Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Trump and Fascism - The Label Fits
I remain saddened by the number of Republicans who refuse to open their eyes and see the descent of the Republican Party into something truly ugly - and very, very dangerous. While many refuse to face the reality, there are historic parallels that ought to be setting off alarm bells. While Donald Trump may not be Hitler reincarnated, his rhetoric and the hate and division he sows are very reminiscent of how Hitler came to power by playing on fears, attacking society elites, and scapegoating segments of society. Now, like the "good Germans" of the late 1920's and early 1930's, far too many "good Republicans" are allowing ugliness to flourish. A excellent, but lengthy piece in the New Yorker looks at the frightening parallels. Here are highlights:
The best show in New York right now may be the Guggenheim’s retrospective of the work of László Moholy-Nagy (pronounced “nadge,” not “nadgy,” a lesson hard learned). Born to a Jewish family in Hungary in 1895, he assimilated all the advances and visual novelties of the early part of the twentieth century, from Russia and Paris alike, and turned them into an adaptable graphic manner that made him one of the indispensable teachers at the Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany, in the nineteen-twenties, under Walter Gropius. When Hitler came to power, this citizen of cosmopolitanism then emigrated— . . .
[T]he Weimar Republic gets a very bad rap for how it ended and insufficient credit for how much creative ferment and intelligent thought it contained. The notion that it was above all, or unusually, decadent was a creation of its enemies, who defined the creative energies of cosmopolitanism in that way. All republics are fragile; the German one, like the Third French Republic it paralleled, did not commit suicide—it was killed, by many murderers, not least by those who thought they could contain an authoritarian thirsting for power.
[We] find ourselves back in a uniquely frightening moment in American life. A candidate for President who is the announced enemy of the openness that America has traditionally stood for and that drew persecuted émigrés like Moholy-Nagy to America as to a golden land, a candidate who embraces the mottos and rhetoric of the pro-fascist groups of that same wretched time, has taken over one of our most venerable political parties, and he seems still in the ascendancy. His language remains not merely sloppy or incendiary but openly hostile to the simplest standards of truth and decency that have governed American politics. Most recently, just this week, he has repeated the lie that there has been a call for “a moment of silence” in honor of the murderer of five policemen in Dallas.
This ought to be, as people said quaintly just four or five months ago, “disqualifying.” Nonetheless, his takeover of the Republican Party is complete, and, in various postures of spinelessness, its authorities accede to his authority, or else opportunistically posture for a place in the wake of it. Many of them doubtless assume that he will lose and are hoping for a better position afterward—still, the very small show of backbone that would be required to resist his takeover seems unavailable.
What is genuinely alarming is the urge, however human it may be, to normalize the abnormal by turning toward emotions and attitudes that are familiar. To their great credit, the editors of most of the leading conservative publications in America have recognized Trump for what he is, and have opposed his rise to power. Yet the habit of hatred is so ingrained in their psyches that even those who recognize at some level that Trump is a horror, when given the dangling bait of another chance to hate Hillary still leap at it, . . . attempting to equate this normal politician with an abnormal threat to political life itself. They do this, in part, to placate their readership. In the so-called mainstream (call it liberal) media, meanwhile, the election is treated with blithe inconsequence, as another occasion for strategy-weighing.
Trump is unstable, a liar, narcissistic, contemptuous of the basic norms of political life, and deeply embedded among the most paranoid and irrational of conspiracy theorists. There may indeed be a pathos to his followers’ dreams of some populist rescue for their plights. But he did not come to political attention as a “populist”; he came to politics as a racist, a proponent of birtherism.
[T]o call him [Trump] a fascist of some variety is simply to use a historical label that fits. The arguments about whether he meets every point in some static fascism matrix show a misunderstanding of what that ideology involves. . . . . What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history. It promises to turn back time and take no prisoners. That it can appeal to those who do not understand its consequences is doubtless true.
But the first job of those who do understand is to state what those consequences invariably are. Those who think that the underlying institutions of American government are immunized against it fail to understand history. In every historical situation where a leader of Trump’s kind comes to power, normal safeguards collapse. Ours are older and therefore stronger? Watching the rapid collapse of the Republican Party is not an encouraging rehearsal. Donald Trump has a chance to seize power.
No reasonable person, no matter how opposed to her politics, can believe for a second that Clinton’s accession to power would be a threat to the Constitution or the continuation of American democracy. No reasonable person can believe that Trump’s accession to power would not be.
Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Attack in Nice
|The fruits of fundamentalist religion|
Once again religion, and fundamentalist Islam in particular, is proving that it is a scourge on humanity, as the ISIS claims responsibility for the mass murders in Nice, France on the night of July 14, 2016. The Washington Post looks at the claim and also the Tunisian citizen who murdered so many, including 10 children. Like the shooter in Orlando, he seems to have been a loser with a failed marriage and even a petty criminal record but without known ties to ISIS or extremists. If the facts play out, it will be another example of religion preying on losers and promising them rewards in an afterlife with a mythical, magical friend in the sky. It's pitiful. Yet over the centuries religion, including Christianity, has made such promises over and over again. Also note that in the body of the piece ISIS references the crusaders who slaughtered Muslims nearly a thousand years ago. The toxicity of religion simply never ends. Here are highlights from the Post story:
NICE, France — The Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 84 in this coastal French city, the organization’s news agency said Saturday, as French prosecutors took three more people into custody in connection with the attack.
