Monday, July 21, 2014

More Monday Male Beauty

Religious Right Anger At Obama For ENDA Order Reaches New Extremes

As noted in an earlier post, the "godly folk" are going absolutely berserk in response to Barack Obama's signing of a presidential executive order barring that bans federal government contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  The volumes of spittle flying from the flapping jaws of the professional Christian class and hate group leaders is off the charts.  All of the reaction stems from the Christofascists' desire to be above the law and free to harm and discriminate against LGBT individuals without restriction.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the batshitery that both depicts "godly Christians" as victims of "persecution" and encourages violence against gays.  Here are highlights:
Calling today's signing "a path toward a new thought-policing state where those who hold traditional values about marriage and family are to be marginalized," National Organization For Marriage president Brian Brown claimed the "fact is that non-discrimination rules like the order issued by President Obama can become a weapon used to punish and harass individuals and groups who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

The irony of course is that NOM is crusading for laws, like DOMA, that would enable them and their fellow believers to discriminate against LGBT people.

Fox News religion reporter Todd Starnes writes that Obama's new executive orders amount to "the federal government bullying religious groups that hold viewpoints it deems inappropriate." 

Of course, that's false. The religious right wants to have its cake and eat it too. They want the legal right to fire and harass LGBT people for being LGBT, and they want the federal government to use your tax dollars to support that harassment.

Starnes quotes the virulently anti-gay Pastor Robert Jeffress as well.
“The problem with this executive order is that it paves the way for the next one – which could withhold the tax-exempt status or broadcast licenses for religious organizations holding biblical beliefs with which the administration disagrees,” Jeffress told me.
The Obama administration seems hell-bent on forcing Christians to assimilate to the militant LGBT agenda. Resistance is futile.
And, of course, the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg.
“If religious organizations cannot require that their employees conduct themselves in ways consistent with the teachings of their faith – then, essentially, those organizations are unable to operate in accordance with their faith,” Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, told me.
“The mask is coming off of the homosexual movement’s agenda. They really do not believe in religious liberty. They want forced affirmation of homosexual and transgender conduct to trump every other consideration in the workplace – including religious liberty.”
An important reminder here -- at issue is a company's "right" to hire and fire someone for being LGBT. This is what they are fighting for. This is the "deeply-held Christian belief" that the anti-gay religious right is so desperate to retain.

In a separate statement, Sprigg -- who has called for gay people to be deported -- writes that "President Obama has ordered employers to put aside their principles, and practices in the name of political correctness. This level of coercion is nothing less than viewpoint blackmail that bullies into silence every contractor and subcontractor who has moral objections to homosexual behavior.
This order gives activists a license to challenge their employers and, expose those employers to threats of costly legal proceedings and the potential of jeopardizing future contracts." . . . People with deeply held convictions regarding the morality of certain types of sexual behavior should not be bound by the dictates of President Obama's agenda.
As for the credentials of bigots like Sprigg, it is always useful to note that they lack any legitimate credentials  that qualify them for setting social or legal regulations.  Despite the lofty titles they give to themselves, they are little more than far right crackpots who do not deserve to be given the time of day by legitimate journalists.  Her are Sprigg's "qualifications":
Mr. Sprigg is an ordained Baptist minister. Before coming to FRC, he served as pastor of Clifton Park Center Baptist Church in Clifton Park, N.Y. Mr. Sprigg previously served for ten years as a professional actor and unit leader in Covenant Players, an international Christian drama ministry. . . . Mr. Sprigg received the Master of Divinity degree cum laude from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Mass.).
 Only in Christofascist circles would someone like Sprigg be deemed qualified to pontificate on the cause of sexual orientation, child rearing, and constitutional law.  

A Mountain Of Evidence Links Russia To The Downing Of The Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

While Vladimir Putin dissembles and uses the state controlled Russian media to spin lies that border on the incredible  (e.g., all those on board Flight 17 were dead when the plane took off), the evidence continues to mount that Putin's finger prints are all over the heinous destruction of a civilian airliner with 298 people on board, including infants and children.  Putin spent billions of rubles putting on the Sochi Olympics in a bid to showcase Russia and the positive aspects of Russian culture and now in a matter of days all of that goodwill is destroyed and world opinion is rapidly shifting against Russia.  A piece in Business Insider looks at the mounting evidence that Russia bore ultimate blame for the death in the skies over Ukraine.  Here are excerpts:
There's a growing body of evidence that has emerged that links Russia to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, despite the best efforts of pro-Russian militants to scrub the record.

