Saturday, February 20, 2016

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump Wins South Carolina - Bush Suspends Campaign

The frightening Trump juggernaut continues as the loud mouthed, fascist rallies the poorly educated and racially bigoted and wins the South Carolina primary today.  Placing 4th place, Jeb Bush suspends his campaign which has been largely on life support since his drubbing in Iowa.  I suspect that open panic has overtaken the GOP establishment as this further proof that the Frankenstein monster that it happily created over the last two decades is now proving to be uncontrollable.  Worse yet for some in the donor class is the realization that $100 million+ was flushed down the toilet in their backing backing Jebbie.  The only possible consolation is that Marcobot has apparently beat out the very scary Ted Cruz to take second place.  Whether Marcobot, an empty suit by some estimations can stop Trump of course is yet to be seen.  The New York Times looks at the upside down world in the GOP.  Here are highlights:

Donald J. Trump won a clear victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, cementing his position as the Republican presidential front-runner as he enters a tougher test in a series of potentially decisive March contests.

Mr. Trump ran ahead of Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, who were locked in a battle for second place. Both have struggled to become the principal alternative to Mr. Trump, a larger-than-life candidate from outside the political system whose nomination would upend the Republican Party.

Mr. Trump has benefited so far from a fractious group of candidates running against him. But the results in South Carolina may narrow that field to a small and tenacious handful, possibly opening the way for a concerted challenge to Mr. Trump next month in delegate-rich states like Texas, Virginia and Florida.
Yet by capturing the first Southern primary immediately after winning New Hampshire in a landslide, Mr. Trump made clear that he would not be easy to stop. Using blunt and at times incendiary language, he found strong support from Republicans without a college degree, who are angriest about the federal government and who favor a hard line on illegal immigration, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls.

Jeb Bush brought his older brother, his mother, Barbara, and other relatives to South Carolina to campaign for him. But primary voters here indicated that whatever affection they had for the Bush family was largely nostalgic. They thoroughly rejected Jeb Bush’s candidacy.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also finished well behind the top three candidates, but was already seeking to make a case for continuing his candidacy by leaving South Carolina and campaigning Saturday in Vermont and Massachusetts, which hold primaries on Super Tuesday, March 1, along with 11 other states and American Samoa. (South Carolina’s Democratic primary will be held on Feb. 27.)

Seven of the March 1 states are either in the South or border that conservative-leaning region, making the next 10 days pivotal for Mr. Cruz, who has staked his candidacy on being able to consolidate party hard-liners. . . . Such voters, however, appear divided. Mr. Trump, who has never held elected office and rails against political leaders, led the polls in South Carolina for months, typically by double-digit margins. 

On the eve of the primary, Mr. Trump reiterated his support for using torture against suspected terrorists and, musing about how to stop Islamic radicals, repeated approvingly an account of how the early 20th-century Army general John J. Pershing, before executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines, “took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood.” (The story has circulated for years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but is apparently apocryphal.)

More remarkable given where the race took place was Mr. Trump’s repeated mocking of George W. Bush’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks. And his claim in a debate last weekend that the Bush administration had deliberately lied to start a war in Iraq drew sharp rebukes from national Republican leaders, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.

National party leaders in Washington have looked to the vote in South Carolina as a chance for one of Mr. Trump’s mainstream competitors to consolidate support, and perhaps to emerge as a consensus alternative to him.  Mr. Rubio, whose earlier efforts to rally the party behind him disintegrated after a catastrophic debate performance and a weak finish in New Hampshire, may be best positioned to become that candidate, gaining in the late polls here and brandishing Gov. Nikki R. Haley’s endorsement as an important trophy.

