Saturday, May 07, 2016

The GOP and the Alabamafication of America

Likely soon to be removed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

As noted before, I once lived in Alabama many years ago - George Wallace, who I once met - was still governor at the time - and in the years since I moved away, first to Texas and then back to Virginia where my family had settled, things have gone steadily downhill on the political front in Alabama.  Not coincidental, in my view, the decline in Alabama has directly correlated to the rise in the power of the Christofascists and Republican Party in that state.  Now, an editorial at looks at how the Republican Party and its demented "conservative Christian" base are poised to take the nation down a similar road if they are not stopped.  Here are op-ed highlights:
Dear America,
Here's where Alabama currently stands: Our governor is under investigation. Our House speaker is under indictment. Our chief justice is suspended from duty and awaiting trial, again. We're one of the poorest states in the country, living off the federal dole, and we sit at or near the bottom of most empirical rankings of quality of life. Our leadership is non-existent and our government is on the brink of collapse.
But don't think for a minute that you're better than us. Donald Trump is the Republican presumptive presidential nominee, and you put him there. You're closer to Alabama than you care to think. 
Maybe you still think this Trump thing is a joke. I am here to assure you it is not.Perhaps you think voters cannot be so politically masochistic. You are wrong.
Don't hope for a minute that those behind the scenes — you know, the Establishment — can fix this game. It is beyond their control.  The Worst Case Scenario is not a possibility. It is a probability.
I have seen it. The saying "stuck on stupid" does not begin to explain our predicament. This is more like doing a handstand in a tar pit.
And this Thing that has corrupted my state, robbed us of common sense, poisoned our decency, and made us loathe our neighbors — it is contagious and you are at risk. Call it the Alabamafication of America.
Let me share with you what it has done to us.  Six years ago we elected Robert Bentley governor because most voters were under the impression that, despite lacking other qualifications for the job, he might be a good man. He was so gracious that he promised not to draw a paycheck unless Alabamians reached virtual full employment. Also, he had once been Bear Bryant's dermatologist.  Since then he has abandoned all sense — and his wife of 50 years.
There were lots of warning signs, first of which was, on inauguration day, he told a congregation in Montgomery that if you aren't Christian you couldn't be his spiritual brother or sister. During six years in office, that piety did not prevent him from groping a senior political advisor and later talking dirty to her on the phone while his soon-to-be-ex-wife recorded the conversation.
Before Bentley, there was Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who stormed the Alabama Statehouse, deposing more than a century of Democratic control there. He pushed through what was, at the time, toughest-in-the-nation ethics laws and, according to prosecutors, broke them.  Not only is he accused of breaking the laws he passed, but since then he has argued in court that the laws he passed don't apply to him because the laws he passed are unconstitutional.
On Friday, the Judicial Inquiry Commission charged [Alabama Chief Justice Roy] Moore with abusing his authority by directing Alabama probate judges to disregard the United States Supreme Court's decision that same-sex marriage is a right under the Constitution. That action means Moore is suspended from the bench and will face a trial before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary and possible removal from office.  For the second time. . . . Moore doesn't only believe God's coming back, but he thinks until then, the Almighty given him power of attorney over his affairs.  
The saddest thing is, this state has so much potential. In person — one-on-one — our people are decent and selfless. We make great music. We cook good food. We tell funny jokes. We love our children and would sacrifice everything for their futures.
But growing up in Alabama is like growing up in a broken home. We expect better of others instead of demanding better of ourselves. Rather than holding our elected officials to higher standards, we lower our expectations. We can't get over our insecurities, and we're suckers for anyone who comes along saying we're better than somebody else.
Maybe you think Alabama is a joke. I'm here to assure it's not.  If you're not careful, America, this could happen to you.

Alabama truly did not use to be this dysfunctional and corrupt.  The decline of the state directly tracts the increased influence of the godly folk and the GOP's willingness to pander to them and engage in shameless self-prostitution to them.  Now, it is happening nationwide.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Importance of Re-electing AG Mark Herring in 2017

Last evening, we attended a fundraiser for Attorney General Mark Herring at the home of our friends Tim Bostic and Tony London, the lead plaintiff's in Virginia's federal court marriage equality case that brought equal marriage rights to Virginia and state's within the 4th Circuit.  I was in a bit of a fog given my hand surgery yesterday morning and the prescription pain pills I was on (Rush Limbaugh's favorite!), but attended since we were on the host committee. It was a very nice evening and underscored why it is critical that Mark Herring be re-elected next year, especially since his likely opponent is right wing Republican Bob Bell whose positions are akin to those of Ken Cuccinelli, including his off the charts homophobia and disingenuous "family values" positions.  

Before Mark Herring made his remarks to those attending, Tim Bostic made an introduction which outlined the difference that Herring has brought to the office of the Attorney General.  Here are a few highlights from Tim's notes and statements which he was kind enough to share with me:
For 20 years the Republican Party had controlled the office of the Attorney General, using the job to increasingly pursue ideological agendas that ignored the needs and rights of their constituents.  The logical extreme was found in in Ken Cuccinelli, who went to court to fight against access to affordable access to health care insurance, to deny LGBT Virginians the equal treatment they deserve, to silence a UVA scientist . . . and to shut down health clinics for women.  In 2013, Virginians had had enough. They swept in a new team and they went to work.
Just 10 days after being sworn in, Mark Herring had a chance to show Virginians a different approach to the job, and to remind anyone who had forgotten after two decades of one-party control, that the Attorney General can stand up and fight for the people he represents.  He joined the fight for marriage equality, guaranteeing that Virginia would fight all the way to the Supreme Court for the fundamental rights of its people, when many times before, Virginia politicians had stood in the way. He has fought on the side of the people of Virginia every day since.  In case after case, his actions have been upheld, and they have made a real difference in the lives of Virginians.
Tim went on to list 15 different areas in which Mark Herring has brought positive change, ranging from making college more affordable, protecting women's clinic's from closure, addressing campus sexual violence, filing a brief with 22 other attorneys general to defend the Affordable Health Care Act, addressing heroin and prescription drug abuse, defending Virginia's Chesapeake Bay clean up plan, aiding Southwest Virginia landowners in receiving millions of dollars in natural gas royalties, seeking to hold big banks accountable for gambling with state retirement funds, brokering a deal to keep Sweet Briar College open, and establishing the first ethics and gift policy for his office. 

