Saturday, February 10, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Fraudulence of the GOP "Fiscal Conservatives"

One of the excuses that some "friends" and neighbors give for voting Republican is that they believe in "fiscal conservatism."  Apparently, it's more palatable to them than admitting that they are racists, right wing Christian extremists, and/or homophobes or some combination of the foregoing.  How these folks will try to cling to that disingenuous excuse will be interesting now that Republicans have greatly increased America's budget deficit through a combination of the Trump/GOP tax cuts and the budget passed in the early hours of Friday morning.  Of course, that doesn't even include the fact that since Reagan forward, budget deficits balloon under Republicans and shrink in relative terms under Democrats. A column in the New York Times looks at the utter lie that the GOP is the party of fiscal conservatism.  Here are highlights:
In 2011, House Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, issued a report full of dire warnings about the dangers of budget deficits. “The United States is facing a crushing burden of debt,” it declared, warning of a looming fiscal crisis that might soon “capsize” the economy. Citing the horrors of big deficits, Republicans refused to raise the federal debt ceiling, threatening to create financial turmoil and effectively blackmailing President Barack Obama into cutting spending on domestic programs.
How big were these horrifying deficits? In the 2012 fiscal year the federal deficit was $1.09 trillion. Much of this deficit, however, was a direct result of a depressed economy, which held down revenues and increased outlays on unemployment benefits and other safety-net programs. The deficit fell rapidly over the next few years as the economy recovered.
This week Republicans, having just enacted a huge tax cut, cheerfully agreed to a budget deal that, according to independent experts, will push next year’s deficit up to around $1.15 trillion — bigger than in 2012. Wait, it gets worse. In 2012 there were strong economic reasons to run budget deficits. The economy was still suffering the aftereffects of the 2008 financial crisis. Unemployment was around 8 percent. And the Federal Reserve, which normally takes the lead in fighting slumps, had very limited ammunition . . . . The state of the economy in 2012 was exactly the kind of situation in which running budget deficits is actually a good thing, because they help sustain overall spending. By contrast, there is no comparable case for deficits now, with the economy near full employment and the Fed raising interest rates to head off potential inflation. If anything, we should be using this time of relatively full employment to pay down debt, or at least reduce it relative to G.D.P. “The boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity at the Treasury,” wrote John Maynard Keynes. But Republicans have turned that sage advice on its head. [L]et’s be serious: Their [the GOP's] views haven’t changed at all. They never really cared about debt and deficits; it was a fraud all along. All that has changed is the fact that a Republican now sits in the White House. How do we know Republicans were never sincere about the deficit? It was obvious, even at the time, to anyone who looked at their fiscal proposals. These proposals always involved giant tax cuts for the wealthy — funny how that worked — offset by savage cuts in social benefits. Even so, assertions that deficits would go down depended entirely on assuming lots of revenue from closing unspecified loopholes and huge savings from cutting unspecified government programs. In other words, even at the peak of their deficit-hawk posturing, all Republicans really had to offer was redistribution from the poor to the rich. However, pretending to care about the deficit served several useful political purposes. It was a way to push for cuts in social programs. It was also a way to hobble Obama’s presidency.
And I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that there was an element of deliberate economic sabotage. . . . . Now Obama is gone, and suddenly deficits don’t matter.
But let me not just bash Republicans. Let me also bash their enablers — all those who were duped into believing their claims to be deficit hawks, or pretended to believe them in order to appear balanced and bipartisan. Such people did America a great disservice.
And they will continue to do a great disservice if they obscure what’s happening now. . . . this is all about Republican bad faith. Everything they said about budgets, every step of the way, was fraudulent. And nobody should believe anything they say now.

