Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Apologists for Religion are the Problem

Bill Maher, Reza Aslan, Richard Dawkins (Credit: HBO/Malin Fezehai/AP/Akira Suemori)
Throughout history religion has unleashed untold hate, misery and bloodshed.   Yes, some religious groups engage in charitable works, but even then many engage in proselytizing at the same time.  It's always about winning others over to their belief systems and often punishing those who don't yield - e.g., the Salvation Army's anti-gay policies and past rejection of gays needing shelter.  Meanwhile, we see ISIS demonstrating just how evil fundamentalist religion can be even as anti-Muslim Christians forget Christianity's own ugly past that has included the Inquisition, the extermination of the Cathars in France and many other acts of genocide against those deemed to hold heretical beliefs.  Yet despite this horrible track record we still see apologist defending religion, including Reza Aslan whose book (which I read) calls into question some of the main manufactured storyline of the Christian construct of Christ.  A lengthy piece in Salon looks at the refusal of apologists to open their eyes.  Here are excerpts:
Bill Maher’s recent monologue on “Real Time” about the failure of liberals to speak out about the routine atrocities and violations of human rights carried out in the name of religion in the Muslim world has unleashed a torrent of commentary, much of it from progressives advocating more, not less, tolerance of Islam.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who sided with Ben Affleck against Maher in a follow-up segment a few days later, calls ISIS rebels, in an op-ed, “barbarians” who “give all Islam a bad name,” and asks us to take into account the religion’s diversity, lest we slip into “Islamophobic bigotry.” Fareed Zakaria, in his Washington Post column, cautions us to recall that Islam, Christianity and Judaism once peacefully coexisted, but acknowledges that Islam suffers from a “cancer” – extremism that incites acts of terrorism. This he views, though, as a problem of “Islam today.”

One pundit in particular, though, has busied himself opining on Maher and nonbelievers in general — Reza Aslan, Islam’s most prominent apologist of late. Delivered via multiple media outlets, his remarks, brimming with condescension, tinged with arrogance and laden with implicit insults to thinking people, deserve special scrutiny for one main reason: among well-intentioned liberals who don’t know much about religion, his words carry weight.

Aslan accuses the benighted critics of religion of a far more grievous misapprehension: the assumption that words mean what they actually mean. Here I’ll quote him at length.
“It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives. . . .  After all, scripture is meaningless without interpretation.
 Aslan is essentially taking a postmodernist, Derrida-esque scalpel to “scripture” and eviscerating it of objective content. This might pass muster in the college classroom these days, but what of all those ISIS warriors unschooled in French semiotic analysis who take their holy book’s admonition to do violence literally? As they rampage and behead their way through Syria and Iraq, ISIS fighters know they have the Koran on their side – a book they believe to be inerrant and immutable, the final Word of God, and not at all “malleable.” Their holy book backs up jihad, suicide attacks (“martyrdom”), beheadings, even taking captive women as sex slaves.

Moreover, the razor-happy butchers of little girls’ clitorises and labia majora, the righteous wife-beaters, the stoners of adulterers, the shariah clerics denying women’s petitions for divorce from abusive husbands and awarding sons twice the inheritance allowed for daughters, all act with sanction from Islamic holy writ. It matters not a whit to the bloodied and battered victims of such savagery which lines from the Hadith or what verses from the Koran ordain the violence and injustice perpetrated against them, but one thing they do know: texts and belief in them have real-life consequences. And we should never forget that ISIS henchmen and executioners explicitly cite their faith in Islam as their motive. Tell that to Derrida – or Aslan.

Not just belief in the Koran leads to mayhem, though. Open the Book of Leviticus (in the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament) and read the prescriptions of death (often by stoning or burning) as punishment for, among other things, cursing your parents, committing adultery, practicing bestiality (with mandatory slaughter of the unwitting animal as well), engaging in prostitution or sodomy, worshipping another god or taking God’s name in vain, and being the (female) victim of rape. The New Testament is somewhat less vicious, but even gentle Jesus, meek and mild, warned in Matthew (10:34): “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and preached “unquenchable fire” and damnation for sinners.

That the faithful have always been acting on the words in their holy books may not accord with how Aslan would like us to see religion, but it is hardly news.

[I]ntentionally trying to obscure cause and effect where faith is concerned, as Aslan does, is morally reprehensible, is insensitive to the victims, and provides cover for their butchers

The problem with religion lies not with, as Aslan would have it, interpretation – postmodern or otherwise – but with, for starters, the founding texts themselves. The canonical writings of Islam, Christianity and Judaism all contain a plethora of macabre fables and explicit injunctions for vile, sadistic behavior that no civilized person would or should accept, but which far too many do take as literal truth.

The so-called “New Atheists,” including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, have tried to do the opposite: get people to examine religion and help them understand it as innately backward, obscurantist, irrational and dangerous. Their aggressive secularism has, of course, stirred controversy and resentment. It was bound to do so. For millennia, the faithful have held the high moral ground virtually unopposed.

Aslan said much more in his interview worthy of refutation, but what transpires through all the rhetorical dodges, whitewashing and clever distortions of fact he (and others defending religion) have offered us since Maher delivered his anti-Islamic monologue is not that one faith is better or less violent than another, but that religion itself is to blame. Religion, in interfering with the free exercise of our critical faculties, in setting out an outlandishly untrue history of the cosmos and humankind’s position in it, and in purporting universality that some are willing to die and kill for, is more than just what the physicist Steven Weinberg called “an insult to human dignity;” it is, in our age of weapons of mass destruction and increasing global instability, a threat to us all.

[R]eligion must be dumped, ushered out of the public arena and back into the private, personal realm for those still inclined to harbor it or too weak to do without it. No thinking person need feel pressured into condoning or excusing faith-based brutalities out of well-meaning but incorrect liberal sentiments.

Nonbelievers need to approach faith as a subject like any other, one we can talk about and criticize without fear of causing offense – or, in the case of Islam, concern for our physical safety.

This is in fact our constitutional right. The First Amendment forbids Congress from establishing an official religion and protects free speech – including speech that offends the sentiments of believers. If we disbelieve what religion’s canon tells us, we need to say so openly, and in mixed company, pointing out that no rational person could believe it or accept it as true and valid, were it not for indoctrination, immaturity, willful abandonment of reason, fear, or simple feeblemindedness.
We can also cease displaying knee-jerk respect for those who propagate faith. 
There's more, but in sum, the piece makes a case that I have tried to make often: religion deserves no deference nor do its adherents regardless of their particular faith.  Logic, reason and intellect should hold the "godly" accountable for their atrocities and daily abuse and discrimination against others. 

