Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

North Carolina Catholic School: Masturbation and Poor Parenting Make You Gay

Sister Jane Dominic Laurel

Having been raised Catholic I am well aware of the bizarre obsession the Catholic Church has with all things sexual - basically the only "good sex" is for procreation, and you'd damn well better NOT enjoy it.  The batshitery is truly off the charts and it disturbs me to think of all the children in Catholic schools who will be likely emotionally and psychologically scarred for life.  Yes, some will walk away from Catholicism in time - 30% of Catholics do - but countless others will remain damaged from the experience.  Now, a Catholic school in North Carolina is under fire for teaching students that masturbation and poor parenting cause one to be gay. For those who are deluding themselves into thinking the Catholic Church is changing under Pope Francis, this should be another  wake up call. Here are highlights from the New Civil Rights Movement:

A Catholic high school in Charlotte, North Carolina is under fire after one of its regular guest instructors last week delivered a lecture that reportedly blamed poor parenting, single parenting, pornography and masturbation as the causes of homosexuality. Sister Jane Dominic Laurel is accused also of telling students at a mandatory school assembly at the Charlotte Catholic High School that gay people have have between 500 and 1000 sexual partners, and of portraying same-sex couples as child abusers.

QNotes, a North Carolina-based LGBT news outlet which is reporting and closely following the story published one student’s account:
“Then she started talking about how gays [sic] people are gay because they have an absent father figure, and therefore they have not received the masculinity they should have from their father,” reads one student’s account of the message. “Also a guy could be gay if he masterbates [sic] and so he thinks he is being turned on by other guys. And then she gave an example of one of her gay ‘friends’ who said he used to go to a shed with his friends and watch porn and thats why he was gay. … Then she talked about the statistic where gay men have had either over 500 or 1000 sexual partners and after that I got up and went to the bathroom because I should not have had to been subject to that extremely offensive talk.”
Students and parents are demanding an apology from the school.

QNotes published a letter (PDF) that accuses the school’s chaplain and Sister Jane Dominic Laurel of enabling “the dissemination of the misleading, offensive, and hateful messages,” and taking advantage of their positions “to push your own prejudices and bigotry upon the Charlotte Catholic community despite this community’s deliberate efforts to avoid it when presented as an extracurricular event.”
Using outdated or false statistics to tell children and young adults that their LGBTQ friends, family members, and colleagues are the result of their parents’ missteps is damaging. Suggesting that LGBTQ members of the very audience you were addressing owe their sexual identities to pornography and masturbation is abhorrent. Presenting these false ideas to high school students not only advocates discrimination of LGBTQ students, but also tells those individuals that they are damaged or incomplete. Consider for a moment the severe and ongoing effect this type of message has on the current LGBTQ students at Charlotte Catholic. Consider the power this message has to empower bullies of these same students.
QNotes reports that Sister Jane Dominic Laurel has previously partnered with the Ruth Institute [a designated hate group] , formerly an arm of the the National Organization For Marriage .

In a video of one of her lectures from two years ago, Sr. Dominic teaches (wrongly) that couples who regularly attend church have a 90 percent or greater chance of not divorcing, and couples who use “natural family planning” are the least-likely to divorce.

First Appellat Brief Filed in Bostic v. Rainey

Tim Bostic and Tony London
The first brief has been filed in the appeal of the ruling in Bostic v. Rainey which struck down Virginia's gay marriage ban according to the Washington Post although I could not yet access the actual brief via Pacer (there is often a day or so time lag between filing and access via Pacer).  The brief was filed by counsel to the two Circuit Court clerks who are defending anti-gay discrimination and was filed by an attorney I know.  He is with the former firm of Gov. Bob "Taliban Bob" McDonnell, and I candidly do not know if he really believes the tired Christofascist/state's rights arguments in his brief or if he's merely doing what he's paid to do.  We have actually been to weddings of members of his in-law's family and he has never struck me as anti-gay. Personally, I would not want my name attached to pleadings which posterity will likely view as akin to those filed in support of Virginia's ban on interracial marriage.  In any event, here are highlights from the Washington Post:

A federal judge who struck down Virginia’s gay marriage ban usurped the state’s authority to decide whether same-sex unions should be allowed, a lawyer defending the ban said Friday.

David B. Oakley, an attorney for court clerks in Norfolk and Prince William County, also said if the door is opened to same-sex marriage “it will not be long before other groups come knocking,” including unions between close relatives.

Oakley made the arguments in a brief filed in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The clerks are appealing last month’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen that the state’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.

“States have the right to define marriage, and if they choose to allow same-sex marriage or other non-traditional marriage, they are free to do so,” he wrote. “However, the states cannot be compelled to alter the idea of marriage to include same-sex couples.”

