Monday, August 03, 2020

More Monday Male Beauty


The Myth of the White, European Jesus

There are many reasons to view the majority of evangelical Christians (and Southern Baptists) with disdain that extend beyond their support for the morally bankrupt sexual predator currently occupying the White House.  Chief among them is their racism - and hypocrisy.  For the most part they hate and dehumanize anyone who is not white, e.g., blacks, Native Americans, brown skinned Hispanics, South Asians, etc., and, of course peoples from the Middle East.  Meanwhile, they claim to worship a Jew from Palestine who based on historical and anthropological evidence  would have been brown skinned like today's Palestinians.  To avoid a similar incongruity white Europeans invented the myth that Christ was white even as they waged the Crusades against non-white Muslims. The myth has been taken up and maintained by today's evangelicals and Southern Baptist despite all the modern evidence that shows the lie of this treasured myth.  A column in the Washington Post looks ate the hypocrisy of these self-styled Jesus loving, non-white hating modern day Pharisees.  Here are column highlights:

Evangelical writer and radio host Eric Metaxas is one of those figures on the right who has been miniaturized by his association with President Trump. The author of a flawed but serious biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is more recently the co-author of the children’s book “Donald Builds the Wall!” From Dietrich to Donald is a fall of biblical proportions.

Now Metaxas has stirred controversy with a tweet contending (or assuming) that Jesus was White. His claim was made in reaction to news that the United Methodist Church is partnering with Robin DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility,” to produce a video series on “Deconstructing White Privilege.” Metaxas’s response read in full: “Jesus was white. Did he have ‘white privilege’ even though he was entirely without sin? Is the United Methodist Church covering that? I think it could be important.”
 
[T]here is no context in which this statement makes historical or theological sense. In attempting to debunk the idea of white privilege, Metaxas employed a traditional affirmation of white supremacy.

There are admittedly no physical descriptions of Jesus in the Gospels. Traditions about his appearance, including the beard, arose more than a century after his death. But there is no doubt that he [Jesus] was a Jew from what we now know as the Middle East. The white, European Jesus of Western imagination is a fiction produced by those who could not imagine human perfection in any other form. “Whites simply couldn’t conceive of owing their salvation to a representative of what they considered an inferior race,” Robert P. Jones, chief executive of PRRI and the author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” emailed me. “And a nonwhite Jesus would render impossible the intimate relationalism necessary for the evangelical paradigm to function: no proper white Christian would let a brown man come into their hearts or submit themselves to be a disciple of a swarthy Semite.”

Jesus not only looked like a Middle Eastern Jew; this identity also made him part of an oppressed, dispossessed group. A sense of Jewish powerlessness was the social context for his ministry, and his teaching reflected it.

Jesus offered little advice to the privileged, except to humble themselves and give their wealth away. He had much to say about the inherent value of the poor, the meek and the mourning. This message was one reason he suffered a brutal, unjust, suffocating death at the hands of public authorities. And many of his followers eventually died for resisting the edicts of emperors.

The Christian message has always been more easily and fully understood by those who lack social privilege — by those who see the face of a nonwhite Jesus.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass provides an example. After his own conversion to Christianity, he quickly encountered the deep hypocrisy of Christians who justified white supremacy.

Douglass understood that the relationship between apostasy and slavery was not only individual but also structural. “The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit,” he continued, “and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity.”

Even though Douglass often found “the Christianity of this land” depressing, he maintained great respect for “the Christianity of Christ,” which he regarded as a revolutionary doctrine of freedom and equality. The same Christ, he said, who “poured out his blood on Calvary, cared for my rights — cared for me equally with any white master.”

It is the great temptation of Christians in every time to shape their faith to fit their interests and predispositions rather than reshaping themselves to fit the gospel. This is what happened when Christians justified slavery, blessed the violent reimposition of white rule after the Civil War and sanctified segregation.

Now scandalous injustice has forced the examination of white supremacy in our lives and institutions. The Christianity of Christ has much to offer. Among White evangelicals, it needs better representatives than we have recently seen.

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Trump's Push to Open Schools Is Guaranteed to Fail

Two things are a given with Donald Trump: (i) he never accepts responsibility for his mistakes and the mistakes of his regime, and (ii) he only cares about himself/political prospects and will take actions that factor in zero concern for the safety and lives of others.  Both of these traits of Trump have been on glaring display throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.  Now, with extended relief for the unemployed in limbo in Congress - Republicans want draconian cuts to the levels of relief - Trump is pushing for schools to reopen next month in a mad quest for something that might suggest normalcy and improved reelection prospects for Trump.  The risk to the lives of teachers and school staff, not to mention children is simply not part of Trump's calculations. As hard as it is for some of my Republican friends to face the reality, their lives and the lives of their families mean nothing to Trump, who is always the malignant narcissist.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at why Trump's push to reopen schools is doomed to fail.  The only question is how many will suffer or die if Trump's push isn't restrained.  Here are article excerpts:

We’ve seen the failures—in testing, in containment, in federal and state leadership—compound in catastrophic ways. And as our pandemic summer has stretched on, many of us have let go, one by one, of experiences from the world we used to inhabit. We bid goodbye to sleepaway camp, to live music, to distant travel, to boisterous weddings, and to spontaneity in general. Today, a new realization is dawning, and as the debate over schools reopening rages, we must acknowledge it plainly: We aren’t going back to how it was. And we shouldn’t.

“This push to open schools is guaranteed to fail,” says Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and molecular virologist, and the dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. I’ve been corresponding with Hotez, and with several epidemiologists, over the course of the pandemic, and have noticed a starkness in their views in recent weeks. “The social-distancing expectations and mask requirements for the lower grades are unrealistic,” Hotez told me. “In communities with high transmission, it’s inevitable that COVID-19 will enter the schools. Within two weeks of opening schools in communities with high virus transmission, teachers will become ill. All it will take is for a single teacher to become hospitalized with COVID and everything will shut down.”

Hotez has good reason to be pessimistic. There were 68,605 new cases in the United States yesterday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven-day average has stayed above 60,000 new cases per day since July 13. Reaching 100,000 cases per day, once seen as an apocalyptic, worst-case-scenario warning from Anthony Fauci, is no longer difficult to imagine. Indeed, my conversations with epidemiologists in recent days were all strikingly dark. They agreed: Schools should not risk reopening, probably not even for the youngest children, in the coming weeks. “We can’t pretend like everything’s fine,” said Gary Simon, the director of the infectious diseases division at George Washington University. “If I had a school-age kid, I wouldn’t want to send him to school.”

The evidence is all around us. There is the summer camp in Georgia where hundreds of kids and counselors—nearly half the camp—got infected after only a few days together. Then there’s the school in Indiana where, just hours after reopening last week, a student tested positive for the coronavirus (pictured above).

There’s also the JAMA Pediatrics study that suggests that babies and young children can carry extremely high viral loads of SARS-CoV-2. The study’s authors found at least as much viral material in the throats and airways of young children as in infected adults, and sometimes 100 times as much as in adults. We’ve long known that kids older than age 10 can efficiently transmit the virus, but this new research suggests that younger kids pose a risk of transmission to the people around them, just as older children do. The more we learn, the more likely it seems that children are highly effective vectors for transmission.

“The problem is the White House and the task force could never organize themselves to lead a federal response and bring virus transmission down to containment levels,” said Hotez, who has argued for the necessity of a federal containment plan that, if executed effectively, might allow the nation to reopen comprehensively as soon as October. “Instead they took a lazy and careless route, claiming schools are important, as we all know, and the teachers and principals need to figure it out. What they did was deliberately set up the teachers, staff, and parents to fail. It’s one of the most careless, incompetent, and heartless actions I’ve ever seen promoted by the executive branch of the federal government.”

There is another cause for concern, this one about what the virus might do to children themselves. Although the rate of morbidity in young children is relatively low, young children are also among the least-tested cohort in America. Fauci has stressed repeatedly in recent weeks that we know relatively little about children and the virus.

But “we don’t need additional information to make decisions,” Hotez insisted. Right now, he said, there are at least 40 states in which schools simply should not open. “Remember, schools are not hermetically sealed ... We need to reach containment first. It’s that simple.”

One of the strangest things about living through a pandemic is the lag in understanding of how bad things are, an awful mirror of the lag in deaths that come like clockwork after a surge in coronavirus cases. . . . . The despair that has seemed to crest in recent days represents another kind of lag—a lag of realization—and the inevitable end of hopefulness about what life might be like in September.

These losses will feel only more acute as the season turns. We are accustomed to marking the passage of time in sweet and mundane rituals—the photos taken for the first day back to school, the new sneakers, the clean stack of fresh composition books. Instead we are marking our time in numbers. No longer 15-day increments, but 154 days since we were all together. So far, 152,870 dead from the virus in America. We cannot wish away the pandemic, as much as we try; it will persist until we muster the resolve and the resources to contain it. This is our normal. Not forever, but for a very long now.


Sunday, August 02, 2020

More Sunday Male Beauty


The Self-Defeating Extremism of the GOP Base

Here in Virginia, the Republican Party of Virginia has not won a statewide race in eleven (ii) years. As the Virginia GOP's fortunes have fallen, instead of nominating moderate candidates who might have a chance of winning in the general election, the party base has nominated extremists under the insane belief that the party loses are due to candidates who are too moderate.  Just a few months ago, Virginia's 5th congressional district saw a moderate Republican defeated by and extremist with ties to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.  What had been a safe Republican seat is now viewed as a possible Democrat pickup.  This mind set shows the alternate universe the unwashed GOP base lives in thanks largely to the deliberate and cynical welcoming of evangelicals and Christofascists (and now avowed white supremacists) into the party. The phenomenon is not limited to Virginia.  In Kansas the incredibly extreme anti-immigrant Kris Kobach may win the U.S. senate primary and set the stage for a Democrat win in November.  While party leaders see the threat, much of the lunatic base does not.  A piece in Politico looks at the situation.  Here are excerpts:

On Thursday, the top operative for Senate Republicans' campaign arm appeared on a private Zoom call organized by GOP operatives to discuss the party's efforts to stave off a Democratic takeover.

During the presentation, National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Kevin McLaughlin warned that if hardline conservative Kris Kobach wins next Tuesday's Kansas Senate primary, it could doom the GOP Senate majority and perhaps even hurt President Donald Trump in a state that hasn't voted Democratic since 1964.

Senate Republicans have opposed Kobach for a year, fretting that he can’t win a Senate contest after losing the 2018 gubernatorial race, and have warned about him consistently in public and in private.

After failing to woo Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the race, Republicans had mostly rallied behind Rep. Roger Marshall, who was leading Kobach comfortably in internal polling earlier in the summer. But after nearly $5 million was dumped in by a super PAC with ties to Democrats to elevate Kobach and bash Marshall’s image, Republicans acknowledge that the primary is a dead heat.

A Kobach victory would upend the battle for control of the Senate. Democrats haven't won a Senate race in Kansas since the 1930s, but with Kobach on the ballot, Republicans would be forced to sink millions into trying to defend a seat party officials believe should have stayed safely in their column.

Republicans are already stretched thin on a Senate map that features more than a half-dozen GOP incumbents in competitive races. GOP leaders concede the fight to keep the Senate has gotten harder in recent months but believe the party still can maintain control if it isn't dumping money into places like Kansas.

Democrat Barbara Bollier, a state senator and former Republican, faces only nominal opposition in her primary and has outraised all of her potential GOP foes.

[A]n internal survey conducted for the NRSC last week showed that in a general election matchup, only 54 percent of Republican primary voters would back Kobach, while 29 percent would instead to vote for Democrat Barbara Bollier, according to three people familiar with the data, which has been presented to the White House. That much potential crossover support for Bollier, who has the backing of major Kansas and national Democrats, could doom Republicans' chances in the race.

In addition to private entreaties, Republicans opposed to Kobach have sounded the alarm consistently and publicly. The NRSC blasted Kobach on the day he announced last year. Sen. Pat Roberts, who is retiring from the seat, endorsed Marshall last month despite previously pledging to stay neutral, and Senate Leadership Fund is spending nearly $2 million on positive ads boosting Marshall, according to recent FEC filings.

One veteran Republican operative in the state, who requested anonymity to speak frankly, said Trump likely knows “if he doesn’t have Kansas, the Senate majority is fried.

“Every poll I’ve seen says that Kobach can't win a general election,” Gingrich said on the radio. “[Kobach] did the worst statewide numbers when he ran for governor of any Republican in the last more than a decade. He's weaker now. Kobach is the Schumer candidate, and people just need to understand that.”

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


The Choice in November: Trump or the Country

The nation continues to find itself in the midst of a pandemic and economic collapse with no federal government plan on how to address it and the occupant of the White House - I NEVER afford that individual the title of president - instead continues to stir up racial hatred and prejudice. Meanwhile much of the Republican Party base intentionally closes its eyes to the disaster the Trump/Pence regime has been for the country and the damage done to the country's democracy.  Some are open racists and love Trump's race baiting.  Others - and I truly cannot grasp the mindset - somehow believe God would not allow someone evil the occupy the White House and tune out media sources that would force them to have to admit they have chosen to support and incompetent and morally bankrupt individual. I find this form of intentional blindness mind numbing. I'd also point out to these folks that their god allowed Hitler to come to power and start a war that killed tens of millions of people. One cannot close one's eyes to reality and foolishly - in my view - believe god will take care of things.  We all have a personal responsibility to oppose evil, immorality and the dehumanization of others.  Which brings me to the Lincoln Project and other anti-Trump Republicans and former Republicans.  America faces a choice in November: Trump or the good - and perhaps survival - of the nation.  Whatever the past mistakes of these individuals, they have made the choice of the good of the country over Trump (and evil and immorality, in my view).  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the choice to be made and the efforts underway to save the country.  Which side will you be on?  Here are article excerpts: 

Your house is on fire. Do you care who the firemen are?  That is a central question of the 2020 election. Donald Trump has managed to do one thing no other president has done: Bring Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, boomers and millennials together in unprecedented numbers to try to defeat him in November. For Americans who believe [Trump] the president is a raging threat to democracy, purity tests are out. Results are in.

Which explains the spectacular rise of the Lincoln Project, a group of Republican Never Trumpers who have moved rent free into the president’s head. Their viral videos and tweets mocking his leadership, his intelligence and his patriotism — aimed both at Republican voters who are wavering and Trump himself — have attracted millions of dollars, via donors from both parties. About 90,000 people showed up for a virtual town hall last month. Lifelong Democrats are organizing fundraisers for the project.
 
The “Mourning in America” ad attacks Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak. “#TrumpIsNotWell” questions his mental and physical fitness. “Bounty” asks why Trump won’t confront Vladimir Putin about U.S. intelligence reports that Russia offered bounties for the killing of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The ads are slick, scathing and more shocking than anything Joe Biden’s official campaign has produced. The newest release, “Wake Up,” is a dark comic satire about a coma victim hearing about Trump’s last three years. “Republicans, we need to wake up. This guy was in a coma. What’s your excuse?”

“Donald Trump is so completely at odds with every institution in America and so completely at odds with anything that the Republican Party allegedly stood for: the rule of law, constitutional fealty, institutions, norms, traditions, all of those things are out the window,” says Rick Wilson, a co-founder of the group. “So you’re either going to make a choice between Trump or this country.

Pick your motto: Politics makes strange bedfellows. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

“I’ll be really honest with you: My time horizon is the election,” says Charlie Sykes, a conservative political commentator who is not part of the Lincoln Project but wants to see Trump voted out. “I feel like the house is burning. I want to put out the fire. I’m going to worry about the redecorating later.”

“Trump is a narcissist and he cannot help but react to threats to his delicate psyche,” explains Conway. “He is a very sensitive, weak human being who cannot take criticism.” The other factor, he adds, is that “he can’t think ahead. He merely reacts to things. And what we do is take advantage of both of those psychological defects.

[T]he Lincoln Project ads are specifically designed to trigger [Trump] the president. Whenever Trump is reacting to a Lincoln Project ad, he’s talking about things he shouldn’t be talking about. He’s explaining why he inched down the ramp at the U.S. Military Academy, or drank water with two hands. He’s shooting off a tweet about the “Mourning in America” ad, thereby raising millions of dollars . . . for the Lincoln Project.

[W]ith a few dozen staffers churning out new videos overnight. “We don’t mess around,” says Wilson. “It’s this concept of moving faster than your enemy’s ability to decide to act in a battle.”

You can call it trolling, and it is: The Lincoln Project buys ad time in Washington and Bedminster for an audience of one. . . . . “The fact that we’re able to use his mental infirmity and addiction to television to freeze him and manipulate him serves a broader purpose for the overall campaign in terms of taking him off message, disorganizing and disorienting him.”

Their unique skill is talking to conservatives in a way that Democrats can’t, with techniques that they’ve honed over many Republican campaigns. They’re also targeting “soft” Republicans who may be persuadable — such as those who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016.

“The one thing you can’t get back in politics is time,” says Sykes. “Every day that goes by that Donald Trump is off his game or distracted is a win. He can’t fix that. He can’t go back and get it. What they found is that a single video can take the president of United States off track for a day or more and you see it play out.”

But you would be mistaken in believing the Lincoln Project was created to atone for past sins. Yes, there have been plenty of Republicans who have asked if their efforts over the past decades made a Trump presidency possible. . . . . [Trump] is “a natural product of the seeds of race, self-deception, and anger that became the essence of the Republican Party” over the past 50 years. “Trump isn’t an aberration of the Republican Party; he is the Republican Party in a purified form.”

Sarah Longwell, founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, . . . What’s she hearing? Things like, “I voted for Trump in 2016 and I cried and I felt I needed to take a shower” or “I’ve been watching him since I voted for him and I just can’t stand how divisive he is.”

Longwell, a lifelong Republican, admits she believed her party would stand up to Trump’s worst instincts. And she was wrong.

[U]ltimately, they’re all working for the same goal. And that goal, says conservative commentator Rick Tyler, means alliances with ideological opponents are important in the short term — especially with voters who feel left behind by today’s Republican Party. “There’s no philosophy,” he says. “There’s no belief. There’s no core. It’s just about Trump and his popularity.” The value of the Lincoln Project is that it keeps reminding voters of all persuasions why Trump shouldn’t be reelected.

“Right now you’ve got to kill the alligator closest to the boat, the one that’s going to kill you, and that is Donald Trump,” says Tyler.

“You can’t take your foot off the gas, but he’s going to lose and he’s going to lose big,” says Conway. “The reason why I’m confident of that is not because of the polls, but because of his essential nature, his self-destructive nature. He doesn’t know how to handle the current situation. He can’t lie his way out of it anymore. And if we keep the pressure on, keep doing what we’re doing, he’s going to dig himself deeper.”

Saturday, August 01, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


The Myth of the "Judeo-Christian Tradition"

The far right and Christofascists routinely use historical myths in pushing their agenda of special rights for Christian extremists.  One myth is that America was founded as a "Christian nation" - something that a look at the nation's true history is decidedly not true.  Another is references to America's "Judeo-Christian Tradition," a concept manufactured starting in the 1930's in response to fascism in Europe, especially in Hitler's Germany.  What earlier references to the term that exist always saw Christianity as eventually replacing all other religions. Now, the Trump/Pence regime in yet another attempt to shore up the support of morally bankrupt evangelicals is trotting out the  "Judeo-Christian Tradition" concept to signal a promise of right wing Christian ascendancy under Trump's rotten regime. Accurate history shows the falsity of the concept and the reality that it has always been a concept of exclusion used to marginalize those of different beliefs.  A long piece in The Atlantic looks at the real history of the manufactured myth.  Here are highlights:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended the focus on religious freedom as a distinctively American birthright now applicable to all manner of “faith traditions.” In fact, he argues, the original American human-rights vision was inspired equally by another non-Christian religion, Judaism. The report, he has said, will “return America’s understanding of human rights … back to the fundamental moorings of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded.” Except that tradition never existed.

The “Judeo-Christian tradition” was one of 20th-century America’s greatest political inventions. An ecumenical marketing meme for combatting godless communism, the catchphrase long did the work of animating American conservatives in the Cold War battle. For a brief time, canny liberals also embraced the phrase as a rhetorical pathway of inclusion into postwar American democracy for Jews, Catholics, and Black Americans. In a world divided by totalitarianism abroad and racial segregation at home, the notion of a shared American religious heritage promised racial healing and national unity.

Yet the “Judeo-Christian tradition” excluded not only Muslims, Native Americans, and other non-Western religious communities, but also atheists and secularists of all persuasions. American Jews themselves were reluctant adopters. After centuries of Christian anti-Semitic persecution and philo-Semitic fantasies of Jewish conversion, many eyed the award of an honorary hyphen with suspicion. Even some anti-communist politicians themselves recognized the concept as ill-suited to America’s postwar quest for global primacy in a decolonizing world.

The mythical “Judeo-Christian tradition,” then, proved an unstable foundation on which to build a common American identity. Today, as American democracy once again grasps for root metaphors with which to confront our country’s diversity and its place in the world, the term’s recuperation should rightfully alarm us: It has always divided Americans far more than it has united them.

Although the Jewish and Christian traditions stretch back side by side to antiquity, the phrase Judeo-Christian is a remarkably recent creation.

Before the 20th century, the notion of a “Judeo-Christian” tradition was virtually unthinkable, because Christianity viewed itself as the successor to an inferior, superseded Jewish faith, along with other inferior creeds. A good example of this comes from Reverend Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College and the most important intellectual in the early American republic, who wrote of religious freedom in 1785: . . . . A time will come when six hundred millions of the human race shall be ready to drop their idolatry and all false religion, when Christianity shall triumph over superstition, as well as Deism, and Gentilism, and Mohammedanism.

Religious freedom meant freedom for Christians. Jews might be accommodated, though not necessarily with full equality, on a temporary basis until their eventual conversion.

That traditional belief reflected itself in the slow pace of Jewish inclusion in American society. Even as legal barriers for non-Christians slowly fell state by state in the 19th century, Christian Americans hardly viewed their country, much less Western civilization, as embodying a tradition shared equally by Jews and Christians. During the Civil War and early Reconstruction years, Congress repeatedly considered a constitutional amendment to declare the United States a “Christian nation” under the ultimate sovereignty of the “Lord Jesus Christ.”

Only in the 1930s did that slowly begin to change, as the rise of Nazism alarmed American Christians who saw in fascism, as in communism, an ideology that threatened to destroy the broader spiritual culture of the West.

The years following America’s entry into World War II saw a rapid rise in the new Judeo-Christian discourse, as Americans tried to make sense of their country’s role in repelling the Nazi assault on Western civilization. The intertwining of religion and democracy provided a helpful means for Jewish and Christian clergy and politicians to signal their shared commitment to anti-fascism. But its heyday would really arrive only at war’s end, as the rhetoric morphed easily into the new vocabulary of Cold War politics. Anti-communist liberals found in the phrase a convenient shorthand “for religious pluralism in general, identifying unbounded diversity and unfettered freedom of belief as the keynotes of democratic life,” Gaston writes. What mattered most in the Cold War, and in a rapidly changing America, was making a common commitment to faith.

Yet it was not quite true that America didn’t particularly care which religion its people chose. Conservatives interpreted the same idiom in narrower, exceptionalist terms to argue that only Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism could inoculate American society from the dangerous viruses of Marxist secularism and excessive pluralism. In 1954, for instance, the Protestant pastor George Docherty persuaded President Dwight Eisenhower to officially add the words under God to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” to American currency as part of a “theological war”

Docherty’s sermon persuaded Eisenhower to make the symbolic changes. It also inadvertently highlighted the problem with Jewish-Christian relations at the heart of the imagined “Judeo-Christian” tradition. The reference to Saint Paul’s famous vision of Christian universalism—“neither Jew nor Greek”—cast Jews as a people destined to disappear in a future all-Christian world.

Remarkably, Eisenhower was one of the first to flag the problematic nature of Judeo-Christian. Despite Eisenhower’s promotion of God language in American governance, including the inauguration of the National Prayer Breakfast, Gaston observes, he seldom used the specific phrase Judeo-Christian. Eisenhower seems to have been less concerned with its repercussions for America’s Jews or others than with the way it would be received by a global audience. In a fascinating letter written in 1954, Ike cautions his brother on his use of the phrase:

You speak of the ‘Judaic-Christian heritage.’ I would suggest that you use a term on the order of ‘religious heritage’—this is for the reason that we should find some way of including the vast numbers of people who hold to the Islamic and Buddhist religions when we compare the religious world against the Communist world.

Eisenhower’s move away from exclusionary religious rhetoric suggests the complicated nature of religion and democracy in a postwar American society. Some conservatives recognized the problem with their own language at the time. By the same token, liberals saw how the phrase might be strategically mobilized for the cause of civil rights. In a 1960 speech, for example, Martin Luther King Jr. denounced racial discrimination as a “cancerous disease that prevents us from realizing the sublime principles of our Judeo-Christian tradition. It relegates persons to the status of things.”

King’s 1960s Jewish civil-rights allies pushed hard to separate Church and state through a series of landmark Supreme Court cases. Privileging religion would not end well for American Jews and other religious minorities, they argued. True religious freedom required separation of government from faith.

The phrase appears with regularity in rhetorical attacks on Islam and the progressive left, in attempts to restrict immigration and LGBTQ rights, and in arguments in favor of religious freedom that would collapse the wall of separation between Church and state. Now it has surfaced again in the Trump administration’s unlikely quest to identify a unifying principle for an American human-rights agenda.

The incredible religious diversity that has blossomed in the United States since the 1960s has changed our country for good, and for the better. We cannot turn back the clock to a mythical “Judeo-Christian America” in order to chart a new course for America’s moral imagination. Nor can we ignore the fact that the catchphrase has failed to shed its Christian religious residue. Living through an unprecedented era of anti-Semitism, American Jews no longer wish to play the role of guest stars in someone else’s theological drama. An authentically American human-rights vision cannot rest upon a flawed historical reading of how our country first came to imagine rights. In a 1773 sermon attended by Ezra Stiles, Rabbi Carigal warned future Americans that “imaginary conceptions” and “remote applications” of the Hebrew Bible were no basis on which to justify American revolutionary politics. The same holds true for our visions of human rights and religious freedom today.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


The GOP Has Become the Party of Lies, Racism and Demagoguery

Yesterday Donald Trump suggested the November 2020 elections be postponed. Why?  Because it currently appears he will lose badly and perhaps take many Republicans down with him.  It's the type of move one would expect from Vladimir Putin yet most Republicans met the incredible suggestion with tepid condemnation.  Trump clearly views himself as a monarch or dictator and needs to be removed from office as soon as possible. If this were the Roman Empire, it would be time for the Praetorian Guard to act. This latest indefensible action by Trump and the weakness of the GOP response underscores just how spineless and depraved the Republican Party has become.  A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican compiles the ways in which Republicans have sold their souls and any claim to morality to Trump.  Here are excerpts:

What a tremendous burden it must be for you [Republicans] to still be defending President Trump. You have called yourself a constitutional conservative for decades, but now you sit silently as the president pushes to move this year’s election because he might lose. Even some Republican senators are speaking up. Why aren’t you?

Trump remembers how you ran interference for him when he claimed unlimited powers under Article II of the Constitution, so he thinks you will stay quiet. Remember your silence after Charlottesville? You eventually mustered the nerve to claim Trump never preached moral equivalence between torch-carrying Nazis and protesters. How unthoughtful it was of David Duke to expose you by praising the president’s putrid performance and thanking Trump for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth.” The former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard even bragged to reporters that Charlottesville represented a “turning point” for white nationalism. “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” Duke proclaimed. “That’s why we voted for [him].”

Ouch. That one had to sting, but you kept on defending Donald.

If you had a political soul after that shameful stunt, the Cold Warrior in you would have been as sickened by Trump’s retreat from Germany as U.S. strategists were over his ceding of Syria to Vladimir Putin, handing Moscow a foothold in the Middle East for the first time since 1973. No country was a closer ally during the Cold War than West Germany, and no nation is more critical to Europe’s future now than a unified Germany.

But there you are, silently supporting a demagogue who sits by while intelligence suggests Russia’s leader put bounties on the heads of young American troops. Trump instead plays Putin’s apologist by declaring the United States equally guilty.

Did any part of you cringe when Trump leaned once again on the crutch of moral equivalency, ignoring the glaring fact that the U.S.S.R. was America’s sworn enemy during our “twilight struggle” against communism? Maybe not. Maybe Trump has you figured out and knows what a frightened political soul you are, and remembers that you remained mute when he defended Putin’s killing of journalists and political rivals almost five years ago.

When it was revealed that Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign was “sweeping and systematic,” you shrugged your shoulders. You later learned that Russian nationals with connections to the Kremlin promised Trump’s family dirt on Hillary Clinton, and that they were excited to learn it was part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” You remained motionless, numb to it all, when federal investigators later revealed that Russia’s GRU began hacking Clinton-related email accounts hours after Trump announced this: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

You still refuse to criticize the Trump team’s use of material stolen by Russia during the last month of the campaign, just like you and your president continue turning a blind eye to any Russian bounties.

None dare call it treason, but perhaps one day they will.

The last line hits the nail on the head.  Republicans no longer support the U.S. Constitution.  Instead, all that matters is retaining power and not upsetting the hideous elements of the GOP base.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


The Lost Battle for the Republican Party’s Soul

I often bemoan what has become of the Republican Party.  Stuart Stevens, a past Republican political consultant, has a column in the New York Times that looks at how the struggle to save the soul of the Republican Party was lost.  It was a battle that I admittedly gave up on years ago because I viewed as impossible to win, especially with the rise of the Christofascists - perhaps the most hateful people on the planet - and the open white supremacists within the GOP base.  Sadly, what had been dog whistle racism is now out in the open and Trump and his acolytes and supporters appear to be striving to start a race war.  Indeed, WSLS TV in Roanoke has reported that violence in the City of Richmond over the past weekend was started by white supremacists seeking to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement.  The take away? What we are now seeing is what the GOP became over a period of time - perhaps 50 years - and Trump now is the face and soul of the Party.  There is no reforming the GOP.  It must experience electoral defeat after electoral defeat. Hopefully, November 2020 will be very brutal to the GOP.  Here are highlights from Stevens' column:

After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential race, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, commissioned an internal party study to examine why the party had won the popular vote only once since 1988.

The results of that so-called autopsy were fairly obvious: The party needed to appeal to more people of color, reach out to younger voters, become more welcoming to women. Those conclusions were presented as not only a political necessity but also a moral mandate if the Republican Party were to be a governing party in a rapidly changing America.

Then Donald Trump emerged and the party threw all those conclusions out the window with an almost audible sigh of relief: Thank God we can win without pretending we really care about this stuff. That reaction was sadly predictable.

I spent decades working to elect Republicans, including Mr. Romney and four other presidential candidates, and I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. He is the logical conclusion of what the party became over the past 50 or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race-baiting, self-deception and anger that now dominate it. Hold Donald Trump up to a mirror and that bulging, scowling orange face is today’s Republican Party.

I saw the warning signs but ignored them and chose to believe what I wanted to believe: The party wasn’t just a white grievance party; there was still a big tent; the others guys were worse. Many of us in the party saw this dark side and told ourselves it was a recessive gene. We were wrong. It turned out to be the dominant gene.

What is most telling is that the Republican Party actively embraced, supported, defended and now enthusiastically identifies with a man who eagerly exploits the nation’s racial tensions. In our system, political parties should serve a circuit breaker function. The Republican Party never pulled the switch.

Racism is the original sin of the modern Republican Party. While many Republicans today like to mourn the absence of an intellectual voice like William Buckley, it is often overlooked that Mr. Buckley began his career as a racist defending segregation.

In the Richard Nixon White House, Pat Buchanan and Kevin Phillips wrote a re-election campaign memo headed “Dividing the Democrats” in which they outlined what would come to be known as the Southern Strategy. It assumes there is little Republicans can do to attract Black Americans and details a two-pronged strategy: Utilize Black support of Democrats to alienate white voters while trying to decrease that support by sowing dissension within the Democratic Party.

That strategy has worked so well that it was copied by the Russians in their 2016 efforts to help elect Mr. Trump.

When Mr. Bush called himself a “compassionate conservative,” some on the right attacked him, calling it an admission that conservatism had not been compassionate. That was true; it had not been. Many of us believed we could steer the party to that “kinder, gentler” place his father described. We were wrong.

Reading Mr. Bush’s 2000 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention now is like stumbling across a document from a lost civilization, with its calls for humility, service and compassion. That message couldn’t attract 20 percent in a Republican presidential primary today. If there really was a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, we lost.

There is a collective blame to be shared by those of us who have created the modern Republican Party that has so egregiously betrayed the principles it claimed to represent. My j’accuse is against us all, not a few individuals who were the most egregious.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty


When Conservative Supreme Justices Revolt

CNN has been carrying pieces looking at the the just finished term of the U.S. Supreme Court and the manner in which two justices, Gorsuch and Roberts delivered decisions that will prove to be on the right side of morality and history but which caused apoplexy among Christofascists and others in the far right. Gorsuch's majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County which extended non-discrimination protectons to the LGBT community is perhaps the best example.  A piece in The Atlantic looks further into the failure of conservative justices to rule as demanded by Der Trumpenfurhrer and those demanding special rights for far right Christians.   While defeats at the Court may not lessen evangelical ardor for Trump on a wide scale - further proof of their moral bankruptcy - the just ended term must have a few believing they were betrayed by Trump's appointees.  Here are article excerpts:
Until two months ago, Leonard Leo was among the unambiguous winners of the Trump era. The bookish lawyer and architect of the conservative legal movement has spent the past three and a half years executing his decades-long vision of remaking the federal judiciary—he was instrumental in the Supreme Court appointments of Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. But during the Court’s term this summer, an old conservative nightmare recurred: Republican-appointed justices, including Gorsuch, aligned with their liberal colleagues on big, consequential decisions about immigration, abortion, and LGBTQ protections.
In recent decades, conservative justices have consistently moved to the left once reaching the bench: Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by Ronald Reagan, routinely cast the deciding vote against social conservatives on gay rights. Conservative-movement stalwarts have never forgiven David Souter, the George H. W. Bush appointee, for voting to uphold the constitutional right to abortion in the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, or for siding with his liberal colleagues in the battle over the 2000 presidential election, Bush v. Gore. Leo spent his career building a conservative legal machine in Washington that would forestall this kind of leftward drift among Supreme Court justices. But this summer, the machine began to sputter.
Leo’s greatest strategic success, perhaps, has been convincing Donald Trump of his methodology: He helped Trump craft a list of potential Supreme Court nominees during the 2016 presidential campaign, which Trump widely advertised to demonstrate his conservative bona fides, and, in less than four years, Leo has shepherded 200 judges to their confirmation on the federal bench. But the president—and his supporters—made a pact premised on results. If even Leo can’t guarantee conservatives the rulings they crave, can Trump?
Conservative-movement activists were frustrated by setbacks at the Court this term, even going so far as to question Trump’s judicial vetting process. But Leo is taking the long view, arguing that his movement’s philosophical overhaul of the judiciary will yield dividends for years to come.
As they did for Trump’s other Supreme Court prospects, Leo and his team reviewed Gorsuch’s record for what they saw as independence and fearlessness. “His judicial record demonstrates a faithful commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said at Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing. “He has refused to litigate his own policy preferences from the bench.” In mid-June, however, Gorsuch shocked conservatives by writing the opinion in one of the biggest cases of the term, consolidated under Bostock v. Clayton County, arguing that federal civil-rights law protects LGBTQ employees from discriminatory practices. . . . . Backed by Chief Justice John Roberts and all four of the Court’s liberals, Gorsuch wrote that he reached his decision in favor of LGBTQ rights using textualism, the conservative judicial philosophy. “It’s no contest,” he wrote. “Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”
Leading conservative lawyers in Washington were shocked. . . . . Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who wrote a glowing CNN op-ed in support of Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court, decried Bostock on the Senate floor as a flashing sign of danger for religious conservatives, who fear that extending civil-rights protections to LGBTQ people will threaten their freedom of conscience. “If this case makes anything clear, it is that the bargain that has been offered to religious conservatives for years now is a bad one,” Hawley said. In exchange for going along with the conservative establishment, religious voters are promised judges who will protect their rights, he said, but those judges consistently fall short.
Bostock was just the beginning of bruising conservative defeats during this term. In June Medical Services v. Russo, the Court’s first big case on abortion since Trump was elected, Roberts cast the deciding vote to strike down a Louisiana law that regulated abortion providers. This was a “disaster,” Hawley tweeted. “It is a big-time wake up call to religious conservatives.
As the term produced one defeat after another—on abortion, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and tribal affairs, conservative justices leading the way each time—the sniping from conservative commentators grew more pronounced. If these are the conclusions a majority-conservative Court comes to, they asked, is the conservative legal machine really as effective as Leo and his allies have claimed?
Trump has spent the past month making the case that religious conservatives need him to protect their legal rights. “If the Radical Left Democrats assume power, your Second Amendment, Right to Life, Secure Borders, and … Religious Liberty, among many other things, are OVER and GONE!” he tweeted. He promised to release a new list of potential Supreme Court nominees by September 1, and added the current justices to a long list of his political enemies: “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” he tweeted. Like [Trump] the president they support, religious conservatives are likely discontent with this term at the nation’s high court. And yet, their defeats may only redouble their commitment to supporting [Trump] the president.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Trump's Latest Medical Quack Warns of Sex with Demons

Trump's medical con-artist, Stella Immanuel.
Trump's Christofascist base of support - and sadly some otherwise decent Republicans I know - are always at the ready to believe whatever insane and far fetched story line that plays to their prejudices and/or ignorance embracing religious beliefs.  This is a reality that Trump has played like a violin as he has sought to grant Christofascists special rights and to exempt them from non-discrimination laws.  It is also why Trump seems to have a constant parade of whacked out "experts" who either support his endless lies or who will play well with the ignorant searching for "experts" to support their exist biases.  Now, Trump has found an unhinged physician who he is offering up as an expert to counter legitimate and sane medical experts.  The Washington Post looks at this loose canon who blames some medical conditions on having sex with demons (A piece in the Daily Beast also looks at her lunacy).  Why this individual still holds any medical license is baffling.  Here are article highlights:

        According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis is “an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of [the] uterus — the endometrium — grows outside [the] uterus.”

    Not so, says Stella Immanuel, a Houston pediatrician and spiritual leader of Fire Power Ministries, a pronouncedly non-orthodox church. Endometriosis and other potentially dangerous gynecological conditions are the residue of sexual intercourse with demons, Immanuel teaches.

        They visit humans in sexy dreams, which aren’t dreams after all but spirit spouses making a booty call. The demons are responsible not only for diseases of the female reproductive system but also for male impotence, most financial troubles, marital discord and spiritual malaise.

        This is not Immanuel’s only diversion from the medical mainstream. She also maintains that alien DNA is a component of some therapeutic drugs and that government scientists are developing a vaccine to prevent religious faith. You can find these and other teachings of hers on YouTube.

        Or you can find Immanuel on President Trump’s Twitter feed, where she testifies to the power of hydroxychloroquine (yep! we’re back to that one) to cure covid-19 and assures the public that masks are not important to fighting the pandemic. More than 10 million Americans heard her advice, thanks in part to the president’s amplifying effect, before Facebook took down her page. In response, Immanuel threatened to have Jesus unplug Facebook’s servers.

        I guess there is no point in expressing my strong view that the president of the United States should not, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, pass along medical advice that undermines public health officials without good reason to believe that it comes from a qualified authority. The president doesn’t care.

        And I suppose it’s pointless to say to my Christian brothers and sisters in Trump’s dwindling camp that a man who raises the profile of a heretical preacher is not a friend of the faith. Many so-called evangelicals who stick with Trump gave up on evangelism — that is, winning people over through selfless acts of love and charity — long ago.

        [L]et me speak to those Republicans cowering in closets and hiding under stairs in Washington and the state capitals, muttering prayers that Trump might somehow calm the flames that threaten to consume them.

        Run away. Close your eyes and duck your heads and sprint as fast as you can away from Trump. Claim amnesia. Say you’ve been hiking the Appalachian Trail. Blame your spirit spouse — whatever. A fury is building in Middle America that has nothing to do with Russia or impeachment or “Access Hollywood.” It’s rising among people who managed to look past all of that to find something they liked about the president. And now he’s repaying them with a stubby middle finger in their faces.

        They understand that covid-19 is not a joke. They have children whose teachers are afraid to be in school with them. They have teenagers reeling from the mental health impacts of isolation and anxiety. They’ve lost their jobs, their businesses, their sense of safety. They’re worried about losing their homes.

        And they see what the president thinks of them and their concerns. Here, you dupes and dopes, Trump says — here’s a video from a woman who believes in demon dream sex. Or here’s one from a washed-up game-show host who says covid-19 is an election ploy. Or how about this idea: Drink some bleach.

        They’re worried and suffering, and their president might as well be saying: I don’t care if you live or die. And it’s coming through loud and clear. The political center is slow to anger. It’s also slow to forget.


Tuesday Male Beauty


What Might a Post-Trump GOP Look Like?

The future of the Republican Party will remain up in the air for some time whether Donald Trump wins in November - a nightmarish thought - or goes down in ignominious defeat - a much more pleasing thought.  The bigger Trump's loss, the better the chances that the party will regain some semblance of a moral compass.  Any true change will require the exiling of Trump's principal base of support: white supremacists and evangelical Christians. Whether or not there will be much of a party left once those boils on the party are excised will remain to be seen given that so many former Republicans may be unwilling to re-associate with a party that has so strongly revealed its moral bankruptcy.  Some hope a stunning Trump loss will bring the remnants of the GOP back to its senses, yet the example here in Virginia suggests that such may well not be the case. After not winning a statewide race in eleven years, the Virginia GOP continues to nominate extremists and recently even replaced a more viable congressional incumbent with and extremist with ties to Liberty University.  A column in the New York Times looks at the possibilities.  Here are highlights:
[I]f Trump loses? Then the future of the party will be up for grabs. It’s time to start thinking about who can grab it, who should, and who will.
Much depends on the margin of defeat. If it’s razor thin and comes down to a vote-count dispute in a single state, as it did in Florida in 2000, Trump will almost surely allege fraud, claim victory and set off a constitutional crisis. As Ohio State law professor Edward Foley noted last year in a must-read law review article, a state like Pennsylvania could send competing certificates of electoral votes to Congress. Interpretive ambiguities in the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 could deadlock the House and the Senate. We could have two self-declared presidents on the eve of next year’s inauguration.
But let’s assume Trump loses narrowly but indisputably. In that case, the Trump family will do what it can to retain control of the G.O.P.
Tommy Hicks Jr., the current Republican National Committee co-chairman, is one possible candidate to move up to become chairman, and run the R.N.C., but the likelier choice is Hicks’s good friend Donald Trump Jr. The Trumpers will make the argument that NeverTrumpers cost them the election and are thus responsible for everything bad that might happen in a Biden administration, from crime on the streets to liberal Supreme Court picks to some future Benghazi-type episode.
Something unpleasant might come of this. It tends to happen whenever a large mass of conformists convince themselves that they’ve been betrayed by a nonconforming minority in their midst.
Then there’s the third scenario: An overwhelming and humiliating Trump defeat, on the order of George H.W. Bush’s 168 to 370 electoral vote loss to Bill Clinton in 1992.
The infighting will begin the moment Florida, North Carolina or any other must-win state for Trump is called for Joe Biden. It will pit two main camps against each other. On the right, it will be the What Were We Thinking? side of the party. On the further right, the Trump Didn’t Go Far Enough side. Think of it as a cage match between Marco Rubio and Tucker Carlson for the soul of the G.O.P.
Both sides will recognize that Trump was a uniquely incompetent executive who — as in his business dealings — always proved his own worst enemy, always squandered his luck, never learned from his mistakes, never grew in office. Both sides will want to wash their hands of the soon-to-be-former president, his obnoxious relatives, their intellectual vacuity and their self-dealing ways.
That’s where agreement ends. The What Were We Thinking? Republicans will want to hurry the party back to some version of what it was when Paul Ryan was its star. They’ll want to pretend that Trump never happened. They will organize a task force composed of former party worthies to write an election post-mortem, akin to what then-G.O.P. chair Reince Priebus did after 2012, emphasizing the need to repair relations with minorities, women and younger voters.
The Didn’t Go Far Enough camp will make the opposite case. They’ll note that Trump never built the wall, never got U.S. troops out of the Middle East, never drained the swamp of Beltway corruption, ended NAFTA in name only, did Wall Street’s bidding at Main Street’s expense, and “owned the libs” on Twitter while losing the broader battle of ideas. This camp will seek a new champion: Trump plus a brain.
These are two deeply unattractive versions of the party of Lincoln, one feckless, the other fanatical. Even so, all who care about the health of American democracy should hold their noses and hope the feckless side prevails.
As with the Democrats after Jimmy Carter’s defeat in 1980, it will probably take more than one electoral shellacking for conservative-leaning voters to appreciate the scale of disaster that Trump’s presidency inflicted on the party and the country. It will probably also take more than one defeat for the party to learn that electoral contests should still be waged, and won, near the center of the ideological spectrum, not the fringe.
But everything has to start somewhere. A decisive Trump loss in November isn’t a sufficient condition for the G.O.P. to begin to heal itself. It’s still a beginning.