Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Christian Right Is Sleeping With the Enemy

As regular readers know, I view conservative Christians as some of the most selfish, self-centered and hypocrisy-filled people one will ever meet.  They are nothing less than modern day Pharisees.  But this is particularly true of what I call the "professional Christian" crowd that seeks power while fleecing the gullible and ignorant.  They make the money lenders in the Temple that Christ supposedly decried look ethical and upstanding.    Indeed, their embrace of Donald Trump puts a glaring spotlight on their hypocrisy and hunger for power.  I came across a column from some time back that takes aim at these dangerous hypocrites, including Jerry Falwell, Jr., James Dobson and Franklin Graham, all foul individuals in my estimation.  Here are some column highlights:
To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, “There’s a sucker born again every minute.”
This week, according to a roomful of dewy-eyed pastors and fawning televangelists who met behind closed doors with GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump, he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and is apparently now suitable for Christians and church leaders to fully and passionately support.
Never mind that Trump has made no such claims himself, nor given any indication by word or deed that would lead anyone to believe such outrageous proclamations. And disregard Trump’s growing legacy of ignorant rants against Muslims, Mexicans, women, immigrants, and almost any groups who aren’t wealthy or white—or both.
As a Christian and a pastor, it’s all been equally fascinating and infuriating watching supposed men and women (well, mostly men) of God engage in all sorts of embarrassing theological gymnastics to try and connect the most convoluted and disparate of dots in order to justify hitching their ministries to Trump’s toxic wagon.
This is a revelatory moment for we who claim Christianity, one that crystallizes how much Dobson and the rest of these folks have lost the plot and how faithfully they now serve only themselves.
It turns out, when it comes to power the Evangelical Right will go to bed with just about anybody. They’re that easy.
The truth is, Donald Trump is a fairly horrible human being if you’re going to use any measurement of morality. He’s neither done nor said anything that one could categorize as remotely resembling Jesus. Lots of smart people understand this. But this isn’t about him. He’s doing what most of us expect him to do: try and court a valuable and much-needed voting block without self-awareness, shame, or decency. This isn’t a surprise.
[T]his about supposed representatives of Jesus whoring themselves out just to have what they hope will be the next President’s ear and pretending it’s the work of God. It’s about discarding faith to keep power in their party. It’s about a Christianity that no longer has need or use for Jesus. They themselves are the bloated golden calf they’re bowing down to and Trump is just a means to this end—and it’s exactly what is killing the Church.
Every day people tell me that they’re finished with organized Christianity; that they’re walking away from the American Church for good, and it isn’t because of gays or cultural decay or materialism or lust or whatever these preachers like to lift while in the pulpit. These millions of honest, wise (and yes faithful) people are making their exodus because they see Dobson and Falwell and people like them and they realize the absolute absurdity of it all.
It’s a compete disconnect undermining the very bedrock of their core beliefs, and so they’re choosing to leave instead of being associated with such a blatant power lust move. They’ve run out of patience with a spirituality that’s for sale. They’re through with a Christianity that only needs to win.
One of the most startling ironies, is that these are the same self-professed “defenders of the faith”, who for the last eight years have ruthlessly persecuted a President who has not only repeatedly professed personal spirituality, but whose conduct, marriage, and family are everything they claim they’re for. This was never good enough for them to support or pray for him—or even call him a Christian.
Yet Donald Trump, in all his philandering, materialistic, racist, bigoted, misogynist glory is somehow worthy of reverence because somewhere deep down (in a way that only these leaders see), he loves Jesus. If you believe that I have some swamp land in Alabama for you.
If Trump’s version of Christianity is the hateful, politicized, bullying, opportunist variety these Right Evangelical extremists have been living for the past few decades—I’ll pass.

I continue to believe that it is the "godly folk" themselves who are accelerating the well-deserved death of Christianity.   Expect the exodus from organized religion to continue if not accelerate. 

