Friday, October 31, 2014

A Day Where I'd Like to Paddle Out and Not Come Back - Ever.

Sadly, the waves are small and the water isn't really cold enough yet, but it's a day that sucks, I'm sick of work and wondering why I bother to go on. I keep reflecting on the fact that I'm way out side the suicide clause in my life insurance policy.  I haven't felt this bad in a long time.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Most Americans Oppose LGBT Employment Discrimination by Churches

The results of a new survey contain bad news for Christofascists who believe that they should be above non-discrimination laws: a majority of Americans oppose anti-LGBT employment discrimination even by churches and only 30% of respondents believe privately held business corporations citing "religious beliefs" should be able to discriminate against gays.  Thus, while shrieks of "religious freedom" and/or "persecution of Christians" may play well in Christofascist and professional right wing Christian circles - and, of course, among political whores in the Republican Party - most Americans are not impressed.  The survey also found support for a federal ENDA law.  A post at The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the survey findings:
Fifty-five percent of Americans believe no employer, not even a church, should be allowed to discriminate in the employment of LGBT people if a federal law, like ENDA, were passed. A new Harris poll which surveyed over 2500 people found that just 35 percent of Americans think religious institutions, like churches, should be allowed to discriminate on religious grounds. Even less, just three in ten Americans, think privately-held businesses should be allowed to discriminate. 

And about one in five people think publicly held businesses (21 percent) or small businesses (19 percent) should be exempt if they cite religious beliefs.

"Americans simply don't believe that employer exemptions are justified when it comes to basic workplace safeguards for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans," The Harris Poll reports.
The survey also showed continued support for federal policies that end job discrimination for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, as well as transgender employees. Two-thirds (65%) of American adults agree that federal law should be expanded to include protection from job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Also, when it comes to protections for transgender employees, more than half (54%) of all adults strongly agree that transgender workers should be treated equally and fairly as all other workers. 
 Hopefully, more and more Americans are coming to see far right Christians for the mean, self-centered, hypocrites that they are in fact. 

Why Republicans Keep Telling Everyone They’re Not Scientists

I writing frequently about climate change because as one living on a low lying coastal area, the impacts of rising sea levels as the ice caps melt is easy to see.  Meanwhile Republicans continue to put their heads in the sand - in Virginia, they won't even use the terms "rising sea levels" or "climate change" and idiotically only talk about "repetitive flooding - and when pressed will say that they are not scientists and cannot opine on the issue.  Once upon a time, the GOP valued scientific knowledge.  Now, with the GOP base controlled by a bunch of knuckle dragging, spittle flecked, religious fanatics and racists who revel in ignorance, it is too dangerous for Republicans to admit that science tells us what the GOP base doesn't want to hear.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the GOP's shameless self-prostitution to the ugliest elements of society.  Here are excerpts:
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican who is fighting a Democratic challenge from former Gov. Charlie Crist, was asked by The Miami Herald if he believes climate change is significantly affecting the weather. “Well, I’m not a scientist,” he said.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is locked in a tight re-election race, was asked this month by The Cincinnati Enquirer if he believes that climate change is a problem. “I’m not a scientist,” he said.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, when asked by reporters if climate change will play a role in the Republican agenda, came up with a now-familiar formulation. “I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” he said.

“I’m not a scientist,” or a close variation, has become the go-to talking point for Republicans questioned about climate change in the 2014 campaigns. In the past, many Republican candidates questioned or denied the science of climate change, but polls show that a majority of Americans accept it — and support government policies to mitigate it — making the Republican position increasingly challenging ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.

