Saturday, April 02, 2016

Utah’s Hypocritical War on Porn

A favorite pass time of mine on this blog is focusing on hypocrisy.  Nowhere does hypocrisy intersect more than with conservative strains of religion and politicians who sell their souls to religious zealots and extremists.  Typically, hypocrisy is at its highest in the Bible Belt where despite feigned religiosity, one finds the highest divorce rates, the most teen pregnancies, the highest effort to slash the social safety net, and high Internet porn usage.  But there is another state where one sees similar hypocrisy: Utah, home of the Mormon Church where Internet porn usage is off the charts.  Like political whores elsewhere, Utah politicians have launched a campaign to save the states sexually repressed and sexually frustrated citizens from themselves waging war on Internet porn.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the rank hypocrisy.  Here are excerpts:

In a unanimous vote, the Utah House of Representatives passed a resolution this week branding pornography a public health hazard; a crisis its citizens need to be protected from.
The resolution calls for “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of our state and nation,” but does not offer any solutions. This from a state that ranked number one in online porn subscriptions, according to a 2009 Harvard study.
Renowned New York City sex therapist Dr. Stephen Snyder says the availability of internet porn is not any more of a problem than other socioeconomic issues Americans today face, including stagnant middle class wages and the continued decline of the two-parent household. “Any time you put limits on what can be communicated about sex, you increase the potential for sexual shame—which let’s face it, is already pretty high for most Americans even under the best of circumstances,” says Dr. Snyder. “And whenever you increase sexual shame, you’re going to see an increase in compulsive sexual activity, whether it's compulsive porn use or any other kind. Shame is rocket fuel for compulsions.”
The heavily-Mormon state seems to have a love-hate relationship with pornography, and a sense of shame over it as well. Here, the desire for porn has also birthed a plethora of anti-porn groups to combat the evils of consumption. On March 12th, the Utah Coalition Against Pornography held its 14th annual conference in Salt Lake City. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church, was one of its keynote speakers—and likened porn to the plague.
“Pornography ought to be seen like a public health crisis; like a war; like an infectious, fatal epidemic; like a moral plague on the body politic that is maiming the lives of our citizens,” said Holland . Concerned for future generations, anti-pornography groups like the Utah-based non-profit, Fight the New Drug lecture at high schools on pornography’s so-called deleterious effects. Unfortunately, no one seems to be lecturing about STDs at these same high schools. Are the perceived dangers of pornography worse than the threat of STDs?
In lieu of sex-ed, most of Utah’s schools continue to offer abstinence-only programs and prohibit public school teachers from encouraging contraceptives, which could be why chlamydia was the most frequently reported communicable disease in Utah in 2011. Two-thirds of those cases were among 15 to 24 year olds.
However, Utah Senator Todd Weiler isn’t advocating for the expansion of sex-ed. He instead wants policies that further protect underage consumers from pornography, admitting in the resolution he’s spearheaded that “exposure to pornography often serves as childrens’ and youths’ sex education and shapes their sexual templates.” Porn should not fill those educational voids abstinence-only programs create, but in the absence of information, unfortunately, it does. When kids have questions no one will answer they don’t head for a stack of well-worn encyclopedias—they search for it online.
“People like to preach their religious ideologies about family values, saving the kids, and making sure they still have good moral fiber which they say porn destroys, but I could make the same argument for social media,” says adult actor Derrick Pierce. “Those same kids that are told sex is bad, don’t do it, it’s only for reproduction, when those kids get older and figure out they can make their own choices, they do and they make them tenfold because they want to know what all the fuss is about.”
Weiler’s resolution is “a half-measure and a diva-esque attempt to grab headlines” says award winning adult performer and director, Tanya Tate. “If Weiler were truly committed, he would look at Harvard’s 2009 study that found Utah’s religious residents were the nation’s top consumers of online porn and work on religion and the reason it drives so many in his home state to explore porn,” says Tate.
  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Obama Administration Considers Cutting Federal Funding to North Carolina


