Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Myth of a Better Iran Deal

Stuck in traffic yesterday I was listening to POTUS satellite radio and heard Marco Rubio bloviating against the Iran nuclear agreement.  Like most of the Republicans opposing the deal - largely because Obama is connected with it and because talk of killing Iranians polls well with the GOP base - Rubio fantasizes that a "better deal"  could have been negotiated.  In a piece in Foreign Policy, Stephen M. Walt, professor of international relations at Harvard University, looks at the myth that Rubio and his GOP brethren are foisting on the ignorant, bigoted, and uninformed (read FOX News viewers).  Here are article excerpts:
Foreign policy is serious business, because getting it wrong has real consequences. When countries conduct foreign policy in a cavalier or incompetent way, real human beings lose their lives or end up much poorer than they would otherwise have been.

That’s why it is so surprising when allegedly “serious people” rely on various forms of Magical Thinking when they talk about foreign affairs. . . . by “magical thinking,” I mean analysis and prescriptions resting on unrealistic assumptions, unspecified causal relationships, inapt analogies, a dearth of supporting evidence, and wildly naïve optimism.

What sort of “thinking” do I have in mind?  The most obvious example of magical thinking in contemporary policy discourse, of course, is the myth of a “better deal” with Iran. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, opponents of the JCPOA keep insisting additional sanctions, more threats to use force, another round of Stuxnet, or if necessary, dropping a few bombs, would have convinced Iran to run up the white flag and give the United States everything it ever demanded for the past 15 years.

Never mind that while the United States ramped up sanctions, Iran went from zero centrifuges to 19,000. Never mind that there was no international support for harsher sanctions and that unilateral U.S. sanctions wouldn’t increase the pressure in any meaningful way. Never mind that attacking Iran with military force would not end its nuclear program and only increase Iran’s interest in having an actual weapon. Never mind that the deal blocks every path to a bomb for at least a decade. And never mind that the myth of a “better deal” ignores Diplomacy 101: To get any sort of lasting agreement, it has to provide something for all of the parties.

Instead of serious analysis, opponents of the Iran deal are just imagining that there was a secret spell, magic wand, or incantation that would have somehow produced a miraculously better result. Which is why they cannot in fact explain how their imaginary “better deal” could ever be obtained.

It is not surprising that opponents of the deal are relying on unspecified miracles to make their case: It’s their standard operating procedure.

[O]pponents of the deal are mostly the same groups and individuals who either dreamed up or helped sell the boneheaded idea of invading Iraq. It wasn’t just their fairy tales about Iraqi WMD and Saddam Hussein’s alleged links to al Qaeda that led Bush and the country astray, it was their utterly fabulist belief that invading Iraq would somehow transform the Middle East into a sea of pro-American democracies. This was magical thinking at its worst, because it ignored both everything we know about how genuine democracy gets created and paid zero attention to the conditions in the country we were about to take over. . . . They are as wrong now as they were back then.

The United States is hardly the only country that has succumbed to magical thinking, of course. . . . How can you spot “magical thinking” when you hear it? 

First, when a leader, policy analyst, or foreign-policy organization suggests you support a policy that has never been done before and says that it will be easy, your nostrils should start twitching.

Second, when somebody says they’ve got a great solution to a thorny problem but won’t tell you what that solution is, it’s either a sign that they have no plan at all or that they believe they have rare powers that will enable them to do what mere mortals cannot.

Third, magical thinking invariably depends on a whole bunch of optimistic assumptions. To pull off a miracle, you need to assume that all will go exactly as planned, that opponents will react exactly as you expect, that unintended consequences will not occur, and that the ball will always take a home-team bounce.

Fourth, and following from the last point, a good miracle promises something wonderful for little or no cost. (“The invasion of Iraq will pay for itself!” “The troops will be home by Christmas!”) Advocates of U.S. military intervention routinely use this ploy, focusing solely on the supposed upsides and studiously ignoring the potential risks. Most of us have learned to discount anyone who promises us something for nothing, and that instinct is especially useful when it comes to foreign policy.

Finally, a lot of magical thinking assumes that the world is poised on a delicate knife’s edge and that small inputs will have far-reaching effects. In this view, a tiny reduction in the U.S. defense budget or overseas military presence will embolden enemies everywhere, dishearten all of our allies, and trigger a rapid cascade of setbacks and retreats, leaving the United States isolated and vulnerable (if not utterly defeated).
In the rough-and-tumble world of international politics, states achieve wealth, influence, and foreign-policy success by generations of hard work, careful analysis, smart decisions, and (if they are lucky) some amount of good fortune. To obtain these things, successful states create political institutions that can resolve conflicts, learn from past errors, and maintain a firm grasp on reality. Letting national decisions be shaped by unrealistic fantasies guarantees trouble, and even a country as powerful and secure as the United States pays a price when it allows magical thinking to shape national policy. 

Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass Fundraise for Anti-Gay Senator

Seemingly, Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass learned nothing from the debacle surrounding their fundraiser for anti-gay extremist, Ted Cruz.  Now the two self-anointed "A-listers"  are back raising money for an anti-gay politician who opposes civil rights for the rest of non-A-lister gays.  Reisner and Weiderpass apparently believe that their wealth protects them from the consequences of policies pushed by anti-gay Republicans such as Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the latest enemy of LGBT individuals to benefit from their fundraising.  In their self-centered world, the rest of us gays can go f*ck ourselves.  Gay City News looks at this latest slap in the face to the LGBT community by these douche bags.  Here are highlights:

A host and guests at a fundraiser held by embattled real estate developers Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass at their Central Park South penthouse donated at least $10,600 to Republican Ron Johnson, a right-wing US senator from Wisconsin who faces a 2016 challenge from Democrat Russ Feingold. Reisner, who is gay, gave Johnson $2,700, the maximum allowed under federal election law.

Other donors who maxed out at the Johnson event were Ken Mehlman, a longtime Republican Party operative who is also gay, and Sam Domb, a longtime Reisner business associate. Domb owns the property that houses the Out NYC, Reisner’s Midtown hotel.

The hosts and the guests were supporting Johnson because of the senator’s support for Israel and his views on the Middle East, according to the press release, which described those in attendance as “a bipartisan group of Jewish business leaders –– both committed Republicans and several traditionally aligned with Democrats.”

The Out NYC and Reisner’s properties in the Pines on Fire Island came under boycott after the New York Times reported that he held an April 20 fundraiser for Republican Ted Cruz, a Texas senator and candidate for the Republican nomination for president.  . . . The community objected to Reisner and Weiderpass taking money from their LGBT customers and giving it to anti-LGBT right-wingers.

Cruz and Johnson are associated with the Tea Party movement and are anti-LGBT. Both oppose same-sex marriage and both voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2013.

Reisner and Weiderpass did not respond to requests for comment. 

Let the boycotts continue!!