All these positives could be undone if Mark's likely Republican opponent, Del. Bob Bell, a would be Ken Cuccinelli clone, were to be elected in 2017.  On his own website, Bell makes it clear that, like Cuccinelli, his prime concern is pushing through special rights for far right Christians, including license to discriminate laws, diverting public education fund to private interests, unrestricted gun rights, and "states rights" under the 10th Amendment - an argument used throughout Virginia's history to support slavery, the Jim Crow laws, force prayer in schools, and, of course, open discrimination against LGBT Virginians.  Here's a sampling of what Bell's agenda would likely be via his website:
Rob Bell is pro-life.  In their most recent scorecard, he received a 100% rating from the Family Foundation.  
Rob also supports the traditional definition of marriage, and voted for Virginia’s Constitutional marriage amendment. He supports  . . . religious liberty.
Rob supports the ability of parents to make educational choices for their children.  In addition to supporting tax credits for school tuitions, he strongly supports home schooling.  . . .  Rob has repeatedly patroned the “Tebow Bill” to give home schoolers better access to extracurriculars at their local public high school.
Rob also supports school choice for public school students.  In 2012, he co-patroned House Bill 1626 to create tax credits for scholarships for students to attend private schools.  
Moreover, the 10th Amendment specifically states that all powers not delegated to the federal government “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
In 2010, Rob co-patroned House Bill 10, which opposed the individual mandate in President Barack Obama’s health care law and helped form Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s legal challenge against it. 
Rob is also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment which he believes protects right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms for hunting, target shooting, self-defense, and other reasons. Rob is a gun owner, a concealed carry permit holder, an NRA member and a longtime member of the Rivanna Rifle & Pistol Club. He is rated ‘A’ by the NRA.
Rob also supports screening for illegal drugs to receive cash welfare benefits.  He thinks it is a terrible idea to give someone cash if they are addicted to methamphetamine or crack cocaine.

To garner a 100% score with The Family Foundation - a hate group in all but formal designation - Bell voted for a "personhood" bill that, if enacted, would have banned most forms of contraception in Virginia, and supports the closure of women's clinics that are often the sole source of health care for poor women.  He is obliviously an opponent of LGBT rights of any kind and uses the euphemism of religious liberty" to support special rights that place conservative Christians above the law. Similarly, Bell wants to shift public education funds to home schoolers and allow home schoolers on public school sports teams even as they reject the very same school educationally.  Common sense gun laws are anathema to Bell, and he would emulate costly drug testing laws of other states for welfare recipients where such tests have failed to turn up any drug abuse problems on the part of recipients.  Likewise, he opposes expanding health care for working class Virginians without health insurance.

What is remarkable - actually it's not with Christofascists - is that while Bell wears his supposed religiosity on his sleeve, most of his agenda is diametrically the opposite of what the Gospel message would call one to do. 

In short, having Bell in the office of the Attorney General would be a disaster.  Between now and the 2017 elections, be assured I will address this topic more and we have already offered to host one or more fundraisers for Mark Herring at our home. 

Survey: Trump Supporters Most Threatening and Aggressive

I have at times compared Donald Trump's supporters to the thugs that rallied to support of Adolph Hitler in the early 1930's.  Now, a survey has confirmed that when it comes to being threatening and aggressive, Trump's supporters are indeed prone to threats and would be violence (as a side note, in California, Bernie Sanders supporters shut down a rally for Hillary Clinton by emulating the behavior of Trump supporters).  America has for years been notable for the lack of violence on the election front, but now demagogues on the right and left are stirring their followers to make the nation look like some third world country).  Politico looks at the survey findings.  Here are excerpts from the article:

Donald Trump’s supporters are viewed as the most aggressive or threatening online, a new survey as found found.

The survey, conducted by the RAD Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craiglist founder’s Craig Newmark’s initiative craigconnects, found that 57 percent of those surveyed said that Trump supporters are “very aggressive and/or threatening online”.

The issue of a candidate’s online supporters has come to the forefront in this election cycle, as supporters for both Bernie Sanders and Trump have come under the spotlight for their aggressive behavior.

Even 35 percent of self-identified Trump supporters said Trump supporters are very aggressive and/or threatening online.

And though Trump said this week he doesn’t "have a message for the fans” who send anti-semitic threats online, the survey found 54 percent of respondents think presidential campaigns should take more of a stand against the aggressive behavior of their supporters.

"We were noticing … a rise in aggression and hostility (online), so we wanted to find out if that was just happening in small, politically engaged circles or was that happening across America."

Erick Erickson: Republicans Owe Bill Clinton an Apology

There are few websites more right wing and anti-Obama than Red State -  generally never agree with its position on anything.  Yet it is amazing to see that wild reaction at Red State to Donald Trump's position as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Select headlines for today include the following:

RUBIO COMPARES TRUMPTO 3RD WORLD STRONGMAN - Rubio’s comments may seem like the words of an angry former foe, but the accuracy of them should worry you.

LYIN’ DON: TRUMP JUST TOTALLY MADE UP THE STORY THAT HE TALKED TO MARCO RUBIO RECENTLY - Late Friday night, Marco Rubio advisers not only denied that he was supportive, but flat out stated that no such conversation took place at all.

