Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump Voters: In Some Cases, Thoughtful, Smart, and Terrifying

My blogger/activist friend Lane Hudson who I first met at the LGBT Blogger Summit in Washington, DC, in December, 2008, shared a piece at Mother Jones that lays out the challenge progressives - and I would argue, true Christians to the extent the concept has not been completely destroyed by the Christofascists - face in confronting many Trump/GOP supporters.  The young man, Peter, that is the focus of the article is not a knee jerk racist.  Yet he seems incapable of questioning his own distorted view of objective reality and, like many areas that strongly supported Trump, the area that he comes from has things far better than many parts of America.  And it is noteworthy that when faced with a changing world and society, rather than adapt, Peter and his cohorts blindly close their minds and cling to their "identity" - i.e., white, heterosexual conservative Christian.  Here in Virginia, rural areas like the one that Peter is from are in a downward spiral but they refuse to see that it is their own closed mindedness and reactionary beliefs that make them so unpalatable to new progressive businesses. Meanwhile, the youth with ambition leave the area for progressive cities. I am at a loss as to how to get through to such people.  Here are some article highlights:
This past October, I taught a week long seminar on the history of conservatism to honors students from around the state of Oklahoma. In five long days, my nine very engaged students and I got to know each other fairly well. Six were African American women. Then there was a middle-aged white single mother, a white kid who looked like any other corn-fed Oklahoma boy and identified himself as "queer," and the one straight white male. I'll call him Peter.
Peter is 21 and comes from a town of about 3,000 souls. It's 85 percent white, according to the 2010 census, and 1.2 percent African American—which would make for about 34 black folks. "Most people live around the poverty line," Peter told the class, and hunting is as much a sport as a way to put food on the table. Peter was one of the brightest students in the class, and certainly the sweetest.
Still, Peter's thinking might help us frame a central debate on the left about what to make of Trump's victor.y Is it, in the main, a recrudescence of bigotry on American soil—a reactionary scream against a nation less white by the year? Or is it more properly understood as an economically grounded response to the privations that neoliberalism has wracked upon the heartland?
Peter knows where he stands. He remembers multiple factories and small businesses "shutting down or laying off. Next thing you know, half of downtown" in the bigger city eight miles away "became vacant storefronts." Given that experience, he has concluded, "for those people who have no political voice and come from states that do not matter, the best thing they can do is try to send in a wrecking ball to disrupt the system."
According to the 2010 census, the median household income in Peter's county is a little more than $45,000. By comparison, Detroit's is about $27,000 and Chicago's (with a higher cost of living) is just under $49,000. The poverty rate is 17.5 percent in the county and 7.6 percent in Peter's little town, compared with Chicago's 22.7 percent. The unemployment rate has hovered around 4 percent.
The town isn't rich, to be sure. But it's also not on the "bottom." Oklahoma on the whole has been rather dynamic economically: Real GDP growth was 2.8 percent in 2014—down from 4.3 percent in 2013, but well above the 2.2 percent nationally. The same was true of other Trump bastions like Texas (5.2 percent growth) and West Virginia (5.1 percent).
Peter, though, perceives the region's economic history as a simple tale of desolation and disappointment. . . . . He was just calling it like he saw it. But it's striking how much a bright, inquisitive, public-spirited guy can take for granted that just is not so.
But while Peter's analysis is at odds with much of the data, his overall story does fit a national pattern. Trump voters report experiencing greater-than-average levels of economic anxiety, even though they tend have better-than-average incomes. And they are inclined to blame economic instability on the federal government—even, sometimes, when it flows from private corporations.
Feelings can't be fact-checked, and in the end, feelings were what Peter's eloquent essay came down to­—what it feels like to belong, and what it feels like to be culturally dispossessed. "After continually losing on the economic side," he wrote, "one of the few things that you can retain is your identity. What it means, to you, to be an American, your somewhat self-sufficient and isolated way of life, and your Christian faith and values. Your identity and heritage is the very last thing you can cling to...Abortion laws and gay marriage are the two most recent upsets.
I did notice a line in his essay that I had glided over during my first two readings, maybe because I liked him too much to want to be scared by him. "One need only look to the Civil War and the lasting legacies of Reconstruction through to today's current racism and race issues to see what happens when the federal government forces its morals on dissenting parts of the country."
He first objected (politely!) to what he saw as the damning implication behind my observation. Slavery and Reconstruction? "I was using it as an example of government intrusion and how violent and negative the results can be when the government tries to tell people how to think. I take it you saw it in terms of race in politics. The way we look at the same thing shows how big the difference is between our two groups."
To him, focusing on race was "an attention-grabbing tool that politicians use to their advantage," one that "really just annoys and angers conservatives more than anything, because it is usually a straw man attack."  I wanted to meet him halfway, until he started talking about history.
"The reason I used the Civil War and Reconstruction is because it isn't a secret that Reconstruction failed," Peter wrote. "It failed and left the South in an extreme poverty that it still hasn't recovered from." And besides, "slavery was expensive and the Industrial Revolution was about to happen. Maybe if there had been no war, slavery would have faded peacefully."
As a historian, I found this remarkable, since it was precisely what all American schoolchildren learned about slavery and Reconstruction for much of the 20th century. Or rather, they did until the civil rights era, when serious scholarship dismantled this narrative, piece by piece. But not, apparently, in Peter's world.
This was where he left me plumb at a loss. Liberals must listen to and understand Trump supporters. But what you end up understanding from even the sweetest among them still might chill you to the bone.

