Saturday, November 22, 2014

Obama Holds Upper Hand on Immigration

The Congressional Republicans, in slavish whore like obedience to the racists in the GOP base who hold open hatred for (i) Barack Obama because of his skin color and (ii) Hispanics  - and other racial minorities - , continue to threaten Obama with impeachment (even though there would be too few votes in the Senate to prevail), government shutdowns, law suits, and other spittle flecked reactions.  The irony is that among the GOP complaints is that Obama has indulged in excessive use of executive orders.  The chart above shows the lie to this claim with Obama having to date signed fewer executive orders than Chimperator George W. Bush, and every Republican President since Chester A. Arthur (who left the White House on March 4, 1885).  Sadly, with the rise of the Christofascists in the GOP truth and honesty went out the window.  Now, if a Republican member of Congress lips are moving, like the "godly Christian" crowd the safest assumption is that he/she is lying.  

A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the reality of where the GOP finds itself in terms of stopping President Obama's executive order on immigration.  It is noteworthy that a MAJORITY of Americans want immigration reform.  It's principally the racist GOP party base that opposes immigration reform.  I just wish that news outlets would call a spade a spade and stop using the term "conservatives" as a smoke screen for the racists in the GOP base.  Here are article highlights:
President Barack Obama has the upper hand in the fierce struggle over immigration now taking shape, with a veto pen ready to kill any Republican move to reverse his executive order, Democrats united behind him and GOP congressional leaders desperate to squelch talk of a government shutdown or even impeachment.

With the public favoring changes in the current immigration system, the Republicans' best short-term response appears to be purely rhetorical: that the president is granting amnesty to millions, and exceeding hisconstitutional authority in the process.   Beyond that, their hopes of reversing his policies appear to be either a years-long lawsuit or the 2016 presidential election.

Neither of those is likely to satisfy the tea party adherents in Congress - or the Republican presidential contenders vying for support among party activists who will play an outsized role in early primaries and caucuses just over a year away.

"We alone, I say it openly, we the Senate are waiting in our duty to stop this lawless administration and its unconstitutional amnesty," said one of them, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. In remarks on the Senate floor, according to his office, he was channeling Cicero, the ancient Roman orator.  In a portion of the oration that Cruz did not mention, Cicero referred to a Roman Senate decree calling for a conspirator against the Roman republic "to be put to death this instant."

More than 2,000 years later, impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate stand as the sole established remedy against high crimes and misdemeanors by any president.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate leader Mitch McConnell want none of that. Nor are they interested in provoking a government shutdown as a way to block spending needed to carry out Obama's order, viewing that as a poor way to embark on a new era of Republican control of Congress.

The political debate is well underway, although the two parties seem to be appealing to different segments of the electorate. Polls show that the country as a whole and especially Hispanics favor allowing immigrants to remain in the country and work even if here illegally. Conservatives tend to prefer deportation.

"The critics are going to call it amnesty," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., predicted correctly on Thursday in advance of Obama's speech. "But as Sen. Rubio has reminded us, doing nothing - leaving the current system in place - is amnesty."

Obama's order didn't go that far. It calls for suspending the threat of deportation for millions, but without the promise of a green card that bestows permanent legal status, much less citizenship.
I continue to be ashamed that I was ever a Republican.  I take honesty and integrity seriously - these are lost concepts in today's GOP.  

World War I: Prelude to Disasters that Continue Today

Map of Europe - August 1914 - click image to enlarge
I will be the first to admit that I am a history nerd.  I've always loved history because, in my view, it explains how the world has gotten to its current situation and, if one will bother to understand it, how to avoid the same mistakes of the past.  Sadly, most politicians - particularly Americans - and rulers around the world seem to never learn from history's lessons.  Anyone with a knowledge and understanding of the history of the Middle East could have predicted the disasters that ensured (and continue to unfold) in Afghanistan and Iraq which have now spread to envelop more of the Middle East.  One of America's biggest problems is one of hubris and a misguided belief in "American exceptionalism."  Americans think they know better than others and that they can succeed where others have failed.  The truth s that America is no different that other countries despite the xenophobia of the Christofascists in particular.  

A piece in The Daily Beast looks at two new books that examine how hubris and a lack of any serious true long term plan on the eve of and during World War I set the stage for many of today's problems not to mention the blood bath of World War II.  What happened during World War I - a war that many expected to be over in 6 months when it began - ought to make all politicians think in terms of the long game and not short term policies that will excite their party's base and/or policies that ignore the historic realities of the regions where America would seek to impose its will.  As the saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Right now, there is plenty of reason to be very afraid. Both books ought to be mandatory reading for every politician in Washington and every senior military officer.  Here are some article highlight (I encourage readers to read the entire piece):

During the first half of the 20th century European civilization embarked on a journey into the abyss: it moved from being the epicenter of sophistication, civilization, high culture, and knowledge, to become home to the most savage episodes of collective-barbaric-violence ever witnessed in the history of mankind.

World War I was a catastrophic turning point for humanity: 70 million men were mobilized to fight; nearly 10 million perished; communities were annihilated, and massive populations were displaced across Europe. The so call “war to end all wars,” paradoxically, created a more violent planet than what had existed before the first shots were fired.

Much of Europe in 1914 resembled a world of cosmopolitan tolerance, noble aesthetics, grand opera houses, and paternal kingdoms—which in some cases, but not all, ruled with benevolence, providing the subjects were loyal and obedient to their masters. By the time the Great War had ended just four years later, however, the sweep of democracies that had replaced the Tsarist, Habsburg, Ottoman, and German empires resembled something closer to Dante’s Inferno: a chaotic-hellish nightmare razed to the ground. And any semblance of normality that had previously existed seemed to have evaporated.

So did this seemingly stable world, which inherited its rational values from key Enlightenment thinkers— who believed in the progress of humanity— tumble into chaos by mere chance? Or was there any truth to Leon Trotsky’s remark that while history offers no guarantees, it is not without logic.   

Technology played an important role in helping to destroy the existing social order. In his 1901 book, Anticipations, the British science fiction author H. G. Wells predicted the decay of political systems across Europe, describing how the mechanization of warfare—which developed rapidly in tandem with modernity—would bring about unprecedented violent changes to the world.

