Saturday, May 05, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

Sarah Huckabee Sanders - a Woman Devoid of Any Credibility

The list of those who have been willing to destroy their own credibility and integrity is lengthy.  A willingness to lie constantly is a prerequisite to any role in the Trump/Pence regime.  It began the day after the inauguration when Sean Spicer began lying about the size of the inaugural crowd despite indisputable evidence to the contrary. Since that day, the lies have been non-stop with the Washington Post calculating that Trump himself has lied over 3,000 times.  Thus, the question becomes one of what type of person would remain in a job where disseminating lies daily is a requirement of the job?  The question is particularly true of those who claim - or at least pretend - to support "Christian values."  In my view, if you continue to lie for a morally bankrupt, pathological liar, the reality is that you are as morally bankrupt as the boss. All of which brings me to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, one of the most dishonest women in Washington, D.C.  She comes by her dishonesty honestly, one might argue, given her father, Mike Huckabee, another perpetual liar who wraps himself in the cloak of religion.  An article in the Washington Post looks at Sanders' position and the derision she justly is receiving.  Here are highlights:
The West Wing shouting match was so loud that more than a dozen staffers heard it.  White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cursed and yelled at White House Counsel Donald McGahn during the February confrontation, according to two people familiar with the episode. Misleading statements about the domestic abuse scandal that felled staff secretary Rob Porter had dragged the administration into a maelstrom of chaos and contradictory public statements.
Exasperated, Sanders told McGahn she would not continue to speak for the administration unless she was provided more information about Porter’s situation.
The dispute, which erupted in a hallway outside Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin’s office, was resolved after Sanders received the clarity she sought, the people familiar with the argument said. Hours later, Sanders returned to her lectern to field queries from a skeptical press corps, though her answers left reporters with more questions.
Sanders was thrust into an especially harsh limelight over the past week. She was the subject of an acerbic broadside about her “bunch of lies” by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Then she was forced to explain the inconsistent accounts from her, President Trump and his new personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, about the hush money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. The week was punctuated by an onslaught of commentary about Sanders’s character.
Sanders is inextricably bound in the mistruths of the Trump administration. She is a willing warrior for Trump, and her critics say she should be held accountable for his utterances — from the untruthful to the racist to the sexist.
“When [Trump] the president blithely admits to lying, it makes all those who are paid to repeat and defend his stories liars, as well,” said David Axelrod, who was a senior White House adviser under President Barack Obama. “Their credibility is tied to his. It’s a high price to pay for a job, even in the White House.”
By the time she took over as White House press secretary from Sean Spicer in July, the administration’s penchant for misleading the public at the president’s direction was well established. 
Allies of Sanders say that she often pushes back on Trump, who wants her to attack the media even harder and more frequently, and that other administrations have also faced credibility problems, . . .
Fresh trouble for Sanders arose Wednesday night, when Giuliani, in a freewheeling interview with Sean Hannity, told the friendly Fox News host that Trump had reimbursed his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 in hush money he paid to Daniels . . .
Giuliani’s disclosure appeared to be at odds with Sanders’s repeated insistence that Trump was not aware of Cohen’s payment to Daniels. The interview, which Sanders did not coordinate, left her in an untenable position,. . .
Reporters pressed Sanders on Thursday: Was she a liar or simply in the dark? And why was the president’s personal attorney authorized to announce news about sensitive hostage negotiations?
Before most briefings, she meets with Trump in the Oval Office to discuss how he would like her to answer news-of-the-day questions, White House officials said. The president sometimes dictates lines for her to read or orders her to use precise words on particularly sensitive matters.
Sanders routinely dodges questions on hot topics by telling reporters she has not asked the president about it — a deliberate strategy to avoid having to wade into delicate issues, according to a Sanders confidant.

I'm sorry, but Sanders is a liar and she knows that she's a liar and it seemingly simply does not matter.  If she was a "godly Christian," she'd resign immediately.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, May 04, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

