Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trump and an Emboldened Christian Right

When he met with Christofascist leaders last summer in New York, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Fuhrer, sold his soul - assuming he has one - in order to win the support of these foul theocrats and, more importantly, their networks that could be used to motivate their robotic followers to go to the polls and vote for Trump.  Trump has kept his promises to these hate merchants and, to date, his appointments have included a who's who of anti-LGBT zealots.  Therefore, it is no surprise that the Christofacists feel quite triumphal at the moment.  Long term, their willingness to support a Vladimir Putin backed candidate may come back to haunt them, just as happened to German denominations that rallied to Adolph Hitler. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the current moment and what I hope could be the longer term downfall of the Christofascists.  Here are excerpts:
Before the 2016 elections, amidst evidence of some stress in conservative evangelical leadership circles over the religious implications of the community’s strong support for Donald Trump, the possibility that this could represent the Last Hurrah of the Christian Right as we have known it was a pretty lively topic of discussion. Personally, after years of challenging the wishful-thinking premise of secular folk and religious progressives alike that the Christian Right was on the decline, I argued in October that the spiritual gymnastics associated with supporting Trump might stretch the alliance of religious and nonreligious conservatives to the breaking point.
The big question for those triumphant Trumpites of the Cloth will be whether and how quickly he delivers on his big promises to this particular constituency.
For conservative evangelical clergy, the shiny bauble held out by Trump that they most value is probably repeal of the Johnson Amendment that prevents outright ex officio electioneering by leaders of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. That will require a statute. But the fact that this involves the Internal Revenue Service will probably be enough to justify nestling the provision into one of the budget reconciliation bills congressional Republicans will probably seek to pass next year, making it both relatively inconspicuous and filibuster-proof. If Republicans fail to do this, it will be noticed with dismay by its intended beneficiaries.
The bigger item probably most valued by politically active conservative evangelical laypeople is a reliable vote on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and if possible Obergefell v. Hodges (the decision that legalized same-sex marriage) — though the latter is probably a stretch —while also strengthening “religious liberty” protections for conservative Christians who don’t want to contaminate themselves with same-sex marriage rites or access to contraceptives by women. Thanks to the current vacancy on the Court, this is one promise Trump will be expected to keep almost immediately, and if he double-crosses the Christian Right with a nominee that is less than 100 percent certain on these issues, its Senate allies could credibly threaten to prevent confirmation.
Aside from repeal of the Johnson Amendment, fully defunding Planned Parenthood will be a must-pass budget item for the Christian Right. And they will be very avid for Trump to back Education secretary Betsy DeVos (assuming she is confirmed) to the hilt as she tries to convert federal education funding into a lever for convincing states to move public-school dollars into private-school vouchers.
All in all, 2017 looks like it will be a happy, fulfilling year for the culture warriors of the Christian Right, but there are some potential stumbling blocks in the path of a renewed “marriage of convenience” with the GOP.
Evangelical leaders are divided over immigration policy, which is likely to be a hot-button issue after the inauguration, as it was during the campaign. And any fresh incidents of Trumpian crudeness and overt hostility to Christian values could serve as an irritant as well. You can expect Mike Pence to serve as a soothing ambassador to this constituency if the Boss gets all heathenish again.
But the long-term tensions between the religious and political interests of conservative evangelicals, and their tendency to conflate those interests, have hardly been dispelled by an election victory.
If in the next few years the Christian Right turns out to be “losers,” as Trump would put it — either losing in elections and policy fights, or by losing their own professed convictions — the crisis people like Moore sensed when the Trump candidacy slouched towards Bethlehem to be born could return in a big-league way.

Of course, the Christofascist ignore the reality that their homophobia, racism, and general misogyny are repulsive to the younger generations and that to the extent they "win" with Trump, they in reality only accelerate the flight of people from religion and Christianity in particular.  I continue to believe that the Christofascists will ultimately kill Christianity - which overall will be a good thing. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Coming Out Remains a Daunting Challenge