According to a story in the New York Times, North Carolina Republicans may be about to feel severe consequence for their self-prostitution to Christofascists in the form of horrific economic damage to the state's economy and education system.  How so?  Apparently, the Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing.  Yes, that is billions with a "B".  As previously noted, the EEOC has held that anti-gay and anti-transgender discrimination violates the Civil Rights Act, so there would be precedent for holding North Carolina liable for its state wide discrimination against LGBT citizens.  Personally, I hope all federal funding is cut and North Carolina is brought to its knees economically.  Mississippi should face a similar fate.  Here are story highlights:
The Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new law on gay and transgender rights makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing, officials said Friday.
Cutting off any federal money — or even simply threatening to do so — would put major new pressure on North Carolina to repeal the law, which eliminated local protections for gay and transgender people and restricted which bathrooms transgender people can use. A loss of federal money could send the state into a budget crisis and jeopardize services that are central to daily life.
Although experts said such a drastic step was unlikely, at least immediately, the administration’s review puts North Carolina on notice that the new law could have financial consequences. Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina had assured residents that the law would not jeopardize federal money for education.
But the law also represents a test for the Obama administration, which has declared that the fight for gay and transgender rights is a continuation of the civil rights era. The North Carolina dispute forces the administration to decide how aggressively to fight on that principle.
Anthony Foxx, the secretary of transportation, first raised the prospect of a review of federal funding in public remarks on Tuesday in North Carolina. The Department of Transportation provides roughly $1 billion a year to North Carolina. The New York Times then asked other federal agencies whether they were conducting similar reviews.
A Department of Education spokeswoman, Dorie Nolt, said on Friday that her agency was also reviewing the North Carolina law “to determine any potential impact on the state’s federal education funding.” She added, “We will not hesitate to act if students’ civil rights are being violated.”
The agency said it provided $4.3 billion to North Carolina last year for kindergarten through 12th grade as well as colleges. Any decision on federal aid would take time, experts said. Federal agencies have used the threat of lost money to pressure a handful of municipal governments in California and Illinois to change their policies and allow transgender students to use the restrooms of the gender they identify with. There is no recent precedent for the federal government’s applying similar pressure to address a state law that it sees as discriminatory. Mr. McCrory, a Republican who is seeking re-election, and other supporters of the law have been aware, but dismissive, of suggestions that the measure might endanger the state’s federal largess. Mr. McCrory’s office did not respond to messages on Friday. The Obama administration would not need to go to court to withhold grant money, but doing so would surely lead to a court fight, especially since the law is unsettled.  

Again, an example needs to be made of North Carolina - and Mississippi - to send a loud message to Republicans that the days of granting special rights to Christian extremists is over and that religious based bigotry will carry a very high cost.

Mississippi Against Everyone But Christian Extremists


While North Carolina has been blasted and is facing boycotts and a possible uprising of business interests because of its recently enacted anti-LGBT law, that law pales in comparison to the batshitery now sitting on the desk of the governor of Mississippi.  Indeed, the Mississippi bill is a Christofascist's wet dream because it not only allows open discrimination against LGBT citizens but also against anyone who doesn't subscribe to Christofascists' repressed and dysfunctional dogma on all things sexual.  As noted in other post, Mississippi nearly always places last in the ranking of states, Mississippi Republicans apparently wanted to make it crystal clear that the state opposes modernity in all forms and holds the United States Constitution's protections for non-Christofascists in open contempt.   A piece in Salon looks at just how reprehensible the Mississippi laws is in fact.  Here are excerpts: 
The 2016 legislative session has been a competition between red states to see who can pass the most hateful anti-LGBT bills under the guise of “religious freedom,’ but Mississippi state Republicans look like they’re going to emerge the winner.  
[B]ecause they have to win the war of the Bible-thumpers, Mississippi Republicans went a step further than other states that have passed similar anti-gay bills. This law not only protects discrimination against LGBT people, but against any person who has sex outside of marriage. It also makes it easier for employers and schools to strictly police the way you dress to make sure it’s masculine or feminine enough. If your boss thinks proper ladies wear make-up, he can cite “religious freedom” as a reason to force you to do so, and the law will protect him for it.
The state laid out three religious beliefs that give business owners broad permission to discriminate against people on the basis of:
The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:
(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of
one man and one woman;
(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a
marriage; and
(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
These are, to be clear, the only religious beliefs the state deems worthy of extra-special protection. If you belong to a church that doesn’t preach hate — and there are many faiths, both Christian and otherwise, that accept LGBT people and don’t think premarital sex is a sin — too bad, so sad. The state of Mississippi doesn’t think your religion is a legitimate one. The only faith deemed worthy of this kind of legislation is the kind that teaches that religion’s purpose is in policing other people’s sexual behaviors.
The bill then goes on to offer two levels of protection for bigots who want to discriminate, with religious organizations getting broad rights and private persons and business owners getting somewhat less expansive, but still terrifying rights. Religious organizations are allowed to deny employment, housing, and other services. Private businesses are allowed to deny any marriage-related services (including jewelry selling) to anyone who meets the three criteria. State employees can refuse marriage licenses, as well, and they are offered special protections to “express” the above religious beliefs. Which means that if you work for the state and enjoy haranguing gay coworkers or single women about how they’re going to hell, it will be close to impossible to fire you for it.
To be clear, being able to discriminate against gay people, transgender people and fornicators is already legal, to one extent or another, in Mississippi. What this law does is deny the state the right to “discriminate” against anyone who would do so. That might seem minor, but in reality, removing any threat of losing government money or contracts for forcing your bigoted religious beliefs on others is actually a pretty strong check on a lot of this behavior.
 As the ACLU of Mississippi points out, homeless shelters, food banks, and day cares who call themselves “religious organizations” — i.e., many to most of them — would be able to turn away a single mother and her children on the grounds that she’s a sinful fornicator. Religious charter schools who get government money could expel students who are believed to be having sex. Adoption agencies can discriminate not just against gay couples and single people, but against any couple they believe had sex before they were married.
The law also offers broad protections to those who would deny medical care to people.
As the ACLU points out, this also allows foster parents to force kids into “conversion therapy” run by quacks who believe you can pray the gay away, and the state cannot do anything about it.
[T]his bill is troubling because it’s about building up legal precedent for two repugnant ideas: That discriminating against people on the basis of sexuality and gender is acceptable and that the state should be flagging certain religious beliefs as better than others. In a sane world, both notions would be seen as flagrant violations of the constitution, which forbids establishment of religion and upholds equal protection under the law. But with the Supreme Court in disarray, it appears that Republicans are feeling feistier than ever in stomping all over the foundational principles of this country.
On top of all that, this bill violates some pretty important federal regulations and could lead to the federal government stripping the state of education funding. Hopefully, Gov. Phil Bryant will realize this kind of radical bigotry against not just LGBT people but the 95% of Americans who have had premarital sex  is a step way to far, and will veto it.
 

