May 31, 2015

Well Paid, Great Benefits, Not too Dangerous: “Police Officers"


Baltimore’s streets are quiet again. Baltimore’s state’s attorney Marilyn J. Mosby moved quickly in securing indictments against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, and her decisive action has calmed the city for now. 
But getting a grand jury to indict police officers is a lot easier than getting convictions at trial. 
That’s because like any prosecutor trying to hold cops accountable, Mosby will be working on an uneven playing field. 
To prove her case, she won’t just need sufficient evidence. 
She will also have to overcome a number of deep-seated structural impediments to convicting police officers of crimes—no matter how guilty they are. 
It’s hard to prosecute cops. There are two main reasons for this: The first is the special deference that jurors, judges, and prosecutors show officers thanks to the widespread perception that they are heroic public figures valiantly trying to protect us. The second is the bevy of special laws around the country that are designed to shield police officers from the very tactics the police regularly use on ordinary suspects. 
For example, in most states, law enforcement officers cannot be questioned until they have been given a few days to get their stories straight. And many states have passed laws—such as Section 50-a of New York’s Civil Rights Law—that are specifically designed to make it almost impossible to obtain or use at trial records of a police officer’s prior brutality or misconduct.
These two factors can make convicting police officers extremely difficult, and it is no accident; it is the direct result of the sustained effort by police unions to protect officers from even the most deserved discipline or prosecution.
471368942Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesBaltimore Police officers arrest a man near Mowdamin Mall, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore.

While the rules that unfairly protect the police must be changed, it is also high time to re-examine the foundation of these policies: the public perception—lovingly curated by police unions—of the very nature of police work. 
For the last three decades, police unions have managed to portray their members as indispensable heroes in a deadly and dangerous war. Fallen officers, like Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate, who were shot in Mississippi on May 9, or Brian Moore, whose funeral in New York was a few days earlier, are uniformly described as heroes. One need only listen to the fife and drums, witness the squadron of NYPD helicopters flying the missing man formation, or gaze at the image of tens of thousands of white-gloved officers standing at attention to understand the profound nature of their particular brand of heroism.
But as we read the heartrending newspaper coverage and weep at the pomp that attends a line-of-duty death, we can become a party to a false and dangerous narrative that does more to rend our society asunder than heal our legitimately broken hearts.
That’s because the story of the hero cop is also used to legitimize brutality as necessary, justify policies that favor the police, and punish anyone who dares to question police tactics or oppose the unions’ agendas. Quite simply, in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, the story of the hero cop has become so powerful and pervasive that even questioning police behavior is decried as disloyal, un-American, and dangerous.
SWAT teamCharles KrupaA SWAT team marches through a neighborhood while searching for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings in Watertown, Mass.
Just last week a third-grade teacher at Forest Street Elementary School in Orange, New Jersey, was lambasted for promoting “anti-police sentiment.” Her offense: having her third-graders write get-well cards to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a man serving a life sentence for killing a police officer nearly 34 years ago. The simple display of sympathy—Jamal was recently hospitalized due to complications from diabetes—was decried by Chris Burgos, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, as “brainwashing” and promoting an “anarchy driven agenda.” Richard Costello, political director for the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, described the get-well cards as “psychological child abuse.” Both unions demanded the teacher be fired, and the school district obeyed.
The hero cop narrative is also belied by the facts. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, police work does not crack the top-10 list of mostdangerous jobs. Loggers have a fatality rate 11 times higher than cops, and sanitation workers die in the line of duty at twice the rate that police do.
Brian Moore NYPD officerNYPD via ABC NewsNYPD officer Brian Moore, 25, died May 4, 2015 after being shot in the head by a suspect while on duty two days earlier.
Yes, police officers are sometimes shot and killed, but this is a fairly rare phenomenon. 
Indeed, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, of the 100 officers killed in the United States in the line of duty in 2013, far more crashed their cars or were hit by cars than were shot or stabbed
In fact, if you compare the murder rate among police officers with the murder rate in several American cities, you find that it is far safer to be a NYPD officer than an average black man in Baltimore or St. Louis. 
Moreover, we pay our police officers handsomely in New York City. It costs taxpayers more than $8.5 billion a year to pay for the NYPD, and between salary, overtime, and the value of their benefits, the average beat cop costs the taxpayers more than $150,000 per year. That is not an argument for paying police officers less, just that we already pay these civil servants a lot more money than most people realize to do a job that is a lot less dangerous than most people imagine.
Baltimore PoliceREUTERS/Jose Luis MaganaU.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, accompanied by Baltimore police Commissioner Anthony Batts, speaks to police officers during a visit to the Central District of Baltimore Police Department in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, May 5, 2015
We should appreciate the value and sacrifice of those who choose to serve and protect. But that appreciation should not constitute a get-out-of-jail-free card for the vast army of 800,000 people granted general arrest powers and increasingly armed with automatic weapons and armored vehicles.  
There are real-world harms that follow from the myths perpetuated by police unions. Arguments about the dangerous nature of police work drive the increasing militarization of police departments. The life-and-death nature of the job is used to push for extremely generous medical leave, overtime, and pay packages. Most insidious of all, the exaggerated danger and trumped-up heroism drives an us-versus-them mentality that suffuses contemporary big-city policing and bleeds into the criminal justice system, causing systemic imbalances that chronically favor the police over citizens.
original article on Slate

