Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Polls: Rep. Scott Taylor Falling Behind Elaine Luria

Scott Taylor's campaign's sleazy - and illegal - effort to place Shaun Brown on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Virginia's 2nd Congressional District seems to be blowing up in Taylor's face in the wake of media coverage of the forged signatures and irregularities in how signatures were gathered to place Brown on the ballot.  Yes, there are many other reasons to oppose Taylor, not the least being his lock step voting with Donald Trump and the GOP vulture capitalist and tax cuts for the wealthy agenda. But the entire Brown affair reveals just how morally bankrupt - and incredibly arrogant - Taylor is in reality. As for some in the LGBT community who support Taylor for his supposed support for the LGBT community - frankly, I suspect their support is more motivated by political aspirations of their own - the truth is that the pro-LGBT legislation Taylor sponsored in Congress had no chance in Hell of passage (a fact known to Taylor) and, therefore, was little more than a ploy to dupe members of the LGBT community into shortsightedly supporting him.   A piece in Roll Call looks at Taylor's much deserved sinking prospects.  Here are highlights:

Democrat Elaine Luria led Rep. Scott Taylor by 8 points in Virginia’s 2nd District amid lingering questions about the Republican lawmaker’s role in a ballot signature scandal, according to an internal poll released by Luria’s campaign Tuesday.
The survey, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, gave the Navy veteran a 51 percent to 43 percent lead over Taylor. A June survey by the same firm showed her trailing by 4 points, the campaign said.
Luria’s campaign credited her lead partly to the alleged scheme to submit fraudulent qualifying petitions to help independent candidate Shaun Brown make the ballot — an apparent attempt to siphon support from Luria.
“While voters in the district have been bombarded by coverage of the election fraud scandal surrounding Congressman Scott Taylor, we have remained focused on sharing Luria’s record of service to her country and community,” Luria campaign manager Kathryn Sorenson said.  “This is a swing district, and we are going to fight for every vote between now and Election Day.”
A special prosecutor is investigating four of Taylor’s campaign staffers for allegedly forging dozens of signatures on Brown’s behalf.
A Richmond, Virginia, circuit court judge ordered Brown’s name removed from the ballot Sept. 5 after finding the petitions she submitted were “rife with errors, inconsistencies, and forgeries.” The Virginia Supreme Court last week dismissed Brown’s appeal.
The Democratic Party of Virginia, which filed the original lawsuit in August to kick Brown off the ballot, has accused Taylor of helping Brown, his 2016 Democratic opponent, in a backdoor maneuver to split the Democratic vote.  Taylor has denied those claims.
Make sure you are registered to vote and, if you live in the 2nd District, get out and vote for Elaine Luria on election day.  If you live outside of the 2nd District, make sure you are registered and vote for every Democrat on the ballot on election day. 

