Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 3

Vancouver Christians Oppose Franklin Graham's "Crusade"

Franklin Graham, hate merchant
I often complain about the silence of "good Christians" in the face of the hatred that a pillar of the Christofascists' religious dogma.  Hence, when the foul agenda of the Christofascists and professional Christian class is in fact challenged by other Christians, the challengers deserve recognition.  Winning kudos today are both Catholic and Protestant church leaders in Vancouver, Canada, who are condemning a "crusade" to be held by Franklin Graham - a many who has made a lush living peddling hate and religious extremism - in that diverse and tolerant city.  The Vancouver Sun looks at the opposition Graham is deservedly facing.  Here are highlights:
Metro Vancouver Christians are colliding over the coming crusade of televangelist Franklin Graham, who is known for criticizing homosexuals, Muslims and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Saying that Graham is often “incendiary and intolerant,” some evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics are opposing his participation in the three-day Festival of Hope event at Rogers Arena in early March 2017, which many of the city’s mega-churches are supporting.
“Rev. Graham is a polarizing figure … His ungracious and bigoted remarks have the potential to generate serious negative impact on the Christian witness in Vancouver,” says a statement from five prominent evangelical and Catholic leaders.
“We … denounce the frequent incendiary and intolerant statements made by Rev. Graham, which he unapologetically reiterates,” said the letter, signed by Marjeta Bobnar of the Catholic archdiocese, City in Focus president Tom Cooper, Tenth Church pastor Ken Shigematsu, Calvary Baptist pastor Tim Dickau and First Baptist pastor Tim Kuepfer.
Franklin Graham, son of 97-year-old retired televangelist Billy Graham, has said homosexuals are “the enemy” and will “spend eternity in hell” if they don’t repent.
Earning more than $1 million a year as an evangelist and head of the charity Samaritan’s Purse, Graham led a crusade in Toronto in 2014 that was attended by 40,000 people of diverse ethnic origins.
After the Toronto event, Samaritan’s Purse terminated a Canadian volunteer because she refused to sign a standard statement opposing abortion and homosexual marriage.
In North Vancouver, another endorser of the Festival of Hope, Valley Church Pastor Owen Scott, declined to comment on the controversy other than to say, “I know Franklin is not the same as his dad. His dad is a pretty gracious person.”
While the opposition statement was signed by Catholic ecumenical relations official Bobnar, Paul Schratz confirmed the archdiocese also formally declined an invitation to take part in the Festival of Hope.
“Initially we were supportive of next year’s event, since it was intended to draw a large number of people to hear the gospel and grow closer to Jesus,” said Schratz, spokesman for the archdiocese, which includes more than 400,000 Catholics.
“While we obviously acknowledge Mr. Graham’s zeal in preaching the Gospel we had second thoughts about participating when we noted that American evangelicals, whom we were trying to work with on this event, were criticizing Mr. Franklin for various comments and stances that didn’t promote religious tolerance.”
The formal letter of opposition to the Festival of Hope’s leadership committee was signed by Christian leaders in Metro Vancouver whom the Billy Graham Association had asked for endorsements, including Cooper, Shigematsu, Dickau and Kuepfer.
Cooper — the president of City in Focus, which specializes in ministering to businesspeople —said those who signed the letter “were willing to provide suggestions for an alternative speaker. But the Festival of Hope leadership committee was content with having Reverend Graham give the major talks.  “We therefore, reluctantly, decided we could not endorse this event.
Franklin Graham is little better than a parasite who is living well living off his father's fame while peddling hatred and intolerance. 

Trump's New Campaign Leaders Are Rabidly Anti-LGBT

Homophobes Kellyane Conway and Stephen Bannon

While The Donald continues to pretend to be gay friendly and some gay Republicans continue to keep their heads firmly up their asses and support the man, his picks for the new leaders of his campaign tell the true story.  Both Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway have a history of being rabidly anti-gay.  As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words and Trump's picks speak volumes.   The New Civil Rights Movement looks at the history of anti-LGBT actions of Bannon and Conway.  Here are story highlights:
Donald Trump wrote on Facebook late Tuesday that he'll "fight to ensure that every American is treated equally" and "reject bigotry and hatred and oppression in all its forms." 
Hours later, it was revealed that Trump is shaking up his campaign, naming Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon as executive director, and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway as manager.   As it turns out, those appointments aren't exactly consistent with Trump's Facebook post. 
As recently as May, Bannon railed against transgender rights during an interview with the American Family Association's Sandy Rios. According to Right Wing Watch, Bannon accused retailer Target of “trying to exclude people who are decent, hard-working people who don’t want their four-year-old daughter to have to go into a bathroom with a guy with a beard in a dress.”
Media Matters has more on Breitbart News' penchant for anti-LGBT reporting: regularly publishes articles with anti-LGBT slurs “trannies” and “faggot” in headlines. Breitbart contributor Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) -- an organization designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- is largely the face of Breitbart’s anti-LGBT coverage.
Meanwhile, Conway is a longtime pollster for the anti-LGBTQ National Organization for Marriage, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
In September 2014, Conway appeared on a panel with former NOM President Maggie Gallagher, where they encouraged Libertarians to take up socially conservative causes, Right Wing Watch reports: 
Conway told the crowd that “values voters and libertarians have a great deal in common” from opposition to “big government” and abortion rights to being “sick of lawyers in black robes making stuff up” to a refusal to “redefine” family to be “whatever feels cool.” She also saw an opening to win over libertarians with the Religious Right’s increasing reliance on persecution rhetoric, or what she called the “assault on religious liberty in so many parts of our culture.”

