Saturday, September 09, 2017

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Dreamers, Liars and Bad Economics

As noted often on this blog, one of the defining aspects of the Trump/Pence regime is dishonesty and lies.  Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, tells a lie - even when one isn't needed - and Mike Pence (a typical evangelical Christian who acts as if the Commandment against lying and bearing false witness does not exist) either repeats it or strives to justify the lie.  In the case of the diktat to rescind the DACA program, a cowardly Trump recruited the racist and homophobic Jeff Sessions to lay out false legal and economic reasons to end the program despite the fact that racism and pandering to Trump's white supremacist base are the true motivation.  As a column in the New York Times notes, if the undocumented individuals white and from Western Europe, the rescission would never have occurred. As for the false economic justifications, the column demonstrates why this is all a lie.  Here are excerpts:
Does it matter that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, tried to justify Donald Trump’s immigration cruelty with junk economics?  It’s definitely not the main issue. Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is, above all else, immoral. The 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA — the so-called Dreamers — have done nothing wrong; they came to the United States illegally, but not of their own volition, because they were children at the time.
They are, according to all available data, an exemplary segment of our population: hard-working young people, many seeking to improve themselves through higher education. They’re committed to the values of their home — because America is their home.
And it’s self-evidently driven by racial hostility. Does anyone believe this would be happening if the typical Dreamer had been born in, say, Norway rather than Mexico?
Still, Sessions chose to put economics front and center in his statement, declaring that DACA, which allows the Dreamers to work legally, has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” That’s just false, and the decision to lead with such a falsehood tells you a lot, not just about this decision, but about the Trump administration in general.
The day after announcing that he would rescind DACA, Trump gave a speech on tax reform in which he claimed, as he has on multiple occasions, that America is the “highest-taxed nation in the world.” As fact-checkers have pointed out every time he says this, this isn’t just false, it’s almost the opposite of the truth — the U.S. collects less in taxes, as a share of national income, than almost any other advanced economy. But Trump just keeps repeating the lie.
So having officials make false claims about the economics of DACA is, in a way, just standard operating procedure for this administration. Yet I’d argue that in this context it’s especially noteworthy, and especially vile.
The official administration line is that Trump had no choice, that he was regretfully taking harsh action because DACA was an illegal exercise in executive power — which was also supposedly the reason the statement came from Sessions rather than the president himself. Actually, the legal case for DACA is pretty strong, and putting Sessions in front was probably about Trump’s cowardice more than anything else. . . . . adding “and besides, they’re stealing our jobs” undercuts the whole pretense.
Furthermore, the claim was, as I said, junk economics. The idea that there are a fixed number of jobs, so that if a foreign-born worker takes a job he or she takes it away from a native-born worker, is completely at odds with everything we know about how the economy works. Hearing it from a conservative is especially surreal.
The truth is that letting the Dreamers work legally helps the U.S. economy; pushing them out or into the shadows is bad for everyone except racists.
To understand why, you need to realize that America, like other advanced economies, is facing a double-barreled demographic challenge thanks to declining fertility.
On one side, an aging population means fewer workers paying taxes to support Social Security and Medicare. Demography is the main reason long-run forecasts suggest problems for Social Security, and an important reason for concerns about Medicare. Driving out young workers who will pay into the system for many decades is a way to make these problems worse.
On the other side, declining growth in the working-age population reduces the returns to private investment, increasing the risk of prolonged slumps like the one that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
What about the claim that immigrant workers compete with less-educated native-born workers, driving their wages down and increasing income inequality? Most of the evidence suggests that this claim is wrong, but in any case it’s irrelevant here: The Dreamers are a relatively well-educated group, very different from undocumented immigrants who came as adults.
In short, letting Dreamers work is all economic upside for the rest of our nation, with no downside unless you have something against people with brown skin and Hispanic surnames. Which is, of course, what this is all really about.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

