Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

NOM's Manufactured "Religious Liberty" Gimmick

The cynicism and contempt for the rights of others that continues to be displayed by the recently released confidential memorandum prepared by the National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") continue to shock. In addition to seeking to divide gays and blacks, impede thew assimilation of Hispanics, and to pit children of gays against their parents, NOM's memos also display the deliberate manufacture of the threats to "religious liberty" meme. Given NOM's close ties to the Catholic Church leadership in this country, it's likely no coincidence that the child rapist protecting Catholic bishops also jumped onto this disingenuous bandwagon. The hypocrisy of these self-anointed pious ones - some of whom are making a small fortune marketing hatred, racial division and bigotry - makes one want to vomit. Here are some highlights from Think Progress:

Nothing has catalyzed religious conservatives in recent years quite like idea of “religious liberty,” and the notion that the expansion of LGBT and women’s rights will somehow infringe upon that freedom. It has been at the core of the National Organization for Marriage’s agenda against same-sex marriage, and in the 2009 confidential memos released this week, the anti-gay group proudly celebrates its success with this messaging. If marriage equality advances, NOM sees religious liberty as a way to “protect” conservatives from having to recognize same-sex couples:

Although these religious liberty protections are in some ways more narrow than one might desire (focusing primarily on religious institutions, to the exclusions of individual professionals and business owners), they nonetheless mark a turning point of sorts in the gay marriage debate. Three of the four states to have passed a same-sex marriage bill this spring, did so only after the inclusion of real, substantive religious liberty protections, validating NOM’s frequently expressed concerns for the religious liberty of traditional faith groups if same-sex marriage is adopted without specific protection.

[I]n the same memo, NOM admits that this “religious liberty” rhetoric is manufactured — a gimmick the organization hopes to deploy in Europe:

We have learned how to make the coercive pressures on religious people and institutions an issue in the United States. We will use this knowledge to raise the profile of government attacks on the liberties of religious people and institutions in Europe, both for internal domestic consumption in Europe and to halt the movement towards gay marriage worldwide. Our goal is to problematize the oppression of Christians and other traditional faith communities in the European mind.

The most important takeaway from these memos is that NOM’s strategy has very little to do with actually making a case against same-sex marriage. The concept of “religious liberty,” like all of NOM’s tactics, is just another scare tactic designed to alienate constituencies and stigmatize gays, lesbians, and bisexuals:

  • Scare the black community into taking exclusive ownership of the notion of “civil rights.”
  • Scare the Latino community into believing that supporting marriage equality constitutes an abandonment of tradition and assimilation into “Anglo” culture.
  • Scare parents with threats that their children will be “sexualized” through education about homosexuality.
  • Use “glamorous non-cognitive elites” to scare progressives with evidence that anti-equality voices can find traction in the media.
  • Rally anonymous donors with falsified and exaggerated threats of “boycotts, picketing, and occasional violence” from LGBT activists.
  • Recruit young spokespeople from prestigious universities to spread the message that gay relationships are harmful to society.
  • Convince the people of society that gay rights can only advance at the expense of religious freedom.

At the end of the day, NOM is nothing more than an insidious fear factory.

Why is it that self-described Christians are always so willing to lie and spread untruths and act in the most despicable and underhanded ways - even as they congratulate themselves for the piety and wear their false religiosity on their sleeves?

Catholic Church Leadership Hypocrisy - And an Exodus of the Laity

This cartoon speaks volumes about the rank hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Church leadership.
The good news is that American Catholics seem to be increasingly recognizing the cesspool like nature of the Church hierarchy. Indeed, as CNN is reporting, but for an influx of Catholic immigrants who have apparently not yet opened their eyes to the true nature of the hierarchy, the number of Catholics would be dropping markedly. Here are some highlights from the CNN article:

Even though Roman Catholics are the second-largest religious group in the United States, the tradition has seen an exodus of members in recent decades. One in ten Americans is an ex-Catholic. If ex-Catholics were counted as their own religious group, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

If it weren’t for the infusion of Catholic immigrants, especially from Latin American, the American Catholic Church would be shrinking pretty fast. A recent study by two college professor tries to get at a simple question: Why are they leaving?

The report is based on one particular diocese, but its authors say it gives a good picture of challenges facing the broader church. "I think the same seven items would show up for the most part," in other areas of the country, Zech says.

The 7 biggest reasons Catholics from Trenton are leaving the church, according to the study:

1. The sex abuse crisis

The most common answer: the church’s inadequate response to clergy sex abuse. “The bishop’s refusal to list pedophile priests on the diocesan Web site and his non-support of the effort to lift the statute of limitations for bringing sexual abuses cases forward in the courts” did it for me, one man said, according to the report.

2. The church’s stance on homosexuality

The second most cited reason for leaving the church was that former worshipers felt homosexuals were unwelcome in the church.

3. Dissatisfaction with the priest

About half of those surveyed in the Trenton report were not supportive of the pastor they had left behind. According to Byron and Zech, words like “arrogant,” “distant,” “aloof” and “insensitive” were all used by respondents to describe their priest.

4. Uninspiring homilies on Sundays

A number of people responded that homilies, weekly Sunday messages from the priest, did not relate or “speak to” them. “I stopped going regularly because the homilies were so empty,” one respondent said. “And whenever the church wanted to raise money, they dropped the homily and talked money.”

5. Perception that church hierarchy is too closely tied to conservative politics

“Eliminate the extreme conservative haranguing,” said one person. Another respondent said politics and the church shouldn’t mix: “I feel the church should stay out of politics; it should certainly not threaten politicians.”

6. Church’s stance toward divorced and remarried Catholics

Catholicism’s stance on divorce and remarriage were also highlighted, especially by divorced females. The churches stance on divorce is closely tied to their stance on adultery. Without getting a marriage annulled, any marriage after a divorce is considered adulterous. Therefore, divorced people who have not had their marriage annulled or remarried are not able to receive Holy Communion.

7. The status of women

With the political debate over religious conscience and contraceptive coverage, women’s rights and the church have come to the forefront of debate in American politics.

