Saturday, June 16, 2018

Remembering How the Nazis Gained Power in Germany

As we see civic discourse coarsened daily by the occupant of the White House, immigrant children being held in cages, daily attacks on the free press, and the constant scapegoating and demonizing of minorities, it is critical that we remember how the Nazi regime came to power in Germany  in the 1930's. A book review of a new book, "The Death of Democracy, Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic," offers a sobering look at what happened in Germany in the late 1920's and early 1930's, as Germans tried to deal with devastating defeat in WWI and the Great Depression and economic globalization more generally.  Indeed, WWI itself was largely triggered by German and British competition in the global markets.  While the book does not seek to draw parallels between Hitler and the Trump/Pence regime, there are very disturbing parallels.  One is that the Nazis claimed a mandate when they won 37% of the German vote.  In 2016, Trump won only 28% of the American vote, yet he and his Christofascist and white supremacist base boast a mandate and that they represent "real Americans."  As Germany slide toward dictatorship, too many Germans sat on the sidelines, were too disinterested to act, or did not want to confront Nazi supporters when there was still an opportunity to avert disaster.  Here excerpts from the book review:

We ask about the rise of the Nazis from what we think is a great distance. We take for granted that the Germans of the 1930s were quite different from ourselves, and that our consideration of their errors will only confirm our superiority. The opposite is the case. 
Although Benjamin Carter Hett makes no comparisons between Germany then and the United States now in “The Death of Democracy,” his extremely fine study of the end of constitutional rule in Germany, he dissolves those comforting assumptions.
He presents Hitler’s rise as an element of the collapse of a republic confronting dilemmas of globalization with imperfect instruments and flawed leaders. With careful prose and fine scholarship, with fine thumbnail sketches of individuals and concise discussions of institutions and economics, he brings these events close to us.
The Nazis, in Hett’s account, were above all “a nationalist protest movement against globalization.” Even before the Great Depression brought huge unemployment to Germany, the caprice of the global economy offered an opportunity to politicians who had simple answers. In their 1920 program, the Nazis proclaimed that “members of foreign nations (noncitizens) are to be expelled from Germany.” Next would come autarky: Germans would conquer the territory they needed to be self-sufficient, and then create their own economy in isolation from that of the rest of the world. As Goebbels put it, “We want to build a wall, a protective wall.”
Hett . . . . describes a moral crisis that preceded a moral catastrophe. If Jews were held responsible for what happened in Germany, then Germans were victims and their actions always defensive. Political irresponsibility flowed from the unfortunate example of President Paul von Hindenburg. . . . . Hindenburg could not face the reality of defeat on the Western Front in 1918, and so spread the lie that the German Army had been “stabbed in the back” by Jews and Socialists. This moral weakness of one man radiated outward. . . . Without Hindenburg’s founding fiction and odd posturing, it is unlikely that Hitler would have come to power. [T]he Nazis were the great artists of victimhood fiction. Hitler, who had served with German Jews in the war, spread the idea that Jews had been the enemy within, proposing that the German Army would have won had some of them been gassed to death. Goebbels had Nazi storm troopers attack leftists precisely so that he could claim that the Nazis were victims of Communist violence. Hitler believed in telling lies so big that their very scale left some residue of credibility. The Nazi program foresaw that newspapers would serve the “general good” rather than reporting, and promised “legal warfare” against opponents who spread information they did not like. They opposed what they called “the system” by rejecting its basis in the factual world. Germans were not rational individuals with interests, the reasoning went, but members of a tribe that wanted to follow a leader (Führer). [T]he electoral rise of the Nazis in the late 1920s and early 1930s had less to do with his particular ideas and more to do with an opening on the political spectrum. The Nazis filled a void between the Catholic electorate of the Center Party and a working class that voted Socialist or Communist. Their core constituents, Hett indicates, were Protestants from the countryside or small towns who felt themselves to be the victims of globalization. In Germany in the 1930s, as elsewhere, elections continued even as their meaning changed. The fact that the Nazis used violence to intimidate others meant that elections were not free in the normal sense. And the system was rigged in their favor by men in power who had no use for democracy or for democrats. . . . . They tended to confuse their particular interests in lower wages and higher military spending with those of the German nation as a whole. Constitutions break when ill-motivated leaders deliberately expose their vulnerabilities. Certainly this was the case in Germany in 1930. President Hindenburg was technically within his rights to dissolve the Reichstag, name a new chancellor and rule by decree. By turning what was meant to be an exceptional situation into the rule, however, he transformed the German government into a feuding clique disconnected from society. . . . The Nazis took advantage of an opportunity created by people who could destroy a republic while lacking the imagination to see what comes next.
When elections were called in 1932, the purpose was not to confirm democracy but to bring down the republic. Hindenburg and his advisers saw the Nazis as a group capable of creating a majority for the right. The elections were a “solution” to a fake crisis that had been, as Hett puts it, “manufactured by a political right wing that wanted to exclude more than half the population from political representation and refused even the mildest compromise.”
The Nazis won 37 percent of the vote, and Hitler became chancellor in January 1933. A few weeks later, he used the pretext of the arson of the Reichstag to pass an enabling act that in effect replaced the constitution.
Hindenburg died in 1934 believing that he had saved Germany and his own reputation. In fact, he had created the conditions for the great horror of modern times. Hett’s book is implicitly addressed to conservatives. Rather than asking how the left could have acted to stop Hitler, he closes his book by considering the German conservatives who aided Hitler’s rise.  . . .  The conclusions for conservatives of today emerge clearly: Do not break the rules that hold a republic together, because one day you will need order. And do not destroy the opponents who respect those rules, because one day you will miss them.
Sadly, Americans know very little history and most are too lazy to educate and enlighten themselves.  Mistakes from the past can and do repeat themselves.  To avoid them, we need to know what the mistakes were and what should have been done to avoid them so that they are not repeated under similar toxic and dangerous politicians.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, June 15, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

