Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


The Connection between Obama’s Skin Color And Tea Party/GOP Support


Some of us have long recognized that racism is a driving force for Republican and Tea Party opposition to, if not outright hatred towards Barack Obama.  Now, through a study, psychologists seem to have confirmed this reality by using altered photos of Barack Obama and others - some with lightened skin tones and others with darkened skin tones - to gauge reactions.  Not surprisingly, among conservatives in particular, darker skin tones illicited negative responses.  The findings show the lie to claims that we are living in a post racist society.  The sad fact is that racism, especially on the right, is alive and well and these folks - including many of the fundamentalist Christian "godly folk" cannot see beyond skin color when judging someone.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
American politics always has surprises, but things have been especially unpredictable since President Obama took office. First, few observers were prepared for the tea party movement, which ousted several veteran GOP  lawmakers, replaced them with more radically conservative newcomers, and helped the Republican Party win control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
"That left a lot of analysts slack-jawed, wondering: What was this latent force that drove the emergence of this movement?" said Robb Willer, a sociologist at Stanford University.
Then, of course, there was Donald Trump.
Willer speculates that one thing connecting these two political earthquakes might be white voters' unconscious racial biases. In a series of psychological experiments between 2011 and 2015, he showed how hostility toward people with darker skin and perceived racial threats can influence white support for the tea party. He and his colleagues published a draft of a paper on their findings online last week — some of the most direct evidence of the importance of race to the conservative resurgence during Obama's presidency.
First, the researchers randomly sorted subjects into two groups and showed them a series of pictures of celebrities, including digitally altered images of the commander in chief. One group saw a version in which Obama's skin had been lightened, while in the other version, his skin had been darkened.
Among the 255 white subjects, though, those in the group that had seen the darkened portrait were almost twice as likely to say they supported the movement.
The result suggests that some white Americans are more likely to oppose Obama solely because of the shade of his skin. For them, the reality that someone with a dark complexion occupies the nation's highest office could be a source of unease.
Past polls and experiments have also suggested that the president's race has motivated opposition to his policies.
For example, psychologist David Sears and political scientist Michael Tesler found that many white voters were willing to support white liberal politicians such as President Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry when they were candidates for president, but voted against Obama. Since Clinton, Kerry and Obama all espoused a similar ideology, the pair surmised that Obama must have been less popular because he is black.
Previous research has shown that white Americans tend to see the trend toward racial equity as a kind of competition, in which one group's loss must be another group's gain. In particular, research shows, economic distress can exacerbate racial biases, since they give members of the dominant group the mistaken impression their relative position is endangered. White Americans get "the sense that they have a shrinking piece of a pie that is itself shrinking," Willer explained.
With the second report, Willer and his colleagues showed that their subjects reinforced this unconscious bias and produced greater levels of white support for the tea party . . . 
The take away?  That calling Trump supporters racist losers may be closer to the truth than we realized. Also, don't forget that 85% of the Tea Party identifies as conservative Christian - hatred of those deemed "other" and hypocrisy are the hallmarks of these folks.

Reflections on the Debate Over Transgender Restroom Use

Anti-LGBT bigot and snake oil merchant/charlatan, Anne Graham Lotz
In the wake of the release of the Justice Department guidelines to every school division in the country, the debate has been fast and furious, with those on the right showing once again their disingenuousness and the animus that they hold toward those who do not conform to their binary view of sexuality.  Sadly, many commentators and news anchors have failed to challenge one of the main supposed justification for the anti-transgender jihad of the far right, led of course by the Christofascists: safety for women and girls.  

First, we are talking about restroom use by SCHOOL CHILDREN, yet demagogues like the Texas Lt. Governor  throw out the red herring of "a 30 year old man in the same restroom as young girls." I'm sorry, but I'm not aware of any 30 year students in our public schools. As for restrooms in public places such as Target stores, the myth of predators taking advantage of the guidelines applicable to public schools is ridiculous.  Yet few have called out the religious based comments of those such as Tony Perkins, a man with documents KKK affiliations, or Franklin Graham and his equally disgusting sister, Anne Graham Lotz, who have compared the guidelines to terrorism and a social 9/11.  Neither of the latter two would be anyone but for their famous father who was little better than  con artist selling a false product.  Meanwhile, others in the Christian Taliban whine that fundamentalist Christians must take over local school boards so that they can impose their own version of Sharia Law.  Decent people ought to be disgusted. 

Second, all the talk on the right about this being something to be decided at the state or local level sounds all too much like the bloviating during the 1960's against the Civil Rights laws that desegregated public schools and sought to end anti-black employment discrimination.  Change the words "black", "Negro", "African American" to transgender or LGBT, and its the same old argument which has no other goal than to enshrine discrimination and abuse of a certain class of citizens.  If one is an American citizen, one's legal rights should not depend on whether one had the misfortune to be born in a rural backwater or "red state" rather than  a progressive city or "blue state."  Bigotry is bigotry plan and simple and, candidly, it's to the point where when I hear someone talking about states' rights or local decision making, I now assume that they are a racist, homophobe, religious extremist, or all of the foregoing.

