Saturday, November 07, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

"Death Penalty For Gays" Literature At Hate Group Conference Attended by GOP Candidates

As predicted, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal attended the hate group sponsored National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa where among other extremist propaganda a pamphlet entitled “Is The Death Penalty Just?,” was disseminated.  The pamphlet argues that the death penalty is just, and that homosexuality is among the offenses deserving the death penalty.  The American Taliban is alive and well and increasingly shows itself to be little different from ISIS except for the level of violence it is willing to use. Right Wing Watch looks at the gathering of extremist to whom Huckabee, Cruz and Jindal are only too happy to prostitute themselves.  Sadly, there is little media outcry.  Imagine if the same thing was said about blacks, Jews or Hispanics?  Here are highlights of the hate mongering:
Phillip Kayser is among the several speakers joining Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa this weekend, and as we've reported, he, along with the conference's chief organizer, Kevin Swanson, has called on the government to execute gay people. Kayser's views are so extreme that back in the 2012 election, Ron Paul's campaign tried to cover up his endorsement.

However, it seems that in today's GOP, calling for the execution of gay people isn't beyond the pale.

At the conference, where he is giving two speeches on how local officials and others can defy the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision, Kayser distributed the very pamphlet calling for the death penalty for gay people that caused a stir back when he endorsed Paul.

In the pamphlet, “Is The Death Penalty Just?,” Kayser unsurprisingly concludes that the death penalty is in fact just, and lists homosexuality among the offenses deserving of capital punishment. Ironically for a "religious liberties" summit, he also claims that the government should treat "breaking the Sabbath," "blasphemy and cursing God publicly," "publicly sacrificing to other gods" and "apostasy" as death penalty crimes as well.
He writes that government officials are "subject to Biblical statutes and judgments," claiming that "Christians should advocate the full implementation of all God's civil penalties in every age.... Every Old Testament statue continues on the books, and without those statutes, we could not have a consistent ethnical standard." Even "pagan" nations are obliged to follow biblical law, he writes, as "God held gentile kings accountable to these civil laws."

These people are frightening!  What's equally frightening is that they are completely welcome in today's Republican Party - as is Ben Carson.  

U.S. Intelligence Chief Debunks Anti-Hillary Claims

First the Benghazi hearings turned into a tour de force for Hillary Clinton at the expense of her Republican inquisitors.  Now, the office of the Director of National Intelligence  has reportedly concluded that two emails received by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not contain top secret information as her enemies - and members of the media perhaps more concerned with sensation than the truth - have claimed.  Media Maters looks at the development that proves more than a small embarrassment for the New York Times which had breathlessly floated the intial story.  Here are excerpts:
The office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has reportedly concluded that two emails received by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not contain top secret information, a reversal from the Intelligence Community inspector general's prior claim that they did, according to a Politico report. Media had previously used the notion that the two emails were highly classified to suggest that Clinton or her aides had engaged in criminal behavior.

In July, the New York Times published an article -- which it subsequently had to correct twice -- about a security referral the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IG IC) made to the executive branch about whether there was any classified material on Clinton's email account during her time as secretary of state. The IG IC highlighted four allegedly classified emails and subsequently stated that two of those four emails contained "top secret" information. The State Department disagreed about whether the material in the emails was actually highly classified. As Politico is now reporting, "that disagreement has been resolved in State's favor" and the previous claim that the emails contained top secret information is wrong.

Politico reported on November 6 that the office of the Director of National Intelligence has now overruled the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community's prior conclusion that two emails received by Clinton contained highly classified information. As Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists explained to Politico, this "mistake" is nothing short than "astonishing" because "[i]t was a transformative event in the presidential campaign to this point. It had a potential to derail Clinton's presidential candidacy." From the article:
The U.S. intelligence community has retreated from claims that two emails in Hillary Clinton's private account contained top secret information, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO.

The determination came from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's office and concluded that the two emails did not include highly classified intelligence secrets. Concerns about the emails' classification helped trigger an on-going FBI inquiry into Clinton's private email set-up.
More dashed hopes so far for the GOP.

