Saturday, May 03, 2014

Alabama Chief Justice Slams Gay Marriage, Says First Amendment Only Protects Christians

As noted before, I lived in Alabama from 1977 through 1981 and the Alabama of today is far more insane that the one I experienced over three decades ago.  What accounts for the change?  The same thing that has led the Republican Party into crazy land territory:  the rise of the Christofascists who were allowed to hijack the GOP and drive sane people from the party.  Having once met George Wallace while he was governor, Wallace was almost a liberal/moderate compared to what passes as "normal" in the Alabama GOP.  Case in point?  Look no farther than Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who, given Alabama's elected judiciary, has recaptured the position he was forced from not that many years ago.  Moore's latest batshitery is to claim that First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution only protects Christians.  The man belongs in an insane asylum, not Alabama's highest Court.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at Moore's shocking claims (he also slams gays and gay marriage).  Here are excerpts:
The Chief Justice of the Alabama state Supreme Court traveled to Mississippi to deliver a speech in front of the Pastors for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by a “pro-life” organization known for getting the Magnolia State’s abortion clinics shut down. Judge Roy Moore told the very receptive group that the First Amendment only protects Christians, and expressed his offense that same-sex military couples are now getting married at U.S. military bases.

The Chief Justice went on with his religious attacks, claiming that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies only to Christians. “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures on which this nation was founded,” Moore proclaimed.

Moore infamously lost his position as Chief Justice in 2003 after refusing a federal judge’s order to remove the Ten Commandments from his courthouse. A decade later, he was re-installed after running for and winning re-election. In 2012, while running his campaign, Moore went out attacking gay people, claiming same-sex marriage will be “the ultimate destruction of our country.”

Moore also traveled recently to Washington state, fueling rumors that he might again be laying groundwork for a presidential campaign.
Not to sound mean spirited, but I increasingly think that far right Christians - and certainly Judge Moore - suffer from a form of mental illness given their hysterical need not to have anyone or any thing challenge their ignorace embracing religious beliefs.  These folks pose a clear and present danger to constitutional government in America.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan On John Paul II and His Defenders

John Paul II blessing the monster Maciel
It's no secret that I view the canonization of John Paul II as nothing less than a travesty and an illustration that liberal Catholics who want to believe that Pope Francis is substantively a breath of fresh air are deluding themselves.  In response to a piece by Peggy Noonan - who seems to have lost all reason - comparing Pope John Paul II to Barack Obama in terms of leadership, Andrew Sullivan lets loose with an honest assessment of John Paul II's reign that bares repeating and which ought to be mandatory reading for every churchgoing Catholic.  Here are the money quotes:
Under John Paul II and his orthodoxy-enforcer, Joseph Ratzinger, the scope for any dialogue within the church was essentially ended. Whole areas of theological debate were ruled impermissible; discussions about faith and morals were also discouraged and any hints of heterodoxy, i.e. thinking, were monitored and punished. John Paul II’s papacy was capable of detecting the most trivial form of theological dissent and punishing it relentlessly, while it found itself miraculously blind when it came to the endless rapes and abuse of children and adolescents that we know now were endemic.

This wasn’t leadership; it was the abdication of basic moral responsibility for the church John Paul II ran. And these were not only crimes of commission but also of omission. A monstrous figure like Marciel Macial was lionized by John Paul II even as he sold drugs, was a bigamist,  abused countless young men, and even raped his own son. Cardinal Bernard Law was rewarded for his own disgusting cover-up of child-rapists with a sinecure in Rome.

Open your eyes, Peggy. There is world outside your 1980s nostalgia-fest. And it’s as different from your reality as “seems” is from “is”.
I may not always agree with Andrew - who I did get to meet a few years ago - but when he lets loose on someone, few do it better.

Queen of Hate, Maggie Gallagher Admits Marriage Battle is Lost

If one wants to the face of someone who has enriched themselves disseminating hate, look no farther than former head of the National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") - here in Virginia, our mini queen of hate is Victoria Cobb - who drew nice six figure incomes demonizing gays and spreading religious based hatred.  Now, in a recent column, Gallagher laments that the battle against gay marriage is all but lost.  She then, of course, shifts into would be Christian victim role whining that Bible believing Christians will be facing likely persecution for their beliefs.  Here are highlights from Gallagher's lament:

What I am advocating doing is three very big, and very hard things: a) accepting where we are and b) learning from what we did not succeed in so that we can get to c) how do we build anew?

Right now most people who believe in the classic understanding of marriage are in shock, they are awed by the powers now shutting down the debate and by our ineffectualness at responding to these developments.

The version of America we were born into is no more. For the first time in American history being a faithful Christian (or Jew or Muslim) now calls into question in the public square in a new way one’s good citizenship.

The rapid collapse of opposition to gay marriage we are witnessing did not just happen, and it was not inevitable. But it is.

The question now on the table is: will orthodox Christianity (and other traditional faiths), be stigmatized and marginalized as the equivalent of racism in the American public square?  Will Biblical morality be wiped out as an acceptable public position in America?
Or will we regroup, rebuild as a subculture, and survive to become the possibility of a new foundation in the future?

Hiding or pretending is not going to help us, now.  We have to face the truth. 

[Charles] Cooper [who defended Proposition 8] said two things that upset many people on our side: “My views evolve on issues of this kind the same way as other people’s do, and how I view this down the road may not be the way I view it now, or how I viewed it ten years ago,” he said to Jo Becker some months ago.  And when the book became public and the news of his stepdaughter’s wedding came out he told AP:  ““My daughter Ashley’s path in life has led her to happiness with a lovely young woman named Casey, and our family and Casey’s family are looking forward to celebrating their marriage in just a few weeks.”