Jeff Sessions Cites Bible to Justify Mistreatment of Immigrant Families

I have been familiar with Jeff Sessions since my early days fresh out of law school when we were both in Mobile, Alabama.  As noted in numerous posts, the man was reprehensible back then - he refused to prosecute KKK members who lynched a young black man in Mobile (fortunately, a later prosecutor did and won convictions) - and always came across as a hypocrisy-filled, falsely pious churchgoer.  Now, Sessions embodies the worse aspects of the so-called "conservative Christian" crowd that packs church pews on Sundays yet supports a hate spewing, serial adultery in the White House and in general behaves in a manner that is the antithesis of living the Gospel message of Christ.  Indeed, Sessions is cherry picking Bible passages to justify the horrific treatment being visited upon immigrant families along America's southwest border where children are being forceably ripped from their parents and being kept in cages in many instances. If one wants an example of why one would flee Christianity, Sessions and his supporters are a prime example.  Both NBC News and Time look at Sessions perversion of the Bible to justify human rights violations.  Not surprisingly Mike Huckabee's always lying daughter rallied to Sessions' defense. First these highlights from NBC:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday offered a full-throated defense of the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their parents at the border, saying that having kids does not give migrants immunity from prosecution — and found justification for his policies in the Bible. Sessions . . . made his latest remarks in a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, telling the group that the migrant families were to blame for their own break-ups and that his department's separation of families was not "unusual or unjustified." "If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you. That is what the law calls for — and that is what we are going to do," Sessions said. . . . "Noncitizens who cross our borders unlawfully, between our ports of entry, with children are not an exception," . . .
 In his remarks, Sessions hit back at the "concerns raised by our church friends about separating families," calling the criticism "not fair or logical" and quoting Scripture in his defense of the administration's tough policies.
"Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order," Sessions said. "Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful."
Later Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders doubled down on Sessions' comments, saying it is "very biblical to enforce the law."
"That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible," she said, responding to a question about Sessions' comments about Scripture's supporting the administration's policies.Many of the children separated from their parents have ended up in enormous facilities that more closely resemble prisons, where they spend 22 hours per day during the week locked inside overcrowded buildings.
The attorney general also defended his ruling this week that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence is not an acceptable basis for granting asylum.   He claimed that he had not made new law and that he had "simply restated and implemented what Congress has passed: Asylum is generally not for those who have suffered a private act of violence."
Time has this in part on Sanders' foul defense of inhumanity which, in my view stems from one thing and one thing only: the targets of the policy have brown skin:
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that she hadn’t seen Sessions’ comments but affirmed that the Bible did back up the administration’s actions.
“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” she said. “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”
In an unusually tense series of exchanges in the White House briefing room, Sanders wrongly blamed Democrats for the policy separating children from parents and insisted the administration had made no changes in increasing the use. Until the policy was announced in April, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

GOP Senate Nominee Cory Stewart Courts Anti-Gay Exteremists

Corey Stewart with anti-gay lunatic, Eugene Delgaudio.

Since Tuesday when he won the low turn out GOP senatorial nomination in Virginia, there has been plentiful news coverage of Corey Stewart's ties with the alt-right, white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. Now, coverage is trickling out that Stewart has also sought the support of some of the most extreme , unhinged, and dishonest anti-gay organizations in Virginia and elsewhere. Frankly, this news should come as no surprise given the Republican Party's knowing and deliberate self-prostitution to the most extreme elements of the far "Christian Right" - I use quotation marks since these people are neither Christian nor right - especially in a state like Virginia where The Family Foundation ("TFF") - the largest hate group in Virginia - has become the king maker for the GOP. If one doesn't submit to a prostration and kiss the ring of TFF president, Victoria Cobb, it will be a death knell for one's ambitions within the Virginia GOP.  CNN looks at Stewart's  efforts to secure anti-hate group endorsements as well as the insanity of some such groups.  Here are excerpts:
[Corey Stewart] sought and received the support of an anti-LGBT group that links homosexuality to pedophilia and defends conversion therapy. Virginia's Corey Stewart, . . . filled out a "Senate Candidate Survey" for the group Public Advocate of the United States.
The survey asks eight questions about a candidate's positions on LGBT issues, including whether a candidate would "oppose all efforts to make public restrooms and changing-rooms unsafe through so-called 'Transgender Bathrooms' legislation and regulations - which have the effect of encouraging and protecting pedophiles." Another question asks if the candidate agrees that public schools should be "prevented from brainwashing elementary school children with the Homosexual Agenda - such as California's current policy speculating widely about the sexual activity of past presidents and figures?"
 Stewart answered yes to both questions. . . . [Stewart] indicated support for overturning Supreme Court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage, requiring schools to teach there are only two genders and allowing Christian business owners to refuse to participate in same-sex weddings without fear of legal reprisal.
 The surveys bear each nominee's signature. Public Advocate of the United States scores 100% any candidate who fills out the survey and answers yes to all questions. The group's founder and chief executive, Eugene Delgaudio, said in February he believes that former President Barack Obama was a "child molester" and that "adult homosexuals want to recruit and brainwash children." He is an active promoter of the far-right pizzagate conspiracy theory. In May, Delgaudio did an event with Stewart where he said he was backing his Senate campaign. Stewart said of Delgaudio, "I love this guy" and "there's nobody I respect more" than Delgaudio.