Trump Model Management Knowingly Violated Immigration Laws

Among Donald trump's many unattractive attributes are his dishonesty, hypocrisy, willingness to use intimidation and underhanded tactics to screw contractors, and view that he is above the law.  The hypocrisy is particularly telling in the context of Trump's rantings about the non-enforcement of immigration laws - laws that his modeling agency ignored and flouted at will.  Mother Jones looks at Trump Model Management.  Here are story highlights (read the entire piece):
Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are "taking our jobs" and "taking our money," pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. At one point he demanded a ban on Muslims entering the country. Speaking to supporters in Iowa on Saturday, Trump said he would crack down on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas and declared that when any American citizen "loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated." And he is scheduled to give a major address on immigration in Arizona on Wednesday night.
But the mogul's New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump's agency in the United States without a proper visa.
Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.
Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management "has risen to the top of the fashion market," boasts the Trump Organization's website, and has a name "that symbolizes success." According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.  
Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump's company in the United States without a work visa.
At Mother Jones' request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump's hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row. Two other former Trump models—who requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences, and who we are giving the pseudonyms Anna and Kate—said the agency never obtained work visas on their behalf, even as they performed modeling assignments in the United States. (They provided photographs from some of these jobs, and Mother Jones confirmed with the photographers or stylists that these shoots occurred in the United States.) According to three immigration lawyers consulted by Mother Jones, even unpaid employment is against the law for foreign nationals who do not have a work visa. "If the US company is benefiting from that person, that's work," explained Anastasia Tonello, global head of the US immigration team at Laura Devine Attorneys in New York. These rules for immigrants are in place to "protect them from being exploited," she said. "That US company shouldn't be making money off you."
Two of the former Trump models said Trump's agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: "If they ask you any questions, you're just here for meetings."
Trump's campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, declined to answer questions about Trump Model Management's use of foreign labor.
Kate, who worked for Trump Model Management in 2004, marveled at how her former boss has recently branded himself as an anti-illegal-immigration crusader on the campaign trail. "He doesn't want to let anyone into the US anymore," she said. "Meanwhile, behind everyone's back, he's bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they're working illegally." In a recent interview, she said her experience with Trump's firm stood out: "Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I've ever worked for, and I've worked for quite a few." The three former Trump models said Trump's agency was aware of the complications posed by their foreign status. Anna and Kate said the company coached them on how to circumvent immigration laws. Kate recalled being told, "When you're stuck at immigration, say that you're coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you're going there to look for an agent."
These days, Kate said, she believes that Trump has been fooling American voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, given that his own agency had engaged in the practices he has denounced. "He doesn't like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim," she said, "but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it's okay? He's such a hypocrite."

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Right's Insane Immigration Conspiracy Theories

During my time as a Republican Party member and activist, white supremacists and white nationalists were not openly welcomed into the Party.  Indeed, when someone did engage in rants along such lines, most of us rolled our eyes and viewed the individual akin to an insane family member that one tries to keep quiet and out of public view.  Those days are gone and, with the rise of Donald Trump, white supremacy and white nationalism is one of the twin pillars of today's Republican Party - the other is right wing Christian religious extremism, although it greatly overlaps the Party's open racism. A piece in Salon looks at some of Trump's bizarre conspiracy theories and provides a good explanation of the obsession with the now mainstream fringe elements who believe Mexico is engaged in a conspiracy to reconquer the American Southwest and more.  Here are excerpts:
[T]he notion that the Mexican government is orchestrating an invasion of the United States has been a staple on the white nationalist far right for years.
“This is a longstanding conspiracy on the radical right,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “There have been claims for the better part of ten years now that Mexico is secretly planning to reconquer the American Southwest.”
That conspiracy to take over the Southwest goes by the names Plan de Aztlán (taken from a 1969 Chicano movement manifesto) and “the Reconquista,” or Reconquest. One theory is that it will happen through the “birth canal,” meaning that Mexican women are being sent to the United States to give birth to lots of children and take power through sheer demographic force. The other is that it will take place through force of arms. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, one of the most extreme but influential anti-immigrant organizations, has lent its support to the theory.
“It boils down to the claim that Mexico is consciously infiltrating its citizens into the United States in order to take back the lands lost to the Americans,” said Potok.
A 2006 article in Front Page Magazine, for example, described “the Mexican invasion of the United States” as “a campaign to occupy and gain power over our country — a project encouraged, abetted, and organized by the Mexican state and supported by the leading elements of Mexican society.”
In 2005, anti-immigrant advocates seized on the Mexican government’s distribution of a safety guide to migrants as evidence that the government was coordinating their outmigration for the economic purpose of ensuring remittances. Rick Oltman of FAIRreportedly said the books were evidence of  “the Mexican government trying to protect its most valuable export, which is illegal migrants.”
The theory probably originated, said Potok, in a small group called American Patrol, based in Southern Arizona, and was popular amongst Minutemen anti-immigrant militiamen during their heyday, from the mid to late 2000s.
“It’s a conspiracy theory that began on a tiny hate group on the Arizona that has spread far and wide and quite deeply penetrated the mainstream,” said Potok.
In 2014, a video circulated of a man who described himself as a former Border Patrol agent, who charged that the influx of refugee children was an act of “asymmetrical warfare” carried out by unnamed malignant forces so that they could sneak in drugs and chemical and biological weapons (he also put suggested that the Ebola outbreak in Africa was spread by intentional conspiracy). The video was cited by right-wing figures including former Congressman Allen West.
Others, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, accused the U.S. government of being complicit in coordinating the wave of Central American child refugees. That taps into the notion, said Potok, that President Obama wants immigrants and refugees to come to the United States because they will be future Democratic voters. It’s also part of a broader theory that dangerous forces abroad are allied with an internal fifth column of liberals who are aiding the enemy for their own nefarious purposes.
 The reality, of course, is that Mexico doesn’t decide which immigrants come to the United States; immigrants experiencing complex social and economic realities do. But conspiratorial explanations become increasingly appealing as the global forces that shape people’s lives become ever more abstract. Trump isn’t just tapping into racist sentiment. He’s channeling a right-wing account of how the world works that is no longer relegated to the fringe.