Earlier in the month I wrote about a decision by the Virginia Beach school board to cancel a gay-straight alliance assembly at Cox High School.  The event has now purportedly rescheduled and I had an unhappy telephone call with one school board member who did not appreciate my "assume the worse until proven otherwise" attitude given my many years of activism within that school division. The call ended with me telling the board member that I would wait to be proven wrong.  During the shit storm of negative local, national and international news coverage that the school board created for itself (something that the board has an amazing talent to do), The Virginian Pilot ran a guest column by  New York resident Grace Bonney, founder of DesignSponge and author of “In the Company of Women.” What made the column so striking is that I know Grace and her parents. She attended school and swam for years on the neighborhood swim team with my children for years. While taking the Virginia Beach School Board to task, Grace also explained the torment that so many LGBT teens still experience.  Here are highlights from her excellent piece: 
IN 1994, I was an eighth-grader at Lynnhaven Middle School. It was that year that I would have my first, but not last, experience with homophobia.
I fell in love with my best friend, who happened to be a girl, like me. At an age when I should have felt free to ask questions and be curious about who I was, I was shut down quickly and swiftly by students who figured out the nature of my relationship before I had time to understand it myself.
Their bullying took the form of notes at first, passed in front of me and left in my locker. Then they found it funny to cough and whisper “dyke” when my friend and I walked the hallway.
Discussions of these complicated feelings didn’t go well at home. And Lynnhaven Middle had no Gay-Straight Alliance or LGBTQ+ club for me to turn to. So instead, I spoke to no one. I became someone who spoke up less and doubted myself more. I was afraid of being singled out. To be noticed felt like being caught. It was then that I realized that the spaces I once thought were welcoming and safe were not.
Rumors of my sexuality followed me into high school at First Colonial, where I spent most of my freshman year convincing people that I wasn’t “that girl” and that no — I didn’t have crushes on all my female friends. I kept my head down, worked hard and, when college rolled around, I got as far away from Virginia Beach as I could.
It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I faced the truth about my sexuality. I was afraid of not being accepted and loved for who I really was, and I was afraid for my physical safety if I lived openly and honestly. On a daily basis, I was reminded that those fears were still justified in most places in the United States.
I’ve worked hard to overcome the damage done as the result of living in a community and school system that wasn’t more outwardly accepting and supportive of LGBTQ+ students. But as much as it pains me to admit, there is still a part of me that has internalized that homophobia and thinks I should be a little quieter and a little less open, loud and proud about who I am.
But that voice — that self-hatred and self-doubt — is exactly the voice we have to stop the next generation of children from hearing.
Most people assume that because more people from the LGBTQ+ community live openly and are depicted on TV and movie screens that things are better — safer, even. But openly LGBTQ+ students are still the victims of bullying on a daily basis, both online and off, especially in spaces like schools that should be safe havens. And according to The Trevor Project, each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.
So when I heard that Cox High School had postponed its very first gay pride assembly, I was confused and heartbroken. The school said officials had decided (one day before the event was scheduled) to be “more inclusive.” If Cox does not see the heartbreaking irony in asking students who are routinely excluded to make their event more inclusive (especially when it never excluded any students or required them to attend), they are missing a much bigger point.
In addition, School Board member-elect Victoria Manning told The Pilot that “this is a controversial subject, and I do not believe it is appropriate to hold a gay pride event during instructional time.”
By suggesting that LGBTQ+ pride is controversial, Manning is sending the message that students who were born gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex or asexual are somehow inherently problematic. I for one am tired of seeing LGBTQ+ people, especially students, asked to take a seat, be quiet and wait while the rest of the world gets more comfortable with our very existence.
No person, student or otherwise, should ever feel that their voice isn’t worth hearing and supporting. No person should ever feel their identity is controversial.
As an alumna of this school system, I expect and demand better from the people who are shaping the next generation of students in our hometown. And as someone who knows what it feels like to put someone else’s comfort ahead of my own for years, I can tell you that the results can lead to permanent damage.
Ironically, Grace and I were struggling with similar feelings and fears in what we both seeming felt to be isolation, consumed with fear of discovery.  It took me many more years than Grace to come to terms with my sexuality as I finally came out in late 2001.   What is so disturbing is that people like school board member elect Victoria Manning continue to act as if LGBT individuals are controversial as they prostitute themselves to Christofascists who strive to unconstitutionally impose their toxic religious beliefs on all.  Religious belief has ZERO place in the public schools. ZERO!  I continue to wait to see if my worse fears about the Virginia Beach School Board were justified or not.

Vladimir Putin's Useful Idiots in America

As previous post indicate, I personally do not put it past Donald Trump, a/k/a Def Fuhrer, to have conspired with Russian efforts to throw the election in Trumps favor.  Recall, the Russian foreign ministry has confirmed communications with the Trump campaign, Trump invited Russian hacking, and stories of Trump's dependence on Russian money to support numerous projects, including some in New York City.  But regardless of Trump's complicity in the Russian efforts, Putin had many "useful idiots" in making sure Trump won the election. A column in the New York Times looks at Putin's unwitting accomplices.  Naturally, much of the blame falls on the main stream media - the same media that allowed the nation to be taken to war in Iraq based on Bush/Cheney lies.  Here are column highlights (please read the whole piece, especially if you voted for Trump so that you can see how you were played by Putin):
On Wednesday an editorial in The Times described Donald Trump as a “useful idiot” serving Russian interests. That may not be exactly right. After all, useful idiots are supposed to be unaware of how they’re being used, but Mr. Trump probably knows very well how much he owes to Vladimir Putin. Remember, he once openly appealed to the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Still, the general picture of a president-elect who owes his position in part to intervention by a foreign power, and shows every sign of being prepared to use U.S. policy to reward that power, is accurate.
But let’s be honest: Mr. Trump is by no means the only useful idiot in this story. As recent reporting by The Times makes clear, bad guys couldn’t have hacked the U.S. election without a lot of help, both from U.S. politicians and from the news media.
Let me explain what I mean by saying that bad guys hacked the election. I’m not talking about some kind of wild conspiracy theory. I’m talking about the obvious effect of two factors on voting: the steady drumbeat of Russia-contrived leaks about Democrats, and only Democrats, and the dramatic, totally unjustified last-minute intervention by the F.B.I., which appears to have become a highly partisan institution, with distinct alt-right sympathies.
Does anyone really doubt that these factors moved swing-state ballots by at least 1 percent? If they did, they made the difference in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and therefore handed Mr. Trump the election, even though he received almost three million fewer total votes. Yes, the election was hacked.
By the way, people who respond to this observation by talking about mistakes in Clinton campaign strategy are missing the point, and continuing their useful idiocy. All campaigns make mistakes. Since when do these mistakes excuse subversion of an election by a foreign power and a rogue domestic law enforcement agency?
So why did the subversion work?  It’s important to realize that the postelection C.I.A. declaration that Russia had intervened on behalf of the Trump campaign was a confirmation, not a revelation . . .  
The pro-Putin tilt of Mr. Trump and his advisers was obvious months before the election I wrote about it in July. By midsummer the close relationship between WikiLeaks and Russian intelligence was also obvious, as was the site’s growing alignment with white nationalists.
Did Republican politicians, so big on flag waving and impugning their rivals’ patriotism, reject this foreign aid to their cause? No, they didn’t. In fact, as far as I can tell, no major Republican figure was even willing to criticize Mr. Trump when he directly asked Russia to hack Mrs. Clinton.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. It has long been obvious — except, apparently, to the news media — that the modern G.O.P. is a radical institution that is ready to violate democratic norms in the pursuit of power. Why should the norm of not accepting foreign assistance be any different?
The bigger surprise was the behavior of the news media, and I don’t mean fake news; I mean big, prestigious organizations. Leaked emails, which everyone knew were probably the product of Russian hacking, were breathlessly reported as shocking revelations, even when they mostly revealed nothing more than the fact that Democrats are people.
Meanwhile, the news media dutifully played up the Clinton server story, which never involved any evidence of wrongdoing, but merged in the public mind into the perception of a vast “email” scandal when there was nothing there.
And then there was the Comey letter. The F.B.I. literally found nothing at all. But the letter dominated front pages and TV coverage, and that coverage — by news organizations that surely knew that they were being used as political weapons — was almost certainly decisive on Election Day.
So as I said, there were a lot of useful idiots this year, and they made the election hack a success.
If we’re going to have any hope of redemption, people will have to stop letting themselves be used the way they were in 2016. And the first step is to admit the awful reality of what just happened.
It means not making excuses for news coverage that empowered that subversion.
And it means not acting as if this was a normal election whose result gives the winner any kind of a mandate, or indeed any legitimacy beyond the bare legal requirements. It might be more comfortable to pretend that things are O.K., that American democracy isn’t on the edge. But that would be taking useful idiocy to the next level.
If American democracy survives Trump - and I have my doubts - I truly hope that historians identify those who basically acted in league with a hostile foreign power either through laziness, partisan extremism, and motivations driven by hate and bigotry.  There are many villians and all need to be held accountable by the view of history.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Scott Rigell: It’s Clear Russia Influenced 2016 Election

I will be the first to admit that I never have liked GOP Congressman Scott Rigell, but as he has wound down his time in Congress, he seems to have finally gotten his head out of his ass in a number of ways and belatedly spoken the truth and stopped putting his political party ahead of the nation and the best interests of the residents of the Virginia 2nd Congressional District.  Perhaps knowing that he no longer had to worry about a primary challenge by white supremacists and Christofascists in the GOP base, Rigell has felt free to speak candidly.   His recent comments on the 2016 election and Der Fuhrer are most part directly on point.  One can only hope that newly elected Scott Taylor will act as Rigell has in the waning days of his term of office. Here are highlights on Rigell's remarks from Roll Call:
Retiring Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell, who made waves when he broke with the Republican Party over Donald Trump’s presidential nomination, said the president-elect's choice of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State is “deeply flawed.”
In addition to his worries about Tillerson’s lack of diplomatic experience, Rigell told Hampton Roads TV station WAVY he is concerned about the Exxon Mobil CEO’s close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the role Russia may have played in the U.S. presidential election.
“It is clear to some degree they influenced our election,” Rigell said.
Additionally, Rigell hopes Trump takes seriously the implications of the hack, and heeds the intelligence agencies call for further investigation.
“I think it would actually heighten his presidency if he would lead and advance the cause of exactly what happened,” Rigell added. 
Rigell, who represents Virginia's 2nd District, was an outspoken opponent of Trump’s candidacy, and eventually endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson over his party’s nominee.
At one point, Rigell called the real estate mogul “a bully unworthy of our nomination,” and asserted that a Trump presidency would be “reckless, embarrassing and ultimately dangerous.”
Months later, Rigell’s opinion hasn’t changed.  “I have always said there is not one character trait in him that I would want my son to emulate. Not one," Rigell told WAVY. 
“I think Donald Trump has deeply divided our country, and I cannot see him bringing us together,” Rigell said. “Do I hope that happens? Yes, I do because I am an American first, but for him to say, ‘We are going to make Mexico pay for it’ is a bizarre statement."
Rigell decided not to seek a fourth term in January, and will be replaced by Republican Scott Taylor.