Religion and politicians who willingly prostitute themselves to religious extremists are a clear and present danger to  America.

Donald Trump's Racist Base of Supporters


I have complained ad nausea about the Republican Party's willing embrace of racists - and religious zealots - as a deliberate way to turn out right wing voters.  The appeals to racists began with Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and for years after continued with constant dog whistle appeals to would be KKK members.  With Donald Trump, the dog whistle has been cast aside and replaced by a clarion call that is being answered by far too many in the Republican Party base.  As a recent Pew Research survey reveals, the GOP is now dominated by those with open contempt and animus for those of other races.   Indeed, the animus is focused on anyone who is different as North Carolina's and Mississippi anti-LGBT bills have made all too clear.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this ugly state of affairs.  Here are highlights:
In a Republican debate last month, Donald Trump was asked whether his claim that “Islam hates us” means all 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide hate the United States. “I mean a lot of ’em,” Trump replied, as some in the crowd — Trump supporters, presumably — laughed and applauded.
That ugly moment comes to mind in describing how many of Trump’s supporters have racist motivations for backing him: Not all — but a lot of ’em.
A Pew Research Center national poll released Thursday found that 59 percent of registered voters nationwide think that an increasing number of people from different races, ethnic groups and nationalities makes the United States a better place to live; only 8 percent say this makes America worse. But among Trump backers, 39 percent say diversity improves America, while 42 percent say it makes no difference and 17 percent say it actually makes America worse. Supporters of GOP rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich were significantly more upbeat on diversity.
Trump had the support of 34 percent of Republican-leaning voters overall, but among those who said that whites are losing out, 43 percent supported Trump. Ehrenfreund and Clement did a further analysis finding that racial anxiety was at least as important as economic anxiety — the factor most commonly associated with Trump backers — in predicting support for Trump. Though the two factors were statistically close, those “who voiced concerns about white status appeared to be even more likely to support Trump than those who said they were struggling economically.”
Clement, The Post’s polling manager, told me: “What was striking to me in analyzing the data is that even after controlling for a variety of demographics and attitudes [including all those above], believing whites are losing out continued to be a key predictor of Trump support. . . . Its importance persisted under a wide range of scenarios.”
University of California at Irvine political scientist Michael Tesler, citing data from Rand Corp.’s Presidential Election Panel Survey, found that “Trump performs best among Americans who express more resentment toward African Americans and immigrants and who tend to evaluate whites more favorably than minority groups.”
Trump’s supporters overall tend to be older, disproportionately male, less likely to have a college degree and more likely to be suffering economically. But race is an ever-present factor among Trump supporters.
Thursday’s poll by nonpartisan Pew, a well-respected outfit, finds antipathy toward minorities as well: Sixty-nine percent of Trump supporters say immigrants burden the country, and Trump supporters are significantly more likely than other Republican voters to want illegal immigrants deported, to favor a wall along the Mexican border and to support extra scrutiny of Muslims in the United States solely because of their religion.
Trump makes bigots feel safe to come out of the shadows. But that doesn’t excuse them.

While not specifically addressed, the findings in my view help underscore the racist nature of many evangelical Christians.  Some evangelical leaders - e.g., Albert Mohler -  bloviate about Trump supporters not being "real evangelicals" yet having followed Christian "family values" groups for many years, there has always been a racist undercurrent in these groups.  Indeed, Family Research Council president has documented white supremacist ties.  Mohler and others can whine all they want, but the truth is that Trump has made these modern day Pharisees feel free to show their true racist mindsets.  

Friday, April 01, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Have North Carolina Republicans Set the Stage for a Huge LGBT Victory?


