Saturday, February 02, 2019

Federal Judge Says Conversion Therapy Torture Protected by First Amendment

Judge who would allow child abuse.
Shockingly, a federal judge in Florida has preliminary ruled that Tampa's bar on conversion therapy torture for minors should be blocked by a temporary injunction.  One has to wonder if  Magistrate Judge Amanda Arnold Sansone believes that other felony child abuse laws should be similarly enjoined.  Despite the fact that EVERY legitimate medical and mental health association condemns the practice and labels it as dangerous, Sansome seems to have bought the lies of the vitriolically anti-gay Liberty Counsel and deems children as chattel property of their parents with no right to be protected from parental abuse and fraudulent practices.  One has to wonder how many suicides of LGBT youth Sansone's ruling may have as its result if it stands.  Think Progress looks at this dangerous ruling.  Here are article highlights:
A federal magistrate judge in Florida recommended Wednesday that Tampa’s ban on anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy for minors be halted, which would enable practitioners of the treatment to continue trying to shame kids out of their same-sex orientations.
The anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel brought the complaint on behalf of two therapists and a Christian ministry that provide counseling to help “reduce or eliminate same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors or identity.” They argued that because all they provide is talk therapy, their sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) constitute “speech” protected under the First Amendment that cannot be restricted by law. U.S. Magistrate judge Amanda Arnold Sansone agreed, recommending a preliminary injunction.
Sansone concluded that the city could have more narrowly tailored the ban to only restrict “involuntary” counseling, only ban “aversive” treatments like electroshock therapy, or require informed consent. She also agreed that Tampa was engaging in viewpoint discrimination and idea suppression because it “disagreed with the ideas expressed” in conversion therapy.
“The plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated Ordinance 2017-47’s overbroad prohibition on non-coercive, non-aversive SOCE counseling consisting entirely of speech or ‘talk therapy’ is likely unconstitutional,” she wrote.
The problem with this ruling is that it completely ignores everything major medical organizations have said about conversion therapy. When the American Psychological Association issued its massive report on SOCE in 2009, it didn’t say that some SOCE is harmful and some isn’t. It said that any effort to try to help patients reject or change their sexual orientation risked harm.
Specifically addressing SOCE for minors, the report noted, “SOCE that focus on negative representations of homosexuality and lack a theoretical or evidence base provide no documented benefits and can pose harm through increasing sexual stigma and providing inaccurate information.” It instead recommended affirming treatments that work with families to help them accept their children for who they are and work to address how that sexual orientation intersects with their beliefs and values.
Likewise, even if a minor is given the option to consent, that doesn’t mean they aren’t being coerced into the treatment by their families. One of the primary reasons LGBTQ young people are vastly overrepresented among homeless youth is because they face rejection by their families, which can often take the form of ultimatums to pursue some form of conversion therapy. Sansone’s recommendation does not immediately enjoin the Tampa’s ban, but the case now proceeds to a federal district judge for final consideration.

I hope the ruling is reversed.  As for Sansone, she needs to get her head out of her ass and educate herself about the evil she is permitting. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, February 01, 2019

Don't be Duped by a Media Seeking Sensation and False "Balance" by Attacks on Northam

The media has engaged in an orgiastic frenzy over images from a 35 year old yearbook that outwardly depict Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a personal friend, in an unflattering way and designed to suggest that Northam is somehow a closet racist. These are my reflections based on the Ralph Northam I know and the knee jerk reactions of some “progressives” and members of the LGBT community who trash their strongest advocates in an apparent quest for perfection that Christ himself could not satisfy.  Meanwhile, why isn't anyone asking why Eastern Virginia Medical School allowed such content in the school's yearbook in the first place?

Sadly, it is part and parcel with the media’s desire to stir sensationalism – which sells publications and prompts page views on online sites –and an obsession for “balance” that is employed time and time again to support a false equivalency between the Republican Party –which IS a racist party – and the Democrat Party. The truth and surrounding circumstances truly do not matter as long as publications are sold and page views are generated.

Governor Northam has apologized for a “racist and offensive” costume seen on his 1984 medical school yearbook page (the photo shows a person in blackface and another in full Ku Klux Klan robes). The governor did not say which costume (if any) he was wearing. Northam, in a statement said the behavior was not in keeping with his values and he will work to heal the damage he has caused. I have known Northam since 2007 when he ran for the Virginia Senate.  We first met at a fundraiser at the home a mutual friend.  In that successful campaign, Northam defeated Nick Rerras who I had known since my days on the City Committee for the Republican Party of the City of Virginia Beach.  In that election, Northam’s opponent, Rerras was a religious extremist and, in my view, like most “Christian conservatives” in Virginia, basically a racist. Northam’s lack of prejudice and religious extremism is what helped him secure victory.

I note Northam’s history from 2007, because locally, one of the publications engaging in the effort to trash Northam - and no doubt boost its own flagging revenues is the Virginian Pilot. I know from firsthand experience from my own run for political office a quarter century ago, that the Pilot cares absolutely nothing about the truth if it interferes with sensationalism that might sell newspapers or, nowadays, generate page views.  In that campaign despite have been provided with information that my opponent had a fraudulent PhD, the Pilot sat on that information.  The Pilot also went on to label me “Christian Right” – time has shown what a lie that was.