Federal Court Could Rule On South Carolina Marriage Case By November 3rd

It has been several weeks since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit's ruling striking down Virginia's bans on same sex marriage was tacitly affirmed by the United States Supreme Court and by extension, the constitutionality of such bans in other states within the 4th Circuit were likewise invalidated.  Of the states within the 4th Circuit, only South Carolina has to date refused to concede that its state sponsored discrimination is headed to the trash heap of history.  This refusal to accept binding precedent may soon come to an end as U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel is poised to possible rule as early as Nov. 3, 2014, in a case filed in Charleston.  The Post and Courier has details.  Here are highlights:
A lawsuit filed by two Charleston women seeking to bring gay marriage to South Carolina will move more quickly after a federal judge on Friday denied an attorney's request for extra time to file responses and after attorneys agreed not to pursue hearings that could have delayed the case. 

That means U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel could rule as early as Nov. 3 in a lawsuit filed last week by Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her partner, Nichols Bleckley. They contend the state must allow them to marry following the U.S. Supreme Court's Oct. 6 refusal to review an appellate case overturning Virginia's gay marriage ban. 

Late Wednesday, Bleckley and Condon requested a temporary injunction prohibiting state officials from enforcing the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. That would open the state's doors to same-sex marriages. 

Gergel denied a verbal request from a state Attorney General lawyer to extend by three days a Nov. 3 deadline to file responses to the couple's injunction request.  "The plaintiff in this case has asserted irreparable injury" due to being denied a marriage license, Gergel said.  "They are entitled to an expeditious review," he added.

If Gergel issues the injunction, it would override the S.C. Supreme Court's stay. "A decision by my court would rule here," Gergel said. 

Moving forward, Gergel requested that attorneys address any substantial differences between South Carolina and Virginia laws that they believe could make the Virginia challenge to its same-sex marriage ban - and, in turn, the U.S. Supreme Court's action - inapplicable here.

The U.S. Supreme Court then let that [4th Circuit] ruling stand, which in effect opened the doors to gay marriages in all five states under the appellate court's jurisdiction. South Carolina is the only one of those states still prohibiting gay marriages. 

Personally, I would argue that the attorneys representing the sate should face sanctions if they cannot differentiate the South Carolina and Virginia bans - something I doubt can be done.  The sole agenda of the Attorney General's office is to delay and impede the inevitable.

Another School Shooting and the NRA Shows No Remorse

It is frightening that we have almost become accustomed to shooting rampages in our schools.  This, of course, is precisely what the National Rifle Association - a front organization for gun manufacturers - wants.  The latest shooting spree was in Washington State just north of Seattle where an obviously troubled 15 year old killed one and wounded a number of others before taking his own life.  The New York Times summarizes what happened as follows:
A young classmate had opened fire in the cafeteria, killing a girl and striking two boys and two other girls in the head before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide. The students hit by gunfire were seriously injured.

[T]he four injured students were first taken, said that the wounded students suffered “very serious wounds” and were “critically ill.” The boys, ages 14 and 15, were transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle; one had been shot in the jaw, and the other in the head, she said. The girls, she said, had undergone surgery at Providence for gunshot wounds to the head.
Meanwhile, in a number of elections around the country the NRA is continuing its battle to fight any form of reasonable gun control.   A column also in the New York Times looks at the NRA's disgusting behavior and dangerous agenda.  Here are excerpts:

There’s a TV ad that’s been running in Louisiana:  It’s evening and a mom is tucking in her baby. Getting a nice text from dad, who’s away on a trip. Then suddenly — dark shadow on a window. Somebody’s smashing the front door open! Next thing you know, there’s police tape around the house, blinking lights on emergency vehicles.

“It happens like that,” says a somber narrator. “The police can’t get there in time. How you defend yourself is up to you. It’s your choice. But Mary Landrieu voted to take away your gun rights. Vote like your safety depends on it. Defend your freedom. Defeat Mary Landrieu.”

Guns are a big issue in some of the hottest elections around the country this year, but there hasn’t been much national discussion about it. Perhaps we’ve been too busy worrying whether terrorists are infecting themselves with Ebola and sneaking across the Mexican border.

But now, as usual, we’re returning to the issue because of a terrible school shooting.

The latest — a high school freshman boy with a gun in the school’s cafeteria — occurred in the state of Washington, which also happens to be ground zero for the election-year gun debate. At least that’s the way the movement against gun violence sees it. There’s a voter initiative on the ballot that would require background checks for gun sales at gun shows or online. “We need to be laser focused on getting this policy passed,” said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign.

Think about this. It’s really remarkable. Two years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the top gun-control priority in the United States is still background checks. There is nothing controversial about the idea that people who buy guns should be screened to make sure they don’t have a criminal record or serious mental illness. Americans favor it by huge majorities. Even gun owners support it. Yet we’re still struggling with it.

The problem, of course, is the National Rifle Association, which does not actually represent gun owners nearly as ferociously as it represents gun sellers. The background check bill is on the ballot under voter initiative because the Washington State Legislature was too frightened of the N.R.A. to take it up. This in a state that managed to pass a right-to-die law, approve gay marriage and legalize the sale of marijuana.

The N.R.A.’s vision of the world is purposefully dark and utterly irrational. It’s been running a series of what it regards as positive ads, which are so grim they do suggest that it’s time to grab a rifle and head for the bunker.

The ad running against people like Landrieu makes no sense whatsoever. If that background-check bill had become law, the doomed mother would still have been able to buy a gun for protection unless she happened to be a convicted felon. And while we have many, many, many things to worry about these days, the prospect of an armed stranger breaking through the front door and murdering the family is not high on the list. Unless the intruder was actually a former abusive spouse or boyfriend, in which case a background check would have been extremely helpful in keeping him unarmed.

While we may not be able to stop these tragedies from happening, we can stop thinking of ourselves as a country that lets them happen and then does nothing.