Ben Carson Lunacy and Lying on Display

Ben Carson: granaries built by a fictional person
Thankfully, Ben Carson seems to be getting some much needed scrutiny that (i) shows that the man is crazy in my view, and (ii) very challenged when it comes to truth and veracity.  The latter, of course, should be no surprise given Carson's religiosity and purported conservative Christian faith since in my experience, literally no one lies more than the "godly folk."  Between Carson's belief that Egypt's pyramids were built as granaries by Joseph, a mythical figure in the Bible, to his lie that he was offered a scholarship to West Point,  Carson clearly lives in an alternate reality - which may be why he is so popular with the equally delusional Teabagistan crowd.  First, the Washington Post looks at Carson's beliefs about the pyramids:
On Wednesday, a 17-year-old video surfaced of Ben Carson claiming that the Old Testament figure Joseph built the Egyptian pyramids to store food.

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said in a 1998 commencement speech at Andrews University, unearthed by BuzzFeed. “Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big — when you stop and think about it, and I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time — to store that much grain.”

Social media quickly overflowed with scorn. Critics — and not just archaeologists — pointed to well-documented evidence that the structures were built as tombs, not granaries. Photos of pyramid burial vaults circulated on Twitter. Soon, Carson’s comments had become a meme with references to the food pyramid and “Stargate.”

He has made a string of incendiary comments in recent years. . . . . But to claim that the pyramids, which American kids learn about in grade school, were not tombs for pharaohs but grain silos built by a biblical hero appeared to rise to another level. To some critics, it was akin to Dan Quayle’s infamous “potatoe” gaffe. And when Carson confirmed to CBS Wednesday night that he still believes Joseph built the pyramids as granaries, the video began to assume Mitt Romney “47 percent” proportions as the moment when Carson’s flaws as a candidate suddenly crystallized into a single quote.

“It’s amazing how one can be a neurosurgeon and a dimwit at the same time,” one person tweeted, echoing a common refrain.

Not surprisingly, most scholars and Egyptologist say that there is no historical proof that Joseph ever existed - just like the fictional Adam and Eve.  Indeed, the Joseph story in Genesis is noted as:
The reworked legends and folklore were probably inserted into the developing textual tradition of the Bible between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE. Most scholars place its composition in a genre that flourished in the Persian period of the Exile. 
Do we really want the president of the nation to be someone who bases his beliefs on legends and folklore?   But it gets worse.  Carson seems to have a documented history of lying to embellish his storyline.  True, much of the GOP base is too stupid to question tales that play to their own beliefs and prejudices, but did Carson expect the media to blindly believe his tall tales?  Vanity Fair looks at the West Point lie.  Here are excerpts:

Friday, November 6 might well be remembered as the end of Ben Carson mania. That’s because several key points in his inspirational, rags-to-riches life story were revealed to have been exaggerated, if not fabricated outright.

The collapse actually began on Thursday, when CNN published evidence they believe refutes his claim that he was an angry child: in his best-selling memoir, Gifted Hands, Carson, who had an impoverished childhood in Detroit, claimed that he had a “pathological temper” that led to several stunning incidents, such as attacking his mother with a hammer and attempting to stab a friend when he was in the ninth grade.

[D]uring press conferences and an appearance on The Kelly File later that day, he adamantly refused to admit that he fabricated his personal history, blaming the media for trying to take him down: “Do you think I’m a pathological liar like CNN does? Or do you think I’m an honest person?”

The day after he raised the question, Politico charged that he had lied about having dinner with the famous general William Westmoreland after a Memorial Day parade in 1969, and also erroneously recounted having received an offer of admission and full scholarship to West Point shortly afterwards. He would later claim that he didn't want to go into the military, preferring a life in medicine instead.

The prestigious military academy told Politico that they did not find any records of Carson, who was an R.O.T.C. student, having been admitted. The academy didn’t even find anything indicating that he’d applied or began the application process. As for the full scholarship? All West Point students receive full rides.

It is also highly unlikely that he’d even met Westmoreland in the manner Carson had implied. Per Politico: “The general did not visit Detroit around Memorial Day in 1969 or have dinner with Carson. In fact, the general’s records suggest he was in Washington that day and played tennis at 6:45 P.M.”

New Republic associate editor Adam Peck found that Carson had repeated the West Point claim on Facebook as recently as August 13. . . . 

My Republican ancestors must be spinning in their graves if they can see what a insane asylum the GOP has become.  Once upon a time, no one as unhinged would get to be a serious candidate in the Party much less a front runner.  

Friday, November 06, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Brad Pitt - he's still hot.

