Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Homophobic World of Surfing

I began surfing when my son was age 11 and wanted to learn to surf.  His mother was not keen on the idea of him venturing into the ocean alone, so yours truly was recruited/directed to start relearning to surf at age 45 after not paddling out on a surf board since I was about 22.   Both of us came to love surfing and my son got to be pretty good as did two of his boy cousins (both of my daughters ultimately learned to surf as well).   My son and I and his friends had many wonderful "boys surf trips" to Hatteras Island over the years driving down in a huge Ford Crown Victoria Country Squire wagon that could easily handle six or more surf boards plus my son and at least 3 of his friends.  

Surfing is wonderful for a number of reasons: it's great exercise, it's a great form of stress release - something I needed desperately in my closeted years - and it is a wonderful way to enjoy nature and the ocean.  The draw back is that surfing culture tends to be kind of macho and not what one would describe as gay friendly, especially at the professional surfer level. My blogosphere friend Thomas Castets of Australia decided that this mindset need to change and launched his website which I have written about before.    I signed up early on and now the organization as a documentary entitled "Out in the Line Up" which looks at gays and surfing (I am purchasing a copy) .  The Guardian has a piece on the organization.  Here are highlights:

When Thomas Castets sat down at his computer in Sydney four years ago and began writing a blog, he had one modest aim. “I thought it would be nice if I could find at least one other gay surfer out there,” he says. “And find out if they had some time to surf with me.”

Within two weeks, 300 people had got in touch. Now his website,, is a thriving social network with almost 6,000 members, ranging from former world champions to people living in villages in West Africa. And as the membership grew – to include many who thought they were only gay surfer in the world – so did the stories. Surfers, including many professional ones, were writing to Castets to explain how they had felt compelled to keep their sexuality secret, faced homophobia in the sport or struggled in the surf industry as a result of coming out.

Last year Thomas, along with Australian former state champion surfer David Wakefield – who chose not to pursue a surfing career out of a fear of being “found out” as gay – decided to go on a trip around the world to meet some of them. Their journey – captured in award-winning documentary Out in the Line-up, which premieres in the UK this week – sheds a light on the experiences of gay surfers around the world as it seeks to understand why the sport continues to struggle to be open about the issue.

Among the stories heard are that of former competitive surfer Susie Hernandez, whose fellow surfers and roommates moved out after finding out she was gay. And Robbins Thompson, who was a pro surfer in the 90s but dropped out of a tour after finding the word “fag” spray-painted on his car. It also touches on the tragic case of Ben Roper, a young gay surfer from one of Sydney’s infamous surf gangs, the Bra Boys, who killed himself last year.

“Surfing is still locked in its old stereotypes from the 60s,” says Castets, describing the tanned, blond, ripped, definitely heterosexual nomad most of us still imagine when we think of a surfer. “There’s not much room for the individual in surfing.”

The issue of homosexuality and surfing draws in a lot of wider problems the sport has with diversity in general – something that seems at odds with the easy-going, counterculture lifestyle many feel it represents. There is still yet to be an openly gay male pro surfer at the elite level who is currently on tour – despite the fact that more traditional sports, such as football, rugby and boxing, have had successful athletes come out.

“There are a lot of reasons why surfing has this problem,” says Castets. “One cause is that surfing is, unfortunately, primarily a male-dominated sport. And when you have all these men travelling together, hunting for waves, there is an element to the psychology that is about making sure there is no ambiguity between the men. To prove your heterosexuality, you need to prove your skills in the water. And another cause is just that there have never really been any gay surfers out there, so I would just call that ignorance and a lack of visibility.”

The marketing of surfing is also markedly heterosexual. It is dominated by white men, and female surfers are frequently objectified – an issue that came to the fore last September, when sports clothing brand Roxy ran an advert for a surf competition featuring seductive shots of surfer Stephanie Gilmore’s body, without any footage of her actually surfing. As Kennelly says, female surfers are required to be “straight, young, feminine, pretty … oh yeah, and a talented surfer”.

Not one straight professional surfer they approached was prepared to speak publicly about the issue on film.

Leading surf organisations responded with equal aversion. Surfing Australia declined to comment, while the Association of Surfing Professionals agreed to go on film, but then withdrew permission to run the interview at late notice. “That’s when we realised it was a real taboo,” says Thomson. “They just don’t want to know about it and they don’t want to talk about it. But then in their backyards there are people killing themselves, people suffering from depression, surfers having great careers cut short by what’s going on. So that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ mentality, which ultimately didn’t work for the US military, cannot work in the future for surfing either.”