The Toxicity of Internalized Homophobia

I've written on the topic of internalized homophobia and how it is soul destroying - it took me years of therapy, two failed suicide attempts, and years living out and authentically to get over the poison I had learned growing up - which is just what the Christofascists want.  They care nothing about the lives that are damaged (and sometimes lost to suicide) since their sole agenda is to stamp out anything that calls into question their myth and fairy tale based world view or impedes their ability to feel superior to others.  As LGBT individuals (or as LGBT straight allies), our task is to unlearn the untruths that church, family and society have indoctrinated into us.   If there is a God - something I question often given how evil his self-proclaimed followers are - he/she/it made each us as we are.  A piece in Gay News Network out of Australia looks at the struggle all of us face in letting go of internalized homophobia.  Here are excerpts:
It lurks, often imperceptibly, as an emotional backdrop in the lives of LGBTI people – and for this reason, it often remains unexamined. Unidentified even. It acts as our internal editor, vetting and judging our behaviours and mannerisms and it holds us back from truly loving ourselves for who we are.
I’m talking about internalised phobia. And just like the external variety LGBTI people face from others in the broader community, it can eat away at our self-esteem.

I would venture that there is no such thing as an LGBTI person who has not, at some point, struggled with an internalisation of the negative external judgments of our gender identity or sexual orientation. And it’s an understandable reaction.

From day one we’ve been socially conditioned by a society that privileges heterosexuality and cis-genderism, to the exclusion of all other ways of being. We’ve been sold a narrative by parents, teachers, peers, religious and political leaders and the media, which renders us invisible. And not only does the dominant culture fail to see us, it actively ostracises us.

Now tell me: What 13-year-old has the strength and self-conviction to stand against such a tidal wave of cultural proscription and state: “You’re all wrong, I’m happy just the way I am.”?

This is more often a sentiment that comes a good few years down the track, after considerable personal development. In short, it’s almost impossible for us to avoid our internal self-concept being informed by the external forces of homo/bi/transphobia.

Just like external bigotry, our internalised phobias can manifest in subtle ways: Reluctance to associate with other LGBTI people, feeling disgusted by expressions of same-sex affection or sexuality, disapproval of butch women or femme men, or refusal to show affection with a same-sex partner in public. In the extreme, internalised phobia can lead to self-harm and suicidality.

Working through feelings of internalised judgment with a counsellor who is experienced in such matters can be one way to gradually examine the distorted views of our sexuality or gender, that have been written into our evolving self-concept. In time, and with patience, it is possible for us to rewrite the internal narratives, freeing us to truly be the authors of proud new chapters in our story.

Letting go of  internalized homophobia is very, very hard.  I even know married gay couples who haven't fully let go of it as they avoid socializing with many other gays, especially those not "straight acting."  In the process, of course, they miss out of knowing and coming to love some very wonderful people.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Will the GOP Get the Message in Kansas?

Many of us are hoping that the GOP will get a much needed message in Kansas with the re-election defeat of Gov. Sam Brownback and Senator Pat Roberts (as well as other GOP elected officials).  Based on the Congressional GOP's economic agenda recently reviewed in a post on this blog, even if Kansas goes blue, one has to question whether or not the message will be received.  After all, part of being a Republican nowadays is to reject objective reality in every form and to blindly cling to ideology and one's Bible. A piece in The Daily Beast asks whether or not the GOP will get the message that its 30+ year old policies simply do not work.  Here are excerpts:
For many political observers, the question about Kansas these days is no longer, “What’s the matter?” so much as, “What the fuck?”

There was the unexpectedly close GOP Senate primary—three-term incumbent Pat Roberts wound up winning by 7 points—and the forced retirement of the Democratic Senate candidate; there’s the fact that Gov. Sam Brownback, whose average margin of victory in state-wide races is 23 points, is now fighting for his political life. Tom Frank made the state famous for illustrating how its citizens elected conservative candidates whose actual policies went against the voters’ economic self-interest; after one term of Brownback’s “Tea Party experiment,” Kansas voters seem to have enlightened their self-interest and want to undo the extremism that Brownback both promised and delivered. The question remains as to whether their Republican candidates will ever wise up to the same conclusion.

There’s no doubt that Brownback’s radically conservative economic policies failed. Schools closed, the deficit ballooned, highways crumbled, jobs disappeared—I imagine ruby slippers were hocked. That failure has the reddest state in the nation blushing blue.

Citing the state’s fiscal woes, moderate and not-so-moderate Republicans have flocked to Brownback’s opponent, Paul Davis, who trails by just 0.6 points. On the Senate front, independent candidate Greg Orman, who will likely caucus with the Democrats, is reaping the benefits of that Tea Party-weighted primary. “Traditional Republicans for Common Sense,” made up of 70 Republican moderates who served in the Kansas legislature, endorsed Orman and he is favored by independent voters by a margin of 30 points.

In the face of this, both Brownback and Roberts have chosen not to battle for the wide swath of Kansas voters who identify as moderate Republicans (47 percent, versus 38 percent “conservative Republicans”), but to move further to the right.

[O]ne has to wonder not just if the Republican leadership is shooting itself in the foot, but why it is. Is it misplaced, or at least short-sighted, cynicism, which might have them believe that their old white guy coalition (if you can call it that) will sustain them a few more cycles? (At least long enough to pass voting restrictions?) Or is it a form of psychosomatic blindness, a function of such deeply held, incorrect perceptions, that the party leaders literally cannot imagine the need to change their tactics, much less their policies?

In other words, are we dealing with cynics or zealots?  Obviously, one hopes for the former. Cynics respond to defeat, for one thing. Cynics and opportunists look at polls. Cynics are the lifeblood of representative democracy. Cynics will do anything to save their own skin, even change their minds.
Sadly, I suspect we are dealing with zealots who cannot grasp the reality that the nation is changing and pushing the same failed agenda is not the route to victory.   As for Brownback, he seems to think that attending every anti-gay rally is his ticket to reelection.

South Florida’s Desperate Secession Movement

Like here in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, in South Florida anyone sentient knows that climate change and rising sea levels is a real phenomenon that is threatening both property and civic vitality.  And like here in Virginia, the main obstacle to addressing the problem is that Tallahassee is full of inland yahoos who when not thumping their Bibles and denigrating minorities and gays have their heads in the sand denying what objective observation would tell them is the truth.  So what does a region imperiled by ignorance embracing cretins do?  Some in South Florida believe that the answer is to secede from the rest of the state.  A piece in Slate looks at the situation which mirrors the problem in the eastern half of Virginia.  Here are highlights:
One way or another, South Florida is leaving the rest of the state. The Mayor of South Miami just wants to speed that process up a bit.
An unprecedented lucky streak of few serious hurricanes is lulling South Florida residents into a false sense of security. The threat from powerful storms, mixed with the now inevitability of 10 feet of sea level rise, means that Miami will likely be one of the first American cities to wink out of existence due to climate change.

Sooner or later, Miami will sink into the sea.