But, back to the immediate controversy involving Governor Northam.  For regular blog readers, it is no secret that the mindless effort to present “balance” on the part of the media drives me to distraction. Here we have a yearbook page from 35 years ago that is seemingly being used to equate Northam with the overt racists of the GOP base and the occupant of the White House who described white supremacists in Charlottesville who rioted and murdered one woman as “very fine people” in 2017.  Then, of course, we had the racist GOP rhetoric in the 2018 midterm elections and the ongoing GOP effort across the nation to disenfranchise black voters, something Northam adamantly opposes.  There is NO equivalence between incidents 35 years ago and those that are happening today. Shame on the media by a slight of hand for trying to make the two equivalent.

The last things I want to say are my first hand knowledge of Ralph Northam and his wife Pam. Unlike most people, my husband and I know them well and have shared private moments most will never have the opportunity to experience. During the 2017 Democrat primary, our home was the Northam headquarters for the Northam campaign.  We were able to see Ralph interact with the campaign volunteers, many of whom were black.  Ralph was gracious, kind and displayed zero prejudice. Indeed, I have never seen him treat anyone as less than his equal or take himself too seriously.  When not in campaign mode, we have spent time with the Northams, spent the night in their home and talked and laughed over drinks and dinner and seen them as their true selves. Never, ever, did we see even a hint of racial prejudice.  

I sincerely hope that past Northam supporters will take a deep breath and NOT fall for the sensation that the media – and behind the scenes, the GOP – must be enjoying.  It is sad to see a very fine man being trashed for events from 35 years ago while the modern day racists all too often get a free pass. I stand by Northam without hesitation. 

In closing, I pose a question someone posted on Facebook: It’s also funny the same Republicans that want him {Northam] to step down are the ones that celebrated Confederate generals during the current legislative session. Why didn’t these Republicans get asked to step down?

More Friday Male Beauty

Don't Be Fooled, It’s Republicans Who Ruined the Country

The other day a local young, privileged, white gay man with no children to support wrote an op-ed in the Virginian Pilot that stated he was proud to be a Republican and then went on to bloviate about the usual supposed merits of the Republican agenda: smaller government, fiscal responsibility, etc., etc.  Things that might once have been true of the GOP more than two decades ago when I was an active Republican. Those days, however, are long gone and Republicans cut from that cloth are as extinct as the dinosaurs in today's party of Trump. The reality is that today's GOP has overseen the rise of wealth disparity not seen since the Gilded Age and the slow death of the middle class. Further, today's GOP's core base consists of religious extremists and white supremacists.  Yet, I am sure that this young Republican views himself as a centrist even though personally I do not understand how one can still claim to be a Republican and not in fact be a racist. A column in the New York Times looks at the problem of so-called political centrists who continue the error of much of the media that gives false equivalency to Republicans and Democrats.  As the column points out, the real extremism is with the GOP despite pretense to the contrary. Until average Americans  (and the media) wake up to this reality, expect damage to the nation by the GOP to continue.  Here are column excerpts:

Why is American politics so dysfunctional? Whatever the deeper roots of our distress, the proximate cause is ideological extremism: Powerful factions are committed to false views of the world, regardless of the evidence.
Notice that I said factions, plural. There’s no question that the most disruptive, dangerous extremists are on the right. But there’s another faction whose obsessions and refusal to face reality have also done a great deal of harm.
But I’m not talking about the left. Radical leftists are virtually nonexistent in American politics; can you think of any prominent figure who wants us to move to the left of, say, Denmark? No, I’m talking about fanatical centrists.
Over the past few days we’ve been treated to the ludicrous yet potentially destructive spectacle of Howard Schultz, the Starbucks billionaire, insisting that he’s the president we need despite his demonstrable policy ignorance. Schultz obviously thinks he knows a lot of things that just aren’t so. Yet his delusions of knowledge aren’t that special. For the most part, they follow conventional centrist doctrine.
Schultz, however, still declares debt our biggest problem. Yet true to centrist form, his deficit concerns are oddly selective. Bowles and Simpson, charged with proposing a solution to deficits, listed as their first principle … reducing tax rates. Sure enough, Schultz is all into cutting Social Security, but opposes any tax hike on the wealthy.  Funny how that works.
In general, centrists are furiously opposed to any proposal that would ease the lives of ordinary Americans. Universal health coverage, says Schultz, would be “free health care for all, which the country cannot afford.”
[S]ingle-payer health care (actually called Medicare!) hasn’t bankrupted Canada. In fact, every advanced country besides America has some form of universal health coverage, and manages to afford it.
The real issue with “Medicare for all” isn’t costs — the taxes needed to pay for it would almost surely be less than what Americans now pay in insurance premiums. The problem instead would be political: It would be tricky persuading people to trade private insurance for a public program. That’s a real concern for Medicare-for-all advocates, but it’s not at all what either Schultz or Bloomberg is saying.
Finally, the hallmark of fanatical centrism is the determination to see America’s left and right as equally extreme, no matter what they actually propose.
[N]ow, with Democrats taking a turn that is more progressive but hardly radical, centrist rhetoric has become downright hysterical. Medicare and Medicaid already cover more than a third of U.S. residents and pay more bills than private insurance.
But Medicare for all, says Schultz, is “not American.” Elizabeth Warren has proposed taxes on the wealthy that are squarely in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt; Bloomberg says that they would turn us into Venezuela.
Where does the fanaticism of the centrists come from? Much of the explanation, I think, is sheer vanity.  Both pundits and plutocrats like to imagine themselves as superior beings, standing above the political fray. They want to think of themselves as standing tall against extremism right and left. Yet the reality of American politics is asymmetric polarization: extremism on the right is a powerful political force, while extremism on the left isn’t. What’s a would-be courageous centrist to do?
The answer, all too often, is to retreat into a fantasy world, almost as hermetic as the right-wing, Fox News bubble. In this fantasy world, social democrats like Harris or Warren are portrayed as the second coming of Hugo Chávez, so that taking what is actually a conservative position can be represented as a brave defense of moderation.
But that’s not what is really happening, and the rest of us have no obligation to indulge centrist delusions.
It is nothing short of delusion to pretend the extreme GOP of today is the same as the party of my youth and young adulthood.  That party is dead and gone and its successor has inflicted real harm on millions of Americans.  It's time to accept that reality.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Extremist Derailed the Equal Rights Amendment Yet Again

