Saturday, July 23, 2016

Washington Post: Trump is a Unique Threat to American democracy

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an unprecedented full page editorial focusing on the dangers of a Donald Trump presidency.  The editorial echoes many of my own fears and concerns - fears and concerns to which the Republican base seems oblivious as it clamors for a ruler much as Germans clamored for a dictator in the form of Adolph Hitler.  I find it frightening that so many Americans are blind to the threat that Trump and his movement represent.  Here are some excerpts from the editorial:
DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions.
Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.
Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril.  . . . we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.
Why are we so sure? Start with experience. It has been 64 years since a major party nominated anyone for president who did not have electoral experience. That experiment turned out pretty well — but Mr. Trump, to put it mildly, is no Dwight David Eisenhower. Leading the Allied campaign to liberate Europe from the Nazis required strategic and political skills of the first order, and Eisenhower — though he liked to emphasize his common touch as he faced the intellectual Democrat Adlai Stevenson — was shrewd, diligent, humble and thoughtful.
Given his continuing refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with a long bipartisan tradition, it is only reasonable to assume there are aspects of his record even more discreditable than what we know.
The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice. In fact, what makes Mr. Trump so unusual is his combination of extreme neediness and unbridled arrogance.  . . . . He also is contemptuous of fact. Throughout the campaign, he has unspooled one lie after another. . . . It is impossible to know whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care. It is also difficult to know which trait would be more frightening in a commander in chief.
 Given his ignorance, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Trump offers no coherence when it comes to policy. . . . Worse than the flip-flops is the absence of any substance in his agenda. 
What the candidate does offer is a series of prejudices and gut feelings, most of them erroneous. Allies are taking advantage of the United States. Immigrants are committing crimes and stealing jobs. Muslims hate America. In fact, Japan and South Korea are major contributors to an alliance that has preserved a peace of enormous benefit to Americans. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans and take jobs that no one else will. 
The Trump litany of victimization has resonated with many Americans whose economic prospects have stagnated. They deserve a serious champion, and the challenges of inequality and slow wage growth deserve a serious response. But Mr. Trump has nothing positive to offer, only scapegoats and dark conspiracy theories.  In a dangerous world, Mr. Trump speaks blithely of abandoning NATO, encouraging more nations to obtain nuclear weapons and cozying up to dictators who in fact wish the United States nothing but harm. For eight years, Republicans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” for America and for weakening alliances. Now they put forward a candidate who mimics the vilest propaganda of authoritarian adversaries about how terrible the United States is and how unfit it is to lecture others. He has made clear that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.
Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document.  . . . Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. 
Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.
Mr. Trump campaigns by insult and denigration, insinuation and wild accusation . . . The Republican Party has moved the lunatic fringe onto center stage, with discourse that renders impossible the kind of substantive debate upon which any civil democracy depends.
Many Americans do not like either candidate this year . We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 3

Trump’s Proposed First Move Eerily Like Hitler’s

I and many others who have a knowledge of accurate history, unlike Republicans who swallow the revisionist history pumped out by Fox News and faux historians like David Barton, continue to see frightening parallels between Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler.  Some say that focusing of these parallels goes too far, but I beg to differ, Words and actions matter, especially when words point to dangerous possibilities.  A column in Huffington Post looks at how one of Trump's first proposed moves is eerily like what Adolph Hitler did in his rise to power.  Here are highlights:
As a Jew, I don’t like people making Hitler comparisons. I don’t like when they do it to President Obama. I didn’t like when people did it to President Bush. There was only one Hitler, and we have not had a politician who rose to that level — yet.
That said, a chill went down my spine when I saw private remarks from Chris Christie, regarding one of Donald Trump’s first moves, if he is elected. Reuters reports:
If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.
Why is this scary? It is literally one of the first moves made by Adolf Hitler, upon democratically attaining power.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed just two months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
It was such a major piece of his plan to ultimately become dictator, that the Holocaust Museum notes it on their timeline of events:
The German government issues the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums), which excludes Jews and other political opponents of the Nazis from all civil service positions.
Gutting government of any civil service officers who are not completely and blindly loyal to the new leader usually is one of the first moves of someone looking to become a dictator. Another act is one Trump previously voiced support for - tighter control over a free press. . . . 
Whether dictatorship is the overt intent of Donald Trump or not, what cannot be denied is that a move like this runs completely counter to the very idea of our Republic, whose very Constitution goes to very, very great lengths to prevent usurping of that kind of power.
Whether it is Saddam, or Stalin, going after the bureaucracy, purging it, and installing loyalists is almost always a first step for a rising dictator.  Apparently, that has not gone unnoticed by Trump, who openly admires Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Saddam Hussein.
This is not hyperbole.  This is not a joke.  This is real.
Donald Trump’s man in charge of putting together a government seriously just said that one of Donald Trump’s first moves will be the same as one of Hitler’s.