And here is the thing I take away, and what I want you to take away, from the Charles Cooper story: . . . . There is no line we can draw that pushes gay people “outside” and leaves us free “inside” to be angry, foot-stomping, and morally “pure.”

Next, Brendan Eich and Mozilla. Here we face the fist within the velvet glove—one of the few public instances of what is happening all over America. 

We live in an America in which standing up for Biblical morality (or its common sense moral analog) puts your employment in jeopardy.  How will we respond to the fear this inspires?  Will we recognize we are a subculture now facing a dominant culture and build subculture strategies? 

[T]the first struggle we now face is internal and spiritual:  Will we accept the newly dominant culture’s view of our views—of ourselves—as hateful and bigoted and stand down?   Or will we, first of all in our heart and minds, refuse to accept this external view of ourselves.  Will we stigmatize ourselves or will we force the powerful to do that to us?

Christian conservatives have been doing politics stupidly and on the cheap.   If we keep doing politics this way we will soon not have to do politics at all.   To win a space for us at the American table, we are going to need to invest large amounts of money in new and directly political institution—organizations capable of unelecting those who would shut us out, and those capable of rewarding the courage of those who agree with us.
I have little doubt that Maggie will be at the tough of money that she is saying that the Christofascists need to spend.  She enjoys living the good life without having to have a real, socially productive job.   Like most of the professional Christian crowd, she's little more than a parasite living off of the ignorant and uneducated.

Why There Is No Cure for the GOP's Benghazi Swamp Fever

Issa - GOP Demagogue
The swamp fever that afflicts much of the GOP base likewise afflicts a number of leading Republicans in Congress.  Two favorite litany's of the afflicted focus on Obamacare and Benghazi, the latter being an obsession since it allows the GOP to bash both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Lost, of course, in the spittle flecked rants is the GOP's own role in slashing funding for embassy security, etc.  A piece in Mother Jones looks at why there is seemingly no hope that the GOP fever over Benghazi will fade away.  Here are highlights:
The current outbreak of Benghazi Fever shows how strong the virus is—and that it is apparently immune to basic remedy.

On Friday, the Republicans went full Benghazi. House Speaker John Boehner announced he was setting up a special House committee to investigate the attack—that is, the Obama White House's response to it. Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chair of the House government oversight committee, subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to testify before his committee on May 21 about the State Department's handling of GOP congressional inquiries about Benghazi. (Apparently, Issa is now probing a supposed cover-up of the original supposed cover-up.)

This week, Issa, Fox News, and other Benghazi-ists rushed to the ramparts once again, when a White House email was released showing that a top Obama aide had suggested that an administration spokeswoman defend the president's policy regarding the Arab Spring and the Muslim world following a series of anti-American attacks that included the September 11, 2012, assault on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi. 

A-ha! cried the Benghazi truthers. Here's proof that the White House schemed to convince the public that the tragic attack—which claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans—was merely the result of protests spurred by an anti-Islam video made by some American wacko, not the doing of Al Qaeda or its allies.

President Obama and his comrades, the Benghazi truthers insist, wanted to cover up the politically inconvenient fact that Al Qaeda-ish terrorism was responsible for the killing of four Americans, since acknowledgment of this would have tainted the counter-terrorism credentials of Obama, the Bin Laden slayer, and decreased his chances of reelection.

But as we know now, the CIA and the State Department took the lead in fashioning the talking points.
And the new email from Rhodes is pretty standard stuff, indicating a White House desire to justify its policy on the Arab Spring in the face of troubling events.

Moreover, the Rhodes email is a reminder of how far off the rails the Benghazi-bashers have gone. At the bottom of the second page of his four-page memo is proposed language for discussing the Benghazi attack: "The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the [anti-video] protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex." According to the internal White House emails released last year, this was how the CIA had asked for the event to be described.

The new batch of released emails—the one containing the Rhodes note that has launched a thousand Fox News reports—includes an Al Jazeera report filed the night of the attack. It reads,
Witnesses say an armed mob has attacked the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi and set fire to the building in what they way was a protest at [sic] a film deemed offensive to Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Just hours earlier on Tuesday, thousands of Egyptian demonstrators apparently angry over the same film—an amateur film produced by expatriate members of Egypt's Christian minority resident in the US—tore down the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy in Cairo and replaced it with an Islamic flag.
Compared to the on-the-ground reporting that night, the Times' investigation, and the Senate intelligence committee's finding, the original talking points presented by Rice hold up. At the least, this was a plausible explanation and, if these other accounts are accurate, not too far off the mark. The anti-Islam video and the protests in Cairo had been a factor.

[T]his should have been case closed, a long time back. Still, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday accused the White House of running a "cover-up." And an angry Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said White House officials who lied about the attacks are "scumbags." On Wednesday, House majority leader Eric Cantor proclaimed that the Rhodes email proved the White House had "misled" Congress and the public.

For Obama's political foes, the Benghazi narrative—that is, their reality-challenged version of it—offers too much benefit to be abandoned. It serves three fundamental desires of the right. The get-Obama crusaders have long wanted to show that the president is just another weak-on-defense Democrat, to demonstrate that he is not a real American worthy of being president, and to uncover an explosive scandal that eviscerates Obama's presidency and provides cause for impeachment. 

 Benghazi, in their feverish minds, has had the potential to do all of this. It is a candy store for many conservatives—no matter that the bins are empty. They will not—cannot—let it go. Nor can they simply focus on the real issues of what went wrong that dreadful night and what must be done to prevent another such disaster. They are love-sick for Benghazi. And for that, there is no cure.

Sadly, to be a leader in today's GOP, one needs to be both a demagogue and a tawdry whore to the most insane elements of the GOP base, much of which is motivated by raw racial hatred toward America's first black president.  

