Saturday, September 22, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

Republicans Stunned: Voters Realize Tax Bill Screwed Them

The Republican Party has become a full time insane asylum where both the party base - especially the evangelical Christians - and now the party leadership are utterly unhinged and detached from reality.  The descent to insanity began years ago and, in my view, was sparked by the rise of the Christofascists within the party.  Now it is full blown and the party is beyond saving.  Yet, it is entertaining when on occasion Republicans are hit in the face by reality.  One such instance is the revulsion that most Americans have towards the Trump/GOP tax cut that was supposed to provide a wave for GOP candidates to ride to victory in the 2018 midterm elections.  A GOP poll concluded that by a 2 to 1 margin voters recognize that the tax bill was a massive give away to the very rich and large corporations.  Similarly, independents see the truth of the tax bill by a 36% margin.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this delicious circumstance.  Here are highlights:
[E]very once in a while, the public will actually figure something out on their own and come to an accurate conclusion about a policy. When this happens, one party or the other is bound to be deeply disappointed that their efforts at mass hornswoggling have failed.
This is the position Republicans now find themselves in, Sahil Kapur and Joshua Green report:
A survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee has led the party to a glum conclusion regarding President Donald Trump’s signature legislative achievement: Voters overwhelmingly believe his tax overhaul helps the wealthy instead of average Americans.
By a 2-to-1 margin — 61 percent to 30 percent — respondents said the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle class families,” according to the survey, which was completed on Sept. 2 by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by Bloomberg News.
The result was fueled by self-identified independent voters who said by a 36-point margin that large corporations and rich Americans benefit more from the tax law . . .
This information is contained in a slide under the title, “But, we’ve lost the messaging battle on the issue.” Indeed they have — they lost both to the Democrats and to reality.
The reality is not in dispute. Around two-thirds of the benefits of the tax cuts went to those in the top quintile of taxpayers, with about 20 percent of the benefits going to the richest 1 percent. By 2025, when the cuts are fully phased in, the top 1 percent will get 25 percent of the benefits. (See details here.) The centerpiece of the plan, furthermore, was a gigantic corporate tax cut. Republicans promised that this cut would produce a wave of investment and wage increases for workers, but so far the only wave that has resulted is a tsunami of stock buybacks benefiting wealthy shareholders, which is exactly what liberals predicted.
What people do notice, however, is that their paychecks didn’t look much bigger after the tax cut. Maybe they’re getting a few more dollars a week, but it certainly wasn’t life-transforming.
That probably influences perceptions, but I’d contend that where Republicans really lost was not in the fact-checking and media analyses (close as those are to my heart) or even in people’s paychecks, but in the relentless Democratic messaging on this issue. It had the benefit of being 1) easy to understand, 2) consistent with what people already believed about Republicans, and 3) completely true.
So what is the Republican answer to their communication failure?
Republican leaders continue to try to sell the law. They’re planning on holding a floor vote in the House next week for a second phase of tax changes that would make the individual changes permanent. Since it has a slim chance of passing the Senate, the effort is seen as a political messaging tool to remind voters of the cuts and force Democrats to take an uncomfortable vote against tax relief for middle-class Americans.
That is no doubt what Republicans think, but it’s somewhere between questionable and ridiculous. Why would a vote to reinforce an unpopular law do Republicans any favors, and why would Democrats be uncomfortable voting against it?
I think the answer is that Republicans are so deeply committed to cutting taxes that they can’t wrap their heads around the idea that the public doesn’t agree with them. Doesn’t everyone believe taxes are too high? Aren’t tax cuts inherently good? Won’t the party that advocates them always be rewarded?
Well, no. As it happens, Americans have surprisingly nuanced views about taxes. Most people think that the amount they have to pay is fair, which makes it harder to make a direct appeal to self-interest by saying “I’ll cut your taxes!” Most importantly, when you ask people what bothers them about the tax system, the top responses are that corporations and wealthy people aren’t paying their fair share.
So if you’re going to pass a huge tax cut whose benefits go mostly to corporations and the wealthy, it would seem almost inevitable that it won’t be popular. But Republicans were so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that they convinced themselves that the public would simply have to agree with them.

Thank goodness a majority of Americans see the Trump/GOP tax cut for what it is.  I hope they loudly oppose GOP efforts to cut other programs to address budget deficits that they created with their massive give away to the rich.