The Media's Complicity in Allowing Trump to Falsely Appear LGBT Friendly

Trump and hate group leaders James Dobson and Tony Perkins

I often criticize the media for its laziness when it comes to doing little more than unquestioningly mouthing whatever is handed to it by the right wing and, worse yet Christofascists, that allows frightening candidates like Donald Trump to get away with a false narrative.  Nowhere is this complicity in furthering lies more pronounced that the media myth that Donald trump is LGBT friendly.  The narrative flies in the face of reality given the GOP's adoption of the most anti-LGBT platform ever.  It flies in the face of Trumps meeting with and promises to 400 anti-gay extremists last month.  Michelangelo Signorile has a column that rightly takes the lazy media to task.  Here are excerpts:
Indiana governor Mike Pence is of course among the most extreme governors in the country on abortion and LGBT rights. And we’ve seen reports that in fact Donald Trump will hand the actual running of the country to his vice president, making him the most powerful vice president in history.
But Trump can count on much of the media falling for stock phrases, engaging in superficial coverage and often running with a false narrative that the Trump campaign hands to journalists on Trump and LGBT issues rather than doing the most basic reporting and offering up an accurate narrative. Throughout the campaign, Trump has often been treated to a different standard than other political candidates.
So, from the stage last night in Cleveland, Donald Trump said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology, believe me,” in the context of his fear-mongering about foreign terrorism and how the country was supposedly in chaos and inadequately responding to the threat. And ABC News, in coverage similar to other news organizations, focused on the “historic” use of the term “LGBTQ” by a GOP presidential candidate without including the context of the “historic,” extreme anti-LGBT GOP platform, and Trump’s own extreme positions, including promising religious conservatives – on the Christian Broadcasting Network, on Fox News, in a town hall with Pat Robertson ― that he would overturn the historic Obergefell ruling, which he’d called “shocking.”
CNN this morning characterized the comments in the speech as an example of Trump “embracing” the LGBT community. The report did acknowledge the anti-LGBT platform, but only to note that it is – supposedly – in sharp “contrast” to Trump’s own positions on LGBT rights. But it is not: The platform and Trump both are opposed to marriage equality and both promote the autonomy of states to pass heinous laws regulating what restrooms transgender people use.
I asked Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council about both Trump’s positions on LGBT rights and the platform, which he is very actively involved in hammering out every four years. Perkins was among hundreds of anti-LGBT activists who met with Trump in May, and last night, from the stage, Perkins finally endorsed Trump and told Christian conservatives to vote for him.
“He has said that these issues should be dealt with at the state level and he has not been for the government forcing it on people,” Perkins told me of LGBT rights. “And thats kind of the way things work out: we allow the people to work through these issues.”
We’re in a different time, when LGBT rights have become more accepted by Americans after enormous progress. So people like Perkins understand that they have to make some accommodations in how they speak about the issues, a relatively minor concession. In return for his endorsement, surely Perkins was assured certain things would and wouldn’t be done, and that perhaps new language and tone might have to be incorporated even if it doesn’t amount to anything.
It’s one thing of course to pledge to protect LGBT people from terrorist violence perceived to be from ISIS, which threatens all Americans. But it’s quite another thing to protect our rights from being thwarted by Christian conservatives like Perkins and Family Research Council, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and whose rhetoric has certainly been used by those who have perpetrated violence against LGBT people in the name of extremist Christian ideology.
The narrative handed to the media by the Trump campaign for months has been completely bought. Back in May, I wrote about the bizarre portrayal of Trump by The New York Times –- political reporter Maggie Haberman, in particular ― as “More Accepting on Gay Issues” as the headline noted, something that, “Sets Him Apart” from other Republicans. This was based on superficial things like Trump having congratulated Elton John on his civil union in 2005, while the issue of marriage equality –- the major LGBT rights issue of our time – and Trump’s opposition to it were downplayed, almost portrayed as a side issue. It clearly was a narrative the Trump campaign, with the help of the desperate Log Cabin Republicans, had been feeding, trying to play both sides.
I thought one of the jobs of journalists is to tell us what the candidate is promising to constituencies under the radar or in private meetings. Certainly the Times does this with regard to Trump on other issues. But LGBT issues don’t seem worthy of this deeper reporting and analysis.
As we now move into the general election, the media must be challenged on this kind of shallow, irresponsible reporting that allows Trump to write his own narrative instead of being exposed as a dangerous fraud who is making promises with the LGBT community’s staunchest enemies.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Hillary Makes Unannounced Visit to Pulse