And no one is more vocal about his horror of a potential Trump presidency than the site's editor, Erick Erickson, who despite his extremism on many issues, seems to recognize that the Trump candidacy reveals the utter hypocrisy of those in the GOP supporting him.  In a piece on another blog, Erickson lets loose and make the statement that, if the GOP will support Trump, then the party owes Bill Clinton a major apology for what it did during the Monica Lewinsky witch hunt and impeachment spectacle.  This indictment applies in particular to "family values" crowd who are now embracing a thrice married, serial adulterer as the GOP standard bearer.  Here are column highlights:

The predicate act to Bill Clinton’s impeachment was his affair with an intern and his lying to cover it up. Republicans said the President of the United States is not above the law and lying under oath to obstruct justice is an impeachable offense.

Seventeen years after Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for covering up an affair, they are handing their party over to a man who has openly bragged about his affairs. On the day the Republicans first meet in Cleveland, Donald Trump will be taken to court for allegedly defrauding hard working Americans through Trump University.

What voters have already learned about Donald Trump during the primaries should give them pause. Many of his business dealings have left others worse off while he has played the bankruptcy courts to keep going. While investors in various Trump enterprises lost money, Trump made fortunes.

On the campaign trail, Trump was more a pathological liar than Bill Clinton ever was. He smeared his opponents, their wives, and their families. He embraced 9/11 trutherisms that George Bush was to blame for the attacks, he peddled malignant, false stories about Ted Cruz’s father, and few Republicans ever called on him to account. Many gave him passes on the lies they would never give to Bill Clinton.

Republicans owe Bill Clinton an apology for impeaching him over lies and affairs while now embracing a pathological liar and womanizer. That apology will not be forthcoming. In fact, for years Republicans have accused the Democrats of gutter politics and shamelessness. Now the Republicans themselves have lost their sense of shame.

As Marco Rubio withdrew from the Republican primary in Florida, Trump supporters showed up to heckle him as he was giving his withdrawal speech. In South Carolina, a Trump supporter refused to help a disabled woman who had been in a car wreck because the woman had a Bernie Sanders sticker on her car. The man actually said he thought the Lord came to him. But these people have learned this behavior from their party’s new political leader.

If so much were not on the line, it would be somewhat humorous to watch. But the Supreme Court hangs in the balance; the relationship between the states and federal government hangs in the balance; and our relationship with our allies hangs in the balance. All of these things are at stake and the party that fancies itself as the grown up party has handed itself over to a huckster with a cult of ill behaved children.
Angry voters made a terrible miscalculation in the Republican primary. They presumed that the rest of the nation shared their anger. They were wrong and now, with so much on the line, the Republicans will field as their Presidential nominee the least popular Presidential candidate in American history. God save the republic.

Those deserving the harshest condemnation, of course, are the supposed "godly Christians" who, like the modern day Pharisee cited by Erickson, who have taken hypocrisy to new heights and revealed the utter moral bankruptcy of the Christofascist base of the Republican Party.  Their support of Trump makes it clear that they are nothing more than animus filled racists and zealots.  I sincerely hope that Trump's candidacy once and for all makes it clear that fundamentalist Christians deserve no deference or respect! 

Friday, May 06, 2016

Friday Male Beauty

Limited Posting - Hand Surgery

Posting will be limited today.  I had hand surgery this morning to remove a cyst on my left ring finger (see at left) and while I am still a bit groggy from the anesthesia, I suspect I will be really in the twilight zone once I begin taking Oxycodone for pain once the injections that numbed my hand for the surgery wears off.  In the past, Oxycodone and I do not get along too well - as a precaution, I am also taking an anti-nausea medication.  

I suspect much of the afternoon will involve me laid out in bed with the two Chihuahua's acting as my nursemaids and sharing the bed!

Once in a while I'll rally and check on office e-mail.  This evening, if I rally, the husband and I are on the host committee for a fundraiser for Attorney General Mark Herring's PAC.  

Here's a photo of my nursemaids guarding the front door:

Will Myopic Journalist "Balance" Empower Donald Trump?

