Saturday, October 03, 2015

How to Fix the Deadly Second Amendment

The "conservatives" on the U.S. Supreme Court like to pretend that they issue their rulings based on the original intent of the Founding Fathers, except, of course, when that intent varies from their own biases and bigotry.  A op-ed by former Justice from the Washington Post two years ago looks at how the Second Amendment has been perverted and resulted in a gun crazed society where the rights of gun extremists trump the rights of law abiding citizens.  It's to the point where one is likely safer while visiting a foreign country than in their own country.  Stevens first looks at how Americans have been defrauded by the gun lobby and then proposes a fix to the Second Amendment to restore sanity.  Here are excerpts:
Following the massacre of grammar-school children in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, high-powered weapons have been used to kill innocent victims in more senseless public incidents. Those killings, however, are only a fragment of the total harm caused by the misuse of firearms. Each year, more than 30,000 people die in the United States in firearm-related incidents. Many of those deaths involve handguns.

The adoption of rules that will lessen the number of those incidents should be a matter of primary concern to both federal and state legislators. Legislatures are in a far better position than judges to assess the wisdom of such rules and to evaluate the costs and benefits that rule changes can be expected to produce. It is those legislators, rather than federal judges, who should make the decisions that will determine what kinds of firearms should be available to private citizens, and when and how they may be used. Constitutional provisions that curtail the legislative power to govern in this area unquestionably do more harm than good.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution placed limits on the powers of the new federal government. Concern that a national standing army might pose a threat to the security of the separate states led to the adoption of the Second Amendment, which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” 

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.” When I joined the court in 1975, that holding was generally understood as limiting the scope of the Second Amendment to uses of arms that were related to military activities.

Organizations such as the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and mounted a vigorous campaign claiming that federal regulation of the use of firearms severely curtailed Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Five years after his retirement, during a 1991 appearance on “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” Burger himself remarked that the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

In recent years two profoundly important changes in the law have occurred. In 2008, by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects a civilian’s right to keep a handgun in his home for purposes of self-defense. And in 2010, by another vote of 5 to 4, the court decided in McDonald v. Chicago that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment limits the power of the city of Chicago to outlaw the possession of handguns by private citizens. I dissented in both of those cases and remain convinced that both decisions misinterpreted the law and were profoundly unwise.
In response to the massacre of grammar-school students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, some legislators have advocated stringent controls on the sale of assault weapons and more complete background checks on purchasers of firearms. It is important to note that nothing in either the Heller or the McDonald opinion poses any obstacle to the adoption of such preventive measures.  

First, the court did not overrule Miller. Instead, it “read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.” On the preceding page of its opinion, the court made it clear that even though machine guns were useful in warfare in 1939, they were not among the types of weapons protected by the Second Amendment because that protected class was limited to weapons in common use for lawful purposes such as self-defense.

[T]he Second Amendment provides no obstacle to regulations prohibiting the ownership or use of the sorts of weapons used in the tragic multiple killings in Virginia, Colorado and Arizona in recent years. The failure of Congress to take any action to minimize the risk of similar tragedies in the future cannot be blamed on the court’s decision in Heller.

The specific holding of the case covers only the possession of handguns in the home for purposes of self-defense, while a later part of the opinion adds emphasis to the narrowness of that holding by describing uses that were not protected by the common law or state practice. Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons, or on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, and laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are specifically identified as permissible regulations.

Thus, Congress’s failure to enact laws that would expand the use of background checks and limit the availability of automatic weapons cannot be justified by reference to the Second Amendment or to anything that the Supreme Court has said about that amendment.  

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would read:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”
Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.   

Would that Justice Stevens was still on the Court.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

10 Ways Right-Wing Christians Are Destroying Christianity

I have basically come to the conclusion that a world free of religion might be a far batter place.  When looks at many of the horrors taking place in the world today, many - especially in the Middle East - track directly to religion.  And even when they don't directly stem from religion, cynical politicians and dictators - think Vladamir Putin, any number of African leaders, some in Southeast Asia, and of course America's GOP - use religion to inflame bigotry and to encourage discrimination and sometimes even violence.  Religion is a key component in making individuals and races "other" and, therefore, subhuman and the enemy.  Religion is also a key element in pushing for the embrace of ignorance. Thankfully, in America and much of Europe the younger generations are simply walking away form religion.  Hopefully, the trend will accelerate in the USA.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at how the "godly Christians" are killing Christianity in this country and elsewhere.  Here are excerpts:
I've written about how millennials are leaving organized religion and its associated anti-LGBT animus in droves. As a result, the only religions holding on to membership (barely) are ones with super-high birth rates and very conservative views. In the process, conservative faiths are becoming increasingly insular and preaching to an echo chamber. This is creating a downward spiral of church membership overall as less and less millennials want to be a part of a brand that is increasingly unpalatable. And make no mistake, it is millennials who are leaving conservative denominations the fastest.