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Why Conservative Christians Are Backing Trump

As regular readers know, I hold few people in lower regard that far right conservative Christians whose most pronounced traits are incessant lying, hypocrisy, racism, and a desire to impose their religious beliefs on all citizens.  They talk constantly about their own supposed faith and religiosity even as they hate nearly everyone and back Republican policies that are the antithesis of the Gospel message.  Some pundits and others are shocked that so many conservative Christians are backing Donald Trump, whereas I see it as a match made in heaven, if you will: foul, self-centered hypocrisy filled pathological liars bonding to one another.  A piece in Salon puts forth an explanation for Christofascist support of Trump in less direct terms, but nonetheless shows the underlying hypocrisy of these people and their always self-enriching "leaders."   Here are excerpts:  
In theory, the religious right should hate Donald Trump. He’s a libertine, he clearly worships Mammon and not Jesus, he has been married three times, he has a long history of bragging about his sex life . . . . But the ugly truth is that the supposed guardians of American morality, religious conservatives, are lining up behind Trump. I spoke with Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way about why.
 Your piece is called “‘God’s Guy’: 25 Religious Right Justifications For Supporting Donald Trump.” What kinds of religious authorities did you look at for this piece?Well, there’s a range of people. There are religious right political figures like Tony Perkins and David Barton and David Lane, who are people that we cover pretty extensively, and then there are some folks who don’t show up on [our] website as much [as those] who are sort of in the “prophet and apostle” category of that wing of Pentecostal Christianity [who tend] to see things in terms of spiritual warfare and demons and the Antichrist. So it’s a mix. Since the primaries, most of the religious right leaders who were in Cruz’s camp are rallying around Trump, and it’s true that some of them are doing so kind of reluctantly. Some based on the Supreme Court, some based on the fact that they just really hate Hillary Clinton. And some have offered this range of religious rationales. 
Some of the folks that you’ve covered seem to believe that Trump is God’s emissary or that he’s here to do God’s will. What’s that about?The religious right hates Barack Obama. They really did everything they could and prayed very hard for him not to get elected or reelected. And some of them actually saw his reelection as a sign of God’s judgment on the country. That hatred also applies to Hillary Clinton.Some of the religious right leaders also distrust the Republican establishment and they think that God is using this sort of bulldozer strongman person like Trump to come in and knock down the establishment of both parties and really clean house. They’ve found examples in the Bible. One of the ones that people reference is King Cyrus, who was not one of God’s chosen people and was not a believer but God had his purposes and used King Cyrus in a way that advanced his wishes. So that’s one of the rationales that has come up for Trump. . . So when Trump destroys everything, why is that considered a good thing in their view?I’ll talk about David Lane in answering that. David Lane is a political operative who organized the event that Trump just spoke at this past week in Orlando and, in fact, Marco Rubio also spoke at. David Lane is a Christian nationalist who believes that America was founded by and for Christians and that it has a covenant with God and a mission to advance the Christian faith. He believes that we have gone far from that mission. And his goal is to use the political process to bring America back to his idea of a Christian nation. . . . for someone like him, the establishment Republican Party has been a disappointment because they haven’t aggressively pursued this idea of a Christian nation. He hopes that somehow kicking down all the walls is going to make that more possible. Somebody else like James Robison believes that God is going to give Trump some kind of high-profile conversion moment like the biblical story of Saul, who used to persecute Christians, having this vision of Jesus and then becoming Paul the Apostle.  Do you often see religious right figures grapple with the fact that the Democrat in the race, Hillary Clinton, is clearly more religious than the Republican?They do not want to grapple with that at all, no. You don’t see a lot of religious right leaders acknowledging her lifelong commitment as a Christian, as a member of the United Methodist Church, even though it’s very much out there. A lot of the religious right leaders, when they say “Christian,” they don’t really mean all Christians. They’re talking about a subset of Christians that share both their theological worldview and their right-wing politics. . . . It’s why we have people on this list talking about Hillary Clinton as channeling the spirit of the Antichrist. How much do you think this rallying around Trump has to do with his statements about Muslims?There are a number of reasons they’re rallying around him, and one is that he’s been a very outspoken critic of radical Islam with his call to keep Muslims from coming into the country. Some of these religious right leaders, as much as they like to posture as champions of religious liberty, they really don’t feel the same way about Islam. They try to make these convoluted arguments that the First Amendment doesn’t really apply to Muslims in the same way because Islam is not a religion but a totalitarian political ideology. I think they like his attacks on Muslims because they think this is a country by and for Christians. The question of religious freedom comes up here, and you see some of these pastors and religious right leaders claiming that Trump is for religious freedom. What do they mean by that?When the religious right talks about religious freedom these days, they’re mostly talking about the right of people to discriminate against LGBT individuals and couples and families. For them, religious liberty is not the kind of shield for everyone to exercise their religion [that] we think of when we think of the First Amendment.  . . . It’s about being able to use religious beliefs as a cudgel against people and policies that they don’t like.

New Study: Homophobes Try to Deny Their Own Same Sex Attraction

The findings of yet another study suggest that the males expressing the loudest homophobia may in fact be striving to deny and/or cover up their own same sex attraction.   These results come on top of studies going back to 1996 that found that homophobic men had the most penile stimulation when looking at gay pornography.  A summary of that study noted as follows:
The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men and a group of nonhomophobic men; they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.