Putin Imposes Secret Sanctions on Pro-Gay Obama Campaign Donors

I try to not bash Vladimir Putin too frequently, but sometimes, it is hard to do.  Today is one of those days.  Yesterday I noted that Putin is playing the Russian people much as Hitler played the 1930's Germans.  Now, in retaliation for Obama's criticism of Putin's anti-gay policies and sanctions America and some EU countries have imposed on Russia in the wake of the undeclared invasion of the non-Crimea portions of Ukraine, in a school yard bully like move, Putin has imposed secret sanctions on Obama's gay campaign contribution bundlers and other pro-gay donors.  The Daily Beast looks at Putin's childish hissy fit.  Here are excerpts:
The Kremlin has expanded its secret “black list” of Americans banned from Russia to include Obama campaign fundraisers tied to the LGBT community and senior Congressmen, diplomatic sources tell The Daily Beast. Moscow’s list, these sources say, was expanded in retaliation to the Obama administration’s attack on the assets of key business associates of Vladimir Putin in March.

[U]nlike the United States, which made all three rounds of sanctions public, the Russian government only publicly revealed one list of sanctioned Americans, which included top Senators and White House officials. The contents of the subsequent additions to the Russian list, however, remain officially undisclosed.

[T]he second American list was more personal, going after big businessmen in Russia who were very close to Putin—his moneymen and his cronies. Putin said in late April that he was baffled that the Americans were targeting the Russian oligarchs.

So when the Kremlin responded, the Russians had to get a little creative. Many top American businessmen are not necessarily close to President Obama personally, so Moscow chose to sanction top Obama campaign bundlers as the closest means of direct retaliation.

Diplomatic sources confirmed to The Daily Beast that the expanded and still-secret Russian sanctions list includes five top Obama campaign bundlers as well as about a dozen top Senators and Congressmen who were not included in the first list. The names of the specific bundlers remains a secret, but a focus was put on those with ties to the gay and lesbian community; it’s a reflection of the ongoing fight between the Kremlin and the White House over Russia’s laws punishing the promotion of LGBT “propaganda.”

Friday, May 02, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

America's Ultimate Hate Crime and Child Abuse

In the wake of John Paulk's confession of the falsity of the "ex-gay myth" noted in a post yesterday, I again could only think of the harm that is done daily to thousands, if not millions of LGBT youth, who are growing up in conservative Christian (or Muslim) homes where they are exposed to relentless brainwashing that will cause in some cases lifelong harm.  One of the first posts I did on this blog (it would be another seven months before I began blogging daily) looked at the harm done by "deeply held religious belief" and what I deem to be a form of hate crime/child abuse.   Sadly, the scars remain sometimes forever - I have middle aged friends who cannot let go of the anti-gay indoctrination of their youth and/or remain closeted to their families out of fear of rejection, thereby missing out of opportunities for happiness and fulfilling relationships Here are excerpts from that early post that bear to be reiterated today:
I came across this column on a blog named "Proceed at Your Own Risk" which, although I did not grow up in a true fundamentalist home, aptly describes what growing up gay (and in the closet) was like in conservative areas. Every religious denomination that refuses to give gays full inclusion, in my view, continues this type of mental and psychological abuse, to this very day. I find it very hard to believe Christ would condone such brutality.


Every so once in a while I allow myself to consider the nightmare existence of a queer child growing up with religious fundamentalist parents. The thought of it is so painful that I need to keep it mostly compartmentalized and in the back of my mental and emotional closet.  It's an aspect of the world of homophobia and fundamentalist religion that we very much ignore. For many reasons, it's the forgotten stepchild of gay activism, child care services and the mental health profession.

But the obvious fact is that there are thousands of these kids living in a hell on earth as they fight their way through childhood.

I can think of few other situations that have the potential to engender such a relentless and pervasive environment of psychological and possibly even physical child abuse. Generally speaking we do not do a good job of handling child abuse in this nation but when it come to gay kids the picture is even bleaker. The ratio of gay kids to straight kids among runaways, child prostitutes and suicides, well documented by the CDC, makes this painfully clear.

Long before a child develops self-awareness of his or her own sexual orientation, he is trained to believe that homosexuality is an abomination and a perversion that is a threat to the American way of life.

In a fundamentalist religious environment, he is told that homosexuality threatens the American family and the sacred institution of marriage. He is told that homosexual activists and their agenda are leading the charge in a war against Christianity. The homosexuals are the enemy.

This young and impressionable child learns that the Bible, the absolute word of god and truth, clearly states that homosexuals are an abomination and that their sin is punishable by death.

And then, worst of all, he learns that homosexuality is a choice made by sick and evil people and that to make this choice is a very bad and wicked thing. But then nature takes its course and at some point the gay child realizes that he's "chosen" homosexuality. He doesn't remember being asked. He doesn't remember checking off that particular choice on any application. And he searches through the mail for the recruitment brochure, but it isn't to be found.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, he has made this monumental, life-changing and life-shattering choice, against his will and against the will of god.  No problem, he thinks, he'll just chose otherwise until he one day realizes that he can't. Try as he might, the gay just won't go away, along with the color of his skin and the texture of his hair.

His intellectual and emotional energies become singularly focused on changing that choice but to no avail. He turns up the engines and works hard to hide his nature. Self-hatred begins to rip open his guts. Childhood innocence and joy are not part of his experience. He lives in a state of constant dread and anxiety, fearing exposure or worse.

It's an exhausting and soul-crushing childhood. While other children are looking to the future with hope, he lives in a world of despair, pain and fear. While other children are considering ballerina, doctor, astronaut or fire fighter, the gay child's energies are focused on hiding his or her true self. The boy dreads his first fake sexual encounter: will he be able to perform? The girl worries less, she will just turn away and cry and wait until it's over.