An Evangelical’s Plea: Oppose Kavanaugh

As regular readers know, I hold most evangelical Christians in very low regard and, in my view, justifiably so.  They have come to represent the antithesis of the Gospel message and are best defined by hatred of others, hypocrisy, lies and greed.  Thus, it is a pleasant surprise to find evangelicals who are condemning the Trump/Pence agenda and, in particular, arguing that evangelicals should oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.   Here is a letter to the editor in the New York Times authored by a pastor (sadly, most evangelicals will ignore the message):

Re “Religious Right Wary of Delays on Court Pick” (front page, Sept. 21):
Not all evangelicals support the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. His nomination is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to suppress the common good in favor of an immoral agenda. This was true even before the credible sexual assault allegations came to light.
For quite some time evangelicals have walked in lock step with the Republican Party, but the time has come for many of us to place values over party. We must let our faith guide us toward public servants who govern for the good of all people. Judge Kavanaugh opposes the Affordable Care Act, which has brought health care to the sick and vulnerable, and would gut the rights of immigrants in a country that was built by them. Now he faces twin allegations: an egregious act of violence toward a young woman, and lying about it.
As followers of Jesus, it should be plain to evangelicals that this man’s beliefs are not aligned with ours. Evangelicals should let Jesus’ teachings, not a misguided association with the Republican agenda, inform our views and our votes.
Doug Pagitt

Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, and High School Debauchery

Some on the right are trying to describe the encounter described by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as mere  "hijinks for boys."  Most of these defenders of Brett Kavanaugh, of course,  make Attila the Hun look like a liberal and are not known for the championing of women's rights.  Please understand, I am no prude nor am I unfamiliar with a privileged youth - I had one of my own and remember the hijinks of my summers at the family "camp" on Brantingham Lake in the Adirondacks with a circle of similarly privileged friends where lots of drinking occurred. That was followed by years of fraternity parties in college, so I do know about partying and drinking perhaps to excess.  But at no time do I recall any attempted sexual assault having occurred.  I also reflect that sometimes too much alcohol reveals who we really are at the core and some display their true feelings about others, especially women.  With Brett Kavanaugh, we are talking about someone who is seeking a life time appointment and a position where he can do untold good or harm.  My concern about the story from long ago is that it shows an underlying lack of concern for others and their rights.  Do we really want someone like that on the Court.  My position is no.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Mark Judge, one of Kavanaugh's bets buds, through his own writings which suggest that Kavanaugh should not be on the Court.  Here are excerpts:
As Christine Blasey Ford tells it, only one person can offer eyewitness confirmation of her account of a sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh: Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Prep. . . . Ford’s legal team has asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to compel Judge to testify.
A review of books, articles and blog posts by Judge — a freelance writer who has shifted among jobs at a record store, substitute teaching, housesitting and most recently at a liquor store — describes an ’80s private-school party scene in which heavy drinking and sexual encounters were standard fare.
Judge wrote about the pledge he and his friends at the all-male school on Rockville Pike in North Bethesda, Md., made to drink 100 kegs of beer before graduation. On their way to that goal, there was a “disastrous” party “at my house where the place was trashed,” Judge wrote in his book “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.” Kavanaugh listed himself in the class yearbook as treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club.
“I’ll be the first one to defend guys being guys,” Judge wrote in a 2015 article on the website Acculturated. He described a party culture of “drinking and smoking and hooking up.” During senior year, Judge said he and his pals hired a stripper and bought a keg for a bachelor party they threw to honor their school’s music teacher.  “I drank too much and did stupid things,” he said in his memoir.
While many of his classmates moved on to careers in law, politics, business and education, Judge seemed to some friends to stay fixed in the experiences of his adolescence. Over time, his politics shifted from left to right, and his writing often focused on his view of masculinity (“the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion”) and his concern that gay culture was corroding traditional values.
In one column for Acculturated, Judge wrote that it is “important that for some brief moments in his life — preferably when he is young — a man should be, at times, arrogant, a little reckless, and looking for kicks.”
Judge — who did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment and who has deleted his Twitter account and taken down videos from YouTube and Vimeo — is a recovering alcoholic who has traveled a rocky road since high school. He took seven years to earn his bachelor’s degree at Catholic University — a delay he attributed to “my fondness for bars and rock and roll.”
Maryland state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), one of Judge’s classmates at Georgetown Preparatory School, recalled him as “an unhappy person who was happy to make other people unhappy. ‘Bully’ may be an overused term, but he regularly belittled people he perceived as being lower on the high school hierarchy.”
McKee said Judge blew up at him after the rejections. McKee, who is gay, said Judge sent a vituperative email wishing him the same fate as Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was beaten and left to die in Wyoming in 1998.
“He shows signs of true hatred,” said McKee, now the editor of Landscape Architecture magazine. “It was one of those few kind of showstopping moments at the paper.”  McKee said he forwarded the email to his editor, David Carr, who banned Judge from writing for the paper again.
In 2003, a student named Eric Ruyak reported to school authorities that a Jesuit priest who was a teacher at Georgetown Prep had touched him inappropriately. Some Prep alumni, including Judge, rallied around the teacher, the Rev. Garrett Orr, according to several Prep graduates.
“Numerous alumni told me that Judge was going around saying I was emotionally unstable and a sexual deviant,” Ruyak said Thursday. “He told people that the only reason I wasn’t being expelled was my dad was a powerful lawyer and president of Prep’s board.”
An investigation by Jesuit authorities later confirmed Ruyak’s account. Orr was placed on a leave of absence from his order. When another Prep student later alleged that Orr had sexually abused him, the priest was arrested. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2011 to five years of probation.
“For years, I couldn’t shake Judge,” Ruyak said. “He would write about the case to advance his agenda about the school being a nest of liberalism and homosexuality. This guy did unbelievable damage to me when I was a kid.”
Judge was and is, in my opinion, a total train wreck.  That he was one of Kavanaugh's best friends says - at least to me - a lot about Kavanaugh, none of it good.  Do we wan someone of the Court who counted a bully and misogynist among his closet friends during his formative years?  I for one do not.  Kavanaugh could do unbelievable damage to many Americans.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, September 21, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