The new study took a different approach by recording eye-tracking when homosexual erotica was viewed and found - not surprisingly, in my view - that the most homophobic males lingered the longest on gay erotica.   Here's a summary:
Heterosexual men first completed a scale measuring their level of homonegativity. Then, they performed a manikin task to evaluate their impulsive approach tendencies toward homosexual stimuli (IAHS). A picture-viewing task was performed with simultaneous eye-tracking recording to assess participants' viewing time of the visual area of interest (i.e., face and body).  IAHS positively predicted the viewing time of homosexual photographs among men with a high score of homonegativity. Men with a high homonegativity score looked significantly longer at homosexual than at heterosexual photographs but only when they had a high IAHS.
The take away?  The next time you hear some politician like Rick Santorum or Ken Cuccinelli or some pastor or priest/bishop/cardinal bellowing about the evil of gays, just remember that they probably would love to get into the pants of some of the males in their audience or congregation. Never be duped by "oh, but he's married with children."  Been there and done that myself, and it means NOTHING other than the fact that the individual could not accept them self and their true sexuality, most likely due to religious brainwashing..

Friday, August 19, 2016

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday Male Beauty - Pt 3

Trump, Hillbillies, Rednecks and Race

If one wants to see some of the most dysfunctional and at times downright ugly elements of white society in America, look no farther than the base of Donald Trump's support.  The core of Trump's base is relatively uneducated working class whites who see their future going down the drain, at least according to their perspective because of the rising status of others, in particular, blacks, Hispanics and other immigrants.  Stated another way, they perceive their white privilege being diminished and rather than do some soul searching and looking in the mirror to see one of the roots of their problem, it's easier to blame others.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this phenomenon and references a book I have mentioned before, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” by J.D. Vance who I heard interviewed on a talk radio show some weeks back.  The column agrees with much of what Vance sees as the problem: poor choices, dropping out of school, drug abuse, single parenthood, among others, it also targets the spark that has ignited the rage so many of Trump's supporters evidence:  race and racism.  It is no coincidence that the mere existence of America's first black president has helped exacerbate this rage.  Here are op-ed highlights:
In other words, who are Trump’s voters and why do they stick with him? Sometimes a good writer with a keen eye can provide more insight than a dozen polls. J.D. Vance has done just that in his lovely book “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” The book has rocketed up the best-seller lists — deservedly so. But it has some interesting and important gaps.
We all now know that Trump’s rise has been fueled by the alienation and anger of the country’s white working class. That cohort has seen its incomes stagnate, cities crumble and dreams vanish. But Vance gets underneath the data and shows us what these impersonal forces mean to actual people. He describes the abandoned children, the poor work habits, the drug abuse, the violence, the rage. But he does it with sympathy and love. 
For Vance, the problem is ultimately cultural, one of values, attitudes and mores. “We hillbillies must wake the hell up,” he writes, and “stop blaming Obama or Bush or faceless companies and ask ourselves what can we do to make things better.” His own life story — coming from low expectations, dysfunctional relationships and persistent poverty to end up a graduate of Yale Law School and a Silicon Valley executive — demonstrates that grit can conquer all.
But Vance got some help along the way. He tells us that his public schools were decent enough and, when he got motivated, his teachers helped him succeed. He notes that his trajectory changed when he was admitted to Ohio State University, which he was able to attend because of generous federal loans and grants. And the turning point in the book and his life takes place when he decides to enlist in the Marine Corps. He describes how the armed forces taught him discipline, hard work, high expectations and good values. 
This is federal bureaucracy engaged in shaping mores and morals, the ultimate example of government as nanny. When so much of what government does is under siege, it is odd that Vance seems to minimize the role that government can play in providing opportunities for others like him.
The other, larger gap in Vance’s book is race. He speaks about the causes of the anxiety and pain of the white working class, but he describes the causes almost entirely in economic terms. Their jobs have disappeared, their wages have stagnated, their lives have become more unstable. But there is surely something else at work here — the sense that people who look and sound very different are rising up. Surveys, polls and other research confirm that racial identity and anxiety are at the heart of support for Trump.
Vance touches on this sideways, when speaking about the almost pathological suspicion his hillbillies have for Barack Obama. Vance explains that it is because of the president’s accent — “clean, perfect, neutral” — his urban background, his success in the meritocracy, his reliability as a father. “And,” one wants to whisper to Vance, “because he’s black .” After all, over the years the white working class has voted for plenty of Republican and Democratic candidates with fancy degrees and neutral accents. That’s not what makes Obama different.
The white working class has always derived some of its status because there was a minority underclass below it. . . . Edmund Morgan argues that even before the revolution, the introduction of slavery helped dampen class conflict within the white population. No matter how poor you were, there was security in knowing there was someone beneath you.
The rage that is fueling the Trump phenomenon is not just about stagnant wages. It is about a way of life under siege, and it risks producing a “politics of cultural despair.” That phrase was coined by Fritz Stern to describe Germany a century ago. The key to avoiding that fate is not a series of public policies — whether tariffs or tax credits — but enlightened politics, meaning leadership that does not prey on people’s fears and phobias.