One of the things that drives me to distraction about much of the mainstream media is the lunatic notion that there reporting must be "balanced" - namely that they need to treat each candidate to comparable coverage even as they fail to identify the lies and misogyny that one side may be furthering.  Had journalist done their jobs the disastrous Iraq War could have been avoided.  Now we are faced with a narcissistic demagogue as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.  A man who has no qualms about lying and fantastic exaggeration.  The question at hand is whether the media through its laziness and reticence  to call out liars.  A column in the New York Times challenges the media to do its job - including exposing lies (the main stock in trade of today's GOP and Trump in particular).  Here are excerpts:
How will the news media handle the battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? I suspect I know the answer — and it’s going to be deeply frustrating. But maybe, just maybe, flagging some common journalistic sins in advance can limit the damage. So let’s talk about what can and probably will go wrong in coverage — but doesn’t have to.
First, and least harmful, will be the urge to make the election seem closer than it is, if only because a close race makes a better story.
A more important vice in political coverage, which we’ve seen all too often in previous elections — but will be far more damaging if it happens this time — is false equivalence.
You might think that this would be impossible on substantive policy issues, where the asymmetry between the candidates is almost ridiculously obvious. To take the most striking comparison, Mr. Trump has proposed huge tax cuts with no plausible offsetting spending cuts, yet has also promised to pay down U.S. debt; meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton has proposed modest spending increases paid for by specific tax hikes. That is, one candidate is engaged in wildly irresponsible fantasy while the other is being quite careful with her numbers.
But beware of news analyses that, in the name of “balance,” downplay this contrast. This isn’t a new phenomenon: Many years ago, when George W. Bush was obviously lying about his budget arithmetic but nobody would report it, I suggested that if a candidate declared that the earth was flat, headlines would read, “Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.”
But this year it could be much, much worse. And what about less quantifiable questions about behavior? I’ve already seen pundits suggest that both presumptive nominees fight dirty, that both have taken the “low road” in their campaigns. For the record, Mr. Trump has impugned his rivals’ manhood, called them liars and suggested that Ted Cruz’s father was associated with J.F.K.’s killer. On her side, Mrs. Clinton has suggested that Bernie Sanders hasn’t done his homework on some policy issues. These things are not the same.
Finally, I can almost guarantee that we’ll see attempts to sanitize the positions and motives of Trump supporters, to downplay the racism that is at the heart of the movement and pretend that what voters really care about are the priorities of D.C. insiders — a process I think of as “centrification.”
That is, after all, what happened after the rise of the Tea Party. I’ve seen claims that Tea Partiers were motivated by Wall Street bailouts, or even that the movement was largely about fiscal responsibility, driven by voters upset about budget deficits. In fact, there was never a hint that any of these things mattered; if you followed the actual progress of the movement, it was always about white voters angry at the thought that their taxes might be used to help Those People, whether via mortgage relief for distressed minority homeowners or health care for low-income families.
Now I’m seeing suggestions that Trumpism is driven by concerns about political gridlock. No, it isn’t. It isn’t even mainly about “economic anxiety.” Trump support in the primaries was strongly correlated with racial resentment: We’re looking at a movement of white men angry that they no longer dominate American society the way they used to. And to pretend otherwise is to give both the movement and the man who leads it a free pass.
In the end, bad reporting probably won’t change the election’s outcome, because the truth is that those angry white men are right about their declining role. America is increasingly becoming a racially diverse, socially tolerant society, not at all like the Republican base, let alone the plurality of that base that chose Donald Trump.
Still, the public has a right to be properly informed. The news media should do all it can to resist false equivalence and centrification, and report what’s really going on.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

Colton Haynes Officially Comes Out

Previous post on this blog have looked at Colton Haynes' past flirtations with gay modeling and his suggestion more recently that he might actually be gay.  Now, Haynes has made it official and confirmed that, yes, he is gay, and that he has been "out" to family and friends for some time.  I congratulate Haynes on finally making it official.  Having first lived in the closet for decades myself and then lived in the closet at work, words truly do not describe the weight one feels lifted from them once the hiding and secrecy are needed no more.  I wish Haynes happiness as he now lives an authentic life.  One of his comments that I touched a cord with me - he talked about having to act 24/7.  I described my years in the closet as living as "an actor on a stage."   Interesting that an actor would use the same analogy.  Here are highlights from an interview article in Entertainment Weekly:

If you don’t know Colton Haynes by name – and he’d be the first person to bashfully tell you, you probably don’t – you at least know the 27-year-old actor by his familiar Hollywood fable: farm boy turned New York model turned aspiring Los Angeles actor, a paragon of the digital age of the Instagrammable hunk, a slab of innocent Kansas marble sculpted by MTV and polished by The CW.

He’s a teen heartthrob and a fast-rising one at that, thanks to two major roles: His life-changing debut in 2011 as slithering jock Jackson Whittemore on MTV’s runaway hit Teen Wolf, and his series regular gig on The CW’s Arrow as hooded vigilante Arsenal. Both roles made him digital teen royalty, bolstered by Haynes’ decided effort to embrace and interact with fans and his eccentric social media savviness (somewhere to the tune of some 4-million Instagram followers).

So why, then, would a rising prince of teen genre walk away from two red-hot TV gigs – arguably at their own peaks, and on the cusp of his own – and all but abdicate the throne?

“I asked to step away because I cared more about my mental and physical health than my career at the time,” the actor tells EW, opening up about his personal and professional life for the first time in quite some time. “I’ve had terminal anxiety my entire life. Physically ill, fainting. I’m 27 years old, and I have an ulcer. I had to step back.” Clinical anxiety and public pressure are a potent mix, but their effects may be worse for someone like Haynes – a gentle spirit in a threatening (or so he’s been told by many a casting director) build, someone who lost control of his own personal narrative somewhere along the way between Kansas and California.

Social media afforded a temporary way to maintain his public voice after his departure from Arrow in 2015, . . . But while social media has helped his career, it’s also gotten him into some trouble. Case in point: A Tumblr post in January sparked an Internet firestorm after a fan commented on Haynes’ “secret gay past,”regarding racy modeling photos Haynes took while underage. Without giving it much thought, Haynes offered a coy reply: “Was it a secret?” The comment was picked up by bloggers as his coming out – but it wasn’t. Not yet.

“It was a complete shock. I wasn’t ready to be back in the headlines,” says Haynes, who is in fact gay but has never publicly addressed his sexuality (and, like many others on his path, took advice early in his career to subdue it). “I should have made a comment or a statement, but I just wasn’t ready. I didn’t feel like I owed anyone anything. I think in due time, everyone has to make those decisions when they’re ready, and I wasn’t yet. . . . .  He had checked into rehab for anxiety and would be frequently back in the hospital over the next three months.

“People want you to be that GQ image that you put out, but people don’t realize what it’s like to act 24 hours a day. I’d go home and I was still acting,” he says gently. “People who are so judgmental about those who are gay or different don’t realize that acting 24 hours a day is the most exhausting thing in the world.” The truth is, Haynes has been out for most of his life – in high school, to his family and friends, to his cast members, to his Hollywood bosses (like Arrow creator Greg Berlanti, now one of his closest mentors). But as a green transplant in Hollywood in 2006, he wasn’t any more immune to the town’s well-chronicled discomfort with LGBT identity.