Segregation, Not Abortion, Formed the Christian Right

FRC president, Tony Perkins addressing a White supremacy group
I have often said that if one scratches the surface of the misnamed Christian Right - including the hater merchants at The Family Foundation ("TFF"), Virginia's leading hate group - one will often find unreformed segregationists.  For the more than two decades that I have been following the "professional Christian class" and the various "family values" organizations, beneath the surface of feigned religiosity and piety there has always been an undercurrent of racism and bigotry.  Tony Perkins, the president of Family Research Council ("FRC"), a Southern Poverty Law Center certified hate group, has documented white supremacist ties, and the only time The Family Foundation seeming cares for blacks is when it seeks to manipulate black pastors into carrying TFF's political water by lobbying legislators as if they were trained circus dogs.   Once the political lobbying effort is over, the lily white TFF reverts back to its white exclusivity.  A piece in Slate looks at the real history of the Christian Taliban Right  and notes the research done by Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer (his article is a must read).  Here are article excerpts:
The modern religious right formed, practically overnight, as a rapid response to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. Or, at least, that's how the story goes. The reality, Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth professor writing for Politico Magazine, says, is actually a little less savory to 21st century Americans: The religious right, who liked to call themselves the "moral majority" at the time, actually organized around fighting to protect Christian schools from being desegregated. It wasn't Roe v. Wade that woke the sleeping dragon of the evangelical vote. It was Green v. Kennedy, a 1970 decision stripping tax-exempt status from "segregation academies"—private Christian schools that were set up in response to Brown v. Board of Education, where the practice of barring black students continued. 

As Balmer shows, feelings about Roe v. Wade were mixed in the conservative Christian community in the early 1970s, with quite a few evangelical leaders agreeing with the court that abortion is a private matter. Desegregation, however, was a different issue altogether. Anger about forced desegregation of private schools galvanized conservative Christians. Bob Jones University stalled and resisted admitting black students, forcing the IRS to strip its tax exempt status in 1976, an event that spurred evangelical leaders to action. Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, two conservative activists who had been seeking a way to marshal evangelicals into a Republican voting bloc, pounced. Balmer writes:
Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter’s term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House.
The argument they used to defend school segregation will sound familiar to anyone following the lawsuits against mandatory contraception coverage in health insurance plans or the battles over whether businesses have a right to refuse gay customers: "religious freedom."

How did abortion eclipse pro-segregation as the rallying cause of the evangelical right? Balmer argues that Weyrich, in particular, was a sharp enough political thinker to realize that pro-segregation sentiment was enough to get the ball rolling, "but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale." They took their new coalition of evangelicals and pointed them in the direction of fighting abortion.

Balmer suggests that "the spike in legal abortions" after Roe was the shock to their system that made them realize that women really were going to use this new right they’d been granted. There was also a more concentrated effort to put out anti-abortion propaganda that framed the procedure as "murder" and suggested the next step was legal infanticide. 

Balmer doesn't mention it, but there was one other shift in the public consciousness going on at the time. The "Stop ERA" campaign, headed up by Christian right leader Phyllis Schlafly to kill the Equal Rights Amendment banning sex discrimination, got moving in 1972. By the time male Christian conservative leaders like Weyrich and Falwell decided to make abortion a centerpiece issue, Schlafly had done the yeoman's work of convincing huge numbers of evangelical Christians that feminists were a threat to the very fabric of society. 

Balmer notes at the top of his piece that it's common for anti-choicers to compare themselves to abolitionists. Once you know the pro-segregationist history of the religious right, however, it becomes clear that this comparison is not only obnoxious, but offensive. 
I strongly recommend a full read of Balmer's article.  Here is the shocking background of Green v. Kennedy, referenced above:
In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions. The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In 1969, the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in Holmes County dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero.
Yes, you read it correctly, NO white students attended public schools. The bottom line is that right wing Christians are offensive period.  In general, they are selfish, lie incessantly to further their theocratic goals, contemptuous toward the rights and beliefs of others, and, as was they case with their forebears, they use the Bible and claims of protecting "religious liberty" to discrimination and bigotry across society.  Decent, moral people need to shun them and cease giving religion undue deference.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Donald Trump - The GOP's Destroyer

Over at Politico Rich Lowry has another lament about Donald Trump's destruction of the Republican Party.  Like so many of such pieces, Lowry ignores the fact that Trump is the natural outgrowth of policies and wrong decisions embraced by the so-called GOP establishment over the last 20 years that have encouraged extremism and obstruction while at the same time driving sane and rational people from the GOP.  The GOP establishment made its own bed and it is difficult to feel any sympathy for those now wringing their hands and whining.  Here are column highlights:

Donald Trump is running riot in the GOP china shop and gleefully tearing the place up.