Respondents also took issue with the fact that while other churches allow women to become ordained priests, the Catholic Church does not. “If the Catholic Church does not change its archaic views on women, it is going to become a religion that survives on the fringe of an open-minded, progressive society,” one person who was surveyed said.

Personally, I hope the exodus continues because only a loss of members - and more importantly to the bishops, their monetary support - will force the hierarchy to realize that it is steering the Church to disaster unless it wants to become a third world religion (which might not be a bad thing in my opinion).

British Conservatives Lead Charge for Gay Marriage

Marriage and the stability, commitment increased security it brings for children that it underscores are conservative values - at least if these social goods are separated from religious extremism driven by chosen ignorance, self-enriching demagogues and whore like politicians who are only too happy to subvert such true conservative values for perceived short term political gain. Indeed, in my view, the far right of America's professional Christian class and far too many Republican politicians make the nastiest of whores look virtuous. In contrast, conservatives in the United Kingdom - outside of the hate and ignorance peddling Catholic bishops and some of their counterparts in the Church of England - seem to understand that affording marriage rights for all committed couples upholds social stability and what are true conservative values. The Washington Post looks at the night and day difference between true conservatives and the modern day witch trial like elements that have taken over conservatism in America. Here are highlights:

Americans watching the latest push for social change in Britain might feel as if they had stepped into an alternate political universe: Here, the Conservatives are leading the charge for same-sex marriage.

Gay couples in Britain won the right to civil partnerships in 2004, which granted them nearly the same legal status as married heterosexual couples while avoiding the controversial use of the word “marriage.” But Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative-led coalition have launched a historic drive to grant gay men and lesbians the option of also entering into civil marriages, touching off a surprisingly fierce uproar in largely progressive Britain and fueling a rebellion on the right as the party comes under heavy fire from traditional allies in the British clergy.

Yet challenging tradition appears to be exactly Cameron’s point. The proposal, put forward this month despite the lack of a strong clamor for marriage within Britain’s gay community, is nevertheless emerging as the cornerstone of a bid by the 45-year-old prime minister and other young leaders on the right here to redefine what it means to be a modern Conservative.

“I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative,” Cameron said in a recent landmark speech on the issue. “I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

[S]trategists see Cameron’s decision to champion the gay marriage cause as an attempt to seize the mantle of progressive change from the left and broaden the Conservative Party’s appeal among an increasingly key voting group: young urbanites.

There are at least 12 openly gay members of Parliament from the Conservative Party, more than all other British political parties combined.

What prompted the shift? “We lost three elections, in 1997, 2001 and 2005,” said Margot James, former vice chairman of the Conservative Party and an openly gay member of Parliament.

“The electorate was not seeing us as a viable alternative in a modern world. But David Cameron came along and changed all that. This is a different Conservative Party now, one that is fully in favor of equal rights. I think the Republicans could learn a lot from us in how to appeal to the center, without whose votes a party cannot hope to win.”

Cameron, a Christian and married father of three whose position on same-sex marriage gradually evolved since winning the party’s leadership in 2005, is calling gay marriage a matter of basic human rights. He is also making a pitch to uneasy religious conservatives, suggesting that the institution of marriage will reinforce traditional values of commitment and monogamy within the gay community.

The terms of political debate here remain different than in the United States, where the Republican Party base contains a highly influential religious right whose views on social issues are considered extreme even among many British Conservatives.

By offering the proposal, Cameron has put his party out in front of even many gay advocates here who had seen other issues, such as stiffer penalties for hate crimes, as higher priorities. . . . “This is more of David Cameron trying to drag the Conservatives kicking and screaming into the modern world,” said Ben Bradshaw, a ranking Labor lawmaker who in 1997 became one of Britain’s first openly gay members of Parliament. “Of course, we’ll support it, but this is pure politics on their part.

[S]aid Ewan Watson, 37, a London-based lawyer who is in a same-sex relationship. “For some of us, having marriage is huge. It’s a statement that we really are equal, and we won’t be as long as they segregate us from the word ‘marriage.’ ”

So while David Cameron works to drag the British conservatives into the modern world, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and a plethora of members of the GOP strive to drag America back into the Dark Ages. One can only hope that as the aging bigots and Christofascists in the GOP base die off, the GOP is setting itself up for a harsh day of reckoning with younger voters.

Friday, March 30, 2012

More Friday Male Beauty

How Religion Promotes Slavery - and Other Horrors

The Christianist far right loves to cite the supposedly inerrant Bible to justify their virulent anti-gay rhetoric. But, as noted many times before on this blog, Bible inerrancy if faithfully applied rules out selectively choosing from "column A and column B" as in a Chinese restaurant and leaves its proponents with the whole nasty ball of wax. It's a proposition of take or leave the entirety of the Bible's supposed dictates or be in truth nothing less than a fraudulent hypocrite. Sadly, most of the Christianists and the leadership of the Catholic Church fall into the lying hypocrite category. CNN's Religion blog looks at how religion and the Bible in particular supports and justifies slavery (why is it any surprise the many white Christianists are racists?). Here are some article excerpts:

Which revered religious figure - Moses, Jesus, or the Prophet Mohammad - spoke out boldly and unambiguously against slavery? Answer: None of them.

One of these men owned slaves, another created laws to regulate - but not ban – slavery. The third’s chief spokesman even ordered slaves to obey their masters, religious scholars say.

Most modern people of faith see slavery as a great evil. Though the three great Western religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – disagree on many matters, most of their contemporary followers condemn slavery. Yet there was a time when Jews, Christians and Muslims routinely cited the words and deeds of their founders to justify human bondage, scholars say. At times, religion was deployed more to promote the spread of slavery than to prevent it.

It’s been said that great religious figures transcend history. They rise above the peculiar customs of their day to show a new path forward. It’s a matter of debate if Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Mohammad did that with slavery. All three seemed to either ignore or tolerate some forms of slavery, some scholars say.

The parables of Jesus, for example, were full of references to slaves. Terms like “servants” or “stewards” are what we would call slaves today. Yet Jesus doesn’t seem to make any moral judgments about slavery in his parables, Crossan says.