Horrific suffering and horror emerged across both the eastern and western fronts during this period. And by 1918 there had been a tumultuous upheaval of the four dynasties that dominated East and Central Europe. Politics across the continent would never be the same again.

As early as 1905, French sociologist Emile Durkheim warned that while a war between his own nation and Germany would be the “end of everything,” an even darker force was presenting itself in the East: revolutionary socialism.

[I]t would return European civilization back to a period of darkness not witnessed since the Middle Ages.

The sudden collapse of these societies is what the late British historian Eric Hobsbawn referred to in his book The Age of Extremes as “capitalist in its economy; liberal in its legal and constitutional structure; bourgeois in the image of its characteristic hegemonic class; glorying in the advance of science, knowledge and education, and profoundly convinced of the centrality of Europe [whose] major states constituted the system of world politics.”

To fully comprehend the short century that Hobsbawn has famously referred to as the “Age of Catastrophe”—that is the years 1914-1989—we need to understand how, and why, the existing social order dramatically disintegrated, almost without warning, as the First World War concluded.

{t}wo new books by two distinguished British historians both take a fresh approach in analyzing the conflict.

In the introduction to Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War 1914-1918, Alexander Watson claims this is the first modern history book to narrate the Great War from the perspective of the two major Central Powers.

The war began a month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohneberg, by Serbian terrorists, on June 28, 1914. And it was existential fear, rather than feelings of certainties in the central powers’ military capabilities, that propelled the conflict into existence in the first place.

[T]he major losses of the First World War profoundly changed the political landscape of central Europe indefinitely.  The ramifications of this can still be seen today. One needs only to look at the violent culture that pervades in places like Ukraine, and some of the Balkan states—where respect for the rule of law is minimal, and ethnic tensions run extremely high—to see how they are a direct result of the politics of the First World War.

Watson also reminds us that the armistice signed at Versailles in November 1918 humiliated Germany into taking full responsibility for the war, as well as landing them with incredible debt that crippled the German economy and brought on massive hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic of the ’20s. In turn, this economic catastrophe subsequently led to the rise of the Nazi party.

Because the region was such a diverse mix of ethnicities, the self-determining-homogenous nation states that the American president, Woodrow Wilson, rather naively wished to see flourish actually sent this part of Europe into complete chaos, rather than creating the stability that he had predicted. . . . ethnic conflicts in the countries that emerged in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire nearly doubled after 1918.

If Watson’s book focuses predominantly on the voices of ordinary citizens across Central and Eastern Europe who actually fought in the war, Adam Tooze’s The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931 views the conflict from a geopolitical perspective.

Tooze is intent on analyzing this period from a revisionist perspective. He wants to make sense of how the politics of World War I shaped the interwar period and led to the nightmare of 1939, when Germany invaded Poland and all hell broke loose.

Tooze’s thesis continually comes back to a single point: how the United States emerged from the conflict as the most dominating force in the world economy. In this sense, he argues, it is unique as a nation. In no previous era in human history had one country ever completely dominated world finance with such ease.

In Tooze’s view, the political landscape that emerged from World War I was a failed ideological liberal-progressive project launched primarily by Woodrow Wilson, who used America’s position of privileged detachment to frame the transformation of world affairs.

Wilson wanted to end imperialist rivalries in European politics. And only a “peace without victory”—the goal he announced to the U.S. Senate in January 1917—could ensure that the United States would emerge as the undisputed arbitrator of world affairs.

Tooze provides the reader with numerous questions here, such as: What had gone so wrong after 1918? Why was American policy miscarried at Versailles? Why did the world economy implode in 1929? And why did the Western Powers lose their grip in such a spectacular fashion in the decade following the end of the war?

By way of answering these questions, Tooze guides us through the numerous diplomatic and economic catastrophes that emerged from World War I. Eventually we start to get a well-rounded and extremely comprehensive insight into why Wilson’s American foreign policy was so misguided.

Wilson placed his faith 100 percent in American capitalist values, which he believed were natural byproducts of American exceptionalism: the idea that the United States is guided by God’s will to be morally and spiritually superior to the rest of the world.

But Wilson was gravely mistaken when he placed his faith in the idea that “markets and business would replace politics and military power.’ As Tooze writes, “the consequences of this push to depoliticize the world economy were perverse.
Wilson’s biggest mistake was to place “the self-determination of peoples’” at the center of his post-war vision. While this slogan may have made for healthy wartime propaganda, and increased his popularity in the short term, it was an extremely na├»ve view of how the emerging order would eventually play out on European soil. And it merely delayed the apocalyptic maelstrom that followed rather than preventing it.

Both authors suggest that today we must recognize that a failed American foreign policy during this time only helped to aid the drastic ideas that emerged in the coming decades.

Following the Great War, tolerance across Europe would be replaced by extreme hatred. And ideas promising utopian living—in the form of both fascist and communist politics—would fairly quickly come to shape the new era: which was a zero sum game style of politics.

Back in 1918, as the remains of 10 million corpses began decomposing into the bloody soil of a world that would be forever changed, there were constant cries from statesman, citizens, and civil society of “never again.”

But if history teaches us anything, it’s that the past doesn’t prevent us from making the same mistakes, over and over again.

With each passing day the battle in the Middle East between Islamic State militants and the West more closely resembles Europe’s religious wars of the 17th century, and global stability once again looks increasingly under threat.

Therefore one can only remain optimistic: hoping that the brighter sides of our humanity, which increases our altruistic side as a species, will somehow overcome fear and hatred at all costs.
A first step in avoiding disaster is for American politicians to cease always believing that they/America knows best and toss aside the hubris embodied in the myth of American exceptionalism.   Will this happen?  Likely not, especially among the Republican Party base.

the fruits of hubris

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Vladimir Putin Thinks it's Still 1985

Like the nutcases at NOM, Vladimir Putin has a hard time grasping the reality that the world has changed and objective reality has changed from the preferred period in time in which he is psychologically locked.  With NOM, Brian Brown and others want to roll time back to the 1950's.  With Putin, he wants time reversed back to the days before the Soviet dictatorship and its "empire" held hostage by the Soviet army all collapsed.  One must never forget that Putin first rose to power through the KGB, not exactly an institution that cares about the rights of the asses.  Its ultimate sole goal was to keep the dictators in power and living well.  An article in CNN notes that this is perhaps why Putin still thinks he is living in 1985 or before.  Sadly, the Russian people have yet to realize that Putin is the true source of most of their nation's troubles.  Here are article highlights:
The first frosts of winter have already dusted the spectacular city of St. Petersburg with a powder of glistening ice. The air outside feels sharp and crisp. Russians hurry along the elegant boulevards, wrapped up tight against the biting cold. Russia's winter, its annual deep freeze, has begun.

