Saturday, October 10, 2015

More Saturday Male Beauty

The GOP's Dark Suicide Pact

The descent of the Republican Party into total insanity is now nearly complete.  When extremists and con men like Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan are "too moderate" for the  spittle flecked, knuckle dragging party base, you know that things may beyond the point of no return.  A piece in Salon looks at the sad state of affairs, much of which was engineered by the GOP establishment that put short term electoral success ahead of any remote long term strategy or comprehension of the damage that would be done by the Frankenstein monster they created, i.e., the Chistofascists/Tea Party dominated party base.  One irony to me is that the Christofascists blame gays for the fall of the Roman Empire, but in reality it was ignorance embracing, incurious people like them who killed Rome and ushered in the Dark Ages.  Here are column highlights:

It is time once again to ponder the question of whether the Republican Party can be saved from itself – and if so, what exactly there is to save and why anyone should care. The GOP’s current struggle to find someone, or indeed anyone, who is willing to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives, the position once held by Henry Clay and Sam Rayburn and Tip O’Neill – the president’s most important counterbalance and negotiating partner, and traditionally the second most powerful job in Washington – is of course a tragic and/or hilarious symptom of much deeper dysfunction.

How large are Heaven and Hell, measured in cubits and ells? Not large enough, it appears, to encompass the pride and arrogance of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of 40-odd far-right Jacobins who first sabotaged Boehner’s speakership and then torpedoed the candidacy of his chosen replacement, Kevin McCarthy.

In the great tradition of doomed revolutionaries, the Freedom Caucus prefers death, or at least political annihilation – which will be theirs one day, and sooner than they think – to the dishonor of compromise.

They could just as well be called the Suicide Caucus – or the Satanic Caucus, in the grandiose spirit of Milton’s fallen angel, who fights on with no hope of victory: . . .

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the Republicans were boring and small-minded but not especially crazy. They pursued a disastrous foreign-policy agenda during the Cold War, but they were not alone in that, and one could argue that marked the first stages of betraying the tradition of Edmund Burke-style conservatism. On fiscal and social issues, they stood with country-club middle management and small-town Presbyterians and the affluent families who owned the third-largest bank in Indiana or a chain of hardware stores in and around San Diego.

I believe that the Republicans have brought their gruesome predicament upon themselves and that they richly deserve their fate, although they have certainly been nudged toward the precipice by Democratic cowardice and incompetence. 

Whoever the GOP shoves to the podium, whether it’s Ryan or Darrell Issa or Jason Chaffetz or someone even dumber than them, will either have to default on the national debt in November and shut down the government in December or face yet another enraged right-wing revolt. Either way, this Congress (and most likely the next one too, regardless of who is elected president) is a lost cause, and the future viability of bipartisan politics is very much in doubt.

That big Republican victory in the 2014 midterms was a masterfully engineered work of fiction – an artifact of voter suppression, voter apathy and the intensive gerrymandering imposed by GOP-dominated state legislatures after the 2010 census. Republican candidates won barely 51 percent of the vote, but thanks to the imaginative redistricting plans imposed in numerous states, that modest margin was dramatically over represented in the final result. 

Now the Republicans in Congress, along with the “mainstream” or “establishment” Republican presidential candidates, are discovering what should have been obvious all along: The Frankenstein voter base they bred and nurtured with so much money and so much cunning does not like them or trust them. The fanatics of the Satanic Suicide Caucus and their supporters do not want the current Republican leadership to govern anything, or even try to.

When they [the GOP base] repeat its catchphrases about fiscal responsibility and social order in their metallic parasite voices, what they really mean is fiscal holocaust, social anarchy and class war against poor women, black people and immigrants. They dream of conquest, but whatever they can’t conquer – starting with their own political party – they will happily destroy.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Paul Ryan: Memories of Con Jobs Past

As past posts make clear, I view Paul Ryan as a liar and hypocrite, especially when it comes to his feigned allegiance to Christian values even as he restlessly presses the GOP's reverse Robin Hood agenda. Now, with the increasingly insane Republican Party in disarray, some are seeing Ryan as the white knight needed to same the GOP from its self-wrought chaos.  Sadly, too many in the media continue to call Ryan out for what he really is: a con man.  Paul Krugman, fortunately,  doesn't display such reticence.  Here are highlights from his spot on column in the New York Times:

As the Paul Ryan clamor gets louder, a public service reminder: he’s a con man.

I don’t mean that I disagree with his policy ideas, although I do. I mean that his reputation as a serious thinker is based on deception, both about what he has actually proposed and how it has or hasn’t been vetted.

Take, for example, the famous “fiscally responsible” budget plan. As I explained way back when, what Ryan did was to present a sort of vague fiscal outline to the Congressional Budget Office that envisioned implausibly large cuts in spending and mysterious increases in revenue, and stipulated for the purpose of the exercise that CBO take those numbers as given. The budget office hinted broadly in its report that it didn’t believe any of it, e.g.:
That combination of other mandatory and discretionary spending was specified to decline from 12 percent of GDP in 2010 to about 6 percent in 2021 and then move in line with the GDP price deflator beginning in 2022, which would generate a further decline relative to GDP. No proposals were specified that would generate that path. [My italics]
Ryan is to budget analysis as Carly Fiorina is to corporate leadership: he’s brilliant at self-promotion, but there’s no hint that he’s actually able to do the job. There is, in particular, no example I know of where he’s actually been right about anything involving budgets or economics, and some remarkable examples — like his inflation screeds — of being completely wrong, and learning nothing from the experience.

So is this really the GOP can do? And the answer, sad to say, is that it probably is.

