Saturday, October 21, 2017
As I have noted in a number of posts and in my columns in VEER Magazine, Republican Attorney General candidate is a religious extremist. He thinks his far right wing beliefs should be binding on all and indeed has given his services without charge to support Christofascist who believe their claimed religious beliefs put them above the law. In the last debate against incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring who is running for reelection, Adams repeatedly attacked Herring for refusing to defend Virginia's unconstitutional ban on same sex marriage. In Adams' view, Herring should have followed the example of previous attorney generals that defended Jim Crow laws and and Virginia's ban on interracial marriage that was eventually struck down by the United States Supreme Court after the Virginia Supreme Court twice upheld the ban, citing religion as one of the justifications. In attacking Herring Adams displays an ignorance that even a first year law student would not engage in: the United States Constitution supersedes the Virginia Constitution and if a provision of the Virginia Constitution violates the United States Constitution, then it should not be enforced or defended. Because of his reactionary religious beliefs, Adams ignores this basic principle. This fact alone underscores that Adams is unfit for the office of attorney general. The Virginian Pilot looks at the debate. Here are highlights:
Attorney General Mark Herring's refusal to defend Virginia's ban on gay marriage was his signature act during his four-year term. Now it's the key point of contention in his re-election campaign against Republican challenger John Adams.
At a debate Friday in Leesburg, Adams said it was dereliction of duty when Herring switched the state's legal position in a lawsuit challenging the ban once he took office in 2014. A federal judge who struck down Virginia's ban cited Herring's switch as a compelling factor in her analysis.
Adams attributed Herring's decision to a political calculation, noting that Herring actually voted for the gay marriage ban a few years earlier when he was a state senator.
Herring, who received national attention when he announced his decision to oppose the gay-marriage ban in court, said his position was ultimately vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down gay-marriage bans as unconstitutional.
Herring said he considered the fact that Virginia was on the wrong side of history in the civil rights era when the state argued to keep segregated schools, and didn't want to make the same mistake. "It was the right thing to do," Herring said.
Herring, in his opening statement, said Adams would not protect abortion rights and would oppose gun safety measures. He said Adams worked as a lawyer in private practice to weaken rules protecting coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act. "John is fixated on conservative social issues," Herring said.Adams' biggest lie of the evening was when he said this:
"I am running to get politics out of the attorney general's office," he said. "I'm not running to limit anybody's rights."
Adams is running to limit the rights of LGBT Virginians, women and of course, minorities since he strongly supports Republican efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. In my opinion, Adams is a dishonest, vicious and very dangerous man. Vote for Mark Herring on November 7, 2017.
I generally do not view myself as paranoid, but if one looks at what is happening both here in America and around many places in the world, if one is LGBT, there is much to worry about. Here in America the Trump/Pence regime is waging a relentless war against LGBT Americans and has already taken measures rolling back LGBT protections put in place by the Obama administration, has intervened in a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit arguing that existing federal civil rights laws do not apply to LGBT individuals and that gays can be fired at will, and had its representative to the United Nations recently voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemned the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts. Meanwhile, Betty Price, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and wife of former Trump Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, asked this week whether the government could quarantine people with HIV to limit transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. In doing so, Price parroted a long time talking point of Christofascist organizations - much like what the Nazis did toward Jews - that gays are diseased and pose a public health crisis. In her ignorance, Price ignored the fact that the exploding HIV crisis now is among blacks, but then again the Trump regime and evangelical Christians do not like blacks anymore than they like gays.
Overseas, things are just as disturbing. In Russia, that country's awful law that fines anyone expressing support for LGBT rights in public could get even harsher after a senior official in the Ministry of the Interior suggested making it a criminal offense. A piece in the Washington Post lists other anti-LGBT efforts fueled by religious belief and opportunist politicians only too happy to scapegoat gays to divert attention from their failing policies. Here are excerpts:
This week, a government journal in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan announced that the country's interior ministry had compiled a registry of “proven” gays and lesbians. The list named 319 men and 48 women, whom Tajik federal prosecutors identified in operations they called “Morality” and “Purge.”A purge — likely in the form of mass incarcerations — is exactly what human rights organizations are afraid will happen. But the phenomenon would not be unique to Tajikistan: Over the past few months, police in Egypt, Azerbaijan, Tanzania, Indonesia and the Russian republic of Chechnya have rounded up people suspected of being gay — and in many cases tortured or publicly humiliated them.
What's more, many of the crackdowns look like “copycats” of one another. “There are a lot of ways in which these crackdowns follow the same sequence of events,” said Kyle Knight, a researcher on LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch. “And there's reason to believe that what's happening in Tajikistan now is based on things their government there has learned from, say, what Azerbaijan just did.”
