Saturday, November 29, 2014

Russian Bank is Financing French Neo-Nazi Party

It seems that Vladimir Putin is once again employing techniques of Hitler and the Nazi regime not to mention those of the former Soviet Union: funding political parties in foreign countries to cause unrest and fan support for Putin's own Neo-Nazi policies.  As Time magazine reports, a Russian bank is providing loans to France's National Front, a Neo-Nazi and virulently anti-gay political party in France.  Here are article highlights:
Is Russian President Vladimir Putin meddling in the internal politics of countries in the European Union? That seemed a strong possibility to some Europeans this week, after French political leader Marine Le Pen confirmed she had secured a €9-million ($11.1 million) loan from a Moscow-based bank, in order to run her right-wing National Front party.
“At this stage, Russia is trying to influence French domestic policy,” says Jean-Yves Camus, a political researcher at France’s Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS). If so, Putin’s strategy resembles the Soviet Union before its collapse in 1991, when Moscow funded trade unions and political groups in western Europe in an attempt to buy influence and destabilize foes. “In this respect Putin is pretty much in line with the former USSR. It is the same policy all over again,” says Camus.
The French investigative news site Mediapart first broke the news that the National Front had taken the loan, with a 6% interest rate, from First Czech Russian Bank, a small Moscow-based institution, the chairman of which is Roman Popov. Mediapart said the deal emerged partly as a result of Le Pen’s visit to Moscow last February, where she met Alexander Babakov, a Russian lawmaker with connections to Putin. 

Le Pen has been a staunch supporter of Russia. For months she has lambasted the E.U. for its sanctions against it, and she told Naryshkin in Moscow last year that Europe’s “Cold War on Russia” was “not in line with traditional, friendly relations nor with the economic interests of our country.”

Le Pen — whose party is similar to populist movements like the United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) and the Alternative for Germany — aims to pull her country out of the Union and reclaim its sovereignty over border control and fiscal budgets. As Putin fights to keep Ukraine and other countries allied to Russia, anything that weakens the 28-country E.U. could help further that cause. The far-right parties in Europe share certain ideological opinions with Putin including opposition to gay marriage and open immigration.

[S]ome believe Putin might be misjudging the potential for right-wing leaders in Europe to take control of their governments. “In practical terms the far-right parties are of little help to him as they hold no power,” says Cas Mudde, associate professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia. Similarly, Camus believes that Putin could be further isolated if Le Pen fails to become French president. “This strategy can backfire,” he says. “Putin is pretty much isolated in the international community. So I think he doesn’t have anything to gain by supporting or helping the extreme right.”
Putin continues to demonstrate that he is a very dangerous individual who is driven by one thing alone: a quest for power to satisfy his megalomania.  I may just have to nickname him "Adolph Junior."

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP - Why Are These Clowns Winning?

As a former Republican I frequently bemoan what has become of the Republican Party which once valued learning, logic and objective reasoning.  That was all in the past.  Today, the more ignorant and bigoted one is, the higher one's standing in the GOP.  In retrospect, perhaps it was the moderate Republicans - a group going the way of the dinosaurs - that kept the ugly base under control and out of power.  When the GOP establishment allowed the Christofascists into the party, the moderates began to flee and we now all see the horrible consequences.  Those who once upon a time would never have risen to positions of power are now in control along with those willing to prostitute themselves and embrace ignorance in their quest for power.  How can one explain this decline of the GOP?  A piece in Salon suggests that it is in part the result of how conservatives' brains function (saying that they function may, in my view, be too charitable).  Here are excerpts from the article:
When George W. Bush became president in 2001, it marked the first time in 70 years that conservative Republicans controlled all three branches of government. By the time Bush left office, we were all reminded why. The financial crisis and resulting global economic meltdown Bush left us with were eerily reminiscent of the Great Depression, but there was also 9/11, the Iraq War and Katrina—a multifaceted record of spectacular failure so stunning that it should have disqualified conservative Republicans from holding power for at least another seven decades.  Yet, the Democrats’ political response to the many messes Bush left behind has been so spectacularly inept that they’ve not only lost both houses of Congress, they’ve also lost more state legislative seats than any time since before the Great Recession.