Delgaudio, in my view, belongs in a mental institution.  He is truly, that unhinged.  As noted, he supports the discredited use of fraudulent "ex-gay conversion therapy" and conflates homosexuality with pedophilia despite the repudiation of that claim by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America.  Some other facts surrounding Delgaudio are as follows:
He represented the Sterling District on the Loudoun County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors until he was defeated by Koran Saines in 2015.  On July 17, 2013, the all-Republican Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 to censure Delgaudio in response to a report issued by the special grand jury that spent five months investigating allegations of misconduct and make permanent earlier committee assignment removals. The Board also voted 6-3 to take away Delgaudio's staff aides and defund the Sterling District office.

This is who Stewart finds "remarkable" and who he says he "loves."  Sorry, but both are delusional and dangerous crackpots. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, June 14, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Corey Stewart Could Endanger Other Virginia Republicans

As a former Republican and activist within the Republican Party of Virginia, the selection of Corey Stewart as the party senate nominee underscores the sad reality that the Virginia GOP has become as insane as a rabid dog. As recently as 15-20 years ago, Stewart would have been hard put to be elected to a a city or county committee.  Back then, of course, moderates were still the norm within the Party.  Now, with evangelical Christian extremists and white supremacists (the two groups are difficult to differentiate) controlling the base, insanity and bigotry are the norm.  One can only hope that Stewart goes down to a horrific defeat and kills the delusional myth that Republicans have not won statewide office in Virginia for nearly a decade because their candidates were "too liberal."  Two pieces look at the likely consequences of Stewart's selection.  One is found in Bearing Drift, a conservative site, which argues there is no conservative case for supporting Stewart and refers to Stewart as the "Gauleiter of Prince William County" (for Fox News viewers, "gauleiter" is a political official governing a district under Nazi rule), and the other is in the New York Times.  First highlights from Bearing Drift:
Back in February 2014, I penned a piece warning about the rise of the nativist alt-right in Republican politics. . . . The Republican Party of Virginia . . . . has descended into a parody of itself, finally lifting from the dust the battle standard of Massive Resistance and waving it proudly in the hands of one man: Corey Stewart.
Let us be clear where things stand.  Our chairman, John Whitbeck, is best known for his jokes about Jewish people at party gatherings.  For an unprecedented 11 times, Whitbeck defended Fredy Burgos, a man whose anti-Semtism and fondness for Augusto Pinochet were abundantly clear, but never worthy of countenance until this publication forced his hand.  Yet while removed by State Central Committee by a margin so close as to be an embarrassment unto itself, Burgos was in fact rewarded for his troubles, earning a role as vice chairman of the Fairfax GOP, a full 1/8th of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The litany of stupid and the obtuse only becomes worse.  The current executive director proudly boasts of how Governor Northam has betrayed his “heritage” on social media and openly shares material from known alt-right operatives.  . . . members and activists have abandoned the party in droves.
It gets worse.  Proudly, the alt-right brags about electing two Republican congressmen (Brat and Garrett), proudly they take photos next to our candidates pledging themselves to their cause (Stewart), and the mewling from erstwhile conservatives in protest is barely audible — protecting access to power over their own conscience, excusing weakness for prudence.  It’s folly.
In 1993 nearly 25 years ago.  Back then, the Republican Party was the party of free minds, free ideas, and a free society.  Free speech was sacrosanct; free trade was the pillar that destroyed Soviet communism.  Around it all was a wholesale commitment to family and the American entrepreneurial spirit — that equality of outcome could never be guaranteed, but equality of opportunity was our first and foremost responsibility as a polity. So when is it enough? Was it enough when in 2014 Dave Brat abased himself before the likes of — the self-declared mouthpiece of the alt-right?  Was it enough when the alt-right spiked the football in 2016 with cries of “Hail Trump!” as they celebrated their election night win?  Was it enough when in 2017 they earned invitations to town halls in Charlottesville?  Was it enough when three people — two of whom were Virginia State Troopers — died during the August 2017 alt-right rallies in Charlottesville?
Is it enough now when their groomed and chosen candidate — financed by the likes of Chris Ekstrom and run by Rick Shaftan — rides the wave of white nationalism?  To a party nomination contest?  And wins?
Let’s be clear about what happened.  The future of the Republican Party of Virginia fought the past, and lost. 
For 25 years, I have believed — perhaps erroneously — that the Republican Party was the best home for my beliefs as a conservative, as a Virginian, and as a Catholic. With the nomination of Corey Stewart?  That is now an impossibility.
[W]hatever the threat political socialism presents to the American republic, the answer cannot, is not, and never will be white nationalism.  My children deserve a better future than this; their children deserve a better future.  If the great story of America is to be abruptly ended in a syrup of debt and moral relativism, I would much rather go down standing athwart history yelling STOP! rather than participate in the moral contagion of a once great party. [W]e are watching in real time as the party of freedom descends into a party of rank and bitter nationalism. . . . So unless you stand up and do something now? Get used to this sound and become comfortable with its grip.  It will have you and the people you love by the throat soon enough.
The sound referred to is a clip of a Hitler Youth singing "The World Belongs to Me."  I suspect many more will be exiting from the Republican Party of Virginia.