It remained unclear whether the Islamic State had directed the attack, whether they were taking responsibility for an attack that they may have inspired, or whether they were simply seeking publicity from an attack entirely disconnected from them. The Islamic-State-connected Amaq news agency cited an “insider source” saying that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, “was a soldier of the Islamic State.” The Islamic-State-connected Amaq news agency cited an “insider source” saying that Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, “was a soldier of the Islamic State.” “He executed the operation in response to calls to target citizens of coalition nations that fight the Islamic State,” the news agency wrote.
But the oblique claim of responsibility left open the question of whether Bouhlel had acted alone or had any prior communication with the group, which has also claimed ties to the attacks that struck Paris twice last year and Brussels in March. French authorities have been scrambling to determine whether Bouhlel had a support network in Nice, where he appears to have been living for at least six years.
Investigators on Saturday detained three additional people in connection with the attack, including one person who is believed to have spoken to Bouhlel by phone minutes before he started his deadly journey down Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, and an additional man was detained late Friday, according to the office of Paris prosecutor François Molins. Authorities also detained Bouhlel’s ex-wife Friday and were questioning her.
The scale of the carnage wrought by a Bouhlel came into grim focus Friday, with 10 children among the dead and 202 people injured. Among the wounded, 50 were “between life and death,” according to French President François Hollande.
The attack with a 19-ton rented Renault truck — the third mass casualty assault to hit to France in 18 months — shocked the nation and sparked questions about whether authorities had done enough to safeguard a country that is an obvious target of terrorist groups.
The identities of the victims testified to France’s diverse society and to the international appeal of the tony French Riviera. A vacationing father and his 11-year-old son from Lakeway, Tex. A headscarf-wearing Muslim woman who came to celebrate Bastille Day with her nieces and nephews. A French high school teacher, his wife, daughter and grandson. Others from Russia, Switzerland, Germany, Australia.
Bouhlel was a Tunisian citizen who had lived in Nice since at least 2010, when he first ran afoul of authorities by engaging in petty theft, according to Molins, the prosecutor. Most recently, he had been given a suspended six-month prison sentence related to a January assault, Molins said. In that case, Bouhlel’s former attorney told the local Nice-Matin newspaper, a motorist complained the truck driver was blocking the road during a delivery. Bouhlel took a swing at the motorist with a wooden beam, causing a deep wound, according to the lawyer’s account. Bouhlel is divorced and has three children, neighbors said. The prosecutor said the suspect’s ex-wife was taken in for questioning.
The Trump and Pence Shit Show
Having staked his campaign on rally angry whites who are terrified of losing their white privilege and/or the ability to inflict their right wing religious beliefs on all Americans, Donald Trump has cynically picked Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Other than experience in Congress where he voted for some things Trump claims to oppose, the only real value Pence brings is the fact that he is a white Christofascist's dream candidate given his stand on abortion which he would outlaw in all cases and his animus towards the LGBT community. The New York Times looks at Pence's selection in a main editorial. Here are excerpts:
The suspicions that Mr. Trump stirs among evangelicals made Mr. Pence, who was one of the most socially conservative members of the House in his six terms there, the most strategic pick among the uninspiring politicians on Mr. Trump’s shortlist. He is a better bet than the thrice-married, ethically compromised Newt Gingrich, or the unpopular, politically damaged Chris Christie. Unassuming and affable — until his Twitter account exploded with Hillary Clinton attacks this week — Mr. Pence knows how Washington works. And unlike the talkative and bewildering Sarah Palin, who never made it to the shortlist or to the convention speaker lineup, he won’t hog the spotlight or embarrass the boss.
Above all, Mr. Trump’s choice of Mr. Pence is a gesture to Republicans whose money he needs to win, and a move to pacify any conservatives who were scheming to derail his nomination at the convention until they were thwarted by party officials this week. But having the Indiana governor on the ticket does little to convince a struggling middle class that Mr. Trump aims to force the party into its corner.
Mr. Trump does not offer any real policies for creating jobs, and he has been faulted for his treatment of his own employees, but he does at least talk about the pain people are feeling. That’s more than can be said for Mr. Pence. Take the Carrier heating equipment factory in Mr. Pence’s own state. When it announced this year that it would move to Mexico and cut 1,400 Indiana jobs, Mr. Trump predicted that if he were president, Carrier would call “within 24 hours,” to say, “‘Sir, we’ve decided to stay in the United States.’”
What was Mr. Pence doing while workers in his state were worrying about their futures? He and the State Legislature were busy waging battle against same-sex marriage and passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, seen as a means for businesses to deny services to same-sex couples. The law was amended within days, after a national uproar and a corporate boycott that tourism officials estimated cost Indiana’s economy at least $60 million in lost convention business.
