Saturday, March 01, 2014

More Saturday Male Beauty

Kepler Telescope Reveals 715 New Planets

In addition to refusing to accept that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old or believing that evolution is true, the Christofascists believe that the Bible - written by ignorant nomads/herders in the case of the Old Testament and unknown authors in the case of the New Testament - is the final word for the entire universe. This latter belief requires, of course, that there be no other intelligent and/or humanoid life in the universe.  As with many other Christofascist beliefs, science is steadily threatening this tenant of the Christofascists' fantasy alternate universe.  A case in point? The discovery of 715 new planets that are located in the habitable zone of there respective solar systems.  Here are highlights from a new NASA press release:

NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

"The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "That these new planets and solar systems look somewhat like our own, portends a great future when we have the James Webb Space Telescope in space to characterize the new worlds.”

Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system roughly two decades ago, verification has been a laborious planet-by-planet process. Now, scientists have a statistical technique that can be applied to many planets at once when they are found in systems that harbor more than one planet around the same star.

To verify this bounty of planets, a research team co-led by Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., analyzed stars with more than one potential planet, all of which were detected in the first two years of Kepler's observations -- May 2009 to March 2011.

Four of these new planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's habitable zone, defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for life-giving liquid water.

One of these new habitable zone planets, called Kepler-296f, orbits a star half the size and 5 percent as bright as our sun. Kepler-296f is twice the size of Earth, but scientists do not know whether the planet is a gaseous world, with a thick hydrogen-helium envelope, or it is a water world surrounded by a deep ocean.

This latest discovery brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to nearly 1,700. As we continue to reach toward the stars, each discovery brings us one step closer to a more accurate understanding of our place in the galaxy.

 One thing is probably certain - the Bible does NOT provide an accurate understanding of our place in the Milky Wat galaxy much less the vastly larger universe.

Christofascist and Arizon GOP Draft New Anti-Gay Bill

One would think that after the furor that surrounded Arizona SB 1062 and Gov. Jan Brewer's ultimate veto of the bill the Christofascists and their puppets in the Arizona GOP would have waited a while before bringing forth another anti-gay measure.  But, given the Christofascists' insistence that they be above the laws that govern everyone else, the pander political prostitutes in the Arizona GOP seem only too willing to try to push another anti-gay law through the Arizona legislature.  While less broad than SB 1062 in its application, the new bill - House Bill 2481- likewise seeks to give Christofascists who cite religious belief the right to ignore their responsibilities as public servants and turn gays away.  As for churches, the bill seeks to fix a problem that does not even exist.  Hhere are excerpts from
The demise of Senate Bill 1062, which was widely denounced as discriminatory against gays and lesbians, may not be the last word in Arizona’s debate over religious freedoms and civil rights this legislative session.

Another bill, also being touted as protecting religious freedom, has garnered little attention but could again force lawmakers to take a stand on a divisive issue.

House Bill 2481, which has advanced on mostly party-line committee votes and is awaiting a debate by the full House of Representatives, would prevent government from requiring ordained clergy and judges to “solemnize a marriage that is inconsistent with the minister’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, is narrower than SB 1062, which would have offered a legal defense for individuals and businesses facing discrimination lawsuits if they could have proved they acted upon a “sincerely held religious belief.”

An assistant pastor at a Surprise church, Montenegro told The Arizona Republic on Thursday that the legislation grew out of instances in New Jersey and England, where churches were sued for refusing to perform same-sex ceremonies. He said the legislation would also apply to priests, pastors, rabbis and others who might be asked to sanction marriages that contradict their beliefs and teachings.

He could not provide an example of a clergy member in Arizona who has been forced to act against his or her beliefs in marrying individuals. Marriage is defined in the state Constitution as only between a man and a woman.

The Anti-Defamation League has spoken against a provision that would extend the right to refuse to conduct ceremonies to judges, justices of the peace and clerks who perform them.  Religious officials are already exempt from lawsuits filed by people who feel they were wrongly denied marriage services, said Tracey Stewart, assistant regional director for the Anti- Defamation League.  But judges and other civil servants are not men of the cloth, she said.  “Those are usually individuals who are employed by government,” Stewart said.  Part of their public service as a government official extends to performing civil, not religious, marriage ceremonies, she said.

Political scientist John J. “Jack” Pitney Jr., who closely watches Arizona politics, said lawmakers’ inclination will be to avoid legislation similar to SB 1062, given the reaction from economic powerhouses like Apple and the NFL and high-profile political players such as former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
One has to wonder how a buffoon and nutcase like Rep.  Montenegro got elected in the first pace.  It does not speak well of his district or of Arizona as a whole.

