Friday, June 22, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty


The Republican Party That is Dead and Gone


From time to time throughout history nations have faced a point where they have to determine who they are and what they stand for.  An obvious example is 1930's Germany when everyday Germans failed the test and chose evil and depravity.  Now, America stands at a point where a similar decision must be made.  As it now exists, the Republican Party is the enemy of decency, morality and Americans must decide if they will go the way of the 1930's Germans or defeat the GOP and disavow its agenda.  Sadly, the Republican Party was not always a toxic threat.  A piece by Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of Congress. reminisces about the days when the GOP was responsible and had not become a force that at best shrugs its shoulders at inhumanity towards others.  Scarborough, myself, Steve Schmidt, Jennifer Rubin, and many other former Republicans supported the Republican Party of yesteryear. Now, its defeat is an existential test for Americans as Scarborough notes.  Here are column excerpts:
There was a time when conservatives supported limited government, balanced budgets and less debt. Not so long ago, conservatives also championed free trade, lower tariffs and the spread of democratic institutions across Europe and the world. And yes, conservatives spent the past generation championing an American exceptionalism with values casting our great country as a city shining brightly on a hill for all the world to see. 
Ronald Reagan launched his historic 1980 presidential campaign with the Statue of Liberty as his backdrop . He framed America’s relationship with immigration in 1981 this way: “Our nation is a nation of immigrants. More than any other country, our strength comes from our immigrant heritage and our capacity to welcome those from other lands.” Reagan took a position on immigration that most Republicans today would consider heresy, yet voters rewarded him with a decisive victory and a landslide reelection a few years later. Far less popular has been President Trump’s politically toxic policy of ripping children from their mothers’ arms. That depraved stance, adopted as a bargaining chip to use against Democrats, garnered support from only 17 percent of Americans . But it did earn him the antipathy of our closest allies, Pope Francis and every living former first lady . With the incarceration of more than 2,300 infants, toddlers and children unresolved, Trump’s policy of breaking up families remains an open wound on America’s character and a political crisis for the few Republicans who still believe they can salvage November’s midterm elections. A conservative former intelligence operative grimly recounted to me on Thursday how much the handling of these displaced children reminded him of the CIA facilities where terrorists were secretly held and interrogated after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: “This reminds me of our black sites, except we were holding 100 or so adult terrorists for the killing of American citizens. Now 2,300 kids are held in unknown locations with unknown individuals inside and absolutely no outside observation.” [Trump’s] personal cruelty and political ignorance have created a crisis that will kill conservative immigration reform and lead to future Democratic majorities. More troubling is the harsh reality now staring Americans in the face: Their president is a brutish political boss who has cheapened conservatism, sullied the office of the presidency and called into question the very character of a country once seen as the envy of the world. That so many Republicans still support this depraved man and his malignant movement could be the most damning element of this tragic American tale. 
 When Christian religious extremists and white supremacists are the base of a major political party it underscores that something is seriously wrong with America/Americans.  Each of us has an obligation to reclaim our nation and oppose Trump, Pence, Sessions, Ryan, McConnell and others who are destroying America's soul.  Sitting on the sidelines is not an option.  Inaction equals complicity in evil. 

