Saturday, January 03, 2015

Steve Scalise and the Right’s Ridiculous Racial Blame Game

The lies and fast tap dancing of the Republicans continues as the Steve Scalise white supremacist scandal refuses to quietly die.  Having watched the transformation of the GOP from its days of social issues moderation and fiscal responsibility to today's party of religious extremists, voodoo economics and open racism, it is mind boggling how the Republicans and their talking heads try to paper over the fact that white supremacists, like the Christofascists, were actively recruited by the GOP establishment - starting with Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" - and allowed to infiltrate the party.  Now, when caught with the consequences of their own actions/policies, the only defense the GOP can muster is to try to say some Democrats were/are racists too.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights:
In much the way one used to savor the sight of some lying schmuck be game-set-match cornered by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, I love watching conservatives try to explain away race scandals. Like the be-Wallaced lying schmuck, they know deep down they’ve had it. But quite unlike the schmuck, and this is the fun part, they never run up the white flag; indeed quite the opposite. They go on the attack, and it’s just a comical and pathetic thing to see.

Before we get to all that, permit me a brief reflection on this matter of Steve Scalise. Let’s allow him the error in judgment, or whatever tripe it is he’s peddling, of speaking to a David Duke-related white supremacist group in 2002. It’s hard to believe, but let’s go ahead and be generous about it.

I think we should find it a little harder, though, to be generous about his vote as a state legislator in 2004 against a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the state of Louisiana. . . . No error in judgment explains that. He was part of an extreme, racialized white faction in the Louisiana state house that was clearly dead-set against honoring King.

So it’s hardly shocking that Scalise spoke to the group. Indeed it would have been more shocking if he hadn’t. This is a state, after all, where Duke, in his statewide race for governor in 1991, received a majority of the white vote. In fact, a large majority, of 55 percent, meaning that even though Edwin Edwards walloped Duke by 23 points, a near-landslide percentage of white Louisianans voted to make an avowed white supremacist their governor. Yeah, it was a long time ago. But how different would things have been 11 years later, when Scalise attended the Duke event? By attending, he wasn’t doing anything that would have been seen as controversial by most of his white constituents; indeed most of them would have endorsed it.

[T]he fun starts when conservatives stop playing defense and go on offense. Here are the three main tropes, which apply not only in this situation but every time we’re met with one of these revelations.

1. But Al Sharpton is the real racist!

2. But hey, we elected Tim Scott.
Right. You did (he’s the African-American conservative Senator from South Carolina). And J.C. Watts back in the 1990s. And there was Allen West. And now’s there’s Mia Love of Utah and Will Hurd of Texas. Bravo. That’s five. Congratulations! Meanwhile, white liberals have helped elect dozens of blacks to high office—mayors, members of Congress, a few senators and governors, and now a president.  This is supposed to “prove” that conservatives aren’t racist . . .

3. B-b-but Robert Byrd!
Ah, my favorite of them all. Amazing how people can still haul this one out with a straight face. Yes, Byrd—dead four-and-a-half years now—was a Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan. And his last known affiliation with the Klan was almost 70 years ago, in 1946. And yes, he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But as everyone knows, he went on to say—not once but many times—that that was the greatest error of his career by far. 

I suspect that somewhere down there in the Freudian precincts of their minds, the Byrd-invokers from Limbaugh on down know this, and it’s what they hate about Byrd most of all: The very sincerity of his repentance makes him a capitulator to the liberal elite and a traitor to his race. But they can’t say that in polite company, so they keep whipping a horse that’s been dead for at least 40 years.

And they’ll probably whip it for another 40, unless demographics overwhelm them sometime between now and then, but they’ll resist that as long as they can too. There’ll be more Steve Scalises, and every time, the right-wing orchestra will strike up the same weary tune.

The New Science that Has Creationists and the Christofascists Terrified

Nothing is more terrifying to the Christofascists and their creationist allies than modern science which is steadily disproving many of the pillars of the Christian story line, including the fact that Adam and Eve never existed.   For these people, having to think for themselves and not being able to smugly look down on others who aren't "saved" is a horrifying prospect.  But as science advances, their beliefs in myths and fairy tales is increasingly threatened - something that, in my view, is a good thing for humanity.  A piece in Salon looks at how new science is putting more and more pressure on Christofascist beliefs.  Here are excerpts:
The Christian right’s obsessive hatred of Darwin is a wonder to behold, but it could someday be rivaled by the hatred of someone you’ve probably never even heard of. Darwin earned their hatred because he explained the evolution of life in a way that doesn’t require the hand of God. Darwin didn’t exclude God, of course, though many creationists seem incapable of grasping this point. But he didn’t require God, either, and that was enough to drive some people mad.

Darwin also didn’t have anything to say about how life got started in the first place — which still leaves a mighty big role for God to play, for those who are so inclined. But that could be about to change, and things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary. “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,” he was quoted as saying in an article in Quanta magazine early in 2014, that’s since been republished by Scientific American and, more recently, by Business Insider. In essence, he’s saying, life itself evolved out of simpler non-living systems.

The notion of an evolutionary process broader than life itself is not entirely new. Indeed, there’s evidence, recounted by Eric Havelock in “The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics,” that it was held by the pre-Socratic natural philosophers, who also first gave us the concept of the atom, among many other things. But unlike them or other earlier precursors, England has a specific, unifying, testable evolutionary mechanism in mind.

It doesn’t mean we should expect life everywhere in the universe — lack of a decent atmosphere or being too far from the sun still makes most of our solar system inhospitable for life with or without England’s perspective. But it does mean that “under certain conditions” where life is possible — as it is here on Earth, obviously — it is also quite probable, if not, ultimately, inevitable. Indeed, life on Earth could well have developed multiple times independently of each other, or all at once, or both. The first truly living organism could have had hundreds, perhaps thousands of siblings, all born not from a single physical parent, but from a physical system, literally pregnant with the possibility of producing life. And similar multiple births of life could have happened repeatedly at different points in time.

Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1600, was perhaps the first to take Copernicanism to its logical extension, speculating that stars were other suns, circled by other worlds, populated by beings like ourselves. His extreme minority view in his own time now looks better than ever, thanks to England.

If England’s theory works out, it will obviously be an epochal scientific advance. But on a lighter note, it will also be a fitting rebuke to pseudo-scientific creationists, who have long mistakenly claimed that thermodynamics disproves evolution (here, for example), the exact opposite of what England’s work is designed to show — that thermodynamics drives evolution, starting even before life itself first appears, with a physics-based logic that applies equally to living and non-living matter.

England appears to have assembled a collection of analytical tools, along with a sophisticated multidisciplinary theoretical approach, which promises to do much more than simply propound a theory, but to generate a whole new research agenda giving detailed meaning to that theoretical conjecture. And that research agenda is already starting to produce results. (See his research group home page for more.) It’s the development of this sort of detailed body of specific mutually interrelated results that will distinguish England’s articulation of his theory from other earlier formulations that have not yet been translated into successful theory-testing research agendas.

Creationists often cast themselves as humble servants of God, and paint scientists as arrogant, know-it-all rebels against him. But, unsurprisingly, they’ve got it all backwards, once again. England’s work reminds us that it’s scientists’ willingness to admit our own ignorance and confront it head on — rather than papering over it — that unlocks the great storehouse of wonders we live in and gives us our most challenging, satisfying quests.

Fourteen Florida Counties Will End All Courthouse Weddings Rather Than Serve Gays

The mindset that lead to the persecution of Alan Turing is alive and well in fourteen Florida counties which have announced that rather than conduct same sex marriages they will end ALL courthouse weddings.  The mindset is akin to that of Virginia's "Massive Resistance" where, rather than allow black children in white schools, counties closed all of the public schools (not coincidentally giving rise to a host of "Christian" academies).   As noted previously, in my view, the county clerks involved need to join the ranks of the unemployed.  No doubt these clerks are patting themselves on the back for their "godliness" and piety.  If you are traveling to Florida, make a point of avoiding these counties. Here are details from the Tampa Bay Times:
As gay marriage comes to Florida, Pasco County's clerk of court is among a growing number of clerks who are refusing to hold courthouse marriage ceremonies.   Rather than extend the practice to gay couples, they are ending it entirely.

From as far west as Santa Rosa County to as far east as Duval County, much of North Florida is opting out. But in the Tampa Bay area, home to the largest gay pride celebration in the southeastern United States, only the Pasco clerk has chosen that route.

Gay couples who wish to be married can get licenses, O'Neil said, but they have to find their own officiants.

As of Tuesday, the first day gay couples are permitted to wed, there will be large celebrations and ceremonies in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Key West. In Hillsborough County, Clerk of Court Pat Frank said that if her office is overwhelmed with couples hoping to marry, she will hold a large wedding in a downtown Tampa park at noon. She plans to waive the marital counseling class for those who want to be married on the same day they get their license.

[T]he majority of clerks in the conservative Panhandle have chosen to stop performing courthouse weddings. 

[T]he counties that confirmed their decisions to the Tampa Bay Times and other news outlets include: Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Holmes, Washington, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, Wakulla, Baker, Clay, Duval and Pasco. According to Bay County's website, it no longer offers marriage ceremonies . . . 

There are outliers in the north — Escambia [home of Pensacola], Leon, Jefferson, and Madison counties — where clerks say they are committed to performing ceremonies for all couples, gay or straight.

"I think it's going to be a super Valentine's Day," Escambia County Clerk of Court Pam Childers said. "We're expecting a huge influx next Tuesday."  Childers' offices have been deluged with phone calls from gay couples in Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana who are eager to exchange vows in Florida.

Rather than asking her employees if they were comfortable marrying gay couples, Childers said she flipped the question and asked for volunteers who wanted to help out.  "It really hasn't become an issue, we haven't made it issue," she said.

Kudos to Ms. Childers for her common sense approach.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Imitation Game - Review and Reflections

The movie, The Imitation Game, is finally showing in Hampton Roads - albeit at a small number of theaters - and the husband and I along with a number of friends saw it at the Naro Theater in Norfolk (It is also playing at the AMC theater in Hampton).  The movie is a must see and I hope that some of the praise the movie is receiving will prompt those who might not otherwise go to a movie involving anything gay to nevertheless see the movie.  Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing as Alan Turing - indeed, the entire cast does a stellar job. I won't go into movie details here - readers need to go and see the movie for themselves and encourage others to do so as well.

Turing, and his team at Bletchley Park for that matter, remains perhaps the most unsung heroes of World War II.   As the movie ends, the fact that their work is estimated to have shortened the war by two years and saved 14 million lives is noted.   Also noted is Turing's possible suicide - there remain questions about the circumstances - after his conviction for "gross indecency" following an encounter with another man. The end notes also make note that the machines that Turing pioneered are what we now know as computers. That's right, the British basically killed the father of computers.

I sincerely hope that people will see this movie.  To me, what was done to Turing after the War - and which the movie sensitively portrays - underscores the evils of ignorance embracing religious belief which seeks to punish those who don't subscribe to the cult's mythology. A mythology not supported by historic fact or objective reality.  Queen Elizabeth II recently pardoned Turing.  While that gesture rehabilitates his image, it doesn't make up for the horror done to him and so many others. Some 49,000 individuals were prosecuted under Britain's anti-gay "indecency" laws. When one multiplies that number worldwide and includes all those killed, all those whose lives were ruined (and continue to be ruined) by "godly Christians" and their opportunist political prostitutes, the toll is horrifying. 