Jeb Bush's Middle East Policy No Different from Idiot Brother's

For almost 15 years now, America has been plagued by a never ending disaster in the Middle East that was launched for the most part by the lies and deceit of George W. Bush and Emperor Palpatine Cheney.   In short, they and their advisers took America to war in Iraq based on deliberate lies and a fantasy world view of how their fool's errand would play out.  Thousands of Americans - and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - paid with literally their lives and/or ruined lives and America was partially bankrupted.  Enter Jeb "Jebbie" Bush and his ego driven desire to be president.  Terrifyingly, Jebbie's view of the Middle East and his would be policies would likely be a carbon copy of his idiot brother's disastrous policies.  Jebbie and the recycled advisers he has assembled from his brother's failed regime have learned nothing from the last 15 years.  This alone disqualifies the man from ever occupying the White House.  The Washington Post looks at the concern of even Republicans who revel in killing Muslims have over Jebbie's would be policies.  Here are excerpts:

When Jeb Bush stepped up onto the fabled soapbox at the Iowa State Fair on Friday, fairgoers pelted him with questions about the legacy of his brother, a former president. And his father, another former president. And one of his foreign policy advisers, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the architect of his brother’s war in Iraq. And about the war itself.

Under a blazing sun, Bush expressed irritation with what he called “the parlor game” of focusing on Wolfowitz and other past Bush administration advisers who have resurfaced for this Bush campaign.

This was supposed to be the week when Bush would finally lay out his own thoughts on how to combat the Islamic State terror group and put Hillary Rodham Clinton on the defensive — and wrest himself from his family legacy in the process. But over several days, it has become evident that his ideas on the subject are remarkably similar to George W. Bush’s ideas and that he firmly believes that Democrats — not his brother — deserve the blame for the unrest in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

His new struggles with the issue also come as he is fading in polls and being drowned out by the angry outsiders dominating the race.

According to Bush this week, the removal of Saddam Hussein from power “turned out to be a pretty good deal.” The 2007 troop surge was “an extraordinarily effective” strategy. By the time his brother left office, he said, the “mission was accomplished” in Iraq because security had been restored.

Bush also said he won’t rule out waterboarding in the interrogation of terrorism suspects, although he added, “I do think in general that torture is not appropriate.”

He said it might be necessary to deploy more U.S. forces to both Iraq and Syria — and that troops already on the ground should be embedded more closely with local forces.

Democrats are eager to exploit Bush’s remarks this week to remind voters of his family ties. During a town hall in Dubuque, Iowa, on Friday afternoon, Clinton took aim at Bush’s criticism of her, noting that his brother signed an agreement as president to withdraw combat troops from the country by 2011.   I do think that it’s a little bit surprising to hear Jeb Bush talk about this,” she said. “He expects the American people to have a collective case of amnesia.”

Most Americans still believe the Iraq war was a mistake and are opposed to new military engagement — making Jeb Bush’s approach to national security risky.

Carl Owens, a hog farmer, stood off to the side taking in the scene.  “I don’t know if he’s like his brother and dad or not,” said Owens, 59. “I wasn’t too happy with them. Mr. Bush, the last president, look at the mess he got the United States into over there where we shouldn’t have been. Kind of like the Vietnam War. We shouldn’t have been there.”

Mr. Owens, the hog farmer has clearer vision than Jebbie.  And if anyone is playing "parlor games" it is Jebbie and his delusional advisers - except their games involve throwing away more American lives. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Donald Trump: The Last Whimper of the Angry White Man

The Republican Party is at war with modernity.   The GOP wasn't always this way, but with the hijacking of the party base by the Christofascists and the Tea Party (which is largely Christofascists masquerading under a different label), modernity itself became the enemy.  Throw in angry white males who feel their once unchallenged privilege is under attack - by women, gays, racial minorities, and non-Christians., etc - and one has the  recipe for the insanity of today's Republican Party.  Enter Donald Trump to the stage with racist sound bites and other verbal diarrhea and one gets a surge for the Donald in the polls.  A piece in Salon looks at the sickness of the GOP and why Trump represents a dying gasp of angry white males.  Here are highlights:

Now that the first Republican debate is more than a week behind us, we should pause for a moment’s reflection on what we’ve learned about the party, its candidates and its electorate. If taken seriously, this question suggests others about the state of our national political media. None of the answers are very edifying, much less comforting.

Having entered the race in mid-June with a speech in which he implied that the Mexican government was targeting our Southern border with wave-upon-wave of “rapists” and other miscreants, Trump stayed the course with a luxurious blast of invective, a bloom of rhetorical fisticuffs that suggested a forensic version of Charles Sumner’s 1856 caning on the floor of the Senate.

Everyone agreed a crescendo of some sort was reached on the morning after the debate, when Trump, having tangled the night before with moderator (and Fox News anchor) Megyn Kelly, seemed to suggest that her “silly questions” were prompted by menstrual cramps.

Two facts about all this deserve special notice. The first is that the tenor of Trump’s rhetoric has been directly related to the trend in his poll numbers — the wilder and harsher the former, the higher he has climbed in the latter. The second is the desperate (and largely futile) struggle of our political media to make some sense of the first fact. 

When you repeatedly get something wrong, you need an explanation  . . . . that explanation is the meme, repeated ad taedium if not ad nauseam, that the GOP base likes Trump because he seems as angry as it is. His pugnacious manner, his willingness to insult opponents — or just anyone who disagrees with him — his brusque tone and dismissive gestures: All these things, we’re told, are like catnip to the Republican faithful. Mostly older and white and male, and wholly pissed-off, these folks are tired of namby-pamby politicians who whine about “bipartisan solutions” and want to find ways to “work with the other side.”

As explanations go, this one isn’t completely off-track. It does get one (very important) thing right: the GOP base is mad as hell. But as a theory of Republican politics, it’s sort of like attempts to attribute the Napoleonic Wars to Bonaparte’s shame over his small stature. There has to be something more than anger at work in the GOP, because anger alone doesn’t explain the distinctive shape of its obsessions. The real question is this: What is it angry about?

Donald Trump is, in a sense, the perfect candidate for our political media. He is the culmination of the effort to divorce politics from thought, to depict it as simply a moment of neurotic display. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine that Trump really has no political ideas at all, outside of the conviction, common among the exploiting class, that government should always conduct itself in such a way as to maximize the value of his assets. Trump’s campaign is the latest episode in a life devoted to an endless exhibitionism: . . . 

Trump is a self-promoter of genius, so it is no coincidence that he structured his campaign around a series of insults directed at Hispanics, a Vietnam-era POW, the Bush dynasty, and women. Each of these targets represents an actor of special significance in the haunted passion play that is the Tea Party mind.  

