Saturday, October 06, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

Philadelphia Archbishop: LGBT People Don't Exist

With all of its problems and its legitimacy among educated portions of the world plummeting, one would think that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church would focus on putting its own foul and morally bankrupt house in order.  Yet, instead, these same leaders who turned a blind eye to abuse and helped in massive cover ups to protect their own power and status continue to wage a war against LGBT individuals and basically modernity itself.  A case in point is Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput who railed against even using the term "LGBT" and claimed that LGBT individuals do not exist and parroting the Christofascist lie that sexual orientation is a choice.  A piece in The Advocate looks at this batshitery.  Here are excerpts (Note that this raging homophobe was selected by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to be its representative):

Philadelphia Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput, one of the more anti-LGBTQ voices in American Catholicism, says the church should avoid using term “LGBTQ” in official documents — and he blames liberal beliefs about sexuality for the church’s abuse crisis.
“There is no such thing as an ‘LGBTQ Catholic’ or a ‘transgender Catholic’ or a ‘heterosexual Catholic,’ as if our sexual appetites defined who we are; as if these designations described discrete communities of differing but equal integrity within the real ecclesial community . . .
Chaput objected to the fact that the working document for the synod said, “Some LGBT youths, through various contributions that were received by the General Secretariat of the Synod, wish to ‘benefit from greater closeness’ and experience greater care by the Church.”
“‘LGBTQ’ and similar language should not be used in church documents, because using it suggests that these are real, autonomous groups, and the church simply doesn’t categorize people that way,” he said.
Chaput said young people are being shaped “by a culture that is both deeply appealing and essentially atheist.” He went on to blame contemporary culture for the church’s sexual abuse crisis.  “The clergy sexual abuse crisis is precisely a result of the self-indulgence and confusion introduced into the church in my lifetime, even among those tasked with teaching and leading,” he said. “And minors — our young people — have paid the price for it.” His admonition to avoid using “LGBTQ” and similar language came after that, so it wasn’t clear if he was specifically blaming gay people for the crisis or sexual liberalism in general.
Chaput was chosen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to represent the group at the synod. He is a member of the synod’s permanent council as well.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ equality within the church, denounced Chaput’s message. It “is a perfect example of how some church leaders have been so blinded by ideological homophobia and transphobia that they cannot perceive plain human facts accurately,” he wrote in an online essay published Friday. “His comments reflect the dangerous avoidance mentality that is the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and so many of the ills which plague the Catholic Church today.”
“There are LGBTQ Catholics and transgender Catholics and heterosexual Catholics, just as there are Italian Catholics, elderly Catholics, disabled Catholics, Latin American Catholics, traditionalist Catholics, poor Catholics, educated Catholics, and so many other distinct groups within our big tent church,” DeBernardo wrote. It appears that Chaput “is trying to make LGBTQ people invisible in the church by pretending that they don’t exist,” he continued.
Chaput, who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ stances, was named archbishop of Philadelphia in 2011, having previously led the archdiocese of Denver. In Colorado, he supported the decision by a Catholic school in Boulder not to reenroll a lesbian couple’s child, and he used his regular column in Denver’s Catholic newspaper to celebrate the defeat of legislation that would have established civil unions for same-sex couples in the state. He further called same-sex marriage “the issue of our time.”
In 2016, with same-sex marriage legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court the previous year, he announced that people in “irregular” relationships, including same-sex ones, must refrain from sex if they are to receive communion or participate in certain other church activities.
Chaput is guaranteeing that more young Catholics will rightfully walk away from the Church.

Today I Am Again Ashamed to Be An America

Other than the morning after the 2016 presidential election, I do not think I have ever felt so depressed politically and saddened by the abject moral bankruptcy of far too many Americans.  Friends and neighbors who pretend to be decent moral people continue to demonstrate that they are anything but as they support an occupant of the White House who is the living embodiment of moral bankruptcy and now, the appointment of an unfit individual to the Supreme Court.  A court whose rulings will now lack any legitimacy in the eyes of what I hope is a majority of Americans.  We got to this point, of course, thanks to those too lazy to bother to vote in 2016 and now, the country may be at the point of no return.  The midterm elections are the last chance to stop the descent into authoritarianism and the normalization of the reprehensible.  If those who stayed home in 2016 do so again, it's over,  Did truly decent Germans feel such despair when they saw Hitler cement his lock on power?  