Parkland Survivors Launch Voter Registration Tour


One of the ironies is that younger voters have the most to lose long term from the Republican Party's toxic reverse Robin Hood, racist, trash the environment agenda, yet historically they fail to register to vote and to vote against candidates that are most harmful to their futures.  A piece in NPR looks at how the student survivors of the Parkland High School massacre hope to change this pattern by getting younger citizens to not only register to vote, but to also remain energized and show up at the polls.  While not endorsing candidates, their anti-gun message by default will boost Democrats and threaten Republicans in the pocket of the NRA and gun manufacturers.  Here are article highlights:
Three months ago the students from South Florida established themselves as a potent force in the gun debate with the March For Our Lives rally. This summer they're hitting the road with a new mission: turn the wave of young activism they helped spark into an energized voting bloc for the November mid-term elections.
At the annual end-of-year peace march in Chicago, organized by St. Sabina Catholic Church, Grammy-winners Chance the Rapper and Jennifer Hudson, along with former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, joined the Parkland survivors to launch a bus tour called Road to Change.
It's a voter mobilization effort aimed at getting young people registered and keeping them energized through the summer.
A nationwide tour will make 50-plus stops in more than 20 states, including Iowa, Texas, South Carolina and Connecticut. The will also be a Florida tour stopping in all 27 of the state's Congressional districts.
"The main purpose of this tour is not just to educate people on gun violence and what we can do to prevent gun violence, but is also to register more people to vote," says Matt Deitsch, chief strategist for March For Our Lives.
Andy Bernstein heads the national non-profit HeadCount which partners with recording artists like Jay-Z, Pearl Jam and the Dave Matthews Band to register voters at music concerts.
"I really think that the Parkland students have done something remarkable. They have made voter registration cool," Bernstein says.  [B]y in large, young voters do not tend to show up to the polls in mid-term elections.
According to the Census Bureau in the last midterm cycle in 2014, only 23 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds voted. When narrowed to 18 to 24, that fell to just under 16 percent.
There are signs the anti-gun violence movement is having an impact on potential young voters, according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg who is the Director of Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.  Crunching available voter registration numbers through June 13, she and fellow researchers discovered there is evidence of young registrants getting more engaged in the political process.
"What we did find was that in a lot of states the youth registration numbers actually exceeded the numbers from the November of 2016," Kawashima-Ginsberg says. "And that's really significant because young people mostly register to vote in September and October of the election year."
Harvard University poll released in April showed that 77 percent of 18 to 29-year-old likely voters said that gun control is an important issue for them in the 2018 elections.   The test, he says, is whether these young activists can exceed the voting intensity of second amendment right supporters.
"If you are a single issue voter and guns is the issue, what we've seen in the past is that it's the pro-second amendment, pro-gun voter that is almost guaranteed to show up at the polls."  Matt Deitsch, the March For Our Lives chief strategist, says he is up for the challenge.
"We're making voting something that is not just checking a box. It's literally you being a hero and you saving lives," Deitsch says. "That's why we have to do this."

Older LGBT Americans Must Be the Role Models We Lacked


Growing up in Upstate New York in the 1960's there were no "out" LGBT role models.  Indeed, in those pre-Internet days, I thought I was the lone closeted gay kid in my high school.  As it turns out, I wasn't - some of us have connected years latter via Facebook - but the isolation and effort to hide my "secret" from family, friends and the world in general was oppressive.  Throw in my Catholic upbringing and it was down right soul killing.  Little did I know at the time that there were numerous successful closeted LGBT individuals that ranged from movie stars to leaders of industry.  Things are improving now, but depending on where one lives or the profession one has chosen, role models can remain few and far between.  Anthony Niedwiecki, dean of Golden Gate Law School and the husband of a blogger friend - his husband and I both attended a LGBT blogger summit in Washington, D.C. almost a decade ago - has a timely column in The Advocate that encourages older LGBT individuals to rise to the occasion of being role models for younger generations.  A key part is not just mentoring, but being visible - "out" if you will - in one's personal and professional life.  Here are highlights:

I was recently asked by a student, “How do you think being gay has impacted your career?” It was a great question that got me thinking about my journey from coming out in law school to becoming one of the only openly LGBTQ deans to ever lead a law school in the nation.
I came out at a time when there weren’t many visible LGBTQ leaders to look up to. Coming from a Catholic family in Michigan, I just didn’t have access to many people like me to look up to. That was also true as I entered law school. I purposely chose a school where I thought I could be more myself and finally come out. Luckily, I found friends and a few faculty members who helped me grow comfortable enough to take those first steps out of the closet. Finding the people who had the strength to be visible and proud helped me on my own journey.
But being gay in a predominantly straight male profession has its challenges. The first internship I had at a law firm was incredibly hostile to LGBTQ people. One of the partners eventually pulled me aside and told me, “You should probably start bringing a girlfriend to company parties — people are starting to talk.”  I left that firm.
I instantly became much more aware of the level of acceptance at my next internship or job. After graduation, I ended up at a wonderful law firm that had an openly gay partner. Having an LGBTQ person in leadership completely shifted the tone of the firm and made me completely comfortable to be myself. The partner even began mentoring me to help me succeed, which helped me see the value of being out in the professional world. If he could succeed, so could I.
The impact of visibility was driven home when I ran for local office. I decided to run for city commissioner after the mayor went on an antigay tirade. If I wanted to change the tone that he was setting, I needed to be the example of what LGBTQ leadership could look like. During my run to be city commissioner, I never shied away from being out. In fact, I went to California to marry my husband during the campaign. We won — and it changed the tone and trajectory that the bigoted former mayor tried to set.
All of these experiences are why I'm so proud to be incredibly outspoken and open as the dean of Golden Gate University. I remember the impact that having an openly LGBTQ person in my profession made on me and want to pass that along. But we still have so far to go. Many times, we run into the “rainbow ceiling,” where systemic biases impact the ability to move into a leadership role in our professional lives. A new report indicates we are routinely “frozen out of” top management jobs. This is even truer when it intersects with the biases against women and communities of color.
Things are slowly changing. We see groundbreaking members of our community like Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Laverne Cox, and Adam Rippon unabashedly being their authentic selves. The impact of visible leaders and high-profile figures is hopefully being felt by the current generation of LGBTQ youth coming into their own. I want to one day lose track because we’re so well represented. I want to see us on the Supreme Court or as president. And I truly believe those leaders of tomorrow are out there, drawing strength from those who have come before. Just like I did.


Kudos to Anthony - and his husband who has been an amazing activist for LGBT rights in his own right. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Veteran GOP Strategist Quits GOP Over Trump and "Cowardly" Republicans


It seems that as Donald Trump and his racist followers double down, more thinking Republicans are abandoning the GOP which has become something ugly and hideous and filled with spineless wonders who prostitute themselves to any lengths to avoid a primary contest against challengers who not that many years ago would not even have been allowed on a county or city committee much less be allowed to be a candidate backed by the GOP.  Once Trump claimed the GOP nomination in 2016 it became clear that the GOP no longer has any standards unless those standards are comprised of narcissism, perpetual lying, rank racism, and objective fact free delusions.  The latest exodus from the GOP involves long time GOP strategist and former George W. Bush White House staffer and John McCain campaign staffer Steven Schmidt.   Schmidt even went to state that in its current form, the Republican Party is a threat to American democracy.  Huffington Post looks at Schmidt's exodus from the GOP:
Veteran GOP strategist Steve Schmidt renounced his Republican Party membership on Wednesday and pledged to vote for Democrats in an effort to preserve “what is right and decent” in the United States.
In a series of scathing tweets, Schmidt blasted the GOP as “corrupt, indecent and immoral” and “fully the party of Trump.”
“It is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders,” tweeted Schmidt, an MSNBC political analyst who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. “Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and our values.”
Schmidt, who served as an adviser in the George W. Bush White House, strongly condemned the Trump administration’s policy of separating families caught illegally crossing the border into the U.S.
“This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of humanity in our history,” he tweeted. “It is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery and dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families. It is immoral and must be repudiated.”
Schmidt, who said in July that Trump had the “impulse control of a little child,” joins a growing chorus of political pundits and lawmakers to rebuke the administration’s practice of separating children from parents facing prosecution for illegally crossing the border.
 
