Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Family Foundation - The Face of Hate in Virginia

TFF President Victoria Cobb (in red) with failed Lt. Gov. candidate E.W. Jackson
One of the most toxic organizations in Virginia - and, sadly, Virginia has a number, including Liberty University's school of law headed by Mat Staver and Matt Barber - is The Family Foundation ("TFF"), and affiliate of Focus on the Family and the hate group Family Research Council.  To date TFF has dodged a formal designation as a hate group, but hopefully that will change.  When it comes to spreading anti-gay lies and fanning anti-gay animus in Virginia, TFF has few rivals.  The lies range from claiming that gays are predators for "recruit" youth to claims that gays will destroy "traditional marriage" even though if one reads the Bible it is polygamy, not "one man and one Woman" which is the true biblical norm.  Equally disturbing is the racism that runs just below the surface of TFF's efforts to push the Republican Party of Virginia to enact voter ID laws and others methods to disenfranchise minority voters and college students who do not support TFF's agenda of establishing a Christian theocracy in Virginia.  

As mentioned yesterday and as more fully reported in The Raw Story, TFF will be launching a 40 day fast to protest efforts to strike down the anti-gay Marshall-Newman Amendment which was the brain child of TFF which engaged in a campaign of lies and deceptions to push for its adoption in 2006.  It goes without saying that TFF supported Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli's failed effort to revive Virginia's unconstitutional sodomy statute.  Here are excerpts from The Raw Story on TFF's latest effort to keep LGBT Virginians inferior under the law:
A Virginia-based evangelical Christian group known as the Family Foundation is planning for its members to fast and pray for 40 days and 40 nights later this year in an effort to fight same-sex marriage. 

A statement on the Family Foundation’s website said, “Our state and nation are mired in a morass of confusion and post-modern thinking that does not believe in absolutes nor that any truth can even be known. Nowhere is this more evident than in the current debate raging about what constitutes marriage. Pagan philosophies, a secular humanist education establishment and an entertainment industry that is absolutely determined in pushing the envelope on decency and morality have all combined to turn this great land into a country that our forefathers could not even begin to recognize.”

In order to restore the U.S. to what the Family Foundation sees as its rightful state of hetero-supremacy, the group hopes to enlist as many fellow Christians as possible in the weeks-long vigil.

“The Supreme Court begins its session on October 6. We fully expect it to take a marriage case sometime in the next year. In the natural, it looks like a David vs. Goliath battle. The federal government, the news media, Hollywood, the public education system and big business all are arrayed on the side of same-sex ‘marriage.’ Only the church stands in support of God’s design for marriage,” said the group’s statement.

“If you are a pastor, please consider having your church join with us in this effort,” said the group. “The Family Foundation is partnering with other nationally known organizations to provide talking points, sermon outlines, bulletin inserts, video clips and other resources to help you lead your congregation through the 40 Days.”

I'm sure that these other "nationally known organizations" will be a veritable who's who of hate groups.  Virginia has many problems with discrimination and reactions against knowledge and modernity itself.  Far too many of the trace directly to TFF. 

Wedding Congratulations and Gifts - Support the Hamar/HRBOR Scholarship

Me with the husband - April 20, 2014
Since our wedding - actually even before it - the husband and I have been showered with congratulations and gifts for which we are most grateful.   The trend continued last night when we had dinner at the Hampton Yacht Club and had many people come over to extend congratulations - on April 13th we had been featured in a Daily Press story, so our impending wedding was very well advertised, if you will - and again, the husband and I have been very touched.  Gifts have ranged from cash (which is always nice) to beautiful gifts.  In talking about it, the husband and I have come up with another way in which friends - or readers - can extend us wedding congratulations: make a tax deductible donation to the George D. and Marion Phelps Hamar/HRBOR Scholarship.  The Hampton Roads Community Foundation which administers the scholarship has created a special direct link for donations which is hereOn the link page, the following statement appears:
Thank you for donating to the George D. and Marion Phelps Hamar HRBOR Scholarship. The endowed scholarship fund was started in 2011 at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation by Michael Hamar in memory of his parents and in honor of Hampton Roads Business OutReach (HRBOR), an LGBT chamber of commerce. The permanent scholarship fund helps self-identifying lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students attend college. Scholarship recipients must be from high schools in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk or Virginia Beach. Donations to the scholarship fund will help it grow so it can help even more students go to college. (my emphasis)
The husband and I are strong believers in making a difference.  Yes, the scholarship honors my late parents and HRBOR, but the real goal is to help change lives.  With far too many LGBT youth still finding themselves disowned by their families - something that I hope will begin to change -  the need for financial assistance is stark.  The scholarship also helps students from families unable to provide much financial support.

If you feel moved to do so, consider making a gift to the scholarship fund.  Every little bit helps grow the endowment and help more LGBT youth as time goes by.  Thank you for being readers and thank you to those who contribute.

George and Marion Hamar - Wedding June 3, 1950

The Double Standards in Bankruptcies - Why Do Banks Get Special Treatment?

