Saturday, August 11, 2018

Costa Rica's Supreme Court Strikes Down Same Sex Marriage Ban

While Donald Trump, his "Christian Taliban" Vice President, Mike Pence, and their Christofascists supporters are working to rescind same sex marriage equality or at a minimum turn it into a "separate but equal" status without the rights and benefits of heterosexual marriage, progress and equality are on the march  across other parts of the Western Hemisphere. Just this week the Supreme Court of Costa Rica struck down that country's ban on same sex marriage that had been orchestrated by the Catholic Church and evangelical Christian groups who believe their rights and beliefs supersede those of others and who rather than loving their neighbors per Christ's admonition, hate anyone who looks different than them or who holds different beliefs.   The Costa Rica ruling follows one earlier this year by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which will pressure even reactionary Catholic Church bastions like Honduras to strike down religious based discriminatory laws.   Interestingly, Costa Rica's new president, Carlos Alvarado, campaigned on a pro-gay marriage platform and won.  Here are highlights via Reuters:
Costa Rica’s top court has ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a decision seen as a win for gay rights activists and welcomed by the country’s new president.
The Supreme Court gave lawmakers up to 18 months to legalize gay marriage, which has long been opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical groups in the Central American nation.
President Carlos Alvarado, who came to power earlier this year on a pro-gay rights platform, has publicly advocated same-sex marriage and vowed to implement the ruling.
“Our commitment to full equality remains intact,” he tweeted on Thursday. “We will continue to boost actions that guarantee no person will face discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The decision follows a judgment issued in January by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), the top rights body of the Americas based in Costa Rica.
It said its signatory member countries, including Costa Rica, must grant equal rights to same-sex couples, including the right to marry.
The change is likely to face stiff opposition from conservative and evangelical lawmakers in Costa Rica.
But Supreme Court judge Fernando Castillo told reporters after the ruling that the ban on gay marriage would automatically cease to exist if parliament failed to change the law by the deadline.
Many countries in mainly Catholic Latin America and the Caribbean ban same-sex marriage, but that is slowly changing.
Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay have all dropped their opposition in recent years.  “(To) those who are against this, we say live and let live,” said Castillo. “Many oppose for religious reasons, but the Bible says love your neighbor.”
As same sex marriage continues to spread across South and Central America, the America envisioned by Trump?pence and their toxic and hypocrisy-filled evangelical supporters will increasingly be on the wrong side of history.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Virginia Women Seek to Topple Republican Dave Brat

Trump supporting extremist David Brat is being targeted by PTA moms and progressive Virginia women. 
One of my sisters who lives in Virginia has traditionally always voted and followed politics but never has been super involved in politics.  The election of Donald Trump changed that and, to my surprise she, her husband, daughter-in-law and son all participated in the Women's March in Washington, D.C.   Many Virginia women are following that pattern as they feel revulsion for the horrid individual in the White House and are shocked at the Republican Party's anti-women agenda.  They have gotten organized - ironically, in some cases through PTA's - and other organizations that have sprung up since November 2016.  A piece in the New York Times looks at one such group of Virginia women and their goal of defeating pro-Trump lunatic, David Brat of the Virginia 7th Congressional District.  Similar efforts need to be made to defeat Scott Taylor, the GOP incumbent in the 2nd District.  Here are article highlights.  
The Liberal Women of Chesterfield County did not exist when Representative Dave Brat, propelled by Tea Party-infused energy, shocked the Republican establishment in 2014 and defeated the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, in a primary triumph here that presaged even greater political upheaval two years later. Now they’re all up in his grill.
The women are in my grill no matter where I go,” he moaned, adding, “They come up — ‘When is your next town hall?’ And believe me, it’s not to give positive input.”
They haven’t gone away. A race that was once considered solidly in the Republican camp is now rated a tossup, and the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County are stirring women to come out in such great numbers that the Democratic nominee, Abigail Spanberger, a well-credentialed former C.I.A. officer, may make history of a different sort in a district that has been deeply Republican for decades.
“Republicans are now feeling like me when the Tea Party emerged,” said Becky Stuart Conner, a member of the Chesterfield County group.
For Republicans, Mr. Brat’s race is a bulwark in their defensive perimeter, the kind of district they must win to keep control of the House. The area’s mix of affluent suburbs and conservative rural stretches resembles the Ohio district where a Republican candidate in a House special election on Tuesday, Troy Balderson, clings to a narrow lead.
For Democrats, Ms. Spanberger’s candidacy represents a test of the breadth and effectiveness of their coalition of newly emboldened female voters aghast at President Trump’s White House tenure — and the ability of fed-up women to build an insurgency of their own.
“I think it is ironic, humorous,” Ms. Spanberger said of Mr. Brat being on the receiving end of a rebellion. “I read it as a cautionary tale of coming into the scene saying you want to do things differently, and not really doing it differently.”
Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District runs from the exurbs of Washington to counties south of Richmond, roughly tracking the decisive battles of the Civil War where Ulysses S. Grant ultimately defeated Robert E. Lee. In some of the more rural stretches, Confederate flags still hang from front porches.
But far more common are the booming commercial and housing developments closer to Richmond that are eating into what was once a conservative redoubt. Two counties that hug the commonwealth’s capital are likely to determine the outcome: Henrico, where Ms. Spanberger lives and which increasingly leans Democratic, and Chesterfield, a onetime Republican stronghold that is showing signs of change.
The area has had a surge of college-educated women; Henrico has gained about 65,000 residents since 2000, and Chesterfield has added 82,000. As those numbers have increased, so have the fortunes of Democrats.
Mr. Brat is hardly alone among Tea Party-aligned Republicans who are now in highly competitive races in Texas, California, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New York and other states where the swelling suburbs have chipped away at the rural Republican strongholds. In Virginia’s Seventh District, many of the women have been engaged in their communities, through school groups and locally-based organizations, but are becoming involved in campaigns for the first time.
Kim Drew Wright said after Mr. Trump’s election, she posted on Facebook to find like-minded women in what came to be known as the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County. Her first meeting drew 100 women. Now the group has more than 3,000 members on its private Facebook page.
They have fused social and political activities, with meetings called to write postcards for candidates over drinks or coffee, hat-knitting sessions, and broader-based activities to get out the vote broken down largely on a school-district level.
Now she finds herself working on the effort several days a week. Her friend and dinner companion, Kristi Glass, said that the group “really got people together to get into politics instead of crying and drinking about the election.” Mr. Brat no longer widely publicizes campaign events, instead requiring that people sign up in advance. He declined several requests for an interview. Erin Sherwood, who said she was weary of the divisive words coming from Mr. Trump and Mr. Brat, summed up the feelings of many of the women in the district.  “We feel the change coming,” she said.