African Bishops Reveal Catholic Church's Hypocrisy

Anti-gay douche bag and hypocrite
With science increasingly confirming that sexual orientation is no more of a choice than eye color or skin color, the anti-gay stance of anti-gay religious denominations is becoming increasingly clear as to what it is: blatant discrimination conflated with a deliberate embrace of ignorance.  Hence why the Roman Catholic Church is only growing in backward and ignorant areas of the world such as Africa. Adding to the ugliness of such discrimination is the fact that homophobia in Africa was imported by Christian missionaries who rode rough shod over indigenous cultures.  Yet at the Vatican synod on the family, homophobic African bishops are demanding that they and their ignorant followers need “time to deal with” homosexuality and other “issues from our own cultural perspectives.”  That's akin to white Southerners demanding time to get over viewing blacks as inferior and wanting to maintain Jim Crow laws.  The Washington Blade looks at this batshitery.  Here are highlights:
Vatican Radio reported that and brutalize of Archdiocese of Accra said countries need “time to deal with” homosexuality and other “issues from our own cultural perspectives.” He also highlighted the need for “the dignity and rights of all God’s sons and daughters need to be upheld,” as Vatican Radio reported.

Palmer-Buckley’s comments come four days after he and other Catholic bishops began a three-week gathering in Rome during which they will vote on a document that specifically addresses the family. 

Leaked drafts indicate that it reiterates the church’s opposition to unions between gays and lesbians.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay Nigerian man who received asylum in the U.K., was among the LGBT Catholics who gathered in Rome earlier this month ahead of the start of the bishops’ meeting.

Mac-Iyalla on Thursday noted to the Washington Blade the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria has supported anti-LGBT measures in his homeland, including a 2014 law that punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison. 

Mac-Iyalla added African religious leaders should “stop colluding with governments in persecuting LGBT people.” 

If  Archbishop Palmer-Buckley wants the freedom to discriminate against and brutalize gays, then lets grant white supremacists the same rights. There is really no difference. Both bigoted mindsets arise from ignorance and a fear of those who are different, so Palmer-Buckley needs to support anti-black bigotry if he wants to support anti-gay bigotry.  The man is a disingenuous douche bag. 

Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP's Self-Created Chaos

Reactions to Kevin McCarthy's surprise removal of himself from consideration to be the next Speaker of the House continue.  The biggest issues and reflections are (i) who can possibly restore order, if not sanity, to the Republican Party, and (ii) how did the GOP become so insane and out of ouch with reality.  It seems that there is some consensus - at least outside of the GOP - that the party establishment bears responsibility.  Most however, refrain from getting at the real root cause: the empowerment of the Christofascists and evangelical Christians in the Republican Party.  When I resigned from the Virginia Beach City Committee, I stated that until the party once again honored the concept of the separation of church and state, I could not be a member of the GOP.  In the intervening years, things have only gotten worse.  With the rise of white evangelicals and Christian extremists, we have seen the attendant rise and acceptance of racism and white supremacy within the GOP (the "Tea Party" is merely a label to hide the real nature of the insane party base).   What is frightening is that there seems to be no way to stop the metastasizing cancer that these people represent.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's self-destruction as a serious political party.  Here are excerpts:

At this point, I worry we’re going to start finding members of the Republican establishment curled up in their beds, eyes clenched shut and ears covered with trembling hands, moaning “make it stop, make it stop, make it stop.” 

Pity their suffering, but remember that they brought it on themselves.

The insurrection that propelled billionaire Donald Trump into the lead for the GOP nomination and ultimately made House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) surrender his gavel in frustration rages on unabated. This was no mere summer skirmish. If anything, the rebellion is gaining strength.
It is dawning on the party grandees that their most recent predictions of Trump’s demise, like earlier ones, were wrong.

And there is a reason for Trump’s success that goes beyond his skill at burnishing his personal brand: He is saying what much of the GOP base wants to hear. 

The party establishment has only itself to blame. From the moment President Obama took office, Republicans in Congress have been selling the base a bill of goods. They demonized Obamacare and cynically swore to repeal it, knowing they could not. They balked at sensible immigration reform, deciding instead to do nothing. They engaged in Pyrrhic brinkmanship over the budget and the debt ceiling, fully aware that in the end they would have to back down.

Promising to do the impossible was an effective short-term strategy for raising money and winning midterm elections. But if you keep firing up your supporters and letting them down, they become disillusioned. They begin to think the problem might not be Obama and the Democrats. It might be you.

That same dynamic is happening in the House, where Boehner’s decision to walk away has emboldened, not chastened, the ultraconservative revolutionaries in the GOP ranks.

In the Democratic Party, the conflict is ideological — left vs. center-left. In the GOP, the struggle looks existential. 

Put another way, it’s not hard to imagine a party in which there’s room for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and you can easily imagine one supporting the other as standard-bearer. But a tent that can hold, say, both Trump’s view on undocumented immigrants — hunt them down and kick them out — and Bush’s support for compassionate reform? That’s not a political party, it’s a food fight.

The Republican establishment may ultimately find some way to drag one of its presidential candidates through the primaries. But chaos, Trump has shown, is the GOP’s new normal.

Vladamir Putin's Imperial Adventure

Vladimir Putin is, in my view, a megalomaniac.  He also thinks of himself as the new tsar of Russian in all but formal name with all the delusions of grandeur that fantasy engenders - he's in his own mind perhaps Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Alexander I all rolled into one.  Given his short stature, he also seems to suffer from a Napoleon complex. And while he has routinely utilized agendas and excuses modeled on Adolph Hitler's tactics, in the final analysis, he still is pushing for international goals akin to what he sees as his imperial predecessors.  As a piece in the New York Times explains, this includes Putin's adventure into Syria.  While Putin remembers the goals and fleeting success of Russia's imperial past, he seems to have forgotten some of the disasters of the past, including Russia's Afghanistan debacle and wars that could have been avoided.  Here are column highlights:
IN June 1772, Russian forces bombarded, stormed and captured Beirut, a fortress on the coast of Ottoman Syria. The Russians were backing their ally, a ruthless Arab despot. When they returned the next year, they occupied Beirut for almost six months. Then as now, they found Syrian politics a boiling cauldron of factional-ethnic strife, which they tried to simplify with cannonades and gunpowder.