In a resolution passed by the mayor and city commission on a 3-2 vote earlier this month, the City of South Miami proposed that, because of the unique threat climate change poses to its part of the state, the region should immediately break away and form the 51st state:

Whereas, South Florida’s situation is very precarious and in need of immediate attention. Many of the issues facing South Florida are not political, but are now very significant safety issues; and

Whereas, presently, in order to address the concerns of South Florida, it is necessary to travel to Tallahassee in North Florida. Often South Florida issues do not receive the support of Tallahassee. This is despite the fact that South Florida generates more than 69 percent of the state’s revenue and contains 67 percent of the state’s population; and

Whereas, the creation of the 51st state, South Florida, is a necessity for the very survival of the entire southern region of the current state of Florida.

Mayor Philip Stoddard, quoted in the Orlando Sentinel—Disney World, by the way, would be part of the new state—didn’t mince words. “It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean," Stoddard said. "They’ve made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that.”
For the first time, a region of the United States is in a for-real existential battle, and its central government­—personified by Gov. Rick “I’m not a scientist” Scott—doesn’t seem to care.
The situation truly mirrors Virginia's problem: the rural western areas in Virginia are supported by the eastern and northern areas of the state, yet thanks to GOP gerrymandered districts, GOP extremists in the General Assembly block much needed legislation and infrastructure improvements.   Perhaps Southwest Virginia needs to break away and join West Virginia. 

GOP Congressman: Gays Are "Condemned To Hell"

I often say that no one is more full of hate and bigotry here in America than the "godly Christian" folk. And among the GOP elected officials there are few that hate more than Tea Party Republican Congressman Steve King who, when not being a flaming racist and blaming the poor for their own plight - as if small children picked the families into which they were born - is denigrating gays.  Like many in the extreme right of the GOP, King claims to be a devout Roman Catholic even though the policies he supports are diametrically the opposite of Catholic social gospel teachings.  Now, in the face of possible gay accepting statements from Pope Francis, King is lashing out at gays and openly disagreeing with the Pope.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at Kings latest condemnation of gays:

Rep. Steve King is a devout Roman Catholic, but he really doesn't care what the Pope has to say about gay people, because he answers to a higher authority – his re-election campaign.

The Iowa Congressman has served in the United States House of Representatives since 2003, and knows a thing or two about getting re-elected: attack the gays – something he's been doing his entire congressional career, along with immigrants, women, abortion, stem cells, Hurricane Sandy victims,  King's never met a minority he liked, but bankers, well, that's different.

This week, King gave an interview to a local Iowa paper, The Jefferson Herald.

After discussing the Vatican's initial document that called for a more "welcoming" approach to gay people, King, the paper reports, suggested "gays won’t make it to heaven."

“I would say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and we need to stick to that principle,” King said. “I’ll just say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and people that were condemned to hell 2,000 years ago, I don’t expect to meet them should I make it to heaven. So let’s stick with that principle.”

Let's of course remember that this is the Steve King who just a few years ago declared same sex marriage to be a part of the socialist agenda to undermine "the foundations of individual rights and liberties."

If there is a Hell, I suspect that King has a reserved seat.  Like his Christofascists/Tea Party supporters, King is working hard to kill the Christian brand.  To say that the man is a modern day Pharisee is an understatement.
But on matters such as co-habitation and divorce, which the Vatican also discussed at the Synod, King was far more tolerant.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Quote of the Day: The Right's Continuing Palin Problem

If one has been even a casual reader of this blog for any period of time, it is likely that you have figured out that I despise Sarah Palin and find her an affront not only to the GOP but decency in general.  My New Orleans belle grandmother had a term for people like Palin and her family: white trash.  This was the lowest of the low in my grandmother's mind.  That Sarah Palin was ever selected to be John McCain's running mate will forever be a harsh indictment of McCain.  The women isn't qualified to run for dog catcher much less the second highest elected position in America. As I've shared, my late mother abandoned the GOP after McCain selected Palin as his running mate, stating that she could not vote for "that woman."  Today, Andrew Sullivan lambasted the GOP and Tea Party for their continued deference to this toxic individual and her equally trashy family.  Here are the money quotes:

To infer from the police report that the Palins were entirely the victims here is, well, bonkers, not least because it requires believing a single word any Palin family-member says. Track even gave a false name to the cops at first, the usual Palin reflex.

This is an amazingly lurid, tabloid story and it gains traction because it contrasts this trashy, violent Jerry Springer behavior with someone who actually ran for vice-president of the United States six years ago. Of course the press will cover this. It’s irresistible and further proof that what John McCain did in 2008 disqualified him from any serious, subsequent role in our public life. And that was my only point. If McCain were retired or had the good sense to leave public life after that fiasco, it would be another thing entirely. But he carries on, never publicly acknowledging the greatest fuck-up (of so many) in his public life.

[S]till otherwise sane conservatives continue to attack those noting this absurd public figure not because they don’t know what a joke she is and what a joke she still makes of their party; of course they do. They do it to stoke culture war resentment (an easy partisan dodge around their own fantastic misjudgment), and to falsely play the feminist card. Sorry, but they lost that card when they nominated a woman candidate who couldn’t even finish one term of office as governor of Alaska, who knew next to nothing about the world, who told transparently tall tales about her own biography, and who had to be quarantined for much of her own campaign, for fear of her actual nutso persona being rumbled by a lazy media.

That’s my point. And they know it’s irrefutable. Maybe one day they’ll have the balls to apologize. And then we can all move on.
Very well said!!!   What's truly sad, however, is the fact that more and more of the Republican Party base resembles Sarah Palin.  They embrace religious extremism and revel and take pride in their ignorance.  Worse yet, they are too stupid to recognize their own intellectual limitations.  This goes a long way in explaining why lunatics like Ted Cruz are so warmly embraced by the Christofascists/Tea Party. .

Federal Cout Throws Out Lawsuits by Tea Party Groups Against the IRS

Remember the hysteria in Teabagistan and among GOP political whores over the IRS's questioning or denial of far right groups seeking tax-exempt status, many under the guise of "educational" organizations even though the organizations' main goals was to either (i) engage in banned political activity and/or (ii) enrich the organizers (much like how Sarah Palin's PAC spends less than 6% of revenues on candidates).   Having filed numerous applications for non-profit clients for tax exempt status, the fury was always misguided, in my view.  The IRS always assumes that something is amiss and asks countless questions and/seeks further clarification even for organizations that ultimately gain tax exempt status.  Well, the IRS found away to turn the tables (at least for now) by granting the Tea Party organizations tax-exempt status.  The result?  Their lawsuits were thrown out and the IRS will still have the option of revoking their tax exempt status down the road when they violate the Internal Revenue Code and associated regulations.  Politico looks at the IRS's court win:

The IRS may have inadvertently figured out how to win its legal battles against aggrieved tea party groups: Give them what they wanted in the first place — tax-exempt status.

