Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Bible Belt = Obese Porn Watchers

The disconnect between what Christian fundamentalist say and demand of others and what they actually do is once again in sharp display in the results of two new studies.  We hear these "godly folk" constantly shrieking about the evils of pornography and condemning others for sins that are a matter of "choice" - gays, of course are a favorite target on the latter.  Meanwhile, these folks who live in the Bible Belt use more online porn than anywhere else in America and seemingly lack the ability to make the choice to not shovel another fork full of food into their mouths (perhaps they eat while perusing online porn?).  The sin of gluttony is apparently an unknown concept to this falsely pious folk.

As MSN News reports, the most obese states are, with only two exceptions, located in the Bible Belt with Mississippi leading the way in the most obese state for the second year running:
Most people get psyched when they earn a distinction two years in a row, but we’re guessing Mississippi residents aren’t thrilled with this one: According to findings from a new Gallup poll, the state has the highest obesity rate in the nation for the second year running. The poll found that more than 35 percent of Mississippi residents are obese, trumping runner-up West Virginia by nearly a whole percentage point.

Obesity rates have continuously been highest in Southern and Midwestern states and lowest in Western and Northwestern states, per Gallup.
Yep, it's the awful liberal states so decried in the Bible Belt where folks seemingly have enough "personal responsibility" to put down their forks. 

On the issue of pornography, Patheos looks at the results of a new survey that suggests that while the godly folk are sitting in the pews on Sunday, they may actually be planning their next foray into online porn.  Here are highlights:

Religious conservatives in the Bible Belt search for online porn more than anyone else according to a new study published earlier this month.

The new study, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior and  produced by researchers from Canadian Universities, found that American states with more religious conservatives search more for sexual content on Google.

Researchers used Google Trends to analyze porn searches while linking state level information from Gallup polls asking about religious and political attitudes together with a variety of sex and porn-related search terms.

The following is an excerpt from the study’s Abstract:
(researchers) examined associations between state-level religiosity/conservatism and anonymized interest in searching for sexual content online using Google Trends (which calculates within-state search volumes for search terms). Across two separate years, and controlling for demographic variables, we observed moderate-to-large positive associations between: (1) greater proportions of state-level religiosity and general web searching for sexual content and (2) greater proportions of state-level conservatism and image-specific searching for sex.

[T]he Canadian researchers offer “the paradoxical hypothesis that a greater preponderance of right-leaning ideologies is associated with greater preoccupation with sexual content in private internet activity.”

While one can only speculate as to why there is such a strong connection between the consumption of porn and professed conservative Christian values, multiple reports indicate similar findings concerning the Bible Belt’s apparent voracious appetite for pornography.

The hypocrisy of it all is stunning.  But hypocrisy is, of course a hallmark of fundamentalist Christians.

New York Hotelier Lied About Ted Cruz Donation

Ian Reisner (pictured above) and his business partner Mati Weiderpass are both in my view "legends in their own minds" gays who see themselves as "A listers."  Reisner is also proving to be an out and out liar as he tries to do damage control following his host of a "fire side chat" with anti-gay zealot Texas Senator Ted Cruz (the following day, Cruz introduced two anti-gay bills).   Reisner's claims that no donations were made to Cruz's presidential campaign have proven untrue and, if anything, Reisner has dug himself an even deeper hole as calls for boycotts of his businesses continue.  Metro Weekly looks ate this latest phase of Reisner's self-created shit storm.  Here are article highlights:

Ian Reisner just can’t extricate himself from the web of lies he spun in the wake of the Ted Cruz scandal.

After hosting the anti-gay Republican presidential candidate for a “fireside chat” in April, Reisner and business partner Mati Weiderpass (both gay) faced a huge backlash from the LGBT community. Though initially apologizing for hosting Cruz, Reisner has since repeatedly clashed with his detractors in statements made to the press, including calling gays “cheap” and “entitled.”

Reisner attempted to diffuse the controversy by claiming he wasn’t hosting Cruz (he was), that it was organized by others (it wasn’t), that he had no idea about Cruz’s anti-gay history (implausible), and finally by saying that he regretted the incident entirely. Still, though, Reisner continues to dig an ever-deeper hole for himself.

It transpires that not only did Reisner host Cruz in his Manhattan apartment, he also made the maximum possible donation to his campaign. Reisner cut Cruz a check for $2,700, despite telling New York magazine earlier this month: “There were no checks given, it was nothing like that.”

