Saturday, December 10, 2016

Taking the South's Pathologies Nationwide

I have lived in the South for more than 2/3's of my lifetime at this point although, thankfully, the Hampton Roads area of Virginia becomes a little less Southern with each passing day in part because of the constant rotation of military members and their families through the area.   Alabama and Texas where I also lived in the past and much of the rest of the region are akin to someone with a significant case of bi-polar disorder who refuses to remain on their medications.  Some days one sees sweetness and light and graciousness and others one sees racism and bigotry and the embrace of ignorance that is downright chilling.  Some southerners live in a fantasy world where they are akin to the Saxon nobles in Ivanhoe resisting the Norman ascendancy.  Others embody the worse elements of the Klan and/or religious extremism. Despite its proclaimed religiosity, the Bible Belt has the highest teen pregnancy rates, the highest Internet porn usage, and the highest divorce rate.  Education levels also are among the lowest in the nation.  Now, Donald Trump and the Republican Party want to spread this dysfunction nationwide.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this disturbing prospect.  Here are highlights:  
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Mississippi or Alabama? Well if the GOP has its way, you’ll get the chance to find out.
That’s because Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, through the executive branch leadership now being assembled and the legislative priorities they have laid out, are preparing to take the economic, political, and social arrangements of the South and spread them across the country.
The desire to southernize the entire United States is not new, and in some ways it’s been happening for a while, at least where Republicans have control of government. But now that Republicans have complete control in Washington, they’re going to try to accelerate and deepen that process. Let’s look at it piece by piece:
The Southern economic model. The first and most far-reaching component of this project is to take the Southern economic model national. The foundation of that model is the elimination of collective bargaining and the destruction of the labor unions that are able to negotiate higher wages and better benefits for workers. The Southern model replaces the North’s high-wage, unionized manufacturing with a low-wage, low-benefit version that has succeeded in drawing many factories southward. Southern states have lured companies with gigantic tax breaks and the promise of a powerless and desperate workforce. The result is often more jobs in those Southern states, but worse jobs. . . . multiple forces including the crippling of unions and the emergence of Walmart as the nation’s largest retailer have acted to pull wages and benefits across the country down toward the South’s level.
Yesterday we learned that Trump will nominate Andrew Puzder, the CEO of the fast-food company CKE Restaurant Holdings, to be Secretary of Labor. . . . . Puzder is an ardent opponent of minimum wage increases, expanded overtime pay, paid sick leave, health coverage for workers, and collective bargaining. While he’s toiling at the Labor Department for the interests of corporations, Republicans will almost certainly try to pass a federal “right to work” law — the kind now in force in states across the South — as part of their effort to destroy labor unions once and for all.
The Southern health care model. The Republicans’ first legislative priority is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and while we don’t yet know what form that repeal (or its replacement) will take, the people most vulnerable are the estimated 12 million who would lose the coverage they gained because of the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Nineteen states refused to accept that expansion, preferring to keep their poor citizens uninsured . . . . the largest group of states was in the South: 10 of the 11 states of the Confederacy (Louisiana being the sole exception) refused the Medicaid expansion. 
The Southern education model. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is not an educator or education administrator; using her wealth as the wife of an heir to the Amway fortune, she has devoted her efforts to essentially trying to destroy public education in her home state of Michigan and in America more generally. DeVos advocates for vouchers that can be used at private and religious schools, and for the expansion of for-profit charter schools with as little oversight as possible. . . . . it’s a system that is particularly strong in the South, where not only charter schools (which have support in many places) but private vouchers (which have far less support) are prevalent.
The Southern civil rights model. For his Attorney General, Trump picked Alabama’s Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, named for the president of the Confederacy and a Confederate general. Sessions was rejected by the Senate in the 1980s for a judgeship because of his history of what these days we call “racially charged” comments. His most famous case as a prosecutor involved his unsuccessful prosecution of a former aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Sessions went after for helping elderly African-Americans to vote absentee. While we don’t know exactly what Sessions’ agenda is, it’s a fair bet that vigorous enforcement of civil rights protections will not be high on his list.
In addition, Republicans will almost certainly be taking their voter suppression crusade national, especially given how successful it has been in putting up voting barriers to African-Americans, Latinos, and other people who might cast ballots for Democrats. Look for federal versions of voter ID laws, limits on early voting, and bans on same-day registration.
The Southern abortion rights model. As I’ve explained, not only are Republican eager to overturn Roe v. Wade; even with that precedent intact they may try to pass federal laws that make the whole country like the South when it comes to abortion. That would mean that it’s technically legal to get one, even as a series of onerous laws targeting both abortion providers and the women who seek abortions make them extraordinarily difficult to obtain.
The Southern environmental model. Trump has named Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in a clear sign that he believes the first two words of the agency’s name are no longer operative. This too could represent a nationalization of what prevails in the South, where officials in Republican-dominated states see environmental protection as essentially a nuisance for corporations and the most pressing environmental question is how many wells we can drill.
During the 2016 campaign, some commentators noted that Donald Trump’s rhetoric bore a disturbing resemblance to the backlash to Reconstruction a century and a half ago. Now, as one constitutional scholar recently told this blog, it’s not unreasonable to expect “the beginning of the end of the Second Reconstruction.”
Think of what is worse for the majority of Americans and that more or less sums up the Trump/Republican agenda.  The wealthy and large corporations will thrive, but the rest of us not so much.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, December 09, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Is Trump Too Underwater to Divest His Business Interests?