Do You Manspread? In NYC Subways if Caught You Will be Busted!

 Two Hispanics Arrested after bursting at the seams

 The Police Reform Organizing Project's new "That's How They Get You" report features a roundup of stories compiled from long hours spent monitoring arraignment and summons courts. Among the 117 vignettes, which PROP director Robert Gangi said were usually based on court testimony—and occasionally on conversations with defendants and lawyers, or reviewing lawsuits or news reports—this anecdote appears:
On a recent visit to the arraignment part in Brooklyn’s criminal court, PROP volunteers observed that police officers had arrested two Latino men on the charge of "man spreading" on the subway, presumably because they were taking up more than one seat and therefore inconveniencing other riders. Before issuing an [adjournment contemplating dismissal] for both men, the judge expressed her skepticism about the charge because of the time of the arrests: "12:11AM, I can't believe there were many people on the subway".
The two men had outstanding warrants for other Broken Windows charges, namely, being in a park after closing and public urination, and their arrests brought them out of the pool of 1.2 million New York fugitives who missed court dates or failed to pay fines for low-level offenses. The MTA's rules of conduct only prohibit taking up more than one seat when it interferes with the functioning of the train or the "comfort of other passengers." Nevertheless, the judge, instead of dismissing the midnight manspreading charge outright, issued what's known as an ACD, a decision meaning all the charges will be thrown out if the defendant doesn't get arrested for a certain amount of time. 
Last summer, the activist group started sitting in the gallery of various courts for several hours every week or two, but Gangi said it was the first time its members had ever heard anyone involved in the system say "manspreading" out loud.
Manspreading arrests are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to numbers-driven policing in the subway system, which often takes place in the middle of the night, according to Gangi. Underground is where Broken Windows champion and police commissioner Bill Bratton got his start at the NYPD as transit chief, and fare evasion consistently ranks among the most common types of misdemeanor arrests. But the maddening tickets and criminal charges recounted in the PROP report come in many shapes and sizes, for behavior like putting a foot on a subway seat or walking between cars (always illegal, whether or not you're bothering anybody). Gangi said that he has no concrete proof that quotas exist, but that it's the only explanation for the volume of questionable cases he sees coming through court.
"My very strong sense, and I think other people see it the same way, is that it’s quota-driven," he said. "These kinds of tickets or arrests are low-lying fruit, they’re easy pickings."
The report notes that 89 percent of cases the group tracked ended with no further jail time. One man claimed an officer apologized to him after ticketing him for walking between subway cars, saying, “I’m sorry, but it’s the 26th of the month and I have to make my quota.” Evidence of rush hour douchebaggery is abundant in our archives, but in tracking hundreds of cases, Gangi claimed he never saw subway-etiquette-based charges leveled against someone actually blocking a door, say, or taking up a seat someone wanted.
"We've never seen someone ticketed or arrested because they were actually inconveniencing somebody," he said.
Here is a sampling of the subway horror stories, not to be confused with these, compiled by another activist group looking for the state to fund the MTA:
  • On a Saturday night in spring, a Legal Aid lawyer in the Manhattan arraignment part represented four defendants in a row who had been arrested for having a foot up on a subway seat. One case stood out for the attorney: a 22 year old African-American man, a college student with a part-time job, who had an appropriate ID and no criminal record, had to spend over 24 hours in jail. A police officer arrested him when the train was four stops away from his house.
  • A young African-American woman, a student at LaGuardia College, had three punitive interactions with NYPD officers in a year's time: the first was a summons for swiping her school MetroCard on Memorial Day; next was another summons, this time for having her foot on a subway seat; in the third encounter, the officer charged her with being in a park after dusk and cuffed and arrested her because she hadn't shown up in court for her two summonses. Her failure to appear had resulted in her becoming one of the more than one million fugitives from justice who live in NYC, an unfortunate status achieved by not keeping a court date to clear up a ticket for a minor infraction. "I'm a criminal now," she said in a bewildered tone, "even though my friends call me such a good girl."
  • At 2:30 in the morning at the Canal Street station in downtown Manhattan, police officers arrested three New Yorkers at the same time: a young white woman charged with foot on a subway seat — although there were no other passengers in the car; and two young African- American men, ages 18 and 19, charged with walking between subway cars. The police locked up the woman and one of the teenagers for about 5 hours in a holding cell in the subway and released them with a DAT. The police held the other teenager overnight because they found an outstanding warrant on his record. As the woman was leaving the lock-up, an officer told her not to worry because the court would dismiss the charge against her.
  • On a monitoring visit to the arraignment part in Manhattan's criminal court, a public defender motioned that she wanted to speak with us during a break in the proceedings. "My first 9 cases were all unlawful solicitation," she said, her head shaking in dismay. Unlawful solicitation means a person asks someone to swipe them onto the subway and is considered a punishable infraction even if the individual asked is willing to do so. We asked her about the race of the people charged. "All black," she replied.
  • Suspecting her of fare-beating at a Harlem subway station, police officers threw a woman down, pressed her face to the ground, and kicked her in the ribs. She actually had just swiped herself through the turnstile and opened the gate to guide her baby in a stroller onto the station platform. Her older children, 7 and 14 years old, witnessed the beating. “I felt like I was raped in front of my children,” she said, adding that she had moved to Newark to escape the NYPD. The charges against her were dismissed and, through a lawsuit, she is seeking damages against the city.
The list goes on. Ninety-four percent of the 850 defendants observed by PROP were people of color, according to the report. Plenty more of the accounts take place above ground.
Nathan Tempey in                                      

