Saturday, December 24, 2016

Thomas Shuttleworth RIP: Virginia Marriage Case Attorney Dies

I have known the senior members of the Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecocklaw firm, the firm that launched the challenge to Virginia's anti-gay animus motivated Marshall-Newman Amendment on behalf of fiends, Tim Bostic and Tony London, since the early 1980's.  We all originally belonged to the same law firm which in later years became a part of the Richmond based Williams Mullen mega firm.  Yesterday, Thomas Shuttleworth passed away after a battle with Parkinson's disease.  His obituary can be found here in the Virginian Pilot.    Back on May 15, 2014,  HRBOR's May Third Thursday event hosted by the law firm Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock.    It was moving hearing Tom speak at the event and I was very touched when he gave me a big hug.  I feel lucky to have known Tom. A piece in the Daily Press reviewed the beginnings of the lawsuit that brought marriage equality to Virginia.  Here are excerpts:
At their Norfolk home that June night, Bostic and London considered the pros and cons of pushing the issue in court. They came to their decision within 30 minutes, Bostic said. Just then, he said, a younger and less established gay couple walked past their home.
"If Tony and I wouldn't do it, who will?" Bostic said.
Meanwhile, Ruloff talked to Tom Shuttleworth, the senior partner at the Virginia Beach firm, Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock. Shuttleworth was quickly on board. "It's going to be a long, hard challenge, but if they're up for it, we're up for it," he said.
Over the next couple weeks, one of the Virginia Beach firm's associates, Charles Lustig — whom Ruloff called the law firm's resident "constitutional scholar" — researched the issue and drafted the lawsuit.
On July 18, 2013, Lustig walked into the U.S. District Court in Norfolk and handed the complaint to a counter clerk. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George E. Schafer III were named as defendants.
Lustig wrote: "By denying those individuals the same 'marriage' designation afforded to opposite-sex couples … the Commonwealth of Virginia is stigmatizing gays and lesbians, as well as their children and families, and denying them the same dignity, respect, and stature afforded officially recognized opposite-sex family relationships."
A week after the suit was filed, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer, Matt McGill, learned of the case through news reports.
McGill works with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, an international law firm based in Los Angeles that was heavily involved in the push to legalize same-sex marriage in California. McGill then called Erik Porcaro, a childhood friend — and an attorney with the Virginia Beach law firm.
Bostic said he found it amazing that the lawyers involved on the plaintiffs' side are mostly "older straight white men."
"They don't have any dog in this fight," he said. "That they're willing to put themselves out there and support us, it's kind of awe-inspiring. It's humbling."
And yes, the husband and I were there when Tim and Tony got married thanks to Tom Shuttleworth's willingness to put himself out there for what was right.  Tom, you will be missed.  My condolences to Tom's family. 

Christmas Eve Male Beauty - Pt 2

A "To Do List" for Opposing Donald Trump

The next four years will likely be a nightmare for thinking, rational Americans who are not motivated by greed, racism, hated of others, Christian extremism, homophobia and/or some combination thereof.  Donald Trump may have won the presidency due to electors betraying the Founding Fathers' intent, but he will never be my President.  Despite holding the title, the man will continue to be the crude, boorish, narcissistic, psychopath that he has always been and will remain the antithesis of men like Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.  Thus, the task becomes one of resisting and opposing the poison that Trump brings to the office and the likely dangerous policies he will likely push.   A piece in Moyers & Co. provided a list of things to do to oppose the ruining of America which Trump represents.  Here are some highlights:

Activists around the country — young and old, reformers and radicals — are now trying to figure out not only how to fight Trump and Trumpism, but also how to think strategically about building a powerful progressive movement based on action and informed by past and recent activism. Progressives should expect the unexpected, be agile and flexible and invest in rebuilding progressive organizations’ capacity.

So here is my 10-point “to do” list for fighting for working people.

1. Don’t forget: Trump does not have a mandate. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by close to 3 million votes. Only 27 percent of the nation’s 231 million eligible voters voted for Trump. 

2. Challenge Trump’s Nominees. Progressive activists, liberal watchdog groups and think tanks, congressional Democrats and responsible journalists have a rare opportunity, prior to and during the hearings, to challenge Trump’s Cabinet nominees and other high-level appointees as incompetent and unqualified. As a group, they represent a Hall of Shame of greedy billionaires, right-wing lunatics, scam artists and military mad hatters. Rather than see each nominee as an individual, they should look at the overall pattern of Trump nominees as lacking experience and caught in multiple conflict-of-interest webs, like Trump himself.

Senate Democrats have a responsibility to expose this web of ignorance, incompetence and intolerance, grill the candidates at the hearings and challenge the fundamental legitimacy of Trump’s administration. Along with progressive watchdog and activist groups, they should map the corporate bigwigs in Trump’s world — who they are, what they own — and make their businesses toxic targets of protest. 

3. Don’t Normalize Trump. Journalists should not normalize Trump. They need to get over their addiction to reporting everything he says and persisting in the allegedly even-handed “he said/she said” formula that creates misleading reporting. And they should continuously fact-check his statements and lies. During the campaign, the media let Trump set the agenda. His every statement and tweet — no matter how trivial or false — became news, and reporters rarely challenged his lies. With a few exceptions, news outlets failed to focus on his ignorance of basic policy ideas and his outrageous track record of business malfeasance. At no point did the media report on how his global business interests would compromise his presidency.