During the presidential campaign there were some journalists - albeit far too few - who sought to shine a spotlight on Donald Trump's potentially precarious business empire, including Trump's rumored dependency on Russian money and/or loans from the Bank of China.  Sadly, these stories never got the traction they deserved and Trump's vulnerability to Russian extortion remains an open question.  Now, with critics demanding that Trump divest his business interests to avoid conflicts of interest and violation of the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clause,  Trump is refusing to do so.  A piece in Talking Points Memo suggests that he cannot do so because he is too "underwater" to divest. If such is the case, it underscores that Trump is not the business success he claims.  Here are column highlights:
Since Donald Trump's surprise election one month ago, there's been a bubbling conversation about the mammoth conflicts of interest he will have if he is running or even owning his far flung business enterprises while serving as the head of state. I've suggested that the whole notion of 'conflicts of interest' doesn't really capture what we're dealing with here, which is really a pretty open effort to leverage the presidency to expand his family business. But a couple things came together for me today which make me think we've all missed the real issue.
Maybe he can't divest because he's too underwater to do so or more likely he's too dependent on current and expanding cash flow to divest or even turn the reins over to someone else.
Late this afternoon we got news that Trump will remain as executive producer of The Apprentice, now starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. That is, quite simply, weird. The presidency is time consuming and complicated, even for the lazier presidents. Does Trump really need to do this? Can he do it, just in terms of hours in the day? Of course, it may simply be a title that entitles him to draw a check. But does he need the check that bad?
The idea that Trump is heavily leveraged and reliant on on-going cash flow to keep his business empire from coming apart and collapsing into bankruptcy was frequently discussed during the campaign. But it's gotten pretty little attention since he was elected.
After Trump got into that scuffle with Boeing, reporters asked about his ownership of Boeing stock. Trump replied that he'd already sold that stock. So there was no problem. But there's a bit more to it than that.
According to his spokesman, Trump sold all of his stock back in June, a portfolio which his disclosures suggest was worth as much as $38 million. Trump told Matt Lauer that he sold the stock because he was confident he'd win and "would have a tremendous ... conflict of interest owning all of these different companies" while serving as President.
Now, c'mon. Donald Trump sold off all his equities more than six months before he could become president because he was concerned about conflicts of interest? Please. That doesn't pass the laugh test.
But consider this. During the primaries Donald Trump loaned his campaign roughly $50 million. Over the course of the spring, as it became increasingly likely he'd be the nominee, that loan became increasingly conspicuous. 
It was only in June that Trump finally gave in and forgave the loan; this was confirmed in the June FEC disclosure that came out in late July. Who knows why Trump sold off all his stock holdings? Maybe he just had a feeling. Maybe he thought the market was too hot. Maybe he just had a spasm of prospective ethical concern. But let's be honest. The most obvious explanation is that forgiving that debt from his campaign required him - through whatever mix of contingencies - to free up more cash, either for the campaign or personal expenses or perhaps to have a certain amount of cash on hand because of terms of other debts. It does not seem plausible at all that the timing is coincidental.
Since we don't have Trump's tax returns, there's just a huge amount we don't know about his businesses. What we do know is that Trump appears to wildly exaggerate the scale of his wealth and exhibit a stinginess that is very hard to square with a man of the kinds of means he claims. A heavily leveraged business, one that is indebted and dependent on cash flow to keep everything moving forward, can be kind of like a shark. It has to keep moving forward or it dies.
This is all necessarily speculative because Trump has kept the details of his business empire hidden from the public. But behavior, circumstantial evidence and lots of evidence of tight reliance on cash flow to service debts of various sorts suggest that Trump may not be able to divest or separate himself from his business. Why doesn't he? Why does he court all this controversy? Because he can't.
If all this is true, the peril of Trump's foreign deals is larger than we may realize. It's not just a matter of hitting the billionaire big time. It could be a matter of staying afloat at all.

