Saturday, March 02, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty

Mormon Church is Not Opposing an Anti-Conversion Therapy Bill

Last year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah, the home of the Mormon Church, has the faith highest suicide rate in the USA, with a particular problem of youth suicides.  The article reported in part as follows:
Utah had the fifth-highest overall suicide rate at 25.2 per 100,000, and since 1999, the state saw a 46.5 percent increase in residents taking their own lives. It is a crisis that has led Gov. Gary Herbert to create a youth suicide task force and state lawmakers to fund a new staffer to study why Utahns have died by suicide.
The problems most frequently associated with suicide, according to the study, are strained relationships; life stressors, often involving work or finances; and recent or impending crises. The most important takeaway, mental health professionals say, is that suicide is not only an issue for the mentally ill but for anyone struggling with serious lifestyle issues.

LGBT youth have a much higher suicide rate than youths in general, often fueled by family rejection (40% of homeless youth nationwide are LGBT as a result of such rejection).   Add on top of this the reality that gay conversion therapy can cause suicidal feelings, and it is a recipe for disaster which seemingly why the Mormon Church will not be opposing a bill in the Utah legislature to ban conversion therapy for those under age 18. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this seemingly surprising move by a church that is notoriously anti-gay.  Here are highlights:

When Jason Lindow went through conversion therapy, he started abusing sleeping pills.  The treatment, he told The Daily Beast, “was making [him] feel dead inside” anyway, so he took the pills to stay in a “mellow state all the time.” He knew there was a possibility that he might “not even wake up” if he took too many, he said, but he was so depressed that death seemed almost preferable to an emotionless existence.
This was in 2012, five years before he came out as a transgender man and transitioned from female to male, so Lindow was being treated at the time for being a lesbian. The reason that Lindow, then a 21-year-old college student, sought out the treatment was so that he could serve as a missionary in the religion of his birth: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon church.
Now, seven years after Lindow went through that ordeal, the LDS church has seemingly turned a corner on conversion therapy.  Earlier this month, LGBT advocates and Utah state legislators put forward a bill that would ban the practice of trying to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill is now in the House Rules Committee.
In a state where the vast majority of legislators are Mormon themselves, that lack of opposition from the church gives the bill a fighting chance. (In fact, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Craig Hall, is an active member of the LDS church.) If it passes, Utah would be the most conservative state in the country to have a conversion therapy ban.
The Mormon and Gay website currently says: “While shifts in sexuality can and do occur for some people, it is unethical to focus professional treatment on an assumption that a change in sexual orientation will or must occur.”
For a religion whose leaders previously taught that sexual orientation can be changed—and which stated in official literature as recently as 2007 that “many Latter-day Saints … overcome same-gender attraction in mortality”— those new statements represent a major step forward.
[M]ajor medical associations have denounced conversion therapy for precisely this reason: Not only is it unsuccessful at changing sexual orientation and gender identity, it has the potential to cause tremendous psychological harm to those who undergo it, including a risk of suicide.
In its campaign for the proposed conversion therapy ban, Equality Utah is highlighting the stories of survivors to draw attention to those harms.
Utah still has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country.
Here in Virginia, Republicans in the General Assembly who specialize in prostituting themselves to the haters and extremists at The Family Foundation once again killed legislation that would have banned conversion therapy for minors.  Hopefully, regulatory licensing restrictions will accomplish this much needed goal since the GOP seemingly cares nothing about the suicides of LGBT youths. .  

Virginia First Lady's "Cotton Situation" Deliberately Misrepresented?