Many ex-gays believe that the origins of homosexuality are to be found in an abusive childhood. Their logic is flawed but their childhoods were likely abusive. Many of them come out of strict Christian homes. Growing up gay in a strict fundamentalist Christian home most likely oftentimes means a battering patten of abuse, certainly verbal and sometimes physical. Many of these parents likely steam roll over the self-esteem and self-confidence of these children as they struggle to make "her" more feminine and "him" less of sissy.

Protected by a very misguided notion of religious freedom, fundamentalists of all sorts are allowed by our society to engage in the ultimate hate crime, a pervasive and monstrous form of child abuse that will one day be seen by social historians and anthropologists as a very barbaric and grotesque aspect of the American civilization.

Sexual orientation is not a choice, but our society's willingness to tolerate this terrible treatment of children is a choice and a choice that should make us all ashamed. We will be judged harshly by future generations as we are already judged by more evolved societies on the other side of the Atlantic.

When slavery, the oppression of women and child labor were recognized for what they were, modern nations changed. When certain Biblical practices including the stoning to death of adulterers were recognized for what they were, modern nations changed.

And when the abuse of homosexual children was recognized for what it was, modern nations changed--tragically we were not among them.

Freedom of religion was designed to protect people from oppression and persecution. Instead, in 21st Century America, "freedom of religion" is used to do great harm to millions of Americans, including many of our children who are unable to defend themselves, their psyches and their hearts.

"Freedom of religion" should not, in my opinion, be used to excuse behavior that violates sound practices and standards that are based on science, morality and ethics. Further, "freedom of religion" should not exempt people from laws governing discriminatory practices, mental health care, child care and child protection.

If we allow religious beliefs to justify human degradation and oppression, we reduce our constitution to nothing but an old piece of paper.

Homosexuality is common throughout hundreds of animal species and every scientific measure that has been used thus far has confirmed over and over again that this is about nature and not nurture. Of course, people who act exclusively on faith and belief rather than on fact and reason will never be convinced of this. The facts are that dinosaurs and unicorns did not miss the Ark and gay children did not chose to be who they were born to be.

But the question that seems to plague us at every turn these days is whether we are to be a nation of fact and reason or a nation of people packed and ready to jump on the Rapture bus?

In the meantime, suffer the little children.

McAuliffe Explores Medicaid Expansion Without Virginia Legislature

The Republican Party's war of the poor which is evidenced by things such as Paul Ryan's proposed budget which give trillions in tax cuts to the wealthy and business while destroying the social safety net is best exemplified here in Virginia by the Virginia GOP's refusal to sign onto Medicaid Expansion.  Indeed, the Virginia GOP would prefer a state government shutdown over expanding Medicaid to 400,000 currently uninsured Virginians.  Even though the funding would come from taxes Virginians have already paid to the federal government.   And even though the Virginia Senate plan -  the "Marketplace Virginia"  - is a private sector solution which has been endorsed by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the major newspapers in Virginia (including the conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch), and the Washington Post. Meanwhile, dripping hypocrisy, these Virginia Republicans pretend to honor "Christian values" while shredding the Gospel message of assisting the poor, the sick and the homeless.  Faced with such cold hearted, perhaps racist based obstructionism, Governor McAuliffe is exploring ways to expand Medicaid without the cooperation of the party of "No."  Here are highlights from a Washington Post piece that looks at the situation:

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is considering expanding health coverage for the poor without the approval of the state legislature, a move that would muscle his top priority past Republican opponents but also throw his young administration into a partisan firestorm and uncertain legal territory.

McAuliffe and his top advisers have consulted lawyers, health-care experts and legislators on how to bypass the GOP-dominated House of Delegates, according to three people familiar with the discussions. A fourth, who like the others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal private strategy, said the office of Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) has been researching the matter.

The move would allow Virginia to take advantage of a key state option under the Affordable Care Act, and it could help break a budget stalemate and avert a looming government shutdown. But it would be a daring action; only two other governors have done anything similar to bulldoze Medicaid expansion past opponents.

If McAuliffe follows through, he would raise far-reaching constitutional questions about the chief executive’s power and the rule of law — issues cropping up with increasing frequency in the states and in Washington, as governors and President Obama seek to push past adversarial legislatures and Congress.

Expansion by executive action might be more difficult in Virginia, where the state constitution requires the legislature to approve all appropriations — even pass-through funding from Washington, which has promised to foot the full bill for Medicaid expansion for the first three years.

For months, while still pushing for expansion through the General Assembly, McAuliffe advisers have been searching for a solution even if the House won’t go along, the three people familiar with those discussions said. They’ve picked the brains of health-care advocates and assured expansion-minded legislators that they are “exploring their options,” as one person familiar with those discussions put it.

House Republicans have grown increasingly vocal about the possibility, particularly after Herring bucked the General Assembly’s wishes this week by declaring that some young illegal immigrants are eligible for in-state tuition. Three months earlier, Herring had announced that the state’s ban on gay marriage — something the legislature still supports — is unconstitutional.

Independent of the governor, some health-care experts have been looking for months for a way for McAuliffe to make expansion happen on his own, according to two people familiar with those discussions. They considered whether the governor could stack the state’s Medicaid board, which sets eligibility standards, with his own appointees. They wondered whether McAuliffe could expand Medicaid by claiming emergency powers, perhaps in the event of a looming hospital closure or the government shutdown.  

Where things will end is anyone's guess.  Sadly, the cynic in me suspects that if the Affordable Health Care Act and the attendant expansion of Medicaid had been backed by a white president rather than one who is black, we likely would not be having this controversy.  Today's Virginia GOP has become little more than a defacto white supremacist organization with a leavening of insane religious extremists for good measure.  The Virginia GOP may wrap itself in religion, but it has become the antithesis of true Christian values.