[T]his seems like a good thing. The faster conservative religion is overwhelmingly seen as mean, crazy, violent, hateful, misogynistic and anti-science, the faster we as a society can move on. I'd rather America looked more like somewhere people want to live, than someplace that generates political and religious refugees.

[H]ere are the things . . . hastening conservative Christianity's descent into nearly complete cultural irrelevance.

1. Fighting battles you've already lost.  Marriage equality is basically over, and most Americans have moved on, aside from the Kim Davis' circus. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and the debate around it are as dead as the dodo too, but America's most powerful anti-LGBT group is still railing against lesbian and gay troops. Even the Cato institute and Heritage Foundation have moved on.

2. Deciding who's Christian based on how much they hate gaysHere's the problem: Most Americans aren't this exclusionary, but the people with the biggest podium for their beliefs are the ones who do feel this way. If rejecting LGBT people socially, religiously and legally is your litmus test for who gets into heaven, most Americans will be glad they're not spending eternity with you, either.

3. Treating women like cattleScott Walker answered a question about abortion in the first Presidential debate of 2015 by confirming his belief that women should not have access to an abortion, even if continuing the pregnancy will kill them. Beyond that, we have we have pregnancies due to rape are "a gift from God", "legitimate rape," announcing that rape can't happen inside of (heterosexual) marriage. 

4. Rejecting science. . .  It doesn't matter if it is climate change, evolution, the big bang, reparative therapy on LGBT people, sexual orientation, gender identity or reproductive health ("Women's bodies have a way of shutting these things down,") these folks reject the overwhelming consensus of the entire scientific community.   They're cool with treating bronze-age anecdotes as immutable laws of science though.

5. Condemning everyone else's sex lives but their own.  The religious right takes controlling the sex lives of others to ridiculous extremes. Whether it is advocating we outlaw homosexuality again, keeping oral sex illegal, abstinence only sex education, making it easier to buy a gun than a dildo in Texas, trying to enforce unconstitutional laws on sodomy, slut shaming or banning birth control, they're all for making sure that the only sex other people have is married, heterosexual, with the express intent of procreation. . . . .The problem is, they suck at following their own rules. . . .
No wonder millennials aren't taking any of this seriously.

6. Telling people freedom of religion is only for ChristiansMany conservative leaders have also pushed the narrative that freedom of religion only applies to Christian denominations, and definitely doesn't apply to atheists or Muslims. So, while making the argument that religious freedom is the ultimate right we enjoy as Americans, it's only for the right sort of Americans. Which are those who believe exactly the same way they do about gays, women, Muslims, atheists, immigrants, etc...

7. Telling us all the awful things they'd do if they didn't believe in God.   For some reason, every time a conservative Christian like Phil Robertson or Mike Huckabee imagines what it would be like if they were LGBT or an atheist, what comes out sounds like a PCP induced crime spree. Voyeurism, rape, bestiality, murder and any other atrocity can imagine.

8. Taking out their phobias on childrenNothing says more about a persons' character than how they would treat innocent children. So when refuse to treat children with lesbian parents, it sort of shows your true colors. When adults are showing up to stage hate-fueled rallies and screaming at transgender children trying to go to school, there's pretty much no way to make your actions look warm and fuzzy.

9. Equating religious freedom with a special right to discriminate.   Christian conservatives are working hard to create the narrative that most important religious freedom they possess is the right to discriminate against LGBT people. . . . Anti-LGBT religious conservatives, who are predominately based in the deep-south, keep worrying they'll be viewed in the future the same way racist people are today. Well duh. What do you expect to happen? It's the same people doing the same things they did 60 years ago expecting a different result.

10. Showing how much you love people by harassing them.   The idea of "witnessing" to LGBT people and their allies is basically a form of pestering LGBT people about how much they are going to hell if they don't stop being gay. . . . Evangelicals and even Mormons have complained that they're not allowed to do this sort of thing at work, to co-workers, employees and kids at school. When they are prevented from doing this, it rapidly devolves into a Monty Python sketch about being repressed. . . . This is clearly horrendous behavior, but when they sprinkle some religious pixie dust on it, we are suddenly expected to see it as a noble expression of First Amendment rights.

I'm not buying it, and neither are millennials.

Jeb Bush Against Gun Control: "Stuff Happens" = As Stupid as His Brother

Who is dumber? Jeb or George W.?
If Jeb Bush is the supposed "smart brother" in the Bush Family, then god help us all should he reach the White House.  Reacting to the Oregon mass shooting where 9 innocents people were killed and 7 others were wounded, Bush said gun control laws were not the right answer and described it all away as "stuff happens."  He is beginning to make his idiot brother George W. look like a NASA scientist.  The child of wealth who has NEVER had to live in the real world with the rest of us, Bush can't seemingly cannot even react in an appropriate way to violent murders.  I guess he was more focused on keeping NRA contributions flowing in.  Thankfully, the media and Barack Obama have pounced on Jebbie's cold and idiotic answer.  The New York Times looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:
WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush drew a sharp rebuke from President Obama on Friday after the Republican presidential candidate shrugged off any need for government action in the wake of the massacre of nine people at a community college in Oregon.

