Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Tea Party’s Self-Defeating Hate And Focus on the Wrong Villians

Two things define most members of the Tea Party: they embrace ignorance and they self-identify as conservative Christians (perhaps the two go hand in hand?).  But there is another attribute that is defining: they allow themselves to be played for fools by those like the Koch brothers who are working hard with the Republican Party to return America to a Gilded Age society.  Among the long term losers will be the Tea Party members themselves.  They are simply either too stupid or too blinded by their hatred of those who are different to figure this reality out.  A piece in Salon looks at the phenomenon.  Here are sample excerpts:
When it comes to hating immigrants, the Tea Party has nothing on Samuel Gompers.

Gompers, the founder of what became today’s AFL-CIO, was so appalled by the immigrants pouring into the United States in the late 19th century, and so convinced that they were undermining wages for his union members, that he penned an anti-Asian pamphlet entitled “Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood Against Coolieism: Which Shall Survive?”

“Caucasians are not going to let their standard of living be destroyed by Negroes, Chinamen, Japs or any others,” Gompers fulminated on another occasion, expanding his race-baiting from Asians to black people.

Gompers and the Tea Party have this in common: Both rose to prominence during times of tremendous economic inequality in America. Gompers was the most significant labor leader of the Gilded Age. The Tea Party is a nativist, populist reaction to our modern Age of Inequality. And both blamed immigrants for the nation’s distress.

The Gilded Age and today’s Great Divergence occurred when the nation’s foreign-born population was at historic highs. By contrast, America’s wealth has never been shared more broadly than it was in the late 1960s, at the end of a four-decade ban on immigrants. There is evidence that mass immigration lowers wages and widens the gap between the wealthy and the middle class. But don’t blame the immigrants. Blame the companies that exploit them as a source of cheap labor, and the laws that allow them to do so.

Consider what happened after the Civil War, when refugees from the peasant kingdoms of Italy, Austria-Hungary and Russia began thronging the United States. Uneducated and accustomed to subservience, they were ideally suited for exploitation by the titans of the era. Andrew Carnegie (an immigrant himself, but from Scotland) used Hungarians and Slavs to break a strike by native-born coal miners in 1884. When the Hungarians and Slavs went on strike a few years later, he imported Italians. There were always newcomers willing to work for less.

Not surprisingly, Gompers and other labor leaders supported the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, an anti-immigrant law inspired by the same nativist backlash that had brought about Prohibition. Through a system of quotas restricting the number of visas for each country to 2 percent of the nationality living in the U.S. in 1890, the act essentially cut off immigration for the next 40 years. While Great Britain (from which Gompers himself had emigrated) was entitled to 34,000 visas a year, as a reflection of America’s British stock, Italy was limited to 3,800. Chinese and Japanese were banned entirely.

In the first decade of the 20th century, 8.2 million immigrants arrived in the United States. From the 1930s through the 1960s, only 7.2 million came here. 

It is not surprising that immigration is a focus of the Tea Party’s populist resentment. Non-college-educated whites may always be skeptical of mass immigration — and of politicians who support it. Their opposition to immigration isn’t just about race. It’s about money, too.

So, if banning immigration drove up wages in the 20th century, why don’t we do it again? For one thing, no matter the wishes of today’s nativists, a new Johnson-Reed Act would be impossible to pass, or enforce. It was an isolationist measure that has no place in a globalized world. We could, theoretically, cut off immigration from Africa, Europe and Asia, but the United States shares a border with a much poorer neighbor, which provides a constant supply of unskilled labor. Latino communities are now so well established in American cities that they have the political influence to demand open immigration policies. In Northern cities, Latinos are nowhere close to being the “foreigners” they were in the 1920s.

“In many of these [low-wage] occupations and industries, vulnerable immigrants cannot exercise their labor rights or speak out against unfair or illegal working conditions without the fear of retaliation,” said Jose Mejia of the California State Council of Laborers.

We could also repeal the ban on immigrants collecting SNAP and Medicaid benefits during their first five years in the United States. Passed as part of the 1996 welfare reform, the ban reduces immigrants’ economic options, and thus their ability to refuse the worst jobs.

If the Tea Party really wants to reduce the impact of immigration on American wages, they should lobby for laws that make life easier for immigrants, not laws that aim to drive them out of the country.

Why the Border Crisis Is a Myth

Anti-immigrant Tea Party fanatics have been protesting along the U.S. - Mexico border outraged, I mean outraged, that non-whites are attempting to cross into the United States to escape violence and hardship in their Central American countries.  The hypocrisy of these "real Americans" is three fold: (i) they are descendants of immigrants themselves, (ii) while they are attacking Barack Obama, the law at the center of the debate was passed on George W. Bush's watch in 2008, and (iii) they falsely claim to be godly Christians even though the reject they Gospel message and seemingly learned nothing from the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Now, an El Paso, Texas judge suggests that the "border crisis" is in some ways a myth.  Here are excerpts from her op-ed in the New York Times:

TO hear the national news media tell the story, you would think my city, El Paso, and others along the Texas-Mexico border were being overrun by children — tens of thousands of them, some with their mothers, arriving from Central America in recent months, exploiting an immigration loophole to avoid deportation and putting a fatal strain on border state resources.

There’s no denying the impact of this latest immigration wave or the need for more resources. But there’s no crisis. Local communities like mine have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants. 

Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.

Contrary to the heated pronouncements, this is nothing we haven’t seen before. Groups of refugees arrive by plane and are processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When they are released, Annunciation House takes them to a shelter where they get a shower, a place to sleep, meals and even health care — all provided by volunteers and private donations. 

The families of the refugees also help, often paying for travel costs and taking them into their homes. The refugees then move on, to Florida, Georgia, New York or elsewhere. 

