Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Weaponization of Religious liberty

Protecting "religious liberty" has become the disingenuous ruse used by the Christofascists are seeking to (i) blunt LGBT civil rights progress, and (ii) gain special rights for themselves.  Their form of religious freedom bears no resemblance to the concept as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. And, in my view and some others, including blogger friend Bob Felton, another aspect of the religious freedom smoke screen being embraced by the Christofascist is their anger and resentment over the fact that more and more decent, rational people no longer adhere to their ignorance embracing beliefs or feel the need to give deference to their bigoted beliefs.  In short, they are finding themselves marginalized in society and they are lashing out at those who realize that the emperor has no clothes, if you will. A piece in Religion News Service looks at the deliberate and insidious manner in which the concept of religious freedom has been perverted and is being used to try to strip constitutional rights from other citizens.  As noted in an earlier piece, Donald Trump is courting the proponents of this foul and dangerous lie.  Here are highlights from the piece in Religion News Service:
For the second year in a row, more than 100 pieces of anti-LGBT legislationwere introduced in state legislatures during the first few months of the year, many of them promoted as measures to protect religious liberty. How did something as fundamentally American as religious freedom become a culture war weapon against LGBT people and their families?
The religious right has a long history of equating criticism with persecution, and portraying political losses and legal defeats as attacks on faith and freedom. Its followers have been told for years that feminists, liberals, and gays are out to silence people of faith, and even to criminalize Christianity.
There’s a sinister logic to the strategy: It is easier to convince fair-minded people to support discrimination against their gay neighbors if you first convince them that the gay rights movement is out to destroy their churches and families.
But as more Americans came to know their LGBT family members and friends and discovered they were not the demons the religious right made them out to be, the movement to win cultural acceptance and legal equality for LGBT Americans built momentum. And as marriage equality started to become a reality, conservative strategists tried to regain the moral and political high ground by reframing the debate as one of religious liberty.
A group of social conservatives released the Manhattan Declaration in 2009, a manifesto pledging that its signers would refuse to “bend” to “any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.”
Since then, religious right groups, their allies at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others have increasingly framed their opposition to marriage equality, nondiscrimination laws, reproductive choice and the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act as questions of religious liberty.
They have had mixed results.  . . . . That mixed record may explain why the movement has thrown so much energy into ugly and baseless fearmongering campaigns against transgender people, portraying their access to facilities that match their gender identity as an open door to child molesters. This, of course, updates an older strategy that was meant to convince Americans that gay men and lesbians posed a dire threat to children.
Pushing these efforts is a massive interconnected collection of legal and political groups, radio and TV networks, political and lobbying organizations, think tanks, colleges, and law schools. Among the most influential are the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation.
These forces have made religious liberty their rallying cry precisely because genuine religious freedom is such a broadly cherished American ideal. Most Americans believe deeply in religious freedom, but most do not equate religious liberty with a blank check to cause harm or deny others’ rights.
Where the religious right has made progress, it has done so thanks largely to Republican politicians who share its agenda or are afraid of being targeted by those groups. Fortunately, growing support for LGBT equality among Republicans as well as Democrats, and among religious and business leaders, is helping limit the success of the religious right’s determined efforts to pit religious liberty against other constitutional principles.

The take away?  These people are cynical liars, totally self-centered and self-absorbed, and ruthless, caring nothing about the harm they inflict on others.  Meanwhile, they desperately cling to Bronze Age fairy tales and myths as they seek to satisfy  their sick psychological need  for authoritarian rules and a bulwark against modernity and knowledge. 