The Supreme Court Will Make Trump Talk

Throughout his real estate career - and seemingly his entire life - Donald Trump has always demonstrated two traits: he lies incessantly and he views himself as above the law, the latter being evidenced by his questionable mob ties and cosiness with Russian mobsters, not to mention his repeated disdain for municipal and federal laws that get in his way.  Now, with the Mueller investigation apparently headed towards a showdown, Mueller's trump card - no pun intended - is to secure a federal grand jury subpoena for Trump to testify.  Given Trump's endless lying, nothing poses a bigger danger than Trump before a grand jury with no legal counsel at his side. The likelihood of perjury occurring is, in my view, almost guaranteed and would open yet another phase for prosecution of Trump.  Thus, the question becomes whether or not Trump can be forced to testify.  A piece in New York Magazine suggests that, if given the opportunity, the U.S. Supreme Court would rule that Trump must testify (and likely cause his own undoing in the process).  Here are article highlights:
Rudy Giuliani may have just made the case for why Robert Mueller, the special counsel getting to the bottom of Russia’s role in the last presidential election, has a real need to speak with Donald Trump. And it has everything to do with the president’s state of mind during a key moment under the microscope: the firing of James Comey, the former FBI director.
“He fired Comey because he would not, among other things, say that he was not a target of the investigation,” Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity late on Wednesday. . . . . So he fired him, and he said ‘I’m free of this guy.’”
United States v. Nixon, the landmark Supreme Court case that forced President Richard Nixon to comply with a prosecutorial subpoena to turn over the Watergate tapes, is still good law. And of all the important principles the decision stands for — beyond precipitating the fall of a sitting president — one that rises to the top is the American public’s interest in the fair and impartial administration of justice. The court system must be able to get a full picture of the facts of a criminal investigation. “To ensure that justice is done,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote for an 8-to-0 court, “it is imperative to the function of courts that compulsory process be available for the production of evidence needed either by the prosecution or by the defense.”
Nixon is controlling law for the Mueller investigation. And in light of reporting this week that the special counsel still has a keen interest in interviewing Trump — and an apparent willingness to rely on compulsory processthere is a distinct possibility that Mueller may go to court and invoke Nixon if [Trump] the president doesn’t cooperate, either voluntarily or in the face of a valid subpoena. That’s the kind of momentous confrontation that no doubt would quickly make its way to the Supreme Court, which so far has seemed willing to treat Trump just like any other president, rather than carve out Trumpian exceptions to presidential powers that may bind later chief executives.
Even if he’s not a target, courts may still determine that Trump is required to give the evidence that’s asked of him — especially in a probe where he may hold the key to many of its mysteries. “The need to develop all relevant facts in the adversary system is both fundamental and comprehensive,” the Supreme Court said in Nixon. “The ends of criminal justice would be defeated if judgments were to be founded on a partial or speculative presentation of the facts.”
That’s precisely the state of affairs with a number of unresolved strands of the Russia investigation. We don’t know Trump’s frame of mind or what he knew when he fired Mike Flynn. We don’t know if he ever learned during the campaign that two of his family members and his campaign chairman wanted to obtain “dirt” on his rival from Russians during a meeting in Trump Tower. Or the reason he dictated the White House response to news reports revealing that the meeting took place. Or what he meant when he told NBC News’s Lester Holt that he dismissed Comey on account of “this Russia thing.” And what about his reported comments to Russian officials in the Oval Office, one day after Comey’s firing, that getting rid of the FBI director relieved “great pressure” from his presidency?
These are all open questions that are critical to Mueller and that only Trump can answer. And notice how all of these queries are far more focused than the broad, open-ended questions that Trump’s legal team leaked to the New York Times this week — not even Fox News’ Howard Kurtz buys the spin that these disclosures came from Mueller’s side.  . . . .[the] suggestion — that he [Mueller] remains on a never-ending fishing expedition — is just red meat for Trump’s base and a tactic to discredit Mueller’s work. Getting Trump’s direct testimony for a narrower set of interrogatories is Mueller’s way of tying up loose ends.
If Mueller can show that he has, as Nixon observed, a “demonstrated, specific need for evidence,” he’ll get it. The republic, the separation of powers, and the office of the presidency won’t crumble. The opposite may be true if the courts and the office of the special counsel are stonewalled by Trump and aren’t allowed to do their job.
Personally, I hope Mueller seeks a subpoena and soon.  It is far past time to put Trump in a box where he must testify and where, if he lies - a near certainty in my view - he will make matters far worse for himself.  I suspect Mueller already has information and evidence that he can use to catch Trump in his near certain lies.  Get out the popcorn.  