While the numbers of refugees arriving in El Paso are a fraction of the number arriving in McAllen, in southern Texas, the chain of events is generally the same. Like El Paso, South Texas is not the permanent destination for these refugees. And the response from McAllen’s citizens has been generous, too. 

The same can’t be said of our politicians. What we are hearing from Austin and Washington is an almost Pavlovian response to immigration concerns. My governor, Rick Perry, a Republican, announced this week that he was sending 1,000 National Guard soldiers, at a cost of $12 million a month, to bolster the border.

In Texas, state legislators and the Department of Public Safety are planning to spend an additional $30 million over six months to create a “surge” of state law enforcement resources, an expenditure that some in our state’s Capitol would like to see made permanent. 

The costs are significant. Every day we detain an undocumented child immigrant, it costs Immigration and Customs Enforcement — i.e., the taxpayer — $259 per person, significantly more than we spend to educate a child in a middle-class school district.

The irony is that this cash-intensive strategy comes from leaders who consistently underfund health care, transportation and education. And they ignore the crucial fact that children crossing our borders aren’t trying to sneak around law enforcement: They are running to law enforcement.

This effort to take away rights that were granted when there was significantly less anti-immigrant fervor isn’t just shortsighted and expensive, it’s un-American. We can debate the wisdom of providing greater protection to Central American children than to Mexican children, but there can be no doubt that giving safe haven to a child facing violence in a country that cannot protect its most vulnerable citizens is what a civilized country, with the resources we possess, should do. 

Bachmann: LGBT Movement Has A Pro-Pedophilia Agenda

Some are thrilled that the extremely delusional Michele Bachmann has said that she may consider another presidential run in 2016.  Few - other than perhaps Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum - could help  keep the lunacy and extremism of today's GOPin open view more than Bachmann.  Among Bachmann's opening salvos are her claims that "child rape is the result of gay rights" and that the LGBT movement is trying to “abolish age of consent laws.”  Bachmann is truly a foul and nasty piece of work who belongs in a mental ward as opposed to running for any public office of any kind.  Think Progress looks at Bachmann's batshitery.  Here are highlights:
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has a long history of disparaging the LGBT community, and it seems she is not done. In a radio interview this week, Bachmann claimed that the LGBT movement is trying to “abolish age of consent laws.”

Bachmann told Faith & Liberty Host Dave Garrison that there is an effort underway to “do away with statutory rape laws,” so that “adults would be able to freely prey on little children sexually. That’s the deviance that we’re seeing embraced in our culture today.”

The only concerns that have been raised about statutory rape laws is that they unfairly discriminate against same-sex couples. Many states have a “Romeo and Juliet” exception that protects young people who engage in a sexual relationship with someone under the age of consent but who is still close in age, such that a 17-year-old would not be convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a 15-year-old, even though the 15-year-old would not be allowed to legally consent. But many of these state laws only apply to different-sex couples, so a same-sex couple that is similar in age would be more vulnerable to prosecution, jail, and sex-offender status, just because of their sexual orientation.

Second Court Strikes Down Florida's Gay Marriage Ban

Following in the wake of a narrower ruling issued inn Monroe County, Florida, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ruled Florida's ban on same sex marriage to be unconstitutional and in a sweeping opinion stated the obvious:
“serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society,”

In every state where such bans have been passed, the true motivation of the Christofascists who led the charge has been anti-gay animus and the goal of keeping gays and inferior under the law. To punish us, if you will, for refusing to live our lives in accordance with the Christofascists' hate and fear based religious dogma.  Kudos to Judge Zabel for calling a spade a spade.  The Miami Herald has more details.  Here are highlights:
A Miami-Dade judge declared Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional on Friday, in a sweeping ruling that cut a wide swath through American history — from the Declaration of Independence to slavery to Jim Crow to equality for women — as much as it drew from recent Supreme Court decisions.

Preventing same-sex couples from marrying, “serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society,” Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel said.

Zabel became the second South Florida judge in eight days to declare that Florida’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses.

Read more here:

Last week, a Keys judge also ruled the ban unconstitutional. That ruling was stayed when the state attorney general’s office appealed, and Zabel stayed her own order Friday pending an appeal, saying she understood her decision would not be the “final word” on the issue.

Read more here:

Among other landmark Supreme Court cases, Zabel cited Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case in which the court threw out all state prohibitions against interracial marriage.

Zabel said fundamental constitutional rights are not subject to majority approval. “A state’s constitution cannot insulate a law that otherwise violates the U.S. Constitution,” she wrote. “The United States Constitution would be meaningless if its principles were not shielded from the will of the majority.”

John Stemberger, who led the 2008 campaign to amend the state constitution, was vehemently critical of Zabel’s decision, especially her reference to the Supreme Court case on interracial marriage.

Read more here:

Anthony Verdugo, president of the conservative Christian Family Coalition, called Zabel’s ruling “corrupt” and “simply illegitimate.”

“It goes against Windsor because Windsor says the states have the right to regulate marital relations,” Verdugo said. “It goes against that precedent. She has inserted herself into that federal document to overthrow eight million votes. Voter rights is a fundamental freedom. She has overthrown and violated voter rights.”

But Elizabeth Schwartz, a Miami Beach lawyer for the six Miami-Dade couples, said Zabel’s ruling “makes it crystal clear why the Florida marriage bans are unconstitutional.”

“Judge Zabel considered, enumerated and rejected the meritless arguments of the anti-equality forces,” Schwartz said. “We’re anxious to move forward to appeal on the strength of this soaring order.”
Read more here:

What's really corrupt and illegitimate is the Christofascists bigotry and demands that others subscribe to their ugly religious beliefs.