Inside the Deranged Mind of Donald Trump

There have been many columns and news stories about Donald Trump's narcissism and the danger his self-absorption would pose to the country and world should he ever make it to the White House.  But perhaps the most accurate description of the man can be found in a column in the Chicago Tribune by Garrison Keillor (thanks to the reader who sent me the link).  That Trump is one psychologically twisted individual with juvenile impulses is an understatement.  Here are column highlights:
Your eyes look dead and your scowl does not suggest American greatness so much as American indigestion. Your hair is the wrong color: People don't want a president to be that shade of blond. You know that now.
Why doesn't someone in your entourage dare to say these things? So sad. The fans in the arenas are wild about you, and Sean Hannity is as loyal as they come, but Rudy and Christie and Newt are reassuring in that stilted way of hospital visitors. And The New York Times treats you like the village idiot. This is painful for a Queens boy trying to win respect in Manhattan where the Times is the Supreme Liberal Jewish Anglican Arbiter of Who Has The Smarts and What Goes Where. When you came to Manhattan 40 years ago, you discovered that in entertainment, the press, politics, finance, everywhere you went, you ran into Jews, and they are not like you: Jews didn't go in for big yachts and a fleet of aircraft — they showed off by way of philanthropy or by raising brilliant offspring. They sympathized with the civil rights movement. In Queens, blacks were a threat to property values — they belonged in the Bronx, not down the street. To the Times, Queens is Cleveland. Bush league. You are Queens. The casinos were totally Queens, the gold faucets in your triplex, the bragging, the insults, but you wanted to be liked by Those People. You wanted Mike Bloomberg to invite you to dinner at his townhouse. You wanted the Times to run a three-part story about you, that you meditate and are a passionate kayaker and collect 14th-century Islamic mosaics. You wish you were that person but you didn't have the time.
Running for president is your last bid for the respect of Manhattan. If you were to win election, they couldn't ridicule you anymore. They could be horrified, but there is nothing ridiculous about being Leader of the Free World. You have B-52 bombers at your command. When you go places, a battalion of security guys comb the environs. You attract really really good speechwriters who give you Churchillian cadences and toss in quotes from Emerson and Aeschylus and Ecclesiastes.
Labor Day and it is not going well. You had a very bad month. You tossed out those wisecracks on Twitter and the Earth shook and your ratings among white suburban women with French cookware declined. The teleprompter is not your friend. You are in the old tradition of locker room ranting and big honkers in the steam room, sitting naked, talking man talk, griping about the goons and ginks and lousy workmanship and the uppity broads and the great lays and how you vanquished your enemies at the bank. Profanity is your natural language and vulgar words so as not to offend the Christers but the fans can still hear it and that's something they love about you. You are their guy. You are losing and so are they but they love you for it.
So what do you do this winter? Hang around one of your mansions? Hit some golf balls? Hire a ghostwriter to do a new autobiography?
What the fans don't know is that it's not much fun being a billionaire. You own a lot of big houses and you wander around in them, followed by a waiter, a bartender, a masseuse, three housekeepers, and a concierge, and they probably gossip about you behind your back. Just like nine-tenths of your campaign staff. You're losing and they know it and they're telling mean stories about you to everybody and his brother.
Meanwhile, you keep plugging away. It's the hardest work you've ever done. You walk out in the white cap and you rant for an hour about stuff that means nothing and the fans scream and wave their signs and you wish you could level with them for once and say one true thing: I love you to death and when this is over I will have nothing that I want.

If he wasn't such a threat to the nation and so indifferent to others, he would almost be a figure worthy of pity.  He's made money his god and has perhaps discovered that it cannot find him happiness or the acceptance by his betters that he so desperately craves.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, September 02, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Will Johns Hopkins Lose Its LGBT-Friendly Rating?

