Admits Anti-Gay Bullying Contributes to Suicides

Anoka-Hennepin School Superintendent Dennis Carlson (pictured) seems to be belatedly admitting that the anti-gay bullying that has been rampant in his school division (located in Michele Bachmann's district) and encouraged by a recently eliminated Christianist backed policy may have contributed to some of the wave of suicides within the district. It's unfortunate that Carlson refused to open his eyes or grow sufficient spine to speak up before lives were needlessly lost. Instead until the Justice Department began its investigation and lawsuits were filed, Carlson seemed only too happy to kiss the asses of the Christianist bigots. Of course the timing of Carlson's statements is suspicious given that mediation efforts are approaching in the lawsuits against the school division. In fact, Tammy Aaberg, a district mother who lost her 15-year-old Justin to suicide caused by anti-gay bullying, notes the suspicious timing of Carlson sudden enlightenment. The Twin Cities Pioneer Press looks at Carlson conveniently timed statement. Here are highlights:

A week before Anoka-Hennepin school leaders are due back in court to try to mediate lawsuits still against the district, Superintendent Dennis Carlson issued an apology to those he might have offended with his comments about the district's past student suicides.

In a one-page statement posted Thursday on the district's website, Carlson said he meant "absolutely no disrespect" to students or parents who might have taken issue with his past remarks on the matter. Earlier, he had said the district's investigation into seven student suicides from November 2009 to July 2010 hadn't found a connection to anti-gay bullying.

Parents of those who died and others in the district have said at least four of the students were bullied for their real or perceived sexual orientation before their deaths. Some have claimed the district's Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy contributed to a hostile environment for gay students. The lawsuits pending against the district also mention the suicides.

Tammy Aaberg . . . said Carlson's statement seems suspiciously timed given what might be an approaching settlement on the lawsuits.

Six former and current students who claim they were bullied for their real or perceived sexual orientation sued Minnesota's largest district last summer. Including relief for the students, the lawsuits seek a repeal of the district's Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy. That policy was replaced this month. . . . . Aaberg - who has become a crusader for gay rights in the district since the death of her son, who was gay - said the apology didn't seem sincere.

In defense of his earlier statements, Carlson said they were made because the district's investigation into the deaths did not uncover evidence to suggest bullying was "the main reason" for the suicides, and also to encourage others who knew or believed otherwise to come forward, his statement this week said.

That explanation fell short for Michele Johnson, who lost her 13-year-old daughter, Samantha, to suicide in 2009 after she was bullied by other students at Anoka Middle School for the Arts because they thought she was gay.

Before Samantha's death, Johnson said, she complained to several administrators about the bullying after finding out her daughter had stopped going to volleyball practices. Nothing was done, she said.

"When Dennis Carlson made that first statement about the investigation, I was just devastated," Johnson recalled. "There was no investigation. Nobody talked to me; nobody talked to Samantha's closest friends....They were just trying to cover their butts."

Covering their butts and kissing the asses of Christianist parents seems to be standard procedure for far too many school administrators. It certainly seems to be the course taken by the York County, Virginia schools after the anti-gay bullying induced suicide of Christian Taylor.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell Attacks Gay Parenting

I have noted before the vast distance between Virginia where the Virginia GOP and its leader, Governor Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell, want to drag the state backward in time to centuries past and Maryland where the state is moving toward the future and LGBT are still treated as the equivalent of modern day blacks kept inferior under the law. The Virginia GOP is totally consumed with pushing a reactionary social agenda focused on women's wombs and the sexual activities of others - all as directed by its foul and equality hating masters at The Family Foundation, a Christianist organization affiliated with the hate group Family Research Council and Daddy Dobson's Focus on the Family. Yet despite this reality, McDonnell had the audacity to accuse Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley as being the one obsessed with social issues. The Virginia GOP has done nothing to address huge problems in Virginia but has wasted days and days trying to interfere with private sexual matters of Virginians. Worse yet, McDonnell argued that gay parents threaten the ability of their children to achieve the American dream. McDonnell's head is so far up his ass it's a wonder he doesn't suffocate. Perhaps gay parents block children from achieving some Christian Taliban version of the American dream, but not any version of the American Dream not dominated by the embrace of ignorance, bigorty and hatred of others. First here are highlights from the New Civil Rights Movement:

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, fresh from his transvaginal ultrasound pre-abortion mandate battle, now is turning hid attention to marriage equality, gay rights, and the ability to gay parents to properly raise children. McDonnell, as seen in this video below, says that gay parents threaten the ability of their children to achieve the American dream, and that only straight parents can give children the right start in life. McDonnell, whose words sound remarkably like those of Maggie Gallagher, claims that most of the data he’s read from both sides support his false information, bigotry and ignorance.