Sex-Abuse Scandal Growing Faster Than the Church Can Contain It

Interestingly, as the sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are roiling Washington, the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal is exploding at new levels.  In both instances, the behavior of the alleged predators is part and parcel with a sense of entitlement and being above the law. On the one hand you have rich boy, private prep school boy Brett Kavanaugh and on the other you have priests and bishops - princes of the Church, if you will - who may no longer live in palaces as the once did in France and the United Kingdom where I recently visited, yet who see themselves as free from the rules that bind others.  In the case of the GOP, it has already given Trump a pass on serial cases of sexual harassment.  In the case of the Catholic Church, the Church hierarchy has covered up crimes against  children and youths and for decades, if not centuries.  Now, the Catholic Church is facing a reckoning that has put even Pope Francis in the bull's eye.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the long overdue accounting facing the Church.  Here are highlights:
As Pope Francis faces mounting pressure to address the spiraling clergy sex-abuse crisis, almost every day has brought some new revelation or declaration.  
Since Tuesday alone, a group of American Catholic leaders went to Rome to ask Francis some tough questions, while a women’s open letter demanding answers from him crossed the 45,000-signature mark. The pontiff summoned bishops from around the world to a future meeting, while making one bishop the subject of a new investigation. One cardinal who had come under fire for allegedly enabling accused priests to keep working for the Church announced his plans to resign, while another, who has been pressing for meaningful action against abusers, came under scrutiny himself. Amidst all this, a bombshell report about sex abuse in Germany was leaked to the press.
It does seem like we are reaching a watershed moment.” By Thursday, there had been so many new developments that she said she was having a hard time keeping up—and that the leaders at the Vatican probably were, too.  “I think they’re scrambling. The news is coming on so many fronts. I think they don’t know quite what to do.” Here is some of what they nevertheless did this week.
An American audience with the pope
Church leaders from the U.S. met with the pope in Rome on Thursday. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had called for a meeting to discuss allegations against Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal who served as archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006. This summer, McCarrick resigned as cardinal after he was accused of sexual abuse.
But if any concrete decisions came out of the papal meeting, DiNardo did not reveal them.  “I worry that the cardinals are coming home empty-handed. They were listened to, but it’s not clear they’re going to have support from the Vatican in terms of handling the investigation into the McCarrick situation,” Mary Rice Hasson, the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum, a network that aims to amplify the voices of Catholic women, told me Thursday. “The concern doesn’t go away because our cardinals had a nice listening session with Pope Francis. People want action.”
Complicating matters further, on the eve of his meeting with the pope, DiNardo himself was accused of covering up abuse in his Galveston-Houston archdiocese, casting doubt on whether he could effectively lead the U.S. Church’s effort at reform, the Washington Post reported.  
Even as DiNardo and other U.S. leaders gathered in Rome on Thursday, the pope accepted the immediate resignation of a West Virginia bishop, Michael J. Bransfield, over allegations that he had sexually harassed adults. Francis also authorized another bishop to investigate the allegations against Bransfield.
A plan for an unprecedented meeting of world bishops
Pope Francis on Wednesday summoned bishops from around the world to a first-of-its-kind meeting in Rome in February. The focus will be on protecting minors, and bishops will reportedly receive training in identifying abuse, intervening, and listening to victims.
The choice to summon the presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide signals that the Vatican finally recognizes clergy sex abuse is a global problem, according to Cummings, the historian.  . . . In the past, she explained, Church leaders had suggested that the problem was limited to the U.S., but as scandals began to surface elsewhere—from Ireland to Australia to Chile to Germany—that story became impossible to believe.
Stephen Schneck, a former Catholic University professor, likewise told me, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the bishops can’t be trusted to police themselves. I think the ultimate solution, especially here in the U.S., is going to require an active, permanent role for the laity, because of the problem of oversight.”
A new bombshell report
A study has alleged that more than 3,600 children were sexually abused at the hands of some 1,670 clergy members over the past seven decades in Germany. Commissioned by Church officials and conducted by university researchers, the report was supposed to be released on September 25, but it was leaked to German outlets Spiegel Online and Die Zeit and reported this Wednesday instead.
This study comes on the heels of another bombshell report. Just last month, a 900-page Pennsylvania grand-jury report detailed accusations against about 300 priests and alleged that their actions—which the report said involved more than 1,000 children—were covered up by diocese officials.
A cardinal on the verge of resignation
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, said Tuesday that he plans to travel to Rome soon, where he will ask the pope to accept his resignation. Wuerl has been heavily criticized after the Pennsylvania grand-jury report alleged that, as archbishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, he had permitted priests accused of abusing minors to be reassigned or reinstated. He said Thursday that new leadership is needed to help the Washington archdiocese get past the “current confusion, disappointment, and disunity.”
A very vulnerable pope
In an ambiguous homily on Tuesday, Francis seemed to suggest that Satan was playing a role in the uncovering of the Church’s sex-abuse scandal. “In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ [a biblical name for the devil] has been unchained and has it in for bishops. … He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people,” he said.
Some Catholics I spoke to speculated Francis may have been alluding to ViganĂ²’s letter, which demanded the pope’s resignation. Either way, it struck some as a discordant remark at a moment when many are seeking contrition and humility from the Vatican.  
The pope’s favorability has been plummeting in the U.S., among both Catholics and the general public. A year and a half ago, he enjoyed a 83 percent favorability rating among U.S. Catholics, but that’s dropped to 63 percent, according to CNN.
Hasson, who drafted a public letter—now signed by 45,000 women—demanding answers from the pope about what he knew and when, said that although she and the other signatories love the Church, they are angry that the pope has not been more forthcoming and transparent. “The Church itself needs to get serious about spiritual integrity,” she said. “People are now praying for the Church.”
 If one wants the Church to reform itself and belatedly remove bishops and cardinals who turned a blind eye to sexual abuse, the best way to do so is to (i) have parishioners cease financial support to the Church and let pastors and bishops know why the funds are being cut off, and (ii) better yet, walk away from the Church and, again, let it be known why you are leaving.  Throughout history, only a lose of membership combined with a precipitous drop in financial support have forced the Church to change.  These forces need to be brought to bear again.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Kavanaugh’s Accuser is Credible. Will it Matter?

