Saturday, April 06, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty

Yes, It Matters That Pete Buttigieg Is Gay

Democrat candidate Pete Buttigrieg isn't at the top of the polls and hasn't raised the most money, but to many in the LGBT community he has caught people's attention. Why? In part, because many of us never thought a gay man could be viewed by so many as a plausible candidate for the highest office in the land. Polls have shown that 68% of Americans - true some may be lying - say that Buttigrieg's sexual orientation is not a problem to them. Growing up gay can be traumatic, not because there is anything inherently wrong with being gay, but because the bigotry and cruelty that has been heaped on gays for so long by society.  Indeed, the Christofascists and the Trump/Pence regime continue to wage a war against LGBT equality. Two recent pieces look at Buttigrieg's candidacy, one in The Atlantic and the other by Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine.  The first examines why Buttigrieg's gayness matters and the latter ponders whether Buttigrieg could prove to be a transformation candidate.  Here are excerpts from The Atlantic:
In my lifetime, it has been illegal for me to serve in the military, illegal for me to marry, illegal for me to adopt children, and even illegal for me to have sex. Society barred me from the first three; until 2003, the fourth meant risk of a fine or a prison sentence in some states. This discrimination did not just happen in a history book—it happened to me, and it happened to Buttigieg, too.
I am two years older than Buttigieg. We could have grown up with the same cartoons, listened to the same music, felt the same fear when we heard that Matthew Shepard had been murdered. We’ve lived through discrimination, and the fact that laws have changed doesn’t alleviate the trauma of our past. Ask our gay elders whether they’ve recovered from losing their friends and colleagues who died by the tens of thousands during the AIDS crisis. That pain is fresh.
During an interview with an LGBTQ magazine, Buttigieg described himself as “somebody whose marriage exists as a function of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court.” Our position in society is hardly secure. The fight for equality isn’t won. It still matters that I am gay, so it matters to me that Buttigieg is gay.
In many states, it remains legal to fire gay people for being gay. And if you’re tired of hearing about that fact, imagine how tired I am of living it. There is no public-accommodations law at the federal level that stops landlords from refusing to rent me an apartment if I show up for the home tour while holding my husband’s hand.
Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend when the Indiana governor signed a law in 2015 allowing businesses to turn away gay customers. That law didn’t stick, but the governor is now our vice president, Mike Pence. He stuck. Forgive me if I like the idea of having someone in the White House who understands what I’ve been through, and who would protect me from the people who would turn me away.
For the first time in my life, I’m now represented in government by another gay man, Brian Sims, the outspoken Pennsylvania lawmaker who went viral for flipping off Mike Pence. (He represents my corner of Philadelphia in Harrisburg.)
Sims told me that being gay put Buttigieg in “learning situations” that give the candidate “heightened insight into issues far beyond human sexuality.” Sims believes that a “multidimensional identity can help educate, enlighten, and ultimately solve many of our most pressing cultural problems.”
Identity matters. Like most Democrats, I have not yet decided who to vote for in a primary that is still months away. But I believe it matters that Cory Booker is a black man, that Kamala Harris is the daughter of an Indian mom and a Jamaican dad, and that Buttigieg is gay. These facets of their identities mean that they can understand the powerless, as victims of power, and that they can understand the alienated, having been marginalized.
Beyond questions of empathy, Buttigieg being out is germane because he’s a role model to those who want to come out.
Gay men are largely missing from positions of power. An out gay man has never served on the U.S Supreme Court. Not a single out gay man served on the federal bench until President Barack Obama took office. There is not and has never been an out gay man in the U.S. Senate. Buttigieg came out in 2015 on his own terms, but that counts as progress only in an unfair system.
“When you are a member of a marginalized or often invisible community, there is something especially powerful about seeing someone like you that isn’t actually you,” said Erin Uritus, the head of Out & Equal, a group for LGBTQ business people, when I asked her about Buttigieg. “When LGBTQ young people wonder what is in store for their future and they can look to Tim Cook or Rachel Maddow or Pete Buttigieg, their entire world opens up.”
The movement for equal rights has made tremendous strides. But we are not immune from persecution, especially not young people. Researchers at the Williams Institute estimate that 4.5 percent of the American population is LGBTQ. They also estimate that 40 percent of youth in homeless shelters are LGBTQ.
You can be sure that LGBTQ people are paying attention to how society treats Buttigieg as a candidate. The questions on their mind: Is it safe out there? Is this really possible?
“For young members of the LGBTQ community, many of whom may be suffering discrimination or bullying or even being ostracized from their own family, seeing a member of our community run for president helps them know it’s going to be okay.”