The United States Supreme Court has long danced around the issue of whether or not sexual orientation (and gender identity) comprise a class of individuals entitled to the application of the "strict scrutiny" standard when anti-LGBT laws are challenged.  The closest the Court has ever come to a definitive answer was in the 1990's case of Romer v. Evans.  Sadly, while reaching the right result, the Court dodged addressing the strict scrutiny question.  Now, North Carolina's new anti-LGBT law may have set the stage for the Court to finally address the question head on.  If the North Carolina statute is ultimately struck down, North Carolina Republicans may find much to their chagrin - and the rage of the Christofascists to whom they have prostituted themselves - that they set the stage for a major LGBT rights ruling.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the situation and the possible outcomes.  Here are excerpts:
What happened in North Carolina may have been startling for its swiftness, but it was a classic countermove in the modern conflict over gay rights. When liberal cities enact laws to protect LGBT people, conservative state governments respond by preempting them.
North Carolina is now the third state in the last five years to ban local anti-discrimination ordinances after a city tried to protect LGBT people. This is a maneuver of questionable constitutionality.
“They jammed this through with virtually no notice,” says Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “Everything about this process stinks. It’s got all the hallmarks of a bill that’s based on animus.”
Arkansas lawmakers passed a similar law last year, after the city of Fayetteville sought to prohibit bosses, landlords, and shopkeepers from discriminating against LGBT people in a bill that was rescinded soon after. Tennessee’s legislature also passed a law in 2011, after Nashville and Davidson County cut ties with businesses that discriminated against LGBT workers.
Though North Carolina’s law goes the furthest — it limits what bathrooms transgender people can use — what these three measures have in common is that they were all engineered to test the limits of what the U.S. Constitution allows. The 14th Amendment promises equal protection under the law, meaning that governments can’t single out and punish groups of people for no good reason. But the Supreme Court has been consistently vague about what that promise means for LGBT people.
This latest controversy may finally clear some things up.  On Monday, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina filed a lawsuit arguing that North Carolina's new law “violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution." Legal experts say this will be a tough case to litigate, but if it proceeds, it has the potential to set a landmark precedent. It may force the Supreme Court to confront a question that for decades it has stubbornly refused to answer: What does the Constitution actually imply about gay rights?
These anti-anti-discrimination laws share a famous common ancestor. In 1992, voters in Colorado approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting any agency, school district, or local government from protecting “homosexual, lesbian or bisexual” people. This invalidated the LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances in Denver, Aspen and Boulder. Those cities promptly sued the state, arguing that the measure violated the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
That lawsuit, known as Romer v. Evans, reached the Supreme Court in late 1995 and resulted in a landmark victory for gay rights the next year. But everything happened in a very strange way.
When laws discriminate against certain kinds of people, though, the courts become much more suspicious. Lawyers often speak of a three-tiered system. At the top are categories like race, national origin or religion. Laws that explicitly discriminate against race are practically impossible to justify and hardly ever survive judicial review. Even laws that do not mention race can be struck down if it can be proven that they were enacted with discriminatory intent.
To a lesser extent, the courts are also wary of laws that discriminate by sex. This middle tier of review is called “intermediate” or “heightened” scrutiny, and it’s a relatively recent development. In 1976, the Supreme Court struck down an Oklahoma law that allowed young women but not young men to buy certain kinds of weak beer. Oklahoma tried argue that young men were more likely to drive drunk, so they shouldn’t be allowed to buy beer until they were 21. But the court didn’t find that reason convincing enough for the law to stand.
For everyone else, courts use the extremely lenient “rational basis” standard. Practically speaking, nearly any law can clear this low bar. In the words of New York University constitutional law professor Kenji Yoshino, this is essentially “a free pass for legislation.”
Laws that discriminate against sexual orientation tend to be judged at this lowest level of scrutiny. Courts generally don’t believe that gays and lesbians are a class of people who deserve special protection under the Constitution. For these reasons, it’s extremely hard to win a case just by saying that a law is unfair to LGBT people.
Except that’s exactly what happened in 1996, when the Supreme Court struck down Colorado’s anti-LGBT law in Romer v. Evans.
Civil rights groups had been hoping the court would recognize that sexual minorities, like racial or religious minorities, deserved extra protection under the Constitution beyond rational basis review. But the Supreme Court refused to elevate LGBT people. Instead, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that Colorado’s law failed even the flimsy rational basis standard.
Recent legal victories for gay rights have danced around this issue. In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws not because they discriminated against gay people, but because these laws intruded on the “realm of personal liberty.”
“The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives,” Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”
In the gay marriage cases, United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges, the court used hybrid reasoning that blended a number of concepts in the Constitution, among them the rights to liberty and equal protection under the law. But again, the opinions fell short of recognizing sexual orientation as a suspect class. Obergefell in particular has been criticized by legal scholars for being muddy and confusing.
In Romer v. Evans, the Supreme Court made a big deal over how Colorado had singled out gay people, by name, in a piece of legislation. But the language of the Tennessee law is completely neutral — essentially, it freezes discrimination law until the state says otherwise. In practice, of course, the law closes the door on LGBT people, who were starting to win anti-discrimination protections in some liberal Tennessee cities.
Civil rights groups hoped that courts would see through the subterfuge in the Tennessee law. They argued that the measure was clearly motivated by anti-gay animus, violating the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. But a lawsuit against Tennessee failed; in 2014, an appeal court dismissed it on a technicality, ruling that the plaintiffs couldn’t prove they suffered any harm from the new law.
The big question remained unanswered. Would the Supreme Court finish what it started in Romer v. Evans?
The lawsuit in North Carolina urges courts to finally treat gender identity and sexual orientation as suspect or quasi-suspect classifications under the Equal Protection clause. This has long been a goal in the gay rights community. It would mean that politicians could no longer pass laws that target LGBT people without some serious explaining.
There are other claims in the lawsuit as well. The transgender bathroom provisions in North Carolina’s law may run afoul of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools. According to the Department of Education’s interpretation of the law, Title IX also bans transgender discrimination, which the DOE considers a form of sex discrimination.
North Carolina’s new law is an evolved cousin of Colorado’s law. Both were created to stymie local LGBT protections, but Colorado’s law singled out gay people by name, while North Carolina’s is more coy. So if the Supreme Court wants to strike down North Carolina’s law for disadvantaging gay people, it will have to use more firepower than it did in Romer v. Evans. It may finally have to come out and say what it has been hinting at for years.
If gender identity and sexual orientation became recognized as a protected classes, deserving of heightened judicial scrutiny, the repercussions would be enormous. Not only would it inflame the struggle between religious rights and gay rights, but it would call into question many of the anti-LGBT bills being considered around the nation.
The North Carolina lawsuit has a long road ahead of it. But it has the makings of a milestone case. If it ever reaches the Supreme Court, it will force the justices to tackle an issue that they have repeatedly hemmed and hawed over.
The court has ruled that bans on sodomy are unconstitutional. It has ruled that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, too. But is it constitutional for a law to discriminate against LGBT people? The Supreme Court has been mysterious on that subject for a very long time.

