Saturday, November 17, 2018

Anti-Gay Republicans Threaten to Kill Trump's New NAFTA Deal Over LGBT Protections

I still get ask at times by former Republican colleagues when I am going to return to the GOP.  A case in point was earlier in the year at a friend's funeral when I encountered another former City Committee member who was always gracious to me.  I politely said "no time soon" given the GOP's never ending homophobia and efforts to limit or take away my rights.  In addition to supporting discredited "conversion therapy," Virginia Republicans killing every gay friendly bill in the last session of the General Assembly, 40 anti- gay Republican members of Congress are now threatening to vote against Trump's new NAFTA trade agreement if LGBT non-discrimination provisions are not removed.   A copy of their letter to Trump is set out at the end of this post.  Politico looks at the efforts of these bigots to in effect give Christofascists special rights to discriminate against others.  Here are article highlights:
Protections in the new North American trade pact for LGBTQ people are roiling conservative lawmakers in the House, who are urging President Donald Trump to rescind them.
They are displeased that the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement contains requirements that workers be protected from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
“A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy,” reads the letter, which carries the names of 40 lawmakers and was sent Friday. “It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept.”
It’s one more landmine in the path of Trump’s biggest trade achievement. Already, labor groups have expressed some concern that mechanisms to enforce new worker protections aren’t sufficiently strong and hinted that the incoming Democratic House might seek changes.
Now the conservatives, including House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), are hoping to revise the deal before it gets signed. 
"This is language that is going to cause a lot of people to reconsider their support of the trade agreement, and to the point that it may endanger the passage of the trade agreement unless something is done," [GOP] Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told POLITICO in an interview.
Adjusting the deal is a tall order.
The countries are expected to sign the agreement on Nov. 30 at a G-20 summit in Argentina, the day before the current Mexican administration leaves office. The easiest way for the administration to address the conservatives’ concerns is to persuade Canada and Mexico to change the language before the agreement is signed. If those countries balk and the administration is concerned about having enough Republican votes to win approval, it could attempt to negate the language through the implementing bill. But that would be highly unusual and give many Democrats another reason to vote against the legislation.
Tweaks can be made through so-called side letters. But this particular demand is certain to leave Canada especially cold.
The LGBT provisions were a Canadian priority — part of the so-called progressive trade agenda championed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and described as a “big win” by his government. And the Trudeau government already is less than enthusiastic about entering the agreement while steel tariffs remain in place.
But it’s unprecedented language in a U.S. trade agreement. . . . The conservatives say this would undo other administration policies.
The letter argues that USMCA contradicts other administration work on sexual orientation and gender identity, and would also make it impossible to end a pair of executive actions from the Obama administration forbidding workplace discrimination.
It accuses the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative of working against administration policies.
In reality, the federal government is somewhat divided about whether employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a question that turns on how judges interpret the word “sex” (one of the law’s protected classes, along with race, religion, and national origin).
[T]he Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which continues to retain a Democratic majority, still adheres to the Obama policy that the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Federal appeals courts are split on the question, and the Supreme Court has never taken up the matter.



More Saturday Male Beauty


Trump is Now Questioning Pence's Loyalty


The New York Times is reporting that the ever more paranoid Donald Trump is now questioning Mike Pence's loyalty.  For once, Trump's paranoia might be well placed.  Pence accepted Trump's invitation for the VP slot for two reasons: (i) it allowed him to avoid running for re-election as governor of Indiana and likely losing, and (ii) it furthered his obsession/delusion that god had plans for him to one day be president. Trump in turn wanted Pence to solidify support among white evangelicals to whom Trump was promising the moon.  It was an arrangement of convenience and with evangelicals having sold their souls and rejected any semblance of Christian values and rallied to Trump's standard, Trump no longer needs Pence and probably rightly suspects the hypocrisy filled, self-promoting  Pence wants Trump driven from office so he can conveniently step into the position he has long coveted and would be only too willing to stab Trump in the back. These two foul individuals deserve each other.  Here are article excerpts: 
Trump’s post-midterm election news conference at the White House last week took a surprising turn when a reporter asked about locking down his 2020 ticket.
“Mike, will you be my running mate?” Mr. Trump asked Vice President Pence, who stood up, raised his hand, and nodded.
“Will you? Thank you. O.K., good,” the president said. “That was unexpected, but I feel very fine.”
But in private Mr. Trump is apparently not feeling so fine. In recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, Mr. Trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him. In one conversation after another he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Mike Pence loyal?
Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.
[S]ome Trump advisers, primarily outside the White House, have suggested to him that while Mr. Pence remains loyal, he may have used up his utility. These advisers argue that Mr. Trump has forged his own relationship with evangelical voters, and that what he might benefit from more is a running mate who could help him with female voters, who disapprove of him in large numbers.
Others close to the president believe that asking about Mr. Pence’s loyalty is a proxy for asking about whether the vice president’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is trustworthy.
Trump has never completely forgotten that during the 2016 campaign Mr. Pence issued a disapproving statement the day after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was made public, on which the president was heard making comments boasting about grabbing women’s genitals. Trump has kept close counsel about whether he is seriously considering making a change to the ticket, or simply poll-testing advisers as the campaign begins. And few advisers believe he would really go through with it. In recent weeks, Mr. Pence has stepped into public frays to defend the president, saying that “everyone has their own style” when asked if Mr. Trump’s fiery political and personal language have led to violent acts, including the mass shooting at a Jewish synagogue and bomb threats mailed to prominent Democratic figures. Some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers have mentioned Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, a post she plans to leave at the end of the year, and former governor of South Carolina, as a potential running mate. Ms. Haley is close with Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Mr. Trump gave her an unusually warm send-off in the Oval Office when she announced she was leaving the United Nations job in September.
And Ms. Haley on the ticket might help Mr. Trump win back the support of women, who voted for Democratic candidates in large numbers in the midterm elections.
But Ms. Haley is less likely to show the same kind of public loyalty as Mr. Pence, a former congressman and governor of Indiana. She recently poked fun at Mr. Trump in a speech at the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York City, where politicians historically make jokes at the expense of themselves and their supporters. And that was after her original speech was toned down, and some of the barbs at Mr. Trump removed, people familiar with the address said.
Trump and Pence are both despicable.  One can only hope that they BOTH go down in the Russiagate investigation. 