Consider the strength of Trump’s position: If he wins South Carolina by a big margin, he goes into Nevada with momentum, and the latest poll there has him leading by 26 points and pushing 50 percent. If he enters Super Tuesday a week later having won three out of the past three states — and with Cruz diminished by a South Carolina loss and Rubio having won nowhere — he could easily win, say, 10 contests that day.

Even now, it's hard to imagine a happy outcome for the party from the three likeliest scenarios:

If Trump wins the nomination outright, many Republican voters may stay home, and senators and members of the House up for reelection will probably scurry their own way, seeking cover from the loose cannon of a nominee.  . . . . it is also likely that the general public will be less enamored or forgiving of those qualities in Trump that have charmed or at least not bothered a plurality of the Republican electorate — the lack of political experience, the foul mouth, the constant psychodrama, the spotty business record. Surely, the first Democratic ads against him will portray him as a “vulture capitalist” like Mitt Romney, except without the manners.

If Trump is dragged to an open convention and leads in delegates, but falls short of a majority, and is denied the nomination, there will be a bloodbath. Trump will make Andrew Jackson’s angry cry of a “corrupt bargain” after Old Hickory lost the presidency in the House of Representatives in 1824 — despite leading in popular and electoral votes — look like a measured, cool-headed response. Trump will stomp off, and no doubt take a lot of his supporters with him.

If Trump is beaten prior to a convention, it will presumably require an all-out war against the mogul. Well-heeled Republican donors will have to pour money into an thermonuclear advertising campaign to destroy his image. The party will have to rally around a Trump alternative, doing everything in its power to bolster him and tear down Trump. Such an effort will no doubt strike Trump as “unfair,” and he will do all he can to delegitimize it and find targets to sue over it. Needless to say, none of this would be conducive to keeping Trump voters inside the Republican tent.

The key to Trump’s strength, which buttresses all his outrageousness, is that his supporters want someone to blow up the system. So there's almost nothing he can say or do that will discredit him in their eyes, and the least destructive scenario for his defeat — Trump blows himself up — will take some doing on his part.

It’s all very entertaining — but so are demolition derbies.

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging LGBTQ Protections

\Hate merchant Andrea Lafferty
Speaking of special rights for Christofascist, that cause took a major hit yesterday when a Fairfax County Circuit Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the hate group Traditional Values Coalition, and an unnamed student that challenged the Fairfax County School Board's adoption of policies to ban discrimination against gay and transgender students and staff.  The alleged basis for the lawsuit was the claim that Virginia's existing state law does not include such protections, but the real reason for the lawsuit was outrage over anything that restricted the ability of of Christian extremists to bully and denigrate LGBT individuals.  First and last, these people are self-centered and care nothing for the rights of others.  The Washington Post looks at the development.  Note that Lafferty - who has made a very comfortable living peddling hatred - is represented by the always foul Mat Staver and his hate group, Liberty Counsel. Here are highlights:
A Virginia judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to overturn protections for gay and transgender students in Fairfax County Public Schools.

Andrea Lafferty, the head of the conservative Traditional Values Coalition, and an unnamed student sued the county school board in December in Fairfax County Circuit Court. The lawsuit argued that the board overstepped its authority when it changed its policies to ban discrimination against gay and transgender students and staff because state law does not include such protections. The student said he was “terrified at the thought of having to share intimate spaces with students who have the physical features of a girl, seeing such conduct as an invasion of privacy.”

“We’re very pleased with the Circuit Court of Fairfax County’s decision today to dismiss the lawsuit brought against the School Board by Ms. Lafferty and the other plaintiffs,” said School Board Chairman Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill). “The School Board remains committed to ensuring that all of our students and employees are treated fairly and with dignity and respect.”

Lafferty, reached by phone Friday, said she planned to appeal the dismissal, but referred further comment on the matter to her lawyer. Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, which is representing the student and Lafferty, said the judge dismissed the suit because he said his clients lacked standing.

The Fairfax County School Board voted to change its nondiscrimination policy to include gay students and staff in December 2014. Six months later, the board expanded the policy to bar discrimination based on “gender identity” despite vocal opposition from Lafferty and some parents in the district.