A Republican Ruse to Make Tax Cuts Look Good

As the Republican Party prepares to take control of Congress - hopefully, for only a two year period - efforts are afoot to craft a propaganda package that will dupe party supporters into supporting programs against their own financial interests.  Among the agenda to be pushed are more tax cuts that benefit the rich, under fund infrastructure and social safety net programs, and continue the GOP push for a new Gilded Age.  A column in the New York Times looks at how tax cuts will be represented as something good when in fact, they likely will harm many outside the 1%.  Here are column highlights:
AS Republicans take control of Congress this month, at the top of their to-do list is changing how the government measures the impact of tax cuts on federal revenue: namely, to switch from so-called static scoring to “dynamic” scoring. While seemingly arcane, the change could have significant, negative consequences for enacting sustainable, long-term fiscal policies.

Whenever new tax legislation is proposed, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office “scores” it, to estimate whether the bill would raise more or less revenue than existing law would.

In preparing estimates, scorekeepers try to predict how people will respond to a new tax law. For example, if Congress contemplates raising the excise tax on cigarettes, scorekeepers consider existing trends in cigarette consumption, the likelihood that the higher taxes will induce some smokers to quit, and the prospect that higher prices will increase incentives for cigarette smuggling. There are no truly “static” revenue estimates.

These conventional estimates do not, however, include any indirect feedback effects that tax law changes might have on overall national income. In other words, they do not incorporate macroeconomic behavioral changes.  Dynamic scoring does. Proponents point out, correctly, that if a tax proposal is large enough, then those sorts of feedback effects can aim the entire economy on a slightly different path.

In order to look at the effects across the entire economy, dynamic modeling relies on many simplifying assumptions, like how well people can predict the future or how much they care about their children’s future consumption versus their own.Economists disagree on the answers, and different models’ predicted feedback effects vary wildly, depending on the values selected for those uncertain assumptions. 

But the bigger problems lie deeper. Federal deficits are on an unsustainable path (as it happens, because of undertaxation, not excessive spending). Simply cutting taxes against the headwind of structural deficits leads to lower growth, as government borrowing soaks up an ever-increasing share of savings.

In practice, these models are political statements. They show the biggest economic effects by assuming that tax cuts are financed by unspecified future spending cuts. The smaller size of government, not the tax cuts by themselves, largely drives the models’ results.

The Republicans’ interest in dynamic scoring is not the result of a million-economist march on Washington; it comes from political factions convinced that tax cuts are the panacea for all economic ills. They will use dynamic scoring to justify a tax cut that, under conventional scorekeeping, loses revenue.

When revenues do in fact decline and deficits rise, those same proponents will push for steep cuts in government insurance or investment programs, because they will claim that the models demand it. That is what lies inside the Trojan horse of dynamic scoring.

Belgian Catholic Bishop Advocates Church Recognition of Gay Relationships

The Roman Catholic Church has always lead up the rear guard resisting social change be it in terms of contraception, women's rights, divorce, and, of course, gay rights. And in every instance, the Vatican's intransigence to change has cost the Church membership.  It's not without reason that so many raised as Catholics sever their relationship with the Church.  Gay rights and gay marriage are but the latest issue to pit the bitter old men in Rome against the views of the younger generations and parents and family members who simply no longer will stand for the Church's denigration of their  gay children, siblings, etc.  Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium (pictured above), seemingly understands the corrosive and suicidal element that the Church's opposition to gays poses.  His solution? The needs to give ecclesiastical recognition to gay relationships.  Here are highlights from the National Catholic Reporter:

Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, has called for ecclesiastical recognition of gay relationships, according to an interview published in De Morgen, a Belgian newspaper, on Dec. 27.  The official teaching that the Catholic church can recognize only male-female committed relationships has to change, Bonny said.

 "There should be recognition of a diversity of forms," he said. "We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the kind of interpersonal relationship that is also present in many gay couples. Just as there are a variety of legal frameworks for partners in civil society, one must arrive at a diversity of forms in the church. … The intrinsic values are more important to me than the institutional question. The Christian ethic is based on lasting relationships where exclusivity, loyalty, and care are central to each other."

Bonny made headlines in September when he issued a letter to the Vatican in preparation for the Synod on the family in October. At that time, Bonny stressed that the church urgently needs to connect with contemporary society, showing more respect for homosexuality, divorced people and modern kinds of relationships.

“In his or her life,” he said, “everyone has to deal with relationships, friendship, family, and children's education. We should not deny that dealing with these issues within the church has brought injuries and traumas. Too many people were excluded for a long time."

Bonny stressed openness, the need for further reflection and the danger of getting wrapped up in a complex ideological discussion. He stressed as well that he is a strong advocate for recognizing a diversity of relationships that arise from serious reflection on practical pastoral realities.

Professor Rik Torfs, canon law expert and rector of the Catholic University of Leuven, warned that one should not minimize Bonny’s approach.

"Do not underestimate the significance of this,” he said. “Bonny advocates a change from principles long held as unshakable, something no bishop could have done under the dogmatic pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI."

Most observers see him becoming the next archbishop (and cardinal) of the Malines-Brussels archdiocese, when the incumbent, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, offers the pope his letter of retirement, at age 75, in May.
Perhaps driving Bonny's call for change is the reality that not a single priest was ordained for Antwerp in 2012, 2013, or 2014.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Scalise's Alibi For Speaking to White Supremacist Group Falls Apart

Since the news of his past speaking engagement at a David Duke affiliated white supremacist, anti-Semitic organization broke, GOP Rep. Steve Scalise's (pictured above) explanation has been that "he did not know" it was a white supremacist organization.  From the beginning many believed this excuse was far fetched at best if not outright disingenuous (i.e., a lie).  Now, as Think Progress reports, it looks like the excuse was a lie.  Here are story excerpts:
Congressman Steve Scalise apologized earlier this week for speaking to a group of white supremacists in 2002. You would think that would settle the question of whether Scalise spoke to a group of white supremacists.  But no.

Two days ago, Slate ran a piece quoting Kenny Knight, a close associate of David Duke, who booked the room for the white supremacist group, known as EURO. Knight claimed that he invited Scalise to speak to the “Jefferson Heights Civic Association, which was largely comprised of elderly people who lived in his and Scalise’s neighborhood.” The meeting of the civic association, Knight said, just happened to be held in the same room as the EURO conference held later that day.