The Historian Behind Slavery Apologists Like Kanye West

Accurate History often isn't pretty.  1863 photograph that became known as “The Scourged Back”’
shows the whipping scars on Gordon, a former slave in Louisiana who escaped to Union lines.
For the record, I despise Kanye West.  I hold his no-talent, constant self-promoting wife, Kim Kardashian in even lower regard.   Typically, I avoid even commenting on them other than bitching about them to my husband when he has on Entertainment Tonight so that he can be current in the latest gossip among clients at the salon he owns.  But Kanye West's batshitery about slavery being a "choice" set me off.  Indeed, it's even more outrageous than the Christofascist meme that sexual orientation is a choice.   Living in a former Confederate state and having lived in the South for the majority of my life, I am way past the point of giving a pass to bigots and/or idiots who refuse to face the ugly aspects of America's history.  Kanye West, like far too many black pastors here in Virginia has allowed himself to be played for a fool by white story tellers who ultimately trace their roots back to proponents of the Jim Crow laws and "Massive Resistance" which closed public schools rather than integrate. The whole phenomenon underscores the need for a knowledge of true, accurate history (yes, I confess, I was a History major).   An op-ed in the New York Times looks at the whitewashing of slavery - no pun intended - that has seemly suckered Kanye West, who I view as not the brightest bulb on the shelf.  Here are excerpts:
A video of the rapper Kanye West discussing slavery is a sad reminder of America’s historical amnesia about the brutal realities of that institution. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years,” he said in the clip, which was widely circulated on Twitter, “that sounds like a choice.”
Mr. West seemed to suggest that enslaved African-Americans were so content that they did not actively resist their bondage, and, as a result, they bear some responsibility for centuries of persecution.
He’s not alone in his thinking. In 2016, the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asserted that slaves were “well fed and had decent lodgings.” Last September, the Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore deemed the antebellum era the last great period in American history. “I think it was great at the time when families were united,” he declared. “Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another.”
Modern scholarship has debunked such whitewashing, accurately depicting slavery as an inhumane institution rooted in greed and the violent subjugation of millions of African-Americans.
Yet countless Americans have not learned these lessons. They cling, instead, to a romanticized interpretation of slavery, one indebted to a book published 100 years ago.
In the spring of 1918, the historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips published his seminal study, “American Negro Slavery,” which framed the institution as a benevolent labor agreement between indulgent masters and happy slaves. No other book, no monument, no movie — save, perhaps, for “Gone With the Wind,” itself beholden to Phillips’s work — has been more influential in shaping how many Americans have viewed slavery.
After earning his doctorate in 1902, Phillips set out to correct the slanted picture of the Southern past that he believed prevailed at the time. “The history of the United States has been written by Boston and largely been written wrong,” he lamented. “It must be written anew before it reaches its final form of truth, and for that work, the South must do its part.”
Phillips certainly did his. During his 30-year career, he published nine books and close to 60 articles, earning a series of prestigious professorships that culminated in a “very flossy job,” as he put it, at Yale University. This 1930 appointment reflected his stature as the country’s leading historian of slavery and the South, as well as the influence of his most important book, “American Negro Slavery.”
Phillips found evidence in plantation records and Southern travelogues that bolstered the book’s benign interpretation of slavery, while downplaying evidence that did not. In his hands, plantations became idyllic sites where white families had modeled the habits of civilized life for their childlike black charges. “The plantations,” Phillips wrote, “were the best schools yet invented for the mass training of that sort of inert and backward people which the bulk of the American negroes represented.”
According to Phillips, slaveholders provided the enslaved with comfortable living quarters and plentiful rations and eschewed physical discipline. . . . Enslaved African-Americans, in turn, displayed gratitude and loyalty to their masters. Phillips concluded that, while slavery may have been economically inefficient, “the relations on both sides were felt to be based on pleasurable responsibility.”
In the words of the historian John David Smith, an expert on Phillips, the book served as “the definitive account of the peculiar institution” from World War I into the 1950s.
The book set the tone for the treatment of slavery in classrooms and textbooks across the country. “There was much to be said for slavery as a transition status between barbarism and civilization,” maintained a 1930 best seller, echoing Phillips almost verbatim. “The majority of slaves were … apparently happy.”
W.E.B. Du Bois wrote a scathing review of “American Negro Slavery,” observing, “It is a defense of American slavery, a defense of an institution which was at best a mistake and at worst a crime.” Drawing on interviews with ex-slaves, sources Phillips rejected, the historian Frederic Bancroft published a 1931 book that exploded Phillips’s misrepresentations of the domestic slave trade.
Phillips’s critics grew more vocal in the 1950s and 1960s, as a new generation of scholars challenged his benign reading of slavery and the racism that stained almost every page of “American Negro Slavery.”
According to a new Southern Poverty Law Center report on how slavery is taught in public schools, current pedagogy continues to focus on slavery from the perspective of whites, not the enslaved, while failing to connect the institution to the white supremacist beliefs that supported it. Textbooks often ignore slaveholders’ desire to make money and too easily slip into grammatical constructions — Africans “were brought” to America — that absolve enslavers of their actions.
We must confront mischaracterizations of the nature of slavery, whether nurtured in the classroom or broadcast on Twitter. After all, historical accuracy on this topic is not just about getting the past right; it is also about understanding the challenges of the present.
The persistence of racial inequality in America — from police brutality and school segregation to mass incarceration and wealth disparities — reflects, to some degree, the persistence of the Phillipsian take on slavery.