In my view, reputable universities and medical centers have an obligation to condemn bogus research offered to the public under the apparent credibility of such institution.  When the Christofascists paid Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas to concoct a flawed and now discredited study that was used to oppose same sex marriage, Regnerus' department stated in no uncertain terms that it rejected his supposed findings and made it clear that Regnerus' views did not represent those of the institution.  With the publication of a new, non-peer reviewed article by two individuals with Johns Hopkins University and Medical School, that institution finds itself in a position where it needs to take a similar stance.  Sadly, to date it has failed to do so and instead has made mealy mouthed statements about "freedom of expression."  As a result, the Human Rights Campaign is on the verge of revoking the institution LGBT-friendly and supportive ranking, and rightly so, in my view.  NBC News looks at the controversy.  Here are excerpts:
The fate of transgender Americans may now be in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, as it decides whether to hear the case of trans student Gavin Grimm, who is suing his school district in order to use the boys' bathroom. Those who would deny individuals like Grimm their civil rights, however, hope to block not just their right to pee — but to be.
The movement's latest effort is a controversial 143-page report that LGBTQ advocates consider an early Christmas gift to religious conservatives. Its authors are Dr. Paul McHugh and Dr. Lawrence Mayer of Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., who between them have never conducted independent research on LGBTQ Americans.
McHugh, a retired professor at Johns Hopkins and a psychiatrist who considers being trans a "mental disorder," collaborated with Mayer to change what people think about sexuality and gender through science. This is an opponent of transgender rights who made a name for himself by declaring homosexuality a choice, lending his expertise to legal efforts to block same-sex marriage in California. The self-described cultural conservative and strict Catholic once compared the practice of administering hormone therapy to children as akin to performing "liposuction on an anorexic child."
The paper was published in The New Atlantis, which is not a peer-reviewed medical journal, where reports by members of the Johns Hopkins team might normally be found. Instead, it's the product of the Ethics and Public Policy Center(EPPC), a Christian-focused conservative think tank "dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical areas of public policy."
Even if you've never heard of EPPC, their stance on some key issues in LGBTQ life will be familiar. The group supported the now-defunct Defense of Marriage Act, objected to the elimination of Don't Ask, Don't tell and supports efforts by conservative states to enact religious freedom restoration acts.
Although it might appear unusual that Johns Hopkins healthcare professionals would publish a paper of this kind in a religious publication with a political agenda, Mayer shrugged it off.
NBC OUT has learned that unless Mayer and McHugh's bosses at Johns Hopkins immediately disassociate themselves from what the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) considers their transphobic findings, the reputation of the university, its medical school and its hospitals may suffer.
The claims made by the authors have triggered an unprecedented review byHRC, which is the nation's leading LGBTQ civil rights organization. The group says it has been warning the internationally respected university medical school for several months that it will remove its name from an elite classification in its Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) unless action is taken.
A person with knowledge of HRC's leadership decisions told NBC OUT that after repeated warnings, Johns Hopkins is now on the brink of losing its perfect score on that closely-watched benchmark for LGBTQ equality. The source provided the text of a warning sent in June, prior to the release of the report by Dr. Mayer and Dr. McHugh:
"Failure to take significant steps to distance Johns Hopkins Medicine from this line of Dr. McHugh's personal beliefs and opinions will be considered an activity that undermines LGBTQ equality and patient care for the purposes of the Healthcare Equality Index score for Johns Hopkins Hospital."
NBC OUT reached out to spokespersons for both Johns Hopkins Medicine as well as the university, in hopes of getting their reaction to its endangered perfect score, and to ask whether anyone would endorse or would condemn the controversial report on transgender Americans.
A spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins Medicine, representing both institutions, addressed the issue via email, but refused to directly address the report. . . . they're not endorsing Mayer and McHugh and "not necessarily" distancing themselves, either. On Monday, HRC sent another warning letter to Johns Hopkins, mentioning the report in the New Atlantis, according to the HRC official who requested anonymity.
Sarah McBride, HRC's national press secretary and the first-ever transgender speaker at an American political convention, talked to NBC OUT on the record and said she believed the report by Mayer and McHugh posed "dangerous consequences for transgender people, in particular transgender young people."
"There's no question that the public narrative is that this is a Hopkins study," and unless the institution were to take action there will be "consequences," she added. As to what those might be, McBride later emailed a statement to NBC OUT to shed a few new details.
"We are deeply troubled by the continued use of Johns Hopkins' name and reputation to back up the unscientific, unfounded, and harmful personal prejudices of a few of their doctors. We have repeatedly reached out to Johns Hopkins to express our disappointment and anger with the ongoing use of their credibility to back up discredited theories. The next version of our HEI will include criteria regarding institutional support for similar anti-LGBTQ actions, which means that unless Johns Hopkins addresses this situation, their score will be significantly impacted. We have made and will continue to make that fact clear to Johns Hopkins as we work to end this practice."
The Advocate invited Dean Hamer, PhD., to investigate Mayer and McHugh's report. Hamer, who is scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health . . . . did not mince words in his article, writing in conclusion: "When the data we have struggled so long and hard to collect is twisted and misinterpreted by people who call themselves scientists, and who receive the benefits and protection of a mainstream institution such as John Hopkins Medical School, it disgusts me."
The real test of Mayer and McHugh's controversial report will be whether it is largely ignored, as Dr. Hamer believes it will be, or whether it will find its way into the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court justices as they consider what could be a precedent-setting case on trans civil rights.