“I thought if we were able to make this film, we would be able to change that stereotype and show a new image of what it is to be gay in 2014. It goes beyond just gay surfers. It is a story about being able to live your life the way you are, without being bound by the stereotypes of the subculture.”

Kudos to Thomas and those who worked on this important film!!

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

State laws regarding same-sex marriage in the United States1

  Same-sex marriage legal
  Same-sex marriage performed elsewhere recognized
  Same-sex marriage legalization pending, but not yet in effect2
  No prohibition or recognition of same-sex marriage in territory law
  Judicial ruling(s) overturning the same-sex marriage ban stayed indefinitely pending appeal
  Judicial ruling(s) overturning the ban on recognizing same-sex marriage performed elsewhere stayed indefinitely pending appeal
  Same-sex marriage banned contrary to federal appellate court precedent
  Same-sex marriage banned

If you are having a hard time keeping up with the dizzying pace of change on the same sex marriage over the past week - no one could have expected what's occurred this time just last week - the New York Times has a good summary that can be found here with the latest updates.  The image above is the latest revised version of marriage equality from Wikipedia.  For Virginia readers, here's the part of the piece that applies to Virginia:

Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday was set to join the list of high-ranking American officials presiding at a same-sex wedding. Gay marriage has been legal in Virginia for only five days.

Mr. McAuliffe, who campaigned in support of same-sex marriage last fall, was scheduled to officiate at the marriage of Katherine Bradley-Black, 44, and Renée Bradley, 50, at their home in Northern Virginia.

The women, both education administrators whom Mr. McAuliffe met through a mutual friend, have been together for 18 years and have two children, ages 12 and 8. They are among the scores of couples who have snapped up marriages certificates since the Supreme Court order on Monday.
Elections DO matter - one can just imagine the chaos that would be reigning in Virginia right now had Ken Cuccinelli  won the governorship last November.

Meanwhile, the Christofascists are  beside themselves and calling for massive "civil disobedience" akin to Virginia's "Massive Resistance" after the Supreme Court ordered school desegregation - in my view, scratch a homophobe and you'll likely find a racist as well - and threatening to bolt from the Republican Party if the GOP doesn't stop same sex marriage.    They offer no explanation, of course, as to what the GOP is supposed to do since refusing to obey valid federal court orders would open up elected officials for removal from office.   Right Wing Watch has a compilation of the spittle flecked shrieks of the "godly folk."  Here are some examples:

Hate group leader Linda Harvey (who has no legitimate job and has been a parasite living off of homophobia for years) -

Linda Harvey of Mission America warned on her radio bulletin yesterday that America has entered “a time of possible civil disobedience” following the Supreme Court’s recent marriage equality announcement, telling listeners that “we must not serve the interests of sin and darkness” and “this court’s inaction is an act motivated by evil and deception and ultimately will not stand.”

“This is attempted theft of what God has ordained and our Lord will not honor this lawlessness,” Harvey said. “Allowing homosexuality to become normal in America may certainly be part of God’s judgment on our once-Christian nation for our irresponsible sexual practices and for turning our back on what the Lord has taught us.

Harvey hoped the court’s action will actually give a boost to the work of anti-gay activists
Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and dean of  Liberty University Laws School, a daily embarassment to Virginia, exemplifies the shrieks against the GOP.   Ironically, he says a third party is needed to fight gay marriage which he equates to slavery, even though he and his followers are the direct descendants of the pro-slavery crowd and segregationists -

Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver, who is still reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision this week to allow several lower-court marriage equality rulings to stand, is now lambasting his fellow Republicans for failing to defend the party’s anti-gay positions.

Staver told Greg Corombos of Radio America yesterday that a third party will be needed to take a strong stance against the legalization of same-sex marriage, just as the Republican Party emerged in the 1850s to oppose slavery as the Whigs were foundering due to divisions on the issue.

When Corombos asked why Republicans have delivered a muted response to the marriage decision, Staver didn’t hold back: “They’re cowards, and if Republicans don’t stand up for this, the party will become a non-issue and there will be a third party that will ultimately take its place. That’s what happened with the issue of slavery and there’s no party that’s immune from this situation.”