While in Congress, Mr. Pence endorsed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade pacts that Mr. Trump rails about. He voted for the Iraq war, which Mr. Trump says he opposed. A staunch anti-abortion conservative, in 2011 Mr. Pence led House Republicans’ efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which helped convince many Americans that Congress would rather engage in partisan brinkmanship than work on solving the country’s problems.
A poll last week found that only 12 percent of voters said Mr. Pence’s name on the ticket would make them more likely to cast a ballot for Mr. Trump. Among Republican voters 22 percent said it would.
For Mr. Pence’s audition in Indianapolis this week, he made a speech introducing Mr. Trump as a man who has “never forgotten or forsaken the people who work with their hands.” That’s surprising, since Mr. Trump’s record of forsaking working people is rather long. With Mr. Pence on the ticket, it gets only longer.
As for the Trump/Pence logo, some are having a field day about it standing for toilet paper and insinuated other hysterical things about the insertion of the "T" into the "P."
Friday, July 15, 2016
Has Hillary Finally Found Her Voice?
Living in Virginia, a "battleground state," we are already seeing plenty of presidential campaign ads, although most to date - other than a foul and dishonest ad being run by the NRA - are for Democrat Hillary Clinton. So far, the ads have been first class and effective, focusing in large part on Donald Trump's unfitness for office, especially the presidency. With the Democrat convention not far off and providing an opportunity to counter whatever batshitery - and potential circus - that takes place in Cleveland, Hillary needs to come up with a knock them dead speech. Hopefully, she rises to the challenge. A piece in Politico looks at the process for a candidate who (like myself) doesn't truly like public speaking notwithstanding her command of the facts. Here are highlights:
Hillary Clinton was about to get clobbered in the New Hampshire primary, and her campaign still didn’t have a message explaining why she was the right person for the job.
The entire episode illustrated Clinton’s paradox: on the one hand, she’s a deeply involved candidate who trusts her own instincts. But on the other, she still struggles, after all these years, when it comes to messaging — and remains almost hostile to the idea of a narrative that Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and even Donald Trump seem to craft so naturally.
But after Schwerin and Sullivan pushed back, telling her they believed “Breaking Down Barriers” was her best chance at turning things around, and Chelsea piped up and took their side, a skeptical Clinton agreed that if Schwerin wrote it up into a speech, she would give it a shot in her concession speech that night.
Today, campaign officials credit that framework with stabilizing the campaign during the darkest days of the primary — and even Clinton eventually agreed to make it her rubric as the primary headed toward the South.
In truth, the concept was fine but not great. “Breaking Down Barriers didn’t set the country on fire, but it gave us a construct and argument,” said a top Clinton official. “It was a way of focusing ourselves.”
But it’s also deeper than just a speechwriting problem — it's about how the most experienced person to ever run for the White House continues to struggle with one of the most basic parts of the job: committing to a message that helps establish a general sense of affection from the electorate.
Clinton is fortunate in that the problem is diminished in this year’s general election — campaigning as the anti-Trump has quickly consolidated Democratic support over the past six weeks. And she has connected, at moments, with the history-making aspect of her run, speaking emotionally about the influence of her mother, Dorothy Rodham.
But the struggle continues as she tries to find her voice — one day preaching a mantra of “love and kindness,” the next positioning herself as a street fighter. And it falls on Schwerin, Sullivan and their speechwriting team, whose daily assignment is to craft speeches for a reluctant candidate who would feel more comfortable giving a policy seminar.
Now Clinton confronts one of the biggest speeches of her campaign to date: the convention address, where she will accept the party nomination. Democrats close to the campaign said she can probably slide by with a paint-by-numbers anti-Trump screed. But they’re hoping she is able to do something more — to articulate a message that makes her something more than "likeable enough."
But even the more methodical and wonky Clinton seems to understand the need for something bigger than herself, and beyond dry policy details, on convention night.
Ahead of her speech on the night she clinched the Democratic nomination, for instance, Clinton told Schwerin to capture some of what she saw on rope lines across the country: fathers bringing their daughters to witness history. "Bigger," was her main feedback, draft after draft. She wanted the speech to to stand apart from any standard primary night victory speech. It was Schwerin who suggested using her mother, Dorothy Rodham, as the emotional core of the address, which Clinton latched onto.
The general election slogan, “Stronger Together,” will be the binding theme of her convention address, aides said. The challenge for Schwerin in the coming weeks will be how to put meat on those bones.
“Hillary’s challenge is to make ‘stronger together’ more than a bumper sticker or a tagline for an ad,” Favreau said. “She has to own it. She has to make it hers. And that means vividly and passionately painting a picture of what ‘stronger together’ looks like for America. ‘Change We Can Believe In’ by itself was nothing to write home about. It only worked because Obama was always ready with specific examples, policies, and stories that helped illustrate what change really meant.”