Jesus’ apparent silence on slavery and Paul’s ambiguous statements on the issue had dreadful historical consequences. It helped ensure that slavery would survive well into the 19th century in the U.S., some scholars say.

American Christians who owned slaves had a simple but powerful defense in the run-up to the Civil War. The Old and New Testament sanctioned slavery and, since the Bible is infallible, slavery is part of God’s order, says Mark Noll, author “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.”

“The defenders of slavery said Jesus condemned quite a few things that were standard in the Old Testament,” Noll says. “He condemned polygamy, violence, easy divorce, but he never condemned slavery.”

It is perhaps more than a little ironic that today's Christianists - many of whom are descendents of the slave owners of yesteryear - cite that Jesus never condemned slavery yet totally ignore the fact that Jesus never condemned homosexuality whatsoever. Indeed, same New Testament passages - e.g., the centurion and his lover who Jesus healed - seem to indicate that Jesus was kind to same sex lovers and recognized their faith first and foremost rather than the gender of who they slept with.

Rick Santorum Again Attacks the Separation Of Church And State

With the Wisconsin GOP primary next week, Rick Santorum appears to be pulling out all the stops to rally would be Christianist and Kool-Aid drinker supporters. Why do I say this? Because Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum is again railing against John F. Kennedy's views on the separation of church and state under the U. S. Constitution. As a former daily mass attending Catholic I find the Opus Dei loving Santorum beyond scary. And, as noted before, I cannot help buy wonder what internal self-loathing and psychologically twisted secret issues drive Santorum (e.g., is a closeted gay?). Here are highlights from Huffington Post on his latest attack on the concept of the separation of church and state in American law and policy:

On Friday, as Mitt Romney continued to consolidate establishment support for his presidential candidacy within the Republican Party, getting the endorsement of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) days ahead of the Wisconsin primary, Rick Santorum soldiered on in a seemingly different quest.

Santorum wrote a 2,400-word essay essentially defending the substance of what he was trying to convey a month ago when he said that former President John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on church and state made him want to "throw up."

[H]is essay on the RealClearReligion website did not pull punches in going after Kennedy. "Kennedy took words written to protect religion from the government and used them to protect the government from religion," Santorum said, referring to the phrase "separation of church and state."

Santorum then compared Kennedy to former Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who in 1923 ushered an era of secularism into the majority Muslim country by helping to establish the Republic of Turkey.

Santorum's decision to write such an essay is as clear a sign as any that even if he does not win the GOP nomination, he wants to use his time as a competitive candidate to shape the public debate. Such an essay holds little political upside, since it will only draw attention to his inflammatory comments in the past about Kennedy.

Santorum should do the country a favor and drop out of the GOP nomination process and check himself into a good psychiatric institution. He needs help in understanding that it's 2012, not 1112.

Mitt "Etch A Sketch" Romney' - A Secret Donation to NOM

If I didn't like Mitt Romney before, I like him even less now that his attempt to secretly donate to the always anti-gay National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") has been exposed. Perhaps calling him "Etch A Sketch" is far too kind. Sadly, however, it seems to be the normative behavior of a man who seems driven to please everyone outwardly. Does Romney truly support NOM's anti-gay agenda and its strategy of breeding racial division or was he only trying to please his Mormon masters? Huffington Post has details. Here are some highlights:

In 2008, Mitt Romney's political action committee made a $10,000 donation to the National Organization of Marriage at a time when the anti-gay rights organization was seeking repeal of a California law legalizing marriage equality.

While neither the donation nor Romney's opposition to same-sex marriage were a secret, the precise way in which he contributed to NOM remained under tight wraps until Friday. One of the only public comments on the matter came when the former Massachusetts governor's top spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Deseret News that Romney supported California's Proposition 8, which would reverse the state law allowing for same-sex marriage, and that he would be writing a check to NOM.

But when Romney eventually made his donation, he did so quietly, and through an unusual channel. Records filed by Romney's Free and Strong America PAC with the Federal Election Commission did not include details of that $10,000 donation. Nor did NOM's public 990 form. In fact, record of the payment was only uncovered Friday when the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign was sent a private IRS filing from NOM via a whistleblower. The Human Rights Campaign shared the filing with The Huffington Post.

Asked for comment, an aide to Romney said that the donation was made through the Alabama chapter of the Free and Strong America PAC. State records confirm this. However, the 990 NOM filed lists the donation as having come from PO Box 79226 in Belmont, Massachusetts.

[T]he secretive nature of the donation raised the eyebrows of Human Rights Campaign officials. Romney, after all, didn't have to send his check to NOM through the Alabama chapter of his PAC. "It’s clear now that Romney was a major financial donor to Prop. 8," said Fred Sainz, HRC's vice president for communications. "But it’s also clear that his campaign very cleverly hid this contribution in an obscure Alabama PAC."

Free and Strong America's donation to NOM takes on a bit of additional significance this week after it was revealed that the organization has plotted ways to turn blacks and gays against one another. As BuzzFeed reported:

The leading opponents of same-sex marriage planned to defeat campaigns for gay marriage by "fanning the hostility" between black voters from gay voters and by casting President Obama as a radical foe of marriage, according to confidential documents made public in a Maine court today.

Michelle Goldberg has some coverage at The Daily Beast as well. Here are highlights:

Had the news that Mitt Romney made a $10,000 donation to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage come out a month ago instead of on Friday, it might have helped him. After all, Romney has made no secret of his opposition to same-sex marriage—indeed, he joined Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum in signing NOM’s anti-gay-marriage pledge. His financial support for NOM might have bolstered him with suspicious social conservatives, and it wouldn’t have surprised anyone else.

But that was before Monday, when the pro-gay Human Rights Campaign obtained secret NOM memos outlining a cynical strategy to sow racial division and encourage kids to denounce their gay parents.