“Look, stuff happens,” Mr. Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida, said at a campaign event in South Carolina. “There’s always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something and it’s not always the right thing to do.”

Mr. Obama, who in remarks the night before had denounced Congress and the entire American political system for what he called its numbness to repeated gun massacres, responded: “The American people should hear that and make their own judgments based on the fact that every couple of months, we have a mass shooting. They can decide whether they consider that ‘stuff happens.’ ”
The exchange between Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush reflected the paralysis that has settled over the issue of new gun control legislation in the United States. Virtually no member of Congress issued a statement after the Oregon shootings arguing for or against new gun control measures, and a number of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates were dismissive of new gun control measures as well.

Reacting to the Oregon shootings on Friday, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, a Republican presidential candidate, said that “you can strip all the guns away but the people who are going to commit crimes or have problems are always going to have the gun.” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another Republican candidate, said there is too much focus “on what people are using to commit violence.”

The Democratic presidential candidates sought to offer a sharp contrast. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has called for a renewed effort to pass universal background checks and other gun measures, posted on Twitter: “What is wrong with us that we can’t stand up to the NRA and the gun lobby and the gun manufacturers they represent?”

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another Democratic presidential candidate, said that “we’ve got to do something,” . . .

Mr. Obama ordered flags at the White House on Friday to half-staff to honor the victims of the shooting.

“When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer,” he said on Thursday night as early reports of the dead and injured in Oregon reached the White House. “When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.”

Opinions are split deeply along partisan lines, with nearly three-fourths of Democrats favoring gun control and 71 percent of Republicans saying gun rights are most important.

The study found, however, that there was broad support for expanding background checks for private gun sales and for legislation preventing the mentally ill from buying guns among people who want gun ownership rights.

I guess I should not be surprised by Jebbie's remarks.  This is the same man who said that the Iraq War was a positive, who wants huge tax cuts for the wealthy and thinks that average Americans need to "work longer hours."   Jeb needs to be forced into the political wilderness permanently.

Friday, October 02, 2015

More Friday Male Beauty

Gun Violence: The Big Lie About Mental Illness

The Roseburg, Oregon gunman
I had to run to court today and, therefore was in the car more than usual listening to a satellite radio political channel and once again I wanted to scream and/or throw something as I heard Republicans blame the latest mass shooting on anything and everything except America's insane gun laws that allow individuals to own guns that no law abiding person needs.  The NRA pretends to represent hunters and sportsman yet what hunter needs to own an automatic rifle or semi-automatic hand gun?  None, obviously.  Yet local yokels and loons like the late Charlton Heston - who likely got paid nicely - continue the charade that they merely want to continue the "real America" sports of hunting and fishing.  Meanwhile, the favored GOP meme this time around is that all of the mass shootings really are due to mental illness and not the insane number of guns loose in the American public.  As Barack Obama noted yesterday "We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these shootings every few months."  The difference isn't due to higher mental illness in America, it's because of our ridiculous gun laws.  A piece in Salon looks at the big lie the gun lobby and GOP political whores are pushing in the wake of another totally avoidable tragedy.  Here are highlights:

I get really really tired of hearing the phrase “mental illness” thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like “toxic masculinity,” “white supremacy,” “misogyny” or “racism.”

We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don’t have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.

But the media insists on trotting out “mental illness” and blaring out that phrase nonstop in the wake of any mass killing. I had to grit my teeth every time I personally debated someone defaulting to the mindless mantra of “The real issue is mental illness” over the Isla Vista shootings.

“The real issue is mental illness” is a goddamn cop-out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere, or anyone who actually has any kind of informed opinion on mental health or serious policy proposals for how to improve our treatment of the mentally ill in this country.

What’s interesting is to watch who the mentally ill people are being thrown under the bus to defend. In the wake of Sandy Hook, the NRA tells us that creating a national registry of firearms owners would be giving the government dangerously unchecked tyrannical power, but a national registry of the mentally ill would not — even though a “sane” person holding a gun is intrinsically more dangerous than a “crazy” person, no matter how crazy, without a gun.

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.

We love to talk about individuals’ mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of all–societal illness. That the danger isn’t any one person’s madness, but that the world we live in is mad.