The New York Times, which initially broke the story of Reisner’s meeting with Cruz, has learned that after Reisner was aware that the LGBT community wasn’t happy with his hosting Cruz, he asked for his check back.

What further complicates matters for Reisner, who hosted a fundraiser for another anti-gay politician earlier that month, is that Weiderpass apparently did not donate to Cruz’s campaign.

For Ian Reisner, it seems no amount of PR and damage control can solve the problems caused by his support for Senator Cruz.

Reisner is either a total idiot or pathological liar.  

Scott Walker: Women Should be Forced to Have Ultrasounds

Proving once again that the Republican Party's war on women is real, would be presidential candidate Scott Walker has stated that women considering an abortion should be forced to have ultrasounds.  Underscoring Walker's contempt for women, he described the procedure as "cool."  I wonder if Walker would think the procedure was so "cool" if the probe was forced up his ass against his will?  What fetid swamp did Walker crawl out of? Sadly, Walker's mind set is all too prevalent among Republicans - especially the males - who believe that men should make decisions about women's control of their own bodies.  It's no doubt the mindset of scum like Josh Duggar as he took improprieties with five girls, including some of his sisters.  A column in the New York Times looks at Walker's shocking statement.  Here are excerpts:
We’ve been wondering when a presidential candidate would say something incredibly insensitive about women and reproduction.

The moment has arrived. The 2016 Todd (“Legitimate Rape”) Akin Award for Sexual Sensitivity goes to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Maybe it was inevitable. Of all the practicing politicians in the scramble, Walker is possibly the sloppiest public speaker. Compared with him, Chris Christie can be a pinnacle of verbal discipline.

Last week, Walker was on a radio talk show, praising a law he signed requiring women who want an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. Which they’re supposed to watch, while the physician points out the features of the fetus.   An ultrasound, he said, was “just a cool thing.”

Walker was complaining that, in his words, “the media is a gotcha.” He then bragged about his anti-abortion agenda: “We defunded Planned Parenthood. We signed a law that requires an ultrasound, which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea.  

Let’s leap, temporarily, past the fact that Walker was conflating the vision of happy parents getting their first glimpse of their baby-to-be with what’s appropriate for a woman who has made the stupendously profound and private decision to terminate a pregnancy.

His larger point was apparently that the sight of a fetus in an ultrasound is so moving that a woman undergoing an abortion would almost certainly change her mind. This is wrong. There’s no evidence these ultrasound laws discourage women who have already decided they want an abortion. And it’s incredibly insulting because it presumes that they’re making this choice on a kind of whim. If they’d only thought things through.

“I just don’t understand why politicians want to be in the middle of this,” she said in a phone interview.
At one point — during a re-election campaign against a female opponent — Walker seemed to get that resentment against political intrusion. So he claimed the then-pending ultrasound proposal “leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.” Although neither the woman nor the doctor gets any say in the ultrasound-plus-commentary.

[W]hile Walker keeps describing external “jelly-on-the-belly” procedures, representatives of the medical community say doctors will sometimes have to use intrusive vaginal probes to meet the law’s requirements.
[W]e have here a potential president who justifies a law on how doctors treat their abortion patients by citing what we know from watching TV and movies. Seventeen months to go. Lord knows what’s next.
Walker needs to go crawl under a rock - maybe he can take Josh Duggar with him.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Dennis Hastert Was Being Blackmailed Over Gay Sexual Abuse

Damn!  The family values Republicans just can't seem to stay out of sex abuse scandals.  Especially gay sex scandals.  According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was being blackmailed over gay sexual abuse dating back to his high school coaching days.  That's why he was hiding money being moved from bank accounts in violation of federal regulations.  If the story is true, one has to wonder why the Hell Hastert ever became a "family values" Republican with this kind of potential time bomb from his past.  I guess I will never understand the mindset of these folks.  Here are highlights from the Los Angeles Times:
Indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was paying an individual from his past to conceal sexual misconduct, two federal law enforcement officials said Friday.

One of the officials, who would not speak publicly about the federal charges in Chicago, said “Individual A,” as the person is described in Thursday’s federal indictment, was a man and that the alleged misconduct was unrelated to Hastert’s tenure in Congress. The actions date to Hastert’s time as a Yorkville, Ill., high school wrestling coach and teacher, the official said.

It goes back a long way, back to then,” the source said. “It has nothing to do with public corruption or a corruption scandal. Or to his time in office.”  Thursday’s indictment described the misconduct “against Individual A” as having “occurred years earlier.”