In a prior post, I took a Washington Post story to task for its apparent aim at creating sensation and fanning racial strife in Virginia.  The articles author, a former food editor, seemed to hear only what she wanted from what transpired with an obvious goal of harming the reputation of Pam Northam, First Lady of Virginia. In my view, it is part of a larger effort by some in Virginia's black community, the Legislative Black Caucus and some in the leadership of the Virginia Democrat Party (and, yes, I can name names) to drive Ralph Northam from office through any means so that they can install Justin Fairfax as the state's second black governor.  Now, as the Virginian Pilot is reporting, other legislative pages and their parents are disputing the claims of a state employee and her daughter who seem to be part of this plot to stir racial discord and disparage the governor and his wife.  Shame on the Washington Post - which is now being sued over its similarly botched reporting of the Covington Catholic studentsand other news outlets that never bothered to get the full story.  Here highlights from the Pilot:
Virginia first lady Pam Northam did not focus on black students as she handed out raw cotton during several back-to-back presentations on slavery at the Executive Mansion, several participants and their parents said in interviews Friday.
"Nobody was singled out," said state Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, whose teenage son took a tour of the mansion with others serving as pages in  Virginia Genaral Assemnly.
Petersen was reacting to allegations made this week by a state employee whose daughter was in the page program. She alleged in a letter that Northam singled out three black students in a group of about 20 as she handed out cotton bolls and talked about imagining slavery.
In all, 10 pages gave their accounts to The Washington Post, either directly or through their parents, most of whom did not permit their 13- and 14-year-olds to be interviewed because of their age. In four of those cases, the pages were in the same tour group as Walker's daughter. The other six visited the kitchen with different groups on the same day.
In all 10 cases, the pages or their parents insisted that the first lady - a former science teacher - conducted their tours with sensitivity and with no special focus on the black pages.
"She didn't pick out anything or anybody," said Celina Harris, 13, of Chesapeake, a page who was in a different tour group from Walker's daughter.
Celina, who is African-American, said Northam passed around raw cotton bolls and tobacco leaves for the whole tour group to touch. In the case of her tour - one of perhaps four Northam led for pages that day - the first lady handed the cotton to a white page.
"When it came to the cotton part, she handed it to the nearest page and passed it around the room to everybody, and explained that the slaves had to pick cotton, and it was difficult for them because it was sharp," Celina said. "She asked us to feel around the cotton. It wasn't normal cotton balls that we use today. It was hard and prickly. . . . It was interesting. I didn't see any problem with it at all. I don't think learning about our history should be counted as offensive in any way. And it's not like she purposely looked at me while talking about it, or any of the other black pages in the room."
Resisting calls to resign over the blackface controversy, Gov. Northam has pledged to focus on racial reconciliation in his remaining three years in office. But the criticism over the first lady's presentation about the house's slave history - something she has long highlighted - shows what a minefield that territory can be.
"Traditionally, you'd give a tour of the mansion and say, 'Look at this beautiful upholstery.' And now they try to give a full historical tour, 'This was built by slaves,' " Petersen said. "It's kind of like damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you try and incorporate alternative voices, suddenly you're triggering someone. As opposed to if you're breezing through like Better Homes and Gardens and you're being oblivious or privileged."
Sen. William Stanley, Jr., R-Franklin, said that his daughter was in the tour with Walker's and that no one was targeted.
"The first lady's intent was to show the horrors of slavery and to make sure everyone felt the pain they felt in some small measure," Stanley said.
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said his daughter, also a page, gave a similar account, although she was in a different tour group.
"I have also spoken to witnesses who were present and the *cotton situation* during the Page Governor's Mansion tours did not happen at all the way it's been portrayed in the press," Surovell wrote on Facebook.
Sadly, don't expect the Post and others to retract their false accounts of what transpired. Generating controversy and page views is all that matters. 

Is the Closet Behind Hollywood Sex Abuse Allegations?

The Roman Catholic Church continues to be shaken by sex abuse allegations fueled, in my view, by the Church's warped 12th century dogma on human sexuality and the forced celibacy of the priesthood which together have psychologically disturbed clergy and a significant portion of the priesthood being comprised of emotionally tormented closeted gays. It was and continues to be a recipe for disastrous consequences, not that the corrupt leadership at the Vatican will ever willing admit the error of their dogma.  Travel from the Vatican to Hollywood and one sees gays still being told to stay in the closet if they hope to have successful careers.  Go back decades in the past and the situation was even worse as the studio system demanded fake marriages and contrived dating situations.  Actor Ian McKellen states that he believes the Hollywood closet has played a role in the sex abuse allegations against Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer. If true, it certainly is no excuse, but it should focus attention on the pervasive damage done living in the closet.  Here are excerpts from Vanity Fair:
Ian McKellen has a controversial theory regarding why both Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer allegedly sexually abused several under-aged men.  At a live recording of the podcast #QueerAF, journalist Evan Davis asked the actor what he made of allegations of sexual misconduct against performers with whom he’d collaborated in the past—including Spacey and Singer. His response?
 “[T]he couple of names you mentioned, of people I’ve worked with, most of them were in the closet—hence all their problems as people, and their relationship with other people. If they had been able to be open about themselves and their desires, they wouldn’t have started abusing people in the way they’re being accused.” McKellen has worked with Singer on several films, including the X-Men franchise—most recently, X-Men: Days of Future Past—and 1998’s Apt Pupil. The actor also worked with Spacey during Spacey’s time as the artistic director of the Old Vic theater, where 20 allegations would eventually surface from a confidential tip line to describe Spacey’s alleged inappropriate behavior. Spacey denied some of the allegations against him as they emerged before, eventually issuing an apology to Anthony Rapp, who accused Spacey in the fall of 2017 of making a sexual advance toward Rapp when Rapp was 14. When allegations of sexual abuse first emerged against Spacey in 2017, the actor initially responded by coming out publicly. “This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life,” Spacey said at the time. “I now choose to live as a gay man.” In response, GLAAD C.E.O. Sarah Kate Ellis tweeted, “Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault. Singer, who has been accused of sexually abusing young men for years, has always vehemently denied all allegations against him; in January, when an exposé in The Atlantic detailed new allegations against him, Singer replied by calling the report a “homophobic smear piece.” In 2014, Singer was accused twice of sexual abuse; one case was dropped, and the other dismissed. In 2017, Singer was sued for allegedly raping a 17-year-old boy in 2003. The case is still pending. Despite that, he went on to executive produce the TV series Legion, and direct 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, before he was fired for allegedly being frequently absent from set, and for clashing with star Rami Malek.