If the case is appealed and goes to the Virginia Supreme Court, I have no confidence that the gutless wonders on the Court will rule to appease Christofascists.  It is after all, the Court that twice ruled to uphold bans on interracial marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such bans in Loving v. Virginia. 

France - and America - Struggle With Faith on the Job

In the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, France's strict legal separation of religious and civic life which formally discourages, and in some situations expressly bans, public religious expression is ruffling feathers, particularly with Muslims.  Personally, I approve of the policy and wish that America had a similar approach to keeping religion out of the work place.  True, it would prompt screams of religious persecution from Christofascists who believe their rights trump those of everyone else, but at some point, but at some point dress codes and restrictions on conduct are in keeping with some types of jobs.  If one refuses to comply, the solution is simple: find other employment. I suspect that as time goes by, America will face a similar balancing act, except it will be right wing Christians who will be making the loudest demands for special rights.  Indeed, the legislatures in Georgia and West Virginia along with Virginia have passed bills granting special rights to religious extremists (thankfully, the Virginia bill is headed towards a veto).  The New York Times looks at the issue in France.  Here are excerpts:
Reconciling the religious precepts of observant Muslims with the secular norms in the European workplace has long been a sensitive subject. France’s strict legal separation of religious and civic life — a legacy of the French Revolution known as laïcité — formally discourages, and in some situations expressly bans, public religious expression. It is a brand of secularism that coexists uneasily with Islamic traditions, making workplace negotiations about religious practice particularly difficult and prone to misunderstandings.

The issues have become thornier after the latest wave of terrorist activity, including the November attacks in Paris that left 130 dead. With much of the region on edge, the French government has set a forceful tone, granting sweeping emergency powers to the police and stepping up the scrutiny of mosques, Islamic associations and individuals. The sense of unease is particularly palpable for companies operating in sensitive areas like transportation, security and infrastructure.

Adding to workplace conflicts like the one at Securitas, as well as reports of tensions at other large employers, is that many Muslims have become more assertive in fighting stigmatization on the job. But many managers and union leaders in France report feeling ill equipped to respond to employee demands for things like dedicated prayer rooms or pork-free canteens — let alone to detect and combat genuine radicalization at work.

“Today, we are in a very complicated situation,” said Philippe Humeau, a researcher at InAgora, a consultancy that specializes in religion and the workplace.

While France’s workplace rules around religion are relatively distinct, the broad concerns are playing out globally, as countries confront the rise in terrorist activities. . . .  “Most companies don’t know much about Islam,” he said. And in the current climate, “we are seeing companies confuse strict religious practice, which is already difficult to accept in France, with radicalization.”

The risk is that companies, in a quest to protect their staff and their clients, unfairly profile certain employees.

The security company said the beard rules, and the subsequent firings, adhered to the law. As a private company working on behalf of public sector clients like the airport, Securitas said it must conform to France’s strict secularism laws.

“We are confident,” Michel Mathieu, the head of Securitas’s French operations, said, in reference to the decision to fire the Orly guards. The company has not accused the guards of any illegal activities, nor has it presented any evidence that they engaged in radical behavior on the job. But he said that recent events had led Securitas to revisit its approach to all forms of religious practice in the workplace.

What some might view as overt religious profiling, Mr. Mathieu insisted had become a necessity for a company like Securitas, whose mission is to protect against potential dangers that now include Islamic terrorism. The risks, he added, were no longer abstract. Last year, Securitas alerted the French authorities to four security agents who, despite a rigorous vetting process that includes multiple background checks, were found in possession of jihadist propaganda on the job.

The principle of laïcité, however, applies only to those who work in France’s vast public sector economy. For private companies like Securitas, the situation is murkier. . . . .  Some labor union leaders complained that managers, fearful of complaints from Muslim employees, had long tolerated religious behavior on the job that was explicitly prohibited by the company’s own policies. 

Officially, France’s vigorous brand of secularism applies to all religious faiths. But over the last decade, regulations on laïcité (pronounced lie-EE-see-tay) have tended to focus on Islam. A law prohibiting government employees and high school students from wearing head scarves and other “conspicuous” religious attire was introduced in 2004. A specific prohibition against women wearing full-face veils in public went into effect in 2011.

