Saturday, June 08, 2013

Virginia GOP Business Leaders Defecting to McAuliffe

The Family Foundation's GOP "dream ticket" - nightmare ticket for anyone sane - for statewide office in 2013 seems to be causing more and more rational conservatives to jump on board Terry McAuliffe's campaign.  Unlike the delusional Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain, these individuals realize that theocratic batshitery and out right insanity at the highest levels of state government is not good for business and it's not good for Virginia.  The latest defection comes in the form of Bruce Thompson, a Virginia Beach developer and major business player in Virginia Beach, Virginia's most populous city, who has previously been a GOP appointee to state boards and commissions.   The Virginian Pilot looks at Thompson's decision.  Here are highlights:
The newest addition to Terry McAuliffe's roster of Republican supporters is Bruce Thompson, a Virginia Beach developer previously appointed to a key economic development post by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Thompson's backing, announced Friday by the Democrat's campaign, follows a string of endorsements by GOP business leaders McAuliffe trumpeted this week to reinforce for his contention that many corporate figures favor his vision for Virginia over Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli's ideas.

"I am supporting Terry because I know he will focus on diversifying Virginia’s economy and put in place policies that attract and keep the best businesses here in Hampton Roads and across the Commonwealth," said Thompson, who recently inked a deal to acquire the Cavalier Hotel.

Thompon gave $25,000 to McAuliffe during the two-month fundraising period that ended May 29.
As the article notes, Thompson is in good company.  The Washington Post names some of the other former GOP supporters who are fleeing the inanity of the TFF dream ticket:
Milt Peterson, a major Washington-area real estate developer, and Jan Schar, the former president of the Virginia Federation of Republican Women, are the latest local figures to announce their public support for McAuliffe. On Monday, the Democrat’s campaign revealed that homebuilder Dwight Schar and Northern Virginia businessman Earle Williams were also backing his bid.

But the latest McAuliffe endorsements are unusual in that they come from people who have supported and donated to Republicans in the past. (Peterson and Williams have given to candidates from both parties, but both have contributed more to the GOP.)   Some of them have not had kind words for Cuccinelli.

“Virginia does not desire candidates who are so completely disconnected from the average Virginian that they are unable to leave their ideology and political views at the front door of their elected office,” Jan Schar said in a statement issued by the McAuliffe campaign.

“Ken Cuccinelli’s ideological agenda has divided Virginians and blocked progress on education and transportation for long enough,” Dwight Schar said. “Cuccinelli’s focus on extreme social issues will distract from urgent economic matters and make Virginia less welcoming to business.”

Are Republicans Reconsidering Position on Gay Marriage?

Image by John Gara/Buzzfeed

The caveat to the title of this post is that the words "sane" and "rational" need to be inserted before the word Republican.  The gay-hating, spittle flecked Christofascists will never accept same sex marriage or that homosexuality is a natural variant of normal sexual orientation.  They'd rather cling to a few selective passages of a mythology written by uneducated and in modern terms utterly ignorant unknown authors of thousands of years ago.  But as a piece in BuzzFeed suggests, sane and rational Republicans seem to see the hand writing on the wall and want the GOP to move towards modernity and the acceptance of new knowledge on sexual orientation.  Moreover, they do not want to be drowned by the growing tidal wave of gay acceptance in the general population.   Here are some article highlights:

WASHINGTON — In the next few weeks, the Supreme Court will be issuing decisions in two major cases relating to same-sex couples’ marriage rights. With those decisions, addressing the constitutionality of part of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 marriage amendment, the justices could change the conversation about gay rights in the country forever. 

The question remains, however, what the immediate impact will be on the Republican Party, which has lagged behind the Democrats on support for LGBT rights measures.

“I don’t make policy for the party, but if you look at the numbers, it’s hard to imagine a circumstance where, 10 years down the road, opposition to same-sex marriage is a major part of the Republican Party. That’s because, how can you be opposed to something that 88 percent of people under the age of 30 are for?” said Alex Lundry, a Republican pollster and data analyst who served as the director of data science for the Romney campaign.

For Republican supporters of marriage equality, they describe this as the key moment in changing the party. Margaret Hoover, who has been a stalwart supporter of marriage equality from within the party, said change needs to start with, at the least, making the party open to all viewpoints.

“I think what Republicans can do is begin to change their messaging,” she said. “There has to be a movement towards allowing Republicans to vote their conscience on this issue and not having a litmus test on this — especially when you have polling data that suggests 52 percent of Republicans under the age of 50 are in favor of marriage. The direction the country and the party is moving is uni-directional on this issue.”
Nicolle Wallace, communications director in the President George W. Bush’s second term and a senior McCain-Palin campaign adviser, is a supporter of marriage equality who sees a middle ground for the party.

Wallace makes a passionate case for equal treatment of same-sex couples by the federal government through a discussion of military families.  “I think military families are particularly difficult ones to explain away for Republicans because we pride ourselves on really understanding the military way of life, caring for men and women who serve. But if you deny a same-sex couple serving in the military, with children, access to all the benefits of marriage — financial benefits, the right to live on the base and be part of the military community — I just don’t know how we explain that away through a policy debate that’s real and affects people’s lives in a very real way,” she said.  She called this the sticking point that forces the issue: “the human toll of denying all the benefits of marriage to a certain class of people based on their sexual orientation.”

[A]ll of the statistics — in all demographic groups — point away from the Republican Party’s current position and toward urging a more inclusive view.  “Republicans are still holdouts; only about a third support same-sex marriage — but that’s still growth of about 18 percentage points in the last nine years. And then, you look at the generational divide. Look at evangelical millennials — people born between 1980 and 2000: 64 percent of evangelical millennials support same-sex marriage. 

“This is a tidal wave of public opinion, and it’s headed directly for the Republican Party.

To me the choice for the GOP is clear:  either it changes its position on gays and other social issues or it will become limited to being the party of Christofascists and anti-gay hate groups.  A refusal to change will equate to a slow moving sort of political suicide.


Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Science Tells Us Climate Change Alarm is Sounding

Among the many complaints I have with today's Republican Party is its willing embrace of ignorance and refusal to accept scientific knowledge be it on the issue of sexual orientation or climate change.  Rather than stand up to the drooling, spittle flecked party base which rejects anything that challenges its prejudices or that suggests that changes are needed in a host of ways things have been done in the past, the party leadership time and time again panders to the lowest and most ignorant common denominator.  Recently Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas demonstrated the problem when he challenged scientific knowledge on climate change and parroted the favored talking points of the idiot GOP base.  In a column in the Washington Post, two scientist rip Smith a new one and rightfully so.  Here are some column excerpts:

In a recent op-ed for The Post, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) offered up a reheated stew of isolated factoids and sweeping generalizations about climate science to defend the destructive status quo. We agree with the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that policy should be based on sound science. But Smith presented political talking points, and none of his implied conclusions is accurate.

The two of us have spent, in total, more than seven decades studying Earth’s climate, and we have joined hundreds of top climate scientists to summarize the state of knowledge for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Climate Research Program and other science-based bodies. We believe that our views are representative of the 97 percent of climate scientists who agree that global warming is caused by humans. Legions of studies support the view that, left unabated, this warming will produce dangerous effects. 

Man-made heat-trapping gases are warming our planet and leading to increases in extreme weather events. Droughts are becoming longer and deeper in many areas. The risk of wildfires is increasing. The year 2012, the hottest on record for the United States, illustrated this risk with severe, widespread drought accompanied by extensive wildfires.

Last month, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million, approaching the halfway mark between preindustrial amounts and a doubling of those levels. This doubling is expected to cause a warming this century of four to seven degrees Fahrenheit. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide reached this level was more than 3 million years ago, when Arctic lands were covered with forests. The unprecedented rate of increase has been driven entirely by human-produced emissions.

[B]y the end of this century, people will be experiencing higher temperatures than any known during human civilization — temperatures that our societies, crops and ecosystems are not adapted to.  

Contrary to Smith’s assertions, there is conclusive evidence that climate change worsened the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. Sea levels in New York City harbors have risen by more than a foot since the beginning of the 20th century. Had the storm surge not been riding on higher seas, there would have been less flooding and less damage. Warmer air also allows storms such as Sandy to hold more moisture and dump more rainfall, exacerbating flooding.

The combined impetus of observed trends in climate and weather extremes, and continuing discoveries in climate science, lay bare how ludicrous Smith’s suggestion is that since we know nothing, we should do nothing.

We know a lot, more than enough to recognize that the alarm bells are ringing.  Increases in heat waves and record high temperatures; record lows in Arctic sea ice; more severe rainstorms, droughts and wildfires; and coastal communities threatened by rising seas all offer a preview of the new normal in a warmer world. Smith’s policy plan amounts to “wait and see.” But the longer we wait — effectively, like him, closing our eyes to science — the more difficult and expensive the solutions become, and the more irreversible the damage will be.

The GOP base - especially the Christofascists - and the political whores who pose as the GOP leadership cling to a Neolithic world view and a  a religious fantasy world that science is destroying more ever day.  Not wanting to admit that long held views and beliefs are wrong doesn't make them any less wrong.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Will Obamacare Kill the GOP?

Personally, I believe the increasing religious fanaticism of the GOP will be a main source of the party's ultimate demise absent a coup by what few sane elements are left in the party to take back the party base from the Christofascists and the equally ignorance worshiping Tea Party.  A piece in The New Republic suggests that there is another long term threat to the GOP's survival: Obamacare.  While the GOP base virtually foams at the mouth over the healthcare reform, as the general public begins to realize direct benefits, outside of Kool-Aid drinking circles attacking Obama care may have less and less benefit.  Here are article highlights that look at this premise:

It’s not an exaggeration to say Republicans have bet their future on the disaster they expect from Obamacare. “The implementation of the law over the next year is going to reveal a lot of kinks, a lot of red tape, a lot of taxes, a lot of price increases,” RNC spokesman Brad Dayspring told The New York Times last month.

And, of course, the party’s base is completely, unremittingly, obsessed with the issue. The mere anticipation of an implementation quagmire is “reinvigorating the movement," Jenny Beth Martin, a national Tea Party official, told The Hill in early May. 

What I do know is that the GOP’s health care preoccupation is absolutely destroying its long-term prospects. However well the issue may work in the midterms, when an uptick in conservative turnout can flip a few dozen House seats, 2012 proved that it’s at best a wash in a presidential election, when Democrats can swamp that turnout with their demographic edge, and when the GOP’s challenge is to win moderates and independents as a result. Conservatives argue that the only reason health care didn’t work in 2012 is that Romney was a flawed messenger, given his patrimonial link to Obamacare. But with the Supreme Court largely blessing the law last June, the issue was mostly settled in the public mind, making it at best a non-factor among swing voters.

To put the problem in Marxian terms, Obamacare has become the opiate of the GOP. By its own admission, the party must broaden its appeal to Latinos, gays, and young voters. It needs an economic agenda that encompasses more than tax cuts for the rich and brutal spending cuts. It has to persuade voters it’s more than just a nihilistic force bent on triggering global financial apocalypse if it doesn’t get its way in Washington. And yet, when party leaders so much as broach these liabilities, conservatives revolt and the leadership caves, appeasing them with an issue whose political utility peaked two-and-a-half years ago.

The desperation here is palpable, but also understandable. If, instead of trying to fix your party’s deepest pathologies you wagered its entire future on a high-risk strategy that was starting to turn bad, you’d be a little desperate, too. Perhaps it’s a subset of Obama Derangement Syndrome that afflicts conservatives when they talk about health care—call it Obamacare Derangement Syndrome. Maybe one day, once the dust has settled, it’ll be covered under Obamacare, too.

Feel the Love: French Gay Activist Left Brain-Dead After Attack

The far right is always claiming that gays are seeking to destroy society yet it is always the far right and their Christofascists allies who seem to be doing the killing and destruction.  In France, all of the violence over the gay marriage debate has been the handiwork of the supposed traditionalists and increasingly it's the godly folks who are the proponents of violence.  Now, an 18 year old gay activist is brain dead after an attack by skinheads who have no doubt been encouraged by the Catholic Church and others who depict gays as a treat to society and marriage.  The Advocate has details on this sad story.  Here are excerpts:

French left-wing activist Clement Meric has been left brain-dead after he was beaten by a group of skinheads, reports London paper The Guardian.  The 18-year-old was a student at one of the top universities in France, Sciences Po.