LGBT Americans Should be Terrified by Trump's Administration

I continue to encounter "friends" who voted for Donald Trump some of whom continue to defend their vote by claimed ignorance of Trump's anti-LGBT stances during the election campaign and/or Trump's over the top self-prostitution to some of the foulest elements of the radical Christofascists. For such individuals I hold little sympathy and take the position that if you were too lazy to educate yourself about with whom Trump was climbing in bed with, why should I simple forgive you for putting my civil rights and safety at risk?  If you don't know the positions of a candidate and/or who they have aligned them self with, I recommend not voting.  Others seem to realize the stab in the back they have given to their LGBT friends and neighbors and are trying to make amends through extra friendliness.  Sadly, such efforts will not undo the damage that has been done. A final group justify their betrayal by saying they merely voted for "change." Putting a pistol to one's head and pulling the trigger would also usher in "change," but not a positive one.   Metro Weekly has a piece that compiles all the reasons that LGBT Americans should be terrified by the oncoming Trump administration. "Friends" who voted for Trump need to read the entire piece.  Here are excerpts that look at five (5) of the scariest Trump nominees:  
It’s a tale of two Donalds, or perhaps a strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, when it comes to the president-elect’s stance on LGBT rights.
During the campaign, Trump tried to position himself as a more reliable defender of LGBT rights than Hillary Clinton. In 2015, he said that sexual orientation shouldn’t be a reason to be fired. He said that he’d allow transgender reality star Caitlyn Jenner to use whichever bathroom she preferred if she were to visit Trump Tower. He vowed to keep LGBT people — along with other Americans — safe from the threat of ISIS. He even waved a rainbow Pride flag given to him by a supporter at one of his rallies as a show of support for the LGBT community.
Yet for all his pandering, Trump has also catered to the Religious Right, courted evangelical voters, and touted his opposition to same-sex marriage and reproductive rights. He supported North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory when he tried to justify signing the anti-LGBT bill HB 2. And Trump has referred to allowing LGBT people to serve openly in the military as “political correctness.”
That’s why so many eyes are fixed on his selections for various cabinet positions — and why some observers are getting close to hitting the “panic” button.
The first warning signs came with Trump’s selection of his close advisers, none of whom require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the alt-right website Breitbart News, has a history of expressing anti-gay sentiment and promoting stories with anti-LGBT viewpoints. Reince Priebus, the outgoing head of the Republican National Committee, has spent the past few years leading a party that enshrined anti-LGBT attitudes into its official platform. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn opposed allowing openly gay service members in the military, and criticized the Obama administration’s decision to lift the ban on transgender service members . . . .
Several of Trump’s other picks — who must be confirmed by the Senate — pose a much greater threat to LGBT rights. Here, from most severe to least, are Trump’s confirmable (or rejectable) nominees that every LGBT person should be watching closely.
Jeff Sessions - Position Nominated For: Attorney General
LGBT Record: As senator from Alabama, Sessions opposed same-sex marriage, employment nondiscrimination legislation, partner benefits, lifting the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and adding LGBT people to protected classes under the nation’s hate crime laws. When he was Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions attempted to use his office to stop the University of Alabama from hosting an LGBT conference, even taking the university to court to defend a law that prohibited using public money to fund, in any way, a group that promotes “actions prohibited by the [state’s] sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.” 
 As Attorney General, it’s doubtful whether Sessions will enforce the nation’s hate crime laws in instances where people have been victimized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Other concerns involve the government’s future position on court cases revolving around LGBT rights. 
