February 14, 2011

New HRC Report Demonstrates Which Companies Support Workplace Equality

The wonderful thing about the Human Rights Council is that while one of their banner causes has been equal treatment of the LGBT community in all aspects of life, they also do great research and in-depth analysis as well as activism. One great example of this is the most recent workplace acceptance study, which went to a number of popular companies and workplaces in America to see how well they cope – if they’re friendly at all to it – with having LGBT individuals on staff.

The results are actually surprising – some companies that proudly fly their progressive colors in many cases are anything but accepting of gays and lesbians or transgendered people, and some old standard companies you would expect to be stodgy and conservative have very progressive human resource policies. Here’s a snippet of how the companies are judged, and one strong performer, Microsoft:

Businesses are rated on a scale from 0 to 100, based on whether or not they have policies that support LGBT employees. These include anti-discrimination protections, domestic partner benefits, diversity training and transgender-inclusive benefits. This year we provided an unofficial score to businesses that have not, after repeated attempts, responded to the survey. An unofficial score is reflective of the information that HRC has been able to collect without help or input from a business.

So Microsoft may have fared well in the study – and that’s likely part of the reason the company is an HRC National Partner. But how about some of the other companies that you likely shop with every day? They say vote with your wallet, and this is a great opportunity to find out how some of the companies you likely patronize treat their employees – regardless of their sexual orientation or expression.

[ HRC :: Buying for Workplace Equality 2011 ]

January 31, 2011

Without Obama, We Lose So Much More Than an Election

Bill Boyarsky has an excellent column at TruthDig that resonates with me partially because of how disaffected I think a number of progressives feel right now – and not about their own disillusionment about the Democratic party or some failing of the Obama Administration, instead it’s with other progressives that are so mired in their own idealism that they can’t see incremental progress or measured response when it’s right in front of their faces.

Quick examples: many progressives ask why the Obama Administration isn’t taking a harder line against the current Egyptian regime, to which I point out that while Mubarak has been an ally of the United States for the 30 years he’s been in power, the United States has never had a difficult time calling him out on his human rights abuses, and for the United States to get involved in this very Egyptian revolution would be faulty at best and could potentially end horribly at worst, depending on who winds up in power when everything is said and done. Sometimes, we need to understand that not everything in the world is about the United States. Sometimes the White House doesn’t have to say anything – the American people can voice their support if they choose to – but sometimes, it’s not about us.

Another example – the health care law: sweeping reform passed in Congress and now in two states shut down by court challenges that have rules parts of it unconstitutional. Will the American people stand up and champion their own well being and prosperity, or will what President Obama has stood for on our behalf go down the drain because of in-fighting among progressives who didn’t want to support it if it didn’t have a single-payer option?

I see a lot of this kind of infighting, and Republicans are eating it up – as long as they can portray progressives and liberals in America as fighting amongst themselves and not having a clear plan or direction, they can take center stage and shape the message however they choose – on the national debt, on Social Security, on cuts to public spending, and even after the State of the Union address – when many “new media” progressives were so busy whining about what the President didn’t say that they didn’t have the time or the spare brain cells to think about what he did say and how much it meant.

Sadly, I can only rail against them so much, because when it comes time to vote, they’ll inevitably do the right thing – if they get out to the polls at all.

Not to digress any more than already done, Boyarsky tickled this nerve when he pointed out exactly how much the far right, which even after Arizona hasn’t bothered to embrace the so-called “new civility” or tone down their violent and hateful rhetoric, has to gain if we can’t get our act together and support who we have, even if it’s not who some people want. He puts it a bit more bluntly than I:

The selfish negativity expressed by Republicans in the House health care debate last week showed why we should fight hard for President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012.

Although their speeches were so canned, repetitive and boring that it was almost impossible to listen to them, the message was clear: Beat Obama, dismantle the health bill and take government out of the business of helping people.