Given recent revelations about NOM, liberal operatives see an opportunity to discomfit Romney and, once the general election is underway, paint him as a right-wing extremist. “As the leading contender for president of the United States, for him to be funding a group whose strategy memos lay out such a hateful way to divide African-Americans and the LGBT community, it’s shocking,” says Chris Harris, communications director of American Bridge 21st Century, the super PAC founded by Media Matters’ David Brock

Perhaps rather than "Etch A Sketch" as a moniker, "sleaze bag" or "douche bag" fits Romney more appropriately. He certainly will not receive my vote.

Pope Palpatine

A fellow Bilerico Project contributor came across this photo and couldn't help himself and posted it. I couldn't either. It would seem to me at least that there are some similarities between Ratzinger and the fictional Emperor Palpatine - not the least of which is an utter lack of concern for others as typified by the countless children and youth who were allowed to be exposed to serial sexual predators while no one in the Church hierarchy gave a damn, including Ratzinger during his roughly 20 years as head of the Vatican department formerly known as The Inquisition.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

George Zimmerman’s Crumbling Story - Why Did Police High Ups Believe It At All?

Living in the South since the early 1970's there's one thing you learn quickly: racism is very much alive and well in many quarters, including law enforcement and civic political leadership. In Virginia, I'd argue that this racism extends all the way to the top of the Virginia GOP. Hence the importance of The Family Foundation which uses social and religious issues to cause blacks to carry water for those who in truth miss the days of segregation. The murder of Tryvon Martin suggests that similar mind sets are alive and well in Sanford, Florida, and at least portions of the Florida state government. Why else would George Zimmerman's increasingly fantasy version of what happened with Tryvon Martin have been believed? The sad truth is that in the eyes of some, certain lives don't matter or at least not very much: black lives and to a lesser extent here in Virginia, LGBT lives. A piece in the Washington Post looks at this rapidly unraveling story and raises some serious questions. Here are highlights:

The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman — the case where nothing makes sense, nothing — gained greater clarity in the past couple days. The story put forth by the Sanford Police Department (SPD) and by Zimmerman “friend” Joe Oliver is starting to crumble.

The SPD video that ABC News aired last night raised serious doubts about Zimmerman’s account of a life-and-death struggle. Then, the mortician who prepared Trayvon’s body for burial told MSNBC last night that the 17-year-old’s body didn’t show any signs of violence to support Zimmerman’s account. Now, the work of the lead detective on the Zimmerman case looms large. Justice might be blind, but she’s not dumb. And lead detective Investigator Chris Serino set out to prove it.

Serino didn’t believe Zimmerman’s version of events and recommended a manslaughter charge. But he was overruled. And according to a report from Joy-Ann Reid of the Grio yesterday, the decision came from atop the law enforcement food chain: the state attorney.

A source with knowledge of the investigation into the shooting of Trayvon Martin tells the Grio that it was then Sanford police chief Bill Lee, along with Capt. Robert O’Connor, the investigations supervisor, who made the decision to release George Zimmerman on the night of February 26th, after consulting with State Attorney Norman Wolfinger — in person.

Wolfinger told Serino that he didn’t think there was enough evidence to charge Zimmerman. According to ABC News, Serino then filed an affidavit the night of Feb. 26 stating he didn’t believe Zimmerman. And we are now finding out that Serino then set out to bring the neighborhood watch volunteer to justice.

[Tracy] Martin told us in a meeting yesterday at The Post that he asked Serino if a background check was done on Zimmerman. Yes, one was, he was told, and he was “squeaky clean.” But Martin had another question. “By Zimmerman being ‘squeaky clean,’ ” he wanted to know, “did that give him the right to shoot and kill my son?” What Martin said Serino said next fits an emerging pattern. “[H]e said it certainly didn’t. That he was going to do everything that he could do to catch this guy in a lie.”

Despite being overruled by superiors, Serino, it appears, never gave up on trying to have Zimmerman arrested. He filed that affidavit hours before delivering the tragic news to Martin and said what he would try to do. And it wasn’t until March 5 that he would pay the 13-year-old and his mother a visit. Serino felt he was onto something. And now we all know why with greater clarity than we did a week ago.

NOM's Strategy of Racial Division Keeps Getting Pounded

Thankfully, the firestorm over the despicable and cynical tactics of the National Organization for marriage continue to get media coverage - other than in the knuckle dragger loving Virginian Pilot, of course - and, better yet, the coverage is spilling into the black media. The lily white Christianist organizations have long regarded blacks and black pastors as would be trained circus dogs to do the bidding of their white puppeteers. One can only hope that some in the black community will finally open their eyes and cease being the tools of the same social groups that supported segregation and Trayvon Martin's shooter in Florida. An op-ed in BET News looks at NOM's disgusting race baiting agenda. Here are excerpts:

Ever since African-Americans were (wrongly) blamed for the success of California’s Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage that was this year overturned, African-Americans of all colors have lamented the divide between America’s Black community and its gay community.

To be sure, nobody is saying that there aren’t serious issues of homophobia that need to be handled within some of the Black neighborhoods and churches in the United States. But it turns out at least some of the homophobia is being stoked by insidious bigots.

According to secret internal memos from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), one of America’s leading conservative groups working against same-sex marriage, NOM has made a concerted effort to drive a wedge between African-Americans and gays. The memos were released due to a legal challenge of Maine’s financial disclosure laws. NOM was forced to provide some transparency to court officials, who promptly released the damning documents.

Despite the fact that his organization has now been shown to be a group of bigots whose methods include manipulating minorities into disliking each other, NOM’s president, Brian Brown, says he stands by his tactics. “Gay marriage is not a civil right, and we will continue to point this out in written materials such as those released in Maine," he said in a statement. "We proudly bring together people of different races, creeds and colors to fight for our most fundamental institution: marriage.”

The ugly divisiveness distributed by hateful people like Brown is a bit shocking, of course, especially in its brazenness. But it’s nothing new. It’s a centuries-old strategy to hurt what could otherwise be powerful forces — divide and conquer. We’d be wise to not let NOM divide us.

