Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

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Trump Supporters Make Death Threats Against Delegates

Donald Trump has pandered to some of the ugliest elements in the GOP base: white supremacists, open racist, and misogynists in general.  Now, some of those same Trump supporters are reported to be making death threats against delegates who fail to support their new fuhrer.  Meanwhile, Trump is on a charm campaign seeking to calm fears of the GOP elite.  Personally, I wonder if Trump can control the hate and discord that he has deliberately cultivated.  Politico looks at the death threats. Here are excepts:
First it was an email warning Steve House, the Colorado GOP chairman, to hide his family members and “pray you make it to Cleveland.” Then there was the angry man who called his cellphone and told him to put a gun down his throat.
“He said, ‘I’ll call back in two minutes, and if you’re still there, I’ll come over and help you,’” House recalled.
Since Donald Trump came up empty in his quest for delegates at the Republican state assembly in Colorado Springs nearly two weeks ago, his angry supporters have responded to Trump’s own claims of a “rigged” nomination process by lashing out at Republican National Committee delegates that they believe won’t support Trump at the party’s convention — including House.
The mild-mannered chairman estimates he’s gotten between 4,000 and 5,000 calls on his cellphone. Many, he says, have ended with productive conversations. He’s referred the more threatening, violent calls to police. His cellphone is still buzzing this week, as he attends the RNC quarterly meetings in Florida, and he’s not the only one.
In hotel hallways and across dinner tables, many party leaders attending this week’s meetings shared similar stories. One party chairman says a Trump supporter recently got in his face and promised “bloodshed” if Trump doesn't win the GOP presidential nomination. An Indiana delegate who criticized Trump received a note warning against “traditional burial” that ended with, “We are watching you.”
[A]lthough the harassers are typically anonymous, many party leaders on the receiving end of these threats hold Trump himself at least partly responsible, viewing the intimidation efforts as a natural and obvious outgrowth of the candidate’s incendiary rhetoric.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The party chairman who said a Trump backer threatened "bloodshed" at the convention also said the man told him he would "'meet me at the barricades’ if Trump isn't the nominee.” The chairman spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump’s campaign has never explicitly encouraged violence. But it has promoted tactics that have contributed to delegates’ fear. Earlier in April, a top Trump adviser posted online the cellphone number of Tennessee state party chairman Ryan Haynes, along with a message accusing the state party of trying to “STEAL your vote TODAY.”
Haynes told POLITICO at the time that he nearly canceled the party’s delegate selection meeting after a barrage of vitriol and the specter of violence.
The fears expressed by party leaders are bubbling up at a time Trump is facing internal pressure to rein in his confrontational inclinations too. Paul Manafort, Trump’s GOP convention chief, who is in Florida to attend the RNC meetings and assuage the concerns of the GOP establishment, has encouraged the candidate to temper his bombast.
But even if Manafort is able to nudge Trump toward a more traditional presidential bearing, the hostile energy his campaign has already whipped up among some supporters has left a trail of anger and intimidation that is likely to linger when the convention comes in July.

NASCAR Denounces HB2

North Carolina deserved continues to be pummeled for the North Carolina GOP's passage of anti-LGBT HB2 - Charlotte has lost more than 20 conventions and Raleigh reports a loss of $3 million in tourism revenues.  Now, NASCAR, not exactly what many would deem a pro-LGBT organization has joined the chorus of those calling for the law's repeal.  Admittedly, NASCAR is much more of a big business than many would assume, but I still suspect that the North Carolina Republicans who prostituted themselves to the Christofascist organizations that first conceived the law never expected a blow back from NASCAR.  Here are highlights from the Charlotte Observer:
NASCAR is the latest organization to announce its opposition to North Carolina’s House Bill 2.
Chairman Brian France told the Associated Press Sports Editors this week that the racing body opposes the law that limits legal protections for LGBT individuals. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the law March 23.
“We take the position that any discrimination, unintended or not, we do not like that and we are working behind the scenes, and we are not a political institution,” France said. “We don’t set agendas or write laws but we express our values to policy makers. We will and we do. We are real clear about that.”
NASCAR, based in Daytona Beach, Fla., has offices in uptown Charlotte and Concord.
“We try to be part of a solution, not a bunch a threats truthfully; but we are very direct and we do our civic part,” said France. “We like to think we take a lot of out of communities and run events and do business in North Carolina and so when asked to put back into these communities and be part of big and small decisions, we want to be there, but we are one small piece of the fabric. We want to play our role but not overstate our role.” 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Saudi Arabia: The Devil We Know?