Read more here:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Putin is Reprising Hitler and Stalin's 1939 Invasion of Poland

Some are saying that Vladimir Putin has derived his play book for reviving Russian imperialism on the tactics of two of the most horrible figures in world history: Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin.  Both mass murderers on a horrific scale.  It's been noted that Putin's claims that he seeks to protect ethnic Russians mirrors Hitler's pretense of protecting ethnic Germans in 1938 and 1939.  But Putin's model also follows Stalin's excuse for invading Poland in 1939 as Germany invaded from the west.  Some, thankfully, remember their history.  Sadly, far too many do not and seem doomed to see history's horrors repeated.  The Daily Beast looks at Putin's effort to reprise Stalin's brutal regime.  Here are excerpts:
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new use of Russian military force inside Ukraine harkens back to 1939 when Joseph Stalin led a Russian invasion of Poland, and Dempsey predicted Putin was far from finished.

Dempsey was speaking to the Aspen Security Forum and responding to the news that the U.S. government is accusing the Russian military of firing artillery from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine in support of separatists there. The latest development represents a dangerous escalation of the crisis on the part of Putin and the Russia-Ukraine crisis is now a global problem, he said.

“It does change the situation. You’ve got a Russian government that has made a conscious decision to use its military force inside another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives. It’s the first time since 1939 or so that that’s been the case,” Dempsey said. “They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main, and towards the United States.”

Joseph Stalin used similar rhetoric and justifications when he invaded Poland in September 1939, only days after Adolf Hitler’s Nazi army invaded Poland from the other direction. Stalin and Hitler had signed a secret pact of non-aggression and proposed to carve up Europe between them, but Stalin said his goal was to protect ethnic Russians in his near abroad.

“The Soviet Government cannot regard with indifference the fact that the kindred Ukrainian and White Russian people, who live on Polish territory and who are at the mercy of fate, are now left defenseless,” read the note from the Soviet Foreign Ministry to the Polish Ambassador to Moscow on the day Stalin invaded.

“Putin may actually light a fire that he loses control over,” he said. “There’s a rising tide of nationalism in Europe right now that has been created in many ways by these Russian activities.”
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Thursday that U.S. intelligence showed that the Russian military had now fired artillery from Russia into Ukraine, but she declined to provide any details about the source of the intelligence.

“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful, multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” she said. 

“Putin’s problem is that he is right now on the verge of military defeat. So he has two choices right now, neither of them good,” Saakashvili said. “He could move in his troops, after which he would become an international pariah with no certain outcome. The second choice he has is to live with military defeat, but that could trigger a process inside Russia that he can no longer control… Putin cannot afford to lose.”
Like so many of his predecessors, Putin's rule will ultimately harm the Russian people.  They need to find a way to overthrow his rule before it is too late.

Tea Party Meeting Erupts as Politician Urges "Compassion" for Migrant Children

If one wants a good glimpse at the ugliness which is today's Christofascist/Tea Party controlled Republican Party, a good example is what happened at a A town hall meeting held by Texas Tea Party state Rep. David Simpson (R).  Simpson committed the heresy of supposedly not doing enough to stop undocumented Central American children and youths from flooding the border.  Of course, these Tea Party folks are 85% or more self-identified conservative Christians, so their reaction shows how little they care about the Gospel message.  If they aren't controlling the sex lives of other people and feigning piety on Sunday mornings at church, they really want nothing to do with the true Christian message.  A piece in The Raw Story looks at the batshitery that erupted this week. Here are highlights:

A town hall meeting held by Texas Tea Party state Rep. David Simpson (R) on Wednesday got heated as Simpson’s constituents railed at him for not doing more to stop the influx of unaccompanied, undocumented minors coming to the United States from Central and South America. 

The Longview, Texas News-Journal reported that the conservative attendees expressed health concerns, religious fears and doubts about Simpson’s commitment to putting his “constituents first.”

Simpson attempted to tell the crowd of about 160 residents that the thousands of children arriving at the Mexico-U.S. border are fleeing lives of violence and abuse, including gangsters who specialize in trafficking children as sex slaves. Texans should treat the children with compassion, he said, a notion that his audience summarily rejected.

After Simpson’s slide show of the faces of some of the border children, Longview resident Terri Hill said, “I believe your constituents should come first when you talk about people who are impacted. You are to represent us, and we have children. These [migrant children] are people that are coming in with leprosy, tuberculosis, polio.”

Another resident, Ben Denson, expressed fear that the children could be disease-carriers.

We need a lot of things, but what we don’t need is more people at the trough,” said Thomas Rolland to Simpson. “These people are not coming in with a good, Christian heart. Most of them are criminals, anyway.”

Simpson protested, “These children are fodder in this. They are being assaulted.”

“I don’t believe in amnesty,” he assured the crowd. “I don’t believe in treating people who’ve crossed the border as a murderer…I do think there should be a path, a legal path, for naturalization or citizenship. We’re a nation of immigrants.”
It sounds like Simpson needs to switch political parties.  He may also want to avoid hanging around the modern day Pharisees of the GOP base.   The GOP base continues to provide the best argument around as to why one would want to walk away from both the GOP and Christianity.

California - The Left Coast Rising

There have been a number of studies suggesting that "liberal" states are faring better than "conservative" states in the aftermath of the great recession despite some initial difficulties following the burst of the housing bubble.  Now, as noted before, California and Kansas are providing studies in contrast as to what happens when one state implements the GOP's dream version of economic/tax reform while the other implements what the GOP base would describe as ruinous liberal policies.  The end result?  Kansas is in a meltdown while California is on the rise and out performing the nation on jobs and economic recovery. Will the GOP and its ignorance embracing base learn from this study in contrasts?  Of course not, outcomes and objective facts mean nothing to these people.  Instead, it is all about greed and ideology.  A column in the New York Times looks at this economic contrast.  Here are excerpts:
More recently, Kansas went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent in the belief that this would spark a huge boom; the boom didn’t happen, but the budget deficit exploded, offering an object lesson to those willing to learn from experience.