What makes Brown's whining responses to the scandal even more farcical is that he's now claiming that NOM is the victim of the mean gay bullies at HRC and other gay rights organizations. And of course, he is using lines that equate to "some of my best friends are black" even though NOM's leadership is all lily white. People in the black community need to stop falling for this disingenuous bullshit. Brown and those like him are the true face of anti-gay white Christians and everyone needs to wake up to this reality. Here's a clip of Julian Bond's thoughts on NOM and its tactics:

Santorum and Romney Pander to Wisconsin Wingnuts

I hope women and moderates are paying attention to the rhetoric of Mitt "Etch A Sketch" Romney and Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum in Wisconsin. I also hope the Obama campaign has crews out catching video clips of the ultra far right social positions being taken by both of these GOP presidential contenders. Which ever is the ultimate winner, he needs to be forced to account for some of the batshitery now being spewed. The Los Angeles Times looks at the contenders in their Wisconsin campaign and the aspects of their positions which hopefully will come back to bite them in the ass come November. One is either an actual extremist - i.e., Santorum - or a flip flopping liar with no core beliefs whatsoever - i.e., Romney - other than saying whatever is perceived to be most expedient at the moment. Here are some story highlights:

For Republicans, Wisconsin and its embattled governor have come to symbolize the danger of lurching too far to the right in a presidential battleground state. Now, the party's top White House contenders are running the risk of making the same stumble as Tuesday's primary nears.

The prominence of divisive social issues — rather than a tight focus on jobs and the economy — in the race for the Republican presidential nomination has delighted Democrats looking ahead to November. They hope that Republican scuffles over birth control will turn off independents, particularly women.

Democrats are already on the offensive, leading a recall drive against the state's Republican governor, Scott Walker. Their campaign against him was sparked by Walker's high-drama conflict with public-employee unions, a clash that has galvanized organized labor nationwide.

At the same time, Wisconsin's best-known Republican congressman,Paul D. Ryan, has become a national target for Democrats, who have cast his proposed budget cuts as a threat to the survival of Medicare coverage for the elderly.

The stakes for Wisconsin's primary are high, especially for Santorum. . . . . If the pattern holds, the former Pennsylvania senator will suffer another letdown, diminishing his already slim prospects for winning the nomination.

Romney, who has been prospecting for campaign money in California and Texas this week, is outspending Santorum on advertising in Wisconsin by nearly 5 to 1, according to NBC News. Santorum has tried to compensate by dashing around the state to drum up free news coverage with withering attacks on Romney.

Along the way, Santorum has tried to project an image as blue-collar Everyman — a tart contrast with Romney, a Harvard-educated former investment executive who reported nearly $21 million in income last year. (Santorum stays quiet about his entry into the ranks of $1-million-a-year earners in the years since his home state bounced him from the Senate.)

With the recall vote just over two months away, Santorum's pledge of solidarity with Walker is one of his main applause lines. "I will do everything I can that Gov. Walker wants me to do to make sure that he sustains this recall," Santorum told supporters at a rally at a banquet hall in Bellevue.

Once Romney arrives in Wisconsin on Friday, he too will declare his allegiance to the governor who has most infuriated organized labor, a powerful force against whoever becomes the Republican presidential nominee. Romney plans to drop by a Walker campaign phone bank outside Madison.

On Saturday, Romney plans to join Santorum and Newt Gingrich in Waukesha at a Faith and Freedom Coalition forum. The gathering of Wisconsin conservatives will be fraught with temptation for the presidential candidates to offer Republican primary voters still more of what will likely cause trouble for the party's nominee in the fall.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Thursday Male Beauty

If "Obamacare" is Struck Down, Will It Lead to a Single Payer System?

There's an old saying "be careful what you wish for" that may come back to bit the GOP and conservatives in the ass big time if the conservative faction on the U. S. Supreme Court succeed it killing what the far right derisively calls "Obamacare." And what might that be? Demands for a single payer system so derided by the far right. When asked about individual parts of "Obamacare," a majority of Americans support these programs/policies. Now imagine that the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare and these benefits disappear and millions find themselves uninsured or unable to afford sky rocketing health care insurance premiums. The resulting chaos and unhappiness might reignite a demand for a total overhaul of the health care delivery system and calls for a Canadian or European style health care system. Personally, I am all for it. As should be those who actually believe in the Gospel message of caring for the sick and the unfortunate. Here are highlights from a Washington Post column that looks at the possible fallout:

If Obamacare is struck down, the short-term implications are uncertain. Conservatives may be buoyed by an election-year victory; progressives may be energized by a ruling that looks more political than substantive. The long-term consequences, however, are obvious: Sooner or later, a much more far-reaching overhaul of the health-care system will be inevitable.

At the heart of the legislation is the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a fine. It became clear by their questioning that the court’s five conservatives — including Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote who sometimes crosses the ideological divide and votes with the liberals — see this mandate as a significant expansion of the federal government’s reach and authority.

Verrilli gave him [Justice Kennedy] one. The market for health insurance is inseparable from the market for health care, he argued, and every citizen is a consumer of health care. Those who choose not to buy health insurance require health care anyway — often expensive care at hospital emergency rooms — and these costs are borne by the rest of us in the form of higher premiums.

I think Verrilli made his case. The court is supposed to begin with the assumption that laws passed by Congress are constitutional. Justices don’t have to like the Affordable Care Act in order to decide that it should remain in effect.

[I]t’s going to be a close call. What if they strike down the law? The immediate impact will be the human toll. More than 30 million uninsured Americans who would have obtained coverage under Obamacare will be bereft. Other provisions of the law, such as forbidding insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions and allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ policies, presumably would also be invalidated; if not, they would have to be modified to keep insurance rates from climbing sharply. The United States would remain the only wealthy industrialized country where getting sick can mean going bankrupt.

Eventually, however, our health-care system will be restructured. It has to be. The current fee-for-service paradigm, with doctors and hospitals being paid through for-profit insurance companies, is needlessly inefficient and ruinously expensive. When people talk about out-of-control government spending, they’re really talking about rising medical costs that far outpace any conceivable rate of economic growth.