A political party shapes its electorate as it shapes itself. The GOP as it exists today is the legacy of decisions made 50 years ago in the wake of white Southern reaction to the civil rights movement. To make itself attractive to the millions of voters suddenly unmoored from their century-long allegiance to the Democratic Party, Republicans adopted a darker, harsher version of conservative politics. They would no longer combine a pragmatic acceptance of the modern state with a cautious, realistic assessment of its limitations and delusions. The state engineered by progressive Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt and New Deal Democrats . . . .  was an abomination to be destroyed.

Today’s Republican electorate — mostly white and male, and clustered in the small towns of the Midwest and, especially, the South — is the electorate you get when this is the message you preach for half a century. It consists of the ever diminishing numbers of people who continue to find it compelling. But however implausible it may seem to the rest of us, this dark vision of modernity as essentially a kind of heresy is the source of the Tea Party’s rage. It has an idea of what the world should look like, and it is shocked and horrified by the distance of that idea from the reality it detects all around it.

Central to that idea is the concept of dispossession. As I have argued before, the deeply Protestant roots of Southern revanchism posit a world in which rightful authority belongs to white heterosexual males who have, through fortitude and invention, wrested wealth from the detritus of a fallen world. The men of the Tea Party experience modern life as one continuous assault on this birthright.

The GOP base is indeed angry, but its anger is not some free-floating tantrum. It is an expression of a particular worldview, one that sees modern life as a deliberate, willful, well-designed effort to divest the virtuous white remnant of its privileges and to shower these on the unworthy and unholy. 

This merely perpetuates the long, sorry story of the GOP’s relations with its fabled “base.” The Tea Party and its predecessors — the John Birchers and the White Citizens Councils, the Goldwaterites, the Reaganites, the Moral Majority, the “Contract With America” crowd and the Christian Coalition — have a history of bestowing their loyalty on politicians, and on a party, whose interest in them is more strategic than principled.  . . . Donald Trump, scourge of the elites, hammer of the modern world, is merely the latest avatar in a long line of failed gods.

The High Economic Price of Rejecting the Iran Deal

In its quest to pander to the ignorance embracing party base, Republicans continually reject objective reality and ignore the fact that the United States cannot unilaterally force other nations to dance to its tune.   Should such an attempt be made if the U.S. Senate rejects the agreement negotiated with Iran to control that nation's nuclear program, the economic consequences for America could be severe, not to mention the cost involved of alienating needed allies.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this reality that ought to outweigh GOP desires to pander to it base that revels in killing Muslims as it clings to a delusional myth of American exceptionalism.  Here are column highlights:

Those calling on Congress to scrap the [Iran] deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality.

To be sure, the United States does have tremendous economic influence. But it was not this influence alone that persuaded countries across Europe and Asia to join the current sanction policy, one that required them to make costly sacrifices, curtail their purchases of Iran’s oil, and put Iran’s foreign reserves in escrow. They joined us because we made the case that Iran’s nuclear program was an uncontained threat to global stability and, most important, because we offered a concrete path to address it diplomatically — which we did.

If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.

The simple fact is that, after two years of testing Iran in negotiations, the international community does not believe that ramping up sanctions will persuade Iran to eradicate all traces of its hard-won civil nuclear program or sever its ties to its armed proxies in the region. Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.

Indeed, they would more likely blame us for walking away from a credible solution to one of the world’s greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran. Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world.

Some critics nevertheless argue that we can force the hands of these countries by imposing powerful secondary sanctions against those that refuse to follow our lead.

But that would be a disaster. The countries whose cooperation we need — including those in the European Union, China, Japan, India and South Korea, as well as the companies and banks that handle their oil purchases and hold foreign reserves — are among the largest economies in the world. If we were to cut them off from the American dollar and our financial system, we would set off extensive financial hemorrhaging, not just in our partner countries but in the United States as well.

The major importers of Iranian oil — China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — together account for nearly a fifth of our goods exports and own 47 percent of foreign-held American treasuries. They will not agree to indefinite economic sacrifices in the name of an illusory better deal. We should think very seriously before threatening to cripple the largest banks and companies in these countries. . . . . not to mention the economic aftershocks and the inevitable retaliation.

The deal we reached last month is strong, unprecedented and good for America, with all the key elements the international community demanded to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Congress should approve this deal and ignore critics who offer no alternative.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

Kentucky High School Removes Gay Basketball Player from Yearbook Page

The sheer pettiness and mean spiritedness of the "godly folk" at times seems to know no bounds.  The gratuitous slights and insults that they direct towards LGBT individuals leaves one's mouth open in stunned disbelief.  Especially when the targets of such hate filled behavior is directed at the children of gays or LGBT Teens.  Betsy Layne High School in rural Kentucky provides us a recent glimpse at the ugliness of the "godly folk" and just how cruel they can be.  (In the spotlight of negative national media coverage, the high school claims it did not remove the gay player from the year book pages, but obviously, he was not magically removed himself).  Out Sports looks at the sad situation. 
Betsy Layne High School in rural Kentucky this year had a two-page yearbook spread that featured all of the seniors on the boys basketball team. Except, one senior was left out of the tribute: Dalton Maldonado, the team's starting point guard who came out publicly as gay a couple months ago.

This is the latest slap in the face of Maldonado and the entire LGBT community by a high school administration that simply won't accept that one of its star athletes is gay and was harassed for his sexual orientation by an opposing basketball team last December. The school's yearbook has omitted its starting senior point guard from the senior boys basketball tribute page in the yearbook, a deeply insulting blow to an athlete who has contributed to his school.

Maldonado is, in fact, missing entirely from the page's call-out list of players (even including underclassmen)

Maldonado confirmed with Outsports that each of the other players on the bottom of the page was a senior, and that he is the only player omitted from the page. He commented on Facebook about his omission from the yearbook tribute page, and other actions the school has taken to marginalize him and his story:
Then I had a person [affiliated] with the school tell me what they had learned about the school attempting to cover up the whole story. I recently saw my senior yearbook, I flipped right to the sports basketball page only to find my senior basketball picture missing...which devastated me.
The school has repeatedly refused to answer questions or disputed what Maldonado has claimed, despite various eye witnesses confirming that Maldonado was targeted by anti-gay harassment.

Maldonado has shared stories of discrimination by the school for the last few months, so it shouldn't be a surprise that people at Betsy Layne High School may demonstrate deep-seated homophobia by excluding him from such an important honor for recent high school graduates.

It's pretty disgusting. Principal Cassandra Akers and her staff need to answer to questions about the exclusion of Maldonado from such an important piece of the high school experience of Maldonado and so many other high school athletes.

Thankfully, Maldonado has found support from LGBT people and supporters both in and outside his hometown. This fall he will attend the University of Louisville, which already has provided him with a support structure.
This bigotry is beyond sick.  As noted previously, when I hear someone bloviating about their Christian faith or over hear them making homophobic remarks, I simply write them off as horrible, nasty people.  Thankfully, others appear to be doing likewise.  It's no coincidence that 34% of Millennials have walked away from organized religion, which in the USA means that they have walked away from Christian denominations.  As for Betsy Layne High School, the administrators involved in this bigotry need to be summarily fired.