[A]s it turns out, Knight was lying. Not only was Knight a member of the EURO group but “documents filed with the Louisiana secretary of state’s office list him as treasurer…” He is also listed as a member of the group in a 2002 news release for the conference in question, where he was scheduled as a speaker. Asked about the discrepancy and the state document listing him as treasurer of the group, Knight hung up twice on a reporter for The Times-Picayune.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Duke said he “recalled Knight reaching out to Scalise in the weeks before the conference to come and update attendees on state affairs, and that Scalise accepted without reservation.”
 The GOP claims to be the party of "Christian values," but truth and honesty aren't part of the GOP's values. Scalise needs to resign as House majority whip. 

Outer Banks Sea Levels Could Rise A Foot or More

Highway 12 washed out

Like their Republican counterparts in the Virginia General Assembly, North Carolina Republican officials refuse to admit that climate change is occurring or that seal levels are rising.  Indeed, they past legislation banning any effort to look at the problem until 2016.  Meanwhile, a new report indicates that sea levels along the Outer Banks - a tourism cash cow for North Carolina - may rise a foot or more over the next few decades.  Will the Republicans pull their heads out of the sand and face objective scientific reality?  Don't hold your breath.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the report findings and the continued GOP denial of reality.  Here are highlights:

A new 30-year report on sea-level rise shows wide variances along the North Carolina coast, from a possible rise of 4 inches at Southport to more than 12 inches on the northern Outer Banks.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported those numbers are part of a draft report by an advisory science panel for the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission. The commission requested the report after legislators rejected a 2010 study.

The 30-year projections will go through 18 months of peer review, public comment and possible revision. A 2012 law prohibits state agencies from taking any action based on the sea-level forecast until July 1, 2016.

East Carolina University geologist Stan Riggs, a member of the advisory panel, said state leaders should start dealing with the effects of coastal storms whose impact is magnified by the rising sea.
“If you’re going to build sewage plants or hospitals or highways, you’d better be thinking about the longer term,” Riggs said Wednesday.

If the rate of sea-level rise is unchanged over the next 30 years, the new report says the increases will include about 2.4 inches at Southport and about 5.4 inches at Duck. But the report says it’s unlikely the rate will remain static.

Frank Gorham III of Figure Eight Island, the Coastal Resources Commission chairman, rejected calls from critics to replace the original members of the science panel. He also reduced the scope of its new forecast to 30 years.

“We have to do a better job this time of listening to both sides, instead of just throwing it in the trash and saying it’s terrible,” Gorham said Wednesday. “Read the thing and listen to people.”

Two sea-level scientists from out of state will review the new draft report. They are Robert G. Dean, a former civil engineering professor at the University of Florida, and James R. Houston of Vicksburg, Miss., a former research director with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Then the commission chairman is expected to order a study of the economic and environmental costs and benefits of developing coastal regulations based on the sea-level forecast.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

New Years Day Male Beauty

Anti-Gay Bigotry Kicks Off 2015 in Florida

The "godly Christians" who hold the office of county clerk in Duval, Clay, and Baker Counties, Florida, have kicked off 2015 with a display of the pervasive sense of special rights and being above the law that is a hallmark of conservative Christians across the nation.  These three bigots (pictured above) have declared that they will end all courthouse weddings rather than have same sex marriages performed.  All three need to be cited with contempt of court, do some jail time and be removed from office.   The fellow bigots on the staffs also need to join the ranks of the unemployed.  A harsh example needs to be made that Christians are bound by the same laws as the rest of the citizenry and, if one cannot respect the legal rights of others, then get the hell out of public office and/or out of the public employment sector. Period.  The Savannah Morning News has details.  Here are highlights:

If same-sex marriage is allowed across the state, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Clay Clerk Tara Green and Baker Clerk Stacie Harvey will have no choice but to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. But to avoid performing ceremonies for them, these clerks have decided to end all courthouse weddings.

Fussell says the decision came after a series of discussion with members of his staff who currently officiate wedding ceremonies. None of them, including Fussell, felt comfortable doing gay weddings so they decided to end the practice all together.

“It was decided as a team, as an office, this would be what we do so that there wouldn’t be any discrimination,” Fussell said. “The easiest way is to not do them at all.”

Equality Florida co-founder and chief executive Nadine Smith was shocked to hear that certain counties would stop allowing courthouse wedding because of the possibility gay couples would want to use the service.

“I think it would be outrageous for clerks to change the rules simply because gay couples are getting married,” she said.

Smith, an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, predicted the policy change would backfire and be characterized as spiteful and mean.

Last Valentine’s Day, Fussell personally officiated a mass wedding for 12 heterosexual couples in the courthouse rotunda. He waived the ceremony fee, gave each bride flowers and offered a cupcake reception.

With the possibility that he would be forced to include gay couples who wanted to participate this year, there will be no weddings under the dome or the in the “wedding arbor” room that is most often used for these ceremonies.

Residents of Baker, Clay and Duval counties who want to avoid usual wedding expenses will now have to find a minister or notary to perform the ceremony after they pick up their marriage license, but a place other than the courthouse.

As I said, fire all of these assholes.  No special rights for Christian bigots. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years Eve Male Beauty

Is Pope Francis Driving a Wedge Between Catholics and the GOP?

As noted in a number of posts since Pope Francis ascended to the throne of St. Peter, Francis has regularly condemned much of the GOP agenda, be it his condemnation of unbridled capitalism  - vulture capitalism if you are Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan - or his soon to be released encyclical on climate change.  Some even credit Francis with having a hand in the change in USA-Cuba relations.  Yes, the Vatican remains very anti-gay and has supported GOP backed bans on gay marriage, but on many issues, Francis has charted a course away from the Christofascist/GOP platform.  A piece in The Hill looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
Pope Francis is increasingly driving a wedge between conservatives and the Catholic Church.

The magnetic pope has sparked new enthusiasm around the world for the church and has flexed his political muscles internationally, most recently by helping to engineer a new relationship between the United States and Cuba.