More Saturday Male Beauty

Donald Trump Is Mortally Dangerous To LGBT Equality

Not only is Donald Trump a crooked businessman prone to lies and demagoguery, but he poses a mortal threat towards LGBT rights and equality as he courts the leaders of virulently anti-gay "family values" organizations, a number of which have been certified as hate groups, including Family Research Council ("FRC").  Trump will make a pact with the devil to further his self-promotion, and there is nothing that the Christofascists demand more than special rights for themselves and the denigration of LGBT individuals and their families.  A column in Huffington Post looks at the threat that Trump poses.  Here are excerpts:
Contrary to those in the media and elsewhere who claimed he was “far more accepting” on LGBT issues than other GOP candidates, Donald Trump is proving that he very much will be a force against LGBT equality if elected president. And he’s doing it in a more insidious, under-the-radar way than any previous GOP presidential nominee.
Though he rarely raises his positions against LGBT rights on the campaign trail, Trump is making pacts with anti-LGBT forces. Today, Trump spoke at the Road to the Majority summit in Washington, an event attended by Christian right activists and sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America, both of which fight against LGBT rights. “I’m with you 100 percent,” he said, and, knowing the event was televised live on the cable networks, he spoke with a dog whistle on LGBT rights, alluding to attacks on “marriage and family” and championing “religious freedom,” which of course has been the term used by evangelicals to deny LGBT people of rights. The crowd roared with approval.
And on June 21, in New York, Trump will have a private meeting with over 400 of the most bigoted, most homophobic and most influential anti-LGBT advocates in the United States — from Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins to James Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family — the bedrock of the religious right, which has been a prominent part of the base of the Republican Party for decades. Many of these groups, like Family Research Council, have been labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. No GOP president in roughly five decades has been elected without the religious right turning out in big numbers. No GOP president has been elected in modern times without evangelical pastors railing from pulpits across the country, telling followers that the only way to save the country is to support the GOP presidential candidate. Ben Carson, who has taken a prominent role in Trump’s campaign, will moderate the discussion between Trump and the hundreds of anti-LGBT activists, which is closed to the media and thus tightly controlled.
Trump had already quietly made pacts with some anti-LGBT forces, and promised to do what he can to overturn the Supreme Court’s historic Obergefell ruling, which he called, “shocking.” He promised he’d appoint justices to the Supreme Court who might do that, and certainly the list of extreme judges he provided recently shouldn’t give LGBT people any comfort.
Though he opposes marriage equality and supports a bill in Congress that will allow religious exemptions for anti-gay individuals and businesses that don’t want to provide services to LGBT people, The New York Times, for example, focused on Trump’s sending a congratulations note to Elton John eleven years ago on his civil union as one among several weak examples that supposedly show him to be more gay-friendly.
As I pointed out a few weeks ago, simply having Ben Carson prominent in his campaign — a man who compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia — is an affront to LGBT people. And as RightWingWatch’s Brian Tashman noted, Trump has also “partnered with Harlem’s notorious ‘stone homos‘ pastor James David Manning and far-right radio show host Alex Jones, who thinks the LGBT rights movement is a ‘suicide cult’ bent on the destruction of humanity.”
Christian right leaders got behind Ronald Reagan, who was divorced, and George H. W. Bush, who formerly supported abortion rights, after they were romanced a bit and quietly forged pacts with the candidates, including regarding stopping advancement on gay rights. That process is happening right now with Trump. His campaign, and certainly Republican leaders, know he cannot win without motivating a large portion of evangelicals. And right now anti-LGBT laws and measures meant to blunt equality are animating religious conservatives in a big way, . . .
No matter what Trump has said in the past, or what the media or desperate gay Republicans may say now, there’s no question that Trump must bow to an anti-LGBT agenda if he wants to win the presidency. That makes him a mortal danger to LGBT equality.

Hundreds Allege Donald Trump Doesn’t Pay His Bills

Throughout my legal career I have encountered sleazy businessmen  - and businesswomen - who I'm sure viewed themselves as "tough business people," but by any moral standard they were liars and sought to screw people over and avoid paying just debts.  In a scathing piece, USA Today reviews Donald Trump's unethical business practices.  It's not pretty and also focuses on Trump's failure to comply with labor laws.  The Trump University scam is just the tip of the iceberg.  Combined with Trump's practice of uttering untruths roughly 75% of the time, the story and others shows just how low the Republican Party has fallen.  It's also an indictment of the evangelical Christians supporting him.  Here are article highlights:
During the Atlantic City casino boom in the 1980s, Philadelphia cabinet-builder Edward Friel Jr. landed a $400,000 contract to build the bases for slot machines, registration desks, bars and other cabinets at Harrah's at Trump Plaza.
The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward’s father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort’s builder.
Edward’s son, Paul, who was the firm’s accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. “That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company… which has been around since my grandfather,” he said.
Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will "protect your job." But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.
At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.
Trump’s companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages.
In addition to the lawsuits, the review found more than 200 mechanic’s liens — filed by contractors and employees against Trump, his companies or his properties claiming they were owed money for their work — since the 1980s. The liens range from a $75,000 claim by a Plainview, N.Y., air conditioning and heating company to a $1 million claim from the president of a New York City real estate banking firm. On just one project, Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, records released by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1990 show that at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers and plumbing.
The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.
Juan Carlos Enriquez, owner of The Paint Spot, in South Florida, has been waiting more than two years to get paid for his work at the Doral. The Paint Spot first filed a lien against Trump’s course, then filed a lawsuit asking a Florida judge to intervene.
In courtroom testimony, the manager of the general contractor for the Doral renovation admitted that a decision was made not to pay The Paint Spot because Trump “already paid enough.” As the construction manager spoke, “Trump’s trial attorneys visibly winced, began breathing heavily, and attempted to make eye contact” with the witness, the judge noted in his ruling.
That, and other evidence, convinced the judge The Paint Spot’s claim was credible. He ordered last month that the Doral resort be foreclosed on, sold, and the proceeds used to pay Enriquez the money he was owed. Trump’s attorneys have since filed a motion to delay the sale, and the contest continues.  Enriquez still hasn’t been paid.

