Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, December 12, 2015
The GOP’s Greatest Fears
While Donald Trump continues to stoke the fears and hysteria of the GOP base - and aid and abet ISIS's propaganda and recruitment efforts - he is also stoking the fears of the GOP establishment, those same hubris filled politicos that welcomed the Christofascists and white supremacist now dominating the party base into the party grassroots beginning over 20 years ago. Now, in addition to the math that shows the GOP's lily white, evangelical Christian base is shrinking and quickly headed toward a permanent minority status, the GOP establishment is confronted with the possibility of either a Trump nomination or a bitter civil war at the GOP convention next year. Personally, I find some degree of satisfaction with the whirlwind the GOP has created for itself. The big issue is one of how much damage it will do to the nation. A piece in Slate looks at the growing GOP fears. Here are excerpts:
“Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment,” the Post reports, “are preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald Trump continues to sit atop the polls in the GOP presidential race.” Figures like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus listened Monday night while officials laid out the nuts and bolts of a contested convention process. And if they ran through a contingency plan two months before anyone’s voted, then there’s definitely going to be a brokered convention this year, right? Don’t hold your breath.There hasn’t been a floor fight over the GOP presidential nomination since 1976 or any undecided first-ballot votes for a nominee from either party since 1952. That’s because there aren’t really any “brokers” anymore, i.e., party officials who keep delegates in their pockets and horse-trade at the site.[Conventions] serve as a) well-choreographed PR events for each party to market itself as allegedly representative of the American people, and b) a way for the parties to pamper big donors and attend cheesy, depraved happy hours with evil lobbyists.ADVERTISINGBecause a deadlocked convention, in which a party heads into a convention before a candidate has secured a majority of delegates, would be an unholy PR mess for a party—picture roughly 2,500 delegates, along with the candidates themselves, horse-trading on the floor as his or her own individual broker—the Republican Party will do everything in its power to avoid this outcome.What makes a contested Republican convention slightly more possible this year than in previous cycles is that there is a fresh scenario that would constitute even worse PR for the party than a floor melee: Donald Trump winning the party’s presidential nomination.Such an aggressive effort to block Trump from the nomination, displayed on national TV, would mean calling Trump on his threat to run as an independent and praying that it’s a bluff. You never know with Trump. But it’s worth pointing out that there would be no point to an independent presidential bid. It would be expensive, he would run into exhausting ballot access issues, he would have a 0 percent chance of winning the general election, and he single-handedly would be responsible for Hillary Clinton’s election.But the absolute worst nightmare for the party would be Trump as its presidential nominee. In that scenario the GOP loses not just the presidential election but total control over the image of its party, as well as a disturbing number of down-ballot races. The entire Republican apparatus, from the local to the state to the federal level, would wake up each morning of a general election season as a member of Trump’s party.
A contested convention would be disgusting. But if the party has to do it to stop Donald Trump, of course it will be prepared to do so.
Keep the popcorn coming!!
Why So Many Black Women Are Dying of AIDS
In a recent VEER Magazine piece I criticized Virginia's idiotic marijuana laws that serve little purpose other than to make otherwise law abiding citizens into criminals, often sending them to prison and destroying their ability to ever secure quality jobs upon their released. No segment of the population is hit harder by these laws than young black males who lack legal counsel and get convicted whereas whites with legal counsel either secure reduced sentences or have their sentences dropped after good behavior. I've seen it happen sitting in court with clients with code violations, so those who deny this reality are living in a fantasy world or lying to themselves. The havoc wreaked on the black community is immense, not that most Republicans give a damn since many are racists themselves or pander to racists in the party base. As an article in the New York Times indicates, there is another sinister and deadly outcome from such failed criminal justices policies: rampant HIV/AIDS among black women. The article looks at the failure of criminal justice in this nation and the bigotry that is fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Unfortunately, the article fails to look at the homophobia of black churches that only worsens the problem by pushing black males to be "on the down low." Here are article highlights:
[I]t is critical that we do not overlook the significant evidence showing that the end result of these practices — the mass incarceration of nonwhite men — may also be fueling an urgent public health crisis among some of the most disadvantaged members of our society.
Although African-Americans represent about 12 percent of the United States’ population, they account for roughly half of all new infections and deaths from H.I.V./AIDS. The H.I.V. infection rate among black women is 20 times higher than for white women . . . . “If H.I.V./AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country.”
Because most gay men do not have female sexual partners and there are relatively low rates of infection among nonblack women, and because rates of injection drug use or unprotected sex among black women are no higher than for other groups, the rapid increase in H.I.V./AIDS cases among black women has been hard to account for. But several public health studies now suggest that because people tend to select sex partners from within their own communities, higher rates of H.I.V. among men who have been in prison may raise the risk of infection in their community.
A study conducted by two professors of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, determined that from 1970 to 2000, a period in which the incarceration rates for black men skyrocketed to roughly six times the rate for non-Hispanic white men, the H.I.V./AIDS infection rate for black women rose to 19 times the rate for non-Hispanic white women. Using various sources of data to investigate the connection between these developments, they concluded that “higher incarceration rates among black males explain the lion’s share of the black-white disparity in AIDS infection rates among both men and women.”