The Push for Legal Marijuana Spreads

While the Ohio initiative that would have legalized the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use went down to defeat on Tuesday and the likelihood of changes to Virginia's marijuana laws appears remote give the strangle hold the Virginia GOP - and by extension, its puppeteer The Family Foundation, a vicious and foul "family values" hate group based in Richmond - retains on the Virginia General Assembly, change is afoot elsewhere.  Just this week, the Supreme Court of Mexico handed down a ruling that may usher in major changes in that nations laws which have helped fuel drug cartels and the evils that go with them.  Change in the marijuana laws could also end the criminalization of those who have been caught up in ridiculously harsh drug laws.  The New York Times looks at the winds of change in a main editorial.  Here are highlights:
Support for making marijuana legal is increasing around the world, and that is a good thing. Earlier this week, the Mexican Supreme Court opened the door to legalizing the drug by giving four plaintiffs the right to grow cannabis for personal use.
In Canada, the newly sworn in prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he intends to change the law so people can use the drug recreationally; medicinal use is already legal in that country. And in the United States, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, recently introduced a bill that would let states decide if they want to make the drug legal without worrying about violating federal law.

Laws banning the growing, distribution and possession of marijuana have caused tremendous damage to society, with billions spent on imprisoning people for violating pointlessly harsh laws. Yet research shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, and can be used to treat medical conditions like chronic pain.

The Mexican Supreme Court’s ruling, which applies only to the four plaintiffs seeking a right to grow marijuana, does not strike down the country’s marijuana laws. But it will open the way to more legal challenges and put pressure on President Enrique Peña Nieto and the Mexican Congress to change the law, which has helped to fuel drug-related crime in the country.

Prohibition in Mexico and elsewhere in the Americas will also become harder to maintain if California voters legalize recreational use of marijuana. Activists there are seeking to put legalization initiatives on the 2016 ballot.  

What’s needed now is responsible leadership from President Obama and Congress. They ought to seriously consider the kind of legislation Mr. Sanders has proposed. His bill would remove marijuana, or “marihuana” as it is called in federal law, from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which is meant for drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no medical use.

This change would allow states to decide if they want to make the drug legal and how to regulate it without being limited by federal law. 

If Congress is unwilling to act, Mr. Obama should move on his own by ordering the attorney general to request a study by the secretary of health and human services, which would be needed if the administration is to remove the drug from Schedule I on its own.

A growing group of activists, judges and lawmakers is showing the world a path to more sensible drug policies. Mr. Obama and Congress should join them.

While I do not handle criminal law matters, on occasion my corporate clients will receive a summons for a city code violation which is treated as a criminal offense and is heard before the criminal courts.  Each time I go to court to resolve one of these code violation cases, I usually have to sit through a parade individuals facing marijuana charges.  From what I have observed, the police seem to disproportionately target blacks, especially young black males, the majority of whom cannot afford legal counsel.  White defendants who appear with legal counsel typically get off with suspended sentences which are dismissed after a year of good conduct.  Black males without private counsel typically get convicted and thereafter have permanent criminal records which are impediments to many employment opportunities.  Meanwhile, conservatives and Virginia Republicans whine about the poor - read blacks - not being gainfully employed, yet Virginia's outdated marijuana laws help to insure these types of criminal convictions will bar gainful employment.

Why Carson and Trump Are Not Going Away

As a former Republican activist years ago, I often lament the insane asylum that the Republican Party has become.  No better proof of the party's descent into insanity exists than the continued support shown for Donald Trump and Ben Carson in polls of Republican voters.  Today's GOP base is terrified about the demographic and social changes overtaking the country and long for the bad old days of the 1950's and view anyone deemed other - read non-white, non-heterosexual, and/or non-far right Christian as a threat to themselves, their fairy tale religious beliefs, and their warped version of of what western civilization should be.  Trump and Carson more than most others in the GOP clown card have read this mood and open insanity (and racism in the case of Trump) and are riding  it to the top of the polls.  A column in the Washington Post looks at why neither of these highly undesirable candidates are going away any time soon.  Here are excerpts:
Why haven’t Donald Trump and Ben Carson faded away? Because they’re saying what much of the Republican Party base wants to hear on such emotional issues as immigration, gun rights and opposition to President Obama.