It’s no surprise that Republicans and those on the right would happily abdicate the well being of the American people to special interests and leave them without any safety net of any kind – as long as they get to line their pockets in the process, and it’s equally no surprise that libertarians believe that there’s no need for government or for the voice of the people at all and that the free market that’s poisoned Americans with tainted food, killed us with bad medicine, shipped our jobs anywhere the work is cheap and kicked our families out of our homes are somehow also best suited to take care of us. What is a surprise is that progressives, mired in their own righteous indignation at times, can’t collectively solidify to beat back these waves of repression.

One of the GOP’s major proposals is eliminating Medicare as we know it, except for those now being covered. Current Medicare recipients would get a small tax credit to purchase policies in any state, opening the door to unregulated marketing of health insurance that may not cover necessities such as maternity care and cancer screenings. Government would also provide a small cash grant and let you invest in a medical savings account. Social Security would be gutted, with recipients being encouraged to turn over a third of their government pensions to the stock market. Ryan’s Budget Committee may also try to eliminate funds to implement the health care law.

Another House Republican plan, this one from the tea party-influenced Republican Study Committee, would cut federal funds given to states for Medicaid medical care for the poor.

That program is one of the best features of the health care act that the House voted to repeal last week. By 2014, the working poor, now excluded, will be eligible if the plan is not repealed.

Boyarsky goes on to explain how the health care law as it stands has already started to benefit the American people, even months after it was enacted:

Young adults under 26 are remaining on parental policies. Policies can’t be canceled unless the insurer proves fraud. There are no longer lifetime limits on benefits (such limits permitted cancellation after a certain limit had been reached). New policies must offer free preventative services. Patients can choose their primary care, OB/GYN or pediatric physicians from their insurance network without referral from another doctor. There is a new right to appeal insurance company decisions. Medicare recipients have received a $250 rebate from the prescription drug plan. Small businesses are receiving tax credits for offering health insurance to employees. People with pre-existing conditions can buy insurance. You can use the nearest emergency room without suffering insurance company penalties.

By 2014, the landscape will change much more. Consumers will shop for the best policies at state exchanges, with competition hopefully driving the price down.

Of course, key parts of this plan are threatened by the lawsuits brought by Republican state attorneys general, who may succeed in the current Supreme Court. But even so, much of the law will remain, and be revised and strengthened over the years, just as happened with Social Security and Medicare.

The Republicans want to repeal the entire package and wipe out the other government programs created to help people in economic distress. All they have to offer is a ringing call for a return to Victorian days, as proposed in Rep. Ryan’s roadmap. And they insist on doing it as the country is barely recovering from a recession caused by Republican policies. That’s reason enough for us to start working now to make sure Obama wins another term.

To these points, I tell progressives and liberals and anyone interested in the well being of their neighbors, their families, and their countrymen to look close at the real threat that stands in front of us. While we’re complaining about not going far enough, there are forces at play to bring us farther back than where we started. There’s no doubt that John McCain would have done nothing to benefit the American people on the scale that President Obama has – I think more of us would do well to remember this.

[ Without Obama, We Lose So Much More Than an Election ]
Source: TruthDig

January 10, 2011

The Responsibility of the Right for Arizona

Symbology

The blood has barely dried on the pavement, and we’re already seeing how the right is planning to respond to the hate and vitrol that they’ve been spewing for the past several years – going all the way back to “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” in the Bush years and by deeming anyone who dared question their motives “unpatriotic” all the way up to burning effigies and hurling homophobic and racist slurs at Congresspeople as they walked from office to office, and all the way up to this weekend’s tragic shooting in Arizona.

They’re approaching this from one main angle: the “yeah well you guys can be vitrolic too!” perspective. The goal is to generate a false sense of duality between the left and the right and somehow absolve their own hatred and anger of the responsibility they should feel towards the actions of the shooter in Arizona, Jared Lee Loughner.