I am a constant critic of America's continued alliance with Saudi Arabia which I see as a false and untrustworthy ally that has benefited from US protection while not paying but a fraction of the cost. Worse yet, Saudi Arabia continues to be an exporter of Islamic extremism given the royal family's willingness to but give a wink and a nod as "private individuals" fund the spread of Wahhabism, one of the most extreme stains of Islam.  Meanwhile, America does far too little to demand that the Saudis change their ways.  A piece in the Washington Post argues that America is better off to continue to deal with "the devil that it knows."  Here are highlights and readers can decide whether they agree or not:
Should the United States cut its ties to Saudi Arabia? The question emerges amid fresh controversies and President Obama’s recent visit to the kingdom. I’ve been a critic of Saudi Arabia for decades, but despite all the problems, I think the United States is better off with the alliance than without.
Congress might soon pass a bill that would allow individual Americans — relatives of those who died on 9/11 — to sue the Saudi government. Some of these relatives have also demanded that the Obama administration release 28 pages redacted from a congressional report that examined Saudi involvement in the attacks.
But were the United States to strip the Saudis of the immunity that foreign governments traditionally have, it would make Washington vulnerable to reciprocal actions around the globe.. Imagine if the U.S. government faced lawsuits for every one of its drone strikes, bombing raids, special operations— not to mention wars. As for the report, the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, argues that the 28 pages contain “unvetted, raw material” from FBI files that appears “to implicate people in serious crimes without the benefit of follow-up investigation to determine if such charges are valid.”
I believe that Saudi Arabia bears significant responsibility for the spread of a cruel, intolerant and extremist interpretation of Islam — one that can feed directly into jihadi thinking. But as Gregory Gause points out in a forthcoming essay in Foreign Affairs, the story is more complicated. “Saudi Arabia lost control over the global [extremist] movement in the 1980s, and . . . the Saudi regime itself has been targeted by that movement since the 1990s.” After all, if the United States was target No. 1 for al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia was target No. 2.
In the 1950s, Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi version of Islam, a product of nomadic desert culture, was practiced by a tiny minority of Muslims — perhaps 1 to 2 percent. Then came the oil boom, and Saudi Arabia — flush with cash — spread these ideas throughout the Muslim world.
This globalized Wahhabism has destroyed much of the diversity within Islam, snuffing out liberal and pluralistic interpretations of the religion in favor of an arid, intolerant one.
In the years after 9/11, after much defensiveness and many denials, the Saudis began to reverse course, shutting down government funding for Islamic extremist movements. . . . Today Saudi intelligence is a major ally in fighting al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other groups.
Yet Saudi funding of Islamic extremism has not ended, and its pernicious effects can be seen from Pakistan to Indonesia. These funds come from individuals, not the government. Still, it is hard to imagine that the Saudi monarchy cannot turn off the pipeline of money to extremists abroad and at home.
Saudi Arabia remains reluctant to take on its religious extremists for fear of backlash. Hard-line religious leaders and ideologues have significant sway in Saudi society.
The central dilemma remains: Were the Saudi monarchy to fall, it might be replaced not by a group of liberals and democrats but rather by Islamists and reactionaries. Having watched this movie in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria, I am cautious about destabilizing a regime that is in many areas — defense, oil, finance — a stable ally.
Saudi Arabia has created a monster in the world of Islam, a Frankenstein monster that threatens Saudi Arabia as much as the West.
The Saudi monarchy must reform itself and its export of ideology. But the reality is, this is far more likely if Washington engages with Riyadh rather than distancing itself, leaving the kingdom to fester in isolation. Foreign policy means dealing with the world as it is, not as you wish it to be. It requires forgoing the satisfaction of a grand moral victory and accepting instead possibly frustrating quarter-measures.

Virginia Senate Fails to Override Veto Of "Religious Freedom" Bill

One of the main things currently protecting Virginia from the Republican/Christofascist extremism taking place next door in North Carolina is Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe who vetoed the falsely names "religious freedom" bill that cleared the Virginia General Assembly.  This week, the Virginia Senate failed to override McAuliffe's veto which means true religious freedom - as opposed to special rights for Christian extremists - is safe until next year.  GayRVA looks at this important vote.  Here are highlights:
Yesterday’s veto session stretched late into the night, but the only LGBTQ-related bill which made it to the Governor’s desk stayed on the floor as the Senate failed to override McAuliffe’s veto.
SB 41, sponsored by Sen. Carrico (top image, left), aimed to “Provides that no person shall be (i) required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage or (ii) subject to any penalty, any civil liability, or any other action by the Commonwealth, or its political subdivisions or representatives or agents, solely on account of such person’s belief, speech, or action in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed the bill based on these fears, as well as how the bill could be received by businesses or people hoping to visit the state.
“Any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;” wrote McAuliffe in a statement sent out after vetoing the bill in late March. He also pointed to Virginia’s long-held Religious Freedoms Act which already allows religious leaders and orgs like priests and churches to deny services if it violates their beliefs.
“Any additional protections are styled in a manner that prefers one religious viewpoint—that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman—over all other viewpoints,” he said. “Such a dynamic is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.”
But yesterday, Sen. Carrico sought to defend his bill stressing it would “strengthen [those]  protections and protect them from any charges if some were too arise.” . . . . Carrico found few vocal allies on the Senate floor yesterday, however Sen. Adam Ebbin (top image, middle), Virginia’s only openly gay Senator, spoke in opposition to the measure, echoing Gov. McAuliffe’s concerns.
“This bill would provide a license to discriminate against same-sex couples and their families and could be seen to allow discrimination by schools or hospitals that are religiously affiliated,” Ebbin said, noting the bill offers protections to those who don’t believe in or support same-sex marriage, but does little for fans of marriage equality.
“It offers no protections for the law of the land, for marriage equality,” he said. “Similar legislation has been bad for business in other state and I would contend that passing this bill would be bad for business in Virginia.”
Unfortunately, hate groups such as The Family Foundation - a theocratic loving organization with strong white supremacist undercurrents - will continue to push for special rights and the subversion of religious freedom for all Virginians.  The goal remains to make Christian extremists so politically and socially toxic that the Virginia GOP will be forced to cease its self-prostitution to these hate mongers.  