Today, President Vladimir V. Putin has many motives in Syria, but we should keep in mind Russia’s vision of its traditional mission in the Middle East, and how it informs the Kremlin’s thinking. And not just the Kremlin: Russia’s Orthodox Church spokesman said that Mr. Putin’s intervention was part of “the special role our country has always played in the Middle East.”

Russia’s ties to the region are rooted in its self-assigned role as the defender of Orthodox Christianity, which it claimed to inherit from the Byzantine Caesars after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 — hence “czars.” The czars presented Moscow not just as a Third Rome, but also as a New Jerusalem, and protector of Christians in the Balkans and the Arab world, which, including the Holy Places of Jerusalem, were ruled by the Ottomans after 1517.

They left in 1774, when Russia dropped its Syrian allies in return for Ottoman concessions over Ukraine and Crimea. Yet a Russian Mediterranean base was now a strategic aim: Catherine and her partner Prince Potemkin annexed Crimea, where they founded a Black Sea fleet, then tried to negotiate a base on Minorca.

Catherine’s successors saw themselves as crusaders, with Russia destined to rule Constantinople and Jerusalem.

[D]uring World War I Russian forces occupied northern Persia and invaded Ottoman Iraq, nearly taking Baghdad. In 1916, Nicholas II’s foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov, negotiated the Sykes-Picot-Sazonov Treaty, which promised Russia Istanbul, sections of Turkey and Kurdistan, and a share of Jerusalem — a Near Eastern empire foiled by the Bolshevik Revolution.

Until the recent intervention, the closest Russia came to fighting was the Israeli-Egyptian War of Attrition from 1967 to 1970, during which Soviet pilots dueled with Israelis. When Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, expelled the Russians, they cultivated a trio of dictators, Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hafez al-Assad in Syria. All three, running merciless, dynastic-Mafia regimes behind the facade of socialistic parties, central planning and Stalinesque cults of personality, took quickly to their new benefactors . . .

After the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian influence collapsed and Moscow came to bitterly resent the Western interventions that destroyed Mr. Hussein and Colonel Qaddafi. American retreat from the region grants Mr. Putin, who sees himself in an unbroken tradition of Russian personal leadership and imperial-national power from the czars to today, the opportunity to diminish American prestige and project Russia as indispensable world arbiter. The rescue of Mr. Assad’s son Bashir while fighting the opposition and Islamic State dovetails with Russia’s struggle against Chechen jihadis who flock to the black caliphal banners — and success will bring leverage in Iran and Turkey, where Russia once had muscle.

That said, Mr. Putin may end up channeling Catherine and trade Syrian influence to end Western sanctions and secure annexed Crimea — for this military showmanship concerns Mr. Putin’s political survival. In some ways, his defense of Syria’s autocrat is a defense of his own authority against rebellion. 

The power formula in Russia is this: autocracy in the Kremlin in return for security and prosperity at home, glory abroad — and for now at least, there’s glamour in the excitement of this Oriental adventure, a televised “Beau Geste” with Sukhoi bombers.

When Alexander II launched exotic Asian wars, one of his ministers, Count Valuev, wrote, “there’s something erotic about all things on distant frontiers.” Moscow lacks the resources to replace America and will find in Syria a quagmire, but Russians feel that a great imperial Russia has always been a player in the Middle East — and boldness counts for much in this wild world.

Putin is very dangerous, but his latest venture has strong historical precedents.  One needs to understand history and Russia's long inferiority complex versus the west and the longing for real or imagined past glories.   Sadly, the Russian people continue to be betrayed by their failed leaders - something that has plagued Russia for centuries.  

Thursday, October 08, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Study Pinpoits Genome Markers that Predicts Male Sexual Orientation

A study at the School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles, provides more bad news for the Christofascists and the bitter, closet old men at the Vatican.  These knuckle draggers - and in the case of the Vatican, proponents of 13th century knowledge - continue to whine and state that sexual orientation is a choice and make spittle flecked rants that there is "no gay gene."  Thus, being gay and having gay relationships is a "sin" in their ignorance embracing views.  The new study found that just  nine regions of the human genome predict the sexual orientation of males with up to 70 percent accuracy.  Obviously, none of us "chose" to change are DNA.  A press release outlines the findings that underscore that sexual orientation is NOT a choice.  Here are highlights:

An algorithm using epigenetic information from just nine regions of the human genome can predict the sexual orientation of males with up to 70 percent accuracy, according to research presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

"To our knowledge, this is the first example of a predictive model for sexual orientation based on molecular markers," said Tuck C. Ngun, PhD, first author on the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Beyond the genetic information contained in DNA, the researchers examined patterns of DNA methylation - a molecular modification to DNA that affects when and how strongly a gene is expressed - across the genome in pairs of identical male twins.

They found that methylation patterns in nine small regions, scattered across the genome, could be used to predict study participants' sexual orientation with 70 percent accuracy.

"Previous studies had identified broader regions of chromosomes that were involved in sexual orientation, but we were able to define these areas down to the base pair level with our approach," Dr. Ngun said. He noted that it will take additional research to explain how DNA methylation in those regions may be related to sexual orientation. The researchers are currently testing the algorithm's accuracy in a more general population of men.

"Sexual attraction is such a fundamental part of life, but it's not something we know a lot about at the genetic and molecular level. I hope that this research helps us understand ourselves better and why we are the way we are," Dr. Ngun said.
Ask any gay - or at least those not afflicted by religious brainwashing and associated guilt - and they will tell you that they never chose their sexual orientation.  To the extent there is any choice involved, it is merely the choice of how long one is willing to lie to themselves and others. 

The GOP Sinks Deeper into Chaos

As I have said before, the Republican Party has become an insane asylum under the control of the patients, many of who suffer from severe delusions and detachment from objective reality.  With John Boehner's unexpected announcement last month that he was resigning as Speaker of the House of Representatives, many thought that Kevin McCarthy - not one of my favorite people - would succeed Boehner.  Now, McCarthy has thrown the GOP into chaos by his sudden announcement that he would be withdrawing his name from consideration.  Whether McCarthy changed his mind after realizing that he's suffer the same difficulties as Boehner, feeling that his honesty about the true nature of the House Benghazi committee was toxic, or knew that some other bombshell might be forthcoming, his withdrawal has left the lunatic right rejoicing and less insane Republicans fearful of what may yet be to come.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the batshitery reigning supreme in the GOP.  Here are highlights:
Less than a year after a sweeping electoral triumph, Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national political party.