When the tape of Donald Trump with Billy Bush hit the airwaves, Trump dismissed it all as "locker room talk" and waved off the reality that he is a serial molester of more than a dozen and a half women who have called him out.  Now, we have Brett Kavanaugh - did Trump select him not only for his views that make a occupant of the White House a near king or also because of his anti-women views? - who, if his accuser is to be believed, views sexual assault as an instance of "boys will be boys."  More frighteningly, so do almost a dozen male Republican members of the U.S. Senate.  Sadly, it is all part and parcel of the hyper "macho" mentality of far too many straight males who feel that abusive behavior towards women - and gays - somehow proves their masculinity.  Columns in both the New York Times and the Washington Post (naturally, authored by women) look at this pathetic state of affairs and the toxicity of Trump/Kavanaugh masculinity and Republican enabling of the reprehensible.  First, excerpts from the Times piece: 
Obviously, I believe Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who says that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school while his friend Mark Judge watched and, at moments, egged him on. I believe her when she says that Kavanaugh, who she says was drunk, held her down, covered her mouth when she tried to scream, and ground against her while attempting to pull her clothes off. I believe her when she says this incident haunted her all her life.
There’s rarely hard evidence in a case like this, but Blasey — the surname she prefers to use publicly — has done everything possible to substantiate her claim. Speaking to The Washington Post, she produced notes from a therapist she saw in 2012, whom she’d told about being attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who grew up to become “high-ranking members of society in Washington.” According to her husband, that year she identified Kavanaugh to him by name. When Kavanaugh appeared on a shortlist of potential Supreme Court picks — but before his nomination had been announced — Blasey contacted both The Post and her member of Congress, Anna G. Eshoo of California. By all indications, she wanted to head his nomination off without being forced into the spotlight.
Blasey passed a polygraph administered by a former F.B.I. agent. The utility of polygraphs is dubious, but her willingness to take one is evidence of her sincerity. According to Axios, some Republicans wanted to call on Blasey to testify publicly, assuming she’d decline. But on Monday morning, Blasey’s lawyer, Debra Katz, said that her client is willing to appear before Congress.
Kavanaugh denies the allegation unequivocally; on Monday he said he’s willing to rebut it before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Judge, who wrote a memoir of his teenage alcoholism, has veered between denying the incident and saying he doesn’t recall it.) But it’s a sign of how credible Blasey seems that, since this story broke, much of the public debate has been less about whether her accusations are true than whether they are relevant.
Some conservatives — though not just conservatives — insist that it is unfair to judge a middle-aged man for things he did as a kid. . . . Such arguments would be more convincing if people on the right weren’t so selective in their indulgence. Donald Trump called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five, who were 14 to 16 years old when they were arrested. (They’ve since been proven innocent.) Children are regularly put on sex offender registries, sometimes for their entire lives, for conduct less serious than what Kavanaugh is accused of.
[T]his is no longer just about what Kavanaugh might have done 36 years ago. We need to determine, as best we can, if he’s lying now. . . . . Senators should also demand that Kavanaugh’s old friend Judge, who grew up to become a right-wing writer, testify, though Kavanaugh would surely prefer other character witnesses.
Anyone Trump nominates is going to threaten Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh would at least make plain the power dynamics behind forced pregnancy. We would lose Roe because a president who boasted of sexual assault, elected against the wishes of the majority of female voters, was able to give a lifetime Supreme Court appointment to an ex-frat boy credibly accused of attempted rape. Kavanaugh, helped by an all-male Republican caucus on the Judiciary Committee, would join Clarence Thomas, whose confirmation hearing helped make the phrase “sexual harassment” a household term. They and three other men would likely vote against the court’s three women. The brute imposition of patriarchy would be undeniable.
If the Kavanaugh nomination goes forward, it’s because Trump and his allies believe that a certain class of men accused of sexual assault deserve impunity. The question now is whether any Republican senators believe otherwise.
All, very much on point in my opinion.  The column in the Post while satirical, is also very much on point.  Here are highlights:
“If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” — A lawyer close to the White House, speaking to Politico.
If, apparently, a single alleged assault at a single party decades ago is to be frowned upon, then no man is safe, right?   . . . How are we going to fill our offices if this is the new rule? I bet you will say I cannot shout at women as they pass on the street before dragging them to a concrete bunker and then still expect to become governor! What next? I’m supposed to make sure everyone I have sex with is willing? If suddenly, as a country, we decide that violently attempting to assault someone is, like, bad, then that knocks out 98, maybe 99 percent of men, just going off the locker-room talk I’ve heard. . . . You’re telling me I am supposed to encounter dozens, hundreds, thousands of women in my life, some drunk and some sober and some with really good legs and just … not assault any of them?
I mean, it’s not as though they’re people, are they? At the moment of conception, yes, but then they come out Daughters, not people! They grow into objects; some become Wives or Mothers, others Hags or Crones. Then they die! If they were people, we would not expect dominion over their bodies, surely; if they were people, we would not feel entitled to their smiles. If they were people, I could read a novel with a female protagonist and not be instantly confused and alarmed.
No. They are an unintelligible something else. . . . . It would just be too terrible if they were people. Then you could not harm them with impunity. Then if you made a mistake (Boys will be boys), you would have harmed a person. Then something else would be at stake in addition to your career, and that cannot be.
If boys cannot be boys, then how can boys be men who rise to the highest offices in the land? If this stops being something you can get away with, then will anyone still be above the law?  Every man should be worried.
Sadly, the column highlights the mindset certainly of Trump and, now it seems far to many Senate Republicans.  It is a mindset that ought to disgust moral, decent people.  I hope women are paying attention and that they correctly direct their wrath at Republicans come the November midterm elections. 