Opinion polls show such bans have broad public support — and they have been upheld recently by Europe’s top human rights court. But they are resented by many of France’s five million Muslims who see the rules as unfairly stigmatizing their religion.

Under French labor law, private employers are required to respect the religious freedom of their employees, meaning that such companies are expected to tolerate religion on the job. Only proselytizing and acts of pressure toward other employees are expressly banned.

The regulations do, however, allow for a number of exceptions, like employee health and safety, operational continuity and protecting commercial interests. . . . In strict practice, the rules mean that an employee who accepts a job at a butcher shop, for example, could not refuse to handle pork. A train driver would not be allowed to stop on the tracks to pray. A waitress could not decline to serve alcohol to customers.

Employers indicate that conflicts over religion in the workplace are on the rise. A 2015 survey of 1,300 French companies by the Observatory of Workplace Religious Practice, a research group based at the Institute of Political Science in Rennes, France, found that 12 percent of human resources managers had faced disputes over religious practices that were difficult to resolve, up from 6 percent in 2013. Among the most difficult situations cited included employees’ rejection of the company’s authority to set limits on religious behavior as well as refusals by some men to work alongside women, either as a colleague or a boss.
There is more that is worth a read.   Given my view that religion is toxic and an embrace of ignorance, I admittedly have little sympathy for anyone regardless of faith who cannot let go of what amounts to superstition, myths and ignorance.  They, not society are the ones that need to change.  If you want to live in a backward country that places adherence to myths and legends ahead of modernity, then move to one of the hell holes in the Middle East or Africa.  And this applies to Christofascists as much as Muslims.  It's the 21st century, not 1000AD.  The toxicity of religion needs to be eradicated.

Join Us at the Commonwealth Dinner

Each each year with few exceptions, the husband and I attend The Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond.  The event is the largest fundraising event for Equality Virginia ("EV") which continues to push for full LBGT equality in Virgina and also works to oppose the ugliest legislation proposed by Republican extremists and religious extremists who want to keep LGBT Virginians forever inferior under the law. The event is a lot of fun and is an opportunity to meet many politicians and supporters of equality from across the state.

This year's Commonwealth Dinner is April 16, 2016, and we wanted to let you know some of the details.  First, the keynote speaker will be actor and comedian Carol Leifer.  In addition, EV has also announced the OUTstanding Virginians for 2016 who will be honored at the Dinner.  Locally, our friend Charles Ford – a history professor at Norfolk State University who has done considerable research on local LGBT history and recently published a book on the subject - is among this year's honorees.

Registration is open now and early bird rates end February 28.  I hope you will join us to show your support for EV and your support for LGBT equality.  As one friend noted, "if you’ve never attended the Dinner it is truly a celebratory affair, and it’s encouraging to be in a space with so many people who care about these issues."

To purchase your ticket for the Dinner, click here and when you do be sure to choose us as your table host!  We hope to see readers at the event.  The husband will be sporting a new over the top tuxedo jacket purchased on our most recent trip to Ft. Lauderdale. :)

Friday, February 19, 2016

More Friday Male Beauty

The "Religious Liberty" Myth of Anti-LGBT Bills Is Fading

Across the country self-prostituting Republicans are introducing and supporting bills that purport yo protect "religious freedom" when in fact they are pushing special rights for Christofascists citizens that would allow these foul elements of society to ignore non-discrimination laws that apply to other Americans. One such bill has passed the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates and will be killed only by the veto of Governor McAuliffe.  Similar bills are advancing in Georgia, West Virginia and other states.  Meanwhile, a majority of Americans oppose such laws and support non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals.  A piece in Think Progress looks at the growing recognition that such laws are a ruse and that they grant special rights to the few and grant special rights to members of the American Taliban.  Here are excerpts:
It has become common practice for conservatives to defend legislation that enables anti-LGBT discrimination as supporting the cause of “religious liberty.” Considering most religious people actually support protections for LGBT people, this framing is misleading, and as several current state legislative fights demonstrate, unconvincing as well.