Sullivan's piece looks at a wider perspective.  He questions Buttigrieg's relative youth - forgetting that many of the Founding Fathers were even younger at the time of the American Revolution - and inexperience, forgetting that Trump had/has even less experience.  Here are highlights:
One of the reasons I thought Donald Trump would win in 2016 was not just that he was focusing on the core issues roiling the middle classes (immigration and globalization). It was because he had the perfect foil for his persona in Hillary Clinton. Trump was fresh to politics, anti-Establishment, an outsider, populist, alpha male, and nationalist, with a base primed to despise Clinton. Clinton had been in power forever, was pure Establishment, a total insider, globalist, alpha female, predictable, with a base stunned by Trump. It was the kind of contrast Trump longed for, and it was a central element in his success. And these matchups matter. Trump is widely unpopular by himself. He will need a good foil to win in a binary race.
So, leaving policy aside for a second, who would be the best Democratic foil from the anti-Trump perspective? By which I mean, which set of qualities is most likely to contrast with Trump in a way that makes the Democratic contender seem fresh, and the president appear old, clueless, and malevolent? I suspect it is this question that is behind the budding candidacy of one Pete Buttigieg. When you think of him in a debate with Trump, one-on-one, everything gets scrambled. I don’t know what that dynamic would be like exactly, but it feels a lot less predictable than, say, Elizabeth Warren or Beto O’Rourke.
Trump would be the oldest president in history at 74; Buttigieg would be the youngest at 39. Trump landed in politics via his money and celebrity after years in the limelight; Buttigieg is the mayor of a midsize midwestern town, unknown until a few weeks ago. Trump is a pathological, malevolent narcissist from New York, breaking all sorts of norms. Buttigieg is a modest, reasonable pragmatist, and a near parody of normality. Trump thrives on a retro heterosexual persona; Buttigieg appears to be a rather conservative, married homosexual. Trump is a coward and draft dodger; Buttigieg served his country. Trump does not read; Buttigieg does. Trump’s genius is demonic demagoguery. Buttigieg’s gig is careful reasoning. Trump is a pagan; Buttigieg is a Christian. Trump vandalizes government; Buttigieg nurtures it.
To put it simply, Mayor Pete seems almost designed to expose everything that makes the country tired of Trump. . . . . David Brooks rightly notes Buttigieg’s Obama-like combination of somewhat banal leftism with personal rectitude and calm. After the fever of the culture wars of the high-temperature Trump era, this might come across as a welcome balm. Voters tend to go for a contrast with the current president, a correction of sorts. . . . Buttigieg is a near-perfect way to put a drop shadow behind all of Trump’s grandiosity, age, temperament, and privilege.
More importantly, he would mitigate our current polarizing patterns. He’s not sanctimoniously woke, but woke enough to have the “social justice” left potentially buy in (if its members can get over their fear of white cis gay men as oppressors). He’s a left-liberal, but relatively unformed on policy, and has carved out a moderate place in a field careening leftward. Even his most daring ideas — expanding the Supreme Court to 15 — are designed to reduce polarization.
