Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Israel,Gays And The RNC Have Had Enough: Bryan Fischer Gets Fired, But Not Silenced.

The Rachel Maddow Show (see below) had quite a field day with the news that AFA spokesperson Bryan Fischer has been released from his position as Director of Issues Analysis (whatever that means) from the American Family Association.

It came down to this: the RNC's upcoming junket to Israel is being bankrolled by the American Family Association, a listed hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center primarily because of its distorted views on gays. Debra Nussbaum Cohen of HAARETZ broke the story.

Then all hell broke loose - in Israel.
Evangelical political operative planned 9-day freebie trip for national committee members, on behalf of the conservative Christian AFA group which blasts Muslims, gays. SPLC rights group staffer: Our issue is not with the trip, but with the 'heinous beliefs' of those sponsoring it.
The problem, as the AFA knew it however, was Bryan Fischer and his statements about America being such a Christian nation that no other religion had any rights at all:

Crooks & Liars:
On his radio show last Monday, right-wing embarrassment to humanity Bryan Fischer offered complete, definitive proof that America is a Christian nation: Delicious bacon, which he claims would not be sold in America if it was not a Christian nation.
But the reason given for Mr. Fischer's demise in that position? 
Maddow quoted AFA President Tim Wildmon as dismissing Fischer as “just a talk show host” who is no longer associated with the AFA. When asked specifically what bothered him about Fischer, he cited “the soundbite quotes, you know, the Hitler and the homosexuality one… we reject that.”
Rejoicing On The Left AND The Right

John Amato (C&L) had it right: Bryan Fischer has long been an embarrassment to humanity and also to the Right, the more centered, legitimate Right. Although politicos like Rick Santorum have appeared on his show before, his presence at the 2012 Values Voter Summit was highly criticized. So much so that he was never asked to speak again. He has excoriated Native Americans, Muslims (of course), and African Americans. He has been the strident voice of pseudo-historian David Barton whose Seven Mountains theology is as political as it gets and comes dangerously close to theocracy: America must not simply be a Christian nation but a Christian ONLY nation. Fischer has appeared in the writings of this author numerous times, notably HERE, HERE, and HERE. He has been dissed by The New Yorker and has told gays to fund "their own disease (AIDS)" for research.

Yes, he has talked against gays, it seems, from his first moment of life - even more than abortion, that other darling of demonizing Christofascists. If the reason for the SPLC hate designation is the AFA's rhetoric against gays, Bryan Fischer has spouted 99% of that rhetoric. 

Fischer is a hate group in himself. 

His rhetoric, in fact, has been so toxic that the Left might breath a sigh of relief than shout "hallelujah". Being pummeled by Fischer ad infinitum makes one numb. Oh, the pundits will say "finally!" and "thank God!" but many will miss following his name with the odd title of Director of Issues Analysis. 

"Just A Talk Show Host"

For years, the AFA has been fending off criticisms of Fischer, treating them as trifling whimpers from a disgruntled Left. For years, Fischer has been depicting gays as "terrorists "nazis" "fascists" and pawns of Satan. So why has the AFA suddenly "rejected" his years of hate speech? It is obvious that Tim Wildman (president and founder) can countenance anti-gay speech but not anti-Semitism, especially when that anti-Semitism is broadcast before a very expensive gift to the GOP. 

It is also obvious that the AFA just can't bring itself to tell the truth: it "fired" Bryan Fischer, but it didn't silence him. It still needs him and he realizes that. Fischer has been their mouthpiece of hate. He just can't be their OFFICIAL mouthpiece of hate. 

So Bryan Fischer will still be with us on the airwaves spewing venom for all the people he deems not Christian enough for him to praise (or just leave alone). He will still be offending a majority of America. He will still be the odd specter of Fred Phelps. 

Now if Fischer ever loses his show on the AFA's channel ...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Jindal's "Response" A No-Go Zone For Athiests, Gays, And Forms Of Intelligent Life

Gov. Bobby Jindal's prayer rally at Louisiana State University was a pallid political attempt by a Presidential wannabe to curry the favor of the Christian Right.

And that was the serious side of it.

With people like Cindy ("Japan Is Shaped Like A Dragon") Jacobs and E.W. Jackson, it was the Christian Right's answer to the clown car in Iowa.* (See Rachel Maddow's take below). But it was Jindal who took center stage, declaring all the while that this was an event of "faith, not politics."

Yes, the suspension of disbelief ran very high.
Pastors on stage repeatedly asked for God, in general, to provide elected officials with guidance. Homosexuality, abortion and other hot political issues were also discussed by speakers throughout the event.