Schmidt also lashed out at Republicans who either are apologists and or his enablers saying "With the exception of a few Governors like Baker, Hogan and Kasich it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders."  Another former Republican taking aim at Trump enablers within the GOP is columnist Jennifer Rubin. In a column in the Washington Post, she lambasted Paul Ryan and others:
This is moral madness, a betrayal of universal human values that marks the lowest point in the Trump presidency — or any presidency since the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

There is no point, ever, at which Fox News executives stop raking in money and sending their hosts out to pander to ignorant anti-immigrant audiences. (A patch of Fox TV and film talent is up in arms, some threatening to leave for another studio.) There is never a time when House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) says, “You know, my church and my conscience don’t allow me to participate in such evil,” or when anyone in the White House has the decency to quit rather than lie and help perpetuate the policy.
There surely is never a moment [Trump] the president stops lying, . . . . He is, unbelievably, getting worse, and there is no one in the administration willing to resist.
There are plenty of signs that the public has finally had enough of Trump’s lying and the GOP’s inhumanity. A massive protest is planned for June 30 near the White House and in 132 cities across the country. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a blistering attack on Trump’s policies.  At least eight governors(including two Republicans) are now recalling National Guard troops assigned to help with the border crackdown.
There is far more that can be done — from voters calling and showing up at lawmakers’ offices and appearances, to cutting off donations flowing to GOP candidates and PACs.
[T]he Republican Party has disgraced itself and lost the moral authority to govern. Anyone and everyone with an “R” after his or her name who did not condemn the policy and take meaningful action to eliminate it will be attacked for this disgraceful chapter. Really, should they be reelected for anything — ever?

This from a former Republican.  Schmidt and Rubin have belatedly reached a point I reached many years ago. Yes, Trump is an outright evil, but I remain insistent that the evil began to overtake the GOP with the rise of the evangelical Christians - the most selfish, hate-filled, cruel people one can encounter - began their takeover of the GOP base. Moderate Republicans of old and the so-called country club Republicans never countenanced such evil.  That began with with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and has now metastasized in the form of Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., and, of course Trump, who made a pact with the devil with them.  

More Thursday Male Beauty


Why Trump’s Family-Separation Policy Failed


As the previous post noted, evil persists (i) when leaders and their supporters lack empathy for other humans regardless of their race or creed, (ii) a majority of the population is willing to rely on the so-called Nuremberg defense to shirk responsibility for their own actions or more on point, their failure to act.  The reversal of Der Trumpenführer's family separation policy demonstrates that while Trump, Pence, Sessions, Kirstjen Nielsen, Congressional Republicans, some 55% of Republicans, and many "Christian family values" groups have reached a moral depravity akin to that of Hitler's Germany, the majority of Americans - at least so far - have not thrown morality and decency aside.  The key going forward will to keep the majority united in opposing the evil that is Trump and Trumpism and in keeping a spotlight on the moral bankruptcy of Trump supporters who embraced the moral evil of the family separation policy.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at why Trump was forced to back down - for now, at least.  Here are article highlights:
[A] top aide to President Trump told Axios that he “doesn’t want to look weak” by abandoning his policy of family separation. Trump “feels boxed in, is frustrated and knows it’s bad politics — but also understands it’s not a fight he can back down from.”
But back down he did. In the face of overwhelming public pressure, Trump relented and agreed the policy his administration had deliberately engineered was a real policy, and that he could change it, and would.
Even a casual understanding of human psychology or American history would have made it patently obvious that the cruel method of terrorizing migrant families by wresting children from parents was bound to provoke a profound backlash. The prospect of losing a child is the most elemental fear any parent can imagine.
The willingness of Trump and his administration to plunge ahead anyway with a barbaric tactic is primarily a reflection of their moral emptiness. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reportedly opposed it in private, yet energetically obfuscated on its behalf in public. Why didn’t she resign in protest? Why hasn’t anybody?
The reversal also demonstrates the comprehensive failure of Trump’s immigration agenda. Trump is facing the inevitable dilemma of a populist leader: He was elected promising easy solutions, and is discovering none exist.
Trump’s internal assessment is, if anything, even more grim. “Over the past few months, Trump has called Nielsen and [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions to account as the number of immigrants flooding across the southern border has spiked. Arrests on the border nearly tripled year-over-year, rising to 40,344 this past May from 14,519 in May 2017,” reports Politico.
He subjected Nielsen to a tirade six weeks ago that lasted an incredible 30 minutes, and concerned the comprehensive failure of their efforts to control the border. Trump settled on family separation after every other method at his disposal collapsed. On the central policy promise he made, Trump is a flop, and he knows it.
The collapse revealed one more important thing: The power of mass revulsion. There are limits, after all, to what Trump can do without risking his patina of legitimacy as head of state. Outraged voters flooded Congress with calls, as they did to oppose the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare, and with the same success. Intense voter opposition matters.
It also matters when Laura Bush speaks out against him, and when Steve Schmidt resigns from the Republican party, and when American Airlines declares it won’t cooperate with the administration. It is a sign that the peripheral elements of Trump’s coalition have a breaking point, that while they can tolerate a great deal of sub-rosa venality, visceral outrages can create a dangerous reaction.
The damage of Trump’s horrific policy cannot be fully undone. But, in the face of his every instinct, Trump was forced to retreat. He didn’t want to look weak, but he does, because he is.