There are many ways one might explain this state of affairs—and certainly the rise of Wall Street Democrats and the decline of labor played crucial roles. But beyond any particular issue area, there’s also the matter of differences in how liberals and conservatives think—and how they act and organize as a result.

As I’ve written before, a growing body of literature reveals that liberals and conservatives think differently from one another in ways that can even be traced back, in part, to the level of instinctual response, reflecting conservatives’ heightened sensitivity to threat bias. This work is congruent with an integrated multi-factor account offered by John Jost and three co-authors in the 2003 meta-analysis “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.”

I wanted to check things out with perhaps the world’s leading expert on incompetence, psychologist David Dunning, the senior researcher in the team that discovered the Dunning-Kruger effect, which Wikpedepia defines as “a cognitive bias whereby unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate.” Wikipedia added that “This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.”

[I]n reaching out to talk with Dunning, behind any specifics, I had two questions in mind: Could it apply to groups as well as individuals? And was it possible to do something about it? In both cases, he answered yes, . . . 

An example that came readily to mind was the GOP’s claims to have 46 jobs bills that had passed the House, and were languishing in the Senate. If only Obama and Harry Reid would act on them!  The reality, of course, is that these bills would not actually do very much in the way of job creation, as critics have pointed out repeatedly over the past several years. In late October, the New York Times even interviewed some top GOP economists who admitted as much, along with independent analysts who said it would be hard to measure much impact.  In short, the GOP “jobs bills” aren’t seriously intended to create jobs. They’re intended to create talking points about creating jobs — and to counter Democratic talking points (while also doing favors for GOP donors, of course).

The first is often you have organizations that are well set–you can say they’re very competent–in their ways. They can have a problem when conditions on the ground shift, and you could say that in the last 10 or 20 years, the conditions on the grounds shifted demographically, in terms of the people, for example who vote in the midterm.” Twenty years ago, these older voters had come of age during the Great Depression, and leaned Democratic as a result. But older voters now are much more Republican, which tends to skew the midterms in the opposite direction from the past. (The age-based difference in participation rates has also grown over time, as well.) As a result, Dunning said, “You have Republicans in midterms, and the occasional voters now are the young, and they’re rather Democratic so there is oscillation between elections and that’s a changed situation,” which is precisely the first sort of thing that tends to trip up organizations.

[W]e have conservatives on the one hand acting on their mythos, mistakenly believing it’s true as a matter of logos—which is one kind of incompetence—and yet, nonetheless reshaping reality through the power of reflexivity. (Think of how invading Iraq in response to 9/11 helped bring ISIS into existence, for example.) On the other hand, we have liberals seeing things only in terms of logos, who can’t understand how wildly mistaken conservatives can nonetheless reshape the world to reflect their paranoid fantasies, because they’re missing the crucial concept of reflexivity (and even the very concept of missing concepts, the concept of hypocognition)—which is another, very different, but very real form of incompetence.

I started this article by taking note of the colossal failures of the Bush administration, in part because they’re so staggering that they’re impossible to miss.  But Dunning cautioned against being misdirected. “The real effect of suffering from Dunning-Kruger is not that you suffer obvious losses but that there are so many opportunities you will never notice, or know about in your life,” Dunning said, “and that’s absolutely true that the collective level …

The Republicans’ post-2012 autopsy doesn’t exactly look like it meets these criteria—but the midterm electoral disconnect Dunning mentioned earlier “saved” them from suffering as a result, which might well only make it even more difficult for them to change in the long run.

[I]t may be heartening when cognitive research suggests roughly symmetrical mechanisms and ways of overcoming differences, but that could be just another example of liberal intellectuals projecting their framework of assumptions, blinding themselves to more fundamental and intractable differences, which conservatives are, in their own way, smart enough to stick with and exploit, while depending on liberals’ relative disorganization, indecision and attraction to ambiguity to allow them to win the day, even if they can’t win an outright majority in a presidential election any more. 
Yes, the article is very much filled with academic terminologyy, but it may explain why when I talk to conservatives it's often like we are from different planets.   I try to focus on logic and objective analysis why they focus on their prejudices, fear of the "other" and , in the case of the religious, their inability to let go of myths and fairy tales. 

