Saturday, July 14, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Religion: The Driving Force Behind Anti-LGBT Bigotry

High school co-valedictorian discarded by parents for being gay.
When I belatedly came out of the closet in mid-life, my parents embraced me and supported and accepted me.  After my mother's death in 2011, I endowed a scholarship for graduating LGBT high school seniors in honor of my parents (donations can be made here).  One of the goals of the scholarship was/is to give financial support to students disowned by their "godly Christian" parents/families who value the myths and legends of unknown Bronze Age herders more than their own flesh and blood.  I have friends who suffered this fate and, as a story out of northeast Florida demonstrates the religious based hatred of gays and the discarding of children still stems from toxic "conservative" Christianity.  I remain convinced that causing LGBT children and youths to live in fundamentalist Christian homes is a form of child abuse.  Here are highlights on the travesty out of Florida (a gofundme page has been set up for this young man here - please consider donating): 
The 18-year-old First Coast High School co-valedictorian, student leader, athlete and extremely snappy dresser was supposed to spend his last summer at home, getting ready for college in the Ivy Leagues. Instead, he’s crashing with a bestie and preparing for his first semester at Georgetown University . . . . The more intriguing story, however, is how Seth came to be couch-surfing just months before graduating from high school. Unwinding that colorful, tangled yarn will make you want to cry, or scream.
See, in addition to all the other supposed-to’s, Seth Owen was supposed to be straight. The fact that he’s not has driven a wedge between him and his strict Baptist family who, as he tells Folio Weekly, have kicked him out of the house and refused to sign the financial aid package Georgetown put together, leaving Seth without the $20K he needs for tuition. Seth’s father, Randy Owen, denies kicking him out, and says that he’s willing to provide Seth with the same assistance as the family has done for his brother. “I made it very clear to him that he was not being kicked out, that he would have to make a decision … . We worship as a family. He would be going to church if he lived in our home,” he says. . . . and says he was not aware before a reporter told him that Seth is gay, though he did admit to seeing “a video of him kissing another boy” roughly a year-and-a-half ago.
He plans to study international politics, then attend law school (naturally), after which, he says, he’s leaning toward a career fighting for juvenile justice.
The subject is more than a passing interest; for his college entrance essay, Seth wrote about child marriage. “I think that’s what got me into Georgetown,” he says. His commitment to the subject is also what he says finally, after years of conflict about his homosexuality, cleaved him from family hearth and home.
The niggling awareness that he wasn’t drawn to the opposite sex began when Seth was just a tot. In childhood, he’d sit in the pews and absorb restrictive sermons and lessons, following along obediently as a good boy does, while deep in his heart, he didn’t agree with some of the lessons being imparted.
Seth says that his parents discovered evidence that he is gay a few years ago while searching his phone. Not wanting to hurt them, in his early youth, he’d tried to convince himself that he was “straight with some issues,” but by then, the closet was only a place he knew at home and in church.
Afterward, he says, they attempted conversion therapy—though no one specifically called it that, it was obvious this was the intent. For a few months, Seth says a counselor tried to help him pray the gay away, encouraging him to partake in stereotypical straight masculine behaviors, like fixing up an old car, or watching straight pornography. His father characterizes it as typical, not conversion, therapy, and says that neither parent knew what Seth discussed with his therapist. . . . eventually, the therapy stopped and the family went back to the way things had been before—pretending.
But now that the truth had come out once, going back into hiding proved almost more difficult for Seth, who says he felt “extremely comfortable” with his sexuality among his peers. Nevertheless, he lived a double life: out at school, closeted at home. “I can remember driving home and being in tears because I had to put on a mask,” he says.
In February, during one of those more tranquil times, Seth was sitting in a pew at church as usual, listening to the sermon, when a switch flipped inside him. The sermon was about children being required to obey their parents regardless of the circumstances. Someone in the congregation asked the question on Seth’s mind: ‘What if the parents are abusing the child? Must they still obey?’ ‘Yes,’ was the response.
This was a bridge too far. “It was that comment about the little girl, that she would have to sit there and take this abuse,” Seth says. Later, Seth says he confronted his family. The conversation ended with Seth giving them an ultimatum: He’d go to any church they want, but not that one. It did not go over.
Since then, he stayed with a few friends and mentors before settling in with a close friend for the summer. And he’s remained in communication with his family, who also attended his graduation. It’s obvious when he talks that he still loves and respects them; he’s just no longer willing to be anything but his authentic self for their benefit—even though in his case, it’s more about his principles as they apply to the treatment of others than it is about his sexuality.
On June 18, another of his teachers launched a GoFundMe page to help the young man pay tuition and expenses. Though as of this writing, the fundraiser is well short of its $20,000 goal, the smart money’s on the perseverance of Seth Owen. To borrow a line from his valedictorian speech, “Because of our struggles and life circumstances, we know that we are strong enough, and we are resilient enough to overcome anything and to accomplish everything on which we set our sights.”
Living in the closet is soul killing.  I know, I did it for 37 years, tried to "pray away the gay" and tried suicide twice. Kudos to Seth. Shame on his parents.  Fundamentalist religion is truly a toxic evil that needs to be eliminated from the Earth.