The resistance to Trump and Trumpism needs to continue and, if anything, intensify.  Giving Democrats control of the House of Representatives is the only guaranteed way to prevent future moral horros from being committed by a man who lacks any morals or decency. 

Trump, Hitler, Their Supporters and Evil: The Absence of Empathy


While Der Trumpenführer has supposed taken action to halt future family separations, no plans exist to reunite children already torn from their parents.  The cruelty of the Trump regime policy shocked a majority modern day Americans, yet found support among at least 55% of Republicans according to one poll.  This leaves one grappling for an explanation for cruelty - evil is the correct word in my view - and how seemingly ordinary citizens can support such heinous policies.  The answer can be found in the aftermath of WWII when American psychologists working with top Nazi officials awaiting trial at Nuremberg.   One such American Army psychologist assigned to watching the defendants at the Nuremberg trials was Captain G. M. Gilbert who made the following statement in hi1950 book Psychology of Dictatorship:
“In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”


Combined with this lack of empathy was a mindset enunciated by many Trump supporters that (i) the immigrants were "breaking the law" and/or (ii) those crudely separating families were merely "following orders" and, therefore, were devoid of blame.  A piece from five years ago in The Daily Beast tracks how these same excuses were used by Nazi supporters in Hitler's Germany.  Here are key excerpts:
Why do men commit evil? Were the kommandants who ran the Nazi death camps psychopaths? Did they have subnormal intelligence? Were they just ordinary men who made appalling decisions?  I have been thinking about these questions ever since I found out that my great-uncle, Hanns Alexander, a German Jew, was a Nazi Hunter. At the end of the Second World War he tracked down and caught one of the worst mass murderers of all time, Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz.
These were also the questions that a team of American psychologists and psychiatrists were directed to answer during the Nuremberg Trials that opened on November 20, 1945, six months after the war’s end. . . . With so many senior Nazis held in one place at the same time, the Americans instructed a panel of psychologists to conduct exten­sive interviews and tests with the defendants. Such horrific crimes were committed surely by damaged men, men different in some fundamental way from the rest of humanity.
Gilbert later wrote about his meeting with the Kommandant in his 1947 book Nuremberg Diary.  Gilbert asked for a brief career summary, and was surprised when Höss admitted in an unemotional tone that he had been responsible for the deaths of more than two and a half million Jews.
The American asked how it was possible to kill so many people. “Technically,” answered Höss, “that wasn’t so hard—it would not have been hard to exterminate even greater numbers.” Gilbert then pressed him for an emotional response, but Höss continued in a similar tone: “At the time there were no consequences to consider. It didn’t occur to me that I would be held responsible. You see, in Germany it was understood that if something went wrong, then the man who gave the orders was responsible.” Gilbert started to ask, “But what about the human—” before Höss interrupted, “That just didn’t enter into it.”