Tom Price - Position Nominated For: Secretary of Health and Human Services
LGBT Record: Price, a conservative congressman from the Atlanta suburbs, has accrued a vehemently anti-LGBT voting record during his six terms in Congress. He boasts a 0% rating for his voting record on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard. He’s voted against an LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act, against workplace protections for LGBT employees, and LGBT-inclusive hate crime protections. He has been a vocal supporter of state bans prohibiting same-sex marriage. 
He has suggested that any social legislation, such as bills to advance LGBT rights, not be passed until a thorough examination has been completed of the cost of potential health problems that could arise from “promoting” homosexuality.
As head of Health and Human Services, Price could be influenced by his extreme views and place LGBT-related research or HIV-related research on the back burner. Issues of whether insurance companies must cover certain surgical procedures may also come to a head under a Price-led HHS department. Lastly, Price is a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act and has called for its complete repeal. This could be problematic for LGBT people with pre-existing conditions or low-income people who get their insurance — and subsidies to pay for it — through the Obamacare health exchanges.
 Ben Carson - Position Nominated For: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
LGBT Record: As a presidential candidate, Carson established himself as a doctrinaire social conservative with anti-LGBT views. Among Carson’s more inflammatory statements are that same-sex behavior by prisoners proves homosexuality is a choice, that gay marriage was responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire, and that transgender people cannot change their assigned sex at birth anymore than they can change their ethnicity. He has compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, compared gay people to pedophiles, and said that same-sex marriage is a Marxist plot to destroy America’s moral foundations.
 [O]ne of the likely targets of a Carson-run HUD may be a recent update to the Equal Access Rule for shelters. Under the rule, adopted in September, shelters that operate single-sex facilities or sex-specific projects must provide all individuals, including transgender and gender nonconforming people, with access to programs, benefits, services and accommodations based on their gender identity.  . . . If Carson is given free reign, these protections could be repealed.
 Mike Pompeo - Position Nominated For: Director of the CIA
LGBT Record: During his three terms in Congress, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo has largely been opposed to LGBT rights. . . . . He is a supporter of legislation that could potentially allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people under the guise of “religious freedom.” He also voted against an LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act. Betsy DeVos - Position Nominated For: Secretary of Education
LGBT Record: DeVos  . . . and her husband have donated to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that opposes LGBT rights. Focus on the Family also promotes conversion therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation or curbing the behavior of LGBT people and those with same-sex attraction. Other members of her extended family have donated to other anti-LGBT causes . . .
 The chief issue with a DeVos-run Department of Education would likely be the position that the department adopts with respect to transgender students and whether they are protected under Title IX. DeVos’ position on the Obama administration’s current guidance for school administrators is unknown, but her ties to right-wing groups have led transgender advocates to call on Trump to rescind her nomination. Another issue that may arise would be the use of federal education funds, in the form of vouchers, to support private schools that encourage conversion therapy for LGBT-identifying youth.
 For my white, heterosexual Christian "friends" I would ask that for a moment they put themselves in the shoes of LGBT citizens who now have to worry about their rights being attacked or rescinded.  Remeber, some of these nominees support groups that would re-criminalize being gay.  Would you be sleeping well at night?  I doubt it.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Silence and Moral Bankruptcy of Paul Ryan