In the final analysis, this basically comes down to one thing in my view, the last gasps of the fundamentalist Christians and those who serve them in legislatures to impose their beliefs on all citizens and to abuse and stigmatize those who do not not conform to their myth and legend based beliefs.  Folks, it's the 21st century and it is far past time that lives and society be controlled by the ignorant ramblings of Bronze Age herders.  The best thing that could happen to the world would be to have every trace of the Bible - and the Koran - destroyed and eliminated.   Both books have given the world and mankind little but hate, destruction and bloodshed. 

Sorry for the rant, but I am so over the hate merchants holding sway and rarely being challenged by a largely gutless and worthless media that continues to give religion and religious belief undeserved deference. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Hampshire Senate Passes "Ex-Gay" Therapy Ban with GOP Support


Even as the Christofascists continue to wail over the Justice Department's directive to school divisions across the country concerning the rights of transgender student, the Bible thumpers suffered a defeat in New Hampshire where  the state Senate with Republican support passed a bill that bans the use of fraudulent "ex-gay" torture therapies on minors.  The "ex-gay" myth has been a favored tool of the Christofascists in making the false claim that sexual orientation is a "choice," thus eliminating any need for LGBT non-discrimination protections.  In addition, such bogus therapies have been a favored way for charlatans and shysters in "Christian ministries" to fleece the gullible of hard earned money.  The Concord Monitor looks at the action advancing the bill.  Here are highlights:
Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate reached an agreement late Thursday on a bill to ban gay conversion therapy on minors after a debate over religious freedom nearly derailed the effort.
“Who among us would want to be converted from the essence of who we are? I don’t think any of us would,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said during debate.
Gay conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change someone’s sexuality or gender identity. Both the Senate and House have now approved a bill barring licensed counselors from engaging in the practice with anyone under age 18. The chambers passed bills including slightly different language, which means they’ll need to reach agreement before sending the legislation to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s desk.
Hassan, a Democrat, praised the Senate’s passage of the bill, saying it sends an important message to young people that they can be who they are.
The final bill says people licensed to provide counseling services under state law, from nurses to marriage counselors, can’t engage in the practice. It also includes language saying the law cannot infringe on religious freedom, intended to ease concerns that the bill would prevent priests and other religious leaders from talking to teenagers about their sexuality.
Democratic Sen. David Pierce, who is gay, made several personal appeals to his colleagues to back the ban. Pierce said he realized he was gay at age 11 and struggled to accept it. Research shows gay and lesbian teenagers are more likely to commit suicide than their peers and the risk increases if they undergo conversion therapy, Pierce said.
“I worked my way through it, but there was no person sitting next to me telling me I was sick and needed to be cured,” he said.
The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have discredited gay conversion therapy and states are beginning to pass bans on the practice for minors. California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois and Washington, D.C., ban the practice for minors and Vermont is likely to join them. But efforts in Hawaii and Colorado failed this year.

Friday Morning Male Beauty



Hillary Clinton stayed true to her word and met with HIV/AIDS activists and experts to outline what she hopes to accomplish if elected in November. Bernie Sanders had cancelled his proposed meeting with the groups and as yet has not rescheduled.  It goes without saying that either Sanders or Clinton would be vastly better than Donald Trump or any Republican on these issues.  Indeed, as a I suggest in my upcoming VEER Magazine column, the failed policies now in place, especially in states where Republicans control the state legislatures is disproportionately harming the black community - something that is akin to a slow form of genocide and which is likely perfectly acceptable to the GOP and its Christofascist puppet masters.  If you can disenfranchise all blacks, let them die off. Yes, it's a harsh assessment, but I am afraid it is all too close to the truth.  The Clinton campaign released a press release that outlines her agenda on the HIV/AIDS front.  Here are excerpts:

Today, Hillary Clinton met with HIV and AIDS experts and advocates representing a diverse coalition of more than 70 leaders and organizations in the community. The meeting took place at the Hillary for America headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, where they discussed Clinton’s continued commitment to tackling the epidemic in the U.S. and globally, fighting discrimination against PLHIV and AIDS, and working together with HIV and AIDS experts and advocates to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
Hillary Clinton has been a longtime advocate in the fight to treat and prevent HIV and AIDS.
As First Lady, Clinton traveled the world to raise awareness on combating HIV and AIDS and assembled government officials and world leaders to increase funding for prevention and research efforts.
As Senator, Clinton introduced legislation to improve and expand global HIV and AIDS research, assistance, and education. She also co-sponsored the Early Treatment for HIV Act to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income people living with HIV.
As Secretary of State, Clinton began an ambitious campaign to usher in an AIDS-free generation. She oversaw a more than 200 percent increase in the number of people on antiretroviral treatment directly supported by the United States to reach over 6.7 million men, women, and children around the world.
Clinton has also emphasized HIV and AIDS in her philanthropic work. Almost 10 million people with HIV or AIDS around the world have benefited from more affordable medicine because of the Clinton Foundation. And since 2002, the Clinton Health Access Initiative has reduced the cost of HIV and AIDS medications in many countries from over $10,000 per person per year to just $100 to $200 per person per year.
During this campaign, Clinton has released specific policies to tackle the HIV and AIDS epidemic. As President, she will:
Cap out-of-pocket pharmaceutical expenses for people with HIV and AIDS. Clinton has announced a plan to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable and to achieve lower drug costs for Americans, including for medications that help treat HIV and reduce the risk of contracting AIDS. Clinton will ensure that Americans can get the care their doctors prescribe by requiring health insurance plans to cap covered out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $250 per month. She also will allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and will stop direct-to-consumer advertising subsidies for drug companies—reinvesting those funds in research.

