Saturday, October 14, 2017

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

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The Roots of Republican Dysfunction and Insanity

Today's Republican Party bears no resemblance to what it was even 15 years ago, although the roots of the party's current dysfunction and championing of hate and bigotry began much further back in time.  Richard Nixon's implementation of the so-called "Southern Strategy" put out the welcome mat for racists and white supremacists, but for many years the "adults in the room" in the party leadership were able to keep the more virulent racists under control and largely out of view other than dog whistle messaging. Next, the Christofascists were made welcome in a low key manner under Reagan and the insanity of the party base began in earnest.   Foolishly, George W. Bush threw the doors to the party wide open to religious extremists when he and Karl Rove used same sex marriage as tool to secure Bush's reelection in 2004.  From that point on, the party's embrace of ignorance and bigotry became raging torrent.  This insanity and war against modernity reach its apogee with the election of Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the GOP's descent to the ugly reality that it has become, something too many otherwise decent Republicans - I could name names but I will not - refuse to recognize as they continue to support a party that in fact no longer exists except in their own minds.  Here are column highlights:
[A]fter nine months of party control of Congress and the White House, the Republicans have accomplished essentially nothing. They have become a party without a consensus.
It would be easy to simply blame the president for the party’s disarray. Donald Trump’s aversion to policy detail, his chaotic management style and his combustible personality have all contributed to the party’s failures this year.
Yet it would also be a mistake to pin the party’s problems on Mr. Trump alone. He is not their root cause. Instead, he is an avatar of the party’s pathologies, the culmination of its cynical and shambolic trajectory over the last two decades.
Many of those issues can be traced back to the administration of George W. Bush, which functioned as an enormous political bait and switch. The 43rd president campaigned on humble foreign policy and prudent conservative solutions, but his presidency quickly became oriented almost exclusively around a political defense of the Iraq war.
This meant that domestic policy, and the realm of domestic policy expertise, became an afterthought at best, an opportunity for cynical political maneuvering at worst.
But Mr. Bush’s post-Sept. 11 popularity instilled the administration with an arrogance that extended far beyond the war itself. The president’s inner circle became convinced that the Republican Party was destined for years of unbroken political domination; the ambition-spoiling concerns of the “reality-based community” no longer needed to be taken into account.
National security fear-mongering and culture war controversies, especially over same-sex marriage, were employed to rally the base and ensure its loyalty, even as dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush’s governance continued to grow.
The Bush presidency, then, was both a failure and a fraud. Instead of foreign policy restraint and modest conservative governance, the Bush administration delivered a pair of endless deficit-financed wars, cynical posturing over social issues, soaring federal spending and, eventually, a large-scale emergency intervention in the economy.
Arguably as important as the particular failures themselves, however, was the way the party infrastructure — its leaders and functionaries, its activists and operators — formed a partisan phalanx around the president, playing down his flaws, if not refusing to acknowledge them. . . . by excusing Mr. Bush’s errors, Republicans radically expanded the trust deficit, creating a yawning gap between the party’s base and its elites, one that has persisted, and grown, in the years since. . . .
Mr. Bush left many voters on the right angry, resentful and suspicious — of war, of policy, of ideology, of the very idea of political solutions and leadership.  It attracted hucksters and manipulators, in the media and in the activist sphere, and embraced a cast of unconventional and unqualified candidates. Republican Party elites were only too happy to exploit this inchoate energy as long as it was useful.
The defeats of both Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney left the party leaderless, and Mr. Bush’s shredded reputation meant it could not follow the course he had laid out. So the party became defined by what was left: its resentments and suspicions, its antagonisms and obsessions, its anger and its differences. It retreated into tribalism and anti-intellectualism. Eventually, the sideshow became the main event.
Mr. Trump, of course, is the biggest sideshow of them all. He exploited the gap between the base and the elites, embodying the dysfunction and disarray that already existed.
Mr. Trump’s goals have more to do with Twitter feuds and personal aggrandizement than any particular policies. Under Mr. Trump, the party’s chief internal debate is not so much about which governing vision to pursue but whether there should be one at all.
Republican voters, meanwhile, were attracted to shallow political entertainers and obviously unqualified candidates long before Mr. Trump threw his hat in the ring.  Mr. Trump didn’t cause any of this. He just took advantage of it. He is the most successful huckster of the bunch.

Ominous Days Ahead for LGBT Americans

For the 20+ years that I have followed hated groups masquerading as Christian "family values" organization - many of which are shockingly tax-exempt "educational" charities - there has been one constant: they have sought to criminalize being gay and they have wanted the right to ignore non-discrimination laws.  While they have not yet succeeded in their effort to make being homosexual a criminal offense, yesterday was a testament to their success on securing their long sought special rights to ignore non-discrimination and public accommodation laws at will.  The only possible road block is the U.S. Supreme Court where this special right is to be decided.  The Trump/Pence Justice Department has sided on the right of Christofascists to discriminate at will.  Yesterday, Jeff Sessions underscored his departments effort to make discrimination based upon claimed religious belief the law of the land.  Meanwhile, Der  Trumpenführer appeared at the Family Research Council (FRC is a certified hate group) sponsored "Values Voter Summit" and promised the gathering of religious extremists that they would no longer be silenced. Pitted against this effort is a who's who of corporate America that wants LGBT non-discrimination protections nationwide. Among the companies opposing the Trump/Pence agenda are Google, Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, and Viacom Inc.  A piece in Metro Weekly looks at the bigotry that Sessions will support before the Supreme Court.  Make no mistake.  If the Christofascist are successful, gays will not be the only citizens eventually targeted.  Here are article excerpts:
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes people have a “fundamental right” to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Faith Nation, Sessions explained why the Department of Justice is backing Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who is asking the Supreme Court to allow him to refuse to bake cakes for same-sex couples.
“[T]he cake baker has more than just a personal view here,” Sessions said. “He has a religious view and he feels that he is not being able to freely exercise his religion by being required to participate in a ceremony in some fashion that he does not believe in.“So we think that right is a fundamental right and ought to be respected as we work through this process.”
Phillips is asking for an exemption to Colorado’s nondiscrimination law, arguing that his right to free speech and freedom of expression is being violated if he is forced to design and bake cakes for gay and lesbian weddings. By forcing Phillips to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, Sessions contends, Colorado is restricting his right to espouse his beliefs and practice his religion as he sees fit.
“[I]n the 1990s, we passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that said the government should not constrict a person’s religious belief without a compelling reason to do so,” the attorney general said. “So we think that statute has been ignored too often and not respected sufficiently.”
Gays today, non-Christians and blacks tomorrow.  One must not forget that the Virginia Supreme Court cited the Bible in upholding the ban on interracial marriage that was ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.  If the Christofascists and Trump/Pence prevail, a Pandora's box will have been opened.  Be very afraid, especially with Neil Gorsuch now on the Supreme Court.  If John Adams wins the Virginia attorney general race, this same batshitery will come to Virginia with a vengeance.  Vote for Mark Herring, Ralph Northam and Justin Fairfax on November 7, 2017.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, October 13, 2017

More Friday Morning Male Beauty

White Nationalism Is Destroying the West

As a former Republican and one who has followed white ostensibly Christian "family values" for more than two decades one trend has grown exponentially within the Republican Party: overt racism and white nationalism.  If one looks closely at the "family values" groups, many of which have been certified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, one thing is central to their agenda: maintaining the political and social power of white Christians against anyone who does not embrace their extremist, anti-democratic religious agenda and anyone who is not white.  Black pastors and their parishioners are only courted when these hate groups need to use religion as a tool to have minorities ultimately vote against their own best interest. That many blacks continue to fall for the ruse is maddening since many of these lily white "family values" organizations trace directly back to segregationists. Frighteningly, this white nationalism has similarly grown in Europe where a similar desire to maintain control and privilege has grown among right wing political parties.  The threat most often held up to justify anti-democratic agendas is the presence of Muslim immigrants and refugees.  Meanwhile, the far right groups themselves are the biggest threat to democracy and Enlightenment values.  Disturbingly, too many people - including a number of those I know - seemingly deliberately close their eyes to this reality because it is easier than examining their own inner prejudices.  A piece in the New York Times Sunday Review explores this reality.  Here are excerpts: 
[D]espite the breathless warnings of impending Islamic conquest sounded by alarmist writers and pandering politicians, the risk of Islamization of the West has been greatly exaggerated. Islamists are not on the verge of seizing power in any advanced Western democracy or even winning significant political influence at the polls.
The same cannot be said of white nationalists, who today are on the march from Charlottesville, Va., to Dresden, Germany. As an ideology, white nationalism poses a significantly greater threat to Western democracies; its proponents and sympathizers have proved, historically and recently, that they can win a sizable share of the vote — as they did this year in France, Germany and the Netherlands — and even win power, as they have in the United States.
Far-right leaders are correct that immigration creates problems; what they miss is that they are the primary problem. The greatest threat to liberal democracies does not come from immigrants and refugees but from the backlash against them by those on the inside who are exploiting fear of outsiders to chip away at the values and institutions that make our societies liberal.
Anti-Semitic and xenophobic movements did not disappear from Europe after the liberation of Auschwitz, just as white supremacist groups have lurked beneath the surface of American politics ever since the Emancipation Proclamation. What has changed is that these groups have now been stirred from their slumber by savvy politicians seeking to stoke anger toward immigrants, refugees and racial minorities for their own benefit. Leaders from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen have validated the worldview of these groups, implicitly or explicitly encouraging them to promote their hateful opinions openly. As a result, ideas that were once marginal have now gone mainstream.
The trend is unmistakable. Hungary’s ruling party has plastered anti-Semitic ads on bus stops and billboards; an overtly neo-Nazi movement won 7 percent of the vote in Greece’s 2015 election; Germany’s upstart far-right party, which includes a popular member who criticized Berlin’s Holocaust memorial as “a monument of shame,” won 13 percent in last month’s election.
In France and Denmark, populist leaders have gone to great pains to shed the right’s crudest baggage and rebrand themselves in a way that appeals to Jews, women and gay people by depicting Muslims as the primary threat to all three groups. But their core goal remains the same: to close the borders and expel unwanted foreigners.
Cultural and demographic anxiety about dwindling native populations and rapidly increasing immigrant ones lies at the heart of these parties’ ideologies. In America, Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, worries about the impossibility of restoring “our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” In Europe, the right frets about who’s having the new German or Danish babies and the fact that it’s not white Germans or Danes — a social Darwinist dread popularized by the German writer Thilo Sarrazin, whose best-selling 2010 book, “Germany Abolishes Itself,” warned that barely literate Muslims were poised to replace the supposedly more intelligent German race.
The leader of the Netherlands’ newest far-right party fears that Europe will not exist “as a predominantly white-skinned, Christian or post-Christian, Roman-law-based kind of society” a few decades from now. “If I go to a museum, and I look at these portraits, they are essentially people like me that I can see. In 50 years it won’t be,” he worries.
Ms. Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, has a similar fear, and she sees birthright citizenship as the vehicle for replacement. Although she doesn’t use the term favored by many Republicans in the United States (“anchor babies”), she insists, as she told me in an interview last May, that “we must stop creating automatic French citizens.”
This argument has a long pedigree. It can be traced back to the Dreyfus Affair, when the virulently anti-Semitic writer Maurice Barrès warned that immigrants wanted to impose their way of life on France and that it would spell the “ruin of our fatherland.” “They are in contradiction to our civilization,” Barrès wrote in 1900.
Today’s version of the argument is: if you have foreign blood and don’t behave appropriately, then you don’t get a passport.
The notion of a Great Replacement has crossed the Atlantic and found an eager audience among groups who have long espoused similar white supremacist ideas. The Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders warned in 2015 of “masses of young men in their 20s with beards singing ‘Allahu akbar’ across Europe.” He labeled their presence “an invasion that threatens our prosperity, our security, our culture and identity.”
A year later, Mr. Wilders attended the Republican national convention, where he headlined an L.G.B.T. pro-Trump event along with the anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller and the alt-right wunderkind Milo Yiannopoulos. . . . . Mr. Wilders was introduced as “the hope for Western civilization.”
Calais and Charlottesville may be nearly 4,000 miles apart, but the ideas motivating far-right activists in both places are the same. When white nationalists descended on Charlottesville in August, the crowd chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “you will not replace us” before one of its members allegedly killed a woman with his car and others beat a black man; last week, they returned bearing torches and chanting similar slogans.
Just as Mr. Trump has plenty to say about Islamic State attacks but generally has no comment about hate crimes against Indians, blacks and Muslims, the European far-right is quick to denounce any violent act committed by a Muslim but rarely feels compelled to forcefully condemn attacks on mosques or neo-Nazis marching near synagogues on Yom Kippur.
Mr. Trump, Mr. Gauland and Ms. Le Pen would never admit to being white nationalists, but they are more than happy to dog-whistle to them and accept their support.
Those who worry that a godless Europe and an immigration-friendly America are no match for Islamic extremists have ignored an even greater threat: white nationalists.
Their ideology is especially dangerous because they present themselves as natives valiantly defending the homeland. Because they look and sound like most of their co-citizens, they garner sympathy from the majority in ways that Islamists never could. White nationalism is in many ways a mirror image of radical Islamism. Both share a nostalgic obsession with a purist form of identity: for one, a medieval Islamic state; for the other, a white nation unpolluted by immigrant blood.
If the influence of white nationalists continues to grow, they will eventually seek to trample the rights of immigrants and minorities and dismiss courts and constitutions as anti-democratic because they don’t reflect the supposed preferences of “the people.” Their rise threatens to transform countries that we once thought of as icons of liberalism into democracies only in name.
 Of course, once the white nationalists prevail against unwanted foreigners, they will next turn to those native citizens the deem as unwanted. Under Trump, it is already happening with respect to the LGBT community which has long been the target of white Christian nationalists.  If their power grows, others will join the list of targeted elements of society.  Closing one's eyes to reality does not make it go away.  It merely allows the society cancer to grow. 

SOS: Republicans, It’s Time to Panic

As I have made clear numerous times, in my opinion, Donald Trump is seriously mentally ill.  At best, he is a dangerous malignant narcissist.  At worse, he is a sociopath megalomaniac likely to act out of anger and trigger events that may be hard to stop once the dominoes begin falling.   Of course, no one should be surprised by any of this.  Even some other Republicans called out the danger that Trump posed if he ever had access to the nuclear codes.  Republicans like Rand Paul and even Bobby Jindal.  More recently, Senator Bob Corker joined this chorus and speculated that Der Trumpenführer could trigger World War III.  Yet too many Republicans continue to put their political party above the nation - indeed the entire world - and refused to state the obvious: Trump needs to be removed from office by any means necessary. Worse yet, his base of supporters who thrill at his war against gays, his efforts to allow non-white, non-English speaking Puerto Ricans simply die, and his war against black NFL players continue to support him.  Many in this latter group, of course, claim to be "godly Christian" even as their actions and the policies that they support are the antithesis to the Gospel message.   A column in the Washington Post by a former aid to George W. Bush and another column in the New York Times look at the danger that Trump poses to America and the world.  It is time for true patriots to act.  Here are highlights:
In the midst of a governing crisis, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has once again risen to his role as the voice of bland complacency. Concerning the open warfare between President Trump and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Ryan advises “these two gentlemen to sit down and just talk through their issues.”
But what are Corker’s “issues”? He has asserted that Trump requires constant handling to control his volatility: “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him.” Corker has accused Trump of lacking strategic thinking: “A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true.” Corker has called out Trump’s routine deceptions: “I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true.” Corker has talked of Trump’s vacuity: He acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”  [T]he real problem has always been Trump’s fundamental unfitness for high office. It is not Trump’s indiscipline and lack of leadership, which make carrying a legislative agenda forward nearly impossible. It is not his vulgarity and smallness, which have been the equivalent of spray-painting graffiti on the Washington Monument. It is not his nearly complete ignorance of policy and history, which condemns him to live in the eternal present of his own immediate desires.
Corker has given public permission to raise the most serious questions: Is Trump psychologically and morally equipped to be president? And could his unfitness cause permanent damage to the country?
It is no longer possible to safely ignore the leaked cries for help coming from within the administration. They reveal a president raging against enemies, obsessed by slights, deeply uninformed and incurious, unable to focus, and subject to destructive whims. A main task of the chief of staff seems to be to shield him from dinner guests and telephone calls that might set him off on a foolish or dangerous tangent. Much of the White House senior staff seems bound, not by loyalty to the president, but by a duty to protect the nation from the president. 
The security of our country — and potentially the lives of millions of people abroad — depends on Trump being someone else entirely. It depends on the president being some wise, strategic, restrained leader he has never been.
The time for whispered criticisms and quiet snickering is over. The time for panic and decision is upon us. The thin line of sane, responsible advisers at the White House — such as Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — could break at any moment. 
Any elected Republican who shares Corker’s concerns has a political and moral duty to state them in public. If Corker is correct, many of his colleagues do have such fears. Their silence is deafening and damning.

Wow!  And this was written by a Republican at the core of the George W. Bush White House. As noted, a column in the Times makes a similar argument from the other side of the aisle.  Here are highlights:
Don’t say that we weren’t warned.
In a September 2015 speech before the National Press Club in Washington, the Louisiana governor and Republican presidential candidate Bobby Jindal said:
“Donald Trump is dangerous. But not in the way you think. Many people think he’s dangerous. They say, ‘Well, you wouldn’t want somebody like that with such a hot head with his fingers on the nuclear codes.’ And yeah, that’s certainly true. That’s not the real danger. The real danger is that ironically Donald Trump could destroy America’s chance to be great again.”
During the second Republican presidential debate that same month, the CNN anchor Jake Tapper referred to Jindal’s concern about Trump and the nuclear codes, and asked Carly Fiorina, “Would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?”
Fiorina hemmed and hawed, deflected and redirected, doing anything not to say what everyone knew — that Trump with the nuclear codes was a horrible idea. Jeb Bush also cowered when the question was put to him. But Rand Paul was forthright and forceful, saying:
“I think really there’s a sophomoric quality that is entertaining about Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I’m very concerned about him, having him in charge of the nuclear weapons, because I think his response, his visceral response to attack people on their appearance — short, tall, fat, ugly — my goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?”
Hillary Clinton warned during the campaign, in a foreign policy speech in June 2016, “This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.”
In July 2016, Tony Schwartz, Trump’s ghostwriter for his best-selling memoir “The Art of the Deal,” revealed to The New Yorker, “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”
He continued, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
That same month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia warned at the Democratic National Convention about “giving the nuclear codes to a man who praises Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein.”
Trump continues his war of words and measuring of egos with Kim Jong-un of North Korea. While I still find the threat of a nuclear strike remote, it grows less and less remote with every passing day and every insult.
Kim Jong-un is irrational and unhinged, but so is Trump.
No matter whether I agreed with President Barack Obama’s policies or not, I never once worried that he might ignite a nuclear war. That assurance has now been removed. As my colleague Nicholas Kristof, who recently visited North Korea, said of the possibility of a war between our country and theirs, “War is preventable, but I’m not sure it will be prevented.”
This is what Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, meant when he talked to The New York Times last week. The Times reported that Corker charged that Trump was “treating his office like ‘a reality show,’ with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation ‘on the path to World War III.’ ”
Plenty of people tried to warn us about this moment, but not enough Americans took heed. To them, this was sky-is-falling hyperbole. The use of nuclear weapons was a thing of history and Hollywood.
But it is ever so clear that the threat is urgent and real and that the only thing standing between a nuclear strike and us is a set of short fingers that constantly type out Twitter insults. . . . If all this makes you uneasy, good. It should.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, October 12, 2017

More Thursday Male Beauty

Are Gay "Conservatives" Finally Realizing Trump Has Betrayed Them?

As a former Republican who witnessed first hand the beginning of the Christofascist takeover of the Republican Party base and closely followed the animus of Christofascist towards LGBT individuals, I long ago decided that being gay and being a Republican was somewhat akin to being a 1920's German Jew and belonging to the Nazi Party.  Sadly, a relatively small percentage of the LGBT community failed to accept that reality and supported Trump and the GOP in general.  Whether motivated by their greed and the allure of tax cuts, an inability to fully let go of homophobia that had internalized during their childhoods, or attracted by the racism that is a key component of today's GOP, these individuals backed a man and a party that are more or less their sworn enemies.  Now, as the Trump/Pence war against the LGBT community continues, some have seemingly pulled their heads out of their asses and are realizing that they betrayed not only themselves but the rest of the LGBT community.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this awakening that should have been obvious from the very beginning.  Here are article excerpts:
During his run for office, Donald Trump positioned himself as a champion of gay rights, someone who would bring the Republican Party into modernity on an increasingly settled civil rights cause. But well into his first year in the White House, those who hoped for the best have been disappointed and those who assumed the worst say their fears are realized.
The Trump administration’s record on LGBT issues has been defined by retrenchment, both sides concede. Many of the advances made under the Obama administration have disappeared, replaced by policies and directives that could have been written by an anachronistic social conservative instead of the cosmopolitan New York businessman occupying the Oval Office.
Among gay-rights advocates, few had higher hopes for this White House than Barron. He was largely responsible for arranging for Trump to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011—an event credited with helping bring the reality TV star into the GOP mainstream. And though the activist occasionally soured on Trump’s campaign, Barron also launched an LGBTers for Trump group and championed the argument that the Republican nominee would be inherently better for the community than Hillary Clinton. After the election, Barron wrote that Trump would be an ally, friend, and advocate.
Instead, Barron and others are alarmed at the direction the administration is taking. Trump is responsible for some of it, having signed a directive banning the recruitment of transgender troops. But much of it has originated from his agencies. The Justice Department has changed its position on whether sexual orientation is covered under the Civil Rights Act, withdrawn federal protections for transgender kids in schools, and said it will not prosecute organizations who cite religious objections when declining to serve gay customers.
Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly withdrew a 2014 rule that would have required longterm-care facilities to recognize same-sex marriages when deciding visitation rights and decision-making responsibilities (PDF). . . . .This week, the National Park Service abruptly decided to withdraw its sponsorship of New York’s pride flag, which had been dedicated at the iconic Stonewall National Monument.

“Trump’s supporters like to say, ‘It’s not what he says, it’s what he does that matters.’ That’s definitely the case when it comes to issues affecting LGBT Americans,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, who started the now-defunct conservative gay rights group GOProud along with Barron. “I never thought that Donald Trump was an anti-gay homophobe. I certainly didn’t think that when I met him back in 2011. But we’ve all learned a lot about who he really is since then. With his political pandering and posturing to endear himself to the intolerant wing of the GOP over the last few years, it doesn’t surprise me that this administration will go down as the most anti-LGBT in history.”
It was certainly not supposed to have played out this way. During the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump vowed that he “would do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of the hateful, foreign ideology [of Islamist terror].” When the conservative crowd applauded, he paused and added, “I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said, thank you.”
“He will be the most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever,” Gregory T. Angelo, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, insisted to The New York Times in April 2016.
Those who warned that Trump’s pro-gay rights rhetoric was just empty bluster are more heartsick than content when they say, “I told you so.”
“As the Russia investigation heats up and as his failures at basic governing pile up, I think gays will more and more become scapegoats. It’s a pretty old, standard playbook for political bullies,” said Richard Socarides, who served as White House special assistant and senior adviser to President Clinton. “Anyone who thought Trump would go easy on the gays was clearly wrong. The question now is not whether he will set us back, but how far.”
 esterday it was confirmed that Trump will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming "Value Voters Summit," a confab of many of the most strident gay-haters in America.  With his support shrinking, expect Trump to pile on more and more anti-gay attacks as he strives to keep evangelical Christian support.  I saw all of this coming and I have nothing but contempt for gays who are stupid enough - or perhaps bigoted enough - to have voted for Trump and who remain Republicans.  They are harming all of us. 

Under Trump/Pence, It’s Church Over State

The regime  of Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, and Mike Pence is relentlessly striving to place far right Christian beliefs above the laws that govern the rest of society.  Since last week, real or feigned extremist religious belief allow companies to role back contraception coverage in their employee health insurance plans and allows individuals to make a mockery of non-discrimination laws that bar discrimination based on religion or religious belief.  Yet, now, if one is LGBT and does not adhere to Christofascist dogma, you can be fired, denied service and refused accommodations and housing by the self-anointed "godly folk."  The irony on the war on contraception coverage is that it will increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and increase demand for abortions, something the same "godly Christians" to whom Trump and Pence are prostituting themselves also claim to abhor with even more fervor.  As numerous studies have shown, the USA has the highest unwanted pregnancy rate of any advanced industrial nation specifically because of the restrictions on access to contraception and the lunatic abstinence only sex education programs so loved by Christofascists.  Everyone who believes in religious freedom and equality under the laws should be concerned.  Today it's contraception and gays, but tomorrow it could be those who are Jewish, non-Christian who the Christofascists also dislike and hate. An op-ed in the New York Times attacks this exultation of one religion over the civil rights of citizens and the law.  Here are excerpts:
Saudi women are gaining the right to drive. American women are losing the right to employer-provided birth control.
The first development signifies a theocratic kingdom’s bow to the inexorable onslaught of modernity. The second is a cynical bow to the forces of reaction against modernity.
It would be too far a stretch to see in Saudi Arabia even the glimmer of the emergence of civil society. But it’s not much of a stretch to see in the rules issued by the Trump administration last week the fraying of civil society as the United States has known it. Ours is a diverse society in which all are expected, with limited and precisely defined exceptions, to abide by the rules that apply to all. The alternative, as Justice Antonin Scalia observed decades ago, “would be courting anarchy.”
The new rules, which went into immediate effect, create exceptions that are anything but limited. They are, in fact, there for the taking. Any “entities” that claim not only religious but also “moral” objections to birth control are entitled to refuse to comply with the federal contraception mandate that until last Friday was enabling 55 million women to receive birth control without charge as part of their work- or college-related health insurance coverage.
The list of religious objectors includes churches and religious orders (which from the beginning have been completely exempt from the mandate anyway); nonprofit organizations; a “closely held for-profit entity;” a “for-profit entity that is not closely held” (including publicly traded companies); and ”any other nongovernmental employer” along with institutions of higher education.
We are talking, in other words, about the American workplace.
It’s hard to overstate the radical nature of what has just happened. Just three years ago, in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Obama administration could not impose the mandate on a closely held for-profit business owned by a family with religious objections to birth control.
Now the Trump administration has played the Supreme Court justices for chumps. The accommodation, carefully worked out and fought over, is a thing of the past. In its place is a flat-out exemption, with no requirement that women be offered any alternative route to coverage.
The administration says the average price of a year’s birth control is $584. That’s probably low . . .  but that’s not really the point. Others have called attention to the administration’s truly astonishing effort to show that birth control really isn’t all that important and may even be counterproductive. Statements like the one on page 46 of the religious exemption document, “Contraception’s association with positive health effects might also be partially offset by an association with negative health effects,” are hogwash, the result of careful cherry-picking of the literature, some of it quite dubious.
The real point is that the Trump administration has outsourced a crucially important building block of national health care policy, enabling a fanatical fringe of the Republican base to exercise raw political power, clothed in religiosity under cover of the grandiloquently named Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That 1993 law, passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and signed by President Bill Clinton, is the object of growing buyer’s remorse on the part of liberal and moderate Americans — and should be.
The Obama administration did as the Supreme Court said and offered the accommodation as Justice Alito described it. But a group of religiously affiliated nonprofits, mainly but not exclusively Catholic-run schools, colleges, nursing homes and other social service organizations, refused to accept it. Not good enough, they said, claiming that they would still be complicit in the sin of contraception, even if the employees’ receipt of the benefit required no action on the employer’s part beyond notifying the government that it was opting out. Only the complete exemption offered to actual churches would suffice.
Extending the rescission to employers with “moral” objections has no statutory basis. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act at least requires a claim that has something to do, however implausibly, with religion.
Conservatives, even the publicly pious ones, don’t seem to have a problem with limiting the size of their families. (Vice President Mike Pence has two children, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has three. Need I say more?) The problem they have is with what birth control signifies: empowering women — in school, on the job, in the home — to determine their life course. That’s what they don’t want to normalize. It comes as no surprise which side Donald Trump is on. . . 

Women in Virginia should be very worried.  Republican attorney general candidate John Adams is a religious freedom fanatic and a darling of Christofascists.  If elected, he would champion special rights for Christian extremists over the rights of all others.  Get out and vote for Mark Herring for attorney general, Ralph Northam for Governor, and Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor.  The extreme Trump/Pence must be stopped. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

White House Advisers Fear Trump is "Unraveling”

Reports continue to mushroom that there are concerns among White House advisers that Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, is "unraveling."  Perhaps that is a nice way of saying the Trump is mentally unstable.  The take away for American citizens - and actually, the world at large - is that we are perhaps looking at Trump becoming a clear and present danger to America, placing all of us at risk of nuclear war or other unthinkable horrors.  Frighteningly, all that Mike Pence seems focused on is engaging in stunts striving to fan animosity towards black NFL players who have the audacity to draw attention to racial injustice.  On the positive side, Chief of Staff Mike Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis seem to understand the risk at hand and are doing their best to protect the nation and its citizens from Trump's potential insanity.  Yet even these two officials can be fired by the unstable Trump.  A piece in Vanity Fair looks at the situation that ought to absolutely terrify all but Trump's most loyal supporters (i.e., the religious extremists and racists and homophobes of the GOP base).  Here are article highlights:
At first it sounded like hyperbole, the escalation of a Twitter war. But now it’s clear that Bob Corker’s remarkable New York Times interview—in which the Republican senator described the White House as “adult day care” and warned Trump could start World War III—was an inflection point in the Trump presidency. It brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”
The conversation among some of the president’s longtime confidantes, along with the character of some of the leaks emerging from the White House has shifted. There’s a new level of concern. NBC News published a report that Trump shocked his national security team when he called for a nearly tenfold increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal during a briefing this summer. One Trump adviser confirmed to me it was after this meeting disbanded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron.”
In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.
According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, “I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!” (A White House official denies this.) Two senior Republican officials said Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.
One former official even speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike. “Would they tackle him?” the person said. Even Trump’s most loyal backers are sowing public doubts. This morning, The Washington Post quoted longtime Trump friend Tom Barrack saying he has been “shocked” and “stunned” by Trump’s behavior.
While Kelly can’t control Trump’s tweets, he is doing his best to physically sequester the president—much to Trump’s frustration. One major G.O.P. donor told me access to Trump has been cut off, and his outside calls to the White House switchboard aren’t put through to the Oval Office. Earlier this week, I reported on Kelly’s plans to prevent Trump from mingling with guests at Mar-a-Lago later this month. And, according to two sources, Keith Schiller quit last month after Kelly told Schiller he needed permission to speak to the president and wanted written reports of their conversations.
West Wing aides have also worried about Trump’s public appearances, one Trump adviser told me. The adviser said aides were relieved when Trump declined to agree to appear on the season premiere of 60 Minutes last month. “He’s lost a step. They don’t want him doing adversarial TV interviews,” the adviser explained.
Even before Corker’s remarks, some West Wing advisers were worried that Trump’s behavior could cause the Cabinet to take extraordinary Constitutional measures to remove him from office. Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment—the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, “What’s that?” According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.