Federal Judge Orders Anti-Gay Kentucky Clerk To Issue Marriage Licenses

One pattern that we see over and over again is that of Christofascists viewing themselves as above the law.  In their warped mindset, clinging to myths and legends based on the writings of ignorant Bronze Age herders is more important than complying with the civil laws of the United States of America.  One of the current poster children for this phenomenon is Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk of Court, who believes she can ignore the duties of her position and give the figurative middle finger to a federal court because of her "deeply held religious beliefs" that rely on 2000 year old myths.  As The New Civil Rights Movement reports,  Davis has been ordered by the federal district court to issue marriage licenses to all applicants, gay or straight. She has decided to basically tell the court to go f*ck itself.  If there was ever a case where someone needs to be lead off to jail for contempt of court, it is Ms. Davis.  The irony, of course is that while she claims to be constrained by her religious beliefs,  she hasn't respected the "sanctity of marriage" that she now pretends to be protecting.  Here are story highlights:  
U.S. District Judge David Bunning granted a preliminary injunction today against Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk who stopped issuing all marriage licenses after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. Ms. Davis, who claims a religious objection to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was sued by the ACLU on behalf of both gay and straight couples who were inconvenienced by her stance. Ms. Davis then sued the Governor who told all the state's rebelling clerks to get back to work, for violating her religious rights.

Judge Bunning found Ms. Davis has no legal right to object on religious grounds and ordered her to begin to issue licenses immediately, writing:
"Davis is bound by her duties as a public servant to obey the law. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County clerk," Bunning wrote."
 Davis needs to be placed in jail for contempt of court plain and simple. But the "rest of the story" is that she has been encouraged to defy the federal court's order by Mat Staver and the other extremists at Liberty Counsel.  Joe My God has details on this part of the story:
On Thursday, deputy clerk Nathan Davis, Kim Davis’ son, said the office was advised by attorneys with the Christian law firm Liberty Counsel to continue refusing same-sex couples as it appeals the order that was filed Wednesday. They told David Moore and his partner David Ermold, who showed up as soon as the doors opened, that they were not issuing marriage licenses. Davis’ attorneys at Liberty Counsel were not available for comment Thursday. They told WKYT they were in a prayer meeting.
My question is a simple one: when the Hell is Staver's law license going to be revoked.  If anyone else engaged in such conduct, the state bar would more against them so fast their head would be spinning. Are we yet again witnessing undue deference and special rights being afforded to those who hide behind "religious belief" to flout the law. I say, disbar Staver.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Why the Rise of Trump Means Death for the GOP

As other blog posts on this blog have noted, the rise of Donald Trump in GOP polls is the natural consequence of the positions and mentality the Republican Party have consciously embraced over the last decades: logic, reason and a respect for science and knowledge have been cast out the window while ignorance, religious extremism, homophobia, bigotry and racism have been embraced.  Although the way, moderates have fled the party and the insanity of the Christofascists and white supremacists who were welcomed into the party have become a metastasizing cancer that now appears beyond a cure.  An opinion piece in the Washington Post looks at why the rise of Trump means death to the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
“Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. States in which [GOP] presidential candidates used to win, such as New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida, are increasingly voting Democratic. 

“Public perception of the party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents, and many minorities … think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at [Republicans], they are not likely to open their ears to [them].

“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. [It has] become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly [it has] lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with [Republicans] on every issue.

With minor editing on my part for dramatic effect, those words were lifted directly from the “Growth & Opportunity Project.” You know it as the GOP autopsy of its 2012 presidential loss. 
The message and prescriptions of the 99-page report have been ringing in my ears ever since Donald Trump insulted his way to the top of the polls for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. The bloviating Big Apple billionaire builder is the antithesis of what the vital two-year-old document calls for.

GOP primary voters say they are gravitating to Trump because he “tells it like it is.” After he branded Mexicans crossing the southern border as “rapists,” his poll numbers went up. After he slurred the Vietnam captivity of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his numbers went up. After saying, “Only Rosie O’Donnell,” in response to a question about his calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,” he was met with thunderous applause.

The only person to echo the ethos of the GOP autopsy was Ohio Gov. John Kasich. When asked by Megyn Kelly how he would explain his opposition to same-sex marriage if he had a gay or lesbian child, Kasich gave a pitch-perfect answer.

[T]he GOP was already doing a horrible job of meeting the goals in the autopsy before Trump joined the Gang of 17. But with each ugly utterance, the Republican frontrunner pushes the party further and further away from its worthy goal. To the delight of the GOP base (and more than a few giddy Democrats), Trump has brought bread and circuses to the Republican Party by employing the chaos of reality television to the election of the leader of the free world.  

The hate-fueled self-immolation of the GOP would be a laugh riot were the consequences not so dire. Our democracy depends on a thriving two-party system where competing parties and the voices within each vigorously debate ideas and then reach the reasonable compromises needed to govern an enterprise as important as the United States. Since 2010, the Republican Party has succumbed to its basest voices for short-term political gain. Compromise became a dirty word. Lies were peddled as truth and never corrected by those who knew better.  

Autopsies are done on dead things. Trump’s rise is further proof that plans for a more inclusive and welcoming GOP for 2016 are DOA.   

South Carolina's Herald: Challenge of Gay Marriage Ruling was Futile

Republican politicians consistently prostitute themselves to the Christofascists in the party base by embracing every anti-gay measure that comes down the pike no matter how wrong it may be or how wastefully of state funds the eventual legal battles to preserve religious based discrimination may be.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson are but two examples.  With South Carolina now under court order to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs in that state's battle against gay marriage bans, the editorial board of the Herald has let loose on Haley and Wilson's waste of taxpayer money merely to pander to religious extremists.  Here are editorial highlights: 
The decision by Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson to launch a futile challenge to a federal appeals court ruling on gay marriage turned out to be costly for state taxpayers. And that came as no surprise to the many legal experts who had advised against the challenge.

[F]our of those states [in the 4th Circuit] announced they would stop defending challenges to the state’s gay-marriage ban. But Haley and Wilson took the opposite tack, pledging to fight on for South Carolina’s ban.

A variety of legal experts said at the time that continuing the fight would be a waste of the state’s time and money. They said the effort was doomed to fail, and they were right.

In October the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the 4th Circuit ruling to stand. Then, in late June, the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

And last week the bill came due for South Carolina. A federal judge ordered Wilson to pay $130,600 in legal fees for a couple who challenged the state’s gay-marriage ban. Judge Richard Gergel also awarded them the full $4,700 they sought in other court costs and fees.

This, of course, does not account for the time and money Wilson and his office spent on the challenge – resources that could have been used for something worthwhile.

