Saturday, June 25, 2016

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Delegates Can Save the GOP From Trump

Although I am a former Republican activist, I now bear no love for the GOP and, in truth, believe that the party needs to die since I view it as being beyond saving.  The cancer of the Christofascists, white supremacists and know nothing elements that were cynically invited into the party has metastasized to a point where the death of the patient is the only thing that will stop the disease.  Yet, it would be refreshing to see that some shred of decency and morality is left in the GOP.  The best way for that to happen is a delegate uprising in Cleveland where Donald Trump is rejected.  The party leadership in the form of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and others - one surprising exception being Lindsey Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen - have sold their souls and truly care nothing for rank and file voters.  Indeed, Ryan's agenda continues to be one of a reverse Robin Hood policy that aims at the total degradation of working Americans.  To reach that goal, Ryan, et al, need to keep fanning the racial fears, homophobia and xenophobia of low information voters.  A piece in Salon appeals to GOP delegates to step up and dump Trump and perhaps begin the process of saving the soul of the GOP.  Here are highlights:
Dear Republican Delegates:
On July 18th, a demagogue named Donald Trump will begin the process of stealing the GOP out from under you. He’s a know-nothing maniac with an ideology that consists of ego-driven tribalism. Absolutely nothing about him is truly conservative.
Trump supports big government more than Hillary Clinton, if we’re to believe his economic aside about straight-up stealing money from wealthy Americans in what hecalls a “one-time tax.” Even Bernie Sanders would tell Trump he’s gone a step too far on this one.
What tricks low-information voters into believing that Donald Trump is a conservative can be condensed to a single word: authoritarianism. Republican leaders have been flirting with authoritarianism since Jerry Falwell uttered the words “Moral Majority.” There is a rabid Evangelical Christian subset of hardcore fundamentalists who want to use the government to impose the Christian equivalent of Sharia law upon the United States. Reasonable everyday Christians are terrified of them, and for good reason. But GOP leaders saw an opportunity and bought off this fundamentalist segment of society by completely bowing to their extremist social demands on issues like abortion, racial equality and LGBT rights during the 1980s. Many of the party officials never gave a hoot about these issues in reality. Their interests were with big business.
Republicans just knew that, so long as they played along, this low-information voting bloc would cling to them like they were the Second Coming of Jesus while they short-changed the brighter part of the electorate out of their hard-earned money in the interest of corporate greed.
What Republican leadership failed to understand was that this voting bloc wasn’t stupid enough to not notice that the GOP was selling them a bill of goods it had no plan to actually deliver. The Supreme Court, Executive Branch and Democratic Party were never going to allow the United States to roll backwards into the outright legal bigotry of the early 1900s. While Republican voters thought they were electing James Dobson, the GOP was really selling Joel Osteen to them in a Pat Robertson mask.
Republican voters started noticing the GOP’s ideological duplicity in earnest around the 2008 election, when the Tea Party movement arose. It claimed to be a group dedicated to lower taxes, but the truth was apparent. The Tea Party is where the woman-hating, LGBT-bashing racists plopped on their goofy hats and set about taking America back with their dear leader, Sarah Palin. Sen. John McCain sat helplessly in the corner, wondering what he had done while America fell in love with a black man and made some damn history.
After the GOP rolled over and played dead on marriage equality in 2015, the Tea Party bigots decided they’d had enough. Their plan this time is to completely destroy your party by electing an alleged billionaire with a distinctly warm hue to evict the Muslims, wall out the Mexicans, march the LGBTs from the bathrooms and jail those women who dare to get an abortion.
Does Donald Trump plan to actually do any of this? Of course not. He’s a grade-A con man on a bizarre branding exercise. But, what he will do is destroy what’s left of your party’s conservative foundation and place America in a position that could easily lead to economic and cultural disaster. The Economist ranks a Trump presidency as a higher economic risk than jihadi terrorism and the exit of the UK from the EU. Think about that for just a second.
Trump appears totally uninterested in the basics of law, governance or general knowledge. He makes up information as he goes and doesn’t care if it’s correct. All he needed: America’s dumbest voters to line up for him. (Or salute him like Hitler.) It worked. He’s about to be your nominee.
Now, you have the power to fix this. As party gatekeepers, you can come together to divorce yourself from the popular decision and vote your conscience. Speaker Paul Ryan is desperately hoping you’ll do this. Reasonable Democrats (like me) are hoping you’ll do this, despite the fact it puts our nominee at possibly greater risk. Most importantly, America needs you to do this, because Trumpism could permanently take over the GOP. . . .  a Trump-magnitude political destabilization of the GOP could throw our economy, culture and American families into chaos.
My hope is that, through voting your conscience, you will reshape the Republican Party into what it once was, which I admire. Your party is supposed to stand for freedom and smaller government. It’s intended to stop the Democrats from trying to stretch red tape from California to Virginia and wrap Americans in a suffocating bureaucratic bow. Heck, the Republican Party ended slavery. Your history is noble and represents the very best of this country. America needs you to revive that spirit and fight the greatest internal threat you’ve ever faced.
So, GOP delegates, go pull a Lincoln on that moron and banish him back to the Manhattan high rise from whence he crawled.