The Myth of Bernie Sanders' November Advantage

As noted in a post yesterday, in my view, it increasingly appears that Bernie Sanders is putting his own ego ahead of keeping a Republican out of the White House in November.  Despite the delegate math stacked against him, he is vowing to fight all the way to the Democrat Party convention and is beginning to demand that delegates ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton has won more votes and more delegates.  Why?  Because he claims that he has the best chance to beat Donald Trump or whoever becomes the GOP nominee.  A piece in Mother Jones makes the case that this supposed advantage is a myth.  Here are excerpts:
Soon after Sen. Bernie Sanders was declared the loser in the New York Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday night, his campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, was on MSNBC explaining the path ahead for the independent socialist from Vermont. Weaver contended, optimistically, that Sanders could potentially win all the remaining contests. When pressed on what the campaign would do should Sanders end up second to Hillary Clinton in the delegate hunt, Weaver said the campaign would spend the weeks between the final primary in early June and the Democratic convention in late July trying to flip the superdelegates who have declared their loyalty to Clinton.
To some, this might seem fanciful. . . . Weaver justified this possible strategy by insisting that Sanders is the Democratic candidate better situated to win in the November general election. Sanders, he argued, has more appeal with independents and younger voters and generates more enthusiasm.
Any conversation with a Sanders supporter inevitably turns to the polls. And indeed the polls do say what Weaver suggested. According to Real Clear Politics' average of recent polls, Sanders performs better than Clinton in hypothetical general-election matchups. Against Donald Trump, Sanders leads by 15 points, Clinton by 9. Against Ted Cruz, Sanders wins by 11 points, Clinton by 2. Many Bernie-ites point to these numbers and confidently declare: Case closed!
Maybe not. There is one missing factor in these polls, and it might be huge. Sanders has yet to face a true negative ad campaign aimed at destroying his public image. Were he to be the Democratic nominee, he would be confronted with hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads designed to rip him apart. And everyone knows what that pummeling would focus on: He's a self-proclaimed socialist.
Clinton has taken a few pokes at Sanders, claiming his policy proposals are pie in the sky and his numbers don't add up. . . . But this is nothing compared with the onslaught that Sanders would be up against as the nominee. The ads write themselves: "Don't take our word for it, take his. He's a socialist!" Cut to a super-cut of Sanders proclaiming "I am a socialist" over and over.
Of course, almost all Americans are socialists to some extent. (You believe in Social Security and Medicare? Congratulations, you get your socialist card.) But the word still has the potential to frighten or put off voters in the crucial swing states. And there will be other lines of attack against Sanders: the usual tax-and-spend stuff Republicans always hurl at Democrats (but to a greater extent), the radical writings of his past, his unconventional personal life, and more. It's not difficult to imagine a veiled campaign that exploits the fact he's not a Christian.
Once, Devine continued, people said don't vote for a black man because he cannot win the presidency; now some say don't vote for a socialist because he cannot win. His implication was that such talk is nothing more than a self-limiting scare tactic among progressives.
Perhaps. These are all lovely assumptions, and they could prove true. Maybe the socialist charge will not have much firepower. But the point is that until Sanders is tested under such battlefield conditions, polls that compare his performance against Trump to Clinton's are meaningless. As the Clinton people will say—and they're not wrong on this—she has withstood decades of attacks, some real and fact-based, some phony and underhanded.
Sanders would be virgin territory for the dirt-throwers of the right. A clean canvas.  This is not to say that Sanders and his populist crusade would not be able to prevail against a billion dollars in ads assailing him as a crazy socialist hell-bent on raising taxes and expanding government. But until he's the target of such a blitzkrieg, hypothetical comparisons have little currency. Any sophisticated political operative knows these particular poll numbers are no basis for picking a candidate. Nor are they a rationale for Sanders, should he finish in second place, to continue his campaign.
[L]ast year Gallup released a poll asking voters about their attitudes regarding political candidates of various races, religions, and beliefs. . . . The label that fared the worst in this survey was socialist. Forty-seven percent said they would be willing to support a socialist candidate; 50 percent said they would not. . . . The poll was conducted last June, and it may well be that Sanders' performance in the months since has altered public attitudes toward a socialist candidate. Yet the survey's results do suggest the socialist tag could be a problem for Sanders in a general election.
There are some positions that I support - most notably a single payer, universal heath care system.  But with so much a stack in this election - likely 3 Supreme Court appointments among other things - winning in November is crucial and pragmatism is required.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Ted Cruz Uses Transphobia to Try to Revive His Dying Campaign

