Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Final 2013 Male Beauty

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Thanks to the GOP, Five Million Americans Won't Get Health Insurance

As the year 2013 comes to a close, it is worthwhile to recall one last time some of the "gifts" that the Republican Party has bestowed on Americans: (i) an economy that is still struggling thanks to GOP opposition to economic stimulus and drastic cuts in spending at the state and federal level, (ii) over  one million unemployed workers who have been kicked to the curb and cut off from emergency assistance, (iii) the continued degradation of the separation of church and state, (iv) no progress on comprehensive immigration reform, and (v) over five million Americans who will not receive health insurance.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this last "gift" to the American people:

Do you need health care coverage? Are you too “rich” to qualify for Medicaid but too poor to receive subsidies under the Affordable Care Act? Do you live in a Republican-controlled state? If you answered yes to all of the above, then you’re out-of-luck. Here’s the Associated Press:
About 5 million people will be without health care next year that they would have gotten simply if they lived somewhere else in America. […]

The court effectively left it up to states to decide whether to open Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled, to more people, primarily poor working adults without children.
Twenty-five states declined. That leaves 4.8 million people in those states without the health care coverage that their peers elsewhere are getting through the expansion of Medicaid, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation estimate. More than one-fifth of them live in Texas alone, Kaiser’s analysis found.
This will impact as many people as the disruption in the private insurance market that generated a month’s worth of outrage over President Obama’s (broken) promise that “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” The key difference, however, is that . . . .  these Americans—who, barring a change in the law, are stuck in the coverage—are poor, marginalized, and ignored.

On that note, in fact, it should be said that this gap will deepen existing racial inequalities: The 25 states that have rejected the expansion are home to the majority of the nation’s poor, uninsured blacks, a direct product of our long history of racist policy making.

The Republican Party is the reason these people won’t receive health insurance and gain access to valuable medical services. The Medicaid expansion is fully funded by the federal government for the first three years, and mostly funded after that. It’s a win-win for the state and its residents. But in the twenty-five states that won’t participate, the GOP governors and legislators would rather deprive their citizens of needed benefits than cooperate with President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

Remember this when Republicans insist they have an agenda for low-income families; if that were true, the party wouldn’t be united in denying health insurance to millions of poor Americans.

Utah Asks U. S. Supreme Court to Stay Gay Marriages

Republicans in Utah continue to squander taxpayer monies in an effort to block same sex marriages from being performed while the state of Utah appeals the federal District Court ruling that struck down Utah's bans on gay marriage that in the last analysis have anti-gay animus and religious based hatred as their justification.   Today, Utah asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the District Court ruling after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals twice refused to grant a stay.  The state's filing can be viewed here.  The Salt Lake Tribune has details.  Here are story excerpts:
The state of Utah asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon to put same-sex marriages in Utah on hold while it appeals a lower court ruling in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, saying each marriage that occurs is "an affront" to the state’s and the public’s interest "in being able to define marriage through ordinary democratic channels."

In its application, Utah said a stay is warranted because the dispute over U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby’s Dec. 20 ruling "squarely presents the question that this court expressly left open last term in United States v. Windsor." That is: Do states retain a "historical and essential" authority to define the marital relation? In the Windsor case, the court upheld a state’s authority to make laws regarding marriage, Utah argues.

Monte N. Stewart, a Boise attorney and founder of the Marriage Law Foundation, joined the Utah Attorney General’s Office in making the application — the state’s fifth attempt to block same-sex marriage in Utah while it appeals Shelby’s ruling. It also posted a notice Tuesday seeking an outside firm’s help.

Attorney James E. Magleby, who with Peggy A. Tomsic represents the three couples that challenged Utah’s ban, criticized the state’s continued push for a stay, particularly given the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals expedited schedule to hear the case.

"We are disappointed that the state of Utah will spend millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to attempt to reinstate laws which deny due process and equal protection to all of Utah’s citizens," Magleby said in a statement. "It doesn’t have to be this way."

Magleby held out the example of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who this fall declined to appeal a similiar ruling and instead "put a divisive issue in the past."

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is assigned oversight of cases arising from the 10th Circuit, has given attorneys for the three same-sex couples until 10 a.m. on Friday to file a response to the state’s stay request. 

Sotomayor may review the application on her own or refer it to the full court. If Sotomayor decides it on her own and declines to grant a stay, the state could then seek an opinion from another justice; by tradition that justice would refer it to the whole court for consideration.

In reviewing a stay request, the court considers four general criteria: likelihood that four justices will find the case meritorious enough to grant certiorari on appeal; whether there is a "fair prospect" a majority would reverse the lower court’s decision; irreparable harm caused if a stay is denied; and, in close calls, relative harms to the applicant, respondent and public interests.

Unlike the Hollingsworth v Perry case, the California Proposition 8 case the court heard last March but later declined to rule on because of standing issues, there are no jurisdictional defects in Utah’s case, the state said.
And Utah's final justification for anti-gay bigotry sounds as if it were written by Tony Perkins or some other hate group leader:
A state that allows same-sex marriage "necessarily loses much of its ability to encourage gender complementarity as the preferred parenting arrangement," the state said. "And it thereby substantially increases the likelihood that any given child will be raised without the everyday influence of his or her biological mother and father — and indeed, without the everyday influence of a father or a mother at all."
The state apparently has amnesia in terms of all the unfit heterosexual couples who have children - children who are abused and denied proper health care and other basic needs.