But this year there's more than just a bitter chill in the air. For the past nine months relations with the West have become decidedly frosty too. 

On the face of it the problem is Ukraine.  The West backed a popular uprising there in March, which toppled a Kremlin-friendly government.

Infuriated, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, annexed the strategic Crimean Peninsula, where it has a key naval base.

One fascinating explanation for the failure of Western sanctions and rebukes to change this vast country's behavior may be in the mindset, the world view, of its strongman president.

I'm one of the few Western journalists to have sat down with Vladimir Putin. . . . I asked him back then if he could guarantee that Russian troops would not invade other former Soviet states, like Ukraine.

He reacted quite angrily, saying he objected to my question. It was Russians, he said, who should be given guarantees that no one attacks us.

The comment sheds light, I think, on how Vladimir Putin sees the world outside the walls of the Kremlin.

For him, Russia is under constant threat from the West. NATO expansion into former Eastern Bloc nations has eroded Russia's security. The prospect of Georgia joining the western military alliance, let alone Ukraine, is unthinkable for him.

The Cold War, from this perspective, has never really ended; we're still living in the 1980s.

The West, in particular the United States, still strives to "subjugate" Russia. President Putin repeated this just a few days ago in Moscow.

From a Western perspective, this seems like a cynical distortion of the facts, a Kremlin ploy to confuse and obfuscate.

But it may help explain why Russia is doing what it is doing, and why sanctions are not changing -- and may never change -- Kremlin policy.

It may also help to explain why, at a time of growing economic hardship, Russia's president remains so utterly popular at home.

His world view is theirs too. Like the harsh cold of the coming Russian winter, confrontation with the West is inevitable and must be endured.
Just as an insane Adolph Hitler led Germany to disaster by playing on German nationalism and sense of grievance, so too, Putin will be the downfall of Russia.  One hopes the Russian people come to recognize this sooner as opposed to later. 

National Organization for Marriage: Deep in Debt and Donations Plummeting

If one wonders why the National Organization for Marriage is increasingly involving itself with overseas anti-gay efforts, look no farther than NOM's plummeting income and deep debt.  As the war for marriage equality increasingly is lost by NOM and its allies in America, outside of Christofascist circles (and it would seem the Vatican's minions in bishoprics), more and more people simple yawn and ignore NOM's theatrics.  Even more tellingly, they've stopped giving the hate merchants art NOM their hard earned money.  Hence to keep the money flowing so that Brian Brown and other similar leeches can live the good life, NOM has been forced to look for ignorant and bigoted audiences overseas foolish enough to make financial contributions.  A piece in Salon looks at NOM's increasingly desperate financial position where two individual donors gave half of its total monetary support.  Here are highlights:
The National Organization for Marriage — once touted as an anti-gay marriage political powerhouse — finds itself on the brink of financial collapse, new figures show.

The indispensable Mark Joseph Stern runs down NOM’s dismal numbers:
On Wednesday, the viciously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage finally released its 2013 tax filings—two days late, in direct violation of federal law. The results are nothing short of brutal. NOM raised $5.1 million last year—a 50 percent drop-off from its 2012 earnings. Two donors accounted for more than half of that money. And the group’s “Education Fund,” which churns out anti-gay propaganda and homophobic calumny, raised less than $1.7 million, a 70 percent decline from 2012. NOM closed out the year more than $2.5 million in debt.
How did the nation’s leading anti-marriage equality organization land itself here? Stern offers three theories:
  • donors recoiled when NOM devolved into increasingly visceral anti-gay rhetoric that proved so offensive even some true believers couldn’t help but he embarrassed; 
  • supporters are less likely to contribute funds for fear they’ll be exposed (nobody wants to go the way of former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich); and 
  • that amid a wave of marriage equality victories, NOM’s supporters just aren’t all that interesting in throwing money at a lost cause anymore.
I’d add a fourth factor: the group has shown itself to be woefully politically ineffective.

NOM’s ideal world looks a lot like the world of 2003-2004.  But that isn’t the world NOM is dealing with. Fast forward 10 years, and Democratic politicians show near-universal support for marriage equality, and public polling shows that a majority of Americans share their view.

Determined to reverse the tide of growing support for marriage equality, NOM has spent big on electing anti-gay primary challengers and general election candidates. . . . In 2013, NOM went all in trying to elect Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli, who had endorsed reviving Virginia’s anti-sodomy law, and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan of New Jersey, only to watch both candidates lose.

Underscoring the sad state of affairs with which NOM President Brian Brown is grappling, the group this year endorsed two pro-LGBT Democratic congressional candidates on the sole basis that their GOP opponents were gay . . . the poor track records of prominent anti-gay candidates NOM has backed in hotly contested races should give donors pause before they open up their checkbooks to help keep hate afloat.

Hence, as I said, NOM's move overseas where cretins, morons, bigots and dictators like Vladimir Putin and the leaders of certain African nations are still inclined to give NOM money.  It is instructive that the despicable (and in my view, mentally disturbed) Maggie Gallagher left NOM when she apparently realized that the cash cow was mortally ill. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

More Friday Male Beauty

The 2014 Midterm Elections: The Bigger Story that the GOP Is Ignoring

Click image to enlarge
As noted before some in the Republican Party - mostly the reality challenged Christofascists/Tea Party Crowd - are delusional and seeing the 2014 midterm election results as a blanket mandate to pursue their extremist agenda.  Meanwhile, changing demographics and beliefs indicate that the GOP victory could prove to be short term.  As one involved in politics for over 20 years, it drives me to distraction that the GOP seems to have no long term plan whatsoever.  A GOP activist has a column in the Houston Chronicle that hits on my frustrations with the GOP and its apparent long term death wish.  Even though the death of the GOP as presently comprised would be a definite positive for the nation, long term, two sane and functioning political parties is essential.  Here are highlights from the Chronicle:
Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.