Vladimir Putin: The Games Are Over and the Repression Returns

Prior to and throughout the 2014 Winter Games this blog looked at the parallels between the 1936 Summer Games in Hitler's Berlin and what was taking place in Sochi, Russia.  Again, I repeat that I have no problem with the Russian people who have been betrayed time and time again by foul, corrupt and murderous leaders, most recently since the 1917 revolutions.  Now, with the 2014 Winter Games over, like Hitler who intensified repression and murder after the end of the 1936 Summer Games, Vladimir Putin is clamping down and intensify repression.  Worse yet, like Hitler, he is using claims of ethnic ties and commonality to justify Russia's intrusion into Ukraine.  A main page editorial in the Washington Post looks at the renewed repression in Russia.  Here are highlights:

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladi­mir Putin hoped to win the world’s respect with his staging of the Winter Olympics. But a ruler who does not respect his own people will never be truly respected. One day after the Olympics ended, Mr. Putin showed, with the sentencing of eight protesters in Moscow, that he fears his people more than he respects them.

The protesters took part in a demonstration at Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, the day before Mr. Putin’s inauguration. They now face imprisonment for the crime of expressing their opinions. What is striking is that the objects of Mr. Putin’s repression this time are not leaders but ordinary people, selected from the demonstration apparently at random. As in Soviet times, the law is used in an arbitrary and capricious way.

[T]he sentencing of the Bolotnaya protesters carries a haunting reminder of past repression. On Aug. 25, 1968, days after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the crushing of the Prague Spring, eight people dared to protest in Red Square. They were arrested, and most were tried and sentenced to prison.

What’s the difference between then and now? Today’s Russian Federation professes to uphold constitutional guarantees of human rights and dignity. The words are in Article 29 of the Russian constitution: “Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.” It does not say that everyone shall agree with the president. It does not say that those who protest the president shall be imprisoned. But two decades after its adoption, that constitution is fraying under Mr. Putin’s rule.

There is no better way to understand the Bolotnaya sentences than with the words of Stella Anton, the mother of defendant Denis Lutskevich. Fighting tears on the courthouse steps, she told the New York Times, “Why did they sentence him? To frighten people, so that they won’t go to demonstrations, so that they won’t protest, to put them on their knees and so they’ll put up with everything that’s happening in the country.”

Again, the parallel's between Germany in the 1930's and Putin's Russia are frightening.  Putin calls protestors in Ukraine fascists but it is he and his horrible sycophants who are the fascists.  The Russian people deserve better.  I look forward to the day when Putin is deposed and hopefully gets what tyrants like him deserve.


Walt Disney World Dumps Boy Scouts of America Over Anti-Gay Policy

Expect lots of flying spittle and outraged rants fro the usual Christofascist suspects and, of course the One Million Bitches Moms crowd.  Why?  Because Walt Disney World has dropped its funding of Boy Scouts of America ("BSA") chapters due to the BSA's continued anti-gay policies that cause boys to be expelled upon reaching their 18th birthday and that bar gays from being scout leaders.   Disney, like many other major businesses is increasingly against discrimination aimed at minority groups loyal to its brand and is again reminding us that nowadays bigotry caries a monetary price.  It's a message that so far has escaped most in the Virginia GOP.  Here are highlights from Gay Star News:
Walt Disney World Resort has stopped contributing to local Boy Scouts of America chapters in Florida because of the organization's continued ban on gay leaders and employees.

The BSA began to allow openly gay members at the start of the year but the inclusion ends when a scout turns 18.

Disney World, located in Orlando, did not make an announcement regarding its dumping of BSA. Reuters reports that the news came via an email to local members from Scouts' Central Florida Council Board President Robert Utsey.

Utsey wrote: 'We recognize that many Scout Units have received financial  support over the last several years from this grant opportunity and are sad to see it go.

He shared that the National BSA Council has become involved and reached out to the theme park to try and resolve the situation.

'However, according to WDW, their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support,' Utsey wrote. 'We will continue to keep an open line of communication with them, but at this time, are unable to reverse their decision.'
 Kudos to Disney!!

Walt Disney World Resort has stopped contributing to local Boy Scouts of America chapters in Florida because of the organization's continued ban on gay leaders and employees.
The BSA began to allow openly gay members at the start of the year but the inclusion ends when a scout turns 18.
Disney World, located in Orlando, did not make an announcement regarding its dumping of BSA. Reuters reports that the news came via an email to local members from Scouts' Central Florida Council Board President Robert Utsey.
Utsey wrote: 'We recognize that many Scout Units have received financial  support over the last several years from this grant opportunity and are sad to see it go.
He shared that the National BSA Council has become involved and reached out to the theme park to try and resolve the situation.
'However, according to WDW, their views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support,' Utsey wrote. 'We will continue to keep an open line of communication with them, but at this time, are unable to reverse their decision.'
- See more at:

The Christofascist/GOP Ruse of Protecting "Religious Freedom"

In the wake of veto of Arizona's "turn the gays away bill" by GOP Gov. Jan Brewer, there has been a great deal of shrieking by Christofascists and pundits of the far right, the latter of which have claimed that the Arizona bill was not targeted at gays  (e.g. the National Review pushed this fairy tale) even though the original promoters of the bill admitted that they wanted to protect against gays trying to sue Christian bigots who turned them away.  The defenders of the bill also ignore the fact that outside of Arizona's largest cities which have enacted their own non-discrimination ordinances, LGBT Arizonans currently have no anti-discrimination protections whatsoever.  In short, the bill was seeking to fix a problem that did not exist across most of the state.  As for the claims that such laws are not meant to solely apply to gays in the minds of the Christofascists backing them, last year Willamette Week, a small paper in Portland, Oregon, documented the disingenuousness of such claims.  Here are article highlights that are worth remembering:

Sugar, flour, eggs and water are now munitions in America’s culture war. Or so you’d think from two Oregon bakeries that recently got national attention for declining to make cakes for same-sex weddings.