Very, very sad and disturbing.  Even sadder that West, a black man, albeit a wealthy one, feel for this bashitery.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, May 03, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Mike Pence’s Hypocrisy Filled Sense of Morality

With Rudy Giuliani exposing Donald Trump as a liar - yet again - during an interview on Fox News, the bar for truthfulness and morality is almost non-existent in the Trump/Pence regime.  Yet, Mike Pence, who bizarrely won't be alone in a room with a woman who is not his wife, continues to manage to put the hypocrisy and feigned morality of evangelicals and so-called conservatives on display.  Perhaps one of Pence's most bizarre performances was his description of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, as a “tireless champion of  the rule of law.”  The takeaway message is that trampling on the rights of minorities - especially those who have brown or black skin - is perfectly fine in the warped moral world of evangelicals.  This, of course, should surprise no one given the historical ties between evangelicals (especially Southern Baptists) and support for segregation and the Jim Crow laws.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Pence's upside down morality.  Here are excerpts:
Until Tuesday, it seemed that Vice President Pence had one primary function within the Trump administration: to be morally offended by everything. There was the time that he walked out of an NFL game because some players took a knee while the national anthem was played. 
Last month “the vice president walked out of the Summit of the Americas when Cuba’s foreign minister was recognized to speak after him,” according to the Associated Press.
Pence has demonstrated his ability to register his moral disapproval even when he does not leave an event. This was the case at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics, when he refused to stand as the unified Korean team entered the stadium.
Pence’s defenders would argue that being rude to dignitaries from North Korea and Cuba just shows how righteous he really is. His brand is as a man of serious moral values who can serve as Trump’s envoy to people of faith.  Pence’s presence in the White House has been a boon for the religious right. Evangelical leaders across the country point to his record on abortion and religious freedom and liken him to a prophet restoring conservative Christianity to its rightful place at the center of American life. 
So it is worth noting what Pence, the Trump administration’s righteous man, did in Arizona on Tuesday. . . . . Pence praised former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, as a “tireless champion of … the rule of law” during an event in Arizona on Tuesday.
Pence said at the tax event that he was “honored” by the former sheriff’s attendance, and called Arpaio a “great friend of this president and tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” to cheers from the crowd.
Needless to say, most observers do not view Joe Arpaio as a real big fan of the rule of law. Indeed, Arpaio probably would have fit right into either the Cuban or North Korean regimes. 
It is not just Arpaio’s victims who feel moral outage. The National Review editorialized in January: Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt last summer for willfully violating a federal court order. Specifically, he was convicted of violating an order that he cease arresting and detaining people for whom there was no plausible criminal charge — i.e., the court asked him, pretty please, to stop detaining Mexicans for publicity purposes. 
But Sheriff Joe has a thing for arresting people who haven’t committed any crime. He arrested a Republican critic — the county supervisor — on trumped-up charges in 2008 and ended up handing over $3.5 million of taxpayers’ money in a wrongful-arrest settlement. 
Red State’s Sarah Quinlan offers up a detailed list of Arpaio’s abuses of the rule of law while he was the former sheriff, concluding: “Nothing about Sheriff Joe Arpaio resembles any sort of justice or law and order under the United States Constitution, and it is disgraceful for Pence to pretend otherwise.”
Note who I’m quoting here. These are conservative outlets one would expect to be in lockstep with a good Christian conservative like Pence. But they are appalled — and they are not the only conservatives to react this way. In these politically polarized times, Mike Pence has managed to appall just about everyone across the political spectrum. That takes some doing.
[T]he number of officials in the Trump administration who can claim to have preserved their moral bearings in this administration keeps shrinking by the day.
It is possible that the vice president reads this and cancels his Washington Post subscription in a fake moral outrage. It would be on brand for him. It would not change the fact that he has sullied his standing with this act of moral appeasement.