With the city of Detroit filing bankruptcy the spotlight is being focused on the unequal application of the bankruptcy laws to seemingly everyone else other than the big banks.  When the financial markets collapsed largely because of the utter recklessness and in some cases outright fraud of the big banks and mortgage companies, the big banks got bailed out with tax payer money and were supposed to pass along relief to beleaguered homeowners - something that from what I have seen in the real estate industry simply never happened.  The banks were quick to take the taxpayer funds but have made a practice of screwing over homeowners in loan modifications and have shown little regard for the properties they tossed off to HUD and the VA to deal with.  Yet in Detroit's case, we are seeing a whole different standard.  The New York Times looks at the troubling situation.  Here are excerpts:
Developments in the Detroit bankruptcy have exposed a double standard in federal bankruptcy law, an injustice in urgent need of congressional reform.

In Detroit, the judge has ruled that under Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy law, the city’s creditors include even municipal pensioners whose payouts are guaranteed under the Michigan Constitution. Accordingly, the pensioners have reached a tentative deal to reduce retiree benefits; along with concessions made by other creditors, the goal is to help the debtor, the city of Detroit, get a fresh start and move forward.

Contrast that with what happened in the housing bust. The creditors in that fiasco — including powerful banks — did not have to cut deals in court with bankrupt homeowners. Under Chapter 13 of the bankruptcy law, a section heavily influenced by the financial industry, lenders cannot be forced to rework most residential mortgages in bankruptcy.

That is where the legal double standard comes in. In Detroit’s bust, even pensioners have to negotiate new terms; in the housing bust, big banks did not have to negotiate, leaving many homeowners in the dust.

That special treatment for banks may have helped them recover from the financial crisis. But it made things worse for borrowers and the economy. Today, 8.6 million homeowners still owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, for a total of $430 billion in negative equity, according to Moody’s Analytics. Some 2.1 million of the underwater homeowners are in or near foreclosure, on top of 9.6 million who have lost their homes since 2007.

Congress could have changed the law early in the financial crisis to allow for bankruptcy court relief for homeowners. Its refusal to do so has contributed to unnecessary impoverishment and a protracted weak recovery.

Congress must change the bankruptcy law to ensure that banks have to modify mortgages in court for bankrupt borrowers. Anything less violates bankruptcy’s tough principles of shared pain for creditors and second chances for debtors.
 Yes, I hold the banking industry in low regard.  The banking system and Wall Street created the financial crisis and except in the cases of relative small banks where decision makers have been prosecuted and gone to jail, NO ONE in the big banks or on Wall Street has been similarly prosecuted.  Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

The Danger of Making Extremists "Heroes"

Not to beat a dead horse, but I am savoring watching many in the Republican Party scramble to distance themselves from Cliven Bundy and his band of crazy gun nut supporters.  It seems that time and time again the GOP embraces a lunatic - Sarah Palin immediately springs to mind as does Michelle Bachmann - who is not dealing with a full deck and either (i) has no business holding any public office or (ii) should never be embraced as a public hero.  Seemingly, the GOP doesn't seem to learn that as often as not, the "hero" it has embraced turns out to be an embarrassing nut job. Perhaps the phenomenon is a symptom of how untethered from reality the GOP base has become given that it is now so heavily populated by Christofascists and members of the Tea Party, a majority of whom are Christofascists and white supremacists hiding under a different name.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this GOP tendancy to embrace extremists and end up sullying the party brand in the process.  Here are highlights:

Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy knows how to start a stampede.  After Bundy, who became a right-wing hero for his refusal to acknowledge the authority of the federal government, wondered aloud about whether “Negro” people were “better off as slaves,” conservative figures who had celebrated his cause rushed to distance themselves from him.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had condemned the federal government’s attempt to enforce court orders against Bundy: “Offensive.”

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who had declared Bundy’s followers “patriots”: “Appalling and racist.”

And Sean Hannity, who had led a Fox News campaign that made a hero of Bundy: “Beyond repugnant.”

Bundy boosters are right to be appalled, but they should not be shocked.  The anti-government strain of thought that Bundy advanced has been intertwined with racist and anti-Semitic views over several decades. Not all people who resist the authority of the federal government are motivated by race, of course, and not all racists are anti-government. But there is a long symbiosis between the two.

Among those who rallied to Bundy’s defense in Bunkerville, Nev. — the supporters Heller labeled patriots — was Wiley Drake, an Internet preacher affiliated with the “Oath Keepers” movement. According to reports from the scene, Drake told a crowd of Bundy supporters that they shouldn’t bow to the “half-breed” President Obama.

Bundy’s notion of state supremacy . . . is a variant of states’-rights claims that go back to the Civil War and were revived in the segregationists’ opposition to civil rights laws. Because the federal government has been the protector of minority rights, states’ rights have long been used to justify discrimination.

Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks anti-government and hate groups, says that Bundy’s sentiments align closely with those of the “Posse Comitatus” movement, founded . . . . on a belief that the levers of national power were controlled by Jewish bankers.

If you flirt with extremists, you’re eventually going to end up with strange bedfellows. Chris McDaniel, opposing Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi’s Republican primary, withdrew from being the keynote speaker at next month’s “Firearm Freedom Day/Tea Party Music Fest” conference when it was reported that the same conference was also touting the participation of a seller of “white pride” merchandise.

In Florida, Rep. Ted Yoho (R) had to backtrack after telling constituents that he couldn’t say with “100 percent” certainty that the Civil Rights Act is constitutional because “a lot of things that were passed are not constitutional.”

Various others, including Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, had been similarly critical of the federal government. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Tuesday said the federal government was “using the jackboot of authoritarianism to come against the citizens.”  By Thursday, Cruz’s office was calling Bundy’s racism “completely unacceptable.” 