Russia’s Weimar Syndrome

Past posts have touched on Russia's historic sense of "Russia expectionalism" which has simultaneously been combined with a form of inferiority complex that views Russia as not properly respected or given its due place in the world.  Its a bi-polar like pattern that dates back for centuries and of late it has led to unrest and revived dreams of empire on the part of Vladimir Putin who sees imperialistic adventures as a way to distract the Russian people from the failures of his regime.  Rather than look inward, Putin has played the blame game and pointed to the west as Russia's real enemy and sought to pull a veil over the rampant corruption and lawlessness on his own part and that of his circle of cronies and sycophants.   In many ways, what Putin is doing is reminiscent of how Hitler blamed America, France and Britain for Germany's economic problems as he clawed and bullied his way to power.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this syndrome which ought to worry thinking people.  Here are excerpts:

Sergei Karaganov, a prominent Russian foreign policy expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, recently provided a useful summation of his vast country’s sense of humiliation and encirclement. Because explosions of nationalist fervor like the one fostered by Vladimir Putin are dangerous and slow to abate, it is worth quoting this analysis at some length.

“The rupture is due to the West’s refusal to end the Cold War de facto or de jure in the quarter-century since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Karaganov wrote in the daily Izvestia. “In that time, the West has consistently sought to expand its zone of military, economic and political influence through NATO and the E.U. Russian interests and objections were flatly ignored. Russia was treated like a defeated power, though we did not see ourselves as defeated. A softer version of the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on the country. There was no outright annexation of territory or formal reparations like Germany faced after World War I, but Russia was told in no uncertain terms that it would play a modest role in the world. This policy was bound to engender a form of Weimar syndrome in a great nation whose dignity and interests had been trampled.”

The country being discussed here, it should be recalled, is the world’s largest, a Eurasian power whose Communist empire extended as far west as Berlin for more than four decades after World War II, subjecting peoples to the mind-numbing, soul-poisoning oppression of totalitarian rule under regimes that coerced and confined. The Gulag-littered Soviet imperium was a crushing universe, a “conspiracy of silence,” in the poet Czeslaw Milosz’s words, where “one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”Russia is also a nation that, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was ushered by the West into the group of leading industrialized countries known as the G-8 (before its recent Crimea-related exclusion).

What the United States and Europe were not prepared to do, however, was to eviscerate the Atlantic alliance in the name of some dreamy “Union of Europe” — Karaganov’s phrase — that would bring about “the merger of European soft power and technology with Russia’s resources, political will and hard power.” If this for Moscow was what was meant by the end of the Cold War, it was a nonstarter and still is.

What now? A sense of national humiliation, whether based in fact or not, is a tremendous catalyst for violence. It was in Weimar Germany, where the reparations and concessions stipulated by the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 created an explosive mood. It was in Serbia at the time of the break-up in 1991 of Yugoslavia, a country Belgrade always regarded as a Serbian extension of itself. The blinding fever drummed up by Slobodan Milosevic was based in a supposed need to reassert Serbian greatness; the means then was the ravages of his fifth columnists in Bosnia.

That delirium took a decade to dim. It is unlikely that the Russian version will take less. Putin’s nationalist upsurge is the mask for all sorts of problems — demographic decline, corruption, a coopted judiciary, a cowed press, an oligarchic resource-based economy that has failed to diversify — but no less virulent for that.

In the face of this assertive Russia, nothing would be more dangerous than American weakness. . . . the Article 5 commitment to a joint military response to any attack on an ally is critical.
The U.S. treaties must be words of truth that sound “like a pistol shot,” or violent mayhem could spread well beyond East Ukraine.

Putin is a very dangerous demagogue and the forces he is unleashing to mask his own domestic failures are dangerous.  Sadly, too many Russians are allowing themselves to be duped by this viper just as Germans were under Hitler.   Those who forget and/or refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Poll: Hillary Clinton Tops Jeb Bush in Florida

As prior posts have note, some in the GOP - especially Wall Street figures - are hoping that Jeb Bush will throw his hat into the 2016 GOP presidential contest and "rescue" the GOP.  This thinking, of course, ignores the toxicity of Chimperator George W. Bush's legacy outside of select Kool-Aid drinking GOP circles. Now, a new poll shows that while Jeb Bush beats other GOP competitors, Hillary Clinton trumps them all.  Here are excerots from Politico:

Jeb Bush has a strong lead in Florida among potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders — but Hillary Clinton’s got them all beat, a new poll Thursday found.

According to the Quinnipiac University poll, 27 percent would back Bush for the White House, earning him a sizable lead over the rest of the GOP field.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul came in second with 14 percent, beating out Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who came in third at 11 percent. No other candidates received more than 6 percent support.

The poll comes amid rising speculation that Bush, the governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, might run for the GOP nomination in 2016.

The poll showed Hillary Clinton doing well in Florida, as well. She topped all potential GOP challengers in a head-to-head race. In a potential faceoff between her and Bush, she received 49 percent support compared to 41 percent support for the former governor.

Justice Antonin Scalia - It's Time to Retire

For regular readers it is no secret that I hold Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in low regard and believe that it is far past time that the old bigot retire from the Court.  Scalia makes no effort to hide or disguise his prejudices and religious based bigotry.  Moreover, he makes a mockery of the canons of judicial conduct which govern the behavior of other federal court judges. Now, in the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld the EPA's regulatory powers, Scalia wrote a dissent that suggest that senility can also be added to the reasons he needs to retire form the Court - or be removed.  Te only oher justice to join with Scalia was that mental midget of all mental midgets, Clarence Thomas.  Talking Points Memo looks at Scalia's major fuck up.  Here are highlights:

Legal experts say Justice Antonin Scalia erred in his dissent in the 6-2 decision Tuesday to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate coal pollution that moves across state lines. The Reagan-appointed jurist argued that the majority's decision was inconsistent with a unanimous 2001 ruling which he mistakenly said shot down EPA efforts to consider costs when setting regulations.