Expand the utilization of HIV prevention medications, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). While we work to diagnose and treat all Americans with HIV and AIDS, we also must work to prevent exposure. Decades of research are beginning to offer a promising path to prevention. Clinton will increase the CDC investment to ensure populations at greatest risk of infection have access to PrEP, and encourage states to follow suit.

Protect those with HIV and AIDS from discrimination. Clinton will work with Congress to review and reform outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws—and call on states to do the same. And she is committed to continuing to aggressively enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws to fight HIV-related discrimination.

Continue to increase HIV and AIDS research and invest in the promising innovations that research is producing. Researchers at the NIH and elsewhere are poised to make even more progress towards curing HIV, developing long-acting treatments that do not require daily pill taking, and better understanding the social and structural factors that can impact a person’s ability to access HIV prevention and care services. As President, Clinton will increase funding to ensure this progress to continue.

Obama Administration to Issue Sweeping Transgender Rights Directive

North Carolina Republicans - and the cowards on the Gloucester County, Virginia school board - seemingly had no idea that by pandering to Christofascists and adopting anti-LGBT policies would be setting the stage for a major show down on LGBT civil rights and trandgender rights in particular. Tellingly, the situation is now helping to underscore  (i) how willingly the "godly folks" lie to justify their bigotry, and (ii) that all the blather about "religious liberty" boils down to wanting a license to abuse and stigmatize those the falsely pious don't like.  Today, the Justice Department's Division for Civil Rights will be sending a letter to every school division indicating what the divisions must do in order to avoid running afoul of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.  It goes without saying that the "godly folks" and their political whores in the GOP are howling.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post on the development:
The Obama administration on Friday will direct schools across the nation to provide transgender students with access to suitable facilities — including bathrooms and locker rooms — that match their chosen gender identity.
The move, which will affect all public schools and most colleges and universities that receive federal funds, plunges the administration even further into the country’s ongoing contentious debate over transgender rights.
The directive comes from two top administration officials: Catherine E. Lhamon, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. It will put state and local officials and higher-education institutions on notice that they risk losing federal education aid if they limit students to areas or teams based on their gender assigned at birth.
The action comes just days after the Justice Department and the state of North Carolina filed dueling lawsuits over a new law requiring individuals in that state to use bathrooms based on their birth gender.
Citing Title IX, which prohibits sexual discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding, the two officials warn that the obligation “to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns.
“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students,” reads the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post.
Elizabeth Schultz, an outspoken conservative on the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia, said the guidance could infringe on some students’ religious convictions. In May of last year, Schultz voted against a move, which ultimately passed, to expand nondiscrimination protections in the district to transgender students. 
For the most part, state and local officials have reversed course when threatened with the loss of federal funds over their treatment of transgender students. In 2013, the Education Department reached a settlement with the school district of Arcadia in California, on a dispute over whether the district violated Title IX by requiring a student who transitioned to being male to change clothes and use the bathroom in the nurse’s office.
On Thursday night, Gavin Grimm, the transgender student in Gloucester County, Va., who won the right to challenge his school, welcomed the administration’s action.
“I am so happy that with this new guidance, transgender students across the country have a new tool to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect at school,” said Grimm, a client of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This guidance would have made a big difference in my life, and I’m happy that kids will be free to use the bathroom that reflects who they are.”
The 4th Circuit’s ruling, along with the threat of new lawsuits from groups such as the ACLU and the Transgender Law Center, have already influenced other schools across the country.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Did West Virginia Spurn Hillary Because of Obama?