The sooner society lets go of Bronze Age myths found in the Old Testament, the better off the world will be.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, March 01, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

The Coming Climate-Related Business Failures

Recently, Der Trumpenführer set about trying to challenge the findings of the government's own environmental experts rather than admit that climate change is real and that significant policy changes are needed.  Most Republicans in elected positions are little better and continue to bury their heads in the sand.  A piece in the New Yorker argues that it will be private industry which will ultimately force policy changes as the costs of climate change damage the corporate bottom line or force some businesses to file bankruptcy and/or go out of business. The industry that may force the most rapid change is the insurance industry which will either cease insuring certain properties or types of business operations entirely or drastically increase premiums.  Coastal real estate coverage may be one of the first areas where rising insurance costs and increasing storm damage take a toll on property values and savage municipal tax bases.  Here are article excerpts:

On January 15th, the World Economic Forum issued its annual Global Risks Report, which presents the results of a survey of what policymakers and experts perceive to be the world’s greatest challenges and threats. The report categorizes concerns by color: blue for economic risks, orange for geopolitical risks, purple for technological risks, red for societal risks. This year, green, which denotes environmental hazards, was dominant: the top three risks, listed by the “likelihood” that they would occur, were extreme weather events, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, and natural disasters. . . . “Is the world sleepwalking into a crisis?” the report’s authors wrote. “Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking.”
The same week, as if to illustrate the point, the California-based utility company Pacific Gas and Electric (P.G. & E.) announced that it would be filing for bankruptcy protection as a result of costs related to recent wildfires in the state. Between June, 2014, and December, 2017, P.G. & E.’s equipment helped start some fifteen hundred fires, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Many were caused by falling trees that toppled power lines, which then threw sparks onto the surrounding grass and forest.
In 2017, seventeen major wildfires in California were connected to P.G. & E.; the fires destroyed 193,743 acres in eight counties and led to the deaths of twenty-two people. The fire season of 2018 was worse; the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported it as the deadliest and most destructive season on record. P.G. & E. said that it was facing approximately thirty billion dollars in liabilities as a result of its role in the 2017 and 2018 fires.                     P.G. & E. may be the most high-profile company to date to face collapse for reasons linked to climate change, but it won’t be the last. Coastal real estate is likely to be one of the first sectors of the economy to see values plummet due to rising seas and damage from storms. This hasn’t happened yet, because insurance companies are still willing to insure coastal properties, which means that property owners won’t have to bear the cost of the damage. But this is likely to change in the not-too-distant future. The National Centers for Environmental Information, which tracks U.S. weather and climate events, cited 2017 as “a historic year of weather and climate disasters,” which together cost more than three hundred billion dollars and included three tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, drought, and wildfires. At some point, insurance and reinsurance companies will decide that writing policies in high-risk areas no longer makes financial sense, which could trigger a sharp decline in real-estate prices. Bruce Usher, a professor at Columbia Business School who studies climate change and investing, told me that he foresees three kinds of climate-related risks that may cause companies to fail in the future: physical risks, policy-related risks, and technological risks. The changing environment may cause damage to property or facilities owned by companies, or it could fuel lawsuits and liability payments related to damage caused by companies to others’ property, as was the case with P.G. & E.
[C]limate change itself will make certain products—most obviously cars using internal combustion engines, which are likely to be replaced by electric vehicles—obsolete. The insurance industry has been aware of these risks for some time and has been conducting studies to try to quantify them. The rest of the business world is increasingly focussing on them as well.
If the coming climate-related business crises will have one positive side effect, it’s that acute financial losses are likely to force policy changes in a way that environmental damage on its own has not. As one commenter on a recent Wall Street Journal article about P.G. & E. put it: “When capitalists decide the scientists are right, then the free market will adjust accordingly.”
What is lacking now, he said, is focus by policymakers in Washington on making changes that could actually turn things around. “People in this field say, ‘We know what the problem is, and we know how to solve the problem,’ ” Usher said. Our politicians, however, “don’t have the willingness to do something. That’s where we are.”

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Walmart Wins the Wrath of "Christian" Hate Group for Valentine's Commercial

Here in America many children and elderly adults go without adequate nutrition and health care and in various parts of the globe, people are literally starving to death and dying of easily treated diseases. One would expect true Christian organizations to be focusing on addressing such situations and striving to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide medical assistance to the sick, and provide housing to the homeless.  But not American Family Association ("AFA"), a certified hate group. Instead of doing Christ's bidding, AFA is launch a campaign against Walmart which aired a Valentine's commercial that featured, the horrors, gay men shopping for a blind date.  Sadly, AFA is but one of a number of "Christian" organizations that make a mockery of Christ's message and traffic instead in hate and bigotry (others include Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition, and Focus on the Family).  Metro Weekly looks at AFA's spittle flecked rants against Walmart.  Here are excerpts: 
Anti-gay organization the American Family Association is not happy about Walmart’s new “pro-homosexual” commercial.
The retailer released a series of videos on social media to celebrate Valentine’s Day, showcasing various people visiting Walmart stores for blind dates.
One episode of “Love Is In The Aisle” features same-sex pairing Pat and Andy. The fairly innocuous video shows the men discussing their habits, shopping for hair and cooking products, and Andy giving Pat a Creme Pie.
Unfortunately, two men sharing a Little Debbie snack was apparently enough to rile AFA, which sent a livid message to its followers demanding they rise up against Walmart and its “cultural revolution.”
“In a move that most Christians probably never expected to see, retail giant Walmart has posted an online video that normalizes homosexual relationships,” the organization wrote in a press release, adding, “for most Christians and other traditionalists, the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman is sacred.”
AFA sent an “Action Alert” to its followers urging them to sign a petition demanding Walmart remove the video and “remain neutral on controversial issues.” (It should be noted that homosexuality is not illegal, and same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since 2015.)
“We’ve seen many large corporations reject that in their marketing, but I honestly never thought Walmart would join the cultural revolution and reject the beliefs of its customer base,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “It’s clear that Walmart is on the path of elevating homosexual relationships to the same level as the male-female model of marriage.”
Wildmon continued: “We have no choice but to ask our supporters to let the company know how customers feel about Walmart’s shift away from neutrality on this controversial issue to full support for same sex relationships.”
AFA is no stranger to anti-LGBTQ campaigns, having previously spearheaded campaigns against Walgreens and Target over their transgender-inclusive restroom policies.
It should be noted that there are currently zero reported incidents of a transgender person harassing women or children in restrooms — but multiple counts of transgender people being harassed or discriminated against for simply trying to use a toilet.
[I]n 2015, AFA’s Bryan Fischer blamed horrendous flooding in Texas on “sodomites,” agreeing with a caller who opined that “sodomite mayor” Annise Parker (Houston’s openly lesbian mayor) was the cause of the floods.
AFA also tried to scare its followers in 2014 by asserting that “homosexual activists” were “intentionally seeking out Christian business owners for the sole purpose of attacking and destroying religious liberties.”
It is "christian" organizations like AFA that have driven 40% of the under 30 generations from religion.