As noted many times before, I have long thought that Trump is not mentally stable.  I can only hope that those who matter are belatedly waking up to this reality.  Hopefully, they will soon act to remove Trump from office.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Reflections on National "Coming Out" Day 2017 - Why It Still Matters

It has been 16 years since I commenced my "coming out journey when I first began to reveal to family and friends that I was gay after many years of internal strife and immeasurable amounts of self-hatred engendered by my Catholic upbringing.  Since that time, I typically reflect on the state of my own life and other members of the LGBT community on October 11th, National Coming Out Day.  Past illustrative blog posts can be found here and here. For those unfamiliar with the term, National Coming Out Day was first observed in 1988 as a form of activism to fight against homophobia and anti-LGBT discrimination.  It can be described as follows according to Wikipedia:
[A]n annual LGBTQ awareness day observed on October 11 and October 12 in some parts of the world.  Founded in the United States in 1988, the initial idea was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political, and the emphasis on the most basic form of activism being coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian or gay person. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views. 

Some now argue that the observance is no longer needed given the advances in LGBT rights.  In fact a thirty something college professor at a liberal university makes such and argument in a column in the Washington Post today.  I respectfully beg to differ.  Strenuously, despite the seeming good intentions of the author.   The reality is that today the LGBT community finds itself under unrelenting attack.  Last Friday a law became effective in Mississippi that makes anti-LGBT discrimination legal and gays can be turned away for business, hotels and public accommodations, and, of course fired from their jobs.  At the national level, the Trump/Pence regime has declared war on the LGBT community and is both rolling back legal protections and under the ruse of "protecting religious liberty" granting Christian extremists a license to discriminate akin to what is now fully legal under Mississippi's foul law.  Here in Virginia, we are faced with a Republican statewide ticket that, if elected, would bring such anti-LGBT discrimination to the fore in Virginia (GOP attorney general candidate John Adams would work to rescind same sex marriage rights).

While LGBT citizens may lead much safer lives in liberal states, large cities and university towns than was the case in 1988, things are still frightening in much of so-called fly over country and even in places like Southwest Virginia.  

As one of the linked posts notes, my coming out saga when I came to realize that I just could not continue to live my life as an actor on a stage if you will, pretending to be something that I was not through no choice of my own. I had to either to do something about my situation and “come out” or kill myself. I chose the former, unwittingly almost on National Coming Out Day.  Along the way, I did end up having two serious suicide attempts motivated by my desperation to escape some of the bigotry LGBT individuals face, including being fired from my law firm and the ruinous financial nightmare that was triggered.

I survived, but sadly, many LGBT individuals succeed in taking their lives on a near daily basis.  Often, they are only in their teens and see suicide is the only way to escape relentless bullying. It saddens me greatly to know that a number of gay teens will never know the freedom I have eventually found because they chose to end their lives.  They simply saw no other option thanks to the bigotry that still thrives in "red America." 
Just as disturbing is the reality that studies indicate that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, perhaps the majority having been thrown out of their homes by their "god fearing" parents.  And yes, LGBT individuals continue to be fired from their jobs due to their sexuality or gender identity - I routinely get calls form those who have been fired.  All of this remains perfectly legal in Virginia and 28 other states.  Until these situations change and the laws change to provide full equal protection for every LGBT American, National Coming Out Day is still sorely needed.

On a personal note, I am largely at the place I imagined and envisioned in my mind's eye that I wanted to achieve when I started my coming out journey. I am married to wonderful guy who truly loves me, I now work at a law firm where my sexual orientation is not an issue - my burgeoning Hindu client base only care about me taking care of their legal needs and some have LGBT family members - and my husband and I are active activists in the LGBT community (see the photo above).  In short, I am  "totally out" and no longer feel the need to hide or apologize to anyone. It can "get better" and through National Coming Day we need to continue to make sure it gets better for every LGBT individual.   There is still so much work to be done.  There are literally lives to be saved.

Is the stage Being Set To Invoke the 25th Amendment?

White House allies reported are concerned that Trump is "unstable"

A piece in the Washington Post authored Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker had a number of pundits speculating whether or not part of the game plan of GOP Senator Bob Corker - and perhaps even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson - was to help set the stage for the presidential cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and either remove Der  Trumpenführer or to pressure him into resigning.  While I do not relish the thought of a religious extremists like Mike Pence holding the office of the presidency, on the other hand, Pence is not a complete madman like Trump. Then, of course, there is always the hope that special prosecutor Robert Mueller will ensnare Pence in the Russiagate investigation.  But getting back to Der  Trumpenführer, anyone sane and with any analytical ability should have known long before November 8, 2016, that Trump was not right mentally.  Many have seemingly correctly called him a malignant narcissist and the months since he moved into the White House appear to have only confirmed his unfitness for office (and I mean any office). Now, perhaps some are looking past their own racism and xenophobia which Trump pandered to shameless may be opening their eyes.  More importantly, if we are lucky, Congressional Republicans, especially those in the Senate are belatedly realizing that Trump needs to go whether voluntarily or by forced removal under the 25th Amendment if articles of impeachment cannot clear the much more rabidly insane Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.  Here are excerpts on the out of control situation in the White House:
Frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes, President Trump is now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda, numerous White House officials and outside advisers said Monday.
In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem.
n doing so, Trump is laboring to solidify his standing with his populist base and return to the comforts of his campaign — especially after the embarrassing defeat of Sen. Luther Strange in last month’s Alabama GOP special election, despite the president’s trip there to campaign with the senator.
Sen. Bob Corker’s brutal assessment of Trump’s fitness for office — warning that the president’s reckless behavior could launch the nation “on the path to World War III” — also hit like a thunderclap inside the White House, where aides feared possible ripple effects among other Republicans on Capitol Hill. . . . few GOP leaders came to the president’s defense Monday — though few sided openly with Corker, either. The most vocal Trump defender was the one under the president’s direction, Vice President Pence.
Trump in recent days has shown flashes of fury and left his aides, including White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, scrambling to manage his outbursts.
One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. “I think we are in pressure cooker territory,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.
This portrait of the president increasingly isolated in the capital city is based on interviews with 18 White House officials, outside advisers and other Trump associates.

But Pence’s words did little to reassure some Trump allies, who fear that the president’s feud with Corker could cause more trouble for the administration and further unravel threadbare relationships on Capitol Hill. . . . . One Trump loyalist — noting that Corker has many more friends in the Senate than Trump does — said the rift could dash chances for a tax law overhaul or other meaningful legislation. “His presidency could be doomed,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to alienate the president or his staff.
Trump is facing political head winds, including from his base. The Alabama Senate primary last month, in which a far-right challenger defeated a more establishment Republican whom the president had endorsed, served as a warning flare for Trump’s team, highlighting the risk he could run if he alienates the core supporters who helped lift him to electoral victory.
“Donald Trump got elected with minority support from the American electorate, and most of his efforts thus far are focused on energizing and solidifying the 40 percent of Americans who were with him, primarily by attacking the 60 percent who were not,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres said. “That is great for his supporters, but it makes it very difficult to accomplish anything in a democracy.”
Trump’s political calculus is complicated by Bannon’s return to his previous role at the helm of Breitbart. Now working to forward a nationalist agenda from outside the confines of the administration, Bannon has vowed war against any Republican lawmakers he believes are insufficiently conservative . . .
Even the Trump family has become a flash point. On Monday, the president’s first and third wives — Ivana and Melania, respectively — engaged in a public spat.
Yet another column in the Post also notes Trump's temper tantrums and seeming mental instability.  Here are excerpts:
The past week definitively revealed the mirage of a maturing president. The first thing that set off the president was the spectacle of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson trying to swat down well-sourced stories that he had called Trump a “f***ing moron.” Alas, Dexter Filkins’s New Yorker profile of Tillersonjust made both the secretary of state and the president look worse.
Then this weekend the floodgates opened after the president went after Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Twitter. Which led to this: It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning. The aftershocks of Corker’s claim about the vast majority of other Republicans feeling the way he did probably will be felt for as long as reporters can ask other members of Congress. But it also triggered a raft of stories about how other key political actors have had a similar reaction to the president.
After nearly nine months of the Trump administration, many of America’s closest allies have concluded that a hoped-for “learning curve” they thought would make President Trump a reliable partner is not going to happen.
“The idea that he would inform himself, and things would change, that is no longer operative,” said a top diplomat here.
And then there’s Trump’s White House staff, as Politico’s Josh Dawsey reports:
Interviews with ten current and former administration officials, advisers, longtime business associates and others close to Trump describe a process where they try to install guardrails for a president who goes on gut feeling – and many days are spent managing the president, just as Corker said.
“You either had to just convince him something better was his idea or ignore what he said to do and hoped he forgot about it the next day,” said Barbara Res, a former executive in the Trump Organization. . . . . Then, staffers would step in to avert a rash decision by calming him down.
Let me stress that each of the excerpted stories above broke in the past 48 hours. The pace is quickening.
What’s next? Ordinary toddlers eventually tire out after throwing a tantrum. But this is when the analogy breaks down. Full disclosure: Trump is not really a toddler, but an overindulged plutocrat who has never had to cope with political failure. With each negative shock or story he faces, his behavior worsens, and that just leads to a new cycle of negative press and disaffected GOP officials. The political effects of this is to weaken his historically weak presidency, making it harder for him to do anything that would counteract this trend. This doom loop means that his behavior is only going to get worse.
That is great for my Twitter thread. It is awful for America.