Now, however, there’s a palpable energy around him, a positivity that gushes from a 27-year-old eager to start not just a new chapter, but perhaps a new book. He’s setting his eye on movies, on comedy, on theater and photography and music – all passions he’s keen to explore as a version nothing less than himself. 
If his cyber clash with his own identity earlier this year forced him to take stock of his life, its after-effects are now on the positive upswing. “It took me so long to get to this point, but I’m doing so good,” says Haynes. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and healthier than I’ve ever been, and that’s what I care about.”

No one should have to live in the closet like an actor 24/7 - especially when the need to do so stems solely from religious based ignorance and bigotry and the refusal of many, especially evangelical Christians, to move into the modern world and let go of brainwashing they received as children.  Again, kudos to Colton Haynes.

Trump Is Surrounding Himself With Vicous Homophobes

Trump and Cruz who Trump as mentioned as a Supreme Court nominee

Some have tried to claim that Donald Trump will be more friendly towards gays than some of his critics maintain.  As a child, I remember having my parents drum in to me and my siblings that you are known by the company you keep.  If one applies that rule to Mr. Trump, he is keeping company with a bunch of virulent homophobes.   A piece in Huffington Post by Michelangelo Signorile looks at the anti-gay elements with whom Trump is not only consorting but also considering for appointments in his administration.  Perhaps most frightening of all is Trump's purported consideration of Ted Cruz for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.  An appointment that might make the late Antonin Scalia look somewhat reasonable.  The take away is that,if one is LGBT or has LGBT friends and family members, you need to register to vote and go to the polls and vote Democrat.  Here are article highlights:
Ben Carson should have been sidelined from GOP politics forever after his presidential campaign tanked. In addition to his major foreign policy gaffes and his bizzaro tax plan, he’d defined himself as a complete troglodyte on social issues, particularly his horrific comments about homosexuality. He’d compared homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, and said prison turned men toward homosexuality, proving being gay is a “choice.” He claimed that gay marriage would lead to polygamy and bring something akin to “the fall of the Roman Empire.”
But no, Donald Trump has announced that Ben Carson will play a role on his vice presidential selection committee — and Carson is reported to actually be on the VP running mate shortlist himself. Also reported to be on the shortlist is another enemy of LGBT equality, who’s been advising Trump as part of his inner circle for months now and who endorsed Trump early: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
The GOP senator is among the most anti-LGBT senators in history, scoring a zero continually from the Human Rights Campaign, voting for everything anti-gay that ever came before the Senate, like a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and against everything remotely pro-gay, from a hate crimes bill to protect gays to the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He’s said it would be “a big concern“ to have a gay Supreme Court nominee and attacked the “activist judiciary” that ruled for marriage equality. He opposed Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court in part based on her support for LGBT equality as dean of Harvard Law School.
Also reported on Trump’s short list, and another man who’s been privately advising Trump and publicly praising him, is Newt Gingrich, the perennial homophobe who called gay marriage a “temporary aberration“ and compared it to paganism. In 2014 he implied the LGBT rights movement was inspiring the left’s “new fascism.”
Others on the shortlist, all of whom have been talking with or advising Trump to varying degrees are; Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, who said gay marriage violates “religious freedom,” successfully fought hard against LGBT rights measures in her state, dropped benefits for all couples in the Oklahoma National Guard rather than give benefits to same-sex couples and whom Trump said would be a “great” VP pick; Chris Christie, who’s opposed gay marriage for years as a bully to equality in New Jersey; and Florida governor Rick Scott, who fought marriage equality, supports allowing religious-based adoption agencies to turn away gay couples (and is opposed to adoption by gays altogether, though didn’t fight a court ruling) and who signed an anti-gay law as recently as this past March.
Trump also will soon release his picks for Supreme Court justices, saying he would choose them in the “mold” of the late virulently anti-gay Antonin Scalia, and even floated in recent days the idea of putting that homophobe from hell, Ted Cruz, on the high court.
Looking at who he’s surrounding himself with now, and the fact that he’s received huge support from evangelical voters as well their leaders, like Jerry Falwell Jr., it’s even more clear that, like Ronald Reagan, no gay friends from the past will likely get in the way of Trump dutifully bowing to moralists who helped put him in office.
Trump is himself opposed to marriage equality and told religious conservatives during a Christian Broadcasting Network interview to “trust me” to overturn what he called the “shocking” Obergefell ruling from the Supreme Court on marriage equality. While it would be quite difficult to overturn Obergefell, it’s safe to say, looking at who Donald Trump is turning to now, that it’s not likely there will be any progress on LGBT rights — and quite likely there could be great harm to them — under a Trump presidency.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Bernie Sanders Declares War on Reality