Donald Trump and the Incurious Mike Pence:
While The Donald is claiming that he has not yet selected his VP running mate, most speculation is that it will be Indiana governor Mike Pence - a man who is no friend to the LGBT community and who set off a fire storm with corporate America when he signed Indiana's falsely named "religious freedom" law last year. Naturally, given the GOP's most extreme and anti-gay platform every, Pence is the choice of most Christofascists, including those here in Virginia who often rally under the flag of The Family Foundation, a hate group in all but formal designation. A piece in Salon looks at Pence and why he is a perfect fit for Trump's racist and xenophobic agenda. Here are excerpts:
A lowly pool has been reduced to four B-list candidates: Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Jeff Sessions, three of whom found their way to Indianapolis on Wednesday (Christie reportedly spoke with Trump over the phone). You could make a case for all four. As I wrote last week, both Newt and Christie are plagued by scandals (much like Trump) and have bottomed out as politicians. Neither has much to lose at this point, which makes joining Trump’s dumpster fire campaign less risky. Sessions is a largely unknown conservative senator from Alabama. An anti-immigration culture warrior, he was among the first Republicans to publicly endorse Trump. But he’s the obvious outsider here. Of the final four, Sessions seems least likely to get the nod.
Although it’s still unofficial, The Washington Post is reporting that Pence is the pick. If true, that makes the most sense for Trump, and here’s why.
First, we have to remember that Trump’s campaign is essentially a TV production. As such, he needs a hype man, someone who can pump propaganda without overshadowing the star of the show. . . . The Republican nominee wants an “attack dog,” but not someone who can upstage him. Both Gingrich and Christie, in their own ways, are capable of this.
Pence, however, appears quite comfortable playing second fiddle, and he clearly wants the job. He’s prostrated himself before Trump, lobbying about as hard as any candidate I’ve seen. And his Twitter feed is littered with over-the-top pleas. . . . Normally, VP nominees feign indifference, dismissing inquiries or referring reporters to the presidential candidates. The idea is to express interest without careening into desperation. But this is not how Pence rolls. . . . Right out of the gate, Pence lavished praise on Trump, making it all about him.
If Pence believes Trump is the greatest leader since Reagan, why did he endorse Ted Cruz for president 10 weeks ago? Trump “never turned his back on Main Street”? We know Trump loves “the poorly educated,” but I doubt that’s what Pence means by “Main Street.” We know Trump has outsourced much of his labor in order to cut costs and avoid paying American workers a livable wage. Was that a boon for “Main Street?” We know that Trump inherited $40 million dollars from his father and has now convinced hordes of working-class whites that he feels their pain and knows their struggle. Perhaps that’s what Pence is referencing here. . . . The goal was to show Trump how effectively he can wag the pom poms. On that score, he succeeded.
There’s another, perhaps more obvious reason why Pence wants this job: He might lose his. After his disastrous attempt to impose the anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoraction Act on Indianans in 2015, Pence’s popularity has plummeted. Even the business community turned against him. According to a May poll, his approval rating is down to 40 percent, with only 60 percent of Republicans supporting his re-election. The Indiana GOP would be happy to dispense with Pence and make way for a more attractive candidate.
In any event, a man this shameless in his pursuit of the nomination suits Trump well. Trump likes lackeys, and he appears to have found one in Pence. And because he’s staring down defeat in his home state, a VP nomination is an escape hatch for the Indiana governor, a chance to skirt failure and boost his national brand. Pence is also a safe pick with less baggage than Newt and Christie and a fair amount of experience on Capitol Hill. In addition to bowing to Trump, he’ll appeal to social conservatives and bring message discipline to a campaign without any.
So Pence might not be the sexiest pick for Trump, but he’s the safest. And considering the paucity of respectable candidates willing to stand on a stage with Trump, this is as good as it gets.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
LGBT Activist Nicole Carry Appointed to Norfolk City Council
The world is truly changing in Hampton Roads for LGBT Virginians, especially in the city of Norfolk where my good friend and former fellow HRBOR board member, Nicole Carry has been appointed to hold an interim seat on Norfolk City Council. Less than 13 years ago I was fired by a large law firm for being gay - Virginia still has zero employment protections for LGBT citizens - and now Pride Fest is the city's second largest festival, HRBOR has grown by leaps and bounds, and now an LGBT activist has been appointed to Norfolk City Council. Kudos to Nicole!! Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:
Nicole Carry, 46, is believed to be the first Navy veteran to serve on Norfolk’s council in recent history, as well as the first gay council member.The City Council chose a Navy veteran and gay-rights activist Thursday to temporarily fill a council seat in the ward that includes the world’s largest naval base.
She had applied for the seat a month ago but was surprised when she got it after a round of public interviews Thursday afternoon.
“Wow. Awesome!” Carry said when council members called her to tell her she’d beaten out six other people for the post.
Later, she said she was proud of Norfolk for making a progressive choice.
“It wasn’t that long ago I was in the Navy and being witch-hunted,” said Carry, who identifies as lesbian. She served from 1991 to 1997, a time when service members could not be openly gay.
Carry will be sworn in oday and will be on the dais for Tuesday’s regular council meeting. She replaces Andy Protogyrou, who served on the council for six years but had to step down in the middle of a term because he ran unsuccessfully for mayor.
Carry is expected to serve for less than two months and participate in, at most, three meetings. A special election is scheduled for Aug. 23 to let voters choose someone to represent Ward 1 until June 2018. Carry does not plan to run for the seat .