Victoria Cobb - A leading face of hate in Virginia.
During this current session of the Virginia General Assembly, Virginia had the opportunity to pass the federal Equal Rights Amendment and put it over the top in terms of the number of states that must ratify a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  True to form, Virginia Republicans in the House of Delegates killed passage.  What most outside observes do not realize is that one woman is largely to blame.  She holds no elected office.  Instead, she is the head of The Family Foundation ("TFF"), Virginia's leading hate group, to whom Virginia Republicans grovel like circus dogs before a cruel trainer or spineless men before a whip cracking dominatrix.  Her name is Victoria Cobb and her stock in trade is lies, untruths and hate.  While Cobb wraps herself in the cloak of being "pro-life," she and her minions oppose state and federal government programs that seek to aid the poor, the sick, the homeless and the less fortunate.  Indeed, once one passes out of their mother's birth canal, they become invisible and irrelevant to Cobb and TFF.

Cobb is also well known to LGBT Virginians whose lives she has worked to make a living hell for years through the dissemination of deliberate lies and duping the ignorant and uneducated.  She can also always be found opposing any progressive legislation in Virginia as she strives to roll back time to the 1950's when women were deeply subordinate to men and women resorted to back alley abortions. There's another reason Cobb longs for the 1950's - segregation still reigned supreme in Virginia in the 1950's - and it is no coincidence that TFF's ancestry traces back to those who supported Massive Resistance (for non-Virginians, that's when public schools were closed rather than integrate and private "Christian" academies sprung up in their place).  This is the woman and organization to whom Virginia Republicans prostitute themselves year after year.  If one wants to hold up a face that represents hate in Virginia, Cobb's would definitely be one of them.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the smug, self-satisfied Cobb who is clueless - and could care less - about the reality of the lives of so many women. Here are column highlights:
It’s 2019, a surge of women just won election to Congress and the Virginia legislature, and it looks like the Equal Rights Amendment may be stopped dead in its tracks again.
By a woman. Again.  Meet the new Phyllis Schlafly: Victoria Cobb, who says she achieved all her success before reaching her 40th birthday without help from any amendment, so the rest of American women don’t need it, either.
The ERA, first written 95 years ago, regained new momentum in this #MeToo era after years of dormancy. And Virginia was poised to become the 38th state to ratify it, filling in that three-quarters majority of states required for it to become official. In Richmond, the GOP-led Senate passed the ERA bill earlier this month. And celebrities, lawmakers and activists were touting its revival on Capitol Hill in Washington. But then a tiny subcommittee in Richmond — the House Privileges and Elections subcommittee — voted along party lines to block the amendment from reaching the House floor after heavy lobbying from Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia.
After that subcommittee quash last Tuesday, Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax), one of the two men on that subcommittee to vote yes, tried to introduce it to the full House Privileges and Elections Committee anyhow on Friday. That was defeated by a 12-to-10 vote along party lines.
Cobb’s crusade was helped along by that subcommittee’s chair, the equally stunning and storybook-perfect Del. Margaret B. Ransone (R-Westmoreland).  Ransone also presents herself as the strong, capable “mother, wife, successful businesswoman” on her website who doesn’t need any darn amendment to protect her in the workplace or home or public space.
Except, of course, her powerful place in the world of business is her family’s oyster company, where she has worked most of her adult life. Good thing there’s no sexual harassment or gender discrimination there, right?
Cobb, the president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, is from a lovely suburb of Philadelphia, where she went to a private Christian school, played field hockey, learned to work against the ERA from her doting grandmother, and found her passion for fighting abortion rights when she was in sixth grade.
Her life has not included single motherhood while working the swing shift at a diner, the boss who grabs your butt and will cut your hours if you resist, a pregnancy that could kill you and leave your four children motherless, parents who kicked you out, or a husband who left and skipped child support.
Cobb pegs most of her anti-ERA crusade on abortion, convincing folks that somehow, if women were to finally be included in the constitution, it would mean all kinds of public money would be funding abortion.  Um, no. That’s not the goal of ERA.
We can consult a legendary conservative Supreme Court justice for the truth that women’s equality is not explicitly protected in the constitution or in the 14th Amendment.   “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t,” the late justice Antonin Scalia said in a 2010 interview with California Lawyer magazine.
These women occupy a very privileged place in American society, and they hold up their very tidy lives as proof that the ERA is unnecessary.
But plenty of women don’t have her advantages, or the advantages that many white, middle-class women in stable families and marriages have.
Religion is a big part of conservative women’s politics and activism. When it comes to the protections that the Equal Rights Amendment would provide, perhaps they’d consider this perspective: There, but for the grace of God, go I.
Yes, the column was far too kind to Cobb.  In my opinion, she makes the Pharisees of the Bible look upstanding and hypocrisy free.