America is now faced with the terrifying prospect of Donald Trump as a possible president and what does Bernie Sanders do?  He vows to continue the Democratic nomination fight despite the math that shows he cannot prevail.  The outcome will only be wasted funds better directed at Trump and the GOP and attacks on Hillary Clinton that will only help Trump and the forces of regression and bigotry.  All so that Sanders can satisfy his ego that seemingly rivals that of Trump himself.  A column in the Boston Globe looks at Sanders lack of a grasp on reality and his continued fight against what is now best for the country.  Here are highlights:
Instead of coming to grips with the overwhelming evidence that Democratic primary voters prefer Hillary Clinton be the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders continues to create his own political reality — devising new and creative excuses to explain why he’s losing to her and why he should be the party’s standard-bearer in November.
First there was the complaint that Southern, conservative states have their primaries early, which “distorts reality,” because these states won’t support a Democrat in November. This is certainly a compelling assertion from a candidate who has won such red-state stalwarts as Utah, Alaska, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Idaho, and Wyoming.
Next the Sanders camp argued that the primary system is unfair because places like New York have a closed primary that doesn’t allow independents to vote. By this logic, it is undemocratic not to allow voters not registered as Democrats to vote in a Democratic primary tasked with choosing the Democratic nominee for president.
For Sanders, it seems, the only fair and equitable manner for choosing a Democratic nominee is one that favors him.
This brings us to the Sanders campaign’s latest “the dog ate my homework” excuse. In what was a bizarre press conference Sunday at the National Press Club in Washington, Sanders took aim at a new target — superdelegates.
[H]e said that this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia will be “contested” because Clinton will not have enough pledged delegates to win on the first ballot.
Clinton needs to get 2,383 out of 4,766 delegates to win the nomination. However, by Sanders’ argument, she should not count superdelegates toward that total (even though Sanders is still including the 715 superdelegates in that 4,766 number). I realize that math is tricky, but if you subtract 715 from 4,766 and divide it in half, Clinton would actually need 2,026 pledged delegates for a majority — a fairly achievable goal for her.
[T]he biggest problem with this argument is that even if they all voted the way that Sanders wants, Clinton would still have a 363-to-147 advantage in superdelegates. Overall that adds up to a more than 500-delegate lead, which makes sense, since Clinton has won the most states and the most votes.
Sanders’ third argument, however, is the real doozy, because to buy it you basically have to ignore everything else he has said about the unfairness of the primary system. According to Sanders, superdelegates shouldn’t actually be guided by the will of the people.
In the realm of illogical, self-serving, hypocritical, intellectually dishonest political arguments, this is practically the gold standard. But with six weeks to go until the last primary, I have great confidence that the Sanders campaign will find some way to top it.

Yes, I have lost all patience with Sanders who, in view, needs to get his head out of his ass.

Donald Trump and Newly Emboldened American Racists

In my days on the Virginia Beach Republican Party City Committee there may have been some members who were racists, but in polite and civil company they kept their bigotry and hatred to themselves.  In short, they were discrete and seemingly realized that their views were deemed unacceptable to decent people.  Those days are now gone.  One contender for the 2nd congressional district nomination has endorsed Donald Trump, a n individual applauded by the KKK and white supremacy groups.  And across the GOP base out right racism is on display  without shame of any kind.  The phenomenon is the result of years of GOP dog whistle racism that has now come into the open light of day under the encouragement of Trump whose base is largely angry white men, many of whom my southern belle grandmother would have viewed as uncouth if not "white trash," the lowest of the low in her view.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at how Trump and the GOP have unleashed open racism and dehumanization of others - much as Hitler did to the Jews of Europe with horrific consequences.  Here are column highlights:
I live in a political bubble. A lovely, liberal, northeastern bubble. The majority of my friends and family are Clinton supporters, and the rest favor Bernie. One or two Republicans I’m close to voted for Kasich in the primaries. I’m pretty sure there are a few closet Trump supporters in my life — and on my Facebook friends list — but as long as they stay in the closet, we’re good.
It’s what’s outside my bubble that keeps me up at night, especially now that Donald Trump has been anointed the presumptive Republican nominee. It’s what keeps me writing on and on about this election.
I have to thank Mr. Trump for opening my eyes to the American ugly I didn’t want to see. I needed a wake up call. I’m not closed off in some strange, futuristic liberal world. I live in a diverse community with a mix of political and social viewpoints, and I consistently read newspapers and websites with differing ideologies. I know my American history and I know what racist people have been saying about President Obama for the last eight years. I’ve watched the videos of young black men shot by cops.
And I’ve listened to the calls for racial justice on college campuses. I’ve worked on a college campus where I was the minority, and my students have spoken and written about their experiences. Throughout my life I’ve heard stories from my Jewish friends about the nasty comments they’ve endured. So yes, I understand how deeply racism and bigotry run through American culture — as much as any educated, white, Protestant person can really understand it — even if I don’t hear it in my home or my backyard.
But what I didn’t understand until this election, until I started paying closer attention to the voices of ordinary Americans, is how terrifying it is to read what some of them write on public forums, or to hear them say out loud what they really think about other Americans. The racists and bigots of America have always been out there. There have always been hideous trolls on the Internet. But now they are emboldened in a big way by the bellicose Donald Trump. He’s opened Pandora’s box, and nobody can shut it.
Imagine if you will, for a moment, being Malia Obama this week, . . . . on Fox’s website. It got so bad Fox had to shut down the comments section.  They called her “little monkey,” and “little ape.” One poster hoped she would get AIDS. . . . The comments go on and on.
The astonishing thing is that some of the posters used what appeared to be their full names. No shame in being a vile, racist, pig. Not when the possible future leader of the free world doesn’t know to disavow the KKK, shouts plans to build walls and keep Muslims out at every rally, calls other candidates nasty names and disparages women. The presumptive nominee for President of the United States eggs on the racists and the bigots. He gives them voice where they had none.
Take the case of Julia Ioffe, a prominent Russian-American writer who published a researched article in GQ Magazine about Melania Trump. . . . . Within hours of the article’s publication, Ioffe, who is Jewish, received a call from an anonymous caller who played part of a Hitler speech into the phone. Someone posted photos of her head superimposed on a mug shot from Auschwitz. Someone sent her a photo of a cartoon man with a large nose, kneeling down as a bullet blasts through his brain.  The comments go on and on. But Trump has been mute.
It’s about the soul of America and its relationships to the world. If you care about that, you cannot vote Trump, or stay home, or vote for a third party spoiler.
How can this man, who has fomented so much anger and hate, represent the United States to the World, and to its own people? How will minorities feel safe in the U.S. if he is president? How can this country stand to be even further divided? The chasm is already too wide.
[T]he hate will go on and on, If Trump is president, a possibility that moved one giant step closer to reality Tuesday night. And if that happens, none of our bubbles will be able to save us from ourselves.
What I find most telling is the number of self-identifying evangelical Christians have flocked to Trump.  Their embrace of Trump underscores the lie that they are nice, decent, "godly" people.  Hate and bigotry are the pillars of their belief system and now the hate has spread from gays to anyone with differing skin color and/or beliefs.  They are little different than the German Christians who flocked to Hitler despite what their apologists have to say. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Republican Freak Out Gathers Steam

