Obama names an LGBT landmark – Stonewall Inn – as a national monument

Memorial to Orlando victims outside the Stonewall InnKathy Willens/AP

President Obama is designating a new national monument around the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement.

The Stonewall National Monument in New York City will be the first addition to the National Park System specifically highlighting the history of the LGBT community.

The monument covers nearly 8 acres in New York’s Greenwich Village including a landmark gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. In June of 1969, patrons at the bar fought back against police persecution — an event that’s widely seen as a watershed in the campaign for LGBT rights.

“Raids like these were nothing new, but this time the patrons had had enough,” Obama said in a White House video announcing the new monument. “So they stood up and spoke out. The riots became protests. The protests became a movement. The movement ultimately became an integral part of America.”…

Designation of the Stonewall monument comes just days before the first anniversary of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. It also follows less than two weeks after 49 patrons at a gay bar in Orlando, Fla., were killed in a mass shooting.

Like most advances in civil rights for Americans, religious conservatives recognize the change as somehow limiting their own freedom. A critical point of hypocrisy that unites the politically backwards of America with their peers in history. Fools who believed that hating other human beings on the basis of skin color, religion [or non-religion], where their parents were born, etc., were characteristics that should define full citizenship in the Land of the Free.

Not worthy of much more than contempt.

How driven by sectarian hatred can American religions be?

This man’s church would prevent him from giving comfort to people who lost so much

A Lutheran pastor who participated in an interfaith prayer service in Newtown, Conn., in the days after the Sandy Hook massacre has apologized after being criticized by the leader of his denomination for violating its prohibition against joint worship with other religions.

The Rev. Rob Morris, a new pastor who lost one of the members of his congregation in the shooting, defended himself in an open letter published by the church, saying that before the tragedy, he had spent hours with his congregation educating them about the differences between Lutheran teaching “and the teachings of false religions such as Islam or Baha’i,” both of which had clergy members at the interfaith service. He also noted that, in his own prayer at the service, he had spoken about Jesus and quoted from the Bible.

“I believed my participation to be, not an act of joint worship, but an act of community chaplaincy,” he wrote.

But he also apologized.

“To those who believe that I have endorsed false teaching, I assure you that was not my intent, and I give you my unreserved apologies,” he wrote…

Mr. Morris, serving his first year of ministry as pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown, attracted attention within his denomination when he gave the benediction at the high-profile memorial service on Dec. 16 that was attended by President Obama, the families of the dead, and clergy members from many religions, including the Muslim and Baha’i faiths.

Then, the purity and obvious superiority of obedient sheep belonging to this particular congregation of nutballs is detailed, blah, blah. If you want to waste time on it, click the link and read the article.

I’m posting this to explain one more time to my friends and readers why I so often describe the mouthing of ancient curses and platitudes by representatives of one or another fundamentalist religion to be as worthless as toilet paper made of sandpaper. It denies the purported purpose of the fabric. It causes hearts to bleed instead of heal. This defies any stated purpose for virtually all religions. Meaning they ain’t worth the paper they’re writ large upon.

God and Gay marriage: What Chick-fil-A might learn from Marriott

From a conversation between Diane Brady and Bill Marriott:

In Marriott’s personal life, marriage is something reserved for a man and a woman. But he has long been reluctant to impose that view on the company his father founded. Not only could that crimp the company’s $12 billion in sales, it might demoralize employees working in more than 3,700 Marriott properties worldwide. With Mitt Romney’s presidential run and same-sex marriage in the headlines, we spoke about his stance as Mormon leaders were being held up for scrutiny again.

“This church helped me raise a family and has brought great joy and happiness to my life,” he told me. But that didn’t mean gay employees had any less status at Marriott. “We have to take care of our people, regardless of their sexual orientation or anything else,” he said. “We are an American Church. We have all the American values: the values of hard work, the values of integrity, the values of fairness and respect.” Marriott has both a deep faith and a deep understanding of his responsibility as a leader. Many of his shareholders, customers, and employees don’t belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their values matter, too…

As a result, when his church actively campaigned against same-sex marriage in California, neither Marriott nor the hotel chain donated any money to the cause. Instead, he stepped into the drama by publicly reinforcing his company’s commitment to gay rights through domestic partners benefits and services aimed at gay couples.

