Saturday, March 16, 2019

Key West 2019 - Day 2

Despite early rain, day two of our 2019 Key West pilgrimage was terrific.  The homes tour was over the top.  While typically focusing on old homes, this year a number of newer or significantly enlarged homes filled with amazing art work were the focus. Those thinking of visiting can check things out here as to when tours take place.  Later in the afternoon, the husband and I went by Local Luxe, a great and reasonably priced jewelry store at 515 Fleming Street, a few blocks down the street from The Equator Resort (the owner, Barbara, is very nice).  

Our evening consisted of dinner at Hot Tin Roof - where the photo above was taken - and seeing Young Frankenstein at the Waterfront Playhouse (the acting was superb as was the singing and dance routines.

Today, 12 of us will do lunch at Lattitudes on Sunset Key - an annual ritual - and this evening we are having a dual birthday dinner for two friends on the trip with us.  The afternoon will consist of lazing by the pool at The Equator.

Trump Voters and the Dreams of Brexit Britain

My many posts about Trump supporters and the Brexit leave faction in the United Kingdom have been typically less than kind.  In both groups, I see hatred, resentment and a delusional longing for a past that is forever lost - if it ever even existed as viewed in their minds - that in the longer term will harm the proponents of Trumpism and the Brexit leave supporters. And yes, race does play a major role in the mindset of both groups whether spoken or unspoken, as does a sense of lost privilege both domestically and internationally.  The Brexit leave group still longs subconsciously for the days of the British Empire when Britain dominated the global economy and the sun truly never set on the empire.  For Trumpists, they long for a return of the immediate post-WWII and early 1950's when the USA was the unchallenged world hegemon.   The problem is that the policies they support cannot restore the lost world either group longs for.  Meanwhile, especially in the case of Britain and Brexit, the policies will ultimately make their circumstances even worse.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the Brexit mindsel.  The parallels with Trump supporters are profound.  Here are highlights:

The June 2016 Brexit referendum left Britain a divided nation. That much we know. But the referendum didn’t create division. It exposed something that was already there, latent. This was hard to see if you attended to people’s conventional political views about taxation or public spending; even the issue of immigration, by itself, wasn’t “it.” Nor was it to be found in something as vague as “feelings” or “emotions.” It lay elsewhere, in the realm of the individual political psyche, that blending of personal, family and nonacademic history, casually informed reasoning, clan prejudice, tribal loyalty and ancestor worship that forms the imaginative framework in which, as we represent it to ourselves, our lives relate to events in the wider world.
In that framework, the way our representation of the past relates to our representation of the present isn’t always linear. What may seem, rationally, to be dead, gone and replaced (or to have never existed) is actually still there, immanent, or hidden, or stolen. An empire. An all-white Britain. A socialist Britain. A country that stood alone against the Nazi menace. One’s young self. A word for this is “dreaming.”
The past week has laid bare the crisis in British politics. . . . . How this situation resolves remains anyone’s guess.
The major cause of this paralysis is the breakdown of the just-about-ruling Conservative Party — one faction prepared to compromise over Brexit, the other, a small minority in Parliament, eager to break absolutely with the European Union whatever the consequences. This makes sense only if you understand the hard-core Brexiteer minority as most in tune with the Leaver dreaming: that state of mind where it’s natural to talk about the Britons who endured the Nazi siege of the early 1940s as “we,” as if the present and the past, the dead and the living, were one and the same, bound to re-enact the slaying of a European dragon every few generations.
Remainers have their own rich dreams, no less fascinating, but I spoke mainly to Leavers, since they were the disrupters. . . . . I noticed three things.
One was a strong sense of oppression, of being censored, and an attendant resentment. There were several occasions when Leavers I spoke to left pregnant gaps that could only have been filled with anti-immigrant sentiments that they weren’t “allowed” to say. By no means all Leavers are racist, but I ended up with the impression that for many, casual racism is regarded as a lost patrimony; that as much as Leavers might oppose immigration, they are no less resentful of the “elites” rendering it awkward to categorize people along racial lines.
Another thing I noticed was the internationalism of Leavers — internationalism with a particular flavor: the nostalgia for Ian Smith’s Rhodesia by a Norfolk farmer and member of the European Parliament from the far-right U.K. Independence Party. . . . 
The third thing was the preoccupation with the state as defender of its people. This was literal — U.K.I.P. fliers boasting of how many extra aircraft carriers they would build in government — but also figurative, that it was the British government’s job to defend native Britons against immigrants; foreign competition; greedy capitalists; and, through the National Health Service, illness.
I used to be skeptical of the idea that Britain hadn’t come to terms with the loss of its empire. It was such a long time ago, and not a single one of the many Leavers I’ve had hours of conversations with over the years has explicitly expressed wanting it back. How could you? It would be ridiculous.
I believe now that a subliminal empire does persist in the dreaming of a large number of Britons, hinted at in a longing for the return of guilt-free racial categorization, in the idea that my country can be both globally open and privileged in an international trading system where it can somehow turn the rules to its advantage, in the idea of a safe white core protected from the dark hordes beyond by a mighty armed force. This idea, which begins to make sense only if your country happens to control a global empire, came from someone whose childhood dream was to be an official in the Indian Civil Service. It has been orthodoxy for four decades, not just in her own party but for a time, at least, in the main opposition. The bizarre and already disproved notion that the global free market might work as an avatar of Britain’s imperial power lies at the heart of the die-hard Brexit psyche. Propagating it was Mrs. Thatcher’s personal success, and that success, as we can now see, was her great failure.