Read more here:

Read more here:
What is more irksome is that the state’s case was hopeless from the start. Wilson was under no obligation to carry the challenge forward. He could have dropped it, as his North Carolina counterpart, Attorney General Roy Cooper, did.

By all appearances, the appeal was little more than an effort to appease opponents of gay marriage in the state. It was a political decision, not a practical one, and taxpayers had to pay for the charade. 

While their no-surrender stance might have resonated with a segment of voters, it was an unnecessary and expensive gesture.  For politicians who claim to be careful stewards of the state’s resources, this was money down the drain.

Read more here:
Taxpayers ought to demand that Haley and Wilson personally reimburse the state for the moneys they needlessly squandered. 

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

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Birthday Reflections

Today is my birthday and is often the case I found myself reflecting on life in general, the past, present and what the future may hold.  Topping off the day was a "small dinner get together" that the husband said he had put together at the Hampton Yacht Club )above is a view from the upstairs dining room).  That "small" group numbered twenty five (25) people including the two of us and included very dear gay friends and some of our amazing straight ally friends, including some of his long time clients.   Indeed, one might describe these individuals as our "extended family."

Looking back to my first birthday after I had "come out" and moved out of the home I used to live in with my former wife, the contrast could not be more stark.  Back then, I knew almost no one, was still closeted at work, and as I recall had dinner with my youngest daughter but knew no on else and had overall a very depressing day.   Now, I am out at work and socially and I have almost too many friends to count.  Time and perseverance does make a difference.   But the biggest thing that I did was get involved in LGBT community groups.  Co-founding HRBOR and getting involved literally changed my life. 

For those who find themselves where I was in those dark and bleak days that predated this blog, I cannot stress enough the need to get involved.  People are not going to flock to you.  You need to find ways to meet them, and not just in gay bars or on Grindr or similar dating/hook up sites.  Is it awkward and uncomfortable at times putting yourself out there?  Most assuredly, but the pay offs can be remarkable. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Democrats Target Virginia in Push to End Voter Disenfranchisement

I have long bemoaned the Virginia GOP's effort to disenfranchise voters that they fear will not vote for its Kool-Aid drinking candidates: voter ID to stop non-existent voter fraud and gerrymandered districts have been the Virginia GOP's primary tools to toward trying to rig elections.  Now, national Democrats as well see the obscenity of Virginia's efforts to maintain the voting strength of the dwindling angry white voters.  As a result, as a piece in the Washington Post describes, Virginia is to be targeted as part of a wider effort to roll back GOP voter disenfranchisement efforts.  Here are article excerpts:

After Tracey Bell tried to register to vote in Virginia last year, she got a letter in the mail saying her citizenship was in doubt and she would have to pay $10 to prove it. Confused and annoyed, Bell ranted on Facebook.

It was the rare Facebook rant that actually led to government action. A friend put her in touch with the Virginia Democratic Party, which connected her to a lawyer who explained that she had forgotten to check a box confirming her citizenship. She fixed it — and a year later, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is pushing to have the box requirement eliminated.

Both the lawyer and the governor are participating in a national Democratic effort to expand turnout that could make or break presidential election results in highly competitive states — and Virginia is a key target.

According to voting rights activists, 15 states with 162 electoral votes face new voting restrictions in 2016. Because of a 2013 Supreme Court decision overturning part of the 50-year-old Voting Rights Act, next year’s presidential election will be the first in which Southern states, including Virginia, will not be required to have election-law changes approved by federal authorities.

Democrats are hoping to bring in new voters across the country by breaking down barriers to voting through legal challenges, regulatory changes and grass-roots organizing. In Virginia, the only battleground presidential state that also has elections this year, Democrats are working closely with their national counterparts to expand the electorate — testing ways, for instance, to work around voter-identification laws, narrower voting windows and other restrictions generally backed by Republicans.

McAuliffe’s proposal, however, is not certain to succeed. The state GOP has objected forcefully against the change in the voter-registration form. And on Tuesday, the head of the Virginia Board of Elections postponed action on the plan, saying it needs to be reworked.

The Virginia Republican Party says that voter-ID requirements are common-sense safeguards against fraud. 

State Democrats have formed a Voter Protection Council, working year-round with registrars, election officials and local parties to identify problems and publicize changes. They are identifying former felons and helping them get their rights restored, something McAuliffe has made easier.

The council is working on setting up a year-round hotline for voters to call in with questions. And Virginia Democrats plan to test a new model of the Democratic National Committee’s voter incident reporting system, a mobile application that logs problems at the polls. They want to improve volunteer coordination and sign up election officers earlier.

They are supporting lawsuits that would overturn the state’s voter-ID laws and redraw its congressional and legislative districts. At the same time, McAuliffe is leading a national effort to win governor’s seats in states that will draw new maps after 2020.

With a Republican-controlled legislature — and a Republican governor until 2014 — Virginia has voter-ID requirements that were made stricter in recent years. . . . In 2014, the then-Republican-controlled elections board ruled that the photo ID must be current or have expired within the past year. McAuliffe has since revamped the board with a Democratic majority.

“Virginia has been unique over the past few years because they have an election every year,” Pratt Wiley, national director of voter protection for the DNC. “There isn’t a state like Virginia . . . that is as appealing to be a testing ground and a proving ground.”

Fox News Created the Trump Monster

As so-called establishment Republicans continue to react with horror to Donald Trump's continued top spot in polls, they really need to look in the mirror id they want to see those responsible for Trump's rise.  They also need to look at Fox News - and many talk radio bloviators such as Rush Limbaugh - who they have allowed to make the embrace of ignorance and bigotry a virtue within the GOP base.  This GOP sponsored bubble or alternate universe is now catching up with the GOP and it may be difficult to push the party base back towards some semblance of grasping objective reality.  Trump is merely riding the crest of the wave that began with the welcoming of the Christofascists into the party and progressed with Fox News becoming one of the main GOP propaganda machines.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the creation of the atmosphere that Trump is now dominating.  Here are highlights:
[O]n Monday, two other post-debate polls came along showing that Trump is still going strong. So the results are interesting enough, and they track closely enough with other anecdotal evidence that’s made its way to my inbox, that it’s certainly worth asking: What if Trump is still clobbering the rest of the GOP field?

If he is, we’re at a very interesting politico-cultural moment: The moment when, to a sizeable portion of the GOP electorate, Fox News stopped being their warrior and instead became just another arm of the lamestream media. If that’s true, everything we’ve known and assumed about our political divide is now moot, and we’re flying totally blind. The Republican Party has unleashed furies it can no longer remotely control.

He [Trump] gained that point even though poll respondents said by a huge margin that he lost the debate (29 percent called him the loser; next closest was Rand Paul at 14 percent). Ted Cruz gained seven points, going from 6 to 13 percent. Ben Carson gained three points, moving from 8 to 11 percent. Marco Rubio stayed flat at 8 percent, and Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, the other “first-tier” candidates, finished in the cellar, losing three points each.