A Lesson from the Huge Win for LGBT Rights in India

As Donald Trump and his Vichy Republican enablers seek to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with right wing ideologues who will gran special rights to Christofascists, roll back the rights of women and minorities, the recent ruling in India by that nation's highest court striking down an anti-gay law date back to British colonial rule underscores the need for a balanced Supreme that will protect the rights of all citizens, not just large corporations - which are ridiculously now afforded the rights of living, breathing people - wealthy whites and right wing Christians.  Over the last 60+ years, the judiciary has lead the way in making America a more equal country under the law.  Trump and his Vichy Republicans seek to sweep all of that progress away.  An editorial in the New York Times looks at India's court ruling and by implication the urgency of retaining the Supreme Court as a non-partisan, independent branch of government.  Here are highlights:  
There are many reasons to find fault with modern India. The grinding poverty. The crippling caste system. A culture in which sexual attacks against women often go unpunished. The rise of Hindu extremists obsessed with demonizing Muslims. A political system that often fails to address these challenges.
So the recent groundbreaking, unanimous decision of the country’s top court to overturn a colonial-era ban on consensual gay sex was a welcome affirmation of human dignity.
It was also proof of the power of the judiciary in a democracy — in this case, the world’s most populous democracy — to right wrongs that have long penalized, even terrorized, the most vulnerable members of society, wrongs that politicians would rather ignore.
The 495-page judgment, handed down by the Indian Supreme Court this month, decriminalized gay sex, which had been barred under an 1860 law imposed by the British when they ruled India that banned “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” The law, under which thousands of people were prosecuted and could be imprisoned for up to 10 years, was “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra wrote. (It remains illegal to have sex with animals or children.)
Significantly, though, the court went beyond the specific question of gay sex by emphasizing the broader concept of the humanity of L.G.B.T. people and the Indian Constitution’s responsibility to protect individual rights and dignity. The court even apologized for Indian society’s past mistreatment of gay people.
Such an outcome was not foreordained in India, a socially conservative nation of 1.3 billion people where the law has often been used for intimidation and where the government, a broadly right-wing Hindu national coalition, is not known for defending minority rights.
[T]he lawyers who spearheaded the successful legal challenge, Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, devised a new strategy that focused on the personal cost of constitutionally sanctioned discrimination.
They highlighted those who suffered under the law by enlisting as co-petitioners in the suit more than two dozen gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who risked arrest simply for publicly identifying themselves as L.G.B.T.
“This is a plea by 6 to 8 percent of the Indian population to be regarded as full citizens and not unconvicted felons,” Ms. Guruswamy told the court. “This is love that must be constitutionally recognized and not just sexual acts,” she added.
Given India’s democratic tradition and importance as a rising regional power, the court’s enlightened decision is already inspiring similar legal challenges in more than a half-dozen countries, including Kenya and Singapore.
 One troubling sign was the silence of top politicians, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even as the Indian news media, including several conservative outlets, lauded the ruling. Mr. Modi’s government has indicated that while it will support the decision, it will oppose a further expansion of gay rights.
Good luck with that.
Given the court’s sweeping and principled assertion that fundamental rights apply to all Indians, regardless of sexual orientation, activists have made clear their intention to push for the other rights they are denied, including to marry, adopt children, be protected from hate speech and inherit their partner’s wealth.
As Ms. Guruswamy told an interviewer at The Caravan magazine: “But you create constitutional principle. And then you build on it.”
India’s Supreme Court laid that foundation, and has offered renewed hope in the power of democratic institutions to ensure that all people enjoy equal protection under the law.

Here in America, Republicans want a Supreme Court which will guaranty that only some will enjoy equal protection under the law.  Be very afraid.