Added to the racism of Trump's base is a heavy dose of religious extremism flowing from the Christofascists who are close to hysteria over the decline of Christianity in America and their growing inability to inflict their beliefs on all of society (and make a plush living, if one is a member of the professional Christian class).  Both the working class whites of Appalachia and elsewhere need to take a look at themselves and realize that they themselves are a major part of their perceived problem.   Years ago a family member worked at a government funded medical clinic in the nearly all white coal mining regions of Southwest Virginia and was appalled at the level of dysfunction in much of the low income white society there.  Squandering ones paycheck on alcohol and/or drugs, dropping out of high school, and/or making ridiculous purchases that actively kept them back financially and inflicted harm and even hunger on their children is not the fault of the government or other races. Likewise, if the Christofascists lament the decline of Christianity, it is they themselves and their hatred of others that have in large part made younger generations walk away form religion entirely.  It's not blacks, Hispanics or Muslims who are to blame, it is they themselves.  The GOP loves to talk about personal responsibility, yet its core base is all about playing the blame game and rejecting personal accountability.

Perhaps I sound harsh in my chastisement, but my father, the son of Austrian immigrants, was orphaned at 3 years of age  (he was the youngest of four children), lived in an orphanage until age 16 when he was basically put out on the street, yet managed to graduate from high school, got into college - he was drafted in 1942 and the GI bill paid the balance of his tuition - and was successful in life.  As were all three of his siblings  who had likewise lived in the same orphanage until age 16 and joined the working world while still in high school.  My big issue with Trump is that the rage he evokes from his supporters ultimately does nothing to improve their prospects or change some of their dysfunctional and racist lifestyles.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Why Paul Ryan Needs to Denounce Trump

An op-ed in Newsweek by a former business news reporter with the New York Times is a must read. It calls on Paul Ryan to denounce Donald Trump and also goes into detail on Trump's lack of true business acumen and mental stability.  The writer calls Trump a carnival barker and rightly so.  The man is a menace and the thought of him in the White House ought to terrify every sane American.  Trump's business empire may well be propped up by Russian money and his campaign is still under the titular leadership of a man, Paul Manafort, who could well be on his way to an FBI investigation for his dealings with enemies of America in Ukraine.  Here are op-ed highlights (read the entire piece):
History rarely presents the opportunity to prove our character. Usually, we stumble through an election year, caught up in petty bickering and the occasional raging controversy that soon fades from public consciousness. . . . This is not one of those years, Mr. Speaker. These are dangerous times for America and the world. What America does in this election will affect our allies, our enemies, our children.  
We have a candidate for president from your party going so far as to suggest that “the 2nd Amendment people” could stop a president from exercising the Constitutional powers to nominate judges. And that, an obvious suggestion for assassinating a political opponent, is just the latest and most unbelievable historical outrage.
As youths, many of us read in history books about people who stood by and allowed horrors to unfold, and assured ourselves we would have challenged demagogues, regardless of the consequences. Now we are adults and face our first real chance to prove that. And so, Mr. Speaker, I ask you—in the first of a series of open letters to you over the next few weeks about the dangers posed by Donald Trump and his many secrets—to do what you know you must: Condemn your party’s presidential candidate. Condemn Trump as someone who does not represent the values of the Republican Party nor America. Condemn him as a danger to the United States. Condemn him to show that anyone should be disqualified for the presidency if they suggest their supporters should consider murdering public officials to achieve policy goals.
Would doing this cost you your seat in Congress? Probably. But others have sacrificed far more—those crippled while fighting tyrants overseas, those who died at the hands of racists at home while pursuing justice.
Imagine how history will view you for staying silent. If Trump is elected president, you—as the most prominent leader in the Republican Party—will be responsible for his actions. You will not be able to control him, no more than his campaign team, nor his bankers, nor his business partners could control him. As someone who first covered Trump’s business dealings decades ago, I assure you that the petty bully who mocked the family of an Army vet killed in battle is not a political novice who needs only to educate himself. That hate-filled man is the real Donald Trump, the one business reporters have known for over 40 years—reckless, narcissistic, lacking all self-awareness, eager to lash out at anyone who tells him what he does not want to hear. No intervention will help . . .
In decades to come, your children and grandchildren will ask, “Why didn’t you do something?”
Some conservatives of character, like Erick Erickson, Jonah Goldberg, Max Boot, Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney, have denounced Trump. They would rather their party lose the White House in 2016 than turn America’s future over to an unstable man who could well gain access to the nuclear codes. Speaker Ryan, you and other Republicans who care about conservatism, who care about America, must set aside the petty differences that separate our nation’s great parties and join all those fighting to stop this man. Patriotism must trump tribalism.
 “The thing you don’t understand about Donald Trump is that he’s mentally ill.”   One of Trump’s most senior executives said those words to me in the summer of 1990. I knew this person was not qualified to make a clinical diagnosis, but it was disturbing that one of the developer’s lieutenants would say such a thing to a reporter and clearly mean it.
 When the inevitable occurred and Trump could not even pay the interest on his billions of dollars in debt, his lenders found themselves in an impossible position—if they demanded he make good on all the debt he had personally guaranteed, he would file for personal bankruptcy, and the financial institutions that doled out the cash to him would go under. Trump and his lenders were standing in a basement filled with gasoline, and if either lit a match, they would both burn to death. Trump did not “outsmart” his banks, as he likes to say now. He and they had been so reckless that they had to save him to save themselves.
 [T]he words that best summed up the financial nonsense that led to the bankruptcy of Trump’s businesses were uttered in the early 1990s by the dean of financial journalists, Floyd Norris. He said that someday we all would have to explain to our children and grandchildren the bizarre story of Donald Trump, how so many banks behaved so recklessly to benefit a man who was obviously little more than a carnival barker. The answer, Floyd said, was: “You just had to be there. It can’t be explained rationally.”
 Mr. Speaker, we are again having to explain the success of the carnival barker, only now he is much more dangerous. Rather than being just someone who could put legions of banks out of business, he could become president of the United States and cause incomprehensible harm. Plenty of people—including members of your own party and even psychiatrists—are saying Trump exhibits signs of mental illness, as his lieutenant told me decades ago.
 It is not too late to do the right thing. Condemn Donald Trump. Don’t be on the wrong side of history.
Will Ryan heed the call?  I doubt it.  In my view, Paul Ryan is a man who is utterly morally bankrupt. He feigns religiosity yet pushes policies that are the antithesis of the Christian message he claims to honor.  Like Trump, Ryan embodies the swamp fever and pathological lying that are synonymous with today's Republican Party.  Do NOT expect Ryan to do the right thing. 