I guess Rigell's conversion is a case of better late than never.  Scott Taylor needs to know that we will be watching him closely, especially when it comes to voting on anti-LGBT legislation.  Personally, I cannot fully trust Taylor after his endorsement of Trump. 

Cherokee Nation: Gay-Marriage Law Is Traditional

Some time ago I cited a book called "The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies," that concluded that the tolerance, if not open acceptance of same sex relations, was the norm around the world prior to the arrival of Christian missionaries who, along with small pox and other diseases, a desire to oppress and conquer native cultures, often outright genocide, brought homophobia and animus toward those in same sex relationships.  Indeed, many who were in such relationships were put to death. The irony now, of course, is that cretins - I'm sorry, but in my view no other word applies - in parts of Africa and India for example, claim that homosexuality is a western import.  The truth is the exact opposite and it is the homophobia that they want to uphold that is the western import.   Given this true historic background, it is interesting that a recent ruling by the Cherokee nation affirming same sex relationships cited the fact that tradition within the tribe supported what would now be called gay marriage.  Here are highlights from Bloomberg:
The Cherokee Nation, one of the largest registered Native American tribes in the U.S., has officially decided to recognize same-sex marriage. The tribe, as a separate sovereign, isn’t bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 gay-marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges. But its judgment relies in part on evidence of historical recognition of same-sex relationships among Cherokees -- a basis for contemporary gay rights that is different from, and in some ways deeper than, the equality and dignity rationales that the Supreme Court used.
The history of how tribes have been treated in their interaction with the U.S. legal system is complex and often inconsistent -- usually to the detriment of the tribes. But the basic principle of “Indian law” is that tribes are considered sovereign nations: dependent on the U.S. and subject to congressional control in some respects, but entitled to exercise self-government.
Thus, tribes need not govern themselves democratically -- nor are they necessarily bound by the U.S. Constitution. Instead, basic rights in Indian country come from either the tribes’ own fundamental constitutional principles or the Indian Civil Rights Act, enacted by Congress in 1968.
The act includes guarantees of equal protection and due process of law, the same principles that are found in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that were the basis for the Obergefell decision.
[W]hen Todd Hembree, the attorney general of the Cherokee Nation, issued his binding gay marriage opinion last week, the Indian Civil Rights Act went unmentioned. The decision was based on the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation, which he described as “the supreme written will of the Cherokee people regarding the framework of their government.” Hembree mentioned Obergefell only to cite it in a footnote.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about the attorney general’s opinion is how it grounded its argument in Cherokee tradition. In a section titled “Perpetual Partnership and Marriage in the Cherokee Nation,” Hembree devoted significant attention to a ceremony of devotion that was traditionally performed between two men at an annual festival.
Hembree quoted in its entirety an eyewitness description from 1836 by John Howard Payne, a picaresque writer, composer and traveler. In Payne’s account, the ritual “sprang from a passionate friendship between young men” that led them “mutually to a solemn act of devotedness to each other.” The young men would engage in “silent interchange of garment after garment, until each was clad in the other’s dress.”
According to Hembree, “the relationship described in some respects would seem to parallel a modern-day same-sex marriage” -- and received “recognition by the other members of the tribe.”
The attorney general’s opinion also referred to a 19th century report on Cherokee customs that stated, “There were among them formerly men who assumed the dress and performed all the duties of women and who lives full lives in this manner.” This resonates with contemporaneous reports from many tribes, especially in the Great Plains, of men who lived as women. The anthropological literature long referred to them as “berdaches,” from a French word for the younger partner in a gay male relationship; today the preferred term is “two spirits.”
Hembree seemed to demonstrate to Cherokees that acceptance of same-sex relationships is a core element of their unique cultural and religious traditions.
Now that gay marriage is a legal right, the next challenge is to convince opponents that the best reading of their own traditions favors equal treatment of gay couples. The Cherokee nation’s attorney general is leading the way.

It's long past time that more nations and societies wake up to the reality that homophobia is a western Christian import, brough by the same missionaries that proved so disastrous for so many cultures.   Where you find hatred of others, all too often religion is at the core. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Donald Trump’s Lies About Russia

If nothing else, Donald Trump has proven himself time and time again to be a pathological liar. Worse yet, he denies fats that are substantiated both by video recordings and contemporaneously published news articles. Now, faced with (i) what the CIA and other intelligence agencies say is overwhelming evidence of Russian intelligence hacking the DNC and other Democrat offices, (ii) previous reports on Trump's reliance on Russian money, and (iii) statements by Russian officials that Trump campaign officials communicated with  Moscow during the campaign, Trump resorts to lying about everything and trying to spin the whole frightening affair as "ridiculous" and unfounded because the White House failed to act strongly back in October.   The New York Times sums up Trumps lies and duplicity in a main page editorial.  Here are highlights:
No matter how divided our politics and our times, Americans can agree that our status as a strong, democratic nation rests on the bedrock of free and fair elections. That confidence is what was targeted when Russia, one of our oldest, most determined foreign adversaries, invaded American computer networks and released thousands of pages of documents to undermine the legitimacy of the 2016 election.
This news emerged last summer. Last month, the Central Intelligence Agency shared a further conclusion, based on months of analysis, that the Russian hacking was intended to favor Donald Trump.
“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Adm. Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, said recently. “This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” he said. “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
Extrapolating motive from evidence is always tricky. But after the C.I.A. provided classified briefings for Congress and the White House, members of both political parties were convinced.
But not President-elect Trump.
Mr. Trump’s instant rejection of the C.I.A. findings as “ridiculous,” based on no review of its work, echoed Moscow’s.
On Nov. 10, two days after the election, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said “there were contacts” between Moscow and Mr. Trump’s campaign. “I cannot say that all of them, but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives,” Mr. Ryabkov said.
Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump’s campaign managers, resigned after reports described his political ties to Russia. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, sat with Mr. Putin at a gala for Russian state television, where he has appeared as a commentator.
Donald Trump Jr. told a real estate gathering in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” adding “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Mr. Trump hasn’t released tax returns or other records that could ease fears that he has financial deals in Russia to protect. And he’s refusing to divest his business interests, so whatever ties there may be are likely to remain.
President Obama has asked the nation’s intelligence community to deliver a fuller report on its findings before he leaves office on Jan. 20, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing for a congressional investigation. The results of that inquiry should be made public, and the intelligence community should tell Americans as much as it can about the cyberattack and its goals.
Mr. Trump’s reaction to the C.I.A.’s findings leaves him isolated, and underscores his dangerous unfamiliarity with the role of intelligence in maintaining national security. There could be no more “useful idiot,” to use Lenin’s term of art, than an American president who doesn’t know he’s being played by a wily foreign power. Or maybe it’s as Mr. Trump says: He’s “a smart person,” and avoids presidential intelligence briefings because they repeat what he already knows. If so, what else does he know about Russia that the intelligence agencies don’t?
Sadly, I have a gut feeling that Trump wasn't being played by Putin but rather was in league and cooperation with him.  Recall how Trump on occasion seemed to know what was in hacked e-mails and communications before they were published.  I suspect a Russian "bird" told him all about what was being done and due for release.  The word treason keeps forming on my lips.

Teen Inauguration Singer Bullied by Trump Supporters Over Transgender Sister

By some reports Donald Trump has been having difficulty signing on entertainment for his inaugural extravaganza - some Washington, D.C. marching bands have not even applied to participate in the parade - since many entertainers do not want their names in any manner attached to Trump.  Eventually, Trump secured the agreement of  opera singer Jackie Evancho, a finalist on season five of “America’s Got Talent,” to sing the national anthem at Donald Trump’s inauguration.  In retrospect, Evancho is likely wondering why the Hell she agreed now that Trump supporters are heaping abuse on her and her transgender sister.  To quote Nancy Reagan - not exactly one of my idols - Evancho should "Just Say No."   The Washington Blade looks at the misogyny that is the new reality in Trump's Amerika.  Here are excerpts:
Opera singer Jackie Evancho, who will be singing the national anthem at Donald Trump’s inauguration, is facing an onslaught of criticism because she has a transgender sister.
Jackie, 16, received her big break when she was a finalist on season five of “America’s Got Talent” at 10 years old. Her sister Juliet, 18, came out as transgender at Global Lyme Alliance’s inaugural gala last year.
Juliet penned an essay, published on Wednesday, for Teen Voguedescribing her struggles with gender identity. “Jackie’s newfound fame put our entire family under a microscope. This made things even more difficult for me,” Juliet writes. “Now, I not only worried about what my family thought of me, but I also worried about some trashy magazine trying to make a spectacle out of me if they found out, and it hurting my family.” According to the Huffington Post, Juliet is also one of three transgender students suing a Pennsylvania school district over restroom access for transgender students. The essay, along with Jackie’s inauguration announcement, has brought lots of negative online attention to the Evancho family. People reports Trump supporters have tweeted abuse at the young singer because of her sister.
“My family is kind of a big target. I have a transgender sister and so a lot of hate goes towards us,” Jackie  Jackie has also performed twice for President Barack Obama. First, in 2010 she performed at the National Christmas Tree Lightening and again in 2012 at the National Prayer Breakfast.

I'm sorry, but in my view, these Trump supporters are basically human excrement. I'm sure most of those hurling abuse view themselves as "godly Christians."  I've ceased to call myself a Christian and have resigned my ELCA membership.  I want NOTHING to do with Christianity which has become a poison to humanity and the good of mankind. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack

It seems that the information coming out about Russia's efforts to elect Donald Trump to the Oval Office only gets worse and worse and more frightening - at least to anyone who doesn't rely on Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, as their sole source of "news" and information.  One take away is that the next time you hear some Republican bloviating about their patriotism, (after vomiting) call them out and remind them that their party's president elect won the election likely thanks to the efforts of a hostile foreign enemy. Increasingly, Trump is seemingly the Manchurian candidate come to life and most Republicans could care less.  Their sole focus of GOP elected officials is to remain in power and the party base's fixation is on maintaining its white privilege and seeing its racism and bigotry supported.  They do not give a damn about the country over all much less foreign interference with America's electoral process.  A piece at NBC News looks at the increasingly alarming details of Russia's involvement - possibly, in my opinion with the Trump campaign's active cooperation.  Here are highlights:
U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.
Ultimately, the CIA has assessed, the Russian government wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI and other agencies don't fully endorse that view, but few officials would dispute that the Russian operation was intended to harm Clinton's candidacy by leaking embarrassing emails about Democrats.
The latest intelligence said to show Putin's involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia.
The statement said officials believed that "only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities." That was an intelligence judgment based on an understanding of the Russian system of government, which Putin controls with absolute authority.
Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term "high confidence" implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.
He wants to discredit American democracy and make us weaker in terms of leading the liberal democratic order. And most certainly he likes President-elect Trump's views on Russia," McFaul added. Clinton cast doubt on the integrity of Russia's elections.
A former CIA official who worked on Russia told NBC News that it's not clear the U.S. can embarrass Putin, given that many Russians are already familiar with allegations he has grown rich through corruption and has ordered the killings of political adversaries.
The former CIA official said the Obama administration may feel compelled to respond before it leaves office.  "This whole thing has heated up so much," he said. "I can very easily see them saying, `We can't just say wow, this was terrible and there's nothing we can do.'"
As for Comey's FBI being hesitant to admit the role Russia played, I hate to say it, but I believe that James Comey was part of the operation.  Why he still has a job is mind boggling.  He needs to be charged with interfering with the election, if not espionage, and subverting the Constitution. 

The GOP's Descent into a Moral Abyss

Trump and Pence with equally morally bankrupt Paul Ryan
The Republican Party has finally entered into a complete moral abyss where anything is acceptable, no matter how formerly morally reprehensible so long as it allows the party to retain power.  It is not without irony that the process began, in my view, when the GOP decided to embrace racism (think Southern Baptists) as part of the Southern Strategy under Richard Nixon.  The process accelerated when the Christofascists infiltrated the party and drove sane, rational and truly moral people from the party base and party structure.  What was left was a toxic mix of open racists and white supremacists and religious extremists.  Donald Trump played to both these pillars of today's GOP and proved that hate, bigotry and extremism is more widely embraced than most of us ever wanted to admit.  The only comforting news is that Trump received votes from only about 26% of voters and that Clinton won the popular vote by roughly 2.8 million votes.  The moral bankruptcy of the GOP has not yet metastasized nationwide.  Not yet is the operative phrase.  It must be stopped.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the moral abyss of today's GOP.  Here are excerpts:
Whether it concerns President-elect Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, his unwillingness to remove conflicts of interest, his bizarre defense of Vladimir Putin on Russian hacking, his nomination of unqualified Cabinet members who happened to be big donors, his attacks on the free press, his threats and inducements to businesses to do his bidding or his announced disinterest in taking intelligence briefings, the reaction of the vast majority of Republicans is to hide or spin for Trump.
The excuses for not objecting when he does egregious things include (these are real examples uttered by one or more Republicans on the Hill, operatives, advisers, etc.):
  • He’s not president yet. (No, really, they say such a thing, as though he’ll be more responsive or Congress will have more leverage after he gets control over the IRS, CIA, FBI, etc.)
  • Maybe he’ll do the right thing (e.g. divest). (Again, they utter this kind of rubbish despite heaps of evidence that he lacks any ethical compass.)
  • But we need to get tax reform and repeal Obamacare. (As if reducing marginal tax rates would justify constitutional violations, or as if their forbearance will make Trump more agreeable on policy issues.)
  • If we criticize, he won’t listen to us later. (No, seriously, they seem to believe that if they are patsies now, they will have influence later.)
  • He doesn’t mean what he says. (We are back to not taking seriously the man who will be commander in chief.)
  • He’s hiring good people. (Mike Flynn? Ben Carson? Stephen K. Bannon?)
  • We cannot do anything. (Didn’t they run for weeks on a message of acting as a check on Trump?)
We find Trump’s post-election behavior to be entirely predictable — not normal or acceptable, but inevitable given his personality and temperamental and intellectual shortcomings. Republicans’ capitulation is far quicker and more complete than we imagined, we admit. Chalk it up to fear of Trump and his voters, to the unquenchable thirst for influence and power and to humans’ ability to convince themselves of practically anything.
At times, one can only cringe at conservative “leaders” prostrating themselves before Trump.  . . . . [Paul] Ryan thinks flattery is going to work, but my goodness, have some self-respect!
[G]iving an ovation to highly problematic nominees such as Rex W. Tillerson, Goldman Sachs tycoons or an erratic personality such as Flynn or hiding under the covers while Trump tramples on the Constitution does the country a disservice and does not help Trump to improve his powers of discernment.
[T]here is no public pressure to discard all independent judgment in deference to the president-elect.
Trump, remember, lost the popular vote and remains a historically unpopular figure. Many of his actions and appointees will draw very negative reactions. There is no need for Republicans to wrap themselves around Trump; indeed, when things go haywire, that tactic likely will be a problem for the incumbent party in 2018. Republicans would be far wiser to stand their ground, at least once in a while, and draw the line in the sand on critical issues (e.g. honoring the Constitution).
Republicans and all lawmakers take oaths to the Constitution, not Trump or the party, and they are responsible to their own constituencies, not to the executive branch. They should behave as such.

Sadly, upholding the Constitution means nothing to today's Republicans regardless of all of their disingenuous feigning to the contrary.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My Russian Readership Soars

I do not usually pay too much attention to where my readers come from, but typically the highest number by a factor of 5 come from the United States.  France is usually the second largest audience. That is until now.  I just happened to check the sources of traffic and during the last week or so, readership from Russia has been more than five times the volume from the United States.   I guess all my posts about Trump being Putin's stooge and Russian intelligence hacking the DNC, etc., make for a popular topic in Russia.  I will let you all know how long the trend continues. :-)

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Sickness that Is Donald Trump

It seems that with every passing day Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Fuhrer on this blog, reveals in yet another way in which he played the so-called working class white voters as complete fools.  One has to wonder what sort of mental affliction one needs to suffer from in order to fall for the snake oil and lies of this dangerous narcissist.   While too slow in standing up against GOP misogyny that set the stag for a candidate as foul and unprincipled as Trump, columnist Kathleen Parker saw the pathology of Trump sooner than some of her conservative brethren.  In a column in the Washington Post she looks at the sickness now headed towards the oval office.  Here are highlights:

In the Trump movie now playing in the American theater, connecting all the dots requires the artistry of a mapmaker and the insight of a psychic.
Or, perhaps, the critical eye of a movie reviewer.
The leading man, President-elect Donald Trump, is gradually revealing himself to be a hybrid of Daniel Plainview (“There Will Be Blood”), Keyser Soze (“The Usual Suspects”) and Gordon Gekko (“Wall Street”) — each a Machiavellian, sociopathic narcissist bent on reshaping the world in his own image.
Whomever people thought they were voting for, sayonara to all that. The Trump of Fifth Avenue has returned to his palace. He’s the star of his own movie, and everyone else, especially the Republican base he so skillfully seduced, is mere crowd scenery. Sorry.
It must have been a supreme test of will to keep his true intentions to himself and his gaze steady upon the prize until, by some miracle (or however you say that in Russian), he won.
As the transition unfolds, new stars cascading into a constellation of superpower, the moviegoer willingly suspends disbelief in passive acceptance of whatever’s to come. Trump instinctively understands that he must feed the suspense, both to hold his audience’s attention and to keep them distracted while he’s busy masterminding his biggest deal ever — to Russia with love.
All the while, Trump was focused on his future with Russia and Vladimir Putin, whose leadership the president-elect has publicly admired. In July, during the last news conference Trump has held, he openly requested Russia’s help in defeating Hillary Clinton.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said, referring to messagesdeleted from Clinton’s personal server.Trump later dismissed the comment as a joke, but you know what they say about truths cloaked in jest. Recently, the CIA affirmed that Russia did interfere with the election by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and releasing damaging information via WikiLeaks.
True to character, Trump called the report “ridiculous” and said the whole thing was a fabrication by Democrats. 
To the critic’s eye, a Trump-Putin-Exxon alliance — the autocrat and plutocrats assisted by generals — does not suggest a triumph of altruism. But, relax, it’s just a movie. And centralized casting is watching you.