End Private Catholic Priest Access to Minors

As I often note, I was raised Roman Catholic and went all in on being Catholic, not the least because I was desperately trying to "pray away the gay" given the psychological damage the Church's 12th century dogma on sexuality and homophobia had done to me. I first became an altar boy at age 8 and prior to Vatican II.  I remained one until I graduated from high school,becoming one of the :senior" altar boys along the way.  While I was never sexually molested, I understand why and how easy it would be for a predator priest to prey on altar boys in particular and also children in Catholic schools. The priest of that time - and perhaps still so - were treated as demigods and never questioned or challenged.  And making matters worse, women were NEVER allowed in the church sacristy - where priest and altar boys donned their grab for mass - other than to drop off laundered altar linens. If one were going to molest an altar boy, the church sacristy was the perfect venue, especially at an early mass with perhaps a single altar boy attending at mass. This ease and unquestioned private access to children and youth combined with the Church's sick dogma on sexuality, is, in my view, why the sex abuse problem in the Church has been so rampant and why boys were disproportionately targeted.  Without such private access, the abuse would been far less.  A piece in The Advocate argues that this private, unquestioned access to would be victims must end.  Here are excerpts:
Cardinal Walter Kasper, a liberal reformer in the Catholic Church, recently spilled the beans about the state of Pope Francis's shaky papacy, telling a German interviewer that, "There are people who simply don't like this pontificate. They want it to end as soon as possible to then have, so to say, a new conclave."
While Pope Francis is on thin ice with conservative Catholics, for a host of reasons, he is arguably one of the most politically shrewd men on the planet. The 82-year-old is showing signs he's aware that if his papacy comes undone it will be because of movements from the Catholic right, the faction of the Church that insists homosexual men in the priesthood are the root cause of the clerical sex abuse crisis.
 As one of the most powerful religious figures on the world stage continues to makes his clever, byzantine moves to slander all homosexual men as mentally deranged and in need of psychiatric intervention — via bullhorn, dog whistle or that Bergoglian amalgam of both — and all to save his own hide, it's time for lay Catholics, at least those who aren't stakeholders in global slander, to step up to the plate and nip the clerical sex abuse of minors in the bud. Namely, to help end all private priestly access to minors, including child and adolescent participation in the sacrament of confession.
Readily available statistics show that the vast majority of Roman Catholic priests are not child molesters and in and of themselves present no danger to children and teens. But the church structures that enable grown men's private access to minors are demonstrably a danger to the young, and for continuing that reality, priests can be held to moral account.  Ultimately, it is ordinary Catholic parents, not the bishops, priests, and assorted lay Catholic power brokers/hangers-on who have the power to end private priestly access to minors, not merely by ending their children's participation in the sacrament of confession, but by putting that decision in writing to their parish priests, copied to their local bishops.
Biases, positive or negative, are a far cry from peer-reviewed social scientific data. With attorneys general in various states investigating Catholic dioceses, and with more clerical sex abuse scandals propping up in every corner of the globe — Australia, Chile, Germany — is it asking too much of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to, at minimum, provide the American public with some hard social scientific data, from objective non-Catholic sources, on child conscience formation to justify ongoing private access to minors by Catholic priests? Or will Catholics, indeed the American public at large, content themselves with yet another "oversight board" or "safe practices model" every time another clerical sex abuse scandal hits the news cycle, especially in light of the recent admission by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx that Catholic Church officials simply destroyed documents on child sexual abuse to cover-up for the crimes of priests?
Of course, there is a rather simple alternative that all Catholic parents can take who wish to instill gospel values into their children and teenagers, and to ensure their kids can look to the saints of history, official and unofficial, as role models. Be they parents in same-sex or opposite-sex relationships, single, liberal, conservative, or what have you, the safe alternative for Catholic parents is this: reading, praying and talking together as a family about life, about the virtues, and about the importance of examining conscience on a daily basis. Absolutely none of that requires a level of personal intimacy with strangers, and most certainly not the kind of intimacy that attends, especially for impressionable minors, calling a grown man outside of the family "Father."
If we can confront the degrees to which those of us who identify as Catholic sustain, by active commission or unexamined patterns, the ecclesial structures that are still, at present, endangering children and teens while serving as a springboard for the slander of innocent adults, we can ensure that future generations will look back on this one and feel what should come naturally — a sense of total mystification that we ever tolerated this trash heap of sexual abusers, enablers, and assorted slanderers for one second. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, March 15, 2019

Key West 2019 - Day 1

We arrived safely in Key West yesterday at 11:15 am.  In keeping a promise to the husband, I stayed off the computer and office email all day, although I went through over 100 office emails this morning.  We lazed around the pool at the Equator and reconnected with guys we see here each year this same weekend.  As always, we enjoyed the cocktail hour at the Equator before heading to Duval Street for dinner at Mangoes (see image at left) and then another cocktail at Bourbon Street Pub where we saw one of our favorite female impersonators, Porche (see image below) who doesn't do costume changes but instead changes her demeanor and voice to mimic numerous singers.  Her Carol Channing, Judy Garland and Janis Joplin imitations are wonderful - and she is hysterically funny.

Today, more friends - including our European travel companions - arrive and after some time by the pool, we will be doing the historic homes tour this afternoon and biking around the island. Later, the daily cocktail party and then dinner and a play down at the Red Barn Theater. 

