Saturday, September 30, 2017

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

San Juan Mayor: "Close to Genocide"

I increasingly find myself ashamed to be an American. Back in August when we were in Great Britain, we had to constantly make apologies for America's seeming insanity in having elected Der Trumpenführer to the White House.  Now, witnessing a Katrinaesque response from the White House and Trump appointed officials to the nightmare unfolding in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, I find my shame growing.  The sharp contrast in the reactions after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and what we have witnessed in delayed aid to Puerto Rico leave me unable to believe that anything other than rank racism and bigotry is responsible.  It took Der Trumpenführer eight days to waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico whereas it was waived almost immediately for Texas and Florida.  And then there is the slowness of the military aid response.  The Navy hospital ship Comfort, with its 1000 hospital beds and 12 operating rooms and 600 personnel finally left Norfolk yesterday.  When it arrives in Puerto Rico, roughly two weeks will have transpired since Maria's direct hit to the island home of 3.5 million AMERICAN CITIZENS.   San Juan's mayor has called the situation "close to genocide" and I have to agree with her.  Der Trumpenführer's response?  To slander the mayor.  The man is utterly foul, as noted by the Post piece:
Anybody who is surprised at this from a president who attacked a former prisoner of war for being a prisoner war, criticized a Gold Star family and made fun of a reporter's physical disability has a short memory. This is who Trump is.   
Here are excerpts on the plight of Puerto Rico and San Juan's mayor's justifiable complaints from The Guardian:
The mayor of San Juan lashed out at Trump administration on Friday, decrying its relief effort in the wake of hurricanes Jose and Maria and saying if it doesn’t solve the logistics “what we we are going to see is something close to a genocide”.
“We are dying here,” Carmen Yulín Cruz said at a press conference, speaking with tears in her eyes. “I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday we are in trouble.”
Cruz appealed directly to the president, saying: “So, Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States of … America. If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”
The situation in Puerto Rico remains dire as residents face shortages of food, water and fuel. The electric grid was badly damaged by the two storms, leaving many without power and reliant on gas-powered generators. The hurricanes crippled the island’s already weakened waste and water treatment plants while fallen trees and strewn debris block roads and cellphone service remains limited.
Trump has complained that the coverage of the government response has been unfair. But he has faced criticism for raising the issue of the country’s debt crisis as it reels from the impact of two hurricanes.
In her conversation with reporters in San Juan on Friday afternoon, Cruz gestured to two large binders filled with paper and said: “Fema asks for documentation, I think we’ve given them enough documentation. They had the gall this morning … of asking me: ‘What are your priorities, mayor?’
“Well, where have you been? And I have been very respectful of the Fema employees. I have been patient but we have no time for patience anymore.
“So, I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.
“They were up the task in Africa when Ebola came over. They were up to the task in Haiti [after the earthquake of 2010]. As they should be. Because when it comes to saving lives we are all part of one community of shared values.
“I will do what I never thought I was going to do: I am begging. I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.”
Continuing to cry, Cruz said: “I am done being polite, and I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake.
“…I’m asking members of the press to send a mayday call. We are dying here. If we don’t solve the logistics, we are going to see something close to a genocide.”
Earlier in the day, Cruz was strongly critical after acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke said the relief effort in Puerto Rico was a “good news story”. “Dammit, this is not a good news story,” Yulín Cruz told CNN. “This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death story.”
Cruz implored Duke to visit the ravaged island. “This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water,” she said. “When you’re drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story … I’m sorry. That really upsets me and frustrates me.”
Would the response have been different if the citizens were all white, English speaking Protestant Christians?  I believe it would have been starkly different.  Sadly, in Trump's America, if you are not white, heterosexual, and conservative Christian, you are deemed at best second-class citizens and at worse, as the mayor noted, deemed to be animals to be disposed of.  I hope every American who is a member of any minority group is watching and paying attention.  There is a way to strike back: vote Democrat in every election you can and send Der Trumpenführer, the GOP and their foul supporters a loud message. 

The Other Alabama - Can It Prevail?

Fairhope pier
Beach below Bayview Avenue, Fairhope, Alabama

I often lament what has happened to Alabama politically in the years since I lived there years ago.  I blame much of the state's political insanity on the rise of the Christofascists within the Republican Party, something that has occurred literally all over the country, but the most toxic in the Bible Belt states and even states like Virginia where the urban areas are finally gaining the ability to out vote the religious extremists of the hinterland in statewide contests.  Sadly, Alabama has not yet reached that point where Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, etc., can out vote the lunacy that prevails in rural areas and where pastors preaching hate and division are the norm.  When I lived in the Mobile area, I never lived in Mobile proper.  Instead, I lived first in Fairhope on the east side of Mobile Bay and then latter in Spanish Fort (to lessen the commute to work).  The first home that I owned was a creole cottage on Bayview Avenue situated on the bluff overlooking the beach pictured above adjacent to the Fairhope pier.  Although a member of the Athelstan Club in Mobile through my old line law firm, the more laid back atmosphere of the Eastern Shore as it is called with its many northern transplants was appealing.  I knew many good people during those years and many remain trying to bring Alabama into the 21st century (just this past week, Birmingham passed a non-discrimination ordinace protecting LGBT citizens).  A column in the Washington Post reminds us that there is still good in Alabama and that those who are fighting the good fight and opposing the batshitery of Roy Moore and those of his ilk need to be remembered and supported.  Here are column highlights: 
There’s a vast barn and field at Oak Hollow Farm 15 minutes from my house that gets rented out as a party venue. This week it served as the media-thronged site of a rally for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, with celebrity guest Stephen K. Bannon, invoking God, guns and making Alabama great. At the same hour, at the University of South Alabama across Mobile Bay, a panel discussion was underway on the topic of inclusion. With more than 600 in attendance, six of us from an array of backgrounds — Jewish, Christian, black, white, Asian American — conversed with moderator Soledad O’Brien, the broadcast journalist, about connecting across lines of race, religion, gender and ideology. Such differences challenge not just those of us in this community but also those far beyond.
That these events went on simultaneously was coincidental, but looking back, I see them as representing the two forces at work in my home state, which now is a bellwether for the nation: coming together vs. staying apart. When O’Brien asked me what our state does well and what it doesn’t, I spoke of Alabama’s famous and often well-deserved reputation for hospitality. Newcomers such as the immigrants of my grandparents’ generation arriving at Mobile’s downtown blocks and speaking little English felt welcomed enough to stay and put down roots. “Come on in, y’all!” But running against that grain, I added, was the counter-impulse of a culture anxious about outsiders and fearful of those who look, act, pray or speak differently, even if they live on the other side of town. “Trespassers beware!”
This push-pull, this embracing change or bracing against it will still be with us whether our next senator, as predicted, is the far-right Moore, a longtime public figure who’s made no secret of his disdain for Muslims, gays and those whose sense of faith differs from his evangelical Christian fervor, or mainstream Democrat Doug Jones, in a possible upset. Either way, I feel strongly that an ever-increasing openness, a cultural diversity, is inching forward, if not evidenced by raw numbers, then in the kinds of people who increasingly call Alabama home. Demagogues can still win at the ballot box, but the opposition — those who yearn for and work toward inclusion, a sensibility that crosses political lines — is growing stronger.
In recent weeks, for example, I have enjoyed being among hundreds of Indian families, all from our area, celebrating the Hindu festival of Navaratri by lighting candles to the goddess Durga. I have visited a Muslim friend who teaches in a Muslim school in Mobile, and I have gone to lunch with a buddy who tells me his daughter, who is gay, stays in Mobile because she loves it as home and does not want to move to some strange, far-off metropolis. . . . I have seen mixed-race couples, if still a rarity here, strolling hand in hand, unbothered, on Fairhope Pier.
These stories, under the radar in the nation’s perception of my home, continue, like the prayers we say at High Holy Day services as part of a small but observant Jewish community in our area. At my temple in Mobile, Moses, with the Ten Commandments in his arms, looks over us from a stained-glass window as we ask forgiveness for our litany of sins.
One of those prayers on Yom Kippur, this weekend, asks pardon for the sin of xenophobia, as well as for the mindfulness to do better in the new year.  I pray it for my fellow Alabamians, too.
Living in the opposition can be exhausting as I know first hand from living in Virginia which remains far from perfect.  In Virginia, like Alabama, gays still have no statewide employment non-discrimination protections, are not protected by public accommodation and fair housing laws, and parts of the southwest part of Virginia remain down right scary.    The choices are to either move or stay and fight for change.  For now, the husband and I have chosen to stay and fight to make Virginia a good place for all to live.  Many in Alabama are doing the same thing.   

Catholic Church and Salvation Army in Australia Continue War on Gays

Given the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal that has been raging in Australia for several years now - Cardinal Pell, the head of the Catholic Church in Australia has been criminally indicted - one has to wonder why anyone sane and moral would listen to anything the Church hierarchy has to say on any subject.  Yet despite having shown itself to be morally bankrupt, in a move that seems to be aimed at perhaps distracting the sheeple who remain in the Church much as Donald Trump uses tweet storms to distract the media, the Catholic Church has called for a month of "prayer and fasting" to stop the same sex marriage initiative under way in Australia.   Cheering on the effort are officers of the Salvation Army, another foe of gays rights in general and same sex marriage in particular (each year at the Christmas holidays I encourage people to avoid giving a dime the the Salvation Army). Christian News Wire looks at this latest element of the Church's jihad against LGBT people.  Here are excerpts:
Australia is in the middle of a government mandated postal survey to decide the future of marriage between a man and a woman. The polls are predicting a defeat for those who believe in the biblical definition of marriage. Australian Christians are asking for prayer from all over the world for a "miracle for marriage" in Australia.  The ballots must be posted back by the end of October. The Catholic Church has called for a month of 'Prayer and Fasting for Marriage and Families' through the month of October 2017.
James Condon, a Commissioner with the Salvation Army, and the head of Strategic Church Relations for the National Day of Prayer & Fasting said, "Support for this historic initiative by the Catholic Church is gathering momentum.
Warwick Marsh, spokesman for the Canberra Declaration and a coordinator of the National Day of Prayer & Fasting said, "For this period of prayer and fasting we ask that you only fast as you are able. See our Promo Video Here. To inspire you in your prayers the team at the Canberra Declaration, in collaboration with Christian leaders from all over Australia, will provide a daily email devotion

Has any such effort been mounted for the world wide victims of sexual abuse by priests?  Of course not.  Instead, the Church hierarchy has fought tooth and claw to hide the truth and to avoid paying compensation to victims.  Meanwhile, Pope Francis' promise to hold bishops and cardinals who aid and abetted abuses remains hollow.  No high cleric has been removed from office and kicked to the curb as deserved. Hopefully, this anti-LGBT effort in Australia fails and has the reverse effect of making more people aware of the utter hypocrisy of the Church's leadership.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Republican Party Has Become Unrecognizable

Not to beat a dead horse, but I come form a family of (now former) Republicans.  I was once an activist in the Republican Party.  The party that existed in those days is dead and gone and what now parades under the name "Republican" has become something hideous and unrecognizable.  As I often said, when did the Party begin to morph into something horrible?  In my view, when the evangelical Christians and fundamentalist Christian, perhaps a majority of whom are racists, hijacked the Party with the aid of establishment types who thought they could control the unwashed and insane.  With the election of Der Trumpenführer and now Roy Moore, the death of the GOP of old is complete. Religious extremism, hatred of anyone deemed "other" - which includes anyone who is not a white, heterosexual right wing "Christian" - and a desire to bring back a combination of the Gilded Age and the Jim Crow era are what now define the Republican Party. Compassion is gone, decency is gone, along with any shred of actually being guided by the Gospel message of the New Testament. The only true deference made to the Bible is through cherry picking Old Testament texts to demonize others and justify hatred of others. I am not the only one horrified by this transformation.  Joe Scarborough, a former conservative Congressman, laments the death of the GOP of old in a column in the Washington Post.  Here are excerpts:
Who are you? I’ve got to say that I really don’t know anymore. It’s kind of a strange turn of events since we went to the same public schools across the Deep South, then attended the same state colleges, cheering wildly on Saturdays for our favorite SEC teams, and spent Sunday mornings together in the same Southern Baptist pews. We even went to Training Union on Sunday nights. Remember how our conversations always seemed to turn to politics? How we criticized Bill Clinton for playing so fast and loose with the truth? And how shamefully Democrats turned a blind eye to his fabrications and outright lies? Man, how could those Democrats sleep at night?
And what about how the guy we voted for, George W. Bush, running up the federal debt and launching ill-planned foreign adventures overseas? We swore that the next time Republicans got in power, we would pressure them to cut spending, attack the debt and put America’s foreign policy on a restrained and reasonable path.
We were united by the shared belief that politicians must put country above party, right? Right? What happened to you?
The guys I came up with in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and northwest Florida for more than 40 years would never boo a former American prisoner of war — especially one who refused to return home until the enemy released every one of his buddies in the prison camp. . . . why would you even think of booing a man, now fighting for his life, who showed that true grit in real life?
But boo Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) you did, at the behest of President Trump during a rally in Alabama last week.
Trump has been “physically mocking” the thumbs-down gesture McCain used to deliver the deciding vote against the Republican health-care bill in July. Did that mocking involve an imitation of McCain’s stiff arm movements? . . . .  McCain got the hell beaten out of him by the communists who held him in the Hanoi Hilton for more than five years.
At that same time, Trump was dodging the draft by claiming that bone spurs stopped him from serving his country in uniform. And yet this crippling condition didn’t stop the spoiled Ivy League student from playing football, tennis and golf. After four draft deferments, Trump graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 on the same day 40 U.S. servicemen were killed in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, McCain continued receiving the beatings that would forever leave him incapable of lifting his arms over his head. He kept enduring torture because he refused to leave his band of brothers behind.
Do you have that kind of character? If you booed McCain at last week’s rally, don’t bother answering. Someone has obviously failed you in your life . . . . And if you still go to church, you may also want to pray for all those around you who put tribal politics ahead of basic humanity.
Then maybe you should drive home and tell your children the story of John McCain’s sacrifice. If you can teach your children that lesson of heroism, there’s a chance they might grow up to have more character than the president you now praise.
 The challenge is to determine (i) how to try to change minds and (ii) in the interim, how to interact with people who seemingly are as morally challenged as the "good Germans" who through complacency and/or prejudice allowed Hitler and the Nazis to rise to power.  Going to church each week and feigning piety and religiosity is nothing more than hypocrisy writ large when one no longer cares about basic humanity or the lives of those in need. 

Charles Pierce - Quote of the Day

In keeping with the previous post, I want to address those who continue to tell me to show "respect" for others' beliefs and to have "patience" and try to politely and quietly educate them as to the errors of their political allegiances.  Patience has never been one of my virtues, especially with those who support politicians working to deprive me of civil rights and equality under the law. In a piece in Esquire, Charles Pierce sums things up well in the wake of Roy Moore's victory in the Alabama GOP primary.  Pierce's remarks apply equally to Trump supporters. Here are excerpts:
[W]hen it comes to the people who voted for Moore, I don’t have to “respect their beliefs.” I don’t have to “understand where they’re coming from.” I don’t have to “see it from their side.” These people are preparing to make a lawless theocratic lunatic one of 100 United States Senators, and that means these people are about to inflict him and his medievalism on me, too. If you think that Roy Moore belongs in the Senate, then you are a half-bright goober whose understanding of American government and basic civics probably stops at the left side of your AM radio dial. You have no concept of the national interest and very little concept of your own, unless, as I suspect, you’ve made your own fears, and hating people and hawking loogies in all directions, the sum total of your involvement in self-government. You are killing democracy and you don’t know it or care. If you had any real Christian charity in your hearts, you’d keep Roy Moore in the locked ward of your local politics and not loose him on a nation that deserves so much better than him.
I’m out of empathy for this stuff. I’m out of pity. I’m out of patience. And, not for nothing, but Moore’s opponent is a guy named Douglas Jones. In 2001, Jones convicted two men for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, one of the iconic white supremacist terrorist acts of that period. One of those bastards already died in prison and the other keeps getting denied parole. If you’d rather be represented in the Senate by a lawless theocratic lunatic, rather than a guy that finally got justice for four murdered little girls, well, you deserve anything that goddamn happens to you.

Yes, I may "play the game" when required in social settings, but I will not respect beliefs that involve bigotry, hate, homophobia and/or racism.

When Does “Morality and Decency Kick In” for Trump Voters?

This post follows up on the theme of my post yesterday entitled The Trump Voter Paradox. If one listens to the bloviating of many, if not the majority, on the political right, the talk ad nausea about "Christian values" and "family values" as they support a Republican Party war long formulated by the likes of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell against families, the sick, the poor, and sexual and racial minorities.  Now, Der Trumpenführer is taking the bigotry and hatred to new heights both through his manufactured hysteria about minority NFL players exercising their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression to his, in my view, deliberate delay in expediting life saving aid to Puerto Rico. And despite all of this, his supporters - like true modern Day Pharisees - cheer him on. People are literally dying, yet Trump supporters are still whining about standing for the national anthem.  For the record, I support the players' refusal to stand.  Anyone not afford the Constitution's promise of equal protection under the law (which includes the LGBT community) has every reason to protest.  A piece in Salon looks at what I believe to be the moral bankruptcy and blatant racism of Trump supporters.  Here are excerpts:
On Monday, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich articulated his support of the ongoing national-anthem protests taking place across the sports world. In declaring his support of any players who should decide to participate, he — as he has before — drew a sharp line under the racial issues surrounding the remarks by Trump and the way people of color are treated in this country.
“Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that. Unless it is talked about constantly, it's not going to get better. . . . 'Oh, that again. They pulled the race card again. Why do we have to talk about that?' Well, because it's uncomfortable,” he said "They have our full support and no matter what they might want to do or not do is important to them, respected by us," Popovich said in support of protesters. "And there’s no recrimination no matter what might take place, unless it’s ridiculous egregious."
Popovich also commented on the response by the president more specifically and asked when Trump supporters would wake up. “I wonder what the people think about who voted for him, where their line is, how much they can take, where does the morality and decency kick in?”
Popovich is not the only one to take aim at Trump's remarks; in fact, the floodgates have opened for pro sports teams to take a stand (or knee) against him. Tony Dungy, former NFL player and coach, commented on the protests on "The Today Show" Sunday, specifically about the backlash and the shift in the tides.
“Up until yesterday, the players would want people to know, this was not about the flag, this was not about patriotism. In their opinion, it was about social change,” Dungy said. “But yesterday this was a group of our family got attacked and called names and said they were unpatriotic and should be fired for, what we feel, is demonstrating our first amendment right. We’re gonna [ . . . ] band together as a family and they reacted."
Sportscaster Dale Hansen used his position as a Vietnam Veteran to defend the protests, in opposition to those against the protests who claim that the action is disrespectful to veterans.“The young, black athletes are not disrespecting America or the military by taking a knee during the anthem,” Hanson said. “They are respecting the best thing about America. It’s a dog whistle to the racists among us to say otherwise." He condemned those who don’t believe in white privilege as well. “They, and all of us, should protest how black Americans are treated in this country. And if you don’t think white privilege is a fact, you don’t understand America.”
Perhaps the most scathing rebuke was from former tight end Shannon Sharpe on Undisputed, where he commented on the solidarity of the NFL and the hypocrisy of the people in power in the league. “This wasn’t a protest. This was unity. So, what are we showing solidarity against?” He continued. “We’re showing solidarity because President Trump challenged the very men. Wealthy, wealthy men, billionaires, and he told them, what you should do if someone protests, you should fire them. They don’t like being told what to do.”
 These self-styled "godly Christians" care more about a piece of cloth than travesties done to living, breathing  - at least until they are gunned down by police - individuals.  Indeed, these people are the antithesis of Christ's message.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, September 28, 2017

More Thursday Male Beauty

The Trump Voter Paradox

Like many progressives, I find myself at a loss at times understanding how friends and acquaintances who seemingly are nice and decent people can support today's Republican Party much less have voted for Donald Trump.  Why do they look the other way when Der Trumpenführer engages in the use of language and behavior that they would never tolerate at their country club or yacht club - indeed, such behavior (e.g., "pussy grabbing") might cause one to have one's membership suspended.  Similarly, how do they support a party agenda that directly harms those they act as if they care about. Is the friendly facade and civility just a charade?  Yes, there are truly foul supporters of Trump - e.g., white supremacists and Christofascists - but these labels don't outwardly apply to many.  It is a paradox that has led me to unfriend some on Facebook and lessen social interaction with some.   Equally baffling is the fact that some of these Republicans, if engaged in a one on one conversation actually support policies much more liberal and compassionate than what they political party stands for.  A column in the New York Times looks at this bizarre paradox.  Here are excerpts:
Roy Moore’s decisive victory over Luther Strange in the Republican Senate primary runoff on Tuesday in Alabama confirms — as I have reported before — that many Republican voters have a strong sense of white identity, that they harbor high levels of racial resentment and that they sometimes exhibit authoritarian leanings.
At the same time, that’s not a complete picture.
A 2013 study of red and blue America, conducted well before the seismic events of the last two years, sheds additional light on the Republican electorate and provides a more complicated understanding of contemporary conservatism.
In “Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates,” Peter J. Rentfrow, a reader in the psychology department at the University of Cambridge, along with five co-authors, explores the results of standardized personality tests given to 1.6 million people in the United States from 1999 to 2010.
The Rentfrow paper breaks the country into three “psychological regions” and ranks each region on personality dimensions known as the big five traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness to experience.
The most conservative and most Republican of the three psychological regions — which Rentfrow labels “Cluster 1: Friendly and Conventional” — extends across the northern tier of the United States from Montana to Michigan, down through the Midwest to almost all of the South for a total of 26 states. Rentfrow found that the Cluster 1 region is
less affluent, has fewer highly educated residents, and is less innovative compared with states in the other regions. States in this region also appeared to have higher levels of social capital and less social tolerance compared with states in other regions. Moreover, friendly and conventional states were more politically conservative and Protestant compared with other regions.
My question went as follows:
Some research shows that Republicans, and Trump voters in particular, score high on measures of authoritarianism and on critical, if not hostile, views of African-Americans and immigrants. How does this fit with your finding that residents of the most Republican region are friendly, sociable and considerate?
Rentfrow replied that
individuals high in authoritarianism score low in openness. So in this sense, the patterns of results we find at the regional level are consistent.
Many whites in the South, he argued, abide by an “honor culture.” As long
as everyone is respectful and abides by the social norms, everyone is happy and agreeable. But when threats are made against one’s reputation or values, acts of violence and physical aggression are considered appropriate forms of retribution.
In some ways, the profile we observe touches on the surface of this profile — the friendly and considerate aspect when all is well. But I think we’re now beginning to see more of the aggressive aspects. I think many people, perhaps especially in this region, have begun to feel threatened by the changes taking place in society and are reacting with anger.
Karen Stenner, the author of “The Authoritarian Dynamic,” pointed out that the Rentfrow study found that red state voters were simultaneously “friendly” and less “socially tolerant.”  Stenner explained this seeming contradiction by noting that
it is a lot easier to be generous and considerate and civic-minded and invested in one’s community if one’s community is full of people much like oneself. The kinds of behaviors we get out of authoritarians depend critically on how and where they have drawn the boundaries of “us” and “them.” They can be very attentive to “us,” but also tend to be very particular about whom “us” includes.
John Jost, a professor of psychology and politics at N.Y.U., expands upon the implications of the word “conscientiousness” in describing red state voters:
Conscientiousness is correlated with measures of racism, sexism, homophobia, prejudice, authoritarianism, social dominance, and system justification. I suspect that this personality factor has more to do with a need for order or desire for rule-following, which can easily take an authoritarian turn, than other aspects of conscientiousness that we might associate with, say, honesty or integrity.
Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at N.Y.U.’s Stern School of Business . . . cited an essay that he and Emily Ekins, the director of polling at the Cato Institute, published in February 2016, “Donald Trump supporters think about morality differently than other voters.” In contrast to Republican primary voters who supported candidates other than Trump, they noted, voters who supported him “score high on authority/loyalty/sanctity and low on care.” These voters, according to Ekins and Haidt, “are the true authoritarians — they value obedience while scoring low on compassion.” In fact, authoritarian voters with a sense of besieged white identity are more than a “grain” in the Republican electorate. . . . And the clout of the authoritarian, white identity wing of the Republican Party is such that Trump is governing to please this wing first and foremost.
From his apocalyptic threats to Kim Jong-un to his call for the firing of protesting N.F.L. players, from his pardon of Joe Arpaio to his defense of pro-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Trump has remained the leader of hard-right, white America.
This strategy won him the presidency in 2016 when millions of non-authoritarian white Republicans — sympathetic, kind, affectionate, conscientiousness, persevering, thorough and reliable — made a pact with the devil and chose party loyalty over conscience.

The take away?  Some friends and acquaintances seem to put order - which equates to blacks, gays, and other minorities "knowing their place" - above kindness and compassion. To me, that is a serious moral defect. I am left still not sure of how to interact with such people when I must do so. I surely am left feeling that I cannot trust them. 

What's Behind the Trump Regime's Shameful Treatment of Puerto Rico?

Take a good look at the people - Trump sees them as less than human. Disgusting!

Numerous news outlets - Fox News not included (its current storm coverage focuses on Maria and the Outer Banks which will see minimal impact - have reported on the horrific conditions and Puerto Rico and the pathetic aid effort being marshaled by the regime of Der Trumpenführer.  The failures in aid range from failing to send the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort (so far it has not yet sailed from Norfolk), not sending sufficient numbers of military troops to assist in the recovery, to refusing to lift the Jones Act restrictions against foreign flag ships bring cargo to U.S. ports.  Combined, these failures and the stark contrast with what was done for Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is becoming difficult to attribute the Trump regime's behavior to anything but racism and anti-Hispanic bigotry.   A column in the Washington Post  helps put the crisis in perspective and also looks at what sadly seems to be Trump's motivation for abandoning Puerto Rico.  Here are excerpts:
Suppose that the entire San Diego metropolitan area had lost electrical power, and it wouldn’t be restored for months.
Or, suppose that most of the ports, roads and cellular towers in the Seattle metropolitan area had been destroyed, and a major dam had failed.
Or, that most of the homes in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota were either damaged or destroyed in one day.
Or, that the combined populations of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont had seen much of their forests and agricultural land wiped out.
Or, that the residents of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — combined — had lost access to food and clean water, leaving them vulnerable to cholera. And imagine that overflowing hospitals, without power, had no capacity to deal with an outbreak.
Now, imagine that in response to any of these scenarios, the president of the United States variously ignored the plight of the affected Americans (in all of the above cases about 3.4 million people, give or take), blamed them for their own troubles and provided inadequate help. This is precisely what is happening right now to the 3.4 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, an island territory more populous than about 20 states. Hurricane Maria essentially wiped out these Americans’ ports, roads, electricity, communications, water supply and crops and many homes. Yet, a week after the storm, the response from the American mainland has been paltry. There is no rush, as there was after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, to approve the emergency funds that Puerto Rico will surely need. There has been no massive movement of military personnel and equipment to Puerto Rico: no aircraft carrier (one was sent to the Florida Keys in response to Hurricane Irma), no hospital ship (finally on Tuesday afternoon the Navy said it was sending one). President Trump, so visible when Harvey and Irma hit, all but ignored the devastation that Maria brought to Puerto Rico, devoting more attention to respect for the flag at NFL games. When he did turn his focus to Puerto Rico on Monday, it was to say that the island “was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt” and that its “old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars . . . owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.” And the Trump administration said it would not assist Puerto Rico by waiving the Jones Act, which restricts the use of foreign cargo ships, after waiving the act in response to Harvey and Irma. Phillip Carter, a military specialist with the Center for a New American Security, wrote a piece for Slate likening Trump’s “anemic” response in Puerto Rico to President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Carter told me Puerto Rico conservatively needs a response of 50,000 U.S. troops. Even Haiti — a foreign country — got the help of more than 20,000 troops after its 2010 earthquake. Trump, he said, “is more interested in the NFL than Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
No question the logistics are harder in Puerto Rico. But the 3.4 million U.S. citizens there have long endured second-class status: no voting members of Congress, no presidential vote, unequal benefits and high poverty. Now, the Trump administration’s failure to help Americans in Puerto Rico with the same urgency it gave those in Texas and Florida furthers a sad suspicion that the disparate treatment has less to do with logistics than language and skin color.
Sadly, what we are witnessing in Puerto Rico is much the same as occurred under Bush following Hurricane Katrina.  To Republicans, especially Der Trumpenführer, non-whites, non-straight, non-English speakers and non-Christians simply do not matter. I am ashamed to have ever been a Republican.  I hope  people will send a message by voting Democrat in Virginia in 2017 and across the country in 2018.