And yet completely unsurprising. 

Yes, there are extremists on the left too, but it seems Democrats are more likely to think twice before running to embrace them without ever think about checking into with whom they are climbing into bed.  The GOP needs to think before cuddling up to crazies and haters.

Friday, April 25, 2014

More Friday Male Beauty

Can Christianity Survive Modernity?

As I have argued before, science, modern knowledge and even new archaeological discoveries - indeed, modernity in general - are the true enemies of Christianity, or at least the forms of Christianity which depend on an inerrant interpretation of the Bible and which cannot tolerate anything that deviates from a literal - albeit, often very selective - reading of the Bible.  Hence, the conniption fits by folks like Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Convention over the findings of the human genome project which demonstrate that Adam and Eve as portrayed in Genesis simply never existed.   And hence, in my view at least, the extreme hostility on the part of far right Christians towards LGBT individuals.  If society comes to see us as normal and with equal rights the development flies directly against the cherry picked passages of the Bible used to condemn us.  Bart Ehrman’s new book,  How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of A Jewish Preacher From Galilee looks at some of the biblical scholarship that threatens the simplistic, anti-knowledge and anti-modernity mind set of the Christofascists.  Andrew Sullivan summarizes some of it:
What Ehrman does in this book – as he did most memorably in Misquoting Jesus – is explain how the texts that we have about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus came to be written. I am not qualified to judge the details of the scholarship – my knowledge of such matters is a tiny fraction of Ehrman’s. I know no Aramaic or Hebrew and very little Ancient Greek. Readers with more expertise may well, with any luck, deal with some of the specific controversies – such as the notion that Jesus probably wasn’t buried at all – as we go along.

But the book’s main claims about the origins and nature of the texts are not in any scholarly doubt. And they challenge the traditional and reflexive mental universe that most Christians, and all fundamentalists, share. For many Christians in the modern world, there is an unchallenged notion of an inerrant text that contains what we have even come to call the “gospel truth.” It is entirely inspired by God. It has complete authority in Protestant circles and shared authority in Catholicism (along with church teaching and the sensus fidelium). It is the sole authorized account of the extraordinary story that changed the world. 

And yet it isn’t the only account – we have many other extant Gospels that never made the cut. Those Gospels are not as compelling or as coherent or as influential – but they sure do exist. That very fact – established in the 20th Century – explodes any idea of “orthodoxy” among the first Christians.

Does this rebut Christianity in a decisive way? For many orthodox Christians, wedded to the notion of a single, coherent and inerrant text, it must. But since the scholarship is pretty much indisputable, it seems to me that it is not Christianity that should be abandoned in the wake of these historical revelations, but a false understanding of what the Gospels and Letters actually are. In the end, the sole criterion of a religion is whether it is true. And if you’re misreading its core texts and failing to understand their origins and nuances, you’re not committed to the truth. You’re committed to a theology that has become more important than the truth.

I think that it is pretty clear to anyone honest that today's Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP care nothing whatsoever about the truth.  Rather, all that matters is upholding the alternative universe that they increasingly live in as science, knowledge and the real truth threaten their house of cards religious belief system.  This absolutely terrifies them and is more than their sick psyches can deal with. Hence the way they lash out a gays, modern science and anything else that would force someone rational to question their beliefs. 

Texas State Judge Rules Texas Ban on Same Sex Marriage Unconstitutional

Judge Barbara Nellermoe

First a federal court struck down Texas' ban on same sex marriage and not a Texas state court judge has followed suit and ruled the same - bans on same sex marriage are unconstitutional.. One can just imagine the additional round of spittle flecked convulsions that are sweeping the "godly folk."  Judge Barbara Nellermoe had best brace herself for lots of hate mail and an attempt to unseat her the next time she stands for reelection (Texas elects its judges).  Gay Star News has details.  Here are highlights:
A judge ruled this week that former couple Allison Leona Flood Lesh and Kristi Lyn Lesh can proceed with a divorce and child custody case. They were married in Washington, D.C., in August 2010 and live in San Antonio.

The custody case is complicated by the fact that Flood Lesh is not a biological or adoptive parent to the child. Unlike in a heterosexual marriage, there is not the same presumption of parenthood that a husband has when his wife gives birth.

Judge Barbara Nellermoe wrote: 'By denying their parents the right to marry, Texas has created a suspect classification of children who are denied equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment.'

In paving the way for the divorce and custody case to proceed, Nellermoe cited a recent federal court ruling - currently under appeal - that declared the state's marriage ban unconstitutional.

Nellermoe wrote that 'in a well-reasoned opinion by Judge Orlando Garcia, the federal district court found that a state cannot do what the federal government cannot — that is, it cannot discriminate against same-sex couples.'
- See more at:
Thankfully, more and more members of the bench are recognizing that bans on same sex marriage are based on one thing and one thing alone: punishing gays for not living in accordance with Christofascist religious beliefs. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Tea Part Hero Turns Out to Be A Racist - and a Liar

Sometimes it is delicious fun to see the crazy loons who now comprise much of the GOP base rally around a putative "hero" and then watch that supposed pillar of "real Americans" go up in flames as he/she continues to run their mouth and disclose the ugly truth about themselves.   A previous post looked at the lies that Tea Party hero Cliven Bundy has spun about his family history and "rights" to federal lands.  Now, Bundy has shown himself to be a flaming racist who thinks blacks were (still should be?) happier as slaves.  And his surprising comments on Hispanics will not sit well with many of the Tea Party crowd.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at Bundy's batshitery towards blacks which, unfortunately reflects the thinking of much of today's GOP base.  Here are some highlights:
Cliven Bundy became an overnight hero after he refused to pay about one million dollars owed to the federal government — that means, owed to you, the taxpayer. He was a magnet for the Tea Party, those “patriots” who love their country just not the people who populate it. Bundy supporters flocked to his ranch and fended off federal authorities. He’s been a Fox News guest for weeks, Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller, Gov. Rick Perry, Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Todd Starnes have all embraced Cliven Bundy.