This week, for example, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 56-41 to pass something called the Government Nondiscrimination Act (HB 773), which is essentially a state version of the First Amendment Defense Act proposed in Congress. The bill claims to offer “protection of the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions,” but it actually exclusively protects anti-LGBT beliefs.The bill states that the government can not alter the tax status or deny any grant or contract if an individual or organization holds one of the following “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions”:
  • that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman,
  • that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage,
  • that the male sex and the term “man” and the female sex and the term “woman” refer to an individual’s biological sex as determined at birth.
The bill would give special privileges to people who don’t wish to give any recognition to same-sex marriages, transgender people, or anybody who has any sex out of marriage, requiring the state government to continue subsidizing any person or organization that discriminates as such. It doesn’t protect “religious liberty” across the board — only for those inclined against LGBT people.
Georgia lawmakers are considering a similar pair of bills, among others. SB 284 doesn’t include Virginia’s anti-transgender provision, but does similarly offer exclusive protection to those with “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such marriage.”
“Religious liberty” has also apparently become an urgent concern in Nebraska. Lawmakers there are considering LB 975, the Child Welfare Services Preservation Act. “In order to preserve the support that child-placing agencies offer children and families,” the bill states, “the government should not take adverse action against child-placing agencies based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Like other states’ legislation, the Nebraska bill would prevent the government from taking any “adverse action” — such as cutting funding or denying a license — against an adoption agency that refuses to serve families in ways that violate its “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

But why now? . . . Now, those organizations stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in state and federal funding if they use their religious beliefs to limit what kinds of families they’re willing to consider as caregivers for the state’s children.

Though their proponents have made it clear that LGBT people are the target of these bills, there are others who could also get caught in the crossfire:
  • Virginia’s legislation could allow for discrimination against an unmarried pregnant woman, because an organization might believe she shouldn’t have had sex outside of marriage.
  • Georgia’s bill would also allow businesses to refuse service to religious groups; Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta worries that an HVAC contractor would refuse to fix their air conditioning on a hot day.
  • Nebraska’s bill might allow a child-placement agency to refuse to place a child with a biological relative if that relative doesn’t share the agency’s religious beliefs.
Indeed, the latest “religious liberty” bills upend actual religious freedoms by privileging one set of beliefs over others. 
These laws are an abomination.  Worse yet, they are a first step towards the ugly extremism that has been a hallmark of Christianity through the centuries and is on display through ISIS in the Middle East.  The civil laws must always trump  the hate and bigotry that seems to be inseparable from religion.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

ISIS Beheads 15-Year-Old Iraqi Boy for Listening to Pop Music

ISIS continues to demonstrate the evils of religion as the Jerusalem Post reports that a 15 year old boy has been executed for listening to western pop music.  Hate, the embrace of ignorance and barbarity in the name of God, of course, are not unique to Islam, and if one knows the true history of Christianity, the death toll is enormous.  Yes, the photo above is disturbing, but one needs to look at it and remember that this is what happens when people put belief in mythical writings or, in the case of Islam the rantings of a lunatic above science, knowledge and decency towards others.  Here are story highlights:
Just when you thought the Islamic State had reached its limit of depravity, it manages to outdo itself.

According to Kurdish media reports, the jihadist group that has captured wide swaths of Syria and Iraq beheaded a 15-year-old boy in Mosul for the crime of listening to Western pop music.

Reports cite officials in the northern Iraqi city as saying that the boy, Ayham Hussein, was discovered by ISIS henchman as he was listening to a portable compact disc player.

Hussein was detained by ISIS operatives as he sat inside a shop owned by his father in an open-air market in western Mosul. The boy was beaten and tried in a local sharia court, which sentenced him to be executed.

“The boy was executed by beheading in a town square in the center of the city,” a source told Kurdish media. 

The execution shocked and angered Mosul residents, some of whom staged a protest at the home of the victim’s family.
A world free of all religion would likely be a far better world.  Religion's main fruits are death, division and hatred of others.   While ISIS is perhaps an extreme example of religion's poisonous effects, many evangelical Christians likewise harbor wide hatred of others.  Sadly, Americans and the media continue to give them a free pass.