There’s something both very new and yet very traditional about the mayor — and that’s appealing to moderate conservatives.
Too gay? They said Barack Obama was too black. Bad name? Sure, but again: Barack Hussein Obama. (My gay hack for pronouncing his name is to think of him as a “booty judge.”) Too young? That’s possible. He’d be approaching 40 at his inauguration, but his affect is younger. There remains something boyish about him, which is something Trump would immediately fasten onto as rendering him a lightweight. But Buttigieg can rebut that in a simple and powerful way: He can say he was man enough to serve his country in uniform, which should be man enough for any president. (The contrast with the aged, spoiled draft-dodger brat could be deadly.)
But it’s also important to say that 39 is not that young for high office. Emmanuel Macron was the same age when he became president of France. Jacinda Ardern became prime minister of New Zealand at the age of 37. Sebastian Kurz became chancellor of Austria at the age of 31. Leo Varadkar became prime minister of Ireland at the age of 38, and came out as gay (like Buttigieg) in his 30s. In an age when nothing seems to be able to get done nationally, a serious pragmatist with an actual record of governing has an opening. And he has a good line when confronted with lack of experience: He will have had more experience actually governing than Trump.
He has some obvious vulnerabilities. The Democrats have to rally the black vote to counteract Trump’s rural strength. Mayor Pete hasn’t proved he can do that, even though his city is over 26 percent African-American.
Buttigieg’s immigration policies are very vague — he favors a “path to citizenship.” My own view is that the only Democrat who will beat Trump next year will campaign for control of immigration, legal and undocumented, in a sane and humane way. . . . We could, in other words, be in the mother of all immigration scares as the first primaries take place. We could have a million more migrants to grapple with. Currently, no Democrat has any response to this. . . . . If Buttigieg counters with a campaign for a path to citizenship for most here, but also in favor of mandatory e-verify (a completely humane way to enforce immigration law in the interior of the country via employment), he’d break out of the pack. Just actively treating the fears about immigration as legitimate — and seeking to assuage them — would mark him as a different kind of Democrat. And, of course, Buttigieg’s emergence has a personal salience for me. He is, quite simply, what many of us in my generation of gays fought for and rarely believed could happen: He is proud to be gay but not defined by it, happily married, a veteran, wickedly smart, and completely integrated. When I read some LGBTQ activists push back on him for not being gay or “intersectional” enough, it depresses me beyond measure. His candidacy is as historic as Obama’s. His potential presidency even more so. That so many see him as a credible, formidable candidate is a reminder that in America, we can still unite in a more humane consensus. Trump has eclipsed that possibility in a welter of poison. Buttigieg quite simply rescues it again.