The first incident, in February, involved Gresham’s Sweet Cakes by Melissa, whose owner told a lesbian couple that “we don’t do same-sex marriages.” Earlier this month, Pam Regentin, who operates Fleur Cakes out of her home in the Hood River area, also refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding.

Both bakeries cited their religious beliefs as the reason they would not make the cakes. Both describe themselves as Christian.

[An] Oregon statute makes it illegal for businesses to turn away customers based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

We wondered what other requests these cakemakers would decline to honor. So last week five WW reporters called these two bakeries anonymously to get price quotes for other occasions frowned upon by some Christians. Surprisingly, the people who answered the phone at each bakery were quite willing to provide baked goods for celebrations of divorces, unmarried parents, stem-cell research, non-kosher barbecues and pagan solstice parties.

We later contacted both bakeries to ask about these inconsistencies. Regentin declined to comment beyond asking whether she had been taped (she had not).

Sweet Cakes owners Melissa and Aaron Klein were upset that we “would even try to entrap a business” . . .

Baby Out of Wedlock
WW Asks - I’m shopping around for a nice baby shower cake for my friend. It’s her second baby with her boyfriend so I’m not looking for anything too big or fancy—probably enough to serve 15 to 20 people.
Sweet Cake says - “We have a sheet cake that will feed 30, or a 10-inch cake that would feed 30 people. The 10-inch cake is $50 and the sheet cake is $52. Or we have an 8-inch cake that would feed 15 for $40.”
Fleur says - Prices vary based on decoration and frosting, but a basic cake is $3 per serving.

Divorce Party
WW Asks - My friend is getting divorced and we’d like to throw her a little party to mark the start of her new life. Do you ever write messages on those—we’d want it to say “congratulations!”—and how much would it be for a cake that could serve about eight people?
Sweet Cake says - “A 10-inch is $29.99. That should probably do it....We can definitely do something like that.”
Fleur says - “The price for a 10-inch cheesecake is $36 and up. So it’ll be between $36 and $45, but you’re going to have to call in advance because my schedule for June and July is very busy.”

Pagan Solstice Party
WW Asks - I was calling to get a quote on a cake for a midsummer solstice party. My coven is celebrating on Friday, June 21. The decoration would be very simple: just a green pentagram. We’d like to pick it up sometime that afternoon, before the bonfire. It’ll be for about 30 people.
Sweet Cake says - “For 30 poeople we have a couple options... We have two kind of cakes you could have. About the diagram you want on the cake, I’m not sure how much extra that would be.”
Fleur says - Did not pick up phone or return messages. Acknowledged receiving requests by email but refused to comment.

Hypocrisy and lies - the hallmarks of today's "godly Christians."

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

SPLC Adds Liberty Counsel and Other Groups To Anti-Gay Hate Group List

As noted before on this blog, the Southern Poverty Law Center ("SPLC") tracks hate groups that range from supremacist groups to Neo-Nazi organizations to anti-gay hate groups.  In order to win a "hate group" designation an organization must have a demonstrated track record of disseminating deliberate lies with a goal of demonizing targeted groups and engendering hatred.  In short, merely reciting religious beliefs without more doesn't earn one a hate group designation.  Now, SPLC has added seven anti-gay organizations to its hate group list.  Domestically, the most well known is Liberty Counsel which is affiliated with Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and headed up by Liberty University law school deans Mat Staver (pictured at right) and Matt Barber, two virulent homophobes and hate merchants of the highest order.  Also making the hate group list are The World Congress of Families/Howard Center For Family, Religion and Society, based in Rockford, Illinois, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights institute (C-FAM), which have actively supported Vladimir Putin's Russian war against LGBT individuals.  Here are highlights from Truth Wins Out on these new designations:
Two of the new groups on the list have grabbed the spotlight much more in the past year than in the decade before. Indeed, they’re often mentioned in the same breath. The World Congress of Families/Howard Center For Family, Religion and Society, based in Rockford, Illinois, and the Catholic Family and Human Rights institute (C-FAM), have actively supported Russia in the pogrom it’s waging against its LGBT citizens. The World Congress convenes international events which bring anti-gay and other hate groups from around the world together under the guise of “protecting the family,” and this year, their conference will be held inside the Kremlin. In fact, the two organizations were formed around the same time, with many of the same people involved, with a direct intention to spread far-right Christian thinking around the globe.