Robert Mueller's Next Indictment Targets

With the midterm elections behind us, media attention has turned again to the Mueller Russiagate probe and Der Trumpenf├╝hrer's obsession with killing the probe - something that should count as obstruction of justice in and of itself.   The near hysteria of Trump continues to run counter to the behavior of someone who is innocent.  Laughably, Rudi Giuliani - who has discredited himself in the eyes of anyone sane - whined that Mueller's questions to Trump were "perjury traps" ignoring the fact that if one doesn't lie (a difficult task for Trump) there is no risk of perjury.  A piece in Vanity Fair looks at the growing fear and paranoia among Trump and his sycophants who I suspect known damn well that they conspired with Russian agents and are thoroughly guilty.  Innocent people simply do not act they way these folks are behaving.  Here are article highlights:

After stepping out of the headlines and into the courtroom as part of a pre-midterms cease-fire, Robert Mueller appears poised to make his dramatic return to national politics with a new set of indictments centered around WikiLeaks and Roger Stone. According to multiple reports, the special counsel has been zeroing in on whether Stone or other Donald Trump associates had advance knowledge of Russia’s hacking of Clinton e-mails, which WikiLeaks later published.
If Mueller were to make his next move against Stone, he might also be expected to take action against Assange. So it is perhaps unsurprising that Assange’s name also surfaced this week, thanks to a slipup by the Department of Justice.
Exactly what charges Assange is facing remains unclear. In the past, prosecutors have considered conspiracy, violating the Espionage Act, and theft of government property. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department held back on going after Assange amid concerns that doing so was similar to prosecuting a news outlet. (Charging someone for publishing accurate information, Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack told The Guardian on Thursday, is “a dangerous path for a democracy to take.”) The recently ousted Jeff Sessions, however, took a more Draconian stance on government leaks, and prosecutors were reportedly told over the summer that they could start compiling a complaint. So far, the D.O.J. has not offered further details.
Whether Assange will be charged as part of the Russia probe is also unknown, though it seems likely. Presumably, the mention of Assange’s name in legal documents has spooked Trumpworld, which is already on edge in anticipation of the next Mueller bombshell. According to Politico, the White House suspects more indictments are imminent, potentially targeting a cabal of Trump family members and associates for their connections to WikiLeaks.
On Wednesday, the special counsel delivered a one-page motion to a Washington judge stating that former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and making a false statement in a federal investigation, “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations.” Then, on Thursday, Mueller’s office and Paul Manafort’s lawyers jointly requested a 10-day extension to file a report pertaining to the former campaign chairman’s sentencing.
Trump allies are feeling the pressure. Conspiracy theorist and commentator Jerome Corsi, a Stone ally, has said he expects to be indicted for perjury, and told The Guardian that Mueller’s team grilled him on Assange and Brexiteer Nigel Farage, the latter of whom has links to both WikiLeaks and Trump. Donald Trump Jr., too, is said to be bracing for a legal showdown . . . .
As paranoia, media scrutiny, and the hashtag #indictmentpalooza pick up, [Trump] the president, who has been working with lawyers on written answers to a series of Mueller’s questions, also appears to be on tenterhooks.

Nothing is more wonderful than seeing these despicable individuals sweating over getting indicted for things they knowingly did while viewing themselves above the law.  I hope the indictments come very soon.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, November 16, 2018