He said clerks could be faced with lawsuits from other people who are prohibited to marry.

“For example, if the definition of marriage is no longer based on procreation and the ability to procreate naturally, then what is the purpose in prohibiting marriage between persons of close kinship,” Oakley wrote.

He also said Allen missed the mark in citing Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that struck down the state’s interracial marriage ban, as a basis for invalidating Virginia’s statutes and constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage.

“Unlike infringing on the right to marry based on invidious racial laws, the decision to restrict marriage to couples of the opposite sex is not based on any suspect or irrational classifications,” Oakley wrote.
 The Roanoke Times also has coverage and here are highlights:
David Nimocks and Byron Babione, lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom, echoed Oakley’s arguments in a brief also filed Friday on behalf of their client, Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michele McQuigg, a co-defendant in the case.

The attorneys argued that in last year’s Windsor case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act but also emphasized “the state’s authority to define marriage,” and thus supporting “the propriety of Virginia’s marriage laws.”

They also wrote that the “newly instated genderless-marriage regime” would “permanently sever the inherent link between procreation (a necessarily gendered endeavor) and marriage — a link that has endured throughout the ages.”

As noted in prior posts, the claim that Windsor left Sec. 2 of DOMA is deliberately disingenuous: the Windsor case only challenged Sec. 3 and, therefore, the Supreme Court had no reason to rule on Sec. 2.  However, if the Court's reason on why Sec. 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional is applied to state marriage bans, the same finding of unconstitutionality would result.  The defenders of the marriage bans continue to be honest and admit what fuels their opposition to same sex marriage: anti-gay animus and religious based bigotry, neither of which are sufficient to magically make the bans constitutional.

The GOP's Growing Loss of Younger Voters

As noted many times on this blog, the Republican Party, both nationally and certainly here in Virginia, has increasingly become the party of angry whites, particularly white religious extremists (i.e., conservative Christians and evangelicals), white supremacists and racists of other varied stripes.  Long term, this concentration is nothing short of a death wish as these demographic groups die off and/or become a smaller segment of the overall population.  A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon and the GOP's growing inability to attract younger voters.  Here are column excerpts:
Older voters and younger voters used to be largely on the same page when they went to the polls. No more.
Gallup released two reports about the split this week. The first was called “U.S. Seniors Have Realigned With the Republican Party,” and the second was “Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown.”

The numbers were striking. Until the age of Obama, Democrats had an ideological leg up among Americans 65 and older. Then those voters shifted to give the Republicans an advantage. That advantage has held, although it’s shrinking.
On the other end of the spectrum, Republicans haven’t held an ideological advantage among Americans ages 18-29 since 1995.
The last time a Republican won the 18-29-year-old vote in a presidential election was 1988, when 52 percent voted for George H.W. Bush over Democrat Michael Dukakis, who carried only 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Since pollsters began compiling records of voting by age, the only time that Republicans have won the 18-29-year-old vote nationwide in the races for the House of Representatives was in 1994
Part of the reason for the Democratic swing among young people is the incredible diversity of the group. Gallup estimates that 45 percent of Americans 18-29 are nonwhite. But that doesn’t account for all of the change. As Gallup put it:

“Young adults are not more Democratic solely because they are more racially diverse. In recent years, young white adults, who previously aligned more with the Republican Party, have shifted Democratic.

This should come as welcome news to Democrats and as another reason for fear among Republicans.

Furthermore, since 2004 in presidential elections, young Americans’ share of the vote has inched up as older Americans’ share has fallen. Still, the diversity target is easy and tempting, so Republicans are aggressively pushing voter ID laws.. . . . Racial bias — sometimes subtle, always sinister — is alive and well.
The wave of demographic change and the liberal leaning of the young can’t be held back indefinitely through obstruction and aggression. A change is coming, and it’s blue. 

Don't Fall for the New Myth that Republicans are Driving LGBT Progress

Perhaps a few Republicans and conservatives are slowly waking up the the reality that the GOP's anti-gay stance is toxic to its long term survival.  But sadly, instead of making any real change to the GOP heinously anti-gay agenda, some in the GOP and apologists in the news media are trying to create a myth that the GOP isn't really anti-gay.  One GOP candidate with whom I am having dialogue says he supports equality for everyone, yet his party does not. Some even claim (suffering from delusions, no doubt) that Republicans are assisting in the advance of LGBT rights and same sex marriage.  Other than Republican appointed judges who have ruled in favor of gay rights and/or marriage equality, however, the examples of pro-gay Republicans are largely non-existent.  And let's not forget that it has been the GOP behind the state level "turn away the gays" bills or that the GOP 2012 platform on social issues was co-authored by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a designated anti-gay hate group.  A piece in Salon tears apart this myth of GOP friendliness to gays and our lives.  Here are excerpts:
In a recent piece in the Atlantic, reporter Molly Ball largely credits Republicans for the progress in the fight for marriage equality. She points to recent events involving Republicans that prove that the GOP is actually a hospitable place for the LGBT community and the progress it seeks.