What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it. As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.

For Republicans looking for ways that the party can once again take the lead in building a nationally relevant governing agenda, the 2014 election is a prelude to a disaster. Understanding this trend begins with a stark graphic.

Behold the Blue Wall (See above):

The Blue Wall is block of states that no Republican Presidential candidate can realistically hope to win. Tuesday that block finally extended to New Hampshire, meaning that at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.

Arguably Virginia now sits behind that wall as well. Democrats won the Senate seat there without campaigning in a year when hardly anyone but Republicans showed up to vote and the GOP enjoyed its largest wave in modern history. Virginia would take that tally to 270. Again, that’s 270 out of 270.

This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House.

By contrast, Republicans control a far more modest Red Fortress, which currently amounts to 149  electoral votes. What happened to that fortress amid the glory of the 2014 “victory?” It shrunk yet again. 

The biggest Republican victory in decades did not move the map. The Republican party’s geographic and demographic isolation from the rest of American actually got worse.

A few other items of interest from the 2014 election results:
- Republican Senate candidates lost every single race behind the Blue Wall. Every one.

- Behind the Blue Wall there were some new Republican Governors, but their success was very specific and did not translate down the ballot.

- Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry. That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.

- Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last.

- Every personhood amendment failed.

- Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy. Total coincidence, just pointing that out.

- Republican support grew deeper in 2014, not broader. For example, new Texas Governor Greg Abbott won a whopping victory in the Republic of Baptistan. That’s great, but that’s a race no one ever thought would be competitive and hardly anyone showed up to vote in. Texas not only had the lowest voter turnout in the country (less than 30%), a position it has consistently held across decades, but that electorate is more militantly out of step with every national trend then any other major Republican bloc. Texas now holds a tenth of the GOP majority in the House.

- Keep an eye on oil prices. Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela. . . . Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year.

- McConnell’s conciliatory statements are encouraging, but he’s about to discover that he cannot persuade Republican Senators and Congressmen to cooperate on anything constructive. We’re about to get two years of intense, horrifying stupidity.  

Republicans, with their traditional leadership on commercial issues should be at the leading edge of planning to capitalize on this emerging environment. What are we getting from Republicans? Climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings. Lots and lots of hearings on Benghazi.

It is almost too late for Republicans to participate in shaping the next wave of our economic and political transformation. The opportunities we inherited coming out of the Reagan Era are blinking out of existence one by one while we chase so-called “issues” so stupid, so blindingly disconnected from our emerging needs that our grandchildren will look back on our performance in much the same way that we see the failures of the generation that fought desegregation.

Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.

“Winning” this election did not help that force emerge. This was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world’s most vibrant, most powerful nation.
GOPLifer and I are on the same page.  I just wonder at what point GOPLifer will realize that the GOP is beyond saving and flee the GOP as my extended family and I did some years back.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Country Singers Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman Come Out

Billy Gilman - Instagram

Two country music stars, Ty Herndon (pictured below) and Billy Gilman (pictured above), have come out of the closet and announced to the world that they are gay.   Both seem motivated by a desire to make a difference for younger LGBT individuals and exhaustion at living in the closet.  Both have been with their respective partners for over 5 years.  Life in the closet even if just professionally is exhausting and leaves one with constant paranoia.  Kudos to both of these gentlemen for deciding to live authentically and honestly.  First this from CNN on Ty Herndon:
Country star Ty Herndon has something to share: He's an "out, proud and happy gay man."
Herndon, 52, came out publicly as gay in an interview with People magazine.

He says he's known he was gay since he was a child and started coming out to family members in his 20s. But the "What Mattered Most" singer, who had a number of hits in the 1990s, kept the news close to the vest.

It wasn't until he attended a Tony Robbins seminar in 2009 that he decided to become more public, he told the magazine.

"I realized I had an incredible story that could possibly help someone's son or daughter or grandchild's life not be as difficult as mine has been," he said. "Maybe they wouldn't have to go through as much pain and suffering. It's time to tell my truth."

The country music world hasn't always been the friendliest to LGBTQ people, but Herndon sees signs that's changing. Singer Chely Wright came out in 2010 and the open-minded Kacey Musgraves has a song titled "Follow Your Arrow" that was just named CMA song of the year.
 As for Gilman, here are highlights from Towleroad:
Billy Gilman, who at the age of 12 became the youngest singer to land a Top 40 hit on the country music charts with 2000's "One Voice," has come out as gay in a video message posted online today. 

In the video, Gilman shares that country singer Ty Herndon's coming out earlier today makes it easier for him to open up, but that he is still concerned about how the country music industry will react. 

You know, it's difficult for me to make this video not because I'm ashamed of being a gay male artist or a gay artist or a gay person. But it's pretty silly to know that I'm ashamed of doing this knowing that because I'm in an genre and industry that is ashamed of me for being me. That said, I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up with - Keith Urban, Vince, LeAnn Rimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive. Not that they knew but they've just been such wonderful people.  

Gilman also reveals that he's been with his partner for five months.

Ty Herndon

The GOP Answer: Suffer the Children

Candidly, I get nauseated hearing Republicans claim to be the protectors of "Christian values" and traditional morality.  Particularly, since of the policies of today's GOP are the antithesis of the Gospel message.  If the GOP supports any biblical values, it seems to be the values of the Pharisees so condemned by Jesus.  The hypocrisy is indeed stunning.  Nowhere does this disconnect make itself more obvious than in the GOP's approach to children.  If one is not born into a white, native born, preferably far right Christian family, the GOP approach is to kick you into the gutter.  This holds true in the GOP's approach to children who came to this country illegally through no fault of their own.  A column in the New York Times looks at the GOP's foul approach to such children.  Here are excerpts:
[T]here are some difficult issues in immigration policy. I like to say that if you don’t feel conflicted about these issues, there’s something wrong with you. But one thing you shouldn’t feel conflicted about is the proposition that we should offer decent treatment to children who are already here — and are already Americans in every sense that matters. And that’s what Mr. Obama’s initiative is about.

Who are we talking about? First, there are more than a million young people in this country who came — yes, illegally — as children and have lived here ever since. Second, there are large numbers of children who were born here — which makes them U.S. citizens, with all the same rights you and I have — but whose parents came illegally, and are legally subject to being deported.