Damage in Puerto Rico

2nd Circuit Not Receptive to Trump DOJ Anti-Gay Arguments

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sitting en banc heard arguments in Zarda v. Altitude Express and witnessed representatives of the Trump Department of Justice ("DOJ") argued that existing federal non-discrimination and equal rights laws do not extend to LGBT Americans. The motivation of Trump DOJ was simple: delivering on Trump's promises to Christofascists and "family values" hate groups that were made to ensure a pro-Trump turnout by evangelical Christians (using the term "Christian" very loosely if one believes in the Gospel message).  In opposition was the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") argued that the existing laws do apply to LGBT Americans.  Based on the arguments and the  Court's judges were less than receptive to the pro-discrimination arguments of the Donald Trump/Jeff Sessions minions.  A piece in looks at the 2nd Circuit's cool reception to the pro-hate and discrimination advocates.  Here are highlights:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit had a burning question for Donald Trump’s Department of Justice on Tuesday: What are you doing in our courthouse? By the end of the day, the answer still wasn’t clear. Something else was, though: The DOJ’s new anti-gay legal posture is not going to be received with open arms by the federal judiciary. The Justice Department’s latest wound was fully self-inflicted, as Tuesday’s arguments in Zarda v. Altitude Express should not have involved the DOJ in the first place. The case revolves around a question of statutory interpretation: whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws anti-gay workplace discrimination. Title VII bars employment discrimination “because of sex,” which many federal courts have interpreted to encompass sexual orientation discrimination. The 2nd Circuit is not yet one of them, and Chief Judge Robert Katzmann signaled recently that he would like to change that. So on Tuesday, all of the judges convened to consider joining the chorus of courts that believe Title VII already prohibits anti-gay discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided in 2015 that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination does protect gay employees. Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department took no position on this question. But in late July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ DOJ unexpectedly filed an amicus brief in Zarda arguing that Title VII does not protect gay people. The 2nd Circuit had not solicited its input, making the brief both puzzling and gratuitous. Its purpose only became apparent in September, when the DOJ filed a similarly uninvited brief asserting that bakers have a free speech right not to serve same-sex couples. Both anti-gay briefs were startlingly incoherent, seemingly the product of political pandering rather than legal reasoning. Arguments dragged on for nearly two hours, but EEOC attorney Jeremy D. Horowitz seized the upper hand early by capably explaining the agency’s three theories:
1. The “but-for” theoryThis argues that anti-gay discrimination qualifies as sex discrimination because, but for the gay person’s sex, he would not suffer discrimination. For instance, consider a homophobic employer who fires a male employee because he marries a man. But for that employee’s sex, he wouldn’t have been discriminated against and lost his job.
2. The sex stereotyping theoryIn 1989’s Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the Supreme Court ruled that sex stereotyping—punishing a worker for her failure to conform to gender norms—is a kind of sex discrimination. At first, courts only applied sex stereotyping to masculine women and feminine men. But as the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals explained in March, gay people are “the ultimate case of failure to conform” to sex stereotypes, since men and women are typically expected to date only individuals of the opposite sex.
3. The associational sex discrimination theoryThis holds that anti-gay bias constitutes sex discrimination much like anti-miscegenation laws constituted race discrimination. When states prohibited a white person from marrying a black person, they were committing discrimination because of race. It follows that when an employer punishes a gay person for associating with a same-sex partner, he has committed discrimination “because of sex.” 
Horowitz made his case well, forcefully elucidating why “sexual orientation cannot be separated from sex.”  That set the stage for Mooppan’s appearance, which, to put it mildly, did not go well at all. Chief Judge Katzmann immediately wanted to know: Why didn’t the DOJ defer to the EEOC on Title VII, as it normally does? Mooppan’s basic reply was that the Justice Department is the nation’s “largest employer”—meaning, in short, that it has an interest in retaining its capacity to fire gay people for being gay. Katzmann . . . . wanted to know what career attorneys at the DOJ’s civil rights division think about the agency’s position. But Mooppan wouldn’t answer: “That’s not appropriate for me to disclose,” he told the judge. Katzmann looked alarmed. Now a majority of the judges looked irritated. As a general rule, attorneys are supposed to answer questions posed by the court, not dodge them as though they’re taking the Fifth. It was a terrible start for Mooppan, and both Pooler and Katzmann looked genuinely perplexed that a DOJ attorney would show such blatant disrespect. Finally, Judge Dennis Jacobs broke the impasse: “I, for one, am prepared to proceed on the assumption that you’re here,” he said. Judge Jacobs asked Mooppan whether he can refute the EEOC’s associational discrimination theory and its parallel to interracial and interfaith marriage. “When you discriminate against interracial marriage,” Mooppan responded, you are promoting “racial superiority.” When you discriminate against interfaith marriage, you are promoting “religious superiority.” That makes the comparison to homosexuality moot. When arguments concluded, it seemed inevitable that the court would agree with the EEOC, reject the DOJ’s wackadoodle theories, and find that Title VII already proscribes anti-gay employment discrimination. After Tuesday’s performance, the Justice Department’s involvement in the case may have actually swung a judge or two away from its position; its flagrantly political intrusion seemed to irk even the Republican appointees. Anti-gay activists may have taken control of the DOJ—but they seem unlikely to persuade the 2nd Circuit that America’s gay employees don’t deserve civil rights.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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McCain Backs Bill to Block Trump Transgender Troops Ban; Joint Chiefs Oppose Ban

Joseph Dunford Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
As noted in previous pots, the only area in which Der Trumpenführer is keeping his campaign promises is in the realm of his promises to Christofascists to roll back LGBT rights and non-discrimination protections.  His effort to ban transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. Military is merely one part of an aggressive agenda that includes appointing anti-gay Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, reversing Obama era policies and promoting the myth of Christian persecution. Thankfully, Trump is running into perhaps unexpected opposition to his transgender ban.  As the title to this post notes, a bi-partisan bill is in Congress that would thwart Trump's effort.  Moreover, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is in opposition to the outright ban.  First these highlights from The Hill:
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is backing a bipartisan bill that would block President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.
“When less than one percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country,” McCain said in a statement.
“Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve — including those who are transgender," he said.
This is the latest show of resistance by McCain, who has frequently been a thorn in Trump's side. Most dramatically, McCain cast the deciding vote in July to kill the Senate's attempt at repealing Obamacare. As a Russia hawk, he's also blasted Trump's attempted rapprochement with Moscow, and as Armed Service chairman, has frequently criticized Trump for requesting lower-than-expected defense spending and taking months to develop an Afghanistan strategy.
Friday's bill would prohibit the Pentagon from involuntarily separating or denying the re-enlistment of currently serving transgender troops solely on the basis of gender identity.  It would also require Defense Secretary James Mattis to complete the study of accession — recruitment and training — of transgender recruits that he started before Trump announced the ban.
Finally, the bill would express the sense of Congress that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve.
As for the Joint Chiefs, here are highlights from Politico:
The nation's top military officer on Tuesday told Congress that transgender troops who meet existing standards should not be kicked out of the military, underscoring the Pentagon leadership's reluctance to carry out President Donald Trump's earlier call to ban them from serving "in any capacity."
“I believe any individual who meets the physical and mental standards and is worldwide-deployable and currently serving should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve," Marine Gen. Joe Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on his reappointment as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Dunford’s advice meshes with “interim guidance” that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued earlier this month for the military to follow while a study on transgender service members is underway.
Dunford’s testimony covered a wide range of front-burner issues, ranging from personnel and combat readiness to the current situations in Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula.

Trump's effort to harm LGBT Americans needs to be resisted.  This ban does nothing but pander to Christofascist extremists.

Russian-Funded Facebook ads Backed Stein, Sanders and Trump

A new story being carried by Politico may take away some of the smugness of Bernie Sanders supporters who have looked down on Trump voters who were played for fools by Russian-funded Facebook and social media ads and ploys.  It seems not only were the Russians pitching ads for Trump, but they were also working against Hillary Clinton by using fake news and ads to support Sanders as well as Green Party candidate Jill Stein.  I guess we mow know why Stein was photographed seated at a dinner with Vladimir Putin.   The one consistent aspects of the Russian effort was to defeat Clinton and sow a mindset where progressives would sit out the election or in what makes to rational sense to me, vote for Trump as a protest vote of sorts.  Sadly, some are still falling for fake news stories, including the effort to conflate NFL players kneeling for the national anthem as disrespecting America's military service members. Never mind that the real disrespect is voting for politicians who will send them off to unwinnable wars and/or inadequately supported. Here are highlights from the Politico piece:
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was the beneficiary of at least one of the Russian-bought political ads on Facebook that federal government officials suspect were intended to influence the 2016 election.
Other advertisements paid for by shadowy Russian buyers criticized Hillary Clinton and promoted Donald Trump. Some backed Bernie Sanders and his platform even after his presidential campaign had ended, according to a person with knowledge of the ads.
The pro-Stein ad came late in the political campaign and pushed her candidacy for president, this person said.
“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” the ad reads. “Trust me. It’s not a wasted vote. … The only way to take our country back is to stop voting for the corporations and banks that own us. #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.”
[T]hey show a desire to create divisions while sometimes praising Trump, Sanders and Stein. A number of the ads seemed to question Clinton’s authenticity and tout some of the liberal criticisms of her candidacy.
Facebook declined to comment on the specifics of the advertisements but noted a previous statement: “The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the U.S. presidential election or voting for a particular candidate. Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
[I]n her recently published book about her election defeat, “What Happened,” Clinton writes that Stein’s modest vote totals in several swing states “may well have thrown the election to Trump.”
Clinton pointedly notes that Stein joined Michael Flynn at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s table at a December 2014 dinner in Moscow, and that the leftist candidate “praised [Trump’s] pro-Russia stance,” though she does not accuse Stein of collaborating with the Kremlin.
Many of the 3,000 Russian-bought advertisements Facebook has identified were riddled with poor grammar and spelling and contained outlandish assertions, according to a person with knowledge of them.
Investigators are likely to probe whether Facebook or any government authority could or should have stopped the ads — and whether the Russian officials were in contact with any Americans.
Earlier this month, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said the 3,000 ads that Facebook has determined to have Russian links may be “the tip of the iceberg” and part of a far larger Kremlin plot to influence the 2016 election through Facebook and other social media platforms.
To my Bernie Sanders supporting friends, I hope they will learn not to fall for and hyperventilate over fake ads - some of which we now know were sponsored by the Kremlin.  They and Stein voters have severely damaged America.