The Ugliness of Donald Trump's Poor White Supporters


But for the threat it poses to the country as a whole, it would almost be entertaining to watch the civil war that is consuming the Republican Party.   Moreover, some of us would  - and do - tell the GOP leadership that all of the woe they perceive themselves to be facing in the form of Donald Trump's candidacy is a self-created problem.  For years the GOP leadership cynically pander to and inflamed the hate and misogyny of elements of the party base.  Worse yet, they welcomed the Christofascists, white supremacists and those who embraced ignorance into the party ranks and, in far too many instances, voted them onto city and county committees (I recall a local Christian Coalition leader being voted onto the Virginia Beach city committee).  Now, this rabble, if you will, is out of control  and the GOP elites are horrified at what they have wrought, although they seek to place blame on anyone but themselves.  More interestingly, they are now turning on and attacking those who they previously sought to recruit and coddle through efforts to encourage a feeling of victim hood.  A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon.  Here are highlights: 

Conservatives who once derided upscale liberals as latte-sipping losers now burst with contempt for the lower-income followers of Donald J. Trump.
These blue-collar white Republicans, a mainstay of the conservative coalition for decades, are now vilified by their former right-wing allies as a “non-Christian” force “in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture,” corrupted by the same “sense of entitlement” that Democratic minorities were formerly accused of.
Kevin Williamson, a columnist for National Review, initiated the most recent escalation of this particular Republican-against-Republican power struggle. In a March 13 essay, “The Father-F├╝hrer,” Williamson portrays Trump’s struggling white supporters as relying on their imaginary victimhood when, in fact, he contends:
They failed themselves. If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy — which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog— you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be.
Less well-off white voters have only themselves to blame, Williamson continues:
It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that. Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America.
Not satisfied to stop there, Williamson adds:
The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs.
Finally, determined to blow a hole in the Trump hot air balloon, the columnist hits hard:
The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
Williamson’s bitterness over the refusal of Trump’s supporters to get in line behind a more acceptable candidate is echoed across the right.
In a prescient Jan. 14 essay, “To Attract Disillusioned Voters, the GOP Must Understand Their Concerns,” Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank, wrote:
America’s self-appointed best and brightest uniformly view the passions unleashed by Trump as the modern-day equivalent of a medieval peasants’ revolt. And, like their medieval forebears, they mean to crush it. That effort is both a fool’s errand for the country and a poisoned chalice for conservatives and Republicans.
In Olsen’s view, disparaging Trump’s lower-income white supporters “will simply intensify the masses’ rage and ensure that their political spokesmen become more intransigent and radical.” Even worse, keeping blue-collar white Americans out of political power will result in exactly what Washington elites have wanted for years: a series of grand bargains that keep the status quo largely intact and the Democratic party in power.
Only now are major party leaders and contributors beginning to recognize the full depth of this intraparty conflict.
On March 28, my colleague Nick Confessore documented in crushing detail how Republican leaders, donors and strategists disregarded the mounting discontent of white working class Republicans, thus setting the stage for the Trump campaign.
The history, Confessore wrote, is one of a party elite that abandoned its most faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans, who faced economic pain and uncertainty over the past decade as the party’s donors, lawmakers and lobbyists prospered. From mobile home parks in Florida and factory towns in Michigan, to Virginia’s coal country, where as many as one in five adults live on Social Security disability payments, disenchanted Republican voters lost faith in the agenda of their party’s leaders.
These setbacks have provided fertile recruiting opportunities for Republicans. David Wasserman, writing at fivethirtyeight.com in December 2015, found that of five voting groups (whites with college degrees, whites without college degrees, African-Americans, Latinos and Asians/others), whites without college degrees are “Republicans’ best group by far.” In 2008, John McCain carried these voters by 14 points, and in 2012 Mitt Romney won them by “a whopping 26 points.”
The virulent attacks on less affluent Republican voters by Williamson et al raise the question: As a matter of practical politics, how can a party that is losing ground in virtually every growing constituency — Hispanics, Asians, single women and the young — even consider jettisoning a single voter, much less the struggling white working class?The Republican Party has seen its core — married white Christians — decline from 62 percent of the population of the United States to 28 percent in 2015, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