I am not the only one despondent.  At a Hindu client's birthday party last evening (perhaps one of the most responsible and hard working communities in the country), there was lamenting about the state of affairs.  The young black male cab driver who brought me home worried what would happen under a white Christofascist controlled Court and vowed to vote and get out as many others to do so as possible. Educated white women - many of who now view "Christians" with contempt and rightfully so - who see bad omens ahead.  What unites us all is a fear that our rights (and possibly our safety) will be curtailed so that an angry minority can feel good about themselves.  We are also disturbed by the sham investigation conducted by the FBI at Der Trumpenf├╝hrer's apparent direction.  As a letter to the editor in the Los Angeles Times notes, the "investigation" seemed to have one goal: clear Kavanaugh and ignore any witnesses that might corroborate his misdeeds.  This is what one would expect in Putin's Russia or the Soviet Union of old - or Hitler's Germany.  Here are article excerpts:
We are, at last, a Third World nation. As the FBI’s work on Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh shows, we pick and choose how justice will be served; we investigate selectively; we make decisions based on what will help the plutocrats and oligarchs; we’re blind to injustice.
Congress passes laws that harm the public while asserting that the “little guy” will benefit. Lawmakers cherry-pick facts and pretend that they’re telling the truth and then blame the opposition for omissions.
We are Turkey, we are Egypt, and the White House and the congressional majority find that acceptable.
We are a country in desperate need of a 21st century Joseph Welch — someone who will face off against abusive officials and ask them, in front of the nation, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”  In the 1950s, the country applauded. Now, the answer to Welch would be, “No, but that’s OK.”
How do we reverse the descent of America into something foul and ugly?  At this late point, voting for Democrats on November 6, 2018, is our last chance.  If Democrats can win control of the House of Representatives, perhaps the much needed investigations into Trump and Kavanaugh will belatedly take place.  A piece in the New York Times shows what could happen:
House Democrats will open an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct and perjury against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh if they win control of the House in November, Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat in line to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on Friday.
Speaking on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote this weekend, Mr. Nadler said that there was evidence that Senate Republicans and the F.B.I. had overseen a “whitewash” investigation of the allegations and that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court was at stake. He sidestepped the issue of impeachment.
“It is not something we are eager to do,” Mr. Nadler said in an interview. “But the Senate having failed to do its proper constitutionally mandated job of advise and consent, we are going to have to do something to provide a check and balance, to protect the rule of law and to protect the legitimacy of one of our most important institutions.”
He said that if Democrats took power, he would expect the committee to immediately subpoena records from the White House and the F.B.I., which conducted an abbreviated supplemental background investigation into two of the misconduct claims. That document request would include communications between officials at both entities.
The committee would also seek to interview Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers and the dozens of potential witnesses they identified in recent days, most of whom were not contacted by the F.B.I. He said he would also call the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, to testify.
I pray that voters will get out and vote and set the stage for this to happen.  This is the most important election of my lifetime.  If Democrats fail to retake control the House, it's over for America.  Then the only question is whether one stays or chooses to leave.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, October 05, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

What If a Democratic House Votes to Impeach Kavanaugh?

U.S. House of Representatives chambers.
One of the most alarming things about the Republican rush to confirm spoiled rich white boy Brett Kavanaugh is that by refusing to do a proper investigation of allegations against him, they are setting the stage for a Democrat controlled House of Representatives - something I personally pray comes to pass - to launch a real and credible investigation which could very well turn up damning corroborating testimony.  Should that happen, a move to impeach Kavanaugh would be likely and the Supreme Court would be thrown into chaos and decisions rendered that swung on Kavanaugh's vote would be lose legitimacy.   One would think that Senators Flake, Collins and Murkowski - and others - would want to avoid this potential situation not to mention that they votes for Kavanaugh would become everlasting embarrassments.  Sadly, Mitch McConnell has no such worries about morality or the view of history as he has demonstrated time and time again.  A piece in Politico looks at the likely scenario that could play out next year.  Here are excerpts:
The FBI’s supplemental background check of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has just been completed. . . . What we do know is that the background check, which was supposed to examine all credible allegations of sexual assault made against Kavanaugh, has made matters more complicated. For reasons that aren’t completely clear—either the Senate’s actual request for supplemental information was narrower than promised, or the White House directed the FBI not to pursue certain leads—many senators are worried that the Republican-guided FBI investigation won’t be sufficient to quell concerns about the judge’s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court. If the investigation has been as superficial as some reporting suggests—despite calls from GOP Senators Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins for it to be thorough—and if Kavanaugh does manage to squeak through, Democrats are not likely to let it go. Indeed, it is entirely possible—no, likely—that, if they win control of the House in November, the new majority party will consider articles of impeachment against Kavanaugh before his seat on the high court is warm. The course of such a proceeding has the potential to be so perilous and unpredictable that wavering Republican senators should consider that possibility before casting their votes to put Kavanaugh on the court in the first place. Facts that come to light in impeachment could come back to haunt senators who vote to support him. The Constitution contemplates removal from office of judges on the same terms as are available against any federal official—terms that are by now familiar because they’re so frequently mentioned against Trump. Under Article II, Section 4: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” In all cases, the House investigates and votes on articles of impeachment, and any articles that receive a majority vote are then passed along to the Senate. That body then conducts a trial, and a supermajority of two-thirds is required for removal of the officer.
Although there have been only a tiny number of impeachment proceedings against federal judges at any level since the Constitution was ratified, those that have taken place have laid down significant markers that can help us understand the possibilities in this case.
[T]he cases involving trial and appellate federal judges point in a direction that would be worrying for Kavanaugh if he’s installed as a justice—and if wrongful conduct is then found. Significantly, three of the four most recent impeachments— all of which led to convictions—were for perjury. In the other case, Samuel B. Kent, a district court judge from Texas, became the first federal judge impeached for sexual assault, and for obstructing justice in being untruthful about his conduct. He was convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison, but refused to resign (apparently for reasons having to do with his pension). In 2009, he was impeached by the House, but resigned before the Senate could conduct the trial that certainly would have convicted him.
Will a newly energized Democratic majority in the House have the stomach for impeachment? Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has demurred, but Jerry Nadler, the current ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, wasn’t nearly as coy. When asked whether, if he assumed the chairmanship of the committee, he’d consider impeachment, he had this to say: “We would have to investigate any credible allegations of perjury and other things that haven’t been properly looked into before.”
So hearings seem inevitable, but whether the committee would actually take the extraordinary step of beginning impeachment proceedings will likely depend on a few factors yet to come into focus. The real or perceived lack of thoroughness of the FBI investigation would be the most obvious trigger. [H]earings will likely follow—and then, possibly, impeachment, depending on what’s turned up. And, as Nadler suggested, the committee could also look into whether Kavanaugh committed perjury during the hearings; for instance, text messages have surfaced suggesting that he knew of Ramirez’s potential allegations before the New Yorker told her story. He testified, though, that he learned of the accusations only when the story came out. State governments might also decide to conduct hearings, which could funnel into any action the House decides to take. And if any new sexual misconduct allegations surface after he’s seated, we’re back to square one.
But while Kavanaugh should be worried about impeachment proceedings, so too should GOP senators who vote to confirm him in the first place. If further interviews with some of the same witnesses that the FBI could have, but did not, question corroborate any of the assault allegations, Kavanaugh could land back in the Senate for a trial, where those senators who voted for him would find themselves in a tough spot for pushing him through in the face of unanswered questions.
We may or may not learn what the FBI actually did, but it’s likely the last chapter in this depressing saga has yet to be written.