Everything Donald Trump does is about self promotion and grabbing media attention - all to satiate his overweening narcissism.  Yesterday, Hillary Clinton demonstrated that sometimes she simply does what's right and decent without looking for media fanfare.  While many waited for her announcement of who would be here VP pick, Clinton without ceremony visited Pulse, the site of the Orlando massacre last week.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at Clinton's visit.  Here are excerpts: 
While many across the nation have been anxiously or curiously awaiting the announcement of who Hillary Clinton will choose as her vice presidential running mate, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee spent the afternoon in an unannounced private meeting with family members and friends of the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub hate crime mass shooting terror attack. Clinton then spent the next hour holding a roundtable discussion with community leaders, including members of Equality Florida, and, as one reporter noted, "listening." 
Orlando commissioner Patty Sheehan, according to Buzzfeed's Ruby Cramer, told Clinton, "I want to thank you for not politicizing this, and for waiting until we were ready." 
Rather than playing politics, Clinton is now visiting the Pulse nightclub, to pay her respects and meet with first responders. In fact, this tweet from NBC News' Alex Seitz-Wald appears to show Clinton prioritized spending time with victims' loved ones and meeting with community leaders then visiting Pulse, rather than focus on her VP announcement.  Clinton laid white roses at the site.
Hillary may have her negatives, but the choice is clear that she must be elected in November to defeat the fascism and authoritarianism that that a Trump victory would unleash on America.  What continues to shock me is the manner in which some Sanders supporters still cannot get their heads out of their asses and realize the existential threat posed by Trump.   Really, you want to stay home and by default elect a man that might become America's Hitler?  Get over yourselves!!

Hillary Picks Tim Kaine as Her VP Running Mate

Late yesterday afternoon, Hillary Clinton named Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate.  I have known Kaine for a long time and first met him when I was being "debriefed" if you will by the head of the Virginia Democrat Party in Richmond while I was in that city for a meeting of a state board that I served on (I had been a Republican appointee) after I had left the Republican Party. Kaine casually introduced himself to me as "Tim" in a very unassuming way and never mentioned that he was the Lt. Governor at the time.  What much of the news coverage about Kaine's selection doesn't mention is that his wife, Ann Holton Kaine, is the daughter of the first Republican governor elected after Reconstruction (Linwood Holton).  There is certainly a possibility that the Holton name could  sway some old time Virginia Republicans to support the Clinton-Kaine Ticket.  Here are some highlights from the Washington Post
Hillary Clinton has chosen Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (Va.) as her vice-presidential running mate, completing a Democratic ticket that prizes experience and traditional notions of public service in a political year dominated by Republican rival Donald Trump’s unorthodox, highly personal brand of leadership.
Kaine, 58, a former Virginia governor, Richmond mayor and Democratic National Committee chairman, was chosen after a search that included riskier and more unconventional candidates who offered greater appeal to the party’s liberal base.
He was a longtime favorite to become Clinton’s running mate, however, in part because of the political and personal attributes she considers well-suited to the governing partnership she seeks — and in part because of the calculation that the experience of a Clinton-Kaine ticket would outgun Trump’s outsider bombast.
Along with his image as a low-key workhorse, Kaine brings legislative experience in the Senate and executive experience as a popular if unremarkable governor. He comes from a battleground state, albeit one widely considered winnable for Clinton whether Kaine is on the ticket or not.
She also sought a running mate who would be able to work with Republicans to advance an ambitious legislative agenda that includes immigration reform and new gun-control measures, her campaign said.
Kaine’s affable, regular-guy presence may also help balance the perception of Clinton as remote, chilly and privileged. She is among the least-liked major party candidates in decades, according to public opinion polls, behind only Trump.
With Kaine, Clinton hopes to focus the election even more squarely on the question of preparation and ability. Kaine shares Clinton’s governing philosophy. They share a basic ideology that government can do good and that the United States should be both a moral actor and an engaged diplomatic and military presence overseas.
She is also counting on him to be a partisan attack dog somewhat in the model of Vice President Biden.
Kaine is Roman Catholic and took a break from Harvard Law School to serve as a missionary in Honduras in the early 1980s. He said he holds “traditional Catholic” views on abortion, but he maintains that he strongly supports abortion rights. He has taken a similar stand on the death penalty, saying he opposes it for personal and religious reasons — but promising as governor to uphold the law of Virginia, where capital punishment is legal.
Kaine’s emphasis on faith in his personal life appealed to Clinton, a Methodist, and was discussed during conversations the two held leading up to his selection, a Democrat with ties to both of them said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) would name a replacement ahead of a special election in 2017. The winner would have to run again for a full six-year term the following year.
Clinton also praised the work of Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, the state education secretary in Virginia.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, July 22, 2016

