Wednesday, September 18, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Former G.W. Bush Staffer: Latinos Must Vote Trump Out

Decent,moral Republicans for the most part have left the Republican party in the age of Trump.  Those who remain are (i) delusional and pretending the GOP is the party it once was several generations ago, or (ii) totally subscribe to the racism, misogyny and xenophobia Trump uses as his stock in trade. Either way, there truly is no excuse for remaining in the GOP, a party I once served more than a generation ago.  The Trump/GOP tax cuts for the wealthy - which created a huge surge in the federal deficit - destroyed any fig leaf for the pretense that one votes Republican "supports fiscal responsibility."  Likewise, the Trump/Christofascist effort to inflict right wing religious beliefs on all shows the falsity of the pretense that the GOP stands for smaller government.  Now, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, an apparent former Republican who served as associate director of public liaison in the George W. Bush White House from 2001-2004 is urging Hispanic Americans to register to vote and go to the polls in 2020 to voted Donald Trump out of office.  Here are excerpts:
Sept. 15 was the start of Hispanic Heritage Month — a time that celebrates a community built on faith, family and a strong work ethic. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, judges, members of the military, police officers and even astronauts. All contribute greatly to the United States.
The feeling is not reciprocated by today’s Republican Party. It is no place for Latinos. We don’t feel welcome in a party that condones racism and looks away while the president degrades our community and destroys America. The once-proud party of Lincoln, established to abolish slavery, has been transformed into a comatose crew brainwashed by white identity politics and narrow-minded nationalist nostalgia.
I know a little about this. I am a Republican. I worked in the George W. Bush White House. And I say to my fellow Latinos: I’m not asking you to become a Democrat. But I am asking you to vote President Trump out of office.
Some of us have already left the GOP, of course, disgusted by Trump and his accomplices. Others among us remain alienated and aloof, waiting out the Trump tornado.
But the wait-him-out approach is no longer viable. Republicans have lost control of the monster they helped create. Trump hasn’t changed. From day one, Trump spewed his white-supremacist views, promising to halt the invasion of immigrants and spurring a rhetoric of resentment and retaliation against the “other.” No matter our background, we have been vilified as invaders, marked as illegal and degraded as subhuman. The silence from prominent Republicans is deafening. They have allowed Trump to normalize bigotry and use it as a winning strategy for their benefit. They enabled him to turn racist rhetoric into racial conflict, dividing our nation.
Worse than saying nothing or tolerating his tantrums, some even protect Trump, colluding with the devil for fear of political demise.
And now, they have blood on their hands. The Walmart shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3 was the inevitable outcome of 30 straight months of hate speech coming from the White House. Fueled by the president’s vitriol, a killer sought out immigrants to slaughter. The shooting isn’t just a tragedy; it’s a massacre, a direct hit against our community.
Republicans will pay a price for this situation and for their silence. By the 2020 election, Hispanics will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate — 32 million will be eligible to vote. At the same time, 1 in 10 eligible voters will be Generation Z, those between the ages 18 and 23, who are socially liberal and more racially and ethnically diverse. A vote against Trump is a stand for human freedom and a future where America is again known for its ideals and not ignorance.
Republicans need to dust off their moral compass and remember what they stand for — and what they stand against. If they do not, they will lose Latinos forever and relegate themselves once more to minority status, likely unable to regain control of Congress or the White House again. If countering racism is not motivation enough for the GOP to act, perhaps its looming political demise will be.
The United States is a great country. Hispanic Heritage Month honors the contributions the community has made — and will keep making — to keep it that way. And without Trump, the United States will be even better.

I urge all decent and moral Americans eligible to vote to register and cast votes against Trump and the GOP in 2020.  We are no longer talking about political differences.  The choice is between morality and decency and immorality and hate.    If you live in Virginia, strike a blow for decency and morality this November: vote a straight Democrat ticket and send the GOP a strong message.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Ken Cuccinelli Defends Trump's Anti-Refugee Bigotry

Racist - and homophobe - Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli.
Decent and moral Virginians have long known that Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli is a miserable excuse for a human being who feigns supposed Catholic religiosity while engaging in the types of hatred and bigotry decried not only by the Gospel message but also the Catholic Church's social gospel. Before losing his gubernatorial bid in 2013, Cuccinelli pushed every right wing Christian message of division and hate - ironically, the man is in my view a self-loathing closeted gay - while embracing an agenda that sought to disenfranchise anyone with non-white skin color.  Now, as Trump's acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director, Cuccinelli is vigorously pursuing the Trump/Pence regime's anti-refugee against not only Hispanic refugees at the nation's southern border but also in the context of Bahamians seeking entry to the U.S. A. in the wake of Hurricane Dorian's almost unimaginable devastation of the northern Bahamas.  A piece in Crooks and Liars - an apt title for Kookinelli - looks at Cuccinelli's despicable conduct.  Here are article highlights:
Acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli insisted on Sunday that Bahamians should help themselves instead of fleeing to the United States after thousands were left homeless by Hurricane Dorian.
During an interview with CBS host Margaret Brennan, Cuccinelli was asked why the Trump administration is making it "harder to flee to this country" for Bahamians who were left homeless by the hurricane.
Cuccinelli, however, argued that the Trump administration is "making it easier" for Bahamians to travel to the U.S.
"The Bahamas is a perfectly legitimate country capable of taking care of their own," the USCIS chief said. "We rushed resources in, whether it was from USAID or the Coast Guard, who were downright heroic."
"I've got to leave it there," Brennan said, concluding the interview, without pointing out that Cuccinelli's orders actually forced Customs agents to refuse entry to Bahamians who were made homeless by the hurricane for not having the proper travel visas.