Expect the Trump Campaign to Get Even More Extreme

Part of what has lead the Republican Party to be now controlled by an out of control and down right ugly party base has been the rise of extreme right wing talk radio and similar "news" sites and outlets. These microphone jockeys and "journalists" care little about objective reality and focus on what will most excite the prejudices and paranoia of their listeners.  Hence why one study found that those who watch Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, were found to be the least informed - even less informed than those who watched little or no news at all.  Now, Donald Trump's campaign is going to be under the control and guidance of one of the mavens of the most extreme such faux news sites, Breitbart News.  A column in the Washington Post looks at how the GOP's craziness is likely about to get far more insane.  Here are excerpts:
Shaken by the fact that he’s losing, Donald Trump has fled into the parallel universe of the extreme right — and apparently plans to stay there for the remainder of the campaign. Let’s see if the rest of the Republican Party is dumb enough to follow him.
Trump has reportedly been feeling “boxed in” and “controlled” by the few people around him who actually know something about politics. Advice from these professionals to tone it down must be responsible for his slide in the polls, he seems to believe. So he has hired as chief executive of his campaign a man named Stephen Bannon, who will not only let Trump be Trump but also encourage him to be even Trumpier.
Bannon runs Breitbart News, a website that creates its own ultranationalist far-right reality — one that often bears little resemblance to the world as it really is. 
The site’s since-deceased founder, Andrew Breitbart, once “described Bannon, with sincere admiration, as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement,” according to a Bloomberg News profile. Riefenstahl was the brilliant filmmaker who became one of Hitler’s most effective propagandists. I think the comparison is wrong; Bannon is not nearly as talented.
He is a practiced provocateur, however, with a gift for reinforcing the worldview of far-right true believers. Bannon gives readers the impression that the nation is in grave and imminent peril, that Muslims are conspiring to impose sharia law throughout the land, that Mexican immigrants are running rampant in a wild crime spree, that only Trump can save us — and that polls showing him far behind Clinton are somehow skewed, incompetent or irrelevant.
It’s all a paranoid fantasy, designed to exploit anxieties about demographic and economic change. And Trump has decided that his best chance of winning is to peddle this garbage, some of which he may actually believe.
So if anyone was wondering whether this election cycle could get any worse for the GOP, it just did.
It now appears to be a good bet that Republicans will lose control of the Senate. It is far too early to predict a “wave” election that might threaten the GOP’s big majority in the House, but Democrats are allowing themselves to dream. For Republicans, the two most likely outcomes of the election are bad and worse.
Trump’s decision to throw in with the likes of Bannon can only increase the probability of a GOP debacle. Does it have to be spelled out for you in neon lights, Republicans? Trump could not care less about the party, and he would happily destroy it to feed his own ego.
Bannon, likewise, appears to view the party of Lincoln as merely a vehicle for his own ambition, which is to nurture and grow a nationalist-right movement. His website is as critical of the Republican establishment as it is of the Democrats. He has no interest in making Trump more palatable to the general electorate. 
It was perhaps foolish of me to hope that very many Republican elected officials would reject Trump on principle. But now, perhaps, more will do so for reasons of self-preservation.
Trump has made his decision. In a town hall meeting this week moderated by Sean Hannity of Fox News, Trump ignored opportunities to embrace traditional American values and instead reinforced a message of nationalism, xenophobia and fear. He offered himself as the only solution, promising, like any tinhorn strongman, that “I have as big a heart as anybody.”
But there is no room in that heart for the GOP. Trump won’t save you, Republicans. You had better save yourselves.
 The GOP establishment is now truly reaping what it has sown by years of winking and nodding to insane elements of society, including the Christofascists, white supremacists and the outright crazy. Trump is the embodiment of it all and Bannon  will make the lunacy even worse.  I for one have no sympathy - all of this could have been avoid if the leadership had had a spine and not welcomed these horrible people into the party.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