Evangelicals with Gay Children Belatedly Challenge Church

We have made it past Thanksgiving, but still have the rest of the holiday season before us.  As noted before, this is often a terrible time of year for members of the LGBT community - the holidays were torture for me the first year or two after I came out - but especially so for LGBT youth.  Too many parents continue to literally throw away their children in acts of unspeakable child abuse, listening to the anti-gay screeds of vicious pastors in pulpits instead of listening to their hearts and what I see as human instinct to protect one's child.  Some such unfit parents learn they have erred and make amends with their discarded children while some never do.  Others do so only after it is too late and their child has died ultimately because of their rejection of that child.  Rob and Linda Robertson fall into this last category and, as CBS News reports, they are now working to help other evangelicals to accept their LGBT children and say no to the hate and bigotry that is the stock and trade of their churches.  Here are article highlights:
Rob and Linda Robertson did what they believed was expected of them as good Christians.

When their 12-year-old son Ryan said he was gay, they told him they loved him, but he had to change. He entered "reparative therapy," met regularly with his pastor and immersed himself in Bible study and his church youth group.

After six years, nothing changed. A despondent Ryan cut off from his parents and his faith, started taking drugs and in 2009, died of an overdose.

"Now we realize we were so wrongly taught," said Rob Robertson, a firefighter for more than 30 years who lives in Redmond, Washington. "It's a horrible, horrible mistake the church has made."

The tragedy could have easily driven the Robertsons from the church. But instead of breaking with evangelicalism -- as many parents in similar circumstances have done -- the couple is taking a different approach, and they're inspiring other Christians with gay children to do the same.

They are staying in the church and, in protesting what they see as the demonization of their sons and daughters, presenting a new challenge to Christian leaders trying to hold off growing acceptance of same-sex relationships.

"Parents don't have anyone on their journey to reconcile their faith and their love for their child," said Linda Robertson, who with Rob attends a nondenominational evangelical church. "They either reject their child and hold onto their faith, or they reject their faith and hold onto their child. Rob and I think you can do both: be fully affirming of your faith and fully hold onto your child."

Linda Robertson, who blogs about her son at, said a private Facebook page she started last year for evangelical mothers of gays has more than 300 members. And in the last few years, high-profile cases of prominent Christian parents embracing their gay children indicate a change is occurring beyond a few isolated families.

"I think at some point moms and dads are going to say to their pastors and church leadership that you can't tell me that my child is not loved unconditionally by God," said Susan Shopland, the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary who, along with her gay son, is active with the Gay Christian Network.

Kathy Baldock, a Christian who advocates for gay acceptance through her website, said evangelical parents are speaking out more because of the example set by their children.

The collapse of support for "reparative therapy" is also a factor, Shopland said. In June of last year, Alan Chambers, the leader of Exodus International, a ministry that tried to help conflicted Christians repress same-sex attraction, apologized for the suffering the ministry caused and said the group would close down.

At a conference on marriage and sexuality last month, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, the Rev. Al Mohler, said he was wrong to believe that same-sex attraction could be changed. Baldock, The Marin Foundation and the Gay Christian Network all say Christian parents have been reaching out to them for help in notably higher numbers in the last couple of years.
Much work needs to be done.  Personally, I view religion as one of the principal forces of evil on the planet and believe it best if parents simply walk away from their churches.  But, if they feel they can't do that, then they need to stay and challenge the hate, bigotry and ignorance that are the hallmarks of conservative Christianity.  