Church Lawyer Turned Whistleblower Named "Person of the Year"

Photo credit: Jennifer Simonson
The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy remains a foul cesspool inhabited by many who knowingly enabled, abetted and covered up for predatory priests who preyed on children and youth.  These "princes of the church" have displayed a moral bankruptcy that is shocking to decent, moral people.  Adding to their rank hypocrisy is their jihad against the rights and lives of normal, well adjusted LGBT individuals.  Indeed, in some cases, the louder they rant against gays, the more it turns out they covered up sexual abuse by pedophiles hiding from normal society within the ranks of the priesthood.  Archbishop John Nienstedt is but one such example.  Thankfully, there are decent moral people who chose to do the right thing and report abuse and to become whistle blowers.  One such individual is Jennifer Haselberger (pictured above), an attorney who once represented Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  For her efforts, the National Catholic Reporter - which obviously is NOT controlled by the Vatican - has named Haselberger "person of the year."  The Minneapolis Star Tribune looks at this honor and how Haselberger merited the designation.  Here are highlights (pay attention to the number of bishops involved in the cover ups):
The whistleblower who set off a storm of controversy over clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been named “person of the year” by a national Catholic newspaper.

Jennifer Haselberger, 39, of St. Paul was honored Monday in an editorial by the National Catholic Reporter for her courage in speaking out against Archbishop John Nienstedt and his handling of evidence in potential child abuse cases involving archdiocesan priests.

“Thank God for the courage of abuse survivors and the families of victims who will not let our bishops and leaders forget the abuse and their complicity in it,” the editorial said. “Thank God for activists who stand with survivors. But most of all, thank God for one very special class of people: the priests and church personnel who do stand up to their leaders and cry out for justice. … Finally, thank God for Jennifer Haselberger.”

She went public with her concerns after finding what she believed was child pornography on a priest’s discarded computer and later failing to persuade church leaders to address the issue and other potential sexual misconduct involving clergy.

She resigned in protest in April after “repeatedly” taking her concerns about “unreported allegations of clergy sex abuse and lapses in investigations” to Nienstedt, who “ignored and rebuffed them,” the editorial said.

Since October, the scandal has toppled Nienstedt’s vicar general, the Rev. Peter Laird, and prompted abrupt resignations from the University of St. Thomas board by former Archbishop Harry Flynn and his former top deputy, the Rev. Kevin McDonough. Both have been criticized for not responding appropriately to allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Nienstedt removed himself from ministry this month pending an investigation after he was accused of touching a boy’s buttocks during a confirmation photo session.

The editorial also praised the work of two priests who “sacrificed promising ecclesiastical careers” by standing up for victims of abuse and speaking out against those “who would cover it up.”
The priests are Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk who now works as a victims advocate for the St. Paul law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates, and the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Virginia-based canon lawyer who has testified on behalf of victims in abuse cases in civil courts.

Haselberger’s honor comes as the Diocese of Duluth prepares to release Tuesday the names of 17 priests credibly accused of sexual misconduct with children. The publishing of the names comes several weeks after a lawsuit was filed seeking the release of that information.

This month, following a Ramsey County judge’s order, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona released the names of 46 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, lists that were largely compiled a decade ago.

The order also stipulated that the archdiocese release by Jan. 6 a second list of priests identified over the past decade.
Kudos to Ms. Haselberger.  Again, let's not forget Nienstedt's condemnation of gays and efforts to block gay marriage in Minnesota.  And now, he has stepped aside due to accusations he fondled a boys hindquarters.  I have asked before and will ask again, how does anyone decent and moral continue to listen to the bullshit disseminated by such men?   I also ask again, when is Pope Francis going to clean house?

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

French Skater Jean-Denis Sanchis

Canadian Foreign Minister Denounces Russia's "Gay Propaganda" Law

John Baird
Canada remains outspoken when it comes to denouncing Russia's vile "gay propaganda" law which has given license for violence against gays in that country and raised significant concerns for the safety of foreign gays visiting Russia, especially with the 2014 Winter Games less than two months away.  To date, the International Olympic Committee has done little to guaranty the safety of gay athletes and acted more like the appeaser of Hitler and the Nazi regime 78 years ago in the lead up to the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin. Towleroad reports on Canada's condemnation:

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird recently mentioned his country's opposition to Russia's "gay propaganda" law in a letter to Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Federation's Minister of Foreign Affairs. Baird wrote:
“In the lead-up to Sochi, Canada remains concerned about the legislation passed in June 2013 that places a ban on the ‘propagandizing of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.'"
“We encourage the Russian Federation to extend to all of its citizens – as well as foreign visitors – full human rights protections, including freedom from violence, harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Baird also wrote that Canada would appreciate Russia's cooperation in allowing its consulate quick and consistent "access any Canadian citizen, should the need arise.”

In early August, Baird spoke against Russia's law and urged the International Olympic Committee to do more to ensure the safety of everyone attending the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Canada's city of Vancouver has taken an outspoken role in criticizing Russia's anti-gay law in the run-up to the winter games. Two Canadian winter Olympians marched in protest of the law at Vancouver Pride and the city's openly gay deputy mayor visited Sochi and petitioned the IOC to add an LGBT non-discrimination clause to its charter.