McDonnell appeared in a Politico sponsored discussion with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who is about to sign his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

Igor Volsky at Think Progress reports, “when O’Malley responded by suggesting that the well-being of children informed his own evolution towards marriage equality — ‘we concluded that it was not right and not just that the children of gay parents should homes that are protected in a lesser way under the law than other children,’ he said — McDonnell remained unconvinced, insisting that gays and lesbians make worse parents than heterosexual couples and should thus be the last to adopt children.”

MCDONNELL: Most of the data that I’ve read that the best environment for a child to grow up to be fully capable of achieving the American dream and having the best start at life in an intact two-parent family made up of a man and a woman. I would say that that’s what all the data would suggest…An intact two-parent family is in fact the best for our country. Should be the model, but when it doesn’t work we have safety nets.

Volsky notes: Indeed, it’s because an “intact two-parent family” is “the best for our country” that gay and lesbian families are seeking recognition under the law. A range of studies, including the the American Psychological Association, have concluded that “beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation.” In fact, a recent analysis found that the 2 million children who are currently living with LGBT parents are hurt not by the sexual orientation of mom or dad, but the social stigma and legal inequality that people like McDonnell perpetuate.

Obviously, McDonnell needs to stop reading only the junk science fed to him by Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation. I'd also throw out this challenge to McDonnell: I will compare my kids (who he knows) to his any day of the week and I suspect mine will be the ones who are more intelligent and more psychologically balanced and less afflicted with Christianist inflicted hang ups. Are you up for the challenge Bob?

More on the debate between the governors is here at the Washington Post.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Road to the GOP's Religious Extremism

As I have noted any number of times since I launched this blog, I left the Republican Party over a decade ago because the Party was rapidly forgetting the concepts of (i) the separation of church and state and (ii) freedom of religion is for everyone, and in the process heading toward becoming a de facto far right Christian party. In my resignation letter to the Virginia Beach Republican Party, I said that in good conscience I could not ever support the party as an activist until the party once again implemented the two concepts I just referenced. The GOP has changed a great deal since that day when I resigned, and the change has not been for the better. More or less my entire extended family has likewise exited the GOP and I suspect that we are just the tip of the iceberg.

In a post Andrew Sullivan (I'm pictured with him above) does an excellent job of summing up the across the board responsibility of party activists and elites for what the GOP has become. Indeed, the surge of Rick Santorum is but the logical outcome of these actions. Belatedly, some are upset with their own handiwork. Here are some post highlights:

George Will recently sighed: "Romney is not attracting people who want rationality leavened by romance. Santorum is repelling people who want politics unmediated by theology." That's about right. But for the past decade, the Republican elites and base have precisely insisted on a politics that is mediated by theology.

They are the ones who have insisted that religious argument has an integral role in public discourse; that there is a "war on Christmas" and now all religion; they are the ones who have campaigned against gay marriage as un-Biblical or in violation of a "natural law" barely updated from the 13th century; they are the ones raging against a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine because God bequeathed it all to the Jewish people; they are those who directed the federal government to involve itself in an end-of-life decision already resolved by state law; they are those who have made criminalization of abortion a litmus test for Republican candidates for a generation, and who want to give women an invasive ultrasound before allowing them to exercize what has now been a constitutional right for decades.

I despise what the GOP has become. But it is what it is. And Santorum is its logical leader. . . . With Santorum, we'd finally get to test whether that "real conservatism" is indeed the future of the GOP or what I think it is - a reactionary form of madness.

And, by the way, those Washington pundits now huffing and puffing about Santorum's extremism? They should have spoken up a long time ago.

Friday Male Beauty

New Poll: 73% in Ireland Support Gay Marriage

In yet another example of how the power of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is disintegrating, a new poll indicates that 73% of respondents in the Ireland support same sex marriage and believe it should be legal under the nation's constitution. Would that Catholics and former Catholics in more nations recognize the Church hierarchy's utter moral bankruptcy and refuse to heed their anti-gay and anti-modernity propaganda. Better yet, would that they'd stop giving money to the Church and would allow it to either force it to collapse or engage in a much needed purging of the Church leadership - starting with Benedict XVI - and an acceptance of the modern world. Here are highlights from Pink News:

Equal marriage advocates have welcomed a poll which puts public support for allowing gay couples to marry at 73%. The poll, by Red C, showed nearly three quarters of those asked said they would agree with the statement: “Same sex marriage should be allowed in the Constitution”.

The results were presented to Ireland’s Oireachtas yesterday in a report prepared for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the last Constitutional referendum.

Kieran Rose, Chair of Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network said: “The poll confirms the openness of Irish people and their support for further critically important progress to achieving equality for lesbian and gay people.

“The proposed Constitutional Convention provides the opportunity to build on the progress of Civil Partnership and provide constitutional protection for our relationships. It also offers a very important opportunity to protect all families equally, including lesbian and gay headed families.

“It shows that not only are Irish people in favour of marriage equality, but they are also in favour of its inclusion in our Constitution. That is a huge step forward in our work to achieve equality for same-sex couples and families all over Ireland.”