Brexit Was Sold by "Liars"and Britain's Exit Plan is Unworkable

British PM Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron

Much like Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" presidential campaign, the supporters of the "leave" British Brexit vote engaged in baldface lies and were aided by Russian election interference that played upon rural voter's racism, xenophobia, and delusional dreams of restoring a never to return empire.   Having just returned from a week in London (I was in Paris the week before), it is readily apparent that a hard Brexit will savage Britain's economy, especially in "leave voting rural areas and the always reactionary Northern Ireland.  After disastrous meetings today in Austria, British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a huge backlash at home which, with luck will bring about a re-vote on the question of leaving the European Union.  While in London, we heard numerous people say that May's days in office were heading towards an end and that leaving the EU would be a disaster on everything from tariffs to tourism and renewed difficulty crossing borders (currently, with Britain in the EU, travel from Paris to London and London to Amsterdam on the high speed Eurostar trains is smooth as can be).  A piece in CNN looks at the growing realization that the Brexit effort was lead by liars and will have horrific consequences.   Here are article highlights:
If Theresa May hoped that a two-day summit with European leaders in the birthplace of Mozart would bring harmony to the fraught Brexit process, she will have left sorely disappointed.  A lavish dinner in the opulent setting of the Felsenreitschul theater in Salzburg on Wednesday evening failed to smooth the way. By Thursday, there wasn't much left but bitterness and rancour.
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said key aspects of Brexit proposals presented by May "will not work" in their current form.   Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said there could be "no compromise" on the integrity of the single market, the bloc's economic free-trade zone. Emmanuel Macron, the French President, was harshest of all. The entire Brexit project was sold to the British people by "liars" who immediately fled the stage, unwilling to see their project through. May could be forgiven for looking like thunder at her post-summit press conference. But she showed no sign of backing down from the proposals hashed out with her Cabinet at her country retreat of Chequers in July -- so controversial with her own party that they provoked the resignation of her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and Brexit secretary, David Davis. [T]he prospect the UK crashing out without a deal seems greater than ever. "Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal for economic cooperation, the suggested framework will not work -- not least because it risks undermining the single market," Tusk told reporters.
The main sticking point continues to be how to handle the border between Northern Ireland, which will remain part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which will continue to be part of the EU. Neither side wants an arrangement that would require the rebuilding of border infrastructure, the removal of which was a key part of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland after years of sectarian strife.
 May promised to bring forward new proposals that would ensure trade could move freely across the Irish border, but would not require different customs regimes in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, a key red line for the British Prime Minister. Under the EU process that governs Britain's withdrawal, the UK leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019 -- deal or no deal. In practice, to allow for parliamentary ratification, that means a deal must be struck in the next couple of months. It's clear that significant gaps remain between both sides. "The Irish question needs something more than only good intentions," Tusk said. "Without clear a precise solution to the Irish question, and for the whole context of our economic future relations, it will be difficult even to imagine a positive process after October," Tusk said. Macron acknowledged that Brexit was the choice of the British people but added that it was "pushed by those who predicted easy solutions."  "If Brexit tells us one thing... it shows us that those who say: one can do easily without Europe, that it will all go well, that it is easy and will bring lots of money -- are liars," Macron said. "They left the next day so they didn't have to manage it." May faces a rough ride at the Conservative party conference in a few weeks, with challengers to her leadership waiting in the wings.
 And EU leaders want to make an example of the UK's pain to any other countries even thinking of leaving: Breaking up is hard to do.

Those who voted to leave the EU, in my opinion, are idiots and are little different than Trump's white supremacist/Christofascist supporters.  The irony is, as mentioned above, that those hurt the worse by a "hard" Brexit will be the very fools and bigots who voted against their own best interests due to bigotry and a proud embrace of ignorance, all of which was fanned by Russian efforts. 