"This is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation. Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457 (2001), confronted EPA's contention that it could consider costs in setting [National Ambient Air Quality Standards]," Scalia wrote in his dissent, which was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

The problem: the EPA's position in the 2001 case was exactly the opposite. The agency was defending its refusal to consider cost as a counter-weight to health benefits when setting certain air quality standards. It was the trucking industry that wanted the EPA to factor in cost. The 9-0 ruling sided with the EPA. The author of the ruling that Scalia mischaracterized? Scalia himself.

The conservative justice's error was noted by University of California-Berkeley law professor Dan Farber, who called it "embarrassing" and a "cringeworthy blunder." . . . . "This gaffe is doubly embarrassing because Scalia wrote the opinion in the case, so he should surely remember which side won! Either some law clerk made the mistake and Scalia failed to read his own dissent carefully enough, or he simply forgot the basics of the earlier case and his clerks failed to correct him. Either way, it's a cringeworthy blunder."

Doug Kendall, the president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a liberal legal advocacy group, said the error was mystifying and very unusual for a Supreme Court justice.

"It is a mind-blowing misstatement of a basic fact of the American Trucking Association ruling which Justice Scalia himself wrote. And it's not just a stray passage -- it's the basis for an entire section of the dissent," Kendall said. "It is very unusual to see a passage that so clearly misstates the fundamental facts of a prior ruling, especially one written by the justice himself."

As I said, if Scalia had any honor and wanted to protect his image in history, he'd resign now.  Sadly, given his hubris and arrogance, that is not what is likely to happen.

Newsweek's Devastating Piece on the Vile Ex-Gay Myth

1998 Newsweek cover - all of which was a lie
 Back in 1998 while I was still in the closet trying valiantly to convince myself that I wasn't really gay, Newsweek magazine did a front page cover piece on the "ex-gay" ministries and suggested that sexual orientation was in fact changeable.  The piece featured John Paulk and his then wife on the cover - see the image above - and went into great detail about how conversion therapy was supposedly turning gays into heterosexuals.  In retrospect, we all know that the entire storyline was and is a lie, but one has to wonder how many individuals redoubled their efforts to "pray away the gay."  I know that I certainly did, all to no effect, of course.  Only after an unplanned encounter did I finally admit reality to myself.  Now, a lengthy article in a new issue of Newsweek looks at John Paulk, who is no once again living as an openly gay man (the article also notes the exposure of Michael Johnston as a fraud thanks to the efforts of Wayne Besen and yours truly), that basically drops an atomic bomb on the snake oil merchants who continue to peddle the ex-gay myth.  These charlatans include Paulk's former wife who continues to market the ex-gay myth in a manner that makes a tawdry prostitute look down right virtuous.  Here are article excerpts:

On a Tuesday evening nearly 14 years ago, John Paulk walked into a gay bar in Washington, D.C. At another time in his life, Paulk would have fit right in. But in 2000, Paulk’s life as an openly gay man was far behind him. He was then one of the most prominent so-called ex-gays in the country, only two years removed from appearing on the cover of Newsweek, posing with his smiling wife for an article about gay conversion therapy.

At 37, Paulk had spent the prior 13 years involved with Exodus International, one of the largest and most influential ex-gay organizations in the world. He married another ex-gay, Anne, and together they rose through the ranks, becoming leaders and eventually the faces of a movement that attracted thousands with its message that, if they tried hard enough, gay and lesbian people could become happy heterosexuals. “Change is possible” was their rallying cry. You just needed to surrender yourself to God. Look at us, they said to rooms of thousands. Look how happy we are.

Today, Paulk is openly gay again, divorced and running a catering business in Portland, Oregon. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was trying hard to keep the closet door closed, while preaching a message of ex-gay deliverance from within it.

Far-right groups including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association pooled $600,000 to place ads promising the effectiveness of reparative therapy in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Anne and John Paulk smiled from full-page newspaper spreads.

In front of the crowds and cameras, Paulk was the image of certainty. But backstage, he was faltering. More than that, he knew he was lying.

“It’s funny, for those of us that worked in it, behind closed doors, we knew we hadn't really changed,” he says. “Our situations had changed—we had gotten married, and some of us had children, so our roles had changed. I was a husband and father; that was my identity. And the homosexuality had been tamped down. But you can only push it down for so long, and it would eke its way out every so often.”

[B]y 2003, he was burned out.  “I would be in hotel rooms, and I would be on my face sobbing and crying on the bed,” he says. “I felt like a liar and a hypocrite. Having to go out and give hope to these people. I was in despair knowing that what I was telling them was not entirely honest. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Even in its earliest days, Exodus’s philosophy—that same-sex attraction meant a person was “broken” and could be “fixed”—was undermined by the reality of its members’ actions. Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, two of the co-founders, left the movement in 1979 to be in a committed relationship with one another. (Bussee has spent the decades since actively fighting Exodus’s message.) John Evans, one of the founders of Love in Action (LIA), an early ex-gay ministry that helped establish Exodus in 1974, left LIA after a friend committed suicide over his distress at being unable to change his sexual orientation. "They're destroying people's lives,” Evans told The Wall Street Journal in 1993. “They're living in a fantasy world.” (LIA has since changed its name to Restoration Path.)

But all the far-right funding and rapid expansion did little more than prop up a withering institution. A series of scandals chipped away at the ex-gay movement’s veneer of success. 