The Vatican Rushes to Distance Pope Francis from Kim Davis/Liberty Counsel

Mat Staver and his wife - professional Christian liars and parasites?
I have been pretty hard on Pope Francis since he ascended the throne of St. Peter, but especially so since word of his purported meeting with batshit crazy modern day Pharisee (and 4 times married serial adultery) Kim Davis.  Now, in an unusual step, the Vatican has basically called Davis and her parasitic lawyer Mat Staver liars and totally rejected their version of the fact.  Per the Vatican, Davis was merely in a receiving line thanks to the efforts of right wing extremist US Papal Nuncio Carlo Vigano (a Nazi Pope appointee) - Joe Jervis reports that Vigano may be fired - and that Davis never had any private meeting with Francis.  Personally, having followed Staver's anti-gay activities for over 15 years, if the man's lips are moving, the safest bet is to assume that he is lying.  As for Davis herself, she is living in a fantasy world where her wishes magically become reality.  Further arguing that Davis and Staver are lying is the fact that it has now been confirmed that Francis DID have a private meeting with a gay couple.  This unfolding take down of Davis and Staver has some of the usual suspects (e.g., Ben Shapiro at Breitbart) engaging in shrieks and spittle flecked rants.  The Advocate looks at the Vatican's quick efforts to kick Davis to the gutter.  Here are excerpts:

Papal spokesman Federico Lombardi is disputing Liberty Counsel's version of the meeting between renegade antigay county clerk Kim Davis and the pope, saying people shouldn't read too much into it.

After Davis recounted the experience to ABC News and her attorney, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver, claimed the pope told the defiant antigay clerk to "stay strong," the Vatican now says Pope Francis did not talk about Davis's defiance of federal law in denying same-sex couples marriage licenses. In fact, the Vatican claims that Davis's audience with the pope wasn't even a private meeting, as she and Staver have repeatedly claimed.

“The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” Lombardi said in a prepared statement this morning. “Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”

An unidentified Vatican official told Reuters the Holy See had a "sense of regret" that Pope Francis had any face time at all with the anti-gay clerk. . . . He also rejected Davis's claim that the pope spent 15 minutes speaking with Davis and her fourth husband, Joe. "There simply was not enough time" during the pope's six-day tour of the country, he said.

According to Chicago's WBBM TV, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich also denied the meeting was requested, and a source inside the Vatican told the television station the pope was "blindsided." According Vatican officials, Davis met the pope as part of a receiving line of "dozens" of people, although Davis's attorney disputes that claim.

Staver, who leads the right-wing Liberty Counsel, a certified anti-LGBT hate group, told the Associated Press that Davis was invited by the papal ambassador and was picked up at her hotel by a car dispatched by the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C.
An adviser to Pope Francis has claimed on Twitter that the pontiff was "exploited" by Davis and her attorneys, calling it a “meeting that never should have taken place.”

This wouldn't be the first time Liberty Counsel has been caught in a fabrication about international support for Davis. Earlier this week, leaders in the right-wing group were forced to admit that a photo they claimed showed 100,000 people praying for Davis in Peru was a fake after ThinkProgress blogger Zack Ford exposed the fraud.
Staver and his wife are enjoying a very nice income peddling hate and bigotry.  Indeed, they make far more each year as parasites bringing bogus law suits for Christofascists than do the majority of decent, honest attorneys.  It should also be noted that, in my view, Staver should have been criminally indicted for his likely involvement in the Lisa Miller kidnapping - something that may have led to his "voluntary resignation" as dean of Liberty University's law school.  My experience in both politics and business has been that no one lies more or is more unscrupulous than "the godly folk" who wear their religion on their sleeve.   One can only hope that the Vatican denunciation helps hasten the end of Staver's snake oil legal practice.

The New York Times has this in part on the role of the Papal Nuncio in setting up the possible ambush fro Francis:

Mr. Staver, for his part, said he had been briefly introduced to Archbishop ViganĂ² in April, when he spoke at a large rally in Washington against same-sex marriage, before the Supreme Court ruled on the issue.

Archbishop ViganĂ² is turning 75 in January, the age at which bishops must submit a formal request to the Vatican asking for permission to resign. These requests are not automatically accepted, and bishops often stay in their appointments well past age 75. But if Archbishop ViganĂ² is held responsible for what is seen as a grave misstep on an important papal trip, he is likely to be removed at the first respectable opportunity, according to several church analysts.

“Nobody in the Catholic Church wants another Regensburg,” said Massimo Faggioli, an associate professor of theology and director of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He was referring to the backlash after Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, gave a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that appeared to denigrate Islam.

[T]he pope has to be able to rely on his own system, and in this case the system failed him. The question is, was it a mistake, or was it done with full knowledge of how toxic she was?”

The meeting with Ms. Davis was clearly a misstep, Dr. Faggioli said, “because the whole trip to the United States he very carefully didn’t want to give the impression that he was being politicized by any side.”

He added, “And this thing is the most politicized thing that you can imagine.”

I and I suspect many others will be watching to see if Vigano's resignation is quickly accepted.  Do I trust the Vatican to be honest?  No, but I trust Staver even less.  He needs to keep in the limelight to keep the cash rolling in. God forbid that he and his wife have to get real jobs. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Is "Sex Addiction" a Myth?