Usually the arguments break down like this:
“The venomous rhetoric comes from both sides!” – A popular one, one that almost always breaks down when asked for examples. Why? Because it’s simply not true. No left-wing politician or public figure in the mainstream media have resorted to the same level of anger, hatred, and calls for open violence as the likes of Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Michele Bachmann, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and all of their respective cronies. There’s no doubt there’s extremism on both sides of the line, but only extremists on the right are proud to stand up in front of cheering masses and egg them on, then shake their hands.

“Democrats used a similar map in 2004!” – This one’s a smoke-and-mirrors tactic. By pointing to some similar map at some point in time when the political rhetoric was lower, there was no violent talk surrounding it, and no open calls for violence, the right feels they can somehow justify the existence of the “Take Back the 20” map Palin had on her site, until her people guiltily started trying to scrub it from the Internet yesterday.

“The shooter was liberal/considered liberal by his friends!” and/or “He had books that implied he was more Libertarian/Anti-Government than anything!” – Another smoke tactic, avoiding the core issue – that regardless of the shooter’s personal political perspective (see the incredible piece at Chasing Evil: White Terrorism,) whether he was a registered voter of either party or what he may have said to his friends in high school, his violent behavior was very much part of an overall culture where polticial discourse in America is so far off the rails that it’s impossible for people who disagree with one another to do so civilly, and where people who feel they’re under-represented are so often told by the opposing party that there’s a coming “war.” To point – the fact that right-wingers almost immediately when President Obama took office started buying guns and ammunition, went back to the 90s-style back-woods militia training we saw under President Clinton, and started talking about how there were another “Civil War” coming. You don’t see that nonsense on the left.

“There’s no proof he was politically motivated!” – I beg to differ. The venerable Adele Stan posted a great piece at AlterNet called “How the Right’s Rhetoric Fueled the Actions of Arizona’s Mass Murderer,” and Paul Krugman’s Op-Ed in the New York Times called “Climate of Hate” point directly to the shooter’s political motivations.

“He’s just a nutjob/schizo/mentally ill person, there’s no proof this was political!” – This is another “shift the blame away from my validation of violence” attempt – another example of “I’m going to pretend everything I said yesterday doesn’t affect anyone and say he did this on his own in some kind of vacuum” reasoning that’s common on the right when confronted with the responsibility of their hatred becoming real. The right-wing blogosphere is aflame attacking all of the figures who survived the incident, claiming that the left somehow “planned to blame this on the right” from the get-go, or that the Sheriff or other public officials in Arizona are somehow to blame. Again, nothing could be further from the truth, and they all sum to being attempts at distracting us from the real issue here: the hatred and climate of violence that the right wing has fostered, many thanks to the Tea Party, over recent years.

To me, the creation of a false duality in an attempt to whitewash this hatred and violence, or worse to allow themselves to continue calling for open hatred and violence, is tantamount to being an accessory to these crimes. It is, to me, no different than placing the call for more Loughners to appear and take up arms against anyone the right is displeased with.

Here’s what Krugman had to say:

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

And yet – this is exactly what the right wing would love us to do – to quickly forget, move on, claim he’s just a nut working on his own and that no one really thinks that way. Sadly, it’s simply not the case, and there has been mounting evidence for the past several years to prove it. Here’s what really struck me in his piece, though:

Last spring Politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 percent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

And there’s not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.


And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

There goes that false duality between the left and the right on this. Sure, conservatives can and will come up with isolated incidents of venomous outrage on the left that could potentially be classified in the same arena as what Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh say on the air every single day, but what they’ll never be able to do is come up with examples of progressives arming themselves in preparation for some kind of comiing war. They’ll never be able to turn up progressives burning effigies of congresspeople outside of their offices because of a bill they don’t like. They’ll never be able to turn up incendiary packages at post offices addressed to senators they dislike.

They’ll never be able to come up with the volume and type of vitrol that hits television screens, newspapers, and the airwaves every day from right wing pundits and politicians, and they’ll never be able to come up with it from mainstream figures that are generally accepted as representatives of that political faction. Why? Because it simply doesn’t exist.