“This would never have happened on the last council,” Smigiel said. He noted that most applicants admitted they could accomplish little in just a few weeks on the council – but not Carry.
An information-technology consultant who has lived in Norfolk for more than 20 years, Carry has advocated for city government to be more innovative in education and technology.
She hopes to get Norfolk schools to partner with Code Virginia, a group that trains teachers on how to instruct students in computer science and coding. And she has been pushing the city for about three years to create an information-technology commission that she says would spur technological innovation.
After publicly interviewing all seven candidates over nearly two hours, the council discussed the choices behind closed doors for a few minutes. They then returned to public session and unanimously appointed Carry, the only woman among the seven.
“She just blew it out of the water,” Mayor Kenny Alexander said, calling her a progressive whose IT and military experience and command of issues clearly put her at the top of the list.
It has been truly amazing to see and be a part of the LGBT community going mainstream in this region even as the "godly folk" slowly are losing their power and influence.
"Nones" Are Now America's Largest Religious Voting Bloc
On much more positive news, especially compared to the previous post, is that the "Nones" or non-religious are now the largest voting bloc in America. It's a reality that is apparently lost on the Republican Party which is taking self-prostitution to Christofascists to shockingly new levels. Indeed, Nones mow make up 21% of registered voters. The next closest group is Catholics at 20% who tie with far less rational white evangelicals 78% of whom say they would vote for Donald Trump if the presidential election was held today per Pew Research Center. The same Pew survey found that Nones are rallying to Hillary Clinton. Stated another way, the evangelicals favor hate, bigotry and religious based discrimination while the non-religious find such misogyny unacceptable. Here are highlights from the Wonk Blog:
More American voters than ever say they are not religious, making the religiously unaffiliated the nation's biggest voting bloc by faith for the first time in a presidential election year. This marks a dramatic shift from just eight years ago, when the non-religious were roundly outnumbered by Catholics, white mainline Protestants and white evangelical Protestants.
These numbers come from a new Pew Research Center survey, which finds that "religious 'nones,' who have been growing rapidly as a share of the U.S. population, now constitute one-fifth of all registered voters and more than a quarter of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters." That represents a 50 percent increase in the proportion of non-religious voters compared with eight years ago, when they made up just 14 percent of the overall electorate.
The growth of the non-religious -- about 54 percent of whom are Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 23 percent at least leaning Republican -- could provide a political counterweight to white evangelical Protestants, a historically powerful voting bloc for Republicans. In 2016, 35 percent of Republican voters identify as white evangelicals, while 28 percent of Democratic voters say they have no religion at all.
[Unfortunately] Exit polls of people who actually cast votes -- as opposed to preelection polls of registered voters -- have traditionally shown that the unaffiliated underperform at the ballot box relative to their raw numbers. . . . Smith also points out that the unaffiliated tend to be younger than the religious and that young people tend to vote less than older people.
Still, the Pew study finds other evidence that religion may be becoming a less potent force at the ballot box. In 2008, for instance, 72 percent of voters said it was important for a president to have strong religious beliefs. That number is down to 62 percent today.
Similarly, Americans see religious institutions as playing a smaller role in the public sphere. In 2008, 75 percent said that churches and other houses of worship contributed a great deal to solving social problems. Today, that number has fallen to 58 percent.
France Struck By Another Apparent Terror Attack
While no one has yet claimed responsibility, holiday revelers in Nice, France were targeted in a mass attack involving a tractor trailer running over pedestrians on a main street closed to traffic following a fireworks displace in honor of Bastille Day, a national holiday. Some estimates have as many as 77 dead and hundreds injured. All indications are that the driver of the truck intentionally struck as many people as possible and some reports state that the driver also shot into the crowd before being shot and killed by police. Other reports indicate that the trailer was filled with explosives and grenades. If this does prove to be another Islamic terror attack, it again shows that France and other secular nations with guarantees of freedom of and from religion are the antithesis to what religious fundamentalists want (including, Christian fundamentalist in America) . Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post:A truck rammed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French Riviera city of Nice on Thursday night, killing at least 70 people in an apparent terrorist attack as the driver also opened fire on revelers, French officials said.
The truck struck the crowd on the Promenade des Anglais, a seaside walk in the center of the city in southern France, authorities said. More than 50 people were reported injured. The driver fired on the crowd before being shot to death by police, officials said.
Christian Estrosi, a former mayor of Nice and currently president of the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, put the death toll at 75. He said in one of a series of Twitter messages that the truck was carrying arms and explosives when it struck the crowd at about 10:30 p.m. local time.
Estrosi told BFM TV that “the driver fired on the crowd, according to the police who killed him.” He added that the driver’s behavior appeared to be “completely premeditated.”
There was no immediate information on the identity of the driver or what motivated his action.
Local authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and urging people to stay home, the French television channel BFM TV reported. It occurred as a large crowd was watching a fireworks display celebrating the French national holiday.
In Washington, President Obama released a statement Thursday night condemning “what appears to be a horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France.” He said he has directed his team to get in touch with French officials to assist with the investigation into the attack.
"We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack,” the statement said.