Hurricane Florence: Welcome to the New Normal

In a post last week I noted how six years ago Republican legislators in North Carolina had rejected the reality of climate change and ignored the recommendations of a non-partisan committee concerning sea level rise and future potential flooding.  The result was more construction on the coastal plain and flood plain areas.  Now, with Hurricane Florence the idiocy of such action is all too apparent.   Meanwhile, the Trump/Pence regime has pulled America out of the Paris climate accord and is actively working to destroy restrictions that would lessen carbon emissions and at least slow down elements fueling climate change.  All pure idiocy that ignores the growing dangers that past foolishness has set in motion.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the new normal and the danger of Trump/Pence policies - the irony, of course, is that North Carolina went for Trump in 2016.  Karma has already slapped the state hard across the face.  Here are column excerpts:
Hurricane Florence has drenched eastern North Carolina with more than 30 inches of rain, an all-time record for the state. Last year, Hurricane Harvey stalled over Houston and dumped more than 60 inches of rain, an all-time record for the whole country. Also last year, Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico and caused, according to an independent study, nearly 3,000 deaths.
Welcome to the new normal.  Tropical cyclones are nothing new, of course. But climate scientists say that global warming should make such storms wetter, slower and more intense — which is exactly what seems to be happening. And if we fail to act, these kinds of devastating weather events will likely become even more frequent and more severe.
Climate change is a global phenomenon. Authorities in the Philippines are still trying to assess the damage and death toll from Typhoon Mangkhut, a rare Category 5-equivalent storm that struck the archipelago Saturday with sustained winds of 165 mph. Mangkhut went on to batter Hong Kong and now, as it weakens, is plowing across southern China.
Every human being on the planet has a stake in what governments do to limit and adapt to climate change, including leaders who, like President Trump, prefer to believe global warming is some kind of hoax. I doubt the citizens of Wilmington, N.C. — a lovely resort town that was turned into an island by widespread flooding from Florence — feel there is anything illusory about the hardship they’re going through.
The most ambitious attempt to quantify the link between climate and weather — a blue-chip international consortium called World Weather Attribution — has not yet made an attempt to estimate any possible effect that global warming may have had on Florence or Mangkhut. But another group of researchers, the Climate Extremes Modeling Group at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, estimated Sept. 12 that Florence would produce 50 percent more rainfall than if human-induced global warming had not occurred.
We know from direct measurement that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by more than 40 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when humans started burning fossil fuels on a large scale. We know from direct observation that carbon dioxide traps heat. We know from direct measurement that both atmospheric and ocean temperatures have been rising sharply. We know from direct measurement that warmer water takes up more space than cooler water, which is the main reason ocean levels are rising.
We know that warmer water is more easily evaporated, which means there is more moisture available to fuel a storm such as Florence or Harvey — and to be released by such storms as rainfall.
If humankind suddenly stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, we would still have to adapt to the climatic changes we have already set in motion. . . . . We will be coping with massive tropical storms, tragic coastal and riverine flooding, deadly heat waves and unprecedented wildfires for the rest of our lives.
At the very least, we should be trying to reduce carbon emissions and keep global warming to a manageable level. With the landmark Paris agreement, the nations of the world agreed to try. But Trump foolishly decided to pull the United States — the world’s second-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind only China — out of the deal.
The administration has already proposed weakening restrictions on carbon emissions from automobiles and coal-fired power plants. And last week, there were reports that the administration also wants to loosen rules governing the release of methane, which traps even more heat than carbon dioxide.
Another news item from earlier this month should be instructive: A cargo ship is presently making the journey from Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast, to the German port of Bremerhaven via the Arctic Ocean, rather than taking the usual southern route through the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar. Until now, the northern route has always been impassible because it was blocked by polar ice. But because of climate change, a lot of the ice has melted.
Climate change is no longer theoretical. It is real, it is all around us, and it is going to get much worse.