Christianists and Islamic Extremists - Is There A Difference?

I often call the Christian Right the Christian Taliban. The similarities to the Islamic extremists are closer than most people want to admit. In both instances, they seek to merge religion with the civil law and inflict their hate-filled and fear based religious beliefs on everyone.

Old Dominion University to Offer Designated Gay Student Housing

While Virginia in general remains a region plagued by gay-hating Neanderthals - especially amongst the Republican Party of Virginia - some of the state universities offer pockets of tolerance and acceptance both because it is the right thing to do and also because it helps with their recruiting efforts. Serving on the advisory board for the ODU Cultural Studies initiative, I have seen the strides being made at Old Dominion University. Now, ODU will offer designated housing on campus for gay and gay supportive students beginning in the fall. While the majority of students I have encountered are gay accepting, this new effort will help insure LGBT students have a supportive atmosphere. Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot (it goes without saying that there are some nasty anti-gay comments on the article from local knuckle draggers who invariably want special rights for Christians - did I mention how much I hate Virginia in general?):

This fall, for the first time, Old Dominion University will offer dedicated on-campus housing for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and their supporters.

ODU will be the third Virginia university to offer such housing, joining George Mason University and the University of Richmond. Elsewhere in the Southeast, only Duke University, in Durham, N.C., offers it.

The dedicated housing, called Lavender House, is intended to be a place where gay and lesbian students can feel safer and more accepted, ODU said in an announcement Thursday.

Charles Lowman, ODU's assistant director for housing and residence life, said Lavender House will build on efforts to match gay and lesbian students with roommates who will be comfortable with them. "Having a dedicated residence space will make that matching easier, because Lavender House will be self-selecting," he said.

The dedicated living quarters will meet a need identified by gay and lesbian students in a survey last spring, ODU said. Other groups have appealed to the Office of Housing and Residence Life for dedicated housing spaces, and Army ROTC will have a reserved space this fall as well, the university said.

The Lavender House announcement comes at a time when gay rights and other social issues have assumed a high profile in the Virginia General Assembly. The news drew a range of reactions in Richmond. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the only openly gay member of the Assembly, was glad to hear it.

Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County, one of the Assembly's most outspoken social conservatives, called the move a wrongheaded distraction from the university's academic mission.

So far, 18 students have signed up to live in Lavender House this fall. Students who are interested in applying for a room, or would like more information about Lavender House and the Safe Space Committee, can email

For those who may not recall, Del. Marshall has publicly stated that he'd be happy to drive all LGBT citizens from Virginia. The man is a monster and for those who say he's charming in person, similar statements were made about Hitler. Actions speak louder than pleasant conversation.

Today's GOP and Women

This Tom Toles cartoon from the Washington Post sums up what women - and rational individuals - need to be doing in terms of today's extremist controlled Republican Party at all levels.

Marco Rubio Was Once a Mormon

The GOP base - or at least the extremist evangelical Christian portion of it - has demonstrated a continuing fear of Mitt Romney's Mormon faith. Among the far right there seems to be a false belief that religious belief is some type immutable characteristic as opposed something that can be changed, rejected entirely, or discarded like a change of clothes. Thus, it is only too hysterical to learn that Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio - a top darling of the GOP base - was once a Mormon. I imagine some conservative heads will explode on this news. BuzzFeed has details. Here are some highlights:

In the compelling personal narrative that has helped propel Florida Senator Marco Rubio to national political stardom, one chapter has gone completely untold: Rubio spent his childhood as a faithful Mormon.

Rubio was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his family at around the age of eight, and remained active in the faith for a number of years during his early youth, family members told BuzzFeed.

The revelation adds a new dimension to Rubio's already-nuanced religious history—and could complicate his political future at a time when many Republicans see him as the odds-on favorite for the 2012 vice presidential nod.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant confirmed the story to BuzzFeed, and said Rubio returned to the Catholic church a few years later with his family, receiving his first communion on Christmas day in 1984 at the age of 13.

A sign that Rubio's aides see the story as potentially damaging: BuzzFeed's inquiries appear to have sent them into frantic damage-control mode, and after email inquiries from BuzzFeed — but minutes before Conant responded with a phone call this morning — a brief item appeared on the blog of the Miami Herald mentioning the Senator's religous past. Conant said Rubio planned to discuss his time as a Mormon in his forthcoming book.

The story of Rubio's conversion to Mormonism, his enthusiastic immersion in LDS adolescent life, and his eventual departure from the church was recently related to BuzzFeed by two of the Senator's first cousins, Mo Denis, a Democratic State Senator in Nevada, and his sister Michelle — both of whom were close to his family at the time.

"He was totally into it," Michelle recalled. "He's always been into religion. Football and religion. Those were his things." Over the years, he and his cousins frequented LDS youth groups, attended church most Sundays—often walking to the chapel because his mother didn't know how to drive—and latched on to the mainstream Mormon culture that was easily accessible in LDS-heavy Nevada.