Ted Cruz got trounced in Tuesday's New York State primary and failed to win a single delegate.  Now, it is mathematically impossible for him to win enough delegates to win the GOP nomination on a first ballot - or even a second or third ballot for that manner.  So what does Cruz do?  He pivots back to trying to energize the Christofascists by playing on transphobia - not that there are enough of them to save his sorry, nasty ass - and depicting transgender individuals as a threat to women and young girls.  The man is despicable! A piece in Salon looks at Cruz's utter foul tactic.  Here are highlights: 
After a dismal performance in New York, whose Republican voters looked upon the Texas senator who denigrated their value system so much so that he managed to lose a congressional district to Ben Carson despite his dropping out of the presidential race a month ago, Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign was declared dead on arrival in Cleveland for the GOP’s convention this July. The Associated Press reported that after Tuesday’s vote, Cruz is mathematically eliminated, leaving Donald Trump as the only Republican candidate with any chance of clinching the nomination before the convention.
Naturally, Cruz’s campaign has turned to fearmongering and scapegoating to deflect from the news that according to Ted Cruz earlier this month Cruz called on John Kasisch to drop out after it was determined Kasich was mathematically eliminated from earning enough delegates to win the nomination outright — it’s now time for the Cruz campaign to call it quits.
“Grown adult men — strangers — should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls. And that’s not conservative. That’s not Republican or Democrat. That’s basic common sense,” Cruz asserted while campaigning in Maryland on Thursday.
Reacting to Donald Trump’s opposition to the law, citing negative business repercussions on the “Today” show early Thursday, Cruz said the backlash was proof positive that the country has “gone off the deep end.”
“As you know, my daughters are 5 and 8. My 5-year-old knows the difference between boys and girls,” Cruz said, exploiting his children to make a hateful and wholly dishonest political point. “That’s not a reasonable position, it is simply crazy and the idea that grown men would be allowed alone in a bathroom with little girls — you don’t need to be a behavioral psychologist to realize bad things can happen, and any prudent person wouldn’t allow that.”
Cruz’s basic contention is an ugly right-wing myth meant to dishonestly link transgender people with criminality. But in fact, an investigation by an independent non-profit found no connection between transgender nondiscrimination rights for restrooms and locker rooms and women’s safety: 
A new investigative report by the non-profit new agency Crosscut shows that in states where such legislation has been passed,the safety of women is not compromised.
According to the publication, officials in Nevada, Oregon and Hawaii — the latter having protections in place for 10 years— said the laws haven’t been linked to any crimes.
Still, as his campaign flounders, Cruz desperately culls the transphobic beliefs of the conservative base for votes, as he is wont and trained to do.

Simply put, Ted Cruz is a foul individual and makes the perfect case of why one would not want to be even call them self a "Christian."  

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

How Soon Will the 4th Circuit Ruling Impact North Carolina?

Christofascist supporters of HB2 at a "prayer vigil"
With North Carolina just 25 miles or so away and with a family wedding scheduled in the Outer Banks later in the year (we cannot get out of going), it is difficult not to focus on the batshitery happening across the border and the gyrations being engaged in by North Carolina Republicans who want to pander to their Christofascist masters and push for special rights for these knuckle draggers and their toxic religious beliefs.  This is especially true after the cataclysmic ruling of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which indicates that a major piece of the anti-LGBT animus inspired HB2 is illegal.  Indeed, it suggests that public schools and universities like UNC at Chapel Hill will be putting their federal funding on the line if they comply with HB2.  A piece at CBS News looks at the possible time table for the 4th Circuit ruling to impact HB2.  Here are highlights:
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond sided Tuesday with a transgender teen's arguments that a Virginia school board violated Title IX by forbidding him from using the boys' restroom. The interpretation of the federal education law directly affects North Carolina.
The court's ruling imperils a provision in the North Carolina law - called HB2 - that requires transgender students in public schools and universities to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, said Maxine Eichner, a University of North Carolina law professor.
"We have the writing on the wall here how that will come out," said Eichner, an expert on sexual orientation and the law.
How quickly the ruling's effects are felt in North Carolina depends on several factors. Among them are possible appeals, a separate lawsuit still pending and interpretation by state lawyers.
Last month in North Carolina, a transgender student and employee in the state's university system filed a lawsuit arguing that the new law violated Title IX. Eichner said they could use Tuesday's ruling to win an injunction blocking the law's provisions on bathroom access in public schools.
"What the plaintiffs would be doing is saying: 'There are transgender kids out there that are experiencing harm as a result of HB2 and who are likely eventually to ... have their legal claims resolved in their favor.' And given that, a court should step in immediately and bar the application of HB2," she said, referring to the law by its legislative name.
Chris Brook, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who's leading the litigation challenging the North Carolina law, declined to discuss specifics about what his legal team's next move would be. Yet he said the appeals court's decision confirms one of their key arguments.
"Today's ruling makes plain what we've been saying since the day that HB2 was introduced in the legislature: that it violates Title IX," he said in a phone interview. "If you are a recipient of federal education funds you cannot discriminate."
The [Gloucester County, Virginia] school board could appeal the decision to the full appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court. David Patrick Corrigan, an attorney for the school board, didn't immediately return a phone message requesting comment.