Staver urged Republicans to ignore polls showing growing support for marriage equality: “Just because polls change, that doesn’t make the marriage issue change. You can’t change gravity because a number of people want to fly and get rid of gravity.”

He predicted that the tide will soon turn against gay rights advocates as “more people feel the impact of same-sex marriage, both directly within the family but also specifically with regards to religious liberty.”

I have long considered Staver to be mentally imbalanced and way too hysterical about gays for someone who doesn't have serious issues of their own.

The Gay Divide: Victories in the West and Renewed Repression in the East

In the euphoria of watching anti-gay laws crashing down in America and other modern nations (a term that in my view does not include Russia and some of the former Soviet Republics since they are largely governed as feudal dictatorships), it is easy to forget that LGBT people in other parts of the world are facing a horrific backlash prompted by factors that vary from (i) American Christofascists exporting hate and homophobia to nations with ignorant and gullible populations, (ii) continued Islamic fundamentalism, to (iii) the cynical use of homophobia by near dictators to distract their countryman of the failures of their rule.  Vladimir Putin, of course, falls into this latter category.  Uganda and other African nations fall into the first.  A piece in The Economist looks at the sad divergence in what is happening to LGBT people.  Here are excerpts:
THERE was a teenager in Arizona in the 1970s who “could no more imagine longing to touch a woman than longing to touch a toaster”. But he convinced himself that he was not gay. Longing to be “normal”, he blamed his obsession with muscular men on envy of their good looks. It was not until he was 25 that he admitted the truth to himself—let alone other people. In 1996 he wrote a cover leader for The Economist in favour of same-sex marriage. He never thought it would happen during his lifetime. Yet now he is married to the man he loves and living in a Virginia suburb where few think this odd.

The change in attitudes to homosexuality in many countries—not just the West but also Latin America, China and other places—is one of the wonders of the world (see article). This week America’s Supreme Court gave gay marriage another big boost, by rejecting several challenges to it; most Americans already live in states where gays can wed. But five countries still execute gay people: Iran hangs them; Saudi Arabia stones them. Gay sex is illegal in 78 countries, and a few have recently passed laws that make gay life even grimmer. The gay divide is one of the world’s widest (see article). What caused it? And will tolerance eventually spread?
The leap forward has been startlingly quick. In the 1950s gay sex was illegal nearly everywhere. In Britain, on the orders of a home secretary who vowed to “eradicate” it, undercover police were sent out to loiter in bars, entrap gay men and put them in jail. In China in the 1980s homosexuals were rounded up and sent to labour camps without trial. All around the world gay people lived furtively and in fear. Laws banning “sodomy” remained in some American states until 2003.

Today gay sex is legal in at least 113 countries. Gay marriages or civil unions are recognised in three dozen and parts of others. In most of the West it is no longer socially acceptable to be homophobic. Gay life in China is now both legal and, in cities, undisguised. Latin America is even more gay-friendly: 74% of Argentines and 60% of Brazilians believe that society should accept homosexuality.
Yet there are still parts of the world where it is not safe to be homosexual. Extra-judicial beatings and murders are depressingly common in much of Africa and in some Muslim countries. African gangs subject lesbians to “corrective rape”. In some countries persecution has intensified. Chad is poised to ban gay sex. Nigeria and Uganda have passed draconian anti-gay laws (though a court recently struck Uganda’s down). Russia and a few other countries have barred the “promotion” of homosexuality.

This is partly a reaction to the spread of gay rights in the West. Thanks to globalisation, people who live in places where everyone agrees that homosexuality is an abomination can now see pictures of gay-pride parades in Sydney or men marrying men in Massachusetts. They find this shocking. Meanwhile some homophobic Western preachers have gone to fire up anti-gay audiences in Africa, and American conservatives offer advice to countries thinking of drafting anti-gay laws.
By taking up arms against an imaginary Western plot to spread perversion, Vladimir Putin and Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan doubtless hope to distract attention from the corruption and incompetence of their own regimes. But they have picked their scapegoats shrewdly: 74% of Russians and 98% of Nigerians disapprove of homosexuality.

Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism, at least in the long term. Urbanisation helps. It is easier to find a niche in a big, anonymous city than in a village where everyone knows your business. Gay life in the Indian countryside is still awful; in Mumbai or Delhi it is much easier, despite being illegal.