Right Wing Terror Goes Global

Islamic terrorists have used the Internet for recruitment and the dissemination of their toxic hatred.  Now, it appears the same phenomenon is taking place with far right and white supremacy.  How else to explain the horrific murder of 49 at a mosque in New Zealand, hardly a nation known for racial strife and a flood of non-white immigrants.  The Washington Post looks at the slaughter:
Forty-nine people are dead and scores more are injured after a heavily armed gunman clad in military-style gear opened fire during prayers at a mosque in the center of Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. A second mosque was also targeted in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a well-planned “terrorist attack,” making for “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
Authorities said they had four people in custody — three men and one woman — but later clarified that only three were believed to have been involved in the violence. One man in his late 20s, whom the authorities declined to name, was charged with murder and was expected to appear in court on Saturday morning. The suspects had not been on security watch lists, officials said.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 41 people were killed at Al Noor Mosque on Deans Road, opposite a large downtown park. Seven more were fatally shot about three miles away at a mosque in Linwood, an inner suburb of Christchurch, and another person died at the hospital.
Health officials said 48 patients, including both young children and adults, were being treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, while additional victims were seeking medical treatment elsewhere. Around 200 family members were at the hospital awaiting news about loved ones.
Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media by a man who police confirmed had also released a manifesto railing against Muslims and immigrants. The 74-page document states that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
The manifesto, littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide,” is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.
The digital platforms apparently enlisted in the shooting highlight a distinctly 21st-century dimension of mass gun violence — one sure to put more pressure on social media companies already under scrutiny about how they police their services.

An editorial in the New York Times further looks at the toxic poison being spread by far right extremists.  Here are excerpts:

On Friday, a man in his late 20s strapped on a helmet camera, loaded his car with weapons, drove to a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand and began shooting at anyone who came into his line of vision. He broadcast the act of mass terror live for the world to watch on social media.
A 17-minute video of a portion of the attack, which leapt across the internet faster than social media censors could remove it, is one of the most disturbing, high-definition records of a mass casualty attack of the digital age — a grotesque first-person-shooter-like record of man’s capacity for inhumanity.
Videos of attacks are designed to amplify the terror, of course. But what makes this atrocity “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it, is both the methodical nature in which the massacre was conducted and how it was apparently engineered for maximum virality.
[T]he Christchurch shooting feels different, in part due to its perpetrator’s apparent familiarity with the darkest corners of the internet. The recording contains numerous references to online and meme culture, including name-checking a prominent YouTube personality shortly before beginning the attack.
The digital trail the shooter left behind appears to depict a white supremacist motivation for the attack. There is much, at this early date, that is unknown despite what’s been posted online. The 87-page manifesto, for instance, is filled with layers of ironic, self-referential commentary, apparently written to specifically enrage the communities that appear to have helped radicalize the gunman in the first place.
As terrifying as the violence itself is how well the online community worked in the gunman’s favor and the sinking notion that this may be our new reality. Not only has conspiratorial hate spread from the internet to real life, it’s also weaponized to go viral.

Meanwhile, here in the USA we have an occupant of the White House who fans white supremacist hate, rage and resentment daily. Will something like this soon happen in America with ts ridiculous gun culture?  Be very afraid. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

2019 Key West Pilgrimage

Early tomorrow, the husband and I head to Key West for our annual visit.  As in past years, we will be staying at the Equator Resort (pictured above), and are looking forward to seeing former neighbors who live in Key West now, other neighbors who will also be visiting, two of the husbands clients who winter in the keys, and our friends who took us to Europe last September. On the home front, one of the husband's salon employees will be living at our home while we are away (he's here now) to house sit and dog sit our Chihuahua.  Posting frequency will be likely reduced, although I will give updates on our adventures. 

How "Red America" is Becoming Queer Friendly

At times it is easy to get despondent in the face of the Trump/Pence regime war on LGBT rights and the continued alliance of Republicans with animus filled Christofascists. Yet, at the same time, progress is being made across the county in mid-sized and larger cities where LGBT non-discrimination protections are being enacted and LGBT acceptance is growing.  Sometimes the progress is in the most unlikely places: Jackson, Mississippi has more LGBT protections than Norfolk, Virginia.  A column in in the New York Times looks at the pleasant surprises happening in many parts of red America.  Here are some highlights:

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.
What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.
From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.
In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake City; Bozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.
A majority of Americans — in all but six states — now support same-sex marriage. Most support transgender military service. Most oppose businesses’ turning away L.G.B.T. customers in the name of religion. Public opinion on L.G.B.T. people is finally turning a corner, not just on the coasts but between them as well.
That shift is thanks in large part to the increasing proportion of Americans who identify as L.G.B.T. themselves. According to Gallup polling data, 4.5 percent of American adults now identify as L.G.B.T., which is a full percentage point higher than in 2012. Millennials may not be more likely to be L.G.B.T., but their increased willingness to come out of the closet is driving the community’s numbers up.
Queer people, simply put, are everywhere. . . . . As more millennials move to the South and West — and as more Americans all over the country come out as L.G.B.T. — cities like Louisville, Ky.; Norfolk, Va.; New Orleans; and Salt Lake City are all seeing huge spikes in the percentage of their residents who identify as L.G.B.T., as data from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, shows. At the same time, between 1990 and 2014, that same statistic stayed relatively static for longstanding hubs of gay culture like San Francisco and Los Angeles — and it even fell in New York City.
America’s queer center of gravity is moving toward the middle. Before we know it, this country will have become L.G.B.T.-friendly not from the outside in but from the inside out.
There are plenty of reasons for L.G.B.T. Americans to feel despondent right now. But hope is just down the road.

