Saturday, November 11, 2017

Roy Moore: A Symptom of a Larger Problem in Evangelical Circles

Moore last month at the Ultra-right "Christian" so-called Value Voters Summit 
Beginning several decades ago, the leadership of the Republican Party made the cynical decision to welcome Christofascists and evangelical Christians into the party grass roots.  Initially, the thought was that these unwashed, ignorance embracing voters and activists could be controlled bu the so-called GOP establishment.  The leadership could not have been more wrong and now the GOP has morphed into a party dominated by (i) Christian extremists who reject science, knowledge and anything else that challenges their unhinged version of Christianity and (ii) white supremacists, many of whom also fall under the evangelical Christian label.  I exited the GOP long before the second element of the new party base became overt.  With the growing equating of the GOP with evangelical Christians, the GOP finds itself tied to morality issues tied to the evangelicals, including a preference for "young marriage" wherein older men marry girls still in their teens.  The practice ties in with the evangelical belief that women are meant to be subservient to men and also allows such men to train young, unworldly and inexperience girls to their will.   A piece in the Los Angeles Times by a woman who escaped evangelical Christianity looks at this disturbing practice which the growing accusations against Roy Moore illustrate.  Here are column excerpts:
We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose: He pursued a 14-year-old-girl without first getting her parents’ permission, and he initiated sexual contact outside of marriage. That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon. I use the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men,” rather than “adult men courting 14-year-old girls,” for a reason: Evangelicals routinely frame these relationships in those terms. One popular courtship story that was told and retold in home-school circles during the 1990s was that of Matthew and Maranatha Chapman, who turned their history into a successful career promoting young marriage. Most audiences, however, didn’t realize just how young the Chapmans had in mind until the site Homeschoolers Anonymous and the blogger Libby Anne revealed that Matthew was 27 and Maranatha was 15 when they married. Libby Anne also drew mainstream attention to Matthew Chapman’s writings, in which he argued that parents should consider marriage for their daughters in their “middle-teens.” At that point the Chapmans stopped receiving quite so many speaking invitations. “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson advocated for adult men to marry 15- and 16-year-old girls and deemed age 20 too old because “you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket.” Home-school leader Kevin Swanson, whose 2015 convention was attended by several Republican presidential candidates, defended Robertson on his radio show after the story broke. Advocating for child marriage hasn’t slowed down Robertson’s career. As a teenager, I attended a lecture on courtship by a home-school speaker who was popular at the time. He praised the idea of “early courtship” so the girl could be molded into the best possible helpmeet for her future husband. The girl’s father was expected to direct her education after the courtship began so she could help her future husband in his work.
In retrospect, I understand what the speaker was really describing: Adult men selecting and grooming girls who were too young to have life experience. Another word for that is “predation.”
Much of the sexual abuse that takes place in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, or IFB, churches involves adult men targeting 14- to 16-year-old girls. If caught, the teenage victim may be forced to repent the “sin” of having seduced an adult man. . . . . In the wake of the Schaap case, numerous other stories emerged of sexual abuse cover-ups involving teenage girls at IFB churches. In another high-profile case, pregnant 15-year-old Tina Anderson, who was raped by a church deacon twice her age, was forced to confess her “sin” to the congregation. Growing up, I witnessed an influential religious right leader flirting with some of my teenage friends and receiving neck and shoulder massages from one of them. I’ve been expecting a scandal to break with him for years, but in the meantime, this man has put significant time into campaigning for anti-trans bathroom bills while deeming trans people “predators.”
The allegations against Roy Moore are merely a symptom of a larger problem. It’s not a Southern problem or an Alabama problem. It’s a Christian fundamentalist problem.
The evangelical world is overdue for a reckoning. Women raised in evangelicalism and fundamentalism have for years discussed the normalization of child sexual abuse. We’ve told our stories on social media and on our blogs and various online platforms, but until the Roy Moore story broke, mainstream American society barely paid attention. Everyone assumed this was an isolated, fringe issue. It isn’t.

The hate, lunacy and sexual hypocrisy of evangelical Christians needs to be exposed.  But do not expect the Republican Party to do the right thing and reject individuals like Roy Moore and his evangelical supporters. As a piece in CBC News notes, the GOP has put itself in an impossible situation which, long term, bodes ill for the future of the GOP.  Here are a few highlights:
"Forget losing this seat, which is the short-term problem," says Real Clear Politics Senior Elections Analyst Sean Trende. "Given the long-term problems the GOP face, this is exactly the story they don't need." The "long-term problem" Trende has in mind was evident Tuesday, when Republican Ed Gillespie lost among voters under age 45 by more than 20 points.
Older, white voters — particularly white men — are supporting the GOP in record numbers. But their percentage of the voting-age population is shrinking.  Republicans can't win without them, but they can't win with just those voters, either. Candidates like Roy Moore who literally wave guns at their campaign rallies and rail against same-sex marriage are sending a message to these voters that he's on their side. But it's not a message resonating with the next generation.
To win today, the GOP needs the populist/Trump wing of the party energized. But the outcome in the Virginia elections showed those voters alone aren't enough. Virginia's Ed Gillespie actually outperformed Trump among white, blue-collar voters, but still lost badly. The GOP needs to attract a more diverse pool of voters.
So Republicans talk about how the charges -- "if proven" -- are so awful that Moore should withdraw from the race, while knowing that proving charges like these from 40 years ago is nearly impossible. 
It may well just be politics, but it's getting the GOP no closer to solving the problem embodied by Moore -- that dumping him alienates the base they need today. Keeping him alienates the voters they need tomorrow.

The GOP/Christofascist Double Standard on Roy Moore

Moore with Christofascist, Mat Staver
As regular readers know, I view both today's Republican Party and its Christofascist base to be irredeemably morally bankrupt.  Lying is the new norm combined with hypocrisy that knows no limits. I'm not saying that progressives and Democrats are angels, but in the grand scheme of things "conservatives" have become the champions of misogyny who apply one standard to themselves - one where anything goes and no lie is too disgusting - and a totally different one to their political opponents or simply those who demand moral decency in political candidates.  The roiling Roy Moore sex scandal personifies this double standard (have you noticed that it seems 9 out of 10 times it is the Republicans/right wing pastors caught up in sex scandals?).  A column in the Washington Post looks at this reality.  Here are excerpts:
Trump’s conveniently flexible standard on accusations — and he is not alone — boils down to: If the accuser points a finger at a Democrat — Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinsteinher word is to be trusted, automatically. If she complains about a Republican, Trump’s otherwise dormant devotion to due process kicks in. How can claims from “many years ago” be allowed to “destroy a person’s life”? Some answers: Because they are entirely credible. Because the girl, now a woman, has no conceivable ax to grind — she is a longtime Republican, a Trump voter even — and nothing to gain from coming forward. Because three other women related similar, although less disturbing stories, underscoring Moore’s interest in younger girls.
Because the presumption of innocence, while essential in the legal realm, does not mean the elimination of common sense outside it. (Thank you, Mitt Romney, for saying that.) The willing suspension of disbelief has its limits, or should.
Unless, that is, you are a politician dealing with a story you wish would go away. Then you turn instinctively to if-then-ism. “If these allegations are true . . .” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), leading — or not — his prove-it caucus. Disappointingly, among them were women senators who ought to know better. “
The correct response came from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who — without hedging — termed the allegations “deeply disturbing and disqualifying” and called on Moore to withdraw. It is better, sure, than the jaw-dropping alternative: so-what-ism, remarkably flagrant among Alabamians in response to the Moore report. “Much ado about nothing,” State Auditor Jim Zeigler told the Washington Examiner. Joseph did it with Mary, he observed. Except, um, minor theological point here — did he? 32-year-old Moore could put a 14-year-old girl’s hand on his erect penis and touch her over her bra and underpants. Trump could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue. It would not deter their supporters. Okay, at least we know where you’re coming from. Your moral parameters are clear in their absence. One last strategy — blame the messenger — has come into play here, deployed by Moore and supporters such as former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon. “The Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped that dime on Donald Trump is the same Bezos Amazon Washington Post that dropped the dime this afternoon on Judge Roy Moore,” Bannon said, referring to Post owner and Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos and the “Access Hollywood” tape. “Now is that a coincidence?”
No, it’s not. Good reporting breeds good reporting. . . . Blaming the messenger is always easier than hearing an unwelcome message. It does not make that message any less true.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Andrew Sullivan: Hope Arrives in Virginia

A letter to the editor in the Washington Post and Andrew Sullivan's weekly piece in New York Magazine largely sum up my feelings in the aftermath of the Democrat wave last Tuesday.  My only beef is that I believe that Sullivan vastly under estimates Ralph Northam.  Perhaps I am biased since I have known Northam since he first ran for the Virginia Senate and deem him to be the real deal and someone that can be believed in.  He not only inspires hope, but he is genuine.  We talked not only in campaign settings but in his office in Richmond as my husband cut his hair and even in the husband's salon late one evening when Ralph was having his hair cut before a campaign ad filming the next morning.   Add to this numerous social events not to mention his original announcement of his decision to run for governor two years ago at the home of friends in Norfolk. I have not felt this strongly about a politician since Obama's first run in 2008.  Hopefully over the next four years the country will get to know Ralph Northam and realize that he is the antithesis of Trump and today's toxic Republican Party.  First the letter to the editor from a man in Springfield, Virginia:
That sound that you heard Tuesday was the voice of the people of Virginia rejecting the politics of hate and division. It was a resounding slap in the face of intolerance and authoritarianism. It was the sound of people waking from a year-long nightmare and deciding that enough was enough. Man it felt good!

As for Sullivan, who I met years back at an Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond, he, like so many of us, has been suffering from a near depression with Der Trumpenführer and his gang of thugs in office.  In the wake of the Virginia election results, I have had friends and family from around the country send thank yous to Virginia for giving them a ray of hope. Here are excerpts from Sullivan's piece:
I was wrong! Thank God Almighty, I was wrong!
You probably felt the same thing I did last Tuesday night: a euphoric whiplash as deepening dread turned suddenly into a wave of intense relief in the off-year results from Virginia. I’m still riding it. I hope you are too. Almost every surprise since last November has been a soul-crushing one. I feared yet another one. But Tuesday night’s string of decisive victories by Democrats dispelled the gloom and was the first time since Trump’s election that hope appeared a little more realistic than despair. So let’s take a moment to soak it in.
But I do owe you an account of why and how I misjudged this one, and failed to see the glimmer of dawn on the horizon. I didn’t predict anything. But I feared Northam might fall short — and what that would portend. I’ll stick by much of my analysis. I don’t think anyone suddenly believes that Ralph Northam, now governor-elect of Virginia, ran a great campaign. He didn’t. Nor is anyone reevaluating him as a charismatic, inspirational figure. He is who he is — a regular, normal candidate, with a mushy message. The good news is that he won convincingly anyway.
I was right but also wrong. The exit polls do indeed show an even deeper tribalism than 2016. Rural Republican districts became more solidly Republican, and Democratic urban and suburban districts more reliably Democratic. The margins of victory increased in both Republican and Democratic regions. The cultural issues absolutely had an impact — by polarizing the state still further. Where I was wrong was on turnout. The extraordinary Republican vote in rural areas in 2016 just couldn’t replicate itself a year later, while the Democratic base was on fire. Trump woke up the GOP base in 2016; but he has roused the Democratic base just as powerfully in 2017. [A] big part was turnout. There was a huge Democratic surge, particularly in North Virginia, where the voter margins for the Democrats soared over 2013.
Another huge factor: a big jump in the youth vote. The under-30s turnout in the Virginia governor’s race in 2009 was 17 percent; in 2013, it was 24 percent; this week it was 34 percent. And as young turnout surged, it became progressively more Democratic. In 2013, the under-30s split 45–40 percent for the Democrats; in 2016, in the presidential race, it was 54–36; last week it was 69–30. The third-party vote among the young also collapsed: from 15 percent in 2013 to one percent last Tuesday. I draw a couple of inferences from this: Trump’s extraordinary success among older voters in 2016 has produced a backlash among younger voters in 2017, who are far less complacent than they were last year and ever-more repulsed by Trump’s racist reactionism. And the younger generation has learned one thing from 2016: Voting for your ideal candidate is less important than voting for the candidate that can effectively halt the advance of the far right. Better late than never, I suppose — and Charlottesville may have helped concentrate their minds.
I lost sight of something pretty basic and unique to the U.S. Trump and the GOP are now deeply identified with throwing millions of people off health insurance; this issue was the main one in the Congress this past year; and this direct threat to the welfare of millions was easily the most important issue in the eyes of Virginia voters. Obamacare, in other words, is now a real asset for the Dems, and an anchor sinking the GOP. The record surge in new enrollments and the vote for Medicaid expansion in Maine confirm the popularity of the law and its central place in voters’ minds.
More to the point, if the Democrats focus on health care next year, and make it the center of their campaign, they can appeal to both moderates and lefties at once, without opening up Democratic divides on race, gender, and culture more generally. If the GOP passes a massive and deeply unpopular tax cut for the super-rich, this advantage will intensify.
Just one big caveat: We still have an emergency in the White House. We have a deranged president, with no understanding of the Constitution, prepared to do anything to save himself. The more he feels cornered, the more intense will be his venting and acting out. He’s currently fomenting a new war in the Middle East, at the behest of the Israelis and the Saudis. He can play the race card ever more dangerously every day. He can still provoke a constitutional crisis — and almost certainly will, when Mueller finally reports. The danger at the top remains, in other words, and may even get worse.
The power of the red minority does not look as if it’s waning; it’s just being more successfully countered. It’s still dangerous and potent, just currently on its heels.
In other words, relief is fully justified. Complacency isn’t.
Here in Virginia, I doubt that those who oppose the Trump/GOP nightmare.  Indeed, we are already focusing on voting Republican members of Congress out of office to continue the offensive to take back Virginia.  Virginia was a leader in the founding of this nation.  Now, some talk of it leading a new revolution to take back the soul of America.  Hopefully, others in states across America will be equally motivated.  

How Robert Mueller Is Working the Russiagate Case

With the media currently focused on the Roy Moore scandal - Donald Trump is likely thanking his lucky stars for the media distraction - the Russiagate investigations continue to grind along. A piece in Time by a former FBI veteran who worked under Robert Mueller looks at how Mueller is working the his investigation and how this as time passes, Mueller will likely tighten the screws and push some of the "low hanging fruit" of the Trump/Pence campaign/administration will likely begin to  turn on Trump - and hopefully Pence as well - in order to save themselves and/or negotiate lesser sentences for themselves.  The approach outlined makes complete sense and factors in human nature: if it becomes a choice of throwing Trump under the bus or going down themselves, almost everyone at some point will put themselves first.  He aptly points out that Paul Manafort will not allow himself to spend 25 years (basically the rest of his life) in prison.  Others will likewise put their interests ahead of Trump/Pence.   Here are article excerpts: 
I worked for Bob Mueller for 12 years while he was the FBI director, running counterintelligence, espionage and cybercrime investigations. What I saw recently was a classic law-enforcement response to a suspected Russian intelligence or political-influence operation. And it was classic Bob Mueller. Already, he appears to have uncovered details of a far-reaching Russian political-influence campaign.

Russian spy services use two main methods to run agents. Either they recruit people as traditional assets, where the targets know they’re working for a foreign government. Or they use unwitting agents—people targeted to exploit not just what they know, but who they know. That’s what seems to have happened here. Russian intelligence services have run political-influence operations since the beginning of time, and if you put a seasoned intelligence officer in front of a traditional, unsuspecting businessman, there’s just no match.

The Russian goal appears to have been to use members of the Trump campaign to get at the ultimate target: Donald Trump himself. If I want to spy on Trump, I don’t need or necessarily want to get directly in front of him; I will use sources, or I will use an intermediary known as a cutout. The Russian intelligence services will then dangle something the cutout wants, whether it’s sex, money, drugs or information. In this case, it was Hillary Clinton’s emails.

To uncover just how far the Russian operation got, Mueller will focus his team. He’ll go after the lower-level or lower-ranking guys like George Papadopoulos. He’ll also use the strategy of following the money. In the next weeks and months, you’ll see more indictments. You’re going to see wire fraud. You’re going to see mail fraud. You’re going to see violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. You’re also going to see other charges. Moving money around countries to avoid taxes and criminal prosecution are the kinds of violations we saw continuously while I was working counterintelligence and espionage investigations.

A lot of those crimes carry 20-year prison sentences or more for a single violation. Which is why so many people are going to flip and roll over and testify for Mueller. Hard-core criminals aren’t going to talk. You can tell them you’re going to put them in jail for 100 years, but they don’t care. Professional, hard-core spies are not going to talk, because the foreign country they work for is going to retaliate or potentially kill family members left behind in their country.

But when you talk about people who are used to spending nearly $1 million in three years on business suits out of a place in Cyprus, those guys are not going to do 25 years in jail. It doesn’t matter who they are going to roll over on, there’s no way Manafort is going to do 25 years in jail if he can avoid it. He can’t last.

And when the people who may be cooperating with the investigation start consensually recording conversations, it’s all over.

That’s why Bob Mueller’s going about this in the way that he is. He knows these guys are not seasoned criminals. And he knows they’re going to roll over on each other. Mark my words, it will start becoming a race to the special counsel’s office.
 I hope the auther proves to be correct.  As wonderful as it will be to see Trump go down - Pence too if the nation is lucky - it will be equally sweet to see at least some of Trump's supporters forced to realize that they voted for a traitor. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, November 10, 2017

More Friday Male Beauty

Continued GOP Insanity: 82% of Trump Voters Still Support Him

Tuesday's fiasco at the polls for Republicans across the country, not just in Virginia, has caused some in the Republican Party to start having a debate that, in my view, should have begun 20 years ago, and which is all the more need with the toxic regime of Der Trumpenführer damaging the national fabric daily.  Yet a new poll indicated that 82% of Trump voters would vote for the man again despite the fact that he has passed none of the legislation he had promised and is sharply diminishing America's stature in the world.  As a post the other day indicated, the main motivation for these Trump supporters is their animus towards others - blacks, Hispanics, gays, non-Christians, etc., etc. Perhaps the only positive news is that, if one does the math, only 58% of registered voters voted in 2016 and Trump got roughly 47% of that vote which equates to 27.26% of voters.  Thus, more than 70% of Americans did NOT vote for the hate, bigotry and misogyny embodied by Trump.  A piece in Politico looks at these Trump supporters versus sane voters while another piece in Bearing Drift looks at  the mindset of "NeverTrump" Republicans who realize the GOP must change or begin what hopefully will be a precipitous road towards death.  First, highlights from Politico:
One year after the 2016 presidential election, the vast majority of Donald Trump voters have no regrets.
According to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted on the eve of the first anniversary of Trump's historic election, 82 percent of those who say they supported Trump last year would vote for him again if they had to do it over.
Trump’s supporters have largely rallied around the president, despite his poor overall approval ratings, the chaos of his first year in office and the ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
But there are worrying signs for Trump that voters are less inclined to give him a second term three years from now if he decides to run for reelection.
Those red flags go beyond the natural, downward trajectory of most new presidents. Like Trump, Barack Obama and George W. Bush saw their parties lose governorships in both New Jersey and Virginia the year after their first elections as president. But both Obama and Bush had job-approval ratings over 50 percent at this point.
Roughly twice as many Trump voters (16 percent) are undecided about whom they would support in 2020 as Clinton voters (7 percent), suggesting Trump's support is softer than it appears on the surface.
Similarly, 84 percent of Democratic voters would choose the Democratic candidate, but just 74 percent of GOP voters would back Trump, the poll shows. Nine percent of Democrats are undecided, compared with 17 percent of Republicans.
[A] CNN poll conducted by the firm SSRS, a remarkable 62 percent of registered voters said Trump does not deserve to be reelected in 2020. Only 35 percent of voters said he deserves reelection.
 In another ominous finding from the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, voters have questions about whether Trump will even complete his term in office. The Constitution sets the president's term into January 2021, but only a narrow majority of voters, 52 percent, think it’s likely that Trump completes his four-year term as president — 37 percent believe it’s more likely he will leave office early.
 The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll finds voters are split on whether they are better off financially now than they were a year ago when Trump was first elected. Just over a quarter, 26 percent, say they are better off now, but 28 percent say they are worse off. A 41 percent plurality say their financial situation is about the same as it was a year ago. . . . . The problem, again, for Trump: Just 23 percent of voters strongly approve of his job performance.
In the end, it is worth remembering that only because of the flawed Electoral College system that failed to protect America from an unfit president as contemplated by the Founding Fathers do we have  Der Trumpenführer in the White House.   The piece noted above in Bearing Drift suggests that more and more Republicans realize that Trump could be the death of the GOP brand.  Here are excerpts (the bold face is the author's):
We’re a few days removed from the recent unpleasantness, and we’re starting to see some narratives come together about what happened and why.
 Here is why this narrative from the President and Corey Stewart is weak bullshit:The idea that Gillespie didn’t embrace Trump enough and the result was Trump supporters stayed home is wrong.  What happened was Ed Gillespie broke the record for GOP turnout in a Governor’s race – his nearly 1.2 million votes in the election was more than any GOP governor candidate in history.  In fact, it was more than any successful gubernatorial candidate in Virginia history…other than Ralph Northam. 
Northam’s 1.4 million votes was unprecedented.  No statewide candidate in the history of Virginia has ever gotten that many votes in a non-presidential election.
 The Democrats deserve the credit they’ve earned – they finally cracked the code on how to beat the normal off-year election ennui that tends to infect their party.  All it takes is the most hated sitting president since Richard Nixon, coupled with a white supremacist murdering an innocent woman on hallowed Virginia ground in Charlottesville.
 When it comes down to it, many Republicans hate the Republican Party right now – either because they don’t like Trump or they don’t like the establishment, or they don’t like that we control everything in Washington and nothing is getting done.  That translates into people either leaving the party, or independents who tend to vote Republican not doing so to “send a message”.  You also have the fact that the entire Democratic party, from the middle to the far left, hates Trump so much they will crawl over broken glass to give him the finger, and if they can’t do that, they’ll give it to you and tell you to send him the message.
 Trump cost Republicans the large majority they’ve enjoyed in the House of Delegates for nearly a generation.  Candidates from across the entire political spectrum on the GOP side, from moderates to super conservatives, lost.
 [Y]ou can expect that any Republican held districts where Hillary outperformed Trump in 2016 are going to flip, if they haven’t already done so.  Statewide, it’s going to be extremely difficult for Republicans to win so long as Trump is as unpopular as he is.
 As for next year’s Senate race, if Corey Stewart wants it, I say let him have it.  Watching him get destroyed by the Democrats’ Pretty Hate Machine – which he helped build, thanks to his Confederate statues idiocy – will be almost as much fun to watch as Bob Marshall losing to a transgender woman.
What is most delicious is that the author is a former Northern Virginia GOP chairman.  Oh, and on those coming to Roy Moore's defense, the author tweeted this:
For those GOPers making those arguments, please look in a mirror and ask yourself if you'd be okay with a 32 year old man trying to "date" your daughter. And recognize that no, you wouldn't. At least, not if you've got a soul.
 I left the GOP years ago because I could not sell my soul to the forces of hate and extremism.  More and more Republicans will find themselves having to make the same choice I did.

Why Evangelicals Will Stand By Roy Moore

Once again the political area is posing a moral test for Evangelical Christians, the same group that bears responsibility for putting Donald Trump, a self-professed sexual predator.  This time, the test revolves around GOP senatorial candidate Roy Moore in Alabama.  Moore who has made a career out of Bible thumping and spreading hatred against gays, non-Christians and minorities now faces accusations by four (4) women that he engaged in sexual molestation.  One accuser was 14 years old at the time while Moore was in his 30's.  The Alabama of 30+ years ago when I lived in Mobile would not have stood for such a candidate.  But that was before the rise of the Christofascists who now control the Republican Party in Alabama. A piece in the Washington Post looks at why the evangelicals who continue to support Trump will support the repulsive Roy Moore.  Here are excerpts:
Roy Moore won the Republican nomination for the Senate seat in Alabama this year on the strength of his long-standing advocacy for hard-right conservative and evangelical values.
Twice elected chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, he left that role both times on behalf of his religious beliefs. In 2003, he was removed from office for refusing to take a monument of the Ten Commandments out of a state building. In 2016, he was suspended for refusing to uphold the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriages.
On Thursday afternoon, The Washington Post published a story detailing allegations from four women who say they were pursued by Moore when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One, Leigh Corfman, described how Moore had initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he 18 years older.
Republicans on Capitol Hill — many of whom supported Strange in the primary, it’s important to note — quickly called for Moore to drop out of the Senate race, a move that seems unlikely. 
Recent history, though, suggests that he might not lose substantial evangelical support. That recent history is Donald Trump. . . . . The result for Trump? He won more support from evangelical voters than any Republican since the question of religious identification began being asked.
Nearly half of Trump’s support — 46 percent — identified as white evangelical Protestant. . . . More than any other religious group, evangelicals said that someone who acts immorally in their personal lives can still serve morally in office.
Moore’s political background is predicated on engaging in the sort of fights that evangelical voters would like to see fought.  Moore is aware of this.
The allegations against Moore are decades old and, for those interested in dismissing them, dismissible as pitting his word against the women’s. It seems unlikely, then, that evangelical voters would, at this point, reject his candidacy, especially with Moore denying the charges as fervently as he is.
If Donald Trump — a one-time New York Democrat on his third wife with little connection to religious faith before his political run — can keep the support of the evangelical community, it seems unlikely that a conservative Alabama judge who lost his job in defense of the Ten Commandments is at much risk of seeing that support evaporate.
As I have noted many times before, given evangelical support of Trump, Moore and other morally bankrupt politicians,  when I meet anyone who announces themselves as an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian, the first thing that crosses my mind is that they must be (i) liars and hypocrites, (ii) modern day Pharisees, and (iii) morally bankrupt and not decent and moral individuals. 

Is Trump Abusing Power to Retaliate Against the Media?

If one has studied the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany in the late 1920's and early 1930's one knows that among Hitler's first acts were efforts to silence the independent news media which was reporting the truth about the Führer.  A free and independent press is one of the most important safeguards against tyranny - something well know to the Founding Fathers and why they enshired freedom of speech in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.   Now, troubling reports are coming out on how the Trump Department of Justice - perhaps better called the Department of Injustice under Jeff Sessions - is seemingly retaliating against CNN by blocking a merger involving that channel's parent company.  He has likewise been sniping at the parent of the Washington Post, another news outlet that has put publishing the true ahead of loyalty to Der Trumpenführer.   Many, including members of Congress and in the media, find this effort by Trump/Pence/Sessions alarming.  A piece in Politico looks at this apparent attempt to silence the independent press.   Here are excerpts:
Even critics of AT&T’s proposed mega-merger with Time Warner expressed alarm Wednesday at allegations that President Donald Trump's Justice Department is intervening in the deal for political reasons — namely his oft-expressed complaints about CNN.
"Any indication that this administration is using its power to weaken media organizations it doesn’t like would be a profoundly disturbing development," Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said, after POLITICO and other news outlets reported that the DOJ had been pressing the companies to unload the Time Warner-owned news network.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told POLITICO that the DOJ's reported actions "merit investigation," and that senators should ask Attorney General Jeff Sessions about it next week.
"Presidential power must be used wisely and fairly. I don’t know the details here but this is worth investigating," Schatz tweeted earlier in the day. He added: "The burden of proof is on the Justice Department to establish that there is no political interference in their Antitrust Division."
Sources familiar with the proposed merger told POLITICO that the DOJ issued an ultimatum to the companies Monday — that they either sell Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN as well as networks like TBS and TNT, or shed satellite television provider DirecTV. The sources said it's clear the real sticking point for the government is CNN, whose coverage of the administration has become a frequent target of Trump's anger.
The two sides appear to be preparing for a court battle should DOJ reject the merger.
The DOJ officials offered no details about what aspects of the deal concern them. But they said simply selling off CNN would not necessarily solve the harm to the public.
Trump, who has repeatedly derided CNN's coverage of his administration as "fake news," has loomed over the deal since the companies announced it a little over a year ago.
But Trump's contempt for CNN's coverage of his presidency — and his other media-bashing — is casting a shadow over the government's review. Trump has often expressed a desire to punish media outlets whose coverage he deems unfair, promising on the campaign trail to “open up” the libel laws and suggesting in October that NBC News' nonexistent broadcast license should be revoked.
 Late Wednesday, Trump administration officials denied any White House interference in the DOJ's review of the AT&T-Time Warner deal.
 Politics should play no role in these types of decisions, free-speech advocates said Wednesday.
“While there are plenty of good reasons to oppose AT&T’s Time Warner takeover, punishing CNN for trying to hold this administration accountable isn’t one of them," said Craig Aaron, president of liberal group Free Press, which opposes the AT&T-Time Warner deal. "No matter where you come down on this merger, everyone should agree that the government shouldn’t base antitrust decisions or FCC rulings on whether it likes a newsroom’s coverage." 
Be very, very afraid.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, November 09, 2017

More Thursday Male Beauty

Trump is Accelerating Virginia's Shift to a Blue State

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The reverberations of Tuesday's election triumph for Democrats continue to shake Virginia and my well lead to further Republican defeats next year: Ralph Northam won roughly seven out of Virginia's eleven congressional districts and could put Republican incumbents on the firing line in the 2018 mid-term elections. Change has been coming to Virginia for years now, but one thing seems to be accelerating change and a rejection of the Republican Party: Donald Trump.  While popular in backwards, reactionary Southwest Virginia, parts of Southside and a few areas with lots of military personnel and retirees - although Virginia Beach went for Northam - Trump is increasingly toxic everywhere else, especially in the large population areas.  The map above shows locality drawn to reflect the number of registered voters.  The take away?  Southwest Virginia and other rural areas simply do not have the votes to elect Republicans statewide if Democrats run good candidates and smart campaigns.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the seismic changes taking place in Virginia.  Here are excerpts:
The sweeping gains won by Democrats in Tuesday’s elections complete Virginia’s transformation into the only blue state of the old Confederacy. Where the Harry Byrd machine once conspired to keep black students out of white schools, now a transgender delegate will take her seat alongside Latino women, a socialist and only the second African American elected statewide since Reconstruction.
The old edifices are falling faster than the state’s Confederate statues — but those are under scrutiny in Richmond these days, too. Even Virginia’s most politically powerful corporation — Dominion Energy — is being rattled: Some 14 of the newly elected Democrats have pledged to refuse contributions and challenge the priorities of a company that’s known as the state’s shadow government.
Change has been coming to the increasingly diverse state for years, but the evolution was turbocharged by the provocative influence of Donald Trump.  The president’s victory last fall and subsequent knife-twisting tweets inspired a surge of Democratic candidates to run for office and pushed many voters to the polls.
“This election, more than anything else, was a Trump-effect election,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington. Democrat Ralph Northam won the governor’s race over Republican Ed Gillespie by a comfortable nine-point margin, but Farnsworth said the outcome could have been much tighter if not for highly motivated anti-Trump voters.
The sentiment turned up in voices across the state. In Fairfax Station, where Pam Rodriguez, 44, showed up in the chilly evening rain to vote for Northam partly because she is “not a fan of Trump . . . I loved the commercial where Northam called him a narcissistic maniac,” she said.
It was in eastern Henrico County outside Richmond, where a few days before the election Nick Hall was all set to vote for the Democrat for governor even though he wasn’t sure of his name. Hall just wanted to strike back at the party of Trump. “Trump is an idiot,” he said.
An especially striking aspect of that anti-Trump fervor was that most of those new candidates he inspired were women. Of the 15 Democrats who were on track to flip Republican seats in the House of Delegates, 11 were women.  All of the delegates they will replace are men.
Some Republicans saw Tuesday’s result as a tsunami that couldn’t have been avoided — thanks, of course, to Trump.  “I’m for 90 percent of what President Trump wants to do, but I’m against 90 percent of what comes out of his Twitter,” said former Republican delegate Dave Albo, who stepped down this year and on Tuesday saw his seat in Fairfax County go to a Democrat.  The president whipped Democrats into a frenzy, Albo said. “One of the rules of politics,” he said, “is pissed-off people show up.”
The results did, in fact, amplify the state’s divisions. Blue regions got bigger, as more suburbs flipped for Democrats — especially in the outer D.C. suburbs and around Richmond and Hampton Roads. But rural red areas went for Gillespie in great numbers, sometimes even more than for Trump last year.
Now, Democrats need to unite and take aim at winning congressional races next year and reelecting Tim Kaine to the U.S. Senate.  Trump will likely aid in that effort through his constant toxicity. 

Animus Towards Others - The Real Motivation of Trump's Base

Before the results from the elections on November 7, 2017, came in, Politico ran a piece that looked at Trump voters in southwest Pennsylvania and their continued allegiance to Trump despite the fact that Trump has to date delivered little if anything that is substantively making their lives better.  After some analysis, the piece gets down to what really continues to bind these voters to Trump: he displays animus towards the same people and ethnic groups that they despise.   The problem is, however, as Ed Gillespie discovered, on Tuesday, is that the animus that motivates Trump's base alienates a majority of voters.  A piece in Bear Drift, a conservative/GOP blog in Virginia looks at this other reality and the bind it will put on the GOP going forward.  First, here are excerpts from the Politico piece:
[P]olling continues to show that—in spite of unprecedented unpopularity—nearly all people who voted for Trump would do it again. But as I compared this year’s answers to last year’s responses it seemed clear that the basis of people’s support had morphed. Johnstown voters do not intend to hold the president accountable for the nonnegotiable pledges he made to them. It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him. It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether.
This reality ought to get the attention of anyone who thinks they will win in 2018 or 2020 by running against Trump’s record. His supporters here, it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments. For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.  And they love him for this.
Del Signore said he’s been following politics far more than before because of Trump. Trump, he said, is just “more interesting.” So now he likes watching the news. “Ninety-nine percent of the time I watch Fox,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll be sitting there listening to all this Fox stuff, and I’ll say, ‘Maybe they aren’t right, maybe I’ll flip to CNN’—but every time I’ve found that Fox has been correct, and CNN is definitely fake news.”
There are some positives around here. Corsa Coal’s Acosta mine in neighboring Somerset County opened in June. So did Robindale Energy’s new Maple Springs mine. Rosebud Mining reportedly is working to reopen its facility in Cresson, but a company spokesman wouldn’t comment on the status of the project. The increased activity is largely the result of spiking Chinese demand. But even with potentially several hundred new jobs, the long-term outlook for coal is grim. An industry forecast last month from the BMI Mining Report projected coal production to grow by 6 percent and 2 percent this year and next year, respectively, but also noted: This “does not reflect an expectation for President Donald Trump to revive the sector and our longer-term view out to 2021 remains decidedly downbeat.”
But even this optimistic stance highlights some of the deep-seated troubles here. “Right now, if I could find 150 people, I’d put them to work,” Polacek said. He needs machinists. He needs welders. “But it’s hard to find people,” he said—people with the requisite skills, people who can pass a drug test.
“We just don’t have the workforce,” said Liston, the city manager. “If they are employable, and have a skill set, basically they already moved out of the area.”
Some of the later-in-life blue-collar workers who are still here can be loath to learn new trades. “We’ve heard when working with some of the miners that they are reluctant because they’re very accustomed to the mining industry,” said Linda Thomson, the president of JARI, a nonprofit economic development agency in Johnstown that provides precisely the kind of retraining, supported by a combination of private, state and federal funding, that could prepare somebody for a job in Polacek’s plant. “They really do want to go back into the mines. So we’ve seen resistance to some retraining.”
Johnstown and surrounding Cambria County, whiter, poorer and less educated than America overall, was famished for the message Trump delivered in person at War Memorial Arena last October. “Your government betrayed you, and I’m going to make it right,” he told them. . . . . It was what they so badly wanted to hear. On November 8, 2016, in Cambria County, Trump trounced Hillary Clinton by nearly 38 points.
By last week, though, John George told me that despite what they might have said, people here didn’t really believe Trump would make good on all his promises. “Deep down inside,” he said, “I don’t think anybody thought the steel mills were going to come back.”
Last week, he reported hearing for the past year at work, at Gautier Steel, exactly what I had been hearing in my conversations around town—a remarkable, undeniable, ongoing vehemence of support. . . . . So many people in so many other areas of the country watch with dismay and existential alarm Trump’s Twitter hijinks, his petty feuds, his penchant for butting into areas where the president has no explicit, policy-relevant role. All of that only animates his supporters here. For them, Trump is their megaphone. He is the scriptwriter. He is a singularly effective, intuitive creator of a limitless loop of grievance and discontent that keeps them in absolute lockstep.
More than anything, what seemed to upset the people I spoke with was the National Football League players who have knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
“You’re not a fan of equality?” I asked.   “For people who deserve it and earn it,” he said. . . . . “Like NFL players?” I said. . . . . “Well,” Del Signore responded, “I hate to say what the majority of them are …” He stopped himself short of what I thought he was about to say. 
The NFL?  “Niggers for life,” Schilling said. “For life,” McCabe added.
Given this mind set, it is little wonder that new, forward thinking businesses have little desire to locate in Southwestern Pennsylvania.  That mindset is not limited to that region of Pennsylvania.  It is alive and well in Southwest Virginia.  The problem is that what animates the rural racist voters increasingly repels the majority of voters in the rest of Virginia.  Here are highlights from the Bearing Drift piece:
First, the Democrats did not win the election; the Republicans lost it.  As the Republican standard-bearer at the head of the ticket, Ed Gillespie committed three fatal errors.
·        He invited Trump to campaign for him, the President with the lowest approval rating in modern history after only ten months in office.  Trump’s low approval rating is not so much a result of his obnoxious personality, bullying, and lying, but because he has failed to deliver on any campaign promises, from building a southern border wall to repealing and replacing ObamaCare to returning manufacturing jobs to the U.S. from overseas. Ed bought into that failure when he invited Trump to appear with him at campaign rallies. By my observation, Gillespie started to decline in the polls after Trump came to Virginia to campaign for him.
·        Gillespie tried the old fear tactic of blaming illegal immigrant gang violence like MS-13 on “sanctuary city” Democratic politics.  The problem is that there are no sanctuary cities in Virginia.  A sanctuary city is one that has passed local laws that counter-act Federal laws on illegal immigrants, such as refusing ICE requests to detain illegals arrested for crimes.  A sanctuary city is not defined simply by the presence of immigrants, legal or illegal.
·        Gillespie bought into the failed Republican promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare.  Millions of Americans have entitlement benefits under the Affordable Health Care Act and, for all its faults, the Republicans have failed to propose an alternative entitlement. And once the government institutes an entitlement program, you cannot take it away without losing elections. Social Security is a case in point. It was launched in 1934 as a safety net for elderly poor.  Today it is a Federal pension program for the middle class.
“God, guns, and guts” plays well in the rural southside and southwest, but economic growth, traffic relief, and good public education is what excites voters in the voter-rich areas.  Cutting taxes for transportation improvements and diverting public school money to Christian academy school vouchers doesn’t get you votes there.
Third, the Republicans continue to send contradictory messages. Individual liberty and personal freedom are not enhanced by government restrictions on issues ranging from hunting on Sundays to having an abortion, the latter having been the law of the land for almost 50 years and continuing to be supported as such by the most conservative Supreme Court since the Great Depression.
Virginia is not so much turning blue as it is becoming anti-red. And that, along with Donald Trump in the White House, is why we had a record voter turn-out Tuesday despite awful weather conditions.
Will the GOP learn that it needs to abandon the Trump base in many states if it hopes to win elections going forward?  I doubt it.  The Christofascists and white supremacists are now too entrenched in the party grassroots to be defied. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

More Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Trump and Trumpism Rejected in Virginia

I will admit that I am on a post election win high at the moment.  Last nigh's Democrat blow out victory has helped restore my faith in the decency of Americans - at least Virginians after a depressing year watching Donald Trump trash decency, wage war on LGBT citizens and strive to make the reprehensible normal.  Thankfully, Virginia rejected Trumpism and bitch slapped Republicans who for the most part have prostituted themselves to Trump and all but donned KKK robes as they sought to emulate his racism/hate and bigotry agenda.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the election aftermath.  It correctly notes that yesterday was a first step in taking America back from the forces of hate, division and bigotry.  Trump lost big time even though not on the ballot.  Here column are excerpts:
One year after President Trump rode a campaign of white nationalism into the White House, the American people struck back. Decisive Democratic wins for governor in New Jerseyand Virginia, not to mention the Democratic victories for lieutenant governor and attorney general, are a clear sign of the electorate’s disquiet with Trump’s low-road Twitter presidency.
But three other signs come to mind in the afterglow of Election Day 2017. Here are my quick thoughts.
Borrowing pages from Trump’s white-nationalist playbook will hurt you.
Nothing was more disturbing and degrading of the presidency than Trump’s both-sides nonsense in response to the ugly white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, where Heather Heyer was allegedly killed by a racist who plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. That Ed Gillespie adopted Trump’s rhetoric on monuments to Confederate generals and tried to scare voters with loose talk of Latino gangs clearly was a bridge too far the people of the commonwealth. 
No, Democrats don’t need to have a progressive, Bernie-anointed candidate to win.
Tom Perriello lost the primary to now-Governor-elect Ralph Northam, a centrist anchored in the establishment. Perriello was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who ran for president in the Democratic Party in 2016 but doesn’t see fit to join the party. But Perriello didn’t disappear. He worked hard on Northam’s behalf and not grudgingly. . . . Thus proving that a vanquished primary opponent who works hard to help his victor during the general election is essential.
The American people are not afraid of self-correction.
When the election was called for Northam, I was sitting in the same spot on my sofa where I watched in horror the dawn of Trump nation a year ago. The American people broke my heart that night. Everything that I knew to be true — hoped to be true — about my country was voided by voters who responded positively to the most racist, xenophobic and misogynistic campaign for president in recent memory. The fear his election unleashed was raw and palpable. But the ugliness and incompetence that followed Trump into the White House had an impact.
The Democratic gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia are the first sign of correction. Another is the successful run of Justin Fairfax, the newly-elected lieutenant governor of Virginia who will become only the second African American to win that seat. L. Douglas Wilder won the post in 1985. He went on to become the commonwealth’s and the nation’s first black governor. And yet another is the election of Danica Roem to the Virginia House of Delegates. She becomes the first openly transgender state legislator in the United States by defeating the homophobic and anti-transgender Republican incumbent Bob Marshall.
Zac Petkanas, former rapid response chief for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, summed it up best in a tweet after the race was called for Northam. “The #resistance began on November 9, 2016,” he wrote. “The #revolution began tonight [Nov. 7].”
Onward to taking our country back from the marauding forces of division and hate in 2018. This is not over.