The Rust Belt, Trump and Voter Delusions

A piece in Politico Magazine looks at the appeal of Donald Trump to areas of the so-called "Rust Belt."  In particular, the piece looks at counties in Southwest Pennsylvania - the area where the husband's late parents were from and where we go for a family reunion each August.   The physical beauty of the area is remarkable, but socially and culturally, it is akin to Southwest Virginia, although perhaps not quite as shockingly backward.  Each year after visiting, I remark that if I had to live there permanently, taking razor blades to my wrists might look like an attractive option.  The region is prime Trump territory: almost all white, low education levels, reliance on dying industries, most notably coal,  Coming from an urban area, driving Mercedes Benz's with Hillary stickers, and being fashion conscious, the husband and I do not exactly blend, although the people are always pleasant - even if they probably thing we are from Mars.  As the article notes, Trump's boasting that he will "make America great again" resonates as does his proclamations that he "loves coal."  Never mind that  Trump has offered no specifics other than campaign sound bites as to how he would do any of what he promises or how he would counter the global decline in demand for coal as cleaner fuels become preferred. It is disheartening to see desperate people being played for fools by Herr Trump.  Here are some article excerpts:
Cambria County is 94 percent white—with low rates of college education and high rates of unemployment, hovering around seven percent. And most importantly for Trump, it’s a county that appears on the map, by different names, again and again across the American Rust Belt: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and beyond. “He’s got to win these places,” Borick said, “and win big.” There is, Borick added, just one important question—for Trump, his campaign, and his quest for the White House.  “Are there enough Cambria Counties out there?”
In these wooded hillsthick and green, almost 70 miles east of Pittsburgh—the talk of making America great again aren’t empty words slapped on a red ball cap, retailing for $25 on Donald Trump’s web site. It’s part of the everyday conversation—among shopkeepers in rural Ebensburg, truck drivers in remote Carrolltown and unemployed steelworkers in the county’s largest city, Johnstown.
It’s fair to say, over time, no one saw the changes coming. Between the 1850s and 1870s, Johnstown specifically, and Cambria County at large, became one of greatest industrial centers in the country. “And probably the world,” said Richard Burkert, the president of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association. Using natural deposits of iron ore, the Cambria Steel Co. and later Bethlehem Steel built an empire, of sorts, on the banks of the Conemaugh River. The steel jobs—some 18,000 of them by World War I—attracted immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. Coal mining jobs did, too. And the county, once just a few thousand people, exploded. By 1940, the population had peaked at around 213,000 people.
They also remember what happened next: how cheaper steel, produced by modern mills overseas in the post-World War II years, undercut the U.S. industry; and how Johnstown’s location, in those hills, connected by river and railroad, became less advantageous in the new era of interstate highways.  . . . . Since 1980, the county’s population has declined by a quarter.
“Us guys, it’s all Democrats here,” said Dave Kirsch, who lives in Cambria County and hauls coal for a living. But he sat out the 2012 election, after voting for Obama four years earlier. And he’ll do the same again this fall—unless, he said, he votes for Trump. “Everybody I’m talking to, they’re switching,” Kirsch said. “Trump says he’s for coal, and Hillary hates coal—and that’s a shame. Because, in my opinion, he’s a little nuts. She’s more qualified. But if she wants to take my job—then, no.” Rooney, the former state chairman of the state’s Democratic party, has heard similar sentiments all across the state. "There’s a general perception that Democrats—Barack Obama, in particular—have made it so the playing field is no longer level. Forget about the merits of the argument,” Rooney said. “The reality is, that narrative has set in. It has baked into the cake. And that makes the job of running for any office, as a Democrat, more difficult. That’s just the cold hard reality.”
“Ninety percent of my employees are Democrats,” he said. And by his estimation, about 70 percent of the workers were supporting Trump. . . . . I think you’ve got a group of frustrated voters. They’re working. They’re not getting handouts. They’re proud to be working, proud to be Americans, and they’re seeing this country go in the wrong direction.” . . . . Today, the Polaceks say, JWF Industries is nearly back to what it was generating before the recession struck.
“The problem is,” Bill Polacek said, “wages aren’t going up.” Costs for the company are high, especially health insurance. At least once in the last two years, they lost a lucrative contract overseas. “They moved it all down to Mexico,” John Polacek said. And so, this November, while the two brothers will be supporting many local Democrats—they’ve hung a giant sign outside their factory for a Democratic state senator—they’ll be voting for Trump.
[L]ike his blue-collar neighbors in Cambria County, Polacek wants to send a message.  “That’s probably what you’re seeing in this election,” he said. “People are fighting back. They’re saying: This is not complicated. You’ve got to do something. They’re tired of talk. And that’s the thing with these candidates: Hillary is talk; Trump is going to do something.”