Meanwhile, the French, German and American presidents have all announced plans to skip the games, as has the European Union commissioner and the British Prime Minister (though he contends that his absence has nothing to do with protesting Russia's anti-gay law).

As noted before, I have no intention of watching the 2014 Games and would encourage others to do likewise.  Better yet, boycott advertisers who have put a lust for money ahead of protecting human rights.

A Pill to Prevent HIV Goes Largely Unused

A piece in the New York Times looks at the failure of an effective HIV preventative pill to gain wide traction in the LGBT community.  The article recites a number of possible reasons but I suspect that perhaps the largest is the cost - roughly $1,000 per month.  Even with decent insurance, the out of pocket cost is beyond the reach of many.  The phenomenon is part and parcel with America's ass backwards approach to health care: skimp on preventative care and then have to face huge costs once severe conditions have developed.   It's a kin to never maintaining one's house and then being shocked when suddenly huge repair costs become unavoidable.  There is also the possible fear by many with job derived health care coverage that use of the preventative may cause one to be stigmatized.  Lastly, some HIV/AIDS organizations have opposed use of the drug fearing that it may encourage risky practices - a mindset akin to the Christofascists' opposition to reality based sex education in favor of abstinence only programs.  Just like unwanted pregnancies, risky behavior will continue, so why not prepare for it?  Here are article highlights:
[A] daily pill that studies show is highly effective in protecting people from infection. 

The very existence of that option represents a startling turn in the too-long history of the AIDS epidemic. Many health experts hoped that the medication — Truvada, a combination of two antiviral drugs that has been used to treat H.I.V. since 2004 — would be exuberantly embraced by H.I.V.-negative gay men. Instead, Truvada has been slow to catch on as an H.I.V. preventive in the 18 months since the strategy’s approval by the Food and Drug Administration. In some quarters, the idea that healthy gay men should take a medication to prevent infection — an approach called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP — has met with hostility or indifference. 

“It’s gotten tons of attention at H.I.V. meetings as a new tool for prevention, and I consider it an important option for the right person,” said Dr. Lisa Capaldini, a primary care doctor here who treats many gay men. “And yet there’s been very little interest among my patients. There’s a fascinating disconnect.”

Many experts hailed Truvada as an opportunity to reduce new infections among high-risk groups like young gay men, people in relationships with H.I.V.-positive partners, and prostitutes. The F.D.A. called for prescriptions to be accompanied by counseling, frequent H.I.V. testing, and continued promotion of safer sex, although research suggests that daily use of the pill alone confers close to full protection. 

For many gay men, and for some public health officials, the new option has brought both hope and confusion. 

“We’ve had several decades of the recommendation to use condoms,” said Dr. Kenneth H. Mayer, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and the medical research director at Fenway Health, a community center in Boston with many lesbian and gay patients. “Now we’re saying, ‘Here’s a pill that might protect you if you don’t use condoms.’ So it’s flying in the face of community norms.”

Certainly, fewer people have tried PrEP than many experts had anticipated. . . . So why haven’t more gay men signed up? 

Some men have reported receiving negative reactions from their health care providers when they brought it up. Use of the drug as a preventive can be stigmatizing among gay men as well: the term “Truvada whore” has been bandied about on some social networks. 

And many simply may not know much about the strategy. 

Potential side effects like kidney damage and a loss of bone density, although rare, are also a concern. And Truvada is expensive: more than $1,000 a month. So far, private and public insurers, including state Medicaid programs, have generally covered the drug for prevention. 

But a generational shift in attitudes toward H.I.V. among gay men may also be playing a role, some experts say. With advances in treatment, many younger men who did not experience the worst years of the epidemic are less fearful of the consequences of infection. Moreover, current medications can lower viral levels in H.I.V.-positive people to the point where the risk of transmission is negligible, further reducing the perceived need for PrEP among H.I.V.-negative partners.

Adherence to the drug regimen is another thorny issue. The major trial that confirmed Truvada as an effective H.I.V. preventive among men who have sex with men, also found that many participants did not take the pill every day, leaving them more vulnerable to infection. 

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, warned that drug adherence will continue to be a problem, likely leading to more infections and the emergence of drug-resistant H.I.V. strains. “If you don’t take the medication every day and you don’t use condoms, and you’re highly sexually active, you’re going to get infected,” Mr. Weinstein said.

In any event, the protocol for pre-exposure prophylaxis is itself likely to undergo significant changes as findings emerge from current and upcoming research into other formulations of Truvada such as gels or injectables, less frequent dosing regimens, and the use of other medications altogether. 

“People are not lining up, but I’m not pessimistic,” said Dr. Mayer of Fenway Health. “It’s going to take time. It’s really early days.”

Scalia's Predictions Are Coming Home to Roost

Antonin Scalia - anti-gay bigot
For the record, I despise Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  In my view, the man is a bigot of the first order and frequently makes a mockery out of the rules of judicial conduct and the requirement that judges - and Supreme Court justices - should not make up their minds on cases before ever reading the first brief or review the first piece of evidence.  When the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in United States v. Windsor, Scalia - a homophobe of the highest order - wrote a dissent slamming the majority of the Court for setting the stage for the striking down of all state bans on gay marriage.  With the string of recent federal court rulings, thankfully, Scalia's prediction may soon become a reality.  Here are excerpts from a piece in the Washington Post:

While the five-member majority of the court said it was not deciding whether a constitutional right to marriage must be extended to same-sex couples, Scalia said the reasoning of the decision made that outcome practically preordained.