“You could see the people praying and breaking down, from the little kids all the way up,” said one participant. “It was God touching the nation.” Little kids breaking down is not inspirational. It's just plain too theatrical ... and a little sick. 
Anti-Gay, Anti-Catholic, Pro Theocracy

Cindy Jacobs was admittedly the oddest attendee, not because she has said that the death of birds in Arkansas was the cause of the repeal of Don't Ak Don't Tell, but because she has been the most anti-Catholic "prophetess" the country has ever seen.  (She has been known to go around smashing statues of Catholic saints). She has also called for Native Americans to renounce the sins of their forefathers who were, of course "cannibals." Pope Francis would have been disappointed that Jindal would ever promote such a fringe "batsh*t crazy" person. The reasoning pontiff might even laugh at Jindal. But Jindal, a self-avowed "Evangelical Catholic", has shrugged off Vatican views before.
Louisiana's Catholic bishops felt The Response was too evangelical and too political in tone for them to be comfortable, Rob Tasman, executive director of Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Associated Press.
The Louisiana governor pointed out that "a majority of our people are Christians, but we don't discriminate against anybody. And that's one of the great things about America." Tell that to gays, women, atheists and other religions. Jindal espouses the views of faux-historian David Barton, a Seven Mountains theology man, who envisions an exclusively Christian America, run by God, of course.

And Bobby Jindal, who, in a reference to the rally, compared himself to George Washington.
"I was struck by that final line, 'Our god wins,'" Stephanopoulos noted. "How do you think that lands in a country of 320 million people or many different kids of spirituality, many different kids of faith, many who believe in no god at all."          
"It's a time-honored tradition going back to our nation's founders for our presidents, for our leaders to turn to God for guidance, for wisdom," Jindal insisted. "George Washington did it, Abraham Lincoln did it, Harry Truman did it. So, absolutely, I think this idea of praying to God for wisdom and guidance is as old as our country."
George Washington as Billy Graham with a "prophetess" by his side, now there's a picture of note. The Presidents (note the citing, with a wishful thinking, of course) may have asked God for wisdom, but they didn't collect people in stadiums to pray. Stephanopoulos' question was completely sidetracked. Yes, Jindal's rally was  "No-Go Zone" where a great many Americans were repeatedly reviled. 

Less Than Stellar Outcome
When the rally kicked off at 10 a.m., the PMAC stands were lined with empty seats.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2011 version of “The Response” in Houston drew about 35,000 people, but Gov. Bobby Jindal’s event did not come close to meeting the PMAC’s seating capacity of 13,215.

That could be due to the fact that Louisiana State University students and faculty didn't want the darn thing in the first place. And the fact that it was sponsored by a SPLC-certified hate group didn't help things either. You see, the American Family Association and its founder, Tim Wildman are virulently anti-gay as well as anti-just-about-everything-else. With supreme bigot Bryan Fischer as its chief spokesperson, the group has spoken against African-Americans, Native Americans, gays, Obama, and every entity not mentioned favorably in the Bible. It also promotes Rambo Jesus.

There were protests, of course, but the most notable was actually another prayer rally:
While a prayer rally held at LSU, featuring Gov. Bobby Jindal, received a lot of attention because of the group hosting it, the American Family Association, more than 200 people descended upon Southern University Saturday morning to praise and worship God, and pray for a better education system in Louisiana, healthcare reform, more political involvement, more black men to be fathers to their children and new policies that would decrease the mass incarceration rates of black men.
And then there were the protestors outside the sparsely-attended event:
It was outrageous for the governor to throw a prayer rally on LSU's campus -- an event seemingly aimed at raising his national profile -- while simultaneously asking for state higher education to absorb at least $300 million in budget cuts next year, they said. "He is using it to launch a presidential campaign. ... We are subsidizing his move on to national office on the backs of our students," said Kent Filbel, a LSU professor who attended the protest in his academic robes.

Bogus prophetesses and tearful children aside, the fact that Jindal thought this rally would be effective religiously or politically was the real idiocy: it was a show of righteous arrogance that accomplished very little, except to make people wonder at the political process proffering Jindal as leader.

At the Southern University rally, Pastor Theron Jackson of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Shreveport, La. said: "There is no mystery as to why we call on God."We don't elect a God. We have a God that lives high but looks low." 