More and More U.S. Catholics Question Their Church Membership

As long time readers know, I left Catholicism even before I came out publicly.  One of the catalysts for me was the sex abuse scandal that exploded on Boston in 2002, which was the focus of the Academy Award winning movie, Spotlight.  That was 17 years ago and in the intervening years no part of the globe has been spared from Catholic clergy sex abuse scandals which as of this week culminated in the 6 year sentence handed down against Cardinal George Pell, the senior cleric in Australia and by some accounts the number three man at the Vatican until now.  Meanwhile, even as my other family members have abandoned the Catholic Church, countless American Catholics have kept their heads in the sand, refusing to admit that the institution they are supporting financially and attending is morally bankrupt and perhaps more akin to a criminal enterprise than a institution dedicated to God.   Now, a new Gallup survey suggest that 37% of American Catholics are belatedly questioning whether or not to remain members of the Catholic Church.  Here are highlight from from Gallup:
As the Catholic church responds to more allegations of sexual abuse of young people by priests, an increasing percentage of Catholics are re-examining their commitment to the religion. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. Catholics, up from 22% in 2002, say news of the abuse has led them to question whether they would remain in the church.
While the polling was being conducted, Pope Francis met with Catholic leaders from around the world at the Vatican to respond to a new wave of sex abuse allegations in numerous countries. The church dealt with a similar crisis in the U.S. in 2002, the last time Gallup polled about this. That polling came after The Boston Globe reported on widespread abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston area and church leaders' efforts to prevent the abuse from becoming public knowledge.
Gallup's latest findings show that the current scandal is affecting U.S. Catholics more than the one in 2002 did, in terms of their feelings about the church.
Substantial minorities of both practicing and nonpracticing Catholics say they are questioning their commitment to the church -- but, as might be expected, those less committed to their religion are more likely to be questioning it. Whereas 46% of Catholics who seldom or never attend church say they have questioned whether they would remain in the faith, 37% of those who attend church on a monthly basis and 22% who attend weekly say the same.
The same pattern existed in 2002, although both practicing and nonpracticing Catholics are more likely now than in 2002 to be questioning their place in the church. Seventeen years ago, only one in eight weekly churchgoers were re-examining their membership, as were 24% of semi-regular churchgoers and 29% of infrequent ones.
Catholics are less confident in priests in the U.S. more generally, and in U.S. bishops and other Catholic leaders. About one in four U.S. Catholics say they have very little or no confidence in those two groups. One in eight have little or no confidence in Pope Francis or their own priests.
While it is uncertain how many of the 37% of U.S. Catholics who say they're questioning remaining in the church will actually leave in response to the latest sex abuse scandal, any loss of adherents is certainly not welcome news -- especially when the church is dealing with larger societal trends moving away from formal religion. A decline in the number of Catholics would seem especially problematic if it were driven by practical matters such as how church leaders responded to a scandal rather than fundamental spiritual matters such as disagreement with church teachings or church members finding their faith to be unfulfilling.
Catholics shaken by the latest scandal could be affected in other ways besides leaving the church, including less frequent church attendance and being less willing to listen to church leaders' teachings on matters of faith.

In my view, the Catholic Church needs a major reformation that includes (i) removal of god knows how many bishops and cardinals involved in sex abuse themselves or in deliberate cover ups, and (ii) a rejection of the Church's idiotic 12th century views on sex and human sexuality and the role of women. If this doesn't happen, expect to see Church membership plummet in developed countries with the Church being destined to be an Africa based church relying on ignorant and uneducated populations to maintain its falling membership. 

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Bigotry Lives on at Chesapeake's Deep Creek Academy

Click image to enlarge.
Since Donald Trump's election, white supremacists have felt emboldened.  So to have right wing Christians who feel themselves free to discriminate against their hate-filled Bronze Age beliefs thanks the Trump/Pence regime's open warfare against the rights of LGBT citizens as well as other minorities.  Here in Hampton Roads the most reactionary and anti-gay city is the city of Chesapeake, Virginia.  Thus, it is not surprising that anti-LGBT hatred is alive and well at Deep Creek Academy which is affiliated with Deep Creek Baptist Church, where those who do not subscribe to carefully cherry picked bible passages have been advised that they and their children are not welcome. After all, what's more "Christian" than bigotry against children - just ask Trump supporters who looked the other way at the horrific family separation policy which is still continuing although off the media's current radar.  Personally, I do not know why anyone would want to be a Baptist much less send their child to a Baptist affiliated school, especially many of such "academies" trace back to the racist "Massive Resistance" movement.  Hate is something that is learned and taught and that's what is happening at Deep Creek Academy.  Outwire757 looks at the anti-LGBT policies of this less than Christian academy.  Here are excerpts:
For over three years, the Denny family has been welcomed by the teachers and staff of Chesapeake’s Deep Creek Academy’s preschool. The school offered them a convenient, high quality, and affordable facility where their child could learn and grow with friends from their neighborhood.
That all came to an end last week when they were informed of a new policy that they feel targets their family.
Kelsea Denny (who transitioned from male to female this past year) received a re-enrollment letter from the Deep Creek Baptist Church, which houses and runs the preschool. She was alarmed by language in the letter that included a “Statement of Faith and Practice” and a new enrollment agreement policy. The letter included homophobic and transphobic views on same-sex marriage and gender expression that all parents of enrollees must sign as part of the application process.
The new language included includes the following:
“We are welcoming to all people and we affirm the Biblical and traditional definition of marriage being of one man to one woman and a Biblical and traditional understanding of gender identity.
“Deep Creek Academy (DCA) is a Christian school, and a ministry of Deep Creek Baptist Church (DCBC). Our teachers, students, and families are expected to conduct themselves in a manner in accordance with the faith statement and Christian values of DCA, DCBC, and its leadership. We reserve the right to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student.”
The Director of the school forewarned the family that an updated policy was under discussion. According to Ms. Denny, the director of the school advocated against the policy and ultimately resigned her position in protest. The new policy still came as a surprise to Ms. Denny since school teachers and leadership had been open and supportive during her transition.
As Denny understands it, the new policy will not be implemented until the start of the next school term that begins in August 2019. Currently, her child is a student at DCA. However under the new policy, Ms. Denny would not be allowed to either drop off or pick up her child since that requires her to enter the building and sign the child in and out, in effect banning her from the school’s campus.
As a result, they are currently looking for another preschool in the area and are unsure how DCA will enforce this new policy dictated by leadership of DCBC.
DCA’s policy is similar to Immanuel Christian School in northern Virginia where Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence teaches art twice a week.
OutWire757 has reached out to DCA and DCBC for comment. As of this writing, they have not responded.
Decent, moral people who support Christ's message should avoid Deep Creek Baptist Church and its pre-school that is teaching hatred against others.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Cardinal George Pell of Australia Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