I will not be the first, but let me be the latest, to reply: no, it is not.

Because of actions by judges appointed by Republican presidents, Ball assumes this signals a shift in party thinking.
Republicans are playing a role in the changing landscape of same-sex marriage. While it is certainly true that some within the party and within the conservative movement are, in fact, changing their minds, Republicans are not by any stretch of the imagination driving the improving legal and social positions for the LGBT community in the United States. Not by a long shot. And scientific, empirical political science research confirms it. I’ve just finished writing a book on the topic (co-authored with Dr. Melissa Michelson) that examines support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage among different identity groups.

A few glaring facts are treated as ephemeral aberrations in Ball’s piece: only three Republican U.S. senators support marriage equality. That’s right, three. Out of 45 current Republican U.S. senators. There are currently 184 current members of the U.S. House of Representatives on record in support of marriage equality. Of them, 182 are Democrats. That’s 98.9 percent. There are 17 current governors who have announced their support for marriage equality. All 17 are Democrats. And those Republican elected officials who recently declined to oppose marriage equality cited in Ball’s piece? Let’s review some background from these so-called Republican “drivers of momentum.”

For example, Gov. Chris Christie remains staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage. He vetoed a bill approved by the New Jersey Legislature in 2012 to legalize the practice. When a trial-level judge ruled in October 2013 that the state must allow same-sex couples to wed, Christie appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court. He finally decided to abandon his appeals because the state “would have little chance of overturning them,” not because his issue preferences changed.

Gov. Brian Sandoval came to a similar conclusion when Nevada’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was struck down, responding, “Based upon the advice of the attorney general’s office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court.” Not exactly a glowing endorsement of the freedom to marry.

[I]n a letter to the Republican Party, social conservative leaders like Tony Perkins, James Dobson and Phyllis Schlafly suggested that Republicans should hold steadfast in their opposition to marriage equality, instead focusing on how to better articulate those positions of opposition to avoid high-profile Republican gaffes. Just four days later, and just prior to the Supreme Court’s rulings in Perry and Windsor, the Republican National Committee passed resolutions affirming the party’s opposition to marriage equality, . . .

For our book, we conducted two randomized experiments to test the effect of partisan identity on support for marriage equality. . . . . Republicans were staunchly opposed to marriage equality regardless of what they read, with only 17 percent support (Democratic support paragraph) and 19 percent support (Republican support paragraph). In New Jersey, running a similar study, we found that Republicans overwhelmingly disapproved of marriage equality.

The poll also finds that among the roughly 50 percent of Republicans who believe that people are born gay, 64 percent support same-sex marriage, 61 percent say the Constitution provides the right to such unions and 70 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian individuals to adopt (Craighill & Clement 2014). In other words, while Republicans and conservatives are generally slower to change their opinion, there seems to be a non-trivial number of Republicans who are either supportive of marriage equality or are at least open to considering the issue.

To claim they are “driving the momentum” is another argument entirely. One that isn’t valid.
For the time being, if one is LGBT, supporting the GOP continues to be against one's own best interest unless greed and a desire for lower taxes is all that matters to you.  In every other respect, the GOP continues to want to treat us as less than full citizens and in some instances less than fully human.  The myth makers are simply lying if they claim otherwise. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Voters Like Gays More Than Evangelicals

Click image to enlarge
Reflecting a trend that I hope continues, a new poll has found that gays and lesbians are more popular with voters than are Evangelicals among.  The findings seem to be a continuation of the views seen most commonly among under 30 voters who have walked away from organized religion because they see evangelical Christians to be hate-filled, mean spirited and full of hypocrisy (which is indeed the case).  The findings ought to set off alarm bells within the so-called Republican establishment and provide further proof that the GOP is on a course for suicide if it continues to allow Christofascist elements in the party base to dictate the GOP stance on social issues.  As I have said many times, the nation will be a better place when conservative Christianity becomes a dead religion.  Here are excerpts from Huffington Post:
The moral cause embedded in the marriage equality movement is potent, but the debate may come down to a simple matter of popularity.

On Thursday the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Marriage Equality released the results of a study, entitled "Victory In Sight", conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and TargetPoint Consulting that investigated the nuances of voters' views on marriage equality. More than a simple matter of "Should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry?", the poll looked at shifts in opinions over time, reasons for such shifts, and differing opinions among ages, faiths, geographic areas and more.

The first question addressed acceptance, comparing voters' favorable or unfavorable feelings towards gays and lesbians and towards evangelical Christians. In a nearly 80% Christian-identified country, the results might surprise you.