Violence in Gay Moscow


 Police in the Russian capital have detained 15 people after a clash broke out between gay-rights advocates and opponents.
A small group of gay demonstrators tried to hold a demonstration ( authorities say unauthorized but you can’t get a permit in any case so there is no other you can hold)  in support of gay rights outside the mayor’s office on Saturday. But opponents fought with them and police detained people from both sides.
Being that Russia is no longer free to uncensored news there was no immediate word on whether any of those detained would be charged.
You probably thought that gay people in Russia had been deported to Mars being that we seldom hear from them in the news but saturday these young man and women sent the world a message, we are here and we are who we are!
Imagine living in a nation on this day and age in which the mere prospect of you being you can get you verbally and physically assaulted and when the cops come they arrest you even if you are the one breeding from the head. No injustice can last a life time and the changes that we experience here eventually would have to spread to them, even if it takes a revolution and it seems that may be one day every gay person that hold a position of service might have to go on strike to let the nation know that they also are parts of the wheel that makes the nation crawl along everyday.
 source: Interfax news agency.                                  

May 30, 2015

The Mayor of the Capital of PR Got Kicked Out of a cab in NYC

2015_05_taxidriver.jpgStock photograph of taxies (Shutterstock)
The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital got a Bronx cheer from a yellow cab driver who gave her a hard time about driving to her hotel north of Manhattan. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz says that her taxi driver kicked her and her colleagues out of the cab when she asked him to take her to the Bronx from Manhattan, "He told us ‘You’re going to the Bronx, I don’t know how to get there.'"
Cruz was headed to the Opera House Hotel, a boutique hotel suggested to her by her friend, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (the NY Times explains, "It was modern and clean, Ms. Cruz said, and a great bargain at $149 a night"). When the cabbie picked them up, he started driving but then changed his mind and told them to get out. Cruz said, "And he knew he wasn’t doing right because I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to pay you. You’re kicking me out.’"
Then Cruz and her group got another cab, but that driver also complained about going to the Bronx—though he did drive them there. 
It's illegal for NYC taxi cabs to refuse passengers service to anywhere in NYC—and drivers must also take passengers to Westchester County, Nassau County and Newark Airport! Not that this is an excuse, but one retired taxi driver explained to the Daily News that many cabbies hate going outside of Manhattan because more often than not, they won't have a fare on the way back.
The TLC's spokesman said, "We sincerely regret Mayor Cruz’s negative experience and assure her that we are investigating this fully and will hold the drivers accountable for their actions. We hope to someday have an opportunity to introduce her to some of New York’s City’s true professional cabdrivers, so that she can see firsthand what an unfortunate aberration these drivers were.”                                                           

Jen Chung in  

Gay Hotelier Hosted Ted Cruz Also gave Him Contribution

Cruz on right