Right-Wing Extremists Threaten Violence Over Democrat Wins


According to the FBI, since the launch of the Trump presidential campaign in 2015, hate crimes have increased every year, increasing 17% last year.   [T]he most common bias categories in single-bias incidents were race/ethnicity/ancestry (59.6) percent - principally, anti-black, religion (20.6 percent) -Jews being the favored targets, and sexual orientation (15.8 percent) - namely gays, lesbians and transgender individuals.  Many attribute the increase to the Trump/Pence regime's racist, nativist message and outright calls to violence at Trump rallies. Now, with Democrats winning control of the House of Representatives and underscoring the contempt that a majority of Americans hold for Trump/Pence regime and its racist and religiously extreme base, some right wing extremists are threatening violence.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this very real threat.  Here are highlights:
Seeking a more lenient sentence for Patrick Eugene Stein’s plot to murder hundreds of Somali immigrants in a small Kansas town, Stein’s attorneys turned to a novel strategy: They blamed the inspiration for his actions on Donald Trump.
“The court cannot ignore the circumstances of one of the most rhetorically mold-breaking, violent, awful, hateful and contentious presidential elections in modern history, driven in large measure by the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president,” the lawyers wrote.
Stein and his two cohorts planned their attack to take place the day after the November 2016 election. Anticipating a Hillary Clinton victory, the three Kansans wanted to make a violent first strike against her presidency by setting off a set of Timothy McVeigh-style truck bombs at a Muslim immigrant community in Garden City, then gunning down survivors as they fled.
The plot had been exposed, and the men arrested, a few weeks before they intended to carry it out. It took place amid a national environment in which far-right militiamen had been vowing a violent resistance to a potential Clinton administration. That resistance was, at least temporarily, mooted by Trump’s victory.
But those same rumblings can now be heard from the very same far-right factions, likewise threatening violence, in response to this month’s takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats. There is legitimate reason for concern that right-wing terrorist violence will continue and perhaps increase — and that extremists could soon begin targeting politicians in office, especially if Trump singles them out for scorn.
The question of whether Trump’s rhetoric is inspiring acts of political violence now echoes nationally. Acts of violence in Florida and in Pittsburgh in the run-up to the midterm elections have already been inextricably linked to Trump’s hyperbolic language.
According to Chip Berlet, an expert on the populist right, the phenomenon we’re watching unfold is known to sociologists as “scripted violence. “If a very popular leader who is high up — it doesn’t matter if it’s political or a political or a movement leader — basically alleges that some group of people is conspiring against the common good, and they harp on that for a long time, it’s only a matter of time before people get killed,” he recently explained.
There’s a long history of this kind of violence, dating from well before the Holocaust and continuing well into recent decades and even the present. In 1990s Rwanda, for example, thousands were massacred when radio talkers targeted communities for lethal violence as part of a tribal/ethnic cleansing campaign.
Trump has tacitly endorsed the tactic.  His rhetoric at home is part of the same violence for which he is writing the scripts.
“Trump clearly isn’t going to tamp this situation down, and he will likely escalate his anti-immigrant and extremist rhetoric as we move toward 2020,” says Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “Since the GOP is becoming a bastion of older, white males who are angry, that’s the base they will be moving to turn out. This just follows a trend of more than a decade of increasing numbers of terror plots from the far right.
When confronted by reporters about the connection of his rhetoric to this violence, Trump has denied and deflected, accusing the media of fomenting violence instead for their “fake news” . . . . His true believers notwithstanding, the public likely takes a different view: One poll, taken before the mail-bombing attempts and the synagogue shooting, found that a majority of Americans already believe that he enables white supremacists and that many have come to see him as a “legitimizing force” for hate groups.
Critically, those hate groups themselves appear to feel empowered by Trump, in no small part because of his propensity to hesitate to criticize them, embodied by the president’s description of white-nationalist Charlottesville protesters as “very fine people.”
Trump’s far-right devotees, including the white nationalists who have both marched in his name and have used his name while committing hate crimes have taken the example of his bellicose rhetoric and expanded on it in extremists’ inimitable fashion. As they did in the weeks before the 2016 election, militiamen across the nation have referenced violent uprisings and civil war in defense of Trump around the election.
At Gab — the white-nationalist-friendly social media platform allegedly used by Pittsburgh shooting suspect Robert Bowers — speculation about civil war has been part of its site-wide discourse since this summer, . . . . Two young neo-Nazi activists who associated online with Bowers, Jeffrey and Edward Clark of Washington, allegedly planned to follow in the killer’s footsteps, or at least fantasized about it on Gab. Edward, 23, killed himself shortly after the Pittsburgh massacre, reportedly because news reports indicated Bowers was cooperating with police.
Jeffrey Clark, 30, was arrested Nov. 9 after family members warned authorities of his increasingly violent behavior and rhetoric. The brothers had long fantasized about killing Jews and blacks in a “race war,” police say. On Gab, Jeffrey had praised the Pittsburgh killings as a “dry run for things to come.”
Both militiamen and other far-right factions, including white nationalists and street-brawling “Proud Boys,” have been ginning up rhetoric about a “civil war” — depicted, in their telling, as a coming armed struggle between rural conservatives and urban minorities and liberals.
In addition to white supremacists, “Patriot” militias also have been spurred to action by Trump’s demonizing rhetoric targeting Muslims, the press and liberal Democrats.
Acts of domestic terrorism such as those in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in recent weeks come amid a rising tide of hate crimes and bigotry-fueled violence generally. Gutting of anti-terror efforts by the administration, recently reported by NBC News, bode ill for efforts to prevent this kind of violence from spreading.
This is especially so when the president himself is throwing rhetorical lighter fluid on his political targets. He [Trump] , and we, can’t be shocked when someone else provides the match. Indeed, it’s becoming clear that’s exactly the script he intends.

Anti-LGBT Rep. Marcia Fudge May Challenge Pelosi for Speakership

Fudge is seemingly part of  the "civil-rights-for-me-but-not-for-thee crowd"
and has voted against protecting LGBT Americans. 