Emerging countries in Asia and Latin America have generally grown kinder to gay people as they have grown richer, more open and more democratic. The hope is that as Africa and the Arab world catch up, they will follow suit.

What could help spread tolerance? If the past half-century is any guide, the prime movers will be gay people themselves. The more visible they are, the more normal they will seem. These days 75% of Americans say they have gay friends or colleagues, up from only 24% in 1985. But it is hard to be the first to come out in a country where that means prison or worse.

For those who cling to the notion of progress, it is hard to believe that tolerance will not spread. After all, gay people are not demanding special treatment, just the same freedoms that everyone else takes for granted: to love whom they please and to marry whom they love.
 Note again the importance of living one's life openly and in the process dispelling the lies and stereotypes our enemies work to keep alive.   Living totally "out" both socially and professionally has not only allowed me to at long last come to self acceptance, but I suspect the husband and I help changes some minds on a daily basis.  Step out of the closet and change your life and change society.

Friday, October 10, 2014

More Friday Male Beauty

Gay Marriage Now Legal in North Carolina

The dominoes are falling at an amazing rate.  Idaho has capitulated to the ruling ,of the 9th Circuit and late today a federal court in Charlotte struck down North Carolina's ban on same sex marriage (e.g. Amendment 1), ending a brief flow of same sex couples to Virginia to marry.   Frankly, I get almost teary eyed knowing that now when the husband and I go down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, our marriage will be recognized and valid. The Charlotte Observer repots on today's events.  Here are highlights:
Same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina on Friday, with the federal judge ordering the state to immediately set aside its ban.

With a stroke of his pen in a Charlotte-based lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn of Asheville struck down the state’s laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman.

In doing so, he erased Amendment One, the country’s last voter-approved, constitutional marriage ban, and a cultural, spiritual and political lightning rod in North Carolina.

The attorney for Republican legislative leaders trying a last-ditch effort to preserve the ban said Friday night that an appeal is possible. But for now it appears limited to narrow grounds, and legal experts said it had little chance of success. 

“We won!” said Charlotte lawyer Jake Sussman, lead attorney for a group of gay couples, religious leaders and other groups who argued that the state bans violated their freedom of religion and equal protection under the law.

Gov. Pat McCrory said the state would comply. “The administration is moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts,” he said.

Read more here:
Mecklenburg Register of Deeds David Granberry said he wedding licenses would be made available to gay couples on Monday morning, only because he didn’t have permission to stay open late Friday.

Elsewhere, the wedding march had already begun. In Raleigh, the county’s register of deeds issued her first same-sex wedding license at 5:44 p.m., and a ceremony quickly followed.

In Asheville and Greensboro, the county register of deeds offices stayed open hours past closing time to handle the rush of same-sex couples.

Read more here:

Read more here:
[Judge] Cogburn, a former federal prosecutor appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, did not wait.  First he denied the Republican leaders’ motion to intervene. Minutes later, he filed his final order, saying that the state’s ban violated the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights of equal protection under law.  In doing so, the state’s newest marriage lawsuit, which was filed in April, became the first to render a decision.

Read more here:

Cogburn’s ruling capped off a 48-hour paper chase of motions and counter motions, arguments and rebuttals. Much of it was part of a Republican effort to delay what appeared inevitable Monday, when the Supreme Court announced it would not review lower court marriage rulings in five states.

One of those decisions, which struck down a same-sex marriage ban in Virginia, came from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. It has jurisdiction over the Carolinas. The Supreme Court’s decision freed up the lawsuits that had been put on hold until the high court made its thinking known.  Yet [GOP House Speaker Thom] Tillis, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, and Berger pushed on.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who has been following North Carolina’s marriage fight, said the legislators’ chances of success are diminished because they stayed out of the two-year fight until the end. 

“The last-minute pleas are less persuasive,” Tobias said. “Courts do give some deference to elected officials. But it is difficult to see what they are doing here except wasting time, money and energy for partisan political purposes that will lead nowhere.”

Read more here:

Congratulations to LGBT North Carolinians.  I sincerely ope that the efforts of Republican legislators (especially Tillis) to shameless prostitute themselves to Christofascists will be duly noted by decent, moral people - a group that excludes Christofascists  -  and that they will bear a price at the polls.