Black Voters Ponder the Best Odds Against Trump

Donald Trump was elected in no small part due to black voters in critical states - e.g., Wisconsin - to go to the polls and vote for Hillary Clinton. Blacks were not the only Democrats to elect Trump through their apathy and failure to vote, but due to Trump's racism and encouragement of white supremacists, blacks and other racial minorities have perhaps had the most to lose under the Trump/Pence regime. While many see the dire need of defeating Trump in 2020, the agreement seems to end there and views vary dramatically as to who will be the best possible standard bearer for the Democrats.  Whoever the nominee turns out to be, blacks, Hispanics, gays and everyone else needs to go to the polls and vote against Trump even if their favorite candidate does not win the nominee.  Too much is at stake to allow petulance like we saw with Sanders voters in 2016 to work to put Trump back in the White House.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the intra-party debate. Here are highlights:
More than a third of the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president are women. There are two black men, a Mexican American man, a Taiwanese American man and a gay man.
Yet, in the initial phase of the 2020 race, two straight white men have emerged as the fastest fundraisers, and another has jumped to a lead in recent polls, before even announcing his candidacy.
The rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke and former vice president Joe Biden in a field with historic diversity has caused dismay among some Democrats, particularly African Americans and women hoping for a mold-breaking nominee who reflects the changing face of the party and the country.
Black voters, particularly black women, have the potential to play a decisive role in the Democratic Party’s attempt to defeat President Trump in 2020. An inability to earn their support has dealt severe blows to past candidates — most recently Sanders in the 2016 primaries and to a lesser extent Hillary Clinton in the general election.
As 11 presidential hopefuls appeared this week at a Midtown Manhattan hotel for the National Action Network convention, frustration emerged over the standing of the nonwhite candidates. But there was also tension between some black voters who want a candidate reflecting the nation’s diversity and others who perceive the white men as potentially stronger against Trump.
Other Democrats said they view Biden, O’Rourke and Sanders as credible and compelling contenders best equipped to defeat Trump. The conflicting opinions revealed Democratic divisions touching on race, gender and identity that could shape the nomination fight.
“The old white guys have been in the political arena. They know what the job entails,” said Yvonne James, a 79-year-old New Yorker who carried a canvas bag at the convention with images of the Obamas and other “strong black men and women” stitched onto it. “So if it boils down to them or somebody who’s kind of new, let’s go with the experienced choice.”
Democratic voters have become more racially diverse over the past couple of decades, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study. In the midterm elections, a record number of women, predominantly Democrats, were elected to the House. Democrats expect African Americans — particularly women — to play a pivotal role in the 2020 primary race, beginning in South Carolina, the fourth contest in the lineup.
Those factors could complicate the path to the nomination for Biden, Sanders and O’Rourke. In addition to his past struggles with African Americans, Sanders has faced questions about his handling of sexual harassment claims in his 2016 campaign.
At least seven women have come forward publicly to say Biden made physical contact with them in past years in a way that made them uncomfortable, prompting him to promise to be more mindful of his interactions. Biden, who did not speak in New York, has signaled he will run for president but has not announced a decision.
While the former Texas congressman and Senate candidate received cheers, some in the audience expressed uncertainty, saying they were not as familiar with him.
At this early point in the presidential campaign, the strengths of the white male candidates have come sharply into focus. The Sanders campaign this week said that it raised $18.2 million in its first 41 days, outpacing competitors who announced their totals. O’Rourke’s campaign said it raised $9.4 million in 18 days during the first quarter of the year. Both have cultivated loyal armies of small-dollar donors. Harris came in second among candidates who have released fundraising tallies so far, raising $12 million over a longer period than either O’Rourke or Sanders was in the race.
It’s been 15 years since Democrats last nominated a white man for president, choosing John F. Kerry, who would go on to lose to George W. Bush in 2004. With so many strong alternatives this time, some Democrats say, they aren’t keen on doing that in 2020.
“That’s the American norm; people vote for what they know. But the old, safe norm is what got Trump in there. I think it’s time to shake up things a little bit,” said Tiffany James, the 37-year-old head of NAN’s South Carolina branch.
Some of Biden’s backers argued that he would provide the gravitas and experience needed to defeat Trump. But there was also some concern that his advanced age could be a liability. Biden is 76, and Sanders is 77. “The job of a president requires a lot of energy. A lot of legwork,” said retiree Jacob Azeke, 77, of New York.
 Personally, I view both Biden and Sanders as too old. As for the rest, I am still trying to figure out who I like and, more importantly, who can defeat Trump.

LGBT Equality Bill Sends Christofascists into Hysteria

The usual liars and charlatans from the "Christian Right" are beside themselves over the Democrat backed LGBT Equality Act that would bar discrimination against LGBT individuals in employment, housing and public accommodation on a national basis. And true to form, they are trotting out the same tired lies that have been their stock in trade for decades, including the lie that gays can change their sexual orientation through fraudulent ministries operated by, you guessed, the Christofascists.  Spouting this latter lie is Peter Sprigg of Family Research Council ("FRC") - a certified hate group - who has ZERO credentials when it comes to medical and mental health issues despite his title of "senior fellow" at FRC.  Indeed, until he became a hate merchant at FRC, Sprigg's longest career stint was as a "professional actor and unit leader in Covenant Players, an international Christian drama ministry."  Sadly Sprigg epitomizes the norm of FRC - and Christofascist organization in general - experts, meaning they have no legitimate credentials.   