New Data: Did Non-Voters or Third Party Voters Elected Trump?

On his morning satellite radio show, Michael Smerconish - who I generally find level headed - made much of a piece in the Washington Post that sought to blame non-voters for Donald Trump's election rather than those who out of "protest" or a hissy fit that their candidate did not win their party's primary voted for a third party candidate.   By his own admission, Smerconish voted for Gary Johnson and, in my view, by default voted for Trump.  Admittedly, the piece reveals that Democrat leaning voters who stayed home - due to laziness and/or a false confidence that Clinton would win - played a major role in putting Trump in the White House, but it does NOT excuse voters like Smerconish who threw their votes away by voting for a candidate who had no chance in Hell of winning.  Some data on three states make my case:

Michigan: Trump won by 10,704 votes.  Gary Johnson drained off 172,136 votes, and Jill Stein drained off 51,463 votes.  While not all of these third party voters would not have voted for Clinton, had they not thrown away their votes, Clinton might well have won and America would have avoided the national crisis it now endures.  

Wisconsin:  Trump won by 22,742 votes.  Gary Johnson drained off 106,674 votes, and Jill Stein drained off 32,072 votes. 

Pennsylvania: Trump won by 44,292 votes. Gary Johnson drained off  146,715 votes, and Jill Stein drained off 49,941 votes. 

While the Pew Research data may allow individuals like Smerconish to try to waive off their complicity in putting Trump in the White House, those who voted for third party candidates bear just as much responsibility as non-voters in placing America in its current crisis state.  

Hopefully, the lessons learned from 2016, especially by younger voters and minority voters who will suffer the most from the misrule of the Trump/Pence regime and its GOP enablers is that (i) they MUST get out and vote no matter what, and (ii) voting for a third party candidate is the equivalent of voting for the candidate that one most dislikes.   Here are highlights from the Post article:
On Thursday, though, Pew Research Center released an unusually robust survey of the 2016 electorate. In addition to having asked people how they voted, Pew’s team verified that they did, giving us a picture not only of the electorate but also of those who didn’t vote. There are a number of interesting details that emerge from that research, including a breakdown of President Trump’s support that confirms much of his base has backed him enthusiastically since the Republican primaries.
The data also makes another point very clear: Those who didn’t vote are as responsible for the outcome of the election as those who did.
As we noted shortly after the election, about 30 percent of Americans were eligible to vote but decided not to, a higher percentage than the portion of the country who voted for either Trump or his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Pew’s data shows that almost half of the nonvoters were nonwhite and two-thirds were under age 50. More than half of those who didn’t vote earned less than $30,000 a year; more than half of those who did vote were over age 50.
By looking at the preferred candidate in a demographic group and then comparing the density of that group in the population that voted with the density in the nonvoting population, we get a sense for how nonvoters determined the 2016 results.
Looking at race and ethnicity, we see how the heavier turnout of white voters affected the contest. Black and Hispanic voters voted much more heavily Democratic than white votes backed Trump, but they turned out less.
People under 30 preferred Clinton by 30 points but made up much more of the nonvoter population than the population that actually voted. A third of nonvoters were under 30; only 1 in 8 voters was in that age group.
Evangelicals were the most strongly pro-Trump of the religious groups of voters, and they represented more of the voting pool than the nonvoting pool. Black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics made up less of the voting population than the nonvoting population — and strongly preferred Clinton.
Demographic groups that preferred Trump were three times as likely to be a bigger part of the voter pool than nonvoters. Among groups that preferred Clinton, they were about 50 percent more likely to be a bigger part of the nonvoting community.
Clinton nonetheless won the popular vote. But an increased turnout of under-30 voters in, say, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan could easily have changed the results of the history.
I hope and pray that the 2018 midterms yield a huge blue wave and that Mueller eventually produces evidence to take down both Trump and Mike Pence, whose "sergeant Schultz" routine I find unbelievable.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, August 10, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