[I]ncarceration is a risk factor for H.I.V. infection for the following reasons: There is a higher prevalence of H.I.V. among prison populations; there are higher than average rates of sexual assault and coercive sex among men in prison; inmates have little access to condoms; injectable drugs and tattooing are risk factors that also occur in prisons; and when people are released from prison they typically have inadequate access to health care and treatment because of unemployment and poverty.
These facts suggest that an important contributor to the H.I.V. crisis among black women may be hyper-incarceration. . . . . Outside of prison, African-Americans have the same (or lower) rates of risky sex or drug use as other Americans. Explanations like these reinforce homophobic and racist “blame the victim” attitudes. They have also impeded disease reduction by wrongly identifying vectors of transmission.
There is an urgent need for new policy approaches. We should demand rigorous enforcement of the standards mandated by the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act in order to significantly reduce sexual assaults and coercive sexual practices inside our prisons. We also need to insist that condoms be distributed inside all prisons, and that incarcerated individuals have access to H.I.V. testing and treatment before and after their release. Finally, we must continue to work to eliminate racial profiling in our criminal justice system, and significantly reduce incarceration rates by revising laws and punishment practices that unnecessarily send so many nonviolent lawbreakers to prison.
For those with their heads in the sand, HIV/AIDS in the black community is a huge problem in the Hampton Roads area. Pretending that the problem does not exist or ignoring the factor that Virginia's failed criminal justice system is playing in exacerbating the problem is idiocy and/or out right bigotry..
Friday, December 11, 2015
Could Jamaica End Colonial-Era Gay Sex Ban?
Years ago I traveled to Jamaica on business when I was in-house counsel for an oil company. I found the country to be gorgeous (on one trip I stayed here), the people friendly and a place I'd love to visit again were it no so homophobic. Indeed, because of the rabid homophobia in Jamaica and its sodomy laws that date back to the imposition of British penal law against same sex relations - which calls for punishment of up to 10 years in prison with hard labor for those convicted of the "abominable crime of buggery" - in my view, one would have to be crazy to visit Jamaica if you are gay. It's simply too dangerous. Now, a legal challenge has been launched to have the law repealed. It goes without saying that ignorance embracing "Christians" and parasitic pastors are opposed to bringing the nation into the 21st century. Interestingly, the nation's largest newspaper, The Gleaner, has come out in favor of repeal of the law. First highlights on the legal action from The Advocate:
Human rights activist Maurice Tomlinson filed a constitutional challenge to Jamaica's 1864 law banning "buggery," a.k.a. sodomy, on Thursday, the Associated Press reports — and some are seeing it as a first step at tackling the Caribbean nation's deep animus toward LGBT people.Tomlinson's challenge follows a similar lawsuit that was brought last year, but was later withdrawn after the plaintiff faced threats against himself and his family. The initial challenge prompted a homophobic rally that brought 25,000 people to the streets.The current law calls for punishment of up to 10 years in prison with hard labor for those convicted of the "abominable crime of buggery." Tomlinson's attorney say the law violates the Jamaican constitution by conflicting with the nation's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Activists say the law legitimizes discrimination and encourages violence against LGBT people, of which there is no shortage in Jamaica."The law is a gross violation of my human rights and those of all LGBTI people in my country," Tomlinson said in a statement. "It directly infringes numerous rights guaranteed by Jamaica's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and also fuels horrific violence."
As for The Gleaner's editorial, here are excerpts:
[W]e, like Mr Tomlinson and many other rational Jamaicans, know instinctively that not only are those laws offensive to the universal principles of individual rights and freedoms, but they are probably contrary to guarantees afforded by Jamaica's Constitution.
Under Jamaica's anachronistic sections of the Offences Against the Person Act, anal penetration, even between consulting adults, including husband and wife, and conducted in utmost privacy, is illegal, for which people can be sent to jail. But this criminalisation of anal sex is a cudgel used primarily against males in a still largely homophobic society, despite the pockets of increasing tolerance for male homosexuality.
These old attitudes, underpinned by the law, have consequences, some, while perhaps unintended, painfully severe. Not least of these being the assault on the dignity and emotional well-being of that significant proportion of the Jamaican society, male and female, that is homosexual. They are denied the right to openly display affection, or, in privacy, engage in acts of physical intimacy with persons they love or with whom they wish to have sexual relations.
If the State doesn't get you, the vigilantes might.
Little wonder that Jamaica has among the hemisphere's highest rates of HIV-AIDS among men who have sex with men. So, there is a public-health problem that is exacerbated by this silly old law.
Further, as we often argue, this newspaper sees no logic to the Jamaican State setting itself up as a kind of voyeuristic commissar of sexual practices. It certainly has no right in people's bedrooms to determine the acts in which they engage, whatever the gender or status of the participants.
The fundamental argument in favour of the buggery law is framed in a fundamentalist Christian and biblical construct of morality, to which probably the majority of Jamaicans subscribe. However, the Constitution prescribes freedom of religion, which we believe means not only the Judaeo-Christian variety. Importantly, also implied in this construct, we believe, is freedom from religion. Religious people have no greater right than others to be final arbiters of moral principles.