What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to bring out the iron fist — to seek out and deport young residents who weren’t born here but have never known another home, to seek out and deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.

The real question, then, is how we’re going to treat them. Will we continue our current regime of malign neglect, denying them ordinary rights and leaving them under the constant threat of deportation? Or will we treat them as the fellow Americans they already are?

The truth is that sheer self-interest says that we should do the humane thing. Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors. Condemning them to life in the shadows means that they will have less stable home lives than they should, be denied the opportunity to acquire skills and education, contribute less to the economy, and play a less positive role in society. Failure to act is just self-destructive.

But speaking for myself, I don’t care that much about the money, or even the social aspects. What really matters, or should matter, is the humanity.

My parents were able to have the lives they did because America, despite all the prejudices of the time, was willing to treat them as people. Offering the same kind of treatment to today’s immigrant children is the practical course of action, but it’s also, crucially, the right thing to do. So let’s applaud the president for doing it.

I increasingly find it difficult to be civil to some Republicans when they launch into their anti-immigrant, anti-minority harangues.  I typically bite my tongue at first and then call them out as hypocrites and modern day Pharisees  and force them to admit they are really motivated by greed, hatred, and bigotry.  They claim to cling to "Christian values" and "family values" yet their actions speak volumes, none of it good.

Where's the GOP's Immigration Proposal?

Throughout the last almost 6 years, the Congressional Republicans have basically had no proposals to address the nation's pressing needs.  Instead, all they have done is attack proposals coming out of the White House be it the Affordable Health Care Act or now President Obama's action on immigration.  The fact that the last Congress has been one of the most do nothing in history falls largely at the feet of GOP obstructionists.  While prostituting themselves to the Christofacist/Tea Party base, they have made sure nothing has gotten done and sadly, things do not look like they will change even after January.  As the Washington Post states in a main page editorial, if the Republicans don't like what Obama has done, then come up with a proposal that addresses the opinion of a majority of Americans and not just the racist lunatic base of the GOP.  Here are editorial highlights:
AT A stroke, President Obama will protect, at least for the remainder of his term, more than 4 million illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation. He justifies the move as an act of “prosecutorial discretion.” The president always has had authority to calibrate and prioritize the enforcement of immigration (and other) laws, but this wholesale reinterpretation amounts to ­overreaching. 

Mr. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, has said as much, explicitly and many times. “Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own,” he said in 2011. “That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.” He was speaking to La Raza, one of the groups pressing for unilateral action. Now those groups have won the day, though the victory may be pyrrhic.

Republicans, obstinate and inert for so long on immigration, cannot dodge responsibility. Even after the Senate passed sweeping immigration reform last year with bipartisan support, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) refused to allow a vote on the bill in the lower chamber, where it would have been likely to pass. Republicans now berate the president for thwarting the popular will; yet the GOP thumbed its nose at democracy by refusing to submit the question to an up-or-down vote.

Now the White House seems almost eager to goad the opposition into a collective temper tantrum — and may succeed. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) has threatened a constitutional crisis, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is predicting violence and others are beating the drums for impeachment.

There is a smarter way, for the nation and the Republican Party. We realize it will not be the GOP’s first impulse. But by fixing the nation’s broken immigration system on their own terms, Republicans could negate the president’s fiat, which, after all, is provisional and partial; assert their prerogative as elected lawmakers; repair their standing with Hispanic voters; and demonstrate an ability to be constructive.

If Republicans want revenge, in other words, they have a ready way to take it. It’s called legislation.
Will Republicans get off their asses and actual come up with legislation?  I for one will not be holding my breath.  They'd rather pitch fits and let loose bombastic sound bites that play well with their sick party base while giving the majority of Americans the proverbial middle finger yet again. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Add the Union Mission to "Charities" to Boycott This Holiday Season

For many the holiday season is a time of year to extend extra kindness and a helping hand to the less fortunate.  Sort of a time to be mindful of putting the parable of the Good Samaritan into action (not that this shouldn't be done year round).  Sadly, it is some of the "godly folk" who are the least inclined to overlook hate and prejudice and as a result, they refuse to help the needy who don't conform to their pernicious hate and fear based religious dogma.  It's if the put their idolatry of   selective Bible passages above living, breathing humans.  One such "charity" that should be avoided is the Union Mission where being gay or transgender disqualifies one from help in the form of housing and other aid.  As noted in connection with the Salvation Army and it's anti-gay policies, there are plenty of worthy charities that one can donate to.  Avoid those that place hate and bigotry over helping their fellow man.  Here are highlights from Think Progress on the Union Mission's bigotry:

The City Union Mission in Kansas City, Missouri boasts that it has provided as many as 165,121 beds in a given year for the homeless, but there is one group who will not have the same access: same-sex families. The shelter announced this week that married same-sex couples will not be allowed to stay together there like other married families do.

Executive Director Dan Doty explained to the Kansas City Star, “We are a Christian, faith-based organization that really does adhere to biblical standards. Our view is that it is inappropriate. Our intent is not to shelter same-sex couples together.”

City Union Mission does not receive any government funding, allowing it to run as a private organization that is not impacted by Kansas City’s civil rights ordinance. It is currently hoping for an influx of donations around the holidays because it is facing a $300,000 budget shortfall.

The shelter also has a policy that requires transgender people to dress according to the gender they were assigned at birth instead of the one they identify with.

Homelessness is particularly problematic for LGBT youth — which is what research has largely focused on — but LGBT people of all ages are generally more vulnerable to homelessness due to discrimination in both housing and employment, as well as lack of family support. As many as 30 percent of clients utilizing housing programs across the country identify as LGBT.
Yes, it's their club and they can set the rules.  But that does not mean the rest of us need to be financially supporting such bigoted organizations.  As seems to be so often the case, religious belief is used to justify evil conduct.