About 40 miles from Donetsk in pro-Russian held territory, the flight carrying 298 passengers and crew was brought down on Thursday, killing everyone on board. The U.S. believes it was likely shot down by an SA-11 missile fired from a Buk surface-to-air missile system.
Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and pro-Russian militants have deflected, attempting to blame Ukraine for the crash. Later, the top rebel commander put forth a conspiracy theory that the passengers actually died days before, The Washington Times reports.

Pro-Russian militants allegedly discussed the receipt of Buk missile systems just days before.

On July 14, a pro-Russian militant and a man identified as "Oreon," an intelligence officer with Russia, allegedly talk about taking down planes with Buk missile systems, according to audio released by Ukraine's security service.

"Excellent. They [militants in rebel territory proclaimed as Donetsk People's Republic] are avenging for planes today, but we have a couple of days more," Oreon allegedly says. "We already have Buk, we'll be shooting down them to hell."

As The Interpreter notes, at several points in the conversation, separatists talk about the Buk missile system crossing the border, along with Russian crews. The recordings, presented by Kiev as key evidence of Moscow's involvement with the rebels, was confirmed as authentic by U.S. intelligence analysts, AFP reported Sunday.

Video posted online shows a Buk missile launcher traveling through the rebel-held town of Snizhne. 

[A]nother video posted to YouTube on July 17 is much more revealing. It was described as showing a Buk traveling near Snizhne, a rebel-controlled area southeast of the MH17 crash site. While the original video was removed for unknown reasons, Eliot Higgins, a well-respected blogger who specializes in identifying weapons in Syria and Ukraine, confirmed the location as Snizhne through geolocation techniques.
  A reporter with The Associated Press on the ground in Snizhne also observed the Buk missile system

The Buk is a highly sophisticated system that requires specialized training to operate.

In a briefing at the Pentagon on Friday, Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters that it "strains credulity" to think pro-Russian separatists believed to have shot down MH17 didn't have at least some help from Moscow. Kirby said the Buk is a "sophisticated piece of technology" that would likely require technical assistance from Russia.

"The system is not a simple system to use. You need at least four to six months of training and ongoing training to operate it," Ronald Bishop, a former U.S. Air Force missile expert, told Australia's Warwick Daily News. "To fire this system you need to have highly-specialized military training."

The pro-Russian separatist leader boasted on social media of downing an aircraft shortly after MH17 went down.

Posting on VKontakte, Russia's version of Facebook, the pro-Russian leader Igor Strelkov wrote that "we have warned them — not to fly 'in our sky.'" Strelkov, a Russian citizen who is linked to Russian intelligence, said an AN-26 (a Ukrainian military transport) had been shot down, apparently not realizing MH17 was a civilian airliner.

Pro-Russian militants were reportedly caught on an audio recording talking about shooting down a military transport before realizing they had likely downed a civilian plane.

Shortly after the airliner had crashed, pro-Russian militants were reportedly caught on leaked phone calls, apparently discussing the shooting before eventually realizing they had shot down a civilian aircraft instead of a military target.

"It’s 100% a passenger aircraft,” a militant nicknamed "Major" is recorded as saying, noting that he saw no weapons nearby. "Absolutely nothing. Civilian items, medicinal stuff, towels, toilet paper."

Militants have allegedly tried to destroy evidence and block investigators and reporters from the crash site.

If the pro-Russian militants are confident that it was the government of Ukraine that shot down MH17, it would make sense that they would allow a full investigation and keep the crash site undisturbed so that link could be made. But as many have found out, they have been doing the exact opposite.

"The assumption is they're trying to remove evidence of what they did," a senior U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence told The Wall Street Journal on Saturday.

In another phone call released by Ukraine's security service, pro-Russian militants sound frantic in their search for the MH17 black box. "I'll try to find out [where the box is]," a militant named "Oleksiy" says. His commander responds, "Do it really quick. Urgently. Moscow asks where the boxes are," while urging the militant to keep the black box out of the hands of the OSCE.
There's more, all of it damning to Putin and Russia.  For the record, I am NOT anti-Russian.  My major in college included a minor in Russian history.  Russia is a great nation and its people have suffered horrifically because the nation's failed leaders.  Sadly, Russia is repeating the worse of its history with Putin at the helm.  If Russians want to achieve greatness, the first step they need to take is to overthrow Putin, strip him of all of the plunder he - and his political cronies - has taken to enrich themselves to the detriment of the Russian people.   If Putin sees himself as  the "new Tsar," perhaps he needs to meet the fate his communist predecessors dealt to Nicholas II and his family.  That would be a very sweet irony.

