Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beuty


Trump’s Foreign Policy Nonsense


GOP demagogue in chief, Donald Trump, gave a "major foreign policy speech" today and, given Trump's batshitery to date, many are describing Trump's positions as "nonsense." Lord knows what some allies of America must be saying. A piece in Salon looks at Trump's purported positions and how they track the views of his knuckle dragging supporters. Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump today completed one of the presidential rites of passage – he gave The Big Foreign Policy Speech. Because he’s Trump, expectations were set abysmally low and, because he’s Trump, he still failed to clear them. The speech was notably un-Trumplike in that it was pre-prepared and delivered with the assistance of a teleprompter, but it also somehow managed to retain the incoherence and inconsistency that are the hallmarks of Trumpian discourse.
The whole thing was plagued with internal contradictions. One of his key points was the idea that America’s allies “are beginning to think they can’t depend on us,” and his primary piece of evidence was the nuclear agreement with Iran and our unwillingness to walk away from it. Had we actually walked away from the Iran deal, we’d have alienated all the critical allies who helped us negotiate it, which might lead them to believe they can’t depend on us. And, just a few moments after endorsing the retroactive abandonment of multilateral Iran negotiations, Trump said our “friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them.” He claimed to have a plan for defeating the Islamic State, but refused to divulge it because “we must as, a nation, be more unpredictable.” Shortly thereafter he said the “best way” to achieve our foreign policy goals “is through a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy.”
For these reasons and because he mispronounced the names of a couple of countries, Trump was resoundingly mocked, especially by conservatives and Republicans who still can’t come to grips with the fact that Trump will, in all likelihood, be their presidential nominee. But here’s the fun little secret about Trump’s speech – in most respects it wasn’t that different from the nonsense the “acceptable” Republican presidential candidates served up.
His speech was peppered with criticisms that America has become weak, our military is falling apart, our international alliances are breaking down, and our enemies no longer cower in fear of us. You’ll find the same exact themes in the foreign policy speeches of Marco Rubio, seen by many inside the GOP as a foreign policy wunderkind, who talks about the “deterioration of our physical and ideological strength” that “has led to a world far more dangerous than when President Obama entered office.”
The running theme of Trump’s speech is that there’s nothing wrong with American foreign policy that can’t be fixed with a little toughness and “strength.” How will Trump best China? With “strength.” How will he get the better of Russia? Yet more “strength.” This is a standard-issue Republican position – Rubio and Jeb Bush and pretty much every other Republican presidential contender reduced their foreign policies down to a question of showing greater “strength” than Barack Obama, usually by telegraphing their eagerness to use more military force than the president has been willing to. Trump also endorsed the now well-worn criticism that Obama refuses to use the magic words “radical Islam.”
Keep all this in mind when you see Republicans or even mainstream reporters complaining that Trump’s speech shows that he is “unserious” about foreign policy or put forth a foreign policy vision that doesn’t make sense. They’re attacking Trump because he’s Trump and he’s an obvious dolt, but they’re deliberately sidestepping the fact that much of what Trump said reflects in the incoherence and unreality of “respectable” Republican politicians when it comes to foreign affairs.

Bernie Sanders' Legacy


With the math more or less insurmountably against him, Bernie Sander's campaign is struggling to go on after yesterdays drubbing in four out of five states. Indeed, there are reports that he is cutting staff as he tries to find a path forward. So where does that leave Sanders and his supporters?  A piece in te New York Times makes the case that Sanders has set a large part of the agenda for Democrat party going forward. Sanders may have lost the nomination fight, but his ideas and the issues he championed will likely live on.  Here are column highlights: 