That was a major reason a Republican-appointed federal judge on Thursday threw out two lawsuits brought by more than 40 conservative groups seeking remedies for being singled out in the tea party targeting scandal, a victory for the IRS.

Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia dismissed almost all counts brought against the tax-collecting agency in two cases, ruling that both were essentially moot now that the IRS granted the groups their tax-exempt status that had been held up for years.

Walton, a President George W. Bush-appointee, also said individual IRS officials could not be fined in their individual capacity for allowing such treatment because it could hurt future tax enforcement.

Republicans said they were outraged at Walton’s decision. . . . You get targeted and harassed for three years but, oh, because you finally get [tax-exempt status], the three years of harassment doesn’t mean anything?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who heads a congressional subpanel investigating the controversy. “I find that argument lacking tremendously in light of what these people went through.” 
But others said the agency needs to do more — not less — to scrutinize nonprofit groups that don’t follow the rules and over-engage in political activities. To obtain the status in question, political activity must not be the groups’ primary activity — a vague and difficult-to-administer test.

“Judge Walton got it right — there is no ongoing injury to these groups,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, which backs tighter rules on political nonprofits. “The IRS needs to enforce tax law with respect to nonprofit political groups more aggressively.”

Perhaps Republicans Should Move to Communist China

Pro-democracy protests continue in Hong Kong where particularly students and younger citizens want more say in electing government officials.  An interesting side note is that Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, holds views that would thrill many in the Republican Party base - or at least those too stupid to realize that they'd ultimately be included in the ranks of those disenfranchised. Leung Chun-ying view in this instance?  That open elections are unacceptable because they could give the poor - and in the Republican's view, minorities - too much input into government. Andrew Sullivan has a post that looks at the Communist Chinese view as well as parallels with the GOP base.  Here are excerpts:
After a two-hour meeting between Hong Kong officials and protest leaders made no real progress toward resolving the standoff, the demonstrations continued yesterday, including some 200 protesters marching to the home of the territory’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Many are reportedly outraged over comments Leung made to the foreign press on Monday insisting that open elections were unacceptable because they could give the poor too much of a voice:
In an interview with a small group of journalists from American and European news media organizations, [Leung's] first with foreign media since the city erupted in demonstrations, he acknowledged that many of the protesters are angry over the lack of social mobility and affordable housing in the city. But he argued that containing populist pressures was an important reason for resisting the protesters’ demands for fully open elections. Instead, he backed Beijing’s position that all candidates to succeed him as chief executive, the top post in the city, must be screened by a “broadly representative” nominating committee appointed by Beijing. That screening, he said, would insulate candidates from popular pressure to create a welfare state, and would allow the city government to follow more business-friendly policies to address economic inequality instead.
Beinart ties this in with the debate over voter ID laws and early voting in the US, arguing that “Leung’s views about the proper relationship between democracy and economic policy represent a more extreme version of the views supported by many in today’s GOP”: 
In 2010, Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips observed that “The Founding Fathers … put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote … one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community.”

In 2011, Iowa Representative Steve King made a similar observation, noting approvingly, “There was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was, because [the Founding Fathers] wanted the people who voted—that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending—to have some skin in the game. Now we have data out there that shows that 47 percent of American households don’t pay taxes … But many of them are voting. And when they vote, they vote for more government benefits.”
Most prominent Republicans would never propose that poor people be denied the franchise. But they support policies that do just that.
My Republican fore bearers would be horrified to know that the political party they supported now holds views and supports policy derived from communist China and Putin's anti-gay Russia. 

The Idiocy of Those Supporting "Biblical Marriage"

Click image to enlarge
This morning I wrote about a state court magistrate judge in North Carolina who resigned from his judicial position rather than - the horrors - marry same sex couples now that marriage equality has come to North Carolina despite the efforts the North Carolina Republican Party.  The judge, Magistrate Judge Gilbert Breedlove, justified his action with this statement: "The whole Bible from front to end states that a marriage is between a man and a wife," . . . "Any other type of sexual activity other than that is what is defined as fornication."  I'm sorry, but Breedlove might just have well had "I'm an ignorant ass" on his forehead.  Why?  Because, as a post in Huffington Post by a biblical scholar points out, there is NO biblical marriage in the form of "one man and one woman."  Making matters worse, Breedlove purports to be an ordained minister.  He obviously never bothered to actually read the Bible. As I have stated many times, fundamentalist Christianity requires ignorance to survive.  Here are excerpts from Huffington Post that underscores Breedlove's ignorance:
In light of the recent resignations of two North Carolina magistrates, explained by their religious convictions that same-sex marriage is a sin or desecrates the "holy institution established by God Himself," I would like to offer a few points of clarification to the overall discourse. 

First, the kinds of relationships that qualify for marriage in the Bible, and thus could count as "biblical marriage," represent quite a striking range of options. They include polygamy (more than one wife or concubine, simultaneously), open marriage for the man (since he can have access to the female slaves or servants in the house), forcing a woman to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and levirate marriage (wherein a childless widow must marry the brother of her deceased husband). Those are just a few of the examples from the Hebrew Bible. 

What we see in the Newer Testament includes Jesus claiming that men can leave their wives and children in order to follow him (Luke 18:28-30), in addition to him somewhat throwing the gauntlet in Matthew 19:10-12, where he discusses men being made eunuchs or making themselves such for the sake of the kingdom . . . 

I think most people are simply unaware of the range of possibilities that qualify, regardless of which testament of the Bible we look to. 

The second point I would like to clarify is that, aside from that one moment in 1 Corinthians 7, marriage is discussed in terms of the woman as the property of the man. I say this with a fairly literal sense intended. It does explain why or how so many biblical stories show wives being treated as less than fully human, but I do hope that people who love the Bible can admit that this is an element of it that we ought not to continue to endorse.

Third, when people say that the "Bible says homosexuality/gay marriage is a sin," I know that they believe that the Bible says this, since I used to think so, too. But it does not.  . . . . the issue is about the people of Israel needing to grow in numbers. Any wasting of semen was not to be tolerated and thus was an abomination. None of those situations are talking about two same-sex people in loving relationships.Finally, there is no specific place where "God Himself" establishes marriage as a holy institution.