Donald Trump and Lies and Identity Politics Run Amok

If there is anything positive about the rise of Donald Trump it is perhaps the fact that it has caused same, non-racist, and non-religious extremist conservatives to perhaps recognize the poison that the Republican Party has been sowing for years albeit without the open hatred and vileness of Trump and his base of support.  Whether this realization will last beyond Trump's hopeful defeat will have to be seen.  Will these same conservatives who rail against Trump's GOP positions on steroids conveniently forget the dangers of and damage done by racism, religious extremism and identity politics after the demise of Trump?  A conservative columnist in the New York Times laments Trump and his policies of racial division.  Sadly, he was an apologist for the GOP for years.  Here are excerpts from his column which hopefully he and others will remember in the years to come: 
Once, I seem to recall, we had philosophical and ideological differences. Once, politics was a debate between liberals and conservatives, between different views of government, different views on values and America’s role in the world.
But this year, it seems, everything has been stripped down to the bone. Politics is dividing along crude identity lines — along race and class. Are you a native-born white or are you an outsider? Are you one of the people or one of the elites?
Politics is no longer about argument or discussion; it’s about trying to put your opponents into the box of the untouchables.
Donald Trump didn’t invent this game, but he embodies it. His advisers tried to dress him up on Wednesday afternoon as some sort of mature summiteer. But he just can’t be phony.
By his evening immigration speech he’d returned to the class and race tropes that have defined his campaign: that the American government is in the grips of a rich oligarchy that distorts everything for its benefit; that the American people are besieged by foreigners, who take their jobs and threaten their lives.
Trump argues that immigration has sown chaos across middle-class neighborhoods. This is false. Research suggests that the recent surge in immigration has made America’s streets safer. That’s because foreign-born men are very unlikely to commit violent crime.
According to one study, only 2 or 3 percent of Mexican-, Guatemalan- or Salvadoran-born men without a high school degree end up incarcerated, compared with 11 percent of their American-born counterparts.
Trump argues that the flood of immigrants is taking jobs away from unskilled native workers. But this is mainly false, too. . . . . That’s because immigrants flow into different types of unskilled jobs. Unskilled immigrants tend to become maids, cooks and farm workers — jobs that require less English. Unskilled natives tend to become cashiers and drivers. If immigrants are driving down wages, it is mostly those of other immigrants.
Trump claims the rich benefit from immigration while everyone else suffers. Doctors get cheap nannies, everyone else gets the shaft.  This is false, too. The fact is, a vast majority of Americans benefit. A study by John McLaren of U.Va. and Gihoon Hong of Indiana University found that each new immigrant produced about 1.2 new jobs, because immigrants are producers and consumers and increase overall economic activity. . . . The cities that are doing best economically work hard to attract new immigrants because the benefits are widely shared.
Identity politics distorts politics in two ways. First, it is Manichaean. It cleanly divides the world into opposing forces of light and darkness. You are a worker or an elite. You are American or foreigner. . . . Seeing this way is understandable if you are scared, but it is also a sign of intellectual laziness. The reality is that people can’t be reduced to a single story. An issue as complex as immigration can’t be reduced to a cartoon.
Second and most important, identity politics is inherently the politics of division. But on most issues — whether it is immigration or the economy or national security — we rise and fall together.  
Identity politics, as practiced by Trump . . . . corrodes the sense of solidarity. It breeds suspicion, cynicism and distrust.  Human beings are too complicated to be defined by skin color, income or citizenship status. Those who try to reduce politics to these identities do real violence to national life.
Intellectual laziness.  The term personifies the Christofascists and even most white supremacists who cling to myths and an imaginary time that in reality never existed.  But they prefer to cling to such beliefs because it dispenses with the need to think for one's self and to have to analyze facts and circumstances.  Indeed, ignorance is bliss to these people. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, September 01, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

Melania Trump Sues Daily Mail for Libel Over ‘Escort’ Claim

Melania Trump's past modeling choices

It is difficult to ever figure out what motivates Donald Trump and to a lesser extent his wife Melania (who personally, I can only assume, thinks about The Donald's bank accounts as she has sex with him - something that I admit is stomach wrenching to even contemplate trying to envision even momentarily).   Perhaps the goal is to intimidate media outlets and bloggers.  Perhaps they hope for a quick settlement with the Daily Mail and some quick cash to bolster lagging finances.  But, their thought process - or lack thereof - is even more unfathomable now that Melania has sued a Maryland based blogger and the UK newspaper, The Daily Mail, for libel based on gossip that she may have once worked as an "escort" prior to snaring The Donald.   But as an attorney, I can think of nothing more potentially damaging, if indeed she has something to hide, than to begin a court proceeding where the opponents can subpoena all kinds of information arguably relevant to the issue of Melania's past employment, immigration status, etc.  In addition, as a public figure now that she has spoken at the GOP convention and other campaign related events, Melania has a heightened burden of proof to prevail.  Variety looks at what I believe is an insane lawsuit.  Here are highlights:
Melania Trump, the wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, filed a libel lawsuit on Thursday against a Maryland blogger and the parent company of the Daily Mail over reports that she was once an “escort.”
Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, said in a statement that the defendants “made several statements about Mrs. Trump that are 100% false and tremendously damaging to her personal and professional reputation.”
The lawsuit was filed in circuit court in Montgomery County, Md., against Mail Media and Webster Tarpley, who published the blog in Montgomery County.
“These defendants made several statements about Mrs. Trump that are 100% false and tremendously damaging to her personal and professional reputation,” Harder said in a statement. “Defendants broadcast their lies to millions of people throughout the U.S. and the world — without any justification. Their many lies include, among others, that Mrs. Trump supposedly was an ‘escort’ in the 1990s before she met her husband. Defendants’ actions are so egregious, malicious, and harmful to Mrs. Trump that her damages are estimated at $150 million dollars.”
The lawsuit cites an Aug. 2 blog post on that cited rumors that Trump was having an “apoplectic fit” after the “plagiarism incident” at the GOP convention and was refusing to return to the campaign trail. The post also claimed that she feared revelations of her time as a “high end escort.”
The suit claims that Tarpley published the post while “consciously doubting the truth of the claims and this acted with actual malice.” Public figures generally have to prove actual malice, not just negligence, to prevail in a libel lawsuit.
The Daily Mail cited a book co-authored by a Slovenian journalist, Bojan Pozar, claiming that a modelling agency she worked for in Milan was more like a “gentleman’s club.” It also cited a Slovenian magazine claiming that Trump’s New York modelling agency “also operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients.”
Trump “did legitimate and legal modeling work for legitimate business entities and did not work for any ‘gentleman’s club’ or ‘escort’ agencies,” the lawsuit says.
The suit says that the Daily Mail “acted with actual malice.” The lawsuit says that Daily Mail received a written statement from Trump’s representative saying that the claims in the article were false, and that the book it relied upon “was apparently self-published and inherently unreliable.”
The Daily Mail posted a statement and retraction on their site on Thursday afternoon. “To the extent that anything in the Daily Mail’s article was interpreted as stating or suggesting that Mrs. Trump worked as an ‘escort’ or in the ‘sex business,’ that she had a ‘composite or presentation card for the sex business,’ or that either of the modeling agencies referenced in the article were engaged in these businesses, it is hereby retracted, and the Daily Mail newspaper regrets any such misinterpretation.”
Tarpley also issued a response: “Melania Trump’s lawsuit against me is without merit. Mrs. Trump is a public figure actively engaged in the Trump for president campaign. We are confident that Mrs. Trump will not be able to meet her high burden of proving the statements published about her on my website were defamatory in any way. Her lawsuit is a blatant attempt to intimidate not only me but journalists of all stripes into remaining silent with regard to public figures. This lawsuit is a direct affront to First Amendment principles and free speech in our democratic society.” 
Other than trying to intimidate the media, the lawsuit makes no sense.  I'd also note that many of Melania's past photo shoot jobs will not exactly help to make her look like an aggrieved, almost virginal political wife.   I hope the Daily Mail (or more to the point, its insurance carrier) plays hardball and hits Melania with all kinds of subpoenas immediately. 