CNN quoted an American witness as saying he saw one person in the large white truck and heard gunfire, although it was not clear whether it came from the driver or was being fired at the vehicle. The witness said the driver accelerated as he was mowing people down.
If this turns out to be a religious extremist attack by a lone wolf or otherwise underscores my belief that taken as a whole, religion is a a toxic force in the world that is best eliminated.
White Delusions on Race
In the wake of the Dallas shooting of police officers and the murder of black males that seemingly precipitated the Dallas tragedy, America is once again discussing the issue of racism in America and, as has been the historical precedent, far too many whites are pretending that no problem exists. It's akin to Virginia Republicans who claim the LGBT Virginians don't face discrimination in the state even as we continue to be fired from jobs solely because of our sexual orientation - and Republican refusal to support non-discrimination protections. Statistics show that blacks are disproportionately arrested and targeted by police. Likewise, go to any majority black public school and the odds are the school will be inferior to those in majority white neighborhoods. Pretending that these realities don't exist is delusional - and self-centered, a trait especially notable in the white Christian "godly folk" crowd who care nothing for anyone other than themselves. A column in the New York Times looks at the history of white delusion and self-deception. Here are excerpts:
In 1962, 85 percent of white Americans told Gallup that black children had as good a chance as white kids of getting a good education. The next year, in another Gallup survey, almost half of whites said that blacks had just as good a chance as whites of getting a job.
In retrospect, we can see that these white beliefs were delusional, and in other survey questions whites blithely acknowledged racist attitudes. In 1963, 45 percent said that they would object if a family member invited a black person home to dinner.
This complacency among us white Americans has been a historical constant. Even in the last decade, almost two-thirds of white Americans have said that blacks are treated fairly by the police, and four out of five whites have said that black children have the same chance as white kids of getting a good education. In short, the history of white Americans’ attitudes toward race has always been one of self-deception.
As it happens, the trauma surgeon running the Dallas emergency room last Thursday when seven police officers were brought in with gunshot wounds is a black man, Brian Williams. He fought to save the lives of those officers and wept for those he couldn’t help. But in other contexts he dreads the police: He told The Associated Press that after one traffic stop he was stretched out spread-eagle on the hood of a police car.
Williams shows his admiration for police officers by sometimes picking up their tabs at restaurants, but he also expressed his feelings for the police this way to The Washington Post: “I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you.”
That’s a narrative that many white Americans are oblivious to. Half of white Americans today say that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks. Really? That contradicts overwhelming research showing that blacks are more likely to be suspended from preschool, to be prosecuted for drug use, to receive longer sentences, to be discriminated against in housing, to be denied job interviews, to be rejected by doctors’ offices, to suffer bias in almost every measurable sector of daily life.
In my mind, an even bigger civil rights outrage in America than abuses by some police officers may be an education system that routinely sends the neediest black students to underfunded, third-rate schools, while directing bountiful resources to affluent white schools.
“If America is to be America, we have to engage in a larger conversation than just the criminal justice system,” notes Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. “If you were to examine most of the institutions that underpin our democracy — higher education, K-12 education, the housing system, the transportation system, the criminal justice system — you will find systemic racism embedded in those systems.”
A starting point is for us whites to wake from our ongoing mass delusions, to recognize that in practice black lives have not mattered as much as white lives, and that this is an affront to values that we all profess to believe in.
Anti-Transgender Gloucester County Appeals to SCOTUS
|The anti-transgender Gloucester County School Board - the face of hate and ignorance|
Having been rebuffed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals three times now, the Gloucester County School Board has appealed its losses on the issue of the treatment of transgender students to the United States Supreme Court. In addition, it has asked the high court to stay the 4th Circuit's ruling in favor of 17 year old Gavin Grimm pending the Court's decision of the case. I'm hoping that SCOTUs both refuses the stay and refuses to take the case - a possibility heightened by the Court's current 8 justice membership. The bottom line issue driving this case is the school board's desire to pander to Christofascists who began lobbying the board when it was learned that the board planned to accommodate Grimm's needs. Take away the religious extremists and the case would never have occurred. The Washington Post looks at the board's latest effort at self-prostitution to the forces of hate. Here are excerpts:
A school board that has been ordered to allow a transgender student to use the boys’ high school bathroom has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the order, arguing that it will cause “irreparable harm” and violate the privacy of students.
The Gloucester County, Va. School Board, which is being sued for passing a policy that barred a transgender student from the boys’ bathroom, said it hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on the matter. In the interim, it is asking the high court to allow it to continue banning the transgender boy from the boys’ room while attorneys prepare a writ of certiorari to the nation’s highest court. Currently, the court’s order would mean transgender students could use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity when school returns for the coming academic year.
Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old rising senior at Gloucester High filed a lawsuit against the School Board last year after the board passed a policy requiring students to use bathrooms based on their “biological gender.” Grimm alleged that the policy barring him from the boys’ bathroom violated his civil rights and ran afoul of Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in public schools.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sided with the teen in April, deferring to the Obama administration’s position that transgender students are entitled to use bathrooms that match their gender identity under Title IX. It was the highest court to rule on the question of how to accommodate transgender students in public schools. A federal judge later granted Grimm a preliminary injunction ordering the School Board to allow Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom while the case proceeds.