Fifty-three percent of voters said they felt favorably toward gays and lesbians, compared to 42% who felt favorably toward evangelicals. Eighteen percent said they felt unfavorably toward gays and lesbians, while 28% reported unfavorable feelings toward evangelicals.

The poll found that voters who attend monthly or yearly worship services favor legal same-sex marriage by a large margin -- 64% and 68%, respectively. By contrast, respondents who attend weekly religious services oppose same-sex marriage by roughly the same margin -- 63%. 

The same trend was present among respondents when asked whether they could separate the issue from their faith (ie. "While some people object to gay marriage, it is not for me to judge.") Sixty-eight percent of monthly worshipers and 72% of yearly worshipers responded in the affirmative, while only 42% of weekly worshipers agreed with that statement.

With one-third of millennials who have left their religion saying they did so due to anti-gay policies, and young conservatives, on the whole, showing much more tolerance for same-sex marriage than their elders, the country may witness an ongoing shift toward the left on this issue in the years to come.

Quote of the Day: British Prime Minister David Cameron on the Commencement of Same Sex Marriages

Prime Minister David Cameron
Tonight same sex marriage became legal in England and Wales and couples flocked to tie the knot.  Not surprisingly Catholic prelates and far right elements in the Church of England are whining and carrying on as if the world is ending.  Perhaps it is - or at least their world of hate and discrimination that for far too long they were able to inflict on others.  Prime Minister David Cameron had forward looking words for the arrival of equality and a legal structure where individuals will no longer be inferior because of their sexuality.  Cameron's words are the antithesis of what the Christofascists preach, although I would argue that they are very much in keeping with the teachings of Christ.  Teachings more or less totally ignored by today's "godly folk" who reject the Gospel message in favor of the worst aspects of the Old Testament.  Pink News has details on Cameron's remarks. Here are highlights

Writing exclusively for PinkNews, Prime Minister David Cameron celebrates the introduction of same-sex marriage today, comparing same-sex marriages to his own, and noting the work still to be done for equality.
This weekend is an important moment for our country. For the first time, the couples getting married won’t just include men and women – but men and men; and women and women. After all the campaigning – not least by readers of PinkNews – we will at last have equal marriage in our country. Put simply, in Britain it will no longer matter whether you are straight or gay – the State will recognise your relationship as equal.

This is something that has been very important to me. I have been so lucky to find the most incredible lifelong partner in Sam and our marriage has been a very special part of the commitment we have made to each other. Of course any marriage takes work, requires patience and understanding, give and take – but what it gives back in terms of love, support, stability and happiness is immeasurable. That is not something that the State should ever deny someone on the basis of their sexuality. When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.

The introduction of same-sex civil marriage says something about the sort of country we are. It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth. It also sends a powerful message to young people growing up who are uncertain about their sexuality. It clearly says ‘you are equal’ whether straight or gay. That is so important in trying to create an environment where people are no longer bullied because of their sexuality – and where they can realise their potential, whether as a great mathematician like Alan Turing, a star of stage and screen like Sir Ian McKellen or a wonderful journalist and presenter like Clare Balding.

[W]e should be proud to live in a country judged to be the best place to live in Europe if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. But we should equally be far from complacent about the challenges that remain – and I am just as committed as ever to working with you to challenge attitudes and stamp-out homophobic bullying and hate crimes.

We are a nation that is growing stronger economically because of our long term economic plan. But I hope we can also be a country that is growing stronger socially because we value love and commitment equally. Let us raise a toast to that – and all those getting married this weekend.
 It is worth remembering that David Cameron is the leader of the Tory Party - the UK's conservative party and that it was the Tories who pushed through marriage equality.  Given that marriage and supporting stable relationships are indeed a conservative value, it was appropriate that Cameron and the Tories championed same sex marriage - as any true conservatives should.  The reality is that here in America the Republican Party is no longer a conservative party.  Instead it is a sectarian party push to impose Christofascist beliefs on all citizens. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

A Taxpayer Funded Whitewash for Chris Christie

The news media is awash with denunciations of the $1 million "investigation" done by Chris Christie's attorneys at New Jersey taxpayer expense.  Not surprisingly, Christie's attorneys exonerated Christie from any involvement in or knowledge of Traffic Gate.  Also not surprisingly, the "investigation" and subsequent report failed to involve interviews with critical players and never once contains a direct quote of Christie's statements to his supposed investigators.  In short, the conclusion was known before the attorneys churned out their $1 million report.  The New York Times takes Christie and the investigators to task.  Here are editorial excerpts:

Lawyers hired by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey at public expense issued their findings Thursday on the traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge in September, apparently engineered as a bizarre form of political revenge. To no one’s surprise, Mr. Christie’s lawyers have found his hands to be clean. He was without fault, they declared. This glossy political absolution cost the taxpayers of New Jersey more than $1 million in legal fees. 