“It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here,” Scalia wrote. Instead, “the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition,” Scalia wrote, and such suits are a “second . . . shoe to be dropped later.”

Scalia’s words have been highlighted in the two recent decisions about same-sex marriage that will return the issue to the Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Black cited the dissent in a ruling that said Ohio, which bans same-sex unions, must recognize on a death certificate a marriage that was performed in another state.

“Just as Justice Scalia predicted — the lower courts are applying the Supreme Court’s decision, as they must, and the question is presented whether a state can do what the federal government cannot — i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples . . . simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004),” wrote Black (the ellipses and parenthesis are his).  “Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no.”

In Utah, where just before Christmas a federal judge struck down that state’s constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex unions, Scalia’s words played a prominent role both in the challengers’ arguments and the ruling.

In their filings, the lawyers bold-faced the Scalia dissent for emphasis:
(“[T]he view that this Court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking in today’s opinion. . . . [T]he real rationale of today’s opinion . . . is that DOMA is motivated by ‘bare . . . desire to harm’ couples in same-sex marriages. . . . How easy is it, indeed how inevitable, to reach the same conclusion with regard to state laws denying same-sex couples marital status.”)
And U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby mentioned Scalia’s dissent throughout his lengthy opinion and concluded: “The court agrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of Windsor and finds that the important federalism concerns at issue here are nevertheless insufficient to save a state-law prohibition that denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the law.”

[A]s Scalia pointed out, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s DOMA decision practically provided a blueprint for how such challenges might be successful.

The piece also notes the irony of the backing Judge Shelby received when he was nominated to the bench:
He was endorsed by both of Utah’s Republican senators, and Sen. Mike Lee, a constitutional conservative popular with the tea party movement, called Shelby “preeminently qualified” and predicted he would be “an outstanding judge.”
These assessments, of course, were correct - just not in the way the anti-gay Republicans wanted them to be.

Under Reported GOP Generated Human Disasters

At times I have nothing but disgust for the main stream media which seems like either the lap dog of big business or some larger version of the National Inquirer which focuses on petty and unimportant stories while ignoring real significant problems.   Right now, two huge under reported problems in America - of GOP creation, I might add - are the 1 million plus unemployed workers losing emergency unemployment benefits and the related number of the working poor who remain without health care coverage.  The Gospels stress the need to care for the poor, sick and hungry, yet today's self-congratulatory folks in the Republican Party deem the poor, sick and the hungry only worthy of society's trash heap.  A column in the Washington Post looks at these stories largely ignored by the media.  Here are excerpts:
As The Post’s Brad Plumer expertly outlined on Friday, there are 4 million people who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer, translating to the highest long-term unemployment rate since World War II. These people — young, old and from all kinds of demographics — have a 12 percent chance of finding a job in any given month, and, contrary to the theories of Rand Paul Republicans, there’s little evidence that they’re more likely to find work after losing benefits. Cutting off their benefits only causes more suffering for them and more damage to the economy. 

Also last weekend, the Obama administration reported that 1.1 million people had signed up online for coverage under the new health-care law. That’s a dramatic acceleration in enrollment, but it also leaves uninsured millions of people who are eligible for coverage. Some of them are working poor in states where Republican governors have refused to implement the law’s Medicaid expansion, and many more are being discouraged from enrolling by Republicans’ incessant opposition. This month’s CBS News-New York Times poll found that a majority of uninsured Americans disapprove of the new law, even though nearly six in 10 of the uninsured think insurance would improve their health. 

These real outrages make the Christmas-week controversies seem like tinsel. 
Bad things happen because good people stand by and do nothing - and because the media fails to report on stories that need to be told while focusing on matters more appropriately the a topic for Entertainment Tonight.  We once had a responsible main stream media, but those days are seemingly over.  It is part and parcel with the dumbing down of America.

Monday, December 30, 2013

More Monday Male Beauty

Two male figure skaters - Jean-Denis Sanchis of France and Alexander Liubchenko of Ukraine put on an unusual routine at the √Čtoiles de la Glisse in France.  These guys are not only great skaters, but also qualify as Male Beauties.

When It Comes to Homophobia, Not Much Separates Neo-Nazis and Conservative Christians

I have frequently maintained that there is little difference between Conservative Christians and Neo-Nazis and/or white supremacists.  All of the foregoing groups are motivated by hatred towards others and they display an intense need for others to inferior in order to placate their own sick psychological needs.  An article in Politicususa compares the tacitly state sanctioned Neo-Nazi violence against gays in Russia with the actions of concervative Christians in America.  The similarities are striking.  The only thing that differs is the level of violence.  Here are article excerpts:
Now that the charade of Phil Robertson’s pretend suspension is over, homophobes nationwide can rest assured that their “right” to spread hate is preserved and the corporate sponsors of Duck Dynasty will profit handsomely.