This undated photo provided by Linda Robertson shows her son Ryan, who died in 2009.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The New G.O.P. Showdown Threat

Senator Jeff Sessions Credit Alex Wong/Getty Images
The cretins, morons, and white supremacists of the Republican Party base - seemingly now a majority in the base - seem incapable of learning from past mistakes.  How else to explain their desire to push for another government shut down in the wake of President Obama's executive order on immigration?  Have they forgotten how badly that damaged financial markets and worked against the GOP last time around?  Perhaps its what's to be expected when a political party comes to celebrate ignorance and stupidity, Sarah Palin being a prime example of  celebratory idiocy.  The New York Times looks at and opines on the new GOP threat to shut down the federal government - which, if it happens, should carry a provision that members of Congress and their staffs receive no pay for the period of the shut down.  Here are editorial excerpts:
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama announced with great gravity the other day that Republicans had decided not to impeach President Obama over his plan to allow millions of immigrants to remain in this country without fear of deportation through his executive authority. But that concession is not the end of the matter. He is planning much more serious mischief: using Congress’s power of the purse to pressure the White House into backing off.

Condemning the immigration action as “unlawful,” Mr. Sessions says he and other Republicans may filibuster any attempt to pay for government operations through the full fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. Instead, he wants to pay for government through a series of short-term bills, possibly month to month, with each one trying to overturn Mr. Obama’s actions.

That raises the possibility of a budget shutdown fight every month for nearly a year. And Mr. Sessions’ voice will count in that fight — he is in line to be the new chairman of the Budget Committee.

Some Republican leaders, including the next majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, have tried to take a loftier position, saying they want a full year’s spending bill to avert a widespread shutdown. Nonetheless, they are seriously considering using short-term bills to pay for immigration enforcement. That approach is an implicit and reckless threat to close down immigration agencies to prevent them from issuing work permits to immigrants.

In the House, Speaker John Boehner has refused to rule out the possibility of threatening either a narrow or a full-scale shutdown to get Mr. Obama to back off his plans. Did Mr. Boehner learn nothing from the 16-day shutdown the House imposed on the country in October 2013? That deeply irresponsible act — a futile tantrum aimed at the health reform law — harmed hundreds of thousands of government employees, along with countless citizens who depend on important programs. It hurt the reputation of the country, and particularly that of the House and the Republican Party. . . . Still, he has decided not to anger the most extreme wing of his party, which is agitating for obstruction.

When Congress returns on Monday, it will have only a few business days to choose its approach before the current spending bill runs out on Dec. 11. To be the “mature governing body” that some Republicans promised, Congress needs to pass a full year’s spending bill for every department, along the lines of the bipartisan budget agreement approved last December.

Once Republicans take over both houses of Congress next year, they have every right to pass an immigration bill of their choosing, which Mr. Obama would have a right to veto. But threatening to shut down the government or any part of it to achieve their aims is outrageous.
The GOP needs to prove that it can govern, yet the base is demanding that the party prove yet again that it is controlled by extremists who care nothing about governing or the long term welfare of the country. 

How Obama Turned the Tables on the GOP

From the moment of his first inauguration in January 2009, the Republicans have done everything in their power to obstruct his presidency and block legislative and policy successes.  In the process, Republicans did much to damage the economy and impede economic recovery in the hope that Obama would not be reelected.  That effort failed and the increasing racist GOP base, blinded by its outrage of having a black man in the White House was too stupid to see that their party's policies were harming average Americans.  On immigration, Obama turned the tables on the GOP.  Now, with his executive order, the GOP must either abide with the results or pass the legislation that it has kept bottled up in the House of Representatives.  Even sweeter, Obama has ignited the ugliest elements of the GOP who now will make it very clear to Hispanics and minorities that they are hated by the Republican base.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this turning of the tables.  Here are highlights:
One of the strangest things about the immigration debate is the fervent belief by conservatives that President Obama is motivated only by devious partisan considerations. . . . This is a strange belief, first of all, because it fails to recognize the blindingly obvious humanitarian motive that surely supplied much of Obama’s incentive. Obama is a liberal Democrat. Liberal Democrats like immigrants. They want to do something to help the millions of people who have committed a victimless crime in order to give their children a better life.

