Saturday, August 26, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump: Pentagon Has Six Months to Create New Transgender Military Ban

Der  Trumpenführer mad many campaign promises.  To date he has delivered on very few of them.  There is one glaring exception to this do nothing situation: the assault on LGBT rights that was made to a who's who of American Christofascists in June, 2016, in New York City.  With the aid of extreme homophobes Jeff Sessions and Betsy De Vos, already protections of LGBT students are  under assault and LGBT protections put in place by the Obama administration have been rescinded. Now, following up on his anti-transgender tweets, Der  Trumpenführer  has issued a directive to the Pentagon giving it six months to formulate a new ban on transgender members of the U.S. military. The Los Angeles Blade has some details on the development (note two things: Mike Pence has been the driving force behind the ban and how the state of California may be positioning itself to oppose the ban).  Here are highlights:
White House guidance on the transgender military service ban President Trump ordered via tweet July 26 is headed to the Pentagon, as soon as Thursday afternoon or possibly Friday morning, a senior White House source told the Los Angeles Blade.
The Guidance has been boiled down to a 2½-page memo that directs Defense Sec. Mattis to come up with a policy in six months, stop spending money on transgender-related medical treatment for active duty trans servicemembers and gauges fitness for service based on “deployability”—whether the trans individual can ably serve in a war zone and engage in military exercises or function a ship for months, officials told the Wall Street Journal. 
That guidance was also watered down from the complete ban Trump ordered to one that would allow active duty trans service members to continue serving after even Republicans opposed the policy change. The weakened policy requires that recruitment and the accessions policy be halted (they are now), enlistment contracts not be renewed, promotions result in discharges, and transgender-specific healthcare be prohibited.
At an Aug. 14 news conference, Mattis indicated support for trans service members, noting the United States Armed Forces is “a widely diverse force. We look at E Pluribus Unum on our coins. Out of many, one. They were simply emphasizing on the battlefield we are one team and that’s the way we stay.”
It has now been widely reported that Mattis quietly intervened to scotch efforts by anti-LGBT Reps. Duncan Hunter and Vicky Hartzler to get a version of the trans ban passed through Congress. Nor did he object when Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the current policy of open service would remain in effect until it is formally replaced or when Navy Secretary Spencer said “any patriot” should be allowed to serve, echoing other commanders supporting their trans service members.
However, Mattis also noted that the military chain of command requires him to follow orders given by the civilian commander-in-chief.
The White House senior official source — who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity — said Vice President Mike Pence is the driving force behind the ban. In fact, he has been spearheading the trans ban reinstatement since last May, at the behest of conservative leaders such as Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, and scores of retired anti-LGBT military officers.
Trump’s fear of his evangelical base is more powerful than his promises to the LGBT community, justifying the ban by saying: “It’s been a very difficult situation and I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”
Fact check: an estimated 6,000 trans service members have been serving openly without incident since the original ban was lifted by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in July 2016, after a year of study and deliberation.
News of the ban prompted the California Legislative LGBT Caucus to introduce a Resolution saying California would protect its own trans service members. California is home to more than 190,000 active and reserve service people on three army bases, seven marine bases, 10 navy bases, six air force bases and five reserve and numerous U.S. Coast Guard bases.[A]t the end of the resolution, the Caucus notes what could prove to be a wrinkle in Trump’s plan. “Resolved, That the Legislature of the State of California calls upon the Governor of California to direct the California National Guard, the California Air National Guard, and the other Armed Forces of the state to take no action that discriminates against transgender service members in enlistment, promotion, or any other aspect of their service, on the basis of their gender identity or expression, unless superseded by federal law, regulation, or formal directive from the United States Department of Defense.”
But what happens if and when transgender members of the state National Guard are called up and federalized? Low’s office says they are looking into that. AJR 22 will be heard on the Assembly floor in the coming weeks. 
Every individual who voted for Trump/Pence or stayed home and failed to vote against Trump bears responsibility for this assault of the civil rights of other Americans.  These people will find no forgiveness from me.  They deliberately harmed my community and threaten my civil rights. 

Trump, Joe Arpaio and the End of Constitutional Rights

The Roman Republic did not end with one single act.  Rather numerous acts and the eventual seizure of power by Octavian Caesar - renamed Augustus - while maintaining the outward trappings of the Republic, in particular the Roman Senate led to the empire and imperial power.  Along the way the rule of law ended and some became above the law.  In pardoning Joe Arpaio, Der Trumpenführer has signaled that his supporters can trample on the constitutional rights of others with impunity.  John McCain issued a statement that sums up the danger well:

“No one is above the law and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold. Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders. The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”

The main editorial of the New York Times today follows up on this theme and the danger that Trump's action signals.  In the world of Trump and his racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant base, some people have rights and others don't, namely those who are black, Hispanic, non-Christian, and non-heterosexual.  As noted in numerous post, in the case of LGBT Americans, Trump is waging an unrelenting war against us.  It will likely only get worse if the trend is allowed to continue.  Here are editorial excerpts: 
It would be difficult for President Trump, who has insulted judges and tried to interfere with a federal investigation, to show much more disrespect for the rule of law. But if he makes good on his implicit vow to pardon Joe Arpaio, the disgraced former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Mr. Trump would be scorning the Constitution itself.
Mr. Arpaio, an anti-immigrant hard-liner who served 24 years in office before voters tossed him out last November, was convicted in July of criminal contempt of court for disregarding a federal judge’s orders to stop detaining people based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally.
The Constitution gives the president nearly unlimited power to grant clemency to people convicted of federal offenses, so Mr. Trump can pardon Mr. Arpaio. But Mr. Arpaio was an elected official who defied a federal court’s order that he stop violating people’s constitutional rights. He was found in contempt of that court. By pardoning him, Mr. Trump would show his contempt for the American court system and its only means of enforcing the law, since he would be sending a message to other officials that they may flout court orders also.
Mr. Arpaio could not be less deserving of mercy. In addition to the dragnets of Hispanic-looking people that ultimately led to his contempt conviction, he racked up a record of harassment, neglect, mistreatment and other flagrant abuses of office that should have ended his career years ago.
Both men [Trump and Arpaio] built their brands by exploiting racial resentments of white Americans. While Mr. Trump was beginning his revanchist run for the White House on the backs of Mexican “rapists,” Mr. Arpaio was terrorizing brown-skinned people across southern Arizona, sweeping them up in “saturation patrols” and holding them in what he referred to as a “concentration camp” for months at a time.
It was this behavior that a federal judge in 2011 found to be unconstitutional and ordered Mr. Arpaio to stop. He refused, placing himself above the law and the Constitution that he had sworn to uphold.
[A] grant of mercy from Mr. Trump would also go against longstanding Justice Department policy, which calls for a waiting period of at least five years before the consideration of a pardon application and some expression of regret or remorse by the applicant. Mr. Arpaio shows no sign of remorse; to the contrary, he sees himself as the victim. “If they can go after me, they can go after anyone in this country,” he told Fox News on Wednesday. He’s right — in a nation based on the rule of law, anyone who ignores a court order, or otherwise breaks the law, may be prosecuted and convicted.
Mr. Arpaio has always represented what Mr. Trump aspires to be: a thuggish autocrat who enforces the law as he pleases, without accountability or personal consequence.

  Frighteningly, we are seeing the death of the rule of law before our eyes.  Be very afraid.

Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?

As the previous post noted, America offers two different worlds for LGBT Americans.  But increasingly, that division of America into two strongly differing worlds extends far beyond how LGBT citizens are treated - or perhaps more on point, mistreated.  One the one side there are the world of the racists, white supremacists and Christofascists (who from my experience are usually racists as well) and those who want to revive a mythical world where whites were supreme. Opposing them are those welcoming to modernity and a world of diversity and tolerance and equality for all. Yes, the division has perhaps always existed in some form, but it seems to be intensifying.  The divisions seem to be worsening and sadly we have an unfit occupant of the White House who is only too happy to intensify divisions if in his warped, self-centered world it maintains the loyalty of his base, a base that Hillary Clinton rightly described as a basket of delporables.  Where will it lead? That's anyone's guess.  A piece in the New Yorker looks at this near cultural civil war.  Here are excerpts:
A day after the brawling and racist brutality and deaths in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe asked, “How did we get to this place?” The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, St. Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed. How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. The organization documents more than nine hundred active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.
America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years.
Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.
“We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,” Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.
To test Mines’s conjecture, I reached out to five prominent Civil War historians this weekend. “When you look at the map of red and blue states and overlap on top of it the map of the Civil War—and who was allied with who in the Civil War—not much has changed,” Judith Giesberg, the editor of the Journal of the Civil War Era and a historian at Villanova University, told me. “We never agreed on the outcome of the Civil War and the direction the country should go in. The postwar amendments were highly contentious—especially the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides equal protection under the law—and they still are today. What does it mean to deliver voting rights to people of color? We still don’t know.”
She added, “Does that make us vulnerable to a repeat of the past? I don’t see a repeat of those specific circumstances. But that doesn’t mean we are not entering something similar in the way of a culture war. We are vulnerable to racism, tribalism, and conflicting visions of the way forward for our nation.”
Before Charlottesville, David Blight, a Yale historian, was already planning a conference in November on “American Disunion, Then and Now.” “Parallels and analogies are always risky, but we do have weakened institutions and not just polarized parties but parties that are risking disintegration, which is what happened in the eighteen-fifties,” he told me. “Slavery tore apart, over fifteen years, both major political parties. It destroyed the Whig Party, which was replaced by the Republican Party, and divided the Democratic Party into northern and southern parts.”
“So,” he said, “watch the parties” as an indicator of America’s health.  In the eighteen-fifties, Blight told me, Americans were not good at foreseeing or absorbing the “shock of events,” including the Fugitive Slave Act, the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, the John Brown raid, and even the Mexican-American War. “No one predicted them. They forced people to reposition themselves,” Blight said. “We’re going through one of those repositionings now. Trump’s election is one of them, and we’re still trying to figure it out. But it’s not new. It dates to Obama’s election. We thought that would lead culture in the other direction, but it didn’t,” he said. “There was a tremendous resistance from the right, then these episodes of police violence, and all these things [from the past] exploded again. It’s not only a racial polarization but a seizure about identity.”
In the wake of Charlottesville, the chorus of condemnation from politicians across the political spectrum has been encouraging, but it is not necessarily reassuring or an indicator about the future, Gregory Downs, a historian at the University of California at Davis, told me. During the Civil War, even Southern politicians who denounced or were wary of secession for years—including Jefferson Davis—ended up as leaders of the Confederacy. “If the source of conflict is deeply embedded in cultural or social forces, then politicians are not inherently able to restrain them with calls for reason,” Downs said. He called the noxious white supremacists and neo-Nazis the “messengers,” rather than the “architects,” of the Republic’s potential collapse. But, he warned, “We take our stability for granted.”
He dug out for me a quote from the journalist Murat Halstead’s book “The War Claims of the South,” published in 1867. “The lesson of the war that should never depart from us,” Halstead wrote, “is that the American people have no exemption from the ordinary fate of humankind. If we sin, we must suffer for our sins, like the Empires that are tottering and the Nations that have perished.”
“Obviously, we have some pretty deep divisions along multiple lines—racial, ideological, rural versus urban,” he told me. “Whether they will lead to civil war, I doubt. We have strong gravitational forces that counteract what we’re seeing today.” He pointed out that “the spark in Charlottesville—taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee—doesn’t have to do with civil war. People are not debating the Civil War. They’re debating American society and race today.”
Given these divisions, decent, moral people cannot be complacent or refuse to take sides. Throughout history, bad things happen when good people do nothing and fail to act until it is too late. With a would be autocrat in the White House who seems to revel in cruelty and division, one must get involved and act now.  One of the easiest ways to act is to get out and vote against those who market hate and division.  Sadly, these hate merchants are usually Republicans. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Worst (and Best) Places To Be Gay in America

As noted in any number of posts on this blog, Donald Trump and Mike Pence are waging a continuing war against the rights and dignity of LGBT Americans.  They are joined in this effort by state level Republicans across the country. Here in Virginia, if the Republican ticket were to win in November, much of the anti-LGBT agenda of the GOP - especially that of extreme homophobe, John Adams, the Virginia AG candidate, would have no firewall to stop it.   Sadly, the quality of one's life often depends on where one lives - what state and at times even what locality in which you live.  In Virginia's so-called urban crescent, life is tolerable.  In Southwest Virginia where white supremacy and homobobia (the two usually are found together) reign supreme, it is a different world.  The driving force behind the anti-LGBT jihad: Christofascists who make up a large part of the GOP base and often closeted Republican elected officials - think Ed Schrock, Larry Craig, Ken Cuccinelli and perhaps even Mike Pence - who seem to believe that the best way to hide their secret yearnings is to abuse those who are openly LGBT.  A lengthy column in the New York Times (please read the entire piece and its graphics) looks at the reality of how different life can be depending on where one happens to live.  Here are highlights:
All my life I’ve loved Texas: those big skies, big steaks and big attitudes. I’m there several times a year.  But Texas doesn’t love me back. Certainly its lawmakers don’t, and lately they’ve been hellbent on showing that.
In June the governor signed a bill allowing child welfare groups to refuse adoptions that contradict their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” They can turn away gay men like me.
That same month, the Texas Supreme Court approved a lawsuit challenging the city of Houston’s provision of equal benefits to all married employees, including those with same-sex spouses. Although the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, Texas bucks and balks.
Not New York. My state loves me something fierce. What it did in June was finalize the design of a monument to L.G.B.T. citizens in downtown Manhattan. New York legalized same-sex marriage back in 2011 without any federal nudge.
There’s no such thing as L.G.B.T. life in America, a country even more divided on this front than on others. There’s L.G.B.T. life in a group of essentially progressive places like New York, Maryland, Oregon and California, which bans government-funded travel to states it deems unduly discriminatory. Then there is L.G.B.T. life on that blacklist, which includes Texas, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota.
The differences between states — and between cities within states — are profound, and while that has long been true, it’s much more consequential since the advent of the Trump administration, a decidedly less ready ally of L.G.B.T. people than the Obama administration was.
The federal government under Donald Trump won’t be rushing in to help L.G.B.T. people whose local governments fail to give them equal rights, a sense of belonging or even a feeling of physical safety. . . . . Immediately after his inauguration, references to the L.G.B.T. community were scrubbed from many federal websites, including the White House’s and the Department of State’s.
Plenty of the people he [Der Trumpenführer] pulled into his cabinet have long histories of pronounced opposition to gay rights. One of them, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, leads a Department of Justice that recently went out of its way to make clear, in court filings, that it did not consider L.G.B.T. people to be protected by a federal civil rights law that prohibits employment discrimination.
Without consulting or even alerting the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, Trump announced a reinstatement of the ban on transgender people in the military, and he’s now finishing the orders for how the Department of Defense should enforce it — within six months. His first Supreme Court appointment suggests that if he is able to ensconce several more, the same-sex-marriage ruling could well be revisited and changed.
We’re at the mercy of our ZIP codes: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often affected most by their municipality, not their state. In Waco, Tex., the lone justice of the peace who presides over weddings recently admitted that she won’t do so for same-sex couples no matter the federal law. But Houston, just a three-hour drive away, has in instances been a pioneer: Annise Parker, its mayor from 2010 to 2016, is the only openly L.G.B.T. person ever elected to lead one of the nation’s 10 most populous cities. And Austin, the state’s capital, is practically Key West, Fla. — minus the coconuts.
Picayune, Miss., where an 86-year-old gay man passed away last year, leaving behind his 82-year-old husband. They had been together for half a century.  Although prior arrangements had been made with a local funeral home, it refused even to pick up the dead man’s body when it learned of his same-sex marriage, according to a breach-of-contract lawsuit by his husband that hasn’t yet been resolved.
South Carolina: another state that I love, another state that doesn’t love me back, and the home of Tommy Starling, 45, and his husband, Jeff Littlefield, 61. Starling told me that they live there, in the coastal community of Pawleys Island, because of Littlefield’s job in the insurance business, but they dream constantly of moving somewhere that doesn’t cast them as provocative social experiments, somewhere that doesn’t put and keep them on edge.
They had trouble trying to adopt in South Carolina, so they turned to California and to surrogacy to have their 11-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. . . . . “But it’s getting exhausting,” he said, adding that the family’s occasional travel sustains him.
[R]esponses The Times received after asking L.G.B.T. readers to share their reflections on the freedoms and limitations of where they live. Readers were acutely conscious of the absence or presence of employment-related anti-discrimination laws in their cities or states. (Only 22 states have such laws governing all gay and lesbian workers, in both the public and the private sectors, while only 20, including New York, have them for transgender workers as well.) Readers mentioned the vigor, or laxness, with which their local governments patrolled against and prosecuted hate crimes.
And one after another, readers said they wished that a modest public gesture of affection wasn’t a potent magnet for stares, slurs or worse.
On the state level, the yardsticks for measuring respect for L.G.B.T. people include, recently, restrictions on “conversion therapy,” which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. More and more mental health professionals are speaking out unequivocally about its dangers, and more and more state legislatures are outlawing it for minors. New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island and Connecticut did so in recent months; New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois, Oregon, California and the District of Columbia had previously done so. But that leaves 41 states without any such prohibition.
Alabama. In May, under the aegis of “religious freedom,” its governor signed a law that allowed taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to deny the placement of children in homes with gay parents.  The Alabama House voted 60 to 14 in favor of the bill, after which the Alabama Senate voted 23 to 9.
Fifty years from now — heck, maybe just 20 — that kind of thing won’t happen. There’s only one long-term trajectory here. But in the meantime, it’s not O.K. for the federal government to be as cold to L.G.B.T. Americans as the one we have now is, because some of those Americans live in Alabama — or Texas. And those places don’t exactly brim with love.
While far from perfect, Virginia - at least for now depending on the November election results - is tolerable, many states and cities are not.  That's one reason why the husband and I are selective as to where we vacation- New York City, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, London, Paris, etc. - because we do not want to visit or give our money to places and communities that are hostile to LGBT people.    We are not alone in this and its why many areas will never see the economic boost that LGBT tourism can provide. 

