Saturday, July 06, 2019

The Founders Would Be Revolted By Trump, Today’s Republicans

As perhaps a majority of Republicans continue to gush about Donald Trump's Soviet-style parade and military display on July 4th and his regime's human rights abuses continue on the nation's southern border, those who know accurate history of America are revolted by what they have witnessed - many of us refused to tune in - and are struck by just disgusted the Founding Fathers would be.  Significant portions of Republicans now support government censorship of the free press while a majority believe that Christianity should be made the nation's established religion.  Anyone versed in accurate history of the nation understands that these views were anathema to the Founding Fathers. A column in the New York Times looks at the increasingly anti-American positions of today's Republicans, not mention Der Trumpenf├╝hrer.  Here are column highlights:

Kids in cages and tanks for the tyrant. After that dictator-friendly Fourth of July, it’s time for all true patriots to conduct a political gut check.
Like many people, I’m worried about the Democrats. A majority of Americans are desperate for someone to dislodge the despot from the White House. And yet some Democrats are pushing policy positions — such as taking away private health insurance from more than 150 million people — that are deeply unpopular. The smarter candidates will rethink this, and soon, or otherwise ensure that an awful American aberration is more than a one-off.
But as troubled as I am by the Democrats, I’m terrified of the Republicans. In numerous surveys of a party that has adopted the worst pathologies of President Trump, Republicans have shown themselves to be explicitly anti-American. The Founders would gag. So would Abraham Lincoln.
Consider the Republicans’ view of the First Amendment, the most sacred of the freedoms embedded in this country’s governing blueprint. Just under half of Republicans now believe government should be able to shut down “biased or inaccurate media.” And close to half of Republicans have adopted Trump’s authoritarian view that the news media is “the enemy of the people.”
I don’t expect Republicans to know Thomas Jefferson’s words by heart — that if he were forced to choose between “a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” This from a man who was subject to a lifetime of biased and inaccurate press.
But what part of “Congress shall make no law” abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, do these citizens not understand?
Regarding the other foundational liberty in the First Amendment, restricting an “establishment of religion” by the state, the cult of Trump would throw that under a steamroller of bigotry as well.
A majority of Republicans think Christianity should be the established national religion. And half of all Southerners — the deepest, most anti-American part of Trump’s base, with the DNA of Civil War traitors still coursing through the region — believe the United States was founded as an “explicitly Christian” nation.
George Washington made clear it was otherwise in a letter to a Jewish congregation in 1790 celebrating religious tolerance and diversity. “The citizens of the United States have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy,” he wrote.
Jefferson expressed a similar feeling, touting a homeland for “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”
So, quick summary: Republicans of today would not approve of the First Amendment as written. They would give Big Government free rein to quash dissenting voices in the press, and would prefer a merging of church and state.
[A]s they have picked up Trump’s hatreds as their own, Republicans have turned a cold shoulder to the wretched masses yearning to breathe free. Less than 40 percent of Republicans, in three recent polls, now believe immigrants are a benefit to the country. This could be because of ignorance: Even though the vast majority, 77 percent, of immigrants in this country are legal, a plurality of Republicans believe they are not.
Trump has compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, which is like comparing a noxious weed to a redwood tree.
The modern-day Know-Nothings are the pink-faced mobs calling for a wall at Trump rallies. They are the architects of a government policy that puts children in filthy cages and forces them to drink fetid water, that sees helpless and newly orphaned babies as subhuman — all while laughing at the cruelty.
You can see why Republicans with a sense of history and fealty to the great sweep of their party’s finer principles describe themselves as politically homeless in 2019.
And when Trump rolls out weapons of war to celebrate the birth of a nation that never even had much of a standing army until the 20th century, you can see why passionate pride in this country is at its lowest point since Gallup started measuring this sentiment in the modern era.
Democracy is not mentioned in the Constitution nor in the Declaration of Independence, as the historian Virginia Anderson recently noted. It’s a human construct, more fragile than any of us believed until now. But when it’s gone, no one should be surprised.
A piece in The Atlantic continues this theme by looking at Trump's so-called speech at his Red Square like event.  Here are excerpts:

Were these wars right or just? Why were they fought? What were their outcomes? Except for the mentions of “freedoms” sprinkled randomly through the text, those questions went unconsidered. Instead, Trump would periodically ad-lib “What a great country!” after this or that mention of power and violence. America is great because it crushes all before it. Altering for circumstances, it was a speech that could have been given by Kaiser Wilhelm or Napoleon or Julius Caesar or the Assyrian Emperor Sennacherib. A great country is one that is feared by its enemies, that can inflict more devastating destruction than any other.
Devotion. Unity. History. Fighting. But not: Democracy. Justice. Individuality. Peace.
From time to time, one of Trump’s more devout speechwriters will try to insert references to God into the president’s mouth. Those references never sound natural from the least spiritual president in the nation’s history. They were, fascinatingly, all but absent from this speech commemorating the independence of a nation, in the apt phrase of G. K. Chesterton, with the soul of a church. Instead, there was only vainglorious boasting: See our wealth, see our power, see our glorious triumphs over the mounded corpses of our enemies. We will always win, because we always fight.
No non-American could watch that spectacle at the Lincoln Memorial and feel that America stood for anything good or right or universal. Power worshipped power, for its own sake.
“We will always be the people who defeated a tyrant, crossed a continent, harnessed science, took to the skies, and soared into the heavens because we will never forget that we are Americans and the future belongs to us.” That sentence of self-congratulation toward the end of Trump’s speech was probably lodged in the clipboard memory of some 1980s vintage word processor hauled from the Executive Office Building.
It’s bumpf, a thousand times typed, a thousand times said. And yet this July 4, after all the rodomontade that preceded it, I found myself paying attention to those hackneyed words in a way I never had before. Will Americans always be that people? Are Americans that people now?
Be very, very afraid.

Friday, July 05, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty


Is America Too Dumb for Democracy?

A piece in Salon ask the question that is the caption of this post.  The Founding Fathers believed that citizens of America had an obligation to educate and keep themselves well informed both on politics and the larger world because doing so was part of making democracy work.  Fast forward to the present day and civics classes where students learned the structure of America's three branches of government work are no longer taught.  Likewise, geography has fallen by the wayside and the difficulty of high school books compared to those of 1900 has plummeted. Leisure reading has declined and on television one sees more and more mindless reality shows and "contests" with serious documentaries relegated to obscure cable channels. Frighteningly, significant portions of the U.S. citizenry cannot locate important foreign countries on a map - 6% cannot locate the USA on a map. Pointing out these disturbing realities of America may brand me an "effete liberal" among Trump's base - or at least a liberal since they would not know what effete means - but the ignorance of America's population together with its refusal to learn from other nations due to delusions of "American exceptionalism: are becoming a threat to democracy itself.  Here are highlights from the Salon piece:

Independence Day presents a good opportunity to consider that many Americans act as if their young country is independent from the rest of the world. The former popularity of the mindless slogan, “My country right or wrong,” offers a perfect summary of America’s suicidal self-absorption. When the fireworks no longer illuminate the sky, the barbecue is down to bones, and the hangovers begin to commence, a genuine act of patriotism would insist on the widespread realization that small-minded chauvinism is not virtuous. One need to look no further than the early stages of the presidential campaign to survey the damage of a country’s inability to look beyond its own borders.
The provincialism of American culture renders its politics both farcical and dangerous. While it is encouraging to see previously “extreme” and “radical” ideas, such as socialized medicine, paid family leave and debt-free higher education, become mainstream in the Democratic Party, it is also amusing to imagine a French or Canadian observer watching American politicians debate a national health care program as if it were a novel concept.
[T]he United States is the “only country in the developed world” that does not achieve universal health care coverage through public funding. Sanders, and his fellow candidates for the Democratic nomination, have strenuous labor to complete considering that most Americans know and care little about the world beyond its borders. . . . a U.S. strategic task force of Education Abroad concluded that America’s ignorance of the outside world was so great as to constitute a threat to national security. A recent National Geographic survey indicates that merely 37 percent of recent college graduates can identify Iraq on a map, most failed to identify North Korea, only one in four could identify Iran or Israel, and among Americans ages 18 to 24, 6 percent could not even point to the United States. If you are among the 6 percent, and you are reading this, that’s where you live. The American perspective on history is as sophisticated as one would expect in a country where Donald Trump can even run for president without eliciting of universal laughter and disgust. Three-fourths of the public is unaware why the U.S. fought a cold war with the Soviet Union, and 41 percent are unfamiliar with the term “Auschwitz.”
America’s perverted priorities of giving tax breaks to the wealthy while its public schools decline into states of disrepair, along with a shallow and superficial news media operating under the demands of corporate ownership, are largely to blame for America’s failures, but the general public is not exactly resistant.
Historian Richard Hofstadter analyzed “anti-intellectualism” in American life in his seminal 1963 Pulitzer-winning book. Decades of  compounding fatuity have created a culture where leisure reading, according to several reports, is at an all time low.
It seems unlikely that those Americans who do crack open a book are studying comparative politics or international relations. For the full picture of how pitiful American culture has become, consider that for many recent years the bestselling “historian” in the country was Bill O’Reilly.
To bemoan the spectacular incuriosity of Americans is not an exercise in snobbery, but a red alarm warning of an impending crisis. The consequences of American ignorance are not academic. A Washington Post survey, two years after American forces invaded Iraq, revealed that 70 percent of respondents believed that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
American provincialism also functions as insulation of the brain, preventing the average citizen from seeing and hearing the warning signs that history offers into the transformation of democracy into despotic rule. Fascism is not an overnight development, and when your country is earnestly debating whether its treatment of immigrant and refugee children qualifies for the term “concentration camp,” you have already taken a few large steps down that deadly road.
The qualities of Donald Trump, and the zealotry of his worshipful supporters, resemble the images of nearly every authoritarian movement in European, Asian and Latin American history. If America’s political culture possessed some semblance of literacy, its voters would collaborate to consign Trump to the political garbage disposal. When it came to providing basic services for its own people, it would not allow intellectual titans like Chuck Todd to ask Democrats, “How are you going to pay for it?” — as if countries with far less wealth have not already managed to do so.
A friend of mine whose father recently died told me that her brother, who lives in London, took one month off with full pay to travel to Texas, make some final memories with his dad, and attend the funeral service. Britain, contrary to popular belief, is not a mythical, far-off universe from a fantasy novel.
If one wants to drift off entirely into dreamland, envision an America where its federal government invites consultants from countries with better performing health care systems, affordable universities and more effective poverty relief policies to assist in the expansion of the social welfare state.
Instead of seeking outside advice, we will continue to display the symptoms of national solipsism, bumbling along as if there is no reality outside what we can see right in front of us.
The United States of America is one year older today. Only time will tell if it is also wiser.


Ignorance is not bliss nor is it to be celebrated - it is a crisis that threatens our democracy.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, July 04, 2019

It’s the Cruelty, Stupid

There are several characteristics that link Donald Trump to his hard core supporters. The first two are related: hatred towards others and a willingness - perhaps even a delight - in inflicting cruelty on these that they see as "other."  These traits are true of white supremacists and for evangelical Christian extremists as well as ultra-far right Catholics.  A third trait applies to some of my affluent Republican "friends" who are indifferent to the hate and cruelty that motivates the hard core Trump base: for them support of Trump comes from greed.  Greed in the form of wanting to avoid taxes at any cost, including countenancing cruelty to others and allowing the less fortunate to suffer. Nowhere do any of these Trump supporters embrace Christ's social gospel message.  They may feign piety and religiosity, but to the extent they do so, it is to parse Old Testament passages to condemn others while preening in their own self-bestowed self-righteousness. Am I too harsh?  I think not and, as a column in the New York Times notes, history will judge Trump and his followers harshly.  But the rest of us will be judged too based on how vigorously we opposed hate and cruelty and whether we spoke out against cruelty or simply looked the other way.  Here are column highlights:

There are tanks in the nation’s capital and concentration camps on its border. The slide of this nation into a nearly unrecognizable state continues unabated. Donald Trump is recreating America in his own image: an abominable one.
He brags about trading valentines with the ruthless North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, saying at a political rally in September: “I was really being tough. And so was he. And we’d go back and forth. And then we fell in love, O.K.? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they’re great letters. We fell in love.. . . .
According to Human Rights Watch, North Korea under Kim not only “restricts all civil and political liberties, including freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion,” it systematically extracts “forced, unpaid labor from its citizens,” and “women in North Korea suffer a range of sexual and gender-based abuses” that include “rape and other sexual violence and torture in detention facilities, sexual exploitation, or forced marriage of North Korean women in China, and sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination.”
And this says nothing of the hundreds of people Kim is thought to have had executed since coming to power in 2011.
And this is the man that the president of the United States brags about being in love with.
Last month Trump joked with Russia’s Vladimir Putin about getting “rid of journalists.” According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 28 journalists have been killed in Russia since Putin took office in 2000.
Last week in Osaka, Japan, Trump said of the Saudi crown prince: “It’s an honor to be with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia.”
Let’s be clear: That friend is believed to have ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And, murder may in fact be too antiseptic a word. Turkish officials claim that after Khashoggi was killed, his body was hacked up with a bone saw, then disposed of.
Not only has Trump never delivered a full-throated condemnation of the Saudi leader, he plans to reward the kingdom with more arms sales unless Congress is able to stop him.
Why does the American president have such an affinity, a fetish even, for the world’s dictators while at the same time spurning many of America’s traditional allies? And how does this turn to the darkness reposition this country in the annals of history?
I believe that it speaks to a blindness, or more precisely, an indifference to cruelty. This also crops up in domestic policy, where the indifference is particularly acute when those who suffer are somehow other: black or brown, female or trans, Muslim or migrant.
I do not believe that a parent seeking asylum — which is still legal in this country, it bears repeating — should have a child ripped from his or her arms. I don’t believe that people — including children — should be caged like animals and deprived of basic human necessities and basic human dignity.
What is happening at our border is unconscionable, a violation of basic human rights, a complete moral violation. And yet the president on Thursday will make a mockery of the country’s freedom celebration by turning it into a muscle-flexing political pep rally.
Stop thinking that this is only about partisanship or polarization. It’s the cruelty, stupid. It has always been about cruelty: racial cruelty, gender cruelty, religious cruelty. It has always been about bending the rest of America, the rest of reality, really, into subordination to the white supremacist patriarchy.
If the emerging culture of the world has to be put under boot for the established culture to maintain power, so be it. This is the white supremacist mantra; this is the Trump message.
Trump cares nothing about the suffering of racial minorities here — other than to increase the pain — nor does he care about the suffering of nonwhite people abroad.
[H]istory is sitting in judgment, that when this dark era draws to a close, an accounting must be made, a record made. None of us will be immune.
The questions will come without room for equivocation or adjustment: Where were you when the bodies floated in the Rio Grande? What did you say when this president bragged about assaulting women and defended men accused of doing the same? What was your reaction when he saw very good people among the Nazis? Where was your outrage when thousands died in Puerto Rico?
What did you do? What did you say? And for others in my profession, what did you write?
I for one, will not be silent.  Would that I could do more to rid America of the pestilence that Trump and his supporters comprise. Will my Republican "friends" like this post?  Probably not, but until they take a good look at themselves in the mirror and reject these enumerated traits, America will continue its decline and degradation.  If they vote to re-elect Trump next year, I hope history will be most cruel in it judgment of them.  

More Thursday Male Beauty


Amazon Removes Books Pushing Of Ex-Gay Torture

Expect to hear shrieks from Christofascists that they are being censored or even persecuted by Amazon which has ceased selling books advocating "conversion therapy,"a debunked, fraudulent therapy pushed by charlatans and shysters masquerading as legitimate therapists (Michele Bachmann and her husband run one of these fraudulent clinics).  One of the high priests of this harmful scam was Joseph Nicilosi who sought to give a false veneer of science and legitimacy to what in truth is snake oil at best and a deliberately harmful practice at worse. The end goal of conversion therapy? First, to enrich its practitioners who prey on desperate and gullible individuals, and second, to support the false claim that sexual orientation is a "choice" and, therefore, no LGBT non-discrimination protections are needed.  A piece in NBC News looks at this welcomed move by Amazon.  Here are highlights:

Amazon has removed English-language books by a man largely considered “the father of conversion therapy” from its site following mounting pressure from LGBTQ activists.
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the now-shuttered Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, as well as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), authored several how-to guides directed to parents of LGBTQ youth, including “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.” His books are some of the most well-known works about conversion therapy, the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I would say many survivors of conversion therapy could trace their trauma to Nicolosi,” Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project and a survivor of conversion therapy, told NBC News. “His work lent credibility under the guise of ‘science’ to conversion therapy, even though the practice has been disputed and discredited as dangerous and harmful by medical experts.”
According to The Trevor Project’s 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 2 in 3 LGBTQ youths reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and youths who have undergone conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not.
Though activists have been urging Amazon to remove the books for several months, as evinced by a Change.org position that has amassed more than 82,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, one man in particular made it his mission to prevent the company from selling the books.
Roger Alan first learned about Nicolosi’s books from Peterborough International Christian Centre, a church in his native United Kingdom, around three months ago. The church planned to show “Flying Blind,” a video about conversion therapy, to its parishioners, and when met with widespread criticism, it defended the screening by referring to Nicolosi’s work.
While the church ultimately canceled the event, the books remained available for purchase on Wordery, an online bookseller, and Amazon.
Alan said he reached out to both sites and called for the books’ removal. Wordery removed the books the next day, but Amazon informed him that his request would be passed along to the “relevant team.”
After a month had passed with no action, Alan reached out the British Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association — organizations that have acknowledged the harm associated with conversion therapy — in an attempt to gain medical and legal context to strengthen his request. The BPS calls conversion therapy “unethical” and the APA says it has "serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one's sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure."
Then, three months after he submitted his first request, something changed. While Alan was completing his daily ritual of searching for Nicolosi’s books on Amazon on Tuesday, he realized the English-language versions of the books were no longer available (some of the works can still be found in Spanish and Portuguese).
Amazon has not contacted Alan about its removal of the books, but the company confirmed to NBC News that several titles by Nicolosi are no longer available and that it reserves the right to not sell books that go against its content guidelines.
Last December, Amazon removed a gay conversion therapy app from a religious group called Living Hope Ministries, which included anti-gay podcasts, articles and devotionals.
“These books were outrightly lying to parents on how they could cure their children from being gay or trans and essentially teach ways you can mentally and physically abuse your child.
“These books will still be accessible and will still be a risk for youth,” Brinton, the co-founder of 50 Bills 50 States, the largest campaign to protect LGBTQ youths from conversion therapy in the U.S., said. “But you can compare removing them to the surgeon general announcing smoking is dangerous: People now know the side effects of the practice.”
“The best way to save lives is to pass legislation,” Brinton added, noting that in the last 30 months, 13 laws have been passed protecting minors against conversion therapy. Currently 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, ban the practice on minors.

Congressman Leaves GOP Over Trump, Party Moral Bankruptcy

I left the Republican Party many years ago at this point because I no longer believed I could support a political party that had lost its moral compass and increasingly posed a threat to values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.  Little did I know back then how much lower the GOP would fall and that the party would become little more than a cult following of extremists and white supremacists.  Sadly, far to many Republicans continue to put party over country and seemingly have no limit to what moral bankruptcy they will countenance. I have said it before and will say it again: one cannot be a decent moral person - much less a true follower of Christ - and remain a Republican.  Any pretense to the contrary is self delusion and lying to those around you. The crisis of what is being done to children along the nation's southern border has removed any option other than to leave the GOP or declare one's own moral bankruptcy.  Add Trump's effort today to put on his own equivalent of a Nuremberg rally (I am hoping for severe thunderstorms in DC), and the choice becomes even more stark.   Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) announced he's leaving the Republican Party and becoming an independent, taking the only course someone moral can take.  The GOP cannot be reformed from within - I figured that out close to two decades ago - now that it is in the hands of white supremacists, "Christian" extremists, and lead by the most foul individual to ever occupy the White House.  In an Op-ed in the Washington Post, Amash explains why he has taken this action of leaving the GOP.  While he takes a few shots at Democrats, there is no equivalency between the two parties despite the efforts of a lazy media to pretend otherwise. Here are op-ed excerpts (read the entire piece):
When my dad was 16, America welcomed him as a Palestinian refugee. It wasn’t easy moving to a new country, but it was the greatest blessing of his life.
Throughout my childhood, my dad would remind my brothers and me of the challenges he faced before coming here and how fortunate we were to be Americans. In this country, he told us, everyone has an opportunity to succeed regardless of background.
Growing up, I thought a lot about the brilliance of America. Our country’s founders established a constitutional republic uniquely dedicated to securing the rights of the people. In fact, they designed a political system so ordered around liberty that, in succeeding generations, the Constitution itself would strike back against the biases and blind spots of its authors.
My parents, both immigrants, were Republicans. I supported Republican candidates throughout my early adult life and then successfully ran for office as a Republican. The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family.
In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.
George Washington was so concerned as he watched political parties take shape in America that he dedicated much of his farewell address to warning that partisanship, although “inseparable from our nature,” was the people’s “worst enemy.” . . . . sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. …
True to Washington’s fears, Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order: separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law. The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy.
These are consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost.
With little genuine debate on policy happening in Congress, party leaders distract and divide the public by exploiting wedge issues and waging pointless messaging wars. These strategies fuel mistrust and anger, leading millions of people to take to social media to express contempt for their political opponents, with the media magnifying the most extreme voices. This all combines to reinforce the us-vs.-them, party-first mind-set of government officials.
[W]e owe it to future generations to stand up for our constitutional republic so that Americans may continue to live free for centuries to come. Preserving liberty means telling the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that we’ll no longer let them play their partisan game at our expense.
Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, July 03, 2019

A Crime by Any Name: Trump/Pence's Commitment to Cruelty

As a student of history, I have often wondered how a civilized and supposedly decent society such as that of Germany in the late 1920's could descend into the barbarism and cruelty that was the hallmark of the Third Reich. Now, we are witnessing a similar descent into cruelty and barbarism directed at those disfavored by Donald Trump and his core base comprised of white supremacists and  evangelical Christians (best defined by their hatred of others).  The questions now become (i) will the Democrat controlled House of Representatives act to de-fund Trump's parade of horrible, which include family separations and what is nothing less than child abuse, (ii) will average Americans prove themselves better than 1930's Germans and (A) work to defeat Republicans at every level to repudiate such criminal behavior, and (B) vote Trump and Pence out of office in 2020 and reclaim some semblance of moral standing for the United States of America.  If decent Americans fail to so act, they will be complicit in these crimes against vulnerable children.  First, here are brief highlights from a piece at CNN that looks at the horrors being done to children:

Pediatricians shared disturbing images drawn by migrant children who were recently separated from their parents while in US Customs and Border Protection custody. The drawings show people behind bars and in cages. The pictures were drawn last week by three children, ages 10 and 11, at Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, after being released by CBP. "The fact that the drawings are so realistic and horrific gives us a view into what these children have experienced," said Dr. Colleen Kraft, immediate past president of the AAP. "When a child draws this, it's telling us that child felt like he or she was in jail." "The first thing that hit me when we walked in the door was the smell. It was the smell of sweat, urine and feces," she said. "No amount of time spent in these facilities is safe for children."
"This is truly a very dark spot in US history," she said. "This will be remembered as a time when the US was cruel to immigrant children. It makes me wonder what kind of country are we that that we would treat children this way." 


A second lengthy piece in The Atlantic defines the measures of the Trump/Pence regime for what they are: crimes against humanity by looking at infamous prison camps and concentration camps of the past. If these practices continue, America will have forfeited any claim to being a moral and decent nation. Most disturbing is the manner in which Trump's "Christian" supporters are applauding these horrors.  Here are article excerpts:
The horrors detailed in the press were hard to believe.  Detainees described overcrowding so severe that “it was difficult to move in any direction without jostling and being jostled.” The water provided them was foul, “of a dark color, and an ordinary glass would collect a thick sediment.” The “authorities never removed any filth.”
Such were the conditions of the Confederate prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville, Georgia, where, as the historian James McPherson wrote, 13,000 of the 45,000 men imprisoned “died of disease, exposure, or malnutrition.”
The former Confederate captain was arrested in 1865, shortly after the close of the Civil War. The Union accused him of intending to “impair and injure the health and to destroy the lives [of the prisoners], by subjecting [them] to torture and great suffering, by confining in unhealthy and unwholesome quarters.” Wirz was charged with conspiracy to murder Union prisoners by offering them spoiled food, fouled water, and inadequate living conditions and medical care.
Wirz didn’t see it that way—he insisted that he was just following orders. The conditions at the prison camp at Andersonville were not deliberate, he argued, but the result of the Confederacy’s lack of resources.
Yet the Confederacy’s lack of resources was not the chief cause of the horrors of Andersonville, because the Rebels did not have to keep the Union troops captive. In fact, they would have preferred to send many of their prisoners back. The Union, though, would not commit to troop exchanges unless black soldiers were included. It was more important to the Confederacy to treat black men as property than to obtain the return of their own troops, more important than preserving the lives of the Union captives, more important than relieving the logistical burden on their military prisons. If the Confederacy did not deliberately murder Union prisoners at Andersonville, its unshakable commitment to white supremacy made the deadly conditions at the prison inevitable. As the historian Andrea Pitzer wrote in One Long Night, Andersonville is seen by many scholars as a “harbinger of the civilian concentration camps that soon followed.” Concentration camps antedate the Holocaust by many decades, having been used by the Spanish in Cuba, the British in South Africa, and both sides in World War I. Pitzer identified concentration camps, in short, as “places of forced relocation of civilians into detention on the basis of group identity.” They are often created as a kind of collective punishment, although she noted, “Rarely have governments publicly acknowledged the use of camps as deliberate punishment.”
 Americans have again recoiled in shock and horror over the past few weeks as observers who visited immigration detention facilities in the Southwest reported that children were being held in cruelly austere conditions. These observers told the press that the children at a facility in Clint, Texas, were sleeping on concrete floors and being denied soap and toothpaste. They described “children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears … caring for infants they’ve just met.” A visiting doctor called the detention centers “torture facilities.” At least seven children have died in U.S. custody in the past year, compared with none in the 10 years prior.
About 2,000 children are now being held by the U.S. government on any given day. As if these conditions were insufficiently punitive, the administration has canceled recreational activities, an act that, like the conditions themselves, likely violates the law.
At a processing center in El Paso, Texas, 900 migrants were “being held at a facility designed for 125. . . . One observer described the facility to Texas Monthly as a “human dog pound.” The government’s own investigators have found detainees in facilities run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement being fed expired food at detention facilities, “nooses in detainee cells,” “inadequate medical care,” and “unsafe and unhealthy conditions.”
The initial rollout of the family-separation policy, and then its denial, showed the Trump administration that its campaign of dehumanization against Latino immigrants is weakest when it targets children. This is the reason for the secrecy behind the squalid conditions at immigrant-detention facilities holding minors, which contrasts sharply with the very public announcements of “millions of deportations” by the president himself.
“They don’t want eyeballs on the actual conditions of these places,” said Amy Cohen, a doctor who consults on cases involving the 1993 Flores settlement, which continues to govern the conditions for children in immigration custody. “What they tell you is that they are protecting the privacy of these children. That makes no sense. What we need to be doing is protecting the lives of these children. And unfortunately, that does not seem to be a priority of the government.”
The journalist Jonathan Katz argued in May that given the intent behind these facilities, and the conditions that migrants are being held in, they are best described as a concentration-camp system in the United States.
The Trump administration wants to preserve the political and cultural hegemony of white Americans, and by extension the Republican Party, over the United States, and is willing to break the law to do so. But the crime being committed is not genocide. America, though, has its own history with concentration camps, going back long before Hitler rose to power. And the malice, indifference, and deadly incompetence with which these facilities are run echoes that history.
In 1901, Colonel Jacob H. Smith was court-martialed for his use of “reconcentration,” among other brutal tactics, during the American occupation of the Philippines in 1901. The Supreme Court infamously upheld the internment of Japanese civilians during World War II, including at a site that the government now wants to use to detain migrant children. The precursor to what Americans are seeing at the border is not Auschwitz, but Fort Sill, Batangas, and Andersonville.
Trump’s approach represents a steep escalation in cruelty. . . . One pediatrician who visited a Border Patrol facility in Texas observed “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” Photographs show migrants huddled together, languishing in filth behind chain-link fences, some with little more than Mylar blankets for shelter. The president’s defenders on Fox News have compared these conditions to summer camp and house parties.
In private, some Border Patrol agents consider migrant deaths a laughing matter; others are succumbing to depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.
The Trump administration has consciously used immigration enforcement as a tool to terrorize undocumented immigrants and their American relatives, and to delight a base that revels in the use of state violence against those they see as trying to take their country from them, even to the point of undermining Trump’s own agencies’ enforcement operations. Top immigration officials have been purged, in part because, despite the extensive suffering Trump policies have created, the president’s advisers see the political leadership at DHS as “weak.”
Above all else, the Trump administration wants to send the message that immigrants, especially those of African or Latin American descent, are not welcome in the United States, and as far as detention facilities are concerned, incompetence or indifference will serve that cause as faithfully as malice.
The Trump administration could make it easier for migrants who do not pose a threat to public safety to be released pending deportation hearings, for which the overwhelming majority of undocumented immigrants show up, despite the president’s insistence otherwise. That would relieve the pressure on overstressed detention facilities. But it would also be insufficiently cruel, and therefore weak. And the cruelty is the point.
The argument over whether or not these facilities amount to concentration camps is almost beside the point. The semantic dispute obscures the true conflict, over whether the Trump administration’s treatment of migrants amounts to a historic crime, whether future generations will wonder how those involved could possibly have gone along with it, whether there will one day be memorials erected to commemorate it, whether historians write solemn books about it, whether those looking back will vow never to repeat it.
These facilities are just such a crime, by whatever name you choose to call them.




Tomorrow is the 4th of July.  I will not be celebrating given the ugly evil that America has become under this evil White House regime. I am ashamed to be an American and will be working diligently to weaken and/or end the Trump/Pence regime through any means available. If one counts themselves as a decent. moral person, they really have no other choice than to go into full time, 24/7 opposition mode. 

Virginia GOP Fear Mongering Ahead of Special Session, November Elections


On July 9, 2019, a special session of the Virginia General Assembly will take place in the wake of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach.  The purpose? To try to enact some common sense gun control measures that will (i) make it more difficult for those with questionable backgrounds to purchase guns, (ii) hopefully limit the number of guns one can buy in a given month, and (iii) end Virginia role as being the main source of illegal guns in New York State and the Northeast in general.  To hear the shrieks and lies of the Virginia GOP and their allies at the NRA and in white supremacist and Christofascist groups (the two are largely synonymous), it's the end of the world.  Indeed, they whine that Democrats are going to "take our state away from us" as if the rest of us have no claim to our home state  and no right to be free from constant fear of gun violence. In the lead up to the November, 2019, elections here in Virginia, expect the shrieking to become even louder and the lies to become even more disingenuous.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the GOP fear mongering which will only intensify and, which as the norm for the GOP in Virginia, involves attacking LGBT Virginians.  Here are article highlights: 
One evening, one city still reeling from mass gun violence, two separate gatherings. At a recreation center, residents fearful of too many guns. At a hotel conference room, National Rifle Association members worried about gun restrictions.
The dueling messages have been playing out around Virginia as lawmakers and the NRA rally opposing camps ahead of next week’s General Assembly special session on gun control. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered the July 9 session after a gunman killed 12 people at a Virginia Beach municipal building on May 31.
The issue has crystallized what’s at stake in elections this fall, when Republicans try to defend their razor-thin majorities and Democrats try to seize control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades.
Republicans are sounding an alarm, warning that the consequences this fall could be extensive. The NRA rally in Virginia Beach on Monday night was closed to the media. But at a similar NRA gathering last week in Fredericksburg, a recording of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the message was dark.
“They want our state,” Del. Margaret B. Ransone (R-Westmoreland) told an audience of mostly gun rights supporters in Fredericksburg. . . . They intentionally want to turn it blue. Gun control, abortion rights, social justice — they’ve named their three; that’s what they want.” “We are on the cusp of changing things, and we need all of you to help this year,” Democratic Senate candidate Missy Cotter Smasal told an audience of about 50 gun-control advocates Monday night at a recreation center in Virginia Beach.
As Smasal spoke in the recreation center, the Republican she is trying to unseat, Sen. William R. DeSteph Jr., addressed nearly 200 at a closed NRA meeting in a hotel near the oceanfront. Smasal called DeSteph’s appearance at that event “disrespectful and contemptuous” coming so soon after the mass shooting.
“We’re the counterweight to what’s happening in our town right now. We’re the counterweight to that NRA town hall,” Sibel Galindez, who helps run the Hampton Roads chapter of Moms Demand Action, told Smasal’s gathering at the rec center.
Galindez and her group offered to help people travel to Richmond next week for the special legislative session to express support for the gun-control measures outlined by Northam. Those include bans on military-style weapons, high-capacity magazines and devices to help guns shoot faster or quieter; limiting handgun purchases to one per month; a “red-flag law” allowing authorities to seize weapons from someone deemed a danger; and requiring people to report lost or stolen firearms.
Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) [who in my view is bought and paid for by the gun lobbt]. . . . described overhearing a Democratic colleague, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (Alexandria), sitting in his office and telling someone that “we will radically change Virginia when we take control.”
He said Ebbin is “from Northern Virginia. He’s really liberal left; he’s . . . the [only] openly gay senator in our Senate.” And Reeves said Ebbin’s agenda “means infanticide is coming, all the gun bills. We’re going to lose the right to work. . . . Minimum wage — just minimum will be $15, but I heard him talking about $20 to $25.”
Ebbin, when told of Reeves’s remarks at the town hall, said he never made any of the comments attributed to him. “Apparently I’m a radical homosexual who’s misquoted,” Ebbin said sarcastically.
“I did speak to him once on, ‘Couldn’t we agree on universal background checks,’ but I’ve never talked to him about radically changing the course of Virginia,” Ebbin said. “I’ve never heard any Democrat in Virginia or elsewhere that I recall talking about a minimum wage over $15.”
Ebbin said he was most upset that Reeves would invoke his sexual orientation.
Expect Reeves, DeSteph - who I have no use for - Ransome and other Republics to lie through their teeth booth about the special legislative session and the November elections. I was at a CLE course where Tommy Norment, GOP Senate majority leader, was the presenter and even in that venue he lied non-stop on gun control issue.  Today's Republicans have something in common with the "professional Christians" of the "Christian Right": if their lips are moving, it's almost a 100% guarantee that they are lying.

More Wednesday Male Beauty


AT&T, GE, Home Depot, Comcast, et al Fund Anti-Gay Republicans

The Human Rights Campaign - which engages in endless self-promotion while giving its leaders obscenely high salaries - publishes a "corporate index" that supposedly ranks companies on how LGBT friendly they are, including their employment policies towards LGBT employees.  Missing from the equation, however, is any analysis of what politicians these companies contribute to and whether or not the recipients of these corporate political donations are raging homophobes. As a column in the New York Times lays out, a number of major corporations that tout their gay friendliness, financially support some of the most anti-LGBT members of Congress, seemingly believing that the LGBT community is too stupid to realize that they are being played for suckers by these corporations.  Obviously, you cannot be a gay friendly company if you are consistently backing the enemies of gay rights and even basic marriage equality.  HRC's ratings need a major overhaul and political donations to far right politicians needs to negate other window dressing used to give a gay positive image.  Here are column excerpts:

Virginia Foxx, a member of Congress from North Carolina, has a long record of opposing gay rights. She has gone so far as to claim that Matthew Shepard — a college student murdered in a hate crime — was not killed because he was gay. At one point, she used the word “hoax.”
Nonetheless, the executives of Comcast, the media company, have decided that Foxx deserves the company’s support: It recently donated money to Foxx’s political action committee.
Doug Collins, a House member from Georgia, is also an opponent of gay rights. He has argued, bizarrely, that a ban on workplace discrimination would somehow hurt “women, lesbians, and families.” Still, Home Depot has decided to support Collins financially.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, from Tennessee, opposes marriage equality and supports President Trump’s efforts to keep transgender Americans out of the military. AT&T recently gave her thousands of dollars.
This list could go on. FedEx, General Electric, Pfizer, UBS, UPS and Verizon have all given significant financial backing to members of Congress who oppose L.G.B.T. rights.
Yet every one of these companies also claims to support L.G.B.T. equality. Their social media accounts post photographs of rainbow flags during Pride Month, and their corporate websites brag about their policies toward L.G.B.T. employees.
This hypocrisy was the subject of a recent newsletter by the journalist Judd Legum, who’s been doing excellent reporting on corporate political activity. The specifics here come from his work. Legum focused on companies that have inclusive benefits for their L.G.B.T. employees but then support politicians who undermine those same employees.
This issue fits a larger pattern. Many big corporations promote an image of decency. They claim to value all of their employees and customers. They claim to care about the state of American democracy and the quality of our schools. But when these same corporations are faced with hard political choices — like whether to bankroll politicians who oppose equality, or whether to damage city budgets by using shady tax loopholes — their principles suddenly take a back seat.
I don’t see any problem with these corporations giving money to politicians on both sides of the abortion debate, for example, because the companies don’t claim to be “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” But they do claim to have a position on L.G.B.T. equality. They say that it’s part of their corporate values, yet they support politicians who treat L.G.B.T. Americans as second-class citizens.
Imagine if AT&T, Pfizer, UBS and the other companies mentioned here took a different stance. Imagine if they said they were willing to back politicians of either party who took diverging positions on any number of issues, so long as those politicians didn’t violate any of the companies’ core values. That approach could actually make a difference, because members of Congress rely on financial support from corporate America.
Instead, the companies are putting profit and influence over their own employees — which suggests that their stated corporate values aren’t very meaningful.
My colleague Ian Prasad Philbrick and I reached out to all the companies mentioned here for responses, but I didn’t find any of their explanations persuasive. Several pointed out that the Human Rights Campaign has recognized them as having inclusive policies for L.G.B.T. employees.
On Saturday’s episode of “The Daily,” Ann Northrop, an L.G.B.T. activist, criticized some corporations’ role in Pride celebrations: “They’re there to market to what they perceive as an affluent gay community. And then they turn around the next day and spend all their money buying Republican right-wing politicians, who they need to pass whatever regulations they care about. And those Republican politicians are taking away all our rights, putting really virulently anti-L.G.B.T. judges on the federal benches. … So why are we handing over the Pride parade to these people?”


For more details on the millions of dollars given to the enemies of LGBT rights, see the newsletter here.  Then, adjust your shopping and service providers accordingly and let them know why you are moving your business elsewhere.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, July 02, 2019

200+ Major Companies Submit Supreme Court Brief in Favor of LGBT Employees

click image to enlarge.

On October 8, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases Altitude Express v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens that will determine whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees.  206 major companies have filed amicus briefs with the Court arguing that LGBT employees should not be subject to firing or other employment discrimination.  Opposed to this argument is the always vile and always disingenuous Alliance Defending Freedom - but only for Christofascists, of course - which continues the quest of evangelical extremists and far right Catholics to be placed above the laws that govern the rest of us. Selfishness and greed - as the prior post on taxpayer funding of religious schools notes - are the main attributes of these people.  NBC News looks at the companies opposing discrimination.  Here are excerpts: 
More than 200 major U.S. and international corporations signed an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday arguing that excluding sexual orientation and gender identity from federal civil rights law “would undermine the nation’s business interests.”
“The 206 businesses that join this brief as amici collectively employ over 7 million employees, and comprise over $5 trillion in revenue,” the brief states. “These businesses — which range across a wide variety of industries (and some of which are even competitors) — share a common interest in equality because they know that ending discrimination in the workplace is good for business, employees, and the U.S. economy as a whole.”
The signatories include Airbnb, Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, Bayer, Bank of America, Best Buy, Domino’s, Facebook, GM, Google, Hilton, IBM, JP Morgan Chase, Marriott, Macy’s, Morgan Stanley, Nike and Comcast-NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.
The brief comes before the high court hears arguments Oct. 8 in three cases involving LGBTQ workplace discrimination. In Altitude Express v. Zarda, a skydiving instructor was fired after a customer complained that the instructor disclosed that he is gay. In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens, a trans woman was fired from her long-time job at a funeral home after she announced her gender transition. And in Bostock v. Clayton County, a man was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator after his employer learned he is gay.
While lower courts ruled in favor of the employees in the first two cases, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the employer in the Bostock case, setting up incongruity between the lower courts, and thus, a Supreme Court review. The high court justices are expected to rule on whether workplace discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative [certified hate group] Christian legal group known for advocating against LGBTQ rights, is arguing for the court to reverse lower courts’ expanding definition of sex discrimination.
Without a federal law explicitly banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a number of states across the United States have passed their own measures to outlaw such discrimination. However, it is currently legal in 26 states [including Virginia, thanks to Republicans in the General Assembly] to fire someone solely due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank.
Should the Supreme Court side with the LGBTQ employees in the three cases at hand, discriminating against an employee due to their sexual orientation or gender identity would become illegal under federal civil rights law.
If one reads the wording atop the Supreme Court building, it says "equal justice under the law" - something that LGBT Americans in 26 states still do not enjoy.  I was forced from a law firm for being gay a decade and a half ago. It destroyed me financially and, while I am doing well financially again, I will never be in the financial position I would have enjoyed but for that bigotry based firing.  No one should have their life and their family harmed because of bigotry that clings to a selective parsing of Bronze Age myths and legends. 

And yes, I will continue to tell the truth about groups like Alliance Defending Freedom - and The Family Foundation - as long as they continue to disseminate lies about LGBT individuals and seek special rights for their knuckle dragging followers. .