Read the entire piece.  It paints a picture of lies and unethical business practices.  Trump is morally bankrupt and so is the GOP with Trump as it standard bearer.   The media needs to focus nonstop on his ruthless and unsavory business practices. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

2016 Hampton Road Pride Pride

A week from today the main event of 2016 Hampton Roads Pride Fest will take place in downtown Norfolk's Town Point Park, one of the region's premier outdoor venues. The transformation of Pride Fest from when I first attended after "coming out" 14 years ago is nothing short of amazing.  In 2003, the event consisted of a single day event with few hundred people tucked away in a hidden part of Lakewood Part in Norfolk.  This year's event may see 20,000 attendees with the nation's only Pride boat parade (the husband is pictured in the red tank to the left in the photo above from 2014) and events will take place throughout the coming week.  There will be an event on the Hampton Waterfront on Wednesday, Thursday, HRBOR, the local LGBT chamber of commerce holds an event at O'Connor Brewing in Norfolk, and Friday night the block party at Scope, Norfolk's downtown coliseum takes place.  Smaller events are taking place starting today.  

As a sign that Hampton Roads Pride has made the big time, the event site GayCities is even advertising the event with details here

If you have never attended a Pride event, consider attending this year. If you cannot make the Saturday event, consider the block party at Scope.  Last year's block party - the first in Scope - was truly spectacular and we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were in Norfolk and not some European capital.  

Yes, Newport News Shipbuilding is a major sponsor.  The changes have been incredible.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Party of Lincoln is Dying

Many who have left the Republican Party over the years - a group that actually includes a number of LGBT bloggers and activists, myself included - decided years ago that the choice was to either leave the increasingly foul GOP or surrender one's own morality and decency.  Since I resigned from the GOP, the toxicity of the party and its open hatred toward those its angry white heterosexual base considers "other" has only intensified.  The ultimate hypocrisy is that so many of the GOP base consider themselves "godly Christians" when, in fact, they are the anti-thesis of what the term Christian should mean in the context of the Gospel message.  They are in reality the Pharisees multiplied tenfold. A column in the Washington Post by conservative Michael Gerson makes the case that many in the GOP must now decide between morality and decency or remaining in the party and supporting Donald Trump and the hate and misogyny he embodies.  You simply cannot have it both ways.  Here are column highlights:
Why such vehemence among Republican leaders in their condemnations of Donald Trump for questioning the objectivity of a federal judge based on his “Mexican heritage”?
This is, in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s words, “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” But it is not materially more bigoted than the central premise of Trump’s campaign: that foreigners and outsiders are exploiting, infiltrating and adulterating the real America. How is attacking the impartiality of a judge worse than characterizing undocumented Mexicans as invading predators intent on raping American women? Or pledging to keep all Muslim migrants out of the country? Or citing the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II as positive precedent?
Is Trump himself a racist? Who the bloody hell cares? There is no difference in public influence between a politician who is a racist and one who appeals to racist sentiments with racist arguments. The harm to the country — measured in division and fear — is the same, whatever the inner workings of Trump’s heart.
[F]or Republican leaders, this much was new: Since Trump now owns them, they now own his prejudice. Sure, Trump has gone nativist before, but this time it followed their overall stamp of approval, given in the cause of Republican unity. . . . . Having tied themselves to Trump’s anchor, the protests of GOP leaders are merely the last string of bubbles escaping from their lungs.
[I]t is not a normal political moment. It is one of those rare times — like the repudiation of Joe McCarthy, or consideration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the Watergate crisis — when the spotlight of history stops on a single decision, and a whole political career is remembered in a single pose. The test here: Can you support, for pragmatic reasons, a presidential candidate who purposely and consistently appeals to racism?
When the choice came, only a handful of Republicans at the national level answered with a firm “no.” A handful. . . . . [The GOP] has failed one of the most basic tests of public justice: Don’t support racists — or candidates who appeal to racism — for public office. If this commitment is not a primary, non-negotiable element of Republican identity, then the party of Lincoln is dead.
Many Republicans, I suspect, will sicken of defending this shabby enterprise — as Sens. Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake and Mark Kirk have done. The process of unendorsing Trump is humiliating, but only for a moment. The honor of choosing rightly, when it mattered most, will endure.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Just shy of three years ago I note as follows: "As noted often on this blog, why is it that it seems like 9 times out of 10 that it is the far right conservatives and the pastors and priests from anti-gay religious denominations who are the ones always getting arrested on sex crimes charges?  Oh, and lets not forget the "conservative" Republican officials who vote against gays even as they troll for gay sex on the sly."  The observation was prompted by the arrest of Christopher Allen  Simcox (pictured above), co- founder of the rabidly anti-immigrant Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, for child sex abuse.  Now, Simcox has been convicted and will face sentencing on July 5, 2016.   Once again we see the right wingers engaging in the behavior that they use to demonize others.  The hypocrisy, while shocking, is truly becoming the norm with such people.  Here are highlights from The Daily Mail:

An Arizona jury convicted the founder of the Minuteman border-watch group of molesting a five-year-old girl.
Christopher Allen Simcox, 55, was found guilty on charges that he molested the girl and showed her pornography on Wednesday.
But he escaped a mandatory life sentence after the jury acquitted him on of engaging in sexual conduct with a six-year-old girl.
A molestation conviction carries a sentence of 10 to 24 years in prison.
Simcox, who was convicted on two molestation counts, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 5.
An attorney who assisted him at trial said Simcox will still likely spend the rest of his life in prison, given Arizona's tough sentencing guidelines.
In closing arguments, a prosecutor scoffed at Simcox's claim that the girls were pressured by adults to bring the allegations.
His case was also noteworthy for Simcox's insistence that he should be allowed to personally question the girls on the witness stand.
Prosecutors argued that letting Simcox question the girls would cause them emotional distress. In the end, Simcox got an attorney to pose the questions.
Kerrie Droban, the lawyer who served as Simcox's adviser, said she was unsure whether Simcox would appeal the verdict.
‘The jury listened attentively,’ Droban said. ‘They gave him a fair trial.’
Simcox's arrest in 2013 came after his career as an advocate for tougher immigration policies had fizzled.
The Minuteman movement stepped into the spotlight in 2005 when illegal immigration heated up as a national political issue.  Minuteman volunteers fanned out along the nation's southern border to watch for illegal crossings and report them to federal agents.

It's not the transgender or immigrants that one needs to fear, rather it is the "godly folk" who obsess over the sex lives of others and the rabid racists that one really needs to fear.  Time and time again they are the ones that prove to be the predators. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

4th Circuit Court Lifts Stay On Order Granting Transgender Student Restroom Rights

Locally, the political whores on the Gloucester County School Board who have sold their souls rather than offend the sensibilities of hate and fear filled Christofascists suffered another loss today as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court lifted its stay on its order finding in favor of high school student Gavin Grimm that granted transgender students restroom rights consistent with the Department of Education's reading of Title IX.   The stay had gone into effect when the Christofascists puppets on the school board filed a motion indicating the board's intent to appeal the 4th Circuit's ruling to the United States Supreme Court - which is likely to refuse the appeal if the Court remains split 4-4.  Of course, if the petition languishes and if Hillary Clinton wins the White House (and better yet, the Democrats retake control of the U. S. Senate) a nationwide ruling in favor of transgender rights might be in the future.  Blogger friend Joe Jervis reports on this development as follows:

A three-judge panel from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals just denied the stay motion filed Wednesday by Virginia’s Gloucester County School Board, which seeks to thwart the federal mandate on transgender student rights. That filing two days ago had triggered an automatic stay on the pro-trans April order while the Court considered their demand. The vote today was 2-1. Equality Case Files has today’s ruling. The Fourth Circuit Court has jurisdiction over Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, and (hello) North Carolina.

The summary lifting of the stay - which means Gloucester County - and North Carolina - must comply absent a stay issued by the Supreme Court reads as follows:

Click image to enlarge
I only wish the School Board members would be required to pay all of the county's legal costs - and those of Grimm - out of their personal pockets.  

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Atlantic - There Is No Trump Campaign