Paul Ryan To Republicans: Lose House, Cover-Ups Will End

As regular readers know, I hold Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives for a while longer, in almost as much contempt as Donald Trump.   What perhaps makes Ryan worse than Trump is the fact that Trump, in my view is mentally ill and a malignant narcissist, whereas Ryan knows and understands precisely what he he is doing.  His reverse Robin Hood agenda makes a mockery of his feigned devout Catholicism.  Now, in statements pertaining to the future should Republicans lose control of the House and/or the Senate, Ryan has more or less admitted that he has participated in the obstruction of justice and actively aided and abetted in the cover up of the Trump regimes lies and likely crimes. Thankfully, Ryan will be out of office after January, 2019, but the harm that he has done to America will last for many, many years to come.  New York Magazine looks at Ryan's startling admission. Here are highlights:
Paul Ryan appeared at a financial conference to warn that, if Democrats win control of either the House or the Senate in the November elections, “you’ll have gridlock, you’ll have subpoenas.” The gridlock part is true, but it is basically the case already.
What really would change with Democratic control of a chamber is the subpoena part. But it’s worth spelling out just what it is Ryan is warning will happen — and what, by implication, he is confessing.
Ryan’s House has been run essentially as a subordinate arm of the Trump administration. Ryan and his party have quashed votes to compel release of Donald Trump’s tax returns, and they have used their investigative power not to oversee the presidency but to harass and intimidate the Department of Justice into falling into line behind the president’s whims, to the point where the acting attorney general had to bluntly accuse House Republicans of trying to “extort” him. Trump and his family have used their power to enrich themselves personally, with no hearings or oversight whatsoever from the House. His Cabinet members have likewise misspent funds and abused their authority without any accountability from the committees that are putatively tasked with the job.
Ryan has played an invaluable role covering up and enabling Trump administration scandals. When he says his party needs to keep control of the House to prevent subpoenas, he is both promising the cover-ups will continue if his party keeps its control of government, and expressing his clear belief that he opposes any level of independent oversight of the Executive branch.

As to Paul Ryan, I can only say good riddance.  His departure cannot come soon enough.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

What Robert Mueller Already Knows

Image credit: Jasjyot Singh Hans
Despite the constant lies and shrieks of "fake news" coming out of the White House, the indictments handed down to date and the growing desperation on Donald Trump's part to stop the Russiagate investigation suggest that there is fire beneath the smoke seen to date. Add the list of questions Mueller may want to ask Trump - a list seemingly leaked by the White House itself or White House staff - and while the word "collusion" isn't used, some of the questions certainly dance  closely around the topic.  Add to this the rumor that Mueller may subpoena Trump - a situation which might force Trump to testify and, given his proclivity for lying - and set the stage for future perjury charges.  Remember Bill Clinton's lie under oath that set his impeachment in motion?  Lying about having sex with a woman pales in comparison to interacting with a hostile foreign government to throw a U.S. presidential election.  As an editorial in the New York Times notes, Mueller likely knows and can document the true answer to questions to be asked of Trump.  He also no doubt knows that Trump will lie under oath about those very issues just like he lies about virtually everything else. Here are editorial highlights:
The 49 questions that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, hopes to ask President Trump as part of the yearlong Russia investigation suggest that Mr. Mueller knows a great deal more than he’s letting on — and he hasn’t even gotten to the follow-ups yet.
After the questions, which were published by The Times on Monday, were provided to Mr. Trump’s legal team in March, John Dowd, the president’s lead personal lawyer at the time, urged him to avoid sitting for an interview with Mr. Mueller. When Mr. Trump said he intended to anyway, Mr. Dowd resigned.
Reading through the list, it’s clear why Mr. Dowd was so concerned. Federal investigators don’t like being lied to, and Mr. Trump has a marked tendency to say things that aren’t true. If he agrees to speak with Mr. Mueller’s team, he will have to answer some very basic questions about what he knew, when he knew it and what motivated some of his most shocking and inexplicable actions over the past year.
To name just a few: When and why did you decide to fire James Comey, the F.B.I. director, who was leading the Russia investigation at the time? What did you mean when you told NBC’s Lester Holt that you fired Mr. Comey because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story”? Did you try to persuade the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to protect you from the investigation? Did you secretly promise to pardon Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his communications with the Russian ambassador?
The questions are a reminder of just how aberrant this White House has been. No prior president so openly assaulted the rule of law or undermined the integrity of the law enforcement community.
It may unnerve Mr. Trump, who has spent his life skirting the law and avoiding full accountability, but this is how the law works. Without saying a word publicly, Mr. Mueller and his team of experienced investigators are showing America how a government premised on the rule of law is supposed to function. The process may seem slow, but that is out of diligence and caution. Its fundamental purpose is truth-seeking — unlike, say, the embarrassing obfuscations of the Republican leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, who last week absolved Mr. Trump and his campaign of any wrongdoing in a 250-page report that reads more like a work of fantasy than a government investigation.
Obstruction of justice is itself a federal crime — see, for example, Section 1505 of Title 18 of the United States Code — regardless of whether prosecutors can establish an underlying offense. Mr. Trump and his defenders mock it as a “process crime,” but the rule of law breaks down if people can interfere, with impunity, in law enforcement’s efforts to do justice. Don’t forget that both presidents who have faced impeachment proceedings in the past few decades, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, were accused of obstructing justice.
Mr. Mueller appears to have at least some evidence of an underlying offense. That is the implication of about a dozen of his questions, including the most surprising of all: Was Mr. Trump aware of any efforts by his campaign, and specifically by his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, to seek Russia’s help in winning the 2016 election?
[I]t’s worth noting that as far back as August 2017, CNN reported that American intelligence services had intercepted communications among suspected Russian operatives discussing conversations they claimed to have had with Mr. Manafort, in which he requested their help in damaging Hillary Clinton’s election prospects.
Whatever information he has, Mr. Mueller, like any seasoned prosecutor, does not ask questions unless he already knows the answers. Whether or not Mr. Trump decides to talk to him, the rest of us will know, too, soon enough.

Growing Support for Same-Sex Marriage; Opposition to Religious Based Refusals of Service

click image to enlarge

As the Trump/Pence regime continues its anti-LGBT jihad to maintain the loyalty of evangelical Christians, the most important piece of Trump's and the GOP's base after perhaps white supremacists (evangelicals and white supremacists have a huge overlap of members), the rest of America is moving in a radically different direction as the findings of a new Public Religion Research Institute ("PRRI") survey underscore.  The survey focused on support for same sex marriage - 60% of Virginians support marriage equality - and opposition to religious based refusal to serve LGBT individuals, the latter being a key piece in the false meme of Christian persecution disseminated by anti-LGBT hate groups and, of course, the White House.  Obviously, one has to wonder why Trump and Republicans in general continue to court a political base that less and less reflects the majority of the country not to mention the views of younger generations which will soon have the potential to out vote the aging base of the GOP which is literally dying off.  Here are some highlights from the PRRI findings:
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, support for same-sex marriage has increased substantially. Currently, more than six in ten (61%) Americans say gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry legally, while only about half as many (30%) are opposed.
Strength of support for same-sex marriage has increased dramatically over the past decade, while strength of opposition has fallen in nearly equal measure. Today, Americans who strongly favor same-sex marriage outnumber those who strongly oppose it by more than a two-to-one margin (30% vs. 14%).
Today a majority of all racial and ethnic groups favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. Between 2013 and 2017, we have seen a double-digit increase in support for same-sex marriage among white (53% vs. 63%), black (41% vs. 52%), and Hispanic (51% vs. 61%) Americans.
Majorities of smaller racial and ethnic groups also support same-sex marriage today, including Asian-Pacific Islander Americans (72 percent), Native Americans (56 percent), and those identifying as multiracial or with another racial and ethnic group (66 percent).

Most religious groups in the U.S. now support same-sex marriage, including overwhelming majorities of Unitarians (97%), Buddhists (80%), the religiously unaffiliated (80%), Jewish Americans (77%), and Hindus (75%). Roughly two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (67%), white Catholics (66%), Orthodox Christians (66%), and Hispanic Catholics (65%) also favor same-sex marriage. A slim majority of Muslims (51%) favor same-sex marriage, but only 34% are opposed; . . .
Opposition to same-sex marriage is now confined to a few of the most conservative Christian religious traditions. Only about one-third (34%) of white evangelical Protestants support same-sex marriage today, while nearly six in ten (58%) are opposed, including 30% who are strongly opposed. And just 40% of Mormons support same-sex marriage, compared to 53% who are opposed.
The generational divide cuts through every demographic group in the U.S. Even in groups most opposed to same-sex marriage, a majority of young adults favor this policy. A majority (53%) of young white evangelical Protestants favor legalizing same-sex marriage, compared to just one-quarter (25%) of white evangelical seniors. A majority (52%) of young Mormons also believe same-sex marriage should be legal, while only about one-third (32%) of Mormon seniors agree.
Today, majorities in 44 states believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry, compared to only 30 states in 2014.9 In only six states does the issue of same-sex marriage garner less than majority support: Alabama (41%), Mississippi (42%), Tennessee (46%), West Virginia (48%), Louisiana (48%), and North Carolina (49%). But notably, only one state, Alabama, has a majority of residents who oppose same-sex marriage.
Religiously based refusals of service to gay and lesbian people are relatively unpopular among the American public. Six in ten (60%) Americans oppose allowing a small business owner in their state to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if providing them would violate their religious beliefs.
Black Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to oppose religiously based service refusals. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of black Americans oppose them, compared to roughly six in ten Hispanic (61%), Asian-Pacific Islander (60%), and white (58%) Americans.
Only two major religious groups believe small business owners in their state should be allowed to refuse service to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds—white evangelical Protestants and Mormons. Notably, they support this position at the same rate—53%.
A majority of Americans in nearly every state believe small business owners in their state should not be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian people. 
 Let's hope the United States Supreme Court is aware of these findings as it prepares to rule on the suit brought by a "Christian" baker who wants to be exempt from state public accommodation and non-discrimination laws.   On a different note, with my large Hindu client base, it was comforting to see that 75% of Hindus support same sex marriage.