Quote of the Day: Josh Marshall on Trump's Frightening Aspects

I have frequently indicated that Donald Trump strikes me as a 21st Century version of Adolph Hitler, especial in the manner in which he has used racism, hatred and the demonizing of others to further his own ego driven political efforts. Some say that the comparison is unfair to Trump, but I nonetheless view the man as evil, utterly unable to empathize with others, and completely amoral.  His entire career has been about making money at any cost and satiating his own narcissism.  Now running for the presidency, I wonder at times whether or not Trump sees himself as America's Putin with an eye to pillaging the Nation as Putin and his cronies have raped Russia.  In a column at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall hits on one of the similarities between Trump and Hitler.  Here is the on target quote:
We've now heard Trump's big immigration policy speech.  Let me start with a general comment on tone. This was as wild and as unbridled a speech as I've seen from Trump. Even if you couldn't understand English, it would be stunning to watch the slashing hand gestures, the red face, the yelling. It's hard to imagine any presidential candidate in living memory giving such a speech. And again, this is if you didn't know what the words even meant.
As the speech was unfolding, I said something on Twitter that I'm sure many will find extreme or beyond the pale. But watching this speech, compared to the press conference today in Mexico City, what kept coming to my mind was the contrast between Hitler's uniformed rally speeches from the hustings and the suited, statesman Hitler we see in the old news reels in Munich and at other iconic moments in the late 1930s. Hitler is sui generis, of course. His crimes are incomparable. But the demagogic style, the frenzied invocation familial blood sacrificed to barbaric outsiders - these are not unique to him. When we see this lurid, stab-in-the-back incitement, the wild hyperbole, the febrile railing against outsiders who will make us no longer a country - the similarities are real. More than anything, perhaps the most chilling part of this day is the contrast between the two men - a measured, calm statesman figure we saw this afternoon and this railing, angry demagogue figure who captured the emotional tenor of Klan rally. As I said, the ability to shift from one persona to the other is a sign of danger in itself.
Trump and his followers are a clear and present danger and they need to be defeated at the ballot box and to become social exiles with whom decent people refuse to associate. (Please read the rest of Marshall's piece.)  I also encourage readers to watch "Triumph of Will" and to draw their own parallels.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump's Immigration Speech: Same Lies and Xenophobia

Other than getting himself media coverage, Donald Trump's trip to Mexico seems to have changed nothing.  In his speech last night on immigration, Trump reaffirmed all of his most demagogic statements about immigrants and by implication, Hispanics.  If all this was supposed to be a "pivot" to broaden his base, it clear showed that Trump is incapable of change or moderation and that those in the GOP who believed otherwise were fools.  Trump's devotion remains to the white supremacists and white nationalist who want America white again and white privilege fully restored. Conservative column Jennifer Rubin unloads on Trump in the Washington Post.  Here are highlights:

In Arizona on Wednesday night, Donald Trump proclaimed to his hardcore base what he did not have the nerve to say to Mexico’s president. He reverted to red meat and angry rhetoric on immigration. In that regard, he is a typical bully — brave only from a distance.
In Mexico earlier that afternoon Trump had said no discussion occurred about which country will pay for his wall. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said for his part “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made clear Mexico will not pay for the wall.” A Trump spokesman seemed to confirm Peña Nieto’s version when he put out a statement saying it should not be surprising the two disagreed. (Got that?)
Safely back in the U.S., it was Trump as usual. With intros from Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) who both sported hats reading “Make Mexico Great Again Also” (I kid you not) — Trump began with praise for the Mexican president, who had effectively called him out as a liar. Insisting we have record levels of immigration (we don’t), he suggested the immigrant system serves the needs of politicians(?). It was downhill from there. Trump insisted we would build a “great” wall along the southern border and get Mexico to pay for it. Of course, he’d first have to ask for it, something he claimed he did not do today.
He did not get more accurate as the speech went on: We could have 30 million immigrants, he insisted, and repeated another unfounded claim that illegal immigrants cost us $113 billion a year.
On the subject of mass deportation he chose to hang tight.  He said, “We will be fair, just and compassionate to all” — but most compassionate to American citizens. Later in the speech he said President Eisenhower’s deportation plan did not go far enough. (He did not mention that the strategy was called “Operation Wetback”.) On “day one” he promised to deport 2 million “criminal aliens” (which would be hard since he says we don’t know if there are 3 or 30 million people). How he did not say. 
And yes, mass deportation is still on the table: “Anyone who has entered the U.S. illegally will be subject to deportation.” In case it wasn’t clear, he insisted, “We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration; there will be no amnesty.”
In short, there was no pivot, no attempt to broaden his base. He remains a prisoner of his own hateful rhetoric and his adoring fans. That it seems is more important even than winning. Despite polling showing the vast majority of Americans, including Republicans, disagree with his extreme stances, he cannot admit error and therefore cannot depart from positions that make him unacceptable to people outside his core base.
Clinton campaign manager John Podesta actually had it right earlier in the day when just after Trump’s Mexico visit, he put out a statement that said Trump“choked” on in his first overseas trip. Podesta concluded, “After today’s trip, we still know where Trump stands: an immigration plan that would deport 16 million people, end birthright citizenship, repeal DACA/DAPA and build a $25 billion wall and stick the American taxpayers with the bill.” He later added, “It turns out Trump didn’t just choke, he got beat in the room and lied about it.” That’s not far off, but with one caveat that  should always apply to Trump: Whatever he says today may be repudiated tomorrow.

Putin and Russia - Wilileaks' Main Beneficiary

With Russian hackers attacking news outlets, the Democrat party and perhaps now American voting systems, one seeming ally is Wikileaks and its egotistical founder Julian Assange who remains in the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he avoids possible prosecution for rape in Sweden.  A length pieces in the New York Times looks at Assange and his apparent alliance with Russia and Vladimir Putin and a mutual goal of harming America and western democracies in general.  The hypocrisy of Assange displayed by his actions and those of Wikileaks versus his supposed goals is stunning, especially in the way Assange ignores the murder of Putin's political opponents.  Any respect I might have had for Wikileaks is gone and I now view Assange as a dangerous, dangerous and perhaps delusional individual.  Here are some story highlights:
From the cramped confines of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he was granted asylum four years ago amid a legal imbroglio, Mr. Assange proffered a vision of America as superbully: a nation that has achieved imperial power by proclaiming allegiance to principles of human rights while deploying its military-intelligence apparatus in “pincer” formation to “push” countries into doing its bidding, and punishing people like him who dare to speak the truth.
Notably absent from Mr. Assange’s analysis, however, was criticism of another world power, Russia, or its president, Vladimir V. Putin, who has hardly lived up to WikiLeaks’ ideal of transparency. Mr. Putin’s government has cracked down hard on dissent — spying on, jailing, and, critics charge, sometimes assassinating opponents while consolidating control over the news media and internet. If Mr. Assange appreciated the irony of the moment — denouncing censorship in an interview on Russia Today, the Kremlin-controlled English-language propaganda channel — it was not readily apparent.
Now, Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks are back in the spotlight, roiling the geopolitical landscape with new disclosures and a promise of more to come.
In July, the organization released nearly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails suggesting that the party had conspired with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to undermine her primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders. Mr. Assange — who has been openly critical of Mrs. Clinton — has promised further disclosures that could upend her campaign against the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump. Separately, WikiLeaks announced that it would soon release some of the crown jewels of American intelligence: a “pristine” set of cyberspying codes.
That raises a question: Has WikiLeaks become a laundering machine for compromising material gathered by Russian spies? And more broadly, what precisely is the relationship between Mr. Assange and Mr. Putin’s Kremlin?
Those questions are made all the more pointed by Russia’s prominent place in the American presidential election campaign. Mr. Putin, who clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, has publicly praised Mr. Trump, who has returned the compliment, calling for closer ties to Russia and speaking favorably of Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
Mr. Assange said he was motivated by a desire to use “cryptography to protect human rights,” and would focus on authoritarian governments like Russia’s.  But a New York Times examination of WikiLeaks’ activities during Mr. Assange’s years in exile found a different pattern: Whether by conviction, convenience or coincidence, WikiLeaks’ document releases, along with many of Mr. Assange’s statements, have often benefited Russia, at the expense of the West.
To Gavin MacFadyen, a WikiLeaks supporter who runs the Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of London, the question for Mr. Assange is not where the material comes from, but whether it is true and in the public interest. He noted that intelligence services had a long history of using news organizations to plant stories, and that Western news outlets often published “material that comes from the C.I.A. uncritically.”
Recent events, though, have left some transparency advocates wondering if WikiLeaks has lost its way. There is a big difference between publishing materials from a whistle-blower like Chelsea Manning — the soldier who gave WikiLeaks its war log and diplomatic cable scoops — and accepting information, even indirectly, from a foreign intelligence service seeking to advance its own powerful interests, said John Wonderlich, the executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group devoted to government transparency.
Others see Mr. Assange assuming an increasingly blinkered approach to the world that, coupled with his own secrecy, has left them disillusioned.
Another person who collaborated with WikiLeaks in the past added: “He views everything through the prism of how he’s treated. America and Hillary Clinton have caused him trouble, and Russia never has.”
The result has been a “one-dimensional confrontation with the U.S.A.,” Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who before quitting WikiLeaks in 2010 was one of Mr. Assange’s closest partners, has said.
And the beneficiary of that confrontation, played out in a series of public statements by Mr. Assange and strategically timed document releases by WikiLeaks, has often been Mr. Putin.
Like Mr. Trump, who stood to gain from the Democratic Party leak, Mr. Assange supported Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and he has repeatedly gone after NATO — taking on two organizations that Mr. Putin would like nothing more than to defang or dismantle.