Yes, Donald Trump and his Cabinet nominees to date are very frightening individuals. Never in my life time with the possible exception of Richard Nixon have such delusional and/or extreme individuals been about to take power in America.  I remain convinced that the results will be disastrous for many citizens, including the angry white cretins who voted for Trump and the GOP to protect their white privilege without realizing they were cutting their own economic throats.  But just as scary, in my view, is Paul Ryan who has cultivated a reputation with a press corps that is just as vapid and easily fooled as Trump's angry white voters.  The man often wears his Catholicism on his sleeve, yet other than his opposition to abortion and gay rights, Ryan's goals and policies are diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church's social gospel.  He wants to take away health care coverage for millions, he wants to gut Medicare into an inadequate voucher program, he wants to gut Social Security, and he's in bed with Christofascist extremists many of whom are anti-Catholic.  Yet the idiots in the media still project an image of Ryan as principled and thoughtful.  Compatred to what?  One of Hitler's henchmen?  A column in the New York Times rightly takes Ryan to task.  Here are excerpts:
Paul Ryan has long been cast as Congress’s Boy Scout: earnest, honest and brimming with the best intentions, whether you agree with his proposals or not.
Donald Trump is putting an ugly end to that.
Or, rather, Ryan himself is, with his example of utter submission to Trump. Other Republicans are looking to the speaker of the House for guidance on when to confront the president-elect and when to let his craziness go unchecked. And Ryan is charting the wrong course.
I’m referring to his recent “60 Minutes” interview, the apotheosis of all of his tongue biting and conscience snuffing to date. In particular I mean the part when he was asked about Trump’s reckless — and wholly unsubstantiated — tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.
“I’m not really focused on these things,” Ryan said, all too blithely. Then: “I have no knowledge of such things. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Such things? Was he at a tea in the Cotswolds, discussing the pesky upkeep of the carriage house?
Doesn’t matter? No, I guess a president-elect’s effort to undermine Americans’ confidence in our political system — and, beyond that, his attachment to conspiracy theories — aren’t pressing concerns. My bad for assuming otherwise.
Ryan’s answer was marginally better than the one given on the ABC News show “This Week” by Mike Pence, who described Trump’s tweets as “refreshing.” An adjective’s connotations can change from era to era as a language evolves, but I still associate “refreshing” with lemonade and dips in the sea, not wild accusations of voter fraud.
Pence, of course, is Trump’s designated sycophant. That’s practically written into a vice president’s job description. Ryan has no similar duty, just a growing willingness to part ways with principle.
But they can’t afford to stay mum when Trump, merely to stroke his own ego and assert his potency, tells a lie about election results, calling Clinton’s advantage in the popular vote a sham. Certainly Ryan can’t, because he’s a role model and because this lie epitomizes Trump’s demagogic tendencies and legitimizes fake news, the dark consequences of which are becoming ever clearer.
The disregard for truth — and indulgence of fantasy — among people at the pinnacle of power right now is chilling. Beyond Trump there’s Michael Flynn, his nominee for national security adviser, who has tweeted pure bunk about Clinton’s ties to pedophilia and money laundering.
On the subject of Trump, Ryan has spoken out of so many sides of his mouth that it’s less an oval than an octagon at this point. Last spring he even affirmed his endorsement of Trump while calling him out for racism. Behold leadership at its most gelatinous.
Trump is giving a green light to kooks and the finger to the dignity that Americans rightly expect of a president and that Ryan should demand of him.
Ryan is sacrificing too much for too little, and it’s time he rummaged through his wobbly endoskeleton and made fresh acquaintance with his spine. 

Support Ralph Northam for Governor This Evening

Tickets are still available for the fundraiser this evening to support Raplh Northam's gubernatorial campaign.  Given the threat - at least in our view - that Donald Trump and a Republican congressional majority pose to LGBT rights and civil liberties in general, it is all the more important that we elect Ralph Northam as Virginia's next governor.  We need a firewall against some of the worse extreme policies that may be forth coming, especially given some of Trump's anti-LGBT appointees to date.  The husband (Barry D. Menser) and I know Ralph and his wife personally and we believe it is absolutely critical that we do all we can to support his election effort.  Hence, we are on the host committee for a fundraiser on December 8, 2016.  We encourage you to join us at the event (if you cannot attend, we will be hosting an event in our home at a later date).  The details are below:
Please join
Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam  
Jimmy R. Chisman | Jerri & Frank Dickseski | Duncan & Diana Garnett  
Barry Menser & Mike Hamar | Jay & Tara Joseph | Mamie Locke
Monty Mason | Jim McNider | Ross & Martha Mugler
Leonard A. Bennett & Dr. Drina A. Northam
BJ Roberts | Molly & Forrest Ward
At the 
Northam For Governor Hampton Kick-Off