Stan had this to say in her piece, which I think is incredibly well written and quoted:

So to those who would like to attribute Loughner’s actions to the Tea Party, I say, hold up; take a breath. But to those on the far right, and to the more mainstream right-wingers who fail to condemn the poisonous claims of the far right, I say, you’re hardly off the hook.

Had the vitriolic rhetoric that today shapes Arizona’s political landscape (and, indeed, our national landscape) never come to call, Loughner may have found a different reason to go on a killing spree. But that vitriol does exist as a powerful prompt to the paranoid, and those who publicly deem war on the federal government a patriot’s duty should today be doing some soul-searching.

On April 19, 2010 — the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City — Bill Clinton, who was president at the time of the attack, published an op-ed in the New York Times, both commemorating the dead and speaking to his fears of another such attack in the future. Note that the Oklahoma City attack came as right-wing leaders expressed outrage at the actions of federal law enforcement at Waco and Ruby Ridge, but also demonized federal workers as a class.

“As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters,” Clinton wrote, “we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.”

She then goes on to point out that at the same time President Clinton and others were mourning the loss of life in Oklahoma City, gun nuts and enraged Republicans and conservatives alike were massing in Washington DC to ready themselves for a “civil war” they said had already started. A fictional conflict they believed they needed to arm themselves and be ready to kill anyone who disagreed with them over.

So while we take stock and analyze this, and while we hope and urge our politicians to behave like adults and drop the hateful and vitriolic rhetoric (and leave it to the blogosphere, we do it the best without hurting anyone,) let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that there’s some kind of equality here, some kind of “there’s enough hate to go around.” It’s simply a lie, and an attempt by the right to fool themselves into not taking responsibility for this fog of anger they’ve used to their benefit – not only to get Tea Party representatives elected, but also to infect political discourse.

We, as a nation, would be better served if we took responsibility – how much is appropriate and where’s appropriate – for the nature of political discourse in America today, and that means not shoving your head in the sane or hiding from the nature of your own language, conservatives. And it means not letting it slide when you hear it and calling it out immediately as such, progressives.

December 6, 2010

Tea Party Caucus Takes $1 Billion in Earmarks

Literally moments after taking the seat of power, the Tea Party thugs who essentially elbowed and mud-slung their way into political office did exactly the thing they promised all of their so-called friends on the campaign trail they wouldn’t do: start hungrily collecting money for pork projects and personal pet projects in their home districts by taking over a billion dollars in earmarks.

Frankly, it’s not surprising – even people as ignorant as the Tea Party fanatics have to understand that the only way to stay in office is to make sure you bring home the pork -I mean bacon- for your home district, and the way to do that is to make sure you get as many pet projects approved in spending bills as possible, and that of course means earmarks. After all, the so-called “have it out on the house or senate floor” method of approving local spending would take time and then put their projects in the public light and subject them to scrutiny, something that the Tea Party simply can’t stand up to.

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

“It’s disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt,” said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. “There’s going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks.”

In founding the caucus in July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she was giving voice to Americans who were sick of government over-spending.

Oh Bachmann – your ability to talk out of both sides of your mouth never ceases to amaze me. Let’s get to the proof though, shall we? Shine the light on the cockroaches, as it were:

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), for one, attached his name to 69 earmarks in the last fiscal year, for a total of $78,263,000. The 41 earmarks Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) requested were worth $65,395,000. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) wanted $63,400,000 for 39 special projects, and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wanted $93,980,000 set aside for 47 projects.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) takes the prize as the Tea Partier with his name on the most earmarks. Rehberg’s office requested funding for 88 projects, either solely or by co-signing earmarks requests with Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D), at a cost of $100,514,200. On his own, Rehberg requested 20 earmarks valued at more than $9.6 million.

More than one member can sign onto an earmark. Still, there are 29 caucus members who requested on their own or joined requests for more than $10 million in earmark funding, and seven who wanted more than $50 million in funding.

Most offices did not respond right away to a request for comment. Those that did said they supported Republicans’ new efforts to ban earmarks.