Our only choice is to try to hold the costs down. President Obama tried to make a start with a modest approach that works through the current system. If this doesn’t pass constitutional muster, the obvious alternative is to emulate other industrialized nations that deliver equal or better health-care outcomes for half the cost.

I’m talking about a single-payer health-care system. If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, a single-payer system will go from being politically impossible to being, in the long run, fiscally inevitable.

America's refusal to learn from the successes of other nations drives me crazy. Yes, a single payer system would mean that doctors would cease to make near obscene salaries in some cases. But the availability of preventive care and no need to pass the costs of the uninsured to everyone with insurance would lower costs in the long run. Moreover, families would no longer see their finances wiped out by a serious illness - something I experienced some years back when first my oldest daughter was stricken with bacterial meningitis and then my former wife was stricken with cancer. Medical emergencies should not mean bankruptcy or something close to it - even for those with supposedly quality insurance coverage.

Conservatives: The Growing Ignorance and Distrust of Science

I sometimes say somewhat in jest - but not entirely - that to be a Republican or far right conservative nowadays, one prerequisite is that you have a lobotomy. In my youth, the many conservatives in my family embraced and encouraged education, intelligence and scientific knowledge. But today, especially among Christian conservatives, ignorance is exalted and anything that challenges increasingly unsupportable Biblical "truths" is rejected. Indeed, it's almost labeled as Satanic. What is particularly shocking is that a mere 36 years ago, conservatives as a group ranked highest in trust in science. What's happened? I would argue the rise of religious fundamentalism and religious denominations that teach Bible literalism (selectively applied, of course). I have long argued that anything that makes these people have to think for themselves and ask questions about the brainwashing that they have received will be vigorously rejected. A new study seems to validate this view. The Los Angeles Times has a piece that looks at this troubling phenomenon. Here are highlights:

As the Republican presidential race has shown, the conservatives who dominate the primaries are deeply skeptical of science — making Newt Gingrich, for one, regret he ever settled onto a couch with Nancy Pelosi to chat about global warming.

A study released Thursday in the American Sociological Review concludes that trust in science among conservatives and frequent churchgoers has declined precipitously since 1974, when a national survey first asked people how much confidence they had in the scientific community. At that time, conservatives had the highest level of trust in scientists.

Confidence in scientists has declined the most among the most educated conservatives, the peer-reviewed research paper found, concluding: "These results are quite profound because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives."

To highlight the dramatic impact conservative views of science have had on public opinion, Gauchat pointed to results from Gallup, which found in 2012 that just 30% of conservatives believed the Earth was warming as a result of greenhouse gases versus 50% two years earlier. In contrast, the poll showed almost no change in the opinion of liberals, with 74% believing in global warming in 2010 versus 72% in 2008.

Chris Mooney, who wrote "The Republican War on Science," which Gauchat cites, agreed. "If you think of the reasons behind this as nature versus nurture, all this would be nurture, that it was the product of the conservative movement," he said. "I think being educated is a proxy for people paying attention to politics, and when they do, they tune in to Fox News and blogs."

As readers will recall, a recent study that compared the levels awareness on issues and information in general found Fox News regulars to be the least well informed. Perhaps regular Fox News viewing combined with listen to Rush Limbaugh regularly causes a de facto lobotomy.

Philadelphia Sex Abuse Trial Continues to Shock and Disgust

Another day and another trail of horrific details on the sexual free for all that Philadelphia Archdiocese priests were allowed to indulge in with children and youths while only drawing a wink and a nod from the senior members of the local hierarchy. In most cases, outrageous conduct nearly merited a transfer to a new unsuspecting parish. The callousness of the hierarchy is enough to make one want to vomit. Yet Catholics continue to kiss the pompous, hubris filled asses of the bishops and cardinals. WTF more will it take to get these sheep-like people to open their eyes? The Philadelphia Inquirer has several stories on the shocking conduct that the bishops and cardinals aided and abetted. Here are highlights from the first story:

A Havertown pastor testified Wednesday that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sent a priest to his parish in 2002 without telling him that the man had been caught with gay sadomasochistic videos and a sexually graphic love letter he wrote to a seventh-grade boy.

The Rev. Henry McKee, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, said nearly three years passed before he learned of the Rev. Michael Murtha's background.

McKee was one of four priests called to the witness stand Wednesday as prosecutors sought to show how Msgr. William J. Lynn and other church leaders shuffled and protected priests suspected of sexual misconduct or abuse.

Wednesday's testimony created an uncomfortable but potentially recurring scenario at the trial: a parade of priests taking the witness stand and discussing the sexual habits or proclivities of other priests, all for the prosecution of a monsignor that all knew and some clearly liked.

McKee said Lynn told him almost nothing about Murtha's background when the secretary of clergy asked if he would accept the priest at Sacred Heart in 2002. Among other duties, McKee asked Murtha to train and manage the parish's altar boys and girls.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard a former student at St. John Neumann High School in South Philadelphia describe how an archdiocesan priest stalked him, had him removed from a class, locked him in a conference room, then touched his leg and pressed him to talk about homosexuality. "I told you I'd find you," the Rev. Francis Trauger allegedly told the boy, then 15, in 1991.

The priest ordered the boy to kneel and unzip his pants, but their encounter abruptly ended when a faculty member began banging on the door, according to the former student, now 36.

Trauger is one of nearly two dozen priests who are not charged in the case, but who prosecutors say jurors need to hear about to understand the archdiocese's long-standing practices in responding to sex-abuse allegations.

Pretty disgusting stuff. But there's more and it wasn't just boys who were targeted notwithstanding the Vatican's efforts to blame all sex abuse on gays. Here are highlights from another story:

She was a 13-year-old girl, fifth child of seven in a devout Catholic family in suburban Roslyn whose mother attended Mass once or twice daily. But the girl dreaded Sunday mornings. Not because of a crisis of faith but because she knew it would mean another morning of groping by the Rev. Albert T. Kostelnick.

The woman, now in her mid-50s, told a Philadelphia jury this morning about how Kostelnick, now retired, fondled her for two years as she worked in the rectory of St. John of the Cross church in Roslyn - and then did the same to two of her sisters who followed her into the job.

