Monday, August 03, 2015

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Israeli Leadership Targets "Jewish Terrorism"


In the wake of the tragedy at the Jerusalem Pride event that left a young woman dead and others wounded, Israeli authorities are belatedly saying that they will focus on halting "Jewish terrorism" perpetrated by orthodox extremists.  It's a move America needs to emulate even if it means targeting a significant portion of the GOP base.  For far too long authorities in both countries have turned a blind eye towards the evil of far right religious fundamentalists.  The reality is that both the Jewish extremists and American Christofascists see themselves as above the law. The Washington Post looks at the long overdue development.  Here are highlights:
Israeli leaders proposed harsh new measures Sunday to curb “Jewish terrorism,” following a wave of extremist violence that left Israeli and Palestinian children dead in knife and arson attacks.
An Israeli teenager, described by her parents as a sweet and magical child, succumbed to her wounds Sunday after being stabbed by a Jewish extremist at a gay pride parade last week.
Hours earlier, thousands of Israelis held anti-violence rallies across the country protesting attacks by Israeli assailants against gays and Palestinians.
Israelis were reeling from the fast-moving violence of recent days that included Jewish settlers clashing with government forces at a West Bank settlement, the knife attack at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, and a lethal arson attack in a Palestinian village that resulted in a toddler being burned to death.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Sunday that Israeli authorities should be allowed to employ the same heavy-handed measures against Israeli terrorism suspects as the state uses against Palestinian suspects in the occupied West Bank, freeing the military to seek “administrative detention” against suspects, which would enable them to hold detainees for months, and sometimes years, in prison without presenting charges.
After speaking out against attacks by Jewish extremists and saying he felt shame that the violence had come “from my own people,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was deluged with threats on social media, leading his security detail to file a complaint with Israeli police because of fears that the leader’s life was in danger.
During a period of similar tumult two decades ago, a right-wing Jewish extremist shot and killed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 as he departed a Tel Aviv peace rally attended by more than 100,000.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government will have “zero tolerance” for Jewish extremists, vowing that Israel is committed to fight “hate, fanaticism and terrorism from whatever side.”
The spiral of violence began Wednesday when Israeli soldiers and police clashed with Jewish settlers at the West Bank community of Beit El.
The Israeli authorities were attempting to demolish two illegal structures at the Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Ramallah that were built without permits on private Palestinian land.
On Thursday, Israel’s gay community came under attack as a Jewish extremist stabbed six people at the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
On Friday, arsonists set fire to two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, burning a toddler alive and injuring three others. The investigation is under a gag order but it appeared that no arrests had been made.
 Again and again we see hate and violence as the chief fruits of religion.

New Pew Poll: Bad News for the GOP


I often describe the Republican Party as an insane asylum that has been taken over by the inmates.  Now a new Pew Research Center survey suggests that I am not alone in that assessment.  The timing, of course, could not be worse for the GOP as it prepares for its first presidential candidate circus debate this week where the party's complete dysfunction will be on national display.  Pandering to the lunatics of the GOP base may make sense in a primary battle, but people are watching and are unlikely to forget batshitery in the primary come the general election.  A piece in The Hill looks at the GOP self-inflicted predicament.  Here are highlights: 
Given the nation’s historical preference for switching the party in the White House every eight years, the Grand Old Party should be having a grand old time heading into the 2016 races.
But a new Pew poll shows the party’s brand falling off a cliff, even among Republicans.
The late July poll found only 32 percent of voters holding a “favorable impression” of the GOP and 60 percent taking an “unfavorable view.” An early July Gallup poll also finds the Republican Party struggling for its footing on a steep downward slope, with only a 35 percent approval rating.
The biggest surprise is Pew’s finding that the slide in GOP support is primarily the result of Republican voters pulling away from Republican politicians.
At the start of the year, 86 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of their party. That figure has now fallen to 68 percent. According to Pew, that is “the lowest share in more than two years.” The poll also found an 8-point drop in the number of independent voters who view the GOP favorably, from 37 percent down to 29 percent. It is not surprising that, among Democrats, the view of the GOP has worsened amid its disarray. Only 14 percent of Democrats hold a favorable view of the GOP, down from 18 percent.
It is a surprise that backbiting, anger and contempt are this summer’s themes for Republicans. Just last November, after midterm election victories, the GOP base was energized and slinging darts at President Obama.
Now those same Republican are firing inside the tent, and with special delight at Republicans in Congress.
The depth of the disillusionment is clear. Only 28 percent of Republican voters give Congress a favorable rating, even though Republicans are in the majority in both houses.
The Pew poll can be read as evidence of the far right’s unhappiness with Republican leaders for not breaking down all attempts to govern. One of the few poll findings on which the GOP wins big comes when all voters are asked which party is “more extreme in its position.” Fifty-two percent of Americans now tell Pew that the GOP is a party of extremists while only 35 percent hold that opinion of Democrats. 
It is also worth noting that while the Republicans are taking turns lashing each other, the Pew poll found Democrats gaining in favorability among voters. “Today the gap [between the Democrats and the Republicans] is as wide as it has been in more than two years,” and moving in favor of the Democrats, Pew reported.
Republicans who were elected to Congress as part of the Tea Party wave in the 2010 and 2012 elections have never shown an interest in governing. Instead, they drive the activist base of the party with acid rhetoric suited for talk-show hosts. They engage in political brinksmanship, forcing one crisis after another but shredding the party’s brand with voters.
The GOP is currently a smashing talk-radio show or reality TV. But as a political party with responsibility to govern, its poll numbers are sinking under the table well ahead of November 2016 – the ultimate ratings period.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

More Sunday Male Beauty


Grand Jury Indicts Anti-Gay GOP Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton

Anti-gay bigot indicted
I lived in Texas many years ago and, like Alabama where I also once lived, the state seems to have gone insane finds itself under the heel of anti-gay (and anti-minority) extremists in the Republican Party. And not only are these Republicans crazy anti-gay and virulently, they are also corrupt.  Take Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton who has been indicted on multiple counts of securities fraud.  One has to wonder when the modern cities in Texas will have the ability to out vote the lunatics in the rural areas as is now beginning to occur regularly in Virginia.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on Paxton's indictment:
Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of Texas and a former state legislator, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of securities fraud and of failing to register with the state securities board, officials said.

The grand jury in the northern Dallas suburb of McKinney handed up a three-count indictment against Mr. Paxton on Tuesday, the officials said. The indictment is to be unsealed on Monday, when Mr. Paxton is expected to turn himself in to the authorities at the Collin County Jail.

The charges — two counts of first-degree securities fraud and one count of third-degree failure to register — are tied to Mr. Paxton’s work soliciting clients and investors for two companies while he was a member of the Texas House of Representatives, before he was elected attorney general in November.

In the most serious charges, first-degree securities fraud, Mr. Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a technology company, Servergy Inc., which is based in McKinney, his hometown. He is accused of encouraging the investors in 2011 to put more than $600,000 into Servergy while failing to tell them he was making a commission on their investment, and misrepresenting himself as an investor in the company, said Kent A. Schaffer, one of the two special prosecutors handling the case.

Mr. Schaffer said politics had played no part in the indictment.  “I have nothing personal against Mr. Paxton based on his politics,” he said. “Even if you found fault with Brian Wice or myself, how do you find it with the Texas Rangers? These are the most honest, straightforward, incorruptible police officers you’re ever going to find. They don’t have political motivations, and they certainly wouldn’t have any against the sitting attorney general.”

A conviction for a first-degree felony in Texas can carry a punishment of life in prison or a sentence of five to 99 years. A third-degree felony is punishable with a sentence of two to 10 years. Mr. Paxton helped create the possibility of such severe punishment: As a freshman representative in the Texas House in May 2003, he voted to amend the state securities law to make it a felony to act as an investment adviser representative without being registered, the very crime the grand jury accuses him of committing.

As the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer, Mr. Paxton has made headlines for challenging the Obama administration on its immigration and environmental policies and for encouraging county clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds after the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding same-sex marriage.

Servergy has also been the subject of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The investigation centered on whether Servergy and its founder, Bill Mapp, who has since resigned as chief executive, made misleading statements about the company to induce investors to buy Servergy stock, according to court documents the S.E.C. filed. Mr. Paxton’s name and email address appeared in documents Servergy filed to comply with S.E.C. subpoenas.

The GOP and Toxic Straight White Masculinity

Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com/AP/Bill Haber/Salon)
There is a reason that the GOP base and GOP candidates typically get the majority of the white heterosexual male vote:  The party and its candidates pander to the irrational fears and demand for privilege and special rights that far too many straight white males expect and demand.  Adding to the mix is the right wing media and blogosphere that similarly play on the fears of straight white males.  Their targets?  Anyone who is "other" in their minds which includes virtually everyone who isn't a straight white male.  Gays, of course are definitely in the "other" category since we do not conform to the straight male stereotype of masculinity nor do we in general slavishly adhere to the Christofascist agenda that always puts straight white males at the top of the social pecking order.  A somewhat tongue in cheek piece in Salon looks at the toxicity of straight white male masculinity and the harm it causes to others.  Here are excerpts:
White America is suffering from a type of cancer. It is hurting you; it is killing your children; it is damaging families; it hurls shrapnel in many directions, maiming and otherwise bringing an end to the lives of those people who are unfortunate enough to be in its blast radius. If you want the truth, this is it: toxic white masculinity, and the backward right-wing politics which nurture and protect it, are hurting millions of you every year.

Toxic white masculinity is a fear of the world changing to the disadvantage of white men, and where what too many white men take as natural rights are actually going to be exposed as unfair advantages, advantages which were gifted by a lottery of genetics and fortune of birth, as opposed to earned merit.

Toxic white masculinity defaults to violence as a means of maintaining social and political control. It clings to guns as a symbol of “real” male identity. It fears women as equals; it lashes out at non-whites who are somehow “stealing” white men’s jobs and power. Toxic white masculinity sees “liberals,” “progressives,” “social justice,” and “feminism” as enemies — out of a fear that “white masculinity” will somehow be made obsolete or extinct. The dream worlds and paranoid fantasies of angry white men are distractions that look to some type of Other as the preeminent threat to America’s safety and security. The reality is of course, very different.

In reality, right-wing domestic terrorists and mass shooters are the number one threat to America’s safety and security since September 11, 2001.

White men are approximately 31 percent of the United States population. And yet, white men are nearly 63 percent of those people who commit mass shootings. Such behavior, among any other group, would be considered pathological and a public health crisis.

Toxic white masculinity is a complex problem. And you cannot fix it unless you also confront how toxic white masculinity is nurtured and encouraged by your news media and political representatives.

Fox News is your mouthpiece: 92 percent of its prime time viewing audience is white. Fox is the most popular cable news network in the United States. Millions of people watch it on a daily basis. Fox News is part of a propaganda machine that consists of the Internet, radio, and social media. This has created an alternate reality for many White Americans where down is up and up is down, so to speak. Researchers have shown that the right-wing media actually makes its public less knowledgeable about empirical reality and current events than those people who do not watch or listen to it.

The white identity politics, grievance mongering, conspiracies, paranoid thinking, eliminationist rhetoric about liberals and progressives, hostility to women, rage against immigrants, anxiety about those who are not “Christian”, and mainstreaming of white supremacy and white racial resentment, are the fuel for toxic white masculinity. The right-wing media gins up and encourages such sentiments because it is dependent on them for viewers and ad revenue.

The Republican Party, meanwhile, is America’s most prominent white identity organization. Since the end of the civil rights movement, the modern GOP has fused together conservatism and racism as its name brand.

In many ways — the fetishistic embrace of guns, hostility to women’s rights, Islamophobia, symbolic and overt racism against black people — the policies and talking points of the contemporary Republican Party are toxic white masculinity as a campaign platform.  

[H]ostility and anxiety towards people who may have a different skin color than you is fool’s gold. White America’s leaders, and the plutocrats to whom they owe their allegiance, have been using that fake money to hustle and manipulate you for centuries. 

 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Why Iran Wants a Nuclear Arms Deal


Across the GOP, climate deniers avoid a serious discussion on the issue by saying "I'm not a scientist" or similar bullshit.  Yet when it comes to nuclear arms, the same know nothing crowd suddenly pretends to be experts that know more than the experts.  They also seem clueless on the issue of why Iran may want an arms deal that has nothing to do with what GOP demagogues shriek about.   An op-ed in the Washington Post by dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University looks at the larger picture that the anti-Obama Republicans deliberately ignore.  Here are column excerpts:
Opponents of the nuclear agreement with Iran see it as a license for Tehran to wreak havoc in the region. Freed from economic pressure and flush with financial resources, the thinking goes, Iran can be expected to unleash its emboldened minions upon Israel and Arab states and undermine U.S. interests. However, contrary to what the critics say, the nuclear deal is far more likely to curb Iran’s regional ambition. It is rather the instability that would follow the failure of the deal that should worry them. 

Iran spent $15 billion on its military last year. By comparison, Saudi Arabia spent $80 billion, and the five other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) spent another $35 billion. The Arab countries most worried about Iranian mischief outspent Iran by a margin of 8 to 1. Iran does not have an air force, and its ground forces and navy lag technologically behind its rivals. The nuclear deal will only widen this gap.
The deal does relieve economic pressure on Iran, but not enough to change the balance of power in the region. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has estimated that after Iran has paid its creditors, the financial windfall resulting from the deal would be no more than $50 billion to $60 billion, a good portion of which will have to go to Iran’s domestic needs.

In the past, Iran has compensated for its deficit in conventional military spending by deploying a network of armed militias trained, financed and managed by its Revolutionary Guards. . . . This end run around the regional military balance is sustainable if protected by a nuclear umbrella. As with Pakistan’s use of the same strategy against India, asymmetric provocation works only if there is deterrence against costly retaliation. Without it, Iranian provocations would invite repetitions of Israeli retaliatory operations in South Lebanon and Gaza or Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
By signing the nuclear deal, Iran has given up that nuclear umbrella for as long as two decades and made the case for the United States to further strengthen the conventional military capacities of Israel and the GCC. Contrary to what opponents say, the nuclear agreement has weakened Iran and strengthened its regional rivals.

So why did Iran sign on to a deal that will undermine its regional strategy? The obvious answer is that economic sanctions forced Iran to choose between political stability at home and hegemony over the region. On that score, then, the nuclear deal has in one swoop ended Iran’s nuclear threat and hobbled its regional agenda.

But equally important is that Iran’s main regional worry has become the so-called Islamic State. The extremist Sunni force has emerged as an anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian juggernaut that now controls vast territory in Iraq and Syria and is a growing presence in Afghanistan.
Iran has been fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and it could be doing the same in Afghanistan before long. This could be a long war, and that reality has forced Iran to rethink its strategic calculus. Confronting the Islamic State requires not a nuclear umbrella but a reduction of tensions with the international community and greater economic resources. The threat of the Islamic State, more so than any promise of hegemony over the region, was likely a decisive factor in Iran’s decision to sign away the nuclear cover for its regional strategy.

Opponents of the nuclear deal imagine a scenario in which the deal could be scuttled, leaving Iran further isolated and under more economic sanctions and its regional capacity diminished — even as it continues to lead the fight against the Islamic State. That is unlikely. Rather, Iran could respond to the collapse of the deal by doubling down on its nuclear program while increasing regional tensions and also passing a greater burden of fighting the Islamic State to Washington and its allies.  

Torpedoing the nuclear deal would not be simply a reset to where things stood before talks started in 2013, and it would not play to the United States’ advantage. To the contrary, the United States would be confronted with the task of managing the challenge of an Iran using a newly acquired nuclear umbrella to establish its imprint on the region, while having to stop the Islamic State from establishing control over the Levant on its own. That’s what should worry the United States and its allies.  

Republican Hypocrisy on Iran


In listening to Republican opponents to the Iran nuclear arms agreement, one thing quickly becomes clear: despite the lies and bluster, they have no real alternative other than war with Iran.  Even more frightening, they seem to have learned nothing from the Iraq War debacle and seem oblivious to the reality that Iran has more than twice the population of Iraq and that the population is far more educated and sophisticated than that of Iraq.  But facts and objective reality mean nothing to today's GOP.  An editorial in the New York Times looks at the lies and hypocrisy of the Republicans.  Here are excerpts:
The exaggerations and half-truths that some Republicans are using to derail President Obama‘s important and necessary nuclear deal with Iran are beyond ugly. Invoking the Holocaust, Mike Huckabee, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has accused Mr. Obama of marching Israelis “to the door of the oven.” Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas, has compared Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped negotiate the deal, to Pontius Pilate.

What should be a thoughtful debate has been turned into a vicious battle against Mr. Obama, involving not just the Republicans but Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The unseemly spectacle of lawmakers siding with a foreign leader against their own commander in chief has widened an already dangerous breach between two old allies.

Policy considerations aside, what is most striking about the demagoguery is how ahistorical, if not downright hypocritical, it is. Negotiating with adversaries to advance a more stable world has long been a necessity, and Republican presidents have been among its most eager practitioners.

Richard Nixon normalized relations with China when it was considered a Communist menace. Ronald Reagan signed a landmark missile agreement with the Soviet Union, which had fomented unrest worldwide and persecuted Jews. The agreement eliminated an entire category of missiles. Mr. Reagan even negotiated with Iran after the Islamic Revolution, selling it arms to use in its struggle with Iraq and using the proceeds to arm Nicaragua’s contra rebels in defiance of Congress.

But what these critics do not mention is that the basic bargain Mr. Obama agreed to — benefits in exchange for nuclear limits — was endorsed by President George W. Bush and the other major powers in 2006.  

Negotiating with enemies is an essential component of statecraft and can be a crucial alternative to war. Even when America was at the height of its powers, its leaders — including Republicans — knew that any successful deal would involve some compromise with the other side, not complete capitulation. Yet that is exactly what the Republicans are demanding of Iran today as they lay plans to repudiate Mr. Obama’s hard-won accord in pursuit of some mythical “better” deal.

[A] preponderance of responsible opinion — the five major powers, the United Nations Security Council, most American nuclear experts and scores of leading American diplomats — have endorsed the pact as the best way to ensure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

America is stronger when important national security decisions have bipartisan consensus. None of that seems to matter to the accord’s opponents, many of whom never intended to vote for the deal and made clear during congressional hearings last week that facts will not change their minds.
Why the change in the GOP from the era of Nixon and Reagan?  One - perhaps two - words: Christofascists and racists.  Both describe the most active part of the GOP base.   And they hate Obama because he is half black and they hate all non-Christians.  On top of all that, they live in a fantasy world. The irony?  They are really little different than the Islamic extremists the continually condemn. 

RNC Set to Vote on Anti-Gay Resolutions This Week

This week will be another test as to whether or not the Republican Party is ready to move into the 21st century.  Previous Party Platforms on social issues have been largely authored by Christofascists and hate group extremists.  This week the Republican National Committee ("RNC") will vote on anti-gay resolutions opposing same sex marriage and opposition to sex education that includes LGBT individuals.  Many in the RNC seemingly wish gays would either disappear or be struck dead in a single stroke.     The odds are that the anti-gay resolutions will pass and the GOP will further signal younger voters that it remains the party of the hate filled past.  Here are highlights on the coming vote from the Washington Blade (note the assumption that being gay is synonymous with being HIV positive and, therefore, diseased):
In the same week Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to slug it out in their first official debate, the Republican National Committee is set to vote during its summer meeting on resolutions against same-sex marriage and in favor of anti-gay sex education in schools, the Washington Blade has learned.

The Blade obtained text of two proposed anti-gay resolutions . . .  on the table for discussion during the upcoming meeting in Cleveland, Ohio.

If the RNC were to adopt any of the non-binding resolutions next week, it would be the first official act of the Republican Party on the marriage issue following the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision last month in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The initial vote could take place during the executive committee meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, where a successful vote would lead to consideration at the full committee meeting on Friday.

One resolution, titled “Resolution for Balanced Sex-Ed in Schools,” was introduced by former Michigan State House lawmaker and RNC member Dave Agema. It encourages schools “teaching the homosexual lifestyle in their sexual education class” to “also include the harmful physical aspects of the lifestyle.”

The resolution is based on the belief the Republican Party “supports the institution of traditional marriage,” which is considered code for opposition to same-sex marriage. The proposal is also based on questionable assertions that American culture “is portraying the homosexual lifestyle as an attractive option for school-aged children” and the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes says being gay take up to 21 years off a person’s life. 

The resolution sponsor Agema is the same RNC member who has repeatedly landed in hot water for making anti-gay, racist and anti-Muslim posts on Facebook, such as an endorsement of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law and an article saying gay people are “filthy,” frequently pedophiles and responsible for 50 percent of U.S. murders. Republican National Committee Chair Reince Preibus and Michigan Republican Party Chair Bobby Schostok have called on Agema to step down and the RNC has censured him, but no explicit mechanism exists to expel him from the RNC and he has remained in his post.

Another resolution, titled “To Reserve, Strip and Pursue,” was introduced by Republican National Committee member Ross Little of Louisiana directly.

The proposal calls on Congress to defy the Supreme Court by passing, in accordance with the Tenth Amendment, legislation saying marriage laws and recognition of marriages is the exclusive province of the states, although states shouldn’t be able to legalize polygamy or prohibit interracial marriage. Further, in accordance with Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the resolution seeks legislation stripping federal courts of jurisdiction of marriage issues.

The RNC didn’t respond to multiple requests to comment on any of the resolutions, although multiple sources have confirmed they’re on the table. 
To read the full text of the anti-gay resolutions, go to the Blade story.   Hate and bigotry remain among the hallmarks of today's GOP.  Frankly, I am surprised that the resolutions did not call for the reintroduction of bans on interracial marriage give the rampant racism in the GOP base.