It seems that so many times when a right wing, "family values" Republican or a member of the professional Christian crowd gets caught in a sex scandal, they immediately claim to suffer from "sex addiction" and run off to some loony "Christian" ministry to get "cured."  Nasty pig Josh Duggar is but one recent example.  But does "sex addiction" really exist?  A piece in Salon noted that it is NOT in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Yet the godly folk and their political whores in the GOP seem to use it constantly as an excuse for their bad behavior. Too me, the real truth may be that those who use the excuse are merely masking their rebellion from sexually obsessed conservative religious dogma and constantly repressed sexual urges that find little outlet except via porn or adulterous affairs (or molestation of altar boys if one is a Catholic priest).  Here are highlights from the piece:
Porn addiction does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. And yet the label seems to pop up everywhere. There are counselors who warn against the addictive nature of pornography. Anti-porn advocates have been quick to blame the industry for the degradation of human relationships. And others have begun advertising treatment plans to remedy the “disorder.”

There are individuals who lose hours — even days — to pornography. There are also a number of individuals who have spent all their money on porn products and escorts. That’s a real problem. Compulsive behavior patterns are a real problem. And those consumed by them need professional help.

What’s curious, however, is that these individuals don’t seem to make up the majority of self-identifying “porn addicts” out there.

Joshua Grubbs of Case Western has been examining the concept of porn addiction for the past five years. He told AlterNet, “I noticed that people, particularly religious people, were really quick to use the addiction label. They were really fast to say, ‘I’m an addict, I’m an addict, I’m addicted to this. I can’t control myself.’ And I started to think, ‘Well, something’s not adding up.’”

He added, “You know how hard it is to convince [an addict] that they have a problem? They don’t just come out and say, ‘Oh, I’m an addict.’ They don’t do that until they’re in recovery.”

So when are these labels most likely to come up? And by whom are they assigned? Some experts suggest that the concepts of “porn addiction” and “sex addiction” are used to explain away behaviors condemned by socially (and sexually) conservative societies. Think about celebrities like David Duchovny and Tiger Woods, and what led them to come forward with their “addictions.” Dr. Mark Griffith writes, “It becomes a problem only when you’re discovered.”

Grubbs suggests most self-identifying “porn addicts” simply don’t meet a clinical criteria.
In January 2015, he published research finding that religiosity tended to be more closely related to porn addiction than porn consumption itself.

“Porn addiction, sex addiction are so closely related to religious and moral beliefs about sexuality,” Grubbs says. “If you’re coming from a religious tradition that says that indulging sexual desires outside the confines of heterosexual committed marriage is wrong, any sexual impulse that you have that doesn’t fit that prescribed criteria is going to produce guilt and distress.

“Conceptually, it would make sense that it’s easier to say ‘I’m an addict’ than to say that what I believe about sex is maybe not the healthiest belief.”

[W]e went to Amazon to check out its selection of books on “porn addiction.” No fewer than 404 results popped up in the Religion & Spirituality category. Less than half that number appeared in the Psychology & Counseling section.

Grubbs and his team found that the “psychological distress” caused by porn addiction relates to the label itself, not the material it refers to. According to his research, identifying as a porn addict was likely to bring on feelings of depression, anxiety, anger and distress. Porn use itself had no “reliable relationship” to these symptoms.

Clinical psychologist David Ley, author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction,” told AlterNet in an email, “Decades of research shows that sex and porn are not addictive. Instead, the notion of porn addiction reflects people’s moral and social fears of sex.”

Grubbs says, “Ideally what we’re doing now will help people change their approach to treatment. Just because someone identifies as a porn addict doesn’t necessarily mean you need to treat them like an addict. You need to treat them like someone who is experiencing a lot of self-stigma.” 
I continue to view deep ultra conservative religiosity as a form of mental illness. Claims of "sex addiction" might be better described as symptoms of "post-traumatic church syndrome" since the real root cause of the guilt and anxiety is insane religious brainwashing.

GOP Economic Voodoo- More Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

If one looks at the various proposals for tax reform being offered up by Republican presidential nomination candidates is that they all contain a common theme: huge tax cuts for the wealthy that are supposed to magically prompt huge economic growth.  It's the same mantra that has been repeated since Ronald Reagan's day and it has not worked over the last 35 years - indeed, the economy has done better when taxes on the wealthy have increased.  But if one is in today's GOP, why care about objective reality.  The only thing that matters is ideology, be it voodoo economics or religious extremism.  While peddling a tax policy that would explode the deficit, these mavens of ignorance continue to use religion and racism to distract the knuckle dragging, spittle flecked masses of the GOP base from the fact that they are about to be screwed yet again.  A op-ed in the New York Times looks at the same tired siren song that the GOP never tires of.  Here are excerpts: 

So Donald Trump has unveiled his tax plan. It would, it turns out, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.