Bronx Priest Stole $1M+ from NYC Churches for Wild Gay S&M Romance
The Roman Catholic Church (particularly the U.S. Catholic bishops) continues to wage its jihad against LGBT individuals yet finds itself unable to escape continued stories of priestly abuse of boys or, even more fun, priest into kinky gay sex. Perhaps it is an example of Divine displeasure with the bitter old men who continue to persecute gays while closing their eyes to their own Pharisee like behavior. The latest juicy story comes from New York City where a parishioner launched lawsuit alleges that Rev. Peter Miqueli (pictured above) stole more than $1 million from two parishes to fund his gay romance with a S&M master (pictured at the end of this post) with whom he supposedly bought a house and purchased drugs. In addition, the slave master was paid $1,000 per rough sex session. A Hollywood screenwriter couldn't write stuff this wild and salacious. Here are highlights from the New York Daily News:
A scandalous lawsuit accuses a Bronx priest of looting more than $1 million from a pair of city parishes — then spending the cash on a long-running S&M romance with a muscle-bound boyfriend.
The Rev. Peter Miqueli reportedly paid $1,000 per rough sex session with his hunky lover, who demanded the priest address him as “Master” — and drink his urine, the lawsuit said.
The sex-slave priest and his boy toy have shared a house in Brick, N.J., after Miqueli paid $264,000 cash six years ago, according to the suit.
Miqueli, 53, was also accused of stealing money donated to fix a church pipe organ, siphoning funds from a parish thrift shop and getting high on drugs provided by a Bronx parishioner.
Alleged boyfriend Keith Crist, named as a co-defendant, had nothing to say about the salacious claims. “I don’t have to talk to you!” he yelped before hanging up on a Daily News reporter.
Neighbors in Jersey say there’s a steady stream of male visitors at the Brick home on Cornell Dr., where a new BMW allegedly belonging to Crist usually sits in the driveway. Miqueli also installed a heavily trafficked hot tub in the backyard, the neighbors said.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan and the archdiocese are also named as defendants in the Manhattan court papers. The lawsuit charges the church hierarchy, in an echo of the pedophilia scandal, with covering up for the pervert priest.
Earlier this year, she [Crist’s former girlfriend Tatyana Gudin] said, she sent Dolan and other archdiocesan officials numerous emails providing details of what she knew about Crist and Miqueli.
The lawsuit says a Bronx doctor who’s also a church trustee provided the pair with illegal drugs to get high. Miqueli also reportedly gave $60,000 to the doctor for the downpayment on a house.
|Alleged boyfriend/slave master|
Can someone explain to me why anyone sane continues to listen to the Catholic Church hierarchy on issues of sex and morality?
Cruz Picks Up Another Hate Group Endorsement
While Donald Trump continues to get most of the media attention, there is another quasi-stealth candidate for the position of American fuhrer: Ted Cruz. In some ways, Cruz is even more frightening than The Donald. He uses toned down rhetoric but basically supports all of the hate and bigotry policies Trump is pushing and that his very scary followers clamor for. Now, Cruz has received the endorsement of virulently anti-LGBT Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Family Leader, an anti-gay hate group that seeks a Christian theocracy. Note how Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, calls a hate group leader an "influential conservative." Cruz has been previously endorsed by the hate group, National Organization for Marriage that never lets the truth get in the way of its anti-gay propaganda. Right Wing Watch looks at this disturbing development:
Ted Cruz won a major victory in his effort to consolidate support from the Religious Right today when he was endorsed by Bob Vander Plaats, who leads the Iowa-based conservative group, The Family Leader.Vander Plaats, a two-time gubernatorial candidate who in the two previous election cycles backed Iowa caucus winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, respectively, offers one of the most highly sought after endorsements in the state: Donald Trump reportedly joked that he would turn his plane around to join The Family Leader’s presidential forum if Vander Plaats would guarantee him his backing.Vander Plaats is one of several right-wing figures to coalesce behind Cruz, who has attracted the support of ultraconservative activists like Troy Newman, who wishes the government would execute abortion providers; Ron Baity, a pastor who links gay rights to Ebola; Flip Benham, a convicted abortion doctor stalker who holds protests at gay couples’ weddings; Sandy Rios, a virulently anti-LGBT radio host and hate group official; Dick Black, a Virginia lawmaker with noxious views on marital rape and “baby pesticide”; and Cynthia Dunbar, who thinks gay rights advocacy is “the same type of thing that was done in pre-Holocaust Germany.”Vander Plaats, as we’ve reported, may be sought after by GOP candidates but he should not at all be considered part of the political mainstream:Slavery RhetoricWarning Republicans not to “abandon their base” by softening their opposition to gay rights, Vander Plaats insists that fighting same-sex marriage is not a losing issue for the GOP. . . . . “We actually stand for what God has designed because, just like with slavery, the truth is on our side,” Vander Plaats said last year in an interview with right-wing talk show host Steve Deace. “We can win this battle." . . . suggested that African-American families were more stable under slavery than they are today.Conspiracy TheoriesIn Vander Plaats’ world, the right to speak freely about “faithful heterosexual monogamy” is under attack, “Sharia Islam” is a menace in American politics and President Obama’s birth certificate is missing.Gay Marriage PredictionsIn his campaigns against marriage equality, Vander Plaats has done whatever it takes to scare voters about the dire consequences of gay rights. He warned that the legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to “tyranny” and sanction “a parent marrying their child.” He defended his group’s comparison of homosexuality to second-hand smoke by explaining that both represent “a public health risk,”No Separation of Church and StateWhile Vander Plaats’ prediction about gay marriage ushering in adult-child marriage has come true in exactly zero of the dozens of states with marriage equality, he was prophetic in one respect: Vander Plaats advocated for governors to ignore court rulings on the marriage question well before it became a widespread sentiment among conservatives.Vander Plaats insists that a governor can simply set aside any ruling that violates his or her reading of the Bible, insisting that if a judge legalizes marriage equality in a state, the state’s governor should simply issue an executive order “that places a stay on the judge’s decision” since it “goes against the law of nature and the law of nature’s God, which means, it’s against the Constitution.”Vander Plaats believes that the U.S. government must fall under God’s jurisdiction and follow “God’s principles and precepts,” not just on social issues like marriage but also in economic and foreign policies.