Walk the walk, but never talk the talk, eh, GOP?

So what does the Tea Party do when confronted with the reality of politics that they claimed was so broken and horrible? Break one of their first and primary campaign promises before they’re even really in power. I wonder how the torch-and-pitchfork mobs that elected them will respond to the news? Will they hang them too and claim they’re “spending too much” and that this is more “dirty tricks by big government,” or will they look the other way because after all, they’re more like them than that brown fella in the White House?

We’ll see.

[ Tea Party Caucus Takes $1 Billion in Earmarks ]
Source: The Atlantic

November 15, 2010

One Million Reasons the Millionaire Bailout is a Bad Idea

Cracks are starting to show that President Obama and Congressional Democrats may flinch on the issue of the Bush-era tax cuts for the super-wealthy, and let them become permenent instead of allowing them to expire into the nothingness that they should be – they did nothing for the economy when they were passed, despite the loving praise that Republicans lavished on them when they gleefully passed them when they had majorities in the House and the Senate, and Americans didn’t see a single job created thanks to them.

Now, Republicans are claiming that if their best friends don’t get to continue to enjoy the disproportionate tax breaks and the fact that even without them the wealthy have the smallest tax burden they’ve ever had in the United States, second only to the absolute poorest among us, the sky will fall and the economy will grind to a halt.

They may have some leverage there actually – you do have to wonder why so many businesses have decided to only hire very very slowly over the past two years, and why so many businesses are suddenly interested in squeezing as much as they can possibly get from their current employees rather than bring on new ones. Everyone’s trying to hold the government accountable for job growth, but no one seems willing to hold the millionaires and the business owners accountable – the people who are shredding resumes by the thousand. And as illogical as that seems, Tea Party thugs and Republicans of multiple stripes are interested in giving these same people tax breaks, rewarding them for their gross mistreatment of the rest of America.

The folks at MoveOn.org are collecting a list of reasons why the Millionaire tax breaks are a bad idea. I encourage you to submit your own:

[ One Million Reasons the Millionaire Bailout is a Bad Idea ]
Source: MoveOn.org

October 25, 2010

Another Reminder to Get Out the Vote

Like the video description at YouTube says: Seriously. Vote. Or else everybody loses.

[ Everybody Loses ]
Source: YouTube

How’s This For “Follow the Money?”

(click to enlarge)

This is fabulous. The far right loves to play “follow the money,” as though somehow people who are truly interested in American progress and who are willing to help push forward with their wallets is a bad thing – so let’s give them a taste of their own medicine.

Click the above image to enlarge and see exactly where the Tea Party is getting all of its money. If you think it’s grassroots organizations that represent small-town America and reject big established government and incumbent politicians, you’d be as misinformed as the rest of the Tea Party thug’s gallery – these people have been swindled and have fallen for it hook line and sinker.

Their money is coming from a couple of really deep pockets who are intensely angry that President Obama won the election and the nation essentially rejected the policies of the Bush era and the so-called Neoconservatives wholesale. They’re looking for revenge, and they’ll take it at the expense of the American people and as many dollars as they can spend and raise in the process. Don’t be fooled.

[ Tea Party Inc.: The Big Money and Powerful Elites Behind the Right Wing’s Latest Uprising ]
Source: AlterNet

Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day

If you read Not So Humble at all, you know what’s at stake in the upcoming elections and how important it is for progressives and liberals everywhere who care about the future and continued progress of our country – incremental as it is – to get to the polls on November 2nd. The far-right wingnuts and Tea Partyists are definitely headed to the polls, and you bet they’re hoping you don’t go because they know full well they’re in the minority.

Do you need more convincing that a lot of the nonsense we’re hearing in the media amount to little more than right-wing talking points? Check out this fabulous list from Dave Johnson over at the Campaign for America’s Future that I have to lift in its entirety because they are, point for point, critical to be read together:

1) President Obama tripled the deficit.
Reality: Bush’s last budget had a $1.416 trillion deficit. Obama’s first budget reduced that to $1.29 trillion.