In Virginia, West Virginia is often viewed with skepticism.  After all, West Virginia broke away from Virginia during the civil war and the cultures of the Tidewater and Richmond Virginians and the mountain dwelling West Virginians could not be much greater - in 1860 or now.  West Virginia remains a vastly white state while Virginia has seen much demographic and educational change and much urban growth unlike its next door neighbor.  In the wake of Tuesday's Democrat primary that was won by Bernie Sanders, there are some who view Hillary's loss as a rebuke for serving and siding with Barack Obama, America's first black president.  Indeed, given the racism that is alive and well in West Virginia, which is only magnified by Obama's efforts to push the nation towards clean energy at the expense of coal, such thoughts are probably accurate.  A column in the New York Times looks at the situation.  Here are excerpts:
West Virginia turned on Hillary Clinton. In 2008, when running for the Democratic nomination against then-Senator Barack Obama, Clinton won every county in the state, carrying it by a whopping 41 points.
The Hill reported this week that, according to a political-science professor at a West Virginia college, West Virginia voters were so “fiercely anti-Obama that they voted in large numbers in 2012 for his primary opponent, who was a jailed felon in Texas.”
This cycle, a major part of Clinton’s strategy has been to so closely align herself with President Obama that there is very little light between them. This helped her secure and retain some minority voters, but most likely distanced her from many white ones.
On Tuesday, Clinton lost every county in the state and trailed Bernie Sanders by nearly 16 points. So what’s going on in West Virginia?
First, it is one of the whitest states in the country, and the absolute whitest in the South. It is also the least educated state and one of the poorest. As of 2014, almost 94 percent of its citizens are white, only 18.7 percent have attained a bachelor’s degree and 17.2 percent fall below the poverty threshold.
West Virginia is also heavily reliant on the coal industry, which is at odds with liberal clean-energy initiatives. In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle in 2008, Obama said of his proposed energy plans:
If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.
Bankruptcies aside, the Obama years saw a steep decline in coal production in the state. According to a report published by West Virginia University, “After climbing to nearly 158 million short tons in 2008, the state’s coal mine output has tumbled in each successive year to an annual total of approximately 115 million short tons in 2014 ─ or a cumulative decline of 27 percent.” This was the right long-term clean-energy approach, but it hit a sour chord in West Virginia.
[S]mart long-term policy, but doesn’t sit well in West Virginia. Clinton recently apologized for the “misstatement,” saying, “I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context for what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time.” But the apology was too little, too late for voters in West Virginia.
West Virginia illustrates the danger that accompanies the Clinton strategy of closely aligning with President Obama and his policies: Many white voters, particularly white men, detest him. 
These white non-college graduates are a strong base of support for Donald Trump, who exclaimed in Nevada, “I love the poorly educated.” Apparently, the feeling is mutual. If Trump has a path to the presidency, it will most likely be because of Clinton’s — and Democrats’ — weakness among people who look an awful lot like the voters in West Virginia.
Like much of Southwest Virginia, West Virginia is its own biggest enemy.  Few new, progressive business want to locate to a region so consumed with racism and so proud of embracing ignorance a bigotry.  Until these factors change, do expect economic improvement.  

Italy Passes Civil Union Law, Joins Rest of Modern World


The Roman Catholic Church suffered another huge defeat in a country that has been a bastion of Catholicism as Italy enacted a civil unions law granting same sex couples largely all marriage rights except in name.  As elsewhere, the Church has been a defender of anti-LGBT bigotry and discrimination even as the clerical sex abuse scandal continues around the world, especially in Australia currently, and shows that in the Church fathers view, the abuse of children and youths was akin to a droit de seigneur for supposedly celibate priests.   And it goes without saying, Pope Francis' alleged tribunal to punish bishops and cardinals who aided and abetted such abuse still has done nothing, and in my view, likely never will.  The Advocate looks at this historic progress in Italy. Here are highlights:
Italy’s Parliament today gave final approval to a bill establishing civil unions for same-sex couples, a vote that came over the objections of the Roman Catholic Church and after years of activism by LGBT rights groups.
The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament, passed the bill by a vote of 371-51, with 99 members abstaining, The New York Times reports. The Senate had approved it in February. President Sergio Mattarella has a month to sign it into law, but this “is usually a formality,” the Times notes.
With most Western countries having already established marriage equality or some other form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples, “Italy was perhaps the most prominent exception,” the Times reports. Legal recognition for same-sex unions was first proposed 30 years ago, and the delay in enacting it was due in large part to the church’s influence, as its headquarters, the self-governing Vatican City, is contained within Italy’s capital city, Rome. Pope Francis, although more liberal than his predecessors in some regards, had spoken out against the civil unions bill, saying in January, “There can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union.”
But the legislation had the support of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose government received a vote of confidence in the House of Deputies today, and he had advised the church to stay out of the civil unions debate. Also, the European Court of Human Rights ruled last year that Italy was violating citizens’ civil rights by not recognizing same-sex unions. The ruling did not force Italy to enact such recognition but did put pressure on the government.
The vote in the Chamber of Deputies received extensive applause, and activists celebrated by rallying at Rome’s Trevi Fountain, the Times reports. Advocates expressed satisfaction. “The wall erected mostly by the Vatican against civil rights in this country has fallen, so it is a historically and politically important moment,” Franco Grillini, the honorary president of LGBT rights group Arcigay, told the paper.
Some activists, though, noted that the new law falls short — civil unions are not marriage, and the law does not allow same-sex partners to adopt each other’s biological children. An adoption provision had to be deleted from the legislation to assure its passage.
“This law is born as an old law, that should have been voted 20 years ago,” liberal politician Michela Marzano told the Times, adding, “Italy remains a culturally backward country where the only possible family” is a traditional, heterosexual one. “It prefers to penalize children rather than recognize the multifaceted families that already exist.”

"Conservative" religious belief, be it Christian or Muslim, remains the main bulwark for ignorance and bigotry.  Such beliefs have no place in the civil of modern nations.  Believers are free to cling to ignorance if they choose, but they do not get to force it on the rest of the populace.  Hopefully, they will become mmore and more politically and socially ostracized over time.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Always Embarrassing Pat Robertson: Homosexuality Will Destroy America



While Trump and his white supremacist supporters play games trying to hide the overt racism that is one of the pillars of Trumpism, locally, here in Hampton Roads we are faced with Pat Robertson once again suffering from a case of diarrhea of the mouth and in the process making the region appear to the world as a bunch of knuckle dragging, demented lunatics.  Robertson's latest nearly incoherent homophobic harangue was about homosexuality destroying America.  In the process he trots the favorite Christofascist lie that every society that has embraced homosexuality has fallen.  As previously addressed on this blog, a major cause of the fall of the Roman Empire was Christianity, not homosexuality.  Likewise, the fall of Classical Greece and other gay accepting societies had nothing to do with acceptance of homosexuality.  Sadly, Robertson plays on the ignorance of his audience.