Meanwhile, another television star in another land told his audience that he would love to burn gays in ovens.  In the same land, Neo-Nazis lure gay teenagers and young men for “dates” that involve torture on video and up-loading the video to YouTube in the hope of “outing” the gay person to their school, friends and family. Of course, it isn’t merely about the humiliation of being outed.  It’s more about leaving the implementation of a ‘final solution‘  to others.
Being outed in a small city or village in Russia very often means death,” says Larry Poltavtsev of the Spectrum Human Rights Alliance, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group for gay rights in Eastern Europe. “Exposed teenagers may commit suicide, or they’ll be harassed by your peers, their parents may kick them out of their house. It’s a nightmare.
Not surprisingly, the Russian government looks the other way as Russia’s Neo-Nazis traumatize LGBT teens, with many of them committing suicide.  It isn’t surprising that Neo-Nazis see these laws (and the hateful rhetoric by Russian lawmakers) as permission for their method of cleansing the gay away. 

The latest laws against so-called gay propaganda… have essentially legalized violence against LGBT people, because these groups of hooligans justify their actions with these laws,“  Igor Kochetkov, of the Russian LGBT Network, told the Guardian earlier this year. “With this legislation, the government said that, yes gays and lesbians are not valued as a social group.

One can point to the fact that Russia is so different from the United States.  After all, we don’t lock up people for criticizing the government, as occurs to critics of Putin and his “favorite project.”
We don’t have anti gay propaganda laws.  We have conservatives who oppose anti-bullying laws because they suppress a homophobe’s right to bully a member of the LGBT community straight.
However, many Religious Right activists want to derail efforts to combat bullying. An increasing number of conservative leaders and organizations have fiercely opposed anti-bullying programs developed by schools and education groups for the sole reason that such programs identify and attempt to combat the widespread bullying of LGBT youth.

Conservatives also have a long policy agenda that is decidedly anti-LGBT . . . If some of those followers “interpret” Phil Robertson’s comments or those of other conservatives as permission to bully, assault or kill someone who is gay or “looks” gay, conservatives can always say it isn’t their fault someone took their message the wrong way.

The approach may be different, but the message and objectives are the same.  When they aren’t invoking fear of Russia’s influence on matters like Syria, conservatives hero worship Putin for his anti- gay “propaganda” laws, and probably applaud the neo-Nazis for doing their bit to scare LGBT teens straight.  They’re also hoping you won’t notice that the original Nazis, like their succcesors, were just as anti-gay as the Tea Party and other “conservatives.”  After all, connecting those dots would reveal the hubris of their Liberalism is Nazism meme.

Christofascists Exporting Hate and Homophobia to Jamaica

This blog has noted in the past the efforts of American Christofascist to export anti-gay animus and homophobia to Africa even as they are losing the culture wars in America.  But Africa is not the only target of this vile, toxic export effort.  Jamaica - which has a horrible history of homophobia and violence against gays - is also a favorite target, particularly as debate has begun in Jamaica.  Hence the recent visit by Brian Camenker, the founder of MassResistance, a registered hate group that knows few limits to the anti-gay lies and untruths it disseminates.  Not surprisingly, MassResistance supports discredited "ex-gay" ministries and "reparative therapy."   BuzzFeed looks at this effort to prey on citizens of a disadvantaged nation.  Here are highlights:

An anti-gay activist from Massachusetts has warned Jamaicans that repealing the country’s sodomy provision would end freedom of speech and lead to a surge of sexually transmitted diseases during a rally in Kingston.

Brian Camenker, founder of MassResistance, was the keynote speaker at an event organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society in the Jamaican capital’s Emancipation Park on Dec. 10. The organization has led a campaign to preserve the sodomy provision — known locally as the “buggery law” — following Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller’s suggestion just before her 2011 election that she might allow a vote on its repeal.

“I am here to warn you that [repeal of the buggery law] will have terrible consequences,” Camenker said, according to a video of the event uploaded by MassResistance on Saturday. “A law that contradicts God’s law is the beginning of a slippery slope that you cannot imagine.”

MassResistance is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Camenker has previously accused LGBT activists of borrowing techniques from the Nazis and imposing laws reminiscent of Jim Crow segregation.

In Kingston, Camenker denounced efforts to ban treatments designed to turn LGBT children straight.
What about kids who are sexually molested early on and as a result have homosexual or crossdressing feelings. Suppose they want help and counseling to deal with those issues. The radical homosexual movement will have none of that. They’re saying that kids shouldn’t be allowed to get counseling or help because, they say, the kids are really quote born that way and that homosexuality is natural and normal…. It’s a horrible thing to do to helpless kids, but it’s part of the radical political agenda that started with legalizing the behavior.
Camenker also refuted the notion that homophobia was the main cause of violence against LGBT people.
Camenker described a series of events that he said flowed from the decriminalization of sodomy in Massachusetts, including the “indoctrination” of children in schools and the suppression of religious people opposed to LGBT rights.
Camenker’s appearance followed a by another American anti-gay activist, Peter LaBarbera, at a conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society on Dec. 7. LaBarbera appeared alongside the British activist Andrea Minichiello Williams, and both argued that homosexuality was a choice and linked to pedophilia.

Super Bowl MVP Winner Aaron Rodgers Allegedly Outed By Rumored Boyfriend

The saying goes that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."  Well, that apparently also applies in the gay world with angry ex-boyfriends.  Or at least that is the rumor swirling about concerning Super Bowl MVP winner Aaron Rodgers and Kevin Lanflisi, the man who worked as Rodgers’ “personal assistant.”  Time will tell whether or not the rumors are true, of course.  Meanwhile, homophobes among the pro footabll watching set will likely have their panties in a wad.  Here are excerpts from Queerity:

Rumors are swirling that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was one of the NFL stars expected to come out of the closet this summer, and a cyber sleuth site is all but confirming it with a wealth of dirt that suggests he’s also in a gay relationship.

The Fame Driven was apparently tipped off by an anonymous “spy,” who pointed to a number of now-deleted tweets from the Twitter account of Kevin Lanflisi, the man who worked as Rodgers’ “personal assistant” and lived in his home as “a roommate” for the last several years. (Kinda like Kerry Rhodes and his “friend”…)

According to the spy:

Aaron has attended numerous sports award shows with Kevin, always color coordinated and without any double female dates, including the ESPY’s. Kevin was also the first person Aaron embraced when the Packers won the Super-bowl in 2011. I just find it really strange that as of late there has been many bitter subliminal tweets on Kevin Lanflisi’s twitter alluding to a relationship much deeper than a friendship he had, with who I perceive to be Aaron Rodgers, because Kevin has NEVER once tweeted about having a girlfriend, just mainly about the Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, and Justin Bieber’s music and sitting front row at Bieber’s concert. There has been speculation for years here in Wisconsin that Aaron is gay.

Rodgers first referred to the super-cute Lanflisi as his “roommate” in a 2008 interview with Sporting News, saying they “just hit it off” when Lanflisi was interning for the Packers. “He’s been great for me as far as great conversations outside of football,” he said. “Our friendship goes a lot deeper than what we do.”

A source close to the couple also claimed their relationship is now in turmoil as a result of the botched mass NFL outing scheduled over the summer. Aaron Rodgers was allegedly one of the men involved, and his backing out at the last minute infuriated Lanflisi, shattering their relationship.

If their rumored relationship is actually fact, the truth could come sooner than we’d have thought. In the words of Kevin Lanflisi himself, “Silence always comes with an expiration date..”
If the rumors are true, they highlight one of the soul-killing aspects of being in the closet - the constant fear of outing and never being able to live one's life honestly.  If the rumors are true, I also wish the best of luck to both Rodgers and Lanflisi.  Hopefully, some day being gay will be a non-issue.

One-third of Americans - And A Majority of Republicans - Reject Evolution

There was a time when the Republican Party embraced knowledge and intellect and held scientific knowledge in high regard.  Now, the Party seems to be in a race to see how dumb and ignorant its base can become.  It is no coincidence, however, that these growing embrace of ignorance directly correlates to the rise of the Christofascists in the GOP.  Greed, racism, homophobia and the rejection of modernity and knowledge are now the principal traits of Republicans.  Oh, they can try to blow a smoke screen by claiming that the support fiscal conservatism, but that dog doesn't hunt given the reality that it has been GOP administrations, particularly that of the brainless Chimperator George W. Bush, that have blown the nation's budget time and time again. Here are highlights from Reuters that looks at the frightening number of Americans who embrace idiocy and ignorance:

One-third of Americans reject the idea of evolution and Republicans have grown more skeptical about it, according to a poll released on Monday.

Sixty percent of Americans say that "humans and other living things have evolved over time," the telephone survey by the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project showed (Click here for the full survey).

But 33 percent reject the idea of evolution, saying that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," Pew said in a statement.

Although this percentage remained steady since 2009, the last time Pew asked the question, there was a growing partisan gap on whether humans evolved.

"The gap is coming from the Republicans, where fewer are now saying that humans have evolved over time," said Cary Funk, a Pew senior researcher who conducted the analysis.

The poll showed 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats say humans have evolved over time, compared with 54 percent and 64 percent respectively four years ago.

Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants topped the list of those rejecting evolution, with 64 percent of those polled saying they believe humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

Other modern nations must shudder at these figures.  Meanwhile, our enemies must be elated.  The irony is that the far right and Christofascists blather on and on about the enemies of America within the nation yet it is they themselves who will be the downfall of the nation.

Papa John's, Applebee's, Et Al Pay High Price For Anti-Obamacare Stance

The Republican Party wants to bring back the Gilded Age and the harsh conditions faced by the majority of workers.  Some employers seemingly are all on board for such a step backwards in time, including the CEO's of Papa John's and Applebee's who stated that they would cut workers' hours rather than comply with the mandates of the Affordable Health Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare.  Unbeknown to these Scrooge like individuals, much of the public found their miserliness disgusting and voted with their feet and/or wallets.  The result?  Both Pappa John's, Applebee's and similar anti-worker employers saw their bottom lines severely damaged.  Karma can indeed be a bitch.  (NOTE: Walmart still plans to slash employees' hours - one of the reasons I never shop at Walmart). Here are highlights from Forbes:

It turns out that being a good corporate citizen is as important to selling pizzas as the thinness of the crust or the quality of the cheese.

If you don’t believe it, just ask Papa John CEO, John Schnatter.  As covered—and criticized—in this column in great detail, Mr. Schnatter decided to mix his politics with his pepperoni when suggesting that he would be cutting the work hours for Papa John employees in order to bring them below the 30 hour per week threshold that would require Schnatter to provide his employees with healthcare benefits.

It turns out, the pizza eating public did not approve.  Indeed, so serious was the reaction that Schnatter was forced to publish an op-ed piece where he sought to convince us that he never really intended to cut back worker hours but had simply been speculating on what he might do in response to the legislation.

According to YouGov BrandIndex,  a leading marketing survey that measures brand perception in the marketplace (called “Buzz”), Papa John’s had good reason for concern as the pizza chain’s brand identity has plummeted from a high of 32 on election day, to a remarkably low score of 4 among adults who have eaten at causal dining restaurants during the past month.  Ouch.

Papa John is not alone in his anti-Obamacare misery.  Fast food server, Applebee’s, possessed a healthy Buzz score of 35 before Zane Terkel, CEO of one of the company’s largest franchisees, appeared on television to complain about the law and to announce that he would not be building more restaurants or hiring any more workers in response to his objections to Obamacare.  Applebee’s “pre-Terkel” Buzz score of 35 now sits at a pathetic 5.

[O]ne  . . . company is facing the music straight on. Darden Restaurants, Inc.— owner of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse—has lowered its profit projections for the quarter ending November 25th, acknowledging that its bad numbers are the result of poorly performing  promotions, Superstorm Sandy and…wait for it…the poor publicity it engendered by its decision to test out a plan to cut back on healthcare costs by putting more workers on part-time schedules.
Hopefully, other businesses seeking to avoid their responsibilities under the healthcare law—such as Walmart who intends to cut back employee hours in the effort to push workers onto Medicaid rolls rather than take responsibility for their employees’ health care—will get the message.
Perhaps there is a God after all!  I for one am thrilled that these nasty, greed motivated business owners have received a strong rebuke from consumers.

Click image to enlarge

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Check Your Christmas Gifts: NSA Swiped, Bugged Packages

If Americans still believe that they have any shred of privacy from government surveillance, they are deluding themselves.  A new story in Der Spiegel reveals that the NSA has a hacking unit that utilizes "back door" tools to invaded commercial, governmental and private computers.  Indeed, the NSA has even intercepted computers ordered online and placed surveillance bugs into them.  This blog has noted in the past that America ranks with China and Russia as one of the nations where citizens have the least personal privacy.  It now seems we may be the worse of them all.  Here are article excerpts:

The NSA's TAO hacking unit is considered to be the intelligence agency's top secret weapon. It maintains its own covert network, infiltrates computers around the world and even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics ordered by those it is targeting.

One of the two main buildings at the former plant has since housed a sophisticated NSA unit, one that has benefited the most from this expansion and has grown the fastest in recent years -- the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. This is the NSA's top operative unit -- something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.

According to internal NSA documents viewed by SPIEGEL, these on-call digital plumbers are involved in many sensitive operations conducted by American intelligence agencies. TAO's area of operations ranges from counterterrorism to cyber attacks to traditional espionage. The documents reveal just how diversified the tools at TAO's disposal have become -- and also how it exploits the technical weaknesses of the IT industry, from Microsoft to Cisco and Huawei, to carry out its discreet and efficient attacks.

An internal description of TAO's responsibilities makes clear that aggressive attacks are an explicit part of the unit's tasks. In other words, the NSA's hackers have been given a government mandate for their work. During the middle part of the last decade, the special unit succeeded in gaining access to 258 targets in 89 countries -- nearly everywhere in the world. In 2010, it conducted 279 operations worldwide.

Indeed, TAO specialists have directly accessed the protected networks of democratically elected leaders of countries. They infiltrated networks of European telecommunications companies and gained access to and read mails sent over Blackberry's BES email servers, which until then were believed to be securely encrypted. Achieving this last goal required a "sustained TAO operation," one document states.

Workers at NSA's target selection office, which also had Angela Merkel in its sights in 2002 before she became chancellor, sent TAO a list of officials within the Mexican Secretariat they thought might make interesting targets. As a first step, TAO penetrated the target officials' email accounts, a relatively simple job. Next, they infiltrated the entire network and began capturing data. 

One example of the sheer creativity with which the TAO spies approach their work can be seen in a hacking method they use that exploits the error-proneness of Microsoft's Windows. Every user of the operating system is familiar with the annoying window that occasionally pops up on screen when an internal problem is detected, an automatic message that prompts the user to report the bug to the manufacturer and to restart the program. These crash reports offer TAO specialists a welcome opportunity to spy on computers. 

A comprehensive internal presentation titled "QUANTUM CAPABILITIES," which SPIEGEL has viewed, lists virtually every popular Internet service provider as a target, including Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter and YouTube. "NSA QUANTUM has the greatest success against Yahoo, Facebook and static IP addresses," it states. The presentation also notes that the NSA has been unable to employ this method to target users of Google services. Apparently, that can only be done by Britain's GCHQ intelligence service, which has acquired QUANTUM tools from the NSA.

Sometimes it appears that the world's most modern spies are just as reliant on conventional methods of reconnaissance as their predecessors.

Take, for example, when they intercept shipping deliveries. If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called "load stations," agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer.