The Religious Right’s Suicidal Gay Obsession

Survey after survey has shown that Millennials are leaving religion in record numbers and by some accounts those who are religiously unaffiliated range between a third and 40% of that demographic. The same surveys also have revealed that the most significant factor in the decision to walk away from religion was fundamentalist and evangelical Christians' anti-gay hatred and bigotry - followed by their hypocrisy and nastiness in general.   Indeed, the latest PRRI survey  cited in a recent post shows that every Christian denomination is losing membership, including evangelical ones and the Southern Baptists.  Among evangelicals, only 1 in 10 is under 30 years of age. Driving away the young and the educated (who tend to be Episcopalians, Evangelical Lutherans and some Catholics, if they remain Christian at all) is a sure form of long term suicide.  Playing numbers games like the Catholic Church which keeps one on the membership roster until one affirmatively demands to be removed can mask the attrition from supposed membership strength, but the PRRI report shows the reality of what is happening.  The irony is that a sexually obsessed and repressed minority within Christianity are killing the entire brand.  The self-composed Christofascist myth that those who have walked away will return as the get older and/or have children simply is not happening.  My own grandchildren, for example, are growing up as thoughtful, moral, compassionate individuals with religion playing no role in the lives.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the Christofascists road to suicide.  Here are highlights:
At the end of last month, a group of Evangelical theologians, pastors, and leaders put out what they called the Nashville Statement on sexual morality. The first thing to note is that 50 years ago, it would have been regarded as self-evident to most Christians. Money quote: “We affirm that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage. We deny that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.” So far, so conventional, especially for Evangelicals.
But you immediately wonder if the statement is going to condemn divorce or contraception or multiple successive marriages or pornography or masturbation or countless other questions of sexual morality that heterosexuals grapple with. And you can search the document for any thoughts on these questions. In fact, it has almost nothing to say to 97 percent of humanity on sexual matters.
What it does instead is condemn the 3 percent. In fact, it does more than condemn the sexual behaviors of gay and transgender people. It erases our self-understanding entirely. Money quote: “We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” It is not just what we do that these Evangelical leaders object to; it is who we are. Our very “self-conception” is a defiance of God’s will. We sure aren’t part of nature, even though scientists have observed variations on the sexual norm in countless other species. We are merely heterosexuals who have chosen to act out our desires in sexually immoral ways. The words gay and homosexual and transgender describe nothing but sin. . . . . At best, we are beset with “psychological conditions” that lead us into sin and Hell.
What Evangelicals cannot seem to accept is the possibility that for the vast majority of humankind, male and female self-conception does indeed come completely naturally, that it is clearly integral to humanity’s reproduction and rearing of the next generation, that the sexes are indeed complementary rather than interchangeable … but that this is not the entire story. A small minority does not quite fit this rubric. . . . . it does mean that God’s creation isn’t just Adam and Eve period.
The reason so many minds have changed on this question is because we know more about our nature than we ever have before. You don’t have to junk all of Christianity to acknowledge that. Gay people, for example, will be the first to insist that male and female exist: It’s just that we are attracted to our own sex and not the other.
For a few generations now, gays and lesbians and transgender people, by coming out, have been telling our stories, and those with open minds and big hearts have heard us. It is one of the great tragedies of many Evangelical and orthodox Christians that they are not interested in listening.
And so in the Nashville Statement, there is no advice to gay or transgender Christians, except to be heterosexual, dammit. They don’t even air the possibility of chaste spiritual friendship as a way for such people to lead lives not beset with loneliness, or sexual repression of a kind no human is truly capable of without profound psychological distortion. There is no mention of love at all . . . All this constant rhetoric of loving us is therefore phony. You can’t love people without respecting them. You can’t welcome people you are simultaneously dehumanizing and writing out of creation.
[T]heir intransigence on this question is killing them. It’s particularly damning when so many of these leaders just endorsed, voted for, and threw their weight behind a man who has married several times, claimed that avoiding STDs was his own version of Vietnam, has humiliated successive wives, has bragged about sexual assault, who talks of his own daughter as a sexual object, and touted the size of his dick in a presidential debate. On all of this, most of these same Evangelicals looked the other way. But gay and transgender Christians? We are living rebukes to God’s natural order.
I believe that for an entire generation, this question is a litmus test for whether Christianity really is about love, and whether the Gospels (which have nothing to say about homosexuality) should even get a hearing. I can date my own niece’s and nephew’s rejection of Christianity to the day the priest urged them to oppose equal rights for their uncle. That’s why Evangelicalism is dying so quickly among the young. The latest PRRI survey shows that only one in ten Evangelicals are now under 30. It is no accident . . . . This is what the signers of the Nashville Statement do not quite grasp. They just signed one of the longest suicide notes in history. Because what they’re saying is not merely callous. It is manifestly untrue.
Some readers - most comment anonymously, of course - take me to task for lumping all Christians together when I say that Christianity needs to be a dead religion.  Sadly, rather than continually, loudly and publicly condemn the hate merchants within Christianity and the toxicity of evangelical Christianity in particular, its easier for these individuals to attack those who point out what they prefer to close their eyes to and ignore.  When Christianity dies, it will be because of critics like me, but rather those who could have opposed the hate merchants chose not to do so. 

Friday, September 08, 2017

More Friday Morning Male Beauty

Donald Trump, Jr.'s Growing Lies and Fairy Tales

Personally, Donald Trump, Jr., has never struck me as being overly bright or what most of us would consider an ethical or nice person.  Rather, he's a spoiled rich brat who has grown up always protected by his daddy's money which has allowed him to avoid ever facing accountability.  Until perhaps now.  When Trump, Jr.'s emails with a Russian lawyer that suggested that Russia wanted to collude with the Trump campaign to harm Hillary Clinton's election chances, he spun one unbelievable fairy tale that the meeting was about discussing Americans' adoptions of Russian children.  That effort at disinformation has largely collapsed.  Then yesterday, Trump, Jr., found himself testifying before a Congressional committee where lying - a Trump stock in trade - can carry a very severe penalty.  Indeed, one member of the committee disseminated the federal statute that sets out the penalties for lying. Yet, Trump, Jr., set out a new fairy tale that is even more preposterous than his first effort.  Perhaps he is relying on daddy's pardon powers to save his spoiled ass.  The whole testimony was bizarre.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this latest bullshit from Trump, Jr., here are highlights:
Donald Trump Jr. sat down for more than five hours Thursday to answer the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questions about a meeting he had with a Kremlin-connected lawyer last year.
In the closed-door meeting, Trump Jr. offered a new line of reasoning to explain his eagerness to accept the meeting, which was pitched to him as an opportunity to obtain dirt of Hillary Clinton. He wasn’t looking for politically damaging information, he told investigators, but learning everything he could in order to assess Clinton’s “fitness” for office. In his prepared statement, obtained by the Times, Trump Jr. also said he intended to consult with a lawyer before using any information provided by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-connected lawyer he met at Trump Tower.
He also revisited a now-familiar excuse from members of the Trump campaign, telling investigators that he was so overwhelmed with the experience of working on a presidential campaign that any mistakes, such as accepting damning information on Clinton from a foreign government, were due more to ignorance than malfeasance.
While Trump Jr. was questioned by Senate staff Thursday, some Democratic Senators reportedly popped in and out of the session to listen to the President’s eldest son. One of them, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, later said that Trump Jr.’s answers were lacking.
“There are a lot of gaps that will need to be filled,” Blumenthal told reporters. “My being there gives me a sense of his demeanor, his willingness to answer questions, his pauses and reluctance on some questions and eagerness on others.” He went on to say that Trump Jr. will likely testify in an open Senate hearing, where, unlike Thursday, he would be under oath.
As Trump Jr, was wrapping up his testimony, CNN broke the news that special counsel Robert Mueller is also taking a keen interest in the Trump Tower meeting last year. Specifically, Mueller is looking to interview staffers present during the drafting of the first statement explaining the meeting. That statement, written aboard Air Force One with the help of President Trump, said Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” That was later proven to be misleading, at best, and was once again contradicted by Trump Jr.’s own testimony at the Capitol Thursday.
Across town, FBI Director Christopher Wray also spoke Thursday about the White House and the Russia investigation. While on a panel at Washington’s Intelligence and National Security Summit, Wray was asked if the Trump administration has tried to influence the investigation into the campaign’s ties to Russia. “I can say very confidently that I have not detected any whiff of interference with that investigation,” he said, perhaps forgetting that the reason he has a job is because Trump fired Wray’s predecessor for investigating him.
As with his father, if Trump, Jr.'s lips are moving, there is a very high probability that he's lying.  The thought of him being jailed for lying is simply delicious.

Trump Justice Department Sides with Anti-Gay Baker in SCOTUS Case

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, despite all of his broken campaign promises, Der Trumpenführer continues to make good on his promise to Christofascists that he would persecute the LGBT community and strive to give them special right to ignore non-discrimination laws and public accommodation laws.  The latest example involves an appeal to the United States Supreme Court by a homophobic Colorado public sector baker who refused to abide by that state's anti-discrimination act and refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.  Rather than siding with the State of Colorado and the U.S. Department of Justice under homophobic Jeff Sessions will side with the anti-gay zealot who is arguing that his "religious freedom" trumps - pardon the pun - both the state law and the rights of LGBT Americans.  The Washington Post looks at this disturbing and disgusting development.  Here are excerpts:
In a major upcoming Supreme Court case that weighs equal rights with religious liberty, the Trump administration on Thursday sided with a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The Department of Justice on Thursday filed a brief on behalf of baker Jack Phillips, who was found to have violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by refusing to created a cake to celebrate the marriage of Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. Phillips said he doesn’t create wedding cakes for same-sex couples because it would violate his religious beliefs.
The government agreed with Phillips that his cakes are a form of expression, and he cannot be compelled to use his talents for something in which he does not believe.
The DOJ’s decision to support Phillips is the latest in a series of steps the Trump administration has taken to rescind Obama administration positions favorable to gay rights . . . . Louise Melling, the deputy legal counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the couple, said she was taken aback by the filing.  “Even in an administration that has already made its hostility” toward the gay community clear, Melling said, “I find this nothing short of shocking.”
Since taking office, President Trump has moved to block transgender Americans from serving in the military and his Department of Education has done away with guidance to schools on how they should accommodate transgender students.
The DOJ also has taken the stance that gay workers are not entitled to job protections under federal anti-discrimination laws. 
[L]awyers for Jameka Evans, who claims she was fired by Georgia Regional Hospital because of her sexual orientation and “nonconformity with gender norms of appearance and demeanor,” on Thursday asked justices to take her case.  Citing a 1979 precedent, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected her protection claims.
Taking that case, along with Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, would make the coming Supreme Court term the most important for gay rights issues since the justices voted 5 to 4 in 2015 to find a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. 
Mullins and Craig visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in July 2012, along with Craig’s mother, to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. Mullins and Craig planned to marry in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriages were legal at the time, and then hold a reception in Colorado.
But Phillips refused to discuss the issue, saying his religious beliefs would not allow him to have anything to do with same-sex marriage. He said other bakeries would accommodate them.
The civil rights commission and a Colorado court rejected Phillips’ argument that forcing him to create a cake violated his First Amendment rights of freedom of expression and exercise of religion.  The court said the baker “does not convey a message supporting same-sex marriages merely by abiding by the law.”
As noted, this is part of the larger effort to put Christofascists above the law.  Since many believe the Bible justifies segregation and the subjugation of women, one can only wonder when AG Jeff Sessions - a racist as well as a homophobe - will argue that Christofascists can freely discriminate on the basis of race and gender.  As for my "friends" who voted for Trump, I find it increasingly difficult to view you with anything less than contempt.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, September 07, 2017

More Thursday Morning Male Beauty

White Christians Are Now a Minority in America

With all the bad news of late and weather related destruction, it is nice to see a little bit of what I regard as good news: self-identifying white Christians are now no longer make up a majority of citizens.  Better yet, white evangelicals have declined to only 17% of the overall population, not that we are not suffering daily from the toxicity of their poisonous version of Christianity.  These and other findings come from a new report by the Public Religion Research Institute based on a survey of a sample of more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states.  The membership of virtually every Christian denomination has declined with the largest declines being among Millennials who have walked away from religion in no small part due to the hate and bigotry that are the hallmarks of fundamentalist and evangelical denominations and so-called "Christian" "family values" organizations.   Like previous surveys, white evangelicals are the least educated denomination.  Also, the survey confirms that the GOP is in the stranglehold of white Christians.  Here are some of the survey findings:
     Today, fewer than half of all states are majority white Christian. As recently as 2007, 39 states had majority white Christian populations. These are two of the major findings from this report, which is based on findings from PRRI’s 2016 American Values Atlas, the single largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted. Among the major findings:
  1. White Christians now account for fewer than half of the public. Today, only 43% of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 30% as white and Protestant. In 1976, roughly eight in ten (81%) Americans identified as white and identified with a Christian denomination, and a majority (55%) were white Protestants.
  1. White evangelical Protestants are in decline—along with white mainline Protestants and white Catholics. White evangelical Protestants were once thought to be bucking a longer trend, but over the past decade their numbers have dropped substantially. Fewer than one in five (17%) Americans are white evangelical Protestant, but they accounted for nearly one-quarter (23%) in 2006. Over the same period, white Catholics dropped five percentage points from 16% to 11%, as have white mainline Protestants, from 18% to 13%.
  1. Non-Christian religious groups are growing, but they still represent less than one in ten Americans combined. Jewish Americans constitute 2% of the public while Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus each constitute only 1% of the public. All other non-Christian religions constitute an additional 1%.
  1. America’s youngest religious groups are all non-Christian. Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists are all far younger than white Christian groups. At least one-third of Muslims (42%), Hindus (36%), and Buddhists (35%) are under the age of 30. Roughly one-third (34%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans are also under 30. In contrast, white Christian groups are aging.
  1. There are 20 states in which no religious group comprises a greater share of residents than the religiously unaffiliated. These states tend to be more concentrated in the Western U.S., although they include a couple of New England states, as well. More than four in ten (41%) residents of Vermont and approximately one-third of Americans in Oregon (36%), Washington (35%), Hawaii (34%), Colorado (33%), and New Hampshire (33%) are religiously unaffiliated.
  1. No state is less religiously diverse than Mississippi. The state is heavily Protestant and dominated by a single denomination: Baptist. Six in ten (60%) Protestants in Mississippi are Baptist. No state has a greater degree of religious diversity than New York. 
  1. Jews, Hindus, and Unitarian-Universalists stand out as the most educated groups in the American religious landscape. More than one-third of Jews (34%), Hindus (38%), and Unitarian-Universalists (43%) hold post-graduate degrees. Notably, Muslims are significantly more likely than white evangelical Protestants to have at least a four-year college degree (33% vs. 25%, respectively).
  1. Nearly half of LGBT Americans are religiously unaffiliated. Nearly half (46%) of Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) are religiously unaffiliated. This is roughly twice the number of Americans overall (24%) who are religiously unaffiliated.
  1. White evangelical Protestants remain the dominant religious force in the GOP. More than one-third (35%) of all Republicans identify as white evangelical Protestant, a proportion that has remained roughly stable over the past decade. Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Republicans belong to a white Christian religious group.
If the country is lucky, the decline of white Christians will not only continue but accelerate.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

How "Conservative Charities" Fueled Rejection of the Paris Climate Accord

Despite seeing evidence of climate change before our very eyes - the melting of the polar ice caps plus three simultaneous hurricanes fueled by much warmer ocean water than in the past are but two plainly visible examples -  one has to wonder how Donald Trump and far too many Republicans have been so willing to deny what is otherwise obvious.  As a lengthy investigative report in the Washington Post reveals, much of it is due to the work of "conservative charities" that masquerade as "educational charities" furthering  public education when in reality they are little more than propaganda fronts for large corporations or religious extremists.  Having followed various "conservative" and "Christian" charities for over two decades, they are one of the biggest scams on the public and further ignorance and the rejection of knowledge not to mention unrestricted vulture capitalism that cares nothing about future generations. How they are allowed to continue to scam the IRS rules is at first baffling until one realizes that they often pay larges sums to "conservative" politicians.  Here are highlights from the Post's story:
For nearly two decades, Ebell has led the Cooler Heads Coalition, an umbrella group of tax-exempt public charities and other nonprofit organizations in the vanguard of efforts to cast doubt on the gravity of climate change and thwart government efforts to address it.
Coalition members have called climate science a hoax and denounced environmentalists as “global-warming alarmists.” They have written letters, blasted out emails, pressured lawmakers, sponsored seminars, appeared on television and made a documentary movie.
It was all part of a wave that crested with Trump’s rejection on June 1 of the Paris agreement, a landmark accord by nearly 200 countries in 2015 to limit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The story behind the coalition illuminates the influential, little-known role that tax-exempt public charities play in modern campaigns to sway lawmakers and shape policy in the nation’s capital, while claiming to be nonpartisan educational organizations.
It also offers insight into the forces behind a Trump decision that infuriated scientists and environmentalists, mystified U.S. allies and went against the advice of some major corporations.
[T]he Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which helped start the Cooler Heads Coalition in 1997. The coalition, with a rolling membership of more than three dozen groups over the years, describes itself on its website as “informal and ad-hoc,” and focused on education.
Interviews, tax filings, internal documents and news accounts show that its members are well funded and dedicated to advancing a conservative, free-market agenda.
The Post found that the coalition is part of a far larger network of tax-exempt nonprofit groups, linked by ideology and funding, that supported Trump while disparaging Democrat Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential campaign.
The Cooler Heads have received more than $11 million in donations over the years from coal and oil companies. They’ve taken in tens of millions more from nonprofit foundations, such as those controlled by the wealthy Koch brothers, and the Scaife and Mercer families, according to interviews and Internal Revenue Service filings.
[M]embers of the Cooler Heads Coalition are allied with trade groups, public relations companies and lobbyists working to influence public debate about global warming.
“Public charities serve as so-called independent think tanks, providing analysis to create the appearance they are independent, third-party voices,”
Long dismissed as cranks by mainstream scientists and politicians in both parties, Ebell and his Cooler Heads colleagues were embraced last year by the Trump campaign. Ebell served as the transition director at the Environmental Protection Agency. This spring, he leveraged those connections to arrange a White House briefing in opposition to the Paris agreement, according to an email from Ebell to participants that was obtained by The Post.
Such advocacy is in effect supported by American taxpayers, because contributors to groups organized under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code can deduct donations from their taxes, which means less revenue for the federal government. Under IRS rules, such organizations may not devote a substantial part of their work to lobbying. But the laws are vague and hard to enforce. And the IRS provides little oversight, because it is financially strapped and has too few auditors. Agency officials are also wary of enforcing prohibitions on political activity, after the conservative backlash triggered by the agency’s focus on tea party groups several years ago, according to knowledgeable officials.
After long questioning global warming, Ebell now acknowledges that “climate change is occurring and human beings have a role in it.” But he said global warming still is not a crisis. He frames climate change as an ideological issue, saying that giving the government more authority to address it would stimulate a “regulatory onslaught,” damage the U.S. economy and subvert human freedom.
Climate scientists said there is no doubt about the reality of climate change and its consequences, including melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and the intensification of storms. Benjamin Santer, a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award for groundbreaking climate research, told The Post that Ebell and his Cooler Heads colleagues are attempting to turn back the clock on knowledge and science.
The Cooler Heads Coalition was formed in the spring of 1997 by a group called Consumer Alert that drew funding from Chevron, Philip Morris and other large corporations. An allied public charity, the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, soon took over management of the coalition, a cross section of nonprofit groups already fighting policies promoted by progressives and a growing number of liberal public charities and nonprofit organizations.
Joining later were groups such as the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group in the Chicago area, and an influential nonprofit organization, Americans for Prosperity, begun by the Koch brothers to “mobilize citizens” to press for economic growth through “government restraint,” tax filings show.
In early 1998, Ebell and others associated with Cooler Heads met with energy industry executives and lobbyists in closed-door meetings at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association. Their goal was to convince the American people that climate science was purely speculative and that the scientists were “out of touch with reality,” according to a copy of an internal memo written by an API official who organized the meetings.
One former Cooler Heads member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of a punitive backlash, said the coalition’s mission under Ebell was to be a “Johnny-on-the-spot for climate denialism” and to simulate a “cacophony of voices” against climate-change science.
An article that spring [2005] by Mother Jones reporter Chris Mooney, now at The Post, revealed that ExxonMobil had cultivated an intricate web of nonprofits, news media outlets, columnists and activists who “have sought to undermine mainstream scientific findings on global climate change.”

A 2009 IRS filing for the Competitive Enterprise Institute — inadvertently made public without redactions — disclosed funding from two coal mining companies. 
In 2013, Brulle completed a study showing that between 2003 and 2010, energy companies, corporations and conservative foundations contributed hundreds of millions to 91 nonprofit “think tanks,” educational groups and associations involved in the fight against global-warming regulations — more than three quarters of them tax-exempt charities whose donors were largely anonymous.
From September to Jan. 19, 2017, Ebell worked on an “action plan” for the president [Trump]. It incorporated the promises Trump had made during the campaign, including the rejection of the Paris accord. Ebell also proposed gutting the agency by cutting thousands of EPA employees.

In effect, taxpayers have indirectly funded these organizations which are fronts for some of the worse polluters that care nothing about clean air and clean water or the nightmares suffered by cities and citizens as the impacts of global warming increase.  

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

More Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

South Florida Evacuates; Scamvangelists Blame the Gays

The Miami Herald reports that Miami-Dade is considering the first evacuations in over a decade (evacuations of the Florida Keys began this morning - we have a friend who is visiting and now trying to evacuate).  Here are excerpts:
Miami-Dade County plans to order evacuations for Miami Beach and much of the mainland coast in advance of Hurricane Irma’s menacing track toward South Florida.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez said to expect evacuation orders late Wednesday or early Thursday, but emergency officials who report to him are already assuming hundreds of thousands of residents will be asked to leave their homes in the coming days out of fears of historic coastal flooding from Irma.
“This is a powerful storm which poses a serious threat to our area. We will be taking some extraordinary actions to ensure that the residents of Miami-Dade County are safe,” Gimenez said at an afternoon press briefing Tuesday. “I would rather inconvenience our residents on this occasion than suffer any unnecessary loss of life if we are hit by Hurricane Irma.”
The planned instructions to flee the county’s A and B evacuation zones — A covers coastal areas in southern Dade, Key Biscayne and a pocket north of Miami, while B encompasses Brickell Avenue, more inland areas and Miami Beach and other cities along the ocean — represent the most dramatic example of Miami-Dade’s efforts to clear out in advance of a hurricane that reached Category 5 status on Tuesday. Miami-Dade’s schools chief canceled classes Thursday and Friday, and most governments and colleges announced similar shutdown plans for an already shortened holiday week. 

Meanwhile, up until the Trump/Pence regime it was considered socially and politically improper if not reprehensible to openly and loudly announce white supremacist and/or Neo-Nazi views or suggest genocide of certain minority groups. Now, per Der  Trumpenführer, such racists and hate mongers are deemed to include many "fine people."  One group has unfortunately found itself a permissible target for open hatred and condemnation even before the rise of Trump. With much of the Texas coast devastated from Hurricane Harvey and South Florida beginning evacuations in advance of the approach of Hurricane Irma, the scamvangelists are back focusing on their favorite targets of condemnation and hatred: the LGBT community.  As Right Wing Watch reports some of the usual suspects were hard at it:

Right-wing pastor Rick Joyner joined televangelist and End Times prepper pastor Jim Bakker on his television program yesterday, where they declared that Hurricane Harvey was God’s judgment on the city of Houston and used the devastation wrought by the storm to promote Bakker’s line of survival products.
Joyner said that Key West, Florida, had been hit by a hurricane “on the day they’re supposed to have the Day of Decadence parade” and another hurricane hit New Orleans right before it hosted another Day of Decadence festival. “Coincidence? I don’t think so,” he said. “We have to stand up against the perversion of our times and call it what it is.”

Of course, Joyner and Bakker - who did jail time for fraud - are just the tip of the scamvangelist iceberg (anorexic drag queen look a like Ann Coulter has made similar statements).   But, there is irony in their whining: to my way of thinking, if one wants to use their version of a wrathful god who punishes the wicked, perhaps Texas and seemingly now Florida are being punished for having voted for Donald Trump, perhaps the most foul and immoral individual to ever occupy the White House.  Your thoughts on this?  Is it the evangelical Christians who elected Trump rather than the gays who are really responsible for god's purported wrath?

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

White Supremacists Got What they Wanted with DACA Rescission

Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions - a man who refused to prosecute KKK members for lynching a black man when he and I both lived in Mobile - made the announcement today for a cowardly Donald Trump indicating that the Obama administration executive order protecting undocumented individuals brought to America as children would be rescinded.  Given Sessions' unbridled racism, it a wonder he didn't have an organism while making the announcement. Placing 800,000 mostly non-white individuals at risk of deportation is a dream come true for Sessions, Trump's white supremacist supporters and a host of racist Republican officials. Yes, Sessions sought to dress the decision up with legal arguments, but the real hope is that Congress will fail to act and then these individuals can be deported.  Driving home I heard Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, a vociferous immigrant hater in my view, and a Trump supporter, claim that families would not be broken up as a result.  His solution was to have entire families  return to the parents countries of origin, including U.S. born children.  That's right, he's perfectly fine with the defacto deportation of U.S. citizens who would have to wait until age 18 to return to America.  Why? Because - although he won't say it directly and engages in legal mambo jumbo - most would be Hispanics and other non-whites.  That's the Reality of what today's Republican Party stands for.   I hope I'm proven wrong and Congress reverses this ruthless policy, but I will not be holding my breath.  As for the evangelical Christians who support this administration, this merely further confirms that they are truly horrid people who need to be shunned by decent and moral people.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the Democrats who see through Trump's charade as I do. Here are excerpts:
Democrats, dismayed but not surprised by President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, were quick to issue statements of condemnation and offer up legislative fixes. They were also bolder than they’d been in the past to make a heavy accusation: The president, in the wake of deadly neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, was giving white supremacists what they wanted.
“It is clear that the president eliminated DACA to advance his xenophobic agenda,” Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said in a statement. “This repeal aligns with the interests not of the 78 percent of Americans opposed to deporting these young people, but of un-American anti-DACA white supremacist leaders like Richard Spencer. Spencer has called himself a former ‘mentor’ to close Trump adviser, Stephen Miller, who urged the president to end the program.”
Conyers, who is in line to run the House Judiciary Committee if Democrats retake the House, was one of several Democrats who invoked racists, Charlottesville, or both, to describe the president’s decision as a sop to bigots.
“The president is breaking apart families and bruising our economy,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in his statement. “And on the heels of Charlottesville, he is signaling to champions of hate and bigotry that their voices matter most.”
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), the House’s main advocate for DACA, singled out White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, saying in a statement that he’d been lied to about the fate of the program. Then he went further, accusing Kelly of siding with white supremacists.
“General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear,” Gutiérrez said. “He has no honor and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the president’s actions by ‘just following orders.’ ”
The final hypocrisy is Sessions and  Kobach whining about "protecting the Constitution and the rule of law" when Trump utterly ignores the Emoluments Clause and other legal norms and Kobach and his Republican cohorts seek to disenfranchise minorities and are waging a homophobic war on the LGBT community, particularly those who are transgender. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Will Trump Drive Mexico into China's Waiting Arms?

While Donald Trump, a/k/a Der  Trumpenführer certainly deserved the title "liar-in-chief" for the reasons set out in a prior post, he also deserves the title "idiot-in-chief" since he knows so little about so many things and continually engages in knee jerk reactions based on his own prejudices o what he believes will play best with his white trash/white supremacist/evangelical Christian base. True facts and considered consequences bear little relation to Trump's blow hard, ignorance embracing persona.  One prime example is Trump's mindless blathering about ending NFTA with apparently no thought to the fact that ending the NAFTA treaty would bring higher cost to American consumers or, worse drive Mexico into the waiting arms of China.  Anyone sentient (which excludes Trump) would realize that spurring ties between Mexico and China is anything but in America's beat interests.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump's Brutus and ignorance-filled anti-Mexico machismo and  its likely unintended consequences.  Here are excerpts:
This week, while his country is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was in China to pursue his country’s Plan B. Rumblings of a free-trade deal between the two nations have grown since President Trump took office this year, but they’ve mostly been seen as political posturing. But with Trump threatening regularly to dump the deal—even taking time last Sunday, during Hurricane Harvey, to say he “may have to terminate” NAFTA—the possibility of Mexico opening up to China seems ever more real.
NAFTA’s collapse would likely put the U.S. and Mexico on unstable ground, but economists say they doubt it would devastate either country in the short term. Without NAFTA, trade between Mexico and the U.S. would fall back on World Trade Organization(WTO) tariff standards. Signatories to the pact have agreed to “bound rates” for tariffs, which establish a ceiling. These rates differ by industry, but items like agricultural products can have high limits. NAFTA changed the way the U.S. eats, and without NAFTA, consumers stand to lose their perennially fresh and cheap vegetables. But the sector that stand to lose the most is auto manufacturing, because U.S. companies have invested heavily on being able to send car parts to Mexico, assemble them there, then bring them to the U.S. to be sold. The WTO tariffs for the auto sector are much higher than for most other industries, so not only would consumers have to pay more for cars, but it would likely disrupt the current chain of manufacturing.
Trump has threatened to raise tariffs to 35 percent in order to push companies to build products in the U.S., but this is unlikely because it could spark a trade war. So if NAFTA did end, it’s trade would likely continue at WTO tariff rates, making many products from Mexico more expensive, but leaving intact the flow of trade.
That’s not to say Mexico isn’t concerned about losing NAFTA, or that it isn’t looking for more trading partners. Mexico sends about 75 percent of its exports to the U.S., which comes to about $290 billion. By way of comparison, Canada is its second-largest export market at $23 billion, and China its third at $7 billion.
“It is a very fashionable discussion in Mexico that we should diversify trade since we are having problems with the United States, or more specifically with Trump,” Enrique Dussel Peters, an economics professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told me. “And China has become the most fashionable to talk about.”
China and Mexico increased trade from $4.9 billion in 2015 to $5.4 billion in 2016. The Chinese market is opening up to products like tequila, beer, plantains, and avocados. But, Dussel points out, Mexico has been trying to redirect trade with Chin for years, but has not enjoyed the kind of success it has had with the U.S. through NAFTA.
Just as Trump uses Twitter to skewer policy and people he disagrees with, Peña Nieto, by courting China during the NAFTA renegotiations, is telling Trump he has his own recourse, the “China card.” This would have been considered too drastic in the past, but as Franklin Foer wrote in this magazine in May, “Unfortunately, Trump has elevated machismo to foreign-policy doctrine … .”