At this point, Bernie Sanders is the figurehead of a living idea and a zombie campaign. The issues his campaign has raised are likely to resonate with the progressive left for decades, if not forever, but his path to becoming the Democratic nominee is now narrower than a cat’s hair.
It’s over. He knows it and we know it. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Sanders “is planning to lay off ‘hundreds’ of campaign staffers across the country and focus much of his remaining effort on winning California.”
And yet he continues to carry the torch and keep the flame alive so that his supporters — or more appropriately, the supporters of the causes he has advanced — have an opportunity to cast protest votes in the few remaining contests. He has gone from leading a revolution to leading a wake.
I think people have mischaracterized the choice being made between Sanders and Clinton. It is not necessarily a clean choice between idealism and pragmatism, between principle and politics, between dynamism and incrementalism — though all those things are at play to some degree. But to me, it is more about where we peg the horizon and how we get from here to there.
The ideals are not in dispute. What’s in dispute is whether our ideals can be reasonably accomplished by a single administration or a generation. Sometimes you have to cut deals to reach ideals. That’s politics.
Now, you could argue that our politics are broken, as Sanders has, and you would be right. Moneyed interests — that of industries and individuals — have far too much influence. Our two-party system is heavily skewed to favor establishment candidates, although Sanders’s success and Donald Trump’s offer strong evidence that the party apparatuses are not inviolable.
What requires less debate is the often-repeated refrain that Sanders’s supporters are the future of the Democratic Party. In state after state, often whether he won it or not, he carried youth vote by wide margins. [
P]art of it is what Harry Enten pointed out on Friday: The Democratic electorate turning out in 2016 has been a lot more liberal than it was in the last competitive Democratic primary, in 2008.”
Enten explained:
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the moderate/conservative portion of the Democratic primary electorate become a minority in the next 10 years. It’s the youngest Democrats who are more to identify as “very liberal.” It could very well be that someone matching Sanders’s ideological outlook will be more successful down the road.
First we have to see what comes of the general election, in a contest that at this point seems to pit Clinton against Trump. Although current polling shows Clinton with an overwhelming edge, making political predictions seven months in advance is a fool’s errand.
[W]hile current polling favors Clinton, history does not. The last time a Democratic president succeeded a multi-term Democratic president was when Harry Truman succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.
However the election breaks in November, the Sanders coalition — largely young, liberal and white — will not likely be satisfied. Either Clinton will win, and it will simply feel like a lesser of two evils, a subsuming of a righteous cause into a waffling contrivance; or Clinton will lose, and the Sanders coalition will feel vindicated that the wrong Democratic candidate won the nomination.
Either way, the cause lives. Universal health care becomes no less attractive. Neither does free public college, or campaign finance reform, or a more pacifist foreign policy.
The Democratic Party, for better or worse, is likely to move further toward progressive purity in Sanders’s wake. This may backfire, and encourage a nominating process that pushes otherwise moderate and widely attractive candidates to adopt increasingly extreme policies that make them nearly un-electable, as has happened with the Republican Party.
That, to me, seems to be at least part of the Democratic Party’s future. Whether that is a utopian or dystopian future, only time will tell, but the reckoning is coming. This, I believe, will be a fixture of the Sanders legacy: Drag a center-left party further left — whether one calls that True Left or Extreme Left.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Historic Garden Week - Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia


This week is the 83rd year of Virginia's Historic Garden Week which is put on by garden clubs across the state that utilize the proceeds to restore and maintain historic gardens across the Commonwealth. Today was Hampton's day to shine as homes and gardens in historic Ft. Monroe - now a National Landmark - were open for public tours (provided one bought a ticket) for the first time ever.  For the husband and I, the event is an annual ritual during which we typical host a number of the husband's clients and we get to see a who's who of Hampton/Newport News society and business leaders. While very traditional in many ways, both cities are surprisingly gay friendly, and with the husband being the hair stylist/salon owner of choice for many, we are always warmly received.  Indeed, it is a great marketing/networking event.  And the homes - many dated from the 19th century and turn of the 20th century on so-called General's Row were amazing to say the least (the commanding general's residence with its view across Chesapeake Bay is pictured above).  Among those doing the tours were both garden club devotees and former military service members who came back to see how the general officers had lived in stately splendor. Here are highlights from the Daily Press:
"We know visitors will enjoy looking at the beautiful flower arrangements in the five houses on tour. We hope they will visit The Casemate Museum, Chapel of the Centurion and Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, as well.
"And, The Marketplace, in the former Arsenal Building, will offer artwork, garden accessories, home d├ęcor, jewelry and clothing for sale."
As you walk along Fort Monroe's sidewalks, or stand inside the bayside bandstand, you can just imagine yourself living the life that so many military personnel enjoyed during their assignments at the scenic fort. Now that the property is no longer a major military command, the site is taking on its own brand of community for the families who occupy residences where generals and colonels once lived [one can lease homes and other housing options] .
"Additionally, everything is walkable at Fort Monroe. Residences are close to beaches, office spaces for work, restaurants, Hampton Community Center, YMCA fitness building, marina, soccer and ball fields, churches and the opportunity to walk the top of the fortress. Additionally, the retail portion of Phoebus is just over the bridge and also is in easy walking distance."
Historic Garden Week in Virginia, April 23-30, features 250 private homes and gardens open for public tours statewide. Sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia — gcvirginia.org — since 1929, the annual event raises funds for the restoration and preservation of public gardens at historic sites, including Monticello, Mount Vernon and Montpelier.
The garden club estimates the cumulative economic impact of the country's only statewide home and garden tour for the past 45 years is $425 million, according to a news release. The event attracts 30,000 visitors, and includes local residents and out-of-state tourists. 
 Below are a few more photos - and yes, I did pick up a couple new clients while enjoying the event.  After the festivities, our group decamped to the Hampton Yacht Club for Cosmos and dinner.

The beautiful Hutchinson Home

The Chamberlain - formerly owned by dear friends
Tiffany windows in the Chapel of the Centurion

Dennis Hastert Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison Despite GOP Clemency Appeals

Dennis Hastert pictured at right

As noted recently, Republicans at both the state and federal level have sought tom demonize transgender individuals as would be sexual predators seeking to molest women and young girls in restroom facilities even as they have appealed to a federal judge to be lenient on admitted sexual molester Dennis Hastert, former GOP Speaker of the House - a man who was once second in line for the presidency in the event of the death or incapacity of the president and vice president of the United States.   Thankfully, the judge ignored these hypocrisy filled calls for leniency and Hastert was sentenced to 1 5 months in prison.  In truth, he should have been sentenced to at least a five year prison term, especially since he admitted to his sexual molestation of one of his students.  Here are highlights from The New Civil Rights Movement: 
Dennis Hastert has just been sentenced in a hush money case involving his past sexual molestation of teenaged boys while he was a wrestling coach decades ago. A federal judge, calling the former Republican Speaker of the House a "serial child molester," sentenced him to two years of supervised release and 15 months jail time – not for his actions of sexual abuse, but for evading bank reporting requirements and making false statements to federal authorities.
In sentencing Hastert, Judge Thomas M. Durkin of the Northern District of Illinois also said the former Speaker should participate in a sex offender treatment program, CNN reports.
"I'm deeply ashamed to be standing before you here today," Hastert said in court during his sentencing. "I know I'm here because I mistreated some of my athletes as a coach." 
The court received dozens of letters of support from former [GOP] colleagues of Hastert, including one from Tom Delay, the former Senate Majority Leader who is now an anti-gay Christian activist.
"He is a good man that loves the Lord," DeLay wrote to the judge. "He gets his integrity and values from Him. He doesn't deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can."
Right Wing Watch reports that "days after the Supreme Court delivered its landmark marriage equality decision, DeLay claimed that he knew of 'a secret memo coming out of the Justice Department' that would legalize '12 new perversions,' including 'having sexual with little boys.'" 
 Sadly, I suspect that Hastert is but the tip of the ice berg when it comes to anti-LGBT Republicans who are either serial adulterers, seeking gay sex "on the down low" ore sexually molesting minors.  Hypocrisy and disingenuous lies are now a hallmark of today's GOP. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Serial Killing in the Name of God