More Tuesday Male Beauty

American Democracy Is in Crisis

Many will argue that Hillary Clinton was a flawed presidential candidate and that the Clintons have their own baggage.   Even if these complaints are true, in my view, Clinton's defects were never enough to justify voting for Donald Trump unless perhaps one is a white supremacist/racist or evangelical Christian who cared more for stripping others of their rights while more or less throwing the Bible into the sewer.  Now, we daily witness the unfolding scandals of the Trump/Pence, the growing number of convictions and plea deals that make the Trump regime as perhaps the most corrupt and scandal plagued in America's history.  Meanwhile, Trump and his Vichy Republican enablers are steadily and deliberately undermining the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law as self-style patriots worry more about whether or not black NFL players are kneeling for the national anthem than possible conspiracies between Trump and his minions and a hostile foreign power.  In a lengthy new piece in The Atlantic, Hillary Clinton vents and reminds all of us that her warnings about Trump/Pence were all too true.  How does this nightmare end?  The answer, vote for Democrats on November 6th at every level possible so as to cripple the GOP and most importantly, put control of Congress back in the hands of Democrats.  Here are article highlights:
It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown. They were not.
In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders.
Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm.
And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”
Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis.
I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts—for now—by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose.
As I see it, there are five main fronts of this assault on our democracy.
First, there is Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law. . . . . That ideal is enshrined in two powerful principles: No one, not even the most powerful leader, is above the law, and all citizens are due equal protection under the law. Those are big ideas, radical when America was formed and still vital today. The Founders knew that a leader who refuses to be subject to the law or who politicizes or obstructs its enforcement is a tyrant, plain and simple. . . . That sounds a lot like Donald Trump. He told The New York Times, “I have an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.”
Second, the legitimacy of our elections is in doubt.
There’s Russia’s ongoing interference and Trump’s complete unwillingness to stop it or protect us. There’s voter suppression, as Republicans put onerous—and I believe illegal—requirements in place to stop people from voting. There’s gerrymandering, with partisans—these days, principally Republicans—drawing the lines for voting districts to ensure that their party nearly always wins. All of this carries us further away from the sacred principle of “one person, one vote.”
Third, the president is waging war on truth and reason.
Earlier this month, Trump made 125 false or misleading statements in 120 minutes, according to The Washington Post—a personal record for him (at least since becoming president). To date, according to the paper’s fact-checkers, Trump has made 5,000 false or misleading claims while in office and recently has averaged 32 a day.
Trump is also going after journalists with even greater fervor and intent than before. No one likes to be torn apart in the press—I certainly don’t—but when you’re a public official, it comes with the job. You get criticized a lot. You learn to take it. You push back and make your case, but you don’t fight back by abusing your power or denigrating the entire enterprise of a free press. Trump doesn’t hide his intent one bit. Lesley Stahl, the 60 Minutes reporter, asked Trump during his campaign why he’s always attacking the press. He said, “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”
Fourth, there’s Trump’s breathtaking corruption.
Considering that this administration promised to “drain the swamp,” it’s amazing how blithely the president and his Cabinet have piled up conflicts of interest, abuses of power, and blatant violations of ethics rules. Trump is the first president in 40 years to refuse to release his tax returns. He has refused to put his assets in a blind trust or divest himself of his properties and businesses, as previous presidents did. This has created unprecedented conflicts of interest, as industry lobbyists, foreign governments, and Republican organizations do business with Trump’s companies or hold lucrative events at his hotels, golf courses, and other properties. They are putting money directly into his pocket. He’s profiting off the business of the presidency.
Trump makes no pretense of prioritizing the public good above his own personal or political interests. He doesn’t seem to understand that public servants are supposed to serve the public, not the other way around.
Fifth, Trump undermines the national unity that makes democracy possible.
Democracies are rowdy by nature. We debate freely and disagree forcefully. It’s part of what distinguishes us from authoritarian societies, where dissent is forbidden. But we’re held together by deep “bonds of affection,” as Abraham Lincoln said, and by the shared belief that out of our fractious melting pot comes a unified whole that’s stronger than the sum of our parts.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Trump doesn’t even try to pretend he’s a president for all Americans. It’s hard to ignore the racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says. Often, it’s not even subtext. When he says that Haitian and African immigrants are from “shithole countries,” that’s impossible to misunderstand. Same when he says that an American judge can’t be trusted because of his Mexican heritage. None of this is a mark of authenticity or a refreshing break from political correctness. Hate speech isn’t “telling it like it is.” It’s just hate.