4. Focus on Real People. Reporters should focus on how Trump’s rhetoric and policy ideas affect real people. Major media outlets should keep a daily tally (and human stories) of how Trump’s policy proposals — like eliminating Obamacare, weakening the EPA and the National Labor Relations Board, slashing the Dodd-Frank law and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, expanding private for-profit charter schools, privatizing government functions and deporting immigrants — will hurt real people, remove important protections for consumers, workers and the environment and redistribute income upward.

They also should maintain a running count of hate crimes and violence triggered around the country by Trump’s election and rhetoric — perhaps in conjunction with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which regularly reports on hate crimes, bigotry and bullying directed at immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, gays and lesbians, the disabled and others. And the media should not allow Trump to get away with his impulsive, childish, authoritarian and narcissistic bullying, often via Twitter, of anyone who criticizes him. They should not, as Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen suggested, “treat Trump’s actions as a topic of political debate” but instead “as evidence of his derangement.”

5. Protest and Engage in Civil Disobedience. Anti-Trump rallies and demonstrations across the country on Inauguration Day should be just the beginning of an ongoing campaign of protest and civil disobedience to challenge and obstruct Trump’s initiatives. Americans need to channel their anger into strategic and constructive dissent, which has a long tradition in our country’s history.

Not everyone has to be on the front lines. People can donate (or increase their contributions) to organizations engaged in active opposition to Trump and the GOP agenda, such as Planned Parenthood, SPLC, Sierra Club, NAACP, Black Lives Matter, Human Rights Campaign and others.

But millions of Americans need to take to the streets regularly, reminding their countrymen and women that Trump’s plans for the country violate American values and will greatly harm the vast majority of Americans. Moreover, protests should challenge Trump’s entire agenda.

These protests must target members of Congress, demanding they oppose harmful legislation, corporations and business lobby groups that peddle political influence to advance a right-wing agenda. For example, millions of Americans who live in Republican House districts — many of whom voted for Trump or did not vote — will be harmed if Trump is able to eliminate Obamacare; a campaign to pressure those House members to oppose the Trump plan could have an impact.

Further, activists should target Trump’s business empire, which he refuses to divest from, claiming disingenuously that it will be run by his children without his knowledge or participation. They should boycott hotels, casinos, luxury apartments, golf courses and consumer products affiliated with his brand. If Trump has truly divested from these interests, it won’t hurt him. But if he squeals and impulsively attacks those involved in the boycott, we’ll know he still profits from his global business empire. 

6. Oppose Trump’s infrastructure plan. The first major legislative battle is likely to be over Trump’s infrastructure plan. The anti-Trump coalition should unite to oppose this corporate welfare scam, which the con artist is selling as a large investment to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals.” On the surface, it looks like a job-creating liberal initiative, but as always, the devil is in the details — and the details are incredibly bad. Trump’s plan is based on a report by his advisers Peter Navarro (a conservative economist recently appointed as his key trade adviser) and Commerce Secretary-designate Ross (see above), which calls for $1 trillion of spending over 10 years, funded largely by private sources that would be repaid with tax credits and usage taxes (such as toll roads).

As Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, the Trump plan is “basically fraudulent,” a scam that would “enrich a few well-connected people at taxpayers’ expense while doing very little to cure our investment shortfall. Progressives should not associate themselves with this exercise in crony capitalism.”

7. Obstruct Trump’s Presidency. People who live in large blue states like California, New York, Washington, Minnesota and Illinois have a particular opportunity and responsibility to obstruct Trump’s presidency. The day after the election, California Senate Leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon issued a combative pledge to defend the state’s progressive policies against assault by the Trump administration and to serve as a counterweight to the president-elect. 

Blue states and liberal cities like Los Angeles, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle and others can declare themselves “sanctuary” states and cities, vowing to resist cooperation with federal immigration officials seeking to deport undocumented immigrants, and fight any Trump administration attempt to undermine their progressive environmental, minimum wage, workers’ rights and anti-discrimination laws. Progressives must support elected leaders who take on Trump and hold them accountable when Trump seeks retaliation with threats to withhold funding. Cities and states also can withdraw their massive public pension funds from gun manufacturers, energy corporations that profit from fossil fuels and drug and insurance companies that lobby to kill Obamacare. 

8. Exploit Republican Infighting. The progressive anti-Trump movement should take advantage of infighting among Republicans, conservatives and business groups. Many Republicans who reluctantly endorsed Trump during the campaign disagree with his policy ideas and are disgusted by his personal behavior and business practices. Trump will inevitably say and do things that will embarrass Republicans and make it harder for them to win re-election. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to run for US president in 2020 and has a stake in making Trump a one-term president. Ryan has his own right-wing agenda that overlaps but is not totally in sync with Trump’s promises during the campaign.
Many Trump voters will soon suffer from some form of buyer’s remorse or oppose some of his words and deeds. 

9. Mobilize for the Next Elections. Progressives and Democrats should start organizing now to win back the House and gubernatorial seats in 2018, laying groundwork to retake the Senate and the White House in 2020. Democrats need to gain 24 seats in 2018 to get a 218-seat majority. Some doubt this is possible with so many gerrymandered districts. But that task will test the ability of key Democratic constituency groups — including the AFL-CIO and major unions like SEIU and AFSCME, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, NAACP, immigrant rights groups, the Human Rights Campaign, the major community organizing networks (People’s Action, Working Families Party, Center for Popular Democracy, Center for Community Change) and the liberal billionaires affiliated with the Democracy Alliance — to work together. They should jointly identify 30 congressional districts where Republican candidates won by the narrowest margins this year, as well as another 20 districts where they need to defend Democrats who won by slim margins.

10. Start Presidential Vetting Now. Can Democrats find a presidential candidate who is both progressive and electable? Much depends on how much Trump damages the country and his reputation. One assumes Trump will run for re-election, but it is possible he won’t want to run again or that he will be impeached or dethroned by the Republicans after causing enormous chaos and intraparty division. In that case, the most likely GOP front-runners are Paul Ryan and Mike Pence. But it is not too soon for Democrats to start road-testing a policy agenda and strategy to win back the White House and Congress in 2020.

We need a movement that explains what it is for, not just what it is against. Simply attacking Trump’s corruption and cronyism further alienates people from the idea that government can be a force for good. So progressives need a government reform agenda that articulates the values of real democratic governance — such as campaign finance reform, voting rights reform and eliminating wasteful corporate welfare. This year’s Democratic platform was the most progressive in its history, but Hillary Clinton was unable to convey it to many voters — especially white voters in swing states.

A successful Democratic candidate in 2020 will have a record of accomplishment, play a key role leading opposition to Trump’s policy initiatives, be able to win the Democratic primaries dominated by liberal voters, inspire “irregular” but Democratic-leaning (black, Latino, young, low-income) voters to vote, and win back some white working-class Trump voters in swing states. 

Trump and the Toxicity of Fundamentalist America

I have long maintained that Christian fundamentalists and so-called evangelicals - who voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump - hate anyone and anything that challenges their warped religious beliefs and sense of superiority over others. Be it gays, minorities with different skin color, and non-Christians, all are on the target list with the pious ones since they fail to conform to the overbearing white Jesus of fundamentalism.  The decline of the Republican Party into something akin to an insane asylum, in my view, closely tracks with the rise of the fundamentalists and evangelicals in the party.  Hence the transformation of the GOP from a party that honored knowledge and learning to one where ignorance is celebrated and objective facts are meaningless.  A very lengthy piece in The Raw Story looks at the poisonous impact that Christian fundamentalism and those I call the Christofascists has had on the nation and the rise of Donald Trump and neo-fascism.  The piece paints a depressing and harsh picture, but, in my opinion, it is right on target.  Christian fundamentalists remain a clear and present danger to America's future, Here are article excerpts (read the entire piece):
As the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”
Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this. It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete bullshit. It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to throw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t east coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is rural America doesn’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of choices they’ve made and horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.
I grew up in rural, Christian, white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area in the country that has a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on, on their rural farms. I dated their calico skirted daughters. I camped, hunted, and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have also watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure turn into a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes, and a broken down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves, the reasons for their anger/frustrations, and don’t seem to care to know why.
In deep-red white America, the white Christian God is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism is what has shaped most of their belief systems. Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, change. When you have a belief system that is built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power. The problem isn’t “coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans.” The problem is rural America doesn’t understand itself and will NEVER listen to anyone outside their bubble.
[W]henever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they WILL NOT even entertain the possibility it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.
Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are anti-quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to the certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school. For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning.
Another problem with rural, Christian, white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white God made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.
The religion in which I was raised taught this. Even though they’ve backtracked on some of their more racist declarations, many still believe the original claims. Non-whites are the color they are because of their sins, or at least the sins of their ancestors. Blacks don’t have dark skin because of where they lived and evolution; they have dark skin because they are cursed. God cursed them for a reason. If God cursed them, treating them as equals would be going against God’s will.
It is really easy to justify treating people differently if they are cursed by God and will never be as good as you no matter what they do because of some predetermined status.
Once you have this view, it is easy to lower the outside group’s standing and acceptable level of treatment. Again, there are varying levels of racism at play in rural, Christian, white America. I know people who are ardent racists. I know a lot more whose racism is much more subtle but nonetheless racist. . . . . They are white supremacists who dress up in white dress shirts, ties, and gingham dresses. They carry a Bible and tell you, “everyone’s a child of God” but forget to mention that some of God’s children are more favored than others and skin tone is the criterion by which we know who is and who isn’t at the top of God’s list of most favored children.
You aren’t winning a battle of beliefs with these people if you are on one side of the argument and God is on the other. No degree of understanding this is going to suddenly make them less racist, more open to reason and facts. Telling “urban elites” they need to understand rural Americans isn’t going to lead to a damn thing because it misses the causes of the problem.
[T]hey fear change so much. They aren’t used to it. Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether they like it or not, it, like the evolution and climate change even though they don’t believe it, it is going to happen whether they believe in it or not.
Rural, Christian, white Americans have let in anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted, racists into their system as experts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, any of the blonde Stepford Wives on Fox, every evangelical preacher on television because they tell them what they want to hear and because they sell themselves as being “one of them.” The truth is none of these people give a rat’s ass about rural, Christian, white Americans except how can they exploit them for attention and money.
Gays being allowed to marry are a threat. Blacks protesting the killing of their unarmed friends and family are a threat. Hispanics doing the cheap labor on their farms are somehow viewed a threat. The black president is a threat. Two billion Muslims are a threat. The Chinese are a threat. Women wanting to be autonomous are a threat. The college educated are a threat. Godless scientists are a threat. Everyone who isn’t just like them has been sold to them as a threat and they’ve bought it hook, line, and grifting sinker. Since there are no self-regulating mechanisms in their belief systems, these threats only grow over time. Since facts and reality don’t matter, nothing you say to them will alter their beliefs.
The problem isn’t understanding their fears. The problem is how to assuage fears based on lies in closed-off fundamentalist belief systems that don’t have the necessary tools for properly evaluating the fears.
I think the whole, “Democrats have to understand and find common ground with rural America,” is misguided and a complete waste of time. When a 3,000-year-old book that was written by uneducated, pre-scientific people, subject to translation innumerable times, edited with political and economic pressures from popes and kings, is given higher intellectual authority than facts arrived at from a rigorous, self-critical, constantly re-evaluating system that can and does correct mistakes, no amount of understanding, no amount of respect, no amount of evidence is going to change their minds, assuage their fears.
Do you know what does change the beliefs of fundamentalists, sometimes? When something becomes personal. Many a fundamentalist has changed his mind about the LGBT community once his loved ones started coming out of the closet. Many have not. But those who did, did so because their personal experience came in direct conflict with what they believe.
“Rural, white America needs to be better understood,” is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as “too upsetting,” “too mean,” “too arrogant,” “too elite,” “too snobbish.” Pointing out Aunt Bee’s views of Mexicans, blacks, gays…is bigoted isn’t the thing one does in polite society. Too bad more people don’t think the same about the views Aunt Bee has. It’s the classic, “You’re a racist for calling me a racist,” . . .
No one with cancer wants to be told they have cancer, but just because no one uses the word, “cancer,” it doesn’t mean they don’t have it. Just because the media, pundits on all sides, some Democratic leaders don’t want to call the actions of many rural, Christian, white Americans, “racist/bigoted” doesn’t make them not so.
The honest truths that rural, Christian, white Americans don’t want to accept and until they do nothing is going to change, are:
-Their economic situation is largely the result of voting for supply-side economic policies that have been the largest redistribution of wealth from the bottom/middle to the top in U.S. history.
-Immigrants haven’t taken their jobs. If all immigrants, legal or otherwise, were removed from the U.S., our economy would come to a screeching halt and prices on food would soar.
-Immigrants are not responsible for companies moving their plants overseas. Almost exclusively white business owners are the ones responsible because they care more about their share holders who are also mostly white than they do American workers.
-No one is coming for their guns. All that has been proposed during the entire Obama administration is having better background checks.
-Gay people getting married is not a threat to their freedom to believe in whatever white God you want to. No one is going to make their church marry gays, make gays your pastor, accept gays for membership.
-Women having access to birth control doesn’t affect their life either, especially women who they complain about being teenage, single mothers.
-Blacks are not “lazy moochers living off their hard earned tax dollars” anymore than many of your fellow rural neighbors. People in need are people in need. People who can’t find jobs because of their circumstances, a changing economy, outsourcing overseas, etc. belong to all races.
-They get a tremendous amount of help from the government they complain does nothing for them. From the roads and utility grids they use to the farm subsidies, crop insurance, commodities protections…they benefit greatly from government assistance. The Farm Bill is one of the largest financial expenditures by the U.S. government. Without government assistance, their lives would be considerably worse.
-They get the largest share of Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
-They complain about globalization but line up like everyone else to get the latest Apple product. They have no problem buying foreign-made guns, scopes, and hunting equipment.
-They use illicit drugs as much as any other group. But, when other people do it is a “moral failing” and they should be severely punished, legally. When they do it, it is a “health crisis” that needs sympathy and attention.
-When jobs dry up for whatever reasons, they refuse to relocate but lecture the poor in places like Flint for staying in towns that are failing.
-They are quick to judge minorities for being “welfare moochers” but don’t think twice about cashing their welfare check every month.
They complain about coastal liberals, but the taxes from California and New York are what covers their farm subsidies, helps maintain their highways, and keeps their hospitals in their sparsely populated areas open for business.
-They complain about “the little man being run out of business” then turn around and shop at big box stores.
They are willing to vote against their own interest if they can be convinced it will make sure minorities are harmed more. Their Christian beliefs and morals are truly only extended to fellow white Christians. They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.
The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural, Christian, white America believes, votes, behaves the ways it does by rural, Christian, white America.
Harsh?  Yes, but in my opinion 100% on target.  Southwest Virginia is a perfect example.  The urban areas of Virginia, especially Northern Virginia that rural residents deride are footing the bill for much of their education and healthcare systems. They are parasites and due to their own embrace of ignorance and intolerance towards others almost guarantee that new businesses will not relocate in what they view as an educational and cultural backwater.  Rural, Christian America needs to take a long look in the mirror and realize that they are their own worse enemy.  The same applies to "conservative" working class people who vote against their own interest as they fall for Trump/GOP appeals to their own racism or religious based bigotry.    Clinging to ignorance and religious myths is a choice.  If one chooses to do so, there is not reason I need to show them respect or understanding. 