2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.

Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the “stimulus” was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.

3) President Obama bailed out the banks.
Reality: While many people conflate the “stimulus” with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be “non-reviewable by any court or any agency.”) The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.

4) The stimulus didn’t work.
Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.

Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

6) Health care reform costs $1 trillion.

Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 billion.

7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is “going broke,” people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.

Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to the military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.

8 ) Government spending takes money out of the economy.
Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on “welfare” and “foreign aid” when that is only a small part of the government’s budget.

If people want to make this a referendum on President Obama, they’d do well to head over to one of our previous articles where we highlight the Obama Achievements Center – where, even if you don’t particularly think President Obama is progressive enough or effective enough, you have to acknowledge the things he’s done so far and ask the question of whether or not you’d get the same from John McCain if he had won the election.

Great example – President Obama participated in the It Gets Better Project. Would John McCain have done that? Would any of these Tea Party nuts who claim to defend the constitution but have never read it (Christine O’Donnel’s “where in the constitution is freedom of religion” and Sharron Angle’s “There’s a second amendment?” comment prove it) have participated? Never – they’re too busy blaming everyone else for the problems they and their financial backers caused while draping themselves in American flags and claiming to be “of the people.”

Be wary my friends, that Trojan Horse is right outside the door, and there are a lot of clueless people willing to let them in.

[ Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

Headed to the Rally to Restore Sanity/Keep Fear Alive? RideToRally.com Can Help You Get There

(click to enlarge

Headed to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity/Rally to Keep Fear Alive in Washington DC over Halloween weekend? Of course you are – you’re a good progressive and you and a couple hundred thousand of your friends are headed downtown too!

But the question is how are you going to get there? Living in the Washington DC area, I strongly suggest that you consider taking the Metro, but if you live outside of the region and need a ride into the area, the folks over at RideToRally.com tipped me off to their service that can help you find someone who’s headed to the rally and willing to give a couple of good progressives a lift into the area.

If you have some space in a car and you’re headed to the rally, or if you live in the area and you’re willing to pick up some folks, you can head over to the site too and sign up to help people get to the event! Head over and take a look, and see how you can help/if you can find help.

[ RideToRally.com ]

October 11, 2010

Forcing the Black Community to Confront Homophobia

When I was an undergrad, I went to see a speech by world reknown poet and author Nikki Giovanni. Her speech changed my life, and completely brought to the fore my own budding political and ideological beliefs. I sat in a room full of my peers – other African-American students at my University – while Giovanni challenged us to move on past our own homophobia, and to not let the racism and privilege that still sits near to the hearts of many of our white classmates deter us from greatness.

She pointed out that we should be less concerned with winning hearts and minds as we are concerned with ensuring equal treatment and equal access – essentially, the end of privilege. Racism is a cancer we may never be able to remove from the human psyche, but racist behavior and the curse of privilege is much easier to attack.

She noted that she hadn’t cared what was in the heart of someone who wasn’t sleeping in bed next to her for years – what was important was how people treated each other in the real world; the doors they opened and the doors they closed.

She also said she was tired of the homophobia in the Black community, and that if we kept this up we were destined to repeat the oppressions and mistakes of the same people who tormented us and marginalized us – she reminded us to be all-inclusive and to fight hatred wherever it rears its ugly head and in whatever form, even if it’s couched in religion and hurled at us from the pulpit of our churches.

She was absolutely right, and to this day I’m irritated at the homophobia in the Black community. Admittedly much of it is religiously driven and I’m not horribly religious, which puts me on the outside of a lot of it, but it still tears at me greatly.

Over at Alternet, Devona Walker is irritated at it as well, and wonders if the Eddie Long sex scandal will force us all to come face to face with its ugliness for what it is:

Atlanta megachurch Bishop Eddie Long faces four lawsuits from young men — either members of his congregation or employed by his church — who alleged that Long coerced them into sex. The news broke a few weeks ago and has caused a huge uproar within the black church community. But black lesbian, gay and transgendered folks as well as numerous civil rights leaders wonder if Long’s downfall could open the door for a long overdue conversation about homophobia in the black church. It also offers an opportunity for the black church to distinguish itself from the anti-gay rhetoric of white evangelicals and reclaim its historical place as being primarily about civil rights, as opposed to hate.