Read more here:
Congratulations to my gay and lesbianspy

Catholic Cardinal: Parents Should Shield Children from Gay Family Members

Cardinal Burke - Self-Loathing Closet Case?
The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has participated in a worldwide criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice and protect predatory priests from prosecution.  Various calculations put the number of victims across the globe in the hundreds of thousands.  Yet Cardinal Burke has the gall and audacity to make statements that parents should keep their children away from gay family members.   Excuse me, but if one is truly worried about the well-being of their children, keeping them away from Catholic priests would seem to be the far smarter approach.  And that's without factoring in how much the Catholic Church f*cks one up emotionally and psychologically.  Blogger friend Jeremy Hooper looks at Burke's heinous lies and anti-gay animus.   Here are excerpts from Good As You:
Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis, is now the Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. This essentially means that he is second only to the Pope in terms of judicial authority within the Catholic Church.

And now here he is putting to lie the idea that the Catholic Church is becoming more accepting:
If homosexual relations are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are — reason teaches us that and also our faith — then, what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?”..."We wouldn’t, if it were another kind of relationship — something that was profoundly disordered and harmful — we wouldn't expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.”
Covering up the sexual abuse of children and youths is always and everywhere wrong, yet I don't see or hear of Burke demanding the defrocking of bishops and cardinals who aided and abetted sexual predator priests. I can only assume that Burke is a big time self-loathing closet case.  Seriously, what straight man would wear the freaking outfit he's wearing in the photo above? 

Gov. McAuliffe: Gay Married Couples Can Adopt in Virginia

The ripple effects from this week's indirect affirming of the 4th Circuit's ruling striking down Virginia's bans on same sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court continue to reveal themselves, much I am sure, to the dismay of the Christofascists.  Up until now, Virginia law has not clearly allow same sex couples to adopt children and the issue of second parent adoptions has been equally murky.   Now, in the wake of this week's historic events, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, has indicated that legally married same sex couples can adopt just as married heterosexual couples and directives have gone out to local social services boards to that effect.  The next step that will be need to be taken is to require all adoption agencies receiving state tax funds to accept marriage equality.  One can only hope that the flow of state funds will be cut off from agencies that refuse to recognize same sex marriages. The Virginian Pilot looks at this development.  Here are highlights:
Gov. Terry McAuliffe today extended adoption rights to married same-sex couples, another in a series of benefits flowing from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday sanctioning gay marriage in Virginia.

At McAuliffe’s direction, local social services departments across the state were told that legally married same-sex couples — whether married in Virginia or elsewhere -- can now be considered for adoptive and foster homes.

“Now that same-sex marriage in Virginia is officially legal, we owe it to all Virginians to ensure that every couple is treated equally under all of our laws, no matter whom they love,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “This historic decision opened the door to marriage equality, and now it is my sincerest hope that it will also open more doors for Virginia children who need loving families.

“By formally recognizing that same-sex couples can now legally adopt, we are more fully complying with the ruling in this important case, and sending the message once again that Virginia is open and welcoming to everyone.”

Among the other benefits flowing from that order are health coverage for same-sex spouses of state employees and the ability of same-sex couples to file joint state income tax returns.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Right's New Strategy After Gay Marriage Loss

While still reeling - and thrashing around in spittle flecked convulsions - over this weeks tidal wave of new marriage equality states, some in the Christofascist ranks, especially the professional Christian crowd which sees its lucrative livelihood seriously threatened as marriage equity spreads,  are seeking new approaches to keep their income streams alive and to work to denigrate and discriminate against LGBT citizens.  In a column at Huffington Post, Finding the Gay 'Partial Birth Abortion'."  Here are column highlights:

A little over a week ago at the Values Voters Summit (VVS), I spoke with Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), and he was positively certain that the Supreme Court would take one of the marriage cases it rejected yesterday  . . . . Not only that, he was pretty sure that, since the high court had stayed decisions and stopped gay marriages from proceeding in Utah and Virginia after lower courts had rule those states' bans unconstitutional, marriage equality opponents would prevail after the court took the case, upholding gay marriage bans all across the country. 

Instead, the court not only brought marriage equality instantly to five states by not hearing the appeals of the lower court rulings; in short order another six states in the circuits affected will likely have marriage equality. And today, Brian Brown is furious and stunned at the decision. But he and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and others are vowing to fight on. They are delusional if not just doing fundraising -- claiming they can still win at the high court -- but they're also being pragmatic, looking to the future. And it's on that last note that we had better pay attention.