First came the photo of Paulk in the gay bar. Then in 2003, Michael Johnson, founder of “National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day,” was revealed to have infected men he’d met on the Internet with HIV through unprotected sex. John Smid, who joined LIA in 1986 and eventually became its executive director, left the organization in 2008. Three years later, Smid wrote on his blog that he "never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual," and that reorientation is impossible, because being gay is intrinsic.

Then it crumbled further. In 2012, psychologist Robert Spitzer . . . . retracted a controversial study, published in 2003, often cited by the ex-gay community that had concluded some “highly motivated” individuals could change their sexual orientation. Spitzer wrote an apology to LGBT people who “wasted time and energy” on reparative therapy. 

By that time, policy within Exodus began to genuinely shift. “We renounced and forbid reparative therapy,” in 2012, Chambers tells Newsweek. “And there was an enormous split inside Exodus. Many who were more fundamentalist in approach had already broken off and formed Restored Hope Network.” Anne Paulk, John’s ex-wife, was one of those who left.

Lastly, there’s the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), . . .  In 2007, NARTH therapist Chris Austin was convicted of sexually assaulting a client, and sentenced to 10 years in prison; in 2010, NARTH board member George Rekers was found to have employed a male prostitute as a companion for a two-week European vacation; and in 2012 the Internal Revenue Service revoked NARTH’s nonprofit status for not properly filing its paperwork.

Today, Paulk strongly believes that no child or teen should be put through any type of “treatment” for their sexual orientation. On the other hand, he says adults should have the right to pursue any therapy they choose. “If I go see a therapist because I am uncomfortable with homosexual feelings or attractions and I do not feel that those are compatible with who I see myself to be, [I] should have the right to determine the course of [my] therapy,” Paulk says. “However, I completely draw the line when it comes to minors.”

The tragedy that Paulk lives with to this day is that organizations like JONAH often specifically target minors, with summer camps and teen programs. “For 25 years I felt guilty and filled with self-loathing, trying to reject this part about myself. I’m culpable—I spread the message that my sexuality had changed, and I used my marriage as proof of that,” Paulk says.

Paulk’s story echoes those of many others whose lives were damaged by the shame, guilt, and self-loathing that marked their involvement with ex-gay therapy, and who overcame their past to eventually live life as their LGBT selves. 

Paulk, meanwhile, hopes his story encourages others to overcome their own fears and uncertainties. “It’s difficult, but worth it at the end of the day because of the peace that comes with it. It’s happy on the other side.”

John Paulk in 2013
From my own experience, I agree with Paulk.  Once one admits that they are gay and that it is neither a choice or something changeable and comes to terms with that reality, it is so liberating and, with adjustment, brings a peacefulness never experienced during all the years of trying to change and to be something that nature (God?) did not intend you to be.  In my view, those who continue to peddle the "ex-gay lie" like Paulk's ex-wife are among the lowest of the low. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

U.S. Department of Education: Title IX Protects LGBT Students

While many states give lips service to protecting LGBT public school children, in states like Virginia, true protections are nearly non-existent and time and time again we see teachers and administrators failing to act and/or looking the other way as LGBT students are bullied and/or subjected to discrimination.  Now, an announcement by the U.S. Department of Education ("DOE") may put new pressure on schools receiving federal funding to actually take action.  Specifically, the DOE's Office of Civil Rights has issued guidelines underscoring that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) to the federal civil rights laws that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities applies to LGBT students and transgender students in particular.  The 53 page document can be found here.  Here are highlights from a statement by the National Center for Transgender Equality:

The guidance, from the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), states: "Title IX's sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation."

"This announcement is a breakthrough for transgender students, who too often face hostility at school and refusal by school officials to accept them for who they truly are," said NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin. "It is now clearer than ever that schools nationwide are responsible for ensuring that transgender students are respected and safe, and students can seek protection from the Department of Education and the courts if schools fail to do so." 

...This historic statement on gender identity is embedded in a larger guidance document on the responsibilities of schools to prevent and respond to sexual violence against any student—part of a package of guidance and resources announced by the Obama Administration today to address this widespread problem. Also being launched is a new website,, collecting resources for students and schools and reporting settlements with schools related to sexual violence on campus. NCTE applauds the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the federal agencies involved in this effort.

"Sexual violence in schools is shockingly common in the U.S. and needs to stop," said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. "That the Federal Government is addressing sexual violence is so important. And it is also important, and honestly a relief, that the Department of Education is clarifying Title IX in a way that will make schools safer for transgender students."
It goes without saying that the Christofascists will not be happy and will likely view this as another instance of their religious freedom - i.e., unrestricted license to persecute others - as being  under attack.

Lynchburg Train Derailment/Fire Underscore Need for Regulations

The proponents of unrestricted oil and gas exploration, pipeline construction, and a laissez-faire government approach to regulations of the same - a crowd that includes the Virginia GOP - suffered a possible set back yesterday.   A CSX train carrying fracked oil derailed in downtown Lynchburg setting off a fire storm that cause portions of the city's downtown to be evacuated and dumped 50,000 gallons of the oil into the James River, force the city of Richmond to shift to alternate water supply sources.   The accident is but one of many that highlight the risks associated with pipeline and rail transportation of oil.  The only good news was that no serious injuries or deaths resulted. The Lynchburg News-Advance reports on the mess.  Here are highlights:
About 50,000 gallons of crude oil were unaccounted for late Wednesday after a CSX train derailed in downtown Lynchburg and sent three flaming tanker cars careening into the James River.

The ensuing conflagration ignited oil on the surface of the river, sent flames and smoke hundreds of feet into the air, forced evacuations of downtown businesses and homes and rattled the nerves of hundreds of downtown workers.
Businesses and residences between Fifth and Washington streets and from Main Street to the riverfront had to be cleared for several hours, as firefighters and hazardous materials workers charged toward the blaze.