I don’t know whether Trump ignores the suffering of Puerto Ricans because he doesn’t know that they’re American citizens, because he assumes people with brown skin and Latino last names probably aren’t Trump fans, or because he just doesn’t have the capacity for empathy. And I don’t know whether he makes a similar judgment when he lashes out at NFL players protesting against systemic racism or when he fails to condemn hate crimes against Muslims. I do know he’s quick to defend or praise those whom he thinks are his people—like how he bent over backwards to defend the “very fine people” among the white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The message he sends by his lack of concern and respect for some Americans is unmistakable. He is saying that some of us don’t belong, that all people are not created equal, and that some are not endowed by their Creator with the same inalienable rights as others.
And it’s not just what he says. From day one, his administration has undermined civil rights that previous generations fought to secure and defend. . . . Nearly every federal agency has scaled back enforcement of civil-rights protections. All the while, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is running wild across the country. Federal agents are confronting citizens just for speaking Spanish, dragging parents away from children.
How did we get here?
Trump may be uniquely hostile to the rule of law, ethics in public service, and a free press. But the assault on our democracy didn’t start with his election. . . . . Over many years, our defenses were worn down by a small group of right-wing billionaires—people like the Mercer family and Charles and David Koch—who spent a lot of time and money building an alternative reality where science is denied, lies masquerade as truth, and paranoia flourishes. . . . . they opened the way for the infection of Russian propaganda and Trumpian lies to take hold. They've used their money and influence to capture our political system, impose a right-wing agenda, and disenfranchise millions of Americans.
I don’t agree with critics who say that capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with democracy—but unregulated, predatory capitalism certainly is.
There is a tendency, when talking about these things, to wring our hands about “both sides.” But the truth is that this is not a symmetrical problem. We should be clear about this: The increasing radicalism and irresponsibility of the Republican Party, including decades of demeaning government, demonizing Democrats, and debasing norms, is what gave us Donald Trump. Whether it was abusing the filibuster and stealing a Supreme Court seat, gerrymandering congressional districts to disenfranchise African Americans, or muzzling government climate scientists, Republicans were undermining American democracy long before Trump made it to the Oval Office.
Now we must do all we can to save our democracy and heal our body politic.
First, we’ve got to mobilize massive turnout in the 2018 midterms. There are fantastic candidates running all over the country, making their compelling cases every day about how they’ll raise wages, bring down health-care costs, and fight for justice. If they win, they’ll do great things for America. And we could finally see some congressional oversight of the White House.
When the dust settles, we have to do some serious housecleaning. After Watergate, Congress passed a whole slew of reforms in response to Richard Nixon’s abuses of power. After Trump, we’re going to need a similar process. For example, Trump’s corruption should teach us that all future candidates for president and presidents themselves should be required by law to release their tax returns. They also should not be exempt from ethics requirements and conflict-of-interest rules.
Congress should also repair the damage the Supreme Court did to the Voting Rights Act by restoring the full protections that voters need and deserve, as well as the voting rights of Americans who have served time in prison and paid their debt to society. We need early voting and voting by mail in every state in America, and automatic, universal voter registration so every citizen who is eligible to vote is able to vote. We need to overturn Citizens United and get secret money out of our politics. And you won’t be surprised to hear that I passionately believe it’s time to abolish the Electoral College.
When we think about politics and judge our leaders, we can’t just ask, “Am I better off than I was four years ago?” We have to ask, “Are we better off? Are we as a country better, stronger, and fairer?” Democracy works only when we accept that we’re all in this together.
In 1787, after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman on the street outside Independence Hall, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” That response has been on my mind a lot lately. The contingency of it. How fragile our experiment in self-government is. And, when viewed against the sweep of human history, how fleeting. Democracy may be our birthright as Americans, but it’s not something we can ever take for granted. Every generation has to fight for it, has to push us closer to that more perfect union. That time has come again.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, September 17, 2018