Here are highlights from Right Wing Watch on Robertson's latest lunatic pronouncements:

The truth is, from what we understand in history, there hasn’t been one nation in the history of the world that has openly embraced homosexual lifestyle and begun to practice the homosexual lifestyle that has endured. Every one of them has gone down. Every single one of them.
Once rampant homosexuality takes place, then people don’t take care of their children, they aren’t concerned about the next generation, they’re concerned about physical pleasure and the activities surrounding this lifestyle, they aren’t planning for the future and the country goes to pot.
Right now it it’s kind of in the balance, it’s kind of interesting, but the fact that the European Union and the U.S. is trying to impose this lifestyle on a little country like Georgia that wants to stay orthodox is incredible.
I don’t know if we intend to but that’s what’s happening. We’re making the nations drunk with the wine of our fornication and God brings judgment on a country that does that.
I met Robertson years ago and, yes, he was an extremists then, but now I seriously think (in my view, at least) that dementia is setting in and I keep wondering when his children are going to shuffle him off to a mental institution.  

White Nationalist Extremist Describes Trump as "The Real Deal"

While busy refusing to release his tax returns today, Donald Trump and his campaign were also busy saying that the selection of a white supremacy group leader as a a delegate was due to a "data error."  Even as the Liar in Chief and his campaign did damage control, the white supremacist and American Freedom Party leader William Daniel Johnson, lauded Trump on CNN as "the real deal" and argued for Trump's leadership.  The Daily Beast looks at the furor which is likely to be repeated as Trump supporters feel increasingly free to vent their racism and rage against those they deem as "other."  Here are excerpts:  
Donald Trump is “the real deal” in the eyes of America’s most prominent white nationalist.
Appearing Wednesday afternoon on CNN’s The Lead, corporate attorney and American Freedom Party chief William Daniel Johnson laid out the case for the presumptive Republican nominee whose xenophobic policy suggestions have long tantalized white supremacists and xenophobes throughout the 2016 campaign.
“Mr. Trump is the real deal,” Johnson gushed to host Jake Tapper. “He will not govern by public opinion poll. He says what’s on his mind.”
Johnson, who previously ran for president with the catchy slogan “Diversity Is a Codeword for Genocide,” was famously selected as a California delegate for Trump earlier this week before the campaign quickly scrambled to nix his role following outcry.
Trump’s camp blamed Johnson’s appointment on a “database error,” and the white nationalist—whose law firm unironically assists Chinese businesses with coming to the U.S.—happily backed away so as not to “negatively impact Trump’s efforts,” he told The Daily Beast. 
“We live in a society where white people hate white people who like white people,” he explained. “And me being a white nationalist doesn’t sit well with some people. So I understand his campaign’s concerns.”
Asked by CNN whether he believes the white race is superior, Johnson played coy: “I believe that Western civilization is declining and dying out in every country around the world that has traditionally been white. Europe is being replaced by immigrants from Africa; America is the same thing happening here. And so I believe that we need to be aware of this precipitous decline in the white race.
“The whites now are so afraid to be proud of their heritage because they’re called bad names if they are.”
Despite his desire not to harm The Donald’s efforts, Johnson has previously caused the campaign some headaches. After the lawyer contributed $250 to the campaign in September 2015, Trump agreed to return the funds over concerns about his racist views. Nevertheless, Johnson went on to fund outwardly white supremacist radio ads on Trump’s behalf in a number of states, and set up a 24/7 hotline for Trump supporters who feel that they’ve been marginalized by society for their beliefs.


Oh how far the Republican Party has fallen.  The party now truly deserves to wither away and die.

Trump Refuses to Release Tax Returns Before Election


I was raised being taught that if you had nothing to hide, then you did not act as if you were hiding something.  The corollary was that if you did have something to hide, then that explained why you were indeed hiding things.  Thus, I have to agree with Mitt Romney that the only reason that Donald Trump is refusing to release his tax returns prior to the November elections is because there is obviously something in them that he believes would be damaging.   We have already learned that Trump's talk about his charitable giving is a lie.  Therefore, one can only wonder what else he is hiding by refusing to release his returns.  Yes, he has the excuse of the supposed ongoing audit, but all of his returns cannot possibly be under audit.  Is Trump afraid that his returns might show that he pays an outrageously low tax rate, that his income is far less than what he boasts, or that he has suffered huge business losses. His intransigence certainly suggest some bombshell is waiting in the returns that he does not want his grievance filled, angry white supporters to see.  Politico looks at Romney's condemnation of Trump for seemingly trying to dupe American voters.  Here are highlights:
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tore into Donald Trump on Wednesday after it was reported that the party's presumptive nominee would not release his tax returns before the election in November.
"It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service. Tax returns provide the public with its sole confirmation of the veracity of a candidate's representations regarding charities, priorities, wealth, tax conformance, and conflicts of interest," Romney wrote in a Facebook post.
Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that he would not release his tax returns, despite telling radio host Hugh Hewitt in February 2015 that he would do so if he ran for the White House.
While acknowledging that it is not likely, Romney suggested "the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations, or other unsavory groups" as a risk "simply too great ... to ignore for someone who is seeking to become commander-in-chief."
Romney blasted Trump's assertion that he could not release taxes while they are being audited, writing that there is "nothing that prevents releasing tax returns that are being audited."