George Pell attends a sentence hearing at a Melbourne court on 27 February 2019

In other positive news, Cardinal George Pell of Australia has been sentenced to six years in prison for his sexual abuse of minors.  There are likely many more senior prelates who need to be jailed either for their own abuse of minors or their participation in the Catholic Church's worldwide conspiracy to protect predator priest and other clergy.  The New York Times looks at Pell's sentencing.  Note the judge's use of the word arrogance, which applies broadly across the ranks of the Catholic bishops and cardinals. They view themselves as princes while the rest of us are little better than serfs.  Here are article highlights:
MELBOURNE, Australia — George Pell, an Australian cardinal who was the Vatican’s chief financial officer and an adviser to Pope Francis, was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday, for molesting two boys after Sunday Mass in 1996.
The cardinal was convicted on five counts in December, making him the most senior Catholic official — and the first bishop — to be found guilty in a criminal court for sexually abusing minors, according to, which tracks cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
Cardinal Pell, who stood stone-faced with lips pursed when his sentence was read aloud, will not be eligible for parole for three years and eight months.
“I would characterize these breaches and abuses as grave,” the chief judge in the case, Peter Kidd, said during the sentencing. Speaking directly to Cardinal Pell, he added: “Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.”
The sentence, falling far short of the 50-year maximum, will be closely scrutinized around the world. The sentencing was broadcast live from the courtroom in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, where Cardinal Pell first rose to prominence as an archbishop.
It brings to a close two years of legal jockeying over evidence and accusations of sexual abuse, most of which were kept from public view by Australia’s legal system until recently. And for Catholics all over the world, it amounts to the toppling of a Vatican giant, a cleric of enormous power who will now reside behind bars.
“The importance of this case cannot be overstated,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of “It will set a precedent.” . . . . Some called it a welcome if small dose of justice, while others said the sentence was far too lenient.
“Why should we take into account his age?” said Phil Nagle, an advocate for abuse victims from Ballarat, Cardinal Pell’s hometown. “He’s ruined lives.”
[H]e [Pell] is well known, in part, for protecting church finances from large payouts to abuse victims — and a culture warrior. He could frequently be found raising money for conservative causes in Australia, publicly condemning homosexuality and stepping into policy debates as well, opposing, for example, legislation to allow adoption by gay parents.
Note too Pell's breathtaking hypocrisy: sentenced for raping two 13 year old boys, yet railing against gays and gay parenting.   The Vatican is full of Cardinal Pell's.

Americans Broadly Support Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT Individuals

click image to enlarge.
In what will hopefully become very bad news for Christofascists and Republican political whores who prostrate themselves to them, the House Democrats are introducing the LGBTQ Equality Act of 2019 - a counterpart bill will be introduced in the U.S. Senate.  Meanwhile, (i) a PPRI survey has found that across party lines, demographics, and geography, Americans broadly support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, and (ii) more than 160 major American corporations are supportive of the Act's enactment.  Here in Virginia, the Republican controlled House of Delegates killed every bill that would have offered LGBT Virginians non-discrimination protections in what has become an annual event.  All that mattered to these Republicans was that the foul folks at The Family Foundation - to call them modern day Pharisees is far too kind - opposed the bills.  The fact that 68% of Virginians support such protections meant nothing to these political prostitutes. Now, with similar legislation in Congress we can expect to see similar disregard for public support on display among Congressional Republicans and, of course, at the White House.   Here are highlights on the PPRI findings:
Americans remain supportive of broad nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Nearly seven in ten (69%) Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in the job market, public accommodations, and housing.
Younger Americans are 17 percentage points more likely than older Americans to say they support laws protecting LGBT people from various forms of discrimination. More than three-quarters (76%) of younger Americans (ages 18-29) favor such laws, compared to 59 percent of seniors (ages 65 and older).
Support for nondiscrimination protections enjoys broad support across the political spectrum. Majorities of Democrats (79%), independents (70%), and Republicans (56%) say they favor laws that would shield LGBT people from various kinds of discrimination. While support among Democrats and independents has remained relatively constant, Republican support for these provisions has fallen five percentage points over the past few years, down from 61 percent in 2015.
Majorities of liberals (81%), moderates (76%), and conservatives (55%) all favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.
Ideological differences are more pronounced among Democrats and independents than among Republicans. The biggest intra-party divide is among Democrats: Liberal Democrats (87%) are likelier than moderate (76%) and conservative (61%) Democrats to favor nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people. Liberal (79%) and moderate (78%) independents are also likelier than conservative independents (58%) to support nondiscrimination protections.
Solid majorities of all major religious groups in the U.S. support laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and the workplace. More than three-quarters of Americans who identify with New Age religions (86%), Jews (80%), Hindus (79%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (78%), and Buddhists (75%) support these protections. Similarly, robust majorities of Mormons (70%), Hispanic Catholics (72%), white mainline Protestants (71%), white Catholics (71%), other non-white Catholics (68%), and Americans who identify with other religions (67%) favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections, along with majorities of black Protestants (65%), other non-white Protestants (61%), Muslims (60%), Hispanic Protestants (60%), and Orthodox Christians (59%).
White evangelical Protestants (54%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (53%) are least likely to support LGBT nondiscrimination protections, but even among these groups support remains in majority territory.
Majorities of residents in all regions of the U.S. and all 50 states support non-discrimination protections for LGBT Americans. However, residents of New England states express the most robust support for laws designed to protect LGBT people from discrimination. At least three-quarters of the residents of New Hampshire (81%), Vermont (77%), Connecticut (76%), Massachusetts (75%), and Rhode Island (73%) favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans.
States in the West also demonstrate high levels of support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals. More than seven in ten residents of several Western states—including Washington (75%), California (73%), New Mexico (73%), Colorado (72%), and Oregon (72%)—favor laws that would protect LGBT Americans from discrimination.
Conversely, states with the lowest levels of support are primarily located in the South, where about six in ten residents of West Virginia (63%), Oklahoma (62%), Mississippi (59%), Kentucky (59%), Alabama (59%), South Carolina (58%), and Arkansas (56%) say LGBT people should be legally protected from discrimination.
 The question becomes, this: when are Republicans going to stop thwarting the will of the majority? 