Bobby Jindal doesn't see it that way: throwing a rally at a university campus that doesn't want you or your sponsors, filling it with fringe religious frauds to give it theatrical appeal, and telling everyone that's it's not really a political event (wink wink) is just what God wants, even if others think it's ridiculous. Now that's real presidential material. 
"The Land Is Starting To Rejoice" hyped a poster for the event. 

Rejoicing that another self-righteous politico has proven himself to be a ridiculous choice for President. 

*Those attendees included Sarah Palin (and her mess of a speech), Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker,Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, all of them trashing Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.

The Lost Weekend - Or The (Warped) Shape Of Things To Come

Reading about the Republican Clown Car is depressing, making one want to crawl back into bed on Monday morning, pretending that the weekend just didn't happen. Showing just how low American politics has sunk, presidential hopefuls packed Iowa with snipes at each other and two (almost) viable candidates not present: Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.

Rick Perry wasn't there either, so he sniped at himself - by being himself.


There was the Theocrat Clown Mike Huckabee. The Senate Clown, Ted Cruz. The Former Senate Clown, and Theocrat Clown wannabe, Rick Santorum. The Koch Brothers Clown, Scott Walker. The (hopefully) Forgotten Clown, Newt Gingrich. The Bridge Scandal Clown, Chris Christie. The Uncle Tom Clown, Ben Carson. 

And The Sarah Palin Clown, Sarah Palin.

They talked and joked about Hillary Clinton and downgraded Obama. Ho hum. Oh, and Benghazi must have been in there somewhere. It HAD to be there! 

All-in-all it was really a lost weekend, lost to sub-standard politics and Palin "bizarro" (as the London Times put it). 

Back to bed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Francis and Obama Both Pack Punches: Blasphemy, Cable TV Pundits, Climate Change, and ... Gay Marriage

Pope Francis (en route to the Philippines):
"If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
Obama (State Of The Union):
As Americans, we respect human dignity... It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.
Pope Francis (Catholic News Service):
Pope Francis went on to say that the "family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life."
I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.
In The Ring

Both President Obama and Pope Francis threw punches at various times on a variety of subjects, the only difference of opinion being in that of gay marriage: Pope Francis called it a harmful "ideological colonization" while Obama referred to it as a civil right.

Other punches were delivered to blasphemy (Francis), to cable news pundits (Obama) and to climate change deniers (both Francis and Obama), but it was on the issue of gay marriage that the two differed visably. And while both have been a visible thorn in the Right's ideology (esp. the Christian Right), Francis ameliorated his poor standing with the statement about the family being threatened by efforts of redefinition of marriage. On his part, Obama widened the wound to marriage equality foes who are still not willing to believe that 70% of America is ready for gay marriage.

The who-am-I-to-judge pope definitely delivered a punch to gay marriage. The Christian Right will be making handstands and hay with the statement for months to come, especially before the Supreme Court hears four cases from states banning such. They have been hoping for such a statement ever since their meeting with the pope last November. Trust amicus briefs from Catholic sources to mention it.

Obama also countered anti-gay activists by saying, in effect, that 36 states following the rulings of the federal courts couldn't be wrong. The petulant 14, (the worst being Florida, Texas and Mississippi) are in the minority and, civil rights-wise, we've seen that scenario before.

Maybe It's Just Another Matter Of Evolution

Like Barack Obama's views on same-sex marriage, will Francis' views evolve? Possibly, but the extent to which he will enforce those views on the Catholic Church (and hence, most of Christendom) is the key. And that might take a longer time than the evolution of his thoughts on the subject. In other words, America might find itself with another problem in the culture wars: being pitted against the rest of the world's religious beliefs. It is, already, of course, but the gap may widen and become impassable - that is, if people like Tony Perkins and Scott Lively have anything to say about it. 

Think of Uganda.

Love Makes A Family

With his statement, Francis reduces the love between two men or two women. He glorifies love within the traditional family makeup, while lessening his famous "who am I to judge" statement.
In his State of the Union address, however, Barack Obama elevates same-sex love and puts it on a par with "traditional values." 

He recognizes that love makes a family. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Last Night I Dreamt Of Ronald Reagan

And no, it was not a nightmare.
I was sitting alone in a crowded restaurant when Ronald Reagan placed a brown leather pouch on my table. He was very old and worn, obviously in the late stages of alzheimers. He pressed buttons on the side of the pouch and there emitted a rather sweet melody as if coming from a tiny piano. He shambled to the side of the room, whereupon two young men in suits, one white and the other African-American seized the pouch and took it to their table. I couldn't see President Reagan's response, but I immediately sensed dismay at such brashness. I quietly went to the table of the men in suits, snatched up the melodious pouch and then took it to the President.
"Thank you, sir, I believe this is yours." 
He accepted it without a nod or a smile. The room feel silent, then people rose one by one to applaud the gesture. Whether it was for me or out of respect to Reagan, I didn't know. I left the room while they were still applauding.