According to Interior Minister Manuel Valls, Meric was attacked in a fight that broke out between two groups of people Wednesday night in downtown Paris. It is unclear how the fight developed, but political tensions have run high in France recently over the legalization of same-sex marriage, with antigay members of the extreme right often clashing with the police at protests. Wednesday’s attack has increased fears of far-right violence in the country with gay rights organizations warning authorities that LGBT people and their supporters continue to be targeted.

Valls told reporters that finding the skinheads who had beaten Meric was a top priority. "There is no place for small neo-Nazi groups whose enemy is the nation. A group of the extreme right is at the heart of this assassination, " Valls said.

Americablog reports Meric has now been pronounced dead and French religious right leader Frigide Barjot is blaming his death on the legalization of same-sex marriage.   In a piece she wrote for the French site Newsring, Barjot claims:
This extreme fight is the result of a power that for nine months has refused to listen to the French people. The President has caused extremism to grow by passing a law that the French didn’t want, and in a manner that was authoritarian and undemocratic. When we refuse to act like a democracy, extremism grows. In a way, you could say that there was a death because of this denial of democracy.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

U.S. Mining Data From 9 Leading Internet Firm - Firms Deny Knowledge

The full scope of the police state like tactics of the U.S. Government's spying on American citizens continues to unfold and, in my view, ought to be very disturbing to those who value privacy and freedom.  Some will say "I have nothing to hide, and I don't care" but that mindset is missing the bigger issue: unless one is a suspect of criminal activities, your personal information and data should not be subject to scrutiny by the government or anyone else.  What we are seeing is that all of us under a level of scrutiny that makes the former Soviet Union's KGB look like a rant beginner in information gathering.  And it needs to be stressed that this program of domestic spying began under Chimperator George W. Bush and Emperor Palpatine Cheney not the Obama administration, although it is troubling that Obama has not ceased some of the worse abuses.  A Washington Post story looks at the fact that the situation with Verizon is merely the tip of the iceberg.  Here are highlights:

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.

The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.

Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.

Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing data collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “I would just push back on the idea that the court has signed off on it, so why worry? This is a court that meets in secret, allows only the government to appear before it, and publishes almost none of its opinions. It has never been an effective check on government.”

Several companies contacted by The Post said they had no knowledge of the program, did not allow direct government access to their servers and asserted that they responded only to targeted requests for information.

Government officials and the document itself made clear that the NSA regarded the identities of its private partners as PRISM’s most sensitive secret, fearing that the companies would withdraw from the program if exposed. “98 percent of PRISM production is based on Yahoo, Google and Microsoft; we need to make sure we don’t harm these sources,” the briefing’s author wrote in his speaker’s notes.

Firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities, is what drove a career intelligence officer to provide PowerPoint slides about PRISM and supporting materials to The Washington Post in order to expose what he believes to be a gross intrusion on privacy. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” the officer said.

Every police state has always claimed justification for spying on its citizens.  America has taken this nightmarish surveillance to frightening new levels.  I for one will not be sleeping better at night. 

Thursday, June 06, 2013

More Thursday Male Beauty

Biblical Scholars: Biblical Marriage Not Defined Simply As One Man, One Woman

I have made the argument on this blog and on The Bilerico Project that a careful reading of the Bible makes it very clear that "one man one woman" is not the structure of marriage endorsed or created by the Bible.  If anything, polygamy is the norm for marriage in the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  Not that the truth or honesty matters to the anti-gay Christofascists.  Now three (3) Biblical scholars has come out and stated the obvious: Biblical marriage is not "one man and one woman."  A piece in Huffington Post looks at this to me obvious conclusion.  Here are some article excerpts:

A trio of Iowa-based religious scholars penned an op-ed in a local paper this week, reminding readers that despite popular opinion, the Bible does not simply define marriage as between one man and one woman.

The joint editorial was written by Hector Avalos, Robert R. Cargill and Kenneth Atkinson and published in the Des Moines Register on Sunday. The men teach at Iowa State University, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, respectively.

"The debate about marriage equality often centers, however discretely, on an appeal to the Bible," the authors wrote. "Unfortunately, such appeals often reflect a lack of biblical literacy on the part of those who use that complex collection of texts as an authority to enact modern social policy."

The Bible's definition of marriage can be confusing and contradictory, noted the scholars. They stated in their column that a primary example of this is the religious book's stance on polygamy, a practice that was embraced by prominent biblical figures Abraham and David. Furthermore, Avalos, Cargill and Atkinson point out that various Bible passages mention not only traditional monogamy, but also self-induced castration and celibacy, as well as the practice of wedding rape victims to their rapists.

Ultimately, said Cargill, a Biblical "argument against same-sex marriage is wholly unsustainable. We all know this, but very few scholars are talking about it, because they don't want to take the heat."  He suggested that academics who continue to be cowed by a strident opposition do a disservice to their communities.

"Most people aren't dumb, they want to make an informed decision" on religiously charged questions, Cargill said. "If scholars aren't talking to them, they have to rely on talk show hosts and pundits, and that's not the most reliable source of information."

Many politicians have made a career out of using the Bible to justify opposition to hot-button topics like same-sex marriage or abortion. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), for example, told a crowd of evangelicals in April that Americans cannot "retreat from our values and fail to make the case on issues like marriage -- because it is one man, one woman -- because God said it is."

Cargill said Bachman and her like-minded colleagues use a strategy he calls "cherry picking" to appeal to their base.

"Politicians who use the Bible aren't necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible," he said. "They are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe."

The  Christofascists care nothing about the truth.  It is all about inflicting their own perverse and hate filled religious beliefs on all of society.

President Obama’s Rapidly Diminishing Credibility

I have noted before that I keep having feeling of deja vue from 2009 in terms of the way in which Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats  seem to be doing all in their power to upset the Democrat base and to hand the 2013 Virginia statewide elections to the GOP statewide ticket.  Little is being accomplished.  Worse yet, things are being said and done to demoralize the party base and make them feel that the average person is screwed regardless of which party holds the reins of powers.  Hence, why bother to go out in vote on election day.  Here in Virginia, turn out will be crucial in defeating the Christofascist slate of Ken Cuccinelli, E. W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain.  In light of today's disclosures on domestic spying on U. S. citizens, the New York Times editorial board has lost all patience with the Obama administration.  Here are some main page editorial highlights:

Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. 

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. 