Asked why Hastert was making the payments, the official said it was to conceal Hastert’s past relationship with the male. “It was sex,’’ the source said. The other official confirmed that the misconduct involved sexual abuse.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to the individual, then lied to the FBI when asked about suspicious cash withdrawals from several banks.
The stunning indictment of the longtime Republican powerhouse alleged he gave about $1.7 million in cash beginning in 2010 to the acquaintance.

According to the seven-page indictment, Individual A met multiple times in 2010 with Hastert but brought up the allegations of past misconduct during at least one of the meetings. During that discussion and later meetings, Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to Individual A to conceal the wrongdoing, the indictment alleged.

From June 2010 to April 2012, Hastert made 15 withdrawals of $50,000 each from bank accounts he controlled and paid Individual A that cash about every six weeks, according to the charges.
After bank representatives questioned Hastert about the withdrawals in 2012, he began illegally structuring the cash withdrawals in increments less than $10,000 to evade bank reporting requirements, the indictment said.

When questioned by the FBI about the withdrawals last December, Hastert, who as speaker was once second in line to take over the Oval Office if the president was incapacitated, said he was trying to store cash because he didn't feel safe with the banking system, according to the charges.
"Yeah ... I kept the cash. That's what I'm doing," Hastert was quoted as saying to the agents.
Adding to the now swirling speculation, Towleroad has this:
Wrote liberal blogger Wayne Madsen at the time:

"There is also much focus on the relationship between House Speaker Dennis Hastert and his chief of staff, 56-year old Scott Palmer. Hastert and Palmer, Hastert's longtime unmarried adviser, live together in a DC townhouse along with Hastert's Deputy Chief of Staff, Mike Stokke, while Hastert's wife Jean lives in Yorkville, Illinois and stays at a hotel when she visits Washington."
As the husband would say, you can't write stuff this good.  Former Virginia 2nd District Congressman Ed Schrock's use of Mega Phone for hook ups pales in comparison!  How many other closeted Republicans are out there waiting to get outed - or indicted?

How God Really Feels About Same-Sex Marriage

The image from Queerty sums things up well.   The far right - including the always crazy Cardinal Burke - are lambasting Ireland for approving same sex marriage, yet it is anti-gay Texas that is getting pummeled by natural disasters - something the Christian fundamentalists claim the guy upstairs controls. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The 99% and American Insecurity

As the Republican Party's presidential candidates begin to disingenuously talk about their "concern for working Americans," "American workers," and/or the middle class, they conveniently ignore the reality that their party's policies have exacerbated the dire straits that most Americans face.  Worse yet, they and their wealthy supporters have no clue how most Americans live and just how financially insecure most in the 99% are in fact.  A column in the New York Times looks at this reality and the clueless mindset of the wealthy.  Here are some excerpts:
America remains, despite the damage inflicted by the Great Recession and its aftermath, a very rich country. But many Americans are economically insecure, with little protection from life’s risks. They frequently experience financial hardship; many don’t expect to be able to retire, and if they do retire have little to live on besides Social Security.

Many readers will, I hope, find nothing surprising in what I just said. But all too many affluent Americans — and, in particular, members of our political elite — seem to have no sense of how the other half lives. Which is why a new study on the financial well-being of U.S. households, conducted by the Federal Reserve, should be required reading inside the Beltway.

Before I get to that study, a few words about the callous obliviousness so prevalent in our political life.
I am not, or not only, talking about right-wing contempt for the poor, although the dominance of compassionless conservatism is a sight to behold. According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of conservatives believe that the poor “have it easy” thanks to government benefits; only 1 in 7 believe that the poor “have hard lives.” And this attitude translates into policy. What we learn from the refusal of Republican-controlled states to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the bill, is that punishing the poor has become a goal in itself, one worth pursuing even if it hurts rather than helps state budgets.

Take, as a prime example, positioning on Social Security. For decades, a declared willingness to cut Social Security benefits, especially by raising the retirement age, has been almost a required position — a badge of seriousness — for politicians and pundits who want to sound wise and responsible. After all, people are living longer, so shouldn’t they work longer, too? 

Meanwhile, the reality is that living longer in our ever-more-unequal society is very much a class thing: life expectancy at age 65 has risen a lot among the affluent, but hardly at all in the bottom half of the wage distribution, that is, among those who need Social Security most. . . . A majority of Americans over 65 get more than half their income from Social Security, and more than a quarter are almost completely reliant on those monthly checks.