Trump, Brett Kavanaugh and the Effort to Destroy LGBTQ Rights

With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, the sense of dread and impending doom that has lingered over me and many others since the disastrous results of the 2016 presidential election has again intensified.  I suspect even straight LGBT allies do not fully appreciate the corrosive effect living in fear that one's rights will be curtailed or abolished at the whim of a malignant narcissist and a hate-filled minority empowered by a flawed U.S. Constitution which has concentrated too much power in rural, reactionary states. As a history nerd, if you will, who has read much about the rise of Hitler in Germany, I cannot help but wonder whether some of Hitler's future victims had similar fears as they saw Germany slowly embrace insanity and barbarism.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at the threat that Brett Kavanaugh may pose to LGBT Americans in particular and American democracy in general.  Here are highlights:
There was some attention ― and perhaps even a bit of hope ― this week after the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association came out immediately in opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh (urging members to call their senators), President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The AFA was rattled by Kavanaugh’s previous statements that precedent actually matters. Like National Review’s David French and other social conservatives, the AFA’s first choice for a nominee on Trump’short list was Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who has been very clear about how religious faith should guide a judge’s decisions.
But after a couple of days, the AFA walked that back . . . . Maybe the AFA realized something we all should be enormously concerned about: Kavanaugh’s beliefs on marriage equality and Obergefell v. Hodges might matter far less than his breathtaking views on expansive presidential power when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ people.
When the president is an authoritarian, after all, allowing him expansive powers will be far more efficient at curtailing the rights of minorities than waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in on every case, which might take years to reach it.That, of course, is not to say that Kavanaugh isn’t on board with the anti-LGBTQ agenda. As I’ve been writing about for the past few years, the goal of anti-LGBTQ leaders is to turn gay marriage into second-class marriage. This was the plan well before the Obergefell ruling, as I sat in on a panel in 2014 at the Values Voter Summit where prominent anti-LGBTQ leaders discussed how they would do to marriage equality what they have done to abortion rights: chip away at it over years to diminish it dramatically. 
That assault on marriage equality has only just begun, with the “religious liberty” crusade lookingto carve out exemptions for those who oppose LGBTQ rights. Whether it is bakers and florists or adoption agencies, the idea is to allow religious objectors to discriminate.Thus with Kavanaugh, the question isn’t whether he believes in precedent or would overturn Obergefell outright. It’s about where he stands on carving out these exemptions.
Neil Gorsuch (for whom Collins voted) in his confirmation hearings called marriage equality “absolutely settled law.” . . . . But Gorsuch has gone on to assault LGBTQ rights, most notably in a dissent that was seen as an open invitation to the state of Texas to challenge or carve out exceptions to Obergefell.
We can expect the same of Kavanaugh. An analysis by political scientist Lee Epstein puts Kavanaugh to the right of Gorsuch and Justice Samuel Alito and just slightly to the left of the farthest-right justice, Clarence Thomas. It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which a justice in that position would rule in favor of LGBTQ rights. Cases will be coming to the Supreme Court regarding adoption laws and gay couples, the rights of transgender students and transgender people serving in the military and businesses denying service to LGBTQ people based on the business owners’ religious beliefs. . . . There’s no question another case regarding a business owner who wants a religious exemption to serving queer people will reach the court. 
But even more threatening is Kavanaugh’s view of expansive presidential power ― an issue Democrats are now focusing on,as it seems directly related to why Trump might have chosen him. Kavanaugh has written that Congress should pass a law that protects presidents from lawsuits,indictments and investigations like the Russia probe. And his decisions have shown he backs a concentration of power in the executive branch on international and domestic issues. He supports the unitary executive notion of presidential power. 
That could have dire consequences regarding Trump’s decisions to ban transgender people from the military and sign other draconian executive orders. A far-reaching religious liberty executive order ― which would have allowed for broad-based discrimination against LGBTQ people, women and other groups ― was slowed down by the administration last year and replaced with a series of less expansive ones, in part, it appears, because of fears the order would face a legal challenge.
But with Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, such far-reaching orders could be deemed as passing constitutional muster, giving Trump further power to assault LGBTQ rights ― and the rights of many other minorities ― on his own, with the stroke of a pen. And that would bring Trump much closer to what seems to be his clear aim, establishing a dictatorship.
Be very, very afraid.

Jill Stein - Putin's Other Asset? - Uses Recount Cash for Her Russia Legal Defense

There are two ways to have one's preferred candidate win a close election: (i) trash and harm the main opponent - which is what Russia did to Hillary Clinton, and (ii) aid and abet a third party candidate who has no chance of winning so as to drain off votes from the non-preferred candidate.  The latter approach may be what Vladimir Putin did with Green Party candidate Jill Stein who has never satisfactorily explained what she was doing when she attended a December 2015 party for Russian state broadcaster RT and dined with Vladimir Putin and the now indicted Michael Flynn.  Stein's supporters who "protested" against Hillary Clinton helped throw the election to Trump just as much as Russian interference and manipulation of the most gullible and racist members of Trump's base.  As The Daily Beast reports, Stein is now using funds raised from supporters to fund recount efforts in key states instead to pay for her legal costs in responding to the Russiagate investigation - she seemingly played these folks for fools not once but twice.  Here are article excerpts:

Money that Jill Stein raised to recount votes in 2016 swing states is being used by her campaign to pay for legal bills stemming from the investigation of Russian interference in the last presidential election.
In June, The Daily Beast reported that the the U.S. Green Party candidate’s campaign, which raised $7.3 million for recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, had in 2017 stopped disclosing its monthly spending with the Federal Election Commission. Later that month, the Jill Stein for President committee filed a slew of reports that reveal spending on lawyers who are not trying to get inside any voting machines.
Stein campaign paid the “Partnership for Civil Justice” $66,441.60; that is on top of a $31,536 payment made in January, and more than the Stein campaign had in cash on hand by November 2016. . . . the group notes that it is representing Stein in her dealings before the the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Stein has not been accused of any wrongdoing with respect to the various Russia investigations, but she has drawn attention from investigators for, among other things, her attendance at a December 2015 party in Moscow celebrating the 10th anniversary of state broadcaster RT. There she dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser whom Mueller indicted for making false statements.

In December 2017, Senate investigators requested documents from the Stein campaign as part of its own look into Russian government interference in the last presidential election. Stein has largely complied.
In an April 26 letter, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, cofounder of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, told Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner that, “As its records reflect, the Campaign paid for Dr. Stein’s trip to Russia.” The letter also notes Stein’s willingness to comply with its requests for communication with Russian state media organizations and Russian government officials. Objections are raised, however, to what are deemed unconstitutionally vague requests for internal policy discussions and contacts with any “Russian persons,” regardless of affiliation.
In a November 28 press release, the Stein campaign assured such donors that “recount funds are being held in a dedicated account, separate from Stein’s Presidential campaign treasury, and will be used to pay for all costs associated with the recounts.” . . . What to do with the money left over, after all recounts efforts were completed, is a question that 150,000 contributors were promised a vote on.
Dave Schwab, Communications Director for the Stein campaign responded Friday:
Recount money was used to provide legal counsel for the Senate investigation of alleged Russian collusion that the recount and our campaign were accused of. It was outrageous that the Senate Intelligence Committee accused the recount of being a tool of Russian interference, when the recount was exactly the thing that could have detected any such election interference, had it not been obstructed. Legal counsel enabled us to defend the recount from the baseless accusations behind the Russia investigation, which allowed us to leverage the intense media interest in the Russia investigation to amplify the critical message that election integrity is our best defense against election interference.

I don't trust Stein and her supporters were played for idiots.  They bear as much responsibility for Trump's election as the lazy slugs who failed to get out and vote.

The Ugly American: Trump Lies, Protocol Breaches and Possible Treason

Trump barging in front of Elizabeth II

Years ago when I traveled abroad regularly for business, one of things that often made me cringe were American tourists, a certain percentage of which seem to always display rudeness, boorishness, and a basic contempt for their foreign hosts.  The epitome was when I was in the line to enter the Louvre in Paris and a group of decidedly overweight Mid-Westerners were loudly and continually bitching that the the menu at the McDonald's on the Champs Elysee wasn't just like the one in the backwater they came from.  I made an effort to hide my nationality, hoping I might pass as English, Canadian or even French with luck.  Now, we have Donald Trump, the boor-in-chief proving a nonstop embarrassment to Americans as he engages in constantly lies, snubs Queen Elizabeth - the Brits are faulting her for even meeting with Trump - and trashes the Western order in general.  Deliciously, as Trump's was being greeted by huge protests in London, Robert Mueller drop 12 more indictments of Russian nationals linking Putin's intelligence service to the hacks of the DNC and Clinton email servers.  While no Americans were among those indicted - not yet, anyway - the evidence is building that collusion with a foreign enemy regime did occur.  Trump true to form continues to scream the entire Mueller investigation is a "witch hunt" - a witch hunt that is catching more and more witches. A piece in New York Magazine looks at this bombshell.  Here are highlights: 
On July 27, 2016, Donald Trump denied Russia was the likely culprit in the email hacks, but also announced, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think that you’ll be rewarded mightily by our press.”
In what is possibly an astonishing coincidence, but probably not, that very night, according to the new indictments from the Department of Justice, Russian hackers “attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or about the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton campaign.” Trump asked Russia to hack his opponent, and Russia did “[f]or the first time,” as the indictment says.
Today’s latest, and almost certainly not last, indictments in the Russia scandal concern 12 Russian intelligence figures. . . . The danger for Trump is the implication of collusion scattered throughout the indictments.
The indictment charges that the conspirators “received a request for stolen materials from a candidate for the U.S. Congress,” and “sent the candidate stolen documents.” The Wall Street Journal reported a year ago that “Guccifer 2.0,” one of the Russian hackers, communicated with Florida-based Republican operative Aaron Nevins. Nevins is not named in this indictment, but the revelation that a candidate also communicated with Russian hackers indicates yet another point of contact in a conspiracy that went beyond Trump’s campaign.
The most direct path to the Trump campaign indicated in this indictment runs through Roger Stone. The Republican dirty trickster officially left the Trump campaign in 2015, but remained in regular contact with Trump throughout the campaign.
Stone admittedly engaged in direct communication with one of the indicted Russian agents. The indictment cites Stone’s contact with Guccifer 2.0:

That certainly looks like acting as an accessory to a crime. Stone promises he will “never roll on Trump,” unlike John Dean, who fingered President Nixon for crimes during Watergate. The promise and the analogy both suggest that Stone has evidence of culpability between Trump and Russia.
[The prosecution is building its case step by step, and the absence of formal charges against an individual in any one indictment hardly indicates they are in the clear. President
Little wonder Trump wants to meet with Putin totally alone: he wants no witnesses as he asks his handler what to do as the noose slowly but steadily tightens around him.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Friday, July 13, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

America: Tyranny of the Minority, and Rogue Nation Status

Watching Donald Trump - in my view, the most morally bankrupt and dangerous narcissist to ever occupy the White House - wreak havoc on the world order, igniting a trade war that will cost American consumers dearly, shredding long standing alliances, and even seeking to over through the current government in the United Kingdom (all of which likely thrills Vladimir Putin) makes it hard to reach any conclusion other than America is a rogue nation.  Disturbingly, many of Trump's tactics both domestically and internationally mirror the conduct of Adolph Hitler in the early 1930's.  Meanwhile, Trump's rural base cheers as the destruction takes place and the eunuchs in the Congressional GOP do nothing to rein in or remove an unfit occupant of the White House.  How did we reach this point where ignorance and racial hate and bigotry are celebrated by the party controlling the federal government?  A piece in The Economist - one of the few things currently stable in the UK - blames a design flaw in the United States Constitution which now allows a tyrannical and toxic minority of rural voters/states to negate the wishes of the majority of citizens. Even with massive Democrat turnout, it will prove difficult to alter the downward spiral of American politics and, I would argue, morality.   Here are article highlights:
EVERY system for converting votes into power has its flaws. Britain suffers from an over-mighty executive; Italy from chronically weak government; Israel from small, domineering factions. America, however, is plagued by the only democratic vice more troubling than the tyranny of the majority: tyranny of the minority.
This has come about because of a growing division between rural and urban voters. The electoral system the Founders devised, and which their successors elaborated, gives rural voters more clout than urban ones. When the parties stood for both city and country that bias affected them both. But the Republican Party has become disproportionately rural and the Democratic Party disproportionately urban. That means a red vote is worth more than a blue one.
The consequences are dramatic. Republicans hold both the houses of Congress and the White House. But in the three elections in 2012-16 their candidates got just 46% of the two-party vote for the Senate, and they won the presidential vote in 2016 with 49%. Our voting model predicts that, for Democrats to have a better than 50% chance of winning control of the House in November’s mid-term elections, they will need to win the popular vote by around seven percentage points. To put that another way, we think the Republicans have a 0.01% chance of winning the popular vote for the House. But we estimate their chance of securing a majority of congressmen is about a third.
This imbalance is partly by design. The greatest and the smallest states each have two senators, in order that Congress should represent territory as well as people. Yet the over-representation of rural America was not supposed to affect the House and the presidency. . . . America has one party built on territory and another built on people.
By having elected politicians appoint federal judges, the American system embeds this rural bias in the courts as well. If Brett Kavanaugh, whom President Donald Trump nominated this week, joins the Supreme Court, a conservative court established by a president and Senate who were elected with less than half the two-party vote may end up litigating the fairness of the voting system.
[T]he built-in bias is obviously bad for Democrats. But in the long run it is bad for America as a whole, including Republicans. When lawmaking is paralysed, important work, such as immigration and entitlement reform, is too hard. The few big laws that are approved, like Barack Obama’s health-care reform or Mr Trump’s corporate-tax cuts, pass on party-line votes. That emboldens the opposition to reverse or neuter them when they take power. Meanwhile, the task of resolving the most divisive political issues often falls to the courts. The battle over Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation will be a proxy war over issues, like abortion and health insurance, better suited to the legislature.
[R]ancorous political disputes—over guns, abortion and climate change—split so neatly along urban-rural lines that parties and voters increasingly sort themselves into urban-rural tribes. Gerrymandering and party primaries reward extremists, and ensure that, once elected, they seldom need fear for their jobs. The incentives to take extreme positions are very powerful.
Bitter partisanship, ineffective federal government and electoral bias poison politics and are hard to fix. Changing the constitution is hard—and rightly so. Yet the voting system for Congress is easier to reform than most people realise, because the constitution does not stipulate what it should be. Congress last voted to change the rules in 1967.
Voting reform is not the whole answer to partisanship and built-in bias, but it would help. It is hard, but not outlandish. To maintain the trust of all Americans, the world’s oldest constitutional democracy needs to reform itself.
I agree with the piece.  Wyoming with slightly less than 600,000 residents should not have two U.S. Senators. Ditto for other small, least educated, mot reactionary states.   The Electoral College - which utterly failed its purpose in 2016 - likewise needs to go.