Republicans Pressure Trump to Rescind National Emergency Declaration

His summit with Kim Jong-Un collapsed, he's taking heat for giving Kim a pass on the murder of American college student Otto Warmbier by Kim's thugs, Michael Cohen's testimony has dominated the news cycles, two of his children will be summoned for questioning before congressional committees and now Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer,  is facing a possible revolt of Senate Republicans against his fake national emergency declaration aimed solely at pleasing the worse knuckle dragging, racist elements of his base.  If it were anyone other than Trump, I might feel a very tiny ounce of sympathy, but since its Trump, the foulest individual to every occupy the White House, instead, it's almost reason enough for some champagne.  A piece in Politico looks at Senate Republican efforts to convince Trump to rescind his ridiculous declaration which could set a precedent that would allow future Democrat presidents to use similar ploys.  Here are excerpts:

Senate Republicans are offering a choice to President Donald Trump: Withdraw your national emergency declaration at the border or face a potential rebellion from the GOP.
The message was delivered clearly on Thursday by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), part of an effort by senior Republicans to avoid a direct confrontation with Trump on the Senate floor.
In a much-anticipated floor speech, the retiring senator declined to state whether he will become the deciding vote to block the president’s maneuver. But he signaled broad opposition to the emergency declaration and sought to convince Trump that he has other ways to collect $5.7 billion for the border wall — the precise amount of money he demanded during the government shutdown fight.
“He’s got sufficient funding without a national emergency, he can build a wall and avoid a dangerous precedent,” Alexander told reporters afterward, referring to billions from a drug forfeiture fund and anti-drug smuggling money at the Defense Department. “That would change the voting situation if he we were to agree to do that.”
Three Republicans have already said they would join Democrats in voting for a resolution to block Trump, and only one more is needed for the Senate to successfully reject Trump’s declaration. Alexander is just one of about 10 senators who are committed to blocking [Trump's] the president’s move or are considering doing so, suggesting the White House has a ways to go to avoid a public split in the party and a Trump veto. [Trump] The president can get way more money than he’s even asking for without setting the Constitution on its head,” said this undecided senator, who requested anonymity to speak frankly. “I am very, very skeptical about the precedent this makes.” If Trump doesn’t back down, there is still deep reluctance in the GOP to becoming the 51st vote for the disapproval resolution that the Senate is expected to vote on in March. So far, Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine are the only Republicans who have said they would support blocking Trump on his plans to seize billions from military projects. Despite his clear opposition to Trump’s national emergency declaration, Alexander deemed the looming vote on disapproval a hypothetical, since Trump could withdraw it or the House-passed resolution could be amended. Under current law, the House measure will come up by mid-March, and Alexander left little doubt that he’s just one of a large bloc of Republicans who could defy the president.
Trump’s national emergency declaration for border wall funding is “unnecessary, unwise and inconsistent with the Constitution,” Alexander told reporters. “And many Republican senators who can speak for themselves share that view.”
“We’ve never had a case where the president has asked for money, been refused the money by Congress, then used the national emergency powers to spend it anyway,” he added. “To me that’s a dangerous precedent.”

More Thursday Male Beauty

Mike Pence Hires New Homophobic Chief of Staff

Homophobe Marc Short.
While writers at the Washington Post were manufacturing attacks on the First Lady of Virginia, Vice President Mike Pence was hiring a new chief of staff who has a history of outspoken homophobia.  A piece in LGBTQ Nation looks at the past bigotry of Marc Short, Pence's new chief of staff as well as Pence's own long history of homophobia, attacks on LGBT citizens, and obstruction of efforts to curb HIV/AIDS which is increasingly a heterosexual problem in the black (of, course, Pence is anti-black as well).  The take away is that Short and Pence would happily see LGBT citizens simply die and disappear. Here are article highlights:

Mike Pence’s incoming chief of staff Marc Short has come under fire for a homophobic column he wrote about a man living with HIV.
Writing in his college newspaper at Washington & Lee University in Virginia, Short denounced, “the propaganda campaign ignited by gay activists and carelessly perpetuated by journalists whose intent is to scare all heterosexuals into believing they are prime targets for” HIV and AIDS.
“The campaign’s purpose is both to lobby Congress for more federal funding of AIDS research and to destigmatize the perverted lifestyles homosexuals pursue.”
The column, entitled “AIDS & The Heterosexual,” appeared in The Spectator, a student newspaper that Short co-founded and edited.
His column was ostensibly a response to an interview that appeared in the main student newspaper with Edwin Wright, a Washington & Lee alum who talked about watching several of his friends die from complications from AIDS and his own pending death.
Short said that he had “sympathy” for Wright, but “that does not mean that we glorify homosexuals’ repugnant practices of frequent anal intercourse nor should we consider them brave for coming out of the closet.”
“Homosexuals who pursue unhealthy lifestyles and engage in high risk sexual behavior, specifically anal intercourse, may very well end up like Mr. Wright.”
“Rhetoric like that killed us,” said Peter Staley, an ACT-UP activist who appeared in the documentary How to Survive a Plague. “Guys like him wanted us to die. And they had an effect.”
Pence has yet to comment on Short’s column. Pence himself has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights both in the U.S. House and as governor of Indiana, even supporting federal funding for conversion therapy in 2000 as a means to fight HIV.
“His boss [Mike Pence] is responsible for enabling the single worst outbreak of HIV and AIDS in the history of Indiana due to his irresponsible and universally-criticized effort to end funding for needle exchange programs and HIV and AIDS testing centers. Mike Pence has spent his career attacking LGBTQ people and building a record of undermining HIV awareness and prevention initiatives.”
“After all this and being in the inner circle of Mike Pence for the past decade, the hiring of Marc Short is not surprising.”

Trump’s Talks With Kim Jong-un Collapse

Two obese autocrats.
I suspect Der Trumpenführer, is in a particularly foul mood today after (i) coverage of Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress yesterday greatly eclipsed coverage of the Trump/Kim Jong-un talks, and (ii) those talks collapsed, but not until after Trump insanely said he believed that Kim had nothing to do with the the brutal mistreatment suffered by the late American student, Otto Warmbier. For those who have already forgot this young man's death, here is some background:
The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was visiting North Korea with a tour group when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 on suspicion of stealing a propaganda poster. He died the next June after he was returned to the United States in a coma.

Given the reality that  NOTHING happens in North Korea without Kim's knowledge and approval, Trump's statement defies belief. 

But back to the collapsed summit. Personally, I believe that Kim played Trump from the start and used both summits to boost his own image abroad and within the police state which is North Korea. Kim never planned to de-nuclearize, or at least not on terms that would ever be acceptable to the USA.  The New York Times looks at the failed talks.  Here are excerpts:
President Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, abruptly ended their second summit meeting on Thursday when negotiations collapsed after the two sides failed to agree on even the first steps on nuclear disarmament, a peace declaration or reducing sanctions on the North.
“It was about the sanctions,” Mr. Trump said at an afternoon news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, referring to Mr. Kim’s demand that the United States lift harsh economic sanctions imposed on North Korea with the approval of the United Nations. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”
The premature end to the negotiations means the diplomacy between the United States and North Korea that has gone on for most of a year remains stalled, even as experts say North Korea continues to produce fissile material to make nuclear warheads.
It also undermines the image Mr. Trump has long cultivated of himself as a tough negotiator who can bring adversaries into a deal.
Mr. Trump said that Mr. Kim had agreed to take an important step toward dismantling a central part of his nuclear program — the Yongbyon enrichment facility — but that Mr. Kim said he would do so only if all sanctions were lifted.
The president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the North would have to dismantle other parts of the program before all sanctions were lifted.
The collapse of the talks came in the shadow of withering congressional testimony in Washington by Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, who spent hours on Wednesday describing Mr. Trump’s lies and deep character flaws.
The collapse of the talks was a stark departure from the earlier mood of the two-day gathering. On Thursday morning, Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim kicked off the day by meeting one-on-one at the historic Metropole hotel, where they had had an intimate dinner the previous night.

Throughout the summit, Mr. Trump praised Mr. Kim, a ruthless dictator who oversees widespread human rights abuses. He called Mr. Kim a “great leader.”
When asked by a reporter about Otto Warmbier, the American student imprisoned in North Korea who died of brain damage after being returned home in a coma in 2017, Mr. Trump answered with a comment that echoes what he has said in relation to other autocrats: “He tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word.” 
Expect Twitter outbursts and lots of profanity outside of public view from Trump. Kim played him expertly. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Washington Post Fans Contrived Outrage

Virginia's Executive Mansion which dates from 1813
I'm not sure what's up with the Washington Post, but it seems hell bent on throwing aside serious journalism and focusing instead on sensation, feeding outrage and satiating those looking to find grievance and offense anywhere and everywhere.  Indeed, given the manner that the Post staff have sought to fan the flames of racial friction in Virginia, rather than being a serious source of news, elements of the newspaper seem to be holding up the National Inquirer as their template.  What's caused me to go off? A ridiculous piece in the Washington Post authored by Laura Vozzella who's claim to fame based on her bio is that she was a food writer and sometime political columnist at the Baltimore Sun that takes totally uncalled for cheap shots at Pam Northam, First Lady of Virginia, a woman I have known for close to 12 years.   The story arises out of a tour for legislative pages of the Executive Mansion and the former kitchen located in an separate building (as all kitchens were in Southern homes built in 1813) that has been maintained in its original condition for the purpose of teaching  about the history of the mansion and Virginia, both the good, the bad and the ugly.