In short, Vander Plaats in sane circles would be considered a lunatic, but in today's GOP and in Ted Cruz circles, he's an endorsement to be sought out. Be afraid.
Goose-Steppers in the Republican Party
I honestly try to not post about Donald Trump everyday, but it is near impossible given Trump's continued outrageous racist statements, the rest of the GOP political hierarchy's failure to fully repudiate his agenda, and the ugliness of the party base that is perhaps finally being made open to public view. When Neo-Nazi extremists are applauding and major party candidate and rallying around him, you realize that the party in question may be past the point of no return. I have long criticized the GOP for welcoming in Christofascists who have turned the party into a sectarian lunatic asylum. But to now welcome in Neo-Nazi's and white supremacist extremists confirms that the party has completely succumbed to swamp fever. A column in the New York Times looks at this disturbing phenomenon. Here are highlights:
Well, he’s got the Hitler vote. The neo-Nazi website, Daily Stormer, was out and proud earlier this week: “Heil Donald Trump — the Ultimate Savior.” After endorsing the Republican presidential front-runner earlier this year for his call to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, the fomenters of American fascism have now added an apt twist to his slogan, one not far from the truth of the campaign: “Make America White Again.”Nazis — I hate these guys. Oh, but they’re a tiny minority of pink-faced malcontents living in basements with the widows taped up. Everybody hates them. Add to that supporters of the Ku Klux Klan, who’ve thrown in with Trump as well. David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Klan, liked everything he heard from Trump this week, embracing him for standing up for white nationalism.It’s a very ugly political moment, but there it is: The Republican Party is now home to millions of people who would throw out the Constitution, welcome a police state against Latinos and Muslims, and enforce a religious test for entry into a country built by people fleeing religious persecution. This stuff polls well in their party, even if the Bill of Rights does not.Trump’s proposal — “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” — is not just flotsam from the lunatic fringe. Well, it is. But the fringe is huge: Early polls show a plurality of Republican voters agree with Trump on banning all Muslims. And many would go even further.Trump himself doesn’t seem to care about comparisons to the buffoonish (Mussolini), the truly scary (the evil one admired by the Daily Stormer) or the fictional — worse than Voldemort, as J. K. Rowling tweeted.He sloughed off the fascism talk by associating his proposal with the internment in America of the Japanese during World War II. There’s a winning thought. I was wondering when he was going to get around to alienating Asian-Americans, the highest-earning, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States, according to Pew.To review: He started with “the blacks,” through his smear campaign on the citizenship of the nation’s first African-American president. Moved on to Mexicans, war veterans, women who look less than flawless in middle age, the disabled, all Muslims and now people whose grandparents were rousted from their American homes and put in camps.His supporters, most of them, do not see the shadow of the Reich when they look in the mirror. They are white, lower middle class, with little education beyond high school. The global economy has run them over. They don’t recognize their country. And they need a villain.Trump has no solutions for the desperate angst of his followers. Tearing up trade agreements is not going to happen. Deporting workers who pick our fruit and hang sheetrock is not going to lift the fortunes of those who will no longer do those jobs. Barring all Muslims will not make us safer.What he’s done is to give marginalized Americans permission to hate. He doesn’t use dog whistles or code. His bigotry is overt. But the table was set by years of dog whistles and code. The very “un-American” sentiment that Republican elders now claim to despise has been a mainstay of conservative media for at least a decade.[I]t’s hard to take seriously House Speaker Paul Ryan’s rare objection to a lunatic suggestion from his party’s presidential front-runner when he says he would also back Trump should he be the nominee. . . . the only way to get rid of the goose-steppers drawn to the G.O.P. is to vow to never support the man giving them something to march to.