In a filing to the high court Wednesday, the School Board again asked for the case to be paused — and to keep Grimm out of the boys’ bathroom — until the case concludes.
Joshua Block, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, also has disputed the notion that allowing Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom would cause the sort of harm the school board describes.
“The only thing this injunction does is let Gavin use the boys’ restroom,” Block said last week. “The notion that simply allowing one boy to use the restroom during his senior year of high school would cause the sky to fall is impossible to take seriously.”
To the Christofascists the sky will fall because they will lose the ability to punish transgender students who fail to conform to the hate and ignorance based beliefs of the "godly folk."
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Wall Street Shuns Trump's "Shit Show" Cleveland Convention
Traditionally big business and Wall Street firms are viewed as the stalwart supporters of the Republican Party and often send personnel in droves to the GOP conventions. Not so this year based on a piece in Politico. It seems that many corporate CEO's and Wall Street players see the GOP convention in Cleveland as potentially too toxic and potentially insulting to potential clients. Indeed, one Goldman Sachs referred to the coming convention as a "shit show" to be avoided. In addition to Trump's own divisiveness, the GOP platform as it has emerged so far is the most extreme and hate-filled of any ever put forward. Here are highlights from the Politico piece:
Wall Street executives are hitting the sell button on the GOP convention in Cleveland next week.
Bankers typically use the quadrennial Republican Party gathering to schmooze clients, host parties and flaunt their connections to the nominee and other senior officials. In 2012, they flooded the Tampa Bay area to celebrate one of the industry’s favorite sons, Mitt Romney, getting the nomination.
But with real estate mogul Donald Trump running on an anti-trade, populist platform — while sporting sky-high unpopularity ratings — many bankers and traders want nothing to do with the convention this year.
Neither do most corporate CEOs. The prospect of Trump bashing trade deals and talking about building a wall with Mexico, coupled with the threat of potentially disruptive protests, is largely keeping the financial world away from Cleveland.
“With Trump you have what is a fairly divisive campaign and you have the potential of unnecessarily offending a whole bunch of people if you show up there in a prominent way,” said Matt McDonald, a partner at consulting firm Hamilton Place Strategies, which does business with some of the nation’s biggest banks. “On top of that, a lot of the people that you might want to get in front of for one reason or another are not going to be there.”
McDonald cited the long roster of senior Republican lawmakers skipping the convention as one major reason financial executives don’t feel the need to raise the flag in Cleveland.
So far, no major Wall Street CEOs have said they plan to attend the convention. JPMorgan Chase, which played a sponsorship role in 2012, declined to do so this year. Goldman Sachs will also be largely absent, as will Morgan Stanley and Bank of America. Citigroup plans only a low-key presence.
And unlike in 2012, when rank-and-file Wall Streeters were all over Tampa, many bankers and lobbyists who typically make the rounds will be taking a pass. “I’m just going to skip it because, frankly, I don’t see the point in going,” said a senior lobbyist for one of the largest banks in the nation. “Usually there is pressure to at least show up, but with Trump you get a pass. No one is going to care if you don’t go.”
At Goldman, typically one of the most politically engaged banks on Wall Street, there may be almost no one at all going to Cleveland. “I asked around and couldn’t find a single person who planned to be there,” said one Goldman executive who declined to be quoted by name. “Most people who want to see someone from the Trump campaign can do it some other place at some other time. And the potential is there for Cleveland to be a complete shit show. It’s a real problem for executives because if you go, you are certainly going to offend women and minority groups within your own company.”
Corporate unease with the GOP convention extends well beyond Wall Street. Google and Coca-Cola, after playing significant roles at Romney’s convention in 2012, backed away this year after pressure from activists.
But from a fundraising perspective, Wall Street's absence from Cleveland could be the most ominous sign for the Trump campaign. Because while Trump may not want high-profile Wall Street executives endorsing him — he has run as a populist who wants to fix a “rigged” system — he desperately needs their money.
Wall Street is typically a fundraising bonanza for GOP presidential candidates. Romney, a former executive at private equity firm Bain Capital, raised over $60 million from the financial industry in 2012, compared with just over $20 million for President Barack Obama.
Many Wall Street executives staying away from Cleveland are taking their cues from some of the biggest names in the industry who have distanced themselves from Trump. Paul Singer, founder of giant hedge-fund group Elliott Management and among the most influential donors in the GOP, said at the Aspen Ideas conference in Colorado last month that a Trump presidency would be a disaster.
“The most impactful of the economic policies that I recall him coming out for are these anti-trade policies,” he said. “And I think if he actually stuck to those policies and gets elected president, it’s close to a guarantee of a global depression, widespread global depression.”
Hank Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs and Treasury secretary under George W. Bush, also recently said he could not back Trump and would instead be supporting Clinton. . . . Paulson wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “The GOP, in putting Trump at the top of the ticket, is endorsing a brand of populism rooted in ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism.”
The risk of violence in the convention is secondary as security will be strong inside the perimeter. This is more a function of whether Mr. Trump and the ideas he most represents are homogenous with a company's brand and business plan."