The second and even stranger thing about conservative suspicions is that they seem not to have fed back into the right’s own decision-making matrix. Obama has been threatening to, for months on end, act unilaterally if Republicans would not pass a bill. The threat such an action posed should have been obvious enough to spur Republicans to head it off. Passing some kind of bill through the House, even one that fell far short of Obama’s ambitions, would have placed the president in a tough spot, muddying the political issue and making his unilateralism harder to sustain. Rather than complain about Obama’s diabolical maneuver, they should have thought about maybe preventing it.

It is clear that Obama’s executive action places Republicans in a near-impossible spot. The newest evidence is a poll this week from Latino Decisions, finding that 89 percent of Hispanics support Obama’s move.  

If, as seems likely, the next Republican nominee is forced to promise to overturn it during the primary, it will lock the GOP into a stance of implacable hostility toward the overwhelming majority of the Latino community.
Why have Republicans allowed themselves to be felled by such a telegraphed punch? Internal dysfunction plays a major role, of course, along with sheer distrust. But one underappreciated factor may be that Republicans have come to rely on a strategy that works extremely well in other cases.

The GOP has withheld cooperation from every major element of President Obama’s agenda, beginning with the stimulus, through health-care reform, financial regulation, the environment, long-term debt reduction, and so on. That stance has worked extremely well as a political strategy. 
Most people pay little attention to politics and tend to hold the president responsible for outcomes. . . . It’s a formula, but it works.

The formula only fails to work if the president happens to have an easy and legal way to act on the issue in question without Congress. Obama can’t do that on infrastructure, or the grand bargain, and he couldn’t do it on health care. But he could do it on immigration. So Republicans were stuck carrying out a strategy whose endgame would normally be “bill fails, public blames Obama” that instead wound up “Obama acts unilaterally, claims credit, forces Republicans to take poisonous stance in opposition.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"We Won't Have a Faggot in Our House" - Child Abuse in the Name of God

Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks and spending time with family and friends.  Yet for a large number of LGBT youth, today is a day of loneliness and fending to survive on the streets.  LGBT youth make up up to 40% of homeless youths.  What drives them to the streets?  Their "godly Christian" parents - conservative Jews and Muslims also throw away their children - who prefer to cling to the myths authored by ignorant herders from two millennia ago rather than accept and love their own children.  In my view, such parents should be prosecuted for criminal child abuse.  They certainly deserve no respect or even civil treatment.  Carl Siciliano who runs the Ali Forney Center in New York City has a guest post at Joe Jervis' blog that is worth a read on the dire predicament of so many of these discarded youths. Here are highlights:
"We won't have a faggot in our house."

Those are the words M heard after his mother died of cancer. He was 16. His mom had loved and accepted him. But not his aunt and uncle. They took in his little brother, but left M to fend for himself in the streets.

M lived in a town in Florida that had no youth shelter. He and about 20 other homeless kids slept on the floor of an unlocked building in the town park. He used his knapsack with his school books and his toothbrush and deodorant inside as his pillow. Those were the good nights. The bad nights were when the police chased them out. On those nights he tried to sleep in an abandoned lot, hidden in the weeds. Those nights his allergies tormented him; his eyes and throat swelled, and he struggled to breath.

No matter what kind of night he had, M went to school every day. He did it to honor the memory of his mom, who said she would kick his butt in the afterlife if he didn't get an education. Despite the soul-shattering hardships he endured, he graduated at 18.

"As soon as I get the chance, I'm going to kill you, you fucking faggot."

Those are the words one of M's friends heard when he walked through the courtyard into the youth shelter where most of the beds for New York City's homeless youths are located. Despite local and federal regulations that mandate that youth shelters be in homelike environments with no more than 20 beds, NYC has crowded hundreds of kids into that shelter. Many LGBT kids report being bashed and harassed by the numerous gang members who stay there. M came to New York City after he graduated from high school, and tried to stay at there. But after being attacked too many times he ended up sleeping in the subways.

I met M the day he moved into one of the Ali Forney Center's homelike shelters after sleeping in the subways for six months. That was a really good day for M. He has had some wonderful days since; like the day he was accepted into college, and the day he got hired for his job counseling other teens. Those were good days for the Ali Forney Center as well, as have the been the joyful days in recent months when over 40 of our youths in our new job training program have been hired.