The plan now is to turn themselves into the victims, persecuted as their "religious liberties" are under terrible assault, and to use the dangerous Hobby Lobby decision from the Supreme Court to discriminate in the name of religious liberties. We've of course seen some of this rhetoric both before and after Hobby Lobby. Expect it just to intensify big time.

On a panel at VVS titled "The Future of Marriage," Frank Schubert, the mastermind strategist of the Proposition 8 campaign and other marriage ban campaigns across the country, said that if by chance marriage equality opponents lost at the high court, as pretty much happened yesterday, they would have to go the route they did with abortion after Roe v. Wade. They'd have to seek "incremental" wins, he said, as they did then, chipping away slowly at abortion rights, which of course has been very successful. Schubert then said they'd have to the find the gay "version" of "partial birth abortion." I almost fell off my seat on that one.

[H]e talked about "conscience clauses" and "religious liberties," which brings us back to Hobby Lobby, businesses that don't want to serve gays, adoption by gay parents, and lots of other issues. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association told me at VVS that they aren't giving up and, persistent as he is, he tweeted that to me last night as well. 

Nobody should think that they won't regroup and find different ways to attack LGBT people and other groups, armed with a new plan. It's simply what they do.

"Social Conservatives" Could Doom the Republican Party

Speaking of religious extremism in follow up to the last post, we can see the evils of fundamentalist religious belief in the circumstances facing the Republican Party.  Years back the GOP, in a short sighted, cynical ploy to win elections, welcomed Christofascists into the party.  Not only that, they allowed them to infiltrate and largely take over the party grassroots.  These extremists were actually knowingly voted onto city and county committees and a Frankenstein monster was created.  As Christofascists became ever more numerous, sane, rational Republicans fled - I and my entire family left the GOP - the insanity which intertwines a toxic form of Christianity with the nations civil laws took a tighter hold over the GOP.  As a piece in Salon explores, the GOP may be getting closer to paying a much deserved price for getting in bed with evil (and not just the evil of the Koch brothers).  Here are excerpts from the piece:
I wrote a piece earlier about the GOP’s “three-legged stool” that stands for “family values, small government and strong national defense” in light of the recent resurgence of jingoistic fear-mongering in the 2014 campaign ads. The commentary on the right has been shifting perceptibly day by day as the threat of ISIS and our renewed military involvement in the Middle East tickled the martial lizard brain into action. But what of the other legs on the stool? The Christian Right is very likely to be on board with whatever military adventures the Republicans push (they usually are) but they are also likely to be agitated at the loss of prestige within the party and what they see as a defeatist attitude toward such issues a gay marriage and contraception.

The right wing firebrands’ reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision not to make a decision on marriage equality this week is instructive.

Christian Right leader and possible presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said:
“It is shocking that many elected officials, attorneys and judges think that a court ruling is the ‘final word,’” Huckabee said. “It most certainly is not. . . . It is NOT the ‘law of the land’ as is often heralded.”
[H]e probably spoke for many members of the religious right in his anger that the Court didn’t take the opportunity to strike down the abomination of marriage equality, especially since they’d been led to believe that they finally achieved their goal of a conservative majority that would give them everything they want when they want it.

[T]he last few years have left the social conservatives feeling a bit bereft. Their candidates have been marginalized for believing odd myths like the one which says a woman’s body “shuts down” and won’t allow pregnancy as a result of rape or making impolitic statements about the sexual habits of the 97% of women who use birth control. 

Ed Kilgore sees a new wrinkle in all this that’s bound to tie the GOP up in knots if it comes to pass:
[A]s the “religious liberty” movement continues to develop, you could see it morph into the theoretical foundation for a parallel society in which the painful diversity of contemporary life, and its disturbing clatter of demands for “equality” and “non-discrimination” and “rights” (other than religious rights and the Right To Life, of course) is simply excluded, along with “government schools” and secular news and entertainment.