Last night it was Ted Cruz who suspended his campaign and then this afternoon John Kasich did the same, thus leaving Donald Trump - a man endorsed by racist groups and winning only in the working class white male category - as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.  While the so-called GOP establishment has for years courted extremists, racists, raging homophobes and theocrats, few ever believed that the Frankenstein monsters they unleashed would ever go so far as to overthrow the party's leadership.  Many conservatives don't like to be told that they are justly reaping what they sowed and/or that karma can be a bitch, but Trump is the creation of their own misdeeds and cynical pandering to those Republicans would have found abhorrent (I certainly cannot picture my late grand mother even trying to feign polite conversation with most Trump supporters).  As  a piece in Vanity Fair describes, the great GOP freak out has begun.  Here are article highlights:
Turning around to hug his family after dropping out of the presidential race Tuesday night, Ted Cruz managed to both accidentally punch and elbow his wife in the face, giving Republicans the perfect metaphor for the state in which he’d just left them. Donald Trump, a lurid orange candle of narcissistic fire, is now the party’s presumptive nominee for the presidency, and conservatives everywhere were not taking the news well.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus put on a brave face in a tweet sent shortly after Cruz dropped out of the race.  But on CNN the next morning, Priebus looked pained, saying he was “surprised” by Cruz’s “unexpected” move. “But now we have to say that it’s pretty obvious that Donald Trump is going to get to 1,237,” he told New Day host Alisyn Camerota.
Mitt Romney, who had attempted to reenergize the #NeverTrump movement with a well-received speech calling on Republicans to do everything in their power to deny Trump the nomination, took to Twitter to politely thank Cruz for his campaign, but remained silent about whether he would support his party’s standard-bearer.
Sen. John McCain hadn’t yet weighed in, but his former speechwriter, Mark Salter, immediately jumped ship, declaring “I’m with her [Hillary].
Several prominent conservative leaders who had signed onto the National Review's “Against Trump” issue told the Daily Beast that, like it or not, they had to support Hillary Clinton now. “Hillary is ideologically not where I am,” said Leon Wolf, the editor of RedState, but argued that the former secretary of state would simply be a better president. “I wouldn’t go to bed every night worrying about a mushroom cloud opening up somewhere in the world because of some insane thing Trump had done.”
Erick Erickson, one of the first conservative commentators to speak out against Trump, told the Daily Beast that he would “de-register” as a Republican, saying that Trump’s nomination will rebrand the G.O.P. as the “party of white supremacists. . . . If Republicans aren’t going to stand up to having their party hijacked by a group of Aryan nation-types, then they get what they deserve.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had previously flirted with the idea of parachuting into a contested convention, declined to say anything overt about Trump’s victory, instead posting old videos of himself delivering patriotic speeches about America’s future and the true meaning of conservatism.

Erick Erickson - who I generally NEVER agree with  - got it right in terms of what the GOP is becoming: a party of white supremacists and religious extremists who belong in mental institutions.   

Department of Justice to North Carolina: HB2 Violates the Civil Rights Act

Political whores in the North Carolina GOP who laughed off the possible consequences of their shameless self-prostitution to Christofascists may be experiencing stomach clenching - and other parts of their anatomy clenching -  despite their posturing and anti-Washington blustering after today's announcement by the United States Department of Justice that anti-LGBT HB2 violates the Civil Rights Act.   More to the point, North Carolina was given until Monday to cease enforcing the discriminatory law.   I for one sincerely hope that federal funds are stopped and that these assholes are forced to figure out how they are going will explain to voters why they threw away billions of dollars in federal funding just to pander to Christian extremists who are nearly as demented as ISIS followers.   A piece in the Charlotte Observer looks at the much increased stakes now facing the anti-LGBT bigots in the North Carolina GOP.  Here are highlights:
RALEIGH - U.S. Justice Department officials repudiated North Carolina’s House Bill 2 on Wednesday, telling Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX – a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding.
The department gave state officials until Monday to respond “by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.”
The letter says HB2, which pre-empted Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, violates Title IX, which bars discrimination in education based on sex, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination.
If the finding is upheld, North Carolina could lose federal education funding. During the current school year, state public schools received $861 million. In 2014-2015, the University of North Carolina system got $1.4 billion.
Speaking to business leaders Wednesday night, McCrory called the letter “something we’ve never seen regarding Washington overreach in my lifetime.” . . . . GOP lawmakers also criticized the Justice Department – and President Barack Obama. 
[O]pponents of HB2 applauded the Justice Department finding.
“The letter confirms what we’ve already known – that HB2 is deeply discriminatory, violates federal civil rights law, and needs to be repealed as soon as possible,” said Rep. Chris Sgro, a Democrat who is executive director of Equality NC. “We’ve already lost $500 million in economic impact, and now we are violating federal civil rights law and risking Title IX funding.”

Again, the feds need to withdraw all federal funding if North Carolina does not comply and hang the economic disaster around the necks of McCrory and his GOP sycophants and, of course, the Christofascists who need to become social and political lepers.   The terms "Christian" and "decent people" need to become mutually exclusive in the public mindset.