The World Congress of Families serves as a vessel to bring worldwide hate groups together, as one can see from perusing the sponsors for their international events. The Religious Right has lost the culture war in the United States, and they realized over the past decade that they would have to expand internationally in order to keep their pocketbooks solvent and their ideology relevant.

Both the World Congress of Families and C-Fam have been vocally supportive of Russia’s anti-gay laws, with the WCF expressing support in a press release not long after the Duma’s final vote on the “propaganda” law. The World Congress also held a roundtable in US House of Representatives office space recently in order to teach American “pro-family” activists how to export their hate around the world. Austin Ruse, president of C-Fam, expressed regret that the United States wouldn’t be able to start the sort of pogrom against LGBT people that Russia has, as he praised Russia in their efforts. It’s likely that the international activities of these groups contributed heavily to the SPLC’s decision to label them hate groups.

The Liberty Counsel‘s inclusion on the list has been a very long time coming. . . .  Liberty Counsel, in its legal capacity, is a go-to outfit for conservative Christians claiming persecution (AKA having to play by the same rules as everyone else), most notably in the past several years in their defense of kidnapper Lisa Miller, who left the country with her daughter, rather than having to share custody with her former partner, Janet Jenkins. Liberty Counsel has also been very active in fighting to preserve anti-gay parents’ rights to torture their kids with harmful, discredited “ex-gay” therapy, which creates the very real possibility that those kids will be scarred for life.

These two men [Mat Staver and Matt Barber] are champions of asserting that any advance made by LGBT people is an assault on Christians, despite the fact that millions of Christians disagree with their beliefs. Just in recent months, Barber has suggested that anti-gay bigots are just like Jesus; claimed that Christians who support LGBT people are apostates; suggested that gay people are essentially  monsters; claimed that President Obama is trying to purge Christians from the military; and put forth the strange theory that gay marriage caused the Biblical flood. In the same time frame, Staver has come up with doozies of his own, such as his belief that, once marriage equality is nationwide, everyone will go gay, and his worry that, once “ex-gay” therapy is banned for minors nationwide, wingnut parents will have to resort to taking their kids to “back-alley” ex-gay parlors for the therapy they so desperately want to inflict on their children. 

Other new groups added include the Ruth Institute (formerly affiliated with NOM), the Pacific Justice Institute, Generations With Vision and Christ The King Church.

Ken Cuccinelli to Provide Pre-Paid Legal Services to Gun Nuts

Resident Virginia lunatic Ken Cuccinelli - ex-Attorney General and failed gubernatorial candidate - has announced that he is opening a law firm to provide pre-paid legal services to gun nuts and extremists.  Given Cuccinelli's pleas of poverty as to why he did not promptly return Giftgate gifts from Jonnie R. Williams, one has to wonder where Cuccinelli got the funding to open such a firm.   Think Progress looks at Cuccinelli's new career/lunacy:
Four months ago, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) thought he was going to be the next governor of Virginia. Now his opponent, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) is comfortably nestled in the state’s governor’s mansion — and Cuccinelli is trying to make a buck by offering financial piece of mind to gun owners who might shoot people.

The way it works is this: gun owners who think they may someday use their weapon in “self defense” against another human being pay “as little as $8.33 a month” to Cuccinelli and his three partners. In return, the firm will provide legal defense for no additional charge if the gun owner faces charges after shooting someone in what they claim is self-defense. As a bonus, the firm will also defend clients who claim they were “harassed by law enforcement for lawfully carrying their weapon.”

Although one of Cuccinelli’s partners claims that this is not an insurance plan for people who anticipate facing gun charges in the future, this arrangement resembles an NRA endorsed insurance program for people “involved in an act of self-defense.” That program provides that “Criminal Defense Reimbursement is provided for alleged criminal actions involving self-defense when you are acquitted of such criminal charges or the charges are dropped.” . . . “when someone contracts with our legal services, we provide them regardless of outcome.” Thus, if someone like Michael Dunn, who was convicted on three counts of attempted second degree murder for firing at four black teens in an SUV, had been a client of Cuccinelli’s firm, the firm could wind up covering his legal costs despite the guilty verdict.

The one caveat to this rule is something Cuccinelli describes as a “sex, drugs, rock-n-roll clause.” If a client is engaged in illegal activity, such as a drug sale, during the shooting, then the client’s pre-paid fees will not cover the cost of representation. (Notably, neither sex nor rock-n-roll are illegal. Although, if it were up to Cuccinelli, many kinds of sex would be.)

The practical effect of this new legal service, in other words, will be that gun owners will enjoy fairly broad certainty that they will not be hit with massive legal bills if they shoot someone. That’s one less thing they’ll have to worry about when they are deciding whether to squeeze the trigger.