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Wet Weekend Approaching - Hermine to Visit Hampton Roads

The map above of the projected path of Tropical Storm Hermine pretty much says it all - Hampton Roads is in for a wet Labor Day weekend.  Hopefully, the storm passes through quickly and we will be able to salvage at least part of the weekend. 

Trump’s Campaign Team Belongs To Anti-LGBT, Anti-Immigrant Hate Group

Donald Trump continues to try to dupe gays into supporting him despite the pact that he made with a veritable who's who of American Christofascists and anti-gay hate groups. Likewise, with his trip to Mexico today, he seemingly is seeking to fool those offended by his strident anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic demagoguery.   As part of this Trojan Horse effort, Trump shook up his campaign's leadership and brought in Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Bannon.  Now it turns out that both Conway and Bannon are members of the secretive Council for National Policy ("CNP").  What is frightening about CPC is the many extremists who belong to the organization and the hatred that is their stock in trade.   The Southern Poverty Law Center ("SPLC") - which tracks hate groups across the nation - has a report on CPC and Bannon and Conway's membership.  Here are excerpts:
Longtime Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of the far-right Breitbart News operation, were named on Aug. 17 as, respectively, the Trump campaign’s manager and its chief executive officer. The appointment of Bannon was by far the more controversial choice, given his role at a “news” outlet known for bashing immigrants, Muslims, women and others.
The Council for National Policy ("CNP") is an intensely secretive and shadowy group of what The New York Times once described as “the most powerful conservatives in the country.” It is so tight-lipped that it tells people not to admit their membership or even name the group. Revealing when or where the group meets, or what it discusses, is also forbidden. The organization, which can only be joined by invitation and at a cost of thousands of dollars, strives mightily to keep its membership rolls secret.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which publishes Hatewatch, obtained a copy this spring of the CNP’s 2014 membership directory, a closely held document. It shows that Conway was a member of the CNP’s executive committee that year, and that Bannon was a regular member. It is not known if they remain.
They include people like Michael Peroutka, a neo-Confederate who for years was on the board of the white supremacist League of the South; Jerome Corsi, a strident Obama “birther” and the propagandist hit man responsible for the “Swift boating” of John Kerry; Joseph Farah, who runs the wildly conspiracist “news” operation known as WorldNetDaily; Mat Staver, the Liberty Counsel leader who has worked to re-criminalize gay sex; Philip Zodhaites, another anti-gay activist who is charged with helping a self-described former lesbian who kidnapped her daughter from her former partner and fled the country; and a large number of other similar characters.
The CNP is not controversial so much for the conservatives who dominate it . . . . as for the many real extremists who are included. . . . people who regularly defame LGBT people with utter falsehoods, describe Latino immigrants as a dangerous group of rapists and disease-carriers, engage in the kind of wild-eyed conspiracy theorizing for which the John Birch Society is famous, and even suggest that certain people should be stoned to death in line with Old Testament law.”
The revelation of Conway and Bannon’s CNP memberships comes at a time when the Trump campaign has suffered a number of reverses and internal problems. 
Bannon is in some ways even more controversial. His Breitbart news operation has specialized in extreme-right propaganda that  . . . recently published a defense of the “Alternative Right” that included defending well-known white supremacist ideologues Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer.
[T]he SPLC concluded in its May report on the CNP: “At a time of extreme political polarization in our society, in the middle of an ugly presidential contest which has featured an almost unsurpassed record of ethnic, racial and sexual insults and lies, Americans deserve to know who their ostensible leaders are mixing with as we collectively decide our country’s future.”
Anyone who falls for Trump's effort to pretend his has moderated his positions is, in my view, nothing less than a fool and an idiot.