When I hear someone say she only believes in "biblical marriage," my knee-jerk reaction is to want to ask her which version she is referring to. I also find myself wanting to remind her that love is never discussed as foundational to marriage. Thus, while same-sex marriage is not endorsed in the Bible, neither is a loving, mutually agreed upon union of a man and woman.

As I said this morning, the North Carolina judiciary is far better off with a self-professed ignoramus like Breedlove off the bench.

Transgender Federal Employee Wins Major Discrimination Case

Tamara Lusardi
Here in Virginia, gays and transgender Virginians have ZERO non-discrimination protections under state law.  While we can now legally marry, we can nonetheless be fired from our jobs at will and face discrimination in housing and other realms.   At the federal level things aren't much better except now federal employees and employees of federal contractors are being held to non-discrimination requirements.  Today, a major victory was won by a transgender federal employee who had faced discrimination and harassment.  It goes without saying that the Christofascists will be hyperventilating and let out spittle flecked rants that they have now lost the right to discriminate in federal employment situations.  Here are details on the case from the Washington Post:

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel on Thursday announced a landmark determination that the Department of the Army engaged in “frequent, pervasive and humiliating,” gender-identity discrimination against Tamara Lusardi, a veteran and civilian Army software specialist who transitioned from male to female.

Lusardi was working in the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (“AMRDEC”) in Redstone, Ala., when she transitioned from male to female in 2010. During that time, the Army improperly restricted her restroom usage, referred to her with male pronouns and by her birth name and stopped giving her work, the OSC said in a report released Thursday.

In a telephone interview from Alabama, Lusardi, 49, who served in the Army from 1986 to 1993, including in Desert Storm, said she was called “sir” and “it” by co-workers and management after she legally changed her name, driver’s license and security clearance and began dressing as a woman.   Lusardi was also required to use a single-user, gender-neutral restroom, out of concerns that other employees might feel “uncomfortable” sharing a restroom with her.

The OSC, a federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, said that coworker preferences alone “cannot justify discriminatory working conditions,” since it could reinforce the very stereotypes and biases that nondiscrimination laws are intended to protect against. According to the report, Lusardi should be able to use bathrooms designated for her gender identity.

The case is part of a broader push by the federal government and the OSC to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in the government.

In July, Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government. The executive order prohibits firing or harassment of federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and it bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government.
In response, the Army agreed to provide training to correct and prevent future discrimination, the OSC said. It also now permits Lusardi to use the restroom associated with her gender identity.

The Army did not respond to further requests for comment, but it agreed to the OSC’s recommendation to provide workplace diversity and sensitivity training, with a specific focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Economists Pan GOP Economic Agenda

With the spectacle of Kansas' economic meltdown under Sam Brownback and the Kansas GOP's imposition of a GOP dream agenda, one would think that Republicans at the national level might have taken pause to question their 30+ year old policies.  But that, of course, would require acceptance of objective reality and the resolve to stop prostituting oneself to oligarchs and those in the GOP base who are motivated by greed and hatred of others.  With the possibility that the GOP will seize control of the U.S. Senate next month, economists have reviewed GOP economic proposals and found them wanting.  A piece in the New York Times has coverage.  Here are excerpts:
Anticipating a takeover of Congress, Republicans have assembled an economic agenda that reflects their small-government, antiregulation philosophy, but also suggests internal divisions that could hinder a united front against President Obama — much as happened in the 1990s, when a Republican-led Congress confronted President Bill Clinton.

The proposals would mainly benefit energy industries, reduce taxes and regulations for businesses generally, and continue the attack on the Affordable Care Act. It is a mix that leaves many economists, including several conservatives, underwhelmed.

With the prospect of Republicans’ winning control of the Senate and maintaining control of the House in the midterm elections, interest is rising over what they would do to address what polls show is voters’ top concern: economic growth and jobs.

The [GOP] list includes measures to approve the Keystone XL pipeline; expand offshore oil drilling; block federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”; and open national forests to timber companies. Also making the cut were more parochial measures, like water projects in central Oregon and in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and rules allowing business owners to record phone calls or meetings with federal regulators.

Missing from both Republican lists are two pillars of Mr. Obama’s agenda that many economists consider important for expanding the labor force and promoting long-run growth.
One is significantly higher spending for infrastructure. The International Monetary Fund recently called for such spending, saying it would pay off in broader economic growth.

The other is an overhaul of immigration laws. Despite business pressure to provide a path to citizenship for the millions here illegally, and to admit more foreigners with skills, Republicans’ opposition has only hardened in this campaign.

While most economists and business executives do not look to Congress for much, they do want a rewriting of the corporate tax code and a revamping of fast-growing entitlement benefit programs, even as they ackowledge that is virtually unachievable.

They would be content if Republicans simply “do no harm,” as some put it, by avoiding self-imposed crises like the government shutdown last year that cost $24 billion and further across-the-board spending cuts that have been a drag on the economic recovery and kept pressure on the Federal Reserve to maintain its expansive monetary policy. Congressional Republicans, however, have said they are committed to continuing those spending cuts.

[W]hile the president is not popular, polls show that his economic proposals are, like a higher minimum wage, increased spending for infrastructure and higher taxes on the wealthy.

When Mr. Obama sent Congress his jobs package three years ago, several forecasting firms estimated that it could add up to 150,000 jobs a month in the first year. He challenged Republicans to propose alternatives that could be similarly assessed.

While private sector analysts say that the varied Boehner list is not suitable to their computer models, Joel Prakken, a founder of the St. Louis-based Macroeconomic Advisers, said, “I don’t think you would get a rush of hiring from passing these [GOP] bills.”

As for repealing the health law, “that would create a lot of economic uncertainty, and uncertainty is bad,” Mr. Prakken said.

Many of the bills would reduce federal regulation. Alan J. Auerbach, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “You could certainly make an argument that relaxing all environmental regulations would increase employment, but there’s a reason we have environmental regulations.”

Terror Attack in Canada

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo
The media has been in a frenzy in the wake of yesterday's shootings in Ottawa, Canada that claimed the life of a member of the Canadian armed forces and saw a fire fight inside the Canadian Parliament.  Initial reports indicate that the shooter was a recent convert to Islam and questions remain as to whether he acted alone.  Some believe the attack may have been in retribution for Canada's recent decision to join the fight against ISIS.  Personally, I cannot grasp the sick and demented mindset that causes one to embrace hate and extreme religious beliefs as justification for murder.  The right in America will jump at the chances to again denigrate Islam, yet the same pundits and talking heads refuse to call out America's own religious extremists who are in many ways equally mentally disturbed, just not as violent - at least not yet.  The Globe and Mail looks at what is known about the perpetrator of yesterday's attacks.  By objective standards, the guy was a loser and perhaps typical of those who use religion to find something to feel good about themselves..  Here are details:

The attack on Parliament Hill’s Centre Block and the National War Memorial has left one Canadian soldier and one male suspect dead.