The sequence generally starts with someone — most likely a religious figure or government official — publicly denigrating acts of alleged sexual deviance. In countries where homosexuality is taboo and driven underground, such comments may be the first thing a person has heard in public about LGBT people. “It is easy to say that these particular people are spreading disease, that they are foreigners or sinners. From a starting point of ignorance, prejudice is an easy next step,” said Knight.
Then things get dangerous. . . . In most of the countries listed above, homosexuality is not illegal. But there also aren't any nondiscrimination laws that include sexuality. Without them, political leaders have to expend their own political capital to step in — assuming they think LGBT communities deserve protection at all. Instead, leaders usually side with the denunciations, or even calls for criminalization, and obscenity and prostitution laws are often turned against sexual minorities. My colleagues in Jakarta, Moscow and Cairo have all recently documented that sequence.
As of this Tuesday, at least 20 people in Egypt had received prison sentences ranging from six months to six years, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told our Cairo bureau chief, Sudarsan Raghavan. Four people were sentenced to three years each, and rights groups say some have already been beaten and forced to undergo anal examinations. Of the 20, some were arrested for waving rainbow flags at a concert, others for Facebook posts supporting the LGBT community, and some were tracked down by police on gay dating apps and chatrooms.
In Azerbaijan, meanwhile, more than 80 people have been arrested since mid-September for suspected homosexuality.
The United Nations and Human Rights Watch have interviewed some of those arrested in Azerbaijian, who claim they were subjected to “electric shocks, beatings, forced shaving and other forms of humiliation to force them to incriminate themselves before being released,” according to a U.N. spokesman.
That torture and humiliation is reminiscent of what rights groups were hearing out of the Russian republic of Chechnya earlier this year. Roughly 100 people, mostly young men, were allegedly detained and mercilessly beaten as police attempted to force them to confess their homosexuality. This week, Maxim Lapunov became the first of them to lodge a formal complaint with Russia's Investigative Committee, which has previously dismissed allegations that any such “gay pogrom” ever took place.
Knight, of Human Rights Watch, said conditions are ripe for similar crackdowns in countries all over the world, pointing to Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova as examples.
International out cry can push back against these horrific agendas. Yet the United States in the age of Trump has signaled that it will not champion human rights for all even as it strives to give Christian extremist at home special rights to ignore non-discrimination and public accommodation laws. Here in Virginia, extremist GOP attorney general candidate John Adams has made it clear that he thinks religious belief should trump the Constitution's right of freedom of religion for those who are not right wing Christians. It is indeed a worrisome time to be LGBT.
Friday, October 20, 2017
With their aging white, heterosexual, conservative Christian voter base literally dying off, Republican efforts around the country have shifted increasingly towards disenfranchising voters who they believe will vote against their agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, special rights for Christofascists, emboldening white supremacists, and taking from the poor to give to the rich. This effort takes many forms, but a favored method is to pass so-called voter ID laws under the guise of fighting non-existent voter fraud. Other efforts include wrongfully purging voters from voter records and here in Virginia making it difficult for convicted felons who have served their time to regain their voting rights. Hand in hand with this, of curse, is the disproportionate prosecution of minorities under Virginia's often very low threshold felony laws. Now, a study suggests that these efforts bore fruit last year when Wisconsin's efforts to disenfranchise voters may have thrown Wisconsin to Trump. A piece in New York Magazine looks at this disturbing situation which Republicans will no doubt seek to replicate in other states (Mother Jones also has coverage here). Here are highlights:
Close elections almost by definition conjure up countless explanations of what might have changed the result. As the fine voting-rights journalist Ari Berman notes, one of the more shocking and significant developments on November 8, 2016, was Donald Trump’s win in Wisconsin, a state that had not gone Republican in a presidential election since the 49-state Reagan landslide of 1984. Explanations were all over the place. . . .
Virtually no one, says Berman, talked about voter suppression, even though Scott Walker’s hyperpolarized state had enacted and fought successfully to preserve one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws, expected and designed to reduce minority turnout.
Yet there is evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that voter suppression efforts had a lot to do with a sharp reduction in minority and student voting in Wisconsin.
After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County were surveyed about why they didn’t cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote. According to the study’s author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee—and as many as 45,000 statewide—were deterred from voting by the ID law. “We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” he says.
Trump carried the state by less than 23,000 votes.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law was designed to create complex hoops prospective voters had to jump through to secure an ID, particularly for those without driver’s licenses, and also for college students attending schools that did not issue the kind of IDs the law demanded. Berman found abundant evidence that election personnel in the state went beyond the letter of the law to discourage compliance.
And voter ID was just part of the arsenal of voter suppression techniques at the GOP’s disposal:
The voter ID law was one of 33 election changes passed in Wisconsin after Walker took office [in 2011], and it dovetailed with his signature push to dismantle unions, taking away his opponents’ most effective organizing tool. Wisconsin’s Legislature cut early voting from 30 days to 12, reduced early voting hours on nights and weekends, and restricted early voting to one location per county, hampering voters in large urban areas and sprawling rural ones. It also added new residency requirements for voter registration, eliminated staffers who led statewide registration drives, and made it harder to count absentee ballots.
It all added up, and for Republicans, it paid off handsomely in 2016.
One lesson of the Wisconsin saga is that control of the federal courts matters a great deal in vindicating voting rights and political representation; this is, after all, the state where a GOP gerrymander of the legislature was so overtly partisan that the U.S. Supreme Court may find it unconstitutional.
Republican-controlled statehouses have already passed more voting restrictions in 2017 than they did in 2016 and 2015 combined. Taken together, “there’s no doubt that these election changes affected the turnout among young voters, first-time voters, voters of color, and other members of the Obama coalition that overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton,” . . .
If you think of voting rights as a wonky “process” issue that’s less important than health care or the environment or avoiding war with North Korea, think again. It’s entirely possible we wouldn’t be dealing with a President Trump at all if voting rights were regarded as a fundamental right of citizenship that should be strongly and universally encouraged.
I only meet one of the GOP's preferred voter base of white, heterosexual, conservative Christians - Like author Anne Rice, I don't call myself Christian anymore given the hideousness that Christianity has taken on under the Christofascists. What will the GOP try to come up with to disenfranchise people like me? If Republicans win the Virginia statewide elections next month, expect a new wave of voter disenfranchisement in Virginia. Be very afraid. Get out and vote while you still can.
|Conway re-tweeted Russian Internet troll lies as did Donald, Jr., and numerous right wing "news" sites|
One lesson from the 2016 presidential campaign as more information comes out about the lengths Russia used social messaging via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to influence voters and throw those open to bigotry, homophobia and, of course white supremacy towards the Trump campaign is how gullible some Americans were and how they actively spread the Russia sourced lies and propaganda. I still suspect that Russia had inside help from as yet unidentified Americans in designing their fake accounts and targeting susceptible demographics. That said, frighteningly, far too many Americans - including right wing "news sites" like Fox News, the Daily Caller and Breitbart not to mention a number of Trump campaign officials - were only happy to believe the lies and further circulate them by re-posting and sharing them. Indeed, I have Facebook "friends" (who I will not name, but hope will recognize themselves and change their behavior) who time and time again forward, re-post and share fake news, at least some of which appears to have been authored by Russian operatives in Moscow or St, Petersburg, Russia. BuzzFeed reports on this disturbing co-opting of Americans to undermine American democracy. Here are story highlights:
A popular, divisive Twitter account, purporting to be the work of Tennessee Republicans but allegedly the creation of Russian trolls to sow division in the US, was repeatedly cited in multiple articles by many prominent US news sites.
The Tennessee Republican Party flagged the account, @TEN_GOP, to Twitter, saying it was a fake, but it wasn't until 11 months after the first notification that the social media company "permanently suspended" the account.
By then, however, the site's inflammatory tweets had reached not only its more than 136,000 followers, but thousands of other people through retweets and references by some of the most prominent sites and personalities on the internet.
The account's purported Russian roots were revealed this week by Russia's RBC news outlet in an investigation that identified @TEN_GOP as one of dozens of accounts created by the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” whose work was aimed at sowing division online.
A BuzzFeed News survey of major American news sites showed just how wildly successful the account had been in injecting a divisive voice into US media, even after the 2016 election.
@TEN_GOP's tweets were used by Fox News to illustrate conservative reaction to minor news events, including the controversy that a writer for Saturday Night Live created when she referred on Twitter to Donald Trump's youngest son, Barron, as "this country's first homeschool shooter." Fox News Insider wrote that conservatives were outraged by the joke, citing five tweets, including that of @TEN_GOP.
In other cases, outlets seemed to base entire articles around sentiments expressed by @TEN_GOP. In March, Breitbart wrote about purported bias at Politico in an examination of that publication's description of the process by which Trump and Barack Obama had selected federal judges. It embedded an @TEN_GOP tweet to bolster its case.
All told, the account was quoted dozens of times across conservative news outlets. Fox News quoted an @TEN_GOP tweet in at least three stories, including one syndicated by the Daily Caller. The Daily Caller itself quoted it in six stories. Breitbart mentioned it in seven; Infowars in four; RedState in eight.
The Gateway Pundit, another conservative outlet, cited the Russian account in 19 different stories, . . . The account's tweets often derided African-Americans, Muslims, and immigrants.
The account became so prominent that a Daily Beast investigation found that some of the highest profile members of Trump's campaign endorsed it.
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Trump digital director Brad Parscale, and Trump son Donald Jr. all retweeted @TEN_GOP in the weeks leading up to the election.