Surveys have shown that 82% of LGBT voters supported Democrats at the polls in the 2018 midterm elections and many gave generously to Democrat candidate campaigns.  Indeed, in some very close Democrat victories, the LGBT vote may have won the day for Democrats (the LGBT community, including the husband and I, worked very hard for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's winning campaign).  Enter Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge who has opposed the so-called Equality Act that would expand non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals and women and by adding those categories to the Civil Rights Act.  Fudge now wants to challenge Nancy Pelosi - a long time LGBT ally - for Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Unlike Fudge, Nancy Pelosi wants to make passage of the Equality Act a Democrat Party priority.  I can think of few ways to more thoroughly insult and alienate the LGBT community than to put someone like Fudge in as Speaker of the House.  Some in the LGBT community have described Fudge as part of the "civil-rights-for-me-but-not-for-thee crowd."  Others have noted that the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus supported the Amendment to the Civil Rights Act, so Fudge is an out of the mainstream outlier.  A piece in Roll Call looks at a meeting meeting between Pelosi and Fudge.  Here are excerpts:
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi met with her potential competition for the speaker’s gavel on Friday, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, who left the meeting still contemplating a bid.
“No,” Fudge told reporters when asked if Pelosi asked her not to run. “What she asked me was basically how we could get to a point where I could be supportive.”
Asked if such a point exists, even if she opts not to run against Pelosi, Fudge said, “There is a point, yes, but it’s going to take some.”
Fudge said she used the meeting to tell Pelosi about some of her concerns, adding that she needs more time to talk to people and think about whether she will run against her. The Ohio Democrat is headed home for Thanksgiving and plans to announce a decision shortly after the holiday.
She also told Pelosi she would speak with her again after Thanksgiving, presumably before any public announcement.
Asked if the meeting encouraged her toward running, Fudge said, “No, but it didn’t discourage me either.”
If she does run, Fudge said she hasn’t decided yet whether she’d seek the caucus nomination on Nov. 28, in which only a simple majority vote is needed to be selected the caucus’s choice for speaker, or challenge Pelosi during the floor vote Jan. 3. 
Pelosi clearly is trying to avoid a floor fight.
“I think her goal is to try to quickly as possible unify the caucus, and I understand that,” Fudge said. “And that is why I thought it was important that when she asked me to come and see her that I did so.”
The conversation with Fudge was “candid and respectful,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Among the issues discussed, according to Fudge, were succession planning and “the feeling in the caucus of people who are feeling out and left behind.”
Politico reports that the Pelosi-Fudge meeting was at the behest of incoming House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).  Here are highlights:
Nancy Pelosi sat face to face with her potential challenger, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, on Friday as the California Democrat continued her fight to reclaim the speaker’s gavel.
The two women huddled at the behest of incoming House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a key Pelosi ally and senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus who is also close with Fudge, the CBC’s former chairwoman.
Pelosi also spent Friday afternoon meeting with incoming Democratic lawmakers who during their campaigns vowed to oppose her as speaker, including Reps.-elect Max Rose (N.Y.), Jeff Van Drew (N.J.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) and Haley Stevens (Mich.).
After Pelosi met with the incoming freshmen who had called for new leadership during their campaigns, some skeptics left the room expressing an openness to supporting her.
With her opponents continuing to work against Pelosi, the California Democrat's allies are hitting back in her defense.
Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky blasted Pelosi’s critics for defying “the majority voice of the caucus.” She suggested they are worse than the House Freedom Caucus, the group of conservative rabble-rousers who banded together to defy GOP leadership for years.
“The majority rules!” Schakowsky said, aghast. “The very idea of organizing without even an opponent. … They do not have a candidate.”
I'm not necessarily a Pelosi fan, but I surely do not want an anti-LGBT individual like Fudge in the position of Speaker of the House.  Similarly, I do not want an inexperienced novice in the position given that the next 2 years will require a Speaker who can play hard ball and hold Trump and other GOP misogynists to account.

More Friday Male Beauty


The Message of the 2018 Midterms to Republicans


Political parties used to be about winning elections, both in the near term and in the longer view.  Now, the Republican Party has become largely a cult of a malignant narcissist deemed repulsive by the growing portions of the national electorate.  The message sent to Republicans was that outside of "red states,"  Donald Trump is toxic.  Sure, Republicans held the U.S. Senate, but only because of the anti-democracy design of the institution and its over-sized empowerment of small, low population states. Elsewhere, an urbanized coalition of Millennials, minorities, and college-educated whites set a strong message that Trump, his enablers in the GOP, and his racist and religiously extreme base were simply unacceptable.  Hence the loss of three seats in the House of Representatives in Virginia and severe Republican losses elsewhere such as Pennsylvania and California.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the message that should have been received by the GOP for the midterm elections.  I find it doubtful that they will listen.  Here are highlights:

In last week’s election, the bill came due on the defining bet placed by congressional Republicans during the Donald Trump era.
Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House and Senate Republicans made a strategic decision to lock arms around Trump over the past two years. They resolutely rejected any meaningful oversight of his administration; excused, or even actively defended, his most incendiary remarks; buried legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller; and worked in harness with the president to pass an agenda aimed almost entirely at the preferences and priorities of voters within the GOP coalition, including tax cuts and the unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Even as Trump’s presidency careened through daily storms, many of his own making, they lashed themselves to its mast.
In the election, the consequences of that decision became clear. The general trend in midterm elections is that voters’ decisions, for both the House and the Senate, increasingly correspond with their attitudes about the president. But the 2018 results raised that long-term trajectory to a new peak.
In the midterms of 2006, 2010, and 2014, . . . .between 82 and 84 percent of voters who disapproved of the president voted against his party’s candidates for the House. But on Tuesday, that number soared: Fully 90 percent of Trump disapprovers said they voted for Democrats for the lower chamber. That was the worst performance for the president’s party among disapproving voters since Ronald Reagan in 1982.
Meanwhile, Republicans carried at least 90 percent of Trump approvers in seven of the 21 Senate races, and between 80 and 89 percent in 13 others. Joe Manchin in West Virginia was the only Democrat to hold his Republican opponent to less than 80 percent of Trump supporters.
The power of these relationships shaped the outcome in both chambers. In total, the tightened connection between votes for Congress and attitudes about Trump was a negative for Republicans because significantly more voters disapproved of him (54 percent) than approved (45 percent) in the national House exit poll.
[T]hree-fifths of whites with a four-year-college degree or more disapproved of Trump, as did just over 70 percent of nonwhites. That gale-force rejection powered the sweeping Democratic gains in white-collar and diverse metropolitan House districts across the country. Democrats swept away Republicans clinging to House seats in otherwise blue metropolitan areas in and around New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver, Tucson, Seattle, and the northern exurbs of Los Angeles.
Republicans lost House seats in Richmond, Charleston, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, California’s Orange County, and possibly Salt Lake City. For Republican members in both varieties of suburbs, occasional votes against party positions or tepid and intermittent public quibbles with Trump’s behavior could not mollify voters dismayed by the GOP’s overall subservience to his leadership.
Trump in 2016 carried only 13 of the nation’s 100 largest counties, according to data compiled for me by the Pew Research Center. But last week, about half of that already modest group shifted toward Democrats in statewide races. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs in Arizona, was the largest county that Trump won. But as of Tuesday night, it provided the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a decisive margin of about 40,000 votes in her Senate victory over the Republican Martha McSally.
Tarrant County in Texas, which includes Fort Worth, was the second-largest county that Trump carried. But last week, it narrowly backed the Democrat Beto O’Rourke over the Republican Ted Cruz. Among the other large counties that Trump took in 2016, Suffolk (New York), Pinellas and Duval (Florida), Macomb (Michigan), and Oklahoma (in Oklahoma) all broke for Democrats in governor and/or Senate races.
The surge toward Democrats in Harris County was so strong that the party elected a slate of candidates to posts across the government, including 17 African American women to county judgeships and a 27-year-old Latina who had never held public office to the job of the county’s chief executive. Democrats also won a majority on the county commission.
Even with the GOP’s net gain in the Senate, these patterns represent a heavy price to Republicans for the choice congressional leaders made to bind the party to Trump. Paul Ryan, who had been among the most openly skeptical of Trump during the 2016 election, sublimated any private doubts to a posture of public deference and a policy of legislative cooperation. Now Ryan leaves Washington as the architect of the GOP’s biggest loss of House seats in any election since Watergate.
Democrats demonstrated renewed strength by winning Senate and governor’s races in the three Rust Belt states that keyed Trump’s victory: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And they sent a clear message that Republicans in 2020 can’t entirely count on the emerging Sun Belt battlegrounds of Georgia, Arizona, and Texas. North Carolina, where Republicans lead by about 80,000 ballots in the total House popular vote, also remains highly competitive, if leaning slightly toward the GOP.
Whatever it augurs for Trump’s own chances, though, the 2018 results underscored how he has truncated the opportunities for congressional Republicans. So long as the party is defined by his racially infused nationalism, it will be a strong competitor in states and House districts dominated by older, blue-collar, and evangelical white voters.
But at the same time, the party seems guaranteed to struggle in suburban areas. It will also face growing challenges in Sun Belt states from Democrats who can mobilize an urbanized coalition of Millennials, minorities, and college-educated whites.
Over the past two years, Republicans up and down the ballot could have tried to establish an identity divorced from Trump. Instead, led by Ryan and Mitch McConnell, they sent voters an unmistakable signal that they would not act in any meaningful way to restrain, or even to oversee, him. In 2018, voters in turn sent Republicans an equally unmistakable signal: that their fate is now inextricably bound to the volatile president they have embraced as their leader.
With Robert Mueller perhaps closing in on him, it's likely that Trumps behavior will become even more reprehensible, thus driving more voters into the arms of Democrats. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Norfolk Wants to Replace Oldest Lesbian Bar on East Coast with a Dog Park

Patrons comfort one another on Oct. 31 as the Hershee Bar prepares to close.
The City of Norfolk, Virginia has moved light years from where it was 15 years or more ago when the then mayor acted as if LGBT individuals were radioactive. Now, the City is the largest sponsor of Pride Fest and the Norfolk police department has moved from harassing gays for laughs and giggles to now having a facilitator with LGBT community.  That said, the City remains stone deaf in other ways and its alliance with the LGBT community would appear to be a fraud.  The ongoing drama surrounding the Hershee Bar - the oldest lesbian bar on the East Coast is a case in point.  The City is purchasing the property where the Hershee Bar is located as part of a "redevelopment plan."  Unfortunately, the City wants to replace the Hershee Bar with a dog park.  The message could not be much more derogatory towards the local LGBT community. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the disturbing plans of the City of Norfolk and, in the process gives Norfolk negative publicity across America and the globe.  Personally, I believe it is time for Hampton Roads Pride to approach the City of Virginia Beach or perhaps the City of Hampton to host the 2019 Pride Fest event. Perhaps that would send a much needed message to Norfolk.  If you agree, please share this post.  Here are excerpts from the Post article: 
Two days before learning what would become of Norfolk’s embattled lesbian bar, a group of students and activists toured the city’s LGBTQ history.
It was filled with graveyards — a hotel that used to be a gay bookstore, a parking garage where drag queens used to dance.
When the group stopped at the Hershee Bar — Norfolk’s only dedicated space for bisexual, lesbian and queer-identifying women — the owners were packing up 35 years of history, piling it on tables around the bar.
The last of its kind in Norfolk and one of the oldest lesbian bars on the East Coast, the Hershee Bar was shuttered Oct. 31 to make way for a planned revitalization of the Five Points corridor. Last week, activists who spent months trying to persuade Norfolk officials to save the bar learned what would replace it: A dog park.
The announcement rattled those at a Norfolk City Council meeting who were prepared to continue lobbying city leaders for an alternative plan that didn’t involve razing the property. Several people cried.
It means a little more to some of us than a place for people to walk their dogs,” said Jennifer Alomari, who stood before the council in a white T-shirt that bore the words “We are Hershee bar.” She took deep breaths to steady herself before continuing. “It’s a little more than a park. They closed the door to our home.”
Council members and Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander (D) didn’t respond to requests for comment about the bar, the park or redevelopment plans.
Activists who have lobbied them since June said they have been denied meetings with city officials. Until last week, they said, they didn’t know a plan was in the works.
Jackie Rochelle, who addressed the council on behalf of the Five Points task force, which has been forming a revitalization strategy for the area, said the dog park was “an accumulation of years of planning.”
“We did . . . decide that the property’s best use should be for all citizens,” Rochelle said at the council meeting last week. “A dog park, for our friends that have four legs and wear fur outfits as well, and for many of us who feel that this is also our family.”
In February, council members unanimously voted to purchase for $1.5 million the four-building lot where the Hershee Bar had operated since 1983. There was no discussion about the potential impact on Norfolk’s LGBTQ community.
There are three dog parks within three miles of the bar’s longtime home at 6107 Sewells Point Rd.
Norfolk council member Andria McClellan wrote on Facebook that she was blindsided by the dog park announcement.  “For the record, I don’t support paying $1.5M for a dog park,” McClellan wrote. “I had not heard of these plans before they were presented this week and I don’t agree with this direction at all.”
On the LGBTQ history tour through Norfolk last week, the lost history was on display. Students from Old Dominion University and Virginia Wesleyan University were joined by activists, community members and historians.
They wanted the same thing: to see where their history once stood — even if all that’s left is a vacant building or an empty lot.
“One of those things that’s meaningful to people when we go on our queer history tours is they get to stand in the places where other LGBTQ people stood,” said Cathleen Rhodes, a professor at Old Dominion whose students orchestrated the tour. “We don’t have monuments. We don’t have museums. There really aren’t many places where we can go and stand in our own history.”
When they got to the Hershee Bar, the owners invited them inside. The place was dark and quiet. A heavy stillness hung in the air. The space, usually full of life, felt odd and eerie.
“One of my students said to me at one point, ‘I feel like I’m walking through a funeral,’ ” Rhodes said. “And we were.”






More Thursday Male Beauty


Gays Can't Be "Converted" - Exposing the "Ex-Gay" Lie

This weekend the movie "Boy Erased" opens in a few Hampton Roads theaters.  Based on a true story and with the star power of Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, I sincerely hope that some who most need to see this movie but are most likely not to see it will open their minds enough to buy a ticket and see the movie (find tickets here).  Trying to change the unchangeable inflicts severe emotional and psychological harm and can lead to suicide attempts since death is the only way to end something that cannot be changed.  Growing up with "my secret" I cannot count the number of times that I contemplated suicide. On two occasions, I acted on the thoughts, one incident putting me in Norfolk General after taking a bottle of Xanax tablets.  No one should feel driven to that point, yet that is what the "ex-gay" lie has driven many to feel.  Indeed, estimates that some 700,000 individuals have been the victims of ex-gay "conversion therapy" which needs to be illegal.  A piece in The Advocate recounts the experiences of a victim of this fraudulent and dangerous practice who, like myself, found that part of the solution to find inner peace was distancing himself from religion.  Here are highlights:
Growing up religious, it was this new experience for me to come out as gay. After I did, I left religion behind. I felt that I had to choose one or the other. I was just living my life. I had a partner. We bought a house together at 18 years old. But then we broke up. This is the time just before the big recession. Of course, I was sad and depressed. I end up losing my job. Things weren't going well. I then started to think maybe it's because I have strayed away from my religion. I'm experiencing all this because I've turned away from God. I ended up talking with a roommate, who was a very religious person and actually wasn't fully comfortable living with two gay people. But she and I started just talking more and reading our Bibles. Then I finally decided I was going to this conference.
I was living in Kansas City, but I went to a “Pray the Gay Away” conference in Nebraska. After that, I was completely messed up. Everything they talked about was exactly what I experienced. I need to be straight again, I thought. I decided to start the process. I lived the straight life for about three to four years.
The conference was affiliated with Exodus International. It was at a really large church in Omaha. I remember seeing protesters, which I thought was interesting at the time. That must have been part of an LGBTQ rights group trying to sway people from going. The conference itself was very morose. It was almost this sadness that existed in the air, that everyone was there either because they were inflicted with this sin or to try to help someone overcome this sickness.
Everything was stereotypes. They focused on how your dad wasn't a prominent figure in your life, and your mother really was. You've taken on that idea of just being matronly and you therefore think that you want to be with a guy. At the time that made sense. That was the one that I related with the most; this absent, non-prominent father figure.
After that, I surrounded myself with other strong-minded individuals that felt this could also happen. I was connecting more with my roommate’s family. I ended up moving from Kansas City down to Birmingham, Ala., to literally put myself in a community where I would be confronted.
Then I went to a private Baptist college. I had done my associate's degree in Kansas City and then transferred to Samford University. That helped me too, because I would talk with the counselors about my gay experience and trying to be straight. They would help me try to fight off temptations and continue to remind me to be strong and pray. I started going to church very regularly.
But I did have these times when I would fall. I would watch porn and lust over another guy. There were a couple times that I would engage in activity with another guy. We didn't get too far in our escapades. But we would always feel awful and sick; both of us. I was with another person who was also going through the same thing. I remember with that person that happened one more time and he's like, we can't see each other anymore — this has to stop because we're awful people.
It wasn't until starting to leave Samford when I was finishing up my senior year that something switched. I've been praying and praying and praying for years to change, and I've changed my whole life around from what it was. I should be in God's good graces. I didn't get it; it didn't make sense that I'm still feeling this way. I still have these feelings when I've asked God to take them away from me.
Then I started wrestling with those thoughts and finally telling others about them. I heard there are several men going through this exact same thing here on campus. What? I literally thought I was the only one on campus dealing with this. I started scouting them out. I learned of someone — he lived in the hall across from me and was an active member of my church who I really respected. He was who I looked up to, as far as being the ultimate heterosexual who's found this amazing alignment with God and his religion. His whole life seemed peaceful. I learned he was struggling with being gay and I was baffled. That turned my life upside down.
After leaving Samford, I didn't come out again as gay for seven months. It took a lot of people around me just telling me "you're gay" to be okay enough with life to accept it again. It's like you retrace your steps. You've had these thoughts for a long time. You've really felt this way. At one point it seemed fine — just being around other gay people helped, because I completely isolated myself from anything LGBTQ-friendly. I made them the enemy. Then I let that back in to my life and was seeing how it's okay; it's normal.
Now, I would just consider myself non-religious. 
I know today we have unity churches and different sects of churches that didn't even exist back then. I know that those places are out there and accepting of LGBTQ people, but I don't see myself becoming a Christian again.
Telling my mom I was gay was awful. And then when I told her that I was straight, she had just gotten used to the fact that I was gay and started to embrace it. Then when I told her I was gay again, she was like, "Oh, thank God. I’m so glad you finally realize." She saw I was not being myself. So now even my mom and dad are supportive.
What is so sad to me is that the entire right wing Christian insistence that being gay is wrong tracks directly to their fear of admitting that a few fragmentary passages in the Old Testament - passages that literally originated with uneducated herders - are wrong.  They will go to any lengths and and inflict all kinds of harm on others rather than admit that their belief system is based on unproven myths and legends. Thankfully, the author of the piece did the right thing and walked away for a toxic and malignant force. 

Republicans Keep Dancing with Autocracy


With almost every passing day I cringe at what the Republican Party has become.  Between the constant misogyny of the sexual predator in chief in the White House, relentless attacks on the truth and the utterly foul Mitch McConnell, it's as if we are witnessing a reprise of some of the worse aspects of rise of the Nazis in Germany.  Most disturbing is that most Republicans continue to ignore the assaults on the rule of law and relentless lying.  Holding on to political power now means more than anything else, including office holders' pledge to uphold and defend the United States Constitution.  Some it would seem would sell their elderly mothers for pocket change in exchange for another term in office.  The recounts following the midterm elections have made Republican hideousness even worse and with the exception of George Conway's new group Republicans seem to be all in in supporting a would be autocrat (for Fox News viewers, that means a dictator).  A column in the Washington Post looks at the disturbing phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
When a national leader urges that votes be ignored, or that an election result he doesn’t like might best be set aside, we label him an autocrat or an authoritarian.
When it’s President Trump, we shrug. Worse, many in his party go right along with his baseless charges of fraud.
We are in for a difficult two years. Surviving them will require that Republican senators take seriously the pledge they made in their oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” What we have seen so far is not encouraging.
Florida brings out the worst in Republicans. They find it hard to break bad habits developed during the 2000 presidential election, during which they were willing to use any means necessary (including a 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision rooted far more in partisanship than law) to prevent Democrat Al Gore from getting a recount. The contest was ultimately settled by 537 votes. . The GOP stopped the recounts, and George W. Bush became president.
To its credit, Florida now requires automatic recounts when races are decided by narrow margins. And this year, Republicans shouldn’t have much to worry about. In the U.S. Senate contest, as of Wednesday morning, Republican Gov. Rick Scott enjoyed a 12,562-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. In the governor’s race, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis led Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes. Unless something is badly amiss — in which case a recount is imperative — such margins would typically survive close scrutiny. But Trump would have none of it.
For starters, as The Post’s Fact Checker noted, overseas and military ballots postmarked by Election Day are accepted as long as 10 days after the voting. So Trump, the day after Veterans Day, was suggesting that many of the ballots sent in by our service members not be counted at all.
Then there was Trump’s tweet last Friday suggesting that “a new Election” might be required in Arizona as Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema passed Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the vote count of their U.S. Senate race. With her golden retriever Boomer at her side, McSally ignored Trump and graciously conceded to Sinema in a video on Monday. McSally is clearly thinking beyond the Trumpian present.
All this is about more than Trump’s obvious meltdown since an election that was bad for him and his party — and gets worse as more votes are tallied. It is about whether Republicans are willing to contain and, when necessary, oppose a man who repeatedly demonstrates hostility to the rules, norms and constraints of constitutional democracy.
It was, thus, good news this week when 14 conservative and libertarian lawyers announced the formation of a new organization called Checks and Balances. Its ranks include George T. Conway III , who happens to be the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and former homeland security secretary and Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.
Their organizing statement declared the group’s dedication to “the rule of law, the power of truth, the independence of the criminal justice system, the imperative of individual rights, and the necessity of civil discourse.”
Tellingly, they insisted that their commitment to these principles applied “regardless of the party or persons in power” and reflected their faith in “free speech, a free press, separation of powers and limited government.”
Up to now, conservatives opposed to Trump have had little impact on their party. Too many, especially among elected officials, have pulled their punches in the crunch and fallen silent under pressure.
The test will be whether four or five GOP senators prove willing to break with Trump’s apologists in their party’s leadership when it matters — and when it’s hard. Defending the Florida recount as legitimate and necessary would be a good start. So would supporting a bill protecting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and insisting that his findings be made public. Lovely words about the truth and the rule of law are powerless against a [would be tyrant] president who respects neither.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Republicans Need a Suburban Agenda


Echoing the conclusions of the prior post, Eric Cantor - a Republican I always found loathsome - admits in an op-ed in the New York Times that the Republican Party has abandoned the suburbs and women in particular.  He suggests that the GOP change its messaging and come up with a winning agenda for suburban voters.  Doing so, however, will likely prove impossible now that the party base is controlled by right wing Christian extremists and thinly disguised white supremacists.  And that doesn't even factor in the toxic individual in the White House who, if he runs in 2020, will continue to fuel the exodus of decent, moral people from the GOP.  Killing the Frankenstein monster the GOP has become will not be easy.  It may, in fact prove impossible given the demands of the GOP's toxic base.  Here are highlights from Cantor's piece:

An election provides a certain definitiveness for political candidates, win or lose. I know from experience, having lived through both the ups and the downs. For political parties, elections also provide a chance to reflect, learn and move forward with the business of attracting more voters next time. Or at least they should.
For Republicans, losing the House majority in last week’s midterm elections is a clear demonstration that the party must do more to appeal to suburban voters, especially college-educated women. Once a Republican mainstay, this group has been slowly moving away from us for the past few cycles.
The data is indisputable, and Republicans must address it. We need a Republican suburban agenda.
There is no doubt that some of the loss in support this year from college-educated women, for example, is a result of the negative opinion these voters have of President Trump. But it is also true that Republicans have not had much to offer suburban voters on what they consistently say are their top issues, including health care, child care, education, the environment and transportation.
A suburban agenda would not just address pre-existing conditions in insurance coverage but also commit to medical research that offers treatments for a child with a chronic disease or a cure for a parent’s Alzheimer’s. Republicans also need to unify around a plan to ensure that every woman who needs it has access to paid maternity leave from her job and addresses the cost of child care for working families.
No one likes spending time in traffic, but that is exactly where suburban voters are stuck a lot of the time. Republicans need to think about investments in infrastructure not just as an economic issue but also to improve the quality of life of their voters — and the people we need to bring back to our party. Finally, we should continue our commitment to reducing energy costs using an all-of-the-above approach, but emphasize energy efficiency and sustainable, renewable power.
Republicans, however, are not alone in not being able to reach people for whom their message used to resonate. The Senate results demonstrated that the Democratic Party continues to suffer from its loss of non-college-educated white men.
Unfortunately, in the past week, both parties have so far sought to explain where they fell short in the midterms by placing the blame on factors outside of their direct control. House Republicans have linked the loss to a record number of retirements and open seats. Senate Democrats have attributed their poor night on the “map” and having to defend so many seats in states President Trump carried in 2016.
There are some truths in both excuses, but those small truths mask the bigger picture: Both parties have given up on competing for large portions of the electorate. Instead, it’s all about maximizing turnout for each side’s most partisan supporters.
In my home state of Virginia, the suburbs throughout the state have been trending blue for some time. Last year in the race for governor, Democrats faced a choice: Double down on the gains they had made in the suburbs of Washington, Richmond and Norfolk or try to hold those voters while simultaneously appealing to rural areas. . . . . Both sides turned out their core voters, but the Democrats won in part by reducing the Republican margin of victory in some of the reddest areas of the state. Put another way, they broadened their appeal.
The 2020 election season has now begun. After last week’s niceties of calls and congratulations, what comes next will foreshadow whether these lessons were internalized or ignored. Will Republicans have something to offer suburban, college-educated women? Will Democrats have anything to say to white, non-college-educated men in the rural areas?
With the suburbs growing and population falling in rural areas, the GOP will have the harder task in my view.  What much of the GOP base wants - special rights for Christofascists, endless attacks on LGBT citizens, and a re-enforcement of white privilege - simply doesn't play well in the suburbs any longer.  As for the Democrats, bringing renewed economic opportunities to racist and religiously extreme rural areas - think Southwest Virginia - will prove very difficult.  Progressive businesses simply have no interest in such regions.