Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Log Cabin Republicans: Morally Bankrupt Racists?

Years ago and before I "came out" I was a Republican.  Indeed, I was a city committee member for the GOP in Virginia Beach and even filed the articles of incorporation for the organization (Virginia State Corporation Commission documents continue to reflect my signature). In some ways, that was a lifetime ago and the Republican Party of today bears almost no resemblance to what the party once was.  Now, if one isn't a white supremacist, right wing Christian extremist, or consumed by greed and a thirst for lower taxes, the GOP has little to offer and personally, I cannot help but question the morality of those who cling to the party.  And then there are the so-called Log Cabin Republicans.  LGBT individuals who not only support the ugly GOP agenda but as a group have endorsed Donald Trump even as the Trump/Pence regime wages war on the LGBT community and argues that anti-LGBT discrimination should be perfectly legal. These individuals are no better than some upper class Jews who supported Hitler's rise - things ultimately turned out very badly for them.  A history lesson Log Cabin Republicans refuse to learn.  A column in The Advocate takes Log Cabin Republicans to task and reaches what is seemingly the only logical conclusion: these folks are morally bankrupt racists.   Here are column excerpts:
[B]eing an LGBTQ person doesn’t mean you have to believe a certain ideology, whether it involves economics, politics, or philosophy. The diversity of experience and values we have demonstrates that the one thing that unites us as a community is our shared experiences of being an LGBTQ person, of challenging centuries of ingrained norms about gender and sexuality. The discrimination, oppression, and the general struggles of our lives unite us, but how we go about coping and overcoming them differs in so many ways.
And then you have these Log Cabin fools.
How LGBTQ people can vote and support Donald Trump and his party is just — I mean I know how, I just hate saying it about other LGBTQ people; but I guess if they’re willing to sell us out, what sense of loyalty should I have toward them? They’re bigots and privileged trash. Log Cabin Republicans will sell the entire community out for a gentrified loft, an expense account, and a white neighborhood excluding the hired help.
We white LGBTQ folks don’t talk about it much because it makes us incredibly uncomfortable, and honestly a lot of the minority LGBTQ folks don’t get a lot of space in our media space to discuss it, but there really is a huge problem of racism in our community. Whether it’s nightclub owners refusing to admit black patrons because they dress "thuggish," our culture of preferring white standards of beauty, or not hooking up with people of certain races because it's just a "preference," the discrimination is ubiquitous.
The Log Cabin Republicans, by endorsing Trump, show us who they are. The Muslim bans, the Nazi apologia, the concentration camps and racial purging — how can anyone who isn’t a bigot endorse that? . . . when the Log Cabin Republicans endorse and therefore give tacit support to a man who has outright apologized and excused white supremacists, you can only come to one rational conclusion.
I guess you could come to another conclusion: that they’re only concerned about their own individual affluence and access to privilege, and to hell with the rest of us.
[W]ith Log Cabin Republicans, there is the overwhelming sense that it is about their own personal power that they believe will shield them from bigotry and oppression. Well, I can tell you this right now, the Republicans will still oppress you and take your money. I know folks are fatigued and tired of comparing things to Nazi Germany, but one thing folks don’t know about, and really deserves its own unique analysis, is that there were pro-Nazi Jews. They were called the League of National German Jews; upper and upper-middle class assimilationist, nationalist conservatives who claimed ties to German conservative movements and parties (who refused to associate with them). They excused and defended the Nazis because Hitler was just "stirring up the masses." Well, none of that stopped the Nazis from declaring their organization illegal and throwing their leader, Max Naumann, into a concentration camp. The Log Cabin Republicans are much the same. They say they are fighting for LGBTQ rights, but often conservative LGB folks will throw transgender people under the bus, they will decry LGBTQ activism and culture, especially of the more leftist variety, and associate only with the parts of the community that benefit themselves. To hell with the rest of us, especially if you don’t tend toward the lighter-skinned or financially endowed persuasion. All LGBTQ rights and cultural advances have come despite the Republican Party fighting tooth and nail the whole way. The Log Cabin Republicans have accomplished nothing — they'll take credit for chipping away at "don't ask, don't tell," but it was Republican homophobia and resistance to LGB military integration that made the very flawed compromise necessary.
Let's give them some due, because Log Cabin has done something — they've become tokens for a racist, corporate, and evangelical establishment that would put us in reparative therapy camps if they could. Maybe it’s time we start using "Log Cabin" or something similar for the LGBTQ version of "Uncle Tom."
Sadly, I have to agree.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty


Some White Evangelicals are Difficult to Recognize as Christians

Despite its many problems and failings, Catholicism continues to push for a social gospel that attempts to mitigate the sufferings of the poor, the homeless and refugees. Such cannot be said for many of today's white evangelicals in the United States who feign piety, express shock at Donald Trump's foul language, yet totally betray the social message demanded by the Gospels by virtue of the policies they support.  In a column in the Washington Post, former Republican Michael Gerson who was raised as an evangelical lets loose on the modern day Pharisees who comprise perhaps the vast majority of white evangelicals. I often say that one cannot be a decent moral person and be a member.supporter of today's Republican Party.  Gerson more or less states that one cannot be a Trump supporter and be a Christian.  Here are column excerpts:

After a recent speech by President Trump, Hardesty — who is a conservative, pro-Trump Democrat — received phone calls from Christians complaining of the president’s use of the term “goddamn.” In a letter to Trump, Hardesty pronounced himself “appalled by the fact that you chose to use the Lord’s name in vain on two separate occasions.”
This is hardly a national groundswell for decorum. But I don’t want to be dismissive of people revolted by the steaming, stinking cesspool of Trump’s public rhetoric. The problem is one of proportion.
Hardesty admitted that evangelicals Christians had been willing to overlook many of the president’s character flaws, but he ventured that on the matter of blasphemy, Trump’s “evangelical base might be far less forgiving.”
Consider this statement in the light of some recent developments:
*The Trump administration seems intent on sending to Congress a more than $4 billion package of budget cuts focused on diplomacy and foreign-assistance spending. These proposed reductions would likely affect efforts to fight the spread of Ebola, programs to encourage food security and nutrition across Africa, aid to countries taking the brunt of the refugee crisis, and democracy support in Venezuela, Ukraine and Tibet.
*[Trump] The president continues to vilify refugees as national security threats without the slightest bit of evidence. This year, the Trump administration capped the number of refugees who can resettle in the United States at 30,000 . . . . And the administration is now considering cutting that number to nearly zero next year.
*Along the southern border, the Trump administration has tightened the rules on asylum, making it more difficult for applicants to seek protection when family members face threats, and barring migrants seeking asylum if they passed through a third country while making their trek. The administration’s policy of family separation, its abusive treatment of migrants, its policy confusion and its general incompetence have contributed to a humanitarian crisis on both sides of the border.
There is an obvious response to Hardesty and other offended evangelical Christians.
Massive budget cuts to hunger-relief programs in Africa, refusing to take in desperate Syrian refugees and separating crying children from their parents at the border are tolerable, but using the Lord’s name in vain is a bridge too far? Pathological lying, spreading conspiracy theories, misogyny, making racist comments and dehumanizing others are permissible, but swearing somehow crosses the line?
This kind of Pharisaical preference for rules over humans reveals a large gap of spiritual education. In a poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, only 25 percent of white evangelical Christians said the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees, while 65 percent of those not affiliated with a religion affirmed that duty. . . . this reveals cruelty, corruption and hypocrisy at the heart of the Christian faith.
The problem does not lie in Christianity but in the moral formation of Christians. Are they getting their view of refugees from Christian sources? Or are they taking their view from Fox News, talk radio and Trump? I suspect the latter. And the worship of political idols is ultimately a spiritual problem — a different kind of blasphemy.
Many white evangelical Christians hold a faith that appeals to the comfortable rather than siding with the afflicted. They have allied themselves with bigots and nativists, risking the reputation of the gospel itself. And, in some very public ways, they are difficult to recognize as Christians at all.
Unfortunately, nothing seems likely to change evangelicals.  Thus, all one can do is hope that the flight from religion accelerates and that in time evangelicals shrink as a percentage of the population and that their toxic influence wanes. When that day comes, they best hope that they don't receive the kind of treatment that have inflicted on others.