When the gay hoteliers Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass found themselves under siege for hosting a dinner for Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who is running for president and has been vociferously opposed to same-sex marriage, they repeatedly stressed that the event was not a fund-raiser.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, was one of the presidential candidates who spoke at the Champions of Jewish Values gala on Thursday night in Manhattan.Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

“There were no checks given, it was nothing like that,” Mr. Reisner told New York magazine, after The New York Times first reported on the mid-April dinner at the Central Park South penthouse. 

Protests and calls for boycotts of Mr. Reisner’s and Mr. Weiderpass’s properties, including their groundbreaking hotel for gay clientele, the Out NYC, ensued.

As it turns out, Mr. Reisner himself wrote a check to Mr. Cruz’s presidential campaign, making a $2,700 donation — the maximum allowed in a nominating contest — around the time the dinner took place.

But shortly after The Times reported on the dinner, where about 18 people sat down at two tables in separate areas of the palatial penthouse, Mr. Reisner called the campaign and asked for his check to be refunded.

“In the interest of transparency, I gave Senator Cruz a $2,700 check to show my support for his work on behalf of Israel,” Mr. Reisner said in a statement he provided after The Times learned of the donation from two people with direct knowledge of it. “When I realized his donation could be misconstrued as supporting his anti-gay marriage agenda, I asked for the money back. Senator Cruz’s office gave the money back, and I have no intention of giving any money to any politicians who aren’t in support of L.G.B.T. issues.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cruz declined to comment. Mr. Reisner, a friend insisted, was aware that his donation — and the refund — will appear on Mr. Cruz’s campaign finance filing when it becomes public in July.

Mr. Reisner and Mr. Weiderpass have been doing damage control for over a month since the dinner, which made them pariahs in New York City’s gay rights community in which they’d been figures for years. As two people who have rarely donated politically, they seemed surprised by the reaction, stressing they were drawn to Mr. Cruz because of their mutual interests in foreign policy. Mr. Reisner repeatedly insisted he was unaware of Mr. Cruz’s strident views against same-sex marriage, and has since apologized and denounced the Texas lawmaker.

Mr. Cruz faced some questions over why the campaign didn’t do a more thorough vetting of Mr. Reisner and Mr. Weiderpass, business partners and former lovers who still co-own their penthouse, where a young man was found unconscious in their bathtub from a drug overdose last October and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Yet the anger at the hoteliers has been fierce and unrelenting. Mr. Reisner is under great pressure from angry residents in the Fire Island Pines who want him to divest of his interest in the commercial property there. In early May, Eric von Kuersteiner, a businessman on Fire Island who previously owned the properties in the harbor, even approached Mr. Reisner offering to buy him out for somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million.

Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist who works with several gay rights causes, said he was not surprised to learn that there had been a check given after all, saying it’s typical for campaign staff members to follow up after such events asking if attendees would consider making a “max-out” donation.