But Francis’s agenda, which also includes calls to address income inequality and limit climate change, is putting him at odds with Republicans, including GOP Catholics in the United States.

Hours after President Obama announced moves to ease trade and travel restrictions to Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a practicing Catholic and potential 2016 presidential candidate, criticized the deal and Francis's role in it.

It's not the first time Francis has clashed with conservatives.  Since his papal inauguration in March 2013, the pontiff has publicly made policy remarks about income inequality and the environment that many American Catholics weren't used to hearing coming from the Vatican, and not just from the pulpit.

“Inequality is the root of social evil,” Francis tweeted in March, after months earlier slamming “trickle-down” economics as a “crude and naïve” theory.

Catholics have long been considered an important voting block in American politics and have turned out for the winning presidential candidate in the last three cycles.

A closer look at the Catholic vote reveals that white Catholics have supported the Republican candidate in each of those elections, while Hispanic Catholics have supported the Democratic candidate, according to Pew Research polling.

Progressive Catholics, however, such as Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization, are cheering Francis on as he calls for the world's elite to do more to help the poor. 

“Oh my gloria, this is a definite change in tone from being a 'scolder-in-chief' to being the one who identifies with the pain in our world,” said Simone, who organized the “Nuns on a Bus” cross-country tours.

“Pope Francis's message and tone are making Catholic Republicans a little uncomfortable,” Simone said. “He's stirring the concern on issues like poverty and the economy.”
Meanwhile, evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants remain look step with the GOP and diametrically opposed to the true Gospel message.  Their hypocrisy is stunning. 

Can the Internet Defeat Vladimir Putin?

Russian dictator Vladimir "Adolph Hitler" Putin continues to mimic the tactics of Adolph Hitler in the 1930's and Joesph Stalin from the mid-1930's through the date of his death.  These tactics include controlling the news media, shutting down opposition news outlets and kangaroo trials for political opponents.  The one factor that has changed the playing field is the Internet.  Yes, it can be blocked for a time, but as China has discovered, for every effort to shut out news and the truth, there are computer geeks who will quickly devise a work around.  A column in the New York Times ponders whether the Internet will lead to Putin's eventual undoing.  If it does, it will have done Russia and the world a huge favor.   Here are some article excerpts:
ON Tuesday, a court in Moscow convicted Russia’s top opposition blogger, Aleksei A. Navalny, of criminal fraud. Mr. Navalny, who has been under house arrest for nearly a year, was given a suspended sentence and spared jail time. His younger brother Oleg, however, was sentenced to serve three and a half years. Aleksei Navalny is an anti-corruption activist and outspoken critic of President Vladimir V. Putin, and the verdicts were seen as a cynical strategy to punish him without turning him into an imprisoned martyr.
Mr. Navalny responded furiously, rallying protests in Moscow’s Manezh Square. He even defied his house arrest to attend the demonstrations himself, which led swiftly to his detention and a return to his home.

Mr. Navalny, a 21st-century Russian dissident, presents a new kind of threat to the Putin regime. He was the first Russian activist to have used the Internet as an effective tool of political resistance. In the past, he and his followers have demonstrated that Russia’s opposition activists are not simply “virtual,” but are also capable of getting people onto the streets.

This is a relatively recent phenomenon. For a long time, the Internet didn’t matter in Russia, at least as a weapon of the opposition. . . . . The Internet just reflected offline realities. Most Russians didn’t think they had any impact on their political situation. Elections were viewed as predetermined. Opposition protests were sparsely attended, and often ended with protesters’ being rounded up by the police. The Internet, simply by existing, was not going to change this overall picture.

Enter Mr. Navalny, who understood that his countrymen were tired of pointless street demonstrations. He decided to show Russians that they could make a difference, from the comfort of their homes. . . .  He didn’t ask people to revolt, he just called on them to file online complaints. He provided detailed instructions for appealing to the authorities, and asked his supporters to report everything from unrepaired potholes to suspicious government contracts. Success is a powerful antidote to apathy. Years of these campaigns showed individual Russians that together, they could get things done.

[T]he Kremlin didn’t really worry about online activism until late 2011 and early 2012, when tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in antigovernment protests that were largely organized on social media. This finally got Mr. Putin’s attention.  . . . . Moscow was facing the largest demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Now, Russian authorities have greater powers to block sites, allegedly in an attempt to protect children from harmful content. Popular bloggers are required to register with the government. Facebook and Twitter could be blocked entirely if they refuse to comply with a new law that requires them to keep data on their Russian users on local servers. Mr. Putin also passed a law to criminalize street protests.

The opposition’s main obstacle will continue to be public apathy, which is an authoritarian government’s best protection. The Internet alone is not enough to overcome it.

But something else could: the flailing Russian economy. An economic crisis caused by declining oil revenue, Western sanctions and a plummeting ruble could make Mr. Putin more vulnerable and eventually spark a mass uprising. And thanks to the Internet, Mr. Navalny and his supporters will have the tools to take advantage of a revolutionary situation if it does arise.
I am currently reading a book on the daughters of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II.  Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, were clueless and in way over their heads when it came to running a sprawling empire.  Moreover, much of their ill-advised political motivations came from religious brainwashing - brainwashing that focused on maintaining the political/religious status quo, especially for the Russian Orthodox Church, which enjoyed immense privileges and shook down the ignorant  for money that they could ill-afford to give to the Church.  In contrast, Putin is motivated by personal greed and megalomania.  The man is despicable.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