The piece in the New York Times looks at Stewart's ugly history and the possible reverberations for others on the GOP ticket in November.  Here are excerpts:
He [Corey Stewart] once stood proudly before a Confederate flag, declaring it was not a symbol of hatred, but “about our heritage.” After the march of torch-carrying white supremacists in Charlottesville last year, which led to the death of a counterprotester, he criticized “weak Republicans” who “couldn’t apologize fast enough.”
As officials around Virginia have grappled with whether to remove Confederate statues, he has compared those politicians to leaders of the Islamic State. Now Corey Stewart, a county official who for years has played to the hard-right fringe, captured the Republican nomination for Senate in Virginia.
He did so in a low-turnout primary on Tuesday when many centrist Republicans apparently stayed home, unhappy with a three-way race among candidates all professing strong loyalty to President Trump and given to fiery culture war pronouncements.
[Stewart] received a congratulatory overnight tweet from the president, who called Mr. Stewart’s Democratic opponent, Senator Tim Kaine, “a total stiff.”
Tellingly, though, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s campaign arm, said it would not support Mr. Stewart, who lags far behind Mr. Kaine in fund-raising and has a history of cozying up to white supremacists and anti-Semites that threatens to make him an albatross for down-ballot Republicans. . . . The real worry for national Republicans — and the hope for Democrats — is that Mr. Stewart’s nomination may cost some incumbent Republicans in Virginia their seats in Congress.
“For the G.O.P. candidates in the down-ballot House races in Virginia, having Stewart on the ticket is going to be a very tough challenge,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. “Somehow they will need to separate themselves from the more extreme elements of his message, while at the same time not alienating the Trump Republicans whose votes will be needed.”
Virginia Democrats quickly moved to join Mr. Stewart at the hip to other Republicans in competitive House races.  “There is no place to hide — you are either running with Corey Stewart and you condone his vile politics, or you don’t,” said Susan Swecker, the state Democratic chairwoman.
Mr. Stewart could especially hurt Representative Barbara Comstock, a Republican defending a seat in affluent Northern Virginia that is emblematic of how the state has been shifted from its once-fixed Republican moorings by an influx of immigrants and college-educated professionals.
The center of gravity for the Republican Party in the state has shifted “from the country club to the country,” as one Republican strategist, Tom Davis, put it.  “Every candidate will be asked if they support Stewart,” said Mr. Davis, a former congressman from Virginia. “This is more nuanced than the media would have you believe, but in high-education areas, it is a killer.”
 If the turnout pattern repeats in November, at least two other Republican House members besides Ms. Comstock could also be in trouble: Dave Brat and Scott Taylor. “Stewart’s fearmongering and division-sowing campaign will turn many Virginians to the Democratic ticket,” said Schuyler VanValkenburg, a Democratic state legislator who lives in Mr. Brat’s district, the Seventh.
Mr. Taylor, a former Navy SEAL who represents the Second District, centered on Virginia Beach, will face Elaine Luria, a former Navy commander.  “My opponent will either embrace Corey Stewart, be silent or distance himself from him,” Ms. Luria said in an interview. “Virginia favors equality, diversity and economic opportunity for all. Corey Stewart’s race-baiting rhetoric is offensive to everybody in Virginia.”
In January 2017, Mr. Stewart met with and praised Paul Nehlen, an outspoken anti-Semite who is now making his second run for Congress in Wisconsin. Mr. Stewart was also endorsed last year by the white nationalist Jason Kessler, who later helped organize the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

It is pitiful - and frightening - what the Republican Party of Virginia has become.