Kavanaugh's Accuser Comes Forward, Will Republicans Tell Women to Go to Hell?

Kavanaugh - an anti-women, sexual molester?
Trump's evangelical base loves nothing better than to see women placed firmly subordinate to men.  Meanwhile, Trump and those like him see women as objects for male pleasure and gratification.  Now, these two mindsets may have converged in the person of Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court who now seems to have been credibly accused of attempted rape years ago while a privileged rich boy student.  The issue now becomes whether Senate Republicans will try to sweep Kavanaugh's possible misdeed under the rug as they have none with all of Trump's foul, misogynistic acts.   If they do so, will women mobilize and punish Republican candidates everywhere for the obvious Republican contempt for women and their rights to control their own bodies as well as full equality under the law.  It would be nice to think that Kavanaugh will be rejected, but given how horrid and toxic the Republican Party has become, this is far from a certainty.  A piece in The Atlantic by a constitutional law professor looks at the confrontation.  Here are excerpts:
Now Kavanaugh has been accused of an attempted sexual assault years ago. The accusations were at first anonymous, and were received and kept quiet by Senator Dianne Feinstein, but details began to leak, sparking confusion and outrage on both sides. On Sunday, the accuser came forward in an article in The Washington Post. Her name is Christine Blasey Ford; she is a psychologist and biostatistician affiliated with Stanford and Palo Alto Universities. According to the Post, she has now provided a detailed account, taken a polygraph test, and produced copies of a therapist’s notes from 2012. The notes recount her memory of a party at which, she says, a teenaged Kavanaugh and a friend locked her in a room and held her down (with, she said, Kavanaugh covering her mouth to stifle her screams) until she managed to escape.
Like most other Americans, I have no information about these charges except what I have read in the news. Like many other Americans, I find them profoundly disturbing. And like other Americans, I must rely on my elected representatives to determine their validity—before seating a nominee on the bench once occupied by Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Will they take this responsibility seriously? Or will the 11 male members of the committee’s Republican majority, in their discretion, decide the accusation does not “count”?
The gendered subtext of this moment is, not to put too fine a point on it, war—war to the knife—over the future of women’s autonomy in American society. Shall women control their own reproduction, their health care, their contraception, their legal protection at work against discrimination and harassment, or shall we move backward to the chimera of past American greatness, when the role of women was—supposedly for biological reasons—subordinate to that of men?
That theme became became apparent even before the 2016 election, when candidate Donald Trump promised to pick judges who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade. The candidate was by his own admission a serial sexual harasser. On live national television, he then stalked, insulted, and physically menaced his female opponent—and he said, in an unguarded moment, that in his post-Roe future, women who choose abortion will face “some form of punishment.”
In context, Trump promised to restore the old system of dominion—by lawmakers, husbands, pastors, institutions, and judges—over women’s reproduction. Arguably that platform propelled Trump into the White House: Many evangelical Christian voters chose to overlook Trump’s flagrant sexual immorality, his overt contempt for the basics of faith, because they believed he would end abortion forever.
The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia in 2017 did not change the landscape of choice; Gorsuch was replacing a resolute foe of reproductive rights, leaving the balance intact. But Trump’s promise came to the fore this year, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy’s single vote kept abortion rights alive for a quarter century. Trump’s chosen replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, had referred in a published opinion to “abortion on demand” and, referring only to “existing Supreme Court precedent,” refused even to cite the precedential cases by name.
Anyone with eyes could pick up his disdain for the constitutional guarantee of choice.