Many of us thought a Trump campaign would provide entertainment. Now, it is becoming something frightening. What's most frightening is Trumps supporters and the levels of hatred they harbor.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Scalia: Affirmative Action Sends Blacks To Schools Too Advanced For Them
I have long argued that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia needs to be removed from the United States Supreme Court for continued violations of the conduct and impartiality of a federal judge (dimwit Clarence Thomas also needs to be removed). Indeed, if Scalia were still on the U.S. District Court or U. S. Court of Appeals level, he would likely have already been removed from the bench and/or would be facing removal charges for flagrant violations of the Canons of Judicial Conduct. Now, right after hearing oral arguments in an affirmative action case out of Texas, Scalia has made the statement that affirmative action was hurting minority students by sending them to schools too academically challenging for them. Keep in mind, the Court has not yet ruled in the case and if a lower federal court judge made a similar statement, he or she would have their ass handed to them in a sling. No doubt Scalia thinks blacks should be majoring in grounds keeping and/or restaurant wait staff services. The man is both a racist and a religious - and he so arrogant can't even hide his bias by keeping his mouth shut until after the Court issues it ruling. Talking Points Memo looks at Scalia's improper conduct and bigotry. Here are highlights:
Referencing an unidentified amicus brief, Scalia said that there were people who would contend that "it does not benefit African-Americans to -- to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less -- a slower-track school where they do well."
A decision in Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin is expected by the end of the Supreme Court's term next summer.
Scalia would have been a perfect judge for the Spanish Inquisition. He is one foul individual.
Southern Judges Continue to Reject SCOTUS Marriage Equality Ruling
While Muslims are the current favored bogey man and target of hatred for the Republican Party, LGBT Americans remain another favored target, with Christofascists demand special "right to discriminate" laws under the ruse of "religious freedom." But the anti-gay efforts of the GOP go even further. Here in Virginia hysterically anti-gay Del. Bob Marshall (who was distressingly reelected in November) has introduced HB77 which provides that for the purposes of the Virginia Human Rights Act, an ‘unlawful discriminatory practice’ shall not include conduct that violates any federal administrative policy, rule, or regulation adopted on or after January 1, 2012. Blue Virginia has noted:
“Sideshow Bob” wants Virginians to continue being able to discriminate against people based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. And yes, this really is what the guy’s focused on, along with his relentless crusade against a woman’s right to choose, his concern that Virginia might need to create its own currency, etc. What a guy, huh?But the problem goes beyond a lunatic homophobic legislator, especially in the South where elected judges - many, surprise, surprise, Republicans - have decided that they can ignore the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell and refuse to perform or allow same-sex marriages. Kim Davis is still just the tip of the iceberg. A piece in The Advocate looks at the religious based batshitery still going on. Here are highlights:
It’s been nearly five months since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteed the freedom to marry for same-sex couples throughout America. Most state courts with pending marriage cases promptly implemented the ruling. Today, around 99.9 percent of Americans live in counties issuing marriage licenses to all couples. But in the counties where same-sex couples continue to be denied the right to marry, elected judges are casting aside their duty to follow the law for political reasons.
In Alabama — where justices run in partisan races — probate judges in 13 counties still refuse to issue any marriage licenses. Earlier this year, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges not to issue licenses to same-sex couples, despite a federal court ruling the state’s marriage equality ban unconstitutional.
Politicized, big-money elections create more pressure on judges to rule in a way that pleases voters. Thirty-eight states conduct some kind of election for their supreme courts — and these races are increasingly indistinguishable from elections for the political branches. Alabama is a prime example: the state has a history of expensive, politicized judicial elections, with supreme court candidates raising more than $58 million since 1993.
Meanwhile, elected justices in Mississippi and Louisiana have issued divided rulings in marriage-related cases, with dissenters arguing for defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. A disturbing dissent from Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes — who was elected with campaign ads claiming that he was “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional marriage” — not only suggested that he would not comply with Obergefell, but went on to imply that same-sex parents shouldn’t be trusted to adopt children of the same sex.
In a recent 5-4 decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court recently granted a divorce to a lesbian couple. . . . . Justice Randy Pierce, who put politics aside and joined the majority, also minced no words regarding the political forces at work: “As an elected member of this court, the politically expedient (and politically popular) thing for me to do is to join my colleagues' separate statements and quote the dissenters in the Obergefell case.”
Judges must decide cases based on the law, not on politics, popular opinion, campaign contributions, or super-PAC spending. In order to protect individual rights, judges must sometimes issue unpopular rulings. While we expect governors and legislators to reflect the will of the majority of voters, judges must protect the constitutional rights of individuals, regardless of the political cost. Judicial elections make that exceedingly difficult — if not impossible.