The Bob/Maureen McDonnell Soap Opera Continues

As the sentencing of former Governor and now convicted felon, Bob McDonnell approaches, the unseemly soap opera "family values" of the Virginia GOP continue to make the stomach turn.  Earlier in the week, as reported by the Richmond Times Dispatch, two of the McDonnell children, Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin Young, threw their mother under the bus in a letter to the Court asking for leniency for their father.  As a column in the same paper notes, however, all of the McDonnells were in on the take and showed a rapacious greed that reflects on the true "conservative Christian values" of the Virginia Republican establishment.  First, highlights on the trashing of Maureen McDonnell:
Two children of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell say his stunning downfall and conviction on public corruption charges can largely be attributed to the corrosive effects of just one person: Their mother.
Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky and Cailin Young wrote in blunt — and at times scathing — letters to a federal judge that it was former first lady Maureen McDonnell's materialism and mental-health issues that derailed the rising political career of her husband. The letters of support for Robert McDonnell were part of a trove of 440 submitted by his attorneys, who are seeking leniency at his Jan. 6 sentencing in Richmond.
"My mom . . . has always been concerned about getting discounts or freebees," McDonnell Zubowsky wrote. "She hid her coordination with people for free or discounted things or services and she didn't communicate with my dad because she knew he would not approve. . . . The testimony about my mom was not just part of a defense strategy and was not an attempt to 'throw her under the bus,' but unfortunately, was the reality."
 The column in today's Times Dispatch gives a truer view of the matter.  Here are highlights:

One of the more dramatic moments of the Bob and Maureen McDonnell corruption trial was the testimony of an FBI agent who was asked by a prosecutor to identify item-by-item the Rolex wristwatch, golf equipment, designer clothes, shoes and handbags that Jonnie Williams Sr. showered on the former first family.
For more than a half-hour, the swag was paraded across the courtroom, handed by the bailiff to jurors for their examination. It was a display of legal theater that made clear the eye-popping, cash register-ringing scale of Williams’ beneficence.
Christmas, it seems, came almost every day for the McDonnells — all of them.

It’s a point overshadowed, if not altogether lost, by the orchestrated appeals of the five McDonnell children for leniency for their father. In letters to the federal judge who next week could send him to prison — 10 to 12 years for trading on his office, if the prosecution gets its way — the three daughters and twin sons, all recipients of Williams’ sometimes-garish largesse, say that Bob McDonnell doesn’t deserve to be locked away.

If it was OK for mom and dad to avail themselves of Williams’ generosity, then it was OK for the kids, too. Children learn from their parents, especially from their parents’ conduct. Some of the most powerful lessons from this are absorbed by children when parents don’t think the children are watching.

Privately, Bob McDonnell set a different example. There are few indications that, before the former first couple came under federal scrutiny, they or their children fully considered how unseemly it was to accept or solicit gift after gift after gift from a rich man looking for favors from the government that McDonnell led.  But maybe that’s because the family, in general, and McDonnell, in particular, didn’t think anyone would notice. 

Under Virginia law, it was up to McDonnell — and McDonnell, alone — to make public the goodies that he and his family harvested from Williams.  Two features of the ethics statutes allowed him to obscure, if not conceal, the gifts and sweetheart loans: First, the law relies on the official to police himself or herself. Second, that allows the official to determine whether a benefactor is a relative or personal friend. Gifts from either do not have to be disclosed.

Are not their [the McDonnell children] appeals to Spencer, while emotionally moving and emblematic of a deep devotion to their father, somewhat diminished by a troubling fact? They were a party to this tawdry enterprise.

Cailin’s 2011 wedding at the Executive Mansion was paid for, in part, with $15,000 from Williams. Daughter Jeanine and her husband took $10,000 from Williams as a wedding present, only returning it — as Jeanine testified in a scripted utterance at her parents’ trial — “after we realized he was a criminal.”

Sons Sean and Bobby were given golf clubs, a bag and shoes by Williams as well as occasional privileges at his exclusive country club outside Richmond. The twins, both of whom have had dust-ups with police over their after-hours conduct, resisted pressure from their father to return the equipment. They dismissed his concerns that it was inappropriate for them to accept it.
The "conservatives" in the Virginia GOP disparage gays and many others as "sinners" and "immoral."  Perhaps they need to take a good look at themselves in the mirror.  They are modern day Pharisees who daily exhibit behavior that makes the case for walking away from Christianity.

Republican Are Already Doing Damage Control

Republicans will not take control of Congress until later next month but find themselves frantically doing damage control in the wake of the admission the House majority whip, Steve Scalise spoke at a Neo-nazi, white supremacy convention, and the resignation of Michael Grimm, a New York member of Congress convicted of felony tax evasion.  Scalise's excuse that he did not know the nature of the group he addressed defies belief and, if true, indicates that the man is too stupid to be in Congress much less majority whip.  As for Grimm, his conduct is all to familiar to Virginians who await the sentencing of former Governor Bob McDonnell.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's damage control efforts - Note Boehner has not pushed Scalise to resign, apparently out of fear of alienating the white supremacist base in the GOP.  Here are highlights:
Republican leaders moved forcefully on Tuesday to control the damage from a pair of scandals that have suddenly disrupted the party as it prepares to take full control on Capitol Hill.

In back-to-back moves, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) pushed out Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.), who pleaded guilty last week to federal tax-evasion charges, and backed Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who acknowledged that he once ­addressed a white-supremacist group before coming to Congress.

Some Republicans praised Boehner for his actions, expressing their eagerness to start the new Congress in a position of strength to fully exploit their gains in the midterm elections. But others worried about the potential political fallout from a fresh racial controversy for a party eager to show its broadening appeal to minorities ahead of the 2016 presidential election. 

John Weaver, a GOP consultant who advised the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said in an e-mail that Scalise “cannot serve in leadership in our party as we’re in the process of trying to show the American people we can handle the burden of governing, especially in a country so divided across all demographic lines.”

The twin controversies could also derail the carefully laid plans of Boehner and the incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to shape the party’s message and Washington’s political agenda in the coming weeks. . . . . A controversy involving race could complicate Republican bargaining power.

In a flurry of phone calls late Monday into Tuesday, Scalise reassured his colleagues that he had been oblivious to the racist and anti-Semitic associations of the group when he addressed it in 2002 as a state legislator.

Grimm’s announcement that he will resign next Monday ended months of controversy for the lawmaker, a former FBI agent once considered a star GOP recruit. He left the powerful House Financial Services Committee in the spring after federal prosecutors unveiled a 20-count indictment, but he refused to resign and won reelection for a third term in November despite his troubles.