Jon A. Krosnick, who conducts polls on public attitudes on climate change at Stanford, finds the phrase perplexing. “What’s odd about this ‘I’m not a scientist’ line is that there’s nothing in the data we’ve seen to suggest that this helps a candidate,” Mr. Krosnick said. “We can’t find a single state where the majority of voters are skeptical. To say, ‘I’m not a scientist’ is like saying, ‘I’m not a parakeet.’ Everyone knows that it just means, ‘I’m not going to talk about this.’ ”

For now, “I’m not a scientist” is what one party adviser calls “a temporary Band-Aid” — a way to avoid being called a climate change denier but also to sidestep a dilemma. The reality of campaigning is that a politician who acknowledges that burning coal and oil contributes to global warming must offer a solution, which most policy experts say should be taxing or regulating carbon pollution and increasing government spending on alternative energy. But those ideas are anathema to influential conservative donors like the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and the advocacy group they support, Americans for Prosperity.

In the meantime, climate change has come up this year in at least 10 debates in Senate and governor’s races — including those in Florida, New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky — forcing Republicans to respond to a growing number of questions about the issue.

A 2013 survey by USA Today and Stanford University found that 71 percent of Americans say they are already seeing the results of climate change, and 55 percent support limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. 

While the politicians debate, the scientific evidence linking weather extremes to climate change continues to mount. . . . Major corporations, including longtime Republican donors like ExxonMobil, Walmart and Coca-Cola, have acknowledged the science of human-caused climate change and are planning for future taxes or regulations on carbon pollution.

For Mr. McKenna, the energy lobbyist and Republican adviser, the political future is clear. “We’re going to keep getting this question until we nail down a hard answer,” he said.
The Republicans continue to fiddle while Rome proverbially burns.  And they want to control Congress - a frightening prospect.

The Cretinization of American Politics

I sometimes say that Americans get the government deserve since so many voters are oblivious to what is going on a either a local, state, or federal level.  During the "straight phase" of my life, this might be exemplified by the so-called soccer moms of Virginia Beach who worried about kids' sport, squabbles and back stabbing on the local PTA front and other overall insignificant things but who could not have an intelligent conversation on any aspect of politics.  If asked, the typical response would be "I don't follow politics" or "politics is boring."  Never mind that every aspect of your life and that of you children is being impacted.  Multiply this phenomenon a million times over and we soon discover why American government is largely pluralized and why so many misfits get elected to public office.  A piece in The New Yorker looks at the abysmal state of politics with so many Americans who act as if they've had lobotomies.  Here are highlights:
At this late stage in the prostitution, cretinization, and putrefaction of the American political system, it’s hard to get worked up about anything, and that, doubtless, explains why most voters aren’t paying much attention to the midterm elections. Or, rather, they are trying to pay no attention. If you are unfortunate enough to live in one of the states or districts where there is a close contest, you can’t escape so easily. 

Some high-minded folks dismiss campaign ads like these as trivial and unimportant, but that’s an error. Most Americans don’t attend campaign rallies, or make political donations, or read much political coverage, or watch political shows such as “Meet the Press,” or even Fox News. To these sorts of folks, ads aren’t just an annoying sideline to, or a distraction from, the real issues in the campaign. To a large extent, they are the campaign: they represent perhaps the main source of information about candidates and issues. Which, if you think about it, is pretty alarming.

It’s not that all the ads lack a legitimate purpose. Health care is an important issue. So are law and order, gun control, abortion, and many of the other subjects featured in the thirty-second spots. If Congressman Gardner is still sponsoring a federal personhood bill that could lead to the banning of I.U.D.s—which, again, he is—Colorado voters deserve to be informed of this. Udall’s latest television ad does just that.

The problem with the ads, and with the campaign in general, is that they tend to twist reality, raising what is incendiary above what is genuinely important, and substituting political point-scoring for genuine debate. Take Obamacare. While it hasn’t dominated the midterms in the way that some people thought it would a year or two ago, it’s still a major issue. From New Hampshire to Louisiana and Colorado, Republican candidates are demanding its “repeal.” But what, if anything, are they offering in its place? On this, there is mostly silence or deliberate obfuscation.

[W]hat does the repeal pledge actually amount to? Beyond offering Republicans another opportunity to bring up Obama, not very much. The same goes for campaign discussions, such as they’ve been, about another topic sure to play a big role in Washington in the coming years: the budget. If Republicans take over the Senate, will they pass bills supporting a balanced-budget amendment, the replacement of Medicare with a voucher system, and the shifting of Medicaid back to the states, with a much-reduced federal contribution? The former policy is a long-standing G.O.P. demand. 