Unfortunately, I will not be holding my breath to see Republican senators do the right thing and vote "no," tomorrow.  It will be up to Democrats to conduct the investigations that the White House and the likes of Mitch McConnell deliberately thwarted. 

Hyatt Hotels To Stop Hosting Hate Groups

In the age of Trump and the hate and bigotry that Trump and the GOP have unleashed, increasingly support more morality and decency will fall to private individuals and businesses.  As their actions have already shown, rather than leading a charge to uphold true decency, evangelical Christians will be loudly applauding the forces that want to normalize lies, discrimination and the reprehensible.  Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to see Hyatt Hotels announce that they will no longer book events for hate groups.  One can only hope that the definition of "hate group" will include groups like Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Alliance Defending Freedom.    It is imperative that each of us resist the forces of hate in every manner possible, not the least of which is by voting on November 6, 2018, and casting your ballot for Democrat candidates.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at Hyatt's bold announcement.  Here are excerpts(note the hate group founder's boasts of ties to the Trump White House):
Weeks after a Hyatt hotel in Virginia hosted the annual conference of an anti-Muslim organization, the CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation has announced that the hotel chain will no longer rent space to hate groups.
“If a group is primarily focused on disparaging a group by virtue of their identity... that’s really where we need to draw the line,” Mark Hoplamazian told an audience at a travel industry conference in New York on Sept. 27. “We’re going to apply our values to making these decisions along the way.”
On Sept. 28, the Los Angeles Times reported that Hyatt, which operates nearly 800 hotels across the country, sent a memo to employees spelling out the new policy.
On the heels of some guest and colleague feedback we received about groups, we decided it was the right time to take a fresh look at our practices around hate groups,” a Hyatt spokesperson said in a statement. “This is a complex and emotional issue, but what we’ve concluded is that we need to commit to a higher level of vetting such that groups using hate speech, primarily seeking to disparage or demean a particular group, are not welcome in our hotels.”
On Sept. 4 and 5, the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virginia, hosted the annual conference of the anti-Muslim hate group Act for America.
HuffPost was the first to report on the Hyatt Regency’s decision to host Act for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. A spokesperson for that hotel told HuffPost at the time that it would “not unlawfully discriminate against groups who wish to hold lawful meetings at the hotel.”
But the civil rights group Muslim Advocates argued that Hyatt would be breaking no laws by refusing to host Act for America, and pointed to other hospitality companies ― including HiltonAirbnbSofitel (owned by AccorHotels) and the Willard Hotel (owned by IHG) ― that have declined to host white supremacist groups.
Act for America claims a (likely exaggerated) membership of 750,000 people. Although it bills itself as the “NRA of national security,” it mainly focuses on vilifying Muslims, spreading baseless conspiracy theories and lobbying legislators to pass discriminatory laws. At this year’s Act for America conference, [Brigitte] Gabriel [Act for America’s founder]  bragged that she worked “very closely with the office of the President” on issues related to national security.
“I actually want you to know we have a standing meeting at the White House once a week,” she told the audience. “We have a president that likes us, President Trump.” (It’s not clear whether Gabriel’s claim of a standing meeting is true.)
“Hyatt’s announcement is a welcome one for consumers who want their hotels to be safe spaces to relax and be themselves free from hostility and discrimination,” Muslim Advocates’ public advocacy director Scott Simpson said in a statement.
“We organized, we signed petitions, and we called their offices to tell them that there should be no room for hate at Hyatt,” he said. “Now it’s up to the other major chains to decide if they want to be resorts for racists.”
Contact other chains and demand that they cease in holding events for hate groups. Republicans control Congress and the White House (for now), but meanwhile the rest of us can use our buying power to demand businesses say "no" to haters.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Republicans Prepare to Ram Kavanaugh Through Using Sham Investigation

The Palmetto Queen with the very vile Mitch McConnell.

Spineless and dishonest Republicans in connivance with the White House appear poised to push Brett Kavanaugh through to the U.S. Supreme Court using a sham investigation that deliberately failed to interview corroborating witnesses as cover for their wrongdoing.  It is beyond disgusting and is all too reminiscent of the ploys used by Adolph Hitler and more recently, Vladimir Putin.  What is perhaps even more frightening is the number of Americans who pretend to be decent people who have bought into the lies, the hate, and the overall misogyny.  At times, I feel I am glimpsing what transpired with Hitler supporters in the early 1930's Germany.  A friend on Facebook summed up - well back before the Kavanaugh lies and gas-lighting began - why I have no respect for these people who have shown their true selves:
“I am not mad at you that Clinton lost. I am unconcerned that we have different politics. And I don’t think less of you because you vote one way and I vote another. No…I think less of you because you watched an adult mock a disabled person in front of a crowd and still supported him. I think less of you because you saw a man spouting clear racism and backed him. I think less of you because you listened to him advocate for war crimes, and still thought he should run this country. I think less of you because you watched him equate a woman’s worth to her appearance and got on board. It isn’t your politics that I find repulsive. It is your personal willingness to support racism, sexism and cruelty. You sided with a bully when it mattered and that is something I will never forget. So, no…you and I won’t be “coming together” to move forward or whatever. Trump disgusts me, but it is the fact that he doesn’t disgust you that continues to stick with me long after the 2016 election.”