Lambda Legal and ACLU Seek to Intervene in Bostic v. Rainey

I am not sure how I feel about this development in Bostic v. Rainey now on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  With the case of Harris v. Rainey currently up in the air in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia after the ruling in Bostic in the Eastern District, I can understand why the ACLU and Lambda Legal want to intervene in case Harris remains in limbo and doesn't get appealed to the 4th Circuit.  On the other hand, as a piece in Towleroad notes, we do not need a floodgate opened for intervention by other groups that would delay and/or complicate the appeal process or likely victory on appeal.  Perhaps the best outcome would be for the Western District to rule striking down the Marshall-Newman Amendment and then have Harris appealed and consolidated at the 4th Circuit. Here are highlights from Towleroad:

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia filed a motion earlier this week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to intervene on behalf of all Virginia's same-sex couples and their families in Bostic v. Rainey.

My friends Tim Bostic and Tony London
As you may know, the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and the ACLU and Lambda Legal have been leading separate cases challenging Virginia's gay marriage ban. AFER's case has already had a hearing and in mid-February, Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down Virginia's gay marriage ban based on their arguments.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals now has the case.
Lambda and the ACLU want in on this now, and issued a press release announcing the motion:

"We represent a class of all same sex couples in Virginia for whom the denial of marriage inflicts a variety of harms, and they deserve to be heard," said Greg Nevins, Counsel in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. "The Bostic appeal could decide the fate of not only both couples involved, but also the entire class of over 14,000 same-sex couples in Virginia who we represent."

The Harris case is awaiting decision from the court. Once that decision is issued, it will be appealed to the Fourth Circuit. In the meantime, allowing the Harris class action to intervene in the Bostic case now will allow the two cases to be consolidated on appeal without delaying or disrupting either case.

"From the beginning, both of these cases have proceeded on parallel tracks, and for the good of all couples in the state, we hope it will remain that way," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. "This motion just ensures that all affected couples have their day in court."

The Bostic v. Rainey case is very well positioned to be the next marriage case heard before the Supreme Court and any groups who are there will get the benefit of a national spotlight and credit for its ultimate victory.

The Washington Blade notes that plaintiffs in Bostic aren't happy about the motion:

Matthew D. McGill, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the Bostic case, questioned why the two groups petitioned the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to join the Bostic case.

“The addition of new parties to the case at this late stage risks delaying the proceedings, and there is not a moment to lose when gay and lesbian couples and families across Virginia – and other states in the Fourth Circuit – are experiencing real harm,” said McGill. “We hope the Harris plaintiffs and their lawyers will continue to support our shared goal of marriage equality by filing an amicus brief alongside us.”

A source involved in the legal process who asked to remain anonymous told the Blade there are “grave and serious consequences for an unwarranted ACLU intervention.” These could include the possibility that other groups from West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina that fall under the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction could seek to join the case if allowed.

“If intervention were granted, it could adversely slow down the current appeals process – and time is critical when it comes to attaining marriage equality for all Virginians,” said the source. “There is not a day to lose. Groups like the ACLU can be supportive by simply filing amicus briefs.”
It should be noted that when Bostic was first filed some of those whom I term "the gay elite" and/or  "the professional gays" maligned the plaintiffs for not waiting for permission if you will to file the lawsuit.  Now that they have prevailed at the District Court level and have had Ted Olson and David Boies join their team I think I detect a case of sour grapes on the part of some.  Just saying  . . .

Virginia Senate Commends Equality Virginia

The Virginia Senate passed a resolution commending Equality Virginia ("EV"), the statewide nonprofit that advocates for equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians.   My partner - soon to be husband - and I have been active in EV for years and many friends have served and continue to serve on the EV Board.  EV is the nemesis of the Christofascists at The Family Foundation, an organization that sadly has not yet been added to SPLC's list of hate groups.  The vote in the Senate was not surprisingly split on partisan lines with Senator Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach who I have known and counted as a friend for 20 years being the sole Republican to support the resolution.  As a successful businessman, I believe that Frank understands that Virginia's anti-gay policies which are backed by The Family Foundation are holding the Commonwealth back.  Here are highlights from the Richmond Times Dispatch:
The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed a resolution commending Equality Virginia, the 25-year-old nonprofit that advocates for equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians.

Nineteen senators signed on as patrons of the legislation, as did 23 delegates. One Republican, Sen. Frank W. Wagner of Virginia Beach, lent his name to the resolution in the Senate. One Republican, Del. Thomas Davis Rust, R-Fairfax, signed on in the House.
The measure passed the Senate on a non-recorded voice vote.
The fact that only one Republican in each house of the General Assembly supported the resolution underscores how much the Virginia GOP is controlled by The Family Foundation and similar hate merchants.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Pope to Travel to Uganda to Worship Martyrs who Rejected Gay Sex

Gay Star News is reporting that according to Ugandan officials Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Uganda in October to honor martyrs who were executed in the 1880's for refusing to have gay sex with the then ruling king.  The martyrs were canonized in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. Apparently, the Vatican has not yet confirmed the Pope will be going to Uganda.  If in fact Francis does attend this event, those like Andrew Sullivan and other liberals having near swoons over Pope Francis' supposed change in the Catholic Church's approach to gays, will have to do a dramatic reassessment of their views.  Frankly, it would be nice if this turned out to merely be a stunt by Uganda in an effort to find authority for its newly enacted horrific anti-gay law.  The irony, however, is that the whole martyrdom story line defeats the current claims by ignorant religious leaders that homosexuality was a European import.   Once again, knowing accurate history is the enemy of the "godly folk."  Here are details from Gay Star News

Pope Francis will be flying to Uganda in order to worship Uganda martyrs who rejected gay sex from the country's former king.  The head of the Catholic Church will visit Uganda in October, which has recently enacted one of the worst anti-gay laws in the world.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has confirmed the Pope has accepted the invitation to attend the celebrations to mark 50 years since the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs.  The Vatican is yet to confirm the visit.