But there’s danger in too much reliance on liberating conservatives from “judicial activism” via an ever-expanding zone of “religious liberty:” opponents of same-sex marriage and abortion/contraception could become complacent and lose the spiritual muscle-tone provided by fighting to restore godly norms for all Americans. There’s a long history of conservative evangelicals retreating into apolitical and interior lives; that’s where they largely existed for many decades prior to the 1970s.
Wouldn’t it be something if the Republican Party ended up kicking out one of the legs of its famous stool through the “judicial activism” of the most conservative Supreme Court in memory? It’s a distinct possibility. Stay tuned.
With the country's demographics changing rapidly and societal acceptance of gays and contraception surging,  if the GOP continues to embrace the Christofascists and allows these extremists to dictate the GOP's platform, the party runs the risk of becoming a permanent minority party - especially after the 2020 census and redrawing of what for now are safe gerrymandered GOP districts.  If the GOP doesn't do something soon, it will be akin to the passengers and crew of the Titanic as they sped toward disaster. 

Muslim Scholars Must Break the Theological Claims of Extremism

In follow up to a topic that was mentioned in a post yesterday about the toxicity of some forms of Islam, the New York Times has provided room for debate on whether and how Muslims need to respond to extremists groups within the faith that seek to use the Koran to justify horrors and persecute non-believers and stifle any form of dissent.  Some say that Muslims do not need to justify themselves or directly confront extremist elements who they dismiss as "not real Muslims."  This mindset is, to me, akin to the "good Christians" in this nation that remain focused in their only faith world and refuse to confront Christofascists who are steadily killing the Christian brand.  Sticking one's head in the sand doesn't provide a solution.  Rather, it allows evil to metastasize.   A second argument, which I believe to be a better solution makes the case that the "good Muslims" must tear down the theology used by extremist to justify atrocities and contempt for others.  Here are highlights of that argument:
Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Islamic State – there can be no doubt that Muslims have an extremism problem. Its causes are many, including failure of governance, absence of democracy, a culture of intolerance and geopolitics.

Muslim states are either unable to combat violent extremists or recognize them as threats. Some countries view them as assets to be used for their own geopolitical purposes and actually nurture them. This geopolitical blind spot is a key problem.

Muslim scholars have tried to counteract their threat but their biggest error in doing so is that they limit their condemnation to political extremism without also condemning the theological extremism that underpins it.

For example, when Islamic leaders condemn acts of violence against intellectuals or minorities after accusations of blasphemy, they do not condemn the scholars who give fatwas of blasphemy or takfir (excommunication). They also do not refute the theology that supports use of such vigilantism.

Many Islamic groups condemned both Boko Haram and ISIS as un-Islamic. This is a welcome development. But they did not also condemn the Salafi theology that underpins the literal and shallow understanding of Islamic principles that inform groups such as ISIS. It is like trying to treat the symptoms while allowing the cause to metastasize.  

Muslim scholars must not only counter the worldview that makes Islam, a religion of peace, into an ideology of violence theologically, but must also develop programs to educate their communities about the dangers of nurturing narrow and intolerant interpretations of Islamic scriptures. This must be done systematically in schools, at Friday sermons and at Islamic conferences. 

But most important, mosques and Islamic schools must initiate programs that encourage young Muslims to work with and in other religious communities.  

To be clear, I am not anti-Muslim.  I am against fundamental religions of all faiths.  Fundamentalism history is one of murder, mayhem and toxic evil.  We need to see "good Christians" and "good Muslims" stand up to extremists within their faiths.  One can only hope that Muslims can ultimately rise to this challenge better than most "good Christians" do in this country.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

More Thursday Male Beauty

Supreme Court Blocks GOP Voter Disenfranchisement Law

This blog has repeatedly noted that part of the Republican Party's  playbook is to disenfranchise as many minority voters as possible so that the shrinking GOP base can still manage to cast a majority of votes.   In state after state, GOP controlled legislatures have passed strict voter ID laws under the guise of preventing nonexistent voter fraud.  This evening, the U. S. Supreme Court blocked the GOP passed bill in Wisconsin.  Similarly, a federal court in Texas has blocked that state's GOP enacted draconian voter ID law.  First these highlights from the Washington Post:
The Supreme Court on Thursday stopped officials in Wisconsin from requiring voters there to provide photo identification before casting their ballots in the coming election.

Three of the court’s more conservative members dissented, saying they would have allowed officials to require identification.