Obama Throws Down the Gauntlet to GOP on Immigration

As promised, President Obama took executive action on immigration to circumvent the deadlock in Congress on immigration reform - a deadlock due to GOP intransigence and a desire of far too many Republican legislators to prostitute themselves the the increasing racist GOP base.  Obama's action will shield some 5 million individuals from deportation and represents a dare to the GOP to pass a meaningful reform bill.  While there is the usual huffing and puffing from the usual folks in the GOP, some in the party fear that and overly strong reaction against Obama could cause lasting alienation of Hispanic Americans.  Here are excerpts from a piece in the New York Times on tonight's events (Note John Boehner's lie about what a majority of Americans support):
President Obama chose confrontation over conciliation on Thursday as he asserted the powers of the Oval Office to reshape the nation’s immigration system and dared members of next year’s Republican-controlled Congress to reverse his actions on behalf of millions of immigrants.

In an address from the East Room of the White House that sought to appeal to a nation’s compassion, Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is “not who we are” and quoted scripture that said “We shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.”

He displayed years of frustration with congressional gridlock and a desire to frame the last years of his presidency with far-reaching executive actions. Mr. Obama’s directive will shield up to five million people from deportation and allow many to work legally, although it offers no path to citizenship.
“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half century,” Mr. Obama said. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”

Conservative lawmakers accused the president of a gross abuse of authority and promised a legislative fight when they take full control of Congress next year. But even before Mr. Obama’s speech, Republicans appeared divided about how to stop him and unsure about how to express their anger without severely damaging their standing with Latinos.

Mr. Obama’s actions will sharpen the focus of government enforcement on criminals and foreigners who pose security threats, vastly reducing the specter that many immigrants would be detained by federal agents. High-tech workers will have an easier time coming to the United States, and security on the border will be increased.

The centerpiece of the president’s announcement is a new program for undocumented people who are the parents of United States citizens. Most of those people — estimated by officials to number slightly more than four million — would be eligible for a new legal status that would defer their deportations and allow them to work legally in the country. They must pass background checks and pay taxes, but they will get Social Security cards, officials said.

How Republicans choose to proceed in their opposition to the president’s directive will shape the final two years of Mr. Obama’s tenure and could help set the tone of the 2016 presidential campaign. Several Republicans on Thursday said they wanted to use a forthcoming spending bill and the threat of a government shutdown as leverage against Mr. Obama, while others in the party reached for ways that Congress might undercut the president’s actions by withholding money or threatening other priorities.

“By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement after the speech.
John Boehner is such a lying sack of shit - a significant majority of Americans support immigration reform.  He makes a tawdry whore look like the Virginia Mary in comparison.  The man is despicable and a prime example of what is wrong with today's Republican Party. 

U.S. Supreme Court Denies South Carolina Marriage Stay Request

I have noted before the manner in which South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson have been squandering taxpayer funds fighting the inevitable application of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Schaefer v. Bostic as binding precedent on South Carolina.  As a last ditch attempt, a request for a stay of the U.S. District Court ruling that relied on Bostic was filed with Chief Justice John Roberts.  Today, that request was denied in a 7-2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Only lunatic Justices Scalia and Thomas voted to hear the request.  Here are highlights from WISTV:

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In a 7-2 decision, the United States Supreme Court has decided to not issue an emergency stay in the ongoing political drama surrounding same-sex marriage, paving the way for the marriages to begin in the Palmetto State at noon Thursday.

With that decision, South Carolina becomes the 35th state in the United States to allow same-sex couples to marry.

In a brief statement, seven of the nine Supreme Court justices denied the stay, but Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas said they would hear it.

Thursday's decision means there is very little left for Attorney General Alan Wilson to do to stop marriages from beginning at noon.

The attorney general's office released a statement shortly after the decision came down, saying that despite Thursday's ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has not resolved conflicting rulings by other federal appeals courts.

"When the U.S. Supreme Court. decides to consider the  case, our office will be supporting the position of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is more consistent with South Carolina State law, which upholds the unique status of traditional marriage," the statement said.
Same-sex marriage supporters celebrated the high court's decision.

"The order from the U.S. Supreme Court officially puts an end to the long fight for access to marriage for South Carolina's same-sex couples and their families. This decision clears away the last obstacle to marriage equality in the state," attorney Beth Littrell said. “We congratulate all the happy couples as South Carolina becomes the 35th state where same-sex couples can marry.”

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel, who ruled the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional late last week.

After the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to issue an emergency stay on Gergel's ruling on Tuesday, Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would appeal to the high court.
The 7-2 decision is hopefully a good sign that the 6th Circuit's wrongly decided ruling will eventually be reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Such a ruling would them make same sex marriage legal nationwide, including in Puerto Rico and U.S. territories.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Norfolk Investigating Racist Tweet by School Administrator

While Virginia is increasingly not a true Southern state - at least outside of rural areas - some of the racism so prevalent in the hinterland still lingers even in some of the Commonwealth's more liberal cities.  A case in point?  Norfolk, where an assistant principal at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk is purported to have sent a racist tweet that referenced the image above.  The tweet described the image as "Every white girl’s father’s worst nightmare."  This from an assistant principal.  One can imagine the atmosphere that this type of administrator condones.  With Norfolk tying hard to polish its image, obviously this is not welcomed news.  Here are some details from the Virginian Pilot:

The Norfolk branch of the NAACP has asked the school division for “quick and just adjudication” of a Booker T. Washington High assistant principal after students walked out of school this week to protest what they said was an offensive social media post.

Chapter President Joe Dillard provided a screenshot said to be of the Twitter page of Amy Strickland, an assistant principal who formerly taught in Portsmouth. Earlier this year, The Pilot reported that Strickland was named Portsmouth’s citywide Teacher of the Year.

Dillard said the screenshot came to the NAACP about a week ago in an anonymous email. It shows a re-tweet of a post from “OrNahhTweets” social media page. It includes a picture of several young white women with young black men, all dressed in prom-like attire with the caption “Every white girl’s father’s worst nightmare Or Nah?”

The Strickland page no longer appears on Twitter.

The Pilot tried twice to reach Strickland at a number listed in a public records search. 

The screenshot’s time stamp shows a June posting date, but students recently noticed it, Dillard said. On Monday, several students walked out of school in protest, Dillard said.

“They’re very upset. They want to see some type of action,” he said. “We’re not saying she should be fired, but we do know there should be something done.”

The administration generally handles personnel matters and may bring some items to the School Board for review or action. No memo regarding the incident has been sent to parents or staff, Mather said, and there were no additional protests as of late Wednesday. 