Conant told BuzzFeed that Rubio never requested to have his name removed from the LDS Church's records, which means officially, the church is likely still counting him as a member.

Michelle said the family eventually started identifying as Catholic—once again, at Marco's urging. "He really convinced the whole family to switch religions," she said. "He's very vocal so he convinced them all the become Catholic."

The reason for his adamancy is unclear. But even while the conversion marked a return to his family's religious roots, it wasn't the end of his spiritual evolution. While Rubio continues to identify as a Conservative Roman Catholic, he frequently attends a non-denominational Baptist church with his family in Florida. As his notoriety increases, both communities have sought to lay claim to the rising political star, with little resistance from Rubio himself.

To me, one's religious affiliation doesn't matter as long as they can grasp that their personal religious beliefs should not affect laws and policies in a manner that harms the religious freedoms of other citizens - something the Christianist clearly refuse to grasp. The batshitery being pushed by the Christianists and Virginia GOP is a case inn point of how personal belief needs to remain out of public policy.

Maryland Republican: Meeting Gay Couples Left me a "Changed Person"

The Christofascists love to depict LGBT individuals as perverts, predators, recruiters of children - indeed a threat to civilization. However, those who know gays as family members, friends and neighbors for the most part readily recognize the Christianists' propaganda to be outright lies. This reality underscores the importance of living one's life out and proud whenever possible. Besides wanting to punish LGBT for nonconformity with Christianist religious beliefs, opposition to the repeal of DADT and other measures is, I suspect, motivated by the Christianist fear that the more people that know LGBT individuals and couples, the less support there will be for the Christianist anti-gay agenda. One event in the Maryland legislature demonstrates this phenomenon: a Republican member of the legislature who opposed same sex marriage changed his vote after meeting same sex couples. This is what terrifies the Christianists. Here are highlights from the Chicago Tribune:

In an effort to get the bill to the House floor, a special joint committee was formed and legislators were left scrambling for seats. [Republican Wade] Kach, who had previously backed attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman, found a space right next to the witness table.

"I saw with so many of the gay couples, they were so devoted to another. I saw so much love," he said. "When this hearing was over, I was a changed person in regard to this issue. I felt that I understood what same sex couples were looking for."

A week later, Kach voted for the gay marriage bill on the floor of the House of Delegates, one of only two Republicans to do so. Their support proved vital, as the bill squeaked through the 141-member chamber on a 72–67 vote.

Opponents of same-sex marriage now have until June 30 to collect the 55,736 signatures needed to put a referendum on the ballot in November. Upholding the law on a popular vote, experts say, will require its supporters to navigate the twisted pathways of race and religion that have stymied similar efforts in the past, most notably in California.

The Reverend John Lunn, pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Baltimore and head of the area's conference of Baptist ministers, is confident the law will be rejected in a popular vote.

Given the slim polling margins and depth of feeling on both sides, whether Maryland will hold its first same-sex weddings next January remains in doubt. Kach at least hopes holding a referendum will give the public a chance to hear the arguments anew and perhaps be converted "the way I got the message."

Should the measure be placed on the ballot, I hope as many LGBT Marylanders as possible will be open about who they are and demonstrate the Christianists are liars - indeed, have always been liars - and open more minds and hearts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Thursday Male Beauty

Rick Santorum: Laying Bare the Divide Between the GOP and Voters

I will admit that staying solely within a circle of like minded individuals in the political realm can lead you to lose sight of the fact that out in the larger world your political beliefs are less widely embraced that what one likes to believe. Having once been a GOP activist of sorts myself, I can understand how it happens - especially if party activities come to control your life. But one does need to stay in touch with what others are thinking too if disaster is to be diverted. Such is the case with the current GOP base - and the GOP members of the Virginia General Assembly which has faced a harsh reality check over the past week in Richmond when women and moderates decided to fight back. A piece in the Chicago Tribune looks at the dangers Rick Santorum and his followers pose for the GOP in 2012. Here are some highlights:

Could GOP primary voters have finally found their soul mate? In the person of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, they may have stumbled upon a presidential candidate who can speak their language with a forceful authenticity that simply can't be programmed into Mitt Romney.

And as if by divine providence, the rise of Santorum coincides with the return of culture war issues--gay marriage, abortion, and, especially, contraception--upon which he has earned his reputation and loyal following among conservatives.

But Santorum's turn as the not-Romney of the moment and the sudden political shift from jobs to social issues illustrate the perilous political position into which the GOP is charging headlong. It's a confluence of candidate and issues that can lay bare the cultural gap that has grown between the Republican base and the mainstream of American politics.

Take the birth control flap. . . . . Republicans sensed an opportunity, and even after the president unveiled a compromise whereby the contraceptives would be paid for by insurance companies rather than the offended institutions, they doubled down. . . . What they did not have, however, was the support of either the broad electorate or the bishops' flock, a fact illustrated by the preponderance of recent polling data on the issue.