Pope Francis v. Donald Trump

The set to yesterday between Pope Francis and Donald Trump highlights the hypocrisy of the Republican Party and its presidential nomination contenders. It also highlights the hypocrisy of the evangelical Christian base of the GOP which wears its feigned religiosity on its sleeve, condemns those who do not conform to their psychotic sexual mores, and is in general the antithesis of living the Gospel message.  Hate, division, and Pharisee like behavior is the norm and not the exception.  Thus, the ridiculousness of those who argue that the Pope should stay out of politics. Its the Republicans, including Donald Trump who constantly infuse a poisonous version of Christianity into American politics.  Indeed, Trump, Cruz and Rubio have all yet again said they will overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell as they prostitute themselves to the Christofascists.   I disagree with the Pope on a host of issues and see him as often a hypocrite himself, but when the GOP's candidates compete to see who is the most Christian even as they push policies for the rich and seek to slash the social safety net, they have made themselves open game for much deserved criticism.  The New York Times looks at yesterday's war of words between Trump and Pope Francis.  Here are excerpts:

In his most audacious attack yet on a revered public figure, Donald J. Trump veered into risky political territory on Thursday as he denounced Pope Francis, seeking to galvanize Republicans who worry about border security and appeal to evangelical voters who regard Francis as too liberal.

After the pontiff’s remarkable contention that Mr. Trump “is not Christian” in proposing deportations and a wall with Mexico, the candidate said Francis’ criticisms were “disgraceful” and “unbelievable,” and he contended that the Mexican government had hoodwinked the pope into criticizing him.

Politicians rarely rebuke the Vatican so forcefully for fear of alienating Catholic voters, but Mr. Trump has been increasingly aggressive ahead of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, where polls show a tightening race and the popular Republican governor, Nikki R. Haley, just endorsed Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Mr. Trump’s attack on Francis reflected a political calculation that criticizing the pope would not hurt him with conservatives and might even improve his standing in South Carolina and in the Southern-dominated Super Tuesday contests on March 1. Some evangelical denominations in the South and elsewhere take a dim view of the Catholic Church, and many other social conservatives have been critical of Francis over his relatively measured statements about gays, birth control and divorce.

Attacking the pope could energize conservatives who think that Mr. Trump will go to greater lengths to halt illegal immigration than establishment politicians and power brokers like the Holy See, according to political strategists in both parties.

Still, the spectacle of the flamboyant billionaire businessman facing down the global leader of 1.2 billion Catholics was the presidential campaign’s most revealing example of Mr. Trump’s emotional instinct to make punching bags of those who cross him, whether it is Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the leaders of longtime allies like Mexico, or the bishop of Rome.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has praised President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Saddam Hussein of Iraq while denouncing Democrats, Republicans and now Pope Francis with his provocative language, reinforcing fears in both parties that a President Trump would destabilize the United States.

Mr. Trump’s remarks could prove far more damaging to him in heavily Catholic states like New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, all of which have delegate-rich primaries where he is aiming for strong victories. He and his advisers have long seen working-class white voters as a core part of his electoral base, as they were in his successful primary campaign in New Hampshire last week.
But many of these voters are Catholics who, whether they like Francis or not, may blanch at Mr. Trump’s denouncing the pope for advocating the church’s position favoring compassion toward immigrants.
“Trump can take on former presidents, governors, senators, fellow candidates and the media, but I think he should just take a pass on arguing with the pope on what makes a better Christian,” said Edward Rollins, a former political adviser to President Ronald Reagan and other Republicans. “It’s a fight Trump can’t win. And shouldn’t try.”

Republican rivals seized on Mr. Trump’s pope comments to raise questions about his temperament, yet stopped short of questioning his faith or endorsing the pontiff’s criticisms.

“A lot of Southern evangelicals have looked hard at Trump and said, ‘I wish he wasn’t potty-mouthed, I wish he wasn’t thrice-married, but I believe he is going to fight for my Christian way of life, and having a strong fighter is important,” said Scott H. Huffmon, a professor of political science at Winthrop University in South Carolina and director of the Winthrop Poll there. “And the kind of people who like the pope for some of his social views aren’t likely to be Trump voters anyway.”

Mr. Trump has had “remarkably strong support” among evangelical voters in South Carolina, a group that made up about 65 percent of Republican presidential primary voters there in 2012. Catholics made up about 13 percent of the Republican primary vote that year, according to Mr. Knotts, who said he did not expect Mr. Trump’s remarks to hurt him in Saturday’s primary.