The Only Way to Save the GOP is to Defeat It

I gave up on any hope of reforming the Republican Party from within years ago.  Rather, I came to believe that the only thing that might offer hope is to subject the GOP to crushing election defeats which, just maybe, would cause the party leadership to cast Christofascists and now white supremacists from the party and into the political wilderness.  In my view, these elements of the GOP base must become political untouchables who are unwelcome in polite and moral society.  Now, in a column in the Washington Post, former George W. Bush White House official Michael Gerson  is making pretty much the same argument as the one I have been making for over a decade.  If you believe in the GOP of old, go to the polls and vote Democrat in November.  Here are excerpts from Gerson's column in the Washington Post:
University of Chicago researchers — who clearly have a lot of time on their hands — have found that the use of certain brands and products is a good predictor of your level of affluence. This is an exercise in the obvious when it comes to a $1,000 iPhone. But the same proves true with Ziploc plastic bags, Kikkoman soy sauce and Cascade Complete dishwasher detergent.
By this measure, Democratic performance in Ohio’s 12th District special election might be called the Ziploc opening. Or maybe the Cascade cascade. The Democratic candidate, Danny O’Connor, appears, as of Thursday, to have lost by one point in a district that went for Donald Trump by 11 points in the 2016 presidential election. And most of O’Connor’s gains likely came in white-collar suburbs, among college-educated white voters who have been alienated by the president.
Democrats nearly secured a seat Republicans have held since 1982. . . . . if Democratic candidates make comparable gains across the country in November, they will win control of the House.
To win the House, Democrats need to secure gains in the suburbs of places such as Atlanta, Houston and Dallas. At least some of these voters are Baylor University-educated fathers or mothers packing Ziploc-bagged sandwiches to be eaten by children at Christian schools.
In November, many Republican leaners and independents will face a difficult decision. The national Democratic Party under Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer doesn’t share their views or values. But President Trump is a rolling disaster of mendacity, corruption and prejudice. What should they do?
They should vote Democratic in their House race, no matter who the Democrats put forward. And they should vote Republican in Senate races with mainstream candidates (unlike, say, Corey Stewart in Virginia).
American politics is in the midst of an emergency. . . . If Democrats gain control of the House but not the Senate, they will be a check on [Trump] the president without becoming a threat to his best policies (from a Republican perspective) or able to enact their worst policies. 
[T]he House will conduct real oversight hearings and expose both Russian influence and administration corruption. Under Republican control, important committees — such as Chairman Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee — have become scraping, sniveling, panting and pathetic tools of the executive branch. Only Democratic control can drain this particular swamp.
Alternatively: If Republicans retain control of the House in November, Trump will (correctly) claim victory and vindication.  . . . Perhaps worst of all, a victorious Trump will complete his takeover of the Republican Party (which is already far along). Even murmured dissent will be silenced. The GOP will be fully committed to a 2020 presidential campaign conducted in the spirit of George C. Wallace — a campaign of racial division, of rural/urban division, of religious division, of party division that metastasizes into mutual contempt.
This would leave many Americans entirely abandoned in U.S. politics: . . . Traditional Republicans who miss a time — not so long ago — when leaders such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush modeled grace and led the West in defending freedom.
In a democracy, a vote is usually not a matter of good and evil. . . . . The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it in the House. In this case, a Republican vote for a Democratic representative will be an act of conscience.