But after a New York Times report published last night, Cliven Bundy is losing his flair. 
He told a NY Times reporter he wanted “to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro.”  Yes, “the Negro.”
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, . . . . “And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
And Talking Points Memo points to this bit of the Bundy interview that might just be the end of his support from the right wing. Bundy supports undocumented workers and seems to believe America needs to offer them amnesty and a path to citizenship.

“Now let me talk about the Spanish people,” Bundy said in a new video unearthed by New York magazine, right after he concluded his thoughts on “the Negro.”
[T]they’re here and they’re people. I worked side-by-side a lot of them. Don’t tell me they don’t work, and don’t tell me they don’t pay taxes. And don’t tell me they don’t have better family structures than most of us white people.”

“When you see those Mexican families, they’re together. They picnic together. They’re spending their time together,” he said. “I’ll tell you, in my way of thinking, they’re awful nice people. We need to have those people join us and be with us.”
 Would that more of the Tea Party and the Christofascists could recognize that Hispanics - and blacks - are people too.

The Future of the GOP: Plutocrats vs. Christofascists/Tea Party

Republicans can spin stories about party unity, but the reality is that a civil war IS being waged in the GOP and it pits the wealthy plutocrats who want a new Gilded Age oligarchy against the knuckle dragging, spittle flecked lunatics of the Christofacists/Tea Party.  Regardless of which group wins the civil war, average sane Americans will be the losers.  And if the Christofascists/Tea Party prevails, this will be especially so for those who are non-white, non-Christian and not heterosexual.  For years I have said that the GOP establishment created a Frankenstein monster when it embraced the Christofascists and their stealth theocrats who wear the Tea Party moniker.  Across the country, Republicans voted these lunatics and extremist onto city and county committees.  This monster was created and did not arise from out of nowhere.  Now the plutocrats are stuck seeking a way to kill the monster they helped create. A piece in Salon looks at the battle for the soul of the GOP.  Here are some excerpts:
The Republican Party is no longer the party of Nelson Rockefeller. This is a shocker, I know —  if you’ve been asleep for the past 25 or 30 years. But according to the National Journal this comes as a surprise to many of the rich Republicans who are entering the electoral fray.

It took David Perdue about 20 seconds of speechifying to expose a tension roiling the Republican Party. Speaking in January, the former business executive turned Georgia candidate for U.S. Senate asked a group of local Republicans to parse the resumes of his primary foes.
“There’s a high school graduate in this race, OK?” said Perdue, referring to his opponent, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. “I’m sorry, these issues are so much broader, so complex. There’s only one candidate in this race who’s ever lived outside the United States. How can you bring value to a debate about the economy unless you have any understanding about the free-enterprise system and what it takes to compete in the global economy?”
The two-pronged swipe elicited cries of condescension and elitism that eventually forced Perdue to apologize. And it revealed a vital reality about the state of the Republican Party as its members prepare to select a standard-bearer for the 2016 presidential primary: The GOP has long ago shed its stereotype of being the party catering to the wealthy.

[T]he party of the suburbs has morphed into the party of the exurbs. But the fact is that the Republicans have been massaging this white, working-class, rural and exurb voting bloc for decades. In fact, it used to have a specific name: Reagan Democrats. They were described that way by Stanley Greenberg, the pollster who coined the name for working-class whites who came to see the Democrats as being obsessed with the poor, the unemployed, feminists and people of color at their expense.

Those who financed the conservative movement very carefully nurtured the so-called Silent Majority of white people who didn’t hold with all that pointy-headed multiculturalism or welfare queens and feminazis — the hardscrabble Real Americans of the heartland who loved flag and country. If the big GOP donors have been watching “Mad Men” reruns and think they’re financing a movement of Wall Street traders and Junior League housewives, they’re on the wrong channel. They need to turn on “Duck Dynasty” and get themselves some guns.

For the past couple of years there has been much rending of garments in the Republican political establishment over the Tea Party dominating the GOP and running it into the ground. But they created the Tea Party out of that original white, working-class bloc by feeding their prejudices and stoking their insecurities.

Now their monster is out of control and they don’t know how to lure it back into its cage. But the Tea Party isn’t their only fantasy creature. Perhaps their greatest achievement is the mythic Genius Plutocrat, the Ayn Rand Galtian hero whose courage, intellect and overall superiority in all ways is demonstrated by the singular fact that he has so much money. It looks like that beast has escaped his leash as well and the two grotesque phantasms are destined for a political cage match of epic proportions in 2016.