Donald Trump Personifies Today's GOP
While leading elected Republicans are belatedly criticizing Donald Trump for his proposal to bar all Muslims from entering America, none have as yet said they will oppose his candidacy should he frighteningly become the GOP nominee. Moreover, most have been peddling a milder form of the same racism and religious based hatred that Trump has now raised as the main standard of the Republican Party. Why? Because years back the o-called GOP establishment cynically welcomed Christian extremists and white supremacists into the party. Trump is merely the culmination of an agenda that has been in place for more than two decades or longer. And driving the trend are the Christofascists who have turned the GOP into an extreme sectarian party. These are people who embrace ignorance as a badge of honor, hate all who differ from themselves, and want a theocracy. Trump is merely peddling what these nasty base of the GOP demands. It is ugly and it is frightening. The New York Times slams it in its main editorial today. Here are excerpts:
Go ahead, deplore Donald Trump. Despise his message. Reject his appeals to exclusion and hatred. But do not make the mistake of treating him as a solitary phenomenon, a singular celebrity narcissist who has somehow, all alone, brought his party and its politics to the brink of fascism.He is the leading Republican candidate for president. He has been for months. The things he says are outrageous, by design, but they were not spawned, nor have they flourished, in isolation.The Republican rivals rushing to distance themselves from his latest inflammatory proposal — a faith-based wall around the country — have been peddling their own nativist policies for months or years. They have been harshening their campaign speeches and immigration proposals in response to the Trump effect. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush want to allow only Christian refugees from Syria to enter the country, and Mr. Cruz has introduced legislation to allow states to opt out of refugee resettlement.In 31 states, governors — most but not all Republicans — have formed an axis of ignorance, declaring their borders closed to refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Syria. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has sued the federal government and a nonprofit relief agency to keep refugees out. Indiana’s refusal forced one family to seek refuge in Connecticut. Georgia is seeking to deny displaced Syrians federal benefits, like food stamps, and keep their children out of school.Civil rights organizations — the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center — are defending the displaced against blatant discrimination.[S]erious damage is already being done to the country, to its reputation overseas, by a man who is seen as speaking for America and twisting its message of tolerance and welcome, and by the candidates who trail him and are competing for his voters.[T]he danger right now is allowing him to legitimize the hatred that he so skillfully exploits, and to revive the old American tendency, in frightening times, toward vicious treatment of the weak and outsiders. . . . . there are millions of Muslims who have good reason to fear that the darkness is falling again.The time to renounce Mr. Trump’s views was the day he entered the race, calling Mexico an exporter of criminals and rapists. He played to the politics of nativism and fear that was evident last year, when a wave of Central American mothers and children, fleeing gang-and-drug warfare to the Texas border, presented themselves upon the mercy of the United States, and were met with derision and hysteria.The racism behind the agenda of the right wing on immigrants and foreigners has long been plain as day. Mr. Trump makes it even plainer. After his remarks on Muslims, how many of Mr. Trump’s rivals have said they would reject his candidacy if he won the nomination? As of Wednesday, none.
Sane and decent Republicans need to understand that there is only one way to solve the nightmare: walk away and let the GOP self-destruct and then begin again with the Christofascists and white supremacists patently unwelcome in the party tent.
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Planned Parenthood Gunman Admits Religious Motive
While the couple who waged the attack on the San Bernadino social services office never left clear clues of their motive in the terror attack, Robert Lewis Dear, the gunman at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility more or less confirmed that he is a Christian terrorist - something the talking heads on the right and Republican politicians continue to refuse to admit exists. More specifically, he exclaimed that he was a "warrior for the babies" - a phrase that correlates with the Christofascist manta that abortion is the murder of babies. Not, of course, that the same godly folk give a damn for children once that are no longer in the womb as evidenced by their support for GOP policies that throw poor children off of assistance programs and that would deprive poor children of access to health care. KKTV-11 has details on Dear's confession of sorts. Here are details:
Family members of UCCS Officer Garrett Swasey and Iraq veteran Ke'arre Stewart were in the courtroom as Dear learned what charges he would face for allegedly killing their loved ones.
Dear made multiple outbursts during the court session--our reporter counted nearly 20--including declaring he was a "warrior for the babies" and accusing his own public defender of wanting to drug him.
Though investigators have not publicly released a motive, Dear heavily eluded to one with frequent references to abortion. "Protect babies!" he exclaimed once.
"Can you add the babies that had been aborted that day, can you add that to the list?" he yelled another time while lawyers and the judge deliberated whether a list of victims' names should be made public.
Dear claimed his public defender was in cahoots with Planned Parenthood, suggesting that by trying to seal documents, the lawyer was trying to hide what Dear saw inside the building to protect the clinic.
Robert Dear faces 179 counts for allegedly storming a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on a snowy Black Friday afternoon and gunning down 12 people.
Dear is accused of killing three and injuring nine in the shooting rampage. More than 300 people were locked down in the nearby shopping center as the suspect--who police believe was Dear--engaged in a fire fight with officers for four terrifying hours.
Dear and the San Bernadino shooters share one thing in common. If Republicans want Muslims to have to register, they should similarly require that far right Christians register with authorities so that Christian terrorism can be controlled.