Longtime Trump friend Roger Stone also retweeted the account, as did Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump's national security adviser before resigning amid reports he'd lied about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
I am not fan of George W. Bush. A search of this blog will reveal more posts than I can recall off hand taking Bush - who I referred to as the Chimperator - and Emperor Palpatine Cheney. And yes, Bush's evil minion Karl Rove set the blue print for the general ugliness, homophobia and racism that Donald Trump with the apparent aid of Russians posing as Americans on social media took to horrific new levels. Yet despite all of this, Bush seems to have lacked the total lack of even a shred of empathy for others that is the norm for Der Trumpenführer. Similarly, although in my view in way over his head and far too deferential to Cheney, Bush seems to have lacked the viciousness and cruelty that are also the norm for Trump. A piece in the Washington Post (and numerous other legitimate news outlets) looks at Bush's denunciation of Trumpism and the hate and white supremacy that define the Trump/Pence regime and its base. Here are excerpts:
For the past nine years, George W. Bush has largely stayed out of presidential politics; he declined to criticize his successor, Barack Obama, and he chose not to endorse but largely ignored President Trump. While Mitt Romney and others spoke out publicly against Trump, Bush stayed above the fray.
That changed in a big way Thursday.
Speaking at a George W. Bush Institute event in New York, Bush didn't use Trump's name, but his target became clearer as the speech progressed. Here's a sampling:
- “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
- “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”
- “We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity.”
- “It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals.”
- “Bullying and prejudice in our public life … provides permission for cruelty and bigotry.”
[A]lmost each of these quotes has some connection to Trump. “Conspiracy theories and fabrications?” Check and check. “Nationalism and nativism?” Check. A “degraded discourse?” Big check. “Bigotry and white supremacy?” Trump was criticized for not calling them out strongly enough in Charlottesville. “Bullying?” Huge check. Not “living up to civic values?”
- “The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them.
On Thursday, Bush clearly decided that silence was no longer tenable.
Meanwhile, another column in the Post looks at Trump's lying and ties the pattern to one of the biggest liars, propagandists and sociopaths in history: Adolph Hitler. Trump may not be another Hitler, but his pattern of lying and attacking the free press do bear frightening similarities to what Hitler did in the late 1920's and early 1930's via a campaign of lies. Here are column excerpts:
It is a commonly accepted rule among those who are in the business of argument, especially online, that he or she who invokes Adolf Hitler, either in oratory or essays, automatically forfeits the argument.
The reference is deemed far too extreme, too explosive, too far beyond rational correlation. No matter how bad a present-day politician, not one of them has charted or is charting a course to exterminate millions of innocent people as an act of ethnic cleansing.
Hitler stands alone in this regard, without rival, a warning to the world about how evil and lethal human beings can be, a warning that what he did can never be allowed again.
That said, there are strategies that Hitler used to secure power and rise — things that allowed his murderous reign — that can teach us about political theory and practice. And very reasonable and sage comparisons can be drawn between Hitler’s strategies and those of others.
One of those lessons is about how purposeful lying can be effectively used as propaganda. The forthcoming comparison isn’t to Hitler the murderer, but to Hitler the liar.
According to James Murphy’s translation of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”:
“In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”
The text continues:
“It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
This demonstrates a precise understanding of human psychology, but also the dangerously manipulative nature that operates in the mind of a demon.
And yet, as many have noted, no person of sound reason or even cursory political awareness can read this and not be immediately struck by how similar this strategy of lying is to Donald Trump’s seeming strategy of lying: Tell a lie bigger than people think a lie can be, thereby forcing their brains to seek truth in it, or vest some faith in it, even after no proof can be found.
Trump is no Hitler, but the way he has manipulated the American people with outrageous lies, stacked one on top of the other, has an eerie historical resonance. Demagogy has a fixed design.
Just this week, Trump told the colossal lie that “President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls” to the families of fallen soldiers.
When called out about this lie, he quickly retreated to one of his shield phrases: “That’s what I was told.”
This is not a simple fear of the truth; it is a weaponizing of untruth. It is the use of the lie to assault and subdue. It is Trump doing to political ends what Hitler did to more brutal ends: using mass deception as masterful propaganda.
Maybe I have crossed the ink-stained line of the essay writer, where Hitler is always beyond it. But I don’t think so. Ignoring what one of history’s greatest examples of lying has to teach us about current examples of lying, particularly lying by the “president” of the most powerful country in the world, seems to me an act of timidity in a time of terror. It is an intentional self-blinding to avoid offending frail sensibilities.
I do not believe the column author crossed the line. History has many lessons to offer if we are but willing to see the truth and ignores the calls of sycophants of evil doers that one has gone to far or is being overly dramatic. As one who has read a great deal about the rise of Hitler, one lesson is to never believe that evil cannot happen. All it needs is a complacent and non-engaged populous.