Facebook, Google, Amazon, Starbucks and 24 Other Companies Urge Court To Strike Down Virginia's Gay Marriage

The list of household names filing amicus briefs asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to rule that Virginia's anti-gay Marshall-Newman Amendment is unconstitutional keeps on growing.  Now, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Starbucks and 24 other businesses have filed a brief urging the Court to strike down Virginia's gay marriage ban.   As noted before on this blog, anti-gay laws are bad for business and harm companies' ability to recruit the best and the brightest employees and impeded some businesses from even moving into Virginia.  Among the surprising business joining in the brief is Mormon owned Marriott International. And as the amicus briefs are filed, it become increasingly clear that religious based hate and bigotry alone were and are the motivation behind the Marshall-Newman Amendment.  On Top Magazine looks at this latest amicus brief filing.  Here are highlights:

Twenty-eight companies have filed an amicus brief urging a federal appeals court to affirm a lower court's ruling declaring invalid Virginia's ban on gay marriage.

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond is scheduled to hear arguments in the case next month.

“The denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples in Virginia goes against our core values and principles,” the companies wrote in a 50-page brief filed Friday. “As employers, we recognize the value of diversity, and we want to do business in jurisdictions that similarly understand the need for a society that enables all married persons to 'live with pride in themselves and their unions,' and that supports us in honoring all of our married employees.”

Companies joining the brief include Amazon, American International Group, Blu Homes, CBS Corp., eBay, Equality NC, Facebook, 500 BC, Google, Intel Corp., Jackson Hole Group, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, Levi Strauss & Co., Marriott International, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, McKinstry Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., Pfizer, Oracle America, Qualcomm, Replacements, Starbucks, Sun Life Financial Services,, United Therapeutics Corp., Viacom and Witeck Communications.
In contrast the the growing array of supporters who want the Marshall-Newman Amendment struck down, the religious extremists at The Family Foundation, a hate group in all but formal designation, have announced a 40 day fast to protest the lower court's ruling that like Virginia's former bans on interracial marriage, bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional.  This action underscores that religious based discrimination - promoted through a fraudulent campaign and advertisements - is the ONLY true motivation behind the ban's original enactment.  To date, eleven out of eleven federal courts have rejected feigned reasons other than religious belief for such bans across the country.  Here's the money quote from TFF's announcement of the fast: 
Pagan philosophies, a secular humanist education establishment and an entertainment industry that is absolutely determined in pushing the envelope on decency and morality have all combined to turn this great land into a country that our forefathers could not even begin to recognize. 
These folks are not only insane, but they are a threat to constitutional government. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pundit Fact: Ralph Reed is a Liar When It Comes to Gay Parenting

As some readers will recall, Ralph Reed's version of an Easter message of love was to appear on ABC’s Easter Sunday edition of This Week proceed to lie about gays and gay parenting.  Reed - who I suspect is a self-loathing closet case based on our meeting years ago when I was active in the GOP - among other things stated "Social science is irrefutable" that children are better off being raised by a mom and a dad.  Like so much else that comes out of the mouths of the "godly Christian" crowd, Reed's statement was patently untrue.  Thankfully, Pundit fact has taken Reed to task.  Here's the take down via

Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed told Raddatz he doesn’t support gay couples raising adopted children.

"This is about what's best for children here in the United States. And the social science is irrefutable," Reed said. "And it is that a child who grows up in a home without the mother and father present and they both play very unique procreative, nurturing and socializing role, they're nine times more likely to end up dropping out of high school. They're five times more likely to end up in poverty. And they're three times more likely to end up addicted to drugs and alcohol."

PunditFact wanted to know what social science has to say about the effects gay parents have on children compared to straight parents.

The social science statistics Reed called "irrefutable" actually have nothing to do with gay couples raising kids. Instead, they’re focused on the effects of children who grow up without a father in a one-parent household. Put another way, the studies focus on the quantity of parents and not their gender.

We decided not to investigate further the specific stats Reed cited once we realized they weren’t measuring what he said they were.

Comparisons like Reed’s are "a complete misuse of the research," said Judith Stacey, a New York University sociologist.

We did find one study funded by conservative organizations as showing gay parents are worse than straight ones, but it’s been denounced by the American Sociological Association, the researcher’s own university and many reputable sociologists. In conducting the study, Mark Regnerus loosely defined same-sex couples and, in doing so, only spoke with two children who were actually raised by gay parents.

Our ruling
Reed said there’s "irrefutable" social science to show that children are better off being parented by a mother and father. That’s not right. What studies really show is that children are better off with two parents. Those studies do not focus on gender.

All reputable research so far indicates that children brought up by gay parents are just well off as those brought up by straight parents.  We rate Reed’s statement False.

With mouth pieces like Reed knowingly telling lies it is little wonder that the under 30 generations hold Christianity in such low regard.  In some ways, I hope Reed and his hate merchant allies continue to lie - they are killing the Christian brand and personally, I look forward to the day when self-identifying Christians are a minority in America. 

Op-Ed - Living up to Thomas Jefferson's Ideal

With the appeal of the ruling in Bostic v. Rainey striking down Virginia's anti-gay Marshall-Newman Amendment now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and oral arguments set for May 13, 2014, more and more "big guns" are coming out and making the case as to why the appellate court should affirm the lower court ruling.  In today's Virginian Pilot there is a joint op-ed  by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Freedom to Marry's president Evan Wolfson -- the two were former classmates at Harvard Law School. Senator Kaine is a co-chair of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry.  Having observed the passage of the Marshall-Newman Amendment based on a campaign of lies, disinformation and anti-gay hatred wrapped in the garb of "religious belief," if the 4th Circuit is true to Jefferson's ideals and the legacy of Loving v. Virginia, this foul amendment needs to be thrown on the trash heap of history along side the Jim Crow laws which were vigorously defended by the "godly folks."  Here are highlights from the op-ed:

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the words "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence, he put in place a moral standard that will always challenge us to be better people.