August 2, 2014 - "Dinner is Served" to Benefit ACCESS AIDS Care

One of the fundraisers that the husband and I support - and work to help host - each summer is "Diner Is Served" at the home of our friend in Virginia Beach.  All proceeds go to support ACCESS AIDS Care which provides service - including counseling, food supply and housing - for individuals and families impacted by HIV/AIDS.   Each year the event has a theme and many come in costumes.  Last year's theme was "Togas and Tiaras."  This year's theme is "Trailer Park Trash" - I can just imagine some of the costumes.   Here are details on the event:

WHEN: Saturday, August 2, 2014 at 6:00pm - 9:00pm

WHERE:  1425 Rylands Road, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455

WHAT:  Trailer Park Trash Pool Party!   Dinner, cocktails, pool time, and volleyball. Come in costume as the most glamorous of the trailer park... or the trashiest!

HOSTS:  Steve Kavanaugh, Howard Bunger, Rob Economu, Rodger Hall, Harley Handy, Mark Hinckley, Barry Menser, and Brian Moody...

Please feel free to bring guests and remember to bring your towel! Also, please be respectful of neighbors and park only on the odd number side of the road.   If you cannot attend, any donation is appreciated!

A big thanks goes out to:
- Our corporate sponsor, Olive Garden.
- Mr Virginia Bear Crew / BEAR Assault.

Yes, Olive Garden is providing all of the food for the main course. 

President Obama Signs Executive Order on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

Following through on promises made last week and request from LGBT groups long before that, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that bars federal contractors from discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Of equal significance is the fact that the executive order does not contain a religious exemption.  That's right, no special rights for Christofascists.  As will be noted in additional blogs posts, the Christofascists are beyond livid.  Obama has had the audacity to reject their demands for special rights to discriminate at will.  Here are highlights from the President's comments prior to the signing of the executive order:
Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming. You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters -- I know because I got a lot of them. (Laughter.) And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- will become just a little bit fairer.

It doesn't make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are -- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.  And that's wrong. We're here to do what we can to make it right -- to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction.

In a few moments, I will sign an executive order that does two things. First, the federal government already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Once I sign this order, the same will be explicitly true for gender identity. (Applause.)

And second, we're going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees. (Applause.) America's federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people.

Now, this executive order is part of a long bipartisan tradition. President Roosevelt signed an order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry. President Eisenhower strengthened it. President Johnson expanded it. Today, I'm going to expand it again.

Currently, 18 states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And over 200 cities and localities have done the same. Governor Terry McAuliffe is here; his first act as governor was to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia. (Applause.) Where did Terry go?  Right back here.

Equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it turns out to be good business. That's why a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies in place. It is not just about doing the right thing -- it's also about attracting and retaining the best talent. And there are several business leaders who are here today who will attest to that.

And yet, despite all that, in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can still be a fireable offense. There are people here today who've lost their jobs for that reason. This is not speculative, this is not a matter of political correctness -- people lose their jobs as a consequence of this. Their livelihoods are threatened, their families are threatened. In fact, more states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers. So I firmly believe that it's time to address this injustice for every American.

While the executive order would not have saved me from being fired from a law firm for being gay, it will send a strong message to  members of the business community who will now see federal contractors hiring based on who is the best and brightest, not on the basis of outmoded religious beliefs and outright bigotry.  Here are some excerpts from the Executive Order itself:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including 40 U.S.C. 121, and in order to provide for a uniform policy for the Federal Government to prohibit discrimination and take further steps to promote economy and efficiency in Federal Government procurement by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it is hereby ordered as follows: 
Section 1. Amending Executive Order 11478. The first sentence of section 1 of Executive Order 11478 of August 8, 1969, as amended, is revised by substituting "sexual orientation, gender identity" for "sexual orientation".  