Trump and Carson are also fortunate to be outsiders at a time when the GOP is in chaos and the party establishment is discredited in the eyes of many voters. And the two improbable leaders in the race for the presidential nomination are compelling characters — Trump the brash and blustery billionaire, Carson the gentle and pious man of medicine.

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Carson is at 24.8 percent and Trump at 24.6 percent — a dead heat.   And they are lapping the field. Marco Rubio is a distant third at 11 percent, which is well below where he stood in May. And poor Jeb Bush, with his not-so-shiny new campaign slogan — “Jeb Can Fix It” — has slid all the way to 5.8 percent.

Trump pledged to do two things: Deport the estimated 11 million men, women and children living here without papers; and build a “great, great wall” along the 2,000-mile southern border, with the Mexican government paying for its construction. Critics immediately pointed out that neither is remotely feasible, let alone wise. Yet Trump has never wavered. In speeches, interviews and debates, he still promises mass deportation and a wall. 

Why? Because he knows that illegal immigration is a galvanizing issue for some in the GOP base. A Pew Research Center survey in September found that 73 percent of Republicans “favor building a fence along the entire Mexican border.” Pew also found that 32 percent — a third of the party — opposed any kind of legal status for undocumented immigrants.

[N]o one can get to the right of Trump on immigration. If this is an issue you really care about, and you feel betrayed by the way establishment Republicans have handled it in the past, Trump is your guy. Even if he can’t do all the things he promises, maybe he’ll do something .

Similarly, Carson has gone where others fear to tread on the issue of gun rights. A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 76 percent of Republicans believed it is more important to “protect the right of Americans to own guns” than to “control gun ownership.” . . . Carson outflanked the field when he opined that gun control laws imposed in Nazi Germany in 1938 enabled the Holocaust. This aligns nicely with the tea party argument that Americans must be armed in case a tyrant comes to power and has to be overthrown.

Majorities of Republicans do not favor deporting 11 million people, reject all gun control legislation or believe Obama is a psychopathic slave master. But enough do hold such views to make it unlikely that the Trump and Carson campaigns will collapse of their own weight. The outsiders look to be settling in for a long stay.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Study: Children Raised in Religious Homes Meaner and Less Generous

We constantly hear propaganda - which is all too easily lapped up without question by the media - that religion belief is a positive good and that religion enhances charity and decent treatment of others.  Personally, I do not buy it.  Now, a new study of children raised in religious homes and those raised in secular or atheist homes seemingly backs up my view.  The study found that those raised in religious homes were less generous and harsher and meaner to others than their counterparts in secular homes.  If such is in fact the case, why on earth are churches being give tax-exempt status when they are in fact engendering undesirable conduct?  An article in the Oregonian looks at the study and its findings.  Here are excerpts:
When it comes to teaching kids the Golden Rule, Sunday school might not be the best bet.

A new study in the journal Current Biology found children in religious households are significantly less generous than their non-religious peers.

At the same time, religious parents were more likely than non-religious ones to consider their children empathetic and sensitive to the plight of others.

It's a common assumption in the United States that faith goes hand-in-hand with goodness. The Pew Research Center reported last year that 53 percent of Americans think it's necessary to believe in God to be moral. 

This study challenges those attitudes. It was the children in non-religious homes most likely to be generous toward a stranger. The longer a child had lived in a religious home, the stingier he was compared to his secular peers.

Researchers also measured how children perceived interpersonal harm and what degree of punishment they thought was appropriate. Religious children judged others' actions as meaner and more deserving of punishment than kids in secular homes.

The study concluded that in this way religious children tend to come across as more judgmental, while also being less altruistic.

Nearly 1,200 children from the U.S., Canada, Jordan, Turkey, South Africa and China participated. Most of the kids came from Christian, Muslim or non-religious households, with a small number from Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and agnostic homes. Their ages ranged from 5 to 12.
The last paragraph of the study findings was especially telling:
[O]ur findings . . . . contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others. More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that the secularization of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness—in fact, it will do just the opposite.
 When one looks at the "conservative Christians" who make up much of the Republican Party base, they confirm the study findings as well: they back the dismantling of social programs for the poor and unfortunate, condemn all not just like themselves, and seek to make was on those of other religious faiths.  Religion destroys morality rather than enhances it.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Is Ben Carson Terrible for Black Americans?