"Further, he could release returns for the years immediately prior to the years under audit. There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: There is a bombshell in them," Romney said, repeating a line he used in February. "Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size."

I hate to admit that I agree with Romney on anything, but in this case, I suspect he is right.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Wall Street Journal: Hillary, The Conservative Hope


I nearly fainted when I saw this piece on the Wall Street Journal editorial page that describes Hillary Clinton as conservatives best hope and urges Republicans and other conservatives to refrain from voting for Donald Trump.  True, the WSJ did not exactly endorse Clinton, but of the two likely candidates, she is viewed as less potentiality damaging to the nation and the long term cause of conservatives.  Here are highlights from the editorial:  
The best hope for what’s left of a serious conservative movement in America is the election in November of a Democratic president, held in check by a Republican Congress. Conservatives can survive liberal administrations, especially those whose predictable failures lead to healthy restorations—think Carter, then Reagan. What isn’t survivable is a Republican president who is part Know Nothing, part Smoot-Hawley and part John Birch. The stain of a Trump administration would cripple the conservative cause for a generation.
This is the reality that wavering Republicans need to understand before casting their lot with a presumptive nominee they abhor only slightly less than his likely opponent. If the next presidency is going to be a disaster, why should the GOP want to own it?
In the 1990s, when another Clinton was president, conservatives became fond of the phrase “character counts.” This was a way of scoring points against Bill Clinton for his sexual predations and rhetorical misdirections, as well as a statement that Americans expected honor and dignity in the Oval Office. 
Conservatives still play the character card against Hillary Clinton, citing her disdain for other people’s rules, her Marie Antoinette airs and her potential law breaking. It’s a fair card to play, if only the presumptive Republican nominee weren’t himself a serial fabulist, an incorrigible self-mythologizer, a brash vulgarian, and, when it comes to his tax returns, a determined obfuscator. Endorsing Mr. Trump means permanently laying to rest any claim conservatives might ever again make on the character issue.
Conservatives are also supposed to believe that it’s folly to put hope before experience; that leopards never change their spots. So what’s with the magical thinking that, nomination in hand, Mr. Trump will suddenly pivot to magnanimity and statesmanship? Where’s the evidence that, as president, Mr. Trump will endorse conservative ideas on tax, trade, regulation, welfare, social, judicial or foreign policy, much less personal comportment?
On Monday, former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who savaged Mr. Trump during the campaign, published an op-ed in these pages on why he plans to cast his vote for the real-estate developer as “the second-worst thing we could do this November.”. . . . Mr. Jindal also seems to think that a man whose preferred style of argument is the threatened lawsuit and the Twittertantrum, can be trusted with the vast investigative apparatus of the federal government.
The deeper mistake that Mr. Jindal and other lukewarm Trump supporters make is to assume that policy counts for more than ideas—that is, that the policy disasters he anticipates from a Clinton administration will be indelible, while Trumpism poses no real threat to the conservative ideas he has spent a political career championing. This belief stems from a failure to take Trumpism seriously, or to realize just how fragile modern conservatism is as a vital political movement.
But Trumpism isn’t just a triumph of marketing or the excrescence of a personality cult. It is a regression to the conservatism of blood and soil, of ethnic polarization and bullying nationalism. Modern conservatives sought to bury this rubbish with a politics that strikes a balance between respect for tradition and faith in the dynamic and culture-shifting possibilities of open markets. When that balance collapses—under a Republican president, no less—it may never again be restored, at least in our lifetimes.
For liberals, all this may seem like so much manna from heaven. Mr. Trump’s nomination not only gives his Democratic opponent the best possible shot at winning the election (with big down-ballot gains, too), but of permanently discrediting the conservative movement as a serious ideological challenger. They should be careful what they wish for. Mr. Trump could yet win, or one of his epigones might in four or eight years. This will lead to its own left-wing counter-reactions, putting America on the road to Weimar.
For conservatives, a Democratic victory in November means the loss of another election, with all the policy reversals that entails. That may be dispiriting, but elections will come again. A Trump presidency means losing the Republican Party. Conservatives need to accept that most conservative of wisdoms—sometimes, losing is winning, especially when it offers an education in the importance of political hygiene.