The most powerful and crippling force at work in the ­once-hierarchical GOP is anger, directed as much at its own leaders as anywhere else.

First, a contingent of several dozen conservative House members effectively forced Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) to resign rather than face a possibly losing battle to hold on to his job. Now they have claimed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who had been considered the favorite to replace Boehner until he announced Thursday that he is dropping out of the race.

With no obvious replacement for Boehner in sight, “it is total confusion — a banana republic,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). “Any plan, anything you anticipate — who knows what’ll happen? People are crying, they don’t have any idea how this will unfold, at all.”

Parallel currents of rage and chaos have been roiling the 2016 presidential race, diminishing hopes that an eventual nominee can bring order and direction to the increasingly dysfunctional party.

But government experience has become a liability for Republicans, rather than a credential. Celebrity billionaire Donald Trump, the leader in every poll, has rallied the conservative base by mocking the entire GOP establishment as weak and feckless. Many of the other candidates have followed his lead.

The forces that have made the House ungovernable are coming from the same wellspring of insurgency, beginning with the tea party movement, that propelled the Republicans back into control of Congress.

Battalions of conservative ground troops have come to Capitol Hill in the past five years with expectations that were not in line with what could actually be achieved while there is still a Democrat in the White House.

Disappointed in their ability to follow through on their campaign promises to turn back President Obama’s policies, they trained their fire on their own commanders.

For all their gains on the state and local level, Republicans are deepening the problems that have cost them the popular vote in all but one of the last six presidential elections. The divisive and exclusionary rhetoric of their 2016 contenders has hit a chord with primary voters . . . .
but threatens to further alienate key groups of voters in an increasingly diverse country.

Their contempt for compromise has also undermined the Republicans’ drive to prove that they can actually govern.  

Junior members of Congress no longer have to seek the favor of more senior ones to rise through the ranks. Modern media has given them the power to play to a national audience — as presidential contender and first-term senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has demonstrated in the Senate.

In July, Cruz went so far as to call Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a liar on the floor of the Senate. Such a breach of decorum would have been unthinkable in earlier times, but it has burnished Cruz’s image with the conservative base.

At the Obama White House, officials were not gloating at the Republican turmoil — in part, because it could pose problems for carrying out their own agenda. For instance, the president is going to have to rely on a large number of GOP votes to pass a Pacific Rim free-trade deal that is drawing opposition from Obama’s own party.

Candidly, I do not know how the Christofascists and Tea Party (a euphemism in my view for Christofascists and white supremacists) can be brought under control .  They are simply crazy and logic and reason - and objective reality - get nowhere with them.  The GOP establishment allowed them to hijack the party base and now the price may be the ultimate death of the GOP.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Florida's Unnecessary "Pastor Protection Act"

GOP political whore, Scott Plakon
The Christofascists remain insistent on securing passage of legislation that underscores their special rights, even when the legislation is unnecessary.  And Republican political whores are only too willing to bow and genuflect to Christofascist demands.   It's all about making religious extremists and gay haters feel special. A case in point is Florida's absurd and wholly unnecessary "Pastor Protection Act."  The Advocate looks at this ridiculous legislation.  Here are excerpts:
The U.S. Constitution assures that clergy members won’t be forced to perform any marriage they don’t endorse, but that’s not good enough for some Florida lawmakers, who today advanced a piece of state legislation that does the same thing.

The Pastor Protection Act, approved by the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee, would provide an “extra layer of protection” for clergy who oppose same-sex marriage, said its sponsor, Republican Rep. Scott Plakon, according to The Palm Beach Post.

The subcommittee approved the measure by a vote of 9-4, Republicans in favor, Democrats against. It now goes to the Judiciary Committee, which will consider whether to move it on to the full House. The Senate has yet to take it up.

The vote came after the subcommittee heard impassioned testimony both for and against the bill.
Plakon acknowledged that the Constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion, already assures that clergy members have discretion over who they’ll marry. But because of “numerous changes in the law and culture,” the state law needs to make clear that they’re free to decline to perform ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs, he said.

Some clergy members, from LGBT-friendly denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ, said the bill is rooted in homophobia. “It’s that somehow an LGBT person who is looking to get married is a threat to other people of faith,” said Rev. Brant Copeland of the First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee. “I urge you not to adopt this unnecessary and, I think, basically homophobic bill.”

Texas and Oklahoma have passed similar laws this year, and the idea has been floated in some other states, including Georgia and Tennessee.
The cynic in me wonders how long it will be before we hear about Plakon being involved in a gay sex scandal!

America's Toxic Masculinity Crisis

Being gay, one is often only too aware of the toxicity of "real man" Masculinity in Virginia.  Gays by definition pose a threat to the sensibilities and self-esteem of those whose sense of self-worth depends on their macho self-image and desperate need to be a "real man."  In the wake of the recent Oregon mass shooting, it appears that the killer,  Christopher Harper-Mercer may have been one such psychologically unbalanced American male who held a grudge against women and clung to the trappings of supposed masculinity, including an obsession with guns.  A piece in Salon looks at the shooter and the frightening online world that he seeming lived in.  Here are excerpts:
In the wake of any tragedy, there’s a natural impulse to wonder: How did this happen? Who was to blame for this? In the week since Christopher Harper-Mercer’s execution of nine students at an Oregon community college, the question has become the same: Who is at fault here? 

Wedged among the proliferation of dank memes, choruses of copycat threats, violent Pepe .gifs, and cries of “Beta Uprising,” the 4chan forum /r9k/ might be closest to actually having an answer. According to the users, women were to blame for this rampage: If “the sluts” had just given it up to Mercer, he might never have gone on to murder innocent people. As horrible as 4chan may be, this claim is seemingly backed up by Mercer’s own words. In the days leading up to the attack, he posted complaints on a number of online forums about being chaste against his wishes. In his rambling manifesto left at the scene of the crime, he reportedly wrote: “I am going to die friendless, girlfriendless, and a virgin.”