So add it up. The Tasmanian Devil candidate who’s obviously tapping into deep right-wing anti-establishment anger and the two other most extreme candidates combine for 47 percent. The two who in my view you can reasonably call quasi- or comparatively moderate, Kasich and Bush, combine to hit 9 percent.

We’re used to this kind of rhetoric when conservatives volley it in the direction of The New York Times and CNN. But what are we to make of it when the target is Fox?

Two things. First, if I’m right about this and other polls back all this up, this process is officially beyond anyone’s ability to predict. Ignore all “surely this will finally start Trump’s downfall” stories, and all positive Jeb! stories. And is Cruz soon-to-be first tier? . . . . And Carson! It’s not like he comes out of nowhere. They’ve been selling his first book by the truckful in Christian bookstores for years . . . And don’t ignore what an extremist he is: In his more recent book, which I actually read, he sincerely questioned whether citizens who pay no net income tax should have the right to vote—“Serious problems arise when a person who pays nothing has the right to vote and determine what other people are paying.”

The second thing we’re to make of this is that Fox and the Republican Party have created this new reality. When you spend years nodding and winking and yuk-yuking about the President’s birth certificate, how can you be surprised when the guy who has repeatedly demanded to see it turns out to be really popular with your base? You promote a politics that attacks women not merely for having abortions but for wanting to use contraception, and then you’re shocked when your hard-shell voting base turns out not to be overly offended by remarks like Trump’s?

Indeed Roger Ailes recognized all this when he decided to make nice with Trump on Monday.
The Republican Party and Fox permitted and encouraged Trumpian vitriol for years. All that talk over the years about birth certificates and Kenya and terrorist fist-jabs (remember that one?!) and the moocher class and the scary brown people and all the rest of it...all of it created a need for a Trump, and for other Trump-like candidates, to flourish. Now it threatens to overtake them. If they’re wondering who created Trumpism, I have someplace they can look. The mirror.

Very true and very well said.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tuesday Male Beauty

Dozens of Retired Generals and Admirals Back Iran Nuclear Deal

While the Republican presidential candidates - few if any of whom served in the military - are condemning the Iran nuclear deal, dozens of retired generals and admirals are supporting the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration.  They, unlike the GOP base and the architects of the failed Iraq War, don't revel in murdering Muslims and throwing away the lives of American military members.  The Washington Post looks at the letter submitted by the retired generals and admirals (read the letter here).  Here are article highlights:

Three dozen retired generals and admirals released an open letter Tuesday supporting the Iran nuclear deal and urging Congress to do the same.

Calling the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” the letter said that gaining international support for military action against Iran, should that ever become necessary, “would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance.”

The release came as Secretary of State John F. Kerry said U.S. allies were “going to look at us and laugh” if the United States were to abandon the deal and then ask them to back a more aggressive posture against Iran.

Not only would U.S. global credibility be undermined, Kerry said, but the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency would be threatened.

[T]here’s a huge antipathy out there” to U.S. leadership. Pointing to efforts by Russia and China to join forces with rising, non-aligned powers, he said that “there’s a big bloc out there, folks, that isn’t just sitting around waiting for the United States to tell them what to do.”

[H]e [John Kerry] painted a harsh picture of the results of U.S. rejection. Allies would refuse to retain sanctions or impose new ones, or join in possible military action, he said.

The letter from the retired military officers followed the release this past weekend of a letter to Obama by 29 of the nation’s leading scientists, who called the Iran deal “technically sound, stringent and innovative,” and said it would “provide the necessary assurance in the coming decade and more that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.”

Signers of the military letter include retired general and flag officers from every branch of service. They include four-star Marine Gens. James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Joseph P. Hoar, former head of the U.S. Central Command; and Gens. Merrill McPeak and Lloyd W. Newton of the Air Force.

“There is no better option to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon,” the letter said. “Military action would be less effective than the deal, assuming it is fully implemented. If the Iranians cheat, our advanced technology, intelligence and the inspections will reveal it, and U.S. military options remain on the table.”

“And if the deal is rejected by America,” it said, “the Iranians could have a nuclear weapon within a year. The choice is that stark.”

Retired Navy Rear Adm. Harold L. Robinson, a rabbi and former naval chaplain who chairs the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, also signed.

Local Embarrassment, Pat Robertson Condemns Gay Accepting Churches

As I have often noted, barely a week or two goes by without some diarrhea of the mouth eruption by local embarrassment, Pat Robertson.  Typically, Robertson's favorite targets are gays and women who aspire for something more than being bare foot and pregnant in the home. As I have pondered before, when are his sons going to quietly slip their deranged father into a padded room?  In any event, Robertson is spewing animus towards gays yet again and condemning churches that are gay accepting.  Here are highlights from Huffington Post on Robertson's latest diarrhea of the mouth eruption:
The increasingly predictable Pat Robertson has no time for Christians who are accepting of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. 

The right-wing televangelist, who has been outspoken in regard to his deep opposition to LGBT rights, warned a "700 Club" viewer to "stay far away" from a church with an openly gay pastor this week, Right Wing Watch reports.
"It's an abomination for a man to lie with a man as with a woman," Robertson said. "There's no question about it, and to have a church saying it's not a sin, it's OK... they’re leading people down the road to perdition, which is a shame." He then concluded,  "If I were you, I’d stay far away from them."
The remarks, of course, are perfectly in line with Robertson's history. In July, he blasted the Supreme Court's June 25 ruling on same-sex marriage, arguing that the justices had used "faulty sociological grounds" in legalizing marriage equality.

"Watch what happens, love affairs between men and animals are going to be absolutely permitted," he said. "Polygamy, without question, is going to be permitted, and it will be called a right."

Earlier this year, he told a concerned mother to "pray that God will straighten out" her teenage lesbian daughter, who had recently come out of the closet.
The positive side of Robertson's batshitery - and that of his fellow hate merchants - is that he is driving more and more people from Christianity and hastening the day that it will be a minority religion.  That day in my view cannot come soon enough.