Evacuees swarmed Main Street, peering around buildings and police barriers, craning for a better view of the disaster that might provide some explanation as to what went so terribly wrong.

City officials said drinking water is unaffected. Lynchburg typically gets its water from the Pedlar Reservoir in Amherst County. Downstream, Richmond began Wednesday afternoon to switch to an alternate water supply.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman discussed oil train wrecks last week at a two-day safety forum in Washington.

Hersman said the Obama administration needed to take steps immediately to protect the public from potentially catastrophic oil train accidents even if it means using emergency authority.

The Transportation Department was in the midst of drafting regulations to toughen standards for tank cars used to transport oil and ethanol, as well as other steps prevent or mitigate accidents. But there isn't time to wait for the cumbersome federal rulemaking process - which often takes many years to complete - to run its normal course, Hersman said.

A piece in the New York Times underscores that such derailments are a growing problem.  Here are highlights:

Train traffic carrying crude was relatively rare until four years ago, when oil companies in North Dakota began shipping large quantities of Bakken shale crude out of the state by rail because there was insufficient pipeline capacity to do the job.

Now, much of the production of the Bakken region is sent by rail on trains that can stretch up to a mile long and carry roughly 85,000 barrels of oil.

When a runaway train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded last July in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people, the safety issues surrounding the transportation of crude through populated areas rose in importance for both American and Canadian regulators.

Then, in December, an oil train passing through Casselton, N.D., derailed and exploded, sending flames high into the air and forcing some residents to evacuate. That followed an accident in November, when another oil train derailed in Alabama, spilling crude oil.

Many of the trains are destined for refineries on the East Coast, which have a strong desire to replace expensive imported crude from the Middle East and Africa with the high-quality, and less expensive, crude from North Dakota.

In response to the rising concerns, federal regulators and railroads agreed in February to a series of voluntary measures to improve safety, including lower speed limits for oil trains in urban areas, increasing the frequency of track inspections and adding more brakes on trains.

And last week, Canada issued tough new rules requiring emergency plans from railroads on responding to catastrophic accidents and requiring companies to retire older models of tank cars within three years. The new model of tank car, developed in 2011, would effectively set a new standard of safety for rail companies in the United States since many lines cross the United States-Canadian border.

But despite years of discussion, American regulators have lagged on requiring stronger tank cars, which are generally owned by oil companies and private investors, not by railroad companies.

Safety experts have warned for more than 20 years that the older tank cars, called DOT-111s, are prone to rupture in a derailment.

Will North Carolina's New Gay Marriage Lawsuit Turn the Tables on Christofascists?

The motivation behind anti-gay laws, including bans on same sex marriage such as Virginia's Marshall-Newman Amendment has always been and continues to be anti-gay animus and the desire of far right Christians - the Christofascists - to impose their religious beliefs on all of society.  Moreover, whenever their ability to persecute others is restricted, these same folks whine and shriek that their "religious liberty" and religious freedom is under attack.  What is stunning about the new challenge to North Carolina's anti-gay Amendment 1 is that the United Church of Christ and other progressive clergy have taken the Christofascist's argument and turned it around against them.  In a secular nation with no established religion, no one set of religious believers should be allowed to define civil law marriage rights.  Yet this is precisely what Amendment 1 does, as does the Marshall-Newman Amendment.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at the unusual dynamics of the North Carolina gay marriage litigation compared to what we have seen in other states.  Here are excerpts:

An unusual lawsuit in North Carolina is shifting the conversation about religious freedom -- and could be driving a wedge between some major opponents of same-sex marriage.

Clergy from the United Church of Christ, a liberal denomination that has allowed pastors across the U.S. to officiate at gay weddings since 2005, filed suit in a North Carolina district court Monday, becoming the latest in a nationwide series of cases against a state's same-sex marriage ban. Like dozens of similar lawsuits filed across the country, the North Carolina suit argues that the state's ban violates gay couples' constitutional right to equal protection. But in a unique twist, the suit adds that the ban also violates the First Amendment right of members of the clergy to practice their faith -- because the state's ban criminalizes pastors who bless same-sex unions, leaving clergy open to arrest.

That's a cause that's gaining unexpected support. 

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared Tuesday that North Carolina's ban is "dubious and dangerous." And while Mohler has not changed his opposition to same-sex marriage -- he once equated homosexuality with cancer -- he did concede that the UCC clergy's lawsuit is "very convincing."

Legal experts say that North Carolina's criminalization of clergy for blessing a same-sex union is unique and not typically found in other states where same-sex marriage is banned. 

Experts say the lawsuit may reflect a shift in the fight over gay rights, noting that opponents of same-sex marriage have lately been arguing more and more that allowing gay couples to wed threatens the religious freedom of both clergy and business owners who believe their faith opposes it.

"It turns everything on its head," Randall Balmer, a professor of American religious history at Dartmouth College and author of First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty, said of the suit.

Moore [of the Southern Baptist Convention], along with other religious conservatives, argued that when it comes to recent laws regulating same-sex marriage, religious liberty is a right that should be reserved for those who disagree with gay marriage. 

The North Carolina clergy disagree.  "As a Christian minister in a Christian church that supports same-gender marriage, I should be religiously free to offer my services as a minister performing a wedding for a couple in my congregation," said Rev. Nancy Ellett Allison, a United Church of Christ plaintiff in the case, which also includes a dozen non-UCC clergy and same-sex couples.

Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia Law School who recently helped launch a project to research the increased use of religious exemption claims in courts, sees this trend as evidence of the momentum of the gay rights movement.

"This is plan B [for the Christofascists]," she said. "Plan A was defeating the same-sex marriage movement in the courts and legislatures, and they've lost that battle. So Plan B is to turn to religion: You can have your laws, they just don't apply to me."