LGBT Rights Held Captive By A Gerrymandered General Assembly

Recently at a post funeral reception for a long time friend I encountered someone I had known well back in my days of a Republican activist.  We spoke and the individual at one point asked what it would take to get me back in the Republican Party.  Not wanting to be disruptive, I said that for now I preferred no not be officially a member of either party - which is technically true even though all my efforts over the last 18+ years have been working for Democrats. Meanwhile, I thought to myself that short of extended torture or some unlikely total transformation of the GOP (which would at a minimum have to include a complete expulsion of the Christofascists and a total denunciation of all things Trump), I'd never be an active Republican again.  My former GOP colleague is not a bad person, but sadly is so immersed in the right wing news bubble and social activities centering on Republican women's' clubs that she is blind to what the GOP has become.  On Thursday, LBGT Virginians were dealt a vivid reminder that today's GOP is all about hate and bigotry.  A cabal of five Republicans - two from Hampton Roads: Barry Knight and Jason Miyares - killed every pro-LGBT bill in the Virginia General Assembly.  They were able to do so thanks to the gerrymandered districts that still dominate in Virginia. No Republican has won statewide office in Virginia in nearly a decade, yet Republicans continue to hold small majorities in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates which allows them to control committees and kill progressive legislation.  An op-ed in GayRVA looks at the disturbing reality and reminds us that LGBT Virginians and progressives need to be more organized and engaged than ever.  Here are highlights:
Remember all those pro-LGBTQ bills that got introduced back at the beginning of this year’s General Assembly session? Almost all of them are dead now. In the last 24 hours, no less than four bills were killed in House Of Delegates subcommittees. What the hell is going on here?
At the beginning of this session, we were all riding a wave of positive energy. Democrat Ralph Northam won a 9-point victory over his Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, to take the office of Virginia Governor with a clear mandate. The huge swing in the General Assembly further underlined this mandate, with a 32-seat Republican advantage being erased as a dozen or so Republican incumbents were defeated by Democratic challengers. Suddenly, things were almost equal, with both houses of the Genera Assembly under Republican control by a one-vote margin in each.
So what happened? In as few words as possible: the House Of Delegates happened. In spite of all the potential progress we were poised to achieve as a community, bills intended to ensure several important facets of LGBTQ civil rights were defeated at the subcommittee level, with less than a fifth of the House shutting them down before anyone else ever got to vote on them.
These aren’t just minor things, either. Five different bills and resolutions intended to cover sexual orientation and gender identity under state hate crimes statutes. . . . . A variety of bills, including Del. Mark Levine’s very wide-ranging HB 401, attempted to finally prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and a variety of other situations. Even 30th District Senator Adam Ebbin’s SB 202, which strove merely to make a permanent law of the protections for LGBTQ state employees that have been enacted through Executive Orders by the last two governors, was shot down in subcommittee in the House of Delegates — after it had already passed through the entire Senate.
In the end, this all comes down to gerrymandering, which, it appears, might be the most important LGBTQ issue of all here in Virginia. Back at the beginning of the week, at Equality Virginia’s Day Of Action, we heard from 69th District Delegate Betsy Carr about how important an issue gerrymandering is to her, and the House Resolution she’d proposed to reduce gerrymandering. At the end of the week, with all three of the bills Equality Virginia was there to talk about dead, the fact that her anti-gerrymandering resolution is still alive as yet can offer us what might be a tiny scrap of hope.
But regardless, something needs to change — something big. After a Democratic governor swept into office on a 9-point victory mandate, and over a dozen seats in the House of Delegates flipped to Democratic control, the fact that LGBTQ rights are still treated as a non-issue by our state’s legislature is reason for the joy we felt at the beginning of this session to turn to righteous fury. Maybe it’s time for a lawsuit of our own against the Virginia State Board of Elections.
[A]ll of us have representatives who need to hear a whole lot more about this. It’s our responsibility to blow these people up, to make them listen to our needs and let them know that we won’t take this sort of injustice lying down. Call your US Senator, call your Congressperson, call the governor — call somebody. You can find contact info for your US representatives at Do it. Give ‘em hell.


British Court: U.S. Prison System is a Human Rights Violation

British High Court building.

The United States is known among developed nations for its broken and insanely expensive health care system where millions are deprived of appropriate health care access. Now, a British court has highlighted another broken aspect of America: our broken prison and criminal justice system.  America has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, with minorities disproportionately represented thanks to draconian laws, lack of first class legal representation for many defendants, and an increasingly privatized prison system where a drive for profits overshadows non-barbaric conditions for inmates.  (In Virginia, archaic marijuana laws help disenfranchise minorities of their voting rights which, unlike as is the case in most other states are not reinstated once sentences are fully served.) With Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeking to reignite the failed war on drugs and calls for stiffer sentencing - which aids Sessions' goal of disenfranchising minorities - the situation will likely worsen.  But back to the British court ruling which refused to send defendants to the United States because it found that America's penal system is a human rights violation.   A piece in the Washington Post looks at the stunning ruling.  Here are excerpts: 
President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have repeatedly highlighted the importance of international cooperation in tackling international, cyber and cross-border crime. But as a decision of the United Kingdom’s High Court on Monday shows, human rights abuses in the U.S. criminal justice system are putting that cooperation at risk even with our closest allies. In the ruling, the High Court refused to order the extradition of British-Finnish activist Lauri Love to the United States, where he is wanted on hacking charges, on the grounds that sending him to an American jail would be “oppressive” due to poor conditions there. The court accordingly found that the interests of justice required the case to be prosecuted in Britain instead. This decision marks the first time a U.K. court has used the “forum bar,” a 2013 extradition reform that allows British courts to halt extraditions in situations where defendants could be prosecuted instead in the United Kingdom.  The U.K. Parliament adopted the forum bar after an outcry over a stringof cases in which the United States asserted prosecutorial jurisdiction over conduct that occurred entirely in the U.K. Although several political factors were at play, the extradition reform movement was largely fueled by public concern that defendants’ basic rights will not be respected in U.S. custody. The findings of the High Court in Love’s case paint an unembellished but unmistakably grim portrait of the reality of the American carceral state, in which harsh sentencespoor access to medical care and excessive use of solitary confinement mean that U.S. authorities cannot reliably ensure the survival of vulnerable prisoners. In finding that extradition to the United States would be “oppressive” to Love, the High Court found that conditions in American jails were “not adequate to prevent suicide.” The court found that Love, who has Asperger’s syndrome and suffers from severe depression and other health problems, was likely to be held in solitary confinement as a suicide prevention measure and that he wouldn’t have adequate access to mental health treatment. The court also found that the heightened risk that Love would commit suicide was due in part to the excessive length of sentence Love anticipated in the United States, substantially longer than what he would be subject to in a prosecution for similar crimes in the U.K. In short, the court found that the U.S. prison system is a mortal threat.
All of the issues flagged by the High Court — poor treatmentfor the majority of prisoners who suffer from mental illness, sentences far longer than those in other countries, and excessive use of solitary confinement — are sadly well-documented realities for many prisoners in the United States. The High Court’s conclusion that U.S. authorities can’t reliably prevent suicide for prisoners such as Love is borne out by the fact that suicide is the third-leading cause of death in U.S. prisons and jails — and has risen sharply in recent years.
When the United States can’t assure its closest allies that their citizens will be fairly treated in criminal proceedings, our domestic human rights crises do more than ruin lives — they undermine international cooperation and public safety. Defendants such as Love, who are vulnerable to illness and violence, are prosecuted and imprisoned every single day in the United States. The fact that a British court has found that the United States can’t be entrusted to keep such people alive in custody is at once shocking and undeniable. [T]here is no indication that respect for the rights of the accused is likely to improve under Sessions’ Justice Department, despite sustained state- and national-level movements for reform. In fact, Sessions has signaled that he is doubling down on punitive prosecutorial practices that will exacerbate the human rights crises in U.S. jails and prisons. Unless it changes course, the United States will likely have to accept further blows to its ability to cooperate with its allies in its efforts to tackle international crime.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, February 09, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

Pence Keeps Lying About His Ant-Gay Record

Mike Pence - a typical Christofasist liar.
I have been actively involved in politics for over 25 years and throughout those years one of the things that I have done is track the activities of Christofascist "family values" organizations and anti-gay politicians (almost all of whom are Republican).  One thing I have observed is that no one - with the possible exception of Donald Trump - lies more often or more insidiously than the self-anointed "godly folk" and Republican politicians who prostitute themselves to them.  In Mike Pence, we have a combination of the two even as some suspect Pence is a self-loathing closeted gay himself.  Indeed, Pence reminds me of former Virginia 2nd District Congressman Ed Schrock who was stridently anti-gay in his voting record even though it turned out he was cruising for gay trysts (I had a hand in exposing Schrock's hypocrisy).  I don't suspect Pence of such cruising - he's simply too tightly wound and too racked by his religious brainwashing - but his anti-gay record is even worse than Schrock's and his lying about it is off the charts as noted by Think Progress and a piece in the New York Times from 2016.  First these highlights from Think Progress:  
The feud between Vice President Mike Pence and gay Olympic skater Adam Rippon escalated again Thursday when Pence tweeted directly at the athlete, describing his history of supporting ex-gay conversion therapy as “fake news.” Skier Gus Kenworthy, who came out in 2015 after winning a silver medal at the 2014 Olympics, also qualified for the 2018 Olympics and shared his own concerns about Pence, saying that having him lead the delegation “doesn’t send the right message.” Appearing on Ellen this week, he described Pence as someone who has “directly attacked the LGBT community” and “a bad fit” to lead the delegation. In a recent interview with YouTube’s Tyler Oakley, Rippon joked that he was in a “war” with Pence.  “When he was just a lad from Indiana, he was trying to fund gay conversion therapy…. And me, as a gay man, I’m not going to go out of my way to try to meet Mike Pence,” he said.
Pence’s repeated denials that he supported ex-gay therapy can easily be disproved. His 2000 congressional campaign website clearly said that he would only support funding for HIV treatment through the Ryan White Care Act if money stopped going to organizations that “celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” Instead, he argued, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” In 2016, Pence spokesperson Marc Lotter insisted that this meant that Pence was actually calling for federal funds to “be directed to groups that promoted safe sexual practices.” That explanation, however, does not account for behaviors that Pence did not want to “celebrate and encourage,” nor does it explain to whom he was referring when he mentioned “those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Moreover, it’s contradicted by the fact that, in 2002, Pence rejected the validity of condoms in a CNN interview, incorrectly calling them “a very, very poor protection against sexually transmitted diseases” and insisting that “the only truly safe sex…is no sex.”
As a congressman, Pence also offered a “religious freedom” amendment to a 2007 hate crimes bill that would have included protections based on sexual orientation. (Such a bill later became law in 2009). In his statement introducing the amendment, he listed various anti-gay activists who he worried would somehow be silenced by the legislation. Among his examples was “an ad campaign by pro-family groups showing that many former homosexual people had found happiness in a heterosexual lifestyle.”
Pence’s position on HIV funding on that same 2000 campaign website was immediately preceded by statements opposing both marriage equality for same-sex couples and any effort to protect “homosexuals” from discrimination in a similar fashion to women and ethnic minorities. Given Pence’s long history of homophobia both before and after his 2000 campaign, it’s inconceivable that he was referring to anything other than ex-gay therapy.

The New York Times piece contained the following:
Since Gov. Mike Pence was chosen as Donald J. Trump’s running mate in July, he has faced complaints from groups critical of his record on gay and transgender rights, who said he has long been an opponent of the gains made by the L.G.B.T. community in recent years.
Mr. Pence has been particularly dogged by accusations that he is a supporter of “conversion therapy,” the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been discredited by the medical establishment and denounced by gay and transgender groups.
There are frequently religious overtones to conversion therapy, which is often promoted by groups with ties to conservative Christian organizations like Focus on the Family, which says on its website that “homosexual strugglers” can “leave homosexuality” with the help of support groups like Homosexuals Anonymous or by “becoming more like Jesus.” A statement on an archived version of the website for Mr. Pence’s 2000 congressional campaign has been widely interpreted as signaling his support for conversion therapy. After listing his opposition to same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws that protect gay people, Mr. Pence’s website takes up the issue of the Ryan White Care Act, which provides federal funding for H.I.V./AIDS patients and was reauthorized by Congress that year.

The Times piece goes on to look at the ugly and fraudulent history of conversion therapy which has been widely used by Christofascists to claim that gays can "change" and that no non-discrimination protections are needed. 

Virginia Republicans Kill LGBT Bills, Give Amazon the Finger

Anti-gay bigot Del. Jason S. ­Miyares (R- Virginia Beach)
One hears Republicans ad nausea claiming to be the party of business and economic growth yet yesterday a small cabal of  Republicans on the House of Delegates General Laws subcommittee (i.e., Delegates Fowler, Wright, Knight, Bell, Richard P., Miyares) voted to kill four pro-LGBT bills and prevent them from getting a vote by the entire committee much less the full House.  And this was done in an atmosphere where Amazon is under growing pressure to turn down sites for its second headquarters with 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment. One of the bills killed would have afforded non-discrimination protections in housing. Another would have protected state employees from employment discrimination.  The excuse for action?  The usual bull shit about "protecting religious liberty" as if protecting bigots isn't a form of attack on those with differing religious beliefs.   With today's GOP, it is all about self-prostitution to the modern day Pharisee Christofascists.  The rights of so-called "Nones," Hindus, Muslims and others not subscribing to Christofacist hate and bigotry simply do not matter.  The lesson from this is that LGBT Virginians, their allies and Millennials MUST get organized and turn out at the polls in November, 2018, and again in November, 2019, and defeat Republicans in every election contest possible.  Locally, Del. Jason S. ­Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) and Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach/Chesapeake) need to be targeted for defeat in 2019.  The Washington Post looks at yesterday's disgusting event.  Here are highlights:
Bills meant to protect gay and transgender people from housing and employment discrimination died in a Republican-dominated House panel Thursday, prompting jeers of “Shame!” from activists who packed a Capitol hearing room.
On a straight party-line vote, members of a General Laws subcommittee voted 5 to 2 to kill four bills, some of which had already cleared the Republican-controlled state Senate, which tends to be more socially moderate than the House.
“The vast majority of fair-minded Virginians support these long-overdue protections that were passed with strong bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Senate,” said Marty Rouse, national field director of the Human Rights Campaign. “House Republican leaders are completely out of step with what voters made clear at the ballot box in November.”
Opponents of the bills contend that they could have interfered with religious freedom, with some suggesting that religious institutions such as Liberty University could be forced to let gay couples occupy its dorms for married students.
Only one Republican on the panel spoke to the measures before the votes. Del. Jason S. ­Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) said he was torn between the desire to “treat everybody with dignity and respect” and the need to protect religious freedom. He said he would be willing to work toward a compromise, but not this year. The four bills were all brought by Democrats, Sens. Adam P. Ebbin (Alexandria) and Jennifer T. Wexton (Loudoun) and Dels. Marcus B. Simon (Fairfax) and Mark H. Levine (Alexandria). Ebbin and Levine are two of only a few openly gay lawmakers. Last month, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed an executive order shortly after his inauguration banning such discrimination in government employment. One of the bills would have codified that into law. Jeff Caruso of the Virginia Catholic Conference said the bills could force faith-based colleges and organizations to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. . . . Bill Janis of the Family Foundation suggested the measures were unnecessary because the largest employers in Richmond already prohibit anti-discrimination in hiring. 

Note the toxic influence of the Catholic Church which remains an enemy of LGBT individuals and The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group, to whom Virginia Republicans bow and genuflect. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, February 08, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Adam Rippon Rebuffs Anti-Gay Bigot Mike Pence

Mike Pence has a very long and well documented history of being an enemy of LGBT individuals.  Indeed, some believe he is the moving force behind the Trump/Pence regime's efforts to rescind every LGBT friendly policy of the Obama administration and the Sessions Justice Department's argument that existing civil rights laws do not protect LGBT individuals.  And then there is Pence's history of supporting totally debunked "gay conversion therapy" - something some rumors whisper that Pence under went himself (the most anti-gay Republicans seemingly are always self-loathing closet cases).  Not surprisingly, openly gay Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon said he had no interest in meeting with Pence who he rightly sees as an enemy of LGBT rights.  This ticked off Pence who sought to meet with Rippon who again said "No."  In my view, Rippon did the right thing.  Pence is not susceptible to having his heart and mind changed and any such meeting would merely be spun by Pence for PR purposes to depict him as open minded, something that he is not. USA Today looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Vice President Pence is set to arrive here soon to lead the official U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic opening ceremony. . . . But on the afternoon on Jan. 17, Pence had another focus: He was so concerned about the criticism he received from U.S. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon that his staff went to the extraordinary length of asking the U.S. Olympic Committee to set up a conversation between the two – an offer Rippon turned down.
[A] member of Pence’s staff requested the conversation with the openly gay Rippon after reading the skater’s derogatory remarks about him in a USA TODAY Sports story that had been published online just an hour earlier.  Rippon, the two people said, declined the invitation.
The spat between the vice president and the figure skater began when I asked Rippon last month about Pence’s selection for the ceremonial role of leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympic opening ceremony.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it,” Rippon said.
The comments from Rippon about gay conversion therapy that so riled Pence come from a widespread belief stemming from a statement Pence made in 2000 on his congressional campaign website: “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
While Pence didn’t explicitly mention gay conversion therapy, leaders in the LGBT community have said they believe that’s exactly what Pence meant in light of his long-standing opposition to gay rights.
Rippon, who said he was bullied and teased as a boy growing up in Scranton, Pa., came out publicly as being gay in an October 2015 story in Skating magazine. He often talks about how he hopes his story can help others, especially young people who might be struggling with their sexuality.
Always outspoken, Rippon said recently he will not go to the White House for a post-Olympic celebration hosted by President Trump: “I said no.” Legendary skier Lindsey Vonn has also said she will not attend.

The Moral Demise of General John Kelly

John Kelly with Der Trumpenf├╝hrer.
White House Chief of Staff and former general John Kelly was supposed to moderate Donald Trump's impulsiveness and more dangerous inclinations.  Instead, it would appear that Trump has sucked what little moral fibre Kelly may have possessed completely out of the man.  Kelly's conduct and statements have become increasingly problematic and have included outright lies about a black congresswoman, slurs against the wife of a murdered member of America's armed forces, attacking immigrants to now defending a wife beater.  Kelly is a glaring reminder that one cannot serve a morally bankrupt master without surrendering one's own morality.  It's a lesson lost on vast numbers of Republicans that have prostituted themselves to the foul and toxic Trump/Pence regime.  Vanity Fair looks at the latest debacle involving Kelly in the wake of the resignation of White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter in the wake of seemingly substantiated claims of spousal abuse.  Here are article excerpts:
For weeks, Donald Trump has been souring on his Chief of Staff John Kelly because of his controlling ways and rising public profile. And now Kelly is in the midst of a bonafide crisis, one that exacerbates the president’s own #MeToo problems. On Tuesday, Kelly strongly defended White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter against disturbing allegations, first published in the Daily Mail, that he abused his ex-wives. . . . . On Wednesday afternoon, Porter resigned. Axios reported Kelly wanted Porter to “stay and fight.”
Yesterday, Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, told the Mail that Porter called her a “fucking bitch” on their honeymoon, and once pulled her naked out of the shower. In response, Kelly put out a statement calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honor” and a “trusted professional.” But shortly after Kelly rallied behind his colleague, Porter’s first wife came forward with additional harrowing allegations. Colbie Holderness, who married Porter in 2009, told the Daily Mail that Porter punched her in the face and choked her, among other alleged abuses. The article included a photo of her with a black eye.
Kelly’s decision to go to bat for Porter deeply frustrated White House staffers, sources told me. He was supposed to be the West Wing’s resident grown-up, but staffers are increasingly questioning Kelly’s judgment, four Republicans close to the White House told me. “It’s beyond disbelief. Everyone is trying to figure out why Kelly is leading the charge to save him,” one former West Wing official said. Sources said Kelly was so quick to defend Porter because the two have grown very close since Trump appointed Kelly chief of staff last summer. Porter, a Rhodes scholar, has helped Kelly instill discipline in the West Wing. Kelly has told people that Porter has a “calming effect” on White House operations. For instance, it’s Porter who screens all the information that gets to Trump’s desk. Porter also helped Kelly conduct a West Wing organizational study that provided Kelly with a cudgel to sideline Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, . . .
 Until now, Porter has been a low-profile player, publicly absent from the West Wing dramas. But last week, he emerged when the Daily Mail reported he’s dating White House Communications Director Hope Hicks. Then, on Tuesday, the paper contacted the White House with questions about Porter’s alleged battery. According to one person briefed on internal White House conversations, Kelly let it be known he wanted to defend Porter publicly. Even before the blowback from the Porter statement, the White House was struggling to walk back Kelly’s inflammatory comments on immigration. Yesterday, Kelly said on Capitol Hill that some undocumented immigrants were “too lazy” to sign up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

If Kelly is the "resident grown up" in the Trump regime, the nation is in real trouble. 

Boycott the Republican Party

At the risk of boring long time readers, I used to be a Republican at a time when the Party was in the equivalence of a galaxy far, far away and bore no resemblance to the hideous phenomenon that it is today.  I held city committee seat for eight (8) years, was a precinct captain and worked on many a campaign.  But then something happened.  The Christofascists became ascendant in the Party and the Party's agenda became more and more homophobic and racists (in my experience, most Christofascists are racists as are the so-called lily white "family values" organizations). I left the Party and decided that the only way to "save" the Party was to work against it and see it suffer as many electoral defeats as possible.  Hopefully, at some point some sane people would rise up and work to expel the  Christofascists and racists from the Party.  To date, that has not happened and the result has been that the Party has descended deeper and deeper into hate and insanity, the election of Donald Trump being the ultimate consequence of the degeneration of the Party and the exodus of morally decent people from the GOP.  Now, other are coming to the same conclusion that I reached many years ago: the Republican Party needs to be boycotted and defeated whenever and wherever possible.  A piece in The Atlantic by two moderate conservatives makes the case as to why such a boycott is necessary.  Here are article excerpts:
A few days after the Democratic electoral sweep this past November in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere, The Washington Post asked a random Virginia man to explain his vote. The man, a marketing executive named Toren Beasley, replied that his calculus was simply to refuse to calculate. It could have been Dr. Seuss or the Berenstain Bears on the ballot and I would have voted for them if they were a Democrat,” he said. “I might do more analyses in other years. But in this case, no.
Count us in, Mr. Beasley. . . . . This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).
We’re suggesting that in today’s situation, people should vote a straight Democratic ticket even if they are not partisan, and despite their policy views. They should vote against Republicans in a spirit that is, if you will, prepartisan and prepolitical. Their attitude should be: The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans.
For us, this represents a counsel of desperation. So allow us to step back and explain what drove us to what we call oppositional partisanship.
So why have we come to regard the GOP as an institutional danger? In a nutshell, it has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law. Those assaults, were they to be normalized, would pose existential, not incidental, threats to American democracy.
Future generations of scholars will scrutinize the many weird ways that Trump has twisted the GOP. For present purposes, however, let’s focus on the party’s failure to restrain the president from two unforgivable sins. The first is his attempt to erode the independence of the justice system. This includes Trump’s sinister interactions with his law-enforcement apparatus: his demands for criminal investigations of his political opponents, his pressuring of law-enforcement leaders on investigative matters, his frank efforts to interfere with investigations that implicate his personal interests, and his threats against the individuals who run the Justice Department. It also includes his attacks on federal judges, his pardon of a sheriff convicted of defying a court’s order to enforce constitutional rights, his belief that he gets to decide on Twitter who is guilty of what crimes, and his view that the justice system exists to effectuate his will. Some Republicans have clucked disapprovingly at various of Trump’s acts. But in each case, many other Republicans have cheered . . . . A party that behaves this way is not functioning as a democratic actor.
The second unforgivable sin is Trump’s encouragement of a foreign adversary’s interference in U.S. electoral processes. Leave aside the question of whether Trump’s cooperation with the Russians violated the law. He at least tacitly collaborated with a foreign-intelligence operation against his country—sometimes in full public view.  . . . . the broader response to Trump’s behavior has been tolerant and, often, enabling.
The reason is that Trump and his forces have taken command of the party. Anti-Trump Republicans can muster only rearguard actions, which we doubt can hold the line against a multiyear, multifront assault from Trump and his allies.
[W]e should not count on the past year to provide the template for the next three. Under the pressure of persistent attacks, many of them seemingly minor, democratic institutions can erode gradually until they suddenly fail. That the structures hold up for a while does not mean they will hold up indefinitely—and if they do, they may not hold up well.
Even now, erosion is visible. Republican partisans and policy makers routinely accept insults to constitutional norms that, under Barack Obama, they would have condemned as outrageous. When Trump tweeted about taking “NBC and the Networks” off the air (“Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked”), congressional Republicans were quick to repudiate … left-wing media bias. In a poll by the Cato Institute, almost two-thirds of Republican respondents agreed with the president that journalists are “an enemy of the American people.” How much damage can Trump do in the next three years? We don’t know, but we see no grounds to be complacent.
It’s Trump’s party now; or, perhaps more to the point, it’s Trumpism’s party, because a portion of the base seems eager to out-Trump Trump. In last year’s special election to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, Republican primary voters defied the president himself by nominating a candidate who was openly contemptuous of the rule of law—and many stuck with him when he was credibly alleged to have been a child molester. After initially balking, the Republican Party threw its institutional support behind him too. In Virginia, pressure from the base drove a previously sensible Republican gubernatorial candidate into the fever swamps. Faced with the choice between soul-killing accommodation and futile resistance, many Republican politicians who renounce Trumpism are fleeing the party or exiting politics altogether.
So we arrive at a syllogism:
(1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
(2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
(3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
If the syllogism holds, then the most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. . . . The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold.
The off-year elections in November showed that this is possible. Democrats flooded polling places, desperate to “resist.” Independents added their voice. Even some Republicans abandoned their party. One Virginia Republican, explaining why he had just voted for Democrats in every race, told The Washington Post, “I’ve been with the Republicans my whole life, but what the party has been doing is appalling.” . . . A few more spankings like that will give anti-Trump Republicans a fighting chance to regain influence within their party.
We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Bermuda Rescinds Same Sex Marriage; Let the Boycott Begin

Bermuda Parliament - home of hate, bigotry and the embrace of ignorance.
I have a love/hate feeling towards Bermuda.  Two very dear friends used to own a hotel in Bermuda - they were the only Americans to ever own have a 100% ownership without Bermudian co-ownership - and the husband and I traveled to Bermuda on a cruise out of Norfolk with these friends and a number of others a couple of years ago.  Bermuda is physical beautiful, but unfortunately, deep seated hate and bigotry is alive and well there as evidenced by the Parliamentary vote to repeal same sex marriage in the aftermath of a court ruling that found Bermuda's ban on same sex marriage violated the island nation's constitution.  With much of the local populace whipped into a frenzy by American Christofascists, in particular Alliance Defending Freedom, a certified hate group, members of the Bermuda Parliament showed their cowardice and passed a bill to rescind marriage equality and replace it with a separate but not equal domestic partnerships.  Sadly, Governor General John Rankin showed similar spinelessness and today gave his assent to the bigotry inspired bill.  Having traveled to Jamaica several times in my days a in-house counsel for an oil company, I have kept my vow to boycott the country until such time as gays have equal rights and are not criminalized.  Now Bermuda is added to the list of destinations to be avoided at all cost.  One can only hope that Bermuda's struggling tourism industry (which opposed the change in the law) takes a major financial hit and many of the bigoted locals who supported the homophobic bill find themselves unemployed.  Bermuda News looks at this triumph of hate and bigotry.  Here are excerpts:
The Governor has given assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, Government House has just confirmed, meaning the legislation can now take effect.
In a statement this afternoon [Feb 7], Governor John Rankin said, “After careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the Constitution, I have today given assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017.”
The Domestic Partnerships Act passed in the House of Assembly, and then passed in the Senate and will replace same-sex marriages with a domestic partnership which can be entered into by both same-sex and heterosexual couples.
Once approved in both the House [24-10] and Senate [8-3], the Bill went to the UK-appointed Governor for assent, which is normal procedure and generally seen as a formality, however it was been a topic of speculation in this case since the Bill was passed in December 2017.
A my blogger friend Joe Jervis notes, the change will likely impact Bermuda flagged cruise vessels which had been performing same sex marriages:
It’s believed that the Bermuda-flagged cruise ships that have been offering at-sea same-sex marriages will now drop that service. When Bermuda’s Parliament voted to repeal last year, official tourism agencies for the island raised loud alarms.
The push to repeal same-sex marriage in Bermuda was aided, unsurprisingly, by US-based Christian hate groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The best approach going forward is to avoid all things Bermuda.  Do not visit Bermuda. boycott Bermuda flagged vessels, and boycott products such as Goslings Rum (we have several bottles which I will either give away or pour down the drain).  Make bigotry and discrimination carry a very, very high price.