But we have had some really bad days. Since the federal sequestration and it's vast cuts we have lost about $1 Million in government funding. I have been struggling to pay our rents and our food bills, and keep our programs going. I don't sleep in a vacant lot, but I have had more than my share of sleepless nights worrying about the future of the Ali Forney Center.

But in the end I trust we will go forward. Our work of housing and protecting homeless LGBT youths must survive and grow. Too many of the LGBT kids we care for have endured cruelty, violence and contempt in their homes and in other shelters. Over 1,300 kids a year from across our country rely on the Ali Forney Center to provide a home where they are protected and accepted for who they are. I trust that our work will go on, because I trust in the goodness of our community.
If you want to give donations to charities this time of year, think about making a donation to the Ali Forney Center.   You can do that here. You can also make donations on PayPal by using this email:  Another charity dear to my heart is the George D. and Marion Phelps Hamar HRBOR Scholarship that I started to help LGBT students needing assistance for a college education.  You can make a donation here.  Please do NOT give you donations to "charities" or churches that promote discrimination and bigotry. 

click image to enlarge

Former “Ex-Gay” Activist Marries A Man

At this time of year when discriminatory charities like the Salvation Army and the Union Mission are shilling for money and the self-congratulatory professional Christians likewise look to shake down the ignorant for money, it's appropriate to remember the dishonesty of these organizations and individuals.  One of the starkest lies is their claim that gays can "change" and become straight.  Their "ex-gay" programs serve two purposes: (i) to convince moron and/or political whore politicians that gays deserve no non-discrimination protections, and (ii) to shake down self-loathing, religiously brainwashed gays and their parents for lots of money.  The truth?  That no one can actually change their sexual orientation.  All they can do is lie, deceive themselves and others, and live in torment.  John Smid, who once ran Love In Action, an ex-gay ministry based in Memphis, twice tried to "turn straight" and has two failed marriages to women to prove it - Christofascist care nothing about the collateral damage done to straight spouses and children.  Finally, Smid admitted that it all was a lie.  Now, he has married and man and hopes to finally find "happily ever after.  Here are highlights from Queerty:
John Smid, who once claimed to have been “cured” of homosexuality and who worked with various “ex-gay” groups, is once again a married man. Only this time, he didn’t marry a woman. He and his partner, Larry McQueen, announced they tied the knot last weekend.

In 1980, Smid left his wife to be with guys, but he had misgivings and tried to go straight again by marrying a second woman and becoming a leading spokesman for conversion therapy. He ran Love In Action, an ex-gay ministry based in Memphis, and sat on the board of Exodus International for 11 years.

In 2011, he went ex-ex-gay, divorcing his second wife and admitting he “never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.” He apologized for his past actions and launched a new ministry, Grace Rivers, which caters to the gay community.

“I believe that due to my former notoriety, my marriage will definitely have its impact,” he just told Towleroad in an interview.

He says he hopes it will encourage other self-proclaimed “ex-gays” to learn to accept who they are and lead more open and truthful lives.

“I believe it is encouraging for other former ex-gays, and maybe even those who are still trying to hold on to their ex-gay belief system,” he said. “We think our relationship reveals something very normal, not strange or deceptive gay stereotypes. We have come to realize that our marriage is very much the same as your average heterosexual marriage.”
I can say for a fact that my marriage to my husband is pretty much the same as my heterosexual marriage was on a day to day basis.  The only difference, I am not living as an actor on a stage and consumed by self-hate for my inability to "change."  Today, we will have Thanksgiving dinner with friends and one of my daughters and her family - pretty much like straight couples across the country.