[C]onservative activists and more mainstream operatives were fretting about the Scalise controversy’s implications for the party’s image.

“It’s always a step forward and two or three steps backward with this kind of stuff. We’ve got to get beyond that,” said Michael Steele, former Maryland lieutenant governor and past chairman of the Republican National Committee.  One of his party’s most prominent black members, Steele suggested that Scalise might have to relinquish his leadership position . . . .

“How Do You Show Up at a David Duke Event and Not Know What It Is?” Erick Erickson, a widely followed radio talk-show host and conservative blogger, said in a Twitter message. 

Sadly, the GOP has become a party of racists and extremists - a trend that has intensified since the Christofascists were allowed to hijack much of the party base and grassroots.  I continue to wonder when the party's racism will be made official with KKK robes handed out at the beginning of every local city and county committee.   

2 Year Old Kills Concealed Weapons Carrying Mother

The idiocy - at least in my view - of the nation's gun laws continues despite the increased frequency of mass shootings and statistics that show that having a gun in the home increases the likelihood of gun deaths within the home.  Sadly, the NRA and idiots in the public that drink the gun manufacturers' Kool-Aid continue to bar sane and rational gun control laws and a reduction of huge number of weapons held by private citizens.  A story out of Idaho illustrates how having a gun (no doubt for "protection") can end one's life rather than save it.  Here are details from MSN News on the accidental shooting of a woman with a concealed hand gun by her two-year old child:

A 29-year-old woman described as a "beautiful, young, loving mother" was fatally shot by her 2-year-old son at a northern Idaho Wal-Mart in what authorities called a tragic accident.

The little boy reached into Veronica J. Rutledge's purse and her concealed gun fired, Kootenai County sheriff's spokesman Stu Miller said. The woman was shopping Tuesday with her son and three other children, Miller said.

The woman had a concealed weapons permit. Miller said the young boy was left in a shopping cart, reached into his mother's purse and grabbed a small-caliber handgun, which discharged one time.  Deputies who responded to the Wal-Mart found Rutledge dead, the sheriff's office said.

Hayden is a politically conservative town of about 9,000 people just north of Coeur d'Alene, in Idaho's northern panhandle.

There do not appear to be reliable national statistics about the number of accidental fatalities involving children handling guns.

In neighboring Washington state, a 3-year-old boy was seriously injured in November when he accidentally shot himself in the face in a home in Lake Stevens, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

In April, a 2-year-old boy apparently shot and killed his 11-year-old sister while they and their siblings played with a gun inside a Philadelphia home. Authorities said the gun was believed to have been brought into the home by the mother's boyfriend.

Idaho lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year allowing concealed weapons on the state's public college and university campuses.
I don't mean to sound heartless, but from the news reports, seemingly, Rutledge was intelligent and not some white trash redneck, yet she apparently believed the lies and propaganda of the gun lobby - it cost her her life.  We need serious gun control and a huge reduction in the number of  guns in the hands of those obviously not responsible enough to have them in their possession.  The NRA claims another life. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Frank Schaeffer - Confessions and Warnings of a One-Time Religious Right Icon

I've written about Frank Schaeffer before. His father was a famous founder of the Christofascist forces that have infected America and the base of the GOP.  Frank Schaeffer has a piece in Salon where he laments his past work with his father and what conservative Christians have done and continue to try to do to America and society. The most important part of his message is what the Christofascist controlled Republican Party still seeks to do.  Here are excerpts:
[T]the American right is not about politics as most people understand it but about religious absolutes. As the New York Times noted on the single-minded desire to subvert President Obama’s overhaul of the broken immigration system, “And in their most audacious plans, Tea Party groups are preparing to recruit challengers to run against high-profile Republicans they accuse of betraying them — as they did when they toppled Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader.”

This zealous negativity has a long history. I was part of it as the nepotistic sidekick to my religious-right evangelist father. The 1970s Evangelical anti-abortion movement that Dad (Evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer), C. Everett Koop (who would be Ronald Reagan’s surgeon general) and I helped create seduced the Republican Party. We turned it into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built.

The difference between now and then is that back then we were religious fanatics knocking on the doors of normal political leaders. Today the fanatics are the political leaders.

You can’t understand why the GOP was so successful in winning back both houses of congress in 2014, and wrecking most of what Obama has tried to do, unless you understand what we did back then.

[The] strategy was simple: Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, “we” would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights. They have a majority on the Court to back them up.

No one seemed to notice (or mind) that the Republicans weren’t really doing anything about abortion other than talking about it to voters. And by the mid- to late 1980s the cause shifted: We Evangelicals paid lip-service to “stopping abortion,” but the real issue was keeping Republicans in power and keeping evangelical leaders in the ego-stroking loop of having access to power.

Fast-forward 30 years to the early 21st century: The messengers, leaders and day-to-day “issues” changed. For instance, we were into taking away a woman’s right to choose. Today it’s about gay bashing and denying climate change — and now the nakedly racist anti-immigrant movement threat is part of the reaction to the black man in the White House.

Mark my words, the subtext to the GOP assault on us in 2016 will be religious extremism — again. And now it has a racist twist. Look at the right’s reaction to the events in Ferguson. Look at the continuing anti-Obama ugliness far past mere political difference. For the Republicans the next election won’t be about politics. it will be a holy war — again.

Transgender Teenager Leaves Suicide Note Blaming her Christian Parents for Her Death

I am on record as calling LGBT youth being raised by Christian fundamentalist parents a form of child abuse.  The heartbreaking suicide of 17 year old Leelah Alcorn over the weekend underscores this reality.   Leelah, who born male in a moving suicide note blamed her Christian parents for her decision to end her tortured life.  Rather than accept her or get her the legitimate therapy she needed, her parents forced her to see "Christian therapists" who shamed her and relied on the supposed teachings of the Bible, that book responsible for so much bloodshed and misery over the centuries, to try to force her to reject what she knew was her true self.  In my view, her parents (and the "Christian therapists") should be indicted, tried and convicted of felony child abuse.  Leelah's sad story underscores why "ex-gay" therapy needs to be banned nationwide and quacks parading as "Christian therapists" need to be put out of business. The Daily Mail looks at this sad story.  Here are excerpts:
A transgender teenager who committed suicide by walking in front of a tractor trailer in Ohio left a heartbreaking letter in which she blamed her religious parents.

Leelah Alcorn, 17, died in the early hours of Sunday on highway I-71 in Warren County, Ohio, a few miles from her family home.

The high school student left a poignant suicide note accusing her devout Christian parents of refusing to acknowledge her gender and forbidding her from transitioning.
The suicide note was posted on Leelah's tumblr account through scheduled publishing just a few hours after her death.

The note begins: 'If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.' 

Leelah goes on to reveal that her parents refused to allow her to transition and instead took her to 'Christian therapists' who told her that she was 'selfish and wrong'. 

'I formed a sort of a “f*** you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. 

'Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. 

'They wanted me to be their perfect little straight Christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.'

'On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.'

Leelah then adds: 'I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself.  
It's telling to me that Leelah'sparents said that she was "selfish."  If anyone was selfish, it was her parents who in all likelihood were more worried about what people would think of them than the welfare of their child.  If there is a Hell, her parents deserve to burn in it for eternity.   Here are excerpts for her suicide note: 
If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.
Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.

I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted.

So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.
I cannot know what it feels like to be transgender, but it has to be far worse than being gay in a homophobic society. With two serious suicide attempts in my past, I can understand how Leelah came to the point where suicide seemed the best solution.  She wanted the pain and misery to stop and not much beyond that.  As for her parents, I hope they come to realize they murdered their child.  As for other "godly Christian" parents who reject their LGBT children, they have only my utter contempt.  I hope with time society as a whole will come to treat them with contempt and derision and make them social outcasts.  They deserve such treatment.


Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

The Pope and American Catholics See Climate Change as a Crisis

In yet another bad sign for the ignorance embracing Republican Party, the Pope is preparing to release an encyclical—or "papal letter"—that will be sent to churches worldwide which calls for call for action on climate change.  Surveys show that a majority of American Catholics agree with the Pope's assessment of the crisis. No doubt Fox News, GOP Senator James Inhofe, and American fundamentalist Christians will describe all of this as part of an international conspiracy to further the climate change "hoax" as they call it.  Mother Jones looks at the Pope's planned action and Catholic support for it.  Here are excerpts:

Pope Francis, the leader the Catholic Church, is closing out 2014 in his typically headline-grabbing fashion. . . . Next on his list? Climate change.

Over the weekend, the Guardian reported that the pope will issue the first-ever comprehensive set of Vatican teachings on climate change, in the form of an encyclical—or "papal letter"—sent to churches worldwide. He will also personally lobby for climate action action in a series of high profile meetings ahead of the all-important UN global warming negotiations in Paris next year. From the Guardian:
Following a visit in March to Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated…by typhoon Haiyan, the pope will publish a rare encyclical on climate change and human ecology. Urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds, the document will be sent to the world's 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will distribute it to parishioners. According to Vatican insiders, Francis will meet other faith leaders and lobby politicians at the general assembly in New York in September, when countries will sign up to new anti-poverty and environmental goals.
Mobilizing believers to embrace climate action could be a very big deal, given the sheer number of people who identify as Catholic in the US—around 75 million—he said. "If we had just a fraction of those acting on climate change, it would be bigger than the networks of some of the biggest environmental groups in the US," he said. "That could help change the way we live our lives, and impact our views on public policy."

The impact would be felt beyond Catholicism too, said Mary Evelyn Tucker, director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University. She called the forthcoming letter "one of the most important documents on the moral implications of what we are doing to our planet." 

[W]ould America's Catholics welcome climate advocacy from the pope? Recent polling by the Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion suggests that many would.
** Nearly three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics surveyed agree that climate change constitutes a "crisis" or a "major problem." The same is true for a majority (53 percent) of white Catholic respondents.

** Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of Catholics surveyed said climate change is the "most pressing" environmental issue we face.

** Majorities of all groups surveyed—including 69 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 63 percent of white Catholics—agree that dealing with global warming now will help prevent economic calamities in the future.

Major Corporations Back Gay Marriage in Florida

As Anita Bryant want to be Pam Bondi, the GOP Attorney General of Florida, continues to try to throw road blocks and delays in front of court rulings striking down that Florida's ban on same sex marriage (all to prostitute herself to the "godly folk"), a who's who of the corporate world have filed an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit asking that court to end the fight against gay equality and strike down the Florida ban.  Amazon, Bloomberg, CBS, and General Electric are among the dozens of companies that signed the brief which can be viewed here.  Among other things, the corporations argue as follows:

“State laws and constitutions denying marriage to gay and lesbian citizens are bad for our businesses,” . . . . .  “Amici are forced to bear unnecessary costs, complexity, and risk in managing our companies, and we are hampered in our efforts to recruit and retain the most talented workforce possible—all of which places us at a competitive disadvantage.”
“Our success depends upon the welfare and morale of all employees, without distinction.
The burden—imposed by state law—of having to administer complicated schemes designed to account for differential treatment of similarly situated employees interferes with our business and creates unnecessary confusion, tension, and ultimately, diminished employee morale. We write to advise the Court of the impact on employers of the disparate treatment mandated by states that refuse to permit or recognize marriages between same-sex couples.”
We, and many of our peers, recognize that diversity is crucial to innovation and marketplace success. Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) community are one source of that diversity.   An April 2013 Small Business Majority survey reported that sixty-nine percent of small  business owners support non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT workers. As of 2014, ninety-one percent of Fortune 500 companies provide non-discrimination  protection for their LGBT employees, . . .
Republicans claim to be "pro-business" but ignore the calls of big business preferring to whore them selves to the religious extremist who with overt racist now control the party's base.