And there’s an even bigger if less drastic experiment under way in the opposite direction. California has long suffered from political paralysis, with budget rules that allowed an increasingly extreme Republican minority to hamstring a Democratic majority; when the state’s housing bubble burst, it plunged into fiscal crisis. In 2012, however, Democratic dominance finally became strong enough to overcome the paralysis, and Gov. Jerry Brown was able to push through a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage. California also moved enthusiastically to implement Obamacare.

I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Needless to say, conservatives predicted doom. A representative reaction: Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute declared that by voting for Proposition 30, which authorized those tax increases, “the looters and moochers of the Golden State” (yes, they really do think they’re living in an Ayn Rand novel) were committing “economic suicide.” Meanwhile, Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute and Forbes claimed that California residents were about to face a “rate shock” that would more than double health insurance premiums.

What has actually happened? There is, I’m sorry to say, no sign of the promised catastrophe.
If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers. Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent; at this point, California’s share of national employment, which was hit hard by the bursting of the state’s enormous housing bubble, is back to pre-recession levels.

Has there been any soul-searching among the prophets of California doom, asking why they were so wrong? Not that I’m aware of. Instead, I’ve been seeing many attempts to devalue the good news from California by pointing out that the state’s job growth still lags that of Texas, which is true, and claiming that this difference is driven by differential tax rates, which isn’t.

For the big difference between the two states, aside from the size of the oil and gas sector, isn’t tax rates. it’s housing prices. Despite the bursting of the bubble, home values in California are still double the national average, while in Texas they’re 30 percent below that average. So a lot more people are moving to Texas even though wages and productivity are lower than they are in California.

So what do we learn from the California comeback? Mainly, that you should take anti-government propaganda with large helpings of salt. Tax increases aren’t economic suicide; sometimes they’re a useful way to pay for things we need. Government programs, like Obamacare, can work if the people running them want them to work, and if they aren’t sabotaged from the right. In other words, California’s success is a demonstration that the extremist ideology still dominating much of American politics is nonsense.
Virginia Republicans have learned nothing from California and instead remain fixated on trying to follow Kansas's failed model.  For the Virginia GOP, the embrace of ignorance and failed ideology is a mark of honor.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Why Am I Moving Politically to the Left?

As many long time readers know, I am a former Republican  - I served on the Virginia Beach GOP City Committee for 8 years - and come from a family of many generations of "Rockefeller" Republicans.  So why am I moving to the right politically even though I remain a fiscal conservative.  Some former GOP colleagues who have either undergone a "Stepford Wife" conversion or who seemingly are drinking Kool-Aid by the gallon, blame my political transformation on my coming out as gay.  They like to describe me as "single issue" or "angry" even though it is they who fall into the angry aging white model that now describes much of the GOP base.  Heaven forbid that they face the reality that the GOP is not the party that it once was and that most of its adherents are either insane, religious fanatics or driven my greed.  A piece in Politico Magazine describes the author's political journey that in some ways parallels my own. Here are some highlights:
In my late 50s, at a time of life when most people are supposed to be drifting into a cautious conservatism, I am surprised to find myself moving steadily leftward.

This is unexpected. It comes even as I am financially comfortable and enjoying my work.. . . . I am puzzled by this late-middle-age politicization.

I have again and again found myself shifting to the left in major areas such as foreign policy and domestic economic policy. I wonder whether others of my generation are similarly pausing, poking up their heads from their workplaces and wondering just what happened to this country over the last 15 years, and what do to about it.
The things that are pushed me leftward began with the experience of closely watching our national security establishment for decades. But they don’t end there. They are, in roughly chronological order:

Disappointment in the American government over the last 10 years. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first big shocks. I thought that invading Afghanistan was the right response to the 9/11 attacks, but I never expected the U.S. military leadership would be so inept in fighting there and in Iraq, running the wars in ways that made more enemies than were stopped. I believe that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, not only launched on false premises but also strategically foolish in that ultimately it has increased Iran’s power in the Middle East.

Torture. I never expected my country to endorse torture. I know that torture has existed in all wars, but to my knowledge, its use, under the chilling term “enhanced interrogation,” was never official U.S. policy until this century.

I never thought that an American government would employ mercenaries in a war. And yet we did this in Iraq by hiring thousands of armed “security contractors” who in practice were subject neither to local law nor to the American military justice system, and so could and often did treat Iraqis badly.
Intelligence officials run amok. I think that American intelligence officials have shown a contempt for the way our democracy is supposed to work in turning a vast and unaccountable apparatus on the citizens it is supposed to be protecting. I remain wary of Edward Snowden’s motivations and connections, yet still am worried by the intrusive surveillance by the National Security Agency he has unveiled.

Growing income inequality. I also have been dismayed by the transfer of massive amounts of wealth to the richest people in the country, a policy supported over the last 35 years by successive administrations of both parties. Apparently income redistribution downward is dangerously radical, but redistribution upward is just business as usual. The middle class used at least to get lip service from the rich—“backbone of the country” and such. Now it is often treated like a bunch of saps not aware enough to evade their taxes. 

The Church of England - A Glimpse at Christianity's Future in America?