We can now add this expensive whitewash to the other evidence of trouble in Mr. Christie’s administration. If Mr. Christie really wants to win back public trust, he and his political allies can start by paying for this internal inquiry out of their own pockets. Then the governor and these lawyers can make all emails and any other crucial information available to federal and state investigators. 

In the report, lawyers from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher said they interviewed 70 people, including Mr. Christie, and studied 250,000 documents, including private phone records for Mr. Christie and his top aides. The lead lawyer, Randy Mastro, a former deputy mayor in Rudolph Giuliani’s administration, boasted that his work was “comprehensive and exhaustive.” 

Not exactly.

The report lays the blame for this entire scandal on two of Mr. Christie’s former colleagues, who refused to be interviewed. One was Bridget Anne Kelly, who was Mr. Christie’s deputy chief of staff until he called her a liar at a news conference and fired her in January. The other was David Wildstein, a former Christie ally and appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who resigned last year. 

Similarly, Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, N.J., who is cooperating with federal investigators, declined to talk with the governor’s legal team.  . . . . Without her side of the story, the report nevertheless concludes that her allegations are “demonstrably false” and “do not match objective reality.” 

The Mastro report reveals that Mr. Wildstein told Mr. Christie’s press secretary that he did inform Mr. Christie about the traffic tie-ups as they were happening. The report said Mr. Christie did not remember any such conversation, and simply leaves it at that.  

It makes the absurd assertion that “events in Kelly’s personal life may have had some bearing on her subjective motivations and state of mind,” insinuating that emotional distress might have caused her to orchestrate a traffic jam affecting tens of thousands of commuters. 

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-chairman of the state legislative committee investigating the Christie scandals, said Thursday that the Mastro report reads more like a novel than an investigative report and lacked “objectivity and thoroughness.”  

Mr. Christie has a long way to go to regain public trust and clear his name in this scandal. That will happen only if the real investigators — the state legislative committee and the United States attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman — can interview all those possibly involved under oath and examine the emails and all documents that can shed more light on the way Mr. Christie operates.

McAuliffe Vetoes GOP/Christofascist Prayer Bill

The obvious answer: Pharisees

One thing about the Christofascists and their political prostitutes in the Republican Party is that they never cease in their agenda of trying to force their hate and fear based religious beliefs on others and of securing special rights for themselves.  A case in point is a bill - GOP backed, of course - which would have barred any censorship of prays and preaching by National Guard chaplains.    Thankfully, Terry McAuliffe vetoed the bill and Christofascist chaplains will have to give deference to the beliefs of all National Guard members.  The Virginian Pilot looks at the bill and the veto.  Here are highlights:
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed Republican-sponsored legislation that would prohibit state censorship of certain military chaplains' prayers, a move lobbied for by the American Civil Liberties Union, but disappointing to some social conservatives.

The Democrat Thursday spiked a bill from GOP Sen. Dick Black of Loudoun County, reasoning his SB 555 "would seriously undermine the religious freedom of National Guard members by potentially exposing them to sectarian proselytizing."

McAuliffe's veto of the bill that would apply to the state-controlled Virginia National Guard and Virginia Defense Force is the second of the governor's young term.

While military chaplains can minister as they choose at voluntary worship services or unofficial private settings, they don't "have the right to use official, mandatory events as a platform to disseminate their own religious views," McAuliffe wrote in a March 27 veto letter.

American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga this month urged McAuliffe to veto Black's bill, arguing "National Guard members required to attend any official event have the right not to be forced to worship in another person's faith."

Sen. Bill Carrico perceives the veto as a blow against religious freedom, not a protection of it, saying McAuliffe has taken a stand "against any bills protecting individuals' rights to conscience."
Note how in Sen. Carrico's view the rights of Christofascist chaplains matters, but the rights on National Guard members at compulsory events do not.  It is sadly the all too typical self-centered, to hell with everyone else attitude which is now the norm with conservative Christians.  Their "religious freedom" is to trump the rights of everyone else.   The real solution is to bar any prayers and preaching from mandatory events period.

Putin is Living in a 19th Century Fantasy World

I recently read a a book entitled the "Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin," which tracks over 800 years of Russian history with focus on how the Kremlin has played a role in the unfolding drama.  One take away from the book - although this is not its objective - is that Russia has too often been ruled by nutcases and megalomaniacs and that long term it is always the Russian people who have suffered as a consequence.  Fast forward to today, and Vladimir Putin fits the stereotype of the Russian ruler untethered from objective reality as defined by the rest of the world.  And when it comes to state control of the press and repression, Putin makes the regime of the incompetent Tsar Nicholas II look both enlightened and benevolent.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Putin's 19th century fantasy world.  Here are excerpts:
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the fore an important debate about what kind of world we live in. Many critics charge that the Obama administration has been blind to its harsh realities because it believes, as the Wall Street Journal opined, in “a fantasy world of international rules.” John McCain declared that “this is the most naive president in history.” The Post’s editorial board worried that President Obama misunderstands “the nature of the century we’re living in.” 