David Frum: Trump is Fueling Democrat Turnout

In past presidential elections, most of the conservative pundit class and conservative thinkers - to the extent that term isn't an oxymoron - rallied to the support of the Republican Party nominee, despite disagreement on many issues.  This year has been remarkable because of the number of conservatives either outright attacking Donald Trump or announcing that they will be voting for Hillary Clinton (the former head of General Motors and a life-long Republican has an op-ed in today's Washington Post).  What is driving this and the likely surge in Democrat turn out?  Conservative columnist David Frum sums it up in one word/name: Trump.  Here are highlights from a piece in The Atlantic:
Donald Trump today just solved Hillary Clinton’s biggest strategic problem: how to ensure that minority voters show up for her in 2016 as they showed up for Barack Obama in 2012.
Post-Obama Democrats face a quandary: Their coalition is bigger than the Republican coalition, but also less committed to political participation. When voter turnout drops, as it does in off-year elections like 2010 and 2014, Democrats lose.
In 2012, Democrats mobilized a truly heroic turnout effort to re-elect President Obama. Black voter turnout in particular excelled: For the first time in American history, it surpassed white turnout. The extraordinary organizing effort of the Obama re-election team certainly deserves much of the credit. But organization can only ever do so much. Black voters turned out in huge numbers, exceeding even 2008 turnout, because they believed they had an important personal stake in the vote.
Earlier in the cycle, many wondered whether Hillary Clinton could generate anything like that kind of response from the Democratic base. “Will Black Folks Deliver for Hillary Clinton?” asked The Root in the spring of 2015. Charles D. Ellison, a keen student of African American voting, deployed an impressive mass of statistics and history to answer, in effect: “We’ll see.”
Instead—as with so much else this cycle—the black vote, like the women’s vote, like the Latino vote, like the divisions in the Republican Party, is being decided by Donald Trump.
Reportedly frustrated by Paul Manafort’s attempts to impose message discipline upon him—apparently determined to win or lose speaking his own thoughts in his own words—Donald Trump has done two astonishing things in the past 24 hours. The first was to replace his former campaign CEO with the head of the provocative Breitbart website, Steve Bannon. The second was to travel to West Bend, Wisconsin, a city almost 95 percent white and 40 miles from Milwaukee, to “reach out” to black America by defending the police of Milwaukee against their critics.
Trump is surrounded by people who think it’s 1968 all over again, with white Americans ready to respond to a message of firm suppression of nonwhite disorder. But even after the crime uptick since 2014, the United States remains a very safe society—with crime a distant worry for the voters a normal Republican presidential candidate should now be seeking. The police-violence issue, however, does matter overwhelmingly to the black Americans whose turnout Hillary Clinton so desperately needs. Trump just cranked up the volume of the issue that helps her most—and his new team is made up of people likelier to crank it up louder still.
The defense of violent police force within and against troubled black communities looks likely to be elevated by the Breitbartized Trump campaign to the top of its agenda. Hillary Clinton could not wish for more. Down ballot Republicans could not fear worse.

Is Vladimir Putin playing Trump?

Many in America's foreign policy and national security agencies have expressed alarm over the apparent bromance between Donald Trump.  Many fear that either Putin is playing Trump for a fool - one hears constant concern over his ignorance in foreign affairs and disinclination to educate himself, always claiming to know everything.  Now, a piece in Politico looks at parallels between the Trump-Putin relationship and that of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who ultimately left office amidst numerous scandals.  As the piece noted, many believed that Berlusconi had personal financial benefit from his ties to Putin.  With rumored Russian money propping up Trump's business empire, one needs to wonder whether Trump would sell out America and its allies to further enrich himself.  Here are article excerpts:
In January 2009, the U.S. ambassador in Rome cabled Washington to raise an alarm. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the diplomat wrote, had cultivated a troubling relationship with the country’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
“Berlusconi admires Putin’s macho, decisive, and authoritarian governing style, which the Italian PM believes matches his own,” wrote the ambassador, Ronald P. Spogli. “From the Russian side, it appears that Putin has devoted much energy to developing Berlusconi’s trust.“
The ambassador noted with concern that the brash Italian billionaire, who was driven from office by scandal in 2011, was openly challenging U.S. policy toward Russia and echoing Putin’s views on issues from NATO expansion to Kosovo to missile defense.

And he shared reports from opposition party contacts of a more “nefarious” factor: talk that “Berlusconi and his cronies are profiting personally and handsomely” from business ties to Russia.
Seven years after that cable, disclosed by WikiLeaks, the Berlusconi-Putin bromance has acquired a new resonance, as foreign policy analysts and even some U.S. officials see unsettling echoes in the recent long-distance kinship between the Russian leader and Donald J. Trump.
It may even suggest that Putin is applying a specific method to the GOP nominee. In recent years Putin has befriended several major Western European politicians, including former leaders of France and Germany, who openly challenge U.S. and European policies toward Russia, including NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe and economic sanctions punishing Putin’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
But Trump is most frequently compared to the 79-year-old Berlusconi. Both men are wealthy populists known for their expensive tastes, outrageous rhetoric, relationships with women and all-around showmanship. Like Berlusconi, Trump has demonstrated an unusual affinity for Putin — along with notable dissent from confrontational U.S. and Western European policies toward Russia.