Thursday, December 8, 2016 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm 
At the home of Molly and Forrest Ward
801 Park Place | Hampton, VA 23669

Host - $5,000+ | Co-Host - $2,500 
Sponsor - $1,000  | Benefactor - $500 
Supporter - $250 | Guest - $100

To RSVP, please click here or email
You may also call 804-397-9877 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Virginia Beach School Board's Anti-LGBT Ploy Backfires

All of my children attended the Virginia Beach public schools and for a time I was a pro-education activist striving to see programs that the city now boasts about put into place.  To say I was hated by some on City Council and the Virginia Beach School Board is probably not an overstatement. Frighteningly, some of the same players who in my opinion consistently put the best interest of students, especially those who were different, last are still on the School Board - Board Chairman Dan Edwards being a prime example. Now the Board has gotten itself embroiled in seemingly anti-LGBT controversy which is garnering national and international attention via the Washington Post and numerous LGBT blogs and news outlets.  Virginia Beach likes to see itself as a first class city, but until small minded individuals like Edwards are removed from positions of governance, the city will remain petty ante at best.  What I find most disturbing is that the mealy mouthed excuse given for cancelling a long scheduled gay-straight alliance assembly is that it suggests to me that the School Board may be cowering before demands of Christofascist within the city who are likely emboldened by Donald Trump's naming of anti-gay zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  The disturbing and to me telling part of the excuse is as follows via the Virginian Pilot:
Cox, a school division spokeswoman, said the event was postponed “ in order to give school organizers, led by school counselors, an opportunity to involve a variety of student and community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”
“The decision to postpone was made in an effort to be more inclusive of all groups and students, not to marginalize any particular student, group or organization,” Cox said.
If you haven't followed the activities of the Christofascists around the country - or even in Gloucester County where a pastor began the lynch mob mentality against Gavin Grimm's restroom usage - you might not catch the language that parrots their favorite excuse for torpedoing anything that might suggest that LGBT students have equal rights and should be free from bullying.  The language: "community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”

Translated, this means that the Christofascists - be they from Regent University, The Wave Church or other "Christian" groups dedicated to making life Hell for LGBT individuals as they force their beliefs on all - want to be involved to (i) kill any pro-LGBT activity, and (ii) argue that "tolerance" includes allowing them to persecute other citizens who do not share their beliefs.

I hope this story continues to get much media coverage and show Virginia Beach for the back water that it remains.  As the Virginian Pilot reports, there is growing blow back from citizens, including my friend Janet Wren Moore who addressed the School Board:
Hours after the school division announced that an assembly hosted by Cox High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance has been rescheduled for an evening in January, pushback from the community continued Tuesday night.
The assembly scheduled for Monday during school hours was to have included a speech by the president of Hampton Roads Pride and a question-and-answer panel hosted by students. School administration decided Sunday to postpone it.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Tuesday said it was looking into the postponement.
Speaking before the School Board, Janet Moore, a Hampton Roads Pride board member whose son came out as gay while attending Tallwood High, said the worry is that some students will not be able to attend the January event because it begins several hours after school ends.
She condemned the administration for making its decision to postpone the assembly less than 24 hours before it was scheduled, saying the students who planned it for months “didn’t have any time to regroup.”
“It’s unfortunately encouraging misunderstanding and mistrust – a fertilizer for bullying,” she said of the last-minute decision.
She wasn’t alone in her disappointment at the administration’s actions.
Nearly 200 people have signed an open letter [authored by friends' now adult daughter] in solidarity with Cox High’s Gay-Straight Alliance, many of them Virginia Beach parents or former students of the division.
The ACLU has requested access to or copies of records on speakers at school assemblies at the 12 high schools in the city dating back to September 2014.
“Students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, and content-based distinctions by the school division in the regulation of student speech would raise significant legal concerns,” said Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, executive director.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Kathleen Parker: The Electoral College Should be Unfaithful