In addition to knowing the Northams for years, I have been to the Executive Mansion many times and spent the weekend there back in July, 2018, at which time Pam Northam gave my husband and me a detailed tour of the mansion, the historic kitchen dependency and the grounds - the Governor had given us an abbreviated tour on a prior visit - during which she stressed how she was seeking to have the mansion reflect it's early history for good and for bad, including the presentation in the lady's parlor, the men's smoking room, and the original kitchen which is largely in its 1813 condition. By profession, the Fist Lady of Virginia is an educator and believes knowing and understanding accurate history is important, something I agree with heartily as a history major in college.  The reality is that just because some aspects of history are not pretty or nice, doesn't mean that today's students and youths do not need to know what really happened. 

I cannot help but suspect that Ms. Vozzella has (i) never met the Northams, (ii) has never visited the Executive Mansion, (iii) has never take the First Lady;s guided tour, and (iv) knows nothing of the mansion's history.  Seemingly, all that mattered to Ms. Vozzella (and her editors) was stirring the pot, ginning up controversy, and hopefully promoting her own name.  That's not responsible journalism.  It's yellow journalism and what one would expect from the National Inquirer or Fox News.   The telling lines in the piece which are NOT reflected in the least in its headline is as follows: 
Northam’s office and one other parent of a child who was present said the first lady did not single out the African American students and simply handed out the cotton to a group. . . . she simply handed the cotton to whoever was nearby and wanted everyone to note the sharpness of the stems and leaves on the raw cotton, to imagine how uncomfortable it would’ve been to handle all day.

Is the Post really so desperate for page views that it is endorsing this type of squalid journalism (which of course also regurgitated past slams at Governor Northam)?  If so, I know of one subscription they are about to lose.  On a larger scale, I suspect that pieces like this will have the opposite effect of what Ms. Vozzella intended - other than promoting her own name, of course - which is building support for racial equality and harmony in Virginia going forward.  Tawdry journalism like this will only serve to drive more whites into the Trump/white supremacist camp.  Shame on Ms. Vozzella and shame on her editors.

Pam Northam and the 19th century original kitchen to the Executive Mansion.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Michael Cohen: Trump Knew Roger Stone Talked with WikiLeaks

As Donald Trump kisses the ass of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, his former consigliore, Michael Cohen prepares to spill his guts before Congressional committees.  Among the expected bombshells: Trump knew of the Roger Stone communications with Wikileaks and that Trump knew of the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Jr. and Russian operatives.  Personally, I have always assumed that Trump was fully aware of all of this. A piece in CNN sums up Cohen's coming testimony this way: Cohen calls Trump a "racist," a "con-man" and a "cheat."  The big issue will be whether Cohen has corroborating documentation and/or whether others will knowledge will stop covering for Trump.  Here are excerpts from the CNN piece:
Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen is prepared to testify that Trump was aware of longtime adviser Roger Stone's efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks in advance of its release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, according to a copy of his public testimony submitted to Congress and obtained by CNN.
In a stunning 20-page statement provided Tuesday night to lawmakers, Cohen details a wide range of allegations against Trump -- from making racist comments about African-Americans to participating during his presidency in an illegal hush-money scheme to keep his alleged extramarital affairs quiet -- as well as suggesting Trump faked a medical condition to get out of serving in the Vietnam War. And Cohen will provide new details saying Trump was engaged in an aggressive pursuit of a major project in Russia in 2016, alleging the [Trump's] President's attorneys edited Cohen's 2017 testimony when he lied to Congress, downplaying the efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
 In short, Cohen calls Trump a "racist," a "conman" and a "cheat." In the testimony, Cohen will allege that, in 2016, he witnessed Trump taking a phone call from Stone, who was on speakerphone.  "Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign," Cohen will say, according to his prepared testimony. Trump responded, according to Cohen: "Wouldn't that be great." Cohen's allegations, if true, would amount to the first time anyone with direct knowledge has said that [Trump] the President had advance knowledge of the WikiLeaks dump of Clinton emails. Cohen also said [Trump's] the President's personal lawyers "reviewed and edited" his 2017 statements when Cohen lied to Congress about the Trump Organization's pursuit of a massive project in Moscow. Cohen's opening statement also suggests that Trump may have been aware in advance of a 2016 meeting set up by Donald Trump Jr. and Russians at Trump Tower -- something that Trump and his eldest son have long denied. Cohen will tell Congress that he witnessed Trump Jr., in June 2016, tell his father: "The meeting is all set." Cohen acknowledges not knowing for sure that Trump's son's comments were in reference to the meeting with Russians. "I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump's knowledge and approval," Cohen will say. "So I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on Hillary." According to a copy of the opening statement he prepares to deliver to the House Oversight Committee Wednesday, Cohen says Trump lied repeatedly about a number of matters -- and made a host of racist statements. [I]n the testimony, Cohen recounts how he was visiting Trump in February 2017 in the White House when the President assured him his reimbursement checks were coming in the mail. He said Trump made 11 payments of $35,000 each to reimburse him in the hush-money scheme, saying he's providing the House panel with a copy of an August 2017 check signed by[Trump] the President from his personal bank account. "The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws," Cohen will say.