In South Hampton Roads, some school divisions have social media and computer policies. Norfolk’s draft policy is under review by the City Attorney’s office and the School Board will review in the future, Mather said.

The Virginia Beach division offers guidelines to help employees balance personal expression and professionalism. For example, the Virginia Beach guidelines state: “The use of ethnic slurs, obscenities, innuendos, inappropriate content or other questionable language could find its way to the very audience you would least want to see it. While every employee is entitled to his/her First Amendment rights, you should still carefully consider the ramifications of every post, comment, status update or email. When in doubt, leave it out.”

Cop Who Shot St. Louis Black Teen Has Racist and Anti-Gay Facebook Page

Jason Flanery (Instagram)
There are some very good police officers.  But there are some who should never wear a badge and carry a gun because they are bigots who care nothing for the rights - or lives - of those they deem "other."  Unfortunately, most police departments are more concerned about protecting their image than weeding out the bad apples.  Years ago when I was out with Wayne Besen I had my own run in with some Norfolk police who thought harassing gays was great sport.  When I filed a complaint, internal affairs fell all over itself to protect the officers involved.  

It seems something similar is going on in St. Louis where Jason H. Flanery, the off duty officer who shot and killed VonDerrit Myers Jr., had every indication of trouble waiting to happen.  Thanks to Facebook we are getting a glimpse of Flannery's anti-black and anti-gay mindset.  Read a reprint of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story at The Raw Story.  The take away?  People like Flannery should never be police officers.

Race and Racism Unite the GOP in the South

The book and later the movie "The Help" depicted just how racist the South was in the 1950's.  Sadly, in much of the South, little has really changed.  Things have become much more subtle - at least most of the time - but underneath the surface racism is alive and well.  And the Republican Party has milked it and inflamed it as much as possible in its quest for political power.  Outside of major cities, things can still be pretty frightening if one is black - or gay, for that matter.  Across the Bible Belt, the "godly Christians" truly seem unable to see the common humanity of others if they don't have white skin and subscribed to a toxic fear and hate based form of Christianity.  A column in the New York Times looks at this current reality.  Here are excerpts:
This region [the South] has become so solidly Republican, particularly since President Obama was elected, that there isn’t much left there for the Democratic Party to defend or salvage.

Republican gerrymandering has further weakened Democratic power, even when Democrats vote in high numbers. As Lee Fang wrote this month at Republic Report, “Republican gerrymandering means Democratic voters are packed tightly into single districts, while Republicans are spread out in such a way to translate into the most congressional seats for the G.O.P.”

After the midterms, The Associated Press provided this tally:
“In January, the G.O.P. will control every governor’s office, two U.S. Senate seats, nearly every majority-white congressional district and both state legislative chambers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas.”
It is important and relevant that The Associated Press pointed out the racial dichotomy because, in the South, ideology and racial identity are nearly inseparable.

When the coworker had inquired about a neighborhood that included black homeowners, the agent responded, “You don’t want to live there. That’s where the Democrats live.” The co-worker was convinced that “Democrats” was code for “black.”

He may well have been right. Mississippi is among the most racially bifurcated states politically, with one of the highest percentage of black voters in the country. In 2012, 96 percent of blacks voted for the Democratic presidential ticket, according to exit polling data, while 89 percent of whites voted for the Republican ticket.

As Gallup pointed out in March, “Whites have become increasingly Republican, moving from an average 4.1-point Republican advantage under Clinton to an average 9.5-point advantage under Obama.”  And this increasingly homogeneous Southern delegation is likely to wield increased influence . . . 

The degree to which the South remains solidly Republican may well depend on the changing racial composition of Southern states, specifically a rise in their non-white population.

This regional hyper-racialization of our politics has many origins, some historical and some current, but it does not bode well for the future of the country as a whole.

We are self-sorting ourselves into hardened, impenetrable citadels of ideological sameness that harks back to the nation’s darker days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Ugly Truth About the Alliance Defending Freedom

The Alliance Defending Freedom ("ADF") likes to depict itself as a mainstream Christian legal group and, sadly, far too many lazy mainstream media outlets mindlessly parrot ADF's propaganda and never look at why the organization is, in fact, an extremist hate group.  Here in Virginia, ADF was the main proponent of upholding Virginia's foul theocratic backed Marshall-Newman Amendment.  The ugly truth, however, is that ADF not only oppose LGBT civil rights in America, but overseas it is working overtime to criminalize homosexuality and induce ignorant and uneducated populations to embrace its religious based hatred.  It is a very foul organization.   Media Matters looks at the real ADF agenda.  Here are excerpts:

Few anti-LGBT groups get as much media attention as the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the right-wing legal organization best known for defending anti-gay business owners who refuse to comply with nondiscrimination laws. But while ADF's "religious liberty" work generates plenty of headlines, few media outlets have highlighted the most extreme facet of ADF's legal agenda: criminalizing homosexuality.

ADF has become a fixture on Fox News, but its involvement in crafting Arizona's license-to-discriminate law in early 2014 attracted coverage from other networks as well. In October, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat apologized after he spoke at an ADF fundraiser.

But aside from a handful of examples, media outlets have failed to highlight just how extreme ADF's anti-gay agenda really is. While the group prefers to talk about its "religious liberty" work when in the media spotlight, ADF is actively working to promote and defend anti-sodomy laws that criminalize gay sex.

United States: ADF's formal support for anti-sodomy laws dates to at least 2003, before the Supreme Court made its landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas. ADF, which was at the time still known as the Alliance Defense Fund, filed an amicus brief in the case, defending state laws criminalizing gay sex. In its brief, ADF spent nearly 30 pages arguing that gay sex is unhealthy, harmful, and a public-health risk.

In 2003, ADF president Alan Sears co-wrote a book titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which warned that eliminating anti-sodomy lawswould lead to the overturning of "laws against pedophilia, sex between close relatives, polygamy, bestiality and all other distortions and violations of God's plan."Th  e Supreme Court disagreed, striking down state bans on gay sex in its Lawrence v. Texas decision.
Jamaica:  In December 2012, the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society hosted an international conference titled "Human Rights, International Law and the Family" in Kingston. The event was aimed at discussing how the fight for LGBT equality -- including a legal challenge to the country's anti-sodomy law -- threatened "the traditional, natural family." Jeffrey Ventrella and Piero Tozzi, two senior legal counsels for ADF at the time, spoke at the conference.