Our founders passionately believed in equality, but most saw no contradiction between that belief and slavery. It took 90 years and a civil war to correct that injustice.

The post-Civil War Congress that changed the Constitution to abolish slavery passionately believed in equality, but most saw no contradiction in women's inability to vote. It took nearly 70 years to remedy that injustice.

Today, Virginians and Americans are advancing Jefferson's equality principle by re-thinking laws that limit the freedom to marry.

The two of us first became friends in law school more than 30 years ago. Our career and personal paths have taken different directions. But we share a commitment to making people's lives better, their dreams more attainable and their families stronger.

And we share a commitment to Jefferson's farsighted ideal. That's why we look forward to the day when all loving couples, regardless of sexual orientation, can marry.

In recent months, 11 out of 11 federal judges have ruled against marriage discrimination.
In February, a federal judge in Norfolk was one of them.

U.S. District Court Judge Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen discussed Loving v. Virginia, the historic U.S. Supreme Court case that ended prohibitions on interracial marriage.

The Loving decision rightly proclaimed: "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

These favorable rulings are part of a continuing momentum across the country.

We act in our best traditions when we move closer to Jefferson's equality ideal. That has been our history from 1776 to today.  We will honor that history by making sure that all have the freedom to marry.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Pennsylvania Marriage Ban Case to Proceed Without Trial

In what is another bad sign for Christofascist and GOP opponents of marriage equality in Pennsylvania, both the plaintiffs and defending state officials have agreed that the case can proceed without trial because the state has no witnesses to call to rebut the pleadings and arguments of the plaintiffs.   Perhaps the state's decision is based on the fact that in the two marriage cases that have gone to trial - in California for Prop 8 and recently in Michigan - the witness supporting same sex marriage bans have been eviscerated and, in the case of Mark Regnerus described by the court as a non-credible witness.  Here are details from an ACLU statement:
Lawyers challenging Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples filed a motion today asking a federal judge to decide the case on the briefs alone rather than waiting for a previously scheduled June trial. The lawsuit,Whitewood v. Wolf, was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union, volunteer counsel from the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, and University of Pennsylvania School of Law Professor Seth Kreimer on behalf of a widow, 11 couples who wish to marry in Pennsylvania or want the commonwealth to recognize their out-of-state marriages, and two teenage children of one of the plaintiff couples.

A trial became unnecessary after the commonwealth stated that it will not call any experts to counter the plaintiffs’ argument that there is no rational reason why lesbian and gay couples are excluded from marriage, nor does it plan to dispute the specific harms caused to the plaintiffs by the marriage ban. All legal papers in the case will be filed by May 12, meaning a ruling could come at any time after that date.

Along with the motion, today’s filing included written testimony from six experts, including a report on the legal disadvantages that same-sex couples face in estate planning, taxes, health care, and family law in Pennsylvania because they cannot marry or have their marriages from other states respected by Pennsylvania. The motion also includes another expert report about the economic harms to the state’s economy and businesses caused by the commonwealth’s failure to allow same-sex couples to marry or to recognize their marriages from other states.

“In our filing, the court will have before it an overwhelming amount of evidence demonstrating that the freedom to marry in Pennsylvania is nothing to fear and everything to celebrate, and that there is no reason in law, logic, facts, and basic justice, to hesitate any longer in recognizing the plaintiffs’ fundamental rights,” said Mark Aronchick, of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller, co-counsel with the ACLU.

The Honorable John E. Jones III is presiding over the case. The commonwealth, which has agreed there is no need for a trial, is expected to file its own motion for summary judgment today.

McAuliffe Veto of Christofacist Bills Sustained

Two favored bills of the religious extremists and Christian Taliban at The Family Foundation were vetoed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and those vetoes were sustained at yesterday's veto session of the Virginia General Assembly.  Like most of the efforts of far right Christian extremists, the bills had been described as needed to protect the religious liberties of "persecuted" Christians.  In truth, however, the bills would have allowed the Christofascists to trample on the rights of others.  In the alternate universe of the Christofascists, anytime they are barred from forcing their beliefs on others, they are being "persecuted."  Blue Virginia looks at the two bills that thankfully will not become law:

Gov. McAuliffe's vetoes were upheld today in the Virginia General Assembly, in particular SB 236 ("codifies right to religious viewpoint expression") and SB 555 ("Prohibits censorship by state government officials or agencies of the religious content of sermons made by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard") by right-wing extremist, Sen. Dick Black.

As the Virginia ACLU wrote about SB 555, "a military chaplain acting in his or her official role does not have the right to use official mandatory events as a platform to disseminate his or her own religious view." 

And with regard to SB 236, the Virginia ACLU explained: the bill "would have compelled schools to sponsor student prayer at official school events where students and other members of the school community are a captive audience, such as graduations, assemblies, and sporting events.  This bill, while touted as bill to protect religious freedom, would have had the opposite effect, by subjecting students to religious coercion."

Both were blatant violations of the separation of church and state, and richly deserved to have their vetoes sustained.
 I'm sure there will be whining and flying spittle at The Family Foundation.  Hopefully, as Virginia's demographics change The Family Foundation will see more and more legislative defeats.