More Thursday Male Beauty

Trump/Pence Regime Green Lights Discrimination in South Carolina

Miracle Hill Ministries: anti-gay, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic. 
I have long argued that evangelical Christians' feigned persecution by society and disingenuous bloviating about "religious liberty" has actually been part of a larger evangelical effort to legalize discrimination against who the falsely pious do not like.  While, LGBT citizens are a favored target, evangelical "religious liberty" seeks to legalize discrimination by taxpayer funded organizations on a much larger scale.  Eager to retain support from evangelicals - the largest support group for the morally bankrupt Trump -and Pence - The Trump/Pence Department of Health and Human Services has given the green light to discrimination by a right wing "Christian" organization in South Carolina to discriminate against gays, Catholics, Jews, and I suspect, if they are discrete, blacks, in making adoption and foster care placements.  Since the organization receives taxpayer funds, Trump/Pence is in effect forcing targeted taxpayers to support an organization that openly discriminates against them.  The situation parallels what the established Church of England enjoyed in colonial times that the Founding Fathers sought to prohibit through the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Right Wing Watch looks at this travesty.  Here are excerpts:   
In a move that brought a startling clarity to the end game for “religious liberty” claims made by Religious Right political and legal groups, the Department of Health and Human Services last week granted a waiver from federal non-discrimination rules to South Carolina, allowing the state to continue funneling tax dollars to Miracle Hill, a child welfare agency that refuses to place foster children with Jewish or Catholic families—or anyone who doesn’t share Miracle Hill’s conservative evangelical religious doctrine. The waiver also applies to all other South Carolina faith-based foster care agencies.
“Under Miracle Hill’s policies, not only Jews are rejected” as potential mentors and foster parents, reported the Religion News Service. “Muslims, Hindus and atheists are also barred from fostering or mentoring children in the nonprofit’s programs; so too are Catholics.” Don’t even ask about same-sex couples, even if they’re Protestant. Miracle Hill has reportedly received millions of dollars from the state and federal governments.
What makes this development even more jaw-dropping is that at the very same moment the Trump administration is deferring to the far right and approving this taxpayer-funded religious discrimination, the right-wing Judicial Crisis Network is promoting a video dishonestly accusing Democratic senators of anti-Catholic bigotry over their questioning of judicial nominees.  A previous JCN ad attacking senators over their questioning of appeals court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was actually entitled “Catholics Need Not Apply.”
The smears against the senators are false, and reflect a strategy meant to smooth a path to the Supreme Court for Barrett, who some Religious Right leaders have called God’s anointed choice to fill the next vacancy. But in the case of Miracle Hill, an actual “No Catholics Need Apply” rule has been given formal approval by South Carolina’s governor and the Trump administration.
In pushing for broad religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws, Religious Right groups have almost always made gay people and same-sex couples the bad guys—the ones religious social service agencies and business owners don’t want to be “forced” to serve. The idea that businesses could use the same principle to return to a time when it was legal to discriminate against, say, interfaith couples, is no longer theoretical.
Miracle Hill says it works with “Christian” families. But when it says “Christian,” it really means Protestants, and only those who meet the agency’s religious standards. No one else.
Allowing this kind of discrimination with tax dollars is a huge change. Federal civil rights rules have at times allowed religiously affiliated social service agencies to restrict staff hiring to people with similar religious beliefs. But that rule has never applied to the provision of services with taxpayer money. In other words, a church-affiliated charity that gets government funding to help feed or house poor people may be able to hire only Christian staff, but it couldn’t—at least up to now—feed only the right kind of Christian poor people.
And yet the Trump administration and its Religious Right cheerleaders characterized the waiver as a victory for religious freedom.
The Religious Right’s long campaign to redefine “religious liberty” has taken a core constitutional principle that is meant to be a shield protecting Americans’ free exercise of religion, and turned it into a sword against nondiscrimination laws. That sword, it is now clear, will not only be used to target LGBTQ people, but anyone who doesn’t embrace the Religious Right’s worldview.
Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, praised the Miracle Hill waiver, saying, “Culture wars shouldn’t stand in the way of those seeking to care for children in need.” But allowing state-funded agencies to reject an experienced foster mother on the basis of her religious beliefs—like a Jewish woman turned away by Miracle Hill—denies vulnerable children access to qualified care providers.
The Trump administration’s move makes both state and federal governments complicit in explicit discrimination against non-Christians and Christians who don’t meet conservative evangelicals’ approval. The Anti-Defamation League has rightly called it a “dangerous precedent.” That’s especially true in an era in which Christian nationalists and dominionists are committed to building more political power.
The Department of Health and Human Services was a top takeover target for Religious Right groups who helped put Trump in the White House. The new waiver is just the latest sign of the extraordinary and damaging influence on policy that Religious Right activists have in the Trump administration.
I'm sorry, but evangelicals are the least Christian, most morally abhorrent group going. Note the Southern Baptist Convention's ("SBC") lauding of the waiver.  But then, the SBC was created because it supported slavery and discrimination.  Some things seemingly never change.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Franklin Graham Denies That Trump Lies

Trump, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr. - all morally bankrupt.
Donald Trump is likely the most morally bankrupt individual to every occupy the White House.  Besides being a serial adulterer who has illicit affairs and then pays hush money to his mistresses, he lies incessantly.  Indeed, the Washington Post has tallied 8,158 lies during Trump's first two years in office. It's to a point where I - and likely a majority of Americans - believe that if Trump's lips are moving, it's a near guarantee that he is lying (the same goes for press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of a habitual liar).  Yet, despite Trump's easily proven thousands of lies, evangelical Christian charlatans like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., continue to stand by an individual who is the antithesis of true Christian values and behavior.  Why? A thirst for political power and perhaps a last desperate hope of inflicting their Bronze Age myth based beliefs on the nation.  Meanwhile, 40% of the under 30 generations have left religion and more and more of older Americans are joining the so-called "Nones" and for good reason given the moral bankruptcy of, in my view, the vast majority of evangelicals.  A piece in Mediate looks at Franklin Graham's unbelievable batshitery as he continues to give Trump political fellatio.  Here are excerpts:

MSNBC’s Craig Melvin spoke with Evangelical leader Franklin Graham this morning and asked him about the number of false statements from President Donald Trump.
Melvin brought up a recent op-ed Graham wrote about the truth before noting that the most recent Washington Post tally of Trump’s false or misleading statements now stands at 8158. “How do you reconcile that?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know how to reconcile that, because I don’t know,” Graham said. “You have a fact checker for the president, but I don’t know if you have a fact checker for the media at the same time.”
Melvin jumped in to say, “Pastor Graham, you and I both know that this president has said things over and over that aren’t true.”
“No, I don’t know that,” Graham responded. “I don’t sit around and try to find every fault in the president every day, looking for everything that he might have misspoken or mis-said. I don’t do that.”
Melvin again pressed him to acknowledge that Trump says “things that aren’t true.” Graham said the President misspeaks but he’s not “sitting there behind the desk trying to make up lies.”

Clearly, Graham is as big of a liar as Trump. The only positive of it all is that Graham is hastening Christianity toward becoming a dead religion.  When Christianity dies, it will be Christofascists like Graham who ultimately killed it. 

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Commentators Too Cowardly to Reveal Their Identity

It seems I need to re-post this message regularly in response cowardly commentators who lack the courage of their convictions and reveal their identities  when leaving comments.  This is what I had to say on this issue roughly a year ago which I restate again:

Unfortunately, over the life of this blog I have had to make it clear that those who wish to leave comments on blog posts who lack the spine to reveal their identities and put their name and who they are behind their opinions will not be given a platform.  Since the birth of this blog I have not hidden my identity and who I am, where I live, etc.  Yes, it has brought me death threats - typically from "godly Christian" types - but based on my upbringing and decades of involvement in politics, if you want to voice an opinion, have the balls to stand behind it and do not hide behind an "anonymous" identity.  As I have said before, if you are too gutless and cowardly to reveal your true identity, then do NOT expect me to provide a platform for your noxious commentary.  You will not be provided with a platform.  If you want your comment published, have a profile that reveals your identity. Otherwise, your comment will be deleted and not published. 

FYI - the comment - which was deleted - which prompted this post was from a Christofascist upset with my honest assessment of Mike Pence who ranted (inaccurately) about abortion.  I suspect the individual is a devoted Fox News viewer.

Trump Has Given a Green Light for Attacks on Gays and Non-Whites

Some of my ancestors on my maternal side arrived in what is now the United States between at least 170 and 220 years ago and I have ancestors who are army veterans in wars from the Civil War, WWI and WWII.  For many blacks in Virginia, their ancestors began their forced immigration here in Hampton, Virginia 400 years ago.   And large swaths of America's Southwest were once part of Mexico.  Yet, in Donald Trump's America, at least in the minds of his bigoted and racist supporters, the only "real Americans" are white, right wing Christian heterosexuals.  And let's not forget Trump's statement that there were some "very fine" people among the white supremacists who terrorized Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.  Now, seemingly even black celebrities need to be fearful in Trump's America as evidenced by the attack on Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the Fox television show “Empire" in Chicago.  This is not OK and should not be "OK" with anyone decent and moral - including Republican "friends." A piece in the New York Times looks at this disturbing incident (not the shouts about "MAGA country"): 

Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of the Fox television show “Empire,” was attacked in Chicago early Tuesday morning by two people who yelled racial and homophobic slurs and wrapped a rope around his neck, according to the police, who said they were investigating the incident as “a possible hate crime.”
Smollett, who is black and publicly came out as gay in 2015, was walking on a downtown street when two people approached him and yelled the slurs, according to a statement from the Chicago Police Department. The attackers then began hitting Smollett in the face and poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him.
One of the attackers also wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck before the duo fled.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” the police statement said. In a follow-up interview later in the morning, The Sun-Times reported, Smollett told the police that the attackers yelled “this is MAGA country,” a reference to President Trump’s campaign slogan.
The newspaper also reported that the F.B.I. was looking into a letter sent to Fox offices in Chicago last week that contained threatening language toward Smollett and a white powdery substance.
On Tuesday night, the police said in a statement that the area where Smollett said the attack occurred had “very high density of city and private surveillance cameras.” Detectives had viewed hundreds of hours of video but “unfortunately, thus far we have not found any helpful information on a suspect or a suspect’s vehicle to be able to share,” the statement said. The police were widening their search to cameras from surrounding areas.
20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released a statement on Tuesday expressing outrage at the attack and saying that the “entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate.” Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker both wrote on Twitter that the attack was an “attempted modern-day lynching,” and Booker urged the House to take up a bill passed by the Senate that enhances penalties in lynching cases. Hate crimes have been rising in recent years; According to the most recent nationwide data from the F.B.I., they increased 17 percent in 2017 from the year before.
Of the more than 7,100 recorded incidents attributed to prejudice in 2017, roughly 60 percent were caused by biases involving race, ethnicity and ancestry. About 16 percent were attacks on sexual orientation.
Hate crimes are generally underreported. The F.B.I. survey was based on self-reporting from more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies.
If you support Trump/Pence, you support this type of ugly agenda, like it or not.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What Should Be Worrying Republicans