Belize: ADF has also worked to help defend Belize's Section 53, a law that criminalizes gay sex. As the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported in 2013, ADF attorneys offered legal assistance to Belize Action, a local group working to keep homosexuality criminalized.

India: In December 2011, India's Supreme Court voted to restore the country's colonial-era law banning "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." The ruling reversed a 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court, which found the law unconstitutional. Under India's criminalization statute, gay sex is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In an interview with OneNewsNow, Alliance Defending Freedom Global executive director Benjamin Bull applauded the Supreme Court's decision for not "giv[ing] in to a vocal minority of homosexual advocates"
[I]t matters in terms of the media, which continues to treat ADF as a mainstream group fighting for "religious liberty." ADF has given up on promoting anti-sodomy laws in the U.S. afterLawrence, but the group still aggressively supports imprisoning gay people around the world for having sex. It's an ugly truth about one of the right's highest-profile legal organizations.

Failing to note ADF's support for anti-sodomy laws -- which places it firmly on the fringe of even conservative circles -- paints a grossly misleading picture of the extremism that motivates the group's anti-gay legal work.

Vatican Uses Videos of Discredited Mark Regnerus at Marriage Confab

I pondered whether or not Pope Francis can be trusted on LGBT issues in a post this morning.   If I was leaning towards answering "No" to that question this morning, tonight the answer is a resounding "No"!  Why?  It turns out that the videos shown at the Vatican during Pope Francis' meeting with a gathering of American anti-gay hate group leaders were the handiwork of Mark Regnerus, the discredited "researcher" who was found testimony was found to be borderline fraudulent by a federal judge in Michigan.  My blogger friend Jeremy Hooper connected the dots and blew the Vatican's cover.  Here are highlights from Good As You:
A few months back, I played a clip where Mark Regnerus of the infamously shoddy study that hoped to discredit gay parents mentioned he was filming videos around the world. Today, Baptist writer and activist Denny Burk answers the question of what videos he was filming.

Yes, that's right: He was filming those anti-gay videos that I have been showing you all week. You know, the ones from the pointedly discriminatory Vatican conference that has been going on for the past three days? Those anti-gay, propagandistic clips come courtesy of the very same man who tried to sway the public with an anti-gay, propagandistic study

What a truly bizarre choice. Like almost too bizarre to be believed, frankly. It seems that the Vatican isn't only courting "culture war"—it's begging for one.
 I can only hope that Andrew Sullivan and those like him who are having near orgasms over Francis' supposed movement to change the Catholic Church will stop gasping and open their eyes.  As I have said, NOTHING has changed under Francis and my bet is that nothing will other than much slicker PR.   Meanwhile, I continue to wonder when

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Is Pope Francis Backpedaling on Gays?

I for one have always questioned Pope Francis' intentions towards gays and allowing us a place in the Church other than as celibate individuals as unhappy with life as the bitter old queens at the Vatican.  The fall out of the synod on the family and now a meeting between Francis and leading American hate group leaders only underscores my hesitance to join the ranks of those in near orgasm over a few phrases that have been uttered by Francis.  The reality is that NOTHING has changed vis-a-vis the Church's official position on gays or to rescind the "inherently disordered" language in offical documents signed by Francis' predecessor, the Nazi Pope.  A column in The Daily Beast even suggests that Francis is now back peddling further on the issue of gays.  Here are highlights:
Pope Francis is not Jesus Christ. Or even Martin Luther.

He may well transform the Catholic Church, and has already gained unprecedented popularity as the reformer we’ve all been waiting for. But as events this week confirm, he is not omnipotent, and does not intend to change fundamental Catholic doctrine—if he even could.

The event in question is “The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium,” an interreligious symposium presented by some of the Vatican’s most conservative voices. To understand the significance of Pope Francis’s remarks at this bizarre event, it’s necessary to back up a bit.

You may have noticed that roughly 100 percent of higher animals reproduce sexually, requiring a male and female partner to do so. This is the core of “complementarity,” and it would not seem to require an international colloquium to explain.

Complementarity as conservative Catholics use the term, however, is more than biology. It stands for the proposition that the biological basis of procreation should also be the sole organizing principle of society. Only mating pairs constitute a family, and any configuration that is not a mating pair—divorced people, gay people, single people—are not to be legitimized. 

Sex is not for fun; sex is for procreation. Food is not for fun; food is for nourishment. In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas, the most important Catholic Natural Law thinker, called any “misuse” of sensual pleasures luxuria—not just luxury in the contemporary sense, but decadent luxury, pleasure beyond purpose. Evil.

A great deal of that money goes to imposing its view of Natural Law on the rest of us, spending billions to restrict abortion and contraception, and fight any recognition of same-sex (“unnatural”) couples.

Now, wasn’t Pope Francis going to change all that?  No. Never.

[A]n evolution in tone is not a change in doctrine. Essentially, Pope Francis is urging Christians to “love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

Which brings us back to this week’s colloquium, presented by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—originally known (until 1908) as the “Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.” Yes, that Inquisition.

The CDF has, for five centuries, been a bastion of Catholic conservatism, and today is no exception. It was headed for 20 years by Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), who produced such gems as labeling gay people “intrinsically disordered.”
So, while the Colloquium is presented as a neutral, and interreligious, conference on the beauty of traditional marriage . . . its real-world impact would be to deny secular legal status to anyone who does not fit is conception of “complementarity.”

“Complementarity,” like “family values,” “religious liberty,” and “traditional marriage” is a term defined by what it opposes—non-procreative sex, same-sex unions, contraception, and usually (though not always) feminism.

Where is Pope Francis in all of this?

First, in his opening remarks yesterday, the pontiff towed a much more conservative line than his legion of new fans might expect. “The complementarity of man and woman,” he said:
is a root of marriage and family… We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”
[P]erhaps Pope Francis is not the pope of progressives’ fantasies after all.  Even if he is, though, the pope may be infallible, but he is not omnipotent. As this week’s gathering shows, there are powerful conservative forces within the Catholic Church and beyond it. And for every encomium to the harmonious, procreative union of male and female, there is a trampling of everyone else.