A final note: It is ironic that a majority of Bermudians are black, yet the American Christofascists who aided in the repeal are anti-black racists.  Bermudians were played for fools - just like far to many black pastors in Virginia who fall for the propaganda of The Family Foundation which traces back to proponnents of the Jim Crow laws. 

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Trump's "Treason" Remarks Take Demagoguery to Dangerous Heights

During last week's State of the Union address Donald Trump declared, “I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people.” Like almost everything that comes from the man's lips, the statement was a lie. This week, Trump is back to being a prime cause of hate and division as he stated that anyone who does not applaud him is guilty of treason.  Yesterday, his chief of staff, John F. Kelly (who seems to have truly sold his soul), attacked Dreamers accused those who had failed to register for protected status with the federal government of being “too afraid to sign up” or “too lazy to get off their asses.”  Kelly's remarks were in keeping with his furthering of Trump's racist agenda.  Trump's accusations of treason show an even more sinister movement in the Trump/Pence regime: any criticism and exercise of one's First Amendment rights is to be attacked and condemned.  One would think we were living in Hitler's Germany or Putin's Russia.  A column the New York Times looks at this disturbing demagoguery.  Here are excerpts:
I’m now told that I have betrayed my country and committed the ultimate crime.  I did not clap during President Trump’s State of the Union address.
But even if could, I wouldn’t have. That’s not because I’m rooting against America. It’s because I’m rooting for it — and believe that we deserve better than a leader who uses language as sloppily and poisonously as Trump does, who reacts to every unwelcome message by smearing the messenger, and whose litmus test for patriotism is this and this alone: Do you worship me? On Monday afternoon he visited a manufacturing plant outside Cincinnati, where of course he complimented himself, lavishly. . . . But something that he said stood out, not just because it went so ludicrously far, even by Trumpian standards, but because it so perfectly captured his distinctive madness and meanness. Recalling that many Democrats sat on their hands for much or all of his speech before Congress last week, he pronounced them “un-American,” adding: “Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
My favorite touch is the “somebody.” With Trump, the darkest and most conspiratorial notions are never his doing or responsibility. He heard it somewhere. He read it someplace.
That meandering air masks a considered ploy: As a distraction and deflection, he routinely accuses his adversaries of the very wrongdoing that can more credibly be attributed to him. “Treason” is a word too grand to be thrown around casually, but it applies better to a president who minimizes and denigrates clear evidence that a foreign power meddled in an American election — and makes no real effort to prevent that from happening again — than it does to a bunch of lawmakers who decline to salute him. Their actions are largely theatrical. His are substantively dangerous. Democrats, he said, were “selfish,” putting their own feelings above the country’s welfare. The man who signed tax legislation that benefits his business empire and spends roughly one of every three days at a Trump-branded property wouldn’t know anything about that. If journalists are documenting his falsehoods, they themselves must be fabulists. If judges rule against him, they must be biased. If federal law enforcement officials have suspicions about him or people who worked for him, they must be corrupt hacks. If Democrats don’t congratulate him for making America great again, they must be traitors.
Soon there is no one to trust but Trump, or no one to trust at all. That’s the point. He’s inoculating himself, and no price — not the reputations of individuals who have behaved honorably, not the viability of institutions that are crucial to the health of our democracy — is too steep to pay.
[I]f you accept his loose definition of treason, hasn’t he committed it? I’m not referring to Russia; I’m referring to his effort to delegitimize President Barack Obama by insisting, with no evidence, that he was born outside the United States. That’s infinitely more defiant and destabilizing than Nancy Pelosi’s inert hands and anguished mien as Trump delivered his big speech. I think it’s more patriotic to withhold applause than to grant it too readily.

I will never applaud the man.  I view him as a toxic poison that needs to be purged from the American landscape - the sooner the better given the harm that he is doing to American institutions and the hatred that he is fanning. 