More Friday Male Beauty

NBA Pulls All-Star Game Out Of Charlotte Due to HB2

NBA commissioner
The ongoing self-prostitution of North Carolina Republicans to Christofascist extremists continues to inflict financial harm on the state of North Carolina and its metropolitan areas in particular.  Now, the NBA has followed through on its threat and is moving the 2017 All Star games from Chrarlotte in light of the North Carolina GOP's continued refusal to repeal HB2 which wiped out civil rights protections for LGBT individuals and others.  Hate, bigotry and the embrace of ignorance carry an economic price - something I hope Virginia Republicans are learning from North Carolina's self-inflicted harm.   Here are highlights from the Huffington Post:
The NBA has pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte in protest of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2), otherwise known as the “bathroom bill,” the league announced on Thursday.
“While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league said in a statement. 
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had previously warned in April that the league would pull the All-Star Game out of Charlotte should HB2 not be altered, but had not set a deadline for the state to do so. The NBA and Charlotte Hornets were reportedly working with lawmakers to alter the bill to the league’s satisfaction in the weeks leading up to the decision.
The league has not finalized where it will host the All-Star weekend instead, but said it will make a decision “in the coming weeks.” The Vertical reports that the league is zeroing in on New Orleans as a potential alternative.
Gov. Pat McCrory (R), a staunch defender of the law, rebuked the NBA and “left-wing special interest groups” who have criticized the law.
In a joint statement, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the country, and Equality NC, a North-Carolina-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, praised the NBA for taking a stand against bigotry. 
“Today the NBA and Commissioner Silver sent a clear message that they won’t stand for discrimination against LGBTQ employees, players or fans,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in the statement. “Every day that HB2 remains on the books, people across North Carolina are at risk of real harm. We appreciate the leadership of the NBA in standing up for equality and call once again on lawmakers to repeal this vile HB2 law.”
Perhaps, ironically, canceling the All-Star Game will most adversely punish Charlotte, a city that had tried to protect transgender people before the HB2 was signed into law. The city passed a resolution just one month before to protect the transgender community from discrimination. The anti-LGBT state law made it so the city could not follow through.
In its statement, the league left open the possibility that it award the 2019 All-Star Game to Charlotte, should North Carolina resolve the issue to the league’s satisfaction. The NBA apologized to fans in North Carolina for the decision. 

Quote of the Day:Noah Michelson on How Trump Really Views Gay

Trump meeting with leaders of anti-gay hate groups

With what Donald Trump says generally being 75% or more untrue, I remain dumbfounded how any non-self-loathing LGBT American can support Trump.  Even gay billionaires cannot fully escape the bigotry and discrimination that many of us continue to face.  Noah Michelson at Huffington Post sums up Trump's approach to gays in a single paragraph: 
Donald Trump has vowed to appoint judges who will overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, has stated that he supports states’ rights to pass laws that give permission to discriminate against queer people, and he recently courted 400 of the most anti-queer leaders in America, so his promise to protect queer people (especially as the leader of the Republican Party which just passed “the most anti-LGBT platform in history”is nothing but a pile of steaming elephant shit and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise ― including Trump himself ― is lying to you and themselves. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Make America Hate Again

Hitler promised to make Germany great again and the tool he used to manipulate a large segment of the German citizenry was hate and fear.  Hatred toward Jews, Poles, and those who supported a free press and democracy itself.  In exchange for Hitler's promises, Germans gave up their freedoms and ultimately millions died as Hitler feed his narcissism and ego.  Fast forward more than three quarters of a century to Cleveland and we just saw a similar promise made to angry whites livid over their lost white privilege and Christian fanatics who will go to any lengths to force their mythical beliefs on all citizens.  A column in the New York Times looks at how fear and hatred are being used by Trump and his boot licking sycophants in the Republican to steer the nation on a potentially terrifying course. Here are highlights: 
They didn’t riot in the streets of Cleveland, as Donald Trump said his supporters would do had things not gone his way. But you saw the raw essence of a riot, the madness and loss of reason, on display in four days of chaos at the Republican National Convention.
For a campaign now devoted to “law and order,” the launch was mob rule: in spirit, in tone, in words. Long after we’ve forgotten Trump’s closing speech — that paean to self, that nightmare portrait of an America where the lights have gone out — we will remember the savagery just below the surface.
Starting on night one, when Republicans chose to manipulate the grief-deranged mother of a terrorist victim, the build-up to the hanging of Hillary Clinton was never subtle. Imagine if one party had exploited a widow of one of the 241 service members killed in the 1983 suicide bombing of Americans in Beirut — the deadliest single attack on marines since World War II — as a stick against Ronald Reagan, whose administrative negligence was much to blame.
You can’t imagine. Because nothing about this Republican Party, whose leader now stands ready to repudiate nearly 70 years of security for our European allies under an “America First” banner, even remotely resembles the Grand Old Party of before.
The man who couldn’t manage his own convention, the creator of a “university” built on fraud, bet his shot at the top job in the world on a panicked public and collective amnesia of his serial misdeeds. “I will restore law and order to our country, believe me, believe me,” he said.
And the instigator of four corporate bankruptcies, the man who stiffed plumbers and carpenters, the failed casino owner, promised to use his dark arts to “make our country rich again.”
There’s usually a pastor around whenever vigilantes gather for an execution. For moral justification this week, the pious Dr. Ben Carson linked Clinton to Lucifer — the devil himself. So, little wonder that it produced barely a shrug when another delegate, and Trump’s adviser on veterans, Al Baldasaro, said Clinton should be “shot for treason.” The Salem witch trials had more respect for due process.
Inside the convention, the hatred was also directed at one who dared members to vote their conscience, Ted Cruz. True, he may be the most disliked politician in the United States. But somehow, it was expected that Cruz would bow to a man who had defamed his father and insulted his wife.
Individually, many of these Trump delegates are nice people. . . . But in a group, the emotions of the Trumpites pool to hatred and mob single-mindedness — all Mexicans are rapists, all Muslims are terrorists, all crime is rising, Hillary Clinton is the devil and should be shot.
When the convention closed, fear had won the hall. And we should fear — for the republic, for a democracy facing its gravest peril since the Civil War.