Trump Pushes GOP Toward Chaos
For years I have been condemning the Republican Party leadership for allowing the party to be taken over by religious fanatics and racists who were welcomed into the party with open arms originally as the so-called GOP establishment looked solely at short term electoral success and utterly ignored the Frankenstein monster it was creating. That Frankenstein monster is now fully formed in the person of Donald Trump and those in the party base who cheer on his most outrageous and bigoted rhetoric. No doubt the leadership of ISIS sees Trump as a gift from Allah that can be used endlessly for promoting the propaganda line that America seeks to wage war against Islam and all Muslims. Back here in America, the GOP finds itself descending into increasing chaos. A piece in Fredericksburg.com looks at this chaos. Here are highlights:
Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States is shoving the Republican Party to the edge of chaos, abruptly pitting GOP leaders against their own presidential front-runner and jeopardizing the party’s longtime drive to attract minorities.
Unbowed, Trump fired a searing warning Tuesday via Twitter to fellow Republicans carping about his proposal. A majority of his supporters, he tweeted, “would vote for me if I departed the GOP & ran as an independent.”
The crossfire between Trump and frustrated Republicans became a furious blur the day after the billionaire businessman announced his plan.
Party elders, meanwhile, warned that too much criticism might indeed push him to abandon the GOP and launch a third-party bid that could hand the presidential election to the Democrats.
And Republicans up for re-election in the Senate grew terse in the Capitol hallways as they were asked again and again to respond to Trump’s remarks—a glimpse of their political futures if the former reality show star captures the GOP nomination.
“This is not conservatism,” declared House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s top elected leader. “What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for. And more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”
In New Hampshire, Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey called Trump’s idea “abhorrent.” At the same time, he reminded Trump of his Republican loyalty pledge, saying, “I know him to be a man of his word.”
And in Mississippi, RNC member Henry Barbour said Trump’s comments “aren’t worthy of someone who wants to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.” He said Trump would be a “disaster politically for the GOP if he won the nomination.” “It’s embarrassing at best,” Barbour said of Trump’s impact on his party.
Barbour helped author the Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” after a painful 2012 presidential election that forced party leaders to re-evaluate their strategy in presidential contests to reflect the nation’s demographic shifts. Among other things, the report cited an urgent need for GOP leaders to adopt an inclusive and welcoming tone on issues such as immigration.
While experts widely consider his proposal unconstitutional, Trump’s continued popularity underscores the deep divide between Republican leaders and the party’s conservative base, which holds outsized influence in the presidential nomination process.
Indeed, Trump’s plan was cheered during a South Carolina rally Monday evening, and vocal supporters across the country defended the Muslim ban as necessary for national security. Polling suggests the sentiment is likely fueled by sharp strain of xenophobia: A new AP-GfK poll found 8 in 10 Republicans think there are too many immigrants coming from the Middle East.
Candidly, I don't know how this self-created monster can be killed without killing the GOP in the process. The lesson is to never allow religious extremists and white supremacists to become the core of your party base.
Spotlight - The Undue Defference Given to Religion
Yet another Roman Catholic diocese has filed for bankruptcy after being hit with a much deserved judgment in a sexual abuse case. Religion News Service sums it up this way:
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Duluth announced on Monday (Dec. 7) that it had filed for bankruptcy protection following a jury verdict last month that held the Minnesota diocese responsible for more than half of an $8.1 million judgment on behalf of a victim of sex abuse by a priest. . . . jurors who deliberated for just a day following a trial last month said the diocese failed to supervise the priest, who worked in one of its parishes, and said that it should have known that he was dangerous.
Sadly, its a story line that has been repeated over and over again across America with the Church's policy of protecting sexual predators knowing no international boundaries. I have no sympathy for clergy or parishioners who may find their fairy tale world turned upside down by the financial fallout to the diocese.
Meanwhile, the New Yorker has a lengthy piece that reviews the movie "Spotlight" that looks at the Boston Globe's breaking the story of the rampant sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston in January 2002, a story that finally forced police and others to stop closing their eyes and giving totally undeserved deference to the Roman Catholic Church and the criminal conspirators heading it up. Of course, the Catholic Church is not the only denomination that has sexual abuse on a wide scale - e.g., the Southern Baptist Convention has engaged in similar cover ups and denials. One of the take awys of the article - I have yet to see the movie - is that had the Catholic Church (or any other denomination) not been afforded deference and facts not been ignored or hushed up, many victims of abuse would never have been abused in the first place. Yes, freedom of religion is an American value, but it ONLY means one has the right to worship as one chooses. It does not mean that churches and denominations get to be above the law. It also doesn't mean that the rest of the citizens need to indirectly bankroll denominations through their tax exempt status. Here are highlights from the New Yorker piece:
Since seeing the movie “Spotlight,” about the Boston Globe investigation of sexual abuse and coverups in the Catholic Church, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and the questions it raises—about how far institutions will go to protect themselves, about who we listen to and protect, about who and what we ignore, about the power of disclosure and even conversation. It begins with a portrait of institutionalized secrecy—at a police station in Boston in 1976, where cops, a bishop, and an A.D.A. are keeping a molestation accusation quiet—and shows us the process of how the truth came to be revealed. Spotlight, the Globe’s investigative team, published its first story in its series, “Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years,” on January 6, 2002; in the next year, it published over six hundred more, using the Church’s own documents to document extensive and almost systemic abuse by clergy.