A piece in Time noted why the Trump/Cuccinelli visa requirements were so discriminatory against Bahamian refugees, the majority of who - you guessed it - are not white:
U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott [both Republicans] wrote an open letter to Trump asking the president’s administration to “waive, or otherwise suspend, certain visa requirements” for Bahamian citizens who have relatives in the U.S. as the country recovered from Hurricane Dorian. Rubio also noted that many lost — or lost access to — their identification and other relevant documents during the hurricane.

Cuccinelli personifies why so many of the under 30 generations want nothing to do with Catholicism and Christianity itself. The  man is simple horrible and a hypocrite.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Iran Might Be America’s Enemy, But Saudi Arabia Is No Friend

Will Trump sell out America's true interest for the sake of the Saudis?

It is beyond frustrating that in general, America never learns from past mistakes or history.  This problem is multiplied ten fold with the Trump/Pence with a cretin when it comes to knowledge of history in the White House whose twin motivations are thrilling his toxic, knuckle dragging base and satiating his ego, when not engaging in corruption to enrich himself at public expense. Nowhere at the moment is this more evident that bellicose talk of war with Iran at the ultimate behest of the nation that furnished the vast majority of the 9-11 hijackers and which has done more to fund Islamic extremism than any other nation.  I refer, of course, to Saudi Arabia, America's false ally.  Making the situation even more disturbing is Trump's boast that the American military - which was unable to fully subdue and create lasting regime change in Iraq, a much smaller and poorer country - is ready to take on Iran.  A column in the New York Times looks at this dangerous case of amnesia and flawed analysis.  Here are excerpts: 
In 1987, an Iraqi warplane attacked an American Navy frigate, the Stark, on patrol in the Persian Gulf. Accepting Saddam Hussein’s explanation that the attack, which killed 37 sailors, had been an accident, American officials promptly used the episode, which came at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, to ratchet up pressure on Tehran. The incident provided the impetus for what became a brief, and all but forgotten, maritime war between the United States and Iran.
Last week, someone — precisely who remains to be determined — attacked two oil refineries in Saudi Arabia. American authorities have been quick to blame Iran, and the possibility of a violent confrontation between the two countries is once again growing. Before making a decision on whether to pull the trigger, President Trump would do well to reflect on that 1987 episode and its legacy.
Back then, the United States had become involved in the very bloody and seemingly interminable Iran-Iraq war, which Hussein had instigated in 1980 by invading Iran. As that war turned into a brutal stalemate, President Ronald Reagan and his advisers persuaded themselves that it was in America’s interests to come to Iraq’s aid. Iran was the “enemy,” so Iraq became America’s “friend.”
 The principal beneficiary was Hussein, who wasted no time in repaying Washington by invading and annexing Kuwait soon after his war with Iran ground to a halt. Thus did America’s “friend” become America’s “enemy.”
The encounter with Iran became a precedent-setting event and a font of illusions. Since then, a series of administrations have indulged the fantasy that the direct or indirect application of military power can somehow restore stability to the gulf.
In fact, just the reverse has occurred. Instability has become chronic, with the relationship between military policy and actual American interests in the region becoming ever more difficult to discern.
In 2019, this now well-established penchant for armed intervention finds the United States once more involved in a proxy conflict, this time a civil war that has ravaged Yemen since 2015. Saudi Arabia supports one side in this bloody and interminable conflict, and Iran the other.
 [T]he United States has thrown in its lot with Saudi Arabia, providing support comparable to what the Reagan administration gave Saddam Hussein back in the 1980s. But American-assisted Saudi forces have exhibited no more competence today than did American-assisted Iraqi forces back then. So the war in Yemen drags on.
 Concrete American interests in this conflict, which has already claimed an estimated 70,000 lives while confronting as many as 18 million with the prospect of starvation, are negligible. Once more, as in the 1980s, the demonization of Iran has contributed to a policy that is ill advised and arguably immoral.
[N]either side deserves support. Iran may well qualify as America’s “enemy.” But Saudi Arabia is not a “friend,” regardless of how many billions Riyadh spends purchasing American-manufactured weaponry and how much effort Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invests in courting President Trump and members of his family.
The conviction, apparently widespread in American policy circles, that in the Persian Gulf (and elsewhere) the United States is compelled to take sides, has been a source of recurring mischief. No doubt the escalating rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran poses a danger of further destabilizing the gulf. But the United States is under no obligation to underwrite the folly of one side or the other.
Power confers choice, and the United States should exercise it. We can begin to do so by recognizing that Saudi Arabia’s folly need not be our problem.

Monday, September 16, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge.