“Anyone with a passing knowledge of politics knows this,” Mr. Reinish said. “So the idea that fund-raising was not a part of this was not believable from the get-go.”

Still, he said there was something unthinkable about a person in Mr. Reisner’s position giving any money to Senator Cruz.

“It’s not like they sat down with Jeb Bush,” he said. “They sat down with a proud enemy of the gay community. Ted Cruz legislates on that, he runs on that. It’s one of the foundations of his platform and it’s not just opposition to gay marriage. He’s against basic civil rights and he’s been out there on that from the very beginning.”

Mr. Weiderpass, who served in the military, said that he had not given a check to Mr. Cruz himself. He seemed surprised to learn of Mr. Reisner’s donation, when told about by it as he was walking between tables at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Thursday night. He was there for an event hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, at which Mr. Cruz happened to be one of the speakers.

Rabbi Boteach, who supports gay rights, has been trying to build a bridge with Mr. Cruz over such issues, and invited Mr. Weiderpass to attend, the hotel developer said.

He was not there to see Mr. Cruz, although that was exactly what happened.

“Literally the first person I saw was Senator Cruz” when he arrived at the event, Mr. Weiderpass said. They exchanged “hellos,” and Mr. Weiderpass moved on. He said he didn’t want to create a new story out of their encounter.

Haberman and Jacob Bernstein

The Thing with people with a lot of money that need to make more like Hoteliers, Developers etc., even if they are gay. The need for legal rights, do not touch them. They can get everything they want with their money. This particular Hotelier is gay but a republican so he is looking out for his peeps.  Yes, the GOP still fighting us on Gay marriage, equal rights but they figure those are for us the people.  What we need to do is know the Hotels from this guy and hold back our money. It is not going to make him poor but may be it will be a message for others.

May 29, 2015

ExGOP House Speaker Hastert Agreed to Pay Male Student $3.5Mil to keep Quiet on Sexual Assault


Indicted former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was paying a former student from Yorkville, Ill., to conceal his alleged sexual abuse of the youth that took place while Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at a high school there, federal law enforcement officials said Friday.

A top official, who would not be identified speaking about the federal charges in Chicago, said investigators also spoke with a second person who raised similar allegations that corroborated what the student said.

The second person was not being paid by Hastert, the official said.

 Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert indicted

Federal prosecutors have announced bank-related charges against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
The disclosures followed Thursday’s federal indictment against Hastert on  suspicion of lying to the FBI about the reasons he made large cash withdrawals, which were allegedly used to buy the man’s silence.

A top federal law enforcement official, who would not be identified speaking about the federal charges, said “Individual A” — as the unnamed acquittance is described in the indictment — was a male whom Hastert knew prior to his tenure in Congress. 

“It goes back a long way, back to then,” the official said. “It has nothing to do with public corruption or a corruption scandal. Or to his time in office.” Thursday’s indictment described the misconduct “against Individual A” as having “occurred years earlier,” noting that Hastert had known the person “most of Individual A’s life.”

When asked about the nature of Hastert’s alleged misconduct, the law enforcement official said, “It was sex.’’

Hastert has not responded to requests for comment. A representative of the lobbying firm where he had worked, Dickstein Shapiro, declined to comment.

Former colleagues expressed surprise at the charges. “Anyone who knows Denny is shocked and confused by the recent news,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said Friday. “The former speaker should be afforded, like any other American, his day in court to address these very serious accusations.”

 Hastert, 73, of Plano, Ill., was charged with one count each of structuring currency transactions to evade currency transaction reports and making a false statement to the FBI, counts that each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He will be arraigned later at U.S. District Court in downtown Chicago.

Hastert was House speaker for eight years and has been working as a consultant and Washington lobbyist since stepping down from office in 2007.

According to the seven-page indictment, Individual A met multiple times in 2010 with Hastert but brought up the allegations of past misconduct during at least one of the meetings. During that discussion and later meetings, Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to Individual A to conceal the wrongdoing, the indictment alleged.

From June 2010 to April 2012, Hastert made 15 withdrawals of $50,000 each from bank accounts he controlled and paid Individual A that cash about every six weeks, according to the charges.