This is in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.

For what it’s worth, it looks as if Trump’s plan would make an even bigger hole in the budget than Jeb’s. Jeb justifies his plan by claiming that it would double America’s rate of growth; The Donald, ahem, trumps this by claiming that he would triple the rate of growth. But really, why sweat the details? It’s all voodoo. The interesting question is why every Republican candidate feels compelled to go down this path.
You might think that there was a defensible economic case for the obsession with cutting taxes on the rich. That is, you might think that if you’d spent the past 20 years in a cave (or a conservative think tank). Otherwise, you’d be aware that tax-cut enthusiasts have a remarkable track record: They’ve been wrong about everything, year after year.

Undaunted, the same people predicted great things as a result of George W. Bush’s tax cuts. What happened instead was a sluggish recovery followed by a catastrophic economic crash.

Most recently, the usual suspects once again predicted doom in 2013, when taxes on the 1 percent rose sharply due to the expiration of some of the Bush tax cuts and new taxes that help pay for health reform. What happened instead was job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s.

Then there’s the recent state-level evidence. Kansas slashed taxes, in what its right-wing governor described as a “real live experiment” in economic policy; the state’s growth has lagged ever since. California moved in the opposite direction, raising taxes; it has recently led the nation in job growth.

Independent studies of the correlation between tax rates and economic growth, for example by the Congressional Research Service, consistently find no relationship at all. There is no serious economic case for the tax-cut obsession.

Still, tax cuts are politically popular, right? Actually, no, at least when it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy. According to Gallup, only 13 percent of Americans believe that upper-income individuals pay too much in taxes, while 61 percent believe that they pay too little. Even among self-identified Republicans, those who say that the rich should pay more outnumber those who say they should pay less by two to one.

So every Republican who would be president is committed to a policy that is both demonstrably bad economics and deeply unpopular. What’s going on?

[I]t’s straightforward and quite stark: Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want. No doubt most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everything else is just rationalization.Of course, once the Republicans settle on a nominee, an army of hired guns will be mobilized to obscure this stark truth.

[N]ever forget that what it’s really about is top-down class warfare. That may sound simplistic, but it’s the way the world works.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Another Mass Shooting - Thanks to the GOP and America's Insane Gun Laws

Mike Sullivan/Roseburg News-Review via AP)
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December, 2012, there have been at least 986 mass shootings (i.e., shootings where more than 4 people were shot), with shooters killing at least 1,234 people and wounding 3,565 more.  74 of the mass shootings have involved school settings.  In some of the most horrific cases, the shooter lawfully purchased the guns used to commit mass violence and murder.  As Vox notes, the US had 29.7 firearm homicides per 1 million people in 2012, while Switzerland had 7.7, Canada had 5.1, and Germany had 1.9.  Even more frightening is the reality that the America makes up about 4.4 percent of the global population, but owns 42 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.  Proponents of a misreading of the 2nd Amendment time and time again argue that more guns make one safer.  The data says the exact opposite.  And today, because of the failure of members of Congress, particularly Republicans who prostitute themselves to the NRA which has been documented to be funded by gun manufacturers.  Today, as a result, 10 people in Oregon lost their lives and more than a half dozen others were seriously wounded. The New York Times looks at today's carnage that is ultimately thanks to the NRA and the GOP:
A 26-year-old man opened fire on a community college campus here in this southern Oregon city on Thursday morning in a rampage that left 10 people dead and wounded seven others, the authorities said.

Students described scenes of carnage concentrated in a public speaking class that was underway in a college humanities building, and people fleeing in panic from classrooms as they heard shots ring out nearby.

The police responded as the school, Umpqua Community College, went into lockdown, and the gunman died in an exchange of gunfire, law enforcement officials said.

Law enforcement officials Thursday night identified the gunman as Chris Harper Mercer, and said he had three weapons, at least one of them a long gun and the other ones handguns. It was not clear whether he fired them all. The officials said the man lived in the Roseburg area.

Oregon is one of seven states, either from state legislation or court rulings, with provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The other states are Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Utah, and Wisconsin.

One family member ironically noted "Saddened to hear about the Oregon shooting. It actually crossed my mind while we were in Italy that I felt safer in a foreign country than in the US because of the guns and the violence in this country."  I had the same feeling in Paris back in May of this year -  even when the husband and I walked alone on nearly deserted streets late at night returning from local gay clubs.  There is something exceptional about America alright, and it is something exceptionally bad.  Every legislator who has voted against sensible gun control had an indirect hand in pulling the trigger in these murders today.