Thanksgiving Morning Male Beauty

The Great Police Violence Cover-Up

Politico isn't always the most liberal of news outlets.  It's not Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, but it isn't Salon or the Huffington Post either.  Thus, it is informative that its magazine arm has an article bearing the same title as this blog post.  America has a serious problem with lawless police officers.  That statement is not intended as a denigration of all police officers.  But like it or not, there are far too many officers who have no business wearing a badge or carrying a gun.  Especially when it comes to their views of minorities, particularly blacks.  White, conservative Christians too often revere the police yet have no idea what its like to have the police view you as a menace or unworthy of decent treatment simply because of your skin color or your sexual orientation.  It's bad enough to be gay around some police officers much less to be black or brown skinned.  Here are article highlights:

I have a 20-year-old son, and I have a 12-year-old son, and I’m so afraid for them. … This is about a war machine. It is us against the [expletive] machine!” 
—Rapper Killer Mike

Perhaps the saddest thing is: We don’t really know what the truth is. We don’t really know if Killer Mike—his voice breaking on stage this week after the Ferguson grand jury decision—is correct in his perception that America’s police departments are less protectors of the peace than monstrous “war machines” leveled against the nation’s poor and minorities.

[N]o one knows for sure how serious the problem is—now, or then—because there simply are no reliable national data on police violence in the United States. The data are lacking because police departments keep almost all those numbers to themselves, in defiance of a 20-year-old federal law—the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act—requiring the Justice Department to compile an annual report on “the use of excessive force” by police.

The story of the various failed national efforts to compile and release such data—or to obtain any reliable numbers on violence by police officers at all—is just another dimension of an issue that Monday’s grand-jury decision threw into relief: a sense that police departments across the country are simply not held accountable enough.

And because a substantial portion of these alleged police abuses of law and justice appear to be directed against blacks and other minorities in certain communities—not the white-dominated power structure in their own communities—it rarely becomes a notable issue, at least until a Michael Brown-type killing provokes enough violence and outrage in the streets for the TV cameras to pay attention.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program collects data from the roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the country to compile statistics about crime and law enforcement, and yet here too police departments are not required to submit data on what they consider to be justifiable homicides by officers.

But given the average number of dubious shootings in any given year—most recently the killing of a 12-year-old boy wielding a BB gun in Cleveland—many criminologists say it’s clear that there is a serious problem, especially in minority neighborhoods, that has not been quantified. “If there’s smoke, there must be fire there,” says Sam Walker, an expert on police accountability at the University of Nebraska.

Despite the consistently high percentage of African-Americans in prisons, the issue is not necessarily racial. “It’s not a black or white issue. It’s a blue issue,” Frank Serpico, the former New York City detective whose efforts to expose corruption were made famous in a 1973 movie starring Al Pacino, said in a telephone interview. “The fact is that police have never been accountable,” said Serpico, who in the decades since his retirement from the NYPD has become an advocate for police whistleblowers and greater restraint on the use of force. . . . . what erupted in Ferguson is not just about Ferguson. This thing has been a long time coming.”

According to another widely cited criminologist, Lorie Fridell of the University of South Florida, “It’s not just about when force is used. There is a lot of variation in this country about how police treat low-income, high-minority neighborhoods. There are places where police treat them very, very differently than they do white communities.” She adds that “police have gotten better over the years, but also expectations might have gotten higher.”

[A]ccording to John Firman, director of development of the IAPC, after a year “the Justice Department shut it down, and for good reason: The number of [police departments] reporting back to us was under 600” out of about 18,000 in the country. The law had no means of forcing cooperation, Firman added, and as for whether the government is simply ignoring the mandate of the law, “that was between the Congress and the DOJ.”
Other criminologists have found that even when they participate, law enforcement agencies often misrepresent data in survey responses. “On nonsensitive subjects we usually get a high response in our surveys,” says Edward McGuire, a criminologist at American University. “But then on questions about the use of violence we get a very low response rate. That’s because they had been advised by their attorneys not to answer those questions.”

[T]he real answer to restoring accountability may lie in technology, especially sensors and body-worn cameras for police officers. Despite some current resistance, most officers like that solution too, she says, because most of them probably have nothing to hide. “The police profession is unlike any other in that officers usually operate outside the direct review or purview of supervisors in most cases. So this is a way to document not only what the police are doing—but what the subjects are doing as well.”