The martyrs, who were killed between 1885 and 1887, refused to have sex with the gay King Mwanga II of Bugunda, now part of Uganda.  In a report released by Sexual Minorities Uganda, it proved it was not true that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ and it existed long before British colonialized the country in 1894.

Researcher Ambrose Mukasa said: ‘It is documented that King Mwanga II had many young men in his palace and was sodomizing them at his will.

‘When missionaries introduced Christianity and some of the young men were baptized and taught about the dangers of homosexuality, they started denying Mwanga the usual “pleasure” he used to get from them.

‘Mwanga reportedly became annoyed and went wild wondering how mere pages had started disobeying him. He clashed with the missionaries.  ‘He instructed the killing of all the young men who disobeyed him – with the executions taking place between 1885 and 1887.

‘The murdered young men were considered martyrs because they resolved to die for their new religion rather than surrendering their bodies to the king.’
The martyrs were canonized in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. - See more at:

Friday Morning Male Beauty

When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia

KKK members marching into a Baptist church

From following a number of anti-gay "family values" organizations for many years and reading the inflammatory rants and deliberately false information on their websites, I long ago came to recognizes that these organizations are comprised of leaders and members who are either former segregationists and/or their descendants.  Tony Perkins, the head of Family Research Council, has clear ties to white supremacy organizations and has spoken at their gatherings.  And like the segregationists of a half century ago, today's anti-gay forces are trying desperately to use the cloak of "religious freedom" to ennoble and justify their hate and bigotry.  Think Progress has a piece that looks at how the same claims we are hearing today were used decades ago to justify out right racism and anti-black discrimination.  What I continue to find shocking is the way in which black pastors refuse to recognize that they are being used by the same forces who supported "segregation forever."  Here are article excerpts:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
Judge Leon M. Bazile, January 6, 1959
The most remarkable thing about Arizona’s “License To Discriminate” bill is how quickly it became anathema, even among Republicans. Both 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called upon Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto this effort to protect businesses that want to discriminate against gay people. So did Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
The premise of the bill is that discrimination becomes acceptable so long as it is packaged inside a religious wrapper. As Arizona state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R) explained, lawmakers introduced it in response to instances where anti-gay business owners in other states were “punished for their religious beliefs” after they denied service to gay customers in violation of a state anti-discrimination law.

Yet, while LGBT Americans are the current target of this effort to repackage prejudice as “religious liberty,” they are hardly the first. To the contrary, as Wake Forest law Professor Michael Kent Curtis explained in a 2012 law review article, many segregationists justified racial bigotry on the very same grounds that religious conservatives now hope to justify anti-gay animus. In the words of one professor at a prominent Mississippi Baptist institution, “our Southern segregation way is the Christian way . . . . [God] was the original segregationist.”

Theodore Bilbo was one of Mississippi’s great demagogues. After two non-consecutive terms as governor, Bilbo won a U.S. Senate . . .  Bilbo proclaimed during his successful reelection campaign in 1946. He was a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan, telling Meet the Press that same year that “[n]o man can leave the Klan. He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Ku Klux, always a Ku Klux.” During a filibuster of an anti-lynching bill, Bilbo claimed that the bill
will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate.
For Senator Bilbo, however, racism was more that just an ideology, it was a sincerely held religious belief. In a book entitled Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, Bilbo wrote that “[p]urity of race is a gift of God . . . . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed.” Allowing “the blood of the races [to] mix,” according to Bilbo, was a direct attack on the “Divine plan of God.” There “is every reason to believe that miscegenation and amalgamation are sins of man in direct defiance to the will of God.”

In 1901, Georgia Gov. Allen Candler defended unequal public schooling for African Americans on the grounds that “God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks.” After the Supreme Court ordered public schools integrated in Brown v. Board of Education, many segregationists cited their own faith as justification for official racism. Ross Barnett won Mississippi’s governorship in a landslide in 1960 after claiming that “the good Lord was the original segregationist.” Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia relied on passages from Genesis, Leviticus and Matthew when he spoke out against the civil rights law banning employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters on the Senate floor.

Although the Supreme Court never considered whether Bilbo, Candler, Barnett or Byrd’s religious beliefs gave them a license to engage in race discrimination, a very similar case did reach the justices in 1983.  Bob Jones University excluded African Americans completely until the early 1970s, when it began permitting black students to attend so long as they were married. . . . As a result, the Internal Revenue Service revoked Bob Jones’ tax-exempt status.