I would differ with the author on one point.  He is wrong when he says "individually many of these Trump delegates are nice people."  In actuality, they are not nice or decent.  Anyone so willing to embrace hate and ignorance is seriously morally flawed.  Outside of the Nazi death camps many of the guards were "nice people" - even Hitler could be gracious and charming when he wanted to be - but their embrace of hatred and brutality toward others showed the real truth about them.  Sadly, I can readily see many of the Trump delegates condoning if not participating in horrors and crimes against humanity.  I don't know if I have ever been so afraid about the future of this country. 

Daniel Pipes: Why I Just Quit the Republican Party

I would be lying if I did not admit that I awoke with a sense of foreboding after Donald Trump's acceptance speech last night wherein the narcissist echoed the self-love and egomania that motivated the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and other despots and dictators throughout history.  The most frightening thing, however, was seeing the convention crowd revel in it utterly oblivious of the path down which Trump seeks to that America.  Our European allies and others must be frightened and dismayed.  Yes, there are some Americans who belatedly are finally saying "enough" and "I am done" but far more need to wake up and do so.   One who has just done so is Daniel Pipes, who has served in five (5) presidential administrations, who has just left the GOP.  The following are excerpts from a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer:  
The Republican Party nominated Donald Trump as its candidate for president of the United States - and I responded by ending my 44-year GOP membership.
Here's why I bailed, quit, and jumped ship:
First, Trump's boorish, selfish, puerile, and repulsive character, combined with his prideful ignorance, his off-the-cuff policy making, and his neo-fascistic tendencies make him the most divisive and scary of any serious presidential candidate in American history. He is precisely "the man the founders feared," in Peter Wehner's memorable phrase. I want to be no part of this.
Second, his flip-flopping on the issues ("everything is negotiable") means that, as president, he has the mandate to do any damn thing he wants. This unprecedented and terrifying prospect could mean suing unfriendly reporters or bulldozing a recalcitrant Congress. It could also mean martial law. Count me out.
Third, with honorable exceptions, I wish to distance myself from a Republican Party establishment that made its peace with Trump to the point that it unfairly repressed elements at the national convention in Cleveland that still tried to resist his nomination. Yes, politicians and donors must focus on immediate issues (Supreme Court justice appointments) but party leaders like GOP committee chairman Reince Priebus, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrongly acquiesced to Trump. . . . Republican leaders are lining up to surrender to him - like low-energy, cowering weaklings."
Fourth, the conservative movement, to which I belong, has developed since the 1950s into a major intellectual force. It did so by building on several key ideas (limited government, a moral order, and a foreign policy reflecting American interests and values). But the cultural abyss and constitutional nightmare of a Trump presidency will likely destroy this delicate creation. Ironically, although a Hillary Clinton presidency threatens bad Supreme Court justices, it would leave the conservative movement intact.
Finally, Trump is "an ignorant, amoral, dishonest and manipulative, misogynistic, philandering, hyper-litigious, isolationist, protectionist blowhard" in the words of Republican donor Michael K. Vlock. That charming list of qualities means supporting Trump translates into never again being able to criticize a Democrat on the basis of character. Or, in personal terms: How can one look at oneself in the mirror?
And so, with Trump's formal nomination, I bailed.
America's failure to teach history in its schools is catching up with us.  Nightmares from 85-90 yeas ago seem about to repeat themselves, but this time in America.