The Case for Impeaching Kavanaugh

Senate Republicans appear hell bent to confirm Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, seemingly believing that once he is confirmed, he is safe from removal given the life time nature of the appointment.  This arrogance ignores two things (i) Democrats may win control of the House (and possibly the Senate) in the 2018 midterms, and (ii) judges, including Supreme Court justices, are subject to impeachment, with the exclusive right to impeach being vested in the House of Representatives.  Imagine a Democrat controlled House launching an investigation of Kavanaugh with full powers to subpoena  witnesses and documents.  A Senate Republican rubber stamping of Kavanaugh despite reasonable doubts as to his fitness to sit on the Court could become a full blown nightmare for the GOP, especially if Democrats hit pay dirt in their investigation.   The current gender gap afflicting the GOP could become truly metastatic.  A column in the New York Times by a law professor at the University of Alabama School of Law (actually, a very good school) looks at the scenario the Senate Republicans are seemingly ignoring to the potential peril.  Here are excerpts:
Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, seem determined to call a vote next week on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court, even in the face of this week’s sexual assault allegations against him.
Senate Republicans assume, correctly, that if they can hold the party line, his installation on the Supreme Court is a sure thing. This is certainly true — even if the Democratic caucus in the Senate holds firm against Mr. Kavanaugh, they simply lack the votes to block him. But the Republicans’ calculus contains a significant error — namely, the assumption that if Mr. Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, that’s the end of the discussion of whether he is fit to serve.
The Constitution does provide that federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, “shall hold their Offices during good Behavior.” The settled understanding of this phrase is that so-called Article III judges enjoy lifetime tenure. But the Constitution also makes both judicial and executive officers subject to impeachment. And, as it happens, the House of Representatives holds “the sole Power of Impeachment.” If the Democrats win back the House in November, they can exercise that power.
Impeachment proceedings in the House are investigative in nature and come with a full panoply of quasi-judicial powers, including aids to investigations, such as the power to subpoena witnesses to compel them to appear and testify (subject, of course, to constitutional privileges, if applicable, such as the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against self-incrimination).
If a simple majority of the House decided to proceed with impeachment, the House Judiciary Committee would be empowered to conduct a thorough and careful investigation of the sexual misconduct allegations that Professor Christine Blasey Ford has made against Mr. Kavanaugh involving a drunken sexual assault when both were high school students in suburban Washington, D.C.
Nor should the Democrats wait to formally take control of the House in January. The House Democratic leadership should pledge now that if they win a majority, they will conduct an impeachment investigation, to get to the truth. Doing so today would make clear to the Senate Republicans that if they rush to judgment, in the absence of a full and fair investigation, there will still be an investigation.
The last member of the Supreme Court to face a credible threat of impeachment was Associate Justice Abe Fortas, whom President Lyndon Johnson had nominated to replace Earl Warren as chief justice. Credible allegations of financial misconduct involving a lifetime paid consultancy with the Wolfson Foundation were made against Justice Fortas — Wolfson was facing federal criminal charges that could easily have found their way to the Supreme Court.
Under withering bipartisan criticism, Justice Fortas withdrew his nomination, and ultimately resigned from the Supreme Court. Had he not resigned, however, there’s a good chance he would have been impeached.
Of course, even if the House impeached Mr. Kavanaugh, it would still take a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict and remove him from the Court. But the Senate vote would surely have at least something to do with the merits of the House’s case: If a full and fair investigation shows that Mr. Kavanaugh has lied regarding the incident — he has denied it categorically and says nothing even remotely like it ever occurred — Republican senators may find it hard to vote “no” in the #metoo era. It would be a terrible blow to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, of course, but this is the risk that Senators McConnell and Grassley seem willing to take.
Moreover, an impeachment investigation could also encompass allegations that Mr. Kavanaugh has committed perjury before the Senate, twice, related to his work on the nomination of District Judge Charles Pickering to be a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Under oath, both in 2006 and in 2018, he said he had no involvement with the White House strategy sessions associated with Judge Pickering’s nominations. Subsequently released emails, involving these sessions, suggest that these answers were at best misleading and at worst totally false.
Perjury would be a perfectly justifiable, and constitutional, basis for impeachment. . . . if the House were to initiate impeachment proceedings against Justice Kavanaugh in 2019, such proceedings should be strictly limited to questions associated with his alleged intentional and deliberate efforts to mislead the Senate about his character and fitness to serve.
We do not know the truth of the troubling allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. But, before someone is confirmed to the Supreme Court, good faith efforts to discover the truth should be made. And if the Senate won’t conduct a credible investigation now, the House should offer its assistance next year.
I very much like this approach.  It specifically puts Senate Republicans on notice that if they fail to do their job, Democrats will do it nonetheless if they win control of the House in 2019 and Republicans could not only see Kavanaugh impeached, but also could see severe damage done to Senate Republicans and the GOP brand.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, September 20, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

"It’s a Gay Problem," and Other Myths From the Catholic Church’s Sexual Abuse Crisis

One of the continuing myths put out by right wing elements in the Roman Catholic Church - and which is happily further disseminated by Protestant Christofascists and the right wing media - is that gays in the Catholic priesthood is the reason for the Church's continued sex abuse crisis.  Pushing this myth is far preferable than facing up to the real causes: (i) the Church's bizarre 12th century views on human sexuality and a belief that all sex is essentially dirty and sinful, (ii) the stunted psycho-sexual development of priests brought up in the Church's all male seminary high schools and seminaries, and (iii) the Church hierarchy's preference to protect priests and avoid any exposure of clerical wrongdoing no matter who has to be sacrificed in the process.  A piece in Religious Dispatches at Rewire looks at the these true causes of the once again exploding sex abuse crisis.  Here are highlights that address certain myths put out by right wing elements:

Americans love intrigue. So when Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano recently issued a public letter alleging a wide-scale cover-up of child sexual abuse—one which reaches all the way to Pope Francis himself—the media and public were sucked right into the conspiracy.
Vigano’s letter opened the doors to the inner workings of the Vatican political and culture war—one culminating with accusations of liberal vs. conservative, gay vs. straight priests, and the power struggles between Popes Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict, and the Roman Curia.
The problem? None of this has to do with the causes of the sexual abuse of children. By muddying the waters and shifting focus from the crimes and onto politics and the Vatican culture war, Vigano’s letter feeds into old stereotypes that silence victims, minimize abuse, and encourage the continued cover-up.
If we want to address the scope and scale of the problem and put an end to the crisis and those who enable it, we must first work to dispel the myths and stereotypes that aim to silence victims and normalize criminal sexual behavior.
A problem of “homosexual priests”
This is a complicated issue, though it’s not a murky one. It’s important to begin by noting that, according to experts, there is absolutely zero evidence that sexual orientation has anything to do with sexual abuse. Period. In fact, when it comes to adult men who sexually abuse boys, researchers have found that it doesn’t even make sense to label these men as “homosexual,” since they neither possess an adult sexual orientation nor do they tend to show a preference for gender.
When apologists cite “the gay problem” for the ongoing crisis—what Bishop Robert Molino recently called the “homosexual subculture”—their intention is to paint a picture of secretive and “deviant” groups of clergy and a wider Church culture that tolerates them. In reality, the allegedly disproportionately large number of gay priests may be related to the problem, but it isn’t the cause of it.
As Robert Mickens wrote in July, and as others have noted for years, the pathologizing of queer sexualities has driven many men to the priesthood, as the vow of celibacy offers what appears to be a safe haven from negotiating a forbidden path. As a result, although he’s careful to point out that there is nothing about gay men in healthy situations that makes them more apt to sexually abuse others, Mickens argues that some of the abuse is due to the “homophobia that keeps gay men in the closet, bars them from growing up and results in distorted sexuality for many gay priests.”
In other words, the “homosexual subculture” isn’t the problem, though the demonization of queer sexualities could certainly contribute to the failure to develop a healthy adult sexuality.
Ask any victim of clergy sexual abuse—male or female—and they will tell you: child sexual abuse has no place in healthy adult sexuality, gay or straight. When apologists call the crisis a “gay problem,” they succeed in both silencing women victims and forcing a sexual identity onto male victims against their will.
Want the easiest way to silence and shame a male (straight or gay) victim of child rape and sanitize the crime? Call the crime “gay sex.” Make him question whether the abuse was an actual crime at all.
Child sex abuse is a crime of violence where those in positions of power prey upon the weak and vulnerable, using sex as a weapon. Apologists for the Catholic Church will do anything to make sure that this isn’t the focus.
“It happens everywhere”
Yes, child sexual abuse is a global problem, inside and outside of the Catholic Church. It happens in homes, schools, camps, sports programs, and any organization that caters to children or helps the vulnerable.
Apologists for the Catholic Church want you to believe that it is “just like any other institution.” It’s not.
Nowhere else in modern society have we seen the continued collusion to cover up decades of sex crimes on the macro or micro level as we see in the Catholic Church. They’ve spent billions of dollars lobbying against victim-friendly legislation; settling with victims; paying defense lawyers to shield abusers and their enablers; hiding and obfuscating evidence of child sexual abuse; shaming and silencing victims; and otherwise deceiving Catholics and the public about the crimes.
Add to that the fact that the church is supposed to have moral authority, and this is a crisis of monstrous proportions.
“It’s a problem of celibacy”
Celibacy is the vow requiring that priests abstain from marriage and adult sexual relations.
Is this suppression of adult sexuality healthy? That’s up for debate. In fact, former priest, psychotherapist and expert on priestly celibacy A.W. Richard Sipe concluded after years of research that no more than 50 percent of priests are celibate at any given time.
“It’s not really pedophilia”
Labeling victims because of their physical development minimizes and normalizes sexual assault.
Victims of “pedophilia” (children victimized pre-puberty), church defenders say, are different from victims of “ephebophilia,” those abused after puberty but before adulthood. Older victims are considered “less catastrophically damaged” by the church, implying that what happened to them was less abhorrent and caused less pain.
But let’s get down to the truth: Whether a 15-year-old or an 8-year-old is sexually abused, they are both victims of a horrific crime.
Sanitizing the crime and minimizing victims by saying their abuse “wasn’t as bad” because one particular victim is more physically developed than another—even though two victims may be the exact same age and emotional maturity—is reprehensible.
“The church and Pope Francis are too liberal”
A victim of child sexual abuse has no political leanings. Nor does a predator. Predators seek “easy targets”: at risk children who may lack family structure, self-esteem, or have other disadvantages that a predator can exploit.
Child sexual abuse and cover-up flourished in the Catholic Church during conservative papacies, just as it is continuing now. I’ve worked with victims pre-and post-Vatican II and their stories are similar.
The cover-up has nothing to do with politics. It’s about saving face, protecting priestly friends, and saving the Church from scandal. The political leanings of the pope or the predator have nothing to do with it. As John Gehring recently noted on Religion and Politics, “a top official from the Vatican’s secretary of state office acknowledged receiving allegations about [former Archbishop] McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians as far back as 2000, during the papacy of John Paul II.”
The only way we will be able to expose predators and those who covered for them is to maintain razor-sharp focus on the victims and to stop the crimes, not propagate myths that enable more abuse. It is the victims who empowered the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. And those same victims are the ones who have refused to give up the fight for justice, in spite of insurmountable odds.
In just the past week the attorneys general from at least a half dozen states have vowed to investigate the Church, and, according to the New York Times, “Pope Francis has summoned bishops from around the world to Rome for an unprecedented meeting focused on protecting minors.” 
It’s a good start. In addition, despite the cries of apologists, we must continue to demand robust laws that expose predators and hold the Church accountable for the cover-up and encourage law enforcement to do everything possible to ensure that this cycle of abuse is completely eradicated and wrongdoers punished.

The Toxic Politics of the GOP’s Disingenuous Plan to Save Brett Kavanaugh

The dishonest and disingenuous GOP Senator Chuck Grassley
A new  Reuters/Ipsos poll indicates that 36 percent of adults surveyed did not want Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court, up 6 points from a similar poll conducted a month earlier.  Only 31 percent of U.S. adults polled said they were in favor of Kavanaugh’s appointment.  Hence, the desperation of Senate Republicans to quickly confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court before more opposition and/or further damaging information comes out which could torpedoes his nomination completely.  The problem these ethically and morally challenged  Republicans face is that they need to be careful how they throw Kavanaugh's accuser of sexual misconduct under the bus.  They find themselves forced to disingenuously pretend they want to hear her testimony even though it is the last thing that they want to see happen.  Why the duplicity and disingenuous behavior?   They fear the wrath of women voters in the midterm elections if they openly throw Christine Blasey Ford under the bus and side with her molester.  Were the midterms not a mere 7 weeks away, these Republicans would simply ignore her and approve Kavanaugh.  A piece in Vanity Far looks at the GOP's near transparent attempt to dish Christine Blasey Ford even as they pretend that they are doing otherwise.  Here are excerpts: 
This is the ugliest situation imaginable,” a source close to Senate Republican leadership told Axios, referring to the disastrous derailment of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination by Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor who says Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party in high school. Behind the scenes, the G.O.P. is beginning to sweat Kavanaugh’s confirmation, caught between the fraught politics of the #MeToo era and a Republican electorate that backed Donald Trump, in part because he promised to win them control of the highest court in the land. And so, leadership has been careful not to discount Ford, making every effort to appear amenable to her version of events. “We’ve offered Dr. Ford the opportunity to share her story with the committee, as her attorney said yesterday she was willing to do,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement published Tuesday. On Wednesday, he raised the stakes, saying in a subsequent statement that he had not heard from Ford’s lawyers, and that Ford was required to submit a full biography and prepared testimony to the Committee by Friday morning, “if she intends to testify on Monday.”
At the same time, Republicans and the White House are seemingly doing everything in their power to undermine Ford, and create conditions that might persuade her that testifying isn’t worth the excruciating emotional toll. In a letter to the Judiciary Committee Tuesday night, Ford’s lawyers stated flatly that “a full investigation by law-enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.”
“Asking her to come forward in four or five days and sit before the Judiciary Committee on national TV is not a fair process,” Lisa Banks, one of Ford’s lawyers, told the network. “If they care about doing the right thing here and treating this seriously as they have said, then they will . . . properly investigate this.” Though Grassley has offered a number of alternatives to a public hearing—most recently, reports emerged that he was open to sending representatives to Ford’s home state—he has repeatedly brushed off the notion of an F.B.I. investigation. “Nothing the F.B.I. or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee,” read his Tuesday statement, “so there is no reason for any further delay.”
The Senate has also opted not to call additional witnesses, including Mark Judge, the other man named in Ford’s allegation, who has detailed drunken high-school escapades in his writings, including the mention of a classmate named “Bart O’Kavanaugh.” (Judge has told the committee he has “no memory of this alleged incident.) 
For the G.O.P. senators on record asking to delay the initial vote on Kavanaugh in order to hear Ford’s side of the story, however, the committee’s generosity is more than sufficient. “Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don’t hear from both sides on Monday, let’s vote,” tweeted Bob Corker. Jeff Flake told CNN that if Ford failed to appear at Monday’s hearing, “I think we’ll have to move to the markup.” (“I hope she does. I think she needs to be heard,” he added feebly.) And Lindsey Graham, who did not call for a delay, released a statement on Wednesday accusing Democrats and Ford’s team of dragging their feet . . . .
Good faith, it seems, goes only so far. Already, as The New York Times reported Tuesday, Republicans have landed on an argument to discredit Ford: that she was indeed assaulted at a party Kavanaugh attended, but was “mistaken,” as Senator Orrin Hatch put it, as to her assailant’s identity. It’s an evolved version of an earlier strategy, wherein they offered Ford an invitation to testify that they were sure she would decline: “This gambit basically bets that she will decline, and Republicans can then say that they tried to investigate further,” sources told Axios.
Because she called their bluff, the G.O.P. has been forced into an untenable position. Lawmakers can’t ignore her without looking like heartless rape apologists, a perilous image in the middle of a midterm election that will be largely determined by women. Nor can they bow to her demands without running into serious political landmines, and potentially jeopardizing their best shot at securing a Supreme Court seat. Limiting their investigation to a simple case of “he said, she said” will, they hope, narrow the window of their inquiry.
But while Ford’s lawyers await Grassley’s official response to their request for an F.B.I. probe, Republicans’ maneuvering is increasingly transparent. “[If] ‘Grassley’s staff offered Dr. Ford multiple dates’ what were the other dates,” tweeted Josh Barro. “And if she hadn’t responded yet, how did they settle on Monday?”

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Meet Brett Kavanaugh’s Alleged Accomplice, Mark Judge

Georgetown Prep - Kavanaugh and Judge's "rich boy" school
At this point, it is unclear when and how the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh will move forward.  Kavanaugh's seemingly credible accuser of past sexual assault wants an FBI investigation of the incident/Kavanaugh before she will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Meanwhile, Senate Republicans want the matter to simply go away, yet are fearful that ramming through Kavanaugh's approval could alienate millions of women voters.  What makes this different than the usual "she said, he said" situation is that Kavanaugh allegedly had an accomplice in the assault on Ford.  His good buddy, Mark Judge, who is anything but the kind of character witness one would want and who is refusing to testify under oath before the Committee.  Likely, with good reason since he has documented his bad boy behavior in writings and may not relish having to lie under oath if he is to protect his buddy.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at Judge,  Here are highlights (read the entire piece):

The most obvious threat to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford is that he may have committed a very serious crime when he allegedly assaulted her with an apparent rape in mind. That and the fact that he may be lying about it are both disqualifiers for the job he wants, and quite possibly for the job he has.
But more subtly, Ford’s story of prepsters gone violently wild in 1983 suggests that for all of Kavanaugh’s maturity, urbanity, education, and carefully cultivated respectability, he remains a man whose respect for women is lacking. That in turn could perhaps lead him to deny them, to choose an example, control over their reproductive systems.
Ford’s account of the fateful night introduces a new element into what might have been a nearly insoluble he-said she-said deadlock: the presence of a third party, Mark Judge. It is not a particularly good sign for Kavanaugh that Judge (after denying any recollection of the party where Ford said she was assaulted) is at this point refusing to testify before the Judiciary Committee. But even if he was offering a more robust defense of his old friend, there’s another problem. Yes, Judge has matured since his days at Georgetown Prep: from an admitted alcoholic to a sort-of-conservative Catholic man-boy who still has some sexual and gender issues he is working out. Unfortunately for himself and for Kavanaugh, he’s working them out in public as a writer. And he is thus not the most convincing witness to Kavanaugh’s moral purity then or now. He actually comes across more as the wingman from hell who, all these many years later, is still struggling to keep it in his pants.
Even as Republican senators flounder around in an effort to avoid dragging Judge into the world’s biggest spotlight as an eyewitness to the alleged assault or as a character witness for his high-school buddy, Judge’s relentlessly self-revelatory jottings about both drunken and sober encounters with women are spreading quickly to a fascinated and appalled new readership. Here’s a tight but comprehensive description of the Judge oeuvre from the Washington Post:
In two memoirs, Judge depicted his high school as a nest of debauchery where students attended “masturbation class,” “lusted after girls” from nearby Catholic schools and drank themselves into stupors at parties. He has since renounced that lifestyle and refashioned himself as a conservative moralist — albeit one who has written about “the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion….”
Now that Kavanaugh is on the brink of stiffening the conservative Catholic rigor of the Supreme Court, it’s inconvenient that the only person available to support his it-didn’t-happen version of the story Ford is telling is a man like Mark Judge. If that drunken party boy got sober and grew up into this very conventional defender of the patriarchy, maybe he’s not the best, er, judge of what happened in 1983 or of his old friend’s fitness for the highest court in the land, either. No wonder Republican senators are reluctant to put Judge before a camera and a microphone with the future of constitutional law at stake.
If the allegations are true, they confirm that Kavanaugh holds women in contempt and should not be on the U.S. Supreme Court - or any court.  They also show a frightening attitude that the lives of others do not matter, a pillar of today's GOP.