The only group in the survey that opposed the rule was white evangelical Protestants, with 38 percent in favor and 56 percent against, raising the question of whether the Catholic bishops are stewarding the right church. A New York Times/CBS News poll last week found that 65 percent of voters support the compromise, including a majority of Catholic voters.

No candidate is better positioned to capitalize on the resurgence of culture war issues (not only birth control, but also California's ban on gay marriage being struck down, and the Planned Parenthood-Susan G. Komen spat) than Santorum, who made his name in culture skirmishes, most famously comparing homosexuality to bestiality.

That kind of cultural conservative hawkishness might play in a GOP primary, but it's why so many political observers view Santorum as completely unelectable. Which leaves Romney in a tough position: How does the self-described "severe conservative" attack his rival for being too severely conservative?

The GOP base needs to come out of its bubble and get a sense of where the rest of the public is headed - and its not headed back to the 11th century like the Christian Right and the child rapist protecting Catholic bishops.

Is the GOP Facing a Looming Election Disaster?

With another 8+ months until election day much can still happen to alter the political atmosphere. However, at present some anticipate that the GOP may be facing an election disaster in November. And part and parcel with that prediction, the second step of the game is figuring out who will be to blame for the catastrophe - at least if one is an ignorance embracing, science denying Republican. While some place the blame on the Tea Party crowd and the Christian Right (which is neither Christian nor right), others including myself place much blame on the so-called GOP establishment which made a pact with the Devil some years back and is now about to hopefully face a reckoning. Short term expediency and laziness have transformed the GOP into something truly ugly. A piece in The New Republic looks at those responsible for the GOP's descent into ignorance, bigotry and religious extremism. Here are some highlights:

A specter is haunting the Republican establishment — the specter of Barry Goldwater. With recent polling data suggesting that Rick Santorum has surged ahead of Mitt Romney among Republican voters nationwide, the people whose livelihoods depend on Republican electoral victories are terrified by the growing possibility of a massive wipeout in November, much like the one that Republicans experienced in 1964, when Goldwater was their nominee.

But even if the magnitude of the Republicans’ defeat this year resembles that previous debacle, the path there will be significantly different. Whereas Goldwater’s campaign was the product of an insurgency against the reigning Republican establishment, this year’s disaster is the product of political atrophy that the current GOP establishment has itself actively presided over.

ONCE UPON A TIME, East Coast moderates comprised the critical mass of the Republican party leadership. . . . . But with the movement of industrial and financial power away from the Northeast, the East Coast kingmakers’ standing within the party deteriorated by the early 1960s—evidenced most notably by conservative activists’ ability to seize the nomination, to the moderates’ horror, for Goldwater in 1964.

[A]s the moderates gradually, though inexorably, disappeared in the succeeding decades, the GOP became an ever more ideologically unified party. The popular belief that today’s Republican establishment is moderate is false. The current relationship between the Republican establishment and the party’s base is not so much a clash of moderates against conservatives as it is a difference in perspective between realistic professionals and passionate amateurs.

[A]s political professionals, the party’s elites have always known that radical conservatives are only a minority of American voters, and that a Republican nominee has to win over large numbers of moderates and independents to gain the presidency. To finesse this tension, the new Republican establishment adopted William F. Buckley Jr.’s famous command to select the most rightward yet viable candidate. But that has not proven a sustainable solution.

The GOP establishment gladly encouraged the idealistic amateurs of the Tea Party movement when they provided the decisive margins for Republicans in the low-turnout elections of 2010. The GOP’s current elites were swayed by the new movement’s palpable enthusiasm for conservatism. But with the Tea Party’s ideological rectitude now revealing itself as nothing so much as fundamentalist grandiosity, it's dawning on the conservative establishment that its careful experiment may have created a monster.

Which brings us to Rick Santorum, around whom the Tea Party activists are now increasingly coalescing. In claiming that Santorum can beat Obama, they are consciously or unconsciously parroting the theory of a “hidden conservative majority” advanced by Goldwater’s supporters in 1964.

GOP elites know, however, that when one party nominates a candidate that most Americans find extreme, whether Republican Goldwater in 1964 or Democrat George McGovern in 1972, the predictable result is resounding victory for the other party. Indeed, what tends to be forgotten is that Goldwater’s presence atop the ballot proved lethal for Republicans all the way down the ticket. GOP representation in Congress was reduced to its lowest level since the 1930s.

An election with Santorum as a standard-bearer might produce a similar debacle, reenergizing the left and restoring the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Obama might not only win reelection, he might feel liberated, or obligated, to move left. Republicans who claim that Obama in his first term was the most socialist president they can imagine clearly don’t have much imagination.

Elites are aware that more is at stake this year than ideology. . . . . the Republican establishment is in the position of the lookout on the Titanic who sees the ship speeding toward the iceberg ahead. They are dreading a disastrous collision like the one the party experienced in 1964. But the bitter irony of the present moment is that it’s the establishment, not an insurgency, that was responsible for charting this course to begin with.