Sec. 2. Amending Executive Order 11246. Executive Order 11246 of September 24, 1965, as amended, is hereby further amended as follows: 
(a) The first sentence of numbered paragraph (1) of section 202 is revised by substituting "sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin" for "sex, or national origin"
(b) The second sentence of numbered paragraph (1) of section 202 is revised by substituting "sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin" for "sex or national origin". 
(c) Numbered paragraph (2) of section 202 is revised by substituting "sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin" for "sex or national origin". 
(d) Paragraph (d) of section 203 is revised by substituting "sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin" for "sex or national origin".
Sec. 5. Effective Date. This order shall become effective immediately, and section 2 of this order shall apply to contracts entered into on or after the effective date of the rules promulgated by the Department of Labor under section 3 of this order.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Study: Children Raised With Religion Cannot Judge Fact From Fiction

I've said before that, in my view, raising a child in a conservative/fundamentalist religion household is a form of child abuse.  The related irony is that it is the conservatives who are constantly decrying America's supposed decline in the world.  Yet it is the religious conservatives' embrace of ignorance and rejection of science and objective facts - modernity itself - that is helping to dumb down our school curricula and creating a generation of uninformed citizens.  All so that the religious conservatives can avid facing the fact that their religious beliefs are based on myths and ignorance.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at a new study that found that children raised with religion were at a disadvantage in discerning fact from fiction.  Here are excerpts:
In two studies, 5- and 6-year-old children were questioned about the status of the protagonist embedded in three different types of stories," an abstract published by Cognitive Sciencea journal of the professional Cognitive Science Society. "In realistic stories that only included ordinary events, all children, irrespective of family background and schooling, claimed that the protagonist was a real person. In religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention, claims about the status of the protagonist varied sharply with exposure to religion."
Children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school, or both, judged the protagonist in religious stories to be a real person, whereas secular children with no such exposure to religion judged the protagonist in religious stories to be fictional. Children's upbringing was also related to their judgment about the protagonist in fantastical stories that included ordinarily impossible events whether brought about by magic (Study 1) or without reference to magic (Study 2). Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional.

The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children's differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.
The study, “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” was led by Kathleen Corriveau, a Boston University Assistant Professor. . . 

Bottom line: Researchers concluded that "religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible, that is, a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary causal relations."
Perhaps this explains why the GOP base so easily accepts that party's policies which are opposed to objective fact and reality.

Anti-Gay Christians Claim Employment Discrimiantio and "Persecution"

Never under estimate the hypocrisy and baldfaced lies of the "godly folk."  After virtually centuries of persecuting - and often murdering gays - these folks are whining and claiming that they are being persecuted and facing employment discrimination because employers don't allow them to bring their anti-gay animus to the workplace.  In their distorted reality, anything that lessens their ability to make life miserable for others is persecution.  Their selfishness and self-centered mindset are both amazing and frightening.  A piece in Slate looks at these disingenuous claims.  Here are highlights:

In America, LGBTQ people face persistent, systemic, widespread employment discrimination. Christians do not. In many states, LGBTQ people have no legal recourse to redress employment discrimination. Christians do—in every state in the country.

Given this set of facts, you might be surprised to see conservative Christians panicking that the country is entering an age of anti-Christian discrimination—they might even use the rather biblical-sounding term, persecution—in the workplace. But panic is precisely what coitus-obsessed anti-gay professor Robert P. George is inciting his conservative brethren to do. In a recent blog post, George described a survey reportedly sent out to JPMorgan Chase bank employees asking them whether they are:
1) A person with disabilities;
2) A person with children with disabilities;
3) A person with a spouse/domestic partner with disabilities;
4) A member of the LGBT community.
5) An ally of the LGBT community, but not personally identifying as LGBT.
Companies send out questionnaires like these all the time for benign and banal reasons: gauging diversity, benefits needs, mentorship programs, and so on. They’re utterly unremarkable and common to many workplaces—especially on Wall Street, a corporate leader in LGBTQ equality. Yet here is George’s apocalyptic interpretation:
The message to all employees is perfectly clear: You are expected to fall into line with the approved and required thinking. Nothing short of assent is acceptable. Silent dissent will no longer be permitted.
Conservative commentators quickly drew from George’s hysterical paranoia to whip up a brief news cycle of outrage. Breitbart's Austin Ruse—who once described gay people as “intrinsically disordered and abnormal”—penned a frenzied rant describing the questionnaire as an “LGBT loyalty test.” The collapsing and hypocritical National Organization for Marriage fundraised off of it, labeling the survey “tactics of intimidation.”
[T]he story plays right into a developing narrative on the far right: LGBTQ people, they insist, are the true oppressors, and conservative Christians an embattled, discriminated-against minority.