Turning to the malfeasance being done by Senate Republicans and their mouth pieces at Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, and similar false news sites, a column in the New York Times describes the feelings that I, and a suspect many, many decent and truly loyal Americans, have as I watch America morph into something very ugly.  Here are column excerpts:

In the end, it didn’t really matter how many women begged them not to do this, how many times women said slow down, stop, please, no. As of this writing, it seems inevitable that Republicans in the Senate are going to shove Brett Kavanaugh down our throats. According to polls, a majority of American women believe that Christine Blasey Ford told the truth when she said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. But the United States Senate is run by Republican men, and thanks to them, Kavanaugh will most likely soon be on the Supreme Court, deciding, among other things, how much control women will be permitted over our own bodies.
The restarted F.B.I. background check that seemed, a week ago, like a merciful concession to decency has instead been a cover-up. Agents didn’t even question Blasey or Kavanaugh. It’s not clear if they interviewed any of the more than 20 corroborating witnesses named by Deborah Ramirez, who claimed a drunken, aggressive Kavanaugh thrust his genitals into her face when they were students at Yale. The New Yorker reported that witnesses who tried to contact the F.B.I. were ignored; some ended up submitting unsolicited statements to the bureau.
The behavior of Senate Republicans is not particularly surprising. Time and again, they’ve clucked disapprovingly about Donald Trump’s vulgarity while eagerly carrying out his agenda. What has truly shaken me is the zeal with which Republican officeholders and conservative commentators, some of whom I’d thought better of, have come to Kavanaugh’s defense. Something in the spectacle of a highly credentialed Republican man nearly being denied his life’s goal on nothing but the word of a couple of women has brought out the inner Trump in a lot of people.
[T]here is clear, substantial evidence that Kavanaugh has not been truthful throughout this process. Conservatives, in their anger, won’t reckon honestly with this evidence.
Instead, they change the subject. They act as if holes in a case brought by media-obsessed lawyer Michael Avenatti discredit the stories told by Blasey and Ramirez, whom he has nothing to do with. Or they pretend that Kavanaugh is under attack for his underage drinking rather than for his deception about that drinking.
Well before anyone heard about Blasey’s letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, Kavanaugh had lied about whether, while working in the George W. Bush administration, he’d received documents stolen from Senate Democrats. He lied when he said he had no involvement in “questions about the rules governing detention of combatants” in the War on Terror. He told senators he’d learned about Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program from The New York Times, when an email appears to show that he knew about it much earlier.
Since Blasey testified, Kavanaugh has dissembled some more. He downplayed his excessive youthful drinking to the point of rank dishonesty. At one point he claimed that references to vomiting in his yearbook stemmed from his weak stomach.
Kavanaugh was even inexplicably dishonest when, flush with self-righteousness, he claimed that he got into Yale without connections, purely by “busting my tail.” In fact, his grandfather went there.
Some conservatives are acting as if, in delving into Kavanaugh’s high school and college antics, Democrats are creating some egregious new precedent. But the youthful behavior of aspirants to high office has long been fair game. . . . . by multiple accounts, Kavanaugh was a mean, rowdy drunk and a sexist bully. After decades of conservative insistence that Bill Clinton’s impeachment was about lying, not fellatio, it’s amazing to see right-wingers arguing that’s it’s O.K. if Kavanaugh shaded the truth under oath to avoid embarrassment.
Some say that anger over Kavanaugh’s treatment by Democrats has unified and invigorated the right, with possible repercussions in the midterms. This may well be true, particularly in Senate races, where the battleground states are mostly red. But don’t underestimate how livid many women are. A spokeswoman for Emily’s List, which works to elect pro-choice female candidates, told me that the group raised more money the day after Blasey testified than on any day in the group’s history.
I’m terrified about the idea of the midterms becoming a referendum on patriarchy and thus awakening dormant Republican energy. For all his chaotic ignorance, Trump has a profound connection to his base’s grievances. He probably knew what he was doing this week when he mocked Blasey and rallied his voters to stand up to the #MeToo Jacobins.
As much as the prospect of Kavanaugh’s confirmation fills me with despair, I’ll be relieved when it’s over and this gutting, squalid chapter in American life comes to an end. But whatever happens, the ugliness of this episode, with its brute assertion of Ivy League male privilege, will leave a mark. Indelible in the hippocampus is the duplicity.
Very, very disturbing.  Right now, part of me wishes I was still in Europe.