How the Democrats Can Hold the Base and Woo Swing Voters

With the chances that the Democrats may hold onto control of the U.S. Senate after all looking up slightly, the main issue becomes one of how to (A) motivate the party base to get off their often lazy, complacent butts and go to the polls in November, and (B) woo enough swing voters to win general elections in closely contested states.  As prior posts have noted, the GOP obsession with Obamacare bashing may be weakening except among the most hard core Kool-Aid drinking elements of the GOP base.  But the Democrats need to step up their game and go on the offensive rather just sit back and play defense.  A column in the Washington Post suggests a possible strategy.  Here are column highlights:

The Democrats’ biggest strategic challenge in maintaining control of the Senate involves motivating the party’s base while simultaneously attracting swing and even Republican voters in contests being waged in conservative states.

This base-vs.-swing dilemma exists in every election, but the tension is aggravated for Democrats this year because they are trying to hold so many seats in Republican territory. Incumbents such as Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Begich in Alaska and Kay Hagan in North Carolina can’t win with the base alone. The Democrats’ hopes to take seats away from the GOP in Kentucky and Georgia also hinge on reaching beyond loyalists.

Compounding the Democrats’ quandary: President Obama’s approval ratings are particularly low in the red states with tough Senate races. This explains the ambivalence of many in his party toward the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it’s the reason Republicans insist on calling it “Obamacare.”

The law has been working far better than Republicans who predicted its demise last fall said it would. And if Democrats don’t force Republicans to acknowledge the high costs of repealing the ACA, the airwaves will be dominated by horror stories — many of them made up out of whole cloth — about the law’s shortcomings.

Democrats are trying to figure out how to defend the “care” part of Obamacare while encouraging voters outside their base to forget the “Obama” part.

But the decisive question may be whether Democrats can find crossover issues that turn out their core constituencies while also persuading undecided voters in the red states to come their way.

Both publicly and privately, Democrats say they are well into this quest. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York have been pushing what they call the party’s “fair shot” agenda. Its components include raising the minimum wage and measures to make college more affordable. They are also aggressively seeking to tie the entire Republican Party to David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who are spending lavishly on behalf of the GOP.

[R]evive the party’s 2012 campaign theme contrasting the interests of the top “1 percent” with what’s good for the rest of the country. They would have the party link this overarching theme to policies promising relief and opportunity to middle-class voters, especially women who are already more inclined toward the Democrats. 

Similarly, economists Jared Bernstein and Harry Holzer, writing Wednesday in the Hill, outlined a battery of policies on job training, immigration, corporate taxes, labor regulation and infrastructure investment that would lead companies to create jobs in the United States rather than overseas. The point, again, is that shared growth will be achieved only through affirmative steps by government.

The 2014 elections will hang on many tactical decisions. But above all, they underscore how urgent it is for center and left alike to make a sustained and credible argument that individual prosperity requires thoughtful public action. It’s a case the liberal base wants to hear and that swing voters need to find compelling.

Maureen Dowd: John Paul II Is No Saint

The Roman Catholic Church continues to suffer from twp huge PR problems: (i) the ongoing sexual abuse scandal that continues to show itself to be a global problem and (ii) the failure of the Vatican to take severe disciplinary action against any of the bishops and cardinals who engaged in deliberate cover ups and obstruction of justice.  The second problems may likely stem from the fact that these bishops and cardinals were following orders from the Vatican.  This conclusion is hard to escape when the Church in what I deem absolute idiocy has moved to canonize Pope John Paul II who oversaw the worst years of the sex abuse scandal explosion and did absolutely NOTHING to punish the high clerics involved (unless one considers being called to Rome, given a plum assignment and rendered outside the arm of extradition laws a punishment).  In a column in the New York Times Maureen Dowd lets loose on the canonization of the anything but saintly John Paul II.  Here are excerpts:

There were some disturbing elements to the Easter Mass I attended at Nativity, my childhood church.  The choral director sang “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “Danny Boy.” The pews were half-empty on the church’s most sacred day.

But it was most upsetting as a prelude to next Sunday. In an unprecedented double pontiff canonization, Pope John Paul II will be enshrined as a saint in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Vatican had a hard time drumming up the requisite two miracles when Pope Benedict XVI, known as John Paul’s Rasputin and enforcer of the orthodoxy, waived the traditional five-year waiting period and rushed to canonize his mentor. But the real miracle is that it will happen at all. John Paul was a charmer, and a great man in many ways. But given that he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain’t no saint.

John Paul deserves major credit for his role in the downfall of Communism. Even though neocon Catholics who idolize and whitewash John Paul don’t like to dwell on it, he also directed consistent and withering moral criticism at the excesses of capitalism long before Pope Francis did.

Perhaps trying to balance the choice of John Paul, who made conservatives jump for joy because he ran a Vatican that tolerated no dissent, the newly christened Pope Francis tried to placate progressives by cutting the miracle requirement from two to one to rush John XXIII’s canonization. 

One of John Paul’s great shames was giving Vatican sanctuary to Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, a horrendous enabler of child abuse who resigned in disgrace in 2002 as archbishop of Boston. Another unforgivable breach was the pope’s stubborn defense of the dastardly Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pedophile, womanizer, embezzler and drug addict.