Special Prosecutor Appointed to Investigate Scott Taylor Election Dirty Tricks

When Scott Taylor challenged former Congressman Randy Forbes for the 2nd Congressional District primary - Forbes, a former law school classmate of mine, had decided to avoid running in his own redrawn district for fear of losing - I recommended that voters back Taylor since I was beyond tired of Forbes' religious fanaticism and sponsorship of whacky pro-Christofascist resolutions and anti-gay votes.  Also, Taylor had made what I now suspect were totally cynical efforts to appear "gay friendly" as a ruse to draw votes for the LGBT community.  With Taylor generally voting lock step with the Trump/Pence regime and supporting ugly GOP policies, he's proven that he is, in fact, little different than Forbes.  Now, Taylor faces a special prosecutor who is investigating fraudulent signatures gathered by Taylor campaign staffers to put failed Democratic candidate Shaun Brown - who is on trial for federal fraud charges - on the November ballot  as an independent, the obvious goal being to drain votes from Taylor's Democrat challenger, Elaine Luria.  In retrospect, Forbes despite his pandering to Christian extremists may have been the more honest candidate back in the GOP primary.  I can only conclude that Taylor arrogantly thought no one would ever know about his dirty tricks towards Luria.  The Virginian Pilot reports on the investigation.  Here are highlights:

A special prosecutor will look into reports that false names were entered on ballot petitions gathered for Shaun Brown to run as an independent in the 2nd Congressional District.
The names were collected by paid staff and others associated with the re-election campaign for Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle’s request Tuesday for a special prosecutor was granted within hours. That prosecutor will be Roanoke’s longtime commonwealth’s attorney, Donald Caldwell.
Four paid Taylor staffers gathered signatures in a two-day blitz shortly before the deadline for turning in ballot petitions. It also was two months after Brown, of Hampton, dropped her bid for the Democratic nomination in the wake of her indictment on federal corruption charges.
A hung jury led to a mistrial last week for those charges. The case is scheduled to be heard again – with a new jury – beginning Oct. 9.
Meanwhile, Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, said he was surprised to find his name on two petitions – both circulated by Taylor supporters. He did sign one, circulated by one of Taylor’s paid staff, but not the second – which had his first name misspelled and with an incorrect address five doors down on his street. That signature was on a petition gathered by a man whose father received $200 for consulting on the Taylor campaign a few days later, Federal Election Commission reports show.
Virginia Beach resident Tony Flores said he learned his name was on a Brown petition when someone with the local Democrats called his parents – whose names were listed on the same petition as his – to ask if they had really signed it. That petition was gathered by another of Taylor’s paid staff.  Flores said that he did not sign the petition, nor did his parents and three friends whose names were on the same petition as his.
In Stolle's request for a special prosecutor, he said his office was investigating potential violations of election law and of forgery. He said a special prosecutor was needed because his office is “so situated with respect to potential witnesses in this matter as to render it improper for this office to make any potential charging decisions or to prosecute such potential charges.”
Meanwhile, local Democrats have been contacting people listed on the petitions to see if they actually signed the documents, said Jake Rubenstein, communications director of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
“Voters deserve to know if Congressman Taylor's paid staff violated the law and if all candidates received the required number of signatures to make the ballot this November,” he said.
Taylor would appear to be yet another corrupt Republican incumbent.  He needs to be voted out of office in November.  2nd District voters and residents deserve someone honest and with integrity.  

Laura Ingraham Pulls Back the Curtain on What Motivates Today's GOP

Laura Ingraham pleads the case of white nationalists and exposes the GOP agenda.

Last night during her Fox News broadcast, Laura Ingraham flat out enunciated the real motivation of Trump supporters and much of today's Republican Party. It boils down to basically one thing: racism and animosity towards those with different skin color - and by extension, different faiths or different sexual orientation.  While Ingraham endeavored to be slightly less blunt about the hatred and bigotry driving the GOP base, her statement still made it overtly obvious that racism now defines the Republican Party: 
“In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically, in some ways, the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal, and in some cases legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.”

"Demographic change" is Ingraham's code phrase for Hispanics and other non-whites and non-Christians.  What I find so shocking is the utter inability of Ingraham and so many Republicans - including a number of Trump supporting "friends"- to see any shred of shared humanity in those who look different, hold different beliefs, or love differently.  Yet, many of these same people park their wide modern day Pharisee asses in church pews every week.  

As Ingraham began to experience some blow back for her thinly veiled racism, the haters came out applauding her.  Among those praising Ingraham was David Duke, former KKK Imperial Wizzard.  The Daily Beast reports on Duke's praise of Ingraham.  Here are excerpts:
David Duke tweeted: One of the most important (truthful) monologues in the history of MSM –“
It should be no surprise that Ingraham’s rhetoric got the endorsement of an open white supremacist. Ingraham’s fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson also echoed white nationalist rhetoric when he said immigrants were leading to “the collapse of the American family” in June.

Ingraham and Carlson’s monologues borrowed the rhetoric of what white nationalists falsely call “white genocide,” an innuendo that refers to racist fears about people of color coming to outnumber white people in the United States. A large segment of white nationalists also hitch their fears to the claim that the left and/or Jewish people are encouraging immigration to dilute the white race.