But Clinton is hoovering up Wall Street cash as bankers hedge against the risks of a Trump presidency. Clinton and groups supporting her campaign raised $32 million from the securities and investment industry through June to virtually nothing for Trump.
And Philadelphia is likely to be friendlier terrain for bank lobbyists and industry executives hoping to play roles in a Clinton White House. “I’m skipping Cleveland but going to Philly,” the senior lobbyist from the large bank said. “But that’s partly just because Philly is on the way to visit my kids at camp.”
Trump Fuels Resistance of Whites in Decline
With Donald Trump's strongest support coming from working class white males with a high school education or less, it quickly becomes obvious that Trump is preying on these citizens who have lost out to the forces of globalization and the growing requirement of a college degree for meaningful long term employment. Hence Trump's targeting of immigrants, minorities and non-Christians who are easy targets of the angst and hatred that are the core of Trump's base. Make no mistake, by "Make America Great Again," Trump means the reinstatement of unchallenged white privilege. A lengthy piece in the New York Times looks at Trump's pandering to these voters and the manner in which he has mainstreamed hate and bigotry and won the cheers of white supremacist organizations. Here are article highlights which I find very disturbing. Here are article excerpts:
In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.
Mr. Trump has attacked Mexicans as criminals. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has wondered aloud why the United States is not “letting people in from Europe.”
His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.
But in doing so, Mr. Trump has also opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life.
On the internet, Mr. Trump is invoked by anonymous followers brandishing stark expressions of hate and anti-Semitism, surprisingly amplified this month when Mr. Trump tweeted a graphic depicting Hillary Clinton’s face with piles of cash and a six-pointed star that many viewed as a Star of David.
“I think what we really find troubling is the mainstreaming of these really offensive ideas,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate groups. “It’s allowed some of the worst ideas into the public conversation in ways we haven’t seen anything like in recent memory.”
The resentment among whites feels both old and distinctly of this moment. It is shaped by the reality of demographic change, by a decade and a half of war in the Middle East, and by unease with the newly confident and confrontational activism of young blacks furious over police violence. It is mingled with patriotism, pride, fear and a sense that an America without them at its center is not really America anymore.
In making the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread, Mr. Trump has galvanized the otherwise marginal world of avowed white nationalists and self-described “race realists.” They hail him as a fellow traveler who has driven millions of white Americans toward an intuitive embrace of their ideals: that race should matter as much to white people as it does to everyone else. He has freed Americans, those activists say, to say what they really believe.
Demographers began to speak of a not-too-distant future when non-Hispanic whites would be a minority of the American population. In states like Texas and California, and in hundreds of cities and counties around the country, that future has arrived. It is the changes that are taking place that have created the national constituency for Donald Trump,” Mr. Buchanan said.
For many Americans, President Obama’s election, made possible in part by the rising strength of nonwhite voters, signaled a transcendent moment in the country’s knotty racial history. But for some whites, the election of the country’s first black president was also a powerful symbol of their declining pre-eminence in American society.
Few politicians were better prepared than Mr. Trump to harness these shifts. While open racism against blacks remains among the most powerful taboos in American politics, Americans feel more free expressing worries about illegal immigrants and dislike of Islam, survey research shows. In Mr. Trump’s hands, the two ideas merged: During Mr. Obama’s presidency, he has become America’s most prominent “birther,” loudly questioning Mr. Obama’s American citizenship and suggesting he could be Muslim.
In June 2015, two weeks after Mr. Trump entered the presidential race, he received an endorsement that would end most campaigns: The Daily Stormer embraced his candidacy.
Founded in 2013 by a 32-year-old neo-Nazi named Andrew Anglin, The Daily Stormer is among the most prominent online gathering places for white nationalists and anti-Semites, with sections devoted to “The Jewish Problem” and “Race War.” Mr. Anglin explained that although he had some disagreements with him, Mr. Trump was the only candidate willing to speak the truth about Mexicans. . . . across this spectrum, in Mr. Trump’s descriptions of immigrants as vectors of disease, violent crime and social decay, they heard their own dialect.
Mr. Taylor, who has written that blacks “left entirely to their own devices” are incapable of civilization, and whose magazine, American Renaissance, once published an essay arguing that blacks were genetically more prone to crime, wrote on his blog that Mr. Trump had handled the attacks on him “in the nicest way.”
[O]n the flatlands of social media, the border between Mr. Trump and white supremacists easily blurs. He has retweeted supportive messages from racist or nationalist Twitter accounts to his nine million followers. Last fall, he retweeted a graphic with fictitious crime statistics claiming that 81 percent of white homicide victims in 2015 were killed by blacks. (No such statistic was available for 2015 at the time; the actual figure for 2014 was 15 percent, according to the F.B.I.)
In January and February he retweeted messages from a user with the handle @WhiteGenocideTM, whose profile picture is of George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. A couple of days later, in quick succession, he retweeted two more accounts featuring white nationalist or Nazi themes.
All of which makes me re-post this image in challenge to Trump supporters:In fact, Mr. Trump’s Twitter presence is tightly interwoven with hordes of mostly anonymous accounts trafficking in racist and anti-Semitic attacks.
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