Christmas Eve Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump Is Already Ditching His Movement

As the last post notes, white working class voters who voted for Donald Trump were played for fools and fell hook line and sinker for Trump's appeals to racism, bigotry and general misogyny.  And it is not only "liberals" who are noting the fact that these folks may be about to reap what they have sowed.  A piece in National Review - hardly a screaming liberal outlet - looks at the manner in which Donald Trump is already beginning to kick his working class followers to the curb even as many of them are stupid enough to continue to go to his "thank you rallies" in states that went for him in the Electoral College vote.  These people deserve whatever befalls them.  That said, we will need to be watchful to see who Trump tries to scapegoat rather than admit his own betrayal of these morons.  Here are article highlights:
We are one month from inauguration day, and it looks like the Donald Trump revolution is already almost over. In its place is a globalist establishment led by a rogue tweeter. Doubt me? Let’s review the great causes that motivated his base.
 Since winning the White House, Trump has not “burned it down.” Instead, he’s “built it up.” Trump’s anti-establishment candidacy has put the establishment in charge. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell remain at the helms of the House and Senate. McConnell — the ultimate insider — may now be the most powerful Senate majority leader in decades, thanks to Harry Reid’s weakening of the filibuster. Trump’s core wanted to destroy both men. Instead, they rule their chambers and look primed to pass their own agendas through Congress.
Beyond Capitol Hill, Trump has stocked his staff and his cabinet with establishment fixtures and billionaires.
If Trump didn’t “burn it down,” he sure didn’t “drain the swamp.” . . . . Government by Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil is government by the swamp, of the swamp, and for the swamp. This isn’t a revolution, it’s a thoroughly conventional changing of the guard. The list goes on.
It’s almost as if Trump said what he needed to say to win election, without regard for the truth or the consequences. Imagine that! Indeed, he even seemed to impute his own motives to his crowd. At a rally last week he said, “You people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall? We want the wall!’ Screaming, ‘Prison! Prison! Lock her up!’ I mean you are going crazy. I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious and you wanted to win, right?”
For Trump, it was all tactics. And he appears to think it was just tactics for his supporters as well.
Trump’s foreign policy, however, is still the wild card, and he has done nothing at all to show Americans that he has a proper understanding of the metastasizing Russian threat to America’s vital strategic interests.
Trump’s movement was always about Trump. And those who marched to the polls believing that he’d “fight” for them should now know that the only fights he picks are those it’s in his self-interest to pick.

[Y]ou can also count on him to blur the lines between his business and his administration, because money is in his self-interest. And he’ll likely keep tweeting like a Breitbart blogger, because that has served his political interests beautifully, at least so far.
It’s as if the people stormed the Bastille and set up the guillotines, only to find their leader feasting with King Louis. It turns out he was a member of the ancien régime all along.
Will Trump's working class supporters ever figure out that they were played by a con artist?  Many New Yorkers who know Trump best tried to warn the nation, but rural and working class voters who seemingly celebrate their own ignorance ignored the warning. 

Why the White Working Class Votes Against Itself

One on the continued ironies in American politics is the way that so many white working class individuals vote Republican and in the process vote against their own economic interests.  Seemingly, this phenomenon exploded during the past election cycle when GOP appeals to hatred and bigotry towards others, especially racial minorities and immigrants.  Now, of course, we are seeing daily stories about people who Voted for Trump and other Republicans in states such as Kentucky who are now terrified that they will lose their health care coverage if the Affordable Health Care Act is repealed.  Indeed, in Virginia, many rural hospital systems in Southwest Virginia - which voted heavily for Donald Trump - could face bankruptcy.  Not only would the cretins who fell for Trump's appeals to their racism lose a healthcare resource, but their region's largest employer could cease to exist.  The GOP claims to be the party of "Christian values," but as a piece in the Washington Post underscores, much of the GOP base are motivated by racism, jealousy and resentment of others - even as they attend church each week and feign piety and allegiance to the Gospel message.  The hypocrisy and stupidity is mind numbing..  Here are column highlights: 
Why did all those Economically Anxious™ Trump voters reject policies that would have helped relieve their economic anxiety?
Maybe they believed any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people — that is, people unlike themselves.
But there seems to be universal agreement, at least among the Democratic politicians and strategists I’ve interviewed, that the party’s actual ideas are the right ones.
Democrats, they note, pushed for expansion of health-insurance subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans; investments in education and retraining; middle-class tax cuts; and a higher minimum wage. These are core, standard-of-living improving policies.
They would do far more to help the economically precarious — including and especially white working-class voters — than Donald Trump’s top-heavy tax cuts and trade wars ever could.
But the white working class doesn’t seem to buy that they’re the ones who’d really benefit.
Across rural America, the Rust Belt, Coal Country and other hotbeds of Trumpism, voters have repeatedly expressed frustration that the lazy and less deserving are getting a bigger chunk of government cheese.
Participants in this focus group, held by the Institute for Family Studies, were also skeptical of efforts to raise the minimum wage.
Opponents argued either that higher pay wasn’t justified for lower-skilled, less intense work or that raising the minimum wage would unfairly narrow the pay gap between diligent folks such as themselves and people who’d made worse life choices.
“That son of a b---- is making $10 an hour! I’m making $13.13. I feel like s--- because he’s making almost as much as I am, and I have never been in trouble with the law and I have a clean record, I can pass a drug test,” said one participant.
In Wisconsin, rural whites are similarly eager to “stop the flow of resources to people who are undeserving,” says Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.”
The people Cramer interviewed for her book often named a (white) welfare-receiving neighbor or relative as someone who belonged in that basket of undeservings — but also immigrants, minorities and inner-city elites who were allegedly siphoning off more government funds than they contributed.
More broadly, a recent YouGov/Huffington Post survey found that Trump voters are five times more likely to believe that “average Americans” have gotten less than they deserve in recent years than to believe that “blacks” have gotten less than they deserve. (African Americans don’t count as “average Americans,” apparently.)
Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs.
Hence those oblivious demands to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” and the tea partyers who get farm subsidies, and the widespread opposition to expanded transfer payments in word if not in deed. Rhetoric this election cycle caricaturing our government as “rigged,” and anyone who pays into it as a chump, has only reinforced these misperceptions about who benefits from government programs and how much. . . . it’s no wonder that Trump’s promises — to re-create millions of (technologically displaced) jobs and to punish all those non-self-sufficient moochers — seem much more enticing.

Of course, these cretins are too stupid to realize that is they, rural white America that receives the lion's share of welfare and social safety net spending.  Perhaps if they turned the station from Fox News, they might get in touch with reality.  As I have said before, while I feel compassion for young children and youth who will be impacted, these voters truly deserve the worse possible misfortune because they have brought it upon themselves.  Embracing lies and ignorance is a choice.  They need to pay a horrific price. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

‘Bud Sex’ Between "Straight" Rural Men

Having spent roughly 37 years in the closet denying the reality of my sexual orientation, I know all about the mental gymnastics in which one engages to try to convince one's self that "it isn't really true" that one is gay.  The phenomenon isn't unique to me or many others who finally stopped the efforts at self-delusion.  It happens all over society and at all social levels.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the prevalence in rural America - the supposed home of "real men" and "real Americans."  My personal assessment is that the men described are gay or at least bi-sexual but who, due to family, church and local societal expectations, can't and won't admit the reality about themselves.  It makes some of my mental gymnastics look down right simple.  Here are article highlights:
A lot of men have sex with other men but don’t identify as gay or bisexual. A subset of these men who have sex with men, or MSM, live lives that are, in all respects other than their occasional homosexual encounters, quite straight and traditionally masculine — they have wives and families, they embrace various masculine norms, and so on. They are able to, in effect, compartmentalize an aspect of their sex lives in a way that prevents it from blurring into or complicating their more public identities. Sociologists are quite interested in this phenomenon because it can tell us a lot about how humans interpret thorny questions of identity and sexual desire and cultural expectations.
Last year, NYU Press published the fascinating book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men by the University of California, Riverside, gender and sexuality professor Jane Ward. In it, Ward explored various subcultures in which what could be called “straight homosexual sex” abounds — not just in the ones you’d expect, like the military and fraternities, but also biker gangs and conservative suburban neighborhoods — to better understand how the participants in these encounters experienced and explained their attractions, identities, and rendezvous. But not all straight MSM have gotten the same level of research attention. One relatively neglected such group, argues the University of Oregon sociology doctoral student Tony Silva in a new paper in Gender & Society, is rural, white, straight men (well, neglected if you set aside Brokeback Mountain).
[T]he point of Silva’s project was less to draw any sweeping conclusions about either this subset of straight MSM, or the population as a whole, than to listen to their stories and compare them to the narratives uncovered by Ward and various other researchers. . . . Specifically, Silva was trying to understand better the interplay between “normative rural masculinity” — the set of mores and norms that defines what it means to be a rural man — and these men’s sexual encounters. In doing so, he introduces a really interesting and catchy concept, “bud-sex” . . . as Silva (forthcoming) explores, the participants reinforced their straightness through unconventional interpretations of same-sex sex: as “helpin’ a buddy out,” relieving “urges,” acting on sexual desires for men without sexual attractions to them, relieving general sexual needs, and/or a way to act on sexual attractions. “Bud-sex” captures these interpretations, as well as how the participants had sex and with whom they partnered. The specific type of sex the participants had with other men—bud-sex—cemented their rural masculinity and heterosexuality, and distinguishes them from other MSM.
[B]y seeking out partners who were similar to them. “This is a key element of bud-sex,” writes Silva. “Partnering with other men similarly privileged on several intersecting axes—gender, race, and sexual identity—allowed the participants to normalize and authenticate their sexual experiences as normatively masculine.” In other words: If you, a straight guy from the country, once in a while have sex with other straight guys from the country, it doesn’t threaten your straight, rural identity as much as it would if instead you, for example, traveled to the nearest major metro area and tried to pick up dudes at a gay bar. You’re not the sort of man who would go to a gay bar — you’re not gay!
It’s difficult here not to slip into the old middle-school joke of “It’s not gay if …” — “It’s not gay” if your eyes are closed, or the lights are off, or you’re best friends — but that’s actually what the men in Silva’s study did, in a sense . . . . In other words: It’s not gay if the guy you’re having sex with doesn’t seem gay at all.
One way to interpret this is as defensiveness, of course — these men aren’t actually straight, but identify that way for a number of reasons, including “internalized heterosexism, participation in other-sex marriage and child-rearing [which could be complicated if they came out as bi or gay], and enjoyment of straight privilege and culture,” writes Silva.
While Ward sidestepped the question of her subjects’ “actual” sexual orientations — “I am not concerned with whether the men I describe in this book are ‘really’ straight or gay,” she wrote — it should matter. As Juzwiak put it: “Given the cultural incentives that remain for a straight-seeming gay, given the long-road to self-acceptance that makes many feel incapable or fearful of honestly answering questions about identity—which would undoubtedly alter the often vague data that provide the basis for Ward’s arguments—it seems that one should care about the wide canyon between what men claim they are and what they actually are.” In other words, Ward sidestepped an important political and rights minefield by taking her subjects’ claims about their sexuality more or less at face value.
In all likelihood, when Silva’s subjects say they’re straight, they mean it: That’s how they feel. But it’s hard not to get the sense that maybe some of them would be happier, or would have made different life decisions, if they had had access to a different, less constricted vocabulary to describe what they want — and who they are.