As noted at the outset, how does one deal with those who cannot or will not look at objective facts and objective reality?   I often tell my clients that they need to choose between logic and reason on the one hand and emotion and feeling on the other.  Far to many Trump voters followed their emotions and sense of growing isolation (largely as a result of their own closed mindedness).  How do you reason with those who care little for real facts and objective data?  I do not know the answer. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Is Trump Opening the Door to an Anti-LGBT Backlash?

Previous posts have looked at the anti-gay animus held by many of Der Fuhrer's cabinet nominees, in particular Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos.  And then there is Mike Pence, a virulent homophobe with a document ed record as an enemy of LGBT rights.  With LGBT rights having been scrubbed from the White House and Department of Labor websites within minutes of Trump's swearing in, the question now is whether Trump is intentionally opening the door to an anti-LGBT backlash. If so, he will be keeping promises made to a who's who of Christofascists that helped swing 81% of the evangelical Christian vote to a man who is the antithesis of true Christian values.  A column in the Washington Post contemplates what lies ahead.  Here are excerpts:
“Love it. We can say Fag again.”
That comment, from “Tired-n-Ariz,” was posted on a CBS news story about the disappearance of the LGBT rights page from WhiteHouse.gov shortly after Donald Trump took the oath of office on Friday.
It’s dispiriting that despite Trump’s campaign promise that he’d be a “better friend” than Hillary Clinton to the LGBT community, Day One of his presidency had a different headline: “Gays erased.” Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court marriage equality case, was deeply disheartened. Trump and the GOP “will pretend that we don’t exist while they work tirelessly to strip away all the gains we’ve made toward being equal citizens of our nation,” he said.
Even worse, news articles that pointed out the disappearance of the page prompted a flood of inflammatory comments like Tired-n-Ariz’s.  It seems that many Trump supporters know they don’t need a filter anymore; they’re now empowered to name-call and deploy slurs once considered unacceptable.
“Saturday Night Live” host Aziz Ansari captured this new zeitgeist in a biting skit . . . . “As soon as Trump won, [these people were] like, ‘We don’t have to pretend like we’re not racist anymore! …We can be racist again, wooo!’ ” Or anti-LGBT. Or misogynistic. For those folks, Ansari had a message: “Please go back to pretending. You’ve got to go back to pretending.” 
 Michelangelo Signorile, author of “It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality,” sees things in a similar light, telling me that Trump’s “attacks on so-called ‘political correctness’ have given license to people to express their bigotry.”
Indeed, many of those commenting on the CBS news story returned repeatedly to the idea that the drive for LGBT acceptance and equality is a result of “all this politically correct crap,” as “boogerhillbill” posted. 
[T]he right to marry the person you love and take on the rights and responsibilities that come with the marriage contract is not a special right. Nor is the right to create a loving family; the right not to be fired from your job because of your identity; the right to visit your spouse in the hospital and make medical decisions on their behalf when necessary. These are the basic rights that heterosexuals currently enjoy; we don’t want more, but we do we want the same.
WhiteHouse.gov is a reflection of the new president’s values, policies and priorities, and the erasure of LGBT issues from the site is a warning to us about our exclusion from his worldview. 
Let me leave you with the words of 21-year-old Elizabeth Hadfield, who lives in Durham, N.C. She told me: “As a trans woman, I am rendered worthless and invisible by those who I make uncomfortable via my very existence. The disappearance of the LGBT page from the White House website is just another attempt to render us invisible.”
As I said, sometimes a webpage is not just a webpage.

Lawsuit To Be Filed Accusing Trump of Illegal Acts

No one should be surprised over the fact that a lawsuit will be filed today accusing Donald Trump of illegal and unconstitutional activities, in particular, his violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  It goes without saying that I hope that the lawsuit is successful and that perhaps under the subpoena powers afforded by litigation, Trump's tax returns and other information he seeks to keep hidden will come to light.  The New York Times looks at this welcomed development.  Here are highlights:
A team of prominent constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators and former White House ethics lawyers intends to file a lawsuit Monday morning alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other business operations to accept payments from foreign governments.
The lawsuit is among a barrage of legal actions against the Trump administration that have been initiated or are being planned by major liberal advocacy organizations. Such suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the administration now that Republicans are in control of the government.
In the new case, the lawyers argue that a provision in the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause amounts to a ban on payments from foreign powers like the ones to Mr. Trump’s companies. They cite fears by the framers of the Constitution that United States officials could be corrupted by gifts or payments.
The suit, which will not seek any monetary damages, will ask a federal court in New York to order Mr. Trump to stop taking payments from foreign government entities. Such payments, it says, include those from patrons at Trump hotels and golf courses, as well as loans for his office buildings from certain banks controlled by foreign governments, and leases with tenants like the Abu Dhabi tourism office, a government enterprise.
The legal team filing the lawsuit includes Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard constitutional scholar; Norman L. Eisen, an Obama administration ethics lawyer; and Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. Among the others are Richard W. Painter, an ethics counsel in the administration of George W. Bush; Mr. Gupta, a Supreme Court litigator who has three cases pending before the court; and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former congressional candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade.
Ms. Teachout said the one place of potential concern is a nation like China, which rents space at Trump Tower in New York and is a major lender to an office building in New York that he controls in part.
Foreign governments, Ms. Teachout and other ethics expert warn, could rent out rooms in Trump hotels as a way to send a message to the Trump family. “If you think other countries are not going to try to leverage relationships with Trump’s companies to influence trade or military policy, that is na├»ve,” she said.
Mr. Eisen said the legal team intended to use the lawsuit to try to get a copy of Mr. Trump’s federal tax returns, which are needed to properly assess what income or other payments or loans Mr. Trump has received from foreign governments.

CNN Declines to Air White House Press Conference Live

Given Trump/Der Fuhrer and his administrations clear indications that lying -or "alternate facts per Kellyanne "Goebbels" Conway - will be the new norm, the media needs to adjust how it operates so as to insure that they are not complicit in spreading falsehoods.  CNN may have hit upon how to proceed going forward: never broadcast press conferences or Trump speeches live.  Instead, record them, fact check them, and if they are full of lies, simply do not broadcast them. Go instead with an edited version that deletes the lies although that could mean not airing the pieces at all.  Variety looks at what CC did and how the press needs to change its mode of operating when confronted with a pathological liar and his propaganda agents.  Here are excerpts:   
CNN this evening declined to air live a press conference with the nation’s new White House Press Secretary, pointing to a growing rift between the embryonic Trump administration and the press corps that covers it and undermining the credibility of Sean Spicer, a longtime Republican operative who has become the new spokesman for President Donald Trump.
Producers at the cable-news outlet, owned by Time Warner, this evening decided to see what was said at the press event, according to a person familiar with the network, then play relevant parts as deemed necessary. Despite a robust amount of evidence to the contrary, Spicer during the conference insisted that Trump’s inauguration Friday drew “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.” The statement is a deliberate falsehood: TV ratings data issued Saturday by Nielsen show that fewer people watched Trump’s swearing-in than President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. What’s more, photos of Friday’s crowds showed that a smaller number of people had come out to Washington, D.C.’s Mall to take part. Data from the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority also suggested fewer people were attending the inauguration than in years past.
Now, at a time when TV-news outlets have seen their ratings thrive thanks coverage of the colorful and fiery politician, CNN’s decision could be a momentous one: Trump and his representatives have been known to obfuscate and lie. CNN’s refusal to take the live feed suggests executives there are reluctant to put false statements on air, and, what’s more, do not think the new White House press representative is entirely credible.
“CNN’s decision to not air the press conference live illustrates a recognition that the role of the press must be different under Trump. When the White House holds press briefings to promote demonstrably false information and refuses to take questions, then press ‘access’ becomes meaningless at best and complicit at worst,” said Danna Young, an associate professor at the University of Delaware who studies politics and the media. “Democracy works best when journalists have access to the executive branch, of course. But that holds true if and only if that access leads to verifiable, accurate information. The decision on behalf of CNN to wait and verify before airing it live suggests that the media are adapting quickly to this new era.”
CNN has not established a policy about airing White House press conferences live, the person familiar with the matter said, preferring instead to make editorial decisions as circumstances demand. And it was not immediately clear Saturday evening whether its decision might prompt other news outlets to do the same. Spokespersons for CBS News, NBC News and MSNBC were not able to offer an immediate response. 

At GOP's Urging, Texas Supreme Court to Consider Voiding Gay Spousal Rights

Trump with Texas anti-gay Christofacist extremist Robert Jeffress
And so it begins.  Many in the LGBT community had worried that Trump's election would embolden anti-gay Republicans to begin trying to strip away LGBT rights - something that seemingly meant nothing to "friends" who voted for Trump. Now, the Texas GOP has pressured the Texas Supreme Court to take a case considering whether or not same sex spouses of employees of the City of Houston can have their spousal rights rescinded.  If the Texas GOP prevails, the spouses of gay employees will not receive insurance and other benefits enjoyed by their heterosexual co-workers' spouses.   And, if this happens in Texas, other anti-gay states will surely seek to follow suit.  Here are highlights from the Dallas Morning News:  
The Texas Supreme Court said Friday it will decide whether the husbands and wives of gay city employees in Houston deserve spousal benefits, a surprising and rare about-face spurred by pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and dozens of other top Republicans.
"No city employee — whether heterosexual or homosexual — has a 'fundamental right' to receive employee benefits for his or her spouse," reads the lawsuit against Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. "It is perfectly constitutional for the government to offer benefits or subsidies to some married couples while withholding those benefits from others."
Last September, Texas' justices declined to hear the case, just months after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, a pastor and CPA from Houston, asked the court to reconsider, arguing that legalizing gay marriage does not mean cities must require the spouses of LGBT city employees to get the same benefits extended to heterosexual husbands and wives.
Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed, writing a "friend of the court" brief that argued extending spousal benefits is separate from legalizing marriage for same-sex couples.
"[The U.S. Supreme Court's] judgment does not include a command that public employers like the City of Houston take steps beyond recognizing same-sex marriage," Abbott, Patrick and Paxton wrote. "Steps like subsidizing same-sex marriages [through the allocation of employee benefits] on the same terms as traditional marriages."The GOP leaders filed their brief in late October. Earlier that month, dozens of state lawmakers and religious leaders also urged the court to reconsider its decision.
The court will hear oral arguments in the case March 1.
While their ruling will be narrow — it will apply only to city employees in Houston — the decision will either reinforce the rights of gay Americans or chip away at their victory in gaining the right to marry. 
In their last brief, lawyers for Houston argue that denying the same benefits to gay couples that you extend to heterosexual couples is unconstitutional. They added that while Abbott, Patrick and Paxton claim spousal benefits shouldn't be guaranteed to government employees, the state of Texas has extended this right to state employees since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Sunday, January 22, 2017

'Alternative Facts': The Needless Lies of the Trump Administration

It seems that with every passing minute we are increasingly discovering that in Trump world, the "truth" is whatever Der Fuhrer wants it to be.  Never mind that it is demonstrably false.  Hence the new double speak of "alternate facts" as espoused by Kellyanne Conway who seemingly is striving to make Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels look like a pillar of honesty in comparison. The take away form all the lies: do not believe ANYTHING that is said by Trump or his propagandists.  If they lie about small things easily shown to be lies, why believe them on anything?  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the Orwellian world of Trump/Pence.  Here are highlights:
One of the many things that is remarkable about the Trump administration is its devotion, even in its first days, to a particular variety of pointless falsehood.
Mendacity among politicians and the spokespeople hired to spin for them runs across eras and aisles, though it is true that some are more honest than others, and Donald Trump was a historically dishonest presidential candidate. But the Trump administration has displayed a commitment to needlessly lying that is confounding to even the most cynical observers of American politics.
No incident better summarizes this than a bizarre briefing by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday. Speaking in the Brady Briefing Room, Spicer laid into the assembled reporters.
Then came the big whopper: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period—both in person and around the globe.”
Spicer’s statement required dismissing all available evidence: ridership count, eyewitness testimony, independent crowd-counts, and Nielsen television ratings. Spicer cut his teeth at the Republican National Committee as the combative voice of a body often at odds with the media, but even by those standards, his furious insistence on assertions at odds with the evidence were peculiar.
They are, however, emerging as a hallmark of the administration. 
Ahead of the inauguration, Trump threw a concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “This started out tonight being a small little concert, and then we had the idea maybe we’ll do it in front of the Lincoln Memorial,” Trump said in brief remarks. “I don’t know if it’s ever been done before. But if it has, very seldom.” That claim was also ridiculous, whether it was intentionally misleading or simply badly misinformed. There was a huge, widely covered concert at the memorial to kick off Obama’s inauguration festivities eight years ago.
But how is anyone to view Spicer’s statement as stemming from anything other than a deliberate intent to mislead? The facts are clear, and given that Spicer did not take questions, his main purpose on Saturday must have been to spread falsehoods about crowd size.
Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet the Press Sunday morning, where Chuck Todd grilled her on the incident. “The presidency is about choices. I’m curious why President Trump chose yesterday to send out his press secretary to essentially litigate a provable falsehood when it comes to a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size,” Todd asked. Conway first tried to deflect, saying, “I don’t think presidents are judged by crowd sizes, they’re judged by accomplishments.” Fair enough, Todd said—so why lie?
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts,” Conway responded.
Todd was flabbergasted by the Orwellian turn of phrase: “Alternative fact are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”
There’s still no good explanation for Spicer’s statement, but it fits with a long-running mantra from Trump aides and supporters that there’s no such thing as an objective reality. The question for Trump and his aides is simple: If you’re willing to lie about stuff this minuscule, why should anyone believe what you say about the really big things that matter?

Perhaps there is a solution to Trump's lies provided the media has the backbone to be responsible: When Trump and his administration make clearly false statements, simply do not give the statement coverage.  Take away the podium and do not disseminate the lies.   

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2