Now that President Obama has endorsed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders after an hour meeting with Obama somewhat coyly said he will do all in his power to make sure that Donald Trump is never president of the United States, things seem to be settling down somewhat on the Democratic side of the aisle.  On the Republican side, things remain highly unsettled and Donald Trump was set to meet with major GOP donors today.  Time will tell how that played out.  Meanwhile, there is much GOP angst over the lack of any real Trump campaign organization.  Throughout the primary Trump largely relied on free media coverage and rallies with little get out the vote or grass roots organization.  Now, as Trump perhaps in some fantasy thinks he can win both California and New York, the concern in GOP circles is that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats will run circles around Trump.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the situation which I for one will equate to a huge loss come November.  Here are highlights:
What is concerning for Trump backers and Republicans (the Venn diagram of overlap between those groups seems to be in perpetual flux) is that it [Trump's focus on New York and California] appears to be distracting from the rest of the crucial work of building a presidential campaign. For most intents and purposes, there appears to be no Trump campaign. 
CNN has a blockbuster report Thursday digging into this. For example, Trump has no state-level campaign director in Ohio or Colorado, two top-shelf swing states. Across the map, Republican officials say they’re just waiting to hear on what to do from either Trump or the Republican National Committee, but so far they’re hearing very little. “I'll say that as far as building the infrastructure of a campaign, the RNC has been doing it for many years,” Trump said at a press conference in May.
As my colleague Molly Ball points out in an insightful tweet storm (not a contradiction in terms!), there’s some confusion, or at least opaque wording, in the CNN piece, revolving around the difference between having state-level organization and putting together a ground game. In 2012, Mitt Romney most certainly had state offices, but he also largely left ground game to the RNC.
“The Romney campaign doesn't do the ground game,” then-RNC Political Director Rick Wiley told Ball in 2012. “They have essentially ceded that responsibility to the RNC. They understand this is our role.” (You may recall Wiley as the guy Trump recently hired, then unceremoniously fired a few weeks later.)
Perhaps the Romney 2012 campaign isn’t an example that Republicans would want to emulate, but that’s different from suggesting that what Trump is doing is unprecedented. The RNC offers a degree of continuity that a presidential campaign can’t, and disagreements between state party committees and campaigns can make for tension, as the Democrats ably showed after the 2012 campaign. Moreover, the RNC has been focused on building its ground-game capacities since the post-2012 autopsy report. To be clear: None of this means that the RNC is especially great at building a ground game. It just means Trump isn’t crazy to cede the ground to it, especially given how weak his campaign was at things like voter turnout during the primaries.
Insofar as the lack of state organization goes, is this simply a symptom of a rookie campaign? Growing pains that began after Trump clinched the nomination? Not really. Back in April, with Trump’s campaign faltering, he laid off scads of staffers in early states, whereas Clinton has maintained her organization, laying groundwork for the general. Then in May, Politico reported on the increasing heartburn of state-level Republican operatives who’d been promised cavalry from the RNC and were getting increasingly anxious about the silence from Washington.
A related and intertwined problem is Trump’s lack of fundraising. Although he once said he’d raise $1 billion, his new fundraising team—mostly constituted by the RNC, of course—is working to depress expectations, saying there’s little chance he’ll raise that much. In fact, many members told The Wall Street Journal they haven’t even done any work yet. There’s a vicious cycle at work here, which is that as donors see the Trump campaign in chaos, they’re unwilling to fork over their hard-earned cash. Why back a candidate who’s rending the Republican Party apart, doesn’t follow conservative orthodoxy, and seems to have no idea what he’s doing with the money?
Trump, naturally, says he’s unperturbed. . . . “I just don’t think I need nearly as much money as other people need because I get so much publicity. I get so many invitations to be on television. I get so many interviews, if I want them.” In an interview with The New York Times, he cited social media as a replacement: “He noted that he is nearing the ability to reach 20 million people by himself through his personal Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, providing an alternative way to reach the public, even if it’s largely a one-way conversation.”
That seems to represent a basic misunderstanding of what campaigns do. It’s hard to imagine that Trump could replace media buys, from television to web advertising, through his simple star power and social media; using a single national portal for his message skips over the opportunity to hammer home locally important messages. And it leaves out all the other stuff that campaigns spend on, like going out and identifying prospective voters, winning them over, getting them to register, and then convincing them to vote. Let’s see a Twitter account do that!
[W]hat Trump is attempting to pull off here isn’t refining or improving best practices for what we know can win a campaign today. It’s throwing it all out the window. Since Trump is trying something so different, it’s hard to completely reject it as foolhardy. Maybe he can really pull this off. But by all of the known metrics, it makes no sense.
The flap over Trump’s racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel has kept the attention away from how little Trump is doing to build up state teams and raise money, and so has his focus on places like California and New York. But he doesn’t seem to be using the time he’s bought to build up anything resembling a real presidential campaign.
As a former Republican who opposed the racism, homophobia and  celebration of ignorance that became increasingly accepted by the GOP from 2000 forward - I ultimately resigned in utter frustration - I hope Trump destroys the GOP.  I truly believe it is beyond saving.  The question is, what party will arise to replace it. 

Randy Forbes Defends Right to Discriminate Against Gays

As I have noted in previous posts, Randy Forbes - my one time law school classmate - has turned into a raging homophobe over the years and increasingly supports special rights for those I describe as Christofascists - folks who comprise a Christian Taliban that seeks to impose its views on all just as its Islamic namesake in Afghanistan and other parts of the middle East.  But you don't have to take my words for Forbes' support of exceptions to non-discrimination laws that place the self-anointed "godly folk" above the law.  As Huffington Post reported, Forbes co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Examiner that argued through code words that business owners should be free to refuse to serve LGBT individuals - and by implication, others as  well - based on their "religious faith." Indeed, in Forbes' mind, not allowing godly Christians to discriminate against and abuse others constitutes discrimination against these bigots themselves.  Here are excerpts from Huffington Post's take down of this batshitery:
Chipotle’s right to purchase humanely raised pork is based on the same freedom that would allow a business to discriminate against LGBT individuals, according to a new op-ed from two GOP lawmakers. But much like a messy burrito from the restaurant chain itself, their argument quickly falls apart.
Chipotle recently announced it was taking pork off the menu at many of its restaurants because a major supplier was violating animal welfare standards.
In a new op-ed in the Washington Examiner Wednesday, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) say business owners similarly should be allowed to make decisions based on their religious beliefs.
The lawmakers don’t name specific issues like LGBT rights in their op-ed, but opponents of same-sex marriage increasingly have been using religious freedom arguments to discriminate in hiring and service — and as a member of the House of Representatives, Lankford himself opposed employment anti-discrimination legislation for LGBT individuals, claiming that being gay is a choice.
Chipotle scoffed at the suggestion its business decisions were similar to religious beliefs that could lead to discrimination.
“It’s a pretty ridiculous comparison,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told The Huffington Post. “Our decision not to serve pork that doesn’t meet our standards isn’t discriminating against any customers or group of customers.”
“Using Chipotle’s business decision to not stock carnitas as a defense to give corporations having religious beliefs special legal protections is ludicrous,” said David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign. “It adds nothing and indeed trivializes a very serious debate about whether corporations should be able to refuse to hire some employees and turn away some customers based on who they are or who they love.”
Both Forbes and Lankford have made national news before over controversial comments on LGBT issues. . . . In 2013, Forbes privately lobbied the National Republican Congressional Committee not to back gay candidates.
Forbes did not return a request for comment.