Trump has won his biggest primary margins among less financially secure, less educated voters, turning the traditional winning coalition in Republican primaries upside down. 
The comparatively low levels of support for Trump among college-educated Republicans, women, young voters and those with incomes above $100,000 suggest that these voters are most likely to sit out the election or to vote Democratic if Trump is the nominee. Conversely, groups that gave him higher than average support in the primaries — the less well educated, those with incomes below the median, men and rural voters — are likely to deliver his best margins in the general election.
If there are two key themes in the election so far, one is Trump’s ability to enrage; the other is his ability to exceed expectations. The disregard of liberal and conservative elites for working and middle class voters has manifested itself in a consistent underestimation of the anger, resentment and pessimism of these voters — and hence of their electoral power.
It is an irony of history, then, that [Martin Luther] King’s language [about the two Americas]  perfectly describes the conflict today between the privileged establishment and the hard pressed rank and file of the overwhelmingly white Republican Party — a conflict between haves and have-nots that is taking the Republican Party to a place it has never been.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

More Thursday male Beauty


Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s Exploding Sex Scandal

As I have noted before, it is almost ALWAYS the "family values" Republicans who find themselves being exposed (and deservedly so) in sex scandals.  Whether it is cheating on the spouse with same sex paramours or getting caught in gay sex scandals like former Virginia 2nd District Congressman Ed Schrock, it's always these who bloviate the most about so-called Christian and family values who prove themselves to be nothing more than despicable liars and hypocrites.  A case in point is viciously anti-gay Alabama GOP Governor Robert Bentley who finds himself in a sex scandal.  Having lived in Alabama years ago, I know first hand that other than perhaps Louisiana, no one does scandal better than Alabama.  The Washington Post looks at Bentley's hypocrisy and who the scandal assumed a life of its own.  Here are excerpts:
Anyone who has doubts about the importance of journalists in 2016 need be acquainted only with the reporting team at AL.com, the largest statewide news organization in Alabama. The group's reporters cracked open a scandal involving their governor's alleged infidelity last week and have been covering the unpredictable fallout aggressively ever since.
This scandal didn't come to them overnight; they've been hearing rumors of an affair between Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and his top political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, for months. The story finally broke open on March 22 when a fired top law enforcement official went on the record to AL.com's John Archibald about the alleged affair and offered proof. Faced with damning evidence of a taped phone conversation to a woman named Rebekah, Bentley has denied he had an affair, but few in a state accustomed to scandal believe him.
Alabama lawmakers, led by Republicans, are looking at ways to impeach him or set up a recall. An informal online AL.com poll found that 90 percent of about 30,000 respondents said Bentley should resign. Mason resigned Wednesday.
The story stretches far beyond sex, though. It's also connected to an ethics trial of the House speaker and a shadowy nonprofit that paid Mason's communications firm about $320,000 at the time of her resignation. As AL.com reporter Leada Gore said: "It's got every part of a scandal you could want."
[T]he speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard (R), is indicted on corruption charges. That has dragged on forever. So the governor has this old-time friend who was a legislator with him who he puts in charge of our state law enforcement agency. They get crossways -- which is an Alabama term you can use -- over the handling of an affidavit they are seeking related to the speaker's trial. The top cop says, 'I'm going to give this affidavit because I'm not going to lie to the grand jury about some of the things going on.' The governor supposedly told him not to. When Spencer Collier [the top cop] gave that affidavit, the governor fired him.
Then Spencer Collier became the first person willing to go on the record to say, 'Yes, there was an affair.' That's what happened last week that broke it all open.
Our state auditor has filed an ethics investigation, which in Alabama is extremely serious. There's also a state complaint saying he misused funds.
Mason has resigned her post. Her husband, who is a state employee -- of all things the director of the state faith-based initiative office -- is still there.
And then you get into all this crazy stuff. They all went to church together in Tuscaloosa. They've been asked to leave; he's no longer a deacon. We reported today her husband operated a separate communications company that was not on her ethics forms that received payments from the University of Alabama. And to make it even more of a tangled web, the chairman of the 501(c)(4) that the governor set up is the legal adviser to the board of trustees to the University of Alabama.   
Note the fact that the alleged adulteress' husband holds a "faith based" state office.   About the only thing more fun would be to find out that Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation is engaged in a torid lesbian affair. :)