Scholars: Marriage Has Changed Over Time

To listen to the Christofascists, marriage has been between "one man and one woman" since the beginning of time.  Like just about everything the Christofascists say, this claim is, of course, a lie.  Even the Old Testament where polygamy was the marital norm and the "biblical" form of marriage proves the lie to the claim.  Now, with the gay marriage ruling in Utah sending the Christofascists and Neanderthals of the Mormon Church - who are demonstrating incredible hypocrisy given the Mormons' polygamous past - into hysteria, scholars are stepping forward and documenting that marriage has morphed over time and that the Christofascist claims are untrue.  Here are excerpts from the Salt Lake Tribune:

The state of Utah so far has banked much of its legal argument against same-sex marriage on the assertion that such unions threaten the traditional, "age-old and still predominant," form of marriage: heterosexual, monogamous marriage.

That marriage form, the state says, has been the norm for Utah since its "very existence as a state" and it should not have to abandon the "deeply rooted definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman for a genderless definition that severs the link between marriage and the vital societal purposes it has always and everywhere served."

It has proved to be a shaky argument.  In two different rulings — one legalizing same-sex marriage and the other decriminalizing polygamy — federal judges commented on the state’s claims about traditional marriage and its efforts to bar or penalize certain groups of people interested in committed relationships. 

And there’s this sticky point: It is accurate to say that polygamy — which the federal government 134 years ago barred the state from sanctioning — is the marriage form "found in more places and at more times than any other," as marriage historian Stephanie Coontz notes in her book, "Marriage, A History: from Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage." 

But, according to historian Nancy Cott, if there is anything traditional about marriage, it is its ability to adapt to changing social and ethical needs.

"Societal change over the centuries has produced new features in marriage that are commonly accepted today, although they would have been unthinkable at the founding of the United States," Cott said in a court document submitted by plaintiffs in the same-sex marriage lawsuit in Utah.

At the nation’s founding, traditional marriage was based on a "legal fiction" that married couples were one entity, led by a husband with sole legal, economic and political representation rights, she said.

"Many features of modern marriage that we take for granted today — such as the ability of both spouses to act as individuals, to marry someone of another race, or to divorce for numerous reasons — were fiercely resisted as they were coming into being, and were viewed by opponents as threatening to destroy the institution of marriage itself," Cott said in her affidavit.

Utah was among a majority of states that did not permit interracial marriages, a law adopted in 1852 — the same year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly acknowledged polygamy as a key tenet of the faith. Utah repealed its anti-miscegenation statute in 1963.

Such laws were often justified on the basis that interracial marriage was "against nature or against the Divine plan," Cott said in her affidavit. "They contended that permitting cross-racial couples to marry would fatally degrade the institution of marriage."

"[T]he ability or willingness of couples to produce progeny has never been required for or necessary to marriage under the law of any American state," she said. "The notion that the main purpose of marriage is to provide an ideal or optimal context for raising children was never the prime mover in states’ structuring of the marriage institution in the United States, and it cannot be isolated as the main reason for the state’s interest in marriage today."

"Throughout American history, state legislatures and courts have made and altered laws governing the meaning and structure of marriage," she said. "Restrictions on marriage that were seen as necessary in their time have since been removed as unwarranted and/or unconstitutional."
Again, one must always remember that when a Christofascist's lips are moving, the best bet is to assume that they are lying.  

Stop Fawning Over Pope Francis

I have made the point several times that while Pope Francis has made nice sounding, conciliatory statements, the reality is that the Roman Catholic Church's position on gays, women in the Church, contraception and a host of other things has not changed.  A change in tone does not equate to a change in dogma or underlying positions.  This doesn't mean that Francis isn't a welcome change from the horrible Pope Benedict XVI.  It simply means that one cannot be deceived by nice sounding statements.  A piece in The New Republic underscores this reality.  Here are highlights:

Even if they themselves don’t believe a word of scripture, many liberals wish to see something of their own politics reflected in the outlook of the Catholic Church—hence the repeated references in recent weeks to the "progressive" Pope and the overrated idea of "liberation theology."

It is predictable that the reactionary politics of the new Pope should be played down by liberal Catholics in favour of his musings on social justice and global capitalism. What’s so depressing has been the extent to which liberal non-believers have fallen so hook, line and sinker for what is in reality nothing more than a clever repackaging exercise.

I say this because, apart from a few centrist musings about inequality, the Catholic Church—which Pope Francis heads and therefore has the power to change—stands on roughly the same political terrain as it did under the leadership of Pope Benedict. Pope Francis’s position on most issues should make the hair of every liberal curl. Instead we get article after article of saccharine from people who really should know better.

But as is so often the case, the search for a hero has resulted in people switching off their critical faculties and overlooking inconvenient truths which don’t align with their worldview. How else could the Pope come out of 2013 a "progressive" icon while at the same time holding views on women and abortion that make Jeremy Clarkson look like a radical socialist?

[T]he Pope’s popularity among the right-on surely has something to do with the fact that women and gay people are still viewed as appendages in the struggle for a better society. The new Pope has done nothing to fundamentally alter the Church’s bigoted stance on homosexuality. He has referred to gay marriage as "moral relativism." He presumably believes that men who sleep with men are going to hell. He views the all-male priesthood and the church’s prohibition of abortion as beyond debate.

[U]nder Francis little of substance has actually changed. The Catholic Church continues to vehemently discriminate against gay people and women, it’s simply sugar-coated its message with fashionable sound bites about inequality. And depressingly this has worked.  

Aside from the fact that we still hold religious figures to a lower standard than secular ones, the fawning over Pope Francis demonstrates something profoundly depressing: in the struggle for a better world, women’s and LGBT rights are still not taken seriously.