Negative Reactions to Anti-Gay Pope Francis Grow

While many continue to be outraged that Pope Francis met secretly with four times married, serial adulterer, and anti-gay hypocrite Kim Davis, in some ways we should be thankful that Francis perhaps unwittingly revealed that much of his display on his trip to America was just slick public relations bullshit.  Seeming meek and humble while doing evil and fanning bigotry doesn't make one a good person much less a good pontiff.   Similarly, encouraging individuals to refuse to do their sworn public duty (and receiving nice salary in the process) simply underscores the sad fact that today's "godly Christians" view themselves as entitled to special rights.  My blogger/activist friend Rev. Irene Monroe (her webpage is here) who I met in person at the 2008 LGBT blogger summit in Washington, D.C., rightly lets loose on Francis in a piece in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.  Similarly, Rev. Gene Robinson takes Francis to task in a piece in Time. First, here are highlights from Irene's column:
[T]he Pontiff aptly stated in his 2013 interview “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards" should the Catholic Church, in this 21st Century, continue on its anti-modernity trek like his predecessor. 

With that statement I thought Francis was going to reformed, if not reinvent, an out-of-step institution, but at the end of his visit the Pope was selling sadly the same product—Catholic orthodoxy. “Nothing more, nothing less,” Francis warning reporters on his trip from Cuba to Washington, DC,.“I may have given the impression of being a little more to the left, but it would not be a correct interpretation.” 

And he’s right.  While Francis gave a well-deserved shout-out of praise to nuns—the backbone and housekeepers of the church—the ecclesiastical doors are still shut to ordaining women priest. Sadly, Francis doesn’t view the ban as a gender bias. When asked why the Pope remarked, “That can’t be done…

I recall Pope Francis’s remarks when flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil in 2013 when he was queried about the much talked about “gay lobby” in the Vatican. “If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them,” Francis said. This public statement is the most LGBTQ affirming remarks the world has ever heard from the Catholic Church. 

But Francis’ words don’t match his actions.

The Meeting of Families in Philadelphia included only one workshop on LGBTQ issues —a panel with a celibate gay Catholic and his mother, and no workshop on LGBTQ families. But his point about LGBTQ families and marriages got across loud and clear during his talk to Congress with his subtle jab at gay marriage: "I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.“ 

Francis’s trip to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem was important. The structural racism in the Catholic Church has made it an unwelcoming place of worship. African American Catholics are one of the smallest demographic groups in the church.

In Francis’s effort to reach out to his Latin Americans with the canonization of Junipero Serra, he opened old wounds with Native Americans. Serra, a Spanish missionary, left a horrific legacy trying to decimate California Native American culture. Letters to stop Serra’s canonization were written to both the Vatican and Francis but these pleas fell on deaf ears.

On the surface Francis displays a pastoral countenance to his papacy that seemingly extends to all. 

But rather we clearly see the geopolitics of a soft church bureaucrat evangelizing to today’s shrinking American Catholic Church - an institution that is less churched, less married, less white, and less conservative. And his welcoming demeanor is not enough, in my opinion, to bridge the diversity and divisions the American church faces.
Gene Robinson's column is likewise less than kind to Francis.  Here are excerpts:

The inmates at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility apparently were not the only law breakers Pope Francis met with during his brief visit to the U.S. The Vatican has now confirmed that the pope met privately with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Rowan County, Ky., who notoriously went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in her jurisdiction. 

Davis broke the law and appears to be neither repentant for what she did nor sorry for the decision she made, which landed her in jail for five days. Rather, she seems proud of her act of civil disobedience, vows that she would do it again, and sincerely seems to believe she is taking one on the chin for Jesus.  

Davis seems to believe that according to her understanding of scripture, marriage is simply not possible between two people of the same gender. The pope is correct in saying that many people feel they have the right to defy a law that seems unjust or immoral, but he is wrong to think that violators of a law should go unpunished.

Let’s be clear: Those who engage in civil disobedience do so knowing that they will be punished. . . . . The whole point of civil disobedience is to go to jail—and to inspire others to go to jail—until society can’t take it anymore and demands a change in the law that sent them to jail. 

But while tone matters, there have been no substantive changes in the teaching, doctrine or policy of the church. 

With respect to people like me, who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, we are “intrinsically disordered,” so says the church. Let that sink in. “Intrinsically” means there’s not a damned thing you can do about it; it’s just the way you are. “Disordered” means nature has made a categorical mistake with you, you are fundamentally flawed, and the most you can hope for from the church is pity, but what you will probably get instead is condemnation and exclusion.

If the feel-good “Francis effect” lulls people into ignoring these teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, of which he is the head, then shame on us.

I believe Pope Francis has picked the wrong issue and the wrong messenger to teach about civil disobedience.

[T]he controversy surrounding this county clerk is not about what she believes, but rather about the job a county clerk is required to do by law, which includes issuing marriage licenses to those qualified couples who apply for them. Kim Davis has a constitutional right to her opinion, but she does not have a constitutional right to stay in a job whose duties she is unwilling to perform.