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Beto O'Rourke Ramps Up in Iowa

As more and more would be candidates enter the fray for the 2020 Democrat Party nomination, one possible candidate has held back on declaring to date, but seems to be taking steps for a presidential run.  The candidate is Beto O'Rourke,  Where he will shake out in the mix is uncertain.  What is certain so far, is that no candidate who has announced to date has set the base on fire with enthusiasm outside of Sander's almost cult like followers.  Biden has not yet announced and, I fear is not electable despite the chatter to the contrary. Ditto for Sanders who, like Biden, is in my view too old.  O'Rouke, who came close to defeating Ted Cruz in deep red Texas might perhaps be able to rally younger voters to actually go to the polls and vote against Trump and others in the GOP who are busy destroying their futures.  Time will tell, of course, but at the moment, no one in the Democrat field so far excites me.  Some like Warren, Harris and Sanders who have meddled in Virginia's politics have already alienated me.  A piece in Politico looks at O'Rourke's seeming steps to launch his campaign.  Here are highlights:
Beto O’Rourke is beginning to staff up in Iowa and has been in talks about visiting the first-in-the-nation caucus state as early as this week.
Democrats organizing a rally for Eric Giddens, a Democratic state Senate candidate, in Iowa on Saturday have told prospective attendees that they expect O’Rourke to appear at the event, a source familiar with the plans told POLITICO.
Norm Sterzenbach, a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, is assisting O’Rourke in the state and was reviewing resumes from potential staffers as recently as last week, according to two sources familiar with O’Rourke’s Iowa operation. O’Rourke, like several Democrats who already have announced their presidential campaigns, has been in discussions about assisting Giddens in his March 19 special election, potentially with a door-knocking effort, according to three Iowa Democrats.
O’Rourke’s outreach comes as the former Texas congressman begins to more intensely court activists outside of his home state. He is preparing for a near-certain presidential run after months of deliberation.
O’Rourke is scheduled to participate in a call with the High School Democrats of America on Sunday, the group said. Its advisory informed participants that questions must be “must be brief and unrelated to Beto as a potential 2020 candidate.”
O’Rourke said nearly two weeks ago that he has decided whether to run for president. In Austin, Texas, over the weekend for the South by Southwest festival, he told reporters, “I want to make sure I do it the right way and I tell everyone at the same time, so I’ll be doing that.”
He said, “I’ve got to be on the timeline that works for my family and for the country.”
A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll released Saturday saw O’Rourke’s poll numbers slipping in Iowa. He had dropped to 5 percent in the poll, down from 11 percent in December. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are running far ahead of the rest of the field in the state.
O’Rourke’s advisers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did Gibbens, Sterzenbach, Tewes or Plouffe.
The Democrats MUST find someone who can defeat Trump or Pence should the lair-in-chief somehow decide not to run.  The nation and the world cannot stand four more years of Trump/Pence.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, March 11, 2019

Trump Budget: Slash Social Programs After $1.5 Trillion Gift to Wealthy

Trump message to seniors: just die. 
Once again demonstrating that He and the Republican Party want to bring back the Gilded Age when the wealthy lived in obscene extravagance which many Americans barely survived. After giving the very wealthy and large corporations $1.5 trillion in tax breaks - which has caused the federal deficit to balloon just as every sane commentator predicted - Trump and his enablers in the Republican Party seek to slash Medicare spending in Trump's just announced budget. Rest assured that Medicaid and other programs will be similarly targeted.  For those under 65, Medicare is NOT free.  Recipients pay quarterly premiums and, if they are smart, they purchase a supplement that entails monthly premiums as well.  And for those working past 65, you also continue to pay Medicare withholding tax (I now pay more in Medicare withholding that I did for many years in income tax) - which added to withholding over one's working career can total to a large number. Medicare is anything but an "entitlement."  The same holds true for Social Security.  Thus, Trump's proposal can be described as making working Americans - including the cretins who voted for Trump and the GOP - pay into the Medicare and Social Security systems and then reducing their benefits to give lavish tax cuts to the wealthy.  The Washington Post looks at Trump's budget and the gift it may constitute to Democrats.  Here are article excerpts:

A new proposal by President Trump to slash Medicare spending puts Republicans in a political bind ahead of the 2020 election as Democrats are pitching an expansion of the popular health-care program for all Americans.
Trump’s 10-year budget unveiled Monday calls for more than $845 billion in reductions for Medicare, aiming to cut “waste, fraud and abuse” in the federal program that gives insurance to older Americans. It’s part of a broader proposed belt-tightening effort after deficits soared during the president’s first two years in office in part due to massive tax cuts for the wealthy.
The move immediately tees up a potential messaging battle between Democratic proposals for Medicare-for-all — castigated by Republicans as a socialist boondoggle — and a kind of Medicare-for-less approach. focused on cutting back on spending, from the GOP.
Democrats, including some seeking to challenge Trump in 2020, seized on the proposed Medicare cuts Monday as an example of the GOP seeking to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly and the poor after giving broad tax breaks to the wealthy.
“Make no mistake about it: Trump’s budget is a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate, said in a Monday tweet that highlighted Medicare cuts.
In states with large senior populations, such as Florida, political attacks over Medicare cuts have proved so effective that both parties have used them. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) won his seat after running ads last year accusing Democrat Bill Nelson of voting to cut Medicare.
Trump probably needs to win Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania and other states with large numbers of seniors to secure reelection in 2020. Older Americans consistently vote at higher rates than younger Americans.
Trump’s proposed Medicare savings are more than three times as large as those in his previous budget, and industry lobbying groups said the reductions would hurt hospitals and seniors. “The impact on care for seniors would be devastating,” Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said in a statement. “Hospitals are less and less able to cover the cost of care for Medicare patients, it is no time to gut Medicare.” Democratic strategists and officials argued Monday that Trump’s budget proposal exposed how little credibility Republicans have in debating health care, and showed signs of confidence that it would sharpen the contrast Democrats are seeking to make in the run-up to the 2020 election.
“It totally eviscerates any integrity to their already pretty flimsy attack,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “This assault on Medicare lays bare the real Republican agenda, which is to destroy the health-care safety net. They have no shred of intellectual underpinning or integrity to their attack on Democrats if they make this kind of proposal.”
In last year’s midterm elections, Democrats campaigned aggressively on health care, attacking Republicans over their failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The dynamic marked a shift from the two previous midterm elections, during which the GOP was the party mainly going on offense on health care, slamming Democrats over the creation of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. “This budget says a lot about the President’s priorities: cut $845 billion from Medicare, while spending billions on his vanity project, the wall,” Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted, referring to Trump’s request for border wall funding. “This would hurt our seniors and is yet another piece of evidence for why we need a new president.” “It’s a political fumble on the Republican part in the sense that this budget is going nowhere,” he said. “The argument prior to this was the Democrats’ plan versus the status quo. And now it’s the Democrats’ plan versus the Republican plan to cut Medicare.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said on Twitter: “One party wants to expand Medicare and Medicaid and the other wants to cut them. That’s the end of my tweet.”
The question will be whether the racism of Trump's base and that base's hatred of others outweigh their own economic/health care best interest.  If these folks continue to support Trump, they truly deserve to suffer every misfortune imaginable and should get no sympathy from others. 

More Monday Male Beauty

Methodist Vote Reminds Us of the Bigotry of "Conservative" Christianity

Click image to enlarge.
Nowadays, I often believe that two books have created more misery and horrors throughout history than all others.  In first place is the Bible.  It's main challenger, the Koran.  Both have been utilized to justify the mistreatment and murder of others and the subjugation of women and the marginalization of minorities. Rather than supporting love towards others and unity, they engender hatred and division. The recent vote of the United Methodist Church general conference re-enforced this reality as the forces of hatred and bigotry prevailed. Fortunately, in the USA, Canada and much of Europe, the younger generations are walking away from organized religion and, with luck, Christianity - especially the "conservative" variety - will become a religion observed by a shrinking minority of the population and lose its ability to promote evil.  A piece in The Advocate reminds us that we must continue to oppose the hate and misogyny that conservative Christianity promotes.  Here are excerpts:

Movements of resistance have always recognized that our individual and collective power is a deeply spiritual reality. In the midst of fighting to overturn oppression, queer and trans people have known how to find joy and create pleasure and build connections that sustain even in times of crises and death. We have not lost sight of the holy in our flesh or the sacred in our stories. We have withstood incredible violence and fostered love in its midst. When so much power in marginalized communities is born from these spiritual capacities, it’s no wonder religion is so often co-opted by dominant forces and turned against us.
Ironically enough, in the United Methodist Church, we take vows to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” For many LGBTQIA people, this has long and necessarily included holding the church accountable for its own forms of violence, including but certainly not limited to anti-LGBTQ practices and policies.
I have committed myself, along with others, to the work of unlearning, unteaching, and resisting the kinds of words and ideas about faith that destroy lives and communities. Over the last few decades, the movement to create positive change for LGBTQIA people in the church has grown considerably. Currently in the UMC, despite the prohibitions against our love and leadership, we have almost 300 openly LGBTQ clergy people and nearly 1,000 communities and congregations that have pledged their support and solidarity.
[M]any people were hoping, even expecting, that the United Methodist Church would follow the trend of other Protestant denominations and loosen restrictions against full inclusion of queer and trans people. But as much as we might love the idea that time is progress, the denomination’s global decision-making body met last month in St. Louis and reminded all of us that sometimes #ItGetsWorse.
At this special global gathering called specifically to find “a way forward” on the church’s conflict over its discriminatory policies, the body voted to pass the “Traditional Plan” in favor of tightening sanctions on LGBTQIA clergy and those who officiate or host same-sex weddings. Further, none of the theological teachings of the church were made less harmful, much less overturned, sending a deeply painful message to the queer and trans people hoping to hear the church turn toward love.
Last month, a long history of white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and cisheterosexism was neither confronted nor transformed in the United Methodist Church. The climax to a 46-year “disagreement” on LGBTQ inclusion was the obvious unfolding of inadequately unaddressed legacies of power -- the same ones that undergird all of the major institutions in this country.
Queer and trans people within and outside of the church will feel the costs. Many will leave or be forced to leave their places of spiritual belonging. Others will still stay and continue to fight for their lives and the lives of those who came before and will come after. And even more who rightfully want nothing to do with any church will still be unjustly affected, knowingly and not.
The United Methodist Church and its renewed commitment to the exclusion of LGBTQIA people is both harrowing and unexceptional in its impact. Whether we are within or without, religious or not, it beckons all of us to simply remember the real work before us that belongs to all of us: confronting Christian and white supremacy, overturning misogyny, building possibilities of gender and sexual liberation.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Merits of Statehood for the District of Columbia