With many Democrats also reluctant to focus on the substance rather than on the caricature of the Obama agenda, we have an election with no clear theme, no overriding trend, and, inevitably, no clear mandate. If the Republicans do eke out a majority in the Senate, which remains the most likely outcome, they will return to Washington determined to make life even more difficult for the President. But what sort of achievement will that be? We’ve just lived through four years of gridlock, during which we’ve seen very little in the way of significant legislation. More of the same won’t change anything, it will just make voters feel more powerless, disgusted, and alienated.
And the American dream which can now best be found in Canada will continue to evaporate in America.  In large part due to complacency and laziness on the part of Americans.  We may be getting exactly what many of us deserve. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Bobby Jindal Angles to Lead the Stupid Party

As would be leaders of the Republican Party jockey for position to jump into the 2016 GOP presidential contest, it seems that it's in many ways a race to the bottom - something that has sadly become necessary as the GOP base has increasing gravitated toward the celebratory embrace of ignorance, religious extremism and open racism.  Joining in this race to lead the "stupid party" is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, an admitted dark horse given his Indian descent.  And irony of ironies, he has totally forgotten his admonish from just two years ago that the GOP needed to cease being the "stupid party."  Salon looks at Jindal's willingness to prostitute himself to the ugliest elements of the GOP base.  Here are excerpts:
Following the Republican Party’s humiliating defeat in the 2012 elections — a loss that polls indicated was coming but which nevertheless stunned no small number of Republicans — Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was scathing in his assessment of the state of the GOP.

It was high time, Jindal told Politico, for Republicans to discard its “simplistic” sloganeering and knee-jerk opposition to President Obama — time, the governor said, for the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

“We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism,” Jindal added. “We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Of course, boastful ignorance and anti-intellectualism largely define the modern American right, so Jindal’s summons for a more level-headed, ideas-based GOP never stood any chance of success. And Jindal himself refused to specify what would substantially differentiate a non-stupid Republican Party from its stupid iteration.

But Jindal, eyeing a 2016 bid for president, has completely abandoned his anti-”stupid party” crusade, desperately doing all he can to burnish his Know-Nothing credentials.

Some of the latest evidence emerged Wednesday, when his administration issued a letter asking Ebola researchers who had recently traveled to afflicted west Africans not to attend an upcoming conference of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in New Orleans. Experts have condemned such sweeping bans as not based in science, noting additionally that travel bans and other restrictive measures targeting health workers and researchers may well discourage other professionals from traveling to Ebola-stricken countries. But Republicans, happy to demagogue the Ebola issue ahead of the forthcoming midterms, have little interest in the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and public health advocates. And Jindal is happy to join in.

Jindal’s latest forays into right-wing rhetorical red meat come on the heels of other public statements that put the lie to his self-fancied image as the GOP’s ideas man. He was among the first conservatives to rush to the defense of homophobic “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, alleging Robertson’s critics were engaged in a “war on religion” and suggesting that pushback against anti-gay remarks somehow threatened free speech. Meanwhile, the Brown University biology major and Rhodes Scholar won’t say if he accepts the theory of evolution or climate science, putting him to the right of the pope on those issues.

So Bobby Jindal, recognizing that thought and ideas are anathema to the contemporary GOP base, no longer has any interest in eradicating the stupid from the stupid party. Instead, he’s angling to become its leader — once he’s gained a little more weight.