Mercer’s frustration and rage at being a virgin likely contributed to his lashing out at innocent bystanders. But the real issue wasn’t that Mercer was a virgin and that this whole thing could have been avoided with a pity-fuck. The problem is that Mercer—like the community that it seems he was a part of—felt that he wasn’t a “real” man because of it.

The state of being a man is a compilation of external influences that ultimately define whether someone is a “real” man or not. Guns, sex, and money serve as a sort of holy trinity for traditional masculinity, the tropes by which a supposedly true man is known. When it’s stripped down to its toxic core, “what is a man” ends up being defined by how many chicks he can bang, how much ass he can kick, and how much money and “status” he has. 

Of course, for all the swaggering machismo and bravado of these would-be alphas, their concept of masculinity is so fragile that a trending Twitter hashtag can threaten it. When we define so many aspects of “manhood” as being external to just existing, it means that manhood is something that can be taken away from you at any time.

[P]art of being “a man” in the traditional, hyper-masculine sense means being a virile sex machine. A (male) virgin is, thus, an aberration, a mistake, and a pretender who doesn’t deserve his penis. The incel boards and forums are full of young men complaining about how they’re subhuman, genetic refuse that mistakenly made it off the production line. They live in deep pain and resentment over the fact that they are not men the way they feel like they should be.

The more than men believe in the tropes of traditional masculinity and gender roles, the more they feel the pressure to live up to them, and the more pain they feel when they believe they fall short. But they can’t express that pain. After all, the traditional masculine man isn’t allowed to express pain, weakness, fear, or insecurity. They’re expected to be stoic, a silent pillar of strength. Their only acceptable emotion is anger. 

Violence is somethinganyone can do. When you’re feeling powerless, then you take that power back—preferably from someone else.

In fact, a study published in the medical journal Injury Prevention documents this phenomenon quite clearly: Men who feel the most male discrepancy stress (that is, who feel the worst about not being manly enough) are also the most likely to have committed violent assaults on others, as well as committing assaults with a weapon.
Gun manufacturers post advertisements featuring loving images of big, erect rifles with the caption: “Consider your man-card reissued.” The message is clear: You may not measure up, but you can buy a substitute to make up for it, chock full of copper-jacketed death sperm.

Charles Harper-Mercer felt he couldn’t measure up as a man by being a lover, so he decided to show the world just how big his semi-automatic murder penis was.

Mercer was someone who was obsessed with the trappings of masculinity that he felt he couldn’t measure up to and lashed out, as statistics show that so many do.

We need to recognize just how damaging it is to sell the idea of men at their worst—brutish, violent and barely in control of themselves—is the only way to be a “real” man. We’ve stuck ourselves with a toxic idea of masculinity where you continually have to prove you’re a man—being willing to hurt others in order to do so—instead of manhood being something inherent.

The defenders of toxic masculinity love to portray those who don’t conform as being unmanly or beta white-knight manginas—sexual quislings who seek to betray their gender because they can’t measure up. It’s a way of derailing the conversation, to pit people against one another rather than to accept the truth: This form of masculinity has failed us. It doesn’t produce men; it produces anger, rage, and pain. It teaches us that the only way to be a man is to aspire to be the worst in us. We can do better. We can be better.
Obviously, I hold these "real man" types in low regard.  They hold gays in low regard if not contempt, but it's really only because they hold themselves in such low regard and because gays threaten their sense of masculinity.   Behind most "real man" types you will find a homophobe worried about his own lack of masculinity regardless of the outward bravado.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

More Wedneday Male Beauty

Vatican Accused of Sending Gay Priests for "Ex-Gay Cure"

While Pope Francis and the endless number of bitter old closeted men at the Vatican continue to malign gays and blather about God's plan for male-female relationships during the Church's synod on the family, the Roman Catholic Church remains incapable of avoiding one gay related bombshell after another.  On top of yesterday's story of the summary firings of two gay priests, now a story has broken about the Vatican sending gay priests to a monastery to  subject them to voodoo like "ex-gay" cures.   Never mind that all reputable - i.e., all non-Christofascist - medical and mental health associations condemn so-called conversion therapy.  In light of the 300 years it took the Church to admit that it erred in condemning Galileo, this latest embrace of ignorance and bigotry is all too par for the course.  Christianity Today looks at this new issue plaguing the Vatican and underscoring its anti-knowledge mindset.  Here are highlights:

The Vatican has been sending gay priests to a monastery to "cure" them of homosexuality, a former clergyman has alleged.

Mario Bonfanti says he was asked to go to the Venturini monastery in Trento, northern Italy, after it was discovered he was gay. Despite having maintained his vow of celibacy, the priest was dismissed from his parish in Sardinia three years ago when he refused.

Following Bonfanti's allegations, the head of Venturini, Father Gianluigi Pasto, told Italian reporters: "I can only say that here we help the priests become healthy".

The Independent reports that Fr Pasto denied the monastery is specifically for gay and paedophile priests in an interview La Repubblica, but did not deny that they may have come in the past. "Priests come to us for a period of formation and personal reflection," he said.

The allegations come in a week that the world's eyes are on Rome, as Pope Francis hosts the Synod on the Family with a particular focus on marriage and homosexuality.

During the opening Mass on Sunday, the pope reaffirmed Catholic opposition to gay marriage, but called for the Church to be welcoming and compassionate towards all people, regardless of their sexuality.

Ahead of the Synod, however, the Vatican dismissed a priest from his position in the Holy See after he came out as gay in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.
As I have noted many times, what should a gay Catholic do?  Walk - no run - from the Church and get their family members and friends to follow suit.  Given the countless times throughout history where the Church has been dead wrong - e.g., supporting slavery, rejecting science and condemning  scientists and the intellectually curious, one has to wonder why anyone with a brain listens to the garbage being uttered by the Church hierarchy and the members of the closeted priesthood. 

Finding "Someone who Completely Gets Me"

I have had the pleasure of meeting Dustin Lance Black - or Lance as he calls himself - on three occasions and have found him to be a sweet, thoughtful and unassuming individual.  He is also someone who has been on a mission to bring marriage equality nationwide and was a founding member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.  Now, Black is engaged to marry Olympian Tom Daley and he has made some touching statements.  The Christofascists seek to denigrate same sex love, but Lance's statements cut through to the beauty of loving same sex relationships.  Here are excerpts from Gay Star News
Newly engaged, Oscar winning screenwriter and LGBTI activist Dustin Lance Black is opening up about his feelings for fiance Tom Daley and their relationship.

‘I met someone who completely gets me,’ he tells the podcast Defining Marriage.

‘I definitely know that we’re better for having each other. We dream bigger. Things seem so much more possible together. Two and a half years in and it still feels like every day is a dream.’

The couple announced their engagement with an announcement in a British newspaper last month.

He says of getting married: ‘There’s power in the word, that the word is understood by society and it means that when you say “I’m married” or getting married, it’s a promise you make to the person you love, and I think that promise creates so much. It creates so much potential, and is understood by so many people.’

Black, who won the Academy Award in 2009 for his screenplay for the film Milk, has been deeply involved in the fight for same-sex marriage in the US. He was a founding member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights which successfully fought in the US Supreme Court for marriage equality in California.

He recalls the dreams he said in his speech the night he accepted his Oscar: ‘There’s two things I said: I said full federal equality, and we have that now in terms of marriage; I also said that one day I hoped that I’d be able to fall in love and get married. I never dreamed in that time I would meet somebody and fall in love and get engaged. I just never knew if that was something I’d be able to appreciate in my own lifetime.’

I wish them both much happiness.  I was especially touched by Lance's comments because my husband often describes me to others as "Someone who Completely Gets Him."

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

The Virginia GOP: Opposing Medicaid Without Good Reason

Next month the entire Virginia General Assembly is up for reelection - or preferably, replacement in the case of many of its Republican members.  In the noise machine that is the run up to the 2016 presidential election, including the ongoing GOP clown car circus, many Virginians seem oblivious to the election on November 3, 2015, and may fail to vote - something that favors the Republicans whose base, while crazy, tends to always go to the polls.  Among the issue to be addressed in the 2016 session of the General Assembly is the issue of Medicaid expansion, something opposed by Republicans largely because it is part of the Affordable Health Care Act championed by Barack Obama.  These individuals - who pretend to be the party of faith - happily throw 400,000 some Virginians in the gutter rather than had Obama a success.  The Virginian Pilot blasts these modern day Pharisees in a main editorial today.  Here are highlights:

REPUBLICAN state lawmakers' refusal to accept billions in Virginians' federal taxes to subsidize insurance for some 400,000 uninsured people has repeatedly been exposed as the partisan political ploy that it is.

The expansion of Virginia's managed-care Medicaid program, the most efficient of two divisions of Medicaid in Virginia, is a prime objective of Democratic President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of that federal law, however, left to the respective states a decision whether to accept the return of federal tax revenue for Medicaid expansion. In Virginia, where Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, GOP delegates and senators dug in their heels and refused.

The effects of that fiscally irresponsible position extend far beyond the health care of lower-income, uninsured Virginians.

Republicans have chosen to bleed hospitals in their own districts of necessary revenue, diminishing access to quality health care while undermining local and statewide economic development efforts. All so they can politically oppose a lame duck president over a law twice declared constitutional and which the GOP doesn't have the votes in Washington to overturn.

State data show one-third of Virginia's acute-care hospitals lost money operating in 2013, as the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association pointed out in a statewide public-awareness campaign. Roughly half of rural Virginia's acute-care hospitals lost money that year.

Those figures are unsustainable, and they portend a looming crisis for health care - and for the economy - in Virginia. That crisis could be averted simply by expanding Medicaid and returning Virginians' federal tax dollars to the commonwealth.

The health care industry is the top employer in the vast majority of Virginia's rural counties, providing critical jobs and tax revenue.  It's worth noting many of those areas are represented by Republican legislators, who seem intent on punishing their constituents in order to score a political victory. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who has focused heavily on economic development, campaigned in 2013 on a pledge to increase health insurance coverage.

Under the law, federal funds would cover 100 percent of costs for expanding Medicaid coverage through 2016, and then gradually phase down to a floor of 90 percent in 2020.
There is no business case for refusing the return of billions in tax dollars already paid by residents to improve health care for Virginia's working poor, shore up Virginia hospitals' ailing financial conditions and strengthen an industry critical to Virginia's economy.

A Last S.O.S. for the S.S. United States

The super liner U.S. United States was built at Newport News Shipbuilding less than ten miles from where I sit typing this post and was launched in the same year that I was born.   In her prime, she was the fastest ocean liner afloat and counted presidents, movie stars and royalty among her passengers.  Now, she is a rusting hulk facing the scrape yard if funds are not raised to maintain her while a plan to develop her into a water front attraction and hotel in New York City are completed.  The S.S. United States is small compared to some of today's massive cruise ships that resemble mammoth hotels slapped on a hull, but her sleek lines and wind swept superstructure recall the days when crossing the Atlantic was most often for the rich and famous.  The New York Times looks at the ship and the fate that I hope she manages to dodge.  Here are excerpts:
A Titanic-sized supership that once ferried presidents, Hollywood royalty, actual royalty and even the Mona Lisa has a place in the history books as the fastest oceanliner in the world. The owners are now racing to avoid having the ship, the S.S. United States, relegated to the junk heap.

A preservationist group, the S.S. United States Conservancy, saved the vessel from being scrapped a few years ago. Its members are working with a developer to give the mothballed vessel a new life as a stationary waterfront real-estate development in New York City, the ship’s home port in her heyday.

Their big dreams, however, now face a financial crisis: Short of money, the conservancy in recent days formally authorized a ship broker to explore the potential sale to a recycler. In other words, the preservationists might have to scrap their vessel.

The conservancy continues to seek out donors, investors or a buyer to preserve the ship and press forward with development. But unless something happens by Oct. 31, the group said in a statement, “We will have no choice but to negotiate the sale of the ship to a responsible recycler.”

The decision to seek bids from scrappers was “excruciating,” said Ms. Gibbs, particularly since the development plan emerged in the last year. “We’ve never been closer to saving the S.S. United States, and we’ve never been closer to losing her,” she said.

In the 1950s and ’60s, the ship was a marvel of technology and elegance, offering regular passenger service between New York and Europe. The 1952 maiden voyage smashed trans-Atlantic speed records. She was so fast, her propellers were a Cold War state secret.

Passenger jets doomed the superliners, however. The S.S. United States left service in the late 1960s. Today she is docked in Philadelphia, stripped of her interiors and rusting in the Delaware River across the street from an Ikea store.

The redevelopment plan is underway, said Keith Harper, vice president for design at Gibbs & Cox, the firm that originally designed the S.S. United States. Late last year, a real estate developer hired the firm to help devise specific ideas for possible reuse. . . . . The ship has roughly 600,000 square feet of floor space.
Admirers remain optimistic. Among them is John Quadrozzi, whose company happens to own a pier in Brooklyn big enough to accommodate an oceanliner. He says he would welcome the ship there, where docking costs would be considerably lower. The conservancy is considering the move, if the money can be raised.

The S.S. United States was conceived with two purposes: to provide luxury passenger service to and from Europe, and to quickly convert into a superfast military transport, although that need never arose. Built partly with government funds, the ship represented a powerful expression of American postwar optimism and ambition.

Newspapers speculated on her secret top speed and wrote about her comings and goings like no airplane route gets written about. In the 1950s and ’60s, she was featured in a Disney movie, a Munsters movie, and a sequel to the Marilyn Monroe blockbuster “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” according to a conservancy history. Her twin red-white-and-blue stacks can be glimpsed in the opening of “West Side Story.”

America, unlike much of Europe, destroys its history and historic buildings and, in this case, ships.  The S.S. United States is one of a kind and I hope the funds are found to save her and make her into a waterfront destination.    Consider making a donation here.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

More Tuesday Male Beauty

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Former Vatican Insider: More than 50% of Priests are Gay

This past weekend, Roman Catholic bishops gathered at the Vatican to kick off a second installment of their synod on so-called family issues.  During the lead up to the synod, two gay Catholic priests have been fired from their positions because of their relationships.  Further underscoring the Church's animus towards gays, Pope Francis opened the synod by basically repeating his view that God entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman: Its failure deprives the earth of warmth and darkens the sky of hope.”  Meanwhile, a former Vatican insider has stated in an interview with German magazine Stern that he believes 50% of priests, including those at the Vatican, are gay.  Gay Star News looks at these statements:
David Berger, an openly gay academic who formerly worked for the Vatican, said the number of gay men working in the Catholic Church was well above average – even more so in the papal state.

‘In the Vatican, I experienced the number of gay men to be even higher,’ he said in an interview with German magazine Stern‘I guess around half [of the men working there].’

‘On one hand it’s down to homosexuality being demonized in the Church. It’s a very severe sin,’ he said.

On the other hand, the image of a celibate priest, who is never questioned about not having a wife, was very attractive for gay men, Berger continued, as they wouldn’t have to explain themselves and wouldn’t be bothered into marriage.

‘So you have the advantage of having many gay men with a guilty conscience.
Berger also said the biggest rule in the Vatican was while people could have gay sex, in public they should always remain true to the Church’s principles and not talk about it.

I think that may be down to being gay being an important apparatus of power,’ Berger told the Stern.

‘After a coming out, those in power don’t have anything left with which to hold you down. That’s a disaster beyond all expectations.’

David Berger worked as an academic at the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas Aquinas in Vatican City; when he came out as gay, he was forced to leave.

It goes without saying that the hypocrisy of these bitter old men is off the proverbial chart.   But there is much more involved in the misogyny of the Church and it centers on psychologically damaged, self-loathing closeted men.  Michael Bayly, a gay rights activist Catholic and blogger friend, lays out the true level of hypocrisy and dysfunction that is the Catholic Church hierarchy and much of the priesthood.  Here are excerpts:

The Roman Catholic priesthood has long been a haven for a certain type of gay man – one who, for whatever reason, does not experience, or care to seek to experience in the wider world, validation for who they are sexually.

Before the rise in the West of the gay liberation movement of the late 60s-early 70s, the priesthood was one of a very few environments where homosexual men could gather and live together without arousing undue suspicion. More importantly, it was perhaps the only environment where they could gain power and experience respect and deference.

Consequently, I think it's fair to say that the priesthood has historically attracted a disproportionate number of homosexual men. For many of these men, the price paid for a life of power and prestige involves the maintaining of a secretive sexual life. . . . . Another price that we know has been paid by many men – both gay and straight – is that of a stunted psycho-sexual development. One sad consequence of this can be seen in the clergy sex abuse scandal. I would argue that it's a minority of abuse cases that involve actual pedophiles, i.e., adults sexually attracted to prepubescent children. Instead, many, if not most of the caes, involve grown men attempting to act-out or come to terms with their sexuality with non-consenting teenagers and/or young adults with whom they share a similar level of psycho-sexual development.

Just as with heterosexuals, the vast majority of homosexuals can and do choose to live lives marked by ongoing psycho-sexual growth, loving relationships, and sexual integrity and health. We see the benefits of this choice all around us in the lives and relationships of the gay individuals, couples, and families we know and love.

Where we're not seeing it is in the Roman Catholic priesthood.

This is because the clerical culture of the church, unlike wider society, continues to denigrate and malign homosexuality and its expression.
And yet we know that this same culture is heavily populated by homosexual men – not the type "on the outside" that accept and celebrate the gift of their sexuality, but rather the type that is self-loathing, secretive, and often psycho-sexually stunted. 