Clinton Aide Slams Jeb Bush on Iraq Statements

It takes real nerve - or perhaps stupidity - for Jeb Bush to try to criticize Hillary Clinton for the debacle in Iraq that was launched by his cretin brother George W. Bush, a/k/a the Chimperator on this blog, with no real plan for what would happen in the aftermath.  As readers will recall, Jebbie's idiot brother and Emperor Palpatine Cheney claimed that the Iraqi people would hail Americans as liberators, etc., etc.  None of that, of course happened.   Worse yet, many predicted the catastrophe that ultimately happened.  Despite all of this, Jebbie is now trying to blame Hillary for the rise of ISIS when in fact, it was the vacuum left by the removal of Saddam Hussein and the Sunni versus Shiite violence that actually gave rise to ISIS.  A piece in The Hill looks at a response directed to Jebbie's lies and nonsense.  Here are excerpts:
A senior policy aide for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday accused former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush of making a “bold attempt to rewrite history and reassign responsibility” on the Middle East.
Bush is expected to link Clinton to the growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a speech later Tuesday.
“It’s curious that Gov. Bush is choosing Iraq as the place he wants to engage the foreign policy debate,” Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s senior policy adviser, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.
“We’ve seen similar things from other Republican candidates — they cannot be allowed to escape responsibility for the real mistake here. They might hope we all forget but the American people remember.”
Sullivan accused the administration of George W. Bush, Jeb’s brother, of sending in too few troops, pushing out Sunnis that later became radicalized and adding to Iranian influence within the Iraqi government. 
He added that Bush, not President Obama, set the withdrawal date for U.S. forces in Iraq.
“It’s simply wrong to assert that ISIS arose from the vacuum after American troops left,” he said.
“ISIS grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq, and where did AQI come from? It didn’t exist before the invasion. It emerged in no small part as a result of President Bush’s failed strategy, and it gained strength by signing up former Sunni military officers, officers from the very army the Bush administration disbanded.”
Like his idiot brother, Jebbie is a lying douche bag.  Do we really want the brother of arguably one of America's  worse presidents in the nation's history in the White House - especially when he refuses to renounce his brother's errors that wasted thousands of American lives and billions and billions of dollars?

Back in Virginia - Reflections on the Past

The husband and I got back to our home in Virginia a short while ago and on the 11 hour drive home - it took 12 hours going north - I reflected on the long weekend and going back to a place that had held a special place in my heart for so many, many years.  I am no longer the closeted gay teen who desperately needed to try to reinvent himself in order to cope with school bullying and a never ending sense of being different.  And what I discovered over this weekend, one cannot recreate the past.  It's gone forever and many of those who played important roles have either died or moved on in their lives.  Yes, Brantingham Lake is still amazingly beautiful.  But the true magic that it once held for me is gone.  So many that I loved - my parents, one of my sisters, my grandparents and numerous aunts and uncles - are gone forever.  Hence the bitter sweetness of the visit.

Will I ever go back?  Probably not.  My husband got to see places that were a part of my past and very important in my former life and learn also some family history.  But my real take away from the long weekend - and I will admit, attempt to recapture the past - is that the real focus needs to be on the present and more importantly, the future.  As much as I will always love the family camp, in many ways it has become more of a museum to the past than a home. 

The camp from the water
I am blessed with a wonderful husband, three amazing children and now grandchildren.  Of equal importance is the fact that I have at long last achieved self-acceptance and do not need others - or things or money - to validate me.  All of us need be mindful of the past and respect our remarkable ancestors.  But the focus needs to be on the future.  The trip to Brantingham surprisingly was an unexpected reminder to me that home is where my husband is and with my children and grandchildren.

During my arduous coming out journey in mid-life, one of my fears was about the future which at the time seemed to be a black emptiness.  I clung to the past which was comfortable and familiar even though it was over and never to return.  What was once a black emptiness is now full with the husband, countless friends and a never ending whirl of social activities.  Getting to this point took a great deal of work, including throwing myself into organizations in order to meet new people and rebuild my world.  My advice to those coming out?  Focus on the future and let go of the past.  Don't forget the good of the past and honor it, but acknowledge that it is over.  Your life now belongs to the present and the future.  It took me far too long to figure this out.

Monday, August 10, 2015

More Monday Male Beauty

Swiss Gay Group Files Criminal Complaint Against Catholic Bishop for Bible Based Hate Speech

Get ready for shrieks and howls from American Christofascists as they point to a criminal complaint filed against a homophobic Swiss Roman Catholic Bishop who quoted the passage from Leviticus approving death as the penalty for gay sex and gay relationships.  I can already hear the claims that Christianity is being criminalized.  The gay rights group filing the complaint stated that  Bishop Vitus Huonder's statements amounted to incitement to violence against gays.  Just as disingenuously as a Republican presidential candidate claiming the his remarks were "misunderstood" Huonder issued a mealy mouthed "apology".   Newsweek has details.  Here are highlights:
A gay rights group has filed a criminal complaint against a Roman Catholic bishop after he quoted Bible verses calling for gay people to be killed and said the passage made clear what Church policy was on homosexuality.

Vitus Huonder, the Catholic Bishop of the city of Chur in eastern Switzerland, made the speech on 31 July, during a debate on marriage and family organised by the German Catholic Forum in Fulda, Germany.

His reading was followed by applause, before Huonder continued: "Both of these passages alone suffice to clarify unambiguously the church's position on homosexuality," according to a statement released by Pink Cross, an umbrella association for Swiss gay groups that is filing the complaint.

Pink Cross, supported by the Swiss Lesbian Organisation, argues that these comments amount to "inciting people to crime or violence," and handed a lawsuit to the public prosecutor of Canton Graubünden in eastern Switzerland on Monday. If found guilty, Huonder faces up to three years in prison.

Huonder has since issued an apology, saying his comments were misunderstood. "I am sorry if my 50 minute lecture in Fulda on 2 August 2015, which dealt with the biblical basis for marriage and family, was understood as diminishing homosexual people," 

Baumann says the group does not accept the bishop's apology. "There is no question in this case of what he was talking about—there was no misunderstanding. We don't need charity or mercy from the Church at all, we don't accept his apology."

It is not the first time Huonder's comments have landed him in trouble. Earlier this year he called for a priest in Switzerland to be sacked for blessing a lesbian couple, according to the UK-based online newspaper Pink News.

Why Donald Trump Isn't Going Away any Time Soon

Despite his war with Megan Kelly, Donald Trump remains at the top of the GOP candidate polls.  As a piece in Slate notes, Trump is tapping into a phenomenon seen in other western democracies where those most adverse to social change - and immigration - have rallied around non-traditional political parties and politicians as a way of voicing their discontent and in some cases modernity itself.   Much of the GOP base falls within this description and seemingly is only too ready to support someone who wears racism on his sleeve and blasts the political establishment that these people view as having allowed the changes that the despise.  For years now the GOP has fanned the flames of resentment and hostility to those not fitting the white conservative Christian mold.  Now the GOP may be reaping the whirlwind it has helped to create.  Here are article highlights:

To understand the rise of Donald Trump, you’d do well not to fixate on the fact that he’s running under the Republican banner. During Thursday night’s Fox News debate, Trump made it clear that failing to secure the GOP nomination wouldn’t stop him from exploring an independent candidacy. And honestly, he’d be crazy not to. Trump is very far from a Republican regular. He represents an entirely different phenomenon, one that bears little resemblance to garden-variety American conservatism. That’s why Republicans shouldn’t fool themselves into believing that one lackluster debate performance will send him packing.