Essentially, the administration is saying that without any individual suspicion of wrongdoing, the government is allowed to know whom Americans are calling every time they make a phone call, for how long they talk and from where. 

This sort of tracking can reveal a lot of personal and intimate information about an individual. To casually permit this surveillance — with the American public having no idea that the executive branch is now exercising this power — fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and it repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.

It is the very sort of thing against which Mr. Obama once railed, when he said in 2007 that the surveillance policy of the George W. Bush administration “puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.” 

Two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, have raised warnings about the government’s overbroad interpretation of its surveillance powers.

On Thursday, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, who introduced the Patriot Act in 2001, said that the National Security Agency overstepped its bounds by obtaining a secret order to collect phone log records from millions of Americans. 

“As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the F.B.I.’s interpretation of this legislation,” he said in a statement. “While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses.” He added: “Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.” 

Stunning use of the act shows, once again, why it needs to be sharply curtailed if not repealed.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Spying on Americans: NSA Asked Verizon for All Call Data

Click image to enlarge
Some have scoffed at the reality that in the United States personal privacy is a thing of the past.  While we face ridiculous lengths to access financial and healthcare records, the government is spying on our every move.  The map above is from a January, 2008 post shows that spying on citizens in America ranks up there with levels in China and Russia - that's right, this is from BEFORE Barack Obama was elected for those in the GOP base - and things have not improved over the intervening years as evidenced by a new story in the Washington Post about the NSA - National Security Administration - accessing all of Verizon's call records.  That's right, all of them, not just those of suspected would be terrorists.  Think you are having a private phone conversation?  Think again.   Here are highlights from the Post story (NOTE: it was a British paper that first broke the story):

The National Security Agency appears to be collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest phone companies, under a top-secret court order issued in April.

The order appears to require a Verizon subsidiary to provide the NSA with daily information on all telephone calls by its customers within the United States and from foreign locations into the United States.

The order, which was signed by a judge from the secret court that oversees domestic surveillance, was first reported on the Web site of the Guardian newspaper. The Web site reproduced a copy of the order, which two former U.S. officials told The Washington Post appears to be authentic.

If the document is genuine, it could represent the broadest surveillance order known to have been issued. It also would confirm long-standing suspicions of civil liberties advocates about the sweeping nature of U.S. surveillance through commercial carriers under laws passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

An expert in this aspect of the law said Wednesday night that the order appears to be a routine renewal of a similar order first issued by the same court in 2006. The expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, said that the order is reissued routinely every 90 days and that it is not related to any particular investigation by the FBI or any other agency.

The order falls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the government to make broad demands on telephone carriers for information about calls. In this case, the order requires Verizon to provide “ongoing, daily” information about “all call detail records . . . created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad; or wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The White House, the Justice Department and the FBI, which apparently sought the order, declined to comment. Spokesmen for Verizon and the court also declined to comment.

But civil liberties groups were quick to criticize the sweeping nature of the order.  “This is a truly stunning revelation,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “This suggests that the government has been compiling a comprehensive record of Americans’ associations and possibly even their whereabouts.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has sued the government over its surveillance prac­tices, said in a statement Wednesday night that the order “requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon subscribers anywhere in the U.S. It also contains a gag order prohibiting Verizon from disclosing information about the order to anyone other than their counsel.”

The order also seems to confirm fears expressed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.). In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last year, they said, “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of . . . these secret court opinions. As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

Government officials have defended the broad surveillance powers, saying that the information has been vital in uncovering and disrupting terrorist plots. They also say that the surveillance has operated under the provisions of the Patriot Act and other laws.
There's more, but the bottom line is that America is increasingly a police state and the trend began under Bush/Cheney and the then GOP controlled Congress.  This may shock the conspiracy crowd in the GOP, but it was their guys who put this system into motion.  I find it frightening.

Tropical Storm Warning Issued for Virginia and North Carolina

While the Republicans at both the state and national level continue to deny that climate change is happening at all, six days into the 2013 hurricane season and here in Hampton Roads we already have our first bout with tropical storm weather about to move in.  And that's not even mentioning the growing number and intensity of tornado in the Mid-West.  Thankfully, it looks like this first round locally will be minimal.  Nonetheless, I'm glad the boyfriend and I installed a whole house generator and three large industrial sump pumps last summer.  Here's the forecast locally:

A tropical storm warning has been issued for Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina as Andrea heads northeast this morning.

At 5 a.m., the storm was packing winds of 60 mph and was located about 800 miles southwest of Norfolk, according to the warning from the National Hurricane Center. It was moving north-northeast at about 13 mph.

The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 36 hours, although we could see just the remnants of the storm on Friday

 Welcome to summer on the Virginia coast!

Study Of Children Raised By Same-Sex Parents Shows They’re Healthier Than Their Peers

More bad news for anti-gay Christofascists who would have the public believe that gays make inferior parents and that the children of gays turn out less well adjusted than those raised by heterosexual headed homes.   However, a new study that utilized the largest data base of children and families to date found that contrary to the propaganda of Christofascists and hate groups like Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, Children of same-sex parents are doing as well or better than the rest of the population on a number of key health indicators.  The findings are the direct opposite of the allegedly found in the discredited, Christianist funded report by Mark Regnerus.   The Age reports on the study and its findings.  Here are excerpts:

Children of same-sex parents are doing as well or better than the rest of the population on a number of key health indicators.  That is the initial finding from the world's largest study on the children of same-sex parents, under way at Melbourne University.

The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families collected data on 500 children nationwide, up to the age of 17.

An interim report found there was no statistical difference between children of same-sex couples and the rest of the population on indicators including self-esteem, emotional behaviour and the amount of time spent with parents.

However, children of same-sex couples scored higher than the national average for overall health and family cohesion, measuring how well the family members get along.

''Because of the situation that same-sex families find themselves in, they are generally more willing to communicate and approach the issues that any child may face at school, like teasing or bullying,'' lead researcher Dr Simon Crouch said.  ''This fosters openness and means children tend to be more resilient. That would be our hypothesis.''

Unlike the “deeply flawed” and “disgraced,” Regnerus study, The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families looks at children of actual same-sex couples.  This is but one of a number of studies on children raised by same-sex parents, which all have similar findings.