I hope the author of the column is correct and that the GOP establishment is unable to steer clear of the looming iceberg. Maybe, just maybe, a huge electoral defeat is what is needed to wake the establishment up to the fact that the Christianists and Tea Party need to be re-exiled back to the political wilderness where they belong.

The Maryland Legislature Passes Marriage Equality

Even though Maryland and Virginia are only divided by the Potomac River, at times it seems that an ocean divides the two states, with Virginia playing the roll of the ignorant, backward "Dark Continent" while Maryland plays the roll of the home of the Enlightenment and modernity. The states' respective treatments of their LGBT citizens could not be more different. In Virginia, gays are treated as third class citizens and inferior to livestock and household pets while in Maryland a very different world exists. Indeed, the Maryland legislature has just passed a bill granting full marriage rights for same sex couples. True, the Christofascists will seek to place the issue up for a referendum vote, but at least the legislature has demonstrated that it is functioning in the 21st century. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland was approved by the state Senate, which advanced a measure that narrowly cleared the House of Delegates last week.

The final vote by the state Senate ended a yearlong drama in Annapolis over the legislation, and marked the first time an East Coast state south of the Mason-Dixon line has supported gay nuptials. With the vote, the measure moves to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who has said he will sign it.

Maryland would join the District and seven states in allowing same-sex marriages. Supporters have cast the bill as a major advance in equal rights. Opponents have called it a misguided attempt to redefine the institution of marriage.

Despite one of the largest Democratic majorities in any state legislature, backers of gay marriage in Maryland had to overcome fierce opposition from blocks of African American lawmakers and those with strong Catholic and evangelical views to cobble together coalitions big enough to pass both chambers.

I can just imagine the spittle that must be flying at the headquarters of anti-gay hate groups. Little by little, we are winning the war and, as elderly bigots die off, the progress will accelerate in future years.

Virginia "Personhood" Bill Dies in Virginia Senate

In what is likely another example that national condemnation and nightly TV primetime parody carry more weight with the Virginia GOP than common sense and logic (which would have prevented the introduction of the extreme bills this session), the Virginia Senate has voted to send Del. Bob Marshall's Christofascist backed "personhood" bill back to committee and thereby kill the measure for this year. Personally, I'd love to know what strings Taliban Bob McDonnell pulled behind the scenes in order to make sure he did not have to make a decision of whether to sign or veto the bill if it got to his desk. One can only assume that Victoria Cobb is acting like she's got a severe case of constipation on this news and will be on the warpath. For rational and thinking women (some of whom are pictured in the photo above), I hope that they remember the GOP's war on women in November and vote a straight Democrat ballot. The Virginia GOP will certainly deserve such retribution.

Meanwhile, with the watering down of the "ultrasound" bill at McDonnell's demand, the only remaining "must pass" Christianist bill likely to land on McDonnell's desk is the anti-gay adoption bill which will allow agencies funded with state funds to discriminate against gay adoptive parents. Would that Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show would go after McDonnell with a vengeance on that issue. Here are highlights from Virginian Pilot on the happy death of the "personhood" bill:

The full Virginia Senate tabled a bill declaring that life begins at conception this afternoon, just hours after it was approved by a committee on an 8-7 vote. Senators Thomas Norment, R-James City County, and Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, both proposed that the so-called "personhood" bill, HB1, be sent back to the Senate Education and Health Committee and be passed by for the year. Their proposal passed 24-14. The vote means the legislation can’t be resurrected this year.

The measure has drawn the ire of abortion rights advocates and some doctors and advocates for infertile couples, who insist that it could criminalize in-vitro fertilization as well as most forms of birth control.

Emotions were similarly intense over an effort to require women to undergo an ultrasound before they have an abortion. In its original form, Del. Kathy Byron’s bill, HB462, was written in such a way that it could have required women to have an ultrasound that involved the insertion of a probe into the vagina.

As public outcry and national backlash to the ultrasound legislation mounted, McDonnell on Wednesday told lawmakers he did not support a mandate to make have that kind of invasive ultrasound. The governor’s decision drew rebuke from some social conservatives; he previously expressed support for ultrasound legislation.

Katherine Greenier of the ACLU of Virginia called the tabling of the bill a “victory for women’s rights and health,” though she cautioned that other bills to restrict abortion are still pending. She expressed disappointment that the personhood bill was only passed by for the year, but praised legislators who “truly took in the concerns raised to not place politics over women’s health.”

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Does the GOP Have a Message for 2012 Besides Anti-Obamaism?