The requirement, one of the strictest in the nation, is part of a state law enacted in 2011 but mostly blocked by various courts in the interim. A federal trial judge had blocked it, saying it would “deter or prevent a substantial number of the 300,000-plus registered voters who lack ID from voting,” disproportionately affecting black and Hispanic voters.
In Texas, the Houston Chronicle looks at the breaking news in that state.  Here are excerpts:
A federal judge on Thursday blocked Texas from enforcing voter ID requirements just weeks ahead of the November elections, knocking down a law that the U.S. Justice Department condemned in court as the state's latest means of suppressing minority turnout.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi is a defeat for Republican-backed photo ID measures that have swept across the U.S. in recent years and mostly been upheld in court. However, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday night blocked Wisconsin from implementing a law requiring voters to present photo IDs.

Gonzales Ramos, an appointee of President Barack Obama, never signaled during a two-week trial in September that she intended to rule on the Texas law — rebuked as the toughest of its kind in the U.S. — before Election Day. But the timing could spare an estimated 13.6 million registered Texas voters from needing one of seven kinds of photos identification to cast a ballot.

The Justice Department says more than 600,000 of those voters, mostly blacks and Hispanics, currently lack any eligible ID to vote.
Rather than change its platform to meet the views and needs of a changing population, the GOP prefers to continue to prostitute itself to Christofascists and white supremacists.   Once again, I find myself ashamed to have ever been a Republican.  Today's GOP is very, very ugly. 


ISIS and Islam - A Case Study of the Evils of Religion

As regular readers know, I am no fiend to religion, and fundamentalist religion in particular.  Our the centuries, religion has brought untold needless wars and deaths and countless ruined lives.  Coupled with this is the reality that time and time again we see fundamentalist Christians and Muslims rebelling against knowledge, education and modernity.  Why?  Because they all call into question the myths found in the Bible and the Koran.  They also encourage a debate about the meaning and binding authority of both of these supposed "holy books," something that is anathema to fundamentalists.  With the horrors now being perpetrated by ISIS, it is only natural that Islam is being given harsh scrutiny.  Some apologists for Islam are trying to make the case that the followers of ISIS are not "real Muslims."  That's akin to saying that foul far right Christians in America aren't "real Christians."  Andrew Sullivan has followed the debate and has some dead on reflections (most are also applicable to America's far right Christofascists).  Here are some excerpts:
Hitch’s arguments about what must follow from a religious text still regarded as perfect and pristine and utterly unquestionable, and a caliph or Shi’a theocrat regarded as a “supreme leader”, and a politics saturated in apocalypticism, and a culture marinated in absurd levels of sexual repression, and an endemic suppression of blasphemy and apostasy as unthinkable offenses, stand the test of time.

The totalism of Islam is as dangerous as any other totalism – and liberals better understand that about it.

Yes, it is vital to make distinctions between the various ways in which Islam is practised across the world – which reveals some potential for reform, in the way that Christianity and Judaism have reformed and examined themselves over the past century. But the resilient absence of a collective understanding that religious violence simply is not worth it. . . . is a real problem. 

Until the Shi’a and Sunni love the future more than they hate each other, until the Koran can be discussed and debated there and around the world the way any other religious text is discussed, until apostasy is respected and not criminalized, we will have more trouble in store.

Does this explain everything? Of course not. Culture, history, politics matter just as powerfully and can lead to different manifestations in time and place. Certainly there was a time in which Islam was far more tolerant than Christianity; and in the Middle East too. But that is no more, and central elements in the doctrine of Islam are all too easily compatible with its modern intolerance, and now post-modern virulence.
In another post, Andrew also notes as follows:
What percentage of Muslims across the diverse Muslim world favor Sharia law? The key graph from Pew on executing apostates is on the right. And when you do the math (and yes, fair warning that I usually do it wrong), you find that 63 percent of Egypt’s Muslims, 58 percent of Jordanian Muslims, 78 percent of Pakistani Muslims, and 53 percent of Malaysian Muslims believe that if you decide you don’t believe in Islam any more, you should be executed. Think about that for a minute. Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 6.57.21 PM

How this disastrous situation can be cured is hard to say.  Education, of course is essential, yet most of these countries will not allow education policies or curricula that challenges a fundamentalist approach to Islam.  While Americans ponder the evils of religion as embodied by ISIS, they need to also recognize that we have our own virulent evil at home: fundamentalist Christianity  which seeks to deprive others of their civil rights and which now ,in the wake of same sex marriage rulings,is calling for "civil disobedience" and a subversion of the rule of law.