One of the great mysteries to me is how well Ben Carson - who I view as a complete lunatic even if soft spoken and seemingly reasonable until you consider his actual policy positions - is doing in Republican polls.  This is the same party that has openly embraced racism and white supremacists and that has been driven to hysteria by a black man in the White House.  What gives?  First, it must be remembered that the vast majority of Republican voters are not backing Carson and I suspect never will because he is black.  The second question is whether Carson can garner the support of black voters even as he pushes policies that work against their interests.  In a guest editorial in Time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player, makes the case that Carson is terrible for Black Americans.  Here are some op-ed excerpts:
Now that Ben Carson is the leading GOP candidate, the doctor is under a lot more pressure, not just as a candidate, but as a representative of African Americans. . . . Would President Ben Carson be good for African Americans?

Ben Carson is good for African Americans in that he is a deeply moral man who has done much good as a physician. . . . Had he decided to dedicate his post-retirement life to promoting STEM education across the country, he would have been a model for the American ideal that anything is possible.
However, he chose to run for president of the U.S., and that’s bad for African-Americans. His repressive, muddled and pious policies and opinions often run against our Constitution—but his questionable proposals will likely, thankfully, be doomed by his lack of political expertise. His presidency would be marked by even worse gridlock while he wastes his time trying to impose his narrow and sometimes ill-informed morality on the other 319 million people in the nation. And it would definitely not be good for African Americans to have a president who flounders helplessly in office because it would perpetuate the stereotype that blacks can’t be effective CEOs, quarterbacks and leaders.

[H]e has expressed several opinions that are contrary to scientific evidence and therefore call into question his logic—a quality crucial in a president. His claim that sexual orientation is a choice is remarkably unscientific.

For a physician to ignore the preponderance of scientific proof in favor of his own religious beliefs is dangerous because is it justifies enacting laws that restrict human and civil rights. Carson has since apologized, but we should never forget that pseudo-science was used to prove blacks were physically and mentally inferior to whites and to justify slavery. 
But Carson’s opposition to science doesn’t stop there. Global climate change is a major issue affecting the future of human life. International conferences take place in order to determine how quickly this process is proceeding, and studies show that 97% of actively publishing climate scientists conclude human activity has caused climate warming. Yet Carson says he has not seen “overwhelming science” that proves climate change is manmade. This head-in-the-sand approach could prove disastrous to the country’s survival, never mind the Earth’s.

[W]hen an elected leader ignores testimony from 97% of the world’s experts, renowned physicists and the CDC, we have to question his decision-making abilities. Carson perpetuates the black stereotype of someone who’s too confused or frightened by all that complicated science so he or she ignores it, clinging to superstitions or religion. Obviously, white politicians have been making the same buffoonish claims, but they aren’t representative of a minority struggling to achieve equality. 

Education reform is especially important for the black community because of the overwhelming evidence that black children are not receiving the same quality of education as white students. . . . . Ben Carson, who defers to his religious faith in the face of scientific evidence, does not seem like a strong advocate for quality education.

It’s also alarming to hear Carson refer to black Americans as unable to think for themselves because they disagree with him.

A Carson presidency would also be a direct attack on the health of African-Americans: he equated the Affordable Care Act to a form of slavery. Between 2013 and 2014, Obamacare reduced the number of uninsured blacks from 24.1 percent to 16.1 percent. It also funded community health centers, where African Americans make up nearly 25% of the patients, to the tune of $11 billion. This is a matter of life and death, not political posturing.  . . . . Carson’s own health-care plan, which he proposed last week, is vague and lacks substance. According to the Washington Post, “it would neither expand access to health care nor improve quality, nor save a whole lot of money.” But it would get rid of the Affordable Care Act.
Actually, poverty is the form of slavery that is most insidious in America, and it is perpetuated by institutional racism, which Ben Carson seems to deny exists.

Carson insists that the black community must resist government handouts that have made us a welfare state. . . . What makes this rallying cry so disingenuous is the fact that his mother received government assistance while he was growing up, which he acknowledges was crucial. The government gave him free eyeglasses as a child, which improved his grades. In his book, Gifted Hands, he says, “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps. She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”

These are the times when all Americans need a champion willing to fight hard to fix the problems that affect people from all walks of life, not deny or ignore them. Ben Carson is not that champion. 

Ouch!  It's a harsh analysis yet true.  Carson is  a dangerous reality denying nutcase.