“She’s [Hillary's] in big trouble in Cambria County. And a lot of other counties in southwest Pennsylvania,” said Rob Gleason, the state chairman of the Republican party, who was born and raised in Johnstown, and still lives in the county today. “She won’t win Washington, Green, or Fayette—these are all Democratic counties. She won’t win Beaver. She won’t win Allegheny”—where Pittsburgh is located. “You can just go down the list.”
But in the details, the threads of this argument begin to fray. For one thing, many voters who switched to the GOP in Pennsylvania this spring were Democrats in name only, having long voted Republican in presidential elections. Neither Polacek, Frear, or Joey Del could remember voting for a Democrat for president in any recent election. When they switched parties, the electoral outcome didn’t exactly change. Trump’s other problem is the math. “There just aren’t enough rural voters to put him over the top,” said Berwood Yost, director for the Center of Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. Trump may indeed win Cambria County and others nearby. But Mitt Romney did, too, and he still lost the state to Obama, who won just 12 of the Pennsylvania’s 67 counties four years ago, six fewer than he won in 2008.
 “In this state, a Republican has got to appeal to moderate Republicans and Republican voters in the southeast part of the state, who are mostly educated and mostly affluent,” Yost said. “And I don’t know that we’re seeing that sort of appeal from Trump.”
[S]ometimes Havener catches himself wishing for something else: for Trump to win.
“It would be devastating for the country, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I have no confidence in the man’s ethics. I have no confidence in the man’s diplomacy.” It’s why, in the end, he said, he’ll probably vote for Hillary. Still, the thought is there. Havener—and a lot of other Democrats in Cambria County—are thinking it. “There’s a little piece of me,” he said, “that wants to see Trump win. So I can say, ‘There you go—you got what you want now.’”

I don't mean to be condescending towards these people, but are they blind to the fact that Trump has offered ZERO specifics on what he would do to turn things around for these economic backwaters?  European demand for coal is down sharply.  The trend everywhere is for coal to be in less and less demand.  Trump can't waive a magic wand and change this reality or other economic forces that are hammering such regions.  And then there's another factor that these hurting individuals ignore - just like they do in Southwest Virginia - namely that given their backwardness on social issues, most industries that might be their salvation are likely to locate elsewhere.  21st century businesses and industries simply do not want to move to areas that still want to bring back the 1950's.  