The Virginia GOP's Road of Self-Destruction

As I have noted many times, years ago, I was a GOP activist, an eight (8) year precinct captain and member of the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach.  I also held a state board position by appointment from Republican Governor Jim Gilmore.  During the intervening years, I, my entire extended family, and many friends all fled the Republican Party of Virginia ("RPV") as the party embraced homophobia, swore fealty to a radical white evangelical Christian agenda, and more recently, embraced white supremacists.  "Moderate Republicans" are nearly extinct and have either fled the asylum the Virginia GOP has become or have literally died off.  Meanwhile, instead of striving to broaden its base of support, RPV has moved further and further to the far right, falling for the Chtistofascists/white supremacist fantasy that victory could be won if the party only mounted "true conservatives" as its candidates.  The result?  RPV has not won a statewide race in Virginia for almost a decade and 15 GOP House of Delegate seats were lost in 2017.  With Corey Stewart now the standard bearer for RVP in 2018, even the National Review sees little upside for the party.    Even Bearing Drift notes that Republican Reps. Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock are on the "flip list" and that Scott Taylor's seat is now a "toss up."  First, these highlights from National Review:
According to political experts, Virginia can be considered either the northernmost southern state or the southernmost northern state. Recent Democratic successes and shifting demographics seem to favor the latter view. The main areas of recent population growth have been Democratic areas — Northern Virginia, just outside the District of Columbia; the capital, Richmond; and Henrico County in the Richmond suburbs. Meanwhile, the population has declined in the southwest and in Hampton Roads, the former a Republican stronghold and the latter a battleground. From 2000 to 2010, Virginia’s Hispanic population, which tends to support Democrats, increased by 92 percent, with two-thirds of that growth concentrated in Northern Virginia.
One experienced Republican activist argues that “Virginia is more like a purple state with a roller-coaster pattern than it is a red state turning blue.” But Mike Murphy, a longtime GOP political consultant, says: “The state is turning blue, and the Republicans are responding to that by turning crazy. That is a cycle that will electorally wipe out the party, at least at the state level.”
Tucker Martin, a veteran political strategist with extensive experience in the state, tells National Review that there’s a disconnect between what Virginia is and what many Virginia Republicans believe it to be. “The Democrats are on home turf now, and Republicans need to branch out and create their own brand,” Martin says. “The problem is that the Trump era has made it almost impossible to do that.”
Over the last few years, these factors have converged to push Virginia from purple to blue. Even as its quickly changing demographics have favored the Left, a stripe of populist Republican politician has arisen on the right, appealing to a core of supporters who have driven the state GOP even further rightward, distancing moderate voters and, in some cases, encouraging Democratic engagement.
Enter Donald Trump, a political outsider much like Brat who surged onto the scene in 2015 to compete for the presidential nomination, appealing to many of the same parts of the GOP base that Brat had wooed. Though Trump’s strategy played well nationally, it wasn’t as successful in Virginia. The businessman even struggled to find a state politician willing to chair his state campaign until Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, stepped in.
Trump barely won the Virginia primary on March 1, with Florida senator Marco Rubio coming in a close second. Tellingly, Trump received only a plurality of the vote. This lack of widespread support was a sign of things to come. Virginia was the only southern state to go to Hillary Clinton, who won it by more than Barack Obama had in 2012.
Stewart’s far-right rhetoric occasionally slipped into outright support for white supremacists. In early 2017, he called anti-Muslim conspiracy crank Paul Nehlen (a primary challenger to House speaker Paul Ryan) one of his “personal heroes,” and his campaign paid Nehlen a fundraising commission for the use of his email list. Stewart also appeared during the primary with Jason Kessler, an organizer of last August’s neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville.
Recently, Stewart disavowed both Nehlen and Kessler, saying he had been unaware of their extremism. Shaun Kenney, former executive director of the state party, calls this claim nonsense, saying “everyone in Charlottesville knew what Jason Kessler was and knew what he represented.”
In November, Gillespie lost to sitting lieutenant governor Ralph Northam by nearly nine percentage points. Democratic candidates took 15 seats in the house of delegates, where Republicans had held a 66–34 advantage. One delegate race was deemed a tie, and a random drawing allotted the seat to the Republican, allowing the GOP to retain a 51–49 majority — literally dependent on the luck of the draw. The biggest story was turnout among Democrats, who voted at unprecedented, presidential-election levels: One analysis estimated that turnout among under-30-year-olds in Virginia was 34 percent, nearly twice  its 17 percent in the 2009 gubernatorial race. Nearly seven out of ten of those voters cast their ballots for Northam.
“Trump has made it a social value among those Democratic-leaning, younger voters to be against Trump and to demonstrate it by voting,” Murphy explains. “Trump has solved the problem the Democrats have faced for decades, which is how to get their younger, unengaged voters to show up and pull the ‘D’ lever.”
[E]xperts predict that Republicans can’t expect to win Virginia with only the segments of the electorate that Trump won. Stewart’s general-election campaign will be the test. While populist rhetoric undoubtedly appeals to enough of the base to hand primary elections to Trump and Stewart, Virginia is slipping away from the GOP: The Cook Political Report just moved Brat’s reelection campaign in the seventh district from “leans Republican” to “toss-up.” “The trend over the last 20 years has been that, as the Republican party pushes more to the right, Virginia has shifted to the left, and it’s created a chasm,” Martin explains. “Trump has broadened that chasm. Corey Stewart makes it a little wider. As a party, we need to look at ways to close that divide.”
So long as they remain the party of Corey Stewart, Virginia Republicans are likely to stand on the outside looking in.

Bearing Drift continues the dire picture for the RPV.  Here are highlights:
The Wason Center’s Rachel Bitecofer has published a new paper that will hearten Virginia Democrats. Nationally, the party is “primed to pick up enough seats to control the House.”
In Virginia, Bitecofer pulls no punches: Republican Reps. Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock will lose. And the state’s other race to watch, the 2nd District, is a pure toss-up. And for Republicans, the bad news looks like it will continue for as long as Donald Trump is in the White House.
Part of the reason is “negative partisanship” — the negative attitudes, even extending outside of politics that members of the major political parties have toward the other party’s candidates. The negative feelings are stronger among those supporting the party out of power. All that negativity keeps them motivated.
The deciding factor for Democrats is getting their own partisans to the polls: Democrats lose Independents quite often, and in elections they win and they lose because they have a population advantage in many places and when their partisans turn out in high numbers, it trumps the combined loss of Republicans and Independents, assuming they don’t lose the latter group by wide margins.
[I]f it’s true, it could mean that races that were already going to be expensive and rough, such as Virginia’s 10th, will be even costlier and much rougher than we imagined. The reason? Democrats will do everything possible to raise turnout among their base voters and to capture a good share of the true independents.
According to the Monmouth University poll of the 10th — the only data we have so far –Democrats are already doing what’s necessary to reach both goals, long before the mud starts flying. In Monmouth’s “turnout surge” model, in areas where “Trump is unpopular,” Democratic nominee Jennifer Wexton leads Comstock 51 percent to 40 percent.
Another key to Bitecofer’s model, and another troubling sign for Republicans: the number of college graduates in a district. She looked at Virginia’s 2017 House of Delegates races and discovered this: Of the 17 Clinton districts in Virginia, Democrats won nearly all of them. They even picked up a seat in a district that broke for Trump. And the most significant factor explaining districts that flipped from those that didn’t (other than the district’s partisan advantage and challenger spending relative to incumbent spending) is the percent of college educated residents residing within the district.
Brat once complained,“women are in my grill no matter where I go.” Negative partisanship means they still are. The question is whether the energy can be sustained until November. Bitecofer argues it can and will be — and that it will continue far beyond then, as Republicans demonstrated when Barack Obama was in the White House.
The leadership of the RVP decided years ago to sell its soul to Christofascists and white supremacists (the two for the most part overlap, in my view) and mow it is repealing the whirlwind of tying its future to minority extremists.  The RPV deserves every misfortune that befalls it. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal Continues in New York and Pennsylvania

As much of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy continues to work to stifle moves by Pope Francis to modernize the Church, two new sex abuse bombshells await to explode.  One is in Pennsylvania where the Pennsylvania bishops are fighting tooth and claw to block the release of what will no doubt be a scathing grand jury investigation report. The other is in New York State where revelations are coming out about the magnitude of priestly sex abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo.   The irony, of course is that in many instances, the bishops and cardinals seeking keep the Church locked in the 12th Century are the same ones who allowed the rampant rape of children and youths on their watch.  These vain, bitter old men in dresses will go to any lengths to block modern knowledge on sexual orientation and the reality of divorced and remarried Catholics. The Allentown Morning Call looks at the grand jury report that is being suppressed and depriving the public of much needed information on the depravity of the Church hierarchy in Pennsylvania.  Here are excerpts:
Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead." — Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack  This is a column about secrets.
Secrets that the Catholic Church has kept from its parishioners and everyone else about the way some of its priests have preyed on children and the way church leaders covered it up. Secrets their victims have kept, festering in some cases for decades because they were too frightened, embarrassed or confused to speak up. Secrets parents try to keep from their children about sexual orientation and other uncomfortable subjects. Secrets some schools try to keep from their parents.
Certainly there are times when secrecy makes sense. Loose lips sink ships and all that. But far more often, it's healthy, even liberating, to expose these secrets to the light of day so they can be addressed in the open.
I suppose if I were accused of being a child molester or of covering for one, I would prefer not to have the details published in a Pennsylvania grand jury report. So it's understandable that some priests want to block the release of the impending report on child sex abuse in six dioceses, including Allentown.
What's less understandable, to me, is why the state Supreme Court is letting them do it, unless it intends to upend the grand jury system that already has produced illuminating reports about abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.
Can you imagine the mixture of anticipation and fear many of these victims felt as the date approached for letting the world know what happened to them? Or the devastation of seeing the Supreme Court choose secrecy, at least for a little longer?
I can, because I've talked to so many victims of child sex abuse, by clergy . . . I've heard them talk about the guilt, the embarrassment, the betrayal, the anger that has driven so many victims to silence, to depression, to suicide.
When men who in a very real sense symbolize God betray you by sexually abusing you or by helping pedophiles find new victims instead of stopping them, religious faith becomes another casualty.  These secrets have been hidden far too long already. So I support all the efforts being made to force the Supreme Court to release this grand jury report and end this monstrous conspiracy of silence.
In Harrisburg, in East Penn, in six Catholic dioceses and everywhere else, the truth will set us free.  Or at least begin the healing.
Meanwhile, north of the border in New York State, the Diocese of Buffalo is reeling as it is revealed that 74 past and present priests are involved in claims of sexual abuse.   WKBW-TV looks at the revelations.  What is telling is that much of the abuse cited occurred relatively recently, not in the 1950's and 1960's as the Church hierarchy often likes to claim as it dismisses the allegations of victims.  Here are excerpts:
To date, 74 current or former Buffalo priests have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct. 
The Diocese of Buffalo in March 2018 released a list of 42 "diocesan priests who were removed from ministry, were retired, or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse with a minor." It included deceased priests "with more than one allegation made against them."
That list did not include the names of dozens of additional priests who were members of religious orders, were publicly accused of sexual misconduct with adult women or men, left the diocese and moved to other parts of the country, or were identified in reporting by 7 Eyewitness News and other media outlets since March. . . .
Sadly, it is the same familiar pattern seen across the globe where priests were shuffled from parish to parish with no warning given to unsuspecting parents and youths.  The root cause in my view: the Church's bizarre obsession with all things sexual and its refusal to accept modern knowledge on sexuality and sexual orientation. Add to this (i) the western rite celibacy requirement, and (ii) the strange and isolated existence of many males who enter seminary directly from seminary high schools and/or colleges who have never been allowed to have normal psycho-sexual development. It is a recipe for disaster that will continue to lead to sexual abuse until such time as the Church leaves the 12th century and accepts modernity.

More Thursday Male Beauty

Will the Trade War Trump Started Take Down the GOP?

So far there has been little limit as to how far Republicans will go in prostituting themselves to Donald Trump.  Indeed, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell make real life tawdry prostitutes look somewhat virtuous in comparison.  But there are signs that among some Republicans perhaps the desire for self-preservation at the polls may be beginning to make them realize that Trump's completely self-initiated trade war could be very bad news.  Already, the Chinese, European Union and Canadian responses to Trump's unhinged tariffs against them are causing economic pain in the Mid-West and Trump voting counties.  And this is before China responds to Trump's new $200 billion tariff increase on China.  With luck, the economic pain in states like Iowa that threw America principles on the trash heap and supported Trump will be truly horrific (I believe embracing hate and bigotry need to have very severe consequences).  A piece in Politico looks at growing GOP angst over Trump's possible total destruction of the party.  Here are excerpts:
While President Donald Trump was in Europe speaking for America’s interest in the world, Vice President Mike Pence was in the heartland speaking to its anxieties.

On Wednesday, as Trump excoriated America’s allies for taking advantage of his nation’s largesse, Pence was gliding through the greater Midwest, seeking to calm the nerves of farmers and political foot soldiers worried that the administration’s policies will irrevocably hit their pocketbooks and set back the party before the midterm elections.
The split screen . . . underscores the administration’s high-risk, high-reward approach to global diplomacy and domestic policy that helped it claim the White House and keep its base energized and loyal, yet could plunge the GOP into peril if things go off the rails.
Republicans are growing nervous about the latter possibility. . . . there’s a real fear among our members that a trade war will squander the economic gains we made with tax reform,” a senior GOP official on Capitol Hill told POLITICO on Wednesday.
Trump’s tough talk with allies, coming ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, is adding to their discomfort. . . . the Republican-led U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion supporting NATO, a move viewed as reflecting Congress’ concerns over [Trump's] the president’s menacing talk about the alliance.
In Brussels, Trump accused Germany of being “totally controlled” by Russia and lashed out at a controversial gas pipeline project. Trump also reiterated his calls for NATO leaders to increase military spending.
Even as he softened somewhat in meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, his remarks from earlier in the day continued to serve as the basis for questioning from reporters, who asked Macron whether he agreed with Trump that Germany is captive to Russia.
“No,” Macron said, bluntly, after Trump, perhaps flippantly, told reporters he was glad the press was asking the French president the question.  Back at home, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters he didn’t agree with Trump’s accusation.
[T]he uncomfortable reaction domestically to Trump’s renewed haranguing of European allies from members of his own party — and his dispatching of Pence to the Midwest to palliate mounting concerns about a trade war — may begin to foretell an acknowledgment that Republicans could pay a political cost for rocking the boat.
Democratic leaders, sharpening their campaign message head of the midterms, indicated they intend to exploit the issue by depicting the president’s behavior on the world stage as “an embarrassment.” They contend that he’s more interested in cozying up to Putin, who Trump recently suggested is easier to deal with.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement Wednesday: “His behavior this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the President is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies.”
Meanwhile, Democrats up and down the ballot are warning that the trade war will devastate the economy — and they are making their Republican opponents answer to whether they agree with Trump.
Democratic messaging has largely focused on the party's candidates doing what’s best for constituents while arguing Republicans will serve as a rubber stamp for Trump.
And so far, Republicans are keeping a stiff upper lip about the political risk of Trump’s trade war. The Pence team framed his visit through the Midwest as part of the vice president’s packed campaign schedule — not a move of tariff damage control.
Pence, of course, is as big a liar as Trump, so anything coming from his lips should be considered untrue until proven otherwise.  

Corey Stewart, Scott Taylor, et al: Foul Things that Crawled Out from Under Trump’s Rock

Corey Stewart - an open racist and Neo-Confederate.
Scott Taylor - a man who refuses to condemn Corey Stewart  or disavow Donald Trump. 

The depths of the depravity of today's Republican Party seemingly know no limit.  At the national level, we see the amoral, sexual predator-in-chief at the White House lying multiple times a day and doing his upmost to destroy the Western alliance to please his puppet master in the Kremlin.  Here in Virginia we have the equally amoral and dishonest Corey Stewart, the GOP candidate for the U. S. Senate seat held by Tim Kaine, a morally decent man I know personally. Of course, both Der Trumpenf├╝hrer and Stewart count evangelical Christians - using the term "Christian" very loosely -  as their strongest adherence.  It's amazing how racism and bigotry trump the message of the New Testament with these modern day Pharisees (no offense to the biblical Pharisees who were decent and upstanding in comparison).  A piece in the Washington Post looks at what a toxic cesspool the GOP has become under Trump, Pence and their Satan's spawn in races across America.  Here are column highlights (Note the reference to GOP 2nd District congressman Scott Taylor):
Behold, a new breed of Republican for the Trump era.
Seth Grossman won the Republican primary last month for a competitive House seat in New Jersey, running on the message “Support Trump/Make America Great Again.” The National Republican Congressional Committee endorsed him.
Then, a video surfaced, courtesy of American Bridge, a Democratic PAC, of Grossman saying “the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap.” Grossman then proclaimed diversity “evil.” CNN uncovered previous instances of Grossman calling Kwanzaa a “phony holiday” created by “black racists,” labeling Islam a cancer and saying faithful Muslims cannot be good Americans. . . . And this week, the liberal group Media Matters found that Grossman had previously posted a link on Facebook to a white-nationalist website’s piece claiming black people “are a threat to all who cross their paths.”  After weeks of delay, the NRCC finally withdrew its nomination.
Many such characters have crawled out from under rocks and onto Republican ballots in 2018: A candidate with ties to white nationalists is the GOP Senate nominee in Virginia (and has President Trump’s endorsement); an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier is the Republican candidate in a California House race; a prominent neo-Nazi won the GOP nomination in an Illinois House race; and overt racists are in Republican primaries across the country.
It is an indication of where Trump has taken the party that Republicans need the support of people like this.  By [Trump’s] the president’s own standard, it is fair to identify these candidates with the national Republican brand. . . . . many have been inspired or emboldened by him. Corey A. Stewart, the Republican Senate nominee in Virginia, said he was “Trump before Trump.”
The party won’t back Stewart, but Republican lawmakers are tiptoeing. Rep. Scott W. Taylor (R-Va.), declining to disavow Stewart, noted to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that people won’t see him as racist because “my son is named after a black guy.”
In California, the Republican facing Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, John Fitzgerald, has appeared on neo-Nazi podcasts, claimed the Holocaust is a lie and alleged an international Jewish conspiracy. In Illinois, the Republican nominee against Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Arthur Jones, has a campaign website that mixes anti-Semitic propaganda and support for Trump, and has pictures of him speaking at a neo-Nazi rally for Trump in 2016 and making a Nazi salute with other “white patriots.”
Russell Walker, Republican nominee for a North Carolina state House seat, is a white supremacist whose personal website is “littered with the n-word” and states that Jews are “satanic,” Vox reports.
Running in the Republican primary for Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s congressional seat in Wisconsin is Paul Nehlen, who calls himself “pro-white” and was booted from Twitter for racism.
Neo-Nazi Patrick Little ran as a Republican in the California Senate primary, blaming his loss on fraud by “Jewish supremacists,” according to the website Right Wing Watch.
In North Carolina, nominee Mark Harris, in the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program for top recruits, has suggested that women who pursue careers and independence do not “live out and fulfill God’s design.”
The Kansas GOP asked state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Republican congressional candidate, not to repeat his claim that Planned Parenthood is worse than the Nazi death camp Dachau. Fitzgerald did it anyway — and also declared that “outside of Western civilization, there is only barbarism.”
What makes so many think such exotic views are welcome?
Maybe they see the wife of former Fox News executive Bill Shine defending racists on Twitter. Her account was deleted when her husband became Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications.
Or maybe they see David Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, telling a black man on TV that “you’re out of your cotton-picking mind” — and then returning after a brief suspension and apology.
Or perhaps they see Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) retweeting a Nazi sympathizer, refusing to delete it and saying he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at a meatpacking plant in his district because they think people go “to hell for eating pork chops.”
Is it any wonder the likes of Seth Grossman think this party is theirs?
Again, note how 2nd district congressman Scott Taylor will not denounce Corey Stewart's blatant racism.  Rather he gives the laughable excuse about his son's name - Sterling - is allegedly after a black man.  As a piece in The Root notes, "whether or not your son is named after a black man has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you are a supporter of white supremacy and white nationalism."