We Can’t Be ‘Friends’ Any Longer After You Voted For Trump

Through this blog and the 2008 LGBT Blogger Summit in Washington, D.C., and other activism I have met an amazing number of people and activists.  Some I have met in person.  Others I have come to know through co-writing for The Bilerico Project and other venues.  One such person is Michelangelo Signorile who I have spoken with in the past.   In a post at Huffington Post, Michelangelo, describes the feelings I - and I suspect many others - have experienced and/or continue to experience. Like him, I cannot simply forget what "friends" have done to me and to the country and its future. I have "unfriended" people. In other cases where I still have to interact with individuals (not by choice), I treat the situation as it is in fact: totally superficial since that is obviously how the other party must see their relationship with me. True friends don't vote to harm or abrogate the civil rights of their supposed friends.  Here are highlights from Michelangelo's piece: 
Dear X,
Every day that goes by since the election I become more despondent and more infuriated about your having supported Donald Trump.
His continued unstable, childish, dangerous behavior on Twitter and off; his horrifying, extreme picks for the cabinet – individuals who are hostile to civil rightsand seem chosen to dismantle government; his surrounding himself with generals, billionaires and nationalists – all of it is alarming and I’m truly frightened for our country.
The thought of speaking with you, just when maybe the anger has simmered somewhat, becomes more unsettling ― and enrages me further ― as each day’s news breaks. 
How could I continue a friendship with you knowing that you voted for rolling back my rights as a gay man – most of Trump’s cabinet choices are vehemently opposed to LGBT rights – and the rights of millions of women and people of color? 
I can’t fall back on the narrative of you being the downtrodden Rust Belter who is experiencing “economic anxiety” and feeling “left behind.” You ― like, in fact, the majority of Trump supporters ― fit none of that. You’re an educated white woman with college-educated children and you’ve gone from living in one 93 percent white, well-off enclave to another over the past 30 years.
I now realize I never really knew you.
In thinking back there were the hints, which surfaced over dinner, or in a chat on the phone, that perhaps you supported Republicans, or were unsatisfied with President Obama. (Certainly my politics, in my work as a journalist and commentator, are on full display, and some people are more guarded in my presence when it comes to discussing their own views.)
Still, that certainly didn’t mean you’d support Trump. Many Republicans didn’t. You always seemed to care about human rights. You supported me through my own coming out as gay when I was young, and expressed support for marriage equality. You left me a message the day after the shooting massacre at the LGBT nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando last June ― the last time we had an exchange ― sending me your moral support, to which I responded with a thank you.
That’s why this is all the more shocking. You’re too informed, too aware to just have blindly followed Trump. And my only conclusion is that the dark, ugly bigotry of this man was dismissed by you, tolerated by you. That’s unacceptable. You allowed for the legitimacy of white supremacists and a brutal misogyny we have never seen at this level of politics. Any conversation we would have would devolve into my saying things that would surely hurt you far more than simply breaking off or severely diminishing communications. 
[T]his election was and continues to be about so much more than “politics.” This is about values and respect. It’s about bigotry and hate. It’s about of millions of people’s rights being threatened, including my rights as a gay man and yours as a woman. It’s about putting our entire democracy in danger of transforming into an autocracy, and legitimizing and making alliances with our worst adversaries, whose goal is to dominate us.
Others would say they understand the desire to cut off the friendship, but that it’s better to continue dialogue and educate. Perhaps, this thinking goes, you’ll see what’s happening as we move forward and then reach out for an understanding and maybe offer a mea culpa. 
I get that. But we are in a grave situation, with little time to spare. At this current moment, since you don’t see that we’re in a national emergency (to which you contributed), you may only be jarred if your comfortable life is affected – such as by losing one or more friends and being forced to reflect on the magnitude of what you’ve done.
Beyond all that, as I said above, I realize I never really knew you.  When it comes to the things that matter greatly to me, I’ve now learned we have very little in common. Words of support for me and concern for my well-being are superficial when you can’t be counted on when it really matters ― when rights are on the line. The election has brought that into sharp relief.
 I have a number of "friendships" that I doubt will survive much longer.  In ever instance, the "friend" who voted for Trump is financially well off and educated and should have known what they were supporting.  If they claim ignorance, then they have no one to blame by themselves and their trained circus dog-like reliance on Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, for their sole source of information. Shame on them.  Shame on me if I don't hold them accountable.