Almost all of these critics have ridiculed Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that changing borders by force, as Russia did, is 19th-century behavior in the 21st century. Well, here are the facts.

Before 1950, wars between nations resulted in border changes (annexations) about 80 percent of the time. After 1950, that number dropped to 27 percent. In fact, since 1946, there have been only 12 examples of major changes in borders using force — and all of them before 1976. So Putin’s behavior, in fact, does belong to the 19th century.

The transformation of international relations goes well beyond border changes.  . . . . “after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945. Nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.” Colonial wars, a routine feature of international life for thousands of years, are extinct. Wars between countries — not just major powers, not just in Europe — have also dropped dramatically, by more than 50 percent over the past three decades.

[T]he most astonishing, remarkable reality about the world is how much things have changed, especially since 1945. It is ironic that the Wall Street Journal does not recognize this new world because it was created in substantial part through capitalism and free trade.

The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. 

Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced. Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.

You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms. . .

There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule, it. Yes, some places stand in opposition to this trend — North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they are charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.
The author is correct.  Look at the disasters of the Bush/Cheney regime: billions wasted, thousands of lives thrown away and nothing to show for it.  It makes sense to try a different approach after Bush/Cheney's bankrupting wars and squandering of American lives.  It's past time to reject the same old cries and whining of the neocons who helped give us the Bush/Cheney disasters. 

World Vision - Caving to Anti-Gay Discrimination

World Vision describes itself as a Christian humanitarian organization that is dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to help them achieve their full potential "by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice."  In addition to providing sponsorships for children, World Vision provides emergency assistance to children and families impacted by natural disasters and civil conflicts, and it work with communities to develop long-term solutions to alleviate poverty.  It states that it does all of this for "all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender."  On Monday, World Vision announced that for the first time, it would hire employees in same-sex marriages if the marriages had been legally performed.  That's when the Christofascists went utterly berserk and attacked World Vision and threatened to cease funding and severe affiliation.  Within two days, World Vision reversed its new policy and made clear that the discrimination free agenda it promises doesn't apply to gays.  Think Progress looks at this stunning reversal - and the hypocrisy involved:  Here are excerpts:
World Vision, one of the largest humanitarian organizations on the planet, made two surprising announcements this week. On Monday, the evangelical Christian organization announced that for the first time, it would hire employees in same-sex marriages, then on Wednesday, it reversed that decision. Here’s how World Vision President Richard Stearns and Board Chairman Jim Beré explained the reversal:
In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our Iown Statement of Faith, which says, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.

We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We as that you understand that this was never the board’s intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen tot he wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.
The outcry from conservatives after the original announcement Monday was swift and severe. The Family Research Council decried the decision in its daily email Tuesday, describing it as a “rebellion” against Christ and a “very public divorce from biblical truth.” Tony Perkins made it clear that employing gay, lesbian, and bi people who are married was a dealbreaker for his family’s support of World Vision.

The message from these conservatives is clear: discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is a higher priority than humanitarian work. An organization that serves the needy can only be supported if it promises it will never provide a salary to to someone in a same-sex marriage. That pressure was enough for World Vision to cave.

But this is a telling admission about conservatives’ intentions. . . . . No [anti-gay]discrimination? No support. . . . Evangelicals and Pentecostals made it clear this week, however, that they will not consider any compromise when it comes to extending jobs to Christians who are also gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Meanwhile, of course, evangelicals have the highest divorce rate, the highest teen pregnancy rate and the highest obesity rate (heard of the sin of gluttony?).  These people are truly despicable and utter hypocrites to boot.  The world will be a better place when conservative Christianity becomes a dead religion. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

White Supremacist Group Files Brief Supporting Michigan Gay Marriage Ban

There's an old saying that you will be known by the company you keep  - it certainly applies to Michigan GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder who are defending Michigan's ban on same sex marriage after the ban was struck down as unconstitutional.  Why so you might ask?  Because in addition to being joined by the ugliest elements of the Christofascist ranks, a white supremacy group has now also filed a brief supporting the state's wrong headed position endorsing anti-gay discrimination.  I have said repeatedly that the GOP base has become a joint venture of racists and religious extremists and this brief and other aspects of this case is underscoring this reality.  Here are highlights from the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors hate groups:

In an amicus brief filed yesterday in federal court in Michigan, the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN) –– a student organization concerned with promoting white identity –– has taken up the mantle of defending the “sanctity of marriage” against “Culture distorters” who seek to reject “originalism.”