Confronting Religion, The Source of Anti-LGBT Animus

I continue to feel a general malaise since the massacre at Pulse in Orlando, which has been followed by new assaults on LGBT Americans through the GOP's adoption of the most anti-LGBT platform EVER.  Now, this evening we have seen our own possibly American version of Hitler or Stalin accept the nomination as the Republican presidential nominee.   It is a frightening time to be an American.  It is perhaps even a more frightening time to be an LGBT American despite the strides that have been made in recent years.  Indeed, LGBT people will never be safe and fully equal until we and our allies confront the root cause of homophobia and anti-LGBT animus: religion, especially fundamentalist religions.  My August column in VEER Magazine - which is longer than usual - looks at this issue and what needs to be done.  Pick up a copy on local Hampton Roads newsstands.  For those who are not locals, the following are some excerpts from the column:
Like so many in the LGBT community, I have found myself profoundly shaken by the massacre last month at Pulse, a gay dance club in Orlando, Florida.  When my husband and I travel, we often enjoy going to local gay dance clubs in the cities that we are visiting, be it New York City, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, or last year, a club called Raidd in Paris, France.  Though worlds apart in some ways such clubs have a common trait: they offer a refuge in a still too homophobic world.  They offer a place to dance, talk with friends and to have fun. While I had never visited Pulse, we know a number of people who had visited.  We also have a friend who lost someone he knew in the carnage that took place during the early hours of June 12, 2016.
 What happened at Pulse sadly could have happened at any gay club, including clubs here in Hampton Roads.  And, if one looks at history, over the years at least twenty five (25) attacks have taken place against gay clubs, although not on the scale of the Pulse massacre.  The most notable was in 1973 at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans where 32 individuals lost their lives. Closer to home, in 2000 an attack on the Backstreet Cafe in Roanoke, Virginia, one person died and six were wound.  The shooter's motivation in the Roanoke attack?  To kill some "faggots" - seemingly the same as that of the shooter in Orlando.   All of these incidents stand as a reminder that if one is LGBT, hatred toward you is always lurking in the hearts of those who would happily commit violence.   Conveniently for Republican politicians and those I call Christofascists, America's homegrown answer to the Taliban, to whom these Republican politicians regularly prostitute themselves, the shooter at Pulse pledged allegiance to ISIS.  This allowed them to quickly blame Islam and "radical Islamic extremists" and to ignore the root cause of homophobia and anti-LGBT animus in America: religion, especially fundamentalist Christianity. Numerous pastors and “professional Christians” like Pat Robertson and anti-gay hate group leaders Tony Perkins and James Dobson stepped forward to make this religious based animus all too visible following the Orlando tragedy.  Some of them implied that the gays and their allies who died at Pulse "deserved" what happened to them.  Others went further and even bemoaned the fact that there had been any survivors at all.  And some advocated for the government to execute LGBT citizens. Some statements even repeated the deliberate lie that most gays are pedophiles - in truth the vast majority of those who molest children are heterosexual males - and suggested the world was now safer for children.  At the same time that some American Christians were making their animus to LGBT people shockingly obvious, others engaged in strenuous efforts to avoid condemnation of Bible based anti-gay hatred even as they condemned that found in Islam.  . . . . . Nowhere does it mention the fact that Leviticus predated the Quran by roughly 2100 years.  The Quran and hadiths were not authored in a vacuum and, sadly, the misogyny of the Bible and in more recent centuries, Christian missionaries and colonial regimes found their way into Islam. Another effort to apologize for religious based hatred can be found in Pope Francis' comment to journalists that Christians and the Roman Catholic Church needed to "apologize to gays and should seek forgiveness from homosexuals for the way they have treated them."  The problem with Francis' nice words is that when he has had the opportunity to dramatically change Catholic dogma and doctrine on gays he has done nothing and backed down in a cowardly fashion to the ugliest homophobes in the Church hierarchy.  Likewise, Francis ignored his own past attacks against gays, equating gay marriage and adoption by gay couples with the work of the Devil, and declaring that gay marriage was a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” 
 We cannot allow these subterfuges and insincere apologies to succeed.  I hope the Orlando massacre has set the stage for a long overdue discussion about the role of Christianity in anti-gay animus.  Likewise, those I call the "good Christians" - i.e., akin the "good Germans" at the time of Hitler's rise to power – must face the complicity they bear in keeping anti-gay animus alive and well and socially acceptable.  I call this Christians "good Christians" because, like their German counterparts of roughly 85 years ago, they stand by silently as their churches and pastors preach anti-gay hatred even as they themselves claim to not agree with the anti-gay diatribes. Despite such protestations - almost always made in private conversations - these Christians continue to financially support the very same churches and "family values" organizations that daily promote hatred and reject modern knowledge while clinging to a few passages written roughly 3400-3500 years ago by unknown Bronze Age authors who would be deemed utterly ignorant by today's standards of knowledge.  
In my opinion, it is long past time that these "good Christians" cease being given a pass for their complicity in funding and supporting homophobic denominations, church hierarchies, and pastors.  They need to either become part of the solution or they need to be confronted for their role in keeping hate and homophobia alive.  Will these people like the confrontation?  Most assuredly not.  Like most of us, they will not like to be forced to candidly analyze their beliefs and/or cease their sheep like following of church leaders. The favored phrase of "love the sinner, hate the sin" needs to be challenged head on for the disingenuous lie that it is.  The implicit support of hate and homophobia must be challenged.  
However, "good Christians" are not the only ones who need to be held accountable.  The Republican Party needs to be held accountable for its role in cynically keeping anti-gay hatred alive and well and politically acceptable.  Over the last year, roughly two hundred (200) anti-gay bills have been introduced in states across America in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's same sex marriage ruling in 2015.  All of these bills have been almost unanimously backed by Republican elected officials only too happy to seek political favor at the expense of the lives and dignity of LGBT Americans. 
If you find yourself falling into the "good Christian" category, perhaps it's time to cease your silence.  Consider (i) speaking out against homophobes, (ii) confronting anti-LGBT clergy, and/or (iii) ceasing your financial contributions until your church ends its homophobic teachings (make sure the church leadership knows why you are taking the action).  If need be, find a new church that does not espouse homophobia and the marginalization of LGBT lives. Such actions may be scary and uncomfortable, but unless you take them, you will be complicit in the hatred and violence based on slavish adherence to a handful of Bible passages - even as the balance of Leviticus, including dictates against wearing clothes of two different fabrics, planting multiple crops, eating "unclean" foods and other supposed "abominations," are utterly ignored by Christian denominations.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leaked Trump Speech - Lies and False Statistics