Personally, I would like to see the members of the Gloucester County School Board have to pay all litigation costs personally since they have deliberately violated Title IX because of their cowardice and desire to appease a few anti-LGBT crackpots in their county.   Gloucester County is a truly backward part of the Hampton Roads region, but it nonetheless needs to grasp that it is now the 21st century, not the 19th century. 

What Is Sanders’s Endgame?

When Bernie Sanders began his presidential candidacy, little was expected.  Sanders has gone on to out perform the expectations of even his most enthusiastic supporters.  That said, at this point the math indicates that he cannot win the Democrat nomination.  Thus the question becomes whether he will bow out gracefully and seek to make sure a Democrat wins the White House in November, or will his satisfying his ego be more important than saving the nation from four years of GOP misrule. At the moment, I fear that it will be the latter and that Sanders will peevishly fail to rally his supporters to the eventual Democrat nominee. A piece in the New York Times looks at this question.  Here are excerpts:
Hillary Clinton’s commanding victory in New York on Tuesday put yet another nail in the coffin of Bernie Sanders’s candidacy.
As The Upshot’s Nate Cohn put it:
“New York, like every contest at this stage, was a state he needed to win. The result confirms that he is on track to lose the pledged delegate race and therefore the nomination.”
At this pace, Clinton will finish this nomination cycle having won more votes, more states and more pledged delegates than Sanders. Furthermore, Clinton has also won six of the nine general election swing states that The New York Times listed in 2012.
And yet Sanders soldiers on, as is his right.
But Tuesday, Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told MSNBC that if Clinton doesn’t clinch the nomination by pledged delegates alone, even if she has won the most popular votes, pledged delegates and states, Sanders will still take his fight to the convention. Sanders will “absolutely” try to turn superdelegates, who overwhelmingly support Clinton, and win the nomination that way.
First, barring something unforeseen and unimaginable, there is no way I can see that this strategy stands a gnat’s chance in hell of coming to fruition. It’s a fairy tale written in pixie dust.
But still, stop and consider what this means: The purist-of-principle, anti-establishment Sanders campaign would ask the superdelegates — the Democratic Party establishment — to overturn the will of the majority of participants in the Democrats’ nominating process.
The whole idea is outrageous coming from anyone, but coming from Sanders it seems to undermine the very virtues that make him attractive.
Power — even the proximity to it and the potential to wield it — is truly an intoxicant that blurs the vision and the lines.
What Sanders has accomplished is nothing short of miraculous. . . . But miraculous feats do not necessarily make messianic figures, and having a meaningful impact does not necessarily create a sustainable movement, let alone a revolution.
That said, Sanders has tapped into a very real populist sentiment on the left, particularly among young people, that shouldn’t be denied. And he has made space for a similar candidate in the future to be more seriously considered from the outset.
[T]he energy you see at Sanders’s impressive rallies, like those he held in New York, doesn’t always translate into electoral success. There seems to be a bit of a falloff.
While Sanders was campaigning in New York as a movement candidate, Clinton was campaigning as a micro-targeted candidate, appealing individually to each important demographic and burning something into supporters’ memories that they would recall when they were alone with their ballots.
That’s how elections are won. That’s how lasting change is made. It’s not by careening from one movement to the next, spawning of-the-moment hashtags for your activism.
Still, many of these young people have put their trust and faith in Sanders, who may well be a once-in-a-generation candidate, and he and they are loath to wake from the dream of his possible election. But, sadly, every day it feels more and more like a dream, and they will inevitably have to wake up.
Sanders has to figure out how he lands this doomed plane — does he set it down easy so that everyone walks away relatively unscathed, or does he go out in a blaze of glory?
Whatever he chooses to do will say quite a bit about his allegiance to his adopted Democratic Party and about his character. At the end of the day, is his ethos greater than his ego?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The North Carolina GOP's Descent into Insanity is Now Complete