Trump/Sessions Seek to End Zoning Regulations for Religious Institutions

One reason why evangelical Christians have prostituted themselves and supported Donald Trump even though Trump represents just about everything a true Christian should oppose and condemn is that in June, 2016, Trump promised evangelical "leaders - many are in actuality scamvangelists and/or hate group leaders - that if elected, he would put them above the laws that bind the rest of society. Trump/Pence regime efforts to roll back LGBT rights and legalize anti-gay discrimination have been part of the delivery on Trump's promise.  Now, we see Jeff Sessions announcing a crack down on cities that impose normal restrictions on churches and religious institutions.  Typically, zoning ordinances are aimed at avoiding the location of incompatible uses adjacent to each other, minimum lot sizes and building set back requirements, minimum parking facility requirements to avoid undue burdens on adjoining streets, and numerous other common sense restrictions.  Such restrictions that apply to all kinds of business and property uses apparently are objectionable to the "godly folks" who believe that general zoning regulations - and a host of other laws - should not apply to them.  CNN looks at this latest effort to grant special rights to religious extremists: 
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced an initiative on Wednesday aimed at boosting the Justice Department's role protecting religious institutions from cumbersome zoning rules.
"Under the laws of this country, government cannot discriminate against people based on their religion -- not in law enforcement, not in grant-making, not in hiring and not in local zoning laws," Sessions said in a statement announcing the Place to Worship Initiative. The announcement said the Justice Department would expand awareness of a 2000 law to shield religious institutions from overly restrictive zoning regulations and would provide "additional training and resources for federal prosecutors," with an inaugural community outreach event in New Jersey later this month. The planned event in New Jersey would come after the Justice Department also announced on Wednesday it was bringing a complaint under that 2000 law against the New Jersey borough Woodcliff Lake and Woodcliff Lake's zoning board of adjustment. The initiative announced on Wednesday marked another step by Sessions to steer the power of the department toward religious organizations and individuals. Last fall, Sessions announced sweeping guidance on religious liberty protections, and the Justice Department under his leadership took the side of a cake shop owner who cited religion when refusing to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the baker earlier this month.

One of my personal pet peeves is churches that are allowed to ignore "no parking" restrictions on Sundays and, as a result create unsafe driving conditions for through traffic on arterial highways. The need for such abuses is the result of zoning ordinances that do not require churches to have adequate parking spaces on their property.  

Churches sadly more often that not deliver much less in charitably services to communities in comparison to the tax drain they cause due to their (in my view) tax-exempt status.  Stated another way, churches do no pay their own way in terms of municipal services and the rest of the citizenry is forced to subsidize their often divisive dogma.  Now, they want to be able to ignore even zoning ordinance restrictions.   

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Why Some Americans Are Vulnerable to Charlatans Like Trump

P.T. Barnum is widely credited with coining the adage, "There's a sucker born every minute.”  Whether he actually made the statement or not, its an apt observation today in the Trump era and a time when we scamvangelists raking in fortunes from the gullible and intellectually lazy and Fox News provides the equivalent of a lobotomy on its viewers. Trump and the scamvangelists, of course, offer the same ploy to their supporters: simple answers to complex circumstances which in both cases offer their audiences (i) an opportunity of not having to  think for themselves, and (ii) a re-enforcement of their bigotries and biases.  This likely explains why evangelicals are Trump's most loyal base. Thinking for themselves and reaching independent moral decisions terrifies them and, sadly, most are racists who eat up Trump's calls to bigotry and discrimination.  A column in the New York Times looks at the vulnerability of Americans, especially today's far right to charlatans.  Here are excerpts: 
I think one plausible name for our era will be the Age of the Charlatan. Everywhere you turn there seems to be some kind of quack or confidence man catering to an eager audience: Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity have moved from pushing ill-informed opinion to flat-out conspiracy mongering; pickup artists sell “tried and true” methods for isolated young men to seduce women; and sophists pass off stale pedantries as dark and radical thought, selling millions of books in the process. In politics, too, our highest office is occupied by a man who was once aptly called a “carnival barker.”
What makes us so vulnerable to charlatans today? In part it’s the complexity of the modern world and the rate of technological and social change: Quackery provides what Saul Bellow once called a “five-cent synthesis,” boiling down the chaotic tangle of the age into simple nostrums.
A largely forgotten book from an earlier and similarly discontented era offers insight. In 1937, a journalist named Grete De Francesco published a volume called “Die Macht des Charlatans,” or “The Power of the Charlatan,” a history of the quacks and mountebanks that roamed Europe in the Middle Ages and early modern period. She was Austrian and had been a writer for the Frankfurter Zeitung, but with the Nazis in power, it makes sense that her book about demagogues’ manipulating crowds was published in Switzerland. Ms. De Francesco explains that the word “charlatan” comes from the Italian “ciarlatano,” itself probably related to the verb “ciarlare,” which means to babble or to go on incessantly without reflection. The original charlatans would babble on and on to mesmerize their audiences. Crucially, the charlatan provides palliatives for a confused public. These nostrums can be either literal pills or phony ideas, for as Ms. De Francesco notes, “a quack is a quack — whether he sells opinions or elixirs.” Frequently they sell both. See for example Alex Jones, one of the most popular charlatans of the present age. He peddles bizarre conspiracy theories, including that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, but also his own line of snake oil in the form of dubious dietary supplements. Charlatans, Ms. De Francesco tells us, become especially prevalent in ages of “rapid development of the sciences, or quickened progress in technology” when “minds are overburdened with the effort to keep up with these accumulations of facts.”
In these periods, conspiracy theories and simplistic reductions of social ills function the same way as quack medicine: They seem to provide a cure, but since they only further inflame the underlying fears, they are just driving their own demand.
The most sophisticated mountebanks employed a hodgepodge drawn from science, alchemy, astrology, myth and philosophy. As Ms. De Francesco wrote: Through his mysterious and appealing lectures, they were guided away from the cold sobriety of genuine knowledge into the picturesque realms of pseudoscience. … These fake scientific talks were indeed excitingly mystical, yet to all appearances they could be understood by the common man.
The danger arises, she explains, when the serious-minded journalist strives to be “open minded,” finds something “interesting” in the charlatan’s discourses and ends up being just another puffer. Particularly if a person thinks of himself as clever, he will often have a hard time admitting his own ignorance.
“If the opinionated person belongs to the ranks of the quack’s predisposed victims, he will sublimate his doubts by magnifying the person or the occurrence about which he is dubious. … To silence his own conscience, he will refuse to swallow the insinuations of the skeptics; and to soothe himself invents stories which attract ever more throngs to the impostor.”
It’s also clear that Ms. De Francesco saw a parallel between the totalitarian movements of her own time and the charlatans in her book. She believed they both reduced people to the lowest common denominator: “They viewed mankind as a totality, seeing persons only in their special functions as buyers — purchasers of nostrums or theories.”
How can we avoid the snares of the charlatan? Fortunately, we live in a literate society: The compiled judgments and experiences of the past are still available to us, and we have really seen this all before.
Ms. De Francesco says some people just won’t fall for it, but some people always will: “They want to believe, and would only hate the argumentative expert who tried to injure the object of their faith.” So, remonstrating at length might not always be worth it.
[A]gainst the pretension to understand every single social ill according to some simple formula or another, some humility might help. When someone offers a too-easy explanation, we might choose instead the less satisfying but far healthier, “I don’t know.”