I nearly did a post based on a spoof in Patheos that pretended that Iceland had declared Christianity to be a public health hazard.  Sadly, while I believe the premise of the spoof piece to be true, the scope is too limited.  It should apply to all religion, or certainly the conservative variety.  As a piece in The Daily Beast reports, in Bangladesh, Islamic fundamentalists are on a killing spree murdering free thinkers, the educated and, naturally those who are LGBT and/or support LGBT rights.  Anyone who threatens compliance with their interpretation of the ravings of a man who would nowadays likely be declared to be mentally ill and certainly not be revered.  Modern knowledge and intellect are the enemies of not just American Christofascists, but their similarly hate and fear filled cousins who cling to Islam and prefer a revival of a Medieval mindset rather than let go of the myths they cling to.  Here are article highlights:
There really is no other way to put this. Free thinkers in Bangladesh are being serially hacked to death in their homes. An infamous hit list appeared in 2013 naming 84 “atheist bloggers.” By the end of 2015 there had been seven such murder sacross the country, and, tragically, this past week alone claimed three more victims.
Rezaul Karim Siddique, a professor of English at Rajshahi University in the country’s northwest, was set upon outside his house as he left for work. Siddique founded a literary magazine called Kamolgandhar and wanted to start a music school in his village as a way to involve his students in extra-curricular activities. But instead he died where he fell, succumbing to severe wounds after he was hacked in the back of the neck by cowards on a passing motorbike.
Only two days later, U.S. embassy employee Xulhaz Mannan, who was one of Bangladesh’s top gay-rights activists and editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine,Roopbaan, was murdered by machete in his home. His friend, another gay rights activist Tanay Mojumdar was also killed. Xulhaz and Tanay were behind the annual “Rainbow Rally,” held April 14 on the Bengali New Year.
The so-called “Islamic State in Bangladesh” has claimed responsibilityfor the killing of Professor Siddique. Its media mouthpiece, called Amaq, stated ISIS fighters “assassinated a university professor for calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh.”
And despite the Bangladeshi government’s rejection of this claim, ISIS English-language magazine Dabiq carried an interview earlier this month with their purported leader in Bangladesh, Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, who claimed that the country had become its base of operations in South Asia.
Whether or not ISIS was behind this attack is secondary. The effect is the same. Jihadist terrorists are systematically hunting down leading free thinkers in Bangladesh—one by one—and hacking them to death.
It is “open season” on atheists in Bangladesh.
And though Professor Siddique’s daughter, Rizwana Hasin, has said that her father was not in fact an atheist, among jihadists that definition is incredibly broad.
Anyone who advocates liberal secularism, free inquiry, arts and culture, is considered an “atheist” or “apostate.” Anyone who “supports” or “sides” with atheists, supports freedom of religion as well as from religion, and anyone who maintains the primacy of free speech, including and especially the human right to “blaspheme,” is deemed an atheist, whether they declare themselves to be or not.
So beleaguered is this minority that you can be put to death for atheism in no less than 13 countries around the world. In 39 countries the law mandates a prison sentence for blasphemy, and six of these are Western countries.
Saudi Arabia [America's false ally] has even declared being an atheist a terrorist offense. Nobel Prize Nominee and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Raif Badawi still languishes in jail there “accused” of atheism.
Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best-known blogger, Imran Sarker—who led major secular protests in Dhaka against Islamist leaders in 2013—said that he had received a death threat on Sunday from a U.K. number saying he would be killed “very soon.”
By visibly killing off dissenters in such a public way, extremists seek to scare us all into silence. The targeting starts with atheists and “blasphemers,” but almost always moves on to the sexually diverse, liberals, secularists, and minority sects—Muslim or otherwise—that rely on such pluralism to flourish.
The killers’ aim is to elicit our fearful compliance, like Charb’s super-surveillance camera. Those who murder in the name of the Master of the Universe lay claim to what came before life, what comes during life and what is to come after life.
No totalitarianism can be more total than that claimed in God’s name. This is why no resistance is more urgent than that waged to protect the right to our own individual conscience. For ISIS, we are all atheists.

Make no mistake, there are right wing Christians who would be only to happy to engage in similar bloodshed - e.g., "preachers" who call for the execution of gays.  Moreover, if one knows history, Christianity has left a huge trail of blood of those murdered for being "heretics" or non-believer.  Religion is a curse on mankind.  