During an address to the nation, Prime Minster Stephen Harper said the incident in Ottawa was a 'terrorist' act. Mr. Harper also indicated that it remains unclear whether the man shot dead on Parliament Hill Wednesday acted alone.

Federal sources have identified the suspected shooter as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a man in his early 30s who was known to Canadian authorities.
Sources told The Globe and Mail that he was recently designated a “high-risk traveller” by the Canadian government and was unable to secure the appropriate travel documentation, thus blocking his attempt to travel abroad. The circumstances are similar to that surrounding the case of Martin Rouleau-Couture, the Quebecker who was shot Monday after running down two Canadian Forces soldiers with his car.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was born in 1982 and was the son of Bulgasem Zehaf, a Quebec businessman who appears to have fought in 2011 in Libya, and Susan Bibeau, the deputy chairperson of a division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau has a record in Quebec in the early 2000s for petty crimes such as possession of drugs, credit-card forgery and robbery. He was also charged with robbery in 2011 in Vancouver.

The soldier who was killed was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, according to his aunt. Cpl. Cirillo, who was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a regiment of Reserve Forces based in Hamilton, was training to join the Canada Border Services Agency, his aunt told The Globe and Mail.

Canadian Armed Forces personnel, at least in the Ottawa area, are being instructed not to wear their uniform in public unless on duty, a source said.

Judge Gilbert Breedlove - The face of a Bigot

Magistrate Judge Gilbert Breedlove who looks like he doesn't avoid the sin of glutton

The number of faux Christian martyrs continues to grow as ignorance embracing individuals claim persecution and/or resign from positions rather than treat gays as equals under the civil laws.  These small minded bigots cite the Bible and their "deeply held religious beliefs" even as they pick and choose which Bible passages to observe and which ones to ignore as if they were ordering from a Chinese menu. Do  these "godly folk" refuse to wear cotton/polyester blend clothing?  Do they avoid eating shellfish and comply with any number of prohibitions in Leviticus?  Of course not.  They are bigots and hypocrites that deserve to be shunned by decent society.  The latest example is a magistrate judge in North Carolina who has resigned rather than marry same sex couples.  USA Today looks at his proud bigotry.  Here are highlights:
BRYSON CITY, N.C. — A Swain County judge resigned Monday so he would not have to perform same-sex marriages.

Magistrate Judge Gilbert Breedlove, 57, who also is an ordained minister, has been a magistrate for nearly 24 years.

"It was my only option," Breedlove said. "We were directed we had to perform the marriages, and that was just something I couldn't do because of my religious beliefs."

North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban was struck down Oct. 10. The judgment followed a Supreme Court announcement that it would not hear the case of a 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in July that struck down Virginia's gay marriage ban. The 4th Circuit has jurisdiction over North Carolina.

"I was Christian when I started," Breedlove said. "Then, the law didn't require me to perform something that was against my religious belief. Now that law has changed its requirements."

Bryson City, tucked between the Cherokee Indian reservation and national forest land in western North Carolina about 65 miles from Asheville, is a conservative, primarily Christian community, said Breedlove, who mentioned that his friends and family are supportive of his decision.

Although employed as a part-time pastor at his church, Breedlove's main source of income came from his position as a magistrate, he said. But the former staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps is not worried about the pay cut.

"That's one of things about being a Christian," said Breedlove, who would not identify his church by name, saying he didn't want it to get negative attention in response to his personal decision. "You are able to serve the Lord, and the Lord will provide."

"This is part of an effort to hype up a few small cases," said Sgro, reiterating that the issue is about the duties of a state employee, not about individual freedoms or religion.

Equality North Carolina issued a news release Friday calling memos sent out by the N.C. Values Coalition and the Alliance Defending Freedom misleading. The memos encouraged state officials with "sincere religious or moral beliefs" to refrain from issuing marriage licenses.

"If you hold a job or any position that serves the public or the state, then you have to carry out the duties of that job," Sgro said. "Hundreds and hundreds of people are being married by employees of the state across North Carolina with no problem."

The North Carolina judiciary is better off without a bigot like Breedlove.  As for Bryson City, it sounds much like areas in Southwest Virginia that whine about limited economic opportunities, yet embrace ignorance and bigotry that make them anathema to progressive businesses.  As for Breedlove himself, I can help but wonder if his ancestors didn't dress up in white robes and use the Bible to justify their racism.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Ranting Federal Judge Upholds Puerto Rico Marriage Ban

Other than one federal district court judge in Alabama, every federal court to rule on the constitutionality of state bans on same sex marriage has struck such bans down.  Now, in a somewhat unhinged opinion that attacks judges who have found that the 14th Amendment protects LGBT citizens, a federal judge in Puerto Rico has upheld that commonwealth's gay marriage ban.  Like Justices Thomas and Scalia, Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez seemingly believes that his personal views over ride the U.S. Constitution.  The next stop for the case will be the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit where it is thought the district court ruling faces a high probability of being reversed.  Think Progress looks at the ruling itself.  Here are highlights:
In an opinion that frequently crosses the line from visible rage to outright belligerence towards his judicial colleagues, a federal judge in Puerto Rico became one of just two federal judges to deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples on Tuesday. Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez’s opinion accuses the overwhelming majority of federal judges who have sided with marriage equality of “inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance.” At one point he appears to mock his colleagues, claiming that while the supposed fact that “this Court reaches its decision by embracing precedent may prove disappointing . . . there are some principles of logic and law that cannot be forgotten.” At another point, he claims that, if gay couples enjoy the same rights as straight couples, that will lead to a world where “laws barring polygamy, or, say the marriage of fathers and daughters” are “now of doubtful validity.”

The concluding section of Judge Pérez-Giménez’s opinion reads less like a judicial opinion than it does like a press release from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage:
Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law. Traditional marriage is “exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution . . . inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship,” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2718 (Alito, J., dissenting). Traditional marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order. And ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.
Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries.
Notice the citation in this passage. Judge Pérez-Giménez relies on a quote from Justice Samuel Alito’s dissenting opinion in United States v. Windsor. Dissenting opinions are, by definition, not the law because they reflect the views of the judges or justices who were unable to persuade a majority of their colleagues.