In terms of population, the District of Columbia has a population larger than those of the states of Vermont and Wyoming, the latter of which has a population significantly smaller than those of the combined populations of the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach (Alaska and North Dakota have only slightly larger populations).  Yet residents of the District of Columbia have no voting member of in the House of Representatives and no Senators. Worse yet, laws passed by the District's democratic legislative body can be over ruled by Congress.  In short, so much for concepts such as one man one vote or no taxation without representations - concepts that go to the heart of America's democratic principals.  Now, Democrats in Congress seek to end this injustice and embarrassment by pushing for full statehood for the District of Columbia (naturally, anti-democratic Republicans oppose the effort).  A piece in the New Yorker looks at the movement,  Here are highlights:

In the coming days, the House will vote on, and likely pass, H.R. 51, a bill that would make Washington, D.C., the fifty-first state. The bill, which has two hundred co-sponsors, was introduced by Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who for nearly thirty years has served as the non-voting representative for D.C.’s single at-large district. During her time in Congress, Holmes Norton has introduced more than a dozen statehood bills; this will be the first since 1993 to receive a vote. But because Washington, D.C., is not a state, Holmes Norton cannot vote on her own bill, or on final passage of other legislation on the House floor.
In the Senate, a companion piece of legislation, introduced by Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, has twenty-eight co-sponsors, including all of that chamber’s candidates for President: Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. A few weeks ago, I asked Warren about her interest in statehood and why she thinks the issue should galvanize Democrats. “It matters,” she said. “Here’s an example. In 2017, when Republicans tried to rip away health care from millions of Americans, including tens of thousands of people in D.C., Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton didn’t have a vote. This is not right. The right to vote is at the heart of our democracy.”
Warren noted, too, that Congress has authority to overturn the district’s laws, which Republicans have exercised more boldly in recent years. “A Republican-led Congress has actually overturned laws that the people of the District of Columbia have determined through the democratic process that they want,” she said, noting that Congress has effectively blocked laws on domestic partnerships, providing abortion services, and legalizing medical marijuana.
For Holmes Norton, another clarifying moment had come in 2009, when Democrats were prepared to pass the D.C. Voting Rights Bill, which would have given D.C. a vote in the House. Then the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied to include a provision that would have overturned the city’s gun-control laws. “That was very heartbreaking,” Holmes Norton told me. “Since then, we’ve just gone for full-fledged statehood.”
Most Republicans, predictably, are less open to the idea. When, in 2016, the Washington Post’s editorial board asked the Presidential candidate John Kasich why he was opposed to giving D.C. voting representatives, he said, “What it really gets down to, if you want to be honest, is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party.”
Republican opposition aside, though, Holmes Norton and statehood advocates are beginning this latest push under favorable conditions. On Friday, the House passed H.R. 1, a large package of pro-democracy reforms—including public campaign financing and automatic voter registration—advanced by Democrats. The bill also contained a nonbinding endorsement of statehood for Washington, D.C. This made H.R. 1’s passage the first time that a house of Congress has backed statehood for the district. Both H.R. 1 and H.R. 51 have arrived at a moment when disenfranchisement, particularly for African-Americans—who make up forty-seven per cent of D.C.’s population—has become a galvanizing issue for Democrats.
H.R. 51 has also arrived at a moment when progressives and other voices on the left are pushing the Democratic Party to adopt structural reforms and strategies that would facilitate the passage of bold left-wing legislation, within a federal government designed to thwart sudden change. One of the more prominent advocates of this strategy is David Faris, a professor of political science at Roosevelt University, who has urged Democrats to support statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico, and even to consider breaking up the state of California. “The Constitution’s unchangeable writ that each state have an equal number of senators means that no matter how many more votes Democrats get nationally, they are going to win the Senate only during wave election years, and then probably only for a relatively brief period of time,” Faris wrote in his book “It’s Time to Fight Dirty,” from 2018. “Therefore, to make any lasting changes to U.S. politics and society, Democrats are going to have to admit more states to the union and create further entities out of the ones that already exist. And they must start with Washington, D.C.”
In Washington’s case, there remains a divide between statehood advocates who believe success will lie in overcoming factional divisions and those open to owning them. Holmes Norton hopes that consensus can be built on the democratic merits of statehood alone. “Somehow or the other,” she told me, “the overriding issue of whether you could deny people paying federal income taxes and do not have equal rights has to rise to the level where people are not intimidated by it and where people don’t think that they will be endangered by it.”
[T]o get to democracy as it should work, Democrats will have to push statehood through democracy as it is. The House vote on H.R. 51 will be an important first step in building the public’s awareness of an issue of real salience to all those troubled by how undemocratic our democracy can be.