Among the so-called conservative columnists Kathleen Parker has strayed more consistently from the GOP reservation than many.  That said, like David Brooks, Jennifer Rubin, and Michael Gerson, to name a few, she all too often nonetheless played the role of an apologist for the ugliest aspects of the Republican Party agenda and waited far too long to began calling the hate, racism and misogyny of the GOP base (which began to metastasize at least 20 years ago) for what it was and, in the process normalized what would become Donald Trump's main platform.  Now, in a column in the Washington Post, Parker calls for the Electoral College electors to do what responsible and morally decent Republican voters should have done during the election: reject Donald Trump.   Here are column highlights:
If you thought Donald Trump was the face of America’s anti-establishment movement, hold on to your chapeaus: A wild wind is rising.
Want to know what’s more anti-establishment than a president-elect who refuses to play by the rules? How about similarly spirited electors going AWOL and sending someone else to the Oval Office?
A movement headed by a mostly Democratic group calling itself Hamilton Electors is trying to persuade Republican electors to defect — not to cede the election to Hillary Clinton but to join with Democrats in selecting a compromise candidate, such as Mitt Romney or John Kasich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.
Mathematically, only 37 of Trump’s 306 electors are needed to bring his number down to 269, one less than the 270 needed to secure the presidency.
On the Hamilton Electors’ Facebook page, elector Bret Chiafalo, a Democrat from Washington, explains the purpose of the electoral college. If you haven’t previously been a fan of the electoral system, you might become one.
Bottom line: The Founding Fathers didn’t fully trust democracy, fearing mob rule, and so created a republic. They correctly worried that a pure democracy could result in the election of a demagogue (ahem), or a charismatic autocrat (ahem), or someone under foreign influence (ditto), hence the rule that a president must have been born in the United States. We know how seriously Trump takes the latter.
Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the electoral college was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.
It is worth noting that 50 former Republican national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter saying that Trump would be a “dangerous president.” Do we simply ignore them?
Alexander Hamilton, suddenly a star on both Broadway and Main Street, wrote that the electoral college “affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
Electors would prevent the “tumult and disorder” that would result from the candidate’s exploiting “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” Speaking of Trump. How wise our founders were. And how unwise are we to pay so little attention to their far keener insights.
It is, perhaps, a sign of these upside-down times that Democrats, usually preferring the popular vote, are suddenly genuflecting to the electoral college and Republicans, who so often defer to the founders’ original intent, shift principle so swiftly, presumably in hopes of taking the ultimate escalator ride in the golden palace of King Trump. Tut-tut.
Meanwhile, those on both sides who remain opposed to Trump are dismissed as either sorry losers or as dining on crow and sour grapes. But the stakes are too high — and the evidence of Trump’s presidential aptitude deficit too severe — for such trivializing designations. His demonstrated lack of judgment and impulse control should send shivers down the spines of all Americans in consideration of the nuclear arsenal he is poised to have at his fingertips.
Trump’s friends have told me they’re confident he’ll solemnly respect the burden of such power, but nothing thus far justifies their faith. After his election victory, Trump hasn’t much bothered himself with intelligence briefings. He ignored 37 years of diplomatic precedent by chatting with the president of Taiwan, upsetting China. He spoke like an inarticulate ninth-grader with Pakistan’s prime minister, according to that country’s readout. 
Electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their respective states to cast their final ballots. If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written.  Please, be brave.
As noted in a post over the weekend, there were numerous times that Germans could have halted Hitler's rise to power.  Then, as I fear will prove true on December 19, 2016, courage was in short supply and too many decent individuals shrugged their shoulders and took the easy way out.  That easy way out proved catastrophic for Germany and the world. 