When Bob Jones’ case reached the Supreme Court, the school argued that IRS’ regulations denying tax exemptions to racist institutions “cannot constitutionally be applied to schools that engage in racial discrimination on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.” But the justices did not bite. In an 8-1 decision by conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger, the Court explained that “[o]n occasion this Court has found certain governmental interests so compelling as to allow even regulations prohibiting religiously based conduct.” Prohibiting race discrimination is one of these interests.

Ultimately, the question facing anti-gay business owners, even if the bill Brewer vetoed had become law, is why it is acceptable to exclude gay people simply because of who they are, when we do not permit this sort of behavior by racists such as Bilbo or Byrd? And there is another, equally difficult question facing advocates of the kind of sweeping “religious liberty” protected by the Arizona bill — why should we allow people to impose their religious beliefs upon others?

I recommend a read of the full article.  In answer to the last  last question posed above, there is no reason why we should allow one set of people - the Christofascists - to impose their religious beliefs on others.  In fact, for the state to do so is a violation of the United States Constitution which guarantees religious freedom to all citizens, not just Christofascists.

Kentucky Ordered to Recognize Out-of-State Gay Marriages

Yesterday was another bad day for the hate merchants of the "family values" crowd as a federal judge in Kentucky ordered that state to recognize same sex marriages legally performed in states that allow same sex marriage.  The order was the second shoe to drop in litigation that has struck down Kentucky's GOP/Christofascist backed state constitutional amendment.  Even more interesting is the fact that the judge did not stay his ruling pending a possible appeal by the state.  As the dominoes continue to fall in federal court rulings, the reactions of the "godly folk" increasingly parallel the mindset of segregationists from 50 years ago who used "religious belief" to try to mask their overt racism.  Note how the sister organization to The Family Foundation here in Virginia is attacking the state's attorney general.  Here are highlights from USA Today on yesterday's ruling in Kentucky:

A federal judge Thursday ordered Kentucky officials to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed out of state.

U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn ruled that Kentucky's Constitution and laws banning recognition of such marriages "violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and they are void and unenforceable."

The decision amounted to a final ruling on his Feb. 12 opinion in the case.

"We are cautiously optimistic," said Dan Canon, a lawyer for the four gay and lesbian couples who won the case. "The order has been granted without qualification and without a stay."

At least two of the couples in the suit said they planned to take some legal actions as soon as possible:

• Greg Bourke, who married Michael De Leon in 2004 Ontario, said he would amend adoption papers for their two children so Bourke's name could be added as their parent.

• Jimmy Meade and Luther Barlowe of Bardstown, Ky., who married in 2009 in Iowa, said they would go to a state driver's license office and take each other's last names, according to one of their lawyers, Dawn Elliott.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway had asked the judge Thursday to delay his order by 90 days to give him the chance to decide whether to appeal. The motion said that Gov. Steve Beshear, also a defendant, needed time as well to decide how to implement the order if it is not appealed.

The motion suggests that Conway is at least considering joining six other state attorneys general who have decided not to appeal rulings throwing out marriage bans. Those officials, all Democrats, said the laws are discriminatory and violate the right to equal protection under the law.

Conway has said he is legally bound to defend Kentucky statutes and its marriage amendment, but U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declared Monday that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws they believe are discriminatory.
Heyburn's ruling doesn't affect a related lawsuit seeking to force the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Martin Cothran, a senior policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, criticized the state attorney general's handling of the case, accusing him of "spiking" the state's defense by not making persuasive arguments to keep the ban in place.  "If this were a private case, it would be legal malpractice," Cothran said. "The longer the attorney general drags his feet on this case, the worse it is for Kentucky voters."

As for "persuasive arguments" to support the ban, as we are seeing in one federal ruling after another, there are no such arguments to support such marriage bans other than religious based hate and bigotry and the desire of Christofascists to force their beliefs on all citizens. 

Corporate America’s Gay-Rights Conversion

In the wake of the GOP debacle on Arizona's SB 1062 - a/k/a, the turn the gays away bill - one of the most interesting developments was the obvious miscalculation on the part of the Republican political whores who prostituted themselves to the Christofascists and "family values" crowd as to how corporate America would react, and react it did.  At least 83 major corporations and numerous chambers of commerce all read the GOP the riot act and threatened dire consequences if the bill was signed into law.  Even the homophobic NFL found the bill so distastefully that, as Sports Illustrated reports, investigations were set in motion on what needed to be done to move the Super Bowl out of Arizona.  I believe that increasingly the GOP is going to find itself having to decide whether it will (i)  prostitute itself to the Christofascists and alienate corporate America, or (ii) kick the Christofascist to the curb where they belong.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the conversion of corporate America on the issue of gay rights.  Here are highlights:

[T]he defeat of the bill [SB 1062] in Arizona also revealed an evolution of sorts for Corporate America. 