To some, however, it hints at something more.
“The parallels with Trump are a little too disturbing,” says a U.S. government analyst who closely tracked Russia’s relationship with Europe when Berlusconi was in office. “Putin is very strategic. He would focus on people’s vulnerabilities — whether their vanity or greed or financial needs.”
That view echoes the analysis of former deputy CIA director Michael Morell, who recently wrote in The New York Times that Putin, drawing from his background as an intelligence officer, had made a “calculated” overture to Trump early in the presidential campaign, “playing upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him,” and turning Trump into an “unwitting agent” of Russia.
Though Trump, in recent interviews, has downplayed his affinity for Putin, the Republican nominee has also taken several policy positions that echo the Kremlin line. He has questioned the relevance of the 67-year-old NATO alliance, called for U.S.-Russian cooperation against the Islamic State, and questioned U.S. and European sanctions imposed on Moscow after Putin’s forcible March 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Trump’s relationship with Putin — whom Trump says he’s never even met — remains embryonic compared to the extraordinary kinship between the Russian leader and his Italian chum.
As the January 2009 cable noted, the officials also suspected that illicit money might be fueling the friendship. One October 2008 U.S. cable from Rome noted that “many (including his own party officials) suspect [Berlusconi] has a personally and financially enriching relationship” with Putin’s oligarch allies.
In recent weeks, allies of Hillary Clinton have fanned rumors and speculative press reports suggesting that Russian investments in Trump business ventures have influenced his views. Trump and his son Donald Jr. have made numerous trips to Russia exploring business deals there, and in 2008 Donald Jr. told an audience that Russian money makes up a “disproportionate share” of the family company’s assets. Trump has denied having financial ties to Russia, though his refusal to release his tax returns makes that impossible to verify.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday Male Beauty - Pt 4

Why Blacks Loathe Donald Trump

A Black Lives Matter sign outside a rally for Donald J. Trump in Des Moines, Iowa.
There are many segments of American society that hate Donald Trump.  For starters, there are Hispanic voters who take umbrage at Trump's depiction of them as would be rapist and criminals.  Then, of course, there are women voters who view - correctly, in my opinion - Trump as a foul sexist pig.  The there is the LGBT community which rightly sees Trump's promises to leading Christofascists as an ominous threat.  And then there are blacks who according to some polls support Trump the least of any demographic.  A column in the New York Times looks at why Trump is so despised by black voters.  Here are column highlights:
So now Donald Trump is campaigning for the black vote. (Long, awkward pause.)
Like so much of what Trump has said and done, this new outreach forces writers like me to conduct scatological studies, framing Trump’s actions in their historical and intellectual absurdity.  But, here we go.
Trump, who got a shocking 1 percent of support among black voters in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, has been urged to reach out to black voters.
A day after The New York Times published an article pointing out that “the Republican nominee has not held a single event aimed at black voters in their communities, shunning the traditional stops at African-American churches, historically black colleges and barber shops and salons that have long been staples of the presidential campaign trail,” Trump ventured to a suburban town outside Milwaukee that is 95 percent white and 1 percent black to tell the black population of America — a population that has been consumed in recent years by a discussion of police misconduct and extrajudicial killings — that “the problem in our poorest communities is not that there are too many police, the problem is that there are not enough police.”
The speech was tone deaf, facile and nonsensical, much like the man who delivered it.
Then within hours of making that speech, Trump shook up his campaign in part by naming Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, the campaign’s chief executive.  This is the same Breitbart that the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to in an April “Hatewatch” report:
Over the past year however, the outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas — all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”
“The Alt-Right is a loose set of far-right ideologies at the core of which is a belief that “white identity” is under attack through policies prioritizing multiculturalism, political correctness and social justice and must be preserved, usually through white-identified online communities and physical ethno-states.”
How are you reaching out to the black community when you step on your own message with such an insulting hire?
All of black America is looking askance at Donald Trump. He has no credibility with black people, other than the handful of black staffers and surrogates who routinely embarrass themselves in their blind obsequiousness.
Trump has demonstrated through a lifetime of words and actions that he is no friend of the black community. . . . . He erupted like a rash onto the public consciousness on the front page of The New York Times in 1973 because he and his father were being sued for anti-black bias at their rental property.
This is the same man who took out full-page ads blaring the headline “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” in New York City newspapers calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, a group of teenagers made up of four African-American boys and one Hispanic boy, who were accused and convicted of raping a white female jogger in the park. A judge later overturned the convictions in the flimsy cases and in 2014 the Five settled a wrongful conviction suit with the city for $41 million.
Trump is the same man who stepped into presidential politics by becoming the embodiment of the Birther movement, relentlessly demanding to see President Obama’s birth certificate.
This is the same man at whose rallies African-Americans have been verbally and physically assaulted.
This is the same man who has scandalously maligned Muslims, apparently not realizing that it’s estimated that approximately one-fourth of the 3.3 million Muslims in this country are African-American.
Donald Trump is the paragon of racial, ethnic and religious hostility. He is the hobgoblin of retrograde racial hegemony.  And this is the man who now wants to court the black vote? Puh-leese …,