Few judges believe, however, that Baker v. Nelson has any bearing on whether federal courts may consider marriage equality cases today. Indeed, Pérez-Giménez acknowledges this fact with a lengthy citation to other court decisions holding that Baker is no longer binding on lower courts. The list of cases that disagree with him is so long that it takes up nearly an entire page of his opinion.

So, while Pérez-Giménez clearly holds very passionate views on the question of whether same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, his views are unlikely to persuade many of his fellow judges. It’s even possible that his opinion could ultimately wind up bolstering the case for marriage equality. That’s because his decision will appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, a court dominated by Democratic appointees (although, it is worth noting that Pérez-Giménez was appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter). All four of the states that comprise the First Circuit — Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island — are already marriage equality states, so a decision out of a federal court in Puerto Rico is the only path to bring a marriage equality case before this circuit.

Given the makeup of the First Circuit, the overwhelming consensus among federal judges in favor of marriage equality, and the belligerent tone of Pérez-Giménez’s opinion, it is unlikely that his decision will be upheld on appeal.
 It bears repeating that NONE of the Courts of Appeal that have ruled to date have found Baker v. Nelson to have any remaining precedent al relevance, particularly in light of the 2013 ruling in United States v. Windsor.

Former Reagan Aide: South Should Secede And Form New Country

Some days it is hard to keep up with the growing insanity infecting the Republican Party.  Swamp fever doesn't even begin to describe how far the party has drifted from what I and my ancestors supported.  Now, former Ronald Reagan aide Douglas MacKinnon, is arguing that certain Southern states - South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida - need to secede to avoid the scourge of gay marriage and to implement a government based on "traditional values" which one can only assume include, homophobia, racism, and the subjugation of women to name a few.  The name of this new nation? Reagan.  These folks truly belong in an insane asylum.  Salon looks at the batshitery.  Here are excerpts:
What does conservative columnist and former Reagan aide Douglas MacKinnon see when he surveys the current state of affairs? A world, he says, that’s been “turned upside down if you do believe in traditional values.” Just look, for instance, at those uppity gays and their demand for equal treatment.

“If you happen to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple because it goes against your religious beliefs, you can be driven out of business,” MacKinnon told right-wing radio host Janet Mefferd yesterday.  “If you’re a football commentator and you happen to just say innocently that maybe I wouldn’t have drafted a gay football player because I wouldn’t want to deal with the distraction, many people on the left will try to drive you out of your job as well.”

So what’s a God-fearing, gun-toting, gay-loathing supporter of traditional values to do? It’s time, MacKinnon argues, to start thinking about drastic measures. The author was on Mefferd’s program to promote his new book, “The Secessionist States of America: The Blueprint for Creating a Traditional Values County … Now.” You can guess what he proposes.

He just wants his dear readers to think about what a “Duck Dynasty”-watching, Cracker Barrel-patronizing, skeet-shooting republic with NO GAYS ALLOWED would look like.  MacKinnon reckons that we don’t need all of the former Confederate states to secede for this purely hypothetical, totally academic, completely theoretical project to work.

And the consensus was that the three best states in the union would be South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida,” MacKinnon told Mefferd, citing the states’ population, natural resources, infrastructure and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.  No Texas? There’s reason enough for that, MacKinnon explains.  “[T]here have been a number of incursions into Texas and other places from some of the folks in Mexico,” he said.

“The interim name for the country, by the way, is Reagan.” OK, but didn’t we fight a Civil War over this kind of thing? Relax, MacKinnon assured Mefferd. “The eyes of the world would be watching” how the U.S. government responded to the Republic of Reagan’s formation, so Dictator Nobama won’t be launching a Second War of Northern Aggression.

So dare to dream, culture warriors. Picture a country where tyrannical homosexuals don’t insist on “rights” and “equality,” ketchup is a vegetable, and the kids Just Say No.

New National School Climate Survey: Schools Remain Hostile Places for LGBT Students

Here in Virginia, despite all too common news reports of bullying induced suicides, we still lack an effective state wide anti-bullying law thanks to the efforts of The Family Foundation and its political whores in the Virginia GOP.   God forbid that the "godly Christians" be barred from abusing others or that indifferent school administrators be held accountable for their failure to protect all students in their schools.   Sadly, the phenomenon in Virginia is not unique as underscored by GLSEN's new national school climate survey.  The good news is that overall, things have improved somewhat.  Here are highlights of the findings:

This latest edition of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, which first began in 1999 and remains one of the few studies to examine the middle and high school experiences of LGBT youth nationally, includes four major findings:
  • Schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBT students. Seventy-four percent were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55 percent because of their gender expression. As a result of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, 30 percent missed at least one day of school in the past month.
  • A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. LGBT students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being. Grade point averages for these students were between nine and 15 percent lower than for others.
  • Students with LGBT-related resources and supports report better school experiences and academic success. LGBT students in schools with an LGBT-inclusive curriculum were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation (35 percent vs. 60 percent). Unfortunately, only 19 percent of LGBT students were taught positive representations about LGBT people, history or events.
  • School climate for LGBT students has improved somewhat over the years, yet remains quite hostile for many. Increases in the availability of many LGBT-related school resources, due in part to efforts by GLSEN and other safe school advocates, may be having a positive effect on the school environment. LGBT students reported a lower incidence of homophobic remarks than ever before – from over 80 percent hearing these remarks regularly in 2001 to about 60 percent now. 
Other key findings in the new survey include:
  • Thirty-six percent of LGBT students were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 23 percent because of their gender expression, while 17 percent were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 11 percent because of their gender expression.
  • Sixty-five percent of LGBT students heard homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often. Thirty-three percent heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/she,” frequently or often.
  • Fifty-six percent of LGBT students reported personally experiencing LGBT-related discriminatory policies or practices at school and 65 percent said other students at their school had experienced these policies and practices. This included 28 percent reporting being disciplined for public displays of affection that were not disciplined among non-LGBT students.
  • LGBT students with 11 or more supportive staff at their school were less likely to feel unsafe than students with no supportive staff (36 percent vs. 74 percent) and had higher GPAs (3.3. vs. 2.8). Unfortunately, only 39 percent of students could identify 11 or more supportive staff.
  • Verbal and physical harassment based on sexual orientation and gender expression were lower than in all prior years of the NSCS, and physical assault has been decreasing since 2007.
In Virginia and elsewhere we need to continue to work to protect LGBT students and to end the undeserved deference given to Christofascists and hate groups like The Family Foundation.  The day needs to come where endorsement by The Family Foundation is a political kiss of death.