As a former Republican and party activist, never in my wildest dreams did I ever anticipate that the party could/would ever descend into total insanity. In the nearly two decades since I resigned from the GOP over the party's increasing hostility to the concept of the separation of church and state, up until now, I never believed that the self-prostitution of GOP elected officials would become so blatant and disgusting that a tawdry whore would appear honest and virtuous compared to the average Republican elected official.  Now, however, the North Carolina GOP has taken the concept of self-prostitution to a heretofore unknown level.  Indeed, North Carolina Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (a Republican) says he absolutely will not repeal HB2,  Never mind that the state is facing a federal lawsuit that it cannot win in light of yesterday's 4th Circuit ruling on transgender rights, never mind that North Carolina could now lose billions in federal funding, never mind that  the state's tourism and convention business is getting slammed, never mind that the UK has issued a travel advisory against visiting North Carolina. No, the only thing that matters to the North Carolina GOP is prostituting its members to Christofascists who seek to impose a Christian version of Sharia law on America.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the insanity and swamp fever that now controls the North Carolina GOP.  Here are excerpts:
Republican Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger says he absolutely will not repeal HB2, North Carolina's anti-LGBT law that legal experts have labeled unconstitutional. The GOP state senator called it "the bathroom safety bill," at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
"My job is not to give into the demands of multi-millionaire celebrities pushing a pet social agenda, liberal newspapers like The New York Times, or big corporations who have every freedom to set whatever policies they wish under this law," Berger said, as the News & Observer reported. "My job is to listen to the people who elected us to represent them, and the vast majority of North Carolinians we've heard from understand and support this reasonable, common-sense law."
Sen. Berger claimed that "many are relying on the spin of far-left interest groups, instead of the facts," WRAL reported, despite the fact that Gov Pat McCrory has delivered comments on HB2 that fact-checkers rate some degree of "false."
In the latest news on the economic impact HB2 has had on North Carolina, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce announced a tech company has scrapped plans to move into the area, and with that the 1000 jobs it would have added. That follows a report last week that found HB2 has cost the Tar Heel State well over a half-billion in revenue.
I truly hope that the Obama administration will notify Berger and his fellow political whores that federal education funds are going to be forfeited and overnight school systems will be facing bankruptcy. Hopefully, the North Carolina populous will lay the blame for the economic disaster at the feet of the North Carolina GOP and take retribution on them at the polls in November and vote them out and return control of the legislature to the Democrats.

Meanwhile, the cynic in me wonders how long it will be before we hear that Mr. Berger has been caught in an extra-marital affair or has been arrested in a restroom sting after soliciting gay sex from an undercover officer.  Frankly, it cannot happen soon enough. 


UK Foreign Office Issues Warning About Travel to North Carolina and Mississippi

The virulently anti-LGBT states of North Carolina and Mississippi took another hit even as North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory continues to speak out of both sides of his mouth in the wake of yesterdays 4th Circuit ruling that in effect said that bathroom bans such as the one in HB2 violate federal law. Now, the British Foreign Office has issued a travel advisory for UK citizens warning them that the two U.S. states are hostile to LGBT travelers.  Pink News looks at this latest put down of the homophobic states.  Here are highlights:
On the eve of a visit by Barack Obama, the UK government has updated its travel advice for the United States – to warn gay people about new anti-LGBT laws.
The Foreign Office updated its guidance this week in the wake of laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi to permit discrimination based on religious belief.
The new travel advice warns: “Laws vary from state to state. When you are physically present in a state, even temporarily, you are subject to that state’s laws.
“You must carry a passport showing that you have leave to enter or remain with you at all times.
“The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country.
“LGBT travellers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi.
“Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community. You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign.”
The humiliation for the US comes just days before US President Barack Obama is set to visit London.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Catholic Church Remains Defiant and Obstructist ON Child Sex Abuse

As I have noted frequently, despite Pope Francis' crocodile tears about the Catholic Church's worldwide sex abuse - a massive systemic problem in my view, related in part to the Church's 12th century views on sexuality - little or nothing has actually been done to solve the problem or to hold high clerics responsible for their aiding and abetting of sexual predator priests and obstruction of justice.  Dioceses still do not follow supposed guidelines to stem abuse and few high clerics have been punished.  An editorial in the Washington Post takes Francis and the Church to task.  Here are excerpts:
IN THREE years at the helm of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been a source of inspiration for millions of faithful around the world. In one critical respect, however, he has fallen short of his own promise: to come fully to terms with decades of child sex abuse by clergymen and the institutional cover granted to them by bishops and cardinals.
Francis has pledged “the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.” Yet there has been scant accountability, particularly for bishops. Too often, the church’s stance has been defiance and obstruction.
In his trip to the United States in the fall, Francis told victims that “words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered.” Yet his initiative to establish a Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who enabled or ignored pedophile priests has come to naught. Not a single bishop has been called to account by the tribunal, which itself remains more notional than real.
Meanwhile, church officials have fought bills in state legislatures across the United States that would allow thousands of abuse victims to seek justice in court. The legislation would loosen deadlines limiting when survivors can bring lawsuits against abusers or their superiors who turned a blind eye. Many victims, emotionally damaged by the abuse they have suffered, do not speak until years after they were victimized; by then, in many states, it is too late for them to force priests and other abusers to account in court.
Eight states have lifted such deadlines . . . In many more states, however, the bishops and their staffs have successfully killed such bills, arguing that it would be unfair to subject the church to lawsuits in which memories and evidence are degraded by the passage of time. Quietly, they also say the church, which has suffered an estimated $3 billion hit in settlements and other costs related to clergy sex abuse scandals nationwide, can ill afford further financial exposure.
In his trip to the United States, Pope Francis praised bishops for what he called their “generous commitment to bring healing to victims” and he expressed sympathy for “how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you.” Yet by its actions, the church’s “commitment to bring healing” has seemed far from generous. And it seemed perverse to address the bishops’ “pain” when the real suffering has been borne by children.