After bank representatives questioned Hastert about the withdrawals in 2012, he began illegally structuring the cash withdrawals in increments less than $10,000 to evade bank reporting requirements, the indictment said.

The FBI began investigating the cash withdrawals in 2013. According to the indictment, agents were interested in whether Hastert was using the cash "for a criminal purpose" but were also investigating the possibility that Hastert "was the victim of a criminal extortion related to, among other matters, his prior positions in government."

When questioned by the FBI about the withdrawals last December, Hastert, who as speaker was once second in line to take over the Oval Office if the president was incapacitated, said he was trying to store cash because he didn't feel safe with the banking system, according to the charges.

"Yeah ... I kept the cash. That's what I'm doing," Hastert was quoted as saying to the agents.

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.

Why Catholics Unlike the Hierarchy of the Church Support Gay Marriage?


Last weekend, Ireland overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment legalizing same-sex marriage, the first country in the world to do so by popular vote. The reaction invariably included some degree of shock that a country about 85 percent Roman Catholic would embrace marriage equality. Well, the Irish Catholics aren't alone.
Much to the Vatican's evident chagrin, majorities of Catholics all over the West support same-sex marriage, often at higher rates than other Christian denominations. In majority-Protestant Northern Ireland, the provincial Assembly has refused to join the rest of the United Kingdom in allowing same-sex marriage — most recently in January — and First Minister Peter Robinson recently agreed with his wife that homosexuality is “an abomination."

In the U.S., a 2014 Pew poll found that 57 percent of Catholics support gay marriage, including 75 percent of Catholics age 18 to 29 and even 45 percent of regular churchgoers. (In the same survey, 70 percent of Catholics said homosexuality should be accepted, including 60 percent of weekly churchgoers.)
In April, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found support for gay marriage among U.S. Catholics at 60 percent, close to the 62 percent among white mainline Protestants — most of whose churches now allow same-sex marriages. That's a stark contrast to the 66 percent of white evangelical Protestants who oppose same-sex marriage (generally in line with their churches' stances).
So what’s going on with Catholics? 

"Throughout the world, the Roman Catholic Church has made opposition to gay marriage its hallmark for the past few years," notes Rev. Paul F. Morrissey, a Catholic priest writing at USA Today. But he essentially agrees with The Week's Damon Linker, arguing that, paradoxically, the Irish voted in gay marriage "precisely because Ireland is so overwhelmingly Catholic."
That may sound batty, but Fr. Morrissey's argument is twofold. The first has to do with the erosion of credibility on sexual matters in the Irish Catholic hierarchy, after years of revelations about covered-up child sexual abuse and other horrible sins. Because of the sex abuse, especially, he writes, "what the Church teaches about sexuality is rejected almost as a duty." He is talking about Ireland, but the same could be said of the Catholic episcopacy in the U.S. and many other Western nations.

Morrissey's second point has to do with Catholic teachings on marriage, and the abiding Irish "faith in God, which is bigger and deeper than the Catholic Church":
Because the Irish have been brought up by the Catholic Church to view marriage as a sacrament is the reason they can shift sideways to see a same-sex relationship in the same God-blessed way. Because marriage is a beautiful commitment of love, taught to them by the Church, is why the Irish can make the connection to two people of the same sex loving each other with a similar commitment. It is the love commitment they value, and have come to see in their friends and family members who are gay and lesbian as well.... It doesn't matter who the partners are — "I promise to love you all the days of my life, so help me God." [USA Today]

Mo Moulton at The Atlantic cites the Catholic Church's emphasis on the family, arguing that "the brand of gay equality that's developing in Ireland right now deserves broader attention" in the larger Catholic world.
"It takes the traditional social teaching of the 20th century Catholic Church, with its emphasis on family ties and community cohesion, and reinterprets it for a 21st century in which many don't view sex not aimed at reproduction as a sin," she writes. "If Pope Francis's recent efforts to shift the Vatican's focus away from homosexuality, abortion, and contraception, and toward the support of families and the alleviation of poverty, echo these Irish trends, I suspect it's not entirely a coincidence."
If Catholic social teachings and emphasis on families — mixed with a broadening understanding of family — and community are part of the explanation, they aren't the only ones. In 2012, Jamie Manson at the National Catholic Reporter focused on the theological component, attributing the outsize Catholic support for gay marriage to “the Catholic imagination," or "Catholic sacramental view of the world."