Hillary's Republican Neocon Fan Club Explained

Some far left critics of Hillary Clinton would have voters believe that she would rush the nation to war and that she is too "hawkish" in the foreign policy realm. Such criticism, of course, ignores Donald Trump's comments about disbanding NATO and loose talk about using nuclear weapons - apparently against Middle East foes.  As a piece in Vox argues, Clinton is not the hawk that some would paint her to be and, like Obama, she has had to deal with the disastrous aftermath of the Iraq War and other fool's errands launched by Bush/Cheney before Obama ever was sworn in as president. Moreover, given Trump's purported agenda, Republican neocons supporting Clinton really have nowhere else to go than to support Clinton.  Their motivations and policies should not automatically be attributed to Hillary Clinton.Here are article highlights:
Donald Trump has found ways to alienate some members of all factions of conservative politics, but neoconservative intellectuals, operatives, and policy hands have been the most heavily represented element in the ranks of anti-Trump Republicans.
That’s largely because unlike social conservatives or free marketers, Trump hasn’t even tried to court neoconservative support. On the contrary, he’s gone to substantial lengths to exaggerate the extent of his historical differences with them, pretending to have opposed regime change operations in Iraq and Libya that he in fact supported.
Under the circumstances, it’s natural that Hillary Clinton would fish in these waters as she seeks the broadest possible coalition of support against Trump. But things like leading neoconservative Robert Kagan organizing a fundraiser for Clinton gives pause to liberals in ways that Clinton garnering support from Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman doesn’t.
When Obama became president, he tapped Clinton to serve as secretary of state, in which capacity she served as a de facto leader for more hawkish elements of the administration, as opposed to officials such as Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes who’d backed Obama in the primary.
During Clinton’s 2016 primary campaign against Bernie Sanders, Clinton ran clearly to the left on a range of domestic issues to lock down interest group support in her favor. On foreign policy, where there is little in the way of interest group pressure, she did not — choosing instead to praise Henry Kissinger and hit Sanders from the right on Iran and Cuba.
This record raises suspicion that there is more at work than an alliance of convenience, with the Intercept’s Rania Khalek writing of a “Clinton-neocon partnership” that “has grown steadily over time” for reasons that go beyond Trump.
But despite the fears of her left-wing critics, Clinton is no neocon. Nor is there really much evidence to back up a broad-brush notion that Clinton is especially “hawkish” in a generic sense. Clinton’s record overwhelmingly reflects continuity, for better or for worse, with longstanding aspects of American foreign policy.
Critics of the status quo will find plenty to dislike, but there’s no reason to believe her administration would represent any kind of dramatic departure in foreign policy — not just in the Middle East but around the world.
Neoconservative thinkers and politicians such as John McCain and Marco Rubio favor a coercive approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, confrontation with leftist regimes in Latin America, and a ratcheting up of American involvement in proxy conflicts with Russia in former Soviet republics. Last but by no means least, they endorse a hard line on China, seeing toughness and resolve as likely to succeed in intimidating China into good behavior.
It’s simply not the case that Clinton shares this worldview.
Were she running against a conventional Republican rather than Vladimir Putin’s favorite American politician, her dovish approach to Russia — and Putin’s ultimate spurning of her overtures — would be a key GOP talking point.
Nonetheless, she continues to support diplomacy with Russia aimed at reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles, and has generally stood by Obama’s reluctance to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military.
Clinton favors a diplomatic approach to the North Korean nuclear issue, addressed Chinese adventurism with quiet (and effective) multilateral diplomacy, and worked publicly and privately on behalf of the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening to Cuba. And Clinton, like Obama but unlike any Republican, regards fostering international cooperation on climate change as an important foreign policy priority.
She’s not an ardent anti-imperialist, obviously. But she is not a neocon in Democrats’ clothing. She’s a wonky mainstream Democrat who has a lot of respect for America’s military and diplomatic professionals, who sees foreign policy as about trying to use the full range of tools to advance a wide range of objectives in a complicated world.
Clinton does differ from Obama in at least one important specific way — her view of the alliance system prevailing in the Middle East.  The US–Saudi Arabia alliance has always had an odd-couple dynamic to it due to the massive gap between US and Saudi ideological commitments, but during Obama’s time in office it’s become a truly bad marriage. Obama and his core team of longtime advisers have been increasingly vocal about their discontent with the Gulf monarchies.
The Obama administration sees these countries as engineering a fundamentally irresponsible regional policy that helps fuel international terrorism and then deploying their considerable financial resources to push a political agenda inside the United States rather than to solve problems constructively. Obama’s statement in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg that the Saudis need to learn to “share” the region with Iran was a strikingly bold on-the-record remark, but entirely consistent with things he’s said more quietly for years.
The Saudis, for their part, have grown increasingly paranoid that Obama secretly dreams of orchestrating a reversal of alliances that would see the United States partner with Iran.
In the immediate past, this friendlier disposition to America’s traditional Gulf allies has, operationally, lent a “hawkish” cast to Clinton’s record. It made Clinton one of the members of Obama’s team who was most eager to intervene in Libya, and it’s left her consistently to Obama’s right in terms of eagerness to be involved in anti-Assad military action in Syria.
But this is a consistent difference in assessment of America’s allies, not a consistent difference in assessment of the merits of regime change.
[A]ll of this cannot be evaluated without considering the context of Clinton’s opponent. Donald Trump is not a particularly “dovish” thinker on national security issues. He’s promising a large, unspecified US military buildup, a policy of routine torture, and the use of military force to plunder foreign natural resources. In a sense, he’s clearly well to the right of George W. Bush or any other major contemporary politician in terms of embracing violence as a solution to problems.
But at the same time, his proposal (if you can call it that) to abrogate the terms of NATO and turn it into s
The fact that stepping completely outside the bounds of longstanding bipartisan US foreign policy consensus would lead some foreign policy–focused Republicans to support Clinton shows that she is broadly inside that consensus, not that she’s some kind of super-hawk.
The consensus itself, of course, is by no means above criticism and has long had its critics on the left. They’ll find plenty of reason to be unhappy with Clinton. But once Trump fades from the scene, so will the conservative hawks who’ve spent the past seven years hammering the Obama administration and are now flocking to Clinton more out of desperation than anything else.