Virulently Anti-Gay E. W. Jackson Continues to Rile False Moderates in Virginia GOP

Make no mistake about it.  E.W. Jackson, Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain are all extremists and were nominated as the GOP ticket for 2013 because of the religious extremists who now control the grass roots of the Republican Party of Virginia.   Leading this effort is the insidious organization known as The Family Foundation whose membership ranks are comprised of homophobes, Christian dominionists, theocrats and white supremacists.  Jackson secured the Lt. Governor nomination because the religious fanatics out number the white supremacist element.  Now, Republicans are falling all over themselves to distance themselves from Jackson who holds their views but has learned that some tings aren't openly said except behind closed doors when the media isn't present.  Earlier in the week 2nd District Congressman Scott Rigell stated that he would not endorse Jackson feigning that Jackson's anti-gay views are "too extreme."  This from the man who was personally endorsed by anti-gay hate group founder Lou Sheldon.  Entertainingly, Jackson is now challenging Rigell and in the process will hopefully force the media to focus on Rigell's own anti-gay agenda.  Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:

E.W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, said Wednesday that he's disappointed U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell refuses to endorse him because of strong anti-gay comments, but the Chesapeake minister said he's not backing off his past statements.

Jackson, who said he's tried to contact Rigell, said his speeches and pronouncements about the evils of homosexuality should be seen as a preacher talking about what he believes the Bible says - not a political candidate's views on how he would govern.

Jackson, who has repeatedly spoken out against homosexuality, has called gay individuals "frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally."

In a broadcast last fall, he referred to homosexuality as a "horrible sin" that poisons society, destroys families and "brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of."

Rigell, a Virginia Beach Republican, said earlier this week that he would not endorse or campaign for Jackson because he disagrees with what he considers the candidate's strident statements about gay people.  However, Rigell tempered his objections late Tuesday, saying that while he won't campaign for Jackson, he will vote for him in November. The congressman did not offer further explanation.

Contending that Republicans could lose if they don't support all their candidates, Jackson said he's trying to get in touch with Rigell and also wants the backing of U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, who hasn't said whether he'll endorse the minister.

Both congressmen have stated their support for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP candidate for governor. Cuccinelli and Jackson were selected May 18 at the GOP state convention in Richmond.

If he is elected lieutenant governor - which could make him the tie-breaking vote in a split state Senate - Jackson agreed that his views about gay people could come into play.

The hypocrisy of Rigell and Forbes is that Ken Cuccinelli is equally anti-gay and anti-abortion as Jackson.  He is only somewhat more discreet than Jackson to whom the concept of discretion is an unknown phenomenon.  Jackson may say it, but Cuccinelli believes it and will act on his anti-gay agenda if elected Governor.  Personally, I hope Jackson continues to run his mouth and force Virginia Republicans to take positions on social issues.  The public needs to understand just how extreme today's GOP has become.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Global Divide on Homosexuality - Greater Acceptance in More Secular and Affluent Countries

A new Pew Research Center study has found that acceptance of gays and homosexuality correlates with a country's affluence and level of secularism.  Stated differently, the more educated and progressive a country, the more accepting the country is of gays and homosexuality.  That said, it is telling that the United States falls behind a number of European and South American counties and even Mexico and, yes, the Philippines.    The driving force behind America's relative backwardness vis-a-vis other developed and developing counties?   The Christofascists and their embrace of bigotry and ignorance.   Here are highlights from Pew study:

As the United States and other countries grapple with the issue of same-sex marriage, a new Pew Research Center survey finds huge variance by region on the broader question of whether homosexuality should be accepted or rejected by society.

The survey of publics in 39 countries finds broad acceptance of homosexuality in North America, the European Union, and much of Latin America, but equally widespread rejection in predominantly Muslim nations and in Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and in Russia.

The survey also finds that acceptance of homosexuality is particularly widespread in countries where religion is less central in people’s lives. These are also among the richest countries in the world. In contrast, in poorer countries with high levels of religiosity, few believe homosexuality should be accepted by society.

Age is also a factor in several countries, with younger respondents offering far more tolerant views than older ones. And while gender differences are not prevalent, in those countries where they are, women are consistently more accepting of homosexuality than men.

The view that homosexuality should be accepted by society is prevalent in most of the European Union countries surveyed. About three-quarters or more in Spain (88%), Germany (87%), the Czech Republic (80%), France (77%), Britain (76%), and Italy (74%) share this view, as do more than half in Greece (53%). Poland is the only EU country surveyed where views are mixed; 42% say homosexuality should be accepted by society and 46% believe it should be rejected.

Canadians, who already expressed tolerant views in 2007, are now even more likely to say homosexuality should be accepted by society; 80% say this, compared with 70% six years ago.

Opinions about homosexuality are also positive in parts of Latin America. In Argentina, the first country in the region to legalize gay marriage in 2010, about three-quarters (74%) say homosexuality should be accepted, as do clear majorities in Chile (68%), Mexico (61%) and Brazil (60%);  . . . . .

There is a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and opinions about homosexuality.2 There is far less acceptance of homosexuality in countries where religion is central to people’s lives – measured by whether they consider religion to be very important, whether they believe it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral, and whether they pray at least once a day.

There's more that is worth a read.  The bottom line message is that as has been the case for hundred of years - if not millennia - religion is the prime force behind hate, bigotry and prejudice.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Controlled States Refusing To Expand Medicaid Will Lose Billions

Sadly, a number of GOP controlled states put sabotaging what they call "Obamacare" ahead of the welfare of hundreds of thousands of their citizens who lack meaningful healthcare coverage.   It's the height of stupidity because the uninsured will eventually end up at non-profit hospitals which will have to write off huge amounts of billings for the uninsured and then jack up pricing for everyone else to recoup the loses.  The cretins in the GOP base are simply too stupid to realize they are already paying for the uninsured except it's in the least cost effective manner possible.  And no one among the GOP elected officials has the balls to tell the lunatic party base that they are idiots.  And that's not even considering the hypocrisy of claiming to honor Christian principles while throwing away thousands of individuals as if they were trash.  Oh, but then one must remember than many of the uninsured are minorities and to the racist GOP base apparently do not count as really human.  It's disgusting.  A piece in Think Progress looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:

The GOP-controlled states who continue to resist expanding their Medicaid programs under Obamacare are making a short-sighted financial decision, according to a new analysis from the Rand Corporation. The 14 states whose governors have indicated that they won’t accept the optional Medicaid expansion will lose out on $8.4 billion in federal funding while leaving an additional 3.6 million Americans uninsured.