Companies lined up against the legislation, with major corporations including American Airlines, Apple and Intel announcing their opposition. The NFL said it was following the situation closely, raising questions of whether it might pull the 2015 Super Bowl in Arizona if the bill became law. And dozens of local and national companies signed a letter to Gov. Brewer or made their own statements of opposition, citing the damage it would do to the local economy, their ability to seek the most talented workers, and tourism in the state. 

"If passed into law, these proposals would cause significant harm to many people and will result in job losses," read part of a statement from Delta Air Lines. "They would also violate Delta's core values of mutual respect and dignity."

While such economic arguments coming from business leaders may not be much of a surprise, their vocal and highly public role in the debate still represents a big shift — and a welcome one — from just a few years ago. For years, business leaders have eschewed social issues, grasping onto neutral stances to avoid criticism from shareholders or customer groups. 

 "What's changed even in the last five years is that business has gone from implementing policies aimed at their own employees to turning around and weighing in forcefully on public policy beyond the four walls of their business," says Deena Fidas, the director of the workplace equality program at Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for gay rights. "They've become legislative and social change agents." 

For instance, says Fidas, fewer than five businesses publicly came forward as supporters of same-sex marriage rights when Proposition 8, a ballot measure which would ban gay marriage in California, was up for a vote back in 2008. Yet last year, hundreds of large corporations signed a brief in favor of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.

Obviously, the change in Corporate America mirrors the rapidly evolving shift in Americans' attitudes toward gay rights. Business leaders don't want to appear out of touch with their customers, a majority of whom now support same-sex marriage. And as a growing number of state judges strike down bans on gay marriage — including one in Texas on Wednesday — many companies surely sense that staying mum on gay-rights issues would not only hit their bottom lines, but would put them on the wrong side of history.

"Corporate support is no longer a coastal phenomenon," she says. "We're seeing heartland and manufacturing companies making the case for business equality" far more often than they did five years ago.

In Indiana, for instance, Eli Lilly and Cummins made donations of $100,000 each to a campaign supporting the constitutionality of same-sex unions. In an interview with Bloomberg last month, Eli Lilly's senior director of corporate responsibility, Robert Smith, said "it was important for us to lead. If we didn’t do it, who would?”

That question, ultimately, is the right one. Corporate leaders may have self-interested reasons for promoting gay rights. But as we saw in Arizona, they are also in a unique position to create bridges between political parties and to be voices not only for the rights of their own employees and customers, but for everyone.

While not noted in the article, it is also likely that corporate leaders are coming to see the far right's "family values" organizations for what they always have been: religious extremists and white supremacists who are anti-gay, anti-black, anti-Hispanic and anti-social progress.  These "godly Christians" are not nice folks and they belong outside of the political and social mainstream.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

World Bank Suspends $90 Million Loan to Uganda Over Anti-Gay Law

Uganda douche bag President Museveni
Actions need to have consequences and thankfully some nations and some international organizations are making Uganda's passage of an American Christofascist backed draconian anti-gay law have consequences.  Particularly because the law violates international treaties to which Uganda is a signatory.  I've made it clear that I would like to see every penny of aid provided to Uganda by western nations stop completely.  Would it cause harm to average Ugandans?  Likely yes.  But perhaps a rapid decline in conditions might wake these people up to the fact that it is not gays who are a threat to them but instead it is their corrupt and grossly incompetent political leaders.  Even if such a revelation did not occur, at least modern democracies would no longer be financially underwriting the foul government of Uganda and similar horrible nations.  The Guardian reports on the World Bank's decision to freeze an aid loan to Uganda.  Here are excerpts:

The World Bank on Thursday postponed a $90m (£54m) loan to Uganda's health system over a law that toughened punishment for gay people, an unusual move for an institution that typically avoids wading into politics.

"We have postponed the project for further review to ensure that the development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law," World Bank spokesman David Theis said in an email.

The World Bank, a poverty-fighting institution based in Washington, usually refrains from getting involved in countries' internal politics or in issues such as gay rights to avoid antagonising any of its 188 member countries.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, however, sent an email to bank staff saying the bank opposes discrimination, and would protect the safety of all employees.

He said passage of the Ugandan law was not an isolated incident, as 83 countries outlaw homosexuality and more than 100 discriminate against women.

"In the coming months, we will have a broad discussion about discrimination with staff, management, and our board on these issues," Kim said in the email. "Now is the right moment for this conversation."

The loan postponement follows the announcement by Norway and Denmark that they would hold back donations to Uganda because of the law. Other donors have also threatened to follow suit, and the United States said it was reviewing ties.

Western anger over the law has triggered a sharp fall in Uganda's shilling currency, leading the central bank to intervene for two days in a row.

Uganda is one of the rectums of the world largely due to the ignorance, corruption and utter incompetence of the Ugandan government, including douche bag in chief, President Museveini.  Uganda was not always like this - it was prosperous under British rule.  So-called self-governance has been a disaster for Uganda and most of its citizens.  For a brief overview of what self-rule has wrought, see this Wikipedia article.