If Davis’s conscientious objection doesn’t inspire anyone else to go to jail for the same cause, then she is not a hero, but merely an outlier and a one-off lawbreaker. Even if he opposes marriage equality, the pope would do well to stay away from this one.
I left the Catholic Church  almost 15 years ago because I viewed the institution - especially its leadership - to be morally bankrupt.  That assessment has not change. Francis is merely putting a smiling face on an evil institution.  We must not forget that truth.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Josh Duggar Cheated on Wife with a Second Porn Star

Duggar with Virginia Queen of Hate, Victoria Cobb in 2014
This morning's posts focus on hypocrisy and duplicity largely because there seems to be an unlimited supply of stories unmasking hypocrites ranging from Pope Francis to GOP elected officials and members of the professional Christian crowd.  In the latter category, yet another story exposes Josh Duggar - a former leader at Family Research Council's - appetite for rough sex with women other than his wife.  Over the years in the legal field I have found that attorneys who constantly talk about their "faith" are usually the ones that will rob their clients blind and/or screw over employees and co-workers.  So too with folks like Francis, Duggar and Kim Davis.  In Touch has details on Duggar's latest transgression against the "sanctity of marriage."  Here are highlights:

In Touch magazine is exclusively reporting in its new issue — on newsstands now — that Josh Duggar had an affair with another porn star. The shocking revelation comes barely one month after porn star Danica Dillon revealed that she and Josh had “rough sex” twice last spring while his wife, Anna, was pregnant with their fourth child.

“A second porn star is saying she also hooked up with Josh and had a bad experience, too,” a source told In Touch magazine, adding that the woman plans to go public with her story.

In August, after Josh admitted to having an account on Ashley Madison and cheating on his wife, Danica shared explicit details about how during two hotel room encounters in March and April, Josh was “verbally abusive” and “grabbing my hair and calling me names.”

According to the source, “The second porn star had a similar experience — Josh was also rough with her. He’s a monster with what he did to these women and the embarrassment he’s caused his family.”

For more on the Josh Duggar scandal, pick up the latest issue of In Touch magazine, on newsstands now!
What a douche bag!!!

Pope Francis Secretly Met with Kim Davis and Reveals His Duplicity

While Pope Francis seemingly tried to use his visit to America to present a kinder, gentler face on Catholicism and to score a PR triumph, news that Francis met with four times married, serial adulterer Kim Davis shows that nothing has changed in the Church leadership other than a matter of style.  Whatever good I thought of the man is gone and I again say that, in my view, gays who remain Catholics are delusional masochists.  As for Francis, if the Gospels are to be believed, while Christ met with prostitutes, he had little good to say about Pharisees who were selectively  (and falsely) pious - a description that well describes Davis and her professional Christian class supporters.  A column in Huffington Post reflects my views of con man Pope Francis.  Here are excerpts:
After first refusing to confirm nor deny it, the Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis met with the Kentucky clerk Kim Davis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, where Davis' attorney -- who made the news public after the pope's trip ended -- said Francis told her to "stay strong." And that simple encounter completely undermines all the goodwill the pope created in downplaying "the gay issue" on his U.S. trip. 

The pope played us for fools, trying to have it both ways. As I noted last week, he's an artful politician, telling different audiences what they want to hear on homosexuality. He did that in Argentina as a cardinal -- railing against gay marriage when the Vatican expected him to do so -- and he's done that since becoming pope, striking a softer tone on the issue after Benedict's harsh denunciations were a p.r. disaster for the Catholic Church in the West. But this news about Kim Davis portrays him as a more sinister kind of politician. That's the kind that secretly supports hate, ushering the bigots in the back door -- knowing they're an embarrassment -- while speaking publicly about about how none of us can judge one another. 

[B]y meeting with Davis secretly, and then at first having the Vatican neither confirm nor deny the encounter -- and now having the Vatican say it "won't deny" the meeting while it still won't offer any other details -- the pope comes off as a coward. 

He shows himself to be antithetical to much of what he preaches and teaches. He talks about dialogue and having the courage of one's convictions and the courage to speak out. But he swept this Davis meeting under the rug, seemingly ashamed and certainly not wanting to broach the subject. Even Davis's supporters should find that insulting to them.

[B]y telling Davis that she should "stay strong" -- if her attorney's account of the encounter is to be believed -- the pope is only encouraging the bigots, even if he's doing so quietly.  

Rather than moving us forward on LGBT rights ever so slightly, as many viewed the pope as doing, he now, with this meeting, emboldens the haters in the church who will be pushing to make sure church doctrine continues to call homosexuality "intrinsically disordered." And it sends a message to all those people who've experienced anti-gay discrimination . . . . that this pope is not going to end that discrimination any time soon. Rather than stopping that discrimination, he welcomed, with open arms in the Vatican's own embassy, the bigots who promote that discrimination but who've turned themselves into the victims.