The federal government currently pays for about 57 percent of the cost of each state’s Medicaid program — but under Obamacare, it will pick up the total cost of expanding the program to cover additional uninsured Americans, gradually reducing that federal contribution to 90 percent. That increased federal funding, as well as the savings that result from fewer uninsured patients unable to foot their medical bills, could ultimately save all 50 states as much as $18.1 billion a year by Rand’s estimations.

“Our analysis shows it’s in the best economic interests of states to expand Medicaid under the terms of the federal Affordable Care Act,” Carter Price, the study’s lead author, explained in a press release. “State policymakers should be aware that if they do not expand Medicaid, fewer people will have health insurance, and that will trigger higher state and local spending for uncompensated medical care.”

And Rand’s $8.4 billion figure could actually be an underestimation. The study focused on the 13 states that have already flat-out refused to participate in Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion as well as another state, Iowa, that is pursuing an alternative to the policy. But it didn’t include the six states that are leaning toward rejecting the Medicaid expansion — Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming — which could also end up losing money if they officially decide against expanding their public insurance programs. 

Nevertheless, stubborn Obamacare opponents in red states are still refusing to cooperate with any aspect of health reform — even at the expense of their most vulnerable constituents. Some of the nation’s most highly-uninsured states have resisted extending health coverage to additional low-income Americans simply to make a political statement against the health reform law.

The Growing Gulf Between the Vatican and American Catholics

As the last post illustrated, the changing social views on gays and other issues is increasingly threatening the strength and political influence of far right denominations and falsely named "family values" organizations.   A prime example is the Roman Catholic Church which, but for the influx of Hispanic immigrants is losing members at a significant pace.  What ought to be equally disturbing to the bitter old men in Rome is that more and more American Catholics simply ignore the Vatican's pronouncements entirely. One can only hope that the trend accelerates.  A piece in the Wisconsin Gazette looks at the ongoing phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:

Frank Ferri made peace with God years ago. Last month, Ferri defeated the Roman Catholic Church.
The openly gay state representative led the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in what may be the most Catholic state in the most Catholic region in the U.S.

In early May, Rhode Island became the sixth and final northeastern New England state to allow gay couples to marry. The Democratic-dominated Legislature, led by an openly gay House speaker, overcame years of successful lobbying by the Catholic Church.

Ferri's victory marked the Catholic Church's most significant political defeat in an area where more than 40 percent of the population is Catholic.

Perhaps more problematic for the church is that state-by-state setbacks on gay marriage illustrate a widening divide between the church hierarchy and its members that may be undermining Catholic influence in American politics.

The disconnect plays out in polling.  In March, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that a majority of Catholics, 60 percent, felt the church was out of touch with the views of Catholics in America today.

A CBS News/New York Times poll in February found that 78 percent of Catholics said they were more likely to follow their own conscience than the church's teachings on difficult moral questions.

That poll highlighted several areas where most Catholics break with church teachings: 62 percent of American Catholics think same-sex marriages should be legal, 74 percent think abortion ought to be available in at least some instances and 61 percent favor the death penalty.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a member of one of the most storied Catholic families in American politics,   .  .  .  . says the church's political influence will continue to wane unless it adapts.

"Gay marriage is part of a larger refusal on the part of the church to listen to, and to understand, the people in the pews,'' said Townsend, who regularly attends church and wrote the book, ``Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God With Politics and Losing Their Way.''  Church officials in Washington, D.C., Boston and Providence declined to be interviewed for this report.

Silk suggested that some Catholic leaders in the United States may be eroding their influence by ``jumping up and down'' to fight gay marriage despite strong public support.
If the Vatican truly wants to regain any credibility, the first thing it needs to do is clean house of bishops and cardinals who participated in the worldwide conspiracy to cover up sex abuse and to protect predator priests.  That, of course, is never going to happen.

Majority Of Older Americans Support Same-Sex Relationships

A new Gallup survey has found that for the first time more than 50% of Americans over the age of 55 support same sex relationships and found them to be morally acceptable.  Obviously, this is not good news for anti-gay hate merchants like The Family Foundation here in Virginia, Family Research Council, American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage, the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention and the closeted queens at the Vatican.  Approval by those under 34 now is at 74%.  Obviously, the hate merchants are losing the culture war and will become even more hysterical as one of their main fundraising ploy becomes less and less viable.  Here are highlights from The New Civil Rights Movement:

Three out of four younger Americans, aged 18 to 34, support same-sex relationships, and a similar number support same-sex marriage, but for years common wisdom has been that older Americans’ views were unchanging. Some, like conservative pundit George Will, have said that “quite literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people.”

Well, even that seems to be changing. In fact, according to a Gallup study just released today, for the first time ever, the majority of those aged 55 and older now find same-sex relationships “morally acceptable,” creating majority support across every age group.

“Americans’ attitudes toward gay or lesbian relations have shown the greatest overall change over the course of Gallup’s tracking, with moral acceptance increasing 19 points between 2001 and 2013,” Gallup reports:
Much of this change has occurred across the age spectrum. Acceptance of gay or lesbian relations among Americans aged 55 and older is now 25 points higher than it was in 2001. While Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 have consistently reported support for gay and lesbian relations at higher levels than older age groups, their support has also risen by 22 points in the past 12 years.
The study did not ask about acceptance of same-sex marriage, but rates of support are similar in recent polls.

From my own experience, things outside of the Christofascist base of the Virginia GOP are changing even here in Virginia.  Last Saturday the boyfriend and I were included as guests at what could be best described as an "Old Hampton" party with many of the oldest and wealthiest families from the city.  No one batted an eye at a gay couple being included amongst the guests - and this was definitely an older crowd.   Sunday, we were at the James River Country Club with clients of the boyfriend and we had the same accepting experience.  Monday, we were at the Hampton Yacht Club where we are now full members.  Yes, things are changing even in Virginia.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Will GOP Use Guns and Gay Rights to Derail Immigration Reform?