In the most stultified lays compassion and consideration. Ronald Reagan seemed to be an extremely personable man, but when it came to issues like AIDS, he was ramrod straight in refusal to acknowledge a problem. 

Alzheimers may have erased that facet of his personality. Through alzheimers he became less of a conservative icon and more of a human being, one to be respected even through the ordeal. At least, that's what I think my dream meant.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's Religious Freedom, Stupid! The Christian Right Relies On Congress To Push It's Latest Strategy.

”This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy,” former Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., a supporter of marriage equality, told The New York Times in 2005.

The article nails it on the head: in Religious Right Poised For Greater Power in 2015, it quotes People For The American Way's President Michael Keenan as saying ...
"... the GOP is still relying on the Religious Right and the ties between GOP elected officials and radical Religious Right figures are closer than they have ever been. An example of clout—if you’re a Republican who wants to be president, you’re all but obligated to show up at the Values Voter Summit, an annual convention of anti-gay extremists hosted by the FRC and AFA. And they do it in spite of the inherent risks."

In the wake of LGBT marriage victories, progressives are preening while the Christian Right is plotting, strategizing: while they've moved their anti-LGBT machinations to foreign soil, their defense has shifted into an offense in America. It's not "we're not discriminating" or "we really LOVE gays, but ...", it's now "religious freedom MUST be protected" and "we're the ones being discriminated against." Some even portray the LGBT community as the "REAL Terrorists"!!
Pat Robertson: “They are trying to force people who are Christians to marry them or else face jail, to make cakes honoring them or else go to jail, and give their sermons over and divulge their innermost thoughts or go to jail. Now that’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with. These people are terrorists, they’re radicals, and they’re extremists.
Erick Erickson: "And so they did the only thing they could do, the only thing they knew to do," he continued. "They went to the mayor of Atlanta and demanded he fire the chief of the fire department for daring to mock them." (Comparing the LGBT community to terrorists responsible for Charlie Hebdo attack.)
In Virginia, things are brewing that may give the CR more power than ever - it's called a "conscience clause".

The Slate:
[State rep.] Marshall’s measure would attach a “conscience clause” to any “license, registration, or certificate” obtained from the commonwealth, whether by a private business or a government agency. This clause would allow all workers to refuse to “perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action” that would “violate the religious or moral conviction of such person with respect to same-sex ‘marriage’ or homosexual behavior."
What To Expect in 2015

I've always maintained that the Christian Right can - and will - act like a wounded tiger when it comes to gay rights. The marriage equality victories have enraged it so much that it is calling on Congress (certainly not the courts) to avenge the insult to its vanity. "Protecting religious freedom" is an offensive measure, not a defensive one.

A Few Good Reads

In Why We Can't Get Religious Freedom Right, Rob Donaldson (a former Mormon Church Leader) states says that the Christian Right has a definition of religious freedom that goes beyond the freedom to believe what you want to believe:
Conservative Christians aren’t persuaded. They believe (with no Biblical foundation I can find) that to provide the cake, or take the pictures, or do anything else in support of that gay wedding, taints the baker or photographer with the sin of approving a “sinful” act and relationship.
In writing about the involvement of the new Congress, Donaldson sites Frank Bruni (Your God, My Dignity, oped NYT)

“This is the new wave, the new frame,” James Esseks, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U., told me. He said that last year, more than 10 states considered legislation that, to varying degree, blessed discrimination based on sexual orientation by people claiming that it was a right, a matter of religious liberty. Only one of those states, Mississippi, passed such a law, but efforts elsewhere persist. A Virginia lawmaker introduced this sort of legislation just a few weeks ago.

Another good source of thought on the subject is Rob Boston's Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn't Give You The Right To Tell Other People What To Do.
The term religious freedom means the right to make decisions about theology about yourself. It's the right to worship God - or not to worship at all - as you see fit. It's the right to share your faith and join in worship with a community of like-minded believers. It's the right to pass that faith onto your children.
And what it is not: "... the right to use the power of government to impose your theology on anyone else."

With the election of "Religious Freedom Republicans" the Christian Right is doing just that.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

After Leelah: When Parents Love Their Son ... But Not Their Daughter.

Change IS necessary - but where?

There is so much to ponder from the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, the damage of reparative "therapy" aside: how responsible were the parents, Doug and Carla, of her death? Dan Savage makes the analogy that if the culprit in Tyler Clementi's suicide was convicted, so should the parents of Leelah Alcorn. This rather extreme view hangs on one thing: accountability. And after additional posts on Reddit came to light, the Alcorn's accountability seems more severe.

On Reddit, in a post she titled, "I'm sure someone on here can convince me not to kill myself," she wrote she was taking what is a powerful (and popular, albeit older) anti-depressant.
"I've been on prozac for about a year, and my dosages have been going up every couple months or so," she wrote one month ago. "I'm currently taking 60 mg every morning."
She wrote her parents "never physically hurt" her, "but they always talked to me in a very derogatory tone."
They would say things like "You'll never be a real girl" or "What're you going to do, fuck boys?" or "God's going to send you straight to hell". These all made me feel awful about myself, I was christian at the time so I thought that God hated me and that I didn't deserve to be alive. I cut myself at least once every couple days, and I was constantly thinking about suicide.
60 mg of Prozac. Who would prescribe 60 mg of Prozac for a teenager? 2 increases in a year are alarming.

Other damning factors:

- Leelah was taken out of school and deprived of any interaction with friends. Social media was verboten.

- The Alcorns' story changed concerning their reaction to Leelah's request: "We don't support that religiously" became "we didn't have the money for anything like that."

- The Alcorns have not addressed any of Leelah's allegations, especially the cutting.

- Carla Alcorn insisted that Leelah came to her only once about being transgender.

Then there's this:
Eventually I lied to them and told them I was straight and that I was a boy, and then the derogatory speech and neglect started to fade.

On the surface, the Alcorns seem to be a very, very private family, but a 2011 Christian Chronicle article on their church in Northeast Ohio featured the Alcorns. The headline photo has since been taken offline.

"We dont' want to make this political." That is quite the facetious statement: after publication of the suicide note, how could they have thought the situation would not become political? How could they prevent it from becoming a cause celebre throughout the country? Had they no idea of the social climate? Were they that isolated? Did the church shield them from the rest of the world?

In fact, the Alcorns also seemed obsessed with what the rest of the community thought about them: taking Leelah out of school and totally off social media for five months point to a concern for the family name than concern for Leelah herself.

To be fair, Doug and Carla Alcorn are facing a bewildering situation for which they were totally unprepared: they placed too much faith (and fear) in their own closed Christian community and believed very little in outside humanity. Now they can't understand why their actions are in question. They can't understand why they have to change their story, make it different from Leelah's. They can't understand most of what was written in the suicide note.

And they certainly can't understand the feelings that were in the second note, the note that apologized to siblings and friends only: 
In a second scheduled note, Alcorn wrote: “Mom and Dad: F*ck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.”
She concluded the post by saying, “I don’t really feel the need to apologize to anyone else … odds are you didn’t give a s**t about me and if you do, you did something that made me feel like s**t and you don’t deserve an apology.”
How unconditional is unconditional?

The first reaction posted on facebook (which has been taken down) stated that "Joshua" was residing in heaven after having gone out for "an early morning walk" (2:00am) and being hit by a truck. This speaks volumes as to how the parents covered up their child's suicide: let people think it was an accident.

“But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

The Alcorns have basically washed themselves of accountability by saying that they loved their "son" - unconditionally, without knowing who their "son" really was - and not caring unless that "son" preformed and developed in a conventional Christian manner. They glossed over all of Leelah's comment about being derided and told "you're going to hell."

Let's face it, that "love" was very conditional: " ... and then the derogatory speech and neglect started to fade."

Fix It.

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

Rob Watson (LGBT father and activist) wrote in LGBTQ Nation the most beautiful requiem for Leelah here, calling her the Matthew Shepard of our time.

But Matthew Shepard's death didn't "fix" things. It called for change as Leelah's death has called for change - but where? Parenting? Christian attitudes? Society's attitudes in general towards the transgendered? The change must be vast - and will, unfortunately, be very very slow. Numbers will mount, Leelah. Your death has helped a great deal because it serves as a stepping stone to change, but the forces of bigotry and close-mindedness are strong and change will be arduous. Just ask the LGBT community.

To Leelah's parents:

You cannot change. People don't expect you to at this point. You must accept this fact, however: you may have loved your son Joshua to a degree, but many people love your daughter Leelah wholeheartedly. Yes, they love Leelah more. 

Now and for a long, long time.