A celibate life can be fostered and maintained, but only if sexuality – in all its beauty and complexity – is acknowledged and respected, something that's not happening in the priesthood. Gay men in the priesthood are forced to live secret, isolated, and often sexually furtive lives.

No good can come from such a state of affairs, as we're painfully witnessing almost on a daily basis.  

What's stopping the many gay priests and bishops from stepping out of their closets of secrecy? Is it the lure of the rich trappings of power and prestige also housed in these closets? Is it fear of losing this power and prestige? Is it more practical – the fear of simply losing their position and thus their source of income? Do some really believe what the clerical leadership teaches about homosexuality?

One thing I do know for sure is that our gay brothers within the feudal world of the Vatican are giving gay men everywhere a bad name. I must admit that as a gay Catholic man I resent this. So many of us have made the difficult journey to a place of self-realization and integration, and discerned that it's the truly enlightened and authentically spiritual path to tread. And yet our so-called spiritual leaders refuse to recognize it, let alone embark on the journey themselves. I don't want our church to be led by such hypocrites and cowards.

[T]he whole leadership system must be reformed. We can no longer depend upon a "good" pope, i.e., one who thinks like us, to come in and make everything better. A benevolent autocrat is still an autocrat. It's time we acknowledged that the church took a terribly wrong turn when, around 1600 years ago, it assumed the trappings of empire during the time of Constantine. No more overlords, autocrats, emperor-like popes.  
These men want to dictate morality to others and love to condemn other gays, yet they are totally screwed up emotionally and psychologically themselves.    Worse yet, they are for the most part totally clueless on matters of family life and intimate relationships, but want to define how others should live.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Wayne LaPierre is the NRA's Hit Man

The recent horrific mass shooting in Oregon has triggered another round of discussion about the need to change America's insane gun laws.  As noted in prior posts, most of the GOP sees no need for change - no doubt in large part because of the millions of dollars GOP candidates in particular receive from the NRA.  Research has shown that the real financial strength of the NRA comes from the gun manufacturers and not the hunters who allow themselves to be used as tools by the ever mercenary gun manufacturers and their hit man, Wayne LaPierre who strikes me as a totally amoral - if not immoral - individual who makes a plush living pushing policies that ultimately kill people.  A piece in Salon looks at LaPierre and the death that he and the NRA peddle.  Here are some highlights:

Although 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer pulled the trigger on the gun that killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday, Wayne LaPierre, the fanatic executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, also has blood on his hands.

LaPierre, who has worked for the NRA since 1978 and served as its top official since 1991, is the organization’s hit man when it comes to intimidating elected officials to oppose any kind of sensible gun control laws, including a federal law requiring background checks on would-be gun buyers and a national registry of guns. LaPierre likes to fulminate about gun owners’ rights. But he’s been silent on the Oregon killings, just like he’s been silent after the murders of other innocent victims of America’s epidemic of gun violence.

For decades, the NRA has fought every effort to get Congress and states to adopt reasonable laws that would make it much less likely for people like Harper-Mercer to obtain a gun. The NRA even defends the right of Americans to carry concealed weapons in bars, churches, schools, universities, and elsewhere. This poses a huge threat to police and civilians alike.

Harper-Mercer was obviously an emotionally troubled man.  . . . . Although the murderer’s psychology and motives may be fascinating, it should not be the major focus. There are plenty of deranged people in the world, but in most well-off countries they can’t easily get their hands on a firearm.

Our nation’s weak gun laws allow felons, domestic abusers, and the mentally ill to arm themselves.

In 2013, there were 33,636 deaths from firearm violence in the United States, including 11,208 homicides (31 a day) and 21,175 suicides. Firearms were used in 69.6 percent of all homicides that year. Of course, many more people are injured — some seriously and permanently — by gun violence.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the medical cost of treating non-fatal gun injuries totaled $3.7 billion in 2005. The direct medical costs of treating fatal gun injuries combined with the economic damages of lost lives totaled $37 billion.

The Umpqua Community College incident was the 264th mass shooting in the country this year, according to the Washington Post, which defines a mass shooting as involving at least four people shot. In those incidents, 380 people were killed.  

The NRA has two knee-jerk responses to the epidemic of gun violence. The first is that the Second Amendment gives all Americans the right to possess guns of all kinds — not just hunting rifles but machine guns and semi-automatics. Efforts to restrict gun sales and ownership are, according to the NRA, an assault on our constitutional freedoms.

The second is the cliché that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” To the NRA, gun laws have nothing to do with the epidemic of gun-related killings. This contradicts research documenting that states with stronger gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

[S]ince the Newtown massacre, most new state laws have loosened, rather than tightened, gun restrictions, according to the Pew Research Center.

One of the NRA’s biggest victories occurred in 2003, when passed a law sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a former Republican congressman from Kansas that makes it more difficult for public safety officials to shut down the illegal market in gun sales. A handful of gun dealers are responsible for most of the guns used in crimes and seized by law enforcement officials. 

Under LaPierre’s leadership, the NRA has not only dramatically expanded its ties to the gun manufacturers, but has also linked the NRA to the far right, including the Tea Party. LaPierre is a regular presence at gatherings of extreme right-wing groups, whose paranoid warnings about the threat of tyranny and Obama’s secret plan to confiscate all guns are meant to scare Americans into buying more guns and joining the NRA.

A 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that gun ownership is concentrated among older adults, rural residents, and whites, especially white Southerners. The NRA is able to mobilize a small but very rabid and vocal group of gun owners — as well as owners of gun shops — to attend rallies, write letters to newspapers and comments on blog sites, and contact elected officials.

Every American grieves for the families and friends of the people killed in Oregon this week. But until we tame the power of the NRA, we can expect more killings like this, a part of the deadly daily diet of murders throughout America committed by angry gun-toting people whose “freedom” to own weapons of mass destruction that the NRA defends.

The NRA must be defeated and, preferably, destroyed.