More Thursday Male Beauty

Trump Curtailed FBI Investigation Will Not Legitimize Kavanaugh

With the White House directing the last minute FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, I guess it was a foregone conclusion that the investigation would be a joke and qualify as anything as legitimate.  The FBI's report was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee last night and there are reports that only one copy exists and Senators on the Committee will be given time slots to view it - an obvious effort to make sure copies aren't leaked which would convince the majority of Americans that the entire charade was rigged.   It is most obvious that Trump/McConnell/Grassley never wanted to find out the real truth. The entire scenario is like something out of Putin's Russia and sets a course where, if confirmed, Kavanaugh will be deemed forever illegitimate.  Worse yet, conservative 5-4 rulings will be seen as illegitimate and, in the minds of many, not binding or legitimate.  One can hope that some Republicans may vote "no" in light of the Trump manipulated investigation.  Failing that, it is imperative that Democrats retake control of the House of Representatives (and hopefully the Senate) and launch a proper investigation of Kavanaugh which will lead to either his resignation or his impeachment.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the farce that is the FBI report.  Here are excerpts:
The FBI background check of Brett M. Kavanaugh appeared to remain curtailed in its scope Wednesday even as agents neared the end of their work, opening up the possibility that the bureau would again face criticism over what some will view as a lackluster investigation.
Though complete details of the FBI’s findings had yet to be released Wednesday evening, the bureau’s inquiry seems to have focused mostly on an allegation by a California professor who claims Kavanaugh assaulted her decades ago at a party in Maryland, when both were high school students.
The Washington Post has been able to confirm interviews with only six witnesses, five of whom have a connection to the professor or her allegation.
The investigation was always unlikely to answer definitively whether Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual misconduct decades ago. But the probe’s limited scope — which was dictated by the White House, along with a Friday deadline — is likely to exacerbate the partisan tensions surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination.
[S]everal people who claimed to have information that could be useful said they ended up mired in bureaucracy when they tried to get in touch with the FBI. Democrats also cried foul over what they saw as inappropriate parameters that the White House seemed to be imposing on the bureau. The White House and the FBI have treated each other warily throughout the process, people familiar with the matter said. Both sides were mindful that their written communications might one day be subject to subpoena, particularly if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in next month’s midterm elections, the people said.
President Trump has insisted publicly he was not curtailing the FBI probe. But privately, the White House restricted the FBI from delving deeply into Kavanaugh’s youthful drinking and exploring whether he had lied to Congress about his alcohol use, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
The FBI, for example, interviewed Deborah Ramirez, who accused Kavanaugh of exposing his penis to her at a gathering when both were college students at Yale, and Ramirez’s team provided agents with more than 20 people who might have information relevant to her claims. But as of Wednesday, Ramirez’s team had no indication that the bureau had interviewed any of them.
The FBI also did not interview Christine Blasey Ford, her legal team said. . . . . Instead, the bureau interviewed three people who Ford said attended the party: Mark Judge, Patrick Smyth and Leland Keyser. The FBI also talked to two other friends of Kavanaugh’s who were listed as attending a gathering during the same summer that Ford alleged she was assaulted: Chris Garrett, who went out with Ford for a time, and Tim Gaudette.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said that agents also had apparently not talked to Kavanaugh himself.
“The White House confirmation that it will not allow the FBI to interview Dr. Blasey Ford, Judge Kavanaugh or witnesses identified by Deborah Ramirez raises serious concerns that this is not a credible investigation,” she said in a statement.
The FBI similarly had not — at least as of Wednesday — interviewed Julie Swetnick, who said in a declaration that Kavanaugh was physically abusive toward girls in high school and was present at a house party in 1982 where she says she was the victim of a “gang” rape. But the bureau did ask Judge, who was named in the affidavit, about her claims.
Richard Oh, an emergency room physician who lived in Kavanaugh’s first-year residence hall, said he contacted the FBI office in Denver to describe overhearing someone tearfully telling another student about an incident when Kavanaugh was a student at Yale. The incident, which Oh described to the New Yorker, involved a fake penis and a male student exposing himself.
Oh said he was put on hold and waited so long that he eventually submitted information through the FBI website.  “So far I haven’t heard back,” Oh said Tuesday. Wednesday night, he said that was still the case.
Lawyer Alan M. Abramson said he represented a friend of Ramirez’s who was hoping to share an account of a conversation the two had in the early 1990s about an incident in her freshman year. The friend, Abramson said, was among those whose names Ramirez’s lawyer had passed to the FBI.
Abramson said that when the friend, whom he declined to identify, did not hear from the bureau, he called a supervisor, who referred him to a field office, which said it would pass his information on. “I have not heard from them yet, but I am hopeful that they will still contact me,” Abramson said in an email to The Post.
Democracy is near death in America.  If Democrats do not prevail in the 2018 midterms, it may be time to consider leaving.  My only concern is how will I also get my children and their families out of the USA if it comes to that last ditch situation.

Trump and His Base - Cruelty Is the Point

A dark, but accurate, in my view, piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump and his supporters and the joy of inflicting cruelty on others which binds them together.   The piece starts out with descriptions of photos of grinning whites at the brutal lynchings then fast forwards to Trump and his appeals to white supremacists and Christian extremists who long to bring back the bad old days when blacks were official less than full citizens, gays were forced to remain in the closet and invisible, and women were largely relegated to homemaking and subordinate to men.  For me, I have a hard time understanding how decent, moral people could revel in harm being done to others, yet that seems to be the bond that ties Trump to his cheering base.  Even harder to comprehend is how/why self-respecting, moral  women - including some I know - can support Trump and his misogynistic male cheerleaders.  Are these people/women really so racist and/or homophobic that they applaud inhumanity towards others?  Sadly, "yes" seems to be the only answer.  Here are article highlights:

The Museum of African-American History and Culture is in part a catalogue of cruelty. Amid all the stories of perseverance, tragedy, and unlikely triumph, there are the artifacts of inhumanity and barbarism: the child-size slave shackles, the bright red robes of the wizards of the Ku Klux Klan, the recordings of civil rights protesters being brutalized by police.
The artifacts that persist in my memory, the way a bright flash does when you close your eyes, are the photographs of lynchings. But it’s not the burned, mutilated bodies that stick with me. It’s the faces of the white men in the crowd. There’s the photo of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith in Indiana in 1930, where a white man can be seen grinning at the camera as he tenderly holds the hand of his wife or girlfriend. There’s the undated photo from Duluth, Minnesota, where grinning white men stand next to the mutilated, half-naked bodies of two men lashed to a post in the street—one man is straining to get into the picture, his smile cutting from ear to ear. There’s the one of a crowd of white men huddled behind the smoldering corpse of a man burnt to death, one of whom is wearing a smart suit, a fedora hat, and a bright smile.
[P]eople who took immense pleasure in the utter cruelty of torturing others to death—and were so proud of doing so that they posed for photographs with their handiwork, jostling to ensure they caught the eye of the lens, so that the world would know they’d been there. Their cruelty made them feel good, it made them feel proud, it made them feel happy. And it made them feel closer to each other.
The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track. This week alone, the news broke that the Trump administration was seeking to ethnically cleanse more than 193,000 American children of immigrants whose temporary protected status had been revoked by the administration, that the Department of Homeland Security had lied about creating a database of children that would make it possible to unite them with the families the Trump administration had arbitrarily destroyed, that the White House was considering a blanket ban on visas for Chinese students, and that it would deny visas to the same-sex partners of foreign officials.
At a rally in Mississippi, a crowd of Trump supporters cheered as [Trump] the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has said that Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump has nominated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, attempted to rape her when she was a teenager. “Lock her up!” they shouted.
[M]ocking of her testimony renders all sexual-assault survivors collateral damage. Anyone afraid of coming forward, afraid that they would not be believed, can now look to [Trump] to see their fears realized. Once malice is embraced as a virtue, it is impossible to contain.
The cruelty of the Trump administration’s policies, and the ritual rhetorical flaying of his targets before his supporters, are intimately connected. As Lili Loofbourow wrote of the Kavanaugh incident in Slate, adolescent male cruelty towards women is a bonding mechanism, a vehicle for intimacy through contempt. The white men in the lynching photos are not merely smiling because of what they have done, but because they did it together.
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when [Trump] the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that they enjoy this cruelty, it is that they enjoy it with each other. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to each other, and to Trump.
Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.
[Trump] The president who demanded the execution of five black and Latino teenagers for a crime they didn’t commit decrying “false accusations,” when his Supreme Court nominee stands accused; his supporters who fancy themselves champions of free speech  meet references to Hillary Clinton or mentions of a woman whose only crime was coming forward to offer her own story of abuse with screams of, “Lock her up!” The political movement that elected a president who wanted to ban immigration by adherents of an entire religion, who encourages police to brutalize suspects, and who has destroyed thousands of immigrant families for violations of the law less serious than those of which he and his coterie stand accused, now laments the state of due process.
This isn’t incoherent. It reflects a clear principle: Only [Trump] the president and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim. This is how the powerful have ever kept the powerless divided and in their place, and enriched themselves in the process.
Trump’s only true skill is the con, his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. [Trump’s] The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.

Truly disturbing and frightening.  I do not recognize what America is becoming. It's as if we are living a parallel to what happened in Germany in the 1930's.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

"Conservative" Catholics Are Seeking Dirt on Cardinals

The culture wars that have rocked American society as Christofascists and white supremacists have sought to return the nation to the 1950's in a rebellion against modernity are also enveloping the Roman Catholic Church.  The "conservatives" within the Church likewise want to go back to the 1950's and reimpose a Church that predates Vatican II.  To achieve this agenda, they want to be rid of Pope Francis and are now looking for "dirt" on American cardinals who they seek to blame for the Church's continued sex abuse scandals.  The irony, of course, is that many of the members of the hierarchy that fostered the sex abuse scandal in the 1950's, 1960's and into the 1970's were old fashion "conservatives"  who rose to power prior to Vatican II.  The second irony is that the very adherence to bizarre dogma on sexuality (and the resultant psycho-sexual dysfunction of so many priests) which these conservatives want to reimpose played a huge role in setting the stage for the sex abuse scandals in the first place.  Indeed, rampant homophobia deeply motivates these "conservative" Catholics.  A piece in Slate looks at this right wing Catholic effort which, if successful, would likely trigger an even larger exodus from the Church on the part of Millennials and thinking Catholics.  Here are article highlights:
The culture war brewing within the American Catholic Church is about to get uglier.
A group of wealthy American Roman Catholics have banded together to fund what they describe as a public investigation into every member of the church’s College of Cardinals. As the Catholic news site Crux reported on Monday, the group has assembled almost 100 academics, investigators, journalists, and former FBI agents to produce what it’s calling the “Red Hat Report.” The watchdog group plans to spend more than $1 million in its first year, with the goal of naming “those credibly accused in scandal, abuse, or cover-ups” and influencing the selection of the next pope.
The group is responding to an obvious crisis: The Catholic Church is in the throes of multiple overlapping clerical abuse scandals, including the resignation in disgrace of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick this summer. Meanwhile, a Pennsylvania grand jury found that more than 300 priests in the state had abused more than 1,000 children over the course of decades. By mid-September, eight other states had announced similar investigations. (That’s to say nothing of recent church scandals in other countries, including Chile and Germany.) And the Vatican, including the institution under Pope Francis, has been accused of ignoring or even covering up the rot.
The goal of the new Better Church Governance group, as Crux’s story makes clear, is to influence the selection of the next pope, who will be chosen by a subset of current cardinals.
An independent investigation might sound like a straightforwardly encouraging development. What could be wrong with an attempt by outraged lay Catholics to shed sunlight on an ongoing scandal that the church hierarchy has utterly failed to confront? The trouble is that the church’s abuse scandals have become a proxy in a much larger ecclesiastical battle. The wealthy Americans behind Better Church Governance are crusading not just against Pope Francis’ leadership, but against cardinals with insufficient theological adherence to “traditional values”—and particularly against homosexuality in the church.
The new group is sponsored by the Center for Evangelical Catholicism, and its leaders have affiliations with a wide array of conservative institutions, including Hillsdale College and Crisis magazine. Many conservative critics of Pope Francis view the current abuse crisis as springing from a “homosexual subculture” in the church . . . . (A 2011 report found that gay priests were no more likely to abuse minors than straight priests; a rise in gay priests in the 1970s and 1980s was actually associated with a decrease in abuse.)
An attendee at the organization’s Sunday launch event in Washington asked if the report would include information about the cardinals’ sexuality. The report will follow the church’s moral law, Imam answered: “If there is a rumor of him being homosexual, it will be noted very carefully … but we need to be sure.” The Red Hat Report will also note whether each cardinal’s known views align with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith . . .
Francis’s defenders and other non-conservatives in the church are wary of the new group’s motives. “At least they’re transparent about their hate,” tweeted the Rev. James Martin, an influential Jesuit priest who has criticized the church’s approach to homosexuality. “As in many far-right Catholic circles, simply being gay = being ‘corrupt.’ ” Another prominent priest and theologian called the group “self-appointed vigilante ideologues.”
The conservative Pope Benedict XVI was accused of covering it up, and now similar allegations have been weaponized by the former pope’s political allies against his replacement. The stench is so ubiquitous, touching church authorities in every era, from every jurisdiction, of every theological bent, that it can always be found wafting from the other side, no matter which side you’re on.
The Red Hat Report may end up doing much-needed work to investigate and illuminate sexual corruption. Along the way, it could splinter the American church along already-fragile ideological fault lines, and introduce the smear tactics of a political campaign to the selection of the next pope.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Trump/Pence Continues Its Brutal Treatment of Immigrant Children

One of the mysteries in politics is how the Republican Party continues to claim it is the party of "Christian values."  The same applies to evangelicals who continue to support a self-confessed serial adulterer and sexual molester.  Yet much of the main stream media never confronts the Republican lies much less the falsehoods and acceptance of evil by right wing religious "leaders" such as Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. - and many more - who are 100% on board with the GOP's anti-Gospel message policies.  Polls have shown that roughly half of evangelicals want Brett Kavanaugh confirmed even if he is guilty of the various allegations against him.  But nowhere is the moral bankruptcy of today's GOP and its base more telling than in the manner in which detained immigrant children are being treated.  Such treatment underscores the reality that to the GOP base - including the hypocrisy-filled evangelicals who fill church pews - only whites are human.  Everyone else is to be treated like animals.  A piece in Think Progress looks at the continued mistreatment of detained immigrant children.  Here are excerpts:
Migrant children separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy have been subjected to harsh conditions in U.S. detention facilities, an unpublished report by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General found.
The report, obtained by The Washington Post, found at least 860 migrant children were held in Border Patrol holding cells longer than 72-hours, the maximum length of time mandated by the U.S. courts. One child was held for 12 days and another for 25.
The Border Patrol holding cells are notoriously torturous, earning the nickname of “hieleras,” or “ice box,” among the immigrants who have spent time in the frigid spaces with few — if any — blankets.
The holding cells were designed as a temporary stop for minors as they wait to be transferred to shelters run by Health and Human Services (HHS). Aside from their frigid temperatures, many of them also lack adequate beds, have zero shower facilities, and are essentially chain-link holding pens. Reports of harsh physical conditions were outlined in a court filing earlier this summer and based on interviews between immigration lawyers and detained children, about their time in the holding cells and contractor-run detention facilities for unaccompanied minors.
“There is no privacy. It is dirty and they don’t clean it,” a Guatemalan boy named Erick said, describing his first three days in Border Patrol custody. “The room is always cold. The guards took my sweater. I sleep on the floor. There are 3 mattresses, but the boys from Honduras have taken them.”
The DHS OIG report also describes just how poorly mismanaged the zero tolerance policy was — how it left parents with little-to-no information on their children’s whereabouts and no plan for how to reunite them.
DHS investigators discovered that officials shared minor’s files via Microsoft Word email attachments because the government’s internal systems were unstable. “Each step of this manual process is vulnerable to human error, increasing the risk that a child could become lost in the system,” the report stated.
Border Patrol agents separated children who could not yet speak from their parents and did not provide wrist bracelets or any other form of identification to the children, nor were they ever fingerprinted or photographed to ensure they were linked to the correct case file. Though the abusive family separation practice was technically ended through executive order months ago — the Trump administration effectively reversed its own previous policy — hundreds of children remain separated from their parents, most of them deemed “ineligible for reunification by the federal government.” 136 children are still in custody, 3 of whom are under the age of 5. Many of their parents say they were deported before they could be reunited with their children, and some claim they were pressured to give up their right to reunification by officials who used English-only documents and confusing instructions.

Proud to be an American?  I am not - I am ashamed.  Next time you hear some Trump supporter pontificating and, worse yet, spreading misogyny, please throw this reality in their face.  If they support these policies, know for certain that they are NOT true Christians.  They are evil. 

Michael Bloomberg to Donate $20 Million for Senate Democrats

Michael Bloomberg who suggested that he might be considering a 2020 run for president has announced that he is donating $20 million to aid Senate Democrat races.  The funds will hopefully increase Democrat odds of flipping control of the U.S. Senate as well as the House of Representatives which has been the prime goal of Democrats.  The donation comes on top of a previous huge donation made to boost Democrat efforts to capture control of the House.  And, yes, it should make Bloomberg much more attractive to Democrats as 2020 nears.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Bloomberg's action.  Here are excerpts:
Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City who is considering a 2020 presidential campaign, will give $20 million to the main Democratic Senate super PAC this week — jolting the national battle for control of the chamber just five weeks away from the midterm elections.
Bloomberg’s intervention bolsters the Democrats’ Senate chances by infusing significant late-season capital into the Senate Majority PAC, a group that had $29 million on hand at the end of August and has been purchasing advertising in expensive media markets.
Bloomberg — a former Republican and declared political independent — says the emotional national debate over ­sexual-assault allegations against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh has energized Democratic voters and provides an opening for the party to be more competitive in rallying women and swing voters, his advisers said Tuesday, adding that he sees last week’s contentious hearings as a tipping point.
“Mike was extraordinarily disappointed in the Republican leadership in the Senate and feels increasingly passionate about changing it,” Bloomberg adviser Kevin Sheekey said. “And he’s already enthusiastic about the impact he’s having on House races and increasingly confident that he can contribute to a Democratic takeover.”
The enormous sum brings Bloomberg — who has already pledged to spend $80 million to support Democratic congressional candidates — up to $100 million in spending commitments for the 2018 election cycle, firmly positioning himself in the Democratic camp as he contemplates a bid for the White House.
Sheekey said Bloomberg would send the $20 million check in coming days to the Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats and is closely aligned with Bloomberg’s longtime friend, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Trump’s continued unpopularity among voters nationally and the charged cultural environment around Kavanaugh’s nomination have prompted top Democrats to increasingly turn their attention to the Senate, even as flipping the House remains the party’s focus.
As Kavanaugh’s nomination has stalled, Democrats have seen an opportunity as Republicans defend him. Democrats have hoped to strengthen their connection with the #MeToo movement and women nationally, with Democratic senators such as Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) emerging as party stars.
Bloomberg’s political group has targeted expensive House races in places such as California, looking to lift Democrats in areas where advertising comes at a steep price. “Right now I’m only focused on the midterms,” Bloomberg told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last month. “I believe that the Republicans have not done what they should have done in terms of providing some counterbalance to the executive branch.”
Bloomberg is one of the rare mega-donors in national Democratic politics who is seriously eyeing a 2020 campaign. Billionaire former hedge fund chief Tom Steyer, who has funneled millions behind the causes of impeaching Trump and climate change, also has said that he would not rule out a presidential run.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Trump/Pence Regime Ends Diplomatic Visas for UN Same-Sex Partners

Since taking office, Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their minions Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos have waged an unceasing war on LGBT Americans, keeping Trump's frightening promises to Christofascist leaders in June, 2016.  If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh would likely use his position on the Supreme Court to further rescind rights and protections for LGBT Americans.  But Trump/Pence is not limiting its attacks to LGBT Americans.  Now, partners of LGBT diplomats to the United Nations will lose their visas if they are not legally married.  The move is not motivated by a desire to encourage same-sex marriage, but rather to force such partners from the USA since many countries still do not permit same sex marriage.  A piece in the BBC looks at this foul move which will make Christofascist hate merchants happy.  Never under estimate the cruelty and pettiness of Trump/Pence and its Christofascist supporters.   Here are story excerpts:
The US has announced it will deny diplomatic visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees.  The change went into effect on Monday, giving partners currently in the US until 31 December to leave, get married or otherwise change their visa. It is a reversal of rules introduced in 2009.
Currently, 25 countries have recognised same-sex marriage. Homosexuality remains illegal in 71 countries.
The new Trump administration policy update was circulated in a United Nations (UN) memo. The memo states: "As of 1 October 2018, same-sex domestic partners accompanying or seeking to join newly arrived United Nations officials must provide proof of marriage to be eligible for a G-4 visa or to seek a change into such status." G-4 visas are granted to employees of international organisations and their immediate families.
According to the State Department, "only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for immigration purposes".
[C]ritics have called the move unfair to homosexual partners, given a large number of countries do not recognise same-sex marriage. Former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power decried the policy, calling it "needlessly cruel and bigoted".
The UN-Globe, advocates for LGBT equality in the UN, said the Trump administration's new policy was "an unfortunate change in rules".
"Couples already inside of the United States could go to city hall and get married. But they could potentially be exposed to prosecution if they return to a country that criminalises homosexuality or same-sex marriages."
After the end of this year, unmarried same-sex partners of diplomats and UN employees will be expected to leave the US within 30 days if they remain unmarried and without a visa status change.
The only exception, however, would be same-sex partners of officials coming from countries that do not recognise same-sex marriage. They will be granted a diplomatic visa if the government which sends them to work in their embassies in the US grants the same privileges to same-sex partners of US officials sent to that country.
The new policy is a reversal of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2009 decision to allow same-sex domestic partners of foreign officials diplomatic visas.  State Department officials say there are around 105 families total that could be affected by the policy.
Akshaya Kumar, the Deputy UN Director of Human Rights Watch, wrote that the change "will have an insidious impact on same-sex couples".  "The US government should recognise, as it had for almost nine years until today, that requiring a marriage as proof of bona fide partnership is a bad and cruel policy, one that replicates the terrible discrimination many LGBT people face in their own countries, and should be immediately reversed."