Saturday Morning Mail Beauty

Friday, June 24, 2016

More Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Real "Conservative" Agenda: "Make America White Again"

While in the past conservative politicians - at least until the rise of Donald Trump - tended to try to hide their blatant racism and use dog whistle messaging instead of putting it in full view.  Now, apparently emboldened by the response that Trump has received to his open message of racial based hatred, Rick Tyler, an independent candidate for Congress, is using billboards that display what the real "conservative" agenda is all about: restoring white privilege and putting those of differing racial groups "in their place."  Hand in glove with this agenda is an effort to push LGBT Americans back into the closet and make us simply invisible.  The images in this post are from Tyler's campaign web site and illustrate future billboards he wants to utilize in his campaign.  Here are excerpts from a Washington Post piece that look at Tyler's openly racist campaign ploys:
An independent candidate for Congress from Tennessee has been swept up in a wave of criticism for his campaign billboard vowing to "Make American White Again."
Rick Tyler, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District in the northeastern part of the state, said he put up the billboard alongside Highway 411 in Polk County to make a point that "the 'Leave It to Beaver,' 'Ozzie and Harriet,' 'Mayberry' America of old was vastly superior to what we are experiencing today."
In a Facebook post Wednesday night, Tyler wrote: "It was an America where doors were left unlocked, violent crime was a mere fraction of today's rate of occurrence, there were no car jackings, home invasions, Islamic Mosques or radical Jihadist sleeper cells."
But the billboard's message, a spin on Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, has been widely derided as a display of bigotry and racism.
It was taken down Tuesday night, according to ABC affiliate WTVC.
Tyler, a 58-year-old self-described "entrepreneur, pastor and political candidate," ran as an independent in the 2014 Senate race, getting less than half a percentage point of the vote against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
"There's no room for this type of hateful display in our political discourse," Ryan Haynes, the Tennessee Republican Party chairman, told WRCB in a statement. "Racism should be rejected in all its heinous forms in the Third Congressional District and around the country."

Note two things: (i) that Tyler identifies as a pastor, and (ii) the disingenuous condemnation by GOP party chair.  Tyler is merely saying openly what the GOP has been messaging for years.  Here's more from Tyler's campaign website:
The Make America White Again billboard advertisement will cut to the very core and marrow of what plagues us as a nation. As Anne Coulter so effectively elucidates in her book, Adios America, the overhaul of America’s immigration law in the 1960’s has placed us on an inevitable course of demise and destruction. Yes…the cunning globalist/Marxist social engineers have succeeded in destroying that great bulwark against statist tyranny…the white American super majority. Without its expedited restoration little hope remains for the nation as a whole.