Contrast that with the approach of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy. His company is also committed to treating gay employees and customers at its 1,608 outlets with the same “honor, dignity, and respect” as everyone else gets. “Going forward,” the company says, “our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

But that statement didn’t come from the mouth of Cathy or any other senior executive at the Atlanta-based fast-food chain. In fact, it’s nowhere to be found on the company website. It is tucked amid the ads for peach milkshakes and Cow Appreciation Day on the company’s Facebook (FB) page. Go to Dan Cathy’s Twitter feed and there are cheerful references to great food and his great evening with celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. The issue of gay marriage doesn’t come up…

The issue isn’t that Dan Cathy disapproves of gay marriage; that’s hardly a shocker in a business so infused with Baptist values that its outlets are closed on Sundays. The problem is that he crossed the line in letting his faith become less about inspiration than alienation. Not only did he openly condemn the beliefs of a big chunk of Chick-fil-A’s audience, he implied that their views are unpatriotic and even put the country at risk. Divorce rates being what they are, praising the men in his family for “still being on their first wives” probably didn’t win him many friends, either.

Boycotting a company led by a sectarian fool certainly is easier than walking away from dealing with someone who can see further than his church’s walls.

Supporting a company with American constitutional principles – regardless of religion – isn’t even a tough choice.

Lady Gaga’s Manila concerts face Christian protests

Christian groups in the Philippines planned to protest Lady Gaga’s performances there Monday and Tuesday, just after Muslim protests have cast doubt whether she will be allowed to perform in Indonesia.

“This protest is not against Lady Gaga as a person but on her music and on how she declares distorted views about the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Reuben Abante, bishop of Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church and secretary-general of Biblemode Youth, which is leading the protests…

Of particular offense to the group is the pop star’s song, “Judas,” with lyrics like, “Whoa whoa I’m in love with Juda-as, Jud-as,” “Jesus is my virtue and Judas is the demon I cling to I cling to…”

When asked if Lady Gaga’s concerts could contravene Philippine laws, Loretta Ann P. Rosales, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, replied in an email, “The Philippines is proud of the fact that we do indeed have one of the best Bill of Rights in our Constitution that has the widest latitude as all other Constitutional democracies in protecting freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of religion.”

“I have heard raves over her concert by Filipinos who have watched her,” she added. “Maybe I shall have a chance to enjoy her concert too one day…”

For Lady Gaga, the protests in the Philippines are the latest in her problematic Asian tour. Her provocative lyrics and risqué costumes have prompted conservative Muslims in Indonesia to call for the cancellation of her upcoming concert in Jakarta.

As of Monday, her Indonesian promoter, Big Daddy Entertainment, was still trying to secure a permit, and the June 3 event was still on, according to its website.

When she opened her tour in Seoul, South Korea, last month, it was to concertgoers aged 18 and above after the Korea Media Rating Board banned the show for minors, even with an accompanying parent or guardian.

The world is a patchwork of beliefs and histories. It’s always a shame when a cultural expression is harassed by one or another ideology – or religion – that doesn’t believe in free expression. When the focus is simply a pop singer like Lady Gaga who is accepted by most young people as someone who believes in advancing freedom – it points out the hypocrisy, the limits that chain one or another True Believer into a sarcophagus of fear. Even the stodginess of some old cultures is hard to justify.

Republican moderates no longer a dying breed — they are dead

Republican moderates are no longer a dying breed. With Tuesday’s defeat of Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, they are dead.

Known as Richard Nixon’s favorite mayor when he ran Indianapolis back in the 1970s, this rock-solid Republican is no longer Republican enough. As defined by the Tea Party, Lugar was “Obama’s favorite senator,” a reference to Lugar’s welcome to the newbie from Illinois in 2005. Of course, Lugar voted against most of his “friend’s” agenda, including against President Barack Obama’s health-care law, but never mind.