“We have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy within the black community and the black church. As long as you don’t disclose your sexuality, you can be on the usher board, you can be in the pulpit, but don’t you dare talk about it,” said Darion Aaron, a black gay Christian, activist and author who lives in Atlanta. “And it’s killing us as a community, and it’s killing gay and lesbian members of the black church who have to go to church and listen to that mental abuse. We are more accepting of a rapist or a murderer than an unrepentant gay and lesbian.”

Aaron says the gay community in Atlanta has known for some time that Long was a hypocrite. He has personally seen the bishop on numerous occasions out at the mall with young, attractive men who were either gay or bisexual. The gay community in Atlanta is upset, he says, by the hypocrisy, but not surprised.

“When the news broke,” Aaron said. “It was like, ‘Oh, there it is.”

On the upside, Aaron says the accusations have touched off numerous conversations in Metro Atlanta about gay African Americans and their place in the black church. The black church has historically accepted gay folks as long as they kept silent about their sexuality. Many African American gays and lesbians have accepted these limited roles for the sake of having a place within the black community. You can walk into just about any black church in the country and find dozens of gay folks present. Gay men are leading the choir. They are ushering you to your seat. They are cooking the church’s Sunday dinner.

“Gay men and lesbians have always been present in the black church, actively engaged at that,” said Joshua Altson in a Sept. 23 Newsweek.com article. “The prevalence of gay men in black church choirs and bands, for example, is accepted but not widely discussed. The unspoken agreement is that gay men get to act as seraphim, so long as they are willing to shout in agreement as they are being flagellated from the pulpit. It’s an indignity some gay men subject themselves to each and every Sunday. Why should they have to live this way?”

Alston recalled how another black pastor in Atlanta, Dennis Meredith, had gone from espousing anti-gay views to “preaching acceptance” once his own son came out as gay. While some parishioners left, rather than hear a message of love and acceptance for gays, they were replaced by new congregants looking for a church that would accept and affirm them.

“Long’s predicament is bringing back to the surface the endless debate over whether or not homosexuality is fundamentally moral or acceptable, a debate that preachers like Long have prolonged with their bigoted teachings,” Alston wrote. “It’s about the black community on the whole and whether or not gay men and lesbians are going to be considered full citizens in it.”

Ray Taliaferro, of the San Francisco Bay area, is just one of many longtime civil rights activists who have used the Long scandal as an opportunity to blast black homophobia.

“It is inhumane to do what black people do when they approach the issue of homosexuality,” Taliaferro told the San Francisco Examiner. “Why is it that black people, my people, feel they got to get up in the pulpit and they have to condemn a very active segment of the population of our society who happen to be gay, who happen to be homosexual?”

Taliaferro is a former San Francisco NAACP president and has been a choir director for years at several churches in San Francisco.

I’ve wondered for a while – and said for a while publicly – that maybe it’s time for some of the old guard leadership of the Black community – those who so courageously led us through the Civil Rights Movement and the darkest days of the 50s, 60s, and 70s – now retire and appreciate how far we’ve come in that time, and let the young ones who are more familiar with and able to adapt to this new age take the lead now.

The world is different now, the threats to our freedom are different, and many disparate communities being attacked by privilege and hate need the bolster and support of other communities that have been through it and have learned that only be coming together can you face down hatred and injustice.

I can only hope – for the sake of our communities and for the sake of Black people as a unified force for social justice and equality everywhere – that we can get past this, and those of our community that are religious can begin to preach the gospel of acceptance and love instead of thumping the bible in darkness and out of hatred.

[ Will the Eddie Long Sex Scandal Force Black Churches to Confront Their Homophobia? ]
Source: AlterNet