Electoral College Elector: Why I Will Not Cast My Vote for Trump

I have addressed the founders' purpose in writing the Electoral College into the United States Constitution - to protect the nation from a demagogue who would undermine the constitutional order. Yes, Alexander Hamilton had his issues not withstanding the hit musical Hamilton.  But he and other members of the authors of the Constitution tried to guard against all contingencies, including efforts by foreign rulers to bribe America's political leaders.  The so-called Emoluments Clause had this specific purpose and with every passing day Trump has revealed his intention to ignore the Emoluments clause and to enrich himself and his family members as much as possible.  On December 19, 2016, the Electoral College electors will cast their votes to finalize the 2016 election results.  One Texas elector has an op-ed piece in the New York Times explaining why he will not cast his vote for Donald Trump.  Here are op-ed highlights:
DALLAS — I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think presidents-elect should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.
Fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. That attack and this year’s election may seem unrelated, but for me the relationship becomes clearer every day.
George W. Bush is an imperfect man, but he led us through the tragic days following the attacks. His leadership showed that America was a great nation. That was also the last time I remember the nation united. I watch Mr. Trump fail to unite America and drive a wedge between us.
Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of “Saturday Night Live” for bias. He tweets day and night, but waited two days to offer sympathy to the Ohio State community after an attack there. He does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage.
This is unacceptable. For me, America is that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan envisioned. It has problems. It has challenges. These can be met and overcome just as our nation overcame Sept. 11.
The United States was set up as a republic. Alexander Hamilton provided a blueprint for states’ votes. Federalist 68 argued that an Electoral College should determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence. Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards. Given his own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.
I owe a debt to my children to leave them a nation they can trust.
Mr. Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief. During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, “he would be a dangerous president.” During the campaign Mr. Trump even said Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This encouragement of an illegal act has troubled many members of Congress and troubles me.
Hamilton also reminded us that a president cannot be a demagogue. Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it.
Finally, Mr. Trump does not understand that the Constitution expressly forbids a president to receive payments or gifts from foreign governments. We have reports that Mr. Trump’s organization has business dealings in Argentina, Bahrain, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest. He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Mr. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue.
The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be.
Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Click image to enlarge

Anti-Gay Betsy DeVos Seeks to Inject Right Wing Christianity into Public Education

One thing is always a constant with the Christofascists: they believe that everyone must adhere to their beliefs and they will resort to any means to accomplish the imposition of their version of Sharia law on all.  With Donald Trump's selection of a cast of the most racists and reactionary individuals in recent memory for his cabinet, religious freedom for non-Christofascists will be under attack. Indeed, Betsy DeVos wants to inject right wing Christianity back into the public schools to do "advance God's kingdom," as defined, of course by Ms. DeVos and her fellow extremists.  Among those specifically targeted by DeVos are gays against whom she has long wage war going all the way back to the 1990's when she and other zealots mapped out a plan to defeat the "homosexual agenda"  and "organized homosexuality."  DeVos has been a huge bank roller for anti-gay and anti-religious freedom groups ever since.   The Advocate looks at DeVos' frightening vision for public education as she works to dismantle it.  Here are excerpts:
Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of Education, compared her work in public education reform to the battle of David and Goliath, and said she wants to "advance God's kingdom."
In an audio clip exclusively obtained by Politico, Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, revealed how their religion fuels their drive to reform public education.
The audio from a 2001 conference known as "The Gathering," an annual meeting featuring some of the nation's most wealthy Christians, DeVos, and her husband, Dick DeVos, were interviewed about a failed Michigan ballot initiative that was going to amend the state's constitution to allow public funds to be used on private and religious schools. The couple backed the initiative.
Betsy DeVos is also not exactly a friend to public education. An advocate of school choice, she believes government bodies should provide vouchers to parents who want to send their children to private schools but can’t afford them.
They also commented on how public education has "displaced" the place of the church at the center of communities, and they said that providing parents with school choice is one way to undo that displacement.
Betsy and Richard DeVos have previously provided funding to antigay initiatives. They headed the effort to amend Michigan’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and gave $200,000 to the campaign, Raw Story notes. Voters approved the amendment in 2004; it was struck down, along with other states’ anti–marriage equality laws, by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

A transcript from one of the meetings of "The Gathering" provides more insight into the bizarre and obsessed world of DeVos as others like her.  The agenda? To infiltrate the public schools and oppose everything from the "safe schools" concept which argues that schools should be a refuge for all students to stamping out gay-straight alliances.  That DeVos will be in a position to implement some of her agenda is frightening.  Not only LGBT individuals and their friends and families but anyone who believes in religious freedom for all Americans should be very, very  disturbed.