In a rapidly changing world, Hampton Roads needs to modernize and prepare for a future where equality and equal rights will attract talent and innovative entrepreneurs.  Yet Forbes wants to take the region - and the country - backward in time.  Moreover, he has opened the region up to national ridicule.  It is long past time that Forbes be sent into political retirement.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Right Wing Media's Civil War

In the past the right wing media from Fox News to blogs like Red State have provided a monolithic noise machine attacking Democrats and progressive policies while basically brainwashing its listeners.  It one of the reasons that much of the Republican Party base is so ill informed on so many issues even as the base reacts to the propaganda like Pavlov's dog.  Now, Donald Trump has thrown a wrench in the smooth running operation as some on the right find it impossible to support a serial liar and con-artist who is utterly unprepared and unfit to occupy the White House.  True, most of the right wing media continue to spin lies, but the cracks in the facade are growing as a piece in Salon examines.  Long term, this could be a very good thing for America.  Here are some column highlights:
What good is having a right-wing echo chamber if it’s not cranked up and blaring out a disciplined message during the presidential campaign? The conservative movement continues to grapple with that propaganda question in the wake of Donald Trump clinching the nomination, which has created deep fissures within the right-wing media and its historically united front.
For decades, conservatives have taken pride in their media bubble that not only keeps Republican fans selectively informed about breaking news, but also bashes away at all political foes. In full-fledged campaign mode, the right-wing media can effectively serve as a battering ram that Republicans use to attack their enemies or fend off in-coming volleys.
But Trump has scrambled that long-held equation. Embracing positions that often fall outside the orthodoxy of modern-day conservatism, while simultaneously rolling out non-stop insults, Trump has presented conservative pundits with a monumental headache: How do you defend a creation like Trump? Or as one National Review Trump headline lamented last month, “What’s a Conservative to Do?” 
That riddle is especially tricky when Trump puts would-be allies in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the truly indefensible, like the widening scandal surrounding Trump University, the presumptive nominee’s former real estate seminar business. Over the years the dubious venture has been the subject of several ongoing fraud investigations and lawsuits, including one by the state of New York on behalf of 5,000 alleged victims.
 The strange part? Some key conservative voices agree with the Democrat’s legal assessment. That’s why back in February, a National Review writer denounced the Trump seminars as “a massive scam.” And last month,The Weekly Standard warned that Trump U. represented a “political time bomb” that could doom the candidate’s November chances: “Democrats will see to that.” 
 [W]atching the conservative media this campaign season: It’s been completely knocked off its game. Known for its regimented messaging and willingness to almost robotically defend any Republican front-runner and nominee, Trump is finding only a smattering of defenders when it comes to damning allegations about his scam seminars.
And when Trump recently escalated the Trump U. story by attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel and insisted he couldn’t be impartial because of his “Mexican heritage,” the presumptive nominee found himself even further isolated within the conservative movement.
 As The Atlantic noted after reviewing previously secret training materials for Trump U., “the playbook focuses on the seminars’ real purpose: to browbeat attendees into purchasing expensive Trump University course packages.” According to an affidavit from former student Richard Hewson, he and his wife “concluded that we had paid over $20,000 for nothing, based on our belief in Donald Trump and the promises made at the free seminar and three-day workshop.” . . . . The con appeared to touch every aspect of the real estate selling events. 
Even Trump’s fiercest media defender,, has taken a timid approach to the Trump U. fraud story, with the site refusing to offer up a full-throated defense of the alleged scam.
The ferocious conservative echo chamber isn’t built for nuance and it’s not designed for internal debate. But by sparking so much general dissention and by putting conservatives in the position of having to defend something as noxious as Trump U., the nominee is helping to mute the right-wing media voice this campaign season.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Why Closet Racist Republicans Won’t Renounce Trump