Go to almost any European democracy and you will find that the parties of the center-right and center-left that have dominated the political scene since the Second World War are losing ground to new political movements. What these movements have in common is that they manage to blend populism and nationalism into a potent anti-establishment brew. 

So what does any of this have to do with Trump? As a political outsider, Trump has the freedom to say or do almost anything. While every other Republican on stage Thursday night made an effort to demonstrate their conservative bona fides, justifying this or that heresy by invoking the Bill of Rights or the memory of the sainted Ronald Reagan, Trump had no compunction about breaking with ideological orthodoxy. When asked about his past support for a Canadian-style single-payer health system, Trump didn’t back down. Instead of repudiating his past position, or apologizing for it, he said that “as far as single-payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here.”

Why didn’t Trump reverse himself? It could be that he recognizes that there are many GOP voters who are just as passionate about defending Medicare as they are about protecting America’s borders, and that the prospect of Medicare-for-all might not faze them. Or it could be that he realizes that the forces that have pushed him to the top of the GOP primary fight are far bigger than just the Republican Party, and he need not toe the line to keep his candidacy alive.  

Monday Morning Male Beauty

The Dangers of Turning Police Officers into Revenue Generators

I have long believed that we have far too many police officers who due to temperament, racism, and general bigotry have absolutely no business wearing a badge and carrying a gun.  It is a recipe for disaster and the result is that we see more and more unarmed individuals - especially blacks and other minorities - abused, mistreated and all too often killed.  Lurking behind all of this is a factor that is often overlooked: as cities and municipalities have faced budget shortfalls, the police have been used to generate cash flow by increasingly stopping and ticketing people so that revenues from the fines and court fees help finance the municipality.  The result is that police are on the hunt for those they can stop and ticket in order to keep the desperately needed cash rolling in.  This allows politicians - typically Republicans - to boast that they have not raised taxes as court fines and fees help close deficits and fund the police and court systems. A piece in Mother Jones looks at the perverse and dangerous situation.  Here are highlights:
In April, several days after North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager stopped Walter Scott for a busted taillight and then fatally shot him, the usual cable-news transmogrification of victim into superpredator ran into problems. The dash cam showed Scott being pulled over while traveling at a nerdy rate of speed, using his left turn signal to pull into a parking lot and having an amiable conversation with Slager until he realized he'd probably get popped for nonpayment of child support. At which point he bolted out of the car and hobbled off. Slager then shot him. Why didn't the cop just jog up and grab him? Calling what the obese 50-year-old Scott was doing "running" really stretches the bounds of literary license.

But maybe the question to ask is: Why did Scott run? The answer came when the New York Times revealed Scott to be a man of modest means trapped in an exhausting hamster wheel: He would get a low-paying job, make some child support payments, fall behind on them, get fined, miss a payment, get jailed for a few weeks, lose that job due to absence, and then start over at a lower-paying job. From all apparent evidence, he was a decent schlub trying to make things work in a system engineered to make his life miserable and recast his best efforts as criminal behavior.

Slager had a record for gratuitously using his Taser. Timothy Leohmann, who leapt from his car and instantly killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, had been deemed "weepy" and unable to "emotionally function" by a supervisor at his previous PD job, who added: "I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies." Ferguson's Darren Wilson was also fired from his previous job—actually, the entire police force of Jennings, Missouri, was disbanded for being awful.

When you ask why such "bad" cops are nevertheless armed and allowed to patrol the streets, one begins to see that lurking beneath this violence is a fiscal menace: police departments forced to assist city officials in raising revenue, in many cases funding their own salaries—redirecting the very concept of keeping the peace into underwriting the budget.

We saw a glimpse of this when the Justice Department released its report on Ferguson in March.  . . . . Even as he was jailing black ladies for parking tickets, Brockmeyer was allegedly erasing citations for white Ferguson residents who happened to be his friends. After the report's publication, he resigned so that Ferguson could "begin its healing process."

But consider: In 2010, this collaboration between the Ferguson police and the courts generated $1.4 million in income for the city. This year, they will more than double that amount—$3.1 million—providing nearly a quarter of the city's $13 million budget, almost all of it extracted from its poorest African American citizens.

Evidence also suggests that this new form of raising revenue—policiteering?—goes far beyond Ferguson. . . .  "Essentially, these small towns in urban areas have municipal infrastructure that can't be supported by the tax base, and so they ticket everything in sight to keep the town functioning," said William Maurer, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice who has been studying the sudden rise in "nontraffic-related fines."

Take the St. Louis suburb of Pagedale, where, among other Norman Rockwell-worthy features deemed illegal, "you can't have a hedge more than three feet high," Maurer says. "You can't have a basketball hoop or a wading pool in front of a house. You can't have a dish antenna on the front of your house. You can't walk on the roadway if there is a sidewalk, and if there is not a sidewalk, they must walk on the left side of the roadway. They must walk on the right of the crosswalk. They can't conduct a barbecue in the front yard and can't have an alcoholic beverage within 150 feet of a barbecue. Kids cannot play in the street. They also have restrictions against pants being worn below the waist in public. Cars must be within 500 feet of a lamp or a source of illumination during nighttime hours. Blinds must be neatly hung in respectable appearance, properly maintained, and in a state of good repair."

A different strategy in San Diego simply tacks on various fees to an existing fine. A 2012 Union Tribune investigation revealed that while speeding is a simple $35 fine, other government agencies can tack on as many as 10 other surcharges, including: a state penalty assessment, $40; county penalty assessment, $36; court construction, $20; state surcharge, $8; DNA identification, $16; criminal conviction fee, $35; court operations, $40; emergency medical air transportation penalty, $4; and night court, $1. When it's all said and done, that $35 ticket comes to $235.

There is still no comprehensive study to determine just how many cities pay their bills by indenturing the poor, but it is probably no coincidence that when you examine the recent rash of police killings, you find that the offenses they were initially stopped for were preposterously minor. 

"Once the system is primed for maximizing revenue—starting with fines and fine enforcement," Holder said apropos Ferguson, "the city relies on the police force to serve, essentially, as a collection agency for the municipal court rather than a law enforcement entity."

In Alabama, a circuit court judge, Hub Harrington, wrote a blistering opinion three years ago asserting that the Shelby County Jail had become a kind of "debtors' prison" and that the court system had devolved into a "judicially sanctioned extortion racket."  
When the poor come to understand that they are likely to be detained and fined for comically absurd crimes, it can't be a surprise to the police that their officers are viewed with increasing distrust. In this environment, running away from a cop is not an act of suspicion; it's common sense.

[W]hen budgetary whims replace peacekeeping as the central motivation of law enforcement, who is more likely to write up more tickets, the good cop or the crummy one? When the mission of the entire department shifts from "protect and serve" to "punish and profit," then just what constitutes good police?