In the Tea Party’s Republican Party, it is no longer enough to vote conservatively. You must have the demeanor of a zealot.

The man who defeated Lugar, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, is purity itself. Not for him to dignify a Democrat by talking to him. He loves the “broken” version of Congress: ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise, unmoved by facts or evidence, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. Mourdock is not one to let cooperation darken his door. “I feel more frustrated with Republicans than Democrats,” he says. “It is not bipartisanship we need. It is principle.”

The Lugar-Mourdock race was the Tea Party’s marquee contest this cycle, the one that promised annihilation of an infidel. The Tea Party hoped to mount a challenge to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s re-election bid, but its favored candidate chose not to run and Hatch moved sharply right. Going after Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine would have been satisfying, but she decided to retire.

That left only a Republican icon from the heartland. Many of Lugar’s accomplishments required some element of that hated principle, bipartisanship. The Tea Party worked to make everything good he did look bad…

More than Lugar’s votes, there is his mild manner. Even when behaving as the Tea Party requires, Lugar did it without the requisite bombast and disdain for the other side…

…Famously frugal, Lugar stopped keeping a residence in his home state, sleeping at a hotel on trips home. He counted the family farm as his residence and didn’t bill the government for trips there…

Mocking, exaggerated, courting confrontation — Mourdock is what Republicans long for…

The language of bigotry, the ideology of hatred, foolishness as sectarian as every year’s apostle of doom predicting the end of life on Earth…these are the characteristics accepted as requisite by the Kool Aid Party – and, now, what they have kludged into the defining qualities of the GOP.

The sophisticates of the Republican Party look down their Brahmin noses upon the Tea Party types as they did on George Wallace and the John Birch Society nutballs who infested that party back in Goldwater days. And I think they’re willing to accept the same Goldwater level of defeat as an opportunity to reform the party more in the mold of Nixon and George the Elder.

Perhaps not. But, I think the Wall Street crowd, the Oil Patch Boys are too used to power and control to want to spend the time building a new traditional Republican Party. They’re willing to take a bye for four years and dribble the Tea Party leftovers out the exhaust pipe of history after this election – or the next.

Just say it — The Republicans are the problem

Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.

It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges…

Continue reading

A blunt warning to Pakistan

We sit down to talk, the smile goes away!
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Islamabad — An unusually powerful American delegation arrived here on Thursday to deliver the starkest warning yet to Pakistan, according to a senior American official: that the United States would act unilaterally if necessary to attack extremist groups that use the country as a haven to kill Americans…

“This is a time for clarity,” Mrs. Clinton declared in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she met President Hamid Karzai before leaving for Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. “No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price.”

“There’s no place to go any longer,” Mrs. Clinton added, referring to Pakistan’s leaders, whom the administration has accused of equivocating by supporting the Afghan insurgency…

Before the meeting, which took place at the residence of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a senior administration official said that the delegation would make it clear that if the Pakistanis did not act against insurgents like the Haqqani network, then the United States would have to.

The Haqqani network uses Pakistan’s tribal areas as a base and has become the most potent part of the insurgency in Afghanistan. Before stepping down last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, General Dempsey’s predecessor, called the Haqqanis “a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s intelligence service…

Pakistan’s response remains to be seen

RTFA. I understand they are between a rock and a hard place. It is – to a certain extent – a problem of their own making. The habit of funneling virtually all foreign aid through Pakistan’s military who dole it out to their bandit buddies as freely as they do to political hacks – ain’t any way to build and maintain democratic and progressive leadership of a nation still climbing out of the Stone Age they agreed to with the departure of the Brits at the end of colonial days.

If they don’t try, if they fail to take a stand for the advancement of the whole of Pakistan’s population while rejecting the sectarian bandits from fear of confrontation – US largesse and tribute must be cut off. Simple enough. Easy enough. Lose the Cold War mentality.

Get rid of closed primaries – let independents vote!

One year ago this week, America got a wake-up call about a core problem in our politics that empowers ideological extremists and special interests…

In the tea party-driven purges of 2010, Mike Castle was considered a traitor to the conservative cause because he had a record of working across the aisle. And so they turned to activist and serial candidate Christine O’Donnell.

Keep a few things in mind. O’Donnell had just five in-state donations in the first quarter of the 2010 cycle. But in the third quarter, as the RINO-hunting fever took hold, she received a quarter-million dollars in tea party national activist cash.

On September 14, 2010, she beat Castle in a closed partisan primary in which only 32% of Republicans voted (and keep in mind that Republicans are a distinct minority in Delaware).

The result? In November, Republicans lost a Senate seat they were likely to win, especially in a GOP-leaning year…

Mayor Adrian Fenty’s story in Washington is less well known, but no less resonant. Tea party primary challenges are already infamous, but left-wing challenges to more centrist Democrats are in the process of catching up…

The real issue in his re-election, however, was his embrace of education reform, led by his controversial but nationally known schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee — one of the stars of the education reform documentary “Waiting for Superman.”

Teachers unions are among the top donors to Democratic campaigns. They expect their way to be obeyed. And they decided to use Fenty as an example. They ended up pouring about $1 million into the September closed partisan primary, in which Fenty faced City Council President Vincent Gray.

That money — and directly linked get-out-the-vote efforts — ended Fenty’s tenure as mayor despite a majority of residents saying that the city had improved under his watch…

The parties have forgotten that they are not the purpose of our politics. So here’s one reform whose time has come: Replace closed partisan primaries with open primaries — like those in California and New Hampshire and many other states — allowing independents and other candidates full access to the political process.

RTFA. There’s a bunch of details over at the original article for those of you who follow the smell of American politics – within the least progressive 2-party system ever created to satisfy the needs of corporate dollars and congressional clowns.

Open primaries only let you vote once; so, you must choose the primary you want to participate in. This whole process could be taken a couple more steps towards real democracy; but, this alone would be a big step. I would no longer have to register as a Democrat long enough to get through primary season in New Mexico – and then unregister to sleep easier as an independent.

How to start a revolution with a washing machine

The article that brought me to this TED washing machine and Hans Rosling was in the NY TIMES the other day. Now, you would have to subscribe to their digital edition to read that article; so – as I did the last time the TIMES farted around with a paywall – I found a newspaper that pays even more than you or me to reprint their articles.

Read the article after you watch the video. It discusses many of the ways that Hans Rosling and his Gapminder website work very hard to make data very easy to understand.

If you’re reading my blog on an iPad, the video link up top may not work. Here’s a link directly to the video at TED.

Religion is regarded as “irrelevant, old-fashioned and violent”

London’s former top copper

In a lecture last night, the retired police officer, who led Scotland Yard during the 2005 suicide bombings on London’s transport system, said that religious leaders were losing the struggle to make it clear that faith impels them to do good deeds.

Islam has been “demonised” as a result of terrorist atrocities carried out in the name of a “distorted” version of the faith, he said. He said it was one of the “great” Abrahamic faiths and a “faith of peace” which had suffered as a result of the “horrors” carried out by individuals.

Lord Blair, who is a devout Anglican, added that he did not understand the “obsession” in his own church over women priests and bishops or the way the Anglican Communion was “tearing itself apart” over homosexuality.

The former police chief said he also failed to understand the Catholic Church’s insistence on priestly celibacy.

Speaking to an audience at the religious Theos think-tank in central London, he said that to most people faith looks “irrelevant, clannish, prejudiced, old-fashioned and violent”.

Lord Blair suggested the greatest achievements of history, such as the abolition of slavery and the provision of education or free health care for all, had their origins in the religious impulse.

Religion should be the most peaceful of all the agencies of social cohesion,” he said.

In his lecture, Lord Blair also emphasised the importance of doubt in religious faith…”Doubt in the very nature of faith can surely be a useful companion to a necessary lack of shrill conviction that our own faith is more valuable than that of another.”

True Believers in America consider doubt a failing of faith. Most fundie ideologues preach the absolute infallibility of their beliefs. Of course, poking fun for the same mistake among their competitors or detractors.

It would be hilarious if it weren’t for the evil and injury done by their followers.