Mark Herring Releases Major Opinion on LGBT Rights

Herring with me in our home in October 2013
Just last Friday at a fundraiser in Norfolk I was again thinking how glad I was that Mark Herring had been elected Virginia Attorney General rather than his ultra-right wing opponent, Mark Obenshain.  Now, with Herring's release of a nineteen page Attorney General Opinion  in response to inquiries by three members of the Virginia General Assembly, I find myself even more glad and happy to be able to call Herring  a friend (we plan to host one or more events for Herring next year as he runs for re-election).  Equality Virginia sums up the opinion as follows:

AG Herring's opinion (which can be read here) had two major conclusions:
  1. As long as the federal courts and agencies consider sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity, then so does our own Virginia Human Rights Act.
  2. For other anti-discrimination measures in Virginia, then the federal courts and agency opinions could potentially allow a Virginia court to expand sex discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity for the same reason.

Again. this opinion was in response to questions raised by three few members of the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate that wished to clarify the impact of recent federal decisions.  As noted when I saw the news, heads must be exploding at The Family Foundation ("TFF") where stigmatizing and discrimination against LGBT Virginians and forcing hate and fear filled right wing Christian beliefs on all citizens are top priorities.  A piece in the Washington Post also looks at the release of the opinion.  Here are highlights (note the sour grapes voiced by TFF's Victoria Cobb, one of the most vicious and insincere individuals in Virginia, in my view): 
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring said Tuesday that courts would probably rule that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violates state law.
The opinion, which came in response to a request by a conservative lawmaker and not as a reaction to a specific case, follows the increasing recognition by courts and federal agencies that sex discrimination laws protect gay and transgender people, LGBT advocates say.
Herring (D) said several times in his 19-page opinion that it would be “premature” for him to “categorically” say whether sex discrimination includes bias on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
But, he wrote, “the unmistakable trend in federal courts is towards construing anti-discrimination statues to prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals in many circumstances.”
That uncertainty “amounts to an invitation” to test state law in the courts, said Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. “And it’s an invitation we’d certainly like to accept,” she said, although she did not specify a particular case.
Herring’s opinion comes as the issue of transgender rights is debated around the country. The U.S. Justice Department and North Carolina have filed dueling lawsuits over the state’s “bathroom bill,” which has sparked protests and boycotts.
Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond backed high school junior Gavin Grimm of Gloucester, Va., in deferring to the U.S. Education Department’s position that transgender students should have access to the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify.
Now Herring is weighing in with an opinion that some conservative lawmakers and groups have criticized as an attempt to interpret state law to fit his politics. Herring, who is seeking re-election in 2017, has built a national profile on left-leaning causes, from gay marriage and immigration to environmental policy and gun control.
“The Attorney General is basing his opinion on the opinion of the Obama administration, the opinion of his friends at the ACLU, and his political aspirations,” Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said in a statement. “What the law actually says clearly doesn’t matter to him.”
The debate illustrates the culture wars playing out in Virginia and around the country. Earlier this year, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have prohibited state agencies from punishing religious organizations that discriminate against same-sex couples.
Del. Kenneth R. Plum (D-Fairfax), who also requested Herring’s advice on “sex discrimination” and the law, praised the opinion as a historic first that separates Virginia from North Carolina and Mississippi, which recently passed a law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay people.
“We haven’t reached the period at the end of the sentence yet,” Plum said. “But this puts Virginia on the right side of the definition of human rights.”

Mark Herring is proof that elections matter and that those who support equality and modern progress cannot stay home and allow retrograde  Republicans and Christofascist extremists like Cobb and her fellow hate merchants s drag Virginia backwards in time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


Donald Trump and GOP Lunacy

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson bears some responsibility for what has become of the Republican Party.  He was a top aide to President George W. Bush - and played a role in taking the nation to war based on lies -  and as director of presidential speechwriting and assistant to the president for speechwriting and policy adviser.  Yet despite this questionable background, Donald Trump is too much for Gerson who not only takes Trump to task in a new column but also those in the GOP seeking to rationalize and/or justify their self-prostitution to Trump and the ugliness that his campaign thrives on at its core.  Would that Gerson would have found such integrity back in his White House days.  I guess it's a case of better late than never.  Here are column high lights:
What common views or traits unite the most visible Trump partisans? A group including Limbaugh and Christie is not defined primarily by ideology. Rather, the Trumpians share a disdain for “country-club” Republicans (though former House speaker John Boehner apparently likes Trump because they were golfing buddies). They tend to be white and middle-aged. They are filled with resentment.
Above all, they detest weakness in themselves and others. The country, in their view, has grown soft and feeble. Their opponents are losers, lacking in energy. Rather than despising bullying — as Ryan, Romney and all the Bushes do — they elevate it. The strong must take power, defy political correctness, humiliate and defeat their opponents, and reverse the nation’s slide toward mediocrity.
There have always been politicians who despise weakness and the weak. Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson are examples. They were not always bad at governing, but they were bad human beings who came to a bad end.
This type of leadership can motivate, usually through resentment and anger. What it cannot do is inspire. Inspiring leaders are often those who identify with the weak. They may develop this trait by rising from poverty themselves, like Abraham Lincoln did. Or they may have had their capacity for empathy expanded by suffering, such as Franklin Roosevelt’s struggle with polio.
This is the main reason that some of us cannot simply lump it and reluctantly lend our support to Trump. The Republican Party is not engaged in a policy argument; it is debating the purpose of politics. For some Trump opponents, the justice of a political system is determined by its treatment of the vulnerable and weak. In the Catholic tradition, this is called “solidarity.” Whatever you call it, this commitment is inconsistent with a type of politics that beats up on the vulnerable and weak — say, undocumented workers, or Muslims — for political gain.
Those who accuse Trump opponents of elitism are engaged in a particularly mendacious slur. Trump is attempting to place nativism at the center of U.S. politics. Those who resist are not enforcing the rules of a private club. Many — including religious people in poor and working-class communities — are defending a vision of politics in which empathy is honored and the weak are placed first. They are opposing a candidate who mocks disabled people, demeans women, engages in ethnic stereotyping and encourages religious bigotry.
Those who regard this tawdry mix of vulgarity and cruelty as typical of any social class are engaged in a particularly offensive form of condescension. Hating losers and the weak is fundamentally inconsistent with Christian ethics, and other sources of moral judgment, in every income quintile.
Make no mistake. Those who support Trump, no matter how reluctantly, have crossed a moral boundary. They are standing with a leader who encourages prejudice and despises the weak. They are aiding the transformation of a party formed by Lincoln’s blazing vision of equality into a party of white resentment. Those who find this one of the normal, everyday compromises of politics have truly lost their way.
This is not even to mention Trump’s pledge to limit press freedom, or his malicious birtherism, or his dangerous vaccine skepticism, or his economic plans that would bring global recession, or his lack of relevant qualifications, or his temperament of brooding and bragging, egotism and self-pity,
Some are trying their best to act as though all this were normal. But we are seeing, in the words of G.K. Chesterton, “lunacy dancing in high places.” None of this requires a vote for Hillary Clinton. But it forbids a vote for Donald Trump.