Survey after survey show that younger Americans - especially those under age 30 - are leaving organized religion, principally Christianity, in droves.  A large part of this exodus is the result of (i) the extreme anti-modernity/anti-science position of many denominations and (ii) the hypocrisy and homophobia of most Christian denominations (even within the ELCA every issue of the Lutheran has some Neanderthal ranting against the ELCA's acceptance of gays).  As bad as thing are now, it is likely that the exodus of the younger generations will only accelerate as the numbers of the "Nones" increase exponentially.  If one wants a  glimpse of where Christianity may be in America in the future, a look at the Church of England and its reactionary morality may be most informative.  Here are excerpts from a piece in Religion Dispatches:
At last. The Church of England’s General Synod has voted to allow women bishops. A disastrous failure to do so in 2012 preceded Rowan Williams’s departure as Archbishop, and led to huge public and political pressure to secure the “Yes” vote this time. It’s taken so long to get here (women were first ordained priests in 1994), and created such bad feeling, that the “victory” feels a bit hollow. The whole tale reveals a lot about the Church of England’s problems, and the position of religion in a liberal society.

The CofE remains the largest religious constituency in Britain, with a third of the population still calling themselves Anglican. But whether we look at church attendance, adherence, or baptism and funerals, decline is sharp. For those aged over-60 Anglican is the majority identity; for each younger generation it’s increasingly a minority identity. Only about five percent of young people now call themselves Anglican.

There are many reasons for this, but one is a church hierarchy which has fallen out of step with the moral convictions of its members. Since the 1980s the latter have been getting more liberal on moral matters, and more committed to freedom and equality, while the former have been travelling in the opposite direction. 

My surveys of Anglican beliefs and values show just how much the “values gap” between leaders and people has widened with every generation. Only 1% of Anglican churchgoers now say they rely on their religious leaders when seeking guidance and making decisions. When it comes to the two most controversial contemporary moral debates—on same-sex marriage and assisted dying—a majority of Anglicans are now in favour, whereas their leaders are united in opposition.

A similar gap has long been evident between the Church’s official teachings and its members’ views about women clergy. A mere 11% of Anglicans and 8% of the general population say that they approve of their church’s policies on women.

[C]hurch leaders have stalled on the ordination of women because of their deference to two small but vocal minority parties within the CofE: Anglo-Catholics at one end of the ecclesiological spectrum, and the conservative evangelicals at the other. Together they represent less than 15% of Anglicans.

When I ask young people who have a negative attitude to the CofE why they hold that opinion the most common reason is that the Church is sexist and homophobic.

There’s a popular argument that illiberal forms of religion do better than liberal forms, even in liberal societies. I don’t believe it’s that clear-cut. It’s true that religious authorities have taken a “post-liberal” turn since the 1970s, but the growing rise of “no religion,” first in Europe and then the USA, is in part a reaction against this. The idea that your average Anglican in Britain yearns for “stricter” religion is demonstrably false. They would, however, have preferred a church which was more responsive to their moral convictions, and better able to accommodate the diversity of their views.

To date, the Catholic Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention to name just two denominations seemingly are Hell bent to follow the Church of England's downward spiral.  Becoming denominations of the elderly and experiencing growth only in backward, uneducated regions of the world such as Africa don't hold out promises of long term denominational survival.

No Empathy for Others: What Republicans, the Israeli Leadership and Christofascists Have in Common

GRAPHIC PHOTO; I apologize for the horror of this photo, but we need to open our eyes to what Israel is doing.  By Mahmood Bassam/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.
With brutality running amok in Ukraine and Gaza to name a few "hot spots" of war and Republicans and Christofascists preaching the antithesis of the Gospel message (which both factions claim to honor), one has to wonder how men (and women) can be so cruel to others.  Particularly when religion is a consistent undercurrent behind the war and mayhem and general treatment of those who are different as refuse.  To me, it comes down to a common lack of empathy for others.  If someone looks different, holds a different faith, or is of a different sexual orientation, suddenly they are worthy of being murdered, stripped of their legal rights and subjected to an almost less than human status.  Here in America, we see the Republicans (think Paul Ryan) and the GOP's Christofascist base waging a constant war on the poor, gays and most recently undocumented children and youth from Central America.  Even more horrifically, in Gaza we see Israel we see the Israeli army killing hundreds of Palestinians - many children - while claiming to act in self defense even though the death toll is roughly one Israeli for every 10 Palestinians.  Personally, I am disgusted with the godly folk, their political whores and Israel.  I'm almost to the point of ending all US aid to Israel.  A piece by Noam Sheizaf looks at the horrors unfolding in Gaza:

In The Fog of War, Errol Morris’ excellent documentary, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara speaks about a certain inability to understand the enemy – one that stems from a lack of empathy.

In the film, McNamara, a brilliant systems analyst, who is today associated more than anything with the Vietnam War, says that part of President Kennedy’s successful management of the Cuban Missile Crisis was his administration’s ability to put itself in the shoes of the Soviets and understand their point of view. “In the case of Vietnam,” he says, “we didn’t know them well enough to empathize.” As a result, each side had a completely different understanding of what the war was about.

This understanding came to McNamara only in 1991, when he visited Vietnam and met with the country’s foreign minister. McNamara asked the foreign minister whether he thought it was possible to reach the same results of the war (independence and uniting the south with the north) without the heavy losses.
“You were fighting to enslave us,” yelled the foreign minister at McNamara, who in turn replied that that is an absurd notion. The two nearly came to blows. But as time passed McNamara understood. “We saw Vietnam as an element of the Cold War,” he says, whereas what the foreign minister was trying to tell him was that for the Vietnamese it was a war of independence. Communism was not the heart of the matter for the Vietnamese. They were willing to make the worst sacrifices because they were fighting for their freedom – not for Marx or Brezhnev.

I’ve exchanged emails with people in Gaza in the past few days. These are people who don’t care much for Hamas in their everyday lives, whether due to its fundamentalist ideology, political oppression or other aspects of its rule. But they do support Hamas in its war against Israel; for them, fighting the siege is their war of independence. Or at least one part of it.