Homophobia - A Residue of British Colonial Rule

Click image to enlarge
At times I want to pull my hair out over the ignorance of those in Africa, India and now Singapore who claim that the acceptance of homosexuality is a western trait that threatens indigenous social mores.Why don't this homophobes have "I'm an ignorant cretin" tabooed on their foreheads?  The truth is that homophobia is a western import that traces back to British colonial rule.  As noted in treatise, The Origins and Roles of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies, opposition to same sex relations was low across the globe until the arrival of Christian missionaries.  Now, American Christofascists are working diligently (with corrupt politicians and parasitic churchmen) to follow in the footsteps of their equally bigoted ancestors and dupe local populations into embracing homophobia.  A piece in the Washington Post traces all of this back to British colonial rule.  Here are highlights:
During the past half-century, many countries have eliminated criminal laws against what are variously called “homosexual offences”, “sodomy,” “unnatural acts” or  other terms used to describe consensual sexual relations between people (often specifically men) of the same sex.

Yet, the decriminalization of homosexual conduct is an uneven process and several countries are moving in the opposite direction. 

Among such criminalization cases, a common narrative is that acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality is a foreign, or alien, Western imposition on indigenous cultures.  For example, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has called homosexuality an invention of the West that will “disturb the African moral fabric.”

Here stands one of the biggest ironies.  The idea that the so-called tolerance towards homosexuality somehow sprang from a western source doesn’t hold.  As our research shows, this narrative is not only wrong-headed but the opposite of the historical facts.  Instead, for many countries, including some of those mentioned above, criminalization laws were based on British imperial legal instruments, like the Indian Penal Code Section 377A, introduced and imposed on these countries by Britain when they were colonized.

We investigated whether and why there is variation in laws regulating and punishing homosexual conduct around the world.  Looking at a variety of data on 185 countries, we found that former British colonies are much more likely to have laws that criminalize homosexual conduct than former colonies of other European powers, or than other states in general. 

It seems that when the British Empire was introducing legal systems around the world, one of the laws they included was the law against sodomy, which was not decriminalized in England and Wales until 1967. By this time, most of the “Winds of Change” wave of decolonization had left former colonies independent of changes in British legislation.  By contrast, after the French Revolution, the French Empire decriminalized sodomy between consenting adults, and spread this Enlightenment legacy among its colonies.

Highlighting the colonial origin of anti-gay legislation is an important way to counter the narrative that tolerance of homosexuality is a neo-colonial imposition. . . . Another strategy is to publicize the numerous examples of accepted homosexual practices and relations in various pre-colonial African cultures.
 What is sad is that the original British colonials played upon the ignorance of native populations in introducing anti-gay laws.  Now, American Christofascists are engaging in the same toxic conduct.   As for leaders who claim to be rejecting foreign influence by enacting anti-gay laws, all they ultimately prove are they they are ignorant asses.  Are you listen, Mr. Putin?

Apple CEO Tim Cook: I'm Proud to Be Gay

Many have long conjectured the Apple CEO Tim Cook is gay, but Cook has always refrained from publicly "coming out" or discussing his sexual orientation.  That is until now.  In a piece in Business Week, Cook not only comes out, but goes on to say that he is proud to be gay.  It's a feeling I understand having shed all of the religious brainwashing that had damaged me growing up and made me feel ashamed of who I am. Our enemies seek to marginalize us and make us feel shame.  We must resist that temptation and stand up proudly for who we are.  Here are highlights from Cook's essay:

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

The world has changed so much since I was a kid. America is moving toward marriage equality, and the public figures who have bravely come out have helped change perceptions and made our culture more tolerant. Still, there are laws on the books in a majority of states that allow employers to fire people based solely on their sexual orientation. There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay, or where we can be barred from visiting sick partners and sharing in their legacies. Countless people, particularly kids, face fear and abuse every day because of their sexual orientation.

So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

The company I am so fortunate to lead has long advocated for human rights and equality for all. We’ve taken a strong stand in support of a workplace equality bill before Congress, just as we stood for marriage equality in our home state of California. And we spoke up in Arizona when that state’s legislature passed a discriminatory bill targeting the gay community. We’ll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same. And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up.

Kudos to Cook.  Each of us can make a difference by living openly and honestly.  I does open minds and change hearts - and save lives.  I can imagine that spittle flying in Christianist circles.  We had best brace ourselves for an Apple boycott by the One Million Bitches Moms and other hate merchants.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty