Monday, June 25, 2018

National Immense Rain Events: More Proof of Climate Change

While the Trump/Pence regime works feverishly to destroy the EPA and denies that climate change is occurring, yet another phenomenon is occurring: immense torrential rain events that are causing unprecedented flooding and property damage.  Just this past week, Richmond, Virginia's airport - one that the husband and I use on occasion - was forced to close for several hours as parts of the terminal flooded.  Despite scientific proof that storms are intensifying, a significant portion of the Republican Party base clings to Bronze Age religious belief to deny reality and avoid any responsibility for being part of the problem.  It's as if ignorance is worn by the folks as a badge of honor. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the worsening of storms and the willful ignorance of some as to the causation.  Here are excerpts:

Experts say the immense rains — some spawned by tropical ocean waters, others by once-routine thunderstorms — are the product of long-rising air temperatures and an increase in the sheer size of the storms. Because warmer air can hold more water, large storms are dropping far more rain at a faster clip.
Such rains in recent weeks have deluged the Great Lakes region, the Deep South and the suburbs of major cities along the Atlantic coast. Philadelphia, Charlottesville, and Ocean City, Ellicott City and Frederick in Maryland all have experienced major flooding since mid-May. Several locations in Maryland had their wettest May on record, including Baltimore, which tallied more than eight inches, most of which fell in the second half of the month. “Things are definitely getting more extreme,” said Andreas ­Prein, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “You just have to look at the records. All areas of the continental U.S. have seen increases in peak rainfall rates in the past 50 years. . . . And there is a chance that we are underestimating the risk, actually.”
On Friday, Richmond experienced its second-wettest day on record — 7.61 inches of rain, more than the city typically gets in the entire month of June, topping the previous record on Aug. 12, 1955, during Hurricane Connie. The torrential rains in the past week flooded Richmond International Airport, which closed its doors for more than two hours Friday.
Slow-moving thunderstorms on Wednesday triggered widespread flooding in suburban Pittsburgh, where residents posted online videos showing cars, television sets and dumpsters floating down streets and highways. Rainfall rates reached two to three inches per hour during that storm, according to the ­National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.
Several stalled storms last weekend resulted in catastrophic flooding of homes and businesses on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, prompting Gov. Rick Snyder to declare a state of disaster in the counties affected. In South Texas, days of heavy rain inundated subdivisions with several feet of water, and the Texas National Guard used helicopters to rescue stranded residents.
Several atmospheric researchers said in interviews that they agree with that perception. They say it is getting worse.
Since 1880, global temperature has risen just more than 0.13 degrees per decade, for a total of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). The amount of water air can hold is based on temperature — put very simply, the warmer the air is, the more water it can hold.
Theoretically, experts say, an additional 1.8 degrees would amount to about 7 percent more water in the air, resulting in a similar increase in extreme rainfall. But what Prein and other researchers have found is much higher across a vast portion of the United States.
[T]the eastern half of the continental United States has seen the most dramatic change in extreme rainfall. The amount of rain during the most extreme storms in the Northeast has risen 71 percent since 1958; in the Midwest, heavy rain has ­increased 37 percent; in the Southeast, it’s up 27 percent.
And the area covered by each storm also is getting larger, Prein said, another major factor in the increased precipitation. Prein’s new research suggests thunderstorms will become 80 to 90 percent larger by the end of the century.
In eastern North Carolina, a deeply conservative region, most residents say they, too, now believe weather patterns are changing. But here in the “Blue Ridge Bible Belt,” many say God — not man-made climate change — is to blame for the more extreme weather.
Ann Watson said her Baptist faith teaches her that the extreme weather is a sign Jesus will soon return to Earth, and she doesn’t believe in climate-change science. But Dan Watson said he believes that man could be partly responsible for the shift in weather.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, June 24, 2018

More Sunday Male Beauty

Trump Supporters and the Lost Art of Shunning

Trump family separation enforcer Kirstjen Nielsen run out of a restaurant.
As a follow up to the last post, former Republican Jennifer Rubin has a column in the Washington Post that also looks at Sarah Sanders being shown the door and other episodes where amoral Trump officials/supporters have received the treatment that applaud in being dished out to others.  Perhaps  I cannot fully escape my Catholic background, but I believe that complicity in evil must have negative consequences for the wrongdoer. Sanders and so many of today's hate-filled Republicans believe there are no consequences for their involvement with reprehensible policies and the intentional infliction of harm on others. As for convincing them of the error of their ways/beliefs, I view them as beyond convincing through normal means. Hence, shunning is all to appropriate. Perhaps becoming persona non grata with the vast majority of the citizenry might make a few of them rethink their positions.  Here are column highlights:

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — whose lies are piling up at a furious rate and whose defense of the child-separation policy prompted a reporter to exclaim, “Come on, Sarah, you’re a parent” — was reportedly asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia on Friday because she works for President Trump. . . . . She then couldn’t help lying again: “I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.” Anyone who has seen her sneer, insult and condescend to the press knows that’s not the case.
This episode follows one on Tuesday in which Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled at a Mexican restaurant, a culinary choice as jarring as Melania Trump’s jacket given the administration’s deliberate cruelty exhibited toward Hispanic children and their families. The loud protesters who gathered prompted her to leave. In addition, anti-immigrant zealot Stephen Miller, who pushed as hard as anyone for snatching kids from their parents, was dining in a different Mexican restaurant last Sunday when, according to the New York Post,  a protester called out, “Hey look guys, whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?” Unsurprisingly, the restaurant confrontations became a source of debate on cable television.
On CNN, Ana Navarro tartly observed, “You make choices in life. And there is a cost to being an accomplice to this cruel, deceitful administration.” So, are these reactions to Trump aides reassuring and appropriate acts of social ostracism that communicate to the cogs in a barbaric bureaucracy that they cannot escape the consequences of their actions? Alternatively, should we view these as a sign of our descent into incivility . . . . ?
It depends on how you view the child-separation policy . . . . If, however, you think the child-separation policy is in a different class — a human rights crime, an inhumane policy for which the public was primed by efforts to dehumanize a group of people (“animals,” “infest,” etc.) — then it is both natural and appropriate for decent human beings to shame and shun the practitioners of such a policy.
This exception to the rule of polite social action should be used sparingly (if for no other reason than we will never get through a restaurant meal without someone hollering at someone else).
I get it. The notion of shunning or excluding or heckling can devolve into philosophical hair-splitting as to whether someone has engaged in normal public service or whether they’ve strayed outside the bounds of decent behavior. Each to his own method of expressing disdain and fury, I suppose.
Nevertheless, it is not altogether a bad thing to show those who think they’re exempt from personal responsibility that their actions bring scorn, exclusion and rejection. If you don’t want to provoke wrath, don’t continue to work for someone whose cruel and inhumane treatment of others rivals the internment of U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II.
As a piece in The Daily Beast reports, more efforts to shame and shun Trump regime officials are likely to occur going forward:
One night after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen conducted a press conference defending the forcible separation of immigrant childrenfrom their families, a member of Washington, D.C.’s Democratic Socialists of America chapter received a text from a friend.
“A member got a text saying ‘Kirstjen Nielsen is eating nachos like ten feet from me,’” Allison Hrabar, a spokesperson for the Metro DC DSA told The Daily Beast.
Less than 30 minutes later, about a dozen members of DSA were inside MXDC Cocina Mexicana, shouting at Nielsen while she tried to eat her Mexican dinner.
“How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you’re deporting and imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?” a DSA member called to Nielsen in a video the group released of the confrontation.
“While these children are not free, this administration can’t be allowed to enjoy a nice night out,” said Jesse Rabinowitz, a DSA member who attended the demonstration. “To me, the most powerful part was when we were able to use a speaker to play the audio of children being separated from their parents. What scared me the most was the lack of empathy or feeling that the secretary had. She just seemed cold.”
“Oppressed people have never been given their rights by asking politely,” Hrabar said. “Kirstjen Nielsen is not going to be convinced by us politely saying ‘could you maybe not separate children from their families? Could you maybe stop detaining and deporting migrants who have done nothing wrong?’”
On the way out, we got a lot of high fives from patrons and restaurant staff. I think the response in the restaurant was actually really heartening.”
The impromptu action was the latest in a series of anti-ICE demonstrations by leftist organizations in recent weeks.
Since Sunday, Portland, Oregon activists including members of the Portland DSA, the Direct Action Alliance, and the National Lawyers Guild have been set up camp outside a local ICE prison. The coalition blockaded the roads leading to the facility, preventing anyone from driving in or out. On Tuesday, after a standoff with protesters, every ICE employee except for one security guard left the building, Raw Story reported. The guard, told demonstrators that the facility was closing and that “it’s unknown when it will open.”
Hrabar said the DC DSA has been staging demonstrations outside the homes of prominent ICE and Trump administration officials for the past three months.

Kudos to the DSA.

Anti-Gay Bigot Sarah Sanders Booted From Restaurant

One thing about the Christofascists and evangelical Christians is that they can dish out bigotry and discrimination toward others yet they typically take great offense if they receive treatment like what they give to others.  Indeed, they act as if they are being persecuted.  They believe that public accommodation laws are a one way street that apply to everyone but themselves. Cite real or feigned religious belief and voila, one is exempt from the law.  Last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House press secretary and daughter of homophobe extraordinaire Mike Huckabee deliciously found herself on the receiving end of what she believes is fine for gays: a restaurant, Red Hen, in Lexington, Virginia, refused to serve her and she was forced to leave.  Make no mistake, Sanders is a liar - she lies daily during press briefings - and a hypocrite.  A piece in Vox looks at Sanders receiving what she advocates is fine for others.  Here are excerpts:
I feel for Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I’d be miffed, too, if I sat down with a group of friends to a spread of cheeses at a charming farm-to-table restaurant only to be asked to leave by the owner. 
I happen to believe that food establishments should offer their goods to anyone willing to pay for them. Sanders does not. She thinks it’s OK, for example, for a business to hang a sign in their window saying they won’t serve gay couples. This is why, on one level, her very public dig at the owner of the Red Hen, which set off a torrent of hate tweets and threats her way, is ridiculous. It’s hypocrisy.
On another level, restaurant-gate is an example of the Trump administration’s unique commitment to courting divisiveness. Donald Trump doesn’t even pretend to speak to or for all Americans. Rhetorically, there hasn’t been a more disrespectful administration in 150 years. But when Sanders wants dinner, the White House is all for mutual respect. Either way, the base laps it up.
This disregard for all kinds of people has had real consequences in their lives including for gays, transgender people, migrant children, victims of domestic violence or police brutality — and the list goes on. When Sanders, or any Trump official, tweets indignantly about a slight, it’s just added insult.
The irony of restaurant-gate is that Sanders supports the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips, who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado. The owner of the Red Hen, Stephanie Wilkinson, told the Washington Post one reason she asked Sanders to leave was because of Sanders’ stances on gay rights. The staff includes several gay workers. The staff was also deeply upset about Sanders’ defense of Trump’s family separation policy, she said.
“I would have done the same thing again,” Wilkinson told the Post. “We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.”

When the high court heard oral arguments in December, Sanders went as far as to say it would be fine for a business to hang up a sign announcing it denies services to gay people.
Sanders sees a constitutional right under the First Amendment to chose who to serve and not serve in a business. But on Friday, she made no mention of this context. She made no attempt to distinguish the two. Instead, she took an opportunity to fan divisions between the White House’s base and everyone else.
Sanders has backed Trump through all of this, defending his comments, his counter-attacks and his policies. Maybe she was disappointed about dinner on Friday. Maybe she really did feel wronged. But her decision to take to Twitter and spark a divisive feud between Trump supporters and liberals feels familiar. It’s almost like she wants to have her cake and eat it, too.

I view most evangelical Christians and the Christofascists as far worse than the Pharisees so frequently condemned in the New Testament. If they want to refuse to serve gays for being sinners, the rest of us should be able to treat them the same way. They are an abomination and cancer on America. 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

Saturday, June 23, 2018

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Lessons of "Childgate" About Trump and His Supporters

Yesterday morning, former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough stated that Donald Trump is openly racist and by extension, so are his supporters.  Yahoo News provides excerpts of Scarborough's comments with which I am in full agreement:
“You’ve got Charlottesville, where Donald Trump of course defended white supremacists with moral equivalency,” Scarborough said. “Even this year, Donald Trump calling Hispanics ‘breeders.’ Just last week, saying that immigrants coming across the border were, quote, ‘infesting America,’ and no, he wasn’t talking about gang members.”
“[Trump supporters] cannot say, ’Oh, I’m just supporting him because he’s giving them hell in Washington, D.C.,” Scarborough said. “No, he’s been openly racist, just like we said back in December of 2015, openly racist. If you support him, then you’re supporting that, and you are that. It’s that simple. That’s what we’ve come to now.”

In addition to Trump himself and his sycophants, what I find most abhorrent is the attitude of Trump's supporters - some 55% of Republicans per one poll -  who fully support tearing children from their parents.  In the minds of these people, many of whom will part their wide asses in church pews tomorrow morning - brown skin somehow renders one less than human and worthy of horrors they would never want visited on their own children or grandchildren.  Their moral bankruptcy is complete and they need to be shunned and excluded in every way possible by decent moral Americans.  Most upsetting is the reality that many of the immigrant children ripped from their parents may never see their parents again given the incompetence of Trump's stooges and henchmen.  A column in the New York Times looks at this horrible reality.  Here are excerpts:

In the early days of Donald Trump’s regime, Benjamin Wittes, editor of the Lawfare blog, coined an oft-repeated phrase about the president’s first, slapdash Muslim ban: “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” It’s a useful formulation; Trump’s fascist instincts would be much more dangerous if he had the discipline to pursue them systematically instead of spasmodically.
Yet sometimes Trump’s incompetence and malevolence are not at cross-purposes; instead, there’s a multiplier effect. This was true of the White House’s catastrophically inadequate response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. And it’s true of the cavalier way the administration took thousands of children from migrant parents with no process in place to reunite them.
On Wednesday, amid a mounting national outcry, Trump signed an executive order purporting to end his administration’s own family separation policy. It’s not clear how lasting the order’s impact will be. Trump wants to replace family separation with indefinite mass family detention, which would run afoul of legal precedent. (On Thursday afternoon, The New York Times reported that the Pentagon was assessing how and where to hold as many as 20,000 migrant children on military bases.) Trump’s executive order said nothing about reuniting children and parents who’ve already been separated. Messages from government agencies have been contradictory. There’s still no clear process for many of these parents to even find out where their kids are, never mind get them back. Even experts are having trouble figuring out what the Trump administration has done with some of these kids. The Times described consular officials from Central America in “crisis mode” as they search for “children as young as 9 months old who did not appear to have been carefully tracked by the federal authorities.” Writing in The Post, an El Paso public defender named Erik Hanshew quoted an incredulous judge: “If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?” Unlike most emergencies, family separation was deliberately engineered by the government, so planning for the aftermath should have been easier. Yet somehow no one appears to have thought to create a database to help parents and children locate each other.
Part of the reason for this failure could be Trump’s indifference to expertise. He appointed E. Scott Lloyd, an anti-abortion activist, to head the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with caring for children after they’re separated from their parents. . . . Nothing in his background indicates an ability to handle the sort of complex logistical and humanitarian challenge he’s now presented with.
On Friday, the A.C.L.U., which has sued to stop family separations, is meeting with a judge in the case to discuss the implications of Trump’s executive order. A.C.L.U. lawyer Lee Gelernt told me they planned to ask for an injunction ordering immediate family reunification. “The government’s efforts are ridiculous,” he said.
When it comes to North Korea, it’s in most of our interests to play along with Trump’s Potemkin diplomacy, since as long as Trump thinks he’s solved a global problem, he won’t want to start a nuclear war. But no one should pretend that the family separation disaster is even close to being resolved until every family Trump thoughtlessly tore apart is back together.
On Thursday, the first lady, Melania Trump, visited a facility housing migrant children near the border. Inexplicably, as she boarded her flight to Texas, she wore a jacket that said on the back, in large white letters, “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” It’s hard to tell whether incompetence or malevolence was behind her choice, but we should take her sartorial taunt as a challenge. Nationwide demonstrations against the president’s family separation policy are planned for June 30. Trump’s executive order hasn’t made them any less necessary.
Never in my lifetime have I been so ashamed to be an American. Trump and his supporters must be defeated.  All of us must act to make this happen.

George Will Leaves the Republican Party; Calls for Defeat of Republicans

In my view America is at a point where each individual needs to make the decision as to whether or not they will support or be complicit in evil or instead work to oppose it. While his supporters may shun me or unfriend me, in my view, Donald Trump and the policies he is pursuing personifies evil, "childgate", if you will being only the most blatant example of the man's immorality.  I strongly reject Andrew Sullivan's argument that Democrats need to give Trump his border wall in order to address the irrational fears of his base that they are "losing their country" - a country stolen from Native Americans.  Appeasing irrational fears and outright racism and bigotry is not a solution.  Moreover, Trump's promised wall would likely never be completed given the decade or more of condemnation lawsuits that would be required to acquire the land on which it would be built. Thus, the true way to oppose the immorality of the Trump/Pence regime is to flee the GOP and work to defeat EVERY GOP candidate until the Party either rejects Trump and Trumpism or dies as a political force.  As Fortune reports, George Will - a long time GOP stalwart - has left the GOP and is calling for opposition to Trump.  He is not alone.  Here are article highlights:
George Will, a longtime political commentator and staunch defender of the conservative movement, chided the Republican Party Friday, citing the party’s support for Donald Trump in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Will mentioned that he had switched his voter registration from Republican to “unaffiliated” in the state of Maryland. He told the Washington Post, where he writes a column, that he made the change several weeks ago, after House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Trump for the 2020 election. The move follows the departure of other notable conservatives from the Republican Party, such as Mary Matalin, a longtime strategist for the party.
On Friday, Will published a column in the Washington Post that further explained his view, using the kind of excoriating language his columns are known for. The column, titled “Vote against the GOP this November,” argued that the number of Republicans in Congress “must be substantially reduced.”
Quoting from a variety of works, such as Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons and The Federalist Papers, Will also found caustic words of his own for Republican leaders, notably Ryan. The House Speaker, Will wrote, “sold his soul… for a tax cut” and had become one of “the president’s poodles.”
Although Will has been a vocal critic of President Trump in the past, his statements and actions on Friday surprised many political observers on social media.
Will was a contributor to Fox News between 2013 at 2017. In May 2017, he became a political contributor for NBC news and MSNBC. Previously, he served as editor of National Review and wrote a back-page column for Newsweekbetween 1976 and 2011.

Will's Washington Post piece is something I never thought I see come from him.  In the end, Will puts morality and decency ahead of party.  Here are excerpts:
Amid the carnage of Republican misrule in Washington, there is this glimmer of good news: The family-shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule, clarified something. Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans . . . . fresh if redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote. The principle: The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them. Consider the melancholy example of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who wagered his dignity on the patently false proposition that it is possible to have sustained transactions with [Trump] today’s president, this Vesuvius of mendacities, without being degraded. . . . . Ryan traded his political soul for . . . a tax cut.
Ryan and many other Republicans have become the president’s poodles, not because James Madison’s system has failed but because today’s abject careerists have failed to be worthy of it.  Recently Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who is retiring , became an exception that illuminates the depressing rule. He proposed a measure by which Congress could retrieve a small portion of the policymaking power that it has, over many decades and under both parties, improvidently delegated to presidents. Congress has done this out of sloth and timidity — to duck hard work and risky choices. . . . But the Senate would not vote on it . . . .
 The Republican-controlled Congress, which waited for Trump to undo by unilateral decree the border folly they could have prevented by actually legislating, is an advertisement for the unimportance of Republican control. In today’s GOP, which is [Trump’s] the president’s plaything, he is the mainstream. So, to vote against his party’s cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining him. . . . And to those who say, “But the judges, the judges!” the answer is: Article III institutions are not more important than those of Articles I and II combined.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty