Saturday, April 21, 2018

Virginia Republicans May Have Forfeited Virginia's Hopes for Amazon

Back during the 2018 session of the Virginia General Assembly a handful of Republicans - 5 to be exact - mostly from Hampton Roads killed every pro-LGBT bill pending during the session thanks to the handiwork of the Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates.  Similarly, Virginia Republicans refused to start the process to delete anti-gay laws from the Code of Virginia and Virginia Constitution even though the same had been ruled as unconstitutional by the federal courts.  At the time I and others warned that maintaining an anti-gay climate could destroy Virginia's chances to land Amazon's second headquarters facility even though Virginia has a pro-LGBT Governor, Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor.  Now, a piece in the Washington Post under scores that Virginia Republicans' decision to embrace bigotry and prostitute themselves to the hate and fear motivated Christofascists and groups like The Family Foundation - a hate group in all but formal designation - could inflict a huge economic loss on Virginia.  Here are article excerpts:  
When Amazon executives recently toured the Dallas-Fort Worth area, one of 20 finalists for a second company headquarters, local officials touted its growing workforce and low taxes as perfectly suited to accommodate 50,000 planned Amazon jobs.
But the local team also brought an unexpected guest: the Rev. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, pastor of a predominantly gay megachurch in Dallas. He impressed upon the Amazon representatives how inclusive and welcoming the community has been to him, his husband and the 4,000 congregants at his church, according to people familiar with the meeting.
In the high-stakes contest to become’s new location, it may have been a shrewd move. Although the company’s search materials don’t make it explicit, Amazon has quietly made rights for and acceptance of gay and transgender people part of its criteria in choosing a second headquarters, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely.
As Amazon executives recently toured finalist locations to help select what they’ve dubbed HQ2, they asked public officials about what sort of “compatible cultural and community environment” — the wording from the company’s search parameters — each city offers, adding to speculation about whether Amazon will choose a liberal stronghold. In North Carolina, company representatives asked pointed questions of Gov. Roy Cooper (D) about several state policies such as the “bathroom bill,” which restricted the use of public facilities by transgender people, according to a person in the room. In another city, an Amazon executive groaned at the mention of proposed legislation in Georgia that would restrict funding for same-sex adoption, according to another person who attended the meeting between the company and state and local officials. Given the publicity and economic impact of the project, including as much as $5 billion in capital expenditures, Amazon’s push on gay and transgender rights may increase pressure on state and local policymakers who have either declined to institute equal-rights rules or passed laws some view as discriminatory. The sponsor of the Georgia bill, state Sen. William T. Ligon Jr. (R), said the issue of same-sex adoption wasn’t intended to be discriminatory . . . . . “If you’re against, then I think we need to think hard about whether you ought to come here,” he said. “We need to seriously consider whether we want you to come here.” That sentiment has not played well at Amazon, according to a person who has been on tour with Amazon as it meets with local officials. “I just think Atlanta’s out,” the person, who is not an Amazon employee, said.
The company’s search for a region of “compatible cultural” values is one of many issues it has said it’s considering as it chooses the new headquarters.  But gay rights has emerged as a focus for the company’s founder and chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos.
 Amazon’s second headquarters project is the biggest economic development prize — by a long shot — that many industry veterans say they have ever seen. . . . . For HQ2, the company estimates it will hire as many as 50,000 people, make $5 billion in capital investments and fill 8 million square feet of office space, which would be larger than the Pentagon.
Although Amazon is not sharing details of its meetings and requires nondisclosure agreements from bidders, its conversations with local officials are driving them to make or propose changes in an effort to woo the company. Some jurisdictions are pressing ahead with airport expansions or improvements that might impress Amazon.
While Amazon’s inquiries on gay rights may anger conservatives, LGBT advocates say the company is not going far enough.  One group wrote to Bezos asking that he not choose 11 locations in nine states that have not passed comprehensive legal protections for people based on their sexuality or gender. . . . “We’re talking about a decision that will affect the quality of life of thousands of people,” said David Mixner, a writer and activist who signed the letter. “If all they are concerned about is money, then they roundly deserve to be criticized.”
Officials in other regions have argued that if Amazon wants to maximize its support for the issue, it could relocate to — and bring change to — a politically red state.  With someone like Bezos around, city and business leaders in Dallas and Austin, both HQ2 finalists, say they could do more to change attitudes in the state. 
 Hopefully, Amazon will view Virginia in this last category.  It would either convert Republicans or - better yet - educate the population and usher in permanent minority status to Republicans.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Exposing The “Real” Mike Pence

In many ways, I believe Mike Pence embodies many of the worse elements of the Christofascist extremists who have a stranglehold on the Republican Party base.  Pence engages in false piety while doing violence to the Gospel message, he claims to be "pro-life" even though his party's policies are  anything but pro-life once a child - especially a poor minority child - is born, and he is fanatically anti-LGBT (I suspect because of his own sexual orientation issues).  On the latter point, the president of the Human Rights Campaign recently stated: “Mike Pence has made a career out of attacking the rights and equal dignity of LGBTQ people, women and other marginalized communities. Now as vice president, he poses one of the greatest threats to equality in the history of our movement. With the world distracted by Donald Trump’s scandal-ridden White House, Mike Pence’s nefarious agenda has been allowed to fly under the radar for too long.  . . ."  HRC and others in the LGBT and progressive community are seeking to expose Pence for what he really is and, hopefully expose the extremism of the GOP agenda in the process.  A piece in Politico looks at the effort.  Here are highlights (please take the time to check out the HRC website):

A leading progressive group is launching a campaign-style effort to [correctly] paint Vice President Mike Pence as an extremist who wields unprecedented power in the White House — an early sign that as the vice president takes a lead role in midterm campaigning, he also risks making himself a target.
The Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBT rights organization, is launching a sustained attack against Pence, with a website, videos and a lengthy report to be released on Thursday. The materials were shown to POLITICO early.
And as President Donald Trump’s legal troubles expand, from the special counsel probe to a federal investigation of his personal attorney, some Democrats are beginning to train their fire on Pence in case the president doesn’t run for reelection in 2020 or gets removed from office. The broadside comes as Pence has taken on an outsize role in the Republicans’ work to prevent a Democratic wave in 2018. In the next week and a half, Pence will be making campaign stops in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana and California. Those trips come after Pence has already crisscrossed the country stumping and fundraising for Republicans. The HRC effort highlights what it describes as Pence’s “extremist ideology”: his opposition while in Congress to Employment Non-Discrimination Act protections for sexual orientation; his opposition to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which barred openly gay people from serving in the military; his opposition to hate crime protections for transgender individuals; and a statement on his 2000 campaign website that appeared to endorse federal funding for the controversial practice of “conversion therapy.”
The report, which highlights these positions, also hits Pence for his handling of an HIV/AIDS outbreak in Indiana during his governorship and for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics said would legalize discrimination against LGBT people and which nearly derailed his governorship.
Along with the report, HRC produced a series of videos, including one in which Pence decries the use of condoms and another in which he lobbies against hate-crime legislation. . . . . Clips of Pence speaking on the floor of the House — including one in which he says, “Abstinence and marital faithfulness before condom distribution are the cure for what ails the families of Africa” — are spliced in. “We’ve seen Mike Pence fly underneath the radar,” said Chris Sgro, HRC’s communications director. “The unfortunate reality is that Mike Pence has tried to hold himself out there as the moderate, grown-up voice in the room. But we know, and this report exposes, that he’s anything but. He is a dangerous extremist.” [GOP strategist, Rick] Tyler said even if HRC and other groups beat up on Pence as November approaches, he believes voters are more likely to make ballot-box decisions based on their views of Trump.
“When [House Speaker Paul] Ryan announced he wasn’t running for reelection, that was in many ways the end of the Republican Party the way I knew it and the way Ryan knew it,” Tyler said. “The cord is severed, this is now Trump’s party, for better or worse, for good or bad, and 2018 is now a referendum on his party.”

Nobody Likes Trump Except White Evangelicals

Trump with lunatic base.

The twin pillars of Donald Trump's base of support are evangelical Christians and white supremacists (personally, I believe there is a large overlap between the two groups).  For "friends" who continue support Trump and who have lost the fig leaf of "supporting fiscal conservatism" in the wake of the GOP/Trump tax bill, I suggest that they take a good look in the mirror and face the truth as to which of these two groups they fall into.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at continued evangelical support for Trump, perhaps the most morally bankrupt individual to ever occupy the White House. For me, the takeaway is that evangelicals are just as morally bankrupt as Trump.  Here are article excerpts:

The Public Religion Research Institute, which regularly does valuable polling and analysis on issues where politics and religion intersect, has a new poll out this week. They’ve also supplied some analysis breaking out white Evangelical respondents to their poll (about 17 percent of the sample), showing that support for Donald Trump among the paler born-again folk is at “an all-time high”:
White evangelical support for Donald Trump has steadily increased over time. Notably, Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals never reached 50 percent during the 2016 primary season. By the early fall of 2016, however, his favorability among white evangelicals had jumped to 61 percent. By the inauguration it increased to 68 percent, and shortly after the inauguration in February 2017 it jumped again to 74 percent. Over the course of 2017, there were minor fluctuations, but Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals never dipped below 65 percent during this time.
Trump’s favorability ratio among white evangelicals now, says PRRI, is 75-22, as compared to 42-54 among the American population generally. And his popularity is just insanely high among men (81 percent) and the non-college-educated (78 percent) within the white Evangelical universe.
I emailed the PRRI, and got the non-white-Evangelical numbers from the very same poll.  They’re pretty compelling. Among Americans who are not self-identified white Evangelicals, Trump’s favorability ratio is 36-60, with 41 percent expressing very unfavorable views of [Trump]the president. Among women who are not white Evangelicals, the ratio is 29-69, with about half — 49 percent — harboring a very unfavorable view of Trump. How about college-educated Americans who aren’t white Evangelicals? Trump’s at 32-65, with 47 percent holding a very unfavorable opinion of him. And outside the ranks of the white Evangelicals, even non-college-educated Americans have a dim view of the MAGA man, disliking him by a 39-58 margin (this obviously includes minority folks), though a mere 38 percent dislike him strongly.
There are two takeaways from this data, one obvious and one a bit less obvious. First of all, Trump is really, really dependent on the good opinion of white Evangelicals. . . . he owes them immensely. And you do have to wonder if there’s some tipping point . . . after which these fine church folk freak out and head south on [Trump]the president. There’s no evidence of that so far . . .
There’s another thing to consider as well. . . . Perhaps Trump’s most avid fans are living in their own bubble of white Evangelical culture, while disdain for the mogul is so common elsewhere that it’s the prevailing (if hardly unanimous) sentiment.
That’s a different way of looking at it, isn’t it? Trump-disparagers aren’t necessarily elite, aren’t necessarily secular, and aren’t necessarily minorities, either. What they most have in common is that by and large they do not identify with religious communities where the Bible is regarded as the literal, inerrant truth about all of its content; . . . 
Yes, there are anti-Trump people in white Evangelical circles and pro-Trump people elsewhere, but the patterns don’t follow the conservative meme of the Trumpian masses versus the anti-Trumpian classes, at all.
Non-white-Evangelical America is a pretty big part of this great big country, and it’s a place where Donald Trump is really unpopular. Get used to that idea.
Given Trump's reliance on evangelicals, it goes without saying that he - and the insidious Mike Pence - will do all in his power to make the lives of LGBT Americans a living Hell.  Meanwhile, Trump received less than a warm welcome in Key West, a city with a motto diametrically opposed to what Trump and his base stand for:

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, April 20, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

California Assembly Votes to Ban All Gay "Conversion Therapy"

Right wing Christians engage in all kinds of frauds in the furtherance of their theocratic political agenda.  Few as pernicious as so-called gay "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy" which is universally condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America (and most of the developed world).  Yet Christofascist charlatans continue to engage in the practice - Michelle Bachmann and her husband run such a clinic under the guise of "Christian counseling" - for basically two reasons: (i) to support the myth that sexual orientation is a "choice" thereby negating the need for laws protecting LGBT rights, and (ii) it is very lucrative and keeps the practitioners of  such "therapy" living the good life.  States are increasingly banning the use of such therapy on minors - such a bill was killed by Republicans in the recently passed session of the General Assembly. Now, California seeks to ban the practice entirely.  A bill as passed the California Assembly and now goes to the state senate where it will hopefully be passed.  Here are highlights from the Los Angeles Times:

The California Assembly voted Thursday to add gay “conversion therapy” to the state’s list of deceptive business practices, following a debate that focused on the personal experiences of several lawmakers and hinted at potential lawsuits to come.
“It is harmful and it is unnecessary,” Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), the bill’s author and one of the Legislature’s most vocal LGBTQ members, said of the practice.
Low, who told Assembly members that he explored conversion therapy as a Low, who told Assembly members that he explored conversion therapy as a teenager and suffered depression over his sexual orientation, insisted that the bill would be limited to efforts that involve the exchange of money.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” he said in an emotional speech on the Assembly floor. “There’s nothing that needs to be changed.”
The bill, which now heads to the Senate, has become the focal point of intense debate on social media. Some religious groups have said that such a law would be a violation of their constitutional rights, while advocates insist the provisions are narrow and there’s no credible evidence that the services work.
One key part of the debate centers on whether Assembly Bill 2943 would stretch beyond businesses that charge for these programs and extend to printed documents, even Bibles. An analysis by the Assembly Judiciary Committee says the bill would apply only to services that purport to change a person’s sexual orientation and offered “on a commercial basis, as well as the advertising and offering of such services.”
“This is fraudulent, it should not be occurring,” said Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton). “But you can still try to pray the gay away, if you like.”
California law already bans the use of conversion therapy by mental health professionals on those under age 18. Low’s bill would expand the state’s efforts beyond minors. It would join a list of commercial activities deemed “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” and therefore banned under state law.

DOJ: Manafort Suspected As “Back Channel” To Russia

With rampant speculation that Michael Cohen will flip on Donald Trump and cooperate with the Mueller investigation - a piece in Vanity Fair notes that "The question being asked is not whether Trump or Cohen committed any crimes, but whether Cohen will flip on his boss when prosecutors turn up the heat" - several sources are reporting that a representative of the Department of Justice  has stated that the Mueller investigation was justified in investigating and prosecuting Paul Manafort because Manafort is thought to have been the back channel connecting the Trump campaign with Russian intelligence operatives seeking to throw the 2016 presidential election to Trump.  Here are highlights from Bloomberg on the issue:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a “back channel” between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge.
The disclosure by U.S. prosecutors came Thursday during a hearing on whether Mueller exceeded his authority in indicting Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. Manafort’s lawyers say those alleged crimes have nothing to do with Mueller’s central mission -- to determine whether anyone in the Trump campaign had links to the Russian government.
Defense attorney Kevin Downing argued anew to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington that even Mueller’s appointment order permitting him to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” wouldn’t cover the political consulting work that Manafort did in Ukraine for a decade.
But Justice Department attorney Michael Dreeben said prosecutors were justified in investigating Manafort because he had served as Trump’s campaign chairman.
“He had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians,” Dreeben told Jackson. “Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things.”
Prosecutors hadn’t previously used such explicit language to describe their suspicions about Manafort. In a previous court filing, Mueller also cited business ties between Manafort and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Any investigation of links between Russia and the Trump campaign “would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs,” prosecutors said in an April 2 filing.
“It would also naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications,” prosecutors wrote. “And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities. Because investigation of those matters was authorized, so was prosecution.” Mueller has charged 19 people, including 13 Russians, since his appointment. Five have pleaded guilty, including Rick Gates, a former Trump deputy campaign chairman and longtime business associate of Manafort. Gates is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
Aside from the Washington indictment, Manafort is also charged in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, with bank and tax fraud.
Dreeben, who is helping Mueller with the investigation, has argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court as deputy solicitor general.

Study Links Religion And Suicide For LGBT Youth

As regular readers know, I have a very dim view of most forms of organized religion, especially fundamentalist denominations and, of course, the morally bankrupt and hypocrisy dripping Roman Catholic Church.  My own Catholic upbringing cause near unlimited amounts of self hate as I tried to deny who I was and sought desperately to conform to Church and by extension family expectations. The result was innumerable thoughts of suicide and two serious attempts that landed me in the hospital.  It literally years of therapy and walking away from Catholicism to find emotional and spiritual peace.   Based on my experiences, I view raising an LGBT child in a fundamentalist or conservative Catholic home as nothing less than a form of child abuse.  I also hold fundamentalist denominations and conservative Catholicism responsible for many needless suicides. A new study linking religion and suicide for LGBT youth confirms these views.  Here are highlights from a piece in Huffington Post:
Faith is supposed to be a source of strength for believers, especially during times of struggle and sorrow. However, a new study suggests that religiosity may be linked to negative feelings among queer individuals ― including increases in suicidal behaviors.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last month, is a chilling revelation of the ties between suicide and theology that doesn’t affirm queer identity.
“Religious groups who stigmatize LGBT people should be aware of the potential damage they can do to an individual and families, and honestly the damage they do to themselves as an organization,” study co-author John R. Blosnich told HuffPost. 
In order to study religiosity and suicidal ideation among sexual minorities, Blosnich and his fellow researchers turned to data collected by the University of Texas at Austin’s Research Consortium. The students were asked to rate how important their religious or spiritual beliefs were to their personal identity. They were also asked a number of questions about whether they had ever seriously considered or attempted suicide. Analyzing this data, the research team found that while 3.7 percent of heterosexual young adults reported recent thoughts of suicide, the percentages were significantly higher among queer youth. Those questioning their sexuality had the highest rate of recent thoughts about suicide at 16.4 percent, followed by bisexual individuals (11.4 percent) and lesbian or gay individuals (6.5 percent). 
Five percent of heterosexual youth reported attempting suicide in their lifetimes, compared to 20 percent of bisexual youth, 17 percent of questioning youth and 14 percent of gay or lesbian youth.
Notably, the study authors found that religion may have acted as a protective factor against suicide attempts among heterosexual youth. On the other hand, for lesbian and gay youth, increasing levels of religious importance were associated with increased odds of recent suicidal ideation. In fact, lesbian and gay youth who said that religion was important to them were 38 percent more likely to have had recent suicidal thoughts, compared to lesbian and gay youth who reported religion was less important. Religiosity among lesbians alone was linked to a 52 percent increased chance of recent suicidal ideation.
Questioning youth who said religion was important to them were nearly three times as likely to have attempted suicide recently, compared to questioning youth who reported religion was less important. 
“It can be very scary to be caught in a space where your religion tells you that you are a ‘sinner’ just for being who you are,” he told HuffPost. “Sexual minority people may feel abandoned, they may experience deep sadness and anger, and they may worry what this means for their families ― especially if their families are very religious too.”
Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also found that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth seriously contemplate or attempt suicide at higher rates than heterosexual youth.
While several mainline Protestant and even evangelical leaders have begun to embrace a more inclusive theology, some of America’s largest religious denominations still hold non-affirming views of queer sexuality. Roman Catholic Church doctrine views gay and lesbian relationships as “intrinsically disordered.” The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, sees marriage as exclusively reserved for one man and one woman and actively rejects equating gay rights with civil rights. Blosnich’s study demonstrates that for many queer people, non-affirming theology is at best problematic and at worst lethal ― “no matter how kindly or compassionately” it is articulated. [I]n Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based, researchers have documented a recent spike in teen suicides. Some advocates for LGBTQ Mormon teens have asserted that the spike is connected to the church’s policies on queer sexuality, although research hasn’t confirmed this link.  The Mormon church views queer relationships as sinful. In November 2015, it declared that Mormons in such relationships were to be considered apostates
Diane Oviatt, a Mormon mother with a gay son, is part of Mama Dragons, a group of parents who have banded together to advocate for their queer children. She believes that non-affirming theology has a “direct” effect on suicidal ideation among LGBTQ youth and young adults. . . . . “There is absolutely no room for homosexuality anywhere in the doctrine,” she told HuffPost. “Our kids are stripped of hope and faced with the notion that they, by virtue of their sexual identity, are ruining their celestial ‘forever’ family and will be separated from them in the hereafter if they choose a same-sex partner.”

What is just as troubling to me is that many of these anti-gay denominations care little or nothing about the lives being lost or damaged.  Sadly, the leaders of these groups care more about retaining their power and/or refusing to face the untrue aspects of their dogma than the lives of living, breathing individuals. I suspect that Christ would be appalled.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Do Democrats Have a Gentrification Problem?

One of the results of Donald Trump's take over of the Republican Party which now counts right wing Christian extremists and white supremacists as its core base is that educated whites, especially those who are college educated have fled the GOP.  Many of these exiles have joined into the Democrat Party, especially in East Coast and West Coast cities and large cities in the blue archipelago in between.  Some now argue that the Democrats risk alienating less educated whites - or at least those who haven't already rallied to Trump's embrace of Christofascists and  racism - and racial minorities as a result of the so-called gentrification of Democrat circles.  Among the reasons for this supposed intra-party strain is housing and income inequality and the increased importance of affluent whites as donors for the Democrats.  A column in the New York Times looks at this question which I personally has been somewhat overblown.  Here are excerpts:
The nation’s largest cities and metropolitan areas — home to a majority of Democratic voters — are at the forefront of the party’s most vexing racial, ethnic and class conflicts.
Last week, in an essay for CityLab, Richard Florida, a professor of urban planning at the University of Toronto, described how housing costs are driving the growing division between upwardly and downwardly mobile populations within Democratic ranks:
The rise in housing inequality brings us face to face with a central paradox of today’s increasingly urbanized form of capitalism. The clustering of talent, industry, investment, and other economic assets in small parts of cities and metropolitan areas is at once the main engine of economic growth and the biggest driver of inequality. The ability to buy and own housing, much more than income or any other source of wealth, is a significant factor in the growing divides between the economy’s winners and losers.
Allies on Election Day, the two wings of the Democratic Party are growing further estranged in other aspects of their lives, driven apart by the movement of advantaged and disadvantaged populations within and between cities. These demographic patterns exacerbate intraparty tensions.
Florida, writing with Benjamin Schneider of CityLab, expands on this point:
While the advantaged members of the knowledge, professional, and creative class have enough money left over even after paying the cost of housing in these cities, it’s the less-well-paid members of the service and working classes who get the short of end of the stick, with not nearly enough left over to afford the basic necessities of life. They are either pushed to the periphery of these places or pushed out altogether.
The competition for housing between rich and poor has become a critically important and divisive issue in urban America.
One of the most expensive metropolitan areas in the country, San Francisco, is also one of the most Democratic sections of the country, (San Francisco County: Clinton 84.5 percent, Trump 9.2 percent). According to Romem, between 2005 and 2016, those moving into the San Francisco area had median household incomes averaging $12,639 a year more than the households of the families moving out, $70,015 to $57,376.
Conversely, in the struggling Syracuse metropolitan area (Clinton 53.9 percent, Trump 40.1 percent), families moving in between 2005 and 2016 had median household incomes of $35,219 — $7,229 less than the median income of the families moving out of the region, $42,448.
Research that focuses on the way city neighborhoods are changing by income, race and ethnicity, while not specifically addressed to political consequences, helps us see the potential for conflict within the Democratic coalition.
In firmly Democratic neighborhoods across the country, the economic status of those moving in and out began to shift radically starting at the beginning of this century.
[T]he core of the nation’s cities is being taken over by members of the affluent wing of the Democratic Party at the expense of the less affluent, disproportionately minority wing of the party:
Central neighborhoods of most U.S. metropolitan areas experienced population decline 1980-2000 and population growth 2000-2010. 1980-2000 departures of residents without a college degree accounted for most of the decline while the return of college educated whites and the stabilization of neighborhood choices by less educated whites drove most of the post-2000 rebound.
. . . . neighborhoods surrounding cities’ central business districts have experienced a turnaround.
A similar pattern has emerged in the urban West. “Gentrification in the Bay Area, Portland and Seattle,” Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, told me in an email, “is definitely pushing disadvantaged populations out of old neighborhoods and into far-flung exurbs.”
Upscale liberal whites “who consider themselves committed to racial justice” tend to be “NIMBYists when it comes to their neighborhoods,” Cain wrote, “not living up to their affordable housing commitments and resisting apartment density around mass transportation stops.”
Michael Lind, a professor of public policy at the University of Texas in Austin, wrote in a prescient 2014 essay, “The Coming Realignment: Cities, Class, and Ideology After Social Conservatism,” that “high-density downtowns and suburban villages are coming to have an hourglass-shaped social structure.”
“Wealthy individuals” are at the top, according to Lind, with a “large luxury-service proletariat at the bottom.”  . . . Lind’s point raises a fundamental question for the Democratic Party: Can it find a way to hold its “hourglass-shaped” political coalition together?
[A] Democratic Party based on urban cosmopolitan business liberalism runs the risk not only of leading to the continued marginalization of the minority poor, but also — as the policies of the Trump administration demonstrate — to the continued neglect of the white working-class electorate that put Trump in the White House.
In other words, Democratic strategists looking to piece together a 21st century political alliance have to consider the unintended consequences of taking the easy route: constructing a coalition explicitly dominated by elites.
I say easy because — compared to the average resident of the United States — the affluent are “vastly more engaged politically,” as Douglas S. Massey and Jacob S. Rugh, sociologists at Princeton and Brigham Young University, write in a forthcoming paper, “Isolation at the Extremes”: Whereas 99 percent of the wealthy voted in the 2012 presidential election and 60 percent gave money to a political candidate, the corresponding figures were just 78 percent and 18 percent for Americans in general. As a result, the affluent are far more likely to have their political preferences reflected in public policies than other Americans.
The hurdle facing those seeking to democratize elite domination of the Democratic Party is finding voters and donors who have a sustained interest in redistributive policies — and the minimum wage is only a small piece of this. Achieving that goal requires an economically coherent center-left political coalition. It also requires the ability to overcome the seemingly insuperable political divisions between the white working class and the African-American and Hispanic working classes — that elusive but essential multiracial — and now multiethnic — majority. Establishing that majority in a coherent political coalition is the only way in which the economic interests of those in the bottom half of the income distribution will be effectively addressed.

More Thursday Male Beauty

House Republicans Want More Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

With the GOP/Trump tax cuts remaining unpopular, especially given the $1.8 trillion budget deficit increase they are now projected to cause, Republicans are panicking ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.  So what do House Republicans want to do?  Lead by Paul "Reverse Robin Hood" Ryan, they want to pass an additional $650 billion in cuts by making the cuts for individuals permanent.  Never mind that those cuts disproportionately went to the very wealthy - I have seen less than $50 in difference in pay pay stubs - while average Americans were largely stiffed.  And that doesn't even get into the issue of how Ryan and company seek to slash the social safety net for average Americans.  The only positive news is that Mitch McConnell (who I suspect history will depict as a key player in the end of American democracy) is not keen on the effort since a handful of Democrat senators might vote for the bill and deprive the GOP of a perceived cudgel to use against them in November.  The GOP truly lives in a bubble/alternate universe.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:

Heading into a contentious campaign for control of Congress, Republicans are increasingly divided over how to bolster their signature legislative achievement — a $1.5 trillion tax cut — amid signs it is not the political gift they had expected it to be last year.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) aims to pass another massive tax cut this summer, which Republicans hope will rev up the GOP base and improve the standing of Republicans at the polls.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is under pressure to block a vote, which Republican campaign strategists worry could allow red-state Democrats to vote for additional tax cuts and undermine one of the GOP’s most effective lines of attack in conservative-leaning states: that Democrats voted against a big tax cut last December.
The GOP debate shows how the tax bill, which Republicans rushed to pass in December despite the enormous complexity of overhauling the tax code, has not become the campaign booster Republicans said it would be.
Republicans had bet that increasing the take-home pay of Americans would help them defeat Democrats come November. But months after the tax cut started to affect paychecks, polling shows the legislation remains unpopular. 
That is a major problem for Republicans, who since taking control of the government last year have dealt with party infighting, high-profile retirements, multiple stalled attempts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care law and the constant swirl of controversy surrounding President Trump.
Some Republicans have even suggested that voters might not have noticed increases of $40 or $60 or so in their paychecks, partly because many workers no longer get paper pay stubs. . . . . The $1.5 trillion legislation was primarily focused on cutting taxes for companies. It also trimmed individual taxes, but those cuts were left to expire in 2026 to comply with Senate budget rules.
Democrats have seized on the unbalanced approach, which Republicans promised would be rectified.
Conservative leaders met with Ryan on Monday and expect a vote in June or July. That would give lawmakers time to discuss the issue with constituents over the August recess and ahead of Labor Day, the traditional kickoff to the election campaign season.But privately, Republicans trying to knock off Senate Democrats in states including West Virginia, Montana, Indiana and Missouri don’t want McConnell to take such a vote and are urging him against it, according to two GOP strategists knowledgeable about the conversations.
“Holding another vote would take away one of the bigger hits we have against Democrats for this fall and gives them a chance to take credit . . . . Another Republican strategist closely involved in Senate campaigns said that officials with the National Republican Senate Committee were urging McConnell not to hold a vote on individual tax cut permanence out of concern for the benefit to endangered Democrats. The strategist also requested anonymity to discuss the deliberations.
For their part, red-state Democrats appear ready to take advantage of a vote if Republicans schedule one. While enough Democrats would vote against additional tax cuts because of how much they’d add to the deficit, some such as Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia or Sen. Jon Tester of Montana could end up supporting them, thereby undercutting a major GOP line of attack against them.
Still, GOP leaders in the House and some conservative leaders argue that additional tax cuts would offer Americans another reminder that Republicans passed tax cuts in the first place and that Democrats broadly oppose them.
The struggles have led some Republicans to urge candidates to redouble their efforts to sell the tax law, which on average increased after-tax income for taxpayers in all tax groups this year, according to the Tax Foundation, while adding more than $1 trillion to the deficit.
House Republicans obviously believe that voters are idiots and can be bought for $40 per bi-monthly paycheck.  One can only hope that they are proven very, very wrong.

Catholic Church Hypocrisy on Church Sponsored Anti-LGBT Animus

One hears over and over about the supposed anti-Christian discrimination fostered by LGBT rights organizations and laws enacted to prevent anti-LGBT discrimination.  Anything that limits the ability of Christofascists and Catholic extremists to discriminate against gays - or other targets of hatred such as divorced Catholics, cohabitating unmarried couples, women using contraception, and, of course, non-Christians - is shrilly denounced as anti-Christian or anti-Catholic persecution.  Lost in the equation is that due to (in my view, improper) the tax-exempt status of churches, in reality all members of society are being forced to indirectly financially underwrite denominations that target them for hatred and discrimination.  This is NOT what the Founding Fathers contemplated when they drafted the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Indeed, it is precisely what they sought to avoid.  A piece in the Louisville Courier Journal takes to task  Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz for his blindness and hypocrisy on this issue.  Here are column excerpts:
I would like to point out in response to Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in his recent essay published in Courier Journal that his institution and his faith do not need a “First Amendment Defense Act” to protect his ability or the ability of the Catholic Church in America to pass down their beliefs to the children. 
Not a single law in this country blocks them from doing so. And not a single person in this country can do that either. Within the Church institution, gay marriage can be forbidden and women’s reproductive choices curtailed. The Church can even work to protect pedophile priests from prosecution by moving them out of the country, as was reported in USA Today in February of 2016.
However, the Catholic Church uses government grants and tax dollars to do all of this, which means that my tax dollars are funding the Catholic Church’s internal theological prohibitions and practices. My right not to pay taxes to prop up religious beliefs, practices and opinions is violated every day. Now we see the lobbying hand is out for tax credits (vouchers) to help fund religious schools.
No, Kurtz, it is not your rights or your Church’s that are in jeopardy. The danger is that my and every taxpayer in this nation’s rights are being eroded, and this has been going on for a long time.
The major problem we all face is that the Church is not satisfied with just blocking civil rights within its walls. The Catholic Church funneled millions of tax-free dollars from dioceses, the Council of Bishops and offshoot Catholic groups like the Knights of Columbus to block gay marriage laws in various areas of the country before the Supreme Court finally ruled gay marriage as civil right. Catholic-owned hospitals, which receive millions in tax dollars, block non-Catholic women and men from receiving legal reproductive health care every day.
More than 60 percent of the budget of Catholic Charities comes from government grants. But the federal and state governments are not allowed to oversee how that money is spent. There are more than 200 tax exemption laws on the books that cover religious institutions. I’d say the Church in America is certainly experiencing government favoritism rather than discrimination.
Freedom to practice religion, to hold religious beliefs, and to pass them down to the next generation is alive and safe in this county. But "freedom of religion” does not mean that religious opinions are protected from scrutiny, doubt and even condemnation when offered in the public arena. It does not mean that bullying gays should be protected by some ridiculous “amendment’. 
It does not mean that legal medical procedures, treatments and medications should be withheld from people who do not share the same religious beliefs. It does not mean that the civil right to participate in marriage should be blocked. It does not mean that public businesses can discriminate against anyone who seeks their services or products. There is discrimination going on here, but Kurtz is not recognizing the source of it.
We should talk about the “dignity of every human being.” We should also talk about what that actually means. And, we should talk about the rampant religiously sponsored and government funded discrimination that takes place in this country every day. Is Kurtz ready for that dialogue?
 How do we fix the problem?  Tax churches and all church properties not directly and exclusively used for true charitable purposes.  If churches cannot survive without the forced subsidization from non-members, then they deserve to die.  As for the Catholic Church - which owns untold fortunes in art treasures and properties - if parishioners will not pay the bills, then sell of assets.  Just like everyone else.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

White Supremacy Is America's Achilles Heel

Many of those who have remained in the Republican party in the past have used their supposed support for "fiscal conservatism" as the fig leaf for explaining their continued ties to a political party that now is defined by right wing Christian extremists and white supremacists.  With the passage of the federal budget busting GOP/Trump tax bill last December, the fig leaf of alleged GOP fiscal conservatism has been utterly disintegrate as if it had been tossed into a raging fire or crematorium. Thus, the question that needs to be asked of these Republicans of what their real motivations are going forward for remaining in a party that has exhibited budgetary recklessness and total disregard for fiscal responsibility.  As I have noted in previous posts, in my view, many are motivated by racism even thought they would vehemently deny it if directly asked whether or not they are racists.  As a fairly lengthy piece in the Atlantic  points out, racism has a long history in American politics and Trump and today's GOP - with the help of Russian efforts - are 100% on board for using race to stir hatred and appeal to white voters.  Here are article highlights:
There are a million and one threads to the chaos currently unspooling about the Trump administration and the 2016 election. One might be forgiven for giving up on trying to navigate the intricacies of congressional Russia inquiries, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ever-widening probe, news about foreign intrusions into voting systems, investigations about Twitter bots, and the developing story about the manipulation of Facebook data.
But there’s one main thread running through all of these stories, one that should orient readers to the things that truly matter, whether the news is about Cambridge Analytica or the Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency. It’s the fact that the human brain is eminently exploitable—as are, by extension, the civic and democratic institutions the human brain has built.  And in America, a country built from its foundations on white supremacy, where identity is forged in the crucible of a centuries-old “race question,” one of the easiest and most effective ways to “hack” those institutions is the use of racism in disinformation and propaganda campaigns. Almost every single American era of widespread racial friction was buttressed by sophisticated psychological manipulation, data gathering, and propaganda, a concoction that when taken together, often helped push whites to the extremes of anti-democratic oppression and violence. It’s the oldest American trick in the book.
[O]ne vital detail is the seemingly critical role of racial foment in Cambridge Analytica’s electoral work. . . . Cambridge Analytica, owned by conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer and linked heavily to former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, began embarking on research to figure out how to mobilize white conservatives:
In focus groups arranged to test messages for the 2014 midterms, these voters responded to calls for building a new wall to block the entry of illegal immigrants, to reforms intended to ‘drain the swamp’ of Washington’s entrenched political community and to thinly veiled forms of racism toward African Americans called ‘race realism,’ [Wylie] recounted.
“Race realism” is a new-ish term describing an old intellectual—or anti-intellectual—tradition using pseudoscience in the pursuit of racial dominance. It’s a new label for what’s now referred to as “scientific racism,” or research in social science, biology, and philosophy dedicated to proving the scientific inferiority of black people and other minorities, and thus validating white racial hegemony.
Scientific racism—from the earliest anthropology to the quackery of phrenology to the ongoing appeal of eugenics—became the justification for white-supremacist and herrenvolk governments the world over, including Jim Crow America, the Third Reich, and South African apartheid.
[T]he Internet Research Agency’s alleged actions were part of a set of schemes designed to leverage both the wealth of data in social media, and to use that data to exploit and manipulate people via the lever of racism.
The extent of the usefulness to the Trump campaign of these specific initiatives is still in question, but the strength of racist appeals should not be discounted out of hand. Propaganda and fear-mongering can be catalysts for underlying racist sentiment, either by confirming deeply held suspicions or encouraging others to edge past rhetorical boundaries—such as, say, prohibitions against violence, or the defense of American democracy. Such catalysts lower the activation energy for extremism.
. . . . “race realism” is a clever term designed to provide an intellectual sheen to the most base racist instincts. As such, it has a critical importance in the alt-right movement’s search for mainstream validation.
The very fact that Cambridge Analytica’s researchers stumbled upon and tested the effectiveness of “race realism” in Facebook campaigns is alarming, but it doesn’t stand alone. The president’s campaign also employed race-baiting rhetoric. Until recently, Breitbart—a site formerly run by Trump’s one-time campaign CEO and chief strategist—maintained a “Black Crime” story category. The use of racist propaganda is a startling echo of the past and could be a blueprint for the future. Such propaganda has been used before to radicalize and mobilize Americans, in opposition to the rule of law, and even in opposition to democracy.
[A]s Terry Ann Knopf argues in Rumors, Race, and Riots, fake stories about slave rebellions inflamed pro-secessionist thought in the South. The common theme is one that newspaper editors and demagogues alike used repeatedly to their advantage: White citizens were uniquely susceptible to perceived threats to their power, both nonviolent and violent, and often responded by further suspending democracy.
[B]ut it’s the specific ways in which white supremacists engaged in widespread radicalization of poor whites that seems particularly relevant today. . . . Scientific racism was critical in establishing the pretext for barring black people from democratic participation, and for inspiring them to ever more violent methods.
The indictment filed in February by special counsel Robert Mueller against 13 Russian nationals working for the Internet Research Agency illustrates how the Kremlin was interested in exploiting racial tensions on Trump’s behalf. . . . One central tactic appeared to be cribbed directly from the Jim Crow playbook: using both racist messaging against black people and fake black activism to amplify polarization and the likelihood of political violence. . . . The second prong in the racial strategy was disseminating false information about voter fraud or the potential of voter fraud, delivered by fake conservative accounts to conservative users. The third was racist fear-mongering, sometimes using the fake tweets from the first prong and reaction to them as fodder.
[I]f there’s anything to be learned from the politics of the past few decades, it’s that the margins of American democracy are often razor thin. And racism is a tried and true way to work those margins to political advantage.
Take, for example, the Internet Research Agency’s strategy involving using imposter accounts designed to look like real black, Latino, and Muslim activists.
There's much more in the article, including a review of how appeals to racism have been utilized in the past and the eagerness some white Americans have exhibited in jumping on the racist bandwagon.  Personally, I continue to believe that appeals to racism - with a dash of religious extremism - is what garnered Trump the roughly 70,000 votes need to flip three states to Trump's electoral column. Do I feel any need to be polite or sensitive to those who bought into this poison?  Definitely not.