Let's be clear about something: despite the half-ass GOP blather about wanting to court the Hispanic vote and enacted needed immigration reform, most in the GOP - especially those in the white supremacist filled base - do not really want any reform.  They oppose anything that might increase the number of minority voters.  Likewise, they oppose anything that might enable bi-national gay partners ot gain green cards and they oppose aspects of proffered gun control vis-a-vis immigrants.  As Politico reports guns and gays among other issues may well be resurrected in the immigration reform fight and used by the GOP to kill any reform.  Here are highlights:

As the Senate prepares to consider immigration reform next week, two powerful issues dividing lawmakers could be resurrected on the floor: guns and gay rights.

But debate over amendments to restrict gun ownership for illegal immigrants and to provide foreign-born gay partners with U.S. citizenship would reopen old wounds that both parties would rather see closed — even if those measures ultimately fail.

Here is POLITICO’s list of five issues to watch in the immigration floor debate:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of the Senate’s most ardent gun control advocates since the Newtown school shootings in his home state, is looking at offering a pair of amendments aimed at restricting immigrants’ access to guns.

One amendment would broaden an existing ban on certain immigrants buying guns to those who came into the U.S. on visa waivers. The other would require the attorney general to notify Homeland Security officials if undocumented immigrants or immigrants on temporary visas try to buy firearms, which is illegal.  After lively debate, a recent Senate push failed to impose background checks on commercial gun sales.

Gay rights
The most emotionally charged debate over the immigration bill came in its final moments, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) put forward — and ultimately withdrew — an amendment to extend immigration rights to gay partners.

Gay-rights groups will continue to pressure lawmakers as the bill heads to the floor. Democrats may introduce the amendment there, where a 60-vote threshold would be harder to meet but senators could go on the record for or against it.

Complicating matters, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal statute that states marriage is between a man and a woman. If the law is struck down, gay couples may be able to petition for green cards, and a legislative fix could be unnecessary.

“The amendment would be a critical insurance policy for binational couples if a ruling has not yet been handed down before the final vote,” said Steve Ralls, the communications director for Immigration Equality, which advocates for immigration rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. “If we have a bad ruling from the court, the amendment becomes especially critical.”

Taxes and benefits
In committee, the Gang successfully lured Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — a key swing vote — by adopting certain changes that the Utah senator demanded on high-tech visas.  They’ll have to work to keep him.

Hatch has now turned attention to his four amendments on taxes and benefit provisions, which he says must be included in order to win his support on the overall bill. For example, Hatch wants to require undocumented immigrants to prove they have paid back taxes

But immigration advocates have raised concerns that the substance of Hatch’s amendments could dramatically affect the ability of immigrants — particularly those who are poor — to apply to become legalized.

Border security
Border security will be a key test of whether reform can pick up a slew of Republican votes considered in play for the overall bill.

Guest workers
The delicately-negotiated compromise between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and labor unions on lesser-skilled workers could be the target of changes during the amendments process.

In the current legislation, the number of low-skilled visas starts at 20,000 in the bill’s first year, followed by 35,000 in the second, 55,000 in the third year and 75,000 the following year. The bill also includes wage and labor-friendly requirements for businesses.

Changes to the guest-worker program that yanks it too far to the right or left could upset the deal between the two powerful interests that have major influence in reform’s success.

Virginia GOP Congressman Scott Rigell Won't Endorse E. W. Jackson

Scott Rigell on left; E.W. Jackson on right
Ken Cuccinelli isn't the only Virginia Republican trying to disingenuously distance himself from the utterly insane, gay hating E.W. Jackson, the Virginia GOP's nominee for Lt. Governor.  Now Congressman Scott Rigell, who won re-election in Virginia's 2nd congressional district in 2012 largely to gerrymandering, is saying that he will not be endorsing Jackson for Lt. Governor.   Rigell - who helped lead the breakup of an Episcopal Church parish over the ordination of gays and who was personally endorsed by anti-gay hate group founder Lou Sheldon - claims that Jackson's anti-gay rhetoric is too extreme and offensive.  Yet meanwhile, Rigell says he will be endorsing Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli who holds basically the same anti-gay views as Jackson and who has even tried to uphold Virginia's sodomy statute not withstanding the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.  Is Rigell an idiot, or does he merely think that Virginia voters are idiots who can be easily fooled?  Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot on Rigell's impossibly inconsistent position:
U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, who has long espoused conservative views on social and fiscal issues, said this week that some members of his party are becoming too extreme and interfering with solving larger problems.

To that end, the Virginia Beach Republican said he won’t endorse his party’s lieutenant governor candidate, E.W. Jackson, in the November election because of comments Jackson has made about homosexuals.

Rigell, who opposes gay marriage but not civil unions for same-sex couples, indicated during a meeting with The Virginian-Pilot editorial board that Jackson’s anti-gay comments were unacceptable to him.

In the Virginia statewide election, Rigell said he supports the GOP candidate for governor, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, but won’t campaign for Jackson.

“His views with respect to the gay and lesbian community and homosexuality in general are not my own. I’m going to leave it at that,” Rigell said Monday. “What he said and, indeed, how he said it. All of it.”  The congressman said he did not want to elaborate on his objections.

Rigell was a cosponsor of legislation in 2011 urging President Barack Obama to uphold the federal Defense of Marriage Act . . .

[Jackson] has called gay individuals “frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally.”  “Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of,” Jackson said in an October 2012 broadcast interview with an anti-gay activist.

Rigell said he’s also more convinced – particularly after the recent state party convention – that not enough astute people are running for office.    “I am just seeing this disconnect,” he said. “We need high quality candidates across the commonwealth and across the country to set aside their personal life and have a season of public service.”
The last remark is ironic since it is the GOP base comprised of Christofascists and Tea Party cretins who are putting this lunatics on the ballot in the first place.   As might be expected, some of the spittle fleck Neanderthals of the local GOP base are not happy with Mr. Rigell based on their comments on the story. 

British House of Lords Approves Gay Marriage by 2 to 1 Vote

There had been fears by some that the British House of Lords might at least temporarily derail the marriage equality bill passed last month by the House of Commons.  Such fears turned out to be unfounded.  The often conservative peers of the realm voted two to one to approve gay marriage legislation.  Needless to say the religious extremists are blowing a gasket and spewing gallons of spittle.  One can only wonder if the U.S. Supreme Court justices are paying any attention.  Here are highlights from BBC News:

The House of Lords spent two days debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, with many members voicing their concerns.  But it rejected an amendment aimed at wrecking the bill by 242 votes, moving it a step closer to becoming law.