A look a like with our dog give Trump his due
The Fuhrer Donald Trump is about to speak at the GOP convention and a leaked copy of his speech suggests that true to form we will hear lies and false statistics.  Its a trait the is now the norm in the Republican Party and, in my view, traces back to when the Christofascists hijacked the party base. No one lies more than the "godly folk" other than perhaps Trump himself and his children - I am feeling in need of a vomit bag as I listen to Ivanka (seemingly an Eva Peron want to be) blather claims about her father that do not tract with reality.  The Daily Beast looks at what we can expect.  Here are highlights:
A draft of Donald Trump’s Republican National Convention speech was leaked on Thursday, hours before he was set to deliver what is the most important speech of his life and accept his party’s presidential nomination.
Like many of the speeches at this year’s GOP convention, Trump’s will feature themes of law and order as the party’s nominee attempts to capitalize on recent tragedies and terror attacks around the world.
 According to the prepared remarks—which matched up with excerpts released earlier by the campaign—Trump addresses crime and safety issues early on in the speech, accusing President Obama and Hillary Clinton of leaving the country and the world less safe.
 But the bleak picture he paints often does not line up with the facts, using over-inflated statistics and questionable generalizations when discussing matters of crime, justice, immigration, and national security.
 Trump will say that homicides increased by 17 percent from last year in the country’s 50 largest cities. He will not say, however, that the national homicide rate hit a four-decade low last year, according to the FBI. 
 Trump’s dubious contentions are not limited to law and order issues. The billionaire businessman claims 14 million people “left the workplace entirely.” For context, the current workforce has 4.6 million more people than in 2009. He will criticize Obama on the national debt, claiming it doubled. It has actually increased from $11.1 trillion to $19.2 trillion.
 Trump also suggests that Clinton is responsible for the creation of ISIS in the Middle East—even though the group did not formally split from al Qaeda until after she left office. He suggests that sanctions on Iran decreased during her tenure in government; in fact, they increased.
 Additionally, he incorrectly states that Egypt was “turned over” to the Muslim Brotherhood, “forcing the military to retake control.” In 2012, Mohammed Morsi, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was democratically elected and subsequently ousted from power by the military one year later.
The speech was leaked on Thursday to a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. The PAC, Correct the Record, says it received a copy of the speech from a “Republican source who had access to it.” David Brock, the group’s founder, said the leak is evidence that the Trump campaign is “loose and disorganized.”

Thursday Male Beauty - Pt 3

Are We Reliving the Equivalent of the End of the Weimar Republic?