A piece in The Hill looks at the much deserved blow-back aimed at Ingraham.  Here are highlights:
Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.) on Thursday took aim at Fox News host Laura Ingraham's lamentation that the “America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of immigration, tweeting that he served in the military to defender her “right to make racist statements.”
Ingraham’s comments sparked backlash from social media users who accused her of using racist and white nationalist rhetoric.
Conservative television host S.E. Cupp tweeted, "Speak for yourself, and every other last gasp of a dying gen, @IngrahamAngle. WE love this country’s diversity," while Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce called Ingraham's remarks "The swan song of white nationalism."
Ingraham also praised President Trump for his immigration policies, including his “zero tolerance” policy for individuals crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, a practice which led to thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents.
Lieu, a frequent critic of Trump and his immigration policies, was one of many lawmakers who pressured the Trump administration to reunite immigrant families separated under Trump's policy.
Ingraham is what I would describe as a horrid person, especial given her praise of the Trump/Pence regime's inhumane force separation of children from their families.  It truly doesn't get much more heartless and inhumane. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, August 09, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Why The Media Must Continue to Report of Trump's Misogyny and Racism

Two Trump supporters at a Trump rally in Ohio last weekend.

At times I feel like I spend a disproportionate number of posts on the daily outrages, homophobia, racism and general inhumanity of the Trump/Pence regime.  Thankfully, a column in the New York Times makes the argument that relentless reporting on the ugliness of Trump/Pence is critical and needs to continue full bore in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.  The reason?  Such coverage is crucial because it is eroding the ability of some independents and the remaining moderate Republicans to continue to hold their revulsion for Trump in check and, just maybe, will help insure a blue wave in November. Personally, I have long argued that moral, decent people cannot support Trump - or Pence.  Morality and decency on the one hand and Trump's lies, racism,homophobia, and moral bankruptcy on the other hand are mutually exclusive.  Slowly, some Republicans are belatedly coming to this realization.  Here are column highlights:

Some healthy soul searching is taking place in newsrooms across the country these days over whether the mainstream media should be covering President Trump’s every tweet and rally. My answer: Absolutely! It’s the right thing for us to do professionally, and, as last night’s election results indicated, it’s the right thing to do politically if you want to see a check on Donald Trump’s power.
It appears that it’s the toxic lying, bullying and unpresidential behaviors that Trump exhibits most in his rallies and tweets — which we in the media so incessantly cover — that is turning off the very moderate, best-educated Republicans and suburban women that Trump will need to hold the G.O.P. majority in the House, let alone get re-elected. So bring on the coverage.
[T]he latest RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Trump having a personal approval rating of only 43 percent, with 53 percent disapproving of his performance. And in a special election in Ohio held on Tuesday, the G.O.P. House candidate — whom Trump and the entire Republican establishment went to bat for — is barely ahead of his Democratic rival in a district that has not sent a Democrat to Congress in more than three decades.
That does not speak well for Trump or his midterm prospects, but it does for the American people and for thinking Republicans. It turns out there is still a cohort of Republicans who have not sold their souls to Trump the way virtually every one of their elected representatives in Washington has done.
It turns out that there are thinking Republicans for whom character, decency and truth-telling still matter in a president. It turns out that there are thinking Republicans who have watched Trump’s twitter rants, his disturbed performance at Helsinki and the unrestrained bile that he emits at his rallies — and the blind, ecstatic response of his core base — and found them unnerving and unworthy of their support. That is what the polls and polling stations last night are telling us. . . . So bring on the coverage.
The dominant political fact of Trump’s first 18 months in office is that despite some good economic trends in the country (and yes, his precise role in engineering them remains debatable), [Trump] the president has not been able to widen his coalition beyond his core 40 percent to 45 percent. It is partly because he has not even remotely tried. But it is also because the very applause lines and abusive and divisive behaviors that appeal to his base turn off more-moderate and more-educated suburban Republicans, and do nothing to attract independents or conservative Democrats.
Yes, I want every American to know that two Trump supporters were spotted at the president’s last rally, in Ohio, wearing T-shirts that read, “I’d rather be Russian than a Democrat.” That’s an interesting data point. That’s whom you’re voting with when you vote for Trump.
I want every Republican running for office to hear every syllable of Trump’s bullying arrogance, when he warned at his Ohio rally that he destroys any G.O.P. politician who dares to defy him, saying, “I only destroy their career because they said bad things about me and you fight back and they go down the tubes — and that’s O.K.”
I want all of this heard and spread from sea to shining sea. Because though these words do rally Trump’s base, they also rally Democrats and evidently embarrass Republican moderates and alienate independents.
In a close election it doesn’t take many uncomfortable moderate Republicans to just stay home to make a big difference. That’s all I am looking for, not a tsunami — that’s not in the cards. Just a little wave of disgust among G.O.P. moderates is all that is needed to turn several key districts from red to blue.

Warning Signs that Trump Will Prove Toxic to the GOP in November

While Democrats failed to win any stunning knockout blow in Tuesday's special election and primaries, nonetheless, the results have many Republicans running scared and at a loss as to whether to embrace Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, or run from him as if he is a leper. One positive note for Democrats is that Trump seemingly thinks he knows more than anyone else and may well inject himself into races where Republican candidates would prefer he remain invisible.  Adding to their fears is the rabid dog nature of the GOP base which is enthralled with Trump and the bigotry and misogyny that he represents.  If they reject Trump, the base may revolt while if they embrace him, suburban voters and women flee to Democrats. While Trump is a unique problem, much of the toxicity of today's GOP is the result of a decades long pandering to extremists which began with the GOP's embrace of Christofascist beginning in the 1980's and reinforced by the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney regime. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the GOP dilemma.  Here are highlights:

A new round of lackluster showings by Republican candidates reignited a debate Wednesday within the GOP over whether President Trump will be a drag on the party’s chances in November and should stay out of some of the country’s most hotly contested races. . . . mounting apprehension about Trump’s political capital lingered in Washington and on the campaign trail.
In a flurry of elections on Tuesday — from the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, to the technology corridor in Washington state — Democrats turned out in droves and significantly overperformed expectations by posing serious challenges to Republicans in staunchly GOP districts. Many Republican strategists viewed the results as a dark omen three months ahead of Election Day, saying they illustrate the limits of Trump’s ability to boost candidates, particularly in suburban areas where the president’s popularity has suffered.
Even in Republican primaries, securing Trump’s endorsement was not a guarantee of electoral success.
“Nothing bodes well,” said longtime Republican consultant Stuart Stevens, a frequent Trump critic. “You look at the amount of money spent on the Republican side in Ohio, the focus put on it,” including a Trump rally last weekend in the district, “and you have an early warning sign. It’s time for Republicans to counteract.”
Trump took a different lesson from the outcomes, crowing in a flurry of tweets that his presence on the campaign trail and his record could lift his party and prompt a “giant Red Wave!”
Despite Trump’s last-minute visit and Republicans significantly outspending Democrats, Republican state Sen. Troy Balderson was barely ahead of Democrat Danny O’Connor, an elected county recorder, in Tuesday’s special congressional election in central Ohio. The race remained too close to call Wednesday, with thousands of provisional votes still outstanding.
The razor-thin margin comes in a district that Trump won by 11 points in 2016 and that Republicans have held since 1983. Balderson had embraced Trump in the campaign’s final stretch.
The result “reinforces our view that [Democrats] are substantial favorites to retake the House,” said David Wasserman, a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. 
Balderson was far from the only Republican who underwhelmed on Tuesday.  Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, failed to win 50 percent of the vote in a primary and will face Democrat Lisa Brown in November. Washington state has a nonpartisan primary process in which the top two finishers move on to the general election. All year, McMorris Rodgers has been confronting pointed questions about her support for Trump’s policies.
In Michigan, where Democrats are aiming to take back the governor’s mansion, voter turnout set records, according to state officials, with more than 2 million votes cast — the most in the state since 1978.
Congressional Republicans were further jolted Wednesday when Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a prominent Trump ally, was charged with insider trading by federal prosecutorsIvanka Trump is likely to be dispatched to suburban districts to talk about the economy and the workforce, while the president is expected to be on the road at least three or four days a week in swing states such as Ohio and in states where he was dominant in 2016, such as West Virginia, the two people said.
White House officials have been giving Trump weekly or biweekly updates on races and showing him polling and pictures of candidates along with the staff or party leadership recommendation of what to do in each contest, . . . But Trump doesn’t always listen to advisers and has been driving the strategy himself,  . . .
Republicans working with the White House also pointed to Tuesday’s elections in Kansas as the latest example of the volatility inside the West Wing. Kris Kobach, the anti-immigration secretary of state who served as vice chairman of Trump’s now-disbanded voting integrity commission, was endorsed by Trump in the Kansas’s Republican gubernatorial primary less than 24 hours before polls opened. Some aides and top Republicans had urged him to hold off on endorsing Kobach, who they fear could threaten other Republicans running this fall because of his hard-line positions. The race remained too close to call Wednesday, with Kobach holding a lead of fewer than 200 votes over Gov. Jeff Colyer.
But it was in the suburbs, more than in ruby-red enclaves, where Republican nerves were fraying most on Wednesday.
July poll published by NPR, “PBS NewsHour” and Marist College found that 36 percent of suburban adults approved of Trump while 59 percent disapproved, a more negative rating than among Americans overall. The same poll found that just 18 percent of suburban adults approved of the job Republicans in Congress were doing, while 72 percent disapproved. “They’re frozen in the headlights,” Republican strategist Mike Murphy said. “Everyone’s in this defense crouch. They’re afraid of getting on the wrong side of their base and afraid of general election voters.”
The tricky balancing act facing GOP candidates is apparent on policy. On immigration, most Republicans are eager to rally Trump voters who are clamoring for a border wall to be built — and Trump has been calling for a shutdown of the federal government unless Congress appropriates funds for that purpose. But they also feel pressure to reassure moderates alarmed by the Trump administration’s abandoned push to separate migrant children from their parents.
Kasich, who represented Ohio’s 12th Congressional District from 1983 to 2001 and is considering challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential election, has questioned the stand-proudly-with-Trump approach that was taken by Balderson, whom he endorsed. . . . adding that “suburban women in particular here are the ones that are really turned off.”
While I do not trust Kasich on many issues, he seems to be one of the few semi-sane Republicans left. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Saudi Arabia Remains a Brutal, Repressive Enemy of the West

Donald Trump and his sycophants bloviate about Iran being a threat to the West and western values, yet Saudi Arabia remains the largest financier of Islamic extremism and continues to export its toxic version of Islam across the globe. Yet one hears barely a peep out of the Trump White House because of Saudis Arabia's oil reserves and pretense that is an ally of America.  Now, in a spat with Canada, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is demonstrating that despite some window dressing, little has really changed under his supposed drive to modernize the backward and religiously extreme nation.  It seems the prince's delicate ego could not tolerate Canada's condemnation of the treatment of two human rights activists.  Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but like so many despotic nations rarely follows through when it comes to actually respecting human rights, especially if it means crossing the ignorance embracing Islamic establishment. One has to wonder when Americans - other than Christofascists who would like to emulate Saudi Arabia's theocracy with a Christian version - will realize that Saudi Arabia is no ally.  Here are highlights from a New York Times column that looks at the Canada/Saudi Arabia dispute:
Saudi Arabia and its crockery-breaking heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are, once again, opening up claims of advancing a more progressive future for the kingdom to doubt.
Faced with criticism from Canada over the treatment of two prominent human rights activists, Saudi rulers on Monday did the kind of thing that backward, insecure despots often do — they lashed out and penalized their critics.
Riyadh expelled the Canadian ambassador and announced a freeze on all new business with Canada, which counts Saudi Arabia as its second-largest export market in the Middle East. The Saudis also said the kingdom would withdraw from Canada the approximately 12,000 Saudi students on government-funded scholarships and family members and transfer them to other countries.
[T]his Saudi retribution is unnecessarily aggressive and clearly intended to intimidate critics into silence. It’s the kind of move that, in the past, would have immediately elicited a firm, unified opposition from the West. So far, there’s hardly been even a whimper of protest.
Canada ran afoul of the Saudis when its foreign ministry called for the release of the women’s rights activist Samar Badawi, who was arrested last week, and her brother, Raif Badawi, who is in prison for running a website that criticized Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment.
In 2013, Mr. Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes with a cane, 10 years in prison and a large fine for administering the site. He received the first 50 lashes in 2015, but his punishment was suspended, at least temporarily, after a video of the lashings drew international outrage.
Saudi Arabia has offered no explanation for why Ms. Badawi, whose activist-lawyer former husband is also in jail, was detained. But she has long campaigned against the kingdom’s guardianship laws, which prevent women from traveling abroad or obtaining certain medical procedures without the consent of a male relative.
The Saudis claim that the Canadian statement is “an overt and blatant interference” in its internal affairs, but that argument is specious. Mr. Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children have political asylum in Canada, and she became a Canadian citizen last month.
Saudi Arabia is a signatory of the [United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights] Charter and a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose mission is to strengthen the “promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.” Since ascending to power with his father, King Salman, in 2015, Prince Mohammed has encouraged foreign investment, granted women the right to drive, opened commercial movie theaters for the first time in 30 years and worked to soften the kingdom’s ultraconservative official school of Islam.
But he also has evinced an authoritarian edge, locking up clerics, activists and businessmen. Under Prince Mohammed, the Saudis have also not been shy about speaking out about, or directly intervening in, the affairs of other countries, including Yemen, Bahrain and Qatar.
On Monday, the White House refused to comment. The only reaction so far has been from a State Department official who spoke on background and equated Canada and Saudi Arabia as “both close allies,” even though only Canada is a member of NATO.
Mr. Trump has previously signaled acquiescence to, if not fondness for, the kingdom’s authoritarian ways. And the American president's own attempts to bully Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, in June may make Prince Mohammed feel bolder about lashing out.
The administration’s passive response also represents a chilling abandonment of two activists whose unjust treatment has been acknowledged by the United States itself: Ms. Badawi received the State Department’s Women of Courage Award in 2012 in a ceremony with Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government agency, has a page on its website highlighting Mr. Badawi’s case.
Not even two weeks ago, the State Department held a much-hyped religious freedom conference, headlined by Vice President Mike Pence, that issued a lofty statement advocating the “recognition of universal human rights and human dignity.” It’s hard to take that statement too seriously so long as the White House remains quiet about these recent developments.
I suspect that Trump yearns to rule in a manner akin to the Saudi Price who can censor the news media and arrest and imprison his political rivals. 

Brett Kavanaugh Is A “Direct Threat” To LGBT People

Kavanaugh and Der Trumpenführer who has been waging a relentless war on LGBT Americans.

While I have been at times critical of the Human Rights Campaign ("HRC") because in the past it has at times put more emphasis on self-promotion and maintaining "access" to politicians by not putting the rights of its LGBT supporters first, when it comes to research, generally does a first class job. Today, HRC released a research piece that concluded that Brett Kavanaugh, Der Trumpenführer's nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy, is a "direct threat" to LGBT Americans.  Why?  Because, Kavanaugh seemingly does not believe in a constitutional right to privacy which is the principle that under grids not only Roe v. Wade, but also Lawrence v. Texas and even the Obergefell marriage ruling. Equally disturbing is Kavanaugh's deference to "religious liberty" claims that increasingly are being utilized by Christofascists to demand exemption from non-discrimination laws and public accommodation laws.  BuzzFeed looks at HRC's concerns.  Here are highlights:

h,The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBT advocacy group, has concluded that Judge Brett Kavanaug President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is “a direct threat to the constitutional rights of everyday Americans and for the LGBTQ community in particular.”
In his dozen years as a federal appeals court judge, however, Kavanaugh has not heard any significant cases addressing LGBT issues and has said hardly anything about LGBT people. As a result, HRC’s opposition to his nomination — detailed in a new report to be released Tuesday, a copy of which was reviewed by BuzzFeed News — drew primarily on Kavanaugh’s opinions regarding reproductive rights and religious liberties, as well as the dearth of information about his work in the George W. Bush White House, to back up its conclusions about the threat the group says his confirmation would pose to LGBT Americans.
The fact that Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy — the author of all of the Supreme Court’s key decisions advancing LGBT rights over the past 25 years — also appeared to figure into HRC’s stance.
The HRC report also expressed concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on the Affordable Care Act, voter ID laws, and federal agency power, as well as his rulings in employment discrimination cases.
“During his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, [Kavanaugh] did not substantively address any of the Supreme Court’s seminal LGBTQ decisions in Lawrence v. TexasRomer v. EvansUnited States v. Windsor, or Obergefell v. Hodges, nor its discredited ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick,” the report stated. 
In the absence of opinions on LGBT-related cases, HRC pointed to speeches Kavanaugh gave “extensively praising” former chief justice William Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia — whom the group claimed “have some of the most pronounced anti-LGBTQ records of modern jurists.”
“Judge Kavanaugh’s record on reproductive rights, the right to privacy, and religious liberty indicates a potent combination of ideological views that could significantly and unnecessarily reshape constitutional doctrine and nondiscrimination protections as they apply to LGBTQ persons,” the group concluded.
The next five sections of the HRC report laid out the legal areas where the group argued that Kavanaugh’s opinions and other statements suggest he will be opposed to LGBT people’s interests.
·      Right to Privacy: HRC argued that Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinions in two reproductive rights cases — one involving an undocumented minor seeking an abortion and the other involving the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage opt-out procedures — signal a “critical and constrained perspective” on Roe v. Wade. His record, the report concluded, “suggests that he does not accept the enduring precept that the Constitution protects the right to privacy,” adding that this relates to LGBT issues as “the Court’s 2015 momentous marriage equality decision built upon this logic further.”
·         Religious Liberty: The group pointed to Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion in the ACA case, which the majority of the DC Circuit judges called “a potentially sweeping” interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, and concluded that Kavanaugh “seems all-too-ready to carve out any number of other religious exemptions into statutory and constitutional law.”
·     Nondiscrimination Protections: Calling Kavanaugh’s opinion upholding South Carolina’s voter ID law “troubling,” HRC also noted that the judge repeatedly dissented in discrimination-related cases where his colleagues “upheld a claim or finding of discrimination.”
·         Separation of Powers: Citing his criticism of “independent agencies [as] … a headless fourth branch of the US government” in a case challenging the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the HRC report expressed concern that Kavanaugh’s reasoning “could regularly disempower federal agencies and narrow federal laws, which often serve as crucial bulwarks against LGBTQ discrimination.”
Finally, HRC echoed concerns expressed by Senate Democrats about records from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House — first as a lawyer in the counsel’s office and then as Bush’s staff secretary. Specifically, the group noted that records from Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush administration may include information regarding his views on LGBT issues.
“The years of 2001 to 2006 (when he served in the Bush White House), was an especially consequential period for the LGBTQ rights and marriage equality movement,” the report said. “This era included the Lawrence v. Texas decision, multiple pronouncements by President Bush about the institution of marriage and marriage-related amendments to the federal Constitution, and civil rights litigation and referenda at the state and circuit levels.”

As most readers will recall, the George W. Bus White House used anti-gay marriage initiatives and anti-gay animus in general as a means to rally the Christofascist vote in 2004.  What role Kavanaugh played in this anti-gay witch hunt and demonizing of LGBT Americans needs to be made public BEFORE any vote takes place on Kavanaugh's nomination.