Israelis, both left and right, are wrong to assume that Hamas is a dictatorship fighting Israel against its people’s will. Hamas is indeed a dictatorship, and there are many Palestinians who would gladly see it fall, but not at this moment in time. Right now I have no doubt that most Palestinians support the attacks on IDF soldiers entering Gaza; they support kidnapping as means to release their prisoners (whom they see as prisoners of war) and the unpleasant fact is that most of them, I believe, support firing rockets at Israel.

 For the Palestinians, the choice is between occupation by proxy in the West Bank and a war in Gaza. Both offer no hope, and neither are forms of freedom. The Israeli promise — that an end to armed struggle will bring freedom — is not trustworthy, as the experiences of past years has shown. It simply never happens. The quiet years in the West Bank have not brought the Palestinians any closer to an independent state, while the truce in between wars in Gaza has not brought about a relief from the siege. One can debate the reasons for why this happened, but one cannot debate reality.

Israelis are convinced they are fighting a terror organization driven by a fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Palestinians are convinced Israelis are looking to enslave them, and that as soon as the war is over the siege will be reinforced. Since this is exactly what Israel intends to do, as our government has repeatedly stated, they have no reason to stop fighting.
With every dead Palestinian child Israel is creating more and more ardent enemies.   Moreover, as the murder of children continues, more and more citizens in other nations will come to believe that it is the Israelis, not the Palestinians who are the real terrorists.  I am not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, but I do have to wonder when the Hell someone in Israel will wake up and realize they are destroying support for Israel.  Come out of the fog of war and realize how others are viewing the conflict.  I'd also add that just because a child is Palestinian, it does not make the less a child or less human.  One would think Israeli would have learned something from the anti-Jewish nightmare of Nazi Germany.  Apparently not.

P.S. I have children of my own and now grandchildren as well.  Anyone responsible for harming any of them would find me to be a life long enemy out for very brutal revenge.  I suspect Palestinians feel precisely the same way.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

It's Time for Pope Francis to Sack Archbishop Nienstedt

Despite his far greater public relation skills than his Emperor Palpatine look a like predecessor and his occasional statements that reflect a realization that the Roman Catholic Church needs to move out of the Middle Ages, Pope Francis to date has failed completely when it comes holding the Church hierarchy accountable for the worldwide sexual abuse of children and youths.  Now, with a documented scandal exploding around Archbishop John Nienstedt, Francis has a perfect opportunity to not only send a strong message that he is serious about addressing the sex abuse scandal, but also to rid the hierarchy of a man who is a pillar of hypocrisy and malfeasance.  An editorial in the New York Times makes the case that Francis needs to sack Nienstedt now.  Here are highlights:

When Pope Francis met earlier this month with victims of rape and sexual abuse by priests, he vowed to hold bishops accountable for covering up the scandal instead of confronting it.

A good place to start is with the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, where calls are mounting for the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt, a warrior against same-sex marriage who, it turns out, is facing accusations that he indulged in improper sexual conduct in the past with priests, seminarians and other men. 

The archbishop has denied the accusations as “entirely false,” saying they date back over 10 years and do not involve minors or criminal conduct. But he felt obliged to hire a law firm to investigate them. 

Meanwhile, his handling of the pedophilia scandal is under fire from all sides. This week, an affidavit from Jennifer Haselberger, the former canon law chancellor for the archdiocese, accused the archbishop and his ranking prelates of systematically ignoring warnings about abusers in a five-year period, while failing to inform civil authorities of possible criminal acts. 

In the affidavit made public Tuesday, Ms. Haselberger, who resigned last year, said every time she tried to warn the archbishop and his deputies about abusive priests who were still serving in parishes, her “concerns were ignored, dismissed, or the emphasis was shifted to what was best for the priest involved.” 

The situation was only worsened by another deposition from a former vicar general of the archdiocese, the Rev. Peter Laird, who in conferences last year with Archbishop Nienstedt twice suggested that the archbishop consider resigning. Concerned Catholic parishioners, individual clergy members and university professors have also called for the archbishop to resign as the best solution. Instead, the archdiocese has made a mockery of accountability. 

Hundreds of American priests have been forced from service because of pedophile crimes, but the parallel need for accountability among those who covered up the scandal has been shamefully avoided. In promising closer attention to this issue, the pope should not overlook the church’s leadership disarray in the Twin Cities.

Putin's Tipping Point?

Not to beat a issue to death, but what is happening in Russia and the Ukraine because of Vladimir Putin's vision of himself as an imperial Tsar of old has profound impact on the rest of the world.  Not because Russia can seriously challenge American military power, but because it may prove to be another case study in what ultimately happens to dictators who lie to and rob their country's people.  Having risen to power through the KGB - the Soviet Union's secret police - Putin seemingly learned nothing from the demise of the Soviet empire and increasingly models his rule (or more accurately, misrule) on the failed Soviet model.  A column in Huffington Post parallel's Putin's conduct with that of his Soviet predecessors.  Here are excerpts:
When incompetence in the Kremlin turns murderous, its incumbents can begin to tremble. As news of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine trickled into Russia, people with a long memory recalled the Soviet Union's attack, 31 years ago this September, on Korean Air Lines Flight 007, and its political consequences.

Back then, the Kremlin first lied to the world by saying that it had nothing to do with the missing KAL plane. Later it claimed that the South Korean jet was on an American spy mission. But, within the Soviet leadership, the incident was a tipping point. It ended the career of Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, Chief of the General Staff and a hardliner of the hardest sort, whose inconsistent and unconvincing efforts to justify the downing of the plane proved deeply embarrassing to the Kremlin.

Ogarkov's ineptness (and inept mendacity), together with the mounting failure since 1979 of the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan, exposed the system's advanced decrepitude. The stagnation that had begun during Leonid Brezhnev's rule deepened after his death in 1982. His successors, first the KGB's Yuri Andropov and then the Communist Party Central Committee's Konstantin Chernenko, not only had one foot in the grave when they came to power, but were also completely unequipped to reform the Soviet Union.
The huge loss of life in Afghanistan (equal to the United States' losses in Vietnam, but in a far shorter period of time) already suggested to many that the Kremlin was becoming a danger to itself
In the Brezhnev era, expansionist policies reflected the country's new energy-derived wealth. Putin's military build-up and modernization of the past decade was also fueled by energy exports. But Russia's latest energy windfall has masked Putin's incompetent economic management, with growth and government revenues now entirely reliant on the hydrocarbons sector.

Moreover, Putin's incompetence extends far beyond the economy. His security forces remain brutal and unaccountable; in some parts of the country, they have merged with criminal gangs. His managed judiciary provides no comfort to ordinary people; and the country's military installations, submarines, oilrigs, mining shafts, hospitals, and retirement homes regularly blow up, collapse, or sink, owing to neglect and zero liability.

When public support for Putin's annexation of Crimea wanes -- as it will -- his failings will shine more starkly in the light of the MH17 catastrophe. If the Russian state functioned well, Putin could continue to withstand pressure from opposition leaders. But the opposition's charge that Putin's regime is composed of "swindlers and thieves" will resonate more strongly, because Russians can now see the results all around them.

By making himself, in effect, the state, Putin, like the gerontocracy that collapsed with Gorbachev's rise, is increasingly viewed as responsible for all state failures. And though thoughtful Russians may be hostages to Putin's arrogance and blunders, the rest of the world is not.
Putin is only 61, a decade younger than the leaders who led the Soviet Union to the precipice, and the constitution permits him to remain in power for at least another 10 years. But with GDP up by just 1.3 percent in 2013 -- and with sanctions likely to hasten the economy's decline -- patriotic pride will not be able to shield him much longer.

By overplaying its hand in Afghanistan and lying to the world about the downing of KAL 007, the Soviet regime exposed and accelerated the rot that made its collapse inevitable. There is no reason to believe in a different fate for Putin's effort to re-establish Russia as an imperial power.

The big concern is what will Putin do as he becomes more desperate to cling to power.  It's not a comforting prospect.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Russia's Curse of Bad Leaders - Putin, the Latest Chapter

Some time back I noted that I had read the book "Red Fortress - History and Illusion in the Kremlin," which had been given to me as a Christmas gift.  The book traced the history of the Kremlin and by extension the history of Russia from the founding of the Muscovy state through the near present.  The take away from the book: (i) much of Russia's "curse" has been bad leaders who has squandered Russia's future and acted to the detriment of the Russian people, (ii) too often, Russians have found themselves struggling to over come the backwardness and societal regression arising from brutal regimes and squandered opportunities, and (iii) Russia continues to have a love-hate relationship with western Europe.  Fast forward to the present day and a piece in Time looks at why modern day Russians are allowing their future to be harmed by Russia's latest bad ruker, Vladimir Putin.  Here are article highlights:
But in all of it there was an undercurrent of aggrievement; a sense of having to restart after seven decades of the Soviet State, having to retrace steps back to the path the rest of the world had been on—and then struggle to catch up; a feeling that the chance for Russia to remake itself had been hampered by the hegemony of the West; a knowledge that the county was less than it could be, should be, that their individual lives were lessened too; or maybe just a knowledge—especially among the populace in poorer towns and villages outside of Moscow—that what wealth and success has come to the county has come only to a very few.

That’s a feeling a great number of Americans can relate to: not only the frustration with growing inequality, but the sense that our country is also somehow becoming smaller than it should be. Here, when our sense of self is threatened, we turn to historical mythology that buttresses our belief in who we are: The American Dream, our forefathers wrestling with what that would be, the presidents who, through our beloved democracy, shaped how we understand it now—FDR, JFK, Reagan. We look for the next in that mold.

But Russians don’t have that history. Theirs is one in which revolutionary uprisings led to instability before being channeled by a system of control; one in which democracy is associated with a time of devastating economic collapse. We all know the long history of Russian strongmen—from Ivan the Terrible to Joseph Stalin—but can you imagine having that history as our own, having those leaders to look back on? Can you imagine our own country collapsed, our own inequality increased, our own dreams squeezed? Maybe you can, all too well. Now imagine that we had a leader who not only gave us hope, promised us change, but delivered.
But what has Putin really delivered?  Unfettered political and economic corruption; staggering wealth disparities that rival or exceed those of Imperial Russia; a growing status as a international pariah; a return to a dictatorship; media censorship and  the arrest of political opponents of trumped up charges.  The list goes on and on.  Posturings of military strength and cow towing to the Orthodox Church which has throughout its history backed autocrats does not equal delivering on changes.  Rather, it is merely a repackaging of the worse aspects of Russia's past.  The ultimate irony?  Had the 1917 Bolshevik revolution never occurred and trends under the last phase of the Romanov dynasty continued, Russia might well have been wealthier and more powerful and more cultural prominent than it is today.  Bad leaders being replaced by those even worse is not delivering on promises of change.

Hope needs to be based on substance, not just a controlled media and endless propaganda.  In some ways nothing has changed in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Will Obama Go It Alone on Immigration?

The Congressional Republicans have demonstrated time and time again that they have no concrete proposals for dealing with major problems facing the nation be it on the issue of the nation's still broken health care system or dealing with the desperate need for immigration reform.  All the GOP has to offer is obstructionism and attacks on whatever Barack Obama may propose.  The paralysis is so extreme that Obama is left with few options other than to proceed via executive order - something that he has done less frequently that his GOP predecessors despite the disingenuous shrieking for the far right media talking heads and buffoons like John Boehner.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at what may unfold on the immigration front which will send false Christian Republicans into apoplexy.  Here are highlights:
Inflammatory as it's been, the debate over unaccompanied Central-American children crossing the U.S. border is only the warm-up for an approaching immigration confrontation with even greater stakes.