Conservative columnist David Frum asks the question that forms the caption of this post in a column at The Daily Beast. Frankly, the answer is no, there is nor forward looking message. At best, the GOP goal seems to be to drag the nation backward in time and not in a positive manner. Just look at the GOP assault of birth control being led by Rick Santorum and the Christianists in the GOP base. This reality is also reflected in the GOP agenda in the states such as the extremism being seen in the GOP controlled Virginia General Assembly. For every Obama initiative under attack, the GOP has no real counter proposal other than a reversion back to policies that have either created the current mess in the first place or which would throw the poor and needy under the bus. Here are highlights from Frum's column:

The economy is improving. Talking Points Memo presents two charts that depict the improvement vividly. These trends put paid, I think, to last year's Republican message, "Obama made things worse." Maybe Obama did, and maybe Obama didn't. But the worst seems definitively behind us, recovery is quickening, and this election—like most elections—will be about the future.

President Obama has stated his vision of that future. It is a future in which the emergency government activism of the first term hardens into a more permanent fact.
Here's the president in Osawatomie, Kansas, in November 2011:

Yes, business, and not government, will always be the primary generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we've always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed.

Of course, those productive investments cost money. . . . We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education and research and high-tech manufacturing – all those things that helped make us an economic superpower?

To some degree, that Kansas speech was intended as a clever framing of the November 2012 ballot question: investments that might benefit the middle class vs low tax rates that primarily benefit the rich.

Yet the speech was more than just an electoral gambit. It also revealed some core presidential convictions and suggested the main priorities of a second Obama term:

* Allow the Bush tax cuts to lapse;

* More government spending in hope of stimulating well-paid jobs either directly in the public sector or in private-sector firms that will depend on government contracts;

* Move to budget balance primarily through higher taxes, but also through some unspecified reforms in Medicare.

It's a coherent program. That is not to say it will succeed. . . . Whatever the Obama program's faults, however, it is a positive program. A Republican program that emphasizes "repeal" and "undo" is not a positive program. It's not a future-oriented program either: it's a program to refight the battles of the past four years, hoping this time to win the fights that were lost last time.

The gap will especially glare in the area of healthcare. If President Obama is re-elected, near-universal coverage will become a fact—a cludgy and expensive fact, but a fact. If President Obama is defeated, the promise of universal coverage will be withdrawn, to be replaced by ... what? The country is still waiting for that answer.

An opposition party challenging a president who can claim a record of economic recovery cannot afford to leave the country waiting. Anti-Obamaism won't suffice in 2012. So what is the answer to the person who worries: "A vote against Obama is a vote to give back my health care coverage. What will your team offer instead?"

Frum hits the nail on the head. We know what the GOP and its reality denying, ignorance embracing base doesn't like. But what would be done to truly move the nation forward? So far, the GOP has only espoused things to move the country backwards while the rest of the world is moving forward.

A Progressive Win in Virginia, Assisted by "Saturday Night Live"

It's a sad day when the only way common sense and a rejection of legislation based on religious extremism can prevail in the halls of state government in Richmond is when the national mockery of Virginia politicians becomes so bad that those with any sense of pride - and ambitions for higher office - are shamed into backing down. Yet without the parody from Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show, women in Virginia might have been subjected to forced sexual penetration by Virginia Governor Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell and the Virginia GOP puppets of the Christianists at The Family Foundation. One can only hope that the withering mockery continues until the so-called "personhood" bill gets scuttled. Attention to the anti-gay adoption measure not yet signed by Taliban Bob would be most appreciated as well. Salon looks at what happened in Richmond this week. Here are some highlights:

Something incredible just happened. Faced with a growing national outcry against a bill forcing an ultrasound before an abortion — which activists and legislators had been comparing to rape — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell backed off from his earlier support. “Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state,” he said in a statement today. “No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.”

To be clear, the forced ultrasound battle isn’t wholly won — McDonnell’s statement only went as far as “asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age.”

[T]o understand what’s at stake here, you have to understand that until recently, forced ultrasound bills weren’t even that controversial, let alone radioactive, as today shows that they are for McDonnell, a Mitt Romney surrogate and vice-presidential hopeful. . . . . we can thank an extraordinary convergence of pop culture outrage and reproductive rights activists around the words “transvaginal” and “rape” for it.

Amy Poehler returned to “Saturday Night Live’s” Weekend Update to use “transvaginal” as a punch line and snarl, “Don’t tell me what to do!” Last night, Jon Stewart turned “transvaginal ultrasound” into a song for a “Punanny State” segment. On “The View,” Joy Behar called the law “so frickin’ intrusive to a woman’s body” and compared it to the Taliban.

Said Meghan McCain to Rachel Maddow last night, “I’m pro-life but I’m not pro-vaginal probing,” adding, ”It scares me that a woman can be vaginally probed without her consent.” She said apolitical friends had been texting her asking what was going on with the law.

It helped that Virginia is a swing state convenient to D.C. media, and that conservatives had been so openly callous about the humiliating intentions behind the law, with more than one freely conceding that if a woman had opened her legs once, why should she care if the state gets into her vaginal canal for no medical reason?