Right Wing Extremist Challenges Delegate Danica Roem

Delegate Danica Roem.
In 2017 Danica Roem made history when she defeated long time incumbent, anti-gay zealot and overall Neanderthal Bob Marshal, a man who regularly brought Virginia ridicule and mocking on both a national and international scale through his the extremist bills that he introduce year after year. Roem also made history by being the first transgender candidate to win election to the Virginia General Assembly.  While I still have not forgotten Roem's precipitous rush to judgment last February when she recklessly threw Ralph Northam under the bus without doing her homework, she deserves re-election.  Especially when looks at her extremist Republican opponent, Kelly McGinn, who has an extensive history of anti-LGBT bigotry, opposition to public education and women's rights in general.   Her endorsement by Eagle Forum - which has endorsed another extremist in the race for the 91st District - speaks volumes about McGinn's extremism and the huge step backwards her election would constitute for Virginia.  A piece in The Advocate argues why it is important to re-elect Danica Roem.  Donations to Danica's campaign can be made here. Here are excerpts:
With the presidential primary campaigns in full swing — and the first openly LGBTQ major-party presidential candidate very much in the mix — it’s tempting to think the most momentous political fights of our lives lie ahead in 2020. But there is an enormously consequential off-year fight going on right now in Virginia, and it’s one we all need to get behind.
It’s happening in Virginia House District 13, where Danica Roem is fighting hard to hold on to her seat against a well-funded right wing challenger. Her race is one of the most competitive in the state this cycle. Danica made history and headlines in 2017 when she won her election to the Virginia House of Delegates and became the first openly transgender person to serve on any state legislature. She won by taking out an incumbent who described himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” The right wing wants revenge and will spend what it takes to get it.
Danica’s 2017 campaign inspired the first rainbow wave in the 2018 midterms. Meanwhile at the state level, her win was part of a broader shift in political power in which full control of the legislature hinged upon a single vote. Republican control of the Virginia legislature is hanging by a thread this year. A win by Danica is not only a key element of flipping the Virginia House and the entire state legislature from red to blue, it’s a key part of setting the stage for 2020 — just like the victories of diverse and progressive candidates in Virginia two years ago were curtain-raisers for big wins in the historic 2018 election.
By any measure Danica has earned reelection. She is a dedicated public servant with a laser focus on serving her constituents. She has campaigned on a platform to fix the region’s infrastructure. She cares about her constituents and the things that matter in their lives; she played a major role in the Virginia Medicaid expansion that provides vital coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents. But none of this insulates her from the transphobic hostility that motivates her opponent and many of that opponent’s deep-pocketed financial backers. 
Danica’s opponent Kelly McGinn has a long record of anti-LGBTQ extremism. She has compared marriage equality to “morally repugnant practices” such as slavery, described LGBTQ parenthood as “absurd” and “harmful to children,” and even tried to justify her transphobia as a rationale for opposing the Equal Rights Amendment’s ratification in the state. Kelly McGinn is every bit the bigot that Marshall was. McGinn’s campaign website is slickly designed to appeal to voters who may not know much about her, describing her as a political moderate who is dedicated to family values. But she continues to accept financial contributions from far-right groups and donors that traffic either overtly or covertly in anti-LGBTQ hate . . . . Anti-LGBTQ forces in the state know exactly who McGinn is. And they are all in.  When a candidate like McGinn emerges and espouses similar views and rhetoric, it’s paramount that we do all we can to make sure such candidates are defeated. This is especially true when defeating that candidate will send a strong message beyond a single district and a single year — as the outcome of this race, in this critical run-up to 2020, most certainly will.
Our community rose to the occasion for her historic candidacy in 2017, and in this important election year, we can’t sit this one out. The organization I lead, People For the American Way, was deeply involved in supporting Danica two years ago, and we are doing it again because Danica is far more than a symbol, she is a proven progressive leader who is making Virginia a progressive state.
It’s an opportunity to make history once again and to rebuke hate in our politics, to stand up for Danica Roem at a pivotal moment for our community and our country. This is one we have to win.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Dedicated to Mike Pence.

New Kavanaugh Revelations: Why the Supreme Court is Broken

Two corrupt sexual predators.
Over the weekend, new revelations about past sexual improprieties by Bret Kavanaugh were reported by the New York Times.  Just as disturbingly, the coverage also indicated that the FBI seemingly deliberately failed to follow up on credible sources that would have corroborated allegations against Kavanaugh. One can well imagine where that directive came from.  The overall picture is one of utter corruption on the part of Senate Republicans who sought to ram Kavanaugh's nomination through no matter what.  The second conclusion is that a sitting justice of the Supreme Court is unfit to hold that position.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the corrupt Republican agenda - Senator Susan Collins seeming was a willing part of it - and the institutional damage being done to the Court and to constitutional government.  Here are column excerpts:
We focus, rightly, on the damage President Trump is doing to our institutions. But the wreckage goes beyond Trump and involves the other two branches of government as well. The right wing’s determination to control the Supreme Court is undermining its legitimacy as well as confidence in the U.S. Senate’s approach to confirming nominees.
For the GOP, nothing will be allowed to derail its effort to create a generation-long conservative majority on the court. And that helps to explain why Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was railroaded through his confirmation hearings last year after what amounted to a pretend inquiry into the various charges against him.
The costs of this approach were underscored this weekend by a New York Times report that offers new corroboration for charges by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when both were undergraduates at Yale. In denying the charge, Kavanaugh told the Senate that had it been true, the incident would have been “the talk of the campus.” Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly — drawing on their new book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation” — write tellingly: “Our reporting suggests that it was.”
More than that, they report on an entirely separate incident involving Kavanaugh that Max Stier, a classmate of Ramirez’s, brought to the attention of the Senate and the FBI at the time of the hearings. It involved, they write, “a different drunken dorm party” where, according to the allegation, Kavanaugh had a different inappropriate encounter with a female student. Stier is president of the thoroughly bipartisan and widely respected Partnership for Public Service. From my experience, he is the last person who would want to get into the middle of an ideological fight — unless his conscience required him to.
Ramirez’s legal team gave the FBI a list of “at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence” of her story. The bureau, the authors report, “interviewed none of them.” Nor did the FBI look into Stier’s account.
Now let’s take a step back: If Senate Republicans had declared Kavanaugh’s behavior as a high school and college student off-limits, they would have risked a firestorm, but at least they would have been honest about what they were up to.
However, they could not take this route once they agreed to hear psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford’s four hours of testimony about her charge that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s when both were in high school. Ford’s testimony was so credible — Republican after Republican praised her — that the GOP was forced to agree to a brief FBI investigation.
But it was such a sharply constrained investigation that neither Kavanaugh nor Ford was questioned, and the other allegations against Kavanaugh were ignored. “The process was a sham,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee who is seeking her party’s presidential nomination, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” She was not being hyperbolic. In the wake of the new revelations, three other Democratic contenders quickly called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.
This leaves it to journalists to keep exploring questions the Senate refused to settle. And it leaves the court and the country in a terrible place.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had already signaled that court packing took priority over due process . . . . The administration seems eager to flaunt the right’s new judicial power. . . . And the administration is developing the habit of skipping the normal appeals process to advance cases to a Supreme Court it has shaped to its liking. This drew a sharp rebuke from Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent last week when the court overturned a lower court’s national injunction against the administration’s asylum policy. She said colleagues’ “precipitous” ruling “sidesteps the ordinary judicial process to allow the Government to implement a rule that bypassed the ordinary rulemaking ­process.”
It was Kavanaugh who said in his opening statement to the Judiciary Committee at his 2018 hearing: “The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution.” But it’s impossible not to view the court in exactly that way, thanks to a GOP determined to control it by any means at its disposal. It’s why questions — about Kavanaugh and the court itself — will continue to haunt us.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Morning Male Beauty

America's Self-Destructive Pursuit of Global Dominance.

A carrier battle group.

One of the books that I am currently reading - I typically read several at a time and rotate what I read based on mood and available time - is "Mortal Republic" which traces the gradual fall of the Roman Republic into a autocracy under emperors.  Some of the political parallels to what is happening in America currently are chilling such as the refusal of some factions to compromise (mostly Republicans) and the increasing attacks on political and social policy opponents and efforts to stir hatred and even potential violence against political opponents.  The other stark parallel is America's pursuit of global dominance that directed disproportionate funding and resources to never ending wars. Yes, Rome brought back treasure from conquests (often shared only by the wealthy), but over time, the financial drain took a severe toll and pushed the common Roman to no longer feel that the empire offered them anything worthwhile to support.  A column in the New York Times looks at America's current financial mismanagement that neglects domestic spending and infrastructure while seeking to maintain a defacto modern day empire (note the amount of Middle East war costs and then think what $6 trillion invested in America's infrastructure and citizens could have done).  Here are highlights:
“We have got to put an end to endless war,” declared Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., during the Democratic presidential primary debate on Thursday. It was a surefire applause line: Many people consider “endless war” to be the central problem for American foreign policy.
But vowing to end America’s interminable military adventures doesn’t make it so. Four years ago, President Barack Obama denounced “the idea of endless war” even as he announced that ground troops would remain in Afghanistan. In his last year in office, the United States dropped an estimated 26,172 bombs on seven countries.
President Trump, despite criticizing Middle East wars, has intensified existing interventions and threatened to start new ones. He has abetted the Saudi-led war in Yemen, in defiance of Congress. He has put America perpetually on the brink with Iran. And he has lavished billions extra on a Pentagon that already outspends the world’s seven next largest militaries combined.
What would it mean to actually bring endless war to a close?
Like the demand to tame the 1 percent, or the insistence that black lives matter, ending endless war sounds commonsensical but its implications are transformational. It requires more than bringing ground troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. American war-making will persist so long as the United States continues to seek military dominance across the globe. Dominance, assumed to ensure peace, in fact guarantees war. To get serious about stopping endless war, American leaders must do what they most resist: end America’s commitment to armed supremacy and embrace a world of pluralism and peace.
In theory, armed supremacy could foster peace. Facing overwhelming force, who would dare to defy American wishes? That was the hope of Pentagon planners in 1992; they reacted to the collapse of America’s Cold War adversary not by pulling back but by pursuing even greater military pre-eminence. But the quarter-century that followed showed the opposite to prevail in practice. Freed from one big enemy, the United States found many smaller enemies: It has launched far more military interventions since the Cold War than during the “twilight struggle” itself. Of all its interventions since 1946, roughly 80 percent have taken place after 1991.
The basic cause is America’s infatuation with military force. Its political class imagines that force will advance any aim, limiting debate to what that aim should be. Continued gains by the Taliban, 18 years after the United States initially toppled it, suggest a different principle: The profligate deployment of force creates new and unnecessary objectives more than it realizes existing and worthy ones.
In the Middle East, endless war began when the United States first stationed troops permanently in the region after winning the Persian Gulf war in 1991. A circular logic took hold. The United States created its own dependence on allies that hosted and assisted American forces. It provoked states, terrorists and militias that opposed its presence. Among the results: The United States has bombed Iraq almost every year since 1991 and spent an estimated $6 trillion on post-9/11 wars.
An even deadlier phase may be dawning. Because the United States pursues armed dominance as a self-evident good, the establishment feels threatened by a rising China and an assertive Russia. . . . China’s rise invalidates primacy’s rationale of deterrence, and shows that other powers have ambitions of their own. Addressing the rise of China responsibly will require abandoning nostalgia for the pre-eminence that America enjoyed during the 1990s.
Despite Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about ending endless wars, the president insists that “our military dominance must be unquestioned” — even though no one believes he has a strategy to use power or a theory to bring peace. Armed domination has become an end in itself.
In the 21st century, finally rid of colonial empires and Cold War antagonism, America has the opportunity to practice responsible statecraft, directed toward the promotion of peace. Responsible statecraft will oppose the war-making of others, but it will make sure, first and foremost, that America is not fueling violence.
On its own initiative, the United States can proudly bring home many of its soldiers currently serving in 800 bases ringing the globe, leaving small forces to protect commercial sea lanes. It can reorient its military, prioritizing deterrence and defense over power projection. It can stop the obscenity that America sends more weapons into the world than does any other country. It can reserve armed intervention, and warlike sanctions, for purposes that are essential, legal and rare.
Shrinking the military’s footprint will deprive presidents of the temptation to answer every problem with a violent solution. It will enable genuine engagement in the world, making diplomacy more effective, not less.
Hawks will retort that lowering America’s military profile will plunge the world into a hostile power’s arms. They are projecting, assuming that one rival will covet and attain the kind of armed domination that has served America poorly. Russia, with an economy the size of Italy’s, cannot rule Europe, whatever it desires. China bears watching but has so far focused its military on denying access to its coasts and mainland. It is a long way from undertaking a costly bid for primacy in East Asia, let alone the world.
In any case, local states are likely to step up if the American military pulls back. The world conjured by the Washington establishment is an empty space, a “power vacuum,” waiting passively to be led. The real world is full of people ready to safeguard their freedom. Today a world with less American militarism is likely to have less militarism in general.
After decades of unilateral actions, crowned by the aggressive invasion of Iraq, it is U.S. military power that threatens international law and order. Rules should strengthen through cooperation, not wither through imposition.
In truth, the largest obstacle to ending endless war is self-imposed. Long told that the United States is the world’s “indispensable nation,” the American people have been denied a choice and have almost stopped demanding one. A global superpower — waging endless war — is just “who we are.”
America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” Secretary of State John Quincy Adams said in 1821. “She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”
Two centuries later, in the age of Trump, endless war has come home. Cease this folly, and America can begin to take responsibility in the world and reclaim its civic peace.
John Quincy Adams was far more prescient than he perhaps ever realized.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

"Pro-Life" Texas Representative Threatens to Kill O’Rourke With an AR-15

I am not an advocate of abortion and believe it should be safe and rare,  That said, I have no use for most of the "pro-life" crowd which seemingly worships fetuses and loses all interest in children the moment they exit the birth canal.  How else to explain the manner in which these "conservatives" and right wing "Christians" routinely oppose funding for programs for the poor - often children - and support the Republican agenda that would shred the social safety net that many, including the elderly, need to survive.   These programs are assuredly "pro-life" in a different form but they are anathema to the "godly folk."  But the hypocrisy and ugliness goes goes even further:  these folks demonize those with differing views and are not adverse to using violence against their political and culture war opponents as was demonstrated by a self-style "pro-life" Texas Republican who threatened to use an AR-15 on Beto O'Rourke after he proposed a common sense confiscation of assault weapons in civilian hands.  Here are highlights of this disturbing but all too typical story:
It might seem surprising that Briscoe Cain, the Texas state representative who proudly told Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke that his automatic rifle was “waiting for” him, considers himself ardently “pro-life,” but of course it’s not.
Hopping on Twitter last night during the Democratic debate, after O’Rourke had given a stirring answer about seizing high-capacity weapons from citizens if he was elected president, Cain decided to threaten his fellow Texan with his own automatic rifle — also calling him “Robert Francis,” deliberately eschewing O’Rourke’s Spanish nickname “Beto.”
Per an O’Rourke spokesperson, Cain has been reported to the FBI for his violent speech, which you might think would fly in the face of the “sanctity of life”–type rhetoric he uses as an anti-choice legislator in the Texas legislature. Earlier this year, Cain was an architect of the draconian heartbeat bill, which failed in the Texas House in May, that sought to ban abortion at six weeks, before most women even realize they’re pregnant. When introducing it, he said in a statement, “When you have a heartbeat you have a life and we should honor that life at all cost.” So zealous is he in these views that, just this week, he took the bold stance of wanting to abolish the city of Austin, after it voted to provide $150,000 to help women retain access to abortion care.
The twin conservative principles of protecting both fetuses at the very moment of conception and the right to buy the kinds of guns that can (and have) murdered dozens of fully grown children in just a few minutes is a well-worn contradiction, a hypocrisy even older than the many Republican men who have been caught railing against abortion in public, then quietly paying for them in private. Restricting women’s autonomy over their own bodies is a cornerstone of the Republican Party’s ongoing national project, which is to consolidate power among the white and wealthy over the most vulnerable Americans.

People like Cain are disgusting not to mention complete hypocrites in their wailing about being "pro-life."  They are anything but pro-life and constitute a threat to the lives and well-being of countless Americans.

Friday, September 13, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

Poquoson: Home of Trump Supporters and Something Ugly

Locally, one of the bastions of Trump supporters is the small city of Poquoson which sits eastward of Hampton and York County.  Ironically, Poquoson faces the largest threat of any local city from rising sea levels, yet strongly backs a man and political party that denies the existence of climate change.  A recent even involving the Poquoson High School football team suggest the root of Trump's appeal: racism.  Two videos leaked of members of the team using racial slurs and foul language - seemingly directed at black members of a rival football team. Thankfully, the school division - likely the most lily white in the region - did the right think and forfeited the game to the rival school and an investigation is ongoing.  The Virginian Pilot looks at the incident which, I suspect to many, is not surprising.  Here are story excerpts:
Poquoson High School’s football team forfeited its upcoming game against York High School after online videos surfaced of students at the school using a racial slur and foul language.
The two videos were posted to Snapchat, then quickly began to spread to Twitter and other online platforms Thursday. The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press obtained copies of the videos after they were reposted by others.
Poquoson School Superintendent Jennifer Parish said some of the students in the videos are members of the football team. Parish said the videos were recorded at a party off school property, and it appeared to be a club room.
Both videos are less than 30 seconds long. In one, a boy, who is white, threatens to beat up someone, repeatedly using a racial slur. In the background, students are gathered around a table.
He puts his middle finger up in the camera, and another boy comes up behind him and says “If you’re from York County and you want some, come get some.”
In the other video, another teenager appears to be challenging other teens from York County, and repeatedly uses racial slurs.
“The language and behavior in these videos have no place in our schools or in our community," Parish said in a statement released Thursday evening . . . . we are taking action within the scope of our Code of Conduct and under division policy.”
That included, she said, the decision to forfeit Friday’s game against York High School. It was scheduled to be played in Poquoson.
Poquoson is the smallest city in Hampton Roads, with a population of just more than 10,000. It became an incorporated town in York County in the 1950s, and then a city in 1975. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the city’s school district is made up of 92% white students, 2% Hispanic or Latino students and 1% black students.
York County has a population of about 67,000. In its school district, 72% of students are white, 13% are black and 6% are Hispanic and Latino.
In October, a 53-year-old Poquoson man was charged with assault and battery after he confronted a Poquoson High School student who was waving a Confederate flag at a football game against Tabb High, another York County school.
This post will not make me popular in Poquoson, but the racist undercurrent of the city needs to be exposed.  And personally, I try to avoid Poquoson since gays aren't exactly welcome either.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Ominous Signs For Republicans' Retaking the House

In Virginia, the immediate focus is on ending Republican control of the Virginia General Assembly in November, 2019, and allowing Virginia to finally become the progressive state the majority of its population wants.  Longer term the focus is on 2020 and hopefully ending the political career of Donald Trump and numerous Republicans.  Outwardly, Congressional Republicans are boasting that they will retake control of the House of Representatives in the 2020 elections.  Privately, many are singing a different song - one that I and decent Americans should hope proves accurate, namely that such a GOP win is unlikely and there are numerous signs that such bragging is little more than hot air.  A piece in Politico looks at some of the danger signs facing the GOP which is powerless to change the dynamics as long as Trump is in the White House and the party base remains controlled by white supremacists and "Christian" religious extremist (often, the two are one and the same group).  Here are article highlights:

A parade of Republican retirements. Red flags about the economy. President Donald Trump’s approval ratings under water. A nail-biter race in a GOP stronghold.
House Republicans are grappling with a string of ominous warning signs from over the past month that could spell doom for the party’s chances of clawing back power in 2020, an unsettling prospect for the GOP conference as it prepares for its annual retreat in Baltimore on Thursday.
[T]he big picture for Republicans remains dim. Even some of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill recognize that it’s going to be an uphill climb in flipping the 18 seats they need to win back the House. . . .  there are a host of reasons for Republicans to be rattled by Bishop’s 2-point victory. The GOP had to go all-out to save the seat in a district that Trump won by 12 points in 2016 and which has been in Republican hands since the 1960s. And Bishop performed poorly in the suburbs, a key battleground where voters fled the GOP last year.
Even more ominous for the party: There are 35 GOP-held House seats that are even less Republican than North Carolina’s 9th District, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
“This is like a five-alarm fire for Republicans in prosperous suburbs,” Dave Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, said in an interview. “[The GOP] averted disaster, but there’s nothing in the results to persuade House Republicans who are sitting on the fence about running for reelection that they are any likelier to take back the majority.”
A mix of veteran and vulnerable Republicans have called it quits in recent weeks, a sign that GOP lawmakers may be growing less confident about their chances of seizing back the House next year. Some Republicans — two-thirds of whom have never served in the minority — would rather call it quits than continue to roam the political wilderness.
Several of the retirements have been especially devastating for the GOP. The party is losing Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, a rising young star and the only black Republican in the House; . . . .
[A]t least three of the races have become more competitive in the wake of the retirement announcements, and more endangered members could jump ship if they don’t want to duke it out another term — especially if the GOP’s prospects look bleak in 2020.
GOP leadership, however, has downplayed the recent wave of retirements and maintains they are in a strong position to flip the House.
The GOP is banking on strong economic growth and low unemployment rates to serve as their calling card in 2020.
But Trump has thrown that strategy into question. [Trump] The president escalated his trade war last month, slapping a new round of tariffs on China that directly hit consumers for the first time — though on Wednesday he announced he would delay imposing an additional 5 percent duty on about $250 billion of goods from China. And there have also been signs of a possible economic recession, including a shrink in the manufacturing sector and the so-called inverted yield curve.
[T]he public doesn’t seem to have as much confidence in the economy. Six in 10 Americans think a recession is likely in the next year, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Trump is also lagging behind his top 2020 Democratic rivals, while his approval ratings have dipped 6 points, down to 38 percent, according to the same survey.
“In both 2018 and last night, House race results have been highly correlated with Trump’s approval ratings,” Wasserman said. “It’s unlikely that [Republicans] win back control of the House either way. Right now, I would put the chances at somewhere between 25 and 35 percent.”
Let's hope the odds shrink even more.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

More Thursday Male Beauty

America Is Failing Its Children and Youth

We hear incessant bloviating (lies is a better term) from the White House about "making America great again." yet Trump's trade war is inflicting serious harm on both American manufacturing and farmers are being decimated financially. Yes, many of these individuals/businesses back Trump and arguably deserve whatever befalls them.  What is less covered by the media and far too many politicians is the reality that statistics increasingly show that America, now more than ever, is failing its children and youth.  "Old Europe" - so much maligned by the far right and Republicans - now affords significantly more upward social/economic mobility to its citizens than America now offers to its citizens.  Infant mortality continues to be far higher in America - the United States ranks 37th in terms of child well-being - and the costs are astronomical both in terms of cost and lost lives and lost potential.  With Democrat presidential candidates debating as I write this blog, let's hope that some part of the debate focuses on America's youth.  A column in the New York Times looks at this pressing problem.  Here are excerpts:

[I]gnoring the welfare of our young is a day-to-day problem in America, where our children are falling behind those in other wealthy countries.
On Thursday, 10 Democratic presidential candidates will debate. It would be a natural opportunity to provoke a national conversation on the subject. But a question about child poverty hasn’t been asked at a presidential debate in 20 years, not since a Republican primary debate in 1999, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.
UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.
American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.
Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record.
These problems have been magnified under President Trump, though American policy has shortchanged children as a whole for decades. The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.
Trump also gave the green light to a pesticide that I call Dow Chemical’s Nerve Gas Pesticide. Formally called chlorpyrifos, it is associated with brain damage among young children. Over the objections of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Trump administration claims it’s safe. So when will we see it sprayed in the White House to handle cockroaches?
James Heckman, a Nobel laureate in economics at the University of Chicago, calculates that investments in early childhood programs for at-risk kids have an astronomical return, because of improved productivity and reduced spending on police forces, courts, jails, special education and health care.
Likewise, one study found that each dollar invested in reducing lead poisoning among children pays for itself at least 17 times over.
Here’s a suggestion for the candidates: Embrace a landmark report this year from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that outlines how to reduce child poverty by half over 10 years. This can be done: Britain under Tony Blair halved child poverty in less than a decade.
The national academies calculate that a combination of job programs and child allowances could cut child poverty in half in the United States at a cost of about $100 billion a year. Yes, that’s a lot of money. But child poverty has an economic cost in crime, lost productivity and other expenses that is at least $800 billion a year, the academies report. The real question isn’t whether we can afford to act, but whether we can afford not to.
We don’t lack the tools to help, or the resources. The challenge is just that in our political system, children don’t count — and never get mentioned in presidential debates.
“Kids don’t vote,” notes Nadine Burke Harris, the surgeon general of California and an expert on the lifelong costs of childhood trauma. “They require us to speak for them.”

Thursday Male Beauty

Trump's Theft of Military Funding Harms Military Families

Norfolk Naval Base.
Living in southeast Virginia, the military is a constant presence.  So to are military members and their families who are both friends, neighbors and clients.  They are not props for some ego boosting reality show that exists in Donald Trump's mind.  Yet, these dedicated military members are being compromised by Trump's raiding of military funding to build his ridiculous border wall that serves no purpose other than to fire up his racist, xenophobic base. Yesterday was the anniversary of 9-11, yet true to form, Trump turned it into all about himself, putting his mental disorders yet again on open display.  A column in Newsweek looks at this theft of funds previously allocated by Congress - the branch of government that holds the power of the purse - to fund a boondoggle that merely stokes Trump never satisfied ego and thrills only the ugliest elements of his base who might as well dress in KKK garb on a daily basis. Meanwhile, military families and projects are thrown under the bus.  Here are column excerpts:

As a young man, Donald Trump actively avoided military duty, seeking five draft deferments. But now, as commander in chief, he says that "I'm making up for it rapidly because we're rebuilding our military at a level that it's never seen before." So why is this chicken hawk president stealing $3.6 billion from the U.S. military construction budget?
Trump is asking service members and their families to suffer so he can pay for a wall on our southwest border, a costly and wasteful project that is nothing more than a xenophobic vanity project. . . . . Here are just a few examples of the 127 projects that will be put on hold.
In Virginia, two hazardous materials warehouses built in the World War II era will continue storing harmful materials in "structures that do not meet current life safety/fire safety requirements."
In Kentucky, children of military families will continue attending an overcrowded middle school at Fort Campbell because planned renovations no longer have funding. Shamefully, schools for service members' families take one of the biggest hits in Trump's plan.
In Florida, Tyndall Air Force Base—which only recently got supplemental disaster funds to recover from Hurricane Michael due to repeated Republican delays—will lose funding for a fire and crash rescue station.
From West Point to Pearl Harbor, soldiers in nearly two dozen states will sacrifice projects like fire houses, flight simulation facilities, roads, clinics and dining halls. Similar projects will be postponed at U.S. bases around the globe.
These are construction projects that military leaders asked Congress to fund. Each one was reviewed, prioritized and weighed carefully against fiscal restraints and operational necessity.
Conversely, Trump's wall is a hastily considered response to a campaign applause line. Remember, Mexico, not our military and their families, was the one that was supposed to pay for this wall.
And make no mistake: This [Trumpian] presidential theft of appropriated funds would violate Congress's power of the purse. It is, simply, unconstitutional.
Worse, these cuts put our service members in danger. They degrade the quality of life and morale for them and their families. Just last year, the Pentagon rated more than 30 percent of its infrastructure worldwide as poor or failing. Thanks to Trump, that number will surely climb.
Ultimately, these Trump cuts impede our military readiness and threaten our national security—and all for a project that has repeatedly been rejected by Congress on a bipartisan basis.
Many national security experts agree that such an edifice would be ineffective. Its construction price tag has been both elusive and massive, yet, some argue, it is sure to run over any current estimates.
There are also bound to be enormous unanticipated costs to this physical representation of bigotry and nativism—from forcibly and possibly illegally seizing land, to the environmental cost of disturbing protected land and threatening endangered species. It's possible the United States would have to cede land to Mexico.
[Trump] is not only exhibiting a horrific level of disrespect for our military; he is also asking them to make additional sacrifices—not for our country, but to satiate his own ego. . . . To him, stealing money from our military is just another ratings-generating plot line: like shutting down the government or caging children at the border. As our neighbors and communities suffer the consequences, Trump tweets, lies and moves on to the next harmful policy decision that keeps him in the spotlight.
[Trump] The president would do well to remember that Americans are not characters. Americans are real people. Real people who experience the real impacts of his impetuous decisions. Real service members who will work in unsafe conditions, or keep their kids in overcrowded schools or worry about the failure of mission-critical equipment. Our military deserves better. And our country deserves better.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Refusal of Interracial Couple Shows Dangers of "Religious Freedom" Exemptions

Wedding Hall that refused an interracial couple due to "Christian belief."

Having followed various right wing "Christian" organizations and prominent "professional Christians" - e.g. Tony Perkins of Family Research council - I have long believed that not only are these folks anti-gay and anti-abortion (even as they kick children to the gutter once they are born), but they are also racist and anti-anyone who doesn't have white skin.  Thus, I believed it was only a matter of time before some followers of this toxic form of religious belief showed their hand and would demand the right to discriminate against blacks and/or interracial couples based on their "deeply held religious belief."   Sure enough, the owners of a wedding hall in Mississippi rejected an interracial couple and cited their "Christian religious beliefs" as justification for refusing to allow a mixed race couple to have their wedding at the venue.  Yes, lots of sputtering and denials of what was meant ensued, but the first statement showed the real mind set of many of these "godly Christians," especially in Deep South states like Mississippi which typically ranks dead last among the 50 states in numerous categories. More troubling is the fact that this is precisely the type of bigotry and discrimination that the Trump/Pence regime seeks to legalize under the euphemism of protecting "religious freedom."  A piece in Religion Dispatches looks at what happened and the danger that it exposes, namely that Christian extremist want to be above the law and able to discriminate at will.  My personal prediction: we are already headed down that road and four more years of Trump/Pence would lead to the legalization of such racial discrimination if bigots cite "religious belief" as their justification. Here are article highlights:
The owner of a Mississippi wedding hall, Donna Russell, made news last week for refusing to provide space for an interracial marriage due to her religious beliefs. Russell was caught on film stating that “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race—I mean, our Christian belief. . . .”
It took twenty years after the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, banning state laws against interracial marriage, for Mississippi to amend its constitution and remove the amendment prohibiting miscegenation. Loving nullified all state laws in 1967, but Mississippi clerks and courts refused to perform or honor interracial marriages for years after. Even in 1987, a bare majority of 52% of Mississippians voted to remove the language from the state constitution.
Currently, Mississippi has the distinction of having one of the broadest explicitly anti-LGBT laws in the country: the state permits state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBT people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious belief; it permits state officials to decline to marry couples of whose marriage they disapprove; and it likewise permits medical professionals to decline to serve LGBT clients.
In a fiery opinion from 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves issued a temporary injunction halting Mississippi’s broad anti-LGBT law from going into effect, finding that “It is not rationally related to a legitimate end.” But the Governor appealed to the Fifth Circuit, who held that the plaintiffs who challenged the law lacked standing (the ability to show an injury stemming from the law). The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, effectively letting the Circuit Court’s approval stand and the law to go into full effect.
As the Christian right, bolstered by evangelical donors and the Trump administration, continues to undermine justice for LGBTQ people through religious exemptions based on a narrow theology, rhetoric like that of the Mississippi wedding hall owner gives one pause for thought. In states where same-sex marriages neither need to be solemnized nor honored, are interracial marriages far behind? And if people like Donna Russell believe their refusal to honor interracial marriages is rooted in faith how solid is the holding in Loving?
In fact, this “slippery slope” argument was brought up during oral arguments for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, when the former asks: “Same case or not the same case, if your client instead objected to an interracial marriage?”
To which the Cakeshop’s lead counsel, Kristen Waggoner replies: “Very different case in that context.” Waggoner is trying to make a very specific argument here: that marrying someone of your same gender is a choice, is speech, is not a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment’s right to Equal Protection under the law because, in her view, and in the view of Alliance Defending Freedom, there is nothing there to protect. ADF, and Waggoner, are arguing that asking a baker to make a cake to celebrate your marriage to someone of your same gender is closer to asking a baker to make a penis cake for a bachelorette party. The inference, in other words, is that being gay is a choice and therefore that the “message” these two men were trying to convey was the choice to marry someone of the same sex, a kind of message a business ought to be able to reject.
But what of those, like Donna Russell, who believe that interracial marriage is as wrong as same-sex marriage, regardless of legal or theological justification?
There aren’t current data on state-by-state support for interracial marriage, but while 18% of all newly married people in urban areas are married to someone of a different race, only 3% of newlyweds in Jackson, Mississippi are married to someone of a different race, the lowest percentage in the country. Discrimination on the basis of race is prohibited by federal statute, and states are explicitly prohibited by federal case law from banning marriage for interracial and same-sex couples. But, with conservative Christian legislators, litigators (like the Alliance Defending Freedom, who drafted Mississippi’s anti-LGBT statute), and judges growing in power and number, how slippery is the slope of religious exemptions? And are the exemptions merely codifying what’s already taking place? 

Of course this mindset which is common in Mississippi is precisely why new and progressive businesses avoid Mississippi like the plague.  Hopefully more business will pay heed and scratch Mississippi - and similar states - off the list of potential locations for new plants and operation centers. Bigotry needs to carry a heavy price even when wrapped in the smoke screen of feigned religious belief.