Saturday, February 24, 2018

Franklin Graham Is Destroying His Father's Brand

While there was much to dislike about the late Billy Graham (a previous post looked at some of these), compared to his son Franklin, Billy Graham looks most attractive.  In his thirst for political power - and I suspect wealth along with it, Franklin Graham is helping to kill the evangelical brand in America. Rather than being known for thoughtful adherence to scripture, Franklin Graham is making evangelical Christianity best know for its hypocrisy and hatred of others.  Gay and Muslims being the favored targets for hate.  A piece in Politico looks at how Franklin Graham (along with Jerry Falwell, Jr.) is destroying his father's brand, if you will, and likely accelerating the demise of evangelical Christianity - and Christianity in general - in America.  Here are article highlights:
[A]lmost two decades ago, [Billy] Graham handed over the keys of the empire to his son, Franklin. And if you want to chart the troubled recent course of American evangelicalism—its powerful rise after World War II and its surprisingly quick demise in recent years—you need look no further than this father-and-son duo of Billy and Franklin Graham. His son is—not to put too fine a point on it—a political hack, one who is rapidly rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system marked not by faith, hope, and love but by fear of Muslims and homophobia.

Franklin Graham is a very different sort of man, better known today for his right-wing political pronouncements than for his evangelism. Shortly after 9/11, Franklin Graham provided the sound bite of today’s culture wars when he denounced Islam as “a very wicked and evil religion.” He later became the standard bearer for the view that Islam is, in his words “a religion of hatred . . . a religion of war.”
In addition to purveying the birther nonsense that helped to propel Donald Trump to political prominence, Franklin Graham suggested that President Barack Obama was not a Christian and might in fact be a secret Muslim. Along with Jerry Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell Jr., he helped to elect Trump president by swinging 80 percent of white evangelical voters to his side. And then when Trump was elected he attributed his victory not to a surge of White Christian support or to swing states in the Midwest but to divine providence.
Franklin Graham seems blissfully unaware of the possibility that there might be even the slimmest of gaps between the words that come out of his mouth and the words written down in scripture. More damningly, he demonstrates no awareness of the ways in which his political pronouncements are breaking down the evangelical witness his father devoted so much energy to building up.
During the 1940s and 1950s, the United States persisted in its religiosity as European countries secularized. In fact, the Americans witnessed a powerful religious revival after the war, thanks in part to Billy Graham. That revival is over. Religion is now declining in the United States, and evangelicalism with it. In fact, over the last decade, the portion of white evangelical Protestants in the United States declined from 23 percent to 17 percent. . . . .The most significant development in American religion in recent years is the shocking rise of the religiously unaffiliated (otherwise known as “nones”), who now account for roughly one quarter of all Americans. This increasing distance from religious institutions is accompanied by increasing distance from religious beliefs and practices.
There are many reasons for this decline in religious believing and belonging. But the most important in my view is the increasing identification of the Christian churches with right-wing politics. If you are among the 26 percent of eligible voters who voted for Trump, you likely applaud this development. But what about the other 74 percent?
The qualities of temper and judgment that made Billy Graham so singularly successful are almost entirely lacking in his son, who now imperils his father’s legacy. Thanks to Franklin Graham and his cronies on the Religious Right, American evangelicalism has now become first and foremost a political rather than a spiritual enterprise. The life of Billy Graham helped build it up. And his death may well have ensured its demise.

The author is a professor of religion at Boston University.

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Myth That More Guns Could Have Stopped the Parkland Massacre

NRA apologist Marco Rubio confronted by student survivor.
To listen to the NRA and its cheaply bought political whores in the Republican Party (one student survivor said AR-15 should be called Marco Rubio's since both could be cheaply bought) , more individuals armed with guns would have prevented the high school massacre in Florida.  It turns out that there were four (4) Broward County sheriff department deputies on the scene at the high school, none of whom entered the school as the shooter conducted his murderous rampage. One can ponder why trained deputies, one of who was highly decorated, refused to enter the school, but one possible reason was their fear of possible certain death going up against some one armed with an assault weapon while armed only with pistols.  Thus, not only did the assault weapon allow more students to be killed and wounded, but it may have intimidated trained and armed deputies from acting notwithstanding department policies that required them to enter the building.  The easiest way to have prevented the massacre? Take assault weapons out of the equation by banning them and confiscating those in circulation was was done in Australia two decades ago (which ended that nation's mass shooting problem). CNN looks at the deputies' failure to act:

When Coral Springs police officers arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14 in the midst of the school shooting crisis, many officers were surprised to find not only that Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson, the armed school resource officer, had not entered the building, but that three other Broward County Sheriff's deputies were also outside the school and had not entered, Coral Springs sources tell CNN. The deputies had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles, the sources said, and not one of them had gone into the school.
With direction from the Broward deputies who were outside, Coral Springs police soon entered the building where the shooter was. New Broward County Sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene, and two of those deputies and an officer from Sunrise, Florida, joined the Coral Springs police as they went into the building. Some Coral Springs police were stunned and upset that the four original Broward County Sheriff's deputies who were first on the scene did not appear to join them as they entered the school, Coral Springs sources tell CNN. It's unclear whether the shooter was still in the building when they arrived. The resentment among Coral Springs officials toward Broward County officials about what they perceived to be a dereliction of duty may have reached a boiling point at a vigil the night of February 15, where, in front of dozens of others, Coral Springs City Manager Mike Goodrum confronted Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. A source familiar with the conversation tells CNN that Goodrum was upset that the Broward deputies had remained outside the school while kids inside could have been bleeding out, among other reasons. The Broward County Sheriff's Office confirmed to CNN that it is investigating the claims that, in addition to Peterson, three other deputies did not try to enter the high school after the shooting began. "What I saw was a deputy arrive ... take up a position and he never went in," Israel said at a news conference. Israel said Peterson should have "went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer." Peterson was suspended without pay, after which he resigned.
County Superintendent Robert Runcie said, "I'm in shock and I'm outraged to no end that he could have made a difference in all this. It's really disturbing that we had a law enforcement individual there specifically for this reason, and he did not engage. He did not do his job. It's one of the most unbelievable things I've ever heard."
Israel also announced an investigation into how two other deputies had handled warnings about the gunman prior to the shooting.

Something is Deadly Wrong With the "Conservative" Movement

Right wing nut case Dana Loesch.
Continuing on the theme of the last post, in a column in the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker - generally a conservative - is off the GOP reservation again and on a tear decrying the lunacy on display at the CPAC confab where Der Trumpenführer spoke for some 90 minutes yesterday.  What's perhaps most frightening is that Trump looks relatively sane compared to many of the other speakers, some of whom seemingly need a mental health care intervention. If CPAC gives a glimpse at the real GOP, it is nothing short of scary.  One spittle flecked speaker after another launching into utter insanity disconnected from objective reality.  One striking thing to note is how little one needs in terms of actual credentials to become a "leader" in today political right.  Here are excerpts from Parker's column:
Oh, for God’s sake.  What else can one say about the week after Florida’s high school massacre? Funerals for the 17 students and faculty were barely begun before rhetoric on the right descended into indecency.
Much of it came from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering of the extreme right who snack on brimstone. Speaking to the mostly young crowd, politicians and officials from the National Rifle Association went ballistic over recent talk of gun control. Low points included characterizing the media as loving mass shootings and as wanting to advance its socialist agenda.
Is this really the best we can do? I ask this not as a member of the media but as someone who grew up with guns; lives in a house with guns; knows how to shoot and is good at it; doesn’t object to hunting for food; has friends in the NRA. . . . . I’ve weathered my share of gun spookiness, in other words, with the result that I’m neither anti-gun nor a socialist. I do not, however, feel the need to pose in pictures wearing a tightfitting dress and heels, while holding my very own AR-15, as NRA spokesvixen Dana Loesch does on the cover of her book.
A few highlights from the lectern:
Loesch, who gained prominence as a “conservative” radio host, projected a she-devil in Prada when she pointed to members of the media and said, “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many of the legacy media in the back.”
[T]his vile idiocy is too much. . . . . What’s true is that school shootings seem to be the domain of white boys focused on killing their mostly white peers.
 To segregate grieving parents by race, essentially mocking the mothers we’ve witnessed of late, is disgusting. To applaud such distortionist propaganda should be beneath any serious adult concerned enough with these mass assaults to consider sensible alternatives to doing nothing.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a human bellows (useful at campfires), criticized CNN’s town hall as an “infomercial,” and said calls for new restrictions were “tiresome.” As are so many people these days. 
No, actually, the media follows news. A school massacre qualifies. And, yes, people want to know more as a way of seeking solutions. But hating the media is how many Republicans pass the buck. Their accusations are a distraction, the roots of which can be traced to evil. 
Longtime NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre cited the Democrats’ “socialist” agenda and, without irony, said, “As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.” Check.
Therein lies the problem in any debate these days. We’re either on the slippery slope to serfdom or everybody gets an AR-15. Surely there is sane ground in between such extremes. 
When the final showdown is between the NRA and children who have just buried their friends, brothers, sisters, teachers and coach, something is deadly wrong in this country. Out of respect for the dead, wounded and grieving, the adults need to stop acting like children.

An Epidemic of Dishonesty on the Right

Parkland students have been accused of being "actors" and have received right wing death threats.
For a party that claims to support "Christian values" - something that I was raised to believe included not lying and bearing false witness - the GOP and the political right in general seemed defined by dishonesty and the constant lying about those they dislike or anything that challenges their warped, reality free world view.   The latest example of the phenomenon has been the vicious attacks on the high school students who survived the Marjory Stoneman High School mass shooting and have spoken out in favor of gun control.  Claims have been made that the students are "actors" - perhaps because they do not speak on a 4th grade level like Der Trumpenführer - to actual death threats against the teenagers.  (From my own experience writing this blog, it is always the "conservatives: and "godly Christians" who make death threats).  Sadly, much of what the GOP and right have to say about almost any subject now is untrue, be it denials of climate change, to claims that the Trump tax law will benefit the middle class rather than the wealthy, to outright bizarre conspiracy theory claims.  The net result is that thinking rational people dismiss "conservative" talking points out of hand since odds are they are based on lies.  The GOP was not always like this.  In my view, the change came when the Christofascists hijacked the party base.  Over the last 25 years I have found no group to lie more than the "godly folk."  A piece in National Review takes the right to task for the rampant dishonesty that is the mainstay of the wrongly labeled conservative movement.  Here are highlights:
First it was the Holocaust, now Parkland — is there any act of depravity to which the less respectable right-wing media cannot imagine a connection for George Soros?
David Clarke, the sheriff of Fox News, insisted that the Florida students’ reaction to the shooting “has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it,” idiotic capitalization in the original and, one assumes, in his soul. The idiots at Gateway Pundit suggested that one of the student survivors was a fraud because — get this — he’d been interviewed on television before about an unrelated incident. Dinesh D’Souza joined in to mock the students as patsies.
To be fair, D’Souza doesn’t think George Soros is behind Parkland — he thinks George Soros was behind the Holocaust.
The Soros-was-a-Nazi story is a staple of talk radio and the less responsible conservative corners of the Internet. The facts are rather different: Soros was a three-year-old Jew living in Budapest when Adolf Hitler came to power. He was still a child when the war ended. During the Nazi occupation of Hungary, he was ordered to report to the local Jewish registry, where he was given the job of delivering deportation notices to Jewish families, something his father prevented him from doing. The Soros family was well-to-do, and his father was able to purchase fraudulent documents identifying the Soroses as Christian. Toward the end of the war, Soros was under the care of a government official who helped protect Soros — and his own Jewish wife — even as he went about his official task of inventorying the estates of dispossessed Hungarian Jews.
Lying about George Soros is wrong for a number of reasons. The first and most important of them is that lying is wrong, and those of us who play roles in the public discourse have a special responsibility to be scrupulous with the facts, especially those touching our opponents and rivals. That is related to another good reason to avoid this kind of dishonesty: When people get used to hearing prominent conservatives lying about their opponents, it makes it easier for honest and fair-minded people to dismiss conservative arguments and conservative claims out of hand.
D’Souza is hardly the only offender here. Scott Baio suggested on Twitter that the woman presented as Charlottesville murder victim Heather Heyer was the same woman presented as Sandy Hook mother Vicki Soto. . . . .I would not give one furry little rat’s patootie what Chachi says or does, but this is a man who was invited to speak on the opening day of the Republican National Convention in 2016, who is a regular representative of the conservative view on Fox News and other outlets, and who is, therefore, a figure of some cultural consequence, peculiar as that fact may be.
And of course there is the fact, inconvenient for conservatives, that the president of these United States, who is in the habit of denouncing “fake news” from the bully pulpit, spent years trafficking in a daft conspiracy theory about Barack Obama: that he is a Kenyan and possibly (as Baio has suggested) a Muslim, possibly a closet radical Muslim (call him “The Meccan Candidate”) sympathetic to the aims of al-Qaeda et al.
Trump and his apologists have failed to learn the sad lesson of Hillary Rodham Clinton: When people have come to assume that every other word out of your mouth is a lie, it becomes very difficult to tell the truth effectively.
That’s a problem for the president in particular, but it also is a problem for the conservative movement, which has become infected with Trump’s dishonesty.
Dinesh D’Souza should be ashamed of himself. David Clarke should be ashamed of himself, and not just for his ridiculous hat. And conservatives should be ashamed of them, too, and for bending the knee to Scott Baio, Ted Nugent, and every other third-rate celebrity who has something nice to say about a Republican from time to time. And we should be ashamed of ourselves if we come to accept this kind of dishonesty in the service of political expediency. If conservative ideas cannot prevail in the marketplace of ideas without lies, they do not deserve to prevail at all.
Very well said and all too true.  From Fox News to a host of other right wing "news" outlets, lies and false information are now the staple of these faux journalists and self-styled "watch dogs."

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, February 23, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

The GOP Now Mirror's Europe's Fascist Far Right

My Republican grandparents and even my Republican parents would not recognize today's GOP  on display at the CPAC gathering in Washington, D.C.  Indeed even during my own time as a GOP activist likely a majority of the attendees would have been viewed with outright horror given that the party base now consists of those that would not have been deemed politically, much less socially acceptable.  Sadly, as a piece in the Washington Post notes, the GOP looks more like one of European ethno-nationalist .  Ironically, one speaker attacked "European socialism" and ignored the reality that Europe now has more upward mobility than the United States, European citizens have better access to health care, and the social safety net does not view millions of individuals as disposable garbage.  Indeed, it was no accident that the niece of French far-right extremist Marine Le Pen (who has received funding from Putin's Russia) was in attendance and addressed the gathering yesterday.  Sane and moral people need to be afraid.  Here are column excerpts:
The Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual conclave of the American right, is underway just outside Washington. President Trump will deliver a speech there on Friday, while Vice President Pence opened proceedings Thursday with a paean to his boss's first year in office, a recitation of his Christian bona fides and a Republican rallying cry ahead of pivotal midterm elections this year. But it has not gone off without controversy. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the youthful niece of French far-right heavyweight Marine Le Pen, also addressed the gathering Thursday. Her appearance dismayed some establishment Republicans, who were not eager to associate with a political faction linked to the dark remnants of European fascism.
 The acceptance of people such as Maréchal-Le Pen and British anti-immigrant campaigner Nigel Farage, who is speaking Friday, seemed to underscore the hard-rightward drift of the Republican Party. These are not conservatives; these are members of an international ethno-nationalist populist movement," Matt Lewis, a moderate Republican commentator, said to NBC News. But he added that this was in keeping with Trump's ultra-nationalism. CPAC has “featured speakers who raged against gays, Muslims and immigrants and, for years, it banned panel discussions about gay rights,” noted right-wing Washington Post blogger (albeit indefatigable Trump critic) Jennifer Rubin. “However, it was also a place where mainstream conservatives came to speak, and where policy gurus from think tanks had calm discussions. . . . Now CPAC encapsulates the GOP. Adherents of President Trump’s brand of Republican politics do not bother to disguise their extremism,  conspiracy theories, paranoia or xenophobia.” Maréchal-Le Pen displayed much of that paranoia and xenophobia during her 10-minute speech. “France is no longer free today,” the 28-year-old said. "After 1500 years of existence, we now must fight for our independence." She went on to bash the European Union, earning cheers from the CPAC crowd. Her remarks echoed Trump's own blood-and-soil rhetoric [first used by Hitler and the Nazi Party] over the past year. She decried what she called the scourge of immigration, bashed globalization, signaled a desire to quit NATO and cozy up to Russia, gestured at her opposition to same-sex marriage, and championed the “historical continuity” of her nation. . . . . It’s still hard to see what she gains at home by addressing this audience abroad: Public opinion polling regarding Trump in France finds widespread disapproval of the American president, even among National Front voters. . . . . She is also closer to her grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front's founder who has a long record of Holocaust denial and other bigotry. More mainstream politicians on the center-right are aping Le Pen’s brand of identity politics. That is a phenomenon all too familiar to those watching Trump's America and the events unfolding in Washington this week.

Right Wing Lunacy Reigns at CPAC

Wayne LaPierre, NRA propagandist ,at CPAC

If one wants a front row seat observing what's wrong with America, a good place to start is at CPAC - the Conservative Political Action Conference - which might better stand for Crazy People Acting Crazy.  The confab is featuring a who's who of hate merchants and, of course, gave a prominent speaking platform to Wayne LaPierre of the NRA who wants every school in America turned into a "hardened site" with heavily armed teachers (the NRA is a "presenting sponsor of the event). Anything rather than adopt common sense gun control measures and a ban of assault weapons. LaPierre clearly puts gun manufacturers' profits ahead of America's school children.  As NPR noted, LaPierre ended his speech, to a standing ovation, by reprising comments he made just over five years ago after the mass-shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut : "To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun."

Also featured as a speaker is French Fascist Marion Maréchal-Le Pen who compared Brexit and the French anti-gay hate group La Manif Pour Tous with the election of Trump, citing all three as examples of the global rise of the right.

In attendance too is the falsely named "Constitution Party" which wants to turn America into a theocracy based on that unhinged group's reading of the Bible.  As might be expected, gays are high on the target list of the Constitution Party:

The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence  . . .  We reject the notion that homosexuals, transgenders or those who are sexually deviant are deserving of legal favor or special protection, and affirm the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior. We oppose all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through any courts or legislatures.  Finally, we oppose any legal recognition of homosexual or civil unions. 

Among other "key issues" for the Constitution Party  - and CPAC attendees generally are the following:

  • end federal funding of public education
  • no infringement on gun ownership
  • end binding precedent of court rulings on non-parties to the litigation
  • the privatization of Healthcare and Social Security, with Social Security being phased out
  • American withdrawal from the United Nations
  • anti-immigrant policies

These people are NOT mainstream and are downright frightening.  Oh, and did I mention that the majority of CPAC attendees are Trump supporters?

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, February 22, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Why Does the Far Right Demand Respect It Doesn't Give to Others?

Whether the issue be gun control or the right's false flag of "religious liberty," conservatives demand that their beliefs and sensibilities be afforded respect even when they are directly controverted by empirical and objective fact, yet  they afford no respect to the beliefs of others.  Being gay, one sees the double standard all the time, especially from ignorance embracing Christofascists who want respect for their "deeply held beliefs" yet who attack anyone who rejects such antiquated and  scientifically impossible beliefs.  Then, of course, there are working class whites who voted for Trump and Republicans even though they advance policies that directly harm such voters.  Personally, I am over respecting the beliefs of  those who are bigots or simply dumb as bricks when facts do not support their claimed beliefs.  Deciding to embrace ignorance and bigotry is a choice and deserves no deference or respect. This is especially true of "conservatives" who slime those (i) who refute their beliefs, or (ii) with whom they disagree.  A prime example is what is being done to the Parkland high school students now being dragged through the mud by right wing sites and conspiracy theory formenters.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the hypocrisy of gun fanatics who want respect from others while giving none in return.  Here are excerpts:
Supporters of even modest restrictions on firearms are regularly instructed that their ardent advocacy turns off Americans in rural areas and small towns. Those in favor of reforming our firearms laws are scolded as horrific elitists who disrespect a valued way of life.
And as the mass killings continue, we are urged to be patient and to spend our time listening earnestly to the views of those who see even a smidgen of action to limit access to guns as the first step toward confiscation. Our task is not to fight for laws to protect innocents, but to demonstrate that we really, honestly, truly, cross-our-hearts, positively love gun owners and wouldn’t for an instant think anything ill of them.
What is odd is that those with extreme pro-gun views — those pushing for new laws to allow people to carry just about anytime, anywhere — are never called upon to model similar empathy toward children killed, the mourning parents left behind, people in urban neighborhoods suffering from violence, or the majority of Americans who don’t own guns.
Depending on the survey, somewhere between 58 percent and 68 percent of us live in households without guns. But no one who belongs to the National Rifle Association is ever told to prove their respect for our way of life. Rarely is it pointed out that the logic of the gun lobby’s position is to create a world in which everyone will need a gun, whether we want one or not. 
The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, an institution that suffered the worst effects of our inaction on guns, have not gotten the memo that they are supposed to shut up, and may they be blessed for this. You can tell their angry outspokenness is having an impact, and not only because President Trump has taken modest steps to suggest he hears the message. More telling is that some of the same right-wingers who demand deep respect for gun culture have shown no scruples about trashing the kids.
Bill O’Reilly was so upset at the attention their protests are drawing that he accused the media of “promoting opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases.” The condescension is revolting, and never mind that without emotionalism and peer pressure to conform, O’Reilly’s former employer, Fox News, would go out of business.
Former representative Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) doubted the capacity of these students to think or act for themselves. “Their sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups who have an agenda,” he said on CNN. Young people who disagree with him can’t possibly have minds of their own.
No wonder the foes of gun sanity are worried. On Wednesday, the students and supporters gathered at the state Capitol in Florida shouting “vote them out!” — a day after the state’s Republican-led legislature voted down a ban on many semiautomatic guns and large-capacity magazines.
How come only one side of the supposed culture war on guns is required to exude respect for the other? Because the culture-war argument is largely a gimmick pushed by the gun lobby as a way of demonizing its opponents. None of us who endorse stronger gun laws wants to disrupt anybody else’s way of life. And none of the measures we are proposing would do that.
What truly alarms the gun lobby is that many steps to curb the scourge of gun violence enjoy broad support, from those who own guns as well as those who don’t. A Quinnipiac pollreleased on Tuesday, for example, found that 97 percent of Americans favor background checks for all gun buyers. 
I am all for Americans reaching out across our cultural divides. But if we wait to act until our cross-cultural understanding is complete, many more who might have been saved will die.

Inconvenient and Ugly Truths about Billy Graham

Some say that it is bad form to speak ill of the dead.  I view it as even worse form, however, to rewrite history and avoid the truth about public figures, especially when the truth involves bigotry and self-enrichment.  While much of the mainstream media is engaged something akin to self-felatio in mourning over the death of Billy Graham - I omit the designation "Reverend" since I hold bible colleges and the Southern Baptist Convention in very low esteem - very little is being said about the ugly side of Graham who was a homophobe, a make chauvinist, and an anti-Semite.  Yes, unlike most Southern Baptists of his era, Graham disavowed outright segregation, but that hardly merits forgiving his other transgressions  against decency.    It also bears remembering that Graham set the model for today's self-enriching scamvangelists - i.e., so called pastors and evangelists who laugh all the way to the bank - and played a role in evangelical Christians' toxic role in American politics.   A piece in The Raw Story looks at the ugly underbelly of Graham's "career."   Here are excerpts:
Graham is getting tributes from all corners right now. And he deserves praise for supporting the civil rights movement, supporting Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment and embracing Muhammad Ali during the fall-out of his conversion to Islam. All those good deeds will be covered in great detail today.
But while Graham certainly did many great things, he also said and did some awful things. And because he was so respected, his deeds were very influential.
Graham helped normalize ultra-rich pastors. Graham’s wealth, and focus on more wealth, was modest compared to the televangelists preaching the prosperity gospel today. His net worth was estimated at $25 million.
Graham once preached that AIDS was the judgement of God. “Is AIDS a judgment of God? . . . Graham quickly backtracked on this one, saying that he didn’t believe that and didn’t know why he said it. Nevertheless, this dog-whistle was heard by too many.
Graham wrote a memo to President Nixon urging him to commit a war crime in Vietnam. Unlike many Christian leaders, Graham supported a very specific military strategy in the Vietnam war. He wanted Nixon to use nuclear weapons to destroy the dikes that manage flooding in North Vietnam. This plan was something Henry Kissinger dismissed as “just too much.”
Graham was anti-Semitic. . . . . For example, after taped conversations revealed that Graham made anti-Semitic statements to President Nixon. Specifically, he told the president that Jews control the media, and that this was dangerous: “This stranglehold has got to be broken or this country’s going down the drain.” Nixon agreed with this, and Graham suggested that if he got elected to a second term “we might be able to do something.” Graham would later point out that he had Jewish friends.
 Graham had backward views on women. He criticized feminism, and is the namesake of that weird rule that Mike Pence lives by, never spending any time alone with any woman besides his wife.
 Graham raised his boy wrong. In his 1997 autobiography, Graham was regretful of his involvement in politics, writing that, “If I had to do it all over again, I would also avoid any semblance of involvement in partisan politics… And yet, Graham failed to impart this wisdom on his son Franklin Graham, who took over the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and who has taken the lead in defending and legitimizing Donald Trump to evangelicals.
The comment in the piece about Graham's son is an understatement as to the lengths Franklin Graham has thrown aside supposed "Christian" values in supporting Trump, Roy Moore and other morally bankrupt Republicans.  His sister Ann Graham Lotz is no better and fully fits the scamvangelist model established by her father who made being a "professional Christian" a route to personal financial wealth.  Graham and his children excelled at claiming the Bible inerrant yet ignored any passages not supportive of their personal and political agendas. 

One of Billy Graham's last public acts was in 2012 - possible under his son's coercion - when he was trotted out to endorse North Carolina's Amendment 1 that banned marriage equality.  As a piece in Huffington Post by an activist friend notes, Graham's statement appeared in full page ads in 14 newspapers across North Carolina.  Graham was no friend to the LGBT community and he was no supporter of equality under the law. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

It's Time to Get in the NRA's Face in a Major Way

Having been a political activist for 25 years, one thing that drives me to distraction is the difference - perhaps laziness is the better word - of so many Americans when it comes to paying attention to politics and getting off one's butt to support responsible candidates and to oppose toxic elements in political life.  Few organizations are more toxic in American politics than the NRA which basically trades in death and puts gun manufacturers' profits above all else, including the lives of school students as demonstrated by the NRA's opposition to any type of sane gun control legislation after every mass shooting.  Only in America does such carnage go on and on while NRA puppets in elected office do nothing by offer utterly worthless "thoughts and prayers."  A column in the New York Times exhorts Americans to get off their asses and do more than dwell in social media.  The rubber hits the road by confronting and getting in the faces of NRA bought politicians and voting them out of office.  Here are column excerpts: 
Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived last week’s mass shooting, wrote a beautiful essay for that declared: “At the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience — our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools. But this time, my classmates and I are going to hold them to account. This time we are going to pressure them to take action. This time we are going to force them to spend more energy protecting human lives than unborn fetuses.”
Cameron, God bless you for that sentiment. But just one piece of respectful advice: If your generation and mine want to get serious about a gun control crusade, we all need to get out of Facebook and into someone’s face: the N.R.A.’s.
This fight can’t be won on Twitter or Instagram. . . . . The N.R.A. is not just in the chat rooms. It’s in the cloakrooms of Congress and state legislatures. And it’s there with bags of money and votes it uses to reward lawmakers who do its bidding and hurt those who don’t.
I loved seeing the 100 students from your high school taking buses Tuesday to Florida’s capital to directly press lawmakers. That’s a great start. I hope every high school follows.
But, ultimately, nothing will change unless young and old who oppose the N.R.A. run for office, vote, help someone vote, register someone to vote or help fund someone’s campaign — so we can threaten the same electoral pain as the National Rifle Association, which, according to PolitiFact, spent $203.2 million between 1998 and 2017 funding its candidates, defeating gun control advocates and lobbying. This is not about persuading people with better ideas. We tried that. It’s about generating raw electoral power and pain.
Because most of the G.O.P. members of Congress who do the N.R.A.’s bidding care about only one thing: their jobs. The pay of a typical congressman is $174,000 — and free parking at Reagan National Airport — and they will sell themselves to whoever can generate the votes to enable them to keep both. . . . . This is primarily a G.O.P. problem today.
How do we know that? Read the paper or the web. The G.O.P., which claimed to stand for conservative family values, has prostrated itself before the most indecent person to ever occupy the White House — a man who lies as he breathes, smears poor, nonwhite nations and reportedly had sex with a porn star shortly after his wife delivered their son. But G.O.P. lawmakers are mute on this because President Trump energizes their base and ensures their $174,000-a-year jobs and free parking at Reagan National Airport.
Republicans won’t back common-sense gun laws that would protect fully developed human beings — because the N.R.A. energizes their base and funds their campaigns and ensures their $174,000-a-year jobs and free parking at Reagan National Airport.
This is a party whose “Freedom Caucus” was so obsessed with our rising national debt that it tried to prevent Barack Obama from spending a dime to stimulate our economy after it went deep into recession — but just voted to add $1 trillion to the debt for a corporate tax cut without regard for the burden put on our kids.
Trying to embarrass them to act on principle is wasted breath. . . . . They know full well that a common-sense banning of all military assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, or mandating universal background checks for gun buyers or to prevent terrorists and the mentally ill from buying guns, would not curb the constitutional right to bear arms.
They know full well that they’re in the grip of an N.R.A. cult, whose heart is so frozen, it’s content to watch innocent children and adults get gunned down weekly — rather than impose common-sense gun limits. They know all of this — but they suppress it, because they also know if they vote for common-sense gun laws, the N.R.A. will fund their next opponent.
Like I said, this is just about raw naked power, and that is what sensible gun control advocates have to generate more of now — in the form of votes and campaign funding. Otherwise nothing changes.
Keep speaking out, Cameron — but never underestimate what some people will do for a $174,000 job and free parking at Reagan National Airport.
 Many ask why the husband and I are so politically active and give money, provide housing to candidates' staff members, and use whatever influence we can muster to get voters out on election day to support good candidates.  The answers are easy.  First, it is a duty of Second, and more importantly, bad things happen when good people fail to act.  In 2016, far too many good people were lazy and failed to vote.  The result is the nightmare that occupies the White House.  Another is a GOP totally beholden to the NRA.  This can change, but people must get off their asses and and get to work NOW.  The 2018 midterms are a perfect opportunity to send the GOP and NRA a message.  And remember that silence equals complicity.

Democrats Win 37th Red to Blue District Pickup

Linda Belcher, Democrat victor

Another state district election in a deep red district has seen a Democrat flip the district from Republican to Democrat.  What's amazing is the 86 point swing in the vote from just two years ago when Der Trumpenführer had won the district by 72%.   Yesterday, the Democrat won with 68% of the vote. It seems that voters are waking up to the reality that the GOP is not delivering on its promises and that average Americans are worse off under GOP rule.  Making racists and religious fanatics feel good about themselves doesn't pay the bills.  The never ending scandals swirling around the Trump/Pence regime only help to underscore this reality.  Here are highlights from Daily Kos on yesterday's stunning Democrat victory: 

Break out the bourbon—Democrats just won their 37th red-to-blue state legislative flip of the cycle. This latest win came in Kentucky, where former state Rep. Linda Belcher (not to be confused another important Linda Belcher) defeated Republican Rebecca Johnson 68-32 percent in the 49th state House District.
This seat went for Donald Trump in a 72-23 landslide in 2016, making Belcher’s win tonight an astonishing 86-point swing. Belcher herself lost this seat 50.4-49.6 percent in 2016 after flipping it from red to blue by a 53-47 margin in 2014. (She’d previously lost HD-49 in 2012 after serving two terms.) The Republican who ousted Belcher in 2016 was Dan Johnson, the self-styled “Pope” of the controversial Heart of Fire church.
Dan Johnson’s tenure as a state representative ended abruptly on Dec. 13, when, just a day after refusing to resign amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old in his home after holding one of his infamous church parties, he committed suicide. His widow, who continues to proclaim her late husband’s innocence, stepped forward to run for the seat.
Belcher had already planned to seek a rematch with Dan Johnson before his sudden death triggered this special election. She was one of at least 28 current and former teachers lined up to take on incumbents in November 2018, so she was ready to hit the ground running when the campaign timeline shifted.
If Republicans can’t hold onto seats like this in deep red states like Kentucky, they’re a special kind of screwed in November—at every level of the ballot.

GOP Continues to Drive Young Voters to Democrats

click image to enlarge

At the risk of sounding like Cassandra from the Iliad, I have been saying for a long time that the Republican Party has no long term plan for survival given what at times appears as it's deliberate efforts to alienate young voters, minorities, the LGBT community and non-Christians of every faith.  Meanwhile, there are no limits on the extent to which Republicans will prostitute themselves to the NRA, Christofascist extremists and corporate players who will happily buy them off ant the expense of the majority of their constituents.  Yesterday, GOP legislators in Florida displayed utter contempt for students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who traveled to Tallahassee to lobby for changes to Florida's woefully lacking  gun laws.  Rather than display respect for the students, one legislator ranted at the students and then the GOP majority (as the students watched) voted down a motion to take up a ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 used by Nikolas Cruz when he killed 17 people at the school on Valentine's Day.

A piece in The Week looks at the GOP's continued drive to alienate the  younger generations and argues that past experiences of voters drifting back to the GOP over time may not happen this time around.  Here are article highlights:
Will the former reality TV star currently working part-time in the White House do incalculable long-term damage to the Republican brand? It sure seems like it! After all, President Trump's horror-show of a first year in office has already diminished the number of Americans who self-identify as Republican, endangered GOP congressional majorities, and led prominent conservative intellectuals to abandon the party. . . . it is fair to wonder whether the Trump administration is indeed losing the future.
Still, Michigan State political scientist Matt Grossman recently tried to throw some cold water on the "Republicans are doomed" theory. . . . . Pointing to past Republican nadirs like the post-Watergate era and the end of George W. Bush's tenure, he reminds us that the GOP has recovered from worse fiascos before and that it will likely do so again.
While Grossman's piece is a useful corrective  . . . . it does neglect one critical component of what is happening in the United States today: For over a decade, young people have been voting overwhelmingly for progressives and, more importantly, telling pollsters that they identify with or lean towards supporting the Democratic Party.
If you think that's always been the case, you're wrong — despite the unpopular war in Vietnam and the swirling cultural revolution, Richard Nixon won under-30 voters in 1972. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter split young voters evenly in 1980, while Reagan and George H.W. Bush crushed it with the young in '84 and '88.
Something remarkable began happening in 2004, though. That's the year John Kerry carried the under-30 vote by 9 points. And the next three presidential elections saw Democrats demolishing their opponents with young people by 34, 23, and 19 points. . . . . There is simply no precedent for such a yawning gap in a party's fortunes with America's youngest voters over the course of four presidential cycles since pollsters started collecting this kind of data. And it is an ominous sign about the future of the Republican Party.
Scholars believe that partisan identification becomes hardened fairly early in our lives. Despite popular tropes about how people start out as starry-eyed idealists and become more conservative with age, the overwhelming majority of Americans do not experience mid-life or late-life political transformations.
With millennials, Democrats have enjoyed roughly a 20-point advantage in party ID since Pew starting asking them the question 14 years ago. Millennials are now the largest living generation and are starting to vote in greater numbers. This is a huge problem for the GOP that both predates and is far bigger than Trump.
But the data gets worse for Republicans the deeper you dig into it. In 2016 exit polling, for instance, 18- to 24-year-olds went more heavily for Hillary Clinton than their older millennial counterparts, suggesting that, if anything, the Republican position is falling apart with the tail end of the millennial generation.
And it gets even worse for the GOP: A 2017 Pew poll found that fully a quarter of young Republicans had defected to the Democrats since 2015.
Nor does the increasing progressivism of America's youngest voters seem to be driven by short-term reactions to particular political figures or developments. Instead, the avocado toast and Instagram set is being driven into the arms of Democrats by their underlying beliefs. An astonishing 66 percent of respondents in that youthful age bracket told Pew that they favor single-payer health care. Nearly three-fourths of the youngest Americans favor gay marriage.
We are likely witnessing the maturation of the most liberal generation of voters since the New Deal. . . . . To reverse their decline, Republicans would have to make inroads either with Generation Xers or with even younger voters.  That is unlikely, to say the least.
My own three children have all fled the GOP despite being raised in a Republican household during their earlier upbringing and actively working on GOP campaigns.  Like the Millennials mentioned in the article, the support a single payer health care system, favor gay marriage and gay rights, and cannot abide the evangelical Christian and white supremacist core of the current GOP base. The more the GOP attacks the Affordable Health Care Act, rescinds gay rights and prostitutes itself to Christofascists and racists, the larger the exodus of younger voters.