I truly do not know how a moral, decent, thinking Catholic can remain part of such a morally bankrupt and evil institution - especially when the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America offer far less corrupt and psychologically damaged alternatives.  

Hillary Easily Wins New York, Blunts Sanders' :Momentum"

Growing up through high school in Central New York, down state - i.e., everything from Westchester County and Orange County south - was always the Democrat bastion of New York State.  It proved to be so yesterday when Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by over a 15%  margin.  Clinton carried all of "down state" and all of the large upstate cities except Albany.  Like here in Virginia, there is a pronounced rural/urban divide in New York, although one sees far fewer Christofascists than in rural Virginia.  One question now is whether or not Sanders will continue to try to destroy Clinton at any cost with no regard to possible handing the White House to Republicans in November.  The ultimate goal is to stop the GOP and I hope Sanders will begin to realize this and put his personal ego aside.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on Clinton's win:

Mrs. Clinton’s decisive victory ended a string of wins by Mr. Sanders and gave her more delegates than her advisers expected. Her base of support was Long Island, the five boroughs, and upstate cities, with female and black and Hispanic voters turning out for her in especially strong numbers.
Mrs. Clinton was set to win roughly 30 more delegates than Mr. Sanders, out of 247 at stake. She already had a lead of more than 200 delegates in the race.
Smiling broadly throughout her victory speech, Mrs. Clinton drew cheers as she thanked her adopted home state and then boomed, “Today, you proved once again, there’s no place like home.”
“The race for the Democratic nomination is in the home stretch and victory is in sight,” Mrs. Clinton added, reflecting the overwhelming mathematical advantage she has in delegates.
Sanders advisers had said that beating Mrs. Clinton in her adopted home state represented one of their campaign’s best opportunities to damage her candidacy and sow doubts about her strength as a general-election nominee. On Tuesday, however, Mrs. Clinton drew deep support among women and blacks — two groups that have been essential for her in many states — while Mr. Sanders was outpacing her among white men and people under 45, according to exit polls
“Bernie Sanders got very negative attacking Hillary Clinton and dividing the party in New York, and I think he now has to ask himself if he wants to keep going down that path,” said Jay Jacobs, a Clinton supporter who is the Democratic chairman in Nassau County on Long Island. “After New York, we’re moving into a phase of the campaign where we have to start uniting the party.”
Mr. Sanders and his team spent Tuesday looking past New York. Mr. Sanders held a rally at Pennsylvania State University in State College on Tuesday night, then flew home to Burlington, Vt., and spoke to reporters just after the race was called.
The Sanders campaign spent roughly $2 million more than the Clinton campaign on television ads in New York. The magnitude of the loss — both in the popular vote and in delegates — was steep for Mr. Sanders, who said he intended to get “recharged and take a day off.”
The senator’s advisers were optimistic that he would perform strongly in next Tuesday’s primaries in Pennsylvania as well as in Rhode Island and Connecticut. The other two states voting next week, Delaware and Maryland, are widely seen as Clinton strongholds. The Sanders campaign is already running television ads in those five states and Indiana, which votes May 3.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Obama Visits False Ally, Saudi Arabia

Barack Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with the ruler's of America's duplicitous and false ally.  There are a host of issues that are dividing the supposed allies, which range from Saudi Arabia's continued human rights abuses, differences over the Iran nuclear agreement, and, perhaps most potentially damaging, possible Saudi complicity in the 9-11 terror attacks and demands from the families of the 9-11 attacks that Saudi Arabia make monetary compensation to these families.  On the issue of human rights abuses, a recent state department report sums things up for women and gays in these two paragraphs:
The [Saudi] law prohibits discrimination based on race but not gender, sex, disability, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, or social status. The law and tradition discriminate based on gender. The law and the guardianship system restrict women to the status of legal dependents vis-a-vis their male guardians. This status is unchanged, even after women reach adulthood. Women and some men faced widespread and state-enforced segregation based on societal, cultural, and religious traditions. The government generally reinforced sharia-based traditional prohibitions on discrimination based on disability, language, social status, or race. Nevertheless, discrimination based on race, lineage, or social status were common. Under sharia as interpreted in the country, consensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death or flogging, depending on the perceived seriousness of the case. It is illegal for men “to behave like women” or to wear women’s clothes and vice versa.  Due to social conventions and potential persecution, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations did not operate openly, nor were there gay rights advocacy events of any kind. There were reports of official societal discrimination, physical violence, and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, statelessness, access to education, or health care. Stigma or intimidation acted to limit reports of incidents of abuse. Sexual orientation and gender identity could constitute the basis for harassment, blackmail, or other actions.