. . . “body-worn cameras increase transparency and citizen views of police legitimacy,” and it quoted William A. Farrar, chief of police in Rialto, California, as saying: “When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better. And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”
 We need to do a far better job of policing the police.

Native Americans - The Other Side of Thanksgiving

Putting aside the fact that the first Thanksgiving took place at Berkeley Plantation here in Virginia on December 4, 1619, rather than in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, there is another whole side of Thanksgiving that most will not reflect on today: that of Native Americans.  While popular culture and school room drawings this time of year reflect on the assistance that Native Americans gave to the Massachusetts colonists, nothing is said about the fact that those same colonists would soon launch a campaign of genocide and land theft against the same Native Americans that helped them survive.  Worse yet, that genocide would eventually become national policy for the new American nation.  Along with this agenda was the campaign against the two spirited Native Americans whom the godly Christians viewed as an abomination.  A piece in Gay Star News looks at this other side of what Thanksgiving means.  Here are highlights:

[F]or many Native Americans, Thanksgiving is not a cause of celebration, but rather a national day of mourning, remembering the real significance of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 as a symbol of persecution and genocide of Native Americans and the long history of bloodshed with European settlers.

And in a supposedly more enlightened, if not ‘post-racial’, you would think that television images of whites doing ‘war whoops’ and ‘tomahawk chops’, coming across your screen were buried and long gone with its troubled era of Native American relations in this country.

I am also reminded of my Two-Spirit Native American brothers and sisters who struggle with their families and tribes not approving of their sexual identities and gender expressions as many of us do with our families and faith communities.

Homophobia is not indigenous to Native American culture. Rather, it is one of the many devastating effects of colonization and Christian missionaries that today Two-Spirits may be respected within one tribe yet ostracized in another.

‘Homophobia was taught to us as a component of Western education and religion,’ Navajo anthropologist Wesley Thomas has written.

‘We were presented with an entirely new set of taboos, which did not correspond to our own models and which focused on sexual behavior rather than the intricate roles Two-Spirit people played. As a result of this misrepresentation, our nations no longer accepted us as they once had.’

Traditionally, Two-Spirits symbolized Native Americans’ acceptance and celebration of diverse gender expressions and sexual identities.

They were revered as inherently sacred because they possessed and manifested both feminine and masculine spiritual qualities that were believed to bestow upon them a ‘universal knowledge’ and special spiritual connectedness with the Great Spirit.

The term Two-Spirits was coined in the early 1990s. Prior to this, Different indigenous peoples had specific words for Two-Spirits. In Lakota they were wíŋkte and nádleehé in Navajo. Today, the term has come to include all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Native Americans.

The Pilgrims, who sought refuge here in America from religious persecution in their homeland, were right in their dogged pursuit of religious liberty. But their actual practice of religious liberty came at the expense of the civil and sexual rights of Native Americans.

And the Pilgrims’ animus toward homosexuals not only impacted Native American culture, but it also shaped Puritan law and theology.

Because the Pilgrims’ fervor for religious liberty was devoid of an ethic of accountability, they acted without moral liability and legal justice. They brought about the genocide of a people, a historical amnesia of the event, and an annual national celebration of Thanksgiving for their arrival.

As we get into the holiday spirit, let us remember the whole story of the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers to the New World.

It is in the spirit of our connected struggles against discrimination that we can all stand on a solid rock that rests on a multicultural foundation for a true and honest Thanksgiving.

And in so doing, it helps us to remember, respect, mourn and give thanks to the struggles not only our LGBTI foremothers and forefathers endured, but also the ongoing struggle our Native American Two-Spirit brothers and sisters face everyday – and particularly on Thanksgiving Day.

Sadly, wherever they went be it the Americas, China, Japan or Africa, the Christian missionaries took their hatred and bigotry against LGBT individuals with them and caused the elimination  of long cultural acceptance of same sex love.  Just as is the case today, for the "godly folk," religious freedom has always meant depriving others of their rights and freedoms.  Selfishness and hypocrisy are two words that spring to mind.