When I left the Republican Party many years ago at this point, I had several motivations: (i) the GOP's fusing fundamentalist religious belief with the civil laws, and (ii) the hypocrisy of Republicans who publicly pretended to condemn bigots and homophobes, yet actually silently applauded them. Nowadays, these problems have only worsened, especially as blatant outward racism has become accepted with little or no condemnation from party officials. Enter Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and there is little room to hide without being labeled as condoning Trump's ugly bigotry.  The result is that we are seeing half-efforts from Republicans such as Paul Ryan to seemingly condemn Trump's statements without renouncing their self-prostitution to the man and his foul views.  An op-ed in the New York Times looks at this phenomenon of far too many Republicans actually quietly agreeing with Trump's misogyny.  Here are excerpts:
When Donald Trump attacked a federal judge whose parents were born in Mexico, Hispanic Americans were outraged. Other minority groups saw a pattern of bigotry. Democrats had a hard time concealing their glee. Republican leaders pretended they disapproved.
Well, to be fair, they did disapprove in a way — not because Trump believes the things he says, but because he says them so directly.
Far too many Republicans share this kind of racism and have for a long time. Trump has just dispensed with dog whistles and revels in his bigotry instead. But this is the party the Republicans have been deliberately and assiduously building for many decades, the party of division and intolerance. 
Today’s Republicans have stymied every effort at reforming immigration, at achieving true equality for women, at ending the scourge of racist drug laws and criminal sentencing rules. The Republican Party has generated a wave of laws designed to make it harder for black Americans and other minorities to vote. It’s not that Republicans don’t want to deport millions of Mexicans and ban Muslims from our shores. They just don’t like to talk about it in the open.
So when Donald Trump started to attack Mexicans, Muslims and anyone else who popped into his head, Republican leaders may have thought it was bad tactics. But all that talk this year about the “Republican establishment” being aghast at Trump for his outlandish ideas was nonsense.
What really bothers Republicans is that Trump is not a member of their club and did not observe party discipline by saving his disdain for Democrats.
Asked about one right-wing blogger who said Republicans were backing a racist candidate, McConnell simpered that what matters is winning the White House. “The right-of-center world needs to respect the fact that the primary voters have spoken,” he said.  Yes, in favor of blatant intolerance.
Given the cowardice of his fellow members of the party of Lincoln, Trump is, naturally, doubling down on running for racist in chief.
On Monday, Bloomberg Politics reported that Trump told campaign surrogates in a conference call to keep up the attack on Judge Curiel. And on Tuesday, he said in a statement, “It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage.” His evidence for his tolerance was, as usual, that he has lots of Mexican-Americans working for him.
[H]he [Trump] obviously plans to go on riding this tiger — because he thinks it will take him into the White House; because he is engaged in a creepy act of self destruction to avoid actually having to be president, which is hard work; or simply because he enjoys making bigoted comments.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders who talk about voting for Trump instead of Clinton if their candidate finally decides to drop out should consider this latest episode, and Trump’s larger pattern, carefully. They should know they would be voting for a racist.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Bitter Last Days of Bernie's "Revolution"

I have conjectured about Bernie Sanders' bitterness and refusal to accept that Hillary Clinton has defeated him - something abhorrent to his seemingly huge ego - and now a piece in Politico with information sourced from within his campaign confirms some of my thoughts.  Moreover, it appears that Sanders has been extremely "hands on" in running his campaign which is not a bad thing in and of itself.  However, it makes it very difficult for the candidate to blame missteps and nastiness on others.  The piece also suggests that there is strong split in the campaign between some staffers and Sanders as to a rational basis for continuing the campaign now that no path to victory remains.  Here are highlights:
There’s no strategist pulling the strings, and no collection of burn-it-all-down aides egging him on. At the heart of the rage against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, the campaign aides closest to him say, is Bernie Sanders.
It was the Vermont senator who personally rewrote his campaign manager’s shorter statement after the chaos at the Nevada state party convention and blamed the political establishment for inciting the violence.
He was the one who made the choice to go after Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz after his wife read him a transcript of her blasting him on television.
He chose the knife fight over calling Clinton unqualified, which aides blame for pulling the bottom out of any hopes they had of winning in New York and their last real chance of turning a losing primary run around.
There are many divisions within the Sanders campaign—between the dead-enders and the work-it-out crowds, between the younger aides who think he got off message while the consultants got rich and obsessed with Beltway-style super delegate math, and between the more experienced staffers who think the kids got way too high on their sense of the difference between a movement and an actual campaign.
But more than any of them, Sanders is himself filled with resentment, on edge, feeling like he gets no respect -- all while holding on in his head to the enticing but remote chance that Clinton may be indicted before the convention.
Convinced as Sanders is that he’s realizing his lifelong dream of being the catalyst for remaking American politics—aides say he takes credit for a Harvard Kennedy School study in April showing young people getting more liberal, and he takes personal offense every time Clinton just dismisses the possibility of picking him as her running mate—his guiding principle under attack has basically boiled down to a feeling that multiple aides sum up as: “Screw me? No, screw you.”
This isn’t about what’s good for the Democratic Party in his mind, but about what he thinks is good for advancing the agenda that he’s been pushing since before he got elected mayor of Burlington.
Sanders owns nearly every major decision, right down to the bills. A conversation with former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin about getting left in personal debt from his own 1992 presidential campaign has stayed at the top of Sanders’ mind.
Aides say Sanders thinks that progressives who picked Clinton are cynical, power-chasing chickens — like Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of his most consistent allies in the Senate before endorsing Clinton and campaigning hard for her ahead of the Ohio primary. Sanders is so bitter about it that he’d be ready to nix Brown as an acceptable VP choice, if Clinton ever asked his advice on who’d be a good progressive champion.
Every time Sanders got into a knife fight, aides say, they ended up losing. But they could never stop Sanders when he got his back up.
Top Sanders aides admit that it’s been weeks, if not months, since they themselves realized he wasn’t going to win, and they’ve been operating with a Trump’s-got-no-real-shot safety net. They debate whether Sanders’ role in the fall should be a full vote-for-Clinton campaign, or whether he should just campaign hard against Trump without signing up to do much for her directly.
They haven’t been able to get Sanders focused on any of that, or on the real questions about what kind of long term organization to build out of his email list. They know they’ll have their own rally in Philadelphia – outside the the convention hall—but that’s about as far as they’ve gotten.