Trump and the Seemingly Faltering Economy

Donald Trump likes to claim he is responsible for the United States' economy and boasts about the stock market. The truth is that he merely inherited a growing economy from the Obama administration and that to date, his regime has done little to provide a basis for claiming responsibility for the economy which has grown, yet since much of the benefit go to the top 1% percent of taxpayers (especially due to the Trump/GOP tax break give away).  Now, with signs that the economy may be on the verge of faltering, Trump economic and trade policies may be a driving force towards a slow down and recession in 2020 - a recession (f not depression) already slamming American farmers thanks to Der Trumpenf├╝hrer's tariffs and trade wars.  A column in the New York Times suggests that Trump's policies are a flop and, worse yet, his regime has no plan on how to deal with an economic slow down other than to blame "fake news" and the Federal Reserve.  Here are highlights:

Last year, after an earlier stock market swoon brought on by headlines about the U.S.-China trade conflict, I laid out three rules for thinking about such events. First, the stock market is not the economy. Second, the stock market is not the economy. Third, the stock market is not the economy.
But maybe I should add a fourth rule: The bond market sorta kinda is the economy.
An old economists’ joke says that the stock market predicted nine of the last five recessions. Well, an “inverted yield curve” — when interest rates on short-term bonds are higher than on long-term bonds — predicted six of the last six recessions. And a plunge in long-term yields, which are now less than half what they were last fall, has inverted the yield curve once again, with the short-versus-long spread down to roughly where it was in early 2007, on the eve of a disastrous financial crisis and the worst recession since the 1930s.
[T]he bond market is telling us that the smart money has become very gloomy about the economy’s prospects. Why? The Federal Reserve basically controls short-term rates, but not long-term rates; low long-term yields mean that investors expect a weak economy, which will force the Fed into repeated rate cuts.
So what accounts for this wave of gloom? Much though not all of it is a vote of no confidence in Donald Trump’s economic policies.
[L]ast year, after a couple of quarters of good economic news, Trump officials were boasting that the 2017 tax cut had laid the foundation for many years of high economic growth. Since then, however, the data have pretty much confirmed what critics had been saying all along. Yes, the tax cut gave the economy a boost — a “sugar high.” Running trillion-dollar deficits will do that. But the boost was temporary. In particular, the promised boom in business investment never materialized.
At the same time, it has become increasingly clear that Trump’s belligerence about foreign trade isn’t a pose; it reflects real conviction. Protectionism seems to be up there with racism as part of the essential Trump. And the realization that he really is a Tariff Man is having a serious dampening effect on business spending, partly because nobody knows just how far he’ll go. [T]hink of the dilemma facing many U.S. manufacturers. Some of them rely heavily on imported parts; they’re not going to invest in the face of actual or threatened tariffs on those imports. Others could potentially compete with imported goods if assured that those imports would face heavy tariffs; but they don’t know whether those tariffs are actually coming, or will endure. So everyone is sitting on piles of cash, waiting to see what an erratic president will do. Of course, Trump isn’t the only problem here. Other countries have their own troubles — a European recession and a Chinese slowdown look quite likely — and some of these troubles are spilling back to the United States. But even if Trump and company aren’t the source of all of our economic difficulties, you still want some assurance that they’ll deal effectively with problems as they arise. . . . reportedly, is that there is no policy discussion at all, which isn’t surprising when you bear in mind the fact that basically everyone who knows anything about economics left the Trump administration months or years ago.
[T]the administration’s only plan if things go wrong seems to be to blame the Fed, whose chairman was selected by … Donald Trump. To be fair, it’s now clear that the Fed was wrong to raise short-term rates last year.
But it’s important to realize that the Fed’s mistake was, essentially, that it placed too much faith in Trumpist economic policies. . . . the Trump boom wasn’t supposed to be so fragile that a small rise in rates would ruin it.
I might add that blaming the Fed looks to me like a dubious political strategy. How many voters even know what the Fed is or what it does?
Investors were clearly far too optimistic last fall, but they may be too pessimistic now.  But pessimistic they are. The bond market, which is the best indicator we have, is declaring that Trumponomics was a flop.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Trump Regime Asks SCOTUS To Legalize Firing People For Being Transgender


Just when one thinks the Trump/Pence regime cannot get any more hostile to the rights - indeed the very existence of - LGBT Americans, another shoe drops and it becomes clear that until gays, lesbians and the transgender in particular disappear from public view, the relentless attacks will only intensify.  Pence is hysterically anti-gay in the typical mold of a likely self-loathing closeted gay.  What Trump actually believes is unclear since his main quest is to thrill Christofascists and maintain his support among anti-modernity, knuckle dragging evangelicals. While evangelicals remain rabidly anti-gay, it is transgender individuals who most garner their open hatred, in my view, because they most challenge evangelicals 12th century views on sex and sexuality.  Therefore, they must be destroyed or at least driven from public view.  Playing to this animus, yesterday, the Trump/Pence regime filed a brief with the U. S. Supreme Court that argues that transgender individuals have zero non-discrimination protections.  A piece in BuzzFeed looks at the filing.  Here are highlights:  
The Trump administration on Friday took one of its most aggressive steps yet to legalize anti-transgender discrimination by telling the Supreme Court that federal law allows firing workers solely for being transgender, arguing a Michigan funeral home could fire a transgender woman because she wanted to wear women’s clothing on the job.
Although the administration was expected to take the stance — and had previously said firing workers on the basis of gender identity is legal under federal law — the latest court filing asks the nation’s top court to establish federal case law in a potentially sweeping setback for LGBTQ rights nationwide.
The case is a dispute over the word “sex.” Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans workplace discrimination because of sex, but the court’s justices have never decided what, precisely, the term means for LGBTQ workers.
The Justice Department’s brief on Friday contends the word refers to a person’s “biological sex” and, further, that transgender discrimination isn’t addressed by a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that found Title VII bans sex stereotyping.
“Title VII does not prohibit discrimination against transgender persons based on their transgender status,” says a filing by the Justice Department . . . Rather, the administration contends, “Title VII prohibits treating an individual less favorably than similarly situated individuals of the opposite sex.”
A Supreme Court ruling in favor of the administration’s position could set off cascading ramifications for LGBTQ Americans by asserting that laws banning sex-based discrimination must be construed narrowly, and it would have no application for sexual orientation or gender identity — a decision that would likely overflow far beyond workplaces.
No federal law explicitly bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination, but the term “sex” appears in countless state and federal laws, and various policies, that ban discrimination. They have often been used by courts and agencies to protect LGBTQ people in a range of settings — from jobs and schools to doctor’s offices — and a Supreme Court ruling that finds sex absolutely does not protect LGBTQ people could unravel previous court rulings and narrow the meaning of policies.
The administration’s argument against LGBTQ rights matches the advocacy of conservative Christian groups, which claim Congress only intended to ban discrimination because someone is male or female . . . .
The counterargument from LGBTQ advocates and several lower courts, however, is that the intent of lawmakers does not limit a law’s reach, but rather its meaning is defined by the statute’s plain text. They say anti-transgender discrimination can result from a person defying traditional sex stereotypes or because the person transitioned from one sex to another — and thus, it is inherently a type of sex discrimination.
The case at issue is one of three currently before the court about the rights of LGBTQ workers under Title VII — and the only one concerning a transgender worker.
Aimee Stephens had presented as a man when she started her job in 2007 at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Michigan. Six years later, after Stephens announced plans to transition to a woman, the owner, Thomas Rost, fired her.
In siding with Stephens last year, a 49-page opinion led by Judge Karen Nelson Moore at the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit found that “The unrefuted facts show that the Funeral Home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer’s stereotypical conception of her sex.”
But the Justice Department counters that when the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, “the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex. . . . In Stephens’ case, this means government lawyers now say it was legal to fire her — thereby holding the opposite position as the EEOC even though it is representing the EEOC. As such, it says the 6th Circuit ruling should also be reversed.
Represented by the Christian conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom, the funeral home filed a separate brief, filed Friday, that portrays the case as a fight over the essence of gender norms in society, playing off fears stoked by conservatives about transgender people preying on women in bathrooms.
There are ZERO cases of transgender people preying on women.  The same cannot be said for numerous Republican office holders or countless pastors and priests. Sadly, the ADF brief is yet another case of "conservative Christians" lying through their teeth and putting their hypocrisy on open display. If their lips are moving, the safest assumption is that they are lying.  Yes, I am passionate about this issue having been forced from a law firm years ago for being gay.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Morning Male Beauty


White Evangelicals: Ignorance, Racism and Trump


A piece in Vanity Fair by a former evangelical looks at three themes that run through today's white evangelicals.  The first two are racism and an embrace of ignorance and the third, which stems from the first two is a strong support for Donald Trump, a man who embodies everything a true Christian ought to find abhorrent. As the piece correctly notes, evangelicals' involvement in politics arose for one purpose: to oppose desegregation and the consequences of the enactment of civil rights laws to end legal discrimination against blacks and other non-white minorities. As for embracing ignorance, be it the so-called purity movement or denial of climate change or modern knowledge of sexual orientation, it all boils down to one thing: anything that challenges 12th century knowledge based beliefs must be rejected and denied. The GOP long played to evangelicals through racist dog whistle messaging and opposition to civil rights for those evangelicals deemed "other." With Trump, these two pillars of GOP pandering to evangelicals has reached its peak with calls to deport non-whites, efforts to fully legalize anti-LGBT discrimination, and the firing of government scientists who refuse to distort scientific data.  Here are excerpts from the piece:
On its face, evangelical purity culture and American racism overlap only insofar as white people are the dominant participants in both. About two thirds of evangelicals are white (although Latinos make up a growing share), and more than 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. Evangelical Christians have long made up the Republican Party’s base, a fact that was front of mind for Trump when he selected Mike Pence as his vice president. Still, evangelicals have long professed to value traditional sexual mores; it was telling to see them largely put those aside to support a thrice-married adulterer. It was telling to see evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. claim not just that Trump was a vehicle to achieve certain policy goals, but that he was a fellow traveler.
But that assumes that sexual morality is the primary organizing force for evangelicals. Historically it hasn’t been. Indeed, the origins of evangelicalism as a modern political movement have more to do with opposition to Brown v. Board of Education than Roe v. Wade. American evangelicalism cannot be disentangled from racism—particularly as it becomes further intertwined with the larger religious right.
There’s also a deep psychological overlap between evangelical purity culture and Trumpism. Making America great again and forgoing kissing for courtship both promise an easy route to a glorified past. Both come from a fear of the unknown, an aversion to new experiences, a deep disgust at a perceived other attaining equal footing. (Though in theory purity culture mandates that both men and women remain chaste, in practice the burden falls almost entirely on women.)
In no other pivotal area of life do we insist on the total mindless fidelity that the “send her back” crowd demands. Similarly, for no life-shaping decision do we believe it’s healthy to have the total lack of experience that the “save yourself until marriage” brigade mandates. Team Love It or Leave It also hews to the bizarre theory that less information makes for better decision-making. Both movements are fundamentally invested in embracing ignorance.
Adherents would rather know less, and as a result risk stagnation and decline, than come into contact with information that complicates their view of America as a red, white, and blue “We’re #1!” foam finger. Virginity-until-marriage proponents offer a similar promise: If you don’t know any better, you’ll never want anything more.
Much has rightly been written about the racism at the heart of Trumpism. The fact that Trump voters are motivated by racial animus is backed up by a wealth of research. In the chants of “send her back,” in the fear of an “invasion,” the bigotry is loud and clear. But I also hear the same fear that echoed in the anti-experimentation, anti-sex warnings repeated to me as an adolescent.
America Firsters demand liberal critics leave because those of us suggesting improvements threaten to shatter a closely held narrative. We all search for identity and tribe, but for hypernationalists, their sense of self is firmly rooted in being the tough guy on the winning team. If you’re a member of the long-dominant group in a particular place, your identity may well hinge on an assumption that the place in question is fair, and your dominance therefore justified. Recognizing potential truths in critical appraisals would force much harder, potentially devastating reflections.
Today’s Trumpism also puts the interests of white men front and center, and makes others—women, people of color, and especially women of color—responsible for their dissatisfaction. Trump and his chanting fans have zeroed in on four female congresswomen of color because they rightly see that a multi-tonal sea of Americans is rising to contest their long-held grip on power. The fear that this rise will strip away unearned advantages from whites is just as well founded as the virginity-men’s anxiety that sexual experience would make women more romantically discerning.
Purity proponents, like Team Love It or Leave It, assuage their fears with a demand that everyone else keep their life small—a promise that if they do they’ll benefit, and if they don’t they’ll be punished. The promise-ring peddlers of my youth were afraid for a reason. If girls grew into women who recognized, validated, and acted on their desires, what would happen? We probably wouldn’t marry Trevor from church at 18, for one. We would demand more: a marriage in which sexual satisfaction was a cornerstone; an end to family structures in which men dominate and women serve.
[A]s white evangelicalism has dovetailed with Trumpism, it’s gotten collectively meaner and less subtle, more about explicit dominance and less about promises of happiness and prosperity. What were once racist and misogynist dog whistles have been turned up to ear-splitting decibels.
The racist misogyny that animates the “send her back” hordes is tied to the same underlying values and anxieties that led adults to tell preteens that ignorance and smallness were the secrets to happiness. The same adolescents who heard these messages in high school gymnasiums are now, as adults, grasping at a similar, dimming hope: that if they are effective enough at shaming, threatening, and insulting those of us who want more, we may shrink. And maybe then they can maintain their slipping grip on power.