In a piece in the Christian Post - which discredits itself by carrying article by fraudulent experts - Sprigg cites old, discredited studies claiming conversion therapy has some minimal level of success and ignores more recent studies, and, of course, the findings of all legitimate medical and mental health associations.  Based on this bad science, Sprigg rants about the Equality Act and maintains:
In light of this evidence, the public would be wise to question whether the efforts of the LGBT movement to ride on the coat-tails of “civil rights” can any longer be justified. 
It should be noted that in 2008 when the Obama administration moved to allow LGBT Americans to apply for visas for foreign partners, Sprigg declared that it would be better to “export homosexuals from the United States.”

Joining Sprigg in his conniption fit is Mike Huckabee, who has a long history of anti-gay lies, and whose daughter lies daily for the Trump regime.  In another piece in the Christian Post Huckabee rants as follows:
Redefining gender and sexual identity is the “greatest threat” to the moral fiber of America, said former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and the fault lies with the Church.
“The biggest threat to biblical principles today is the failure to apply a biblical standard of maleness and femaleness,” Huckabee told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview last week in Anaheim, California. “We are creating this illusion that there is no gender, there is no identity, and I'm blaming the Christian Church.”
“The gender dysphoria we're seeing today is largely due to the fact that the Church has failed to present very clearly the words of Jesus and Genesis 5:2: ‘Male and female He created them.’” 
Huckabee also goes on to equate allowing children to learn about the existence of LGBT individuals much less LGBT inclusive sex education with allowing one's child to play in a busy street. 

What is frightening is that both Sprigg and Huckabee have the ear of those in the Trump/Pence regime who are waging war against the LGBT community.  On the positive side, 40% of Millennials have left organized Christianity in large part due to the Christofascists' non-stop screeds against gays. Hopefully, the exodus will accelerate and individuals like Sprigg and Huckabee will become increasingly irrelevant outside of stagnant backwaters.  Meanwhile, more states are barring conversion therapy.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, April 05, 2019

Is the Trump/Pence Regime Trying to Kill Americans?

The title of this post might seem extreme, but when one factors in the consequence of the Trump/Pence regime's agenda - and that of the GOP in general - the inescapable conclusion is that some Americans will die as a result of this regime's policies.  Through its quest to eliminate regulations that protect everything from clean air and water to the safety of the food we eat, the agenda is to bring back some of the worse aspects of the Gilded Age.  The purpose?  To allow large corporations and certain preferred industries to rake in more money while the health of average Americans is harmed.  Throw in the goal of eliminating the Affordable Health Care Act while proposing no meaningful replacement, and the death toll soars. Meanwhile, the wealthiest Americans only care about increasing their obscene wealth and evangelical Christians fixated on imposing a Christian version of Sharia Law think that they will somehow be exempt from the deadly effects of the Trump/Pence agenda.  A column in the New York Times looks at the real harm being done.  Here are excerpts:

Even if he’s a one-term president, Trump will have caused, directly or indirectly, the premature deaths of a large number of Americans.
Some of those deaths will come at the hands of right-wing, white nationalist extremists, who are a rapidly growing threat, partly because they feel empowered by a president who calls them “very fine people.”
Some will come from failures of governance, like the inadequate response to Hurricane Maria, which surely contributed to the high death toll in Puerto Rico. (Reminder: Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.)
Some will come from the administration’s continuing efforts to sabotage Obamacare, which have failed to kill health reform but have stalled the decline in the number of uninsured, meaning that many people still aren’t getting the health care they need. Of course, if Trump gets his way and eliminates Obamacare altogether, things on this front will get