"I didn't know what to do," the woman told the Common Pleas Court jury. "I felt helpless and trapped. My parents expected me to work."

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti, the woman testified that her mother volunteered her to work in the St. John's rectory serving meals to the priests on Saturday's from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

She earned $5 for her work, the woman said, and endured the physical attentions of Kostelnick. The woman said the priest, who lived at St. John's, taught at an archdiocesan high school.

She said Kostelnick would dine alone at the end of a 12-foot-long conference table, farthest from the closed door. As she served his meal, she continued, the priest began holding her hands and making small talk. She said he then gradually moved his hands to her breasts.

She never told her parents at the time, she said, because they were so devout. "They wouldn't have believed me and, if they did, they wouldn't have done anything," she said.

According to the 2005 grand jury report, the priest admitted in 2004 to the Archdiocese review board his long-standing habit of fondling the breasts of young girls. By the time he was removed in 2004, the Archdiocese had reports from 18 alleged female victims.

Every Catholic who continues to give money to the Catholic Church at the local parish level ultimate helps fund the foul, nasty senior members of the hierarchy who allowed such horrors to happen or who, to date have refused to force a thorough house cleaning of those who allowed such abuse of children and youths. And yes, those with unclean hands include the current occupant of the throne of St. Peter. Had I remained a Catholic, I think I would feel physically dirty via guilt by association.

Oh, and can anyone explain to me why GOP politicians with any shred of morality are kissing the assess of the members of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops?

The Onion Bashes NOM's Sick Strategies

With most major news outlets now having picked up on NOM's race baiting scandal - other than the Virginian Pilot, of course, which likely deemed it "not newsworthy" since it makes Christianists look bad - it was only a matter of time before The Onion weighed in on the scandal. NOM needs to be made a laughing stock and known as a bunch of bigots. Kudos to all the news coverage.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Business Bets on the G.O.P. May Be Backfiring

With the Republican Party's obsession of pandering to its Christianist/Tea Party base and seeking to balloon the deficit by increasing tax cuts for the wealthy, there may be little money available to throw in the direction of business interests that foolishly thought that the GOP is the party of big business which would answer the call of big business to fund construction projects and other measures that would put money in business coffers. Frankly, it's more evidence that the GOP of yesteryear is gone and has been replaced by a sectarian party that is stridently anti-government. A piece in the New York Times looks at the perhaps misplaced bets made by the business community on the GOP acting rational and in the best interests of business. Here are some highlights:

Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations.

Even though money for major road and bridge projects is set to run out this weekend, House Republican leaders have struggled all week to round up the votes from recalcitrant conservatives simply to extend it for 90 or even 60 days. A longer-term transportation bill that contractors and the chamber say is vital to the recovery of the construction industry appears hopelessly stalled over costs.

At the same time, House conservatives are pressing to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has financed exports since the Depression, to run out of lending authority within weeks. The bank faces the possibility of shutting its doors completely by the end of May, when its legal authorization expires.

And a host of routine business tax breaks — from wind energy subsidies to research and development tax credits — cannot be passed because of Republican insistence that they be paid for with spending cuts.

Business groups that worked hard to install a Republican majority in the House equated Republican control with a business-friendly environment. But the majority is first and foremost a conservative political force, and on key issues, its ideology is not always aligned with commercial interests that helped finance election victories.

There could be real-world consequences to the conservative rebellion. The 90-day extension of the highway trust fund that House Republican leaders say they will pass this week in lieu of a broad highway bill would keep existing projects moving for now. But business groups say few new government-funded infrastructure projects can get under way without longer-range certainty about federal backing.

Exports have been one of the bright spots of the fragile recovery, but without Export-Import Bank financing, companies could struggle to complete contracts with overseas buyers. Those buyers will most likely turn to foreign competitors whose governments have more robust versions of the bank, businesspeople say.

With its charter set to expire in May, the bank is the target of conservative groups. They are making the case to Republicans that the bank, created in 1934 to finance sales to the Soviet Union, has no place in a free-market system. Club for Growth is holding it up as the next Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, crowding out private lending and offering dangerous loans that ultimately could be left in the laps of the taxpayer.

If anything, the anger over the stalled transportation bill is even more acute, business lobbyists say. The Senate, in a bipartisan vote, has passed a surface transportation bill that would keep money flowing for two years. The House, however, appears stuck.

Some Republicans are growing worried about the ramifications of these fights. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, has pressed to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, but at the insistence of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, he joined his party in opposing Democratic efforts to add reauthorization to a small-business finance bill. Now Mr. Graham says his party has to find a way to move a stand-alone bill, and fast.

“Come June, if this program dies, it will be the end of job creation for thousands of businesses for no good reason,” he said. “And it’ll happen on our watch, with our fingerprints on it.

The GOP leadership should have thought through the consequences of allowing the patients to take over the asylum.

Homophobic Bob Marshall Delivers Signatures for GOP Primary

There are few political figures in Virginia who are more intense in their hatred of and efforts to denigrate the lives of LGBT Virginians than Delegate Bob Marshall who would happily institute a theocracy in Virginia. Indeed, Marshall has stated publicly that he'd be happy if all gays left Virginia. Yesterday, Marshall delivered signatures to get himself on the GOP primary ballot for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim Webb. While Marshall is likely too extreme even for many in the Virginia GOP, his candidacy will likely force former Senator George Allen to pivot far to the right in an effort to secure votes from the most delusional Kool-Aid drinkers that are likely to vote in the primary. This, of course, should give Tim Kaine, the likely Democrat candidate, lots of video spots and crazy statements to use against Allen come November. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

Del. Bob Marshall (Prince William) submitted 17,100 signatures to the Virginia State Board of Elections Wednesday to qualify for the June 12 GOP primary ballot for U.S. Senate.

“The credit in reaching this goal goes to hundreds of grass-root volunteers who spent countless hours gathering petition signatures while I was busy on the people’s business in the Virginia General Assembly session,’’ Marshall said in a statement.