Retraction - Neither Scott Taylor nor Randy Forbes Is Fit for Congress

Scott Taylor - Randy Forbes

Today Del. Scott Taylor proved that he is no real friend to the LGBT community by endorsing Donald Trump and suggesting to me that he was merely playing some of us in the LGBT community for fools, yours truly included.   Here's part of a press statement released by Taylor today:

I look forward to running with Donald Trump in November's general election. I encourage Second District Republicans to rally around Trump to help win Virginia for the GOP. The thought of a Hillary Clinton presidency should shock and scare every thoughtful American who knows our country is headed in the wrong direction. I will work with Donald Trump to put America first and get our economy growing again..
As for Scott Taylor's seemingly feigned pro-LGBT outlook, here's what the New York Times says in part about what Donald Trump has to say about his first 100 days:
Shortly after the Nov. 8 election, President-elect Trump and his vice president — most likely a governor or member of Congress — would begin interviewing candidates for the open Supreme Court seat and quickly settle on a nominee in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Has it dawned on Taylor that by endorsing Trump, he has joined with KKK leaders and white supremacy groups?   If the 2nd District is to be represented by a Republican, yes, Taylor might be better than Forbes, but not by much it now appears. I incorrectly had believed that Scott Taylor was someone who grasps that it is now the 21st century, not 1950.  Taylor has made it clear that he support the racism, bigotry and fascism that Trump supports and he may well believe in granting special rights and privileges to right wing Christians at the expense of other citizens.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Electing Hillary and the Importance of Filling the Supreme Court

A piece in The Advocate looks at an issue that ought to wake up Bernie Sanders supporters from their impossible dream: the desperate need to put a Democrat in the White House in November and the potential horrific consequences if Donald Trump - who has condemned the Obergefell ruling - were to be the one making nominations to the Court. Sanders may be endangering progressive causes for a generation if he allows his ego to over rule pragmatic, common sense thinking that may save the nation, and certainly LGBT citizens from the disaster of Trump appointments to the Court.   Here are some article highlights that ought to make Sanders supporters to awake from their dreams:
The post-Scalia court will likely confront a host of legal questions important to the LGBT community, from antigay “religious liberty” and employment discrimination to trans rights and bathroom access. It is not at all clear that the champion of marriage equality, Justice Anthony Kennedy, will again side with the liberals on these knotty issues. And it therefore seems quite likely that Scalia’s successor will hold the key to LGBT equality on a divided court. 
Given Kennedy’s famously sentimental marriage-equality opinion, the justice is often presumed to be a reliable vote in favor of gay rights against discrimination. But Kennedy has several competing passions — one of which is a near-absolute belief in a constitutional right to free association. In one especially regrettable 2000 decision, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, Kennedy joined an opinion holding that the Boy Scouts have a First Amendment right to exclude gays from their group. Allowing gays to join, a slim majority of the court held, would “force the organization to send a message, both to the youth members and the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior.” Thus, the group was constitutionally exempt from LGBT nondiscrimination laws.
Kennedy’s willingness to join the Boy Scouts opinion has deeply troubling implications for the series of antigay “religious liberty” cases making their way toward the court’s docket. These cases typically involve businesses (such as photographers and florists) who refuse to serve same-sex couples on account of their religion, often couching their refusals in the language of free-speech and free-association claims. The antigay business owners who turn away gays insist that the First Amendment protects their right not to associate with gay couples; doing so, they assert, would express a message that they approve of same-sex relationships. 
This argument is cleverly crafted to capture Kennedy’s heart. The key difference between the Boy Scouts case and the “religious liberty” cases is the distinction between a private organization and a business. But the constitutional importance of this distinction can easily be waved away if one buys into the idea that merely associating with a gay person sends a message of tolerance — as Kennedy clearly does. Moreover, Kennedy provided the fifth vote for Hobby Lobby, a decision that vastly expanded private, for-profit corporations’ right to discriminate on religious grounds. With Scalia gone, the Hobby Lobby majority is now a man down; the justice’s replacement could reverse that case’s license to discriminate — or extend it to antigay businesses.
Gay and trans Americans have another Supreme Court showdown on the horizon. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans employment discrimination “because of sex.” . . . . the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that Title VII also proscribes anti-trans discrimination and antigay discrimination. Anti-trans discrimination, the agency held, is inherently based in sex stereotyping about women’s femininity and men’s masculinity; distaste for an individual’s gender identity is, by definition, a sex-based judgment call. Homophobia is similarly sexist, according to the EEOC:
But EEOC is just a federal agency, with no actual power over federal judges. Some federal courts have accepted these EEOC rulings; some have rejected them; none are bound by them — until the Supreme Court signs off, which it has not yet done. LGBT advocates have long been nervous that Kennedy will reject the EEOC’s comprehensive definition of sex discrimination and sex stereotyping. . . . . Once again, Scalia’s replacement may tip the balance one way or the other.
A constitutional challenge to North Carolina’s vicious new anti-LGBT law, which nullifies local LGBT rights ordinances and bars trans people from using many public bathrooms, centers its analysis on Romer. As well it should: Romer’s basic rule — that laws motivated by animus toward a single group are constitutionally invalid — would seem to obviously implicate bathroom bills. With no evidence that trans people pose a threat in bathrooms, the anti-trans animus driving these bills is essentially undeniable. Legislatures simply want to disadvantage trans people because they don’t like them. And if Romer means anything at all, it means the government doesn’t get to do that.
Which side of Kennedy will trans activists face? The compassionate author of Romer or the sexist traditionalist? With any luck, trans people’s rights won’t hinge on this question: A Democratic appointee to the high court is almost certain to side with equality over intolerance. Indeed, that justice may well hold the critical vote in the next round of LGBT cases. 
Let’s hope he or she makes it onto the bench in time to ensure that Obergefell was just the beginning of a new era of LGBT constitutional equality.