The brief was filed in the case of April DeBoer, a nurse in Hazel Park, Mich., who sued the state after she and her partner, Jayne Rowse, were prohibited from adopting their three children jointly because they did not have a legal marriage. Last week, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled in their favor, striking down the Michigan Marriage Act as unconstitutional. But his decision was temporarily put on hold by an appeals court.

The defense of “traditional” marriage represents something of a shift in focus for TYN, which has historically concerned itself with “Tribe and Tradition” and encouraging young people to unite against “decadence, individualism, Marxism and Modernity.” Its co-founder, Matthew Heimbach, rose from the ranks of white nationalism and has aligned himself more closely with racist activists than with conservative groups standing against same-sex marriage.

The brief . . . claim[s] that the judge’s ruling is an “affront to thousands of years of the Western legal tradition and hundreds of years of the American legal tradition.”

“While the appellants will likely not say it as bluntly as this,” the brief said, “the Culture distorters and those who espouse their ideals flagrantly reject originalism and often treat the United States Constitution like an accordion: they frequently stretch it out to invent rights that do not exist –– such as the ‘right’ to have an abortion or the ‘right’ to engage in sodomy or the ‘right’ to view pornographic materials.”

After several telephone conversations between Hatewatch and TYN leaders on Wednesday, Parrott published a short piece titled “TradYouth Stands for Traditional Marriage” on the group’s website to explain the shift.

“The recent campaign in favor of homosexual ‘marriage’ is merely one battle in [the Left’s] generational campaign against the ties that bind our peoples,” Parrott wrote, tying a defense of a traditional marriage to the white nationalist cause.
[T]he brief lists Kyle Bristow as TYN’s lead attorney. . . . . While attending law school in 2010, he published White Apocalypse, a novel seething with lethal white supremacist revenge fantasies against Jewish professors, Latino and American Indian activists and staffers of a group clearly modeled on the SPLC. Since then, Bristow has continued to air his extremist views in white nationalist, anti-gay media.
Among the claims made in the brief are the following:

·       [S]ame-sex marriage is an affront to the health, safety, morals, and public welfare of the residents of the State of Michigan which is why the Western and American legal traditions have proscribed sodomy much less same-sex marriage for thousands and hundreds of years, respectively.

·       If a state cannot be permitted to define marriage as simply as constituting one man and one woman, then our culture will be taken down a very slippery slope that will see pedophiles, polygamists, zoophiles, those in incestuous relationships, and every other sexual deviant with proclivities now known or to be invented to challenge laws that, likewise, prevent them from marrying whom or what they wish.

·       Not satisfied with exercising their newfound right in private, homosexuals have come out of the closet and into the courtroom in attempt to further normalize their conduct by demanding more rights that are not in accordance with history. Amazingly, the Culture distorters have marched forward so relentlessly in the culture war that sodomy has not only been legalized, but now those who practice sodomy are demanding to be permitted to marry one another which the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan was happy to oblige.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Real "Takers" in America

The Republican Party and conservative pundits blather incessantly that welfare and social safety net programs breed a culture of dependence and distort the work ethic of the poor.  But they have no problem with welfare for the very wealthy which, they no doubt justify as stimulating the economy - as if spending by the poor on food and clothing and other necessities doesn't stimulate the economy.  An op-ed in the New York Times looks at the hypocrisy of the GOP and they "welfare programs" with which they have no problem.  Here are column excerpts:
In the debate about poverty, critics argue that government assistance saps initiative and is unaffordable. After exploring the issue, I must concede that the critics have a point. Here are five public welfare programs that are wasteful and turning us into a nation of “takers.”
First, welfare subsidies for private planes. The United States offers three kinds of subsidies to tycoons with private jets: accelerated tax write-offs, avoidance of personal taxes on the benefit by claiming that private aircraft are for security, and use of air traffic control paid for by chumps flying commercial.  As the leftists in the George W. Bush administration put it when they tried unsuccessfully to end this last boondoggle: “The family of four taking a budget vacation is subsidizing the C.E.O.’s flying on a corporate jet.”

Second, welfare subsidies for yachts. The mortgage-interest deduction was meant to encourage a home-owning middle class. But it has been extended to provide subsidies for beach homes and even yachts.  In the meantime, money was slashed last year from the public housing program for America’s neediest. Hmm. How about if we house the homeless in these publicly supported yachts?
Third, welfare subsidies for hedge funds and private equity. The single most outrageous tax loophole in America is for “carried interest,” allowing people with the highest earnings to pay paltry taxes. They can magically reclassify their earned income as capital gains, because that carries a lower tax rate (a maximum of 23.8 percent this year, compared with a maximum of 39.6 percent for earned income).