The BBC's Norman Smith said plans were on course for the first same-sex weddings to take place next summer.  The bill would allow couples, who can currently form civil partnerships, to marry.

If it passes into law, religious organisations would have to "opt in" if they wished to offer gay weddings, except the Church of England and Church in Wales, which would be banned in law from doing so.

Peers were allowed a free vote on the amendment, tabled by crossbench peer Lord Dear, which would effectively have wrecked the government's plans. It was defeated by 390 votes to 148.

The plans, which the government wants to come into force in July next year, passed through the Commons last month with a 205 majority.

But religious bodies, including the Church of England, and many Conservative activists have raised concerns. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was among those who spoke against the proposal in the Lords.

France recently held its first same-sex marriage while the Scottish government has confirmed it will introduce its own bill shortly.

Tuesday Male Beauty

'Cutest Couple' High School Story Goes Viral

Folks like Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer and the bitches at One Million Moms must have their panties in a serious knot over the positive acceptance a story about two boys - a gay couple - who were voted "cutest couple" by their high school class are receiving.  It's a sweet story and gives me a sense of hope that things are in fact getting better despite the efforts of the Christofascists and scary candidates like Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain here in Virginia.  Huffington Post looks at the story.  Here are excerpts:

When 18-year-old Chelsea posted a photo of her classmates Brad Taylor And Dylan Meehan to her Tumblr blog this week, she did not anticipate the incredible response it would receive -- within 24 hours, the entry had been shared almost 100,000 times.

The image was taken from her high school yearbook, and she included this caption:
"Two of my best friends won Cutest Couple of our senior class. First time in my school history a same sex couple has even been able to run for this category, not to mention winning it. So proud of them, and my school."

No one was more surprised, however, than the couple themselves. In an email to The Huffington Post, Taylor and Meehan shared their reaction to the image -- and relationship -- being shared around the world.
This whole thing has been a bit surreal for us because we have been raised to believe that love is love. We never realized that our happiness and openness would inspire so many individuals. The support we have received from our family, friends, and even strangers has led us to believe that our affection for each other is normal ... When we started dating a year [ago], the thought of a photo of us traveling throughout the world would be a bit frightening, but now we are proud to be part of the LGBT community.

Bradley Manning Trial : A Black Eye for Obama

One of the issues that has disturbed me greatly about Barack Obama's administration is its insistence on making an example out of Bradley Manning for the release of documents that disclosed war crimes by U;S. military personnel while failing to do anything to prosecute most of those who committed atrocities.  Seemingly, Manning's real crime was to expose the truth about America's crimes - crimes for which America would demand prosecution and consequences if done by any one else.  The hypocrisy is stunning.  Yet Obama continues the quest against Manning while allowing murderers and war criminals a pass.   Much of America's history has severe ugliness - Manning apparently sought to let Americans know what horrors were being done in their name.  A piece in The Advocate looks at this warped situation.  Here are excerpts:

On Saturday, women from the activist group Code Pink strung the gates of Fort Meade, Md., with Nobel Peace Prize emblems for Bradley Manning. The demonstration was one of many scheduled throughout the coming week to call attention to Manning’s court-martial trial, which began Monday at Fort Meade, about 30 miles north of Washington, D.C.

Manning, 25, has been in prison for more than 1,100 days — since he was arrested in Baghdad May 26, 2010. He has spent three birthdays in prison. He was held in indefinite detention and solitary confinement for much of that time under extreme conditions that included not being allowed to lie down or close his eyes except during certain nighttime hours; not being allowed a pillow, sheet, or blanket; being forced to be naked and searched every morning; and not being allowed out of his windowless cell. 
Because of his extreme treatment and the crimes of which he is accused, Manning has been deemed a prisoner of conscience by human rights groups worldwide. Amnesty International has called his treatment "torture" and has called for his release. He was nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. 

[M]ake no mistake: Manning’s is the real trial of the century. Manning is essentially being tried for treason. One of the charges against him is "aiding the enemy," which is treasonous (and a charge he categorically denies). Another is larceny — meaning he stole the documents he is alleged to have distributed to WikiLeaks.
The Obama administration and the Department of Justice have referred to Manning’s case as "the largest security breach in U.S. history." 
Manning is not a spy, but he’s being treated like one, prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917. In fact, emails in the months leading up to the release of the documents between Manning and Adrian Lamo specifically state that Manning knew he could have sold any of the documents he handled daily or given them to a foreign government. But, in his own words, he said the documents were "public data ... it belongs in the public domain ... information should be free."
That’s the real story here. What did the American people have a right to know and when did they have a right to know it? How much influence did the publication of these documents have on ending the combat portion of the Iraq war? How much transparency did they force in an administration that the American Civil Liberties Union has called "the least transparent in U.S. history"? Manning has already been credited with influencing the Arab Spring, which has thus far toppled five dictatorships. And Vietnam War leaker Daniel Ellsberg has said on several occasions that Manning’s actions have "saved tens of thousands of lives."

What hasn’t been discussed in the mainstream media is how much Manning’s treatment and trial have to do with the consistent repression of whistle-blowers and investigative reporters by the Obama administration. 
Journalists have had to file suit to have access to Manning’s trial. In a complaint filed in federal district court last week, a group of journalists asked for a preliminary injunction to compel the judge to "grant the public and press access to the government’s filings, the court’s own orders, and transcripts of the proceedings."   That’s how difficult it is to get the real story about Manning’s trial.
The Obama administration could have accepted that plea deal and agreed to sentencing. Those charges carry a two-year maximum sentence each but could have added up to 20 years in prison had Manning received the maximum.
The Obama administration, however, is making an example of Manning. His trial is a classic show trial of the sort usually seen only in countries that are not democracies. Manning’s trial is meant to dissuade any and all whistle-blowers from coming forward. It is also intended to act as a deterrent to any dissidence within the military, Pentagon, State Department, CIA, FBI or any other government agency — or beyond. 
What’s more, many question whether Manning will — or can — even receive a fair trial, given the attitude the administration has already taken toward him and the treatment he has received thus far with no intervention from President Obama or any other member of the administration.  President Obama could pardon Manning; other leakers have been pardoned, even during other wars.
There's much more, but the message is that the Obama administration is engaged in shameful conduct the goal of which is in my view to cover up atrocities and make it harder for others to expose American military misdeeds.