Get out the pop corn.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Pope Francis’s Disgraceful Sex Abuse Excuses

In general I do not often agree with Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen who I view as too right wing on any number of topics and issues.  Yet, in a new column, he sums up my views of Pope Francis' sharp failure to firmly address the need for a thorough house cleaning of the ranks of the Vatican and Church hierarchy without which the Catholic Church will remain a moral embarrassment and will lack any shred of moral authority to lecture others on anything. The column lays out why the continued evasive excuses, cover ups and refusals to hold individuals accountable must end.  Don't hold your breath for this to happen.  Only a massive exodus of parishioners and huge drops in financial supprt will force need to change to happen.  Until, then, expect more of the same failure to act in any meaningful way.  Here are column highlights:
Pope Francis’s closing address to the Vatican Summit on Child Protection was a disgraceful display of excuses and evasions. He began with extended meditation on how a “great number of” abuse cases are “committed within families.” He urged the assembled bishops to focus on “other forms of abuse” experienced by “child soldiers,” “starving children,” “child victims of war” and “refugee children.” He laid out an agenda that, bizarrely, focused on matters have nothing to do with clerical abuse (such as combating “sexual tourism”). And, most shamefully of all, he lashed out at those demanding that bishops who covered up abuse and silenced victims be held to account, declaring that the church must “rise above” those who “exploit, for various interests, the very tragedy experienced by the little ones.”
While Francis did declare that “no abuse should ever be covered up (as was often the case in the past),” he still refuses to tell us which bishops and cardinals did the covering up. It’s true that, just days before the summit, he removed disgraced former archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood. But Francis still refuses to explain: What took so long? Who knew about McCarrick’s alleged serial predations and did nothing? When did Francis know? And why did he not punish McCarrick until his crimes — which were repeatedly reported to the Vatican — were publicly exposed by the media?
Francis’s decision to focus the summit exclusively on “the protection of minors” was a cynical ploy to avoid addressing questions of accountability, or the rampant sexual abuse of vulnerable adults by their religious superiors. The accusations against McCarrick were not limited to his horrific abuse of children. He allegedly forced countless young priests and seminarians, whose careers he could make or break, to have sex with him. Last week, The Post reported on the Rev. Lauro Sedlmayer, who says he was sexually abused as a young priest by McCarrick during the 1990s. The priest says he told three bishops and that nothing was done.
It is not enough for Pope Francis to remove McCarrick from the priesthood. The patronage network that enabled him must be rooted out as well.
There are documents in the Vatican archives that would definitively show who knew what, and when they knew it. But Francis has refused to release them, much less hold McCarrick’s many enablers to account.
[T]he pope has squelched efforts to expose and punish those responsible for covering up abuses by McCarrick and others. The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2015, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley — whom Francis put in charge of handling the abuse crisis — recommended the creation of a special tribunal to try bishops who ignore or cover up abuse. The pope rejected his proposal. Last year, O’Malley met with Francis in Rome where, the Journal reports, the pope “made it clear he would not authorize a full-fledged investigation into the McCarrick affair.”
Until Francis addresses the corruption of the episcopacy, he has zero credibility to lead a fight against sex tourism. No one wants to hear lectures on morality from bishops who refuse to rid their ranks of those who enable sex predators. They seem to be more concerned with preserving their worldly privilege and power than restoring the church’s moral integrity. How many souls have been lost, how many have left the sacraments, because of their scandalous inaction? We will never know in this world. But they will certainly learn the answer in the next.
Francis called the summit an “opportunity for purification.” It was a missed opportunity. Purification requires two things: confession and penance. Until the bishops repent of their sins, and accept the temporal consequences of their actions, there will be no forgiveness from the laity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

United Methodist Church Rejects Allowing Same Sex Marriage and LGBT Clergy

Sadly, as anticipated, the ignorance embracing elements of the United Methodist Church prevailed at the denomination's General Conference and measures that would have modernized the church's positions to reflect modern knowledge on sexuality were voted down.  Much of the anti-LGBT mindset came from knuckle dragging elements of the church in Africa - much as what happened in the Anglican Communion - and rural backwater areas of the USA.  One can only hope that the LGBT accepting churches will leave the UMC and take their money with them and allow the reactionary churches to wither and die. Metro Weekly looks at the disappointing outcome.  Note how an obvious mental midget from the Western Pennsylvania Conference described the vote as remaining true to Christ's words - the only problem is Christ never said a single word condemning same sex relationships (check your New Testaments if you don't believe me).  The ignorance, bigotry and idiocy of these "conservatives" is stunning. They should call themselves Pharisees, not Christians.  Here are excerpts from Metro Weekly

Delegates at a special session of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in St. Louis have rejected a plan that would have modernized the church’s stances on LGBTQ issues.
The delegates rejected a motion to substitute the so-called “One Church Plan” for the conservative Traditional Plan. The One Church Plan would have lifted prohibitions on individual churches choosing to marry same-sex couples and allowed LGBTQ followers of the religion to become ordained ministers, reports The Nashville Tennessean.
The motion failed by 75 votes, with 449 voting to keep the Traditional Plan in effect and 374 voting to adopt the more LGBTQ-friendly plan.
Currently, the church’s official position is that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” and, as such, has opposed past attempts to liberalize its stances on LGBTQ-related issues.
While much of the debate surrounding the fractures over social issues within the Church has focused on more conservative elements who have threatened to leave should the denomination become more LGBTQ-inclusive, Berlin noted that there are more liberal-leaning members of the Church who will be prompted to leave if the rigid prohibitions on LGBTQ inclusion remain intact.
But Nancy Denardo, a delegate from the Western Pennsylvania Conference, argued that the Church should adhere strictly to Biblical teaching on human sexuality.
“The One Church Plan does not agree with the words of our savior and in so doing deceives young persons into believing that same gender marriage is OK with God when clearly it is not,” Denardo said. “There is danger to that not only to those being deceived but the deceivers as well.”
I'm sorry, but Nancy Denardo cited in the article is a freaking moron who doesn't know the New Testament. Shame on her and shame on whoever put he r in a position to be a delegate. The Western Pennsylvania Conference is as follows if anyone wants to speak their mind:

United Methodist Center
1204 Freedom Road
PO Box 5002
Cranberry Township, PA 16066-0002
(724) 776-2300 

More Tuesday Male Beauty

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Trump and Male Christofascists War on Poor Women

Although the Trump/Pence regime has rankled its Christofascist supporters with the alleged effort to decriminalize homosexuality across the globe - personally, I think it is a ruse - it has not failed to thrill the GOP's religious extremist base when it comes to abortion and depriving poor women of access to birth control and basic medical access. Now, in a rule released last week, a prohibition has been put in place that prohibits Title X, a federal family-planning program that serves around four million low-income women, from funding organizations that also provide abortions.  Planned Parenthood is the principal target.  That the organization is the sole source of medical access to many poor women isn't even on Trump or Christofascists' radar. To me, it's a further demonstration of the far right's attitude that poor people simply need to die and disappear even as the "godly folk" park their wide, hypocrisy filled asses in church pews. A column in the New York Times looks at this latest attack on poor women and their right to control their own bodies.  Here are excerpts (for the record, I am not pro-abortion per se, but I believe in medical access for all and that medical decision should not be in the hands of those who cling to Bronze Age myths):
In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Margaret Atwood’s ever-resonant tale of misogynist dystopia, Christian fascism has a sordid, perverse underbelly. On the surface, the Republic of Gilead, Atwood’s imaginary successor to America, is a place of totalitarian religious austerity. But as the book’s enslaved narrator discovers, the society’s leaders also maintain a brothel, Jezebel’s, full of women who couldn’t fit into the new order. It’s the inevitable flip side of a regime that dehumanizes women, reducing them to their reproductive organs.
Donald Trump’s administration turns the Gilead model upside down. Its public image is louche and decadent, with tabloid scandal swirling around the president and many of his associates. This can make it hard to focus on the unprecedented lengths the administration is going to curtail American women’s reproductive rights and enrich the anti-abortion movement.
On Friday, the Trump administration escalated its war on Planned Parenthood and the women who use it. It released a rule prohibiting Title X, a federal family-planning program that serves around four million low-income women, from funding organizations that also provide abortions. Further, the administration instituted an American version of the global gag rule, barring doctors and nurses receiving Title X funds from making abortion referrals to their patients except in certain emergency situations.
The rule is meant to cut Planned Parenthood, which serves 41 percent of Title X recipients, out of the program. But for many women who rely on Title X, there are no alternatives. Planned Parenthood’s president, Dr. Leana Wen, told me that in Wisconsin, as of 2017, Planned Parenthood served 80 percent of Title X patients and was the only Title X provider in seven counties. In Ohio, Planned Parenthood was the only Title X provider in nine counties. “We know that when patients cannot access their provider of choice, they delay care,” or they end up forgoing care altogether, she said.
The new regulation jettisons a requirement that Title X clinics provide “medically approved” family planning services. That means that funds that once went to Planned Parenthood could flow instead to anti-abortion groups that promote so-called natural family planning. Unless the courts halt the new policy, struggling women who need refills on their birth control pills could get federally funded lectures on the rhythm method instead.
This move to turn a lifesaving women’s health program into pork for the religious right should be major news. Instead, it’s been overshadowed by a series of scandals, each offering telling glimpses of the sexual ethics of Trumpworld’s golf-shirted Commanders.
On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that prosecutors working under former Miami U.S. attorney Alex Acosta, now Trump’s secretary of labor, broke the law in the process of making an inexplicably lenient plea deal with the financier Jeffrey Epstein, who’d been accused of sexually abusing underage girls.
Then, on Friday, news broke that the billionaire Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and a close friend of and donor to Trump, was being charged with soliciting prostitution, part of a wide-ranging Florida sex-trafficking investigation. One of the 100 richest men in the country, Kraft was allegedly a patron of a strip-mall massage parlor staffed by women who, according to police, were virtual prisoners, forced to service up to 1,000 men a year. It’s hard to imagine why a man with Kraft’s resources would visit such a place unless the squalor, and the women’s evident powerlessness, were part of the point. (Kraft has denied the allegations; the police reportedly have video evidence.)
 The cruelty and moral bankruptcy of Trump and his Christofascist supporters is stunning.