Is Trump's Rise Powered By Ignorance?


Republicans have been taking demagoguery to new levels for some time, be it through dog whistle racism, the current attacks on transgender Americans, and of course through fanning the flames of Christofascists seething homophobia.  Then there is, of course, all of the GOP demagoguery surrounding climate change - or should I say, the GOP claims that it doesn't exist.  But despite all of these appeals to hate and ignorance, Donald Trump has out done other Republicans when it comes to appealing to the ignorant and bigoted.  Kathleen Parker has once again fled the GOP reservation - or what has become the know nothing reservation of the GOP base.  In a column in the Washington Post she looks to the classical philosophers of Greece's golden age to illustrate that Trump is a demagogue to be feared and one who would be loathed by the Founding Fathers.  Here are excerpts:
Plato, who was Aristotle’s mentor, thought otherwise — that rhetoric, or the art of persuasion, in the wrong hands was dangerous and likely to be abused to appeal to people’s base motives. He foresaw the unethical, dishonest uses that a skilled but immoral speaker could put his persuasive powers to, with credulous people eager to believe or buy whatever he was selling.
Which brings us unavoidably to Donald Trump, as if you hadn’t guessed.
We at least owe Trump thanks for bringing these two ancient philosophers out of history’s woodwork and back into the conversation. Trump also has inspired reconsideration of rhetoric’s rightful place in the classroom, where it was once considered an essential component of “a gentleman’s” education.
One such classroom can be found at the University of Virginia School of Law, where I was recently a guest lecturer. What better time to be reviewing rhetoric’s ancient rules and modern applications than during a presidential election that features one of the most blazing examples of unsavory rhetoric . . . .
So, the question for today’s class: Is Trump the huckster that Plato predicted would someday organize an angry mob into a proud army of anti-intellectual patriots inoculated to facts and reason?
Why, yes! But don’t take my word for it. Consider instead the appraisal of U-Va. law professor Robert Sayler, who has co-written a book with Molly Bishop Shadel, “Tongue-Tied America,” as a template for would-be high school rhetoric teachers. Using Aristotle’s aforementioned framework, Sayler divined the Greek philosopher’s answer to the question: “Trump’s buffoonery and unhinged chatter reduces to utter catastrophe.”Let us count the ways.
First, in the matter of ethos, or earning the trust of one’s audience, Trump is as big a prevaricator as he accuses “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz of being. PolitiFact gave Trump its 2015 award for the most fibs. In distrust do us part.
Second is pathos, which Sayler defines as the sparing appeal to emotions. For The Donald, another “F.” Says Sayler: “Trump routinely rages, flush-faced, anger-spewing, sputtering, especially when challenged.” He has spoken of people leaving his rallies “on stretchers” or deserving a “punch . . . in the face,” while promising to pay assailants’ legal fees.
Third and last, Trump also flunks logos. Channeling Aristotle, Sayler opines that Trump’s logic, common sense and factual argumentation are “a minefield of chaos.” Rather than advance positive proposals, Trump spends most of his time railing against what he opposes: the Geneva Conventions, NATO, world trade, the United Nations, the president, “experts” and, of course, “the establishment.”
Otherwise, he operates in a substance-free zone of narcissistic fantasy. “They love me,” he insists. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” . . . . Trump, concludes the professor, is a world-class demagogue and blunderbuss.
It is also highly unlikely that Trump supporters give a hoot. Plato, Aristotle and Sayler are all elitists, aren’t they? But what should be plain to everyone else is that the study of rhetoric is essential to an educated populace, lest rising generations fall prey to future demagogues and the perilous fates that await the unwitting.
 One must not forget that Trump is the creation of the GOP establishment that he now threatens to destroy.  Conscious decisions were made to elect Christofascists and white supremacists onto local county and city committees and to allow the infiltration of the base by the ignorant.  There's a reason so many Americans no call themselves "independents" - any thinking, moral person found the GOP to be hostile territory and felt compelled to flee the insanity.  Trump and his followers who embrace ignorance and bigotry must be defeated as must the GOP in its current incarnation.