Regardless of how Congress handles his request for more border resources, President Obama is moving toward a historic—and explosive—executive order that will provide legal status to a significant number of the estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. One senior White House official says that while "what's happening at the border will provide atmospherics for the [president's] decision," it won't stop him from acting on the undocumented—probably before the midterm elections. The resulting collision over Obama's expected action could lastingly define both the Democratic and Republican parties for the burgeoning Hispanic population.

During George W. Bush's two terms, the best estimate has it, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. jumped by about 3 million; under Obama, there's been no increase. But while the tougher enforcement has angered liberal groups, it has failed to move House Republicans, 80 percent of whom represent districts that are whiter than the national average. After the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship in 2013, House Republicans shelved it—just as they did a similar bipartisan bill Bush helped shoulder through the Senate in 2006.

Polls consistently find broad support for such a package: In a Pew Research Center survey this week, 63 percent of whites, 71 percent of African-Americans, and 85 percent of Hispanics said those here illegally should be granted legal status after meeting certain requirements. But many House Republicans believe that in their right-leaning districts, the only voters who cast their ballots on the issue are those opposed to legalization.

Obama has indicated he wants to return more kids immediately and then devote additional legal resources to more quickly adjudicating the remaining cases. There's a humanitarian case for this: The lengthy delays may be encouraging more children to make the dangerous journey. But the approach also reflects the White House's recognition that controlling the border is the necessary political precondition to completing an executive order to legalize many of the immigrants here illegally.
The president can't provide them citizenship without action by Congress. But using the same theory of "deferred action" that he employed in 2012 for children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, he could apply prosecutorial discretion to allow some groups of the undocumented (such as adults here illegally with children who are U.S. citizens) to obtain work permits and function openly. Though the administration is still debating the reach of Obama's authority, some top immigration advocates hope he could legalize up to half of the undocumented population.

Such a move would infuriate Republicans, both because the border crisis has deepened their conviction that any move toward legalization inspires more illegal migration and because the president would be bypassing Congress. They would likely challenge an Obama order through both legislation and litigation. Every 2016 GOP presidential contender could feel compelled to promise to repeal the order.

Those would be momentous choices for a party already struggling to attract Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership initiative at the conservative American Principles Project, warns that if Republicans "again fall for the trap" and try to overturn an Obama legalization plan without offering an alternative path to legal status, the party will condemn itself to another lopsided deficit among Hispanics—and to a likely defeat—in 2016. David Ayon, senior adviser to the polling firm Latino Decisions, says that if Republicans erupt against an Obama legalization initiative, it "could turn the Latino vote as ruggedly anti-Republican as the black vote."

On many fronts, Obama seems to be only reacting to events. But on immigration, as on other social issues such as gay rights and contraception, he is driving decisions that could shape the two parties for years—and cement the Democratic hold on the coalition of growing demographic groups that powered his two victories.

Marco Rubio Tries to Have It Bith Ways on Gay Marriage

Marco Rubio - a whore by any other name
As would be Republican 2016 presidential candidates try to jockey for position, some are selling out completely to the Christofascist/Tea Party Base, others, such as Rand Paul seemingly try to chart and different course at least on foreign policy, and then others try to paint themselves as semi-moderate while nonetheless prostituting themselves to the Christofascist/Tea Party GOP base base.   Marco Rubio falls into this latter category through his efforts to pretend to be sympathetic to LGBT rights while putting on his political whore costume for the gay haters.  Politico looks at Rubio's pandering and self-prostitution.  Here are excepts:

Marco Rubio jumped head first into the culture wars on Wednesday to blast what he sees as “growing intolerance” against those who oppose same-sex marriage.

In a speech on family values at the Catholic University of America in Washington, Rubio lamented the backlash that companies like Chick fil A and Mozilla often face when their executives express public support for keeping marriage between a man and woman. He said that supporting that definition doesn’t make someone “anti-gay” but rather “pro-traditional marriage.”

“There is a growing intolerance on this issue, intolerance of those who continue to support traditional marriage,” the Florida Republican senator and potential 2016 presidential contender told a standing-room only crowd. “Even before this speech is over, I’ll be attacked as a hater or bigot. Or someone who’s anti-gay. This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman, is not anti-gay. It is pro-traditional marriage.”

Rubio, who supports marriage between a man and a woman, spent more than five-minutes of half-hour address wading into the thorny issue of same-sex marriage. His comments reflect the GOP’s struggle to find a position on an issue that enjoys growing public support — including from a handful of Republicans in Congress — but often alienates the party’s conservative base.

The 43-year-old senator preached tolerance for gay couples and advocates of gay marriage and spoke about the United States coming a “long way” in its treatments of gays and lesbians. He said all Americans should acknowledge a history of institutional discrimination against gay people and that “many committed gay and lesbian couples feel humiliated by the laws’ failures to recognize their relationship as a marriage.”

He received a standing ovation from those in the sweltering auditorium as he finished speaking and took a swig of water, playing up the criticism he still receives for his impromptu on-camera hydration in 2013.

“Now I can have some water without people making fun of me,” he cracked.

My take away?  Rubio is a pandering asshole who ultimately lacks any principles and who is only worried about "what's in it for me."  I've been fired for being gay and been snubbed and dragged through the proverbial mud by "godly Christian" Republicans  who make the Pharisees of the Bible look like saints.  Sadly, cheap whores have more integrity than Rubio - at least they are honest about who they are.