“There’s just this confluence of factors where people are beginning to wake up to what’s going on. Part of it is that people are aware that it’s not just a culture war — it’s a war on women, evidence, health, and science.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Rick Santorum’s - and the GOP's - Religious Fanaticism

Both Maureen Dowd in the New York Times and Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend have great pieces that look at the extremism - or better yet - fanaticism of Rick Santorum. Dowd, in top form, slices and dices Santorum while Pam goes on to look at the growing insanity that seems to be overtaking the Republican Party as a whole - led, of course, by the nutcases that comprise the GOP base. First these excerpts from Maureen Dowd column in which she also gets in some hits against Taliban Bob McDonnell:

Rick Santorum has been called a latter-day Savonarola. That’s far too grand. He’s more like a small-town mullah. “Satan has his sights on the United States of America,” the conservative presidential candidate warned in 2008.

Santorum is not merely engaged in a culture war, but “a spiritual war,” as he called it four years ago. “The Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country — the United States of America,” . . .

Mullah Rick, who has turned prayer into a career move, told ABC News’s Jake Tapper that he disagreed with the 1965 Supreme Court decision striking down a ban on contraception. And, in October, he insisted that contraception is “not O.K. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Mullah Rick is casting doubt on issues of women’s health and safety that were settled a long time ago. We’re supposed to believe that if he got more power he’d drop his crusade? . . . . He seems to have decided that electoral gold lies in the ruthless exploitation of social and cultural wedge issues. Unlike the Bushes, he has no middle man to pander to prejudices; he turns the knife himself.

In a party always misty for bygone times bristling with ugly inequities, Santorum is successful because he’s not ashamed to admit that he wants to take the country backward.

Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, touted as a vice-presidential prospect, also wants to drag women back into a cave. This week, public outrage forced the Virginia legislature to pause on its way to passing a creepy bill forcing women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, which, for early procedures, would require a wand being inserted into the vagina — an invasion that anti-abortion groups hope would shame some women into changing their minds once they saw or heard about traits of the fetus.

As noted, Pam looks at the larger sickness and insanity that plagues the Republican Party. Here are some highlights:

When you blog about the professional anti-LGBT movement, you get used to reading completely batsh*t, sex-obsessed things from Peter LaBarbera, or junk science from hate group leader Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. But in 2012, GOP Clown Car candidate Rick Santorum has ushered in an impressive and visible new era of religious right/junk science/insane statements that suggests the Republican Party either cannot or is unwilling to deal with the basic political realities going on in this nation. It’s not 1900.

I understand this focus on social issues is about distracting low-info voters from the fact that the GOP has done nothing to create jobs; it’s been about bleating the usual mantra of lowering taxes on the wealthy and other crap that helped destroy the economy in the first place. What I was unprepared for was the unbridled desperation of the fundie base to the extent that it’s driving independent voters and especially women to have to go back to arguing about basic matters of contraception, access to the legal right to an abortion, and whether they should even be in the workforce. And the party of anti-government intrusion is MIA.

No one in the GOP, which is loaded with gay Republicans, is willing to say this is ridiculous demonization, in fact, they are letting the Base rile up. If Santorum is the head engineer of the New Republican Crazy Train, he’s got plenty of people in box cars all the way to the caboose.

Take Tanya Ditty, state director for the anti-gay Concerned Women of America of Georgia, who testified yesterday before the subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on House Bill 630 (State Fair Employment Practices Act), which would provide Workplace Protections for LGBT State employees. In her “expert” testimony that surely was seen by the GOP lawmakers, Ditty asked committee members to oppose the bill because she believed it would allow such things as necrophilia, zoophilia and pedophilia.

You might laugh at this and think the woman needs better meds, but how far is she from standard bearer Santorum? After all, the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania is on board with bigoted, barely sane Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, on whether Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen who talks over-the-top discredited birther batsh*t:

[T] hand over the spotlight to Santorum, rather than marginalizing him, shows just how weak the GOP is, and how much fealty it continues to have to fundie dog-whistlers like the Rev. Franklin Graham, who is beyond offensive in insulting the President and the Muslim community with his tasteless bigotry.

Santorum’s bold insistence on publicly defended faith — specifically Judeo-Christian of course — as a legitimate factor in a campaign to serve as President, not Pope is absurd. Personal faith beliefs (or none at all) have no place in our governing, yet this is where the GOP obviously wants to go.

The general public doesn’t want government in their private sexual lives, and the party of alleged small government is silent, allowing the fundamentalists to rule their primary process in a way that is embarrassing. . . . . At this point I’ve only seen the American Taliban influence coddled again and again. I don’t think the GOP can afford to lose the “sheeple” vote, the base of organized churches that get out the vote, do door to door and can be easily manipulated by fear and smear, God and guns, and fear of changes in gender roles or sexuality (without shame).

These two smart women sum up matters well. They both have far more sense and brains that the clearly mentally disturbed Rick Santorum.