In the Protestant Christian tradition started by John Calvin, "human beings are totally depraved and enslaved to sin," Manson summarized. "God saves human beings in spite of who they are, not because of any intrinsic goodness or merit that they have," and salvation is preordained by God.
Catholic theology teaches a different relationship between God and humanity, in which "grace perfects nature," she wrote. "Yes, human beings are a mess, and we're born into a very messy world. But because we are created by God and because everything God creates is good, there is intrinsic goodness in us." What does that have to do with gay marriage? Manson explained:
Those who possess a sacramental view of the world often realize that any human person or relationship that brings love, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, or faithfulness into the world is a sign of God's grace.... They have recognized these graces can come forth as much through same-sex couples as heterosexual couples. Those who have a Catholic imagination recognize that a couple's ability to enter into a marriage commitment is not contingent on their anatomies, but on the depth, strength, and fruitfulness of their bond. [National Catholic Reporter]

E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post puts that more succinctly: "For advocates of gay marriage, the issue is about the equal dignity of human beings — a thoroughly Christian principle — far more than it is about a particular view of sexual morality."
Whatever the reasons, the dissonance between the Catholic faithful and the Catholic hierarchy poses a big challenge for church leaders. And it should probably look less like Cardinal Pietro Parolin's characterization of Ireland's referendum as "a defeat for humanity" and more like Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's recognition that this is "a social revolution" and "a reality check across the board" for the Catholic Church. Martin continued:

We tend to think in black and white but most of us live in the area of grey, and if the church has a harsh teaching, it seems to be condemning those who are not in line with it. But all of us live in the grey area. All of us fail. All of us are intolerant. All of us make mistakes. All of us sin and all of us pick ourselves up again with the help of that institution which should be there to do that. The church's teaching, if it isn't expressed in terms of love — then it's got it wrong. [Martin, to RTÉ News]
The big question for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church is whether the tone — focusing on gay sex rather than all extramarital, non-procreative sex, or any other Catholic-recognized sins (like greed) — is wrong or the teaching. The Catholic body, at least in the West, seems to have made up its mind. Your move, bishops.

Peter Weber

Actor Tom Hardy Had Sex with Men before He didn’t


Tom Hardy is known for many things: His lead roles in Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road; his embrace of feminism; his intense love for dogs; his shape-shifting beard; his pillowy lips. But among his (many) gay fans, the 37-year-old British actor is perhaps best known for something very different: Admitting, and later denying he admitted, that he used to have sex with men.
In 2008—ancient Hollywood history—Hardy posed for the December cover of the gay British magazine Attitude as part of a publicity tour for the “crime comedy” RocknRolla, in which Hardy played a closeted London gangster named Handsome Bob. Now, it’s not uncommon for ostensibly straight men to pose for gay publications in Britain; Daniel Radcliffe, for example, has graced the cover of Attitude at least twice. But in an accompanying interview with Attitude’s Simon Gage, Hardy let on that he wasn’t always one thousand percent heterosexual.