The state GOP will verify the signatures. Candidates have until 5 p.m. Thursday to collect 10,000 signatures from across the state, including 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. If they submit more than 15,000, the party will count the signatures but not verify each one.

Former Virginia governor and U.S. senator George Allen and tea party activist Jamie Radtke submitted signatures earlier this month. Others in the GOP race include Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick and Bishop Earl Jackson.

Some of the upcoming batshitery should be truly something to behold.

Kansas House Approves Bill That Legalizes Anti-Gay Discrimination

I've noted before that anti-gay bullying isn't found only in the halls and cafeterias of our public schools. No, it is also very much alive and well in state legislatures, including the Virginia General Assembly where the Virginia GOP takes gay bashing and anti-gay legislation almost to an art form. Now, the Kansas House has passed a bill that makes religious belief an absolute defense to discrimination against gays and other LGBT individuals. It's yet another example of the increasing demands by Christianists that they be afforded special rights that trump the rights of all others. And not surprisingly, one of the champions of the horrific legislation was the Roman Catholic Church. Rather than clean its own putrid house, the Church hierarchy continues to push an anti-gay jihad under the false smoke screen of "religious liberty." The Church's idea of religious liberty is nothing short of a form of religious tyranny. Here are highlights from the LJ World:

The Kansas House on Wednesday advanced legislation that would allow a religious defense to discriminate against gays.

Two Lawrence representatives attacked the bill, called the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, as an attempt to destroy a city of Lawrence anti-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation.

State Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, defended his bill, saying it was meant to make sure government could not infringe on an individual’s religious beliefs. “Free exercise of religion is at the core of who we are as a people,” Kinzer said. Davis asked Kinzer if under Kinzer’s bill an apartment owner could cite his religious beliefs to fight a complaint if he refused to rent to a same-sex couple. “That is generally correct,” Kinzer said.

Davis said that was unfair to the city of Lawrence, which is the only city in Kansas that has an anti-discrimination ordinance designed to protect people based on sexual orientation.

State Rep. Charlie Roth, R-Salina, said that Kinzer’s legislation was “homophobic” and that it will hurt Kansas’ image. “It sends the message that Kansas is not welcoming. Kansas will become known as the land of the pure as defined by the few,” Roth said.

The bill was approved 89-27. Ballard, Davis and state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, voted against it. State Reps. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, and TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, voted against it.

The bill would prohibit state and local governments from substantially burdening a person’s religious beliefs unless the government can prove that the burden is advancing a compelling government interest and is the least restrictive way of advancing that interest.

The measure is supported by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, the Kansas Catholic Conference and Concerned Women for America of Kansas. It was opposed by Lawrence officials, the Kansas Equality Coalition and the state chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Right before advancing the Kansas Preservation of Freedom Act, the House gave preliminary approval to putting a chapel for prayer and meditation in the Statehouse. Both proposals will require a final vote before going to the Senate. Those votes will probably be taken Thursday.

One has to wonder when the Christianists and the Catholic Church hierarchy will show their full hand and begin pushing for their ultimate goal: to be able to freely engage in actual physical violence against LGBT citizens? They certainly have no problem with inflicting psychological and emotional harm on us. I pity any LGBT teens who have the misfortune of living in Kansas. This legislation sends the message that they are fair game for bullies.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Marco Rubio Again Disclaims Interest on GOP "Titanic" Ticket

Considered a rising star in the GOP, Florida Senator Marco Rubio again disclaimed any interest in being the VP nominee on the GOP 2012 ticket according to The Hill:

Popular freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) again denied interest in his party's vice presidential nomination Wednesday despite wide-spread speculation his political team was gearing up for a national campaign.
"I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee, but I'm always flattered when people bring it up, I think they mean it as a compliment," Rubio said on MSNBC.

Some suggest that Rubio's decision is being driven by polls - like this CNN/International poll - that show Barack Obama with a significant lead over Mitt "Etch A Sketch" Romney as well as Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum. If one is a rising star like Rubio, why sign on to what could turn out to be a Titanic like ticket? Bob "Governor Ultrasound" McDonnell, on the other hand, will be term limited out of office come January 2014, and has no clear path forward other than a bruising U. S. Senate race that he might not win. First, here are highlights on the new polling:

President Barack Obama holds a double-digit lead over GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in hypothetical general election matchups, according to a new poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Wednesday also indicates that the president's approval rating has inched over the 50% mark in CNN surveys for the first time since last May, when the polls were still registering the after effects of the death of Osama bin Laden. The number of Americans who say the economy's in good shape has jumped 13 points since January, though the survey shows a majority still think it is in poor shape.

If the general election were held today instead of in early November, 54% of registered voters say they would back Obama, with 43% supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the GOP nomination battle. That's up from a five-point 51%-46% advantage the president held over Romney in February. And Obama would have a 55%-42% lead over Santorum . . . .

"President Obama currently wins majority support among groups that have been problematic for him in the past, including men, older voters, and suburbanites," says CNN Poling Director Keating Holland. "He has a solid lead among independents as well."

Here's how Blue Virginia summarizes Governor Ultrasound's options:

Marco Rubio's no dummy. Now Bob McDonnell on the other hand...term limited, nothing much to do after 2013? Sure, why not, at least the first part of the Titanic cruise was first-class fun, until the ice-cold North Atlantic water started pouring in! Oh well, you can't have everything, can you? LOL
Oh, and meanwhile, a new ABC/Washington Post poll isn't too rosy for the GOP either:

Mitt Romney trails Barack Obama by 19 points in basic popularity as the 2012 presidential contest inches closer to the main event, with a record 50 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll now rating Romney unfavorably overall.

Thirty-four percent hold a favorable opinion of Romney, the lowest for any leading presidential candidate in ABC/Post polls in primary seasons since 1984.

THE CENTER — Obama also leads Romney in favorable ratings among independents and political moderates. The former, in particular, customarily is a decisive swing-voting group in presidential elections. Half of independents see Obama favorably, 15 points ahead of Romney.