Nothing, of course, terrifies evangelicals more than saying "I don't know."  They require a lists of boxes they can check off and despise those who are different and, therefore, prompt the requirement of thinking. Again, it's no coincidence that evangelicals are Trump's most reliable core of support.  They certainly are a fulfillment of P.T. Barnum's supposed adage.  

Sessions Just Signed Death Warrants for LGBT Asylum Seekers

In addition to tear apart families and separating small children from their parents, the Trump/Pence regime is now limiting the bases upon which immigrants can seek asylum in America.  Domestic violence, gang violence and murder and the targeting of "certain populations" for violence no longer will be considered as proper grounds for seeking asylum.  In addition to women, the most severely impacted will be LBGT individuals who face criminalization and even death penalties in their home countries. Leading this movement is the long time racist and homophobe Jeff Sessions, perhaps the most unfit Attorney General America has suffered under in many decades, if not ever.  Cheering on these moves are (i) the white supremacists and (ii) evangelical "Christians" who comprise the core of the Trump/Pence/GOP base. LGBTQ Nation looks at the horrible consequences many LGBT individuals will likely suffer.  Here are highlights:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a new order in his never ending quest to keep the U.S. as white and straight as possible. In a wide-reaching move, Sessions says that the government will no longer accept the threat of gang violence or domestic abuse as grounds for asylum in the U.S.
“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote in a 31-page memo to immigration judges.
The order is going to disproportionately affect LGBTQ asylum seekers, many of them the victims of gang violence in their home countries. In fact, Sessions all but called LGBTQ asylum seekers out in his memo by refering to “certain populations.” In essence, Sessions said, it’s not America’s problem if you’re going to be killed for being gay or trans.
The heartlessness at the center of Session’s decision is illustrated by the specific case that spurred it. Ms. A.B.–court filings use only her initials–fled El Salvador after enduring years of violence, including rape, at the hands of her husband. She went to the local police, who did nothing. Finally, she came to the U.S., seeking asylum.
An immigration judge had ruled that what she endured was “criminal,” but still ruled against her claim. Ms. A.B. filed an appeal and won. Now she faces deportation after all.LGBTQ advocacy groups were quick to condemn Session’s order. The National Center for Lesbian Rights called it “an unpricipled setback that overturns years of precedent.”
Criticizing the Trump administration’s immigration policy for cruelty is actually a badge of honor for Sessions and other hard-liners. After all, this is the administration that happily separates children from their families at the border, telling parents that the children are being taken away for a bath.
Sending LGBTQ immigrants back to their deaths is just all in another day’s work.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Neo-Confederate Cory Stewart Wins GOP Primary to Face Tim Kaine

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart with supporters.
The base of the Republican Party of Virginia has shown to the world just how insane it has become as neo-Confederate Corey Stewart defeats the "GOP establishment" candidatNick Freitas in the Virginia Republican U.S. Senate primary .  One can only assume that Tim Kaine and Democrats are celebrating the Virginia GOP's selection of a true extremist as Tim Kaine's challenger in November.  Time and time again the delusional far right base of the GOP whines that the GOP loses elections by nominating "moderates" as its candidates.  If Stewart goes down to a devastating defeat, perhaps this myth will be put to rest once and for all at least in Virginia. Last year when Stewart almost defeated GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie for the nomination, he rain on a platform that included tax cuts for the very wealthy and a quasi-return to the Jim Crow laws.  Stewart is also a devoted supporter of Donald Trump who remains highly unpopular in Virginia. The Washington Post looks at this blow to the credibility of the Virginia GOP.  Here are highlights:
Corey Stewart, the Prince William County executive who shocked the GOP a year ago by nearly winning their party’s nomination for governor, won the Republican primary for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Tim Kaine.
Stewart was running against Nick Freitas, a state delete and military veteran, and pastor E.W. Jackson, who five years ago shocked them by upsetting better-known (and less controversial) candidates to become their nominee for lieutenant governor.
Kaine has stocked more than $10 million for a race that rarely appears on GOP midterm maps.
The Virginian Pilot has more extensive coverage.  Here are excerpts:
A conservative provocateur and supporter of President Donald Trump won Virginia's Republican primary Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race, and he has promised to run a "vicious" campaign against incumbent Tim Kaine.
Republican Corey Stewart beat state lawmaker Nick Freitas and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson. Stewart had long been on the fringe of the state's GOP; now the win makes him the standard-bearer of a deeply divided party that hasn't won a statewide race in nearly a decade.
A one-time state chairman of President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Stewart nearly won the 2017 Republican nomination for governor, despite being heavily outspent.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman and attorney has courted controversy throughout his political career. He was fired from the Trump campaign after staging an unsanctioned protest at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, which Stewart said wasn't sufficiently loyal to Trump during the presidential campaign.
Stewart campaigned heavily last year on preserving Virginia's Confederate monuments and is an immigrant hard-liner who boasts of the number of immigrants in the country illegally who have been deported from his county.
Several higher-profile Republicans floated the possibility of running against Kaine, but they did not follow through after Democrats scored huge victories in November in state-level elections. That left establishment Republicans to rally behind Freitas, a libertarian-leaning former Green Beret and two-term state House delegate.
Freitas largely ignored Stewart until the campaign's final days, when he criticized him for associating in the past with racists, including Paul Nehlen, a Republican challenger to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan who has been suspended from Twitter after a series of racist and anti-Semitic posts.
None of the candidates raised much money, though Freitas was helped by large last-minute spending from a super PAC aligned with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and the tea party group Americans for Prosperity.
Stewart embodies what the Republican Party has become: racist, isolationist, and extreme.  It is noteworthy that Stewart last almost all of the so-called urban crescent which is a key to carrying Virginia statewide.  Hopefully, he will suffer a crushing defeat that will make Ed Gillespie's loss in 2017 pale in comparison.   

More Tuesday Male Beauty

First They Came for the Migrants; Who Will Be Next?

“We simply follow the orders from above.”  That is the excuse/explanation given by border security workers engaged in the force separation of parents from their children, some still infants along America's borders.  The excuse is chillingly similar to that given by Nazi officials and even death camp workers after the fall of Germany in 1945. Simply because one is given an illegal or immoral order doesn't absolve one from responsibility. Decent, moral people say "no" and refuse to act. What is happening at America's borders is an indictment of every American who does nothing to stop these horrible and inhuman actions.  Silence is not an option, because silence and inaction amount to complicity. Guilt by association, if you will.  What's even more frightening is the reality that what is being done to is only the beginning of a campaign by the Trump/Pence regime to dehumanize those deemed "other" and thereby set the stage for legal repressions and others heinous acts.  The immediate targets of such immoral actions are brown skinned Spanish speakers, but the list of those Trump's white Christofascist and white supremacist base deems as "other" is lengthy. They hate gays, they hate non-Christians, to name a few potential future targets, and they see only themselves as "real Americans" worthy of full civil rights.  A column in the New York Times looks at the dying of American morality - to the extent it ever existed give the nation's ugly past - and the specter of things likely yet to come.  Be very afraid. Here are column excerpts:
The sci-fi writer William Gibson once said, “The future has arrived — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” In America in 2018, the same could be said of authoritarianism.
Since Donald Trump was elected, there’s been a boom in best-selling books about the fragility of liberal democracy, including Madeleine Albright’s “Fascism: A Warning,” and Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny.” Many have noted that [Trump's] the president’s rhetoric abounds in classic fascist tropes, including the demonization of minorities and attempts to paint the press as treasonous. Trump is obviously more comfortable with despots like Russia’s Vladimir Putin than democrats like Canada’s Justin Trudeau.
We still talk about American fascism as a looming threat, something that could happen if we’re not vigilant. But for undocumented immigrants, it’s already here.
There are countless horror stories about what’s happening to immigrants under Trump. Just last week, we learned that a teenager from Iowa who had lived in America since he was 3 was killed shortly after his forced return to Mexico. This month, an Ecuadorean immigrant with an American citizen wife and a pending green card application was detained at a Brooklyn military base where he’d gone to deliver a pizza; a judge has temporarily halted his deportation, but he remains locked up. Immigration officers are boarding trains and buses and demanding that passengers show them their papers. On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions decreed that most people fleeing domestic abuse or gang violence would no longer be eligible for asylum.
But what really makes Trump’s America feel like a rogue state is the administration’s policy of taking children from migrants caught crossing the border unlawfully, even if the parents immediately present themselves to the authorities to make asylum claims. “This is as bad as I’ve ever seen in 25 years of doing this work,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the A.C.L.U.’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told me. “The little kids are literally being terrorized.”
Family separations began last year — immigrant advocates aren’t sure exactly when — and have ramped up with the administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border without authorization. Over two weeks in May, more than 650 children were snatched from their parents.
The human consequences have been horrific. Last week, The New York Times described a 5-year-old boy from Honduras who had been separated from his father and cried himself to sleep at night with a stick-figure drawing of his family under his pillow. The Washington Post reported that Marco Antonio Muñoz, a 39-year-old who is also from Honduras, killed himself in a padded cell after his 3-year-old was wrenched from his arms.
Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic congresswoman from Washington State, recently met with migrant women being held in a federal prison, many of whom, she said, were forcibly separated from children as young as 1. Some had their kids physically torn from them. Others were told that they had to go have their photograph taken; when they returned, their children were gone. . . . “Many of them were told by Border Patrol that they would never see their children again,” she told me.
Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, recently visited an immigrant processing center in McAllen, Tex. Describing how men, women, boys and girls were separated and kept in chain-linked enclosures, . . .
These kids are being used as pawns to persuade parents to give up their asylum claims and to warn others against coming to America. The administration, Merkley told me, has “decided that treating kids in this fashion would influence the adults not to seek asylum. They would hurt children to influence the parents.”
There are still mechanisms in American government that can stop this evil. Last Friday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, proposed a bill that would keep most families detained at the border together. The A.C.L.U. has filed a lawsuit on behalf of parents whose children were taken from them and is asking a federal court for a nationwide injunction to stop family separations.
But for now, what is happening is the sort of moral enormity that once seemed unthinkable in contemporary America . . . . There is no reason to believe that undocumented immigrants will be the last group of people deemed beyond the law’s protection.
Senator Merkley told me he asked people working in the detention center if they were concerned about the impact that family separation would have on the children who had been put under their authority. The answer, he said, was, “We simply follow the orders from above.”

The full nightmare of Hitler's Germany did not happen over night.  It started slowly and targeted powerless groups.  Most Germans simply looked the other way refusing to believe where things were headed.  Other Germans - much like today's white Christofascists and white supremacists who make up the core base of the Republican Party - cheered on the horrors.  Each of must decide which group we will fall into.  I refuse to be silent and complicity in moral evils.  Meanwhile, think about this: the "godly folk" evangelicals find same sex love disgusting and sinful and worry about pre-marital sex, but support this Trump/Pence policy. They are utterly evil in my view -  just like Trump/Pence/Sessions. No amount of feigned piety in church pews absolves them from such inhumanity to others. 

Pentagon Ignores Pride Month For 1st Time Since "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal

The Trump/Pence regime continues to send messages to members of the LGBT community that they are less than full citizens and that our rights are subject to reversal and our humanity subject to diminution if not total negation.  The situation, of course, is the worse for transgender Americans on whom Trump and Pence have declared war to rally support from their knuckle dragging evangelical base.  For the first time since the repel of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Pentagon is pretending that Pride month is not occurring.  Some will say what is the big deal, but when you are part of a community that has been denigrated and abused for many decades, if not centuries, you become very sensitive to signals that your rights may be under attack.  Twenty Nine states - including Virginia - have no employment non-discrimination or housing protections. I was was fired by my former law firm in the past for being gay and ultimately forced into bankruptcy as a consequence. After such an experience, believe me, you do pay attention to any backsliding in recognition of your rights.  The thousands and thousands of LGBT members of the military are likely paying close attention.  In this context, Trump/Pence is nothing less than a dangerous enemy.  The Washington Post looks at this development at the Pentagon.  Here are highlights:
Senior leaders at the Pentagon are distancing themselves from the Defense Department’s annual LGBT Pride Month celebrations, declining to formally acknowledge the observances for the first time since the practice became routine after President Barack Obama repealed the military’s ban on homosexuals serving openly.  The absence this year of an official Pentagon memo marking LGBT Pride Month has raised questions among service members and Defense Department civilian employees who are troubled by President Trump’s surprise proclamation last July that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military. Typically, the memo is distributed as LGBT Pride Month begins each June, effectively endorsing the observance and encouraging personnel to hold local events.  “It opens the door for LGBT service members, civilians and their allies on military bases to hold events recognizing Pride Month without having to ask for special permission or an exception,” said a former senior Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the official’s dealings with the Pentagon. “It makes it known that there’s an authorization, that there’s support.” 
Even without an official observance memo, the LGBT employee group at the Defense Department held an event Monday at the Pentagon. Contrary to past years, though, no high-level department leaders made public remarks — another first since such events began in 2012, the year after the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed.
Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, declined to discuss why no observance memo has been issued this year, saying only: . . . We value all members of the DOD total force and recognize their immense contributions to the mission.”
The Defense Department Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity maintains a website publicizing the posters and memos designating 2018’s other official observances. As of Monday, it listed five: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Holocaust Days of Remembrance, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Trump’s transgender ban has yet to go into effect because of court challenges. In the meantime, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has recommended a new policy that disqualifies transgender people who require or have already undergone gender transition, and bans people with current or recent gender dysphoria except in rare circumstances.
Mattis’s policy recommendation marks a reversal of the Obama administration’s decision in 2016 to lift a ban on transgender men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces, though it grandfathers those currently serving.

To maintain the support of hate infused evangelicals, I suspect that there are few limits to the harm Trump and Pence would do to LGBT citizens. Like brown skinned immigrants at the border, we are viewed as less than human.  Only a fool would not be afraid.