Donald Trump's Alienation of Women


Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has seemingly sought to alienate as many demographic groups as possible.  With his latest misogynistic remarks about women and abortion (and his past comments are equally bad), he has added women to the list of voters who basically hate him by large margins.  Meanwhile his GOP opponents - who in actuality are little better than Trump when one looks ta their records - and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders must be salivating. The take away?  If Trump is the Republican nominee, he may lead the GOP to a serious defeat and set the party back for a decade or more.  There simply are not enough uneducated white male voters to counter balance the massive negatives that Trump holds with women, blacks, Hispanics, and non-Christofascists.  A piece in Politico looks at what might be the beginning of the end for The Donald. Here are highlights:

Just how bad are Donald Trump’s problems with women? Bad enough that roughly seven out of 10 women voters in recent polls say they have a negative impression of him. And that was before the news coverage of his threat to “spill the beans” about Ted Cruz’s wife and his talk about punishing women who have abortions.
Trump is already so dangerously underwater with female voters – who represent a majority of the electorate -- that it raises questions about whether a GOP ticket led by the billionaire could lead to a historic gender gap and blowout defeat.
The percentages of women who had an unfavorable or negative impression of Trump in recent public polls are staggering: 67 percent (Fox News), 67 percent (Quinnipiac University), 70 percent (NBC News/Wall Street Journal), 73 percent (CNN/ORC) and 74 percent (ABC News/Washington Post).
“Those are stunningly unfavorable numbers. It would be tremendously difficult for Donald Trump to win the general with those kinds of numbers,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “Historically, I can’t imagine anyone having worse numbers with women. But historically, there’s never been anyone like Donald Trump.”
Trump does not acknowledge the deficit he faces with women voters, and has instead claimed that he will be “the best thing that ever happened to women.”
The ABC News/Washington Post poll, in particular, points to a troubling trend for Trump: Republican women have been turning against him as the GOP race has unfolded. In November, about two-thirds of Republican women had a favorable opinion of Trump in an ABC News/Washington Post poll, while now only 43 percent do.
The gender gap is hurting him in Wisconsin, where Republicans go to the polls next Tuesday.
If Trump does win the nomination and heads to the general election, he faces a daunting demographic reality among a statistically important sub-group: white women. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows white women, who have voted Republican as a whole in each of the past four elections, have a terrible impression of Trump: Only 29 percent view him favorably, compared to 68 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him.

Head-to-head polls of registered voters released this month -- all of which put Trump significantly behind Hillary Clinton overall -- show massive Clinton leads among female voters. A 
Quinnipiac University poll placed Clinton at 16 points ahead of Trump among women. Clinton also led among women by 19 points among women in a Fox News poll, and by 27 points in a CNN/ORC poll.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Climate Model Predicts Faster Sea Level Rise

Scenes from Norfolk

The Republican Party and its candidates at the state and federal levels continue to deny that climate change is real and refuse to focus on taking necessary steps to lessen threats to coastal cities leaving cities and localities to struggle with solutions on their own.  Here in Virginia, such denial is insanity as one of the most populous areas of the state, home of both the Navy's largest base, and the huge Virginia Port facility face a potentially frightening future if concrete steps are not taken.  Now, as the New York Times reports, new climate models suggest that sea level rise will be even more rapid than previously thought.  Here are some article highlights:

For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization.
The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur.
Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner.
Continued high emissions of heat-trapping gases could launch a disintegration of the ice sheet within decades, according to a study published Wednesday, heaving enough water into the ocean to raise the sea level as much as three feet by the end of this century.
With ice melting in other regions, too, the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100, the researchers found. That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago, and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.
The situation would grow far worse beyond 2100, the researchers found, with the rise of the sea exceeding a pace of a foot per decade by the middle of the 22nd century. Scientists had documented such rates of increase in the geologic past, when far larger ice sheets were collapsing, but most of them had long assumed it would be impossible to reach rates so extreme with the smaller ice sheets of today.
“We are not saying this is definitely going to happen,” said David Pollard, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University and a co-author of the new paper. “But I think we are pointing out that there’s a danger, and it should receive a lot more attention.”
The long-term effect would likely be to drown the world’s coastlines, including many of its great cities.
New York City is nearly 400 years old; in the worst-case scenario conjured by the research, its chances of surviving another 400 years in anything like its present form would appear to be remote. Miami, New Orleans, London, Venice, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia, are all just as vulnerable as New York, or more so.
In principle, coastal defenses could be built to protect the densest cities, but experts believe it will be impossible to do that along all 95,000 miles of the American coastline, meaning that immense areas will most likely have to be abandoned to the rising sea.
Vulnerable parts of the higher, colder ice sheet of East Antarctica would eventually fall apart, too, and the result by the year 2500 would be 43 feet of sea level rise from Antarctica alone, with still more water coming from elsewhere, the computer estimated. In some areas, the shoreline would be likely to move inland by miles.
The paper published Wednesday does contain some good news. A far more stringent effort to limit emissions of greenhouse gases would stand a fairly good chance of saving West Antarctica from collapse, the scientists found. That aspect of their paper contrasts with other recent studies postulating that a gradual disintegration of West Antarctica may have already become unstoppable.
[T]he recent climate deal negotiated in Paris would not reduce emissions nearly enough to achieve that goal. That deal is to be formally signed by world leaders in a ceremony in New York next month, in a United Nations building that stands directly by the rising water.

As on so many issues, today's Republicans offer no solutions and prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that disaster is not approaching and that faith in their mythical friend in the sky is the answer to everything.  

Is Donald Trump Suffering From Delusional Senile Dementia?


Donald Trump set off his latest firestorm by saying that women who have abortions need to be punished.  He quickly tried to walk back the comment with little success, and deservedly so.  Since the beginning of his campaign, Trump has demonstrated that he speaks and thinks later.  The question is, whether he does so deliberately to merely excite his low education, low knowledge base of support or whether his rash behavior is a symptom of something else.  Something call delusional senile dementia.  If it is the later, as a piece in Daily Kos argues, the specter of a Trump presidency is truly frightening.  Here are column excerpts (read it and share your thoughts):
Watching the very public meltdown of Donald Trump over the past few months could serve as a useful tool for academic research into dementia and brain disease. When looking objectively at the symptoms commonly associated with dementia it is hard not to consider Trump a likely candidate for such a diagnosis. What follows is an exploration of the three most prominent symptoms of dementia and their relationship to Trump's behavior.
Impaired judgment
From the very beginning of his of campaign for the Republican nomination for president, Trump engaged in outbursts that were hostile and irrational. His assertion that the immigrant population in the U.S. was the result of Mexico sending over rapists and murderers was untethered to reality. And that was just the first day. Trump went on to disparage Sen. John McCain, saying that he was not a war hero; he charged that Megyn Kelly's questions during a Fox News debate were unfair because she was menstruating; he proposed a ban on all Muslims from entering the country; he had a prominent Latino journalist ejected from his rally; he told a reporter that he isn't bothered by comparisons to Hitler . . .
Trump's birtherism with regard to President Obama is another illustration of a severe mental failing. There has never been a single bit of information that showed anything other than that Obama was born in the U.S. to a U.S. citizen. Nevertheless, Trump continues to doubt the truth of this.
These are all examples of behavior that is inconsistent with rational judgment. They have no basis in fact and cannot be portrayed as constructive methods of expressing oneself. Those who would argue that Trump's showing in the polls validates his conduct are missing the point. Regardless of the result, these actions are not indicative of a rational mind.
Loss of Memory
Trump has frequently bragged that he has"one of the best memories of all time." However, that boast has been utterly demolished by his own words and actions. One notable example was his insistence that he had seen television reporting of "thousands and thousands" of Muslims celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. That was an invented memory because there is no evidence that it occurred, despite the fact that television footage of such an event would be easily retrievable.
Trump's memory was also noticeably deficient when he recently began hammering Ted Cruz as a "nasty guy" and "the single biggest liar" he ever met. Just three months ago he was lauding Cruz and floating him as a possible VP pick. Similarly he once praised Hillary Clinton as a “terrific” woman and a great Secretary of State. Now he is saying that she was the “worst Secretary of State in history.” . . . 
Childish Behavior
This is perhaps the symptom least in need of elaboration, but here goes anyway. Trump is the most juvenile presidential candidate in this nation's history. He lashes out with infantile insults about people's looks and character. If he is criticized he will punch back with baseless, often unrelated, rebuttals. And that's when he isn't throwing tantrums like when he ditched the Fox News debate. Everyone who doesn't exhibit unrestrained adoration is an enemy who is out to destroy him.
Trump has the ego of four year old who believes the world revolves around him. The parts of his campaign stump speeches that aren't attacks on his rivals are comprised primarily of bragging about how great he is at everything and how high his poll numbers are. The rest of his rhetoric, when put through the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, scored at the third grade level. Of course, that’s probably still somewhat higher than most of his Tea-vangelical supporters.
His immature outbursts, his brazen narcissism, and his faulty cognition, are all indications of senility.