Washington still has no clue about the realities of life for those not yet elderly. Which is where that Federal Reserve study comes in. . . . . 3 in 10 nonelderly Americans said they had no retirement savings or pension, and that the same fraction reported going without some kind of medical care in the past year because they couldn’t afford it. Almost a quarter reported that they or a family member had experienced financial hardship in the past year.And something that even startled me: 47 percent said that they would not have the resources to meet an unexpected expense of $400 — $400! They would have to sell something or borrow to meet that need, if they could meet it at all.

[W]hile things could be worse, they could also be better. There is no such thing as perfect security, but American families could easily have much more security than they have. All it would take is for politicians and pundits to stop talking blithely about the need to cut “entitlements” and start looking at the way their less-fortunate fellow citizens actually live.
What continually strikes me is that the GOP and much of its base claims to support and value Christian beliefs, yet in fact, they don't give a damn about others, especially the poor and unfortunate.  Indeed, they are modern day Pharisees.  Hence why I am no longer a Republican and why in many ways I don't want to be called a Christian.  Christianity as defined and practiced by the far right is truly something foul and ugly.  

The Duggars' Toxic Christian Fundamentalism

As the Duggar sex molestation scandal continues to go increasingly viral - except on Fox News, of course - more attention is being focused on the cult like religious affiliations of the family.  Some are saying, as in a piece in Salon, that the molestation scandal should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Duggars' fundamentalist religious practices and home school organization that is the center of their practices.  Time and time again we see religious fundamentalists - who in my view suffer from a psychological/mental health illness given their obsession with avoiding independent thought and all things sexual - as the ones who are engaging in illicit sex, child pornography and inappropriate behaviors (an ultra-conservative Tea Party leader was recently arrested on child porn charges).  But back to the Salon piece on the Duggars.  Here are highlights:

Unlike most of the writers covering the Duggar sex scandal, I was raised in Advanced Training Institute (ATI), the fundamentalist Christian organization with which the family is affiliated. Joshua Duggar’s confession of sexually molesting young girls in his family’s home when he was a teenager didn’t surprise me, nor should it surprise anyone with any intimate knowledge about this organization, because ATI’s theological beliefs and practices cultivate an environment where women and children are more vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse.

The Duggars didn’t emerge from a subterranean bunker, though. They’ve been on TV promoting the fundamentalist Christian theology of ATI since their first special in 2004 (“14 Children and Pregnant Again!”). ATI is a Christian homeschool organization that hosts seminars worldwide, provides homeschooling curriculum, and even runs its own paramilitary training center.

[T]hey maintain insular groups and often form churches in which all members are affiliated with ATI and/or follow its basic principles. Referred to as “Gothardism” within fundamentalist Christian circles, the teachings of ATI form an ideological system of practices based on the extremely strict, fundamentalist, and idiosyncratic Biblical interpretations of the organization’s founder, Bill Gothard – a man who, in 2014, stepped down as head of ATI following allegations of sexual misconduct with young girls.

The allegations against “Mr. Gothard” (as he is respectfully and worshipfully referred to by his acolytes) were an open secret among group members for many years. As a friend who worked at ATI headquarters once said to me with a wink: “The prettiest girls are always chosen to work the closest with Mr Gothard.”

ATI’s teachings trickle down into every single part of its members’ lives. This is not just a homeschool curriculum, it is a fully institutionalized religious sect with incredibly strict demands to conformity — rules that, in my experience, more often reflect Gothard’s personal preferences than actual Biblical teachings. Have you ever wondered why every Duggar woman perms her hair? It’s because Gothard taught us that curly hair brings out a woman’s natural beauty. Other ATI beliefs that I learned range from utterly bizarre to downright barbaric . . .

And then there are the beliefs  . . . shared throughout the church’s teachings: the antiquated dress codes (especially for girls and women), the required homeschooling, the prohibition on birth control, the strictly gendered division of labor and the absolute and unquestioned authority of the father within the home.

Women and mothers working outside of the home is absolutely forbidden in ATI no matter what the financial situation of the family. Some women are even required to get permission from their husbands if they want to obtain a driver’s license.

Each child is another notch on Jim Bob’s headboard, walking and talking proofs of his masculine virility. Despite this fascination with Michelle’s fertility, there is a critical question that no one ever seems to be ask on camera: just how fragile is the boundary between the loss of a woman’s reproductive control over her body and the loss of her sexual control over her body? From my experience in the ATI culture, it is very, very slim.

A cornerstone belief of ATI is that God appoints husbands in an “umbrella of authority” over their wives, who are mandated by God to obey their husbands completely. That includes absolute sexual and reproductive submission.  

Like any system of abuse, ATI relies on control to maintain its power, and a critical component of that power is the total indoctrination of its members through its homeschool curriculum. The so-called “Wisdom Booklets” that form the backbone of ATI children’s educations contain more Bible verses than they do information. Particularly lacking, in a religious sect so obsessed with reproduction, is any kind of sex education. This is especially true for young women, who receive very little sex education because the church teaches us that women do not have sex drives. 

Women were taught from a very young age that they are to be submissive in all things: allowing men to open doors for us (even to get out of a car), never initiating conversation with a man and never correcting a man when he was wrong. Essentially, a good ATI woman is sweet, silent, and obedient.

This combination of zero sexual knowledge and deeply-ingrained submissiveness left many young girls in our church especially vulnerable to sexual abuse. As a teenager, I became aware that several of my friends were being molested by their older brothers or fathers.

The only hope of escape for young women was through courtship and marriage to a man, who would attempt to immediately impregnate her and to whom she would then relinquish all sexual control.

I hope this latest religion and sex scandal teaches that religious extremism isn’t entertainment. It is abuse. It is abuse when it is used to manipulate, control and victimize those who are rendered helpless within its confines. We should examine how we allow the most vulnerable members of our society to become prey for power-hungry religious leaders and sexual predators. Yes, the family is to blame. Yes, ATI is to blame. But so are we, for spending the past decade pointing and laughing along.

I remain convinced that raising children in far right fundamentalist homes is a form of child abuse.  The larger public needs to understand that fundamentalism - Christian or Muslim - is a sickness and that the "godly folk" all too often are not the nice, decent people they pretend to be.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Will Benghazi Testimony Work to Hillary's Advantage?

As noted numerous times on this blog, Republicans - or perhaps I should clarify, and say lunatics in the party base - are obsessed with Benghazi.  No conspiracy or rumor is too far fetched to not be grasped and believed by spittle flecked Christofacsists and Tea Party loons who seemingly all have IQ's under 70 (no offense intended to the retarded).  Given this reality, GOP House members have decided to have yet more hearings on Benghazi in order to  further prostitute themselves to the unwashed swamp dwellers of the party base.  Some suggest, however, that this exercise could backfire and actually work to Hillary Clinton's advantage.   Here are excerpts from a piece in Politico that thinks the GOP is unwittingly helping Hillary:
Three out of four Democratic insiders in the early states believe testifying before Congress about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will work to Hillary Clinton’s advantage.

This week’s survey of The POLITICO Caucus, a bipartisan group of the most influential activists, operatives and elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire, found that most Democrats think it would be beneficial to Clinton when she is called to discuss the matter before Congress, something she is expected to do at some point, likely this summer.

Democrats were skeptical that Clinton would get a fair hearing, but were confident she would do a good job shutting down questioners in the hopes of moving on from the issue.

“Republicans prefer the safety of manufactured outrage on Benghazi. In person, I think Clinton will crush their questions,” said an Iowa Democrat.

Added a New Hampshire Democrat, “As she has proven many times before, Hillary is not afraid to testify and is a very good witness; she will walk out of the hearing room enhanced.”

A majority of Republicans — nearly 60 percent — also said it would be helpful for Clinton to address the issue head-on (she appeared before Congress once before on this issue in 2013). Several Republicans warned some in their party could overdo the confrontation, which could work to Clinton’s advantage if she appears to be answering questions openly and honestly.

“It is a real opportunity for her to face this and defuse it—the R’s will not be able to resist the temptation to gang up and it may actually engender some sympathy for her, hard as that is to imagine,” said a New Hampshire Republican.

Another Granite State Republican acknowledged, “Hillary is at her strongest when she answers her critics head-on. She should embrace it — and hope her opponents overplay their hands. Which they could do, easily.”

74 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans — including one-third of the 15 New Hampshire Republicans who responded this week — say that the Benghazi attack is not quite as much of a hot-button issue for the GOP base as it was in the aftermath of the attacks and during the 2014 midterm elections.

“The nut job conspiracy theorists on the fringe love the issue. Everyone else sees shades of gray in a horrible, messy, tragic situation, and how it was handled,” said a New Hampshire Republican. “Could have happened just as easily in a Republican administration.”
Sadly, nowadays "nut job conspiracy theorists" describes a majority of the GOP base. Logic, reason and objective reality are now scorned by the GOP base, especially among Christofascists.