North Carolina GOP Braces for "Bathroom Law" Blowback



What some in the North Carolina Republican Party thought was a ingenious way to rally the Christofascists in the party so as to sweep them to re-election in November is now looking more likely to sweep them out of office, especially Gov. Pat McCrory who appears to be falling further behind in the polls with every passing day.  McCrory is trying to play the victim of an over reaching Washington, D.C., but other than rabid Christofascist simpletons, most North Carolina residents do not seem to be suckered into support for McCrory and his party that are now defined by anti-LGBT bigotry.  A piece in Politico looks at how the North Carolina GOP seemingly out smarted itself by a mile.  Here are excerpts:
Republicans in North Carolina are increasingly worried that the state’s new “bathroom law” blocking protections for the LGBT community will cost the GOP dearly in November’s elections.
They say the reason is simple: The party that took over North Carolina as champions of small government is now seen by moderate voters as the party of the bathroom police.
Republican lawmakers and strategists in the state say the GOP is badly losing the public relations battle over House Bill 2, the law banning local nondiscrimination ordinances, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed in March. That trend only worsened Monday, when U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the law “state-sponsored discrimination” and compared it to Jim Crow-era laws while announcing new legal action.
The GOP argument that the law is about public safety has been overrun by a coalition including some of America’s biggest businesses, which says HB2 discriminates against transgender people by, among other things, forcing them to use bathrooms that may not correspond to their gender identities — and the law has come to define the Republican Party in North Carolina.
“The reality is that HB2 hurts,” said state Rep. Charles Jeter, the GOP lawmaker responsible for maintaining his party’s majority in the state legislature. “It doesn’t matter that I’m opposed to it or that I’ve called for its repeal … because the mailer to voters [in my race] is going to say that I was a part of the Republican majority that passed the most discriminatory bill in the state. HB2 is going to have reverberations for our party no matter what we do, in November and probably beyond that.”
[T]he strategist said. “Republicans could lose their veto-proof majority in one or both [legislative] chambers, with a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the governor’s race.”
McCrory has staunchly defended the law, especially after the Department of Justice told the state last week that it was in violation of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX, jeopardizing billions of dollars in federal funding.
“Had [McCrory] been a strong leader, he still could’ve fixed this,” Cooper said. “He could’ve vetoed the legislation and said it was too broad and it would hurt our economy, like Gov. Nathan Deal did in Georgia, but he chose not to.”
The Democratic Governors Association started airing TV ads last month targeting McCrory and Republicans for “taking North Carolina backwards,” highlighting economic fallout as companies like PayPal have backtracked on planned expansion in North Carolina since McCrory signed the law.
[O]ther North Carolina Republicans have been eager to keep the conversation on HB2 going because it is popular in rural areas of the state, which have become GOP bastions as the Democratic Party has shifted into the growing cities and melting-pot suburbs.
“When I saw [HB2], I could not believe they were going to pass that legislation,” Cooper said. “I spoke out immediately and said discrimination was wrong, period. We should not write discrimination into our law and it was going to hurt our economy, but they passed it anyway and the governor signed it that night, and that has come true.”
Perhaps the most amazing thing about HB2 is that it is a self-inflicted wound for the North Carolina GOP.  Its sole purpose was to pander to Christofascists - a group that more and more Americans are rightly being seen as motivated solely by hate and bigotry - with no thought of the likely repercussions.  I continue to believe that North Carolina needs to be crucified if you will so that no other state will ever opt to embrace anti-LGBT bigotry again.