Words do not adequately describe the sense of fear that I feel as I watch the 2016 Republican National convention and the coronation of Donald Trump.  Earlier today, on Facebook I posted a link to a YouTube clip of  Leni Riefenstahl 1935 propaganda film "Triumph of the Will that chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 Nazi supporters. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by Nazi leaders at the Congress, including Adolf HitlerRudolf Hess, and Julius Streicher, interspersed with footage of massed Sturmabteilung and Schutzstaffel troops and public reaction.    The film's overriding theme is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation.  Sound frighteningly familiar?  If you have not seen Riefenstal's film, view it here.  A lengthy piece in The Tablet, a Jewish news publication, traces the parallels between how Hitler ultimately seized power and what we are witnessing in Cleveland and among the Republican Party and Trump's followers.    Here are excerpts:
“What a memorable day!” wrote a middle-class Hamburg housewife in her diary on Jan. 30, 1933. She had just watched the parade of torch-bearing storm troopers celebrate Adolf Hitler’s assumption of power in Germany.
Frau Solmitz did not, however, extol only Hitler. She waxed melodic about Hitler’s cabinet, in which there were just three Nazis. All the others were upstanding conservatives, men like Franz von Papen, the aristocratic former chancellor and leader of the Catholic Center Party, and the career bureaucrat Constantin von Neurath, who was named to head up the foreign ministry. These were experienced men, reasonable men. They would contain Hitler’s excesses. After four years of economic depression and political paralysis, 14 years since the humiliation of the Versailles Peace Treaty, decades of an overweening Jewish presence in German public life, it was time for a new beginning. It was time to make Germany great again.
In the end, a small clique of businessmen, estate owners, bankers, high-ranking civil servants, and army officers prevailed upon the president, Paul von Hindenburg, to name Hitler chancellor of Germany. For these traditional conservatives, the Nazis were uncouth, low class, and undisciplined. Yet these same conservatives made a political bargain with the Nazi party.
[T]he process by which traditional and radical conservatives came together through a common language carries numerous warning signals as we experience the surge of right-wing populism from Poland across the continent, on to the United Kingdom, and across the ocean to the United States.
Americans often say that the German people elected Hitler to power, but that is not accurate. The highest vote the Nazis received in a free election came six months before the seizure of power. In July 1932, the Nazis won 37 percent of the electorate. . . . . In the end, the conservative elite saved the Nazis from the political wilderness.
There was nothing inevitable or predetermined about the Nazi assumption of power. It was the result of a conscious political decision by traditional conservatives made in a time of crisis when Germany wallowed in depression and the political system lay paralyzed.
The conservative elite had its roots in the churches, Protestant and Catholic,  . . . . These traditionalists hated the very idea of democracy, but they understood that there had to be limits to state power, and they shied away from rampant, excessive violence. They also understood that human beings are imperfect and prone to error and that the essential Nazi hubris was the belief in the perfectibility of the race.  Yet the traditionalists struck a deal with the Nazis on Jan. 30, 1933, one they reconfirmed many times during the 12 years of the Third Reich.
Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, the two officers who led the Supreme Military Command and effectively ruled Germany dictatorially in the last two years of the war, shifted the blame for Germany’s defeat away from the military (and themselves, of course). The army had remained upright and upstanding, the army had never been defeated in the field, so they claimed. Germany had been betrayed at home by socialists and the Jews; that was the only reason Germany had to sue for peace.
It was a nasty, dirty game, and highly potent politically. Hitler used the stab-in-the-back legend to great effect; traditional conservatives—including Hindenburg though not Ludendorff, who later dallied with the Nazis—also found the rhetoric highly appealing.
The Weimar Republic is often seen as merely a prelude to the Third Reich. But that reads back into the past Germany’s later history. The Republic certainly suffered numerous crises and had a fragile character. Amid the chaos, Germans experienced the most democratic order they had ever known; a vibrant, thriving culture; and social improvements like public housing and public health clinics, which often dispensed sex and birth control advice. Many spheres of life largely closed off to Jews, like the universities, opened up; women obtained greater educational and professional opportunities.
Weimar, in short, represented a great moment of democratic reform, cultural efflorescence, and sexual experimentation. It was everything that conservatives, traditional and radical, hated. The choice words they used in common for the Republic marked another step on the road of their accommodation.
Traditional conservatives were by and large genteel anti-Semites. In the Weimar period, they tended not to share the murderous tendencies of the Nazis (though that would change over the course of the Third Reich). But they didn’t particularly like Jews, and they thought the Jewish presence in German public life overbearing and distasteful. Germany, in the common view of the Right, radical and conservative, faced an √ľberfremdung, a flood of foreigners, Jews in particular, who exercised a degenerative influence on the German people and German society.
On all this the old conservative elite and the Nazis could easily agree, even though the Nazi solution to the problem would prove more far radical than anything the traditionalists had imagined.
Which brings us to the current right-wing populist surge all across Europe and the United States. Certainly, real grievances exist that have created support for the Right. As one report after another recounts, many communities have been hard hit by globalization. The factories rust away, the jobs available are low-level, low-paying service positions. Inequalities have risen everywhere, most obscenely in the United States.
[T]he right-wing sensibility in the Western world is largely cultural in nature. It is directed against those identified as foreigners, even when they are third-generation Germans, French, or Britons, whose families may have hailed from Turkey, Morocco, or Jamaica. Race is also a factor, but not exclusively so.
Sometimes the language is coded and comes across in polite terms. At other moments, it is virulent. The political language that they speak enables the creation of a broad-based right-wing populism. “Respectable” members of society in Poland, France, or the United States hear the coded language and nod their heads in approval, while those on the far right, prone to violence, respond affirmatively to the more virulent rhetoric.
Trump, like many other right-wing leaders, plays both sides of the rhetorical street (as Hitler did as well, and masterfully so).
Trump seems blithely unaware of the tainted history of the term [America First], which goes back to the isolationists, Nazi sympathizers, and anti-Semites of the 1930s and ’40s. “Make America Great Again” is also code that plays well. Trump conjures up the 1950s, a wonderful decade for some in America, but certainly not for African-Americans, who remained subject to Jim Crow legislation and violence of the worst sort in the South as well as the North, nor for Hispanics, who suffered all kinds of discrimination.
Republicans in the United States continue to dance around Trump, many unable to decide whether their party should back such an obviously incapable, self-aggrandizing, and racist candidate for the presidency. . . . . But by and large, Republicans have moved into Trump’s camp, Paul Ryan perhaps the most prominent among them. They bemoan the fact that they can’t control him, but they don’t have the courage to separate themselves from a candidate with substantial popular support.
Ours is a presidential system, and despite the difficulties Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had with Congress and the Supreme Court, presidents wield enormous power. In possession of that power, Trump will be fully capable of shredding the constitution from within, as the Nazis did.
Today’s Republicans and similarly-minded figures in Europe are like the conservatives who put Adolf Hitler in power: delusional about their influence, playing dangerously with the structures of our democracy. . . . . And much of the reason lies in the fact that Trump’s political language is only more blatant than what many Republicans have been saying for decades.
That is the lesson from the right-wing populist upsurge in Weimar Germany, which culminated in the Nazi assumption of power. The political language of fear and hostility directed at “foreign” elements (never mind the fact that many and even most of those so-called foreigners had been residents and citizens for generations) enables moderate and radical conservatives to come together. The moderates make the radicals salonf√§hig,  acceptable in polite society. That is the real and pressing danger of the current moment.