Fourth, welfare subsidies for America’s biggest banks. The too-big-to-fail banks in the United States borrow money unusually cheaply because of an implicit government promise to rescue them. Bloomberg View calculated last year that this amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion to our 10 biggest banks annually.  President Obama has proposed a bank tax to curb this subsidy, and this year a top Republican lawmaker, Dave Camp, endorsed the idea as well. Big banks are lobbying like crazy to keep their subsidy.

Fifth, large welfare subsidies for American corporations from cities, counties and states. A bit more than a year ago, Louise Story of The New York Times tallied more than $80 billion a year in subsidies to companies, mostly as incentives to operate locally.

You see where I’m going. We talk about the unsustainability of government benefit programs and the deleterious effects these can have on human behavior, and these are real issues. Well-meaning programs for supporting single moms can create perverse incentives not to marry, or aid meant for a needy child may be misused to buy drugs. Let’s acknowledge that helping people is a complex, uncertain and imperfect struggle.

But, perhaps because we now have the wealthiest Congress in history, the first in which a majority of members are millionaires, we have a one-sided discussion demanding cuts only in public assistance to the poor, while ignoring public assistance to the rich. And a one-sided discussion leads to a one-sided and myopic policy.
We’re cutting one kind of subsidized food — food stamps — at a time when Gallup finds that almost one-fifth of American families struggled in 2013 to afford food. Meanwhile, we ignore more than $12 billion annually in tax subsidies for corporate meals and entertainment.

Every time an executive wines and dines a hot date on the corporate dime, the average taxpayer helps foot the bill.  So let’s get real. To stem abuses, the first target shouldn’t be those avaricious infants in nutrition programs but tycoons in their subsidized Gulfstreams.

However imperfectly, subsidies for the poor do actually reduce hunger, ease suffering and create opportunity, while subsidies for the rich result in more private jets and yachts. Would we rather subsidize opportunity or yachts? Which kind of subsidies deserve more scrutiny?

Virginia GOP Needs to End Excuses for Not Expanding Medicaid

With the chambers of commerce across the state supporting Medicaid expansion and Virginia's hospital associations likewise pressing for Medicaid expansion, the Virginia GOP really has no good reason not to expand Medicaid other than its desire to pander to the racists in the GOP base that hate anything connected to Barack Obama and the Christofascists/Tea Party lunatics who don't want to spend a penny on the poor and less fortunate.   The fact that 400,000 Virginians, many of them children, would benefit doesn't carry any weight with these foul people (the GOP base wishes the poor would simply die and disappear).  Nor does the likelihood of some 30,000 new jobs.  The Washington Post blasts the Virginia GOP in a main page editorial.  Here are excerpts:
REPUBLICANS IN Virginia’s House of Delegates are running out of excuses to refuse a huge pot of federal money for expanding health-care coverage to poor people. The legislature this week convened a special session, the product of House Republicans’ baseless refusal to compromise on the health-care expansion. Both Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and the state Senate have offered compromise plans, responding to the House GOP’s proffered reasons for opposition with more seriousness than they deserve. If the Republicans’ opposition is anything beyond thoughtless or cynical, they should come to the negotiating table now.

The special session was called to agree on next year’s budget. But the battle is over one piece of the state’s financial plan: whether to accept federal funds to expand eligibility for Medicaid, the federal-state partnership that offers health-care coverage to people below and around the poverty line.

[T]he federal government has committed to pay nearly the whole tab, in perpetuity, with tax dollars it is already collecting from every state, including Virginia, whether they expand or not.

Rather than accepting the federal offer and moving on, House Republicans attacked the design of the Medicaid program, insisting that it was too broken for them to expand it in good conscience. Senate moderates responded with a proposed expansion outside of the traditional Medicaid system, offering to use federal cash to buy people private coverage instead. The governor endorsed the idea. The House didn’t budge. 

House Republicans then claimed that, even if the expansion were designed more to their liking, they couldn’t count on the federal government to hold up its end of the funding bargain. That argument has never made much sense: The state routinely accepts federal dollars on less generous terms without similar hand-wringing, and the legislature would be able to roll back the program if the feds pulled back on the funding. Nevertheless, Mr. McAuliffe answered that objection Monday by offering an explicitly temporary, two-year expansion of the Medicaid program in Virginia. The House hastily rejected this compromise offer in a committee vote. 

House Republicans now insist that the Medicaid fight shouldn’t be part of the budget process. Pass a budget first, they say, then talk about expanding coverage. That argument fails to account for the fact that the governor wants to fund various measures with budget savings projected from the inflow of federal Medicaid dollars.

[The GOP's] latest fall-back excuse seems to be more of the same: a desperate, trumped-up objection that exposes how weak their substantive case really is.