Today I had the occasion to be speaking with a representative of the non-profit that manages the scholarship that I endowed in honor of my late parents.  Not surprisingly, we talked about LGBT rights issues and from there it progressed to talking about politics that ranged from putting up campaign staffers to what I perceive to be the shortsightedness and seeming suicide wish of the Republican Party.  Which brings me to a column by former Republican Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post that looks at what ought to be terrifying the Republican Party leadership as we move towards the 2020 elections.   A second column in the Post by another former Republican, Michael Gerson adds to the theme.  First, highlights from Rubin's column:

Republicans likely won’t have Robert S. Mueller III to rescue them from their approaching train wreck. And they should be honest with themselves (if not the rest of us): They are heading for a political derailment if things go on as they have been.
What’s the jam? Republicans have a presidential incumbent whose most recent polls put him in the mid-30s. Even worse, the intensity of the opposition to him is off the charts. The Post-ABC poll tells us:
A 56 percent majority of all Americans say they would “definitely not vote for him” should Trump become the Republican nominee, while 14 percent say they would consider voting for him and 28 percent would definitely vote for him. Majorities of independents (59 percent), women (64 percent) and suburbanites (56 percent) rule out supporting Trump for a second term.
The depth and breadth of animosity are unlikely to dissipate even in the best of economic times. Should the economy stall out, as many economists expect will happen by 2020, even those Republicans in the “But taxes . . .” or “But Gorsuch . . ." camp may see the handwriting on the wall.
Moreover, it’s not like Republicans are all that jazzed about him. Sure, when a pollster asks Republicans if they approve of Trump’s performance, a strong majority say they do, but that doesn’t mean they won’t recognize his unelectability in a year. To the contrary, in the Post-ABC poll already 32 percent of Republicans/Lean Republicans would like the party to nominate someone else next year.
But Republicans' prospects for an alternate nominee are sparse. And that’s where we come back to Mueller. Regardless of the inappropriate comments of acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker (whose meandering, nervous remarks at a Monday news conference suggested Mueller was nearing the end of his investigation), we have no idea how far along Mueller really is. We don’t know if Whitaker (drenched in sweat and looking entirely uncomfortable in his role) was telling the truth . . . . Unless Mueller has Trump dead to rights on collusion (or the Southern District of New York has him on conspiracy to commit fraud and/or violate campaign finance laws), a jaw-dropping obstruction case would be needed for Republican senators to abandon Trump. They may do so (in part because Trump is a weight around the necks of Senate incumbents), but no one — especially not GOP primary voters — should count on a knockout blow that would absolve them of the choice in the primary between a wounded Trump and some as-yet-unknown challenger. Flash forward to the primaries. On one side, in a wide open race with no obvious front-runner, 20 Democrats will be electrifying Democrats, boosting turnout and creating a tough, moving target for the Republican opposition machine. . . . On the other side, in all likelihood you have a wounded president, growing unease among the base, a less-than-ideal economic record and — if Republicans are lucky — a decent challenger or two who will pound away at Trump’s faults.
This sure doesn’t look like 1984 or 1996 or even 2004 when an incumbent president had a clear advantage. No, 2020 may look a lot like 1976 — or, worse for the GOP, 1976 with Nixon still in the White House. As I said, Republicans should be very, very nervous.
As noted, Michael Gerson column continues the theme Jennifer Rubin wrote about.  Here are excerpts:

The news that President Trump’s approval rating is near historical lows brings some relief that the laws of political gravity still apply. When the president is doing a spectacularly bad job, a majority of our fellow citizens — or at least a clear majority of people contacted for the Post-ABC News poll — think Trump is doing badly. . . . . perceptions of the president’s performance have plummeted on the federal budget deficit, on improving the health-care system and on the economy.
Perhaps the greatest danger to Trump’s political future is the cost of these negative perceptions to his brand. [Trump] The president was elected, in part, by giving his supporters an impression of business acumen. This was, in fact, the image carefully cultivated by book publishers and TV producers. . . . . .These claims can now be believed only by the ideologically addled.
The problem for Trump is not only that he lost the most visible and important confrontation of his presidency — in negotiating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over the government shutdown.
If, in the next stage, the loser acts unilaterally under the pretense of a border security crisis, it will merely prove that Trump is a dangerously sore loser. For the MBAs taking notes, this complex negotiating strategy is known as: Throwing the game off the table if you can’t win. The other branding claims made by Trump have become equally incredible. His reputation as a self-made billionaire lies in ruins. An extensive New York Times article on Trump’s wealth found a bassinet millionaire, consistently bailed out of bad bets, who dodged gift taxes, milked his empire for cash and cultivated a deceptive image of business brilliance. And special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation may reveal serious corruption and perjury in cataloguing Trump’s 30-year panting desire to sell his brand in Russia.
And who can take Trump seriously as a manager? He has a talent for weeding out the talented and responsible. He is a world-class nepotist. He is incapable of delegation or of taking conflicting advice.
Those 37 percent who approve of Trump’s performance may point to the state of the economy or the composition of the Supreme Court. They may be impressed by his destruction of norms or enthused by his promotion of exclusion. They may want a president who speaks his mind, even when it is hateful gibberish. They may want a president who is an institutional arsonist, even if the result is mere destruction.
But no one can reasonably claim to believe in Trump’s brand as it was sold in 2016. We have plumbed the shallows of his boasts. They are refuted lies. And whatever else [Trump] the president may be, he is a fraud.

More Tuesday Male Beauty

France Introduces National LGBT Anti-Bullying Campaign

As in the United States, right wing violence and agitation are on the rise, some of it fueled far right parties aligned with and/or funded by Russia (e.g., Marie Le Pen's National Rally political party (previously named National Front).  In addition to being anti-immigrant, these forces are also stridently anti-LGBT and want to inflict far right religious views on all citizens.  In France, a national effort has been launched to fight the homophobia and bullying that are part and parcel with the far right agenda. A piece in Gay Star News looks at this effort which should be implemented in Virginia and across the USA to counter the hate and untruths disseminated by Christofascists literally daily.  Here are article highlights:

France introduced a national campaign in the fight to eradicate anti-LGBTI incidents in middle and high schools across the country.
Starting today (28 January), France’s Ministry of National Education and Youth launched All Equal, All Allies. It’s a campaign that ensures all state schools put up anti-bullying posters, as well as provide accompanying guides about LGBTI students for teachers.
SOS Homophobia spearheaded the campaign, which aims to make LGBTI youth in France feel more included at school.
They found an increase of reports of anti-LGBTI incidents by 38% in the last year.
Their recent report also said this causes decreased self-esteem, isolation and dropping out of school. The risk of suicide attempts remains four times higher for LGBTI youth than for the rest of the population.
They wrote in a press release: ‘SOS homophobia hopes that all institutions, public and private, will open their doors to this campaign so that it can reach a maximum of students and complete the work of prevention and awareness provided by SOS volunteers.’
Across France, complaints of homophobic attacks increased by 15% since the beginning of 2018.
A number of French LGBTI rights activists also believe that the number of people to experience homophobic attacks or abuse is widely underreported.
‘This is just the tip of the iceberg,’ said the spokesperson for rights group Inter-LGBT, Clémence Zamora-Cruz.
‘On the ground, many attacks go unreported. Often, victims don’t complain for fear of reprisals, or because they’re afraid of speaking to police officers who aren’t aware of issues relating to LGBT identity.
He then added: ‘They’re scared of not being listened to.’
Last month, a handful of French artists got together to release a song to help tackle homophobia.
De l’Amour tells the story of gay refugee Azamat, with all proceeds raised going to French charity Urgence Homophobie (Emergency Homophobia).
Among the artists volunteering to sing on the track and appear in an evocative video were Emmanuel Moire, Christophe Willem and Muriel Robin.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's Ego-Crazed Foolishness

Starbucks CEO whose over sized ego may reelect Trump.
Perhaps the most important thing facing America is making sure that Donald Trump is NOT re-elected in 2020.  To make sure this occurs, we need a unified Democrat Party with a good candidate and no vanity campaigns by third party or independent candidates.  We do not need another Jill Stein (who may have conspired with Russia) or Ross Perot campaign that splits the anti-Trump vote.  Yet, despite this reality, Starbuck's CEO Howard Schultz has indicated that he is considering exactly such a campaign - something that must be thrilling the Trump camp.  Not surprisingly, many (including yours truly) are furious with Schultz's plan that will benefit no one but Trump.  I'd go so far as to say that I have spent my last dollar at Starbuck's if Schultz's foolishness continues.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Schultz's ego driven idiocy.  Here are column excerpts:  
Just what we need, another ego-crazed billionaire with zero experience in government who thinks he is destined to be president. What could go wrong?
Howard Schultz, the man who put a Starbucks on every corner, said in a “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday that he is mulling a run for the White House as an independent. Schultz admits he’s “not the smartest person in the room,” but he must be smart enough to know he can’t possibly win.  He is quite capable of reelecting President Trump, though.
At present, the specter of a second Trump term looks comfortably remote. The blue wave in the midterm elections and Trump’s cellar-dwelling approval numbers show what the country thinks of him and his corrupt, chaotic, kooky administration. A recent poll shows him trailing any of his likely Democratic opponents. If the election were held next week, I’m pretty confident that Trump would lose to a ham sandwich. He does have a chance in 2020, however, if the anti-Trump vote is split between two or more candidates. Imagine Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, siphoning off even 5 percent of the Democratic candidate’s vote in, say, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The horror of 2016 threatens to become a recurring nightmare.
Schultz seems to be an honorable and decent guy, and I have nothing against him. But I most certainly will if he saddles the nation with four more years of Trump’s racism, xenophobia, misogyny, ignorance, dishonesty and incompetence.
As I said, Schultz can’t actually win as an independent. Even Trump was smart enough to figure that out.
A person familiar with Trump’s thinking told me why. Trump understood that the most likely outcome, if he ran on his own, would be to guarantee Hillary Clinton’s election by taking votes away from the GOP candidate. In his wildest dreams, he might hope to win enough electoral votes to keep either major-party candidate from reaching a majority. But in that case, the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives — which would surely choose the Republican or the Democrat, not Trump. His reasoning about the inevitable outcome was sound — and remains so today. Schultz may follow through on his pledge to spend whatever it takes to compete in all 50 states. But he can’t win. I know that party affiliation has been steadily weakening and that a plurality of voters consider themselves independents. Despite all of this, the Democratic Party and the GOP remain deeply entrenched and highly adaptable institutions. Either might be susceptible to a hostile takeover, as Trump proved. But only a supreme narcissist would think himself capable of singlehandedly vanquishing both. The inference is that Schultz might be more likely to run, and persist in running, if it looks as if an ideological progressive such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is likely to win the Democratic nomination. Schultz may be hoping to get the attention of Democratic donors and influencers, and shift the intraparty debate in a more moderate direction.
Or — and I fear this is more likely — he may just be surfing a great big wave of pure ego.
The anti-Trump majority of Democrats, independents and sensible Republicans must let Schultz know, in no uncertain terms, that this is no time for such foolishness. Instead, perhaps, he should angle for a Cabinet post. Or just have a decaf latte and chill.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, January 28, 2019

Senate Republicans May Block Another Trump Shutdown

While Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, remains bellicose about his "border wall" despite the fact that polls indicate that 71% of voters do not want it and/or do not believe it is worth a government shutdown,.  Senate Republicans - in contrast to the misnamed "Freedom Caucus" in the House of Representatives which might just as easily be called the KKK Caucus - seem to have gotten the message that Trump's monument to himself might prove costly in the 2020 Senate elections where the GOP will face a far more challenging map than in 2018. Thus, as Politico reports, some Senate Republicans are even talking about a bi-partisan agreement that might be veto proof and which could end Trump's delusions about a border wall for good despite the lingering anti-immigrant hatred that binds his base to him.  Here are highlights that reflect how Trump may yet see his delusions of grandeur dashed (Joni Ernst is, in my view, a certifiable nut case and hopefully not representative of even semi-delusional Republicans): 
Senate Republicans can’t stomach another shutdown.  After weathering 35 days of a partial government closure, the Senate GOP is dreading the possibility another one will hit in less than three weeks — a sentiment that could prevent President Donald Trump from closing the government again.
Though House Republicans aren’t ruling out supporting the president should he choose another confrontation over his border wall, the Republican Senate majority — which actually has governing power — has another view.
Most GOP lawmakers dutifully stuck with Trump in public as the partial government shutdown dragged on. But privately, Republican support began to crack as their polling and the economy both suffered. After a half-dozen GOP senators defected last week, Trump dropped his demands for border wall money before a full-scale revolt unfolded.
[W]hile White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump “doesn’t want to go through another shutdown,” she declined to rule it out if Congress doesn’t come up with a border security plan to Trump’s liking. Neither did House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a close Trump confidant.
Senators are already making calls to gauge what their fellow conference committee members might support ahead of their first meeting Wednesday. And Republicans writ large are touting the panel as a possible solution for the problem.
But if that committee fails, as many on the Hill privately believe is likely, Trump has touted two paths to again try to build his wall: a shutdown or a national emergency on the border. . . . Senate Republicans loathe both options, but for now, they’d choose almost anything over another funding lapse.
The Republican retreat from the border wall confrontation was evident on Monday not just among the rank and file.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) barely mentioned the standoff over the border, other than to ding Democrats for voting against a Middle East policy bill during the shutdown.
It seemed few Republicans had any desire to rehash the episode. “There is little or no appetite for it,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Those who thought that shutdowns were a good idea have been disabused by that.” Some Republican centrists are even suggesting that a bipartisan border agreement could withstand a veto threat.
“I think the committee will come up with a deal ... If they come up with something that isn’t crazy, I think it’ll have enough votes to override a veto in the House and Senate,” Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho said Monday. . . . “Because we’ve all learned, hopefully, that shutdowns don’t work, and they’re stupid.”
But even as some Republicans look to use their influence with Trump to nudge him away from another self-destructive shutdown, others are just as queasy about being at odds with the president.
Take Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is up for reelection in 2020 and could face a tough Democratic challenge. She disliked the shutdown and said it made everyone in Congress look bad, but she was not among those thinking about bolting from Trump’s position last week before the president himself caved.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who was among the few Republicans to support Democratic funding bills to reopen the government this month, acknowledged that nobody wants another shutdown. But he said Democrats — specifically, Pelosi — would take the heat this time if the border security talks collapsed, despite polls consistently showing the public sided with Democrats.
McHenry warned not to read too much into polls showing Trump was hurt by the shutdown: “So to say that is going to have some lasting impact is not commensurate with the last two years of experience.”
Senate Republicans would disagree. They face a more difficult Senate map in 2020 than they did last year and could be dragged into the minority if Trump's popularity collapses. And if in two weeks the conference committee isn't going anywhere, they're the ones that will have to put a bill on the floor to fund the government — and potentially shirk Trump’s demands for the wall.

With luck, Senate Republicans will have learned a lesson and will put self-preservation ahead of boot licking and politico fellatio of Trump.  With luck, some apparently brain dead government employees who voted for Trump and/or the GOP  in 2016 and 2018 will also have learned a lesson and will vote Democrat in 2020.