This persecution complex—which actually began long before the Brendan Eich controversy—is so asinine that I almost regret wasting space refuting it. But the fear needs a rebuttal, because, daft as it may be, it’s also dangerous. Recasting a tiny, historically despised minority as a covertly powerful conspiracy of puppeteers is a time-honored smear tactic used to vilify Jews and other disfavored demographics. 

Christians, who make up an overwhelming majority of the American populace, face no widespread discrimination in the workplace—instead, some are arguing for their own special right to discriminate against gay people with legal impunity.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

“The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies” - Interim Thoughts

I mentioned recently that a friend had given the husband and me a book entitled “The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies” which looks at the existence and role of homosexuality and bisexuality throughout history.  I am still reading the book, but the main take away so far is that homosexuality and bisexuality were recognized and accepted throughout the world and throughout diverse cultures.  All of that changed when European Christians launched their global colonial conquest and with it their imposition of sexual mores derived from Church fathers who could be describes as neurotic at best and perhaps more correctly outright mentally ill.

Illustrative of the sexual freedom that seemingly existed is a  papyrus which is believed to be the oldest known depiction of sex on record. The papyrus, painted sometime in the Ramesside Period (1292-1075 B.C.E.), is known as the “Turin Erotic Papyrus” because of their “discovery” in the Egyptian Museum of Turin, Italy.  One article notes the ancients' approach to sex:
The number of sexual positions the papyrus illustrates—twelve in all—“fall somewhere between impressively acrobatic and unnervingly ambitious,” one even involving a chariot. Apart from its obvious fertility symbols, writes archaeology blog Ancient Peoples, the papyrus also has a “humorous and/or satirical” purpose, and probably a male audience—evidenced, perhaps, by its resemblance to 70’s porn: “the men are mostly unkept, unshaven, and balding […], whereas the women are the ideal of beauty in Egypt.”

[T]he culture reveled in a stylized ritual sexuality quite different from our own limited mores. Sacred temple prostitutes held a privileged position and mythological narratives incorporated unbiased descriptions of homosexuality and transgenderism. Ancient Egyptians even expected to have sex after death, attaching fabricated organs to their mummies. The above applies mainly to a certain class of Egyptian. As archaeologist David O’Connor points out, the Turin Erotic Papyrus’ high “artistic merit” marks it as within the provenance of “an elite owner and audience.”

The inscriptions are also an important part of the papyrus because they indicate us that it is not just the men that are enjoying themselves; 

So what changed?  The Catholic Church's bizarre abhorrence of all things sexual that developed in the Middle Ages.  Who was behind this bizarre obsession?  Leading Church fathers who were disturbed to say the least.  Here are some examples of how these very sick, bizarre men viewed sex:

". . . .the reformers as a group considered sex and other pleasurable experiences tainted by evil and a potent source of sin.  They were not merely suspicious of sex, but hostile to any sexual activity at all save for marital relations undertaken expressly and consciously to conceive a child.  . . . . were determined to limit marital sex to the absolute minimum, and on penalizing extra-marital sex as harshly as possible."

" . . .  married couples were allowed sexual intercourse under only three conditions: 1) for the explicit purpose of conceiving a child; 2) to prevent the temptation of marital infidelity; and 3) to yield to the unrelenting demands -  most likely sinful - of their partner. Even then the sexual intercourse could not be performed in the daytime, had to be in the "missionary position', could not be performed on Sundays, Wednesdays or Fridays - removing the equivalent of five months of the year - and was not to be performed during Lent or other forbidden times. . . All other sexual activity was categorically condemned."

"To assist the couple in their performance of intercourse with as little pleasure as possible, therefore, a device, chemise cagoule, was invented a heavy nightshirt with a hole strategically placed to allow the husband to impregnate his wife with as little bodily contact possible."

"In [St. Peter] Damian's mind, sex was a "violation, sacrilege, profanition, contagion, or corruption. Sex is never the product of love, only of animal lust"  Damian's hatred of sex extended even to loathing of the human body which he called "hideous putrefaction and filth," and consumed by lust.  . . . as clerical reform progressed in the 12th and 13th centuries, Peter Damian's  attitude to sex was to set the tone for the writings on sexual morality of the Church's most influential moral leaders."
I will provide other thoughts as I move through the portion of the book aptly entitled"Sexual Neurosis in Western Society."  These Church fathers belonged in mental wards, not in positions to dictate morality to others.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty