Saturday, August 24, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty


Trump Admin to Supreme Court: Allow Gays to Be Fired

I have written about the Trump/Pence regime's war against LGBT Americans before for the simple reason that it is never ending. Yesterday, the Trump Department of Justice filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that none of the nation's non-discrimination laws protect LGBT individuals from being summarily fired simply because of who they are. One motivation for the regime is to thrill Christofascists - who are near orgasmic whenever Trump/Pence harms gays - to keep them loyal.  Another, in my view, is Pence's deep internalized homophobia that causes him to seek to inflict harm on other gays (Pence, in my view, bears all the hallmarks of a closeted gay like former Virginia Congressman Ed Schrock who I helped "out" over a decade ago).  This is an issue I am passionate about, having been forced from a law firm for being gay.  The financial and emotional harm was horrific and lead to two suicide attempts. Despite a job that has me making good money again, I will never be in the place I would have been but for being a target of anti-gay bigotry.  Should the Trump/Pence regime argument prevail, countless LGBT individuals will either suffer being fired or be forced to remain closeted at work, a truly stressful experience that harms both productivity and one's emotional health.  Here are highlights from The Advocate's review of Trump/Pence's latest assault against gay Americans:

As expected, Donald Trump’s administration has filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to rule that it’s legal to fire workers because of their sexual orientation.
The administration made the same argument last week regarding gender identity as the court prepares to hear cases October 8 involving employment discrimination against gay and transgender people.
That day the court will hear a consolidated case involving two incidents where workers say they were fired for being gay; one was a skydiving instructor in New York and the other a social worker in Georgia. It will also hear a case regarding a Michigan funeral director fired after her gender transition.
The cases turn on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids sex discrimination, also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the New York and Michigan cases, federal appeals courts ruled that it does, but in the Georgia case, the appeals court ruled that it does not.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco, whose position is part of the Department of Justice, today filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that it most definitely does not, . . . Lawyers and judges have contended that it’s reasonable to interpret a law banning sex discrimination as also banning sexual orientation discrimination — if a man who is attracted to men is treated differently from a woman attracted to men, it’s discrimination. 
Francisco’s latest brief echoes the language of the one he filed last week in the transgender case.
Last week’s was not a friend-of-the-court brief; it was filed because the federal government is a party to the case, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission having taken up the case of Michigan funeral director Aimee Stephens. (The Trump administration has now ordered the EEOC, a quasi-independent federal agency, to cease defending the rights of trans people.) Friend-of-the-court briefs are filed by individuals and organizations that are not directly involved in a case but have an interest in its outcome.
“The friend-of-the-court brief — which was completely voluntary — was among several filed this week urging the Supreme Court to rule anti-gay discrimination is permitted under federal law,” the Blade notes. “Other briefs include filings from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Alabama-based Foundation for Moral Law, which has ties to anti-LGBT Senate candidate Roy Moore.”
Not all Republicans endorse the administration’s position, however. A group of prominent Republicans, although not including any current officeholders, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the upcoming cases to argue that Title VII indeed covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Physicians, clergy members, major businesses, and more have filed similar briefs.
But the administration’s stance belies Trump’s recent assertion that he’s “done very well” by LGBTQ people. It’s part of a pattern of endorsing discrimination, with the transgender military ban, revocation of trans-inclusive guidelines for public schools, and support for health care providers’ and federal contractors’ right to discriminate against anyone who offends their religious beliefs.
“This is the Trump Administration’s 124th attack on LGBTQ people since taking office and they join Roy Moore in opposition to workplace protections for LGBTQ people,” said a statement released by GLAAD.  A ruling in the discrimination cases is expected by next June.

David Koch’s Monstrous Legacy

Perhaps is a result of the better aspects of my Catholic upbringing - something former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan seemingly never internalized - but I was raised to believe each of us has an obligation to leave the world a better place and to have a legacy of having helped others and most certainly not to have a legacy of harming the planet and leaving others more economically desperate. At the time of his death, as a piece in New York Magazine notes, David Koch was worth $42,4 billion - more than anyone can spend in a lifetime and and amount which could have done untold good for millions of people. True, Koch donated to museums and the arts, but his political legacy and the harm done to the environment and the debasement of the lives of countless workers are much more defining of the man who number one motivation seemingly was greed and the amassing of ever more money. Equally disgusting is the toxic political forces Koch funded with his brother that some will argue gave America the nightmare of the Trump presidency, a legacy that continues to harm lives daily.  Here are highlights from the New York Magazine piece:

By the time he died on Friday at the age of 79, David Koch was worth $42.4 billion. He will be remembered for what he did with it. Some people will probably praise his charitable spirit, perhaps even his support for criminal-justice reform, or his skepticism of military intervention. “The vast bulk of Koch’s philanthropy was not political,” Brian Doherty noted in an obit for Reason magazine.
But Koch’s largesse wasn’t free. We are paying for it now, and have been paying for it for decades. Koch’s legacy is a testament to the power of weaponized philanthropy. For Koch did not restrict himself to supporting artists and scientists. He, along with his brother Charles, who survives him, committed their vast family fortune to the construction of a powerful conservative network. We live in the world that he helped build, and it is on fire.
Koch, who ran for office on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, helped funnel billions into climate-change-denying organizations for decades. His motivation wasn’t a mystery: He did it because he was greedy. Political action to arrest climate change threatened Koch’s business interests. His family originally made its money in oil and gas, and Koch Industries, as Tim Dickinson laid out in a 2014 piece for Rolling Stone, is one of the biggest polluters in the U.S.
The legacy of David Koch cannot be extricated from the work he undertook with his brother. As Jane Mayer reported for The New Yorker in 2010, the brothers were ideologically sympatico, bound together by their disbelief in climate science and their opposition to industry regulation. Their work had massive reach, though their use of shell trusts and foundations can make their money difficult to trace. Mayer, however, has reported much of it out over the years, in pieces for The New Yorker and in her 2016 book, Dark Money.
They donated copiously to the Heritage Foundation, which wraps climate change denial into a broader conservative platform that opposes LGBT rights and legal abortion. They helped establish the anti-regulatory Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and that came with certain privileges; in 2018, Inside Higher Ed reported that the university had given the Kochs a say in faculty hiring. Similar funding agreements also existed at Florida State University and Utah State University. Koch money bankrolled right-to-work groups that have worked for decades to reduce union membership — a goal that has, according to most experts, contributed significantly to America’s increasing wealth inequality.
But what’s bad for workers tends to be good for the Kochs. Unions cut into a corporation’s bottom line; they make it slightly more difficult for lowly businessmen to purchase Park Avenue penthouses worth millions. The same principle of self-interest applies to one of David’s pet projects. Through the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which he founded, the family fortune helped mobilize the tea party movement. The id they unleashed — the naked white nationalism, the anti–big government hysteria, all those conspiracy theories — helped seed the ground for Donald Trump. David and his brother refused to donate to Trump, but he is in many ways the culmination of their work.
David Koch died before he could reap the full bounty of his works. We will not be so lucky. His legacy is poisoned water and dirty air, decimated unions, and Donald Trump. No amount of arts patronage can purify that stain. It is likely not coincidental that the small government the Kochs desire would leave artists and scientists at the mercy of billionaires’ largesse. It’s as if he and his brother wanted to pitch us all on their vision for the world: If we let their companies gobble as much as they could, they would throw us a scrap or two. Never enough to live on; just enough to hold us until the next handout. They would allow us a glimpse of beauty, a mirage of progress, so that we would readily accept a cage.
Protected from consequences by death as his money protected him in life, David Koch is dead.
Sometimes one must speak ill of the dead in the hope that others might not follow a similar path of greed and harm to the world and others. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, August 23, 2019

Never Trump Ex-Republican: Why I Will Vote for Any 2020 Democratic Nominee


While driving between my law firm's offices today, I heard Thomas Nichols as a guest on the POTUS - Politics of the United States - channel on satellite radio.  The topic was his column last week in USA Today as to why he would vote for almost any Democrat nominee (other than Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson) in the 2020 presidential election.  Nichols is a former Republican, a Never Trumper, and is an academic specialist on international affairs, currently a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and at the Harvard Extension School. He's no intellectual slouch and knows much about the U.S. Constitution and foreign affairs. His work deals with issues involving Russia, nuclear weapons, and national security affairs.  His radio remarks were so strong that I found the USA Today piece which ought to be required reading for every voter in America since it makes it clear (i) why people MUST get to the polls in 2020, and (ii) why virtually anyone other than Trump would put the nation on a safer course.  Here are column excerpts:

I don’t care if Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a mendacious Massachusetts liberal. She could tell me that she’s going to make me wear waffles as underpants and I’ll vote for her. I don’t care if Sen. Kamala Harris is an opportunistic California prosecutor who wants to relitigate busing. She could tell me that I have to drive to work in a go-cart covered with Barbie decals and I’ll vote for her. I don’t care if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is a muddle-headed socialist from a rural class-warfare state (where I once lived as one of his constituents). He could tell me he’s going to tax used kitty litter and I’ll vote for him.
All of the policy “what about” hypotheticals from my conservative friends are diversions. They’re trying to move the argument to policy to blind us to the reality that President Donald Trump is both unstable and compromised.
As I have argued for well over two years, there is plenty of evidence that the president is compromised by our most dedicated enemy. Even before the Mueller report laid bare the degree to which the Trump campaign welcomed Russian help, it was obvious that Trump feared Russian President Vladimir Putin — not only because Putin knew how much Trump had lied to the American people during the campaign about his dealings with Russia, but also likely because Moscow holds Trump’s closest financial secrets after years of shady dealings with Russian oligarchs.
Compulsive lying, fantastic and easily refuted claims, base insults and bizarre public meltdowns, however, are indeed signs of serious emotional problems. Trump has never been a reasonable man, but for two years, he has gotten worse. He literally cannot tell the truth from a lie, he often seems completely unable to comprehend even basic information, and he flies off the handle in ways that would make most of us take our children to a pediatrician for evaluation.
This is why policy doesn’t matter. I have only two requirements from the Democratic nominee. First, he or she must not be obviously mentally unstable. Second, the nominee must not be in any way sympathetic — or worse, potentially beholden — to a hostile foreign power. This rules out Gabbard, Williamson and maybe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, although in de Blasio’s case it’s hard to tell whether he is unstable or just a terrible person.
As for the rest of them, I am willing to live with whoever wins the Democratic primary process. I will likely hate the nominee’s policies, but at least I will not be concerned that he or she is incapable of understanding “the nuclear” or “the cyber.” I will feel like I have a shot at trying to convince my elected representatives that they should listen to the policy preferences of normal human beings instead of two old men wearing shirts that say they’d “rather be a Russian than a Democrat,” or a woman in a shirt indicating that she is willing to have the president grab her genitalia.
The Democratic candidate will promise to nominate people into Cabinet posts who will make me tear my hair out. But at least I will be confident that they are in charge of their own inner circle, instead of surrounded by unprincipled cronies who keep their own boss in the dark while taking a hatchet to the Constitution. Is there anyone that Warren or former Vice President Joe Biden could bring to, say, the Justice Department, whom I would fear more than an odious and sinister courtier like William Barr?
It is a sign of how low we have fallen as a nation that “rational” and “not compromised by an enemy” are now my only two requirements for the office of the president of the United States. Perhaps years of peace and prosperity have made us forget the terrifying responsibilities that attend the presidency, including the stewardship of enough nuclear weapons to blow the Northern Hemisphere to smithereens.
As long as the Democrats can provide someone who can pass these simple tests, their nominee has my vote.
Sadly, the analysis is 100% on point. Trump Must be defeated in 2020.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Voodoo Economics May Be Catching Up with Trump/GOP