Will Trump's Wall Lunacy At Last Cause Republicans to Hit Back?

Among Der Trumpenführer's racist, ignorance embracing base, building a physical wall along the U.S.- Mexico border is of top importance for several reasons, not the least of which is that such a wall would be a tangible monument to their hatred of brown skinned people. To reverse Robin Hood Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell who prize tax breaks to the wealthy above all else, Trump's demand for a anti-Mexico means little or nothing other than to the extent they like to throw some occasional bones to the most lunatic elements of the party base.   The question of the hour after Trump's unhinged rant in Phoenix is whether or not Trump is truly willing to force a government shit down over his demands for an anti-Mexico wall. If a government shutdown occurs that can be clearly blamed on Trump and/or Republicans and it will be tantamount to handing every statewide office in Virginia to the Democrats.  Between all of the federal workers in Northern Virginia and the military personnel in Hampton Roads who would find themselves with no income, the vengeance that would fall on the GOP would be enormous,.  A piece in Slate looks at whether Congressional Republicans are on the verge of drop kicking Trump.  Here are excerpts:
President Trump, having secured no “wall money” in the last Congressional funding fight in April, vowed to try again before federal appropriations expire at the end of September. At his Phoenix rally on Tuesday night, the president promised the crowd that, even “if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.” As if a lapse in appropriations automatically converts into wall funding, as opposed to a tedious federal standoff that damages the unified governing party.
The reaction on the Hill to Trump’s threat has been a chorus of bless his heart. [For non-Southerner's, "bless his heart" is a kin to saying he can go f*ck himself or he's totally crazy] Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, recognizing that the wall is not a priority outside of Trump’s base, are comfortable with their leverage. “If the President pursues this path, against the wishes of both Republicans and Democrats, as well as the majority of the American people,” Schumer said in a terse statement, “he will be heading towards a government shutdown which nobody will like and which won’t accomplish anything.”
Senate and House Republicans claim that they’re trying to help Trump get his wall money, but they’re hesitant to commit to how far they’re willing to go.
When asked for his response Wednesday to Trump’s threat, our techno-pumping, wall-loving, bad-ass House speaker said that “I don't think a government shutdown is necessary and I don't think most people want to see a government shutdown, ourselves included.”
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Wednesday that he viewed Trump’s threat as him “laying down the tough line,” i.e. a negotiation tactic. “Obviously, we need to get the border secured, and we’ve come up with a plan to do that. And we need to pass that legislation, I think, and then we can go back and appropriate the money to complete the bill on the incremental basis.” Translation: There is not much appetite within the Senate Republican caucus for shutting down the government over the wall.
[B]oth Hill Democrats and Hill Republicans seem to think that a government shutdown over the wall would fare poorly for Hill Republicans. Worsening Republicans’ conundrum, the shutdown will be extra bad when Trump tells his base to blame the mess on the GOP Congress . It’s almost like Republican lawmakers just can’t win with this guy in office.
The real discussions between Democrats and Republicans, once Congress returns after Labor Day, will be about finding some compromise that allows Trump to save face and Democrats to declare victory. That could mean funding certain Democratic policy priorities, like the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments, while giving the president additional funds for replacement fencing or other border security technology. If Trump demands a concrete wall, it is hard to see Democrats agreeing to it or Republicans going to bat for it.
If Trump’s ultimatum is that it’s either a wall or shutdown, we could see the standoff end with the first major legislative break—i.e., not just the occasional Twitter bickering—between congressional Republicans and the president. Given the president’s tendency to hold a grudge, such a break could set the tone for the rest of his term.
House and Senate Republican leaders, recognizing that a shutdown could be punishing for their majorities, might decide to send Trump a bipartisan bill to the president’s desk that dodges hot-button issues altogether. That would put ownership of a prolonged shutdown squarely on the president’s shoulders if he chose to veto it.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Why Are So Many White Nationalists ‘Virulently Anti-LGBT’?

The title of this post ask a question that has perhaps more than one answer, but I have one of my own. A piece at NBC News  ties the high correlation between white supremacists and anti-LGBT animus to the rise of the alt-right which combines racist views with Neo-Nazism.  While there is truth to that analysis, I believe that it leaves out one important factor: Virtually every one of the leading anti-gay "family values" organizations that pretend to embrace Christian values either traces back to or continues to have strong ties to the white supremacy movement.  Tony Perkins, head of Family Research Council, has very strong, documented ties to white supremacy groups.  Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation, a virulently anti-gay organization, traces back to the racist Massive Resistance movement.  Similarly, the anti-gay Southern Baptist Convention arose because of the denomination's desire to continue slavery.  This combination of a religious based bigotry against gays - whose very existence challenge fundamentalist Christian (and Muslim) beliefs on sexuality - and opposition to social change and perceived loss of white privilege results in a wide array of hatred towards those who are different. As the NBC News piece points out both the Nazi movement in Germany in the late 1920's and early 1930's and today's alt-right in America boil down to the same thing: a violent reaction to social change and a more progressive society based on a mythical past that in reality never existed.  Here are highlights from the NBC News piece:
Hundreds of white nationalists lined the streets of Charlottesville, Va., last Saturday to protest the removal of a Confederate monument. Some waved Confederate and Nazi flags, others brandished shields. They shouted racist and anti-Semitic slurs with chants of “They will not replace us.”
At one point, they chanted in unison: “F--k you, fa---ts!
What these white, mostly male, presumably heterosexual protesters have in common is a belief in a “white ethno-state,” according to Southern Poverty Law Center Research Analyst Keegan Hankes. He referred to the so-called “alt-right” or far-right movement as a “grab bag of right-wing ideologies.”
“They believe that white people are being systematically replaced and that inheritance to their homeland is being taken away from them,” Hankes told NBC News.
Since the 2016 election, which advocates say emboldened many right-wing extremists, there has been a reported rise in anti-LGBTQ violence that is disproportionately affecting people of color.
While not all white nationalists are homophobic, Hankes said the majority of right-wing extremists are “virulently anti-LGBT” and share an anxiety and fixation on white birth rates, which are just barely keeping pace with racial minorities. He said some extremists may blame the disparity on the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“There’s this belief that basically white people are being replaced faster than they can reproduce,” Hankes said.
Former white supremacist Angela King, 42, was a propagandist for various neo-Nazi groups in the early 1990s. She admitted to creating propaganda aimed at promoting higher birth rates among white women.
“I did women-centric propaganda-type things,” King said. “I would write articles for some of the racist magazines or papers about things like white women shouldn’t get abortions, but women who aren’t white should.”
The neo-Nazis and skin heads King ran with believed gays were sick. She said they didn’t hesitate to ridicule LGBTQ people and abuse them in the streets.   “It was always a joke, that ‘at least they can’t breed,’” recalled King.
The years King spent in prison forced her to reflect on her hateful views, which she said she learned from her parents at an early age.  . . . A co-founder of the nonprofit Life After Hate, King now works to counter and reform people with extremist views. In recent years, she has nervously watched the far right grow into a more unified front.
King said the merger between the so-called "alt-right," whose followers she said tend to eschew Nazi iconography for a cleaner, media-friendly image, and what she called the “violent far right” she once belonged to, is unprecedented.
Backlash against marginalized communities doesn’t surprise University of Southern California Professor Chris Freeman, whose work primarily focuses on 20th century gay and lesbian studies. With the election of President Barak Obama, American’s first black president, and the legalization of same-sex marriage, the rise of far-right groups is consistent with historical trends, he said.
“Germany was very progressive on issues around sexuality at the turn of the 20th century,” Freeman said. In the years after the first World War, during the Weimar Republic, Berlin was a queer bohemia, he explained. The city was home to the Institute for Sexual Science, a famed sexology institute headed by Jewish physician Magnus Hirschfeld.
While anti-Semitism was at the heart of Nazi ideology, some of the frenzy that led to its uprising can be attributed to far-right hostility toward the sexual liberation of the 1920s, Freeman explained. As the country grew increasingly progressive, he said, more and more Nazis were elected.
“There was a push that was pretty likely to be successful in Germany in the 1920s and early '30s to repeal anti-gay laws,” Freeman added, "and then that all went belly-up when the Nazis took over.”
“So in terms of thinking about the politics of the far right, it’s reactionary politics, and it’s based in fear and hatred,” Freeman added.
The professor sees parallels between the rise of Nazism in Germany and the far right in the United states.  “People who believe in this idealized past that does not exist are panicked because [of] the visibility of queer people in the movement for our acceptance and the potential meltdown of the gender binary,” Freeman explained.
What’s different, he said, is that the world now has a history of what Nazism is and what it led to, which it didn’t have 75 years ago. “We don’t have the ability to pretend like it’s not happening,” Freeman said. 
And where is anti-LGBT hatred learned?  In homes and in church pews of fundamentalist and evangelical churches which also have long held racist views.  Unfortunately, many in the media continue to give undeserved deference to fundamentalist religion and have refrained from connecting the dots between the alt-right and Neo-Nazis and fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity in America. One good column on the issue is at the Dallas Morning News.  Here are excerpts:
Her words joined a similar outpouring from professed Bible-believing, God-fearing Jesus folk, punctuated by lots of venom, familiar FoxNews cut-and-paste criticisms of Islam, and lots of references to making America great. They too rushed to join the pseudo-Fascists in disputing the idea that a child in Syria was as important as their children, seemingly oblivious to the red flag that such agreement should raise.
This is a symptom of the heart sickness American evangelicals have inherited, one revealed in a growing Christian nationalism as well as a highly selective pro-life position, where apparently life isn't just more valuable inside the womb than outside of it, but inside America than outside of it as well.
This is especially true if the child looks like them, is likely to worship and believe and vote like them, if it will replicate them.
Amy's response and the responses of many white Christians to my Tweet were telling. They imagine that my capacity for compassion is so minuscule that it can only accommodate my own children. They assume that love for one must come at the expense of another. They reflect a fearful religion that instills in them fear that they are perpetually in danger. They reveal a faith rooted in superiority and self-preservation; one that breeds hostility to those it sees as outsiders.
Jesus was a homeless, dark-skinned immigrant who modeled sacrificial love and who welcomed to his table both beggar and soldier, both priest and prostitute, both Jew and Samaritan. It's almost impossible to simultaneously emulate this Jesus and champion exclusion, superiority or even protection, for that matter.
You cannot be both "For God so loved the world" and America First.  You cannot preach the gospel while despising refugees and foreigners and immigrants.  You can't claim that all lives matter while protecting only your own kind. 
You can't pledge complete allegiance to both Jesus and America simultaneously. At some point one will have to yield to the other, and when your religious position on foreigners begins to align with a malevolent Fascist extremist, it may be time to reconsider your interpretation of the gospel. It may be time to see if you've made God in your own caucasian image.

Racist Virginia GOP Accuses Northam of Being a "Race Traitor"

The sad reality is that for going on twenty years, if not far longer, the Republican Party has been/is a political party that panders to and coddles white supremacists who constitute a critical piece of the GOP party base.  If one has any doubts, simply look at GOP efforts to disenfranchise minority voters, especially blacks, the mass incarceration of minorities, particularly though draconian marijuana laws, and the racist dog whistle messages that have been used election cycle after election cycle.  Now, after the invasion of Charlottesville by white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, the protection of Confederate monuments has become yet another pillar of the GOP agenda, all to maintain the loyalty of racists and white supremacists who are key to GOP election turnout. Now, the Virginia GOP has attached Democrat gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam for being a being a "race traitor" and "betraying" his family's southern heritage.  The Daily Beast looks at this batshitery:
The Virginia Republican Party on Wednesday essentially deemed the state’s lieutenant governor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam a race traitor for his call to remove Confederate monuments.
“@RalphNortham has turned his back on his own family's heritage in demanding monument removal,” the party’s official Twitter account posted. “Shows @RalphNortham will do anything or say anything to try and be #VAGov - #Pathetic.”
Northam discovered earlier this year that his ancestors on Virginia’s Eastern Shore owned slaves. Several months later, he called for the relocation of Confederate statues to museums.
Northam is currently running for governor against Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. The party later deleted the tweets and released a classic non-apology via a third tweet: “Our previous tweets were interpreted in a way we never intended. We apologize and reiterate our denunciation of racism in all forms.”
As note in prior posts, like Northam, I have Confederate ancestors from New Orleans, some of whom likely owned one or more slaves, although no family records exist on the issue.  None of us is responsible for the actions of our ancestors.  What we are responsible for is how we treat others and recognize the common humanity of others and their equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And, if we learn that our ancestors acted dishonorably or inhumanely, we are responsible to disavow their misdeeds.  Northam has done this and is an honorable man whom I have known for 10 years.

But back to the foulness of today's GOP, including the Virginia GOP and, by extension, many of the. Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly.  A piece in The Guardian looks at the manner in which the GOP does the bidding of white supremacists.  Here are a few excepts:
We should not commend Republican party elected officials who claim outrage on social media at Trump’s remarks, often without daring to mention his name. The phony claimed outrage becomes dangerous if it convinces anyone that there is a distinction between Trump’s abhorrent comments and the Republican Party agenda.
The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.
There is a direct link between Trump’s comments this week and those policies, so where is the outrage about the latter? Where are the Republican leaders denouncing voter suppression as racist, un-American and dangerous?
Words mean nothing if the Republican agenda doesn’t change. Governors and state legislatures were so quick to embrace people of color in order to avoid the impression, they too share Trump’s supreme affinity for the white race. But if they don’t stand up for them they are not indirectly, but directly enabling the agenda of those same racists that Republican members were so quick to condemn via Twitter.
Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.
The white supremacist chant of, “you will not replace us,” could easily and accurately be the slogan for these Republican politicians. Their policies will achieve the same racial outcome as Jim Crow – the disenfranchisement and marginalization of people of color.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump Clashed with GOP Senators Over Russia

While Trump has kept many journalists distracted with his embrace of the Charlottesville white supremacists and Neo-Nazis and his by all appearances white supremacist rally last night in Phoenix, not all have lost sight of the story line that terrifies Trump the most: Russiagate.  Now, both CNN and Politico are focusing in on issues that will likely trigger a delusional tweet storm from Der Trumpenführer. The irony is that, if Trump, is innocent, the investigations should be of little concern.  The obsession that Trump continues to display toward these investigations suggest that he has something - perhaps much - to hide.   CNN starts it breaking news piece as follows:
Congressional investigators have unearthed an email from a top Trump aide that referenced a previously unreported effort to arrange a meeting last year between Trump campaign officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter. . . . . While many details around the Dearborn email are unclear, its existence suggests the Russians may have been looking for another entry point into the Trump campaign to see if there were any willing partners as part of their effort to discredit -- and ultimately defeat -- Hillary Clinton.
The Russian "active measures" campaign to influence the US election was fully underway when Dearborn sent his email. This included cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's senior staffers, as well as pro-Trump messaging by Kremlin-backed propaganda outlets, according to a report declassified by the US intelligence community in January. 

Trump may - okay, will  - plead total ignorance about this other effort to collude with Russia.  But he cannot plead ignorance about his efforts to pressure Republican U.S. Senators to quash the Russia investigations.  Politico looks at this issue.  Here are story highlights:
President Donald Trump privately vented his frustration over Russia-related matters with at least two other Republican senators this month, according to people familiar with the conversations — in addition to the president's public admonishments of Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and Jeff Flake.
Trump expressed frustration over a bipartisan bill sanctioning Russia and tried to convince Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that it wasn't good policy, according to three people familiar with the call.
Trump dialed up Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Aug. 7, two days before a blunt call with the Senate majority leader that spilled over into a public feud. Tillis is working with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) on a bill designed to protect Robert Mueller, the independent counsel investigating the president's Russia connections, from any attempt by Trump to fire him.
The Mueller bill came up during the Tillis-Trump conversation, according to a source briefed on the call — the latest signal of the president's impatience with GOP senators' increasing declarations of independence from his White House. Trump was unhappy with the legislation and didn't want it to pass, one person familiar with the call said.
Trump's chewing out of GOP senators, according to people briefed on the calls, reflected the president's frustration that fellow Republicans would make moves that could damage him, particularly on an investigation that he detests. Trump also complained about the Russian sanctions measure in a call with McConnell earlier this month that devolved into shouting. The New York Times first reported that Trump discussed the Russia probe with McConnell.
"It seems he is just always focused on Russia," one senior GOP aide said.
No matter what Kelly does, Trump and the Senate GOP are in for a rough September, a month that's shaping up as pivotal for his presidency. Along with his attacks on various Republican senators, Trump's aides and advisers are touting polls that show Congress is more unpopular than Trump is — and that they're prepared to run against the quintessential Washington institution.
Trump's insistence on funding his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall promises to further strain relations with Senate Republicans, who must secure at least eight Democratic votes to keep the government funded past Sept. 30. But the president appears unconcerned with helping McConnell navigate that challenge, declaring Tuesday night in Phoenix: "If we have to close down the government, we are going to build that wall."
Several senior Senate Republicans gave a cold shoulder to Trump's wall plans before leaving Washington for this month's recess. They floated a $15 billion border security bill that emphasizes "smart, multi-layered infrastructure" — but not the president's proposed physical barrier.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

KKK Issues Plea for Members to Kill Gay People

Last week in the aftermath of the Chralottesville and again last night, Der  Trumpenführer, has given license to hate-filled, far right extremists to direct violence against those who oppose their agenda - and those they simply dislike. And the forces of hatred are feeling emboldened to call for violence.  A case in point: the Louisiana chapter of the group have distributed fliers urging people to join their group and slaughter gay people in an effort to “save our land, join the Klan, white power.”  This is ultimately what "friends" who voted for Trump have supported.  One has to wonder when someone will literally be murdered as a result.  Pink News looks at the frightening mindset in Louisiana.  Here are excerpts:
The Ku Klux Klan is taking aim at the LGBT community – who they believe should be killed in order to end the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Leaders from the Louisiana chapter of the group have distributed fliers urging people to join their group and slaughter gay people in an effort to “save our land, join the Klan, white power.”
“Stop Aids: Support Gay Bashing,” one of the flyers read. “Homosexual men and their sexual acts are disgusting and inhuman.” “Our race is our nation,” reads another.
The fliers are signed “Loyal White Knights of the KKK” and include a website address and phone number to call for those interested in joining the genocide.
WSBTV reports the Newton County Sheriff Office has launched an investigation, following several complaints by residents who found the flyers placed on their driveways and lawns.
Bessemer Deputy Police Chief Mike Roper told the flyers were “very offensive”.  Another woman who asked not to be identified told the news station that she is “extremely hurt by” the fliers.  “As a member of the gay community,” she said, “I think it shows the ignorance of society still.”
The FBI said it is investigating the issue.

Trump Plays the Victim; Holds White Supremacist Rally in Phoenix

Displaying behavior increasingly reminiscent of some of Adolph Hitler's more deranged speeches, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, went off the rails during his "rally" in Phoenix.  Not only did Trump depict himself as the biggest victim of Charlottesville, but, as one commentator stated, he literally held a white supremacist rally in Phoenix and sought to incite violence and hate against the media, immigrants, Democrats, and all of his opponents, including GOP senators.  The man is mentally ill, in my opinion.  Vanity Fair - a New York City based publication that has known the real Trump all too well over the last few decades, described the "rally" in part as follows:
Donald Trump repeatedly ditched his TelePrompTer and went off-script as he ranted about being mistreated by the media in the wake of Charlottesville, relentlessly attacked an array of enemies including both of Arizona’s Republican senators, and portrayed himself as the true victim of a violent clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters that left one woman dead. Journalists and other social media commentators watched, stunned, as he proceeded to spend the rest of his hourlong speech unloading on the mainstream press, praising a CNN pundit who was fired for tweeting a Nazi slogan, and re-litigating his entire response to Charlottesville, line by line, in what has become a hallmark of the Trump presidency: a full-on public meltdown.
Trump reveled in the opportunity to vent, after a long summer of political crises, and to set the record straight. “What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America,” he said, blaming the “thugs” and the “dishonest media” for the violence in Virginia.

Then, in a truly Hitleresque  moment, Der Trumpenführer whined as follows in defense of racism:
The media can attack me, but where I draw the line is when they attack you, the decency of our supporters. You are honest, hard-working, tax-paying—and you’re over-taxed, but we’re going to get your taxes down—Americans. It’s time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions. They are trying to take away our history and our heritage.”

But there was more:
Trump spoke broadly about “liberating our towns” from undocumented immigrants, citing Joe Arpaio, pledging to purge “sanctuary cities” of undocumented immigrants and leading the crowd in a “build the wall” chant. He threatened a government shutdown if the wall he wants constructed between the U.S. and Mexico isn’t approved. And, after the White House said Trump wouldn’t pardon Arpaio during his rally in Phoenix, Trump hinted that a pardon would come.
The question thus becomes one of when will Congressional Republicans act to remove the lunatic from office.  A piece last week in the Friday New York Times drew an analogy of the Roman Senate and Caligula and what we are now witnessing by a man who is obviously unhinged.   Are tax cuts for the wealthy and pandering to huge corporations more important than protecting the country from an unfit leader?  Here are column highlights: 
Even before the media obsession with Hillary Clinton’s email server put The Worst President Ever™ in the White House, historians were comparing Donald Trump to Caligula, the cruel, depraved Roman emperor who delighted in humiliating others, especially members of the empire’s elite. But seven months into the Trump administration, we can see that this comparison was unfair.
For one thing, Caligula did not, as far as we know, foment ethnic violence within the empire. For another, again as far as we know, Rome’s government continued to function reasonably well despite his antics: Provincial governors continued to maintain order, the army continued to defend the borders, there were no economic crises.
Finally, when his behavior became truly intolerable, Rome’s elite did what the party now controlling Congress seems unable even to contemplate: It found a way to get rid of him.
Anyone with eyes — eyes not glued to Fox News, anyway — has long realized that Trump is utterly incapable, morally and intellectually, of filling the office he holds. But in the past few days things seem to have reached a critical mass.
Journalists have stopped seizing on brief moments of not-craziness to declare Trump “presidential”; business leaders have stopped trying to curry favor by lending Trump an air of respectability; even military leaders have gone as far as they can to dissociate themselves from administration pronouncements.
[R]emember, this administration has yet to confront a crisis not of its own making. Furthermore, a series of scary deadlines is looming. Never mind tax reform. Congress has to act within the next few weeks to enact a budget, or the government will shut down; to raise the debt ceiling, or the U.S. will go into default; to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or millions of children will lose coverage. [W]ho’s going to ensure that these critical deadlines are met? Not Trump, who’s too busy praising white supremacists and promoting his businesses. Maybe Republican leaders in Congress will still be able to wrangle their extremist members, who see crippling the government as a good thing, into the necessary deals.
But the revelation that these leaders were lying about health care all those years has destroyed their intellectual credibility — remember when people took Paul Ryan’s pretense of policy expertise seriously? And their association with President Caligula has destroyed their moral credibility, too.
Everyone in Washington now knows that we have a president who never meant it when he swore to defend the Constitution. He violates that oath just about every day and is never going to get any better. The fact is that white supremacists have long been a key if unacknowledged part of the G.O.P. coalition, and Republicans need those votes to win general elections. Given the profiles in cowardice they’ve presented so far, it’s hard to imagine anything — up to and including evidence of collusion with a foreign power — that would make them risk losing those voters’ support. [A]ll one can say is God save America. Because all indications are that the Republicans won’t.

Be very, very afraid.