As Jason Berry wrote last year in Newsweek, Father Maciel “was the greatest fund-raiser for the postwar Catholic Church and equally its greatest criminal.”  His order, the Legionaries of Christ, which he ran like a cult and ATM for himself and the Vatican for 65 years, denounced him posthumously in February for his “reprehensible and objectively immoral behavior.”

The statement followed a United Nations report upbraiding the church for turning a blind eye to child abuse by priests and the sins of Father Maciel, who had serially abused adolescent seminarians, some as young as 12, and had several children with at least two women. His sons also claimed he abused them.
It is wonderful that John Paul told other societies, Communist and capitalist, to repent. But his tragedy is that he never corrected the failings of his own society, over which he ruled absolutely.

The church is giving its biggest prize to the person who could have fixed the spreading stain and did nothing. The buck, or in this case, the Communion wafer, doesn’t stop here. There is something wounding and ugly about the church signaling that those thousands of betrayed, damaged victims are now taken for granted as a slowly fading asterisk.

John Paul may be a revolutionary figure in the history of the church, but a man who looked away in a moral crisis cannot be described as a saint.

When the church elevates him, it is winking at the hell it caused for so many children and young people in its care.

Unless and until Pope Francis sacks countless bishops and cardinals his PR efforts will ultimately be little more than smoke and mirrors  and the Church leadership in the end will remain morally bankrupt.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Karma Can Be A Bitch: Virginia Beach GOP Event Collides With Racist Travel Restrictions

Last year the Virginia Beach resort strip was in an uproar as an unofficial college weekend of students from historically black colleges descended for a weekend that in some instances turned raucous.  In response, as detailed in the Virginian Pilot, this year the Virginia Beach city government  - which leans heavily Republican - has announced that there will be severe restrictions on access to the Virginia Beach oceanfront to avoid a repeat of last year's congestion.   Of course, none of the restrictions being put in place by the Virginia Beach police department are utilized when the influx of students is from historically white colleges.

The irony?  The Republican Party of Virginia Beach which has had its problems with overt racism and seen a party chairman resign and a former chair disgraced due to crude racists "jokes" that reached the media is having its biggest fundraiser of the year for its affiliated women's' clubs - the Star Spangled Ball - this weekend at the oceanfront.  Now, the RPVB is worried that attendees may have difficulty getting to the event.

Karma can indeed be a bitch.  As for my familiarity with the Republican Party of Virginia Beach, I was the original incorporator of the entity when it incorporated and I served as its registered agent for a number of years until I finally severed all ties with the GOP because of its inability to separate Christofascist religious belief from the civil laws.  Personally, I hope the attendees of the Star Spangled Ball have one hell of a hard time getting to the event.

Is Marriage Opposition Plummeting in the GOP?

I don't mean to beat the issue of same sex marriage to death, but having just gotten married myself, perhaps I am overly invested in the topic.  In addition, as a former Republican, I continue to be amazed at the GOP's seeming death wish in the form of its continued opposition to same sex marriage even in the face of the growing support for marriage equality especially among Millennials and younger Republicans.  A piece in The Bilerico Project written by my friend John Becker looks at the change that may be about to sweep the GOP despite the efforts of the hate merchants of of the misnamed "family values" organizations and religious extremists within the GOP base.  Here are s excerpts:
It hardly needs to be said that we're living in a time of massive shifts in public opinion in favor of LGBT rights, most notably marriage equality. This sea change is being led by Millennials -- the generation born between 1982 and 2000, an astonishing 81% of which supports marriage equality -- but it's happening across all demographic groups, including the group most stubbornly resistant to embracing equality: Republicans.

The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reports:
The change is being spurred far away from Washington by state party officials and local GOP operatives who believe that it no longer makes political sense to block attempts to expand marriage rights to gay men and lesbians.

Illinois Republicans last weekend ousted party officials who disagreed with a former state party chairman's support for same-sex marriage. Nevada Republicans just days ago removed language from the party platform regarding whether gay men and lesbians should marry. A new fundraising committee supporting pro-gay marriage GOP congressional candidates announced last week that it raised more than $2 million in the first quarter from wealthy Republican donors who support gay rights. Even Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken social conservative critic of gay rights, said in a recent BuzzFeed interview that "I think we need to concede that there's been a real shift of public opinion on marriage."

[T]he generational shift in favor of LGBT rights means the longer the GOP resists moderating their Stone-Age views, the more long-term harm they're inflicting on their own brand.

A survey of young voters conducted last year by the College Republican National Committee found that of the respondents who said same-sex marriage should be legal, about half view the issue as a deal-breaker, meaning that they would vote against a candidate who opposed marriage equality even if they agreed with them on issues like taxes, spending, immigration, and defense. And as conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin points out, nearly two-thirds of Millennial evangelicals support marriage equality. Evangelicals are a core constituency for the GOP; if even young evangelicals are getting out in front of the party on this issue, that speaks volumes.

Or at least it should. As the nation moves rapidly and decisively in the direction of equality, jettisoning outdated social conservatism is the GOP's only real choice if it wishes to remain relevant. The other option is extinction.
John echos my views on the issue of gay marriage.  The question becomes one of when, at least here in Virginia, the GOP will tell the Christofascists at The Family Foundation to figuratively go to Hell - if there is a Hell, I think Victoria Cobb has a reserved seat - and embrace the societal change that is occurring.  Moreover, if same sex marriage becomes legal in Virginia, the tide against the GOP will become only stronger.