Wednesday Morning Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Republican Cowardice in the Face of Trump

Some - including me on numerous occasions - say that the Republican Party has been completely taken over by Trump and that most Republicans now subscribe to Trump's racist and misogynist agenda.  For many in the GOP the statement is sadly only too true.  For others, rather than stand up and try to save some shred of decency for the Party, they cower in fear and cowardice and allow the reprehensible become increasingly normalized in the GOP.  They fear the Party base and the treat of a primary challenge more than they respect honor and decency. Some fear for Trump's wrath.  Whatever the motivation, the act little better than the "good Germans" who allowed Hitler's rise.  Former Republican David Jolly calls out the cowards of the GOP in a lengthy column in the Washington Post and calls on them to put country first, which is their true duty as members of Congress.  Here are column excerpts:
We might as well impeach Trump. That was the sentiment of a sitting Republican member of Congress confiding in conservative blogger and radio host Erick Erickson. The anonymous member said [Trump] the president was an “idiot,” “evil,” “stupid.”
It was hardly the first time: During the later stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, GOP strategists anonymously expressed concern that Trump might win. In 2017, Sen. Susan Collins, seemingly unaware that she was on a hot microphone, acknowledged that she was “worried” about the administration. Still others have reportedly suggested that they think the president should be removed from office, though they, too, have almost always done so on background.
[T]he one consistent refrain I hear is, “I’m just keeping my head down, trying not to get noticed.” Some have privately described to me that serving in Congress during the Trump administration is “miserable.” Moreover, a colleague who has decided to call it quits confessed he was doing so to try to salvage his political career by not being forever branded a “Trump Republican.”
Like Erickson’s anonymous interlocutor, these politicians are engaging in what can only be considered a personal catharsis of sorts, not an act of political courage. A meaningful political statement would have been on the record, direct to voters, and would have substantively contributed to the national debate in which we remain engaged regarding [Trump's] this president’s fitness for office. This wasn’t that.
Few Republican officials today are willing to openly criticize [Trump] the president, even if they have deeply held reservations about Donald Trump’s ability to govern. They instead keep their lament private, their panic measured and their comments off the record. It’s a situation that needs to change. If you believe in serving your constituents, you are obliged to speak up and speak publicly.
This is Trump’s Republican Party, and his approval numbers among Republican voters sit at close to 90 percent. Cross him and you risk not only the wrath of the president himself but also the electoral base that he has cultivated to wrestle control of the party.
Knowingly or not, members of Congress choose one of two approaches to serving. Many strictly embrace their partisan identity, believing with honest conviction that they promised to uphold a party platform that voters back home both affirmed and expected their representative to enforce. A smaller minority of members of Congress embraces the notion that though elected in partisan races, they hold a greater responsibility — that upon taking the oath of office they hold a public trust and are called upon to advance the nation’s broader interests, even if that means at times going against their party. This latter approach was the very essence of James Madison’s embrace of a republican form of government. As he puts it in Federalist 10, a chosen representative may “best discern the true interest of their country” and may provide a voice “more consonant to the greater good.”
During my years in the House of Representatives, I witnessed members on the Democrats’ side of the aisle publicly vote on the House floor against Nancy Pelosi to be their leader, just as GOP members coordinated to stop the coronation of Kevin McCarthy following the resignation of Speaker John A. Boehner. These members largely lost the support of their party’s fundraising arms, suffered through immense criticism from their base and were often relegated to inconsequential committee work in the Congress.
I, for my own part, called on Trump to drop out of the presidential race from the House floor in December 2015. I was also a Republican advocate for marriage equality; I embraced the science behind climate change; I voted against the Planned Parenthood investigation; I advocated for reasonable gun control measures; I pushed radical campaign finance reform. The result? The party apparatus that spent millions on my behalf in my first run for Congress happily spent zero in my last. I lost my race, and now I’m a political commentator rather than an elected official.
But losing your office doesn’t mean you have to lose your voice. My wife and I call it the “sleep well at night test.” There’s something Margolies-Mezvinsky, McCain and these other outspoken members have that too many of today’s Republican leaders don’t: courage. These members each went on the record, stood on principle and accepted the political consequences of doing what they believed reflected the right direction for the country.
Today we have [Trump] a president who continually undermines our most basic institutions, from attacking an independent judiciary and law enforcement agents, to belittling a free press that has been a bedrock of our nation since its founding, to normalizing an invective form of politics while injecting increasing volatility into both our economic and national security, to flirting with the onset of a constitutional crisis caused by his own actions. 
[F]or the 535 men and women on Capitol Hill, there lies a greater responsibility — a responsibility envisioned when our founders drafted the Constitution and a responsibility knowingly accepted by the members of Congress, all of whom owe to us true faith and allegiance to the same.
Which is why the casual supermarket conversation between a congressman and a journalist on background isn’t funny. It’s scandalous.
The silence of these members of Congress is both a violation of the public trust and a reflection of their own lack of personal and political mettle.
Refusing to publicly acknowledge your convictions simply affirms your unwillingness to act on them. And that is an indictment of you, not [Trump] the president.
History rightfully discards those unwilling to take a stand, those who, in the face of a divided nation, shrink from controversy and seek refuge in the shadows of their own indecision. Conversely, history memorializes those who speak with courage, those who, at defining national moments, put country over party.
Sadly, I think it is too late to save the Republican Party.  The only way forward is to defeat Republicans in every election possible, from local school board elections to the race for the White House.  The GOP as it now exists needs to die. 

Catholic Cardinal in Australia to Stand Trial for Sex Abuse

Cardinal George Pell has been committed to stand trial on multiple
 charges related to historical sexual assault.
Photo: Jason South
While the Vatican dilly dallies, sheds crocodile tears, and fails to hold senior Catholic Church clerics responsible for the world wide sex abuse scandal wracking the Church - Australia, Guam, Pennsylvania and New York State are current centers of  the scandal - civil authorities are stepping in to fill the gap.  In Australia, civil authorities are being especially aggressive after a scathing report by a royal commission which, among other things, found the western rite requirement of priestly celibacy to be a significant factor in creating the priestly abuse phenomenon.  Now, Australian authorities are set to proceed with a criminal trial of Cardinal George Pell, the highest Catholic cleric in Australia and arguably the number two office holder after the Pope.  The Sydney Morning Herald looks at this one unheard of development.  Here are excerpts:
George Pell will be the most senior Catholic leader to face a jury after being committed to stand trial on multiple historic sexual assault charges.
In a decision that will ring loud through the Vatican and around the religious world, Australia's most senior Catholic and the man who a year ago oversaw management of the Vatican's finances was on Tuesday committed to stand trial on half the charges he faced, involving multiple accusers.
[M]agistrate Belinda Wallington . . . committed the 76-year-old on charges against multiple complainants, involving alleged sexual offending at a swimming pool in the 1970s in Ballarat, where the accused man was then working as a priest; and at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1990s, when he was the then Archbishop of Melbourne.
Asked to enter a plea, Cardinal Pell sat seated in a packed Melbourne Magistrates Court but said in a loud, clear voice: "Not guilty."
Magistrate Belinda Wallington said there was no evidence the two Ballarat accusers had colluded in their evidence.
Flanked by up to 40 police officers, Cardinal Pell arrived at the court in a white sedan just after 9am. He wore a dark coloured suit and white shirt.
The police separated the Cardinal’s path from the public as protesters arrived with laminated signs reading “every child deserves a safe and happy childhood”.
Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart released a statement saying he declined to make any comment about the decision to commit Cardinal Pell to face trial in the County Court.
 In addition, ABC News Australia has these highlights:
A number of onlookers applauded as the magistrate left the court room after delivering her 70-minute ruling.
Defence barrister Robert Richter QC said the most "vile" of the charges had been dismissed.
Cardinal Pell will face a directions hearing in the County Court tomorrow morning, when it's expected a date will be set for a trial before a jury. He is on bail and has already handed in his passport, the court heard. He is unable to leave Australia as a condition of his bail.
Today's ruling follows a month-long committal hearing in March.
Among the allegations, he is accused of sexual offending at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in the late 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.  Cardinal Pell is also accused of committing sexual offences at a Ballarat pool during the 1970s, when he was a priest in the area.
Ms Wallington told an earlier hearing she believed an accused person should be committed to stand trial unless there was a "fundamental defect" in the evidence.  "I think issues of credibility and reliability are matters for a jury, except where you get to a point where [a complainant's] credibility is effectively annihilated," she said.
As a child when I was indoctrinated by Catholic priests and nuns, I never imagined that a day would come when a "prince of the church" would be laid so low.  Sadly, given the Church hierarchy's arrogance and utter indifference to the lives of children and youths, not to mention the Vatican's refusal to punish the 1/3 or more of American bishops who protected predators, the Church's humiliation is deserved and long. long overdue.