The stack market - actually the bond market - has been showing signs that the economy is slowing and that a recession might well begin in 2020 or before.  Recently job growth and GDP figures have been revised downward and manufacturers and consumers are feeling the adverse effects of Trump's insane trade wars with China and other nations.  And then there are America's farmers who have been dealt the double blow of Chinese tariffs and the impacts of climate change, particularly in the Mid-West, even as the GOP denies climate change is occurring.  To what ought to a shock to no one, the Trump/GOP tax cut for the wealthy and huge corporations - which only scattered crumbs for everyone else - has yet again proven that huge tax cuts for the top income brackets (i) do not pay for themselves, (ii) explode the deficit, and (iii) do not strengthen the economy overall. These three realities have been known since the days of Ronald Reagan, yet the GOP continues to live in a fantasy world.  A column in the New York Times looks at the slowing economy and the efforts of Trump and the GOP to shift blame from themselves.  Here are excerpts:

Almost four decades ago then-candidate George H.W. Bush used the phrase “voodoo economic policy” to describe Ronald Reagan’s claim that cutting taxes for the rich would pay for itself. He was more prescient than he could have imagined.
For voodoo economics isn’t just a doctrine based on magical thinking. It’s the ultimate policy zombie, a belief that seemingly can’t be killed by evidence. It has failed every time its proponents have tried to put it into practice, but it just keeps shambling along.
[W]henever tax cuts fail to produce the predicted miracle, their defenders come up with bizarre explanations for their failure.
 My favorite until now came from Art Laffer, the original voodoo economist and recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Why did George W. Bush’s tax-cutting presidency end not with a boom, but with the worst economic slump since the Great Depression? According to Laffer, blame rests with Barack Obama, even though the recession began more than a year before Obama took office. You see, according to Laffer, everyone lost confidence upon realizing that Obama might win the 2008 election.
 Trump has gone one better. As it has become increasingly clear that the results of his tax cut were disappointing — recent data revisions have marked down estimates of both G.D.P. and employment growth, to the point where it’s hard to see more than a brief sugar high from $2 trillion in borrowing — Trump has invented ever more creative ways to blame other people. In particular, he’s now claiming that the promised boom hasn’t arrived because his opponents are hexing the economy with bad thoughts: “The Democrats are trying to ‘will’ the Economy to be bad for purposes of the 2020 Election.”
 [B]laming the Fed for the tax cut’s fizzle won’t wash. For one thing, the Fed has actually raised rates less than in previous economic recoveries. Even more to the point, the Trump economic team was expecting Fed rate hikes when it made its extravagantly optimistic forecasts.
 The Trump tax cut was supposed to create a boom so powerful that it would not only withstand modest Fed rate hikes, but actually require such hikes to prevent inflationary overheating. You don’t get to turn around and claim betrayal when the Fed does exactly what you expected it to do.
 Since the Fed is unlikely to oblige, what else might Trump do? Officials have floated, then retracted, the idea of a cut in payroll taxes — that is, a tax break for ordinary workers, rather than the corporations and wealthy individuals who mainly benefited from the 2017 tax cut. But such action seems unlikely, among other things because top administration officials denounced this policy idea when Obama proposed it.
Trump has also suggested using executive authority to reduce taxes on capital gains (which are overwhelmingly paid by the wealthy). This move would have the distinction of being both ineffectual and illegal.
What about calling off the trade war that has been depressing business investment? This seems unlikely, because protectionism is right up there with racism as a core Trump value. And merely postponing tariffs might not help, since it wouldn’t resolve the uncertainty that may be the trade war’s biggest cost.
The truth is that Trump doesn’t have a Plan B, and probably can’t come up with one. On the other hand, he might not have to. Who needs competent policy when you’re the chosen one and the king of Israel?
Funny how the last GOP administration engaged in massive tax cuts and George W. left the country with the largest economic meltdown since the Great Depression.  The GOP truly never learns. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Are Democrats Less Divided than Pundits Claim?

Pundits and talking heads make much of supposed divisions within the Democrat Party base involving self-identification as "liberal," "moderate," and "conservative."  Indeed, some breathlessly pontificate that such divisions threaten the Democrats' chance of defeating Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenf├╝hrer, in 2020.  Now, my former classmate, Larry Sabato has a piece at Sabato's Crystal Ball that reviews survey results that indicate that Democrat divisions may be greatly over stated.  Indeed, when it comes to policy issues, a significant majority of Democrats of all stripes tend to take liberal positions regardless of how the otherwise describe themselves.  The take away is that party unity is stronger than what the chattering class would have one believe and that Trump may be foolish to count on alleged divisions to save him in 2020.  Here are excerpts from the piece:
The contest for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination features more than 20 candidates representing a wide variety of ideological orientations ranging from progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to more moderate candidates like Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) and former Rep. John Delaney (D, MD-6).
The first round of debates exposed major differences among the candidates on issues such as health care and immigration, and this has led to growing concern among party leaders about whether Democratic voters will be able to unite behind the eventual nominee. Indeed, some of the more moderate candidates have warned that nominating a candidate from the party’s left wing could cause large numbers of moderate-to-conservative Democrats to stay home or even vote for Donald Trump, thereby ensuring a Republican victory. . . . fewer than half of Democratic voters describe themselves as liberals.
[T]he 2018 Pew Research Center survey show that among registered Democrats, there were sharp divisions in ideological identification based on age, education, and race. Older Democrats, those who did not graduate from college, and nonwhite Democrats were much less likely to identify as liberal and more likely to identify as moderate or conservative than younger Democrats, those with college degrees, and white Democrats.
Democratic voters were far more liberal on many policy issues than one might expect based on their responses to the ideological identification question. This pattern suggests that ideological identification may not be a very good predictor of the views of Democratic voters on the issues.
Many Democrats who call themselves moderates or even conservatives take liberal positions on specific issues. In fact, the large majority of self-identified conservatives take the liberal position on four of these six issues: abortion, black rights, gun control, and health care. The large majority of self-identified moderates take the liberal position on five of these six issues: abortion, black rights, gun control, business regulation, and health care.
[A] closer examination of recent polling data indicates that when it comes to specific policy issues such as abortion, gun control, and health care, Democratic voters are actually considerably less divided than Republican voters. Moreover, these data show that divisions among Democrats based on age, education, and race are much less significant when it comes to policy issues. What makes this all the more important is that policy preferences appear to have a much stronger influence than ideological identification on voters’ broader political outlook including their opinions of President Trump. These findings suggest that the task of uniting Democrats behind the party’s eventual nominee may not be as difficult as some pundits and political observers have suggested.
Then there is another common unifier: hatred of Donald Trump. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty


Will Trump Fatigue Hurt Him and the GOP in 2020?

Outside of Trump's white supremacist/right wing extremist base, I'm not sure how many people enjoy, much less listen to his constant outrages that make most reality TV shows pale in comparison.  I will concede that I despise the man and when driving and listening to satellite radio, I immediately change the channel or hit the "disc" button rather that hear a syllable of him speaking since I (i) cannot stand the sound of his voice, (ii) know that the odds are that anything he says is a lie, and (iii) believe that he is doing immeasurable harm to the nation's economy, environment, and moral fabric. From the many comments I hear even from self-labeled conservatives, many of them share a similar anathema for the man and the never ending chaos of his regime and the fact that serious matters are being neglected as we suffer through a daily reality show of his rants and antics.  In a piece in Politico, the editor of National Review argues that outside of the Trump base, many may vote against him in 2020 if for no other reason than to end the daily shit show that is his administration and his daily Twitter equivalent of verbal diarrhea.  Here are column excerpts: 
We are in Week 2 of the president of the United States and his communications director of six days feuding on Twitter and cable TV.

The Trump-Scaramucci smackdown has, at times, distracted from the Trump-Denmark fight, which has been eclipsed, in its turn, by the Trump-Omar/Tlaib battle that has somehow morphed into a clash between Trump and Jews who vote for Democrats.
This is only a schematic account of events of the past few days that leaves out minor, supplemental controversies over Trump retweeting a supporter calling him the King of Israel, Trump insulting his Federal Reserve chairman, Trump retweeting a suggestion that a federal prisoner might have been assassinated by one of his predecessors in the Oval Office, and Trump blasting Fox News over a poll he didn’t like.
Trump makes the hyperactive, voluble Teddy Roosevelt, whom H.G. Wells called “a big noise,” seem shy and retiring by comparison. . . . Trump reportedly told aides before taking office that they should think of each presidential day as an episode in a TV show, a goal that turns out to have been too modest. Trump acts like he need to produce enough programming to fill a 24-hour news network, with outrages, internal melodrama, legal fights and endless plot twists . . . .
Obviously, the fundamentals will be most determinative of Trump’s fate in 2020. Is the economy still growing? Are we at peace? How does the trade war with China stand? But the backdrop to it all will be the level of public tolerance for, or exhaustion with, Trump’s antics and provocations.
In other words, can Americans bear for the show to go on? The threat to Trump isn’t Trump Derangement Syndrome, . . . . The threat is Trump Fatigue, a condition that could spread more broadly and make swing voters harder to reach.
The latest high-profile spats are characteristic of the Trump era. The fight with Anthony Scaramucci has a performative aspect you’d expect of two showmen. One is the master, a former reality TV-show host who cashed in his notoriety for the presidency. The other is an up-and-comer, who made the most of notoriety gained by brief proximity to the master, including a brief appearance on a reality TV show himself . . . .
The Greenland flap is classic, too. . . . it becomes a real diplomatic incident, with insults and hurt feelings on both sides and a presidential trip to Denmark canceled for now . . .
What all these controversies have in common is that they fill the hours while nothing much really happens. Is Anthony Scaramucci actually going to organize a primary challenge against Trump? No. Is Greenland going to be sold, or Denmark fall off as a U.S. ally? No. Is Israel’s fate going to rise or fall on the travels of a couple left-wing backbench U.S. congresswomen? No.
There’s no doubt that the constant Trump static hurts him grievously among suburban, college-educated women. But no doubt that for his supporters the show is part of his appeal, . . . .
What’s the political balance for Trump? I believe it’s negative, . . . Even if Trump is hurting himself with his sensory overload approach to the presidency, the Democrats nominate someone dull at their own risk.
Just imagine how calming it would be to have a sane, non-narcissist in office who spent his/her time attending to the nation's business and not picking fights and stroking an overweening - and, in my view, psychotic - ego.  One can only hope that a longing for normalcy will lead many to vote against trump merely to change the channel so to speak. 

Can an Anti-Gun Youth Voting Surge Save Us in 2020?

To drive a car, one needs to take both a written test and a test behind the wheel.  Once licensed, at varies periods one has to renew the license and your car must be registered every year.  To practice law or many other professions, one needs to be licensed annually and typically must take a minimum amount of continuing education. Yet, in most states, one can buy a military style assault weapon capable of rapidly killing significant numbers of people without any license or even a background check. Why?  Because of (i) a twisted reading of the 2nd Amendment, and (ii) the lobbying influence of the NRA, a front organization funded by gun manufacturers - and as we learned in 2016, even foreign interests. Meanwhile, mass shootings are on the rise and one literally cannot feel fully safe anywhere. Now, the survivors of the Parkland, Florida mass shooting are pushing for both common sense gun control and a voter registration effort that could wreak havoc on Republicans who prostitute themselves to the NRA and perhaps end the misrule of Donald Trump.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at their effort.  Here are article highlights:

The student activists who crashed the political arena after the mass shooting last year at their high school in Parkland, Fla., are throwing their weight behind a new and ambitious gun-control program that they hope will set the tone for the debate following the most recent mass shootings and headed into the 2020 elections.
The students are speaking out for the first time since 31 people were killed in one weekend in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. They hope their plan — unveiled Wednesday morning — will be considered by President Trump as well as his Democratic presidential rivals and will serve as a catalyst for a surge of youth voters next year.
“You see these shootings on TV every day and very little happening around it. It’s painful to watch. And I think it’s been really hard for me and many of the other students and people that we work with to find hope in this time. . . . “But I think that this plan is something that we can truly — as a country and as Americans united against violence and fighting for peace — can get behind.”
March for Our Lives has been focused on voter registration and outreach across the country over the past year and a half, building a national infrastructure with more than 100 chapters centered on grass-roots organizing. They hope to turn that into droves of voters at the polls next year.
Called “A Peace Plan for a Safer America,” the ambitious platform, which was obtained by The Washington Post, goes much further than the current debate over universal background checks and “red flag” laws, which would apply to people who could be a danger to themselves and others.
 The Peace Plan would create a national licensing and gun registry, long a nonstarter with gun rights advocates; ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; implement a mandatory gun buyback program; and install a “national director of gun violence prevention” who would report directly to the president and coordinate the federal response to what advocates call a national public health emergency.
 It calls for a “multi-step” gun licensing system, overseen by a federal agency, that would include in-person interviews and a 10-day wait before gun purchases are approved. The license would be renewed annually.
 The Peace Plan takes a holistic approach to gun violence by also calling for automatic voter registration when those eligible turn 18, along with the creation of a “Safety Corps,” which the authors compare to a Peace Corps for gun violence prevention. The plan also proposes community-based solutions like mental health services, as well as programs to address and prevent suicide, domestic violence and urban violence.
 The issue of gun violence has recently become a much more dominant concern for the 2020 presidential candidates. Raw emotions have hit many of them as they have met advocates from Moms Demand Action and other groups whose members have been affected by gun violence.
 “My hope is that they focus like a laser on youth turnout,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said of March for Our Lives’s 2020 efforts, after reviewing the proposal. “The election is over the minute young people decide to turn out. The only reason that Trump would get reelected is if young people stay home. The issue of gun violence is one of the only issues that truly motivate young people to shake off their indifference and aversion to voting.”
Democrats, who in the past would at least nod toward gun owners and do photo ops while hunting, are embracing gun control with greater urgency than they have in any election in recent memory, a sign that they are sensing movement among voters. . . . . nearly 70 percent of registered voters said gun policy was “very important” to them, ranking the issue ahead of taxes and immigration, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.
March for Our Lives is calling for a mandatory buyback of all assault weapons and a voluntary buyback of handguns and other firearms.
NRA spokeswoman Amy Hunter, commenting on the plan, said: “The gun-control community is finally being marginally honest about their true wish list. The simple fact remains their proposals and ideas are out of the mainstream, and most people will understand their real intent goes beyond what they publicly state.”
Hogg called the NRA “the big tobacco of violence in the U.S.” and claimed that “they don’t care about gun owners, like my father.” “The NRA cares as much about gun owners’ safety as the tobacco industry cared about smokers not getting cancer,” Hogg said.
Hogg is 100% correct in his assessment of the NRA.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Monday, August 19, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty


The Unfinished Struggle for Gay Rights

Here in Virginia LGBT citizens can be fired for being LGBT and can face fully legal discrimination in housing.  Meanwhile, poll after poll reveals - both in Virginia and across America - most Americans believe that anti-LGBT discrimination is illegal even as the Trump/Pence regimes works to convince a rightward leaning U.S. Supreme Court that anti-LGBT discrimination should be fully legal and outside the protections of existing civil rights laws. In Virginia in November, 2019, the state of affairs can change if control of the Virginia General Assembly shifts to Democrats and Republicans are voted out of a majority in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates.  In 2020, the same opportunity for change exists if (i) Trump is not re-elected, and (ii) Republicans lose control of the U.S. Senate. A piece in The Atlantic looks at the unfinished work to be done in the area of LGBT rights and the mess that exists in a majority of states where gays can marry on the weekend and be fired on Monday for being gay.  

To me, the ultimate irony is that civil rights laws are supposed to protect against immutable characteristics such as skin color, country of one's birth, age, sex.  Medical and medical health knowledge tells us that sexual orientation cannot be changed - despite the lies disseminated by Christofascist proponents of "conversion therapy."  Indeed, of currently protected categories, only one is NOT immutable: religion.  People can and do change religious affiliation all the time while others leave it entirely based on things ranging from Christian hypocrisy to the reality that neither science nor historical evidence confirm the gospel narratives.  If any category deserves not non-discrimination protection, it is religion. embracing myths and ignorance is a choice. One's sexual orientation is not. The Equality Act passed by the House of Representatives which contains no religious exemptions recognizes this simple reality. Here are article highlights:
Roughly half of Americans think federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Despite four years of nationwide same-sex marriage, despite rapidly growing cultural acceptance for LGBTQ people, despite extensive annual Pride celebrations—these Americans are wrong. Now that all of this summer’s glitter floats have been dismantled and the rainbow confetti has been cleared, lawyers, legislators, and judges have turned back to the ongoing fight over whether federal law does, and should, specifically protect LGBTQ people from being fired, denied a rental lease, or refused service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
 This year will mark several important milestones in the battle over LGBTQ discrimination. In the spring, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a sweeping bill that would prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in all aspects of public and commercial life, without any religious exemptions. While the bill has basically no chance of gaining traction in this Senate, if Democrats sweep Congress in 2020, it will likely be high on the party’s priority list. In the fall, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC & Aimee Stephens, about a former funeral director who was fired after coming out to her employer as transgender. The justices will consider whether existing workplace protections in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
And yet, the legal status of LGBTQ rights remains murky. As the movement has gained cultural momentum, activists have largely moved away from a posture of compromise—they believe they can win full protections for LGBTQ people in any context, without exceptions. A small but significant group of conservative religious leaders has been working the middle ground, trying to build support for a bill that would protect LGBTQ people but leave space for institutions, such as Christian colleges and Catholic hospitals, to operate according to their religious teachings. But they’ve faced resistance from their right, with prominent pastors and conservative legal groups opposed to any kind of bill that would mark sexual orientation and gender identity as special legal categories.
As America has largely moved on from its gay-rights moment, with many Americans believing everything got taken care of with same-sex marriage, legal advocates on both sides have been left with bitter disagreements about where the country should go next—and the possibility that the status quo will perpetually remain in place.
[Lying and dishonest] Conservative advocates argue that LGBTQ people face little to no discrimination, and that their identities have been normalized . . . . Ask LGBTQ people themselves, however, and they consistently see discrimination in their daily lives: A recent study from the Williams Institute at UCLA found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people reported much higher rates of being bullied, fired, or denied a job, promotion, or lease compared with heterosexual people. Still, these experiences can be subtle or hard to document. And the incentives for bringing a formal, legal complaint vary wildly, depending on where someone lives: 20 states fully prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while 28 states don’t. “Because it doesn’t look just like Jim Crow,” said Doug NeJaime, a law professor at Yale University who focuses on LGBTQ legal issues, conservatives argue that “it then doesn’t merit attention.” But, he said, “there’s lots of reasons why discrimination against LGBT people looks different than other forms of discrimination … [That] doesn’t mean it’s not discrimination that needs to be remedied.”
In the past 30 years, the Supreme Court has ruled sex stereotyping illegal; declared sodomy bans unconstitutional; struck down state measures blocking civil-rights protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals; and, of course, legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. But even as the inevitability of legalized gay marriage was becoming clear in the early 2010s, “the narrative really began to take hold that you could be married on Sunday and fired on Monday and lose your housing on Tuesday,”. . . . This question has been particularly fraught for transgender people, such as the plaintiff who will go before the Supreme Court this fall. Ironically, as LGBTQ rights have expanded, it has become harder for advocates to make their case to the public. Before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, “people could see very clearly the fact that same-sex couples couldn’t get married,” McBride said. “People have a more difficult time understanding the way civil rights work in our country, the absence of protections.” The movement has also developed powerful allies from Wall Street to Hollywood, and those alliances have been used against advocates. . . . “The irony about antidiscrimination laws is: Vulnerable groups don’t get protected until they’re actually … [able to] muster the political power to gain momentum.”
Still, that momentum has redoubled the resolve of LGBTQ activists. Maybe they won’t win at the Supreme Court this time, or get nondiscrimination legislation passed through this Congress. But, they believe, theirs is a cause of progress. They will eventually win it all.
And that has left a number of their opponents very, very nervous.
When the Equality Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives this spring, there were no amendments on the floor—it was just an up or down vote. . . . The legislation won the vote of every Democrat in the House who participated in the roll call, along with eight Republicans—a clear sign of its broad support. The bill also sent another message: The days of compromise are over.
In recent years, claims of LGBTQ rights have been repeatedly brought into direct conflict with claims of religious conscience. Just this week, the Trump administration proposed a new rule that would allow federal contractors to make hiring and firing decisions based on their religious beliefs and practices; progressive advocates believe the rule will be used to target LGBTQ people.
The Equality Act specifically bars any group from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA, to try to opt out of the bill’s protections.
For religious groups and institutions that teach that homosexuality is a sin, and that men and women were created as such by God, the prospect of this kind of legislation is worrying. “It would be years of litigation . . . Hoogstra has been part of a coalition pushing an alternative to the Equality Act called Fairness for All. Her organization, along with groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventists, believes federal LGBTQ discrimination protections are inevitable—the Equality Act’s passage “was a proof point,” Hoogstra said. They want the final law, whenever it passes, to reflect their needs. . . much like exceptions that were written into parts of the original Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
When the evangelical World Magazine broke the news that the CCCU and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which claims to represent roughly 45,000 churches, had voted to support the Fairness for All effort, a prominent group of conservative religious leaders signed a letter of condemnation. . . . The signers included Franklin Graham, the evangelist Billy Graham’s son, who has been known to make inflammatory comments about homosexuality; but also Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, who is often seen as a moderating voice in the evangelical world.
If the Democrats make a full electoral sweep in 2020, holding on to the House, taking back the Senate, and winning the White House, it seems likely that the Equality Act will be on their agenda—and it’s unlikely the party’s leadership will be open to finding a middle ground. Meanwhile, the groups totally opposed to this kind of legislation are preparing for legal war.
The story of the LGBTQ movement has lately been one of triumph, but it’s not clear whether that will continue. Graham, of Georgia Equality, told me he believes some kind of federal legislation will eventually protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, “but I’m not optimistic that it will happen quickly,” he added. In this political environment, the possibility of moderation and dialogue seems almost antiquated. “It really feels,” he said, “like everything is a battle for the soul of the nation.”
My take away?  If one is LGBT or has family members or friends who are LGBT allies, the course of action is simple: vote a straight Democrat ticket in Virginia in 2019 and in the 2020 federal elections.  Religious based bigotry and ignorance has harmed lives for centuries.  It's time to make it illegal. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Leaked Memo: UK Faces Medicine and Food Shortages if Brexit Goes Through

The parallels between Trump supporters and Brexit supporters continues and now a leaked government memo indicates that economic chaos, including medicine and food shortages are likely if the UK crashes out of the European Union. Despite such potential dire consequences, pro-Brexit supporters motivated by anti-immigrant - read non-white - animus and delusions of restoring a lost empire continue to push for economic suicide.  The parallels with Mid-West American farmers who continue to support Donald Trump despite his policies that are driving many farms towards bankruptcy are stark. Like their British counterparts who long for the days of rue Britannia, these Americans are driven by racism and a delusional dream of a return to a society of the 1950's when blacks, other non-whites, women and gays "knew their place" and  remained invisible and downtrodden.  Highlights from the Washington Post look at Britain's potential self-inflicted harm:

An increasingly likely “no-deal” Brexit could wreak havoc on Britain’s economy, infrastructure and social fabric, the government says in classified documents leaked to a British newspaper.
The costs of food and social care would rise, while medicines could be delayed, the Sunday Times reported. Border delays would interrupt fuel supplies. Ports would suffer severe disruptions and recover only partially after three months, leaving traffic at 50 to 70 percent of the current flow.
Those are some of the effects predicted by “Operation Yellowhammer,” which the newspaper said was compiled this month by Britain’s Cabinet Office and available to those with “need to know” security clearances.
Brexit critics have warned that crashing out of the European Union without an agreement with the rest of the bloc will damage the British economy, devalue its currency and create instability. British leaders have sought unsuccessfully since the 2016 Brexit vote to pass a “divorce” plan.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit supporter, has promised to get his country out of the E.U., deal or no deal, during his first 100 days in office. He’s set to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron this week to press his case for a new deal. At the moment, negotiations are at a standstill.
Opposition lawmakers have been discussing ways of blocking a no-deal Brexit, including bringing down the government by calling a no-confidence vote in early September.  It’s unclear whether Johnson would win such a vote.
The Sunday Times said the government predicts a need to restore a “hard border” of limited, controlled crossing points in Ireland, which could cause protests.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said there would be “no chance” of Congress approving a U.S.-U.K. trade deal after Brexit if it undermined the Good Friday agreement, the 20-year-old deal between Britain and Ireland that helped advance peace in Northern Ireland.
The government warns that some businesses would halt trade to avoid tariffs, while others who keep trading would pass higher costs on to customers. Agriculture “will be the hardest hit, given its reliance on highly integrated cross-border supply chains” and high trade barriers. And the black market could grow, it says, especially in border communities.
Other possible ramifications detailed in the memo:
  • Increased costs for social-care providers caused by inflation could lead some providers to fail.
  • Temporary cuts in tariffs would render the oil industry uncompetitive, closing two refineries, causing the loss of 2,000 jobs, spurring strikes and further disrupting fuel supplies.
  • Delays at European airports, the Eurotunnel and other transportation hubs.
  • Months of slowdowns of over four hours at the Spanish border with Britain’s overseas territory of Gibraltar, which could harm the area’s economy.
  • Shortages of certain fresh foods leading to less choice, higher prices and potential panic buying.
  • A risk of disruption to supplies of chemicals used to treat water.
  • A risk of dust-ups between British and European fishing boats in British waters.
[T]he leaked documents show Britain is mostly unprepared amid “E.U. exit fatigue” after the country missed a planned departure date in March, the Sunday Times reported.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Log Cabin Republicans: Morally Bankrupt Racists?

Years ago and before I "came out" I was a Republican.  Indeed, I was a city committee member for the GOP in Virginia Beach and even filed the articles of incorporation for the organization (Virginia State Corporation Commission documents continue to reflect my signature). In some ways, that was a lifetime ago and the Republican Party of today bears almost no resemblance to what the party once was.  Now, if one isn't a white supremacist, right wing Christian extremist, or consumed by greed and a thirst for lower taxes, the GOP has little to offer and personally, I cannot help but question the morality of those who cling to the party.  And then there are the so-called Log Cabin Republicans.  LGBT individuals who not only support the ugly GOP agenda but as a group have endorsed Donald Trump even as the Trump/Pence regime wages war on the LGBT community and argues that anti-LGBT discrimination should be perfectly legal. These individuals are no better than some upper class Jews who supported Hitler's rise - things ultimately turned out very badly for them.  A history lesson Log Cabin Republicans refuse to learn.  A column in The Advocate takes Log Cabin Republicans to task and reaches what is seemingly the only logical conclusion: these folks are morally bankrupt racists.   Here are column excerpts:
[B]eing an LGBTQ person doesn’t mean you have to believe a certain ideology, whether it involves economics, politics, or philosophy. The diversity of experience and values we have demonstrates that the one thing that unites us as a community is our shared experiences of being an LGBTQ person, of challenging centuries of ingrained norms about gender and sexuality. The discrimination, oppression, and the general struggles of our lives unite us, but how we go about coping and overcoming them differs in so many ways.
And then you have these Log Cabin fools.
How LGBTQ people can vote and support Donald Trump and his party is just — I mean I know how, I just hate saying it about other LGBTQ people; but I guess if they’re willing to sell us out, what sense of loyalty should I have toward them? They’re bigots and privileged trash. Log Cabin Republicans will sell the entire community out for a gentrified loft, an expense account, and a white neighborhood excluding the hired help.
We white LGBTQ folks don’t talk about it much because it makes us incredibly uncomfortable, and honestly a lot of the minority LGBTQ folks don’t get a lot of space in our media space to discuss it, but there really is a huge problem of racism in our community. Whether it’s nightclub owners refusing to admit black patrons because they dress "thuggish," our culture of preferring white standards of beauty, or not hooking up with people of certain races because it's just a "preference," the discrimination is ubiquitous.
The Log Cabin Republicans, by endorsing Trump, show us who they are. The Muslim bans, the Nazi apologia, the concentration camps and racial purging — how can anyone who isn’t a bigot endorse that? . . . when the Log Cabin Republicans endorse and therefore give tacit support to a man who has outright apologized and excused white supremacists, you can only come to one rational conclusion.
I guess you could come to another conclusion: that they’re only concerned about their own individual affluence and access to privilege, and to hell with the rest of us.
[W]ith Log Cabin Republicans, there is the overwhelming sense that it is about their own personal power that they believe will shield them from bigotry and oppression. Well, I can tell you this right now, the Republicans will still oppress you and take your money. I know folks are fatigued and tired of comparing things to Nazi Germany, but one thing folks don’t know about, and really deserves its own unique analysis, is that there were pro-Nazi Jews. They were called the League of National German Jews; upper and upper-middle class assimilationist, nationalist conservatives who claimed ties to German conservative movements and parties (who refused to associate with them). They excused and defended the Nazis because Hitler was just "stirring up the masses." Well, none of that stopped the Nazis from declaring their organization illegal and throwing their leader, Max Naumann, into a concentration camp. The Log Cabin Republicans are much the same. They say they are fighting for LGBTQ rights, but often conservative LGB folks will throw transgender people under the bus, they will decry LGBTQ activism and culture, especially of the more leftist variety, and associate only with the parts of the community that benefit themselves. To hell with the rest of us, especially if you don’t tend toward the lighter-skinned or financially endowed persuasion. All LGBTQ rights and cultural advances have come despite the Republican Party fighting tooth and nail the whole way. The Log Cabin Republicans have accomplished nothing — they'll take credit for chipping away at "don't ask, don't tell," but it was Republican homophobia and resistance to LGB military integration that made the very flawed compromise necessary.
Let's give them some due, because Log Cabin has done something — they've become tokens for a racist, corporate, and evangelical establishment that would put us in reparative therapy camps if they could. Maybe it’s time we start using "Log Cabin" or something similar for the LGBTQ version of "Uncle Tom."
Sadly, I have to agree.