A piece in The Atlantic looks at the strained relations, including the suspicion that the 28 redacted pages from the 9-11 report show Saudi complicity in the terror attacks.  Here are article excerpts:
Almost exactly 11 years ago, in April 2005, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It was a friendly occasion. The Bush family had long had good relations with the Saudi royal family. Though the war in Iraq was not going especially well, and the fallout concerned Riyadh, the Saudis were glad to see Saddam Hussein gone. The two men issued a statement hailing “our personal friendship and that between our nations.” They spoke about the need to “forge a new relationship between our two countries—a strengthened partnership that builds on our past partnership, meets today’s challenges, and embraces the opportunities our nations will face in the next sixty years.”
As President Obama heads to Saudi Arabia this week, that hope is unfulfilled, and relations between the two long-time allies are extremely strained. Bush is long out of office and mostly out of the political scene. Abdullah is dead, replaced by his half-brother Salman. The Saudi and American governments are at odds over a host of issues. The U.S. disapproves of the ongoing Saudi intervention in Yemen and was angry at Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr early this year. The Saudis want the U.S. to do more in Syria, and, in particular, remain upset about the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran.
But the most pressing issue at hand is much older: It’s the September 11 attacks. As Obama prepares to travel, Congress is considering a bill that would open the door for Saudi interests to be held liable in court for the attacks. And as The New York Times reported over the weekend, the Saudi government is threatening to sell off nearly a trillion dollars in assets held in the U.S. if the bill passes.
The families of 9/11 victims have attempted to sue Saudi Arabia for playing a role in those attacks, but under a 1976 law, foreign governments are immune from many types of lawsuits in American courts. The bill under consideration now would tweak current law, so that foreign governments could be held liable if they are found culpable for attacks on U.S. soil that kill Americans. That very narrow scope—carefully calibrated to apply to few situations—could allow lawsuits to move forward.
The bill is unusually bipartisan, co-sponsored by members of both parties’ leadership teams: . . . the Obama administration has opposed the bill. The White House has lobbied Congress not to pass the bill, and Press Secretary Josh Earnest threatened a presidential veto on Monday, saying, “It's difficult to imagine a scenario in which the president would sign the bill as currently drafted.” In February, Secretary of State John Kerry told senators that the bill would “create a terrible precedent” that could lead to other countries opening up the U.S. government to lawsuits, despite the carefully tailored language.
[T]op State and Defense Department officials warned lawmakers in a closed-door briefing that the law could expose American soldiers and diplomats abroad.
The Saudi threat to withdraw investments has gotten more attention than those cautions, though. The assets in question include $750 billion in Treasury notes, plus some other investments, which the government fears could be frozen by U.S. courts in a lawsuit. . . . There’s a great deal of skepticism from economists and lawmakers about the threat, which could be damaging to the U.S. economy, but even worse for the Saudi economy, which has already been battered by the declining price of oil.
But wait, what role did Saudi Arabia play in the attacks? The 9/11 Commission report said this: “We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” Just like the proposed change to sovereign foreign immunity, it’s a narrowly tailored sentence.
“You can’t provide the money for terrorists and then say, “I don’t have anything to do with what they're doing,’” Bob Kerrey, the former senator and a member of the 9/11 Commission, told 60 Minutes recently. . . . [T]hen, there’s some information about Saudi involvement that has been gathered but is not yet public. A 2002 joint congressional investigation into intelligence failures ahead of 9/11 produced 28 pages that remain classified, and which are said to shed light on potential Saudi involvement in the attacks—perhaps by lower-level Saudi officials, or by elements of the government but not the government “as an institution.” Former Senator Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who chaired the Senate side of the committee, has been pushing for years for the 28 pages to be released. 
The pages were classified at the request of the FBI when produced. Graham and then-Representative Porter Goss, who was the House chair of the committee (and later directed the CIA) suggest there’s been no good reason given for keeping the document secret. Since the documents are classified, Graham won’t say what’s in them, but he has promised “a real smoking gun.”
Between the increased tension with the Saudis, Obama’s upcoming trip, and immunity bill, there seems to be greater pressure and awareness to release the 28 pages now than ever before. Interestingly, the Saudis themselves have in the past backed those efforts.
While American officials have expressed ambivalence about the Saudi government before, noting the kingdom’s dismal record on human rights and involvement in exporting radical Islamism, there’s a new drumbeat of questions about the value of the relationship. The new mood suits both liberals who have always disliked Saudi Arabia and seen America’s ties to it as cynical, and conservatives who think the kingdom is doing too little to stop terrorism, and may in fact be fomenting it.
Obama has shown himself to be no fan of the Saudi government, and far more skeptical of the royal family than his predecessor. As Jeffrey Goldberg reported in his recent Atlanticcover story, the president complained to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about Saudi and Gulf influence producing stricter forms in Islam in places like Indonesia, where practice had been more liberal.
“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull wondered, to which Obama replied: “It’s complicated.” Nor does it seem likely to get any simpler at the moment.

American taxpayers spend billions propping up the duplicitous Saudi royal family which allows the export and funding of Islamic extremism.  Between the Saudis and Iran, I would argue that long term America has more potential for alliance with Iran if the theocracy can be overthrown.  Meanwhile, the redacted 28 pages need to be released now.