Two days later, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, Major Leon Goldensohn, came to visit Rudolf Höss. . . . Goldensohn asked him how he felt mentally. Rudolf Höss replied: “I feel less nervous now than I did.” He was then asked if he felt upset over what he had done in Auschwitz. “I thought I was doing the right thing,” said Höss. “I was obeying orders, and now, of course, I see that it was unnecessary and wrong. But I don’t know what you mean by being upset about these things because I didn’t personally murder anybody. I was just the director of the extermination program at Auschwitz. It was Hitler who ordered it through Himmler and it was Eichmann who gave me the orders regarding transports.”
On 15 April 1946, Rudolf Höss provided his testimony at Nuremberg. In its candor and detail regarding the mechanics of the Final Solution it changed the course of the trial.  Rudolf Höss’ testimony was reported around the world. The New York Times described it as the “crushing climax to the case.” In Britain, The Times of London went further. They said of Höss’ signed testimony: “its dreadful implications must surpass any document ever penned.”
A few days later, Rudolf Höss was handed to the Polish authorities to face his own trial. In April 1947, the former kommandant was hung on the gallows next to the old crematorium in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The conclusion of the psychologists and psychiatrists at Nuremberg was clear: they both decided that though Rudolf Höss was intelligent, he was mentally ill: a psychopath, psychotic, amoral, lacking empathy.
An alternative theory of what underlies the character of the men and women who executed the Final Solution is put forward by Hannah Arendt. She argued that these men and women were typically not psychopaths or two-dimensional monsters. Rather they were ordinary men, who made a series of terrible decisions with horrific consequences.
To paraphrase Hannah Arendt—as portrayed in the recently released movie of the same namethe Nazi war criminal’s actions stemmed from her well-known phrase “banality of evil,” not as a result of mental illness but as a result of a lack of thinking. Their greatest error was delegating the process of thinking and decision-making to their higher ups. In Rudolf Höss’s case, this would have been his superiors, particularly Heinrich Himmler.
To many this conclusion is troubling, for it suggests that if everyday, “normal,” sane men and women are capable of evil, then the atrocities perpetrated during the Holocaust and other genocides could be repeated today and into the future.
Yet, this is exactly the lesson we must learn from the war criminals at Nuremberg. We must be ever wary of those who do not take responsibility for their actions. And we ourselves must be extra vigilant, particularly in this day of accelerated technological power, heightened state surveillance, and global corporate reach, that we do not delegate our thinking to others.
Remember that this piece just quoted was written five (5) years before today's Trump regime directed brutality towards undocumented immigrants and their families.  Other than the degree of the cruelty, is there really much difference between the staff at Auschwitz and ICE staff personnel implementing Trump's horrible policy?  As for the excuse raised by many Trump supporters/Republicans that the immigrant victims of Trump/Pence devised cruelty were "breaking the law," many 1930's Germans used the same excuse even as laws were being promulgated by the Nazis taking away the rights of Jews and others.  It seems that the admonition of the last paragraph quoted above has been forgotten, especially when it comes to not delegating one's thinking to others. 

I will admit that I am very sensitive to state directed discrimination and mistreatment of others simply because they are "different." I saw the drift toward cruelty and hatred in my waning days as a Republican as the Christofascists and evangelical Christians took over the GOP base.  These people are all about hatred of others and dehumanizing those toward whom they harbor animus.   I likewise experienced anti-gay bigotry when I was forced from a Virginia Beach based law firm for being gay.  From these experiences, I have some sense of what Gilbert was getting at.  When I was forced from my law firm so it could pander to "the sensibilities of conservative clients," no thought or concern was given to me or to my family, including my three young children.  Such was the lack of empathy/morality of self-styled prominent members of the local legal community. 

America is at a turning point.  Either the decent and moral majority mobilizes and defeats the forces of evil embodied in the Trump/Pence regime and its GOP enablers - voting them out of office is easily feasible come November - or America is accelerating down the road towards fascism and a repeat of its most ugly history.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


A young Eugen Bauder