In lobbying Trump to nominate Kavanaugh, his defenders had initially insisted that he was reliably anti-choice. “On the vital issues of protecting religious liberty and enforcing restrictions on abortion,” one former clerk reassured fellow conservatives in National Review, “no court-of-appeals judge in the nation has a stronger, more consistent record than Judge Brett Kavanaugh.” Once Kavanaugh was trotted out, however, the discourse became very odd indeed. . . . . His defenders smoothly pivoted to insisting that the judge’s mind was completely open on these very issues. Kavanaugh had no pre-conceived ideas, they claimed with near-straight faces, about precedents that guarantee a woman’s “liberty interest” to choose abortion before the viability of a fetus.
Republicans in the state legislatures have, in the past decade, rammed through statute after statute aimed at destroying reproductive choice and asserting the state’s authority over the pregnant female body. Medically useless ultrasound requirements; defunding of reproductive non-profits like Planned Parenthood; “health” measures designed to close down existing reproductive clinics; “fetal pain” bills that forbid abortion in earlier stages of pregnancy; restrictions on medication abortion; limits on the availability of contraception; even proposals to declare fetuses “persons” under the law—the target is every aspect of the intimate decision by a woman whether to bear children. Some of these attacks will clear the increasingly conservative appeals courts and land in the Supreme Court’s inbox.
Can anyone believe that his former clerk was deluded, and that Kavanaugh’s vote is genuinely in play? The claims of open-mindedness are not part of rational “advice and consent”; they are gaslighting that puts even Charles Boyer to shame.
It is mostly women, in stations high and low, who have pushed back against the tide of double-talk.
These hearings have not at any time been an exercise in “advice and consent.” Instead, they have been—as the women screaming in the background have tried to warn us—banana-republic-level pantomime, aimed at installing a hand-picked functionary in lifetime office.
But even so, the way in which chair Chuck Grassley and the 10 other male Republicans on the committee handle Ford’s accusation will tell us a good deal about them and about the state of the gender battlefield. Will these men dismiss the allegation because it was too long ago? Will they attack the accuser and seek to shame her over hidden details of her life? Will they argue there is “only” one claim, and one is not enough?
In the year of #MeToo, will male authorities claim their traditional power to silence female dissent? Or will they—at last—take their offices seriously and find some way, fair to Kavanaugh and to Ford, to get at the truth?

I left the Republican Party years ago because I came to believe that  one could not be a decent, moral person and support a party whose agenda was to strip others of their right to equality under the law.  That  believe has increased ten fold in the age of Trump and the GOP's now complete moral bankruptcy.

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