Britain Votes to Leave EU; Markets Plunge

In a move that seems more motivated by bigotry and racism, not to mention nostalgia for a past that will never be again, a majority of voters in the United Kingdom voted for withdrawal from the European Union - despite agreement by virtually all economists that the move would significantly harm Britain's economy.  Like it or not, the days of the sun never setting on the British Empire are gone for ever, but why rely on logic and objective reality when one can satisfy one's racist bent and xenophobia.   As  piece in the Washington Post, those who voted for withdrawal in many ways mirror the know nothings and white supremacists rallying to Donald Trump.  Here are article highlights:
It may be pure coincidence that Donald Trump flew to Scotland on the day that British voters decided to leave the European Union. But in striking ways, the forces fueling Thursday’s historic referendum here were similar to those that have shaken U.S. politics to its core in the past year.
On both sides of the Atlantic, political establishments and the elites have found themselves on the defensive. Rising resentment over the fallout from globalization and the effects of the financial collapse of 2008, which has widened the gap between the rich and everyone else, has divided voters in Britain and the United States.
Added to that are emotional issues of national and cultural identity at a time of growing demographic diversity, highlighted in both countries by often-angry debates over immigration. Both Trump and those pushing for Britain to leave the European Union have found the immigration issue to be their most potent political weapon.
Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” could easily have been adapted to the messaging of those in the “leave” campaign across the pond. Here, that desire for a return to an earlier time — to make Britain great again — is expressed through the issue of control.
Those who have pushed for Britain to leave the E.U. want to reclaim a measure of sovereignty by wresting power from the bureaucrats in Brussels, the headquarters of the 28-member bloc. They feel about the E.U. bureaucracy as tea party Republicans do about the federal government.
Early Thursday, Steve Devereux, an economist and teacher, was passing by the polling place at London’s Methodist Central Hall, a short distance from Parliament. . . . . On balance, Devereux said he feared that rattling the establishment’s doors by voting to leave the E.U. would pose a great risk. But it is clear that the sense of disgust and disenfranchisement is deep and widespread.
Distrust with political establishments cannot be overstated, on either side of the Atlantic. During the debate here, Michael Gove, a Conservative Party lawmaker and a leading voice in the “leave” campaign, sought to discredit studies warning of the economic consequences of leaving. “People in this country have had enough of experts,” he said.
The choices in the two countries may be different, but what animates the sentiment behind the votes springs largely from the same set of grievances. Even the contours of the electorates are similar. Here, as in the United States, voters are polarized along recognizable lines: young vs. old; college-educated vs. non-college-educated; urban vs. small town and rural.
A SurveyMonkey online poll showed that voters younger than 45 favored the “remain” campaign, with the very youngest overwhelmingly in favor. Those 45 or older supported the “leave” campaign. Similarly, those with a college degree supported the “remain” campaign by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. Those without a degree favored the “leave” campaign, though by a narrower margin.
By better than 2 to 1, those here who cited immigration as their most important issue said they would back Britain’s exit. Those worried about the economy, poverty and inequality, or defense and foreign affairs, all backed remaining.
Beyond the issues that have shaped the campaign here and in the United States, there are other parallels. As in the United States, the campaign here has been marked by a coarsening dialogue, befitting perhaps of the age of social media and the culture of cable television.
The SurveyMonkey poll found that people here who said they would support Trump for president if they could vote in the United States backed the “leave” campaign by a significant margin. Those for Clinton said they were voting to remain in the bloc.
It is sad to see that like America, Britain has a significant uneducated white trash element that can be duped into voting against its own financial best interest by appeals to racism and the fantasy of restoring the past.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Father Refused to Claim Body of Orlando Shooting Victim

I will confess that I have a growing contempt for religion in general and Christian fundamentalists and conservative denominations in particular.  While claiming to be supporters of "family values," this in fact fundamentalist Christianity holds family relationships in low regard and rant that one must be willing to put god - their imaginary friend in the sky - ahead of spouses and children.   And stories like this one in the wake of the Orlando massacre at Pulse, the gay nightclub, show just how despicable these people truly are - and how self-centered they are.  Orlando Latino looks at the father of one of the victims who lost his life refusing to accept his son's body.  Indeed, other relatives had to step up and see to the young man's burial. Here are story highlights:
All the Pulse nightclub shooting victims’ bodies have been released to next of kin. Even the shooter’s body has left the Orange County Medical Examiner’s building off Michigan Avenue, according to information released this week.
“We effectively and efficiently completed the identification, notification and autopsy process within a 72-hour period – a monumental task,” according to an earlier statement by OCME, which worked with the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System to complete the gruesome task.
But it was touch and go for one particular shooting victim whose father didn’t want to claim the body. Because the son was gay. Because the father was ashamed. Finally and after much convincing, the body was released to Orlando-area relatives.
This young man shall remain anonymous so as not to further victimize the deceased, who was Puerto Rican. But Orlando Latino confirmed the information with several sources. The tale is part of the untold stories of the Latino victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
The pain of being Puerto Rican and gay is real. In the island’s macho culture (relative to the states), anti-gay bias is not subtle and has reached the highest levels of government.
Perhaps this why it took pop star Ricky Martin a while before declaring his sexual orientation. He is now the most famous gay Puerto Rican and no doubt his coming out in 2010 helped many others to do the same. In Puerto Rico, everybody loves Ricky Martin – he is famous, wealthy, good looking and more.
But nobody knew the Orlando shooting victim. No coming out on Oprah for him. And the victim’s family – or at least his father –didn’t accept the son’s sexual orientation, adding further insult to the sad and sensational circumstances of his death.
Note how the father was ashamed.  Not for his lost son, but rather it was all about him and "what will people think?"  These people are vile and churches that foster such bigotry deserve to be destroyed.  It's one of the reasons why I favor taxing churches just like every other business. Why should I and others be forced to indirectly subsidized such misogyny?  Moreover, if these nests of haters and vipers cannot survive without tax exempt status, then they deserve to wither and die.