Rural Christian White America Doesn't Grasp That it is The Problem

As regular readers know, I have little sympathy for rural, white Christian America.  Indeed, I view its inhabitants as a clear and present danger to America's future and how the nation adjusts to a rapidly changing world.  Moreover, many of the misfortunes that now face this demographic, in my view, stem in large part from their own bad decisions and desperate clinging to ignorance and fundamentalist Christianity which cannot abide knowledge, education and/or science that reveal that their belief system is built on sand and in some aspects is simply untrue.  Much of Southwest Virginia embodies rural, white Christian America at its worst.  The question then becomes how do progressives  - the so-called "coastal elites" deal with these people.  To win elections, Democrat candidates need to find a way to try to attract their votes, yet is being "understanding" the correct course of action?  Trying to reason with those who reject reason and prefer to cling to ignorance is an exercise in futility.  Personally, I am inclined to shame them and call them out - the husband prefers a more conciliatory approach - and not waste my breath on those who have chosen to close their ears and minds. A lengthy piece in Raw Story by a former resident of rural white Christian America seems to support my approach.   Here are highlights:
As the election of Donald Trump is being sorted out, a common theme keeps cropping up from all sides: “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, fly-over America.”  Trump supporters are saying this. Progressive pundits are saying this. Talking heads across all forms of the media are saying this. Even some Democratic leaders are saying this.
It doesn’t matter how many people say it, it is complete BS.  It is an intellectual/linguistic sleight of hand meant to draw attention away from the real problem. The real problem isn’t East Coast elites who don’t understand or care about rural America. The real problem is that rural Americans don’t understand the causes of their own situations and fears and they have shown no interest in finding out. They don’t want to know why they feel the way they do or why they are struggling because they don’t want to admit it is in large part because of the choices they’ve made and the horrible things they’ve allowed themselves to believe.
I grew up in rural Christian white America. You’d be hard-pressed to find an area of the country with a higher percentage of Christians or whites. I spent most of the first 24 years of my life deeply embedded in this culture. I religiously (pun intended) attended their Christian services. I worked off and on on their rural farms. I dated their calico-skirted daughters. I camped, hunted and fished with their sons. I listened to their political rants at the local diner and truck stop. I winced at their racist/bigoted jokes and epithets that were said more out of ignorance than animosity. I have watched the town I grew up in go from a robust economy with well-kept homes and infrastructure to a struggling economy with shuttered businesses, dilapidated homes and a broken-down infrastructure over the past 30 years. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand these people. The problem is they don’t understand themselves or the reasons for their anger and frustration.
The problem is that rural America doesn’t understand itself and will never listen to anyone outside its bubble. It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views will be automatically discounted. I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they will not even entertain the possibility that it might be true. Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact that I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.
At some point during the discussion, they will say, “That’s your education talking,” derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said. They truly believe this is a legitimate response, because to them education is not to be trusted. Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts.
Knowing this about their belief system and their view of outside information that doesn’t support it, telling me that the problem is coastal elites not understanding them completely misses the point.
Another problem with rural Christian white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white god made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.
Once you have this view, it is easy to lower the outside group’s standing and acceptable level of treatment. Again, there are varying levels of racism at play in rural Christian white America. I know people who are ardent racists. I know a lot more whose racism is much more subtle but nonetheless racist. It wouldn’t take sodium pentothal to get most of these people to admit they believe they are fundamentally better and superior to minorities. They are white supremacists who dress up in white dress shirts, ties and gingham dresses.
Because rural Christian white Americans will not listen to educated arguments, supported by facts that go against their fundamentalist belief systems from “outsiders,” any change must come from within. Internal change in these systems does happen, but it happens infrequently and always lags far behind reality. This is why they fear change so much. They aren’t used to it. Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether they like it or not, it, like evolution and climate change even though they don’t believe it, it is going to happen whether they believe in it or not.
Rural Christian white Americans have let anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted racists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, the Stepford wives of Fox, and every evangelical preacher on television into their systems because these people tell them what they want to hear and because they sell themselves as being like them. The truth is none of these people give a rat’s ass about rural Christian white Americans except how they can exploit them for attention and money.
Gays being allowed to marry are a threat. Blacks protesting the killing of their unarmed friends and family are a threat. Hispanics doing the cheap labor on their farms are somehow viewed a threat. The black president is a threat. Muslims are a threat. The Chinese are a threat. Women wanting to be autonomous are a threat. The college educated are a threat. Godless scientists are a threat. Everyone who isn’t just like them has been sold to them as a threat and they’ve bought it hook, line and grifting sinker.
Since facts and reality don’t matter, nothing you say to them will alter their beliefs. . . . . The problem isn’t understanding their fears. The problem is how to assuage fears based on lies in closed-off fundamentalist belief systems that don’t have the necessary tools for properly evaluating the fears.
I think the idea that “Democrats have to understand and find common ground with rural America,” is misguided and a complete waste of time. When a 2,700-year-old book that was written by uneducated, pre-scientific people, subject to translation innumerable times, and edited with political and economic pressures from popes and kings, is given higher intellectual authority than facts arrived at from a rigorous, self-critical, constantly re-evaluating system that can and does correct mistakes, no amount of understanding, respect or evidence is going to change their minds and assuage their fears.
“Rural white America needs to be better understood,” is not one of the dots. “Rural white America needs to be better understood,” is a dodge, meant to avoid the real problems because talking about the real problems is viewed as too upsetting, too mean, too arrogant, too elite, too snobbish.
I do think rational arguments are needed, even if they go mostly ignored and ridiculed. I believe in treating people with the respect they’ve earned, but the key point here is “earned.” . . . . Just because the media, pundits on all sides and some Democratic leaders don’t want to call the actions of many rural white Christian Americans racist and bigoted doesn’t make them not so.
What I understand is that rural Christian white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. I understand rural Christian white America all too well. I understand their fears are based on myths and lies.
They are the problem with progress and always will be, because their belief systems are constructed against it.  The problem isn’t a lack of understanding by coastal elites. The problem is a lack of understanding of why rural Christian white America believes, votes, behaves the ways it does by rural Christian white America.