I asked what they had heard about sexual abuse in the Church before working on the investigation. Not much, they said. Like most, they considered it to be individual cases about individual priests. “This is pre-Internet,” Robinson said. . . . The relative isolation of that era helped keep things quiet, made it harder for people to connect the dots. “So in a way, the Church was more protected. The bishops and the cardinals said, ‘Well, this is one aberrant priest.’ And they actually said this—‘We’re no different than the Methodists or the Lutherans or the Boy Scouts.’ ”
Robinson said, “So when we got the assignment, as an investigative unit, to look into the case of one priest who had eighty-four lawsuits against him, and a lot of speculation—how could they not have known what he was up to?—we took that on as ‘Find out about the one priest.’ ” . . . . all of a sudden we realized that it was some much larger number. And the much larger number we thought of was a tiny fraction of what it ended up being.”
What was not in the documents was any indication anywhere of concern for the children who had been harmed. Not anywhere. It was all about protecting the reputation of the Church, and then, in parens, keeping it secret. It was always about the secrecy. If the crimes of the priest were mentioned, they were often referred to as ‘sins,’ for which the priest had repented and been forgiven.
[A]n idea that “Spotlight” had raised: that many priests are psychosexually stunted, on the emotional level of a twelve- or thirteen-year-old. . . . . People, boys, used to go into the seminary in junior high school, and so were essentially deprived normal sexual development, important to any human being.” . . . . in a diocese of twenty-two hundred priests, was that some two hundred were abusive—a figure closer to ten per cent.
Rezendes said, “Wherever institutions are operating in secrecy, and people aren’t accountable, you’re likely to find wrongdoing. The Church is literally a secret institution. It doesn’t have the reporting requirements of a corporation or a nonprofit. It doesn’t file tax returns. They just don’t have any disclosure requirements at all. And they’re protected in large part by the First Amendment.”Pfeiffer said, “Institutions that seem virtuous—nonprofits, religious organizations—tend to get a pass.”Pfeiffer said, “This is absolutely an example of what happens when for decades people didn’t question authority. We’ve all talked about this, because we were all raised Catholic. We understand the deference the Church got.
Read the whole piece and, better yet, see the movie as I plan to do.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
The Growing Hysteria and Dangerousness of the Far Right
Candidly, if I were a Muslim American, I would be very frightened by the current atmosphere on the right of the political spectrum which is depicting every Muslim as a would be terrorist. Perhaps I am especially sensitive to demonization since gays have long been called out as deviants and a danger by the "godly folk" and I know what it is to be fearful of my safety on occasion simply because of who I am. Most often this fear was triggered by "godly folk," those who see themselves as "real Americans," and on one occasion, the Norfolk Police. How long will it be until some self-appointed Christian vigilante lets loose violence on Muslims or others who they deem to not be "real Americans"? A piece in Salon looks at this increasingly dangerous atmosphere. Here are excerpts:.
The escalating right-wing hyperbole is not just irresponsible but dangerous, as it promotes undue fears and offers more confrontations and violence as a solution, such as calls for all Americans to carry guns. What’s forgotten in that line of thinking is that many people won’t, or don’t want to use guns.
The GOP presidential candidates, in contrast, relish the thought of war with ISIS. One after another, at Thursday’s Republican Jewish Coalition summit in Washington, they declared the nation was “in a time of war” (Ted Cruz), facing “terrorist attack” (Chris Christie), “they’re already here” (Lindsey Graham) and the feds should spy on anyone, anywhere, anytime . . . .
There’s “fear in the air,” the Times reported Friday, echoing a national poll released Thursday finding 83 percent of Americans expect a major terrorist attack. Meanwhile, overseas, the U.S. is deepening the military response to ISIS following the Paris attacks, and NATO allies that had limited their involvement are now sending troops, planes and ships.
In other words, contrary to what the GOP presidential candidates would have the public believe, the U.S. is very much at war in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, they and their propagandist allies are opposed to removing weapons of war from individuals at home.
Americans who don’t believe the answer to violence is to carry a gun anytime they step outside find themselves in an escalating climate of fear-mongering, panic-driven gun sales and an urge by many to strike real or imagined foes.
What is lacking are people who can put these latest events and trends into perspective, historic contexts or offer wise responses—although the New York Times ran its first front-page editorial in decades on Saturday morning, urging Congress to ban militarized weapons and calling the recent domestic gun-caused slaughter terrorism. Most of the TV news, however, is reading a different script, hyping the FBI announcement that it was investigating the San Bernardino shootings as a terrorist incident.
The White House has ignored most of the noise coming from Congress and the 2016 campaign trail, making reasonable remarks that are quickly overshadowed by hyped headlines. The lack of a stronger, clearer and wiser countervailing presence from Obama has had serious consequences, however. It’s created a void filled by an onslaught of irresponsible GOP hyperbole and right-wing propaganda. Ironically, Obama is allowing the end of his presidency to be colonized by exaggerated fears and darkness, though he was elected by a majority of Americans seeking a far more hopeful future.
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