Trump is an idiot and the irony is that those who voted for him are the ones most likely to suffer from the coats that hie bigotry based policies will bring about.  Meanwhile, he is driving Mexico into the waiting arms of China which would love nothing better that to become the premier trade partner to China, America's growing economic rival. higher 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, September 04, 2017

More Monday Male Beauty

Why White Resentment Defines the GOP, Including in Virginia

Gillespie who has adopted Stewart's white nationalist agenda

When I was active in the Republican Party quite a few years ago I suspect that there were racists and white supremacists in the Party, but no one voiced such views.  Indeed, it would have been considered improper and would have labeled one as unacceptable.  But then the evangelical Christians began to slowly infiltrate and hijack the local city and county committees - they were stupidly voted onto membership by the establishment types who in their hubris thought they could control this unwashed types - and the dog whistle appeals to racism began to multiply.  True, Richard Nixon was the architect of the "Southern Strategy" in 1968, but racism had not become an openly visible staple of the Republican Party.  With the rise of Donald Trump, any reticence about displaying one's bigotry and support for white supremacy seems to have evaporated.  Indeed, more and more GOP candidates are employing it as their main campaign platform.  Here in Virginia, GOP gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart embodied this ideology.  Now, Ed Gillespie has adopted this tactic.   I am not saying that every Republican is a racist, but nowadays that label would seem to apply to the majority of Republicans as a piece in Slate argues: 
Seven months into his presidency, Donald Trump is deeply unpopular. In Gallup’s latest poll of presidential job approval, he’s down to 34 percent, a level unseen by most presidents outside of an economic disaster or foreign policy blunder. In FiveThirtyEight’s adjusted average of all approval polling, he stands at 37 percent. 
And yet, few Republican lawmakers of consequence are willing to buck him or his agenda, in large part because their voters still support the president by huge margins. What we have clearer evidence of now is why. From polling and the behavior of individual politicians, it’s become harder to deny that people support the president not just for being president, but for his core message of white resentment and grievance—the only area where he has been consistent and unyielding.
Nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they agree with Trump on the issues. And 78 percent of Republicans say they approve of the president’s overall job performance. Republicans who have bucked or criticized Trump, like Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, have jeopardized their political futures as a result.
You also see the degree to which white racial resentment is a key force among Republican voters. Most Republicans, remember, agreed with President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he held both sides—white supremacists and counter-demonstrators—responsible for the chaos that claimed the life of one anti-racist protester.
[A]cross a number of questions gauging racial animus, Republicans generally (and Trump supporters specifically) are most likely to give answers signaling tolerance for racism and racist ideas. Forty-one percent of Republicans, for example, say that whites face more discrimination than blacks and other nonwhite groups (among strong Trump supporters, it’s 45 percent). 
In 2014, Ed Gillespie ran for Senate as a Virginia Republican in the mold of figures like John Warner and Bob McDonnell . . . . Gillespie tried to run that campaign in this year’s Republican primary for governor, and he might have won without trouble if not for the presence of Corey Stewart, an otherwise obscure county official who backed Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and challenged Gillespie as a Trump-like figure. Vocally standing in defense of the state’s Confederate monuments, Stewart ran as the candidate of white anger and racial resentment, and he almost won, losing by fewer than 5,000 votes.
Gillespie learned his lesson. In an August ad against his Democratic opponent Ralph Northam, he blasts “sanctuary cities.” In the past month, he’s hired a former Trump campaign aide—Jack Morgan, infamous for his warning that the country is on the brink of a second civil war—and has pledged to defend Confederate statues from local efforts to remove them.
There’s nothing about partisanship that forces a figure like Gillespie to go beyond simple Trump support to embracing the most inflammatory, racially reactionary parts of his appeal. In theory, it should be possible to maintain allegiance to Trump without pantomiming the resentment that fuels his presidency. But this isn’t true in practice. Signaling allegiance to Trump requires embracing white identity politics, because those beliefs reflect the views of many Republican voters.
White identity politics have always been dominant in American life, one of the key forces that shape much of the nation’s political and social landscape. It’s not that Trump is new; it’s that he’s explicit, and in making his open appeal to white identity and its supposed endangerment, he has raised its salience. Before Trump, white resentment was part of Republican politics. In the age of Trump, it increasingly defines it.