Losing a campaign is hard, as I know from my own run for office years ago.  But part of Sanders' bitterness may be from the fact that in the last analysis, he has no one to blame but himself.  Whatever he decides to do, being bitter, angry and nasty will not attract sympathy or support over the long haul.  

The GOP and Donald Trump's Racism

For decades now, the Republican Party has used dog whistle racism to win the votes of those who like to see themselves as decent people, but who deep down long for white privilege and the "good old days."  Making matters worse, the party for decades has been prostituting itself to rabid Christofacsists who are (i) out of touch with reality, by definition, and (ii) more often than not, racists.  Along the way, sane, rational and decent people fled the party.  The culmination of this process has been Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee - a man who doesn't even engage in the pleasantry of using dog whistle calls to racism and bigotry.  Now that the GOP has made racism a key pillar to its identity, leaders who have encouraged the process are faced with the reality that a majority of Americans find both open racism and the GOP abhorrent.  Thus, the Paul Ryans of the party have the dilemma of determining how to proceed.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this self-created problem.  Here are highlights:
Paul Ryan appeared today in Washington, D.C.’s impoverished and overwhelmingly black Anacostia neighborhood to promote the House Republican agenda. The visit was steeped in racial symbolism, a long-planned photo op intended to convey Ryan’s no-doubt-sincere belief that his party’s policies would better the lives of the urban poor by freeing them from the dependence of subsidy (and, by reducing taxes and regulations on business owners, supplying them with more jobs). Unfortunately for Ryan, the visit came as the news media was in a full-blown frenzy over racist comments made by Donald Trump against Gonzalo Curiel, the judge in his fraud trial. The contradiction between the two could not be ignored.
The trouble for Republicans is that building a real-world constituency for these policies does rely on racism. Conservatives stopped the momentum of the New Deal in the mid-1960s only when they associated it with support for the black underclass. Republican politics has grown increasingly racialized over time, a trend that has dramatically accelerated during the Obama era.
Over the last eight years, the tension between these two things has grown unbearable for conservatives. Republican voting support is increasingly coterminous with white racial resentment even as conservatives firmly believe in their own racial innocence. Conservatives have built an alternative history in which racism, rather than migrating to the Republican Party as white Southerners revolted against the Democratic Party’s embrace of civil rights, remained in the Democratic Party all along.
Conservatives deny the existence of racism in the Republican Party as a matter of doctrinal sanctity, just as Soviet authorities had to officially deny the existence of poverty in the USSR.
Trump has ratcheted the tension between theory and reality to unbearable levels. Of course, Trump has exploited racism for years, from his public demand to execute what turned out to be innocent black youths a quarter-century ago to his birtherism to his crude bigotry toward Mexican and Muslim immigrants. But because his outbursts against Curiel are bigoted in such an undisguised fashion, with no policy pretext to hide behind, they forced the question into the open.
[T]he overwhelming majority of Republicans committed to supporting Trump have engaged in various tortured constructions. “I would not have said what he said, but then I don’t know all the facts,” asserted Senator Charles Grassley. “My experience with Donald Trump is he doesn’t have a prejudicial bone in his body,” said Orrin Hatch.
Even those Republicans willing to describe the statement as racist (and not merely as something that implied racism) presented it as a singular mistake that did not reflect their nominee’s belief system.
Ryan hates the words that come out of Trump’s mouth, but he draws no conclusions from them and will endorse him anyway because Trump will sign Ryan’s bills into law. “I do absolutely disavow those comments,” he pleaded. “I think they are wrong. I don’t think they are right-headed. And the thinking behind it is something I don’t personally relate to. But at the end of the day this is about ideas. This is about moving our agenda forward.” Somehow, once again, Ryan’s agenda found itself in the anomalous position of depending on a racist in order to prevail.