The power of self-deception is amazing - and over time, very destructive emotionally and psychologically. 

Is Donald Trump a Traitor?

A piece in Salon looks at a question that has troubled me for some time but which has intensified since the Electoral College abandoned the intent of the Founding Fathers and certified Donald Trump's election despite his near 3 million vote loss in the popular vote.  The question?  Is Donald Trump - and by extension, many Republicans - Mitch McConnell certainly fits the description - traitors?  The answer in the piece, with which I have to concur is, yes, Donald Trump is a traitor. Worse yet, he and his Republican co-conspirators want to dismantle much of America's political tradition and  real Americans, by which I don't mean chest beating conservatives who constantly proclaim their patriotism, ought to be terrified. Given that Vladimir Putin aided and abetted Trump's election and also serves as Trump model for ruling, things once considered unthinkable may well soon begin to become reality. I truly fear the future that may lie ahead for my children and grand children.  Here are article excerpts:
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump urged a foreign power, Russia, to interfere in the American election in order to undermine his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Russia complied. The American intelligence community, including the CIA and FBI, has reached a “strong consensus” that the Russians interfered with the presidential election in order to help Donald Trump win.
It has also been reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally directed this espionage operation. So serious was Russian interference in the American presidential election that the Obama administration warned Putin that it was tantamount to “armed conflict.”
Republican leaders in Congress were briefed on Russia’s interference in the presidential election and how it was targeted at elevating Trump and hurting Clinton. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans chose to block any public discussion of these findings. In what could be construed as a quid pro quo, McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, has been selected by President-elect Trump for a cabinet position in his administration.
Donald Trump’s flirtations with Russia and Vladimir Trump are part of a broader pattern of reckless and irresponsible behavior. Trump has numerous conflicts of financial interest that would appear to violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. His sons, Eric and Donald Jr., were involved in a scheme (since withdrawn) that looked a lot like an attempt to sell access to his administration through million-dollar “charity” donations. Trump has threatened to violate the First Amendment by suppressing freedom of the press, has encouraged violence against Hillary Clinton and those he deemed his enemies, has suggested he would not respect the outcome of the election if he lost, and has promoted people widely regarded as white supremacists or white nationalists to senior positions in his administration. Donald Trump has also selected key advisers and cabinet level officials who have close personal and financial relationships with Russian leaders in banking, finance and government.
The sum total of these facts leads to a very troubling conclusion.
President-elect Donald Trump is a traitor. As suggested by Harvard University professor John Shattuck in the Boston Globe, Trump’s actions may approach the legal definition of treason as defined by United States federal law.
Members of the Republican Party who knew about Russia’s efforts to interfere with the presidential election and chose to suppress or block such information, for fear of hurting their candidate’s chances, are also traitors.
In light of Russia’s interference with the presidential election, Republicans and others who voted for and support Donald Trump are also traitors, at least to the degree that they do not now work against and denounce him.
Reconciling Donald Trump’s traitorous behavior with how Republicans and conservatives view themselves as the party of “patriotism” and “national security” is a puzzle. . . . The Republican claim that theirs is the party of national security and that they are better than Democrats at “keeping America safe” is also gutted by the legacy of 9/11 and George W. Bush’s imperial misadventures in the Middle East, which taken together constitute one of the greatest foreign policy failures in the history of the country.
Trump voters and other American conservatives have been subjected to a several decades-long disinformation and propaganda campaign, led by Fox News and the broader right-wing news-entertainment media. This has created an alternate reality that exists separate and apart from the empirical, fact-based world. . . . . As a group, in many regards American voters are not very sophisticated. They also do not have a schema for consistently and logically understanding and processing complex political events and issues.
Since at least the Cold War, Republicans and their media have savaged Democrats, liberals and progressives as “weak.” The are not “real Americans”; they are “cowards” or “sissies,” “Commies” or “traitors.” If Russia and Vladimir Putin had interfered to aid a Democratic candidate, it would be presented by Republicans as final proof that Democrats are fundamentally disloyal to America.
But because Donald Trump is a white male conservative his loyalty and patriotism are viewed by many Americans as a given. This is a manifestation of white male privilege in action and an example of how racism can damage the safety and security of the United States.
During the age of Obama, the Republican Party completed its devolution into a radical and revanchist organization that aimed to overthrow the standing norms and consensus politics that have governed the United States since at least World War II. Trump and the Republicans are now following through on this in ways heretofore unimaginable. They have chosen partisanship over patriotism in their support of the authoritarian Trump and his apparent foreign sponsor, Vladimir Putin. The Russians wanted to undermine and damage one of America’s most sacred democratic institutions. Donald Trump and his party aided and abetted them.
 As I have said before, be afraid.  Very, very afraid.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In Face of Evil, Don't be Silent

No doubt some Facebook "friends" and other social circle "friends" - specifically, those who voted for Donald Trump - likely wish I'd be quite and stop making my dismay evident over the election of Donald Trump, a/k/a, Der Fuhrer, and such "friends'" complicity in the undermining of America's constitutional order.  Such wishes will not be granted.  There is too much at stake and I refuse to "get over it" as these individuals tell me to do and I refuse to be quiet. The reality is that bad things happen when good people do nothing.   Stated another way, as set out below, “evil does not need your help; just your indifference.”  At this moment in time, far too many Americans are indifferent to the rising tide of racism and bigotry directed at ethnic and religious minorities, LGBT Americans, in some cases, women, and anyone who isn't a white right wing Christian. Elena Barr Baum, the director of the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, has a guest editorial in the Virginian Pilot (prompted by growing white supremacist and anti-Semitic activities) that reminds why we cannot be silent in the face of evil.  Here are highlights:
When someone compares his movement to Nazism, quoting “the original German,” is it newsworthy? When someone calls for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” and leads his followers, gathered in the Ronald Reagan office building in Washington, D.C., in a raised-hand salute exclaiming “Hail, Trump,” should the media report this?
The alt-right media celebrated it. Where was the mainstream media, on Nov. 19 when Richard Spencer, the leader of the National Policy Institute – a white nationalist think tank – addressed his faithful this way, just blocks from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum?
Spencer announced matter-of-factly that, “America was until this past generation a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity.” He added, “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
Spencer’s statement goes against the very fabric of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
While we are still getting over our history of enslaving other human beings, we are and were intended to be citizens of a land that believes all people are created equal. After much struggle, we have finally begun to make progress toward the civil rights and equality for all that our founding fathers spoke about so eloquently. People of all races, religions, genders and sexual orientations deserve the respect and the rights that America promises.
Why does Spencer’s hate speech, egged on by Nazi-saluting followers, not raise the warning flag to the majority of Americans?
While the mainstream media did not pay much attention to Spencer’s comments, Holocaust scholars and educators did. The Association of Holocaust Organizations, of which the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater is a member, issued a statement last week about the rise of such speech, signed by over 90 Holocaust institutions and over 70 scholars.
“We denounce racism and the politics of fear that fuels it. … We stand in solidarity with all vulnerable groups. We take Elie Wiesel’s words to heart: ‘I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.’ ”
The organization’s statement is a clarion: “We call upon all elected officials as well as all civic and religious leaders to forcefully and explicitly condemn the rise in hate speech and any attacks on our democratic principles. We call upon all media and social media platforms to refuse to provide a stage for hate groups and thus normalize their agenda. And we call upon all people of good conscience to be vigilant, to not be afraid, and to speak out.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit watchdog for hate groups, reported that 867 hate incidents occurred in the 10 days following the November election. The trend has not subsided much.
Just last week, the white supremacist website the Daily Stormer (sound like “Der Sturmer,” the infamous Nazi-sympathizing newspaper in the 1930s?) called for “an old fashioned troll storm” on Jews and other minorities in Whitefish, Mont. Why? Because the mother of Richard Spencer lives there, and her business has shrunk with the increased media exposure of her son’s rancid ideology.
When the people of Whitefish, in a statement by their mayor, came out against Spencer’s brand of white supremacy earlier this month, the Daily Stormer in retaliation posted names and contact information of their targets, including a child, superimposing yellow stars of David on photos of them, and asked its readers to “take action.”
The Holocaust did not begin with killing. It began with words. It is time for good people to stand up.
The Holocaust Commission calls on the Hampton Roads community to heed the words of the late survivor Hanns Loewenbach, who ended every talk he gave to literally tens of thousands of people in schools, churches and military audiences with these words: “Evil does not need your help; just your indifference.”