Here’s the relevant part:
It’s such a tradition of London gangsters, the gay thing, what with the Krays...
I wouldn’t like to say. I really wouldn’t. It’s an unsaid, untalked about thing. The military get it as well. Sexual relations with men in situations where it’s a necessity, like prison, are different from being homosexual.
Have you ever had any sexual relations with men?
As a boy? Of course I have. I’m an actor for fuck’s sake. I’m an artist. I’ve played with everything and everyone. But I’m not into men sexually. I love the form and the physicality but the gay sex bit does nothing for me. In the same way as a wet vagina would turn someone else into a lemon-sucking freak. To me it just doesn’t compute now I’m into my 30s and it doesn’t do it for me and I’m done experimenting.
Have you done it all?
Not all but I can imagine. We’ve all got an arsehole and I can imagine. It just doesn’t do it for me, sex with another man. But there’s plenty of stuff in a relationship with another man, especially gay men, that I need in my life. A lot of gay men get my thing for shoes. I don’t think I’m metrosexual but I’m definitely my mother’s son. I have definite feminine qualities and a lot of gay men are incredibly masculine.
There’s enough text and subtext here to fill several doctoral dissertations in queer theory. Indeed, Hardy is presenting a fairly nuanced view of how sexual behavior transforms within particular social settings, and how desire itself can be tricky to make sense of: “I love the form and the physicality but the gay sex bit does nothing for me.” Still, it seems clear Hardy formed these views from some amount of personal experience: “I’m into my 30s and it doesn’t do it for me and I’m done experimenting.”
In 2008, Hardy was not exactly an A-list actor—his most prominent credit at the time was a minor role in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down—so the interview went mostly unnoticed. A few years later, however, Hardy drew worldwide attention for his role as Eames, a professional impersonator, in the Christopher Nolan thriller Inception. Two weeks after Inception’s worldwide debut in July 2010, the Attitude interview resurfaced in the small British tabloid NOW (which did not credit Attitude), then in the much larger Daily Mail (which credited NOW).
Very suddenly, Hardy’s comments were everywhere. While mainstream entertainment outlets treated the interview as breaking news, gay blogs happily highlighted the candor of the actor’s remarks.
But did Hardy actually say he had sex with men? Well, it sure seemed like it. Nevertheless, people from Hardy’s camp began throwing cold water on the “context” of the interview. An unnamed source eventually approached Entertainment Weekly’s Ted Casablanca with an explanation. But it wasn’t very convincing:
[I]t seems Tom Hardy wasn’t as willing to speak out as we thought—or, at least, he’s not liking the headlines his off-hand comments made.
“It’s all taken out of context,” a source close to the rising star claimed after we asked about the article. Hmmm, we don’t doubt that The Daily Mail likes to embellish occasionally, but how exactly were that many quotes misrepresented?
“He was discussing a gay role and quotes coming from the character,” the same person defends.
Last time we checked IMDb, the only gay role Tom played was in RocknRolla opposite Gerard Butler. And he wasn’t playing an actor; he was playing a mobster.
According to various news archives, Hardy did not publicly address the Attitude interview until over a year later, in the October 2011 issue of Marie Claire UK. Here’s what he said, according to a Hardy fan Tumblr that scanned a copy of the magazine:
This much candour makes you wonder whether Hardy ever regrets being, well, quite frank. ‘I don’t regret anything I’ve ever said. It’s just a shame things are misconstrued and I don’t get the opportunity to explain.’ Not even the time he said he’d enjoyed relationships with men in his twenties?
‘I have never put my penis in a man,’ is Hardy’s characteristically direct response. ‘I’ve never had a cock in my arse, and I have no fucking desire for it. If that’s what you like, cool. But it doesn’t do it for me.’ He’s irritated his words were taken out of context, but conceded, ‘one thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’.
This is... even less convincing. Nobody alleged Hardy had physically penetrated another man, or had been penetrated himself. In the original Attitude interview, Hardy himself seemed to deny being penetrated. When the interviewer asked if he had “done it all,” the actor responded: “Not all but I can imagine. We’ve all got an arsehole and I can imagine.” Besides, plenty of gay men do not practice anal sex. Not having engaged in it does not necessarily mean Hardy has never had sex with men.
It is possible, of course, that Hardy was using penetration as a metonym for being gay, treating this particular behavior as the defining act of gay men. But his Attitude interview suggests he is more than capable of understanding how silly this argument sounds. It also suggests Hardy would apprehend his own statement’s subtext: By emphasizing he was never fucked—i.e., taken on a submissive role—he was trying to reaffirm his heterosexual masculinity.
Anyway: It’s pretty rare to see a public figure, even an in-demand Hollywood actor, intellectually regress in this manner. And Hardy is not from another era—he’s 37 years old. But there might be hope still. On July 4 of last year, he married the British actress Charlotte Riley in the south of France. Three weeks later, he announced his next film project: A biopic of the twin English gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, both of whom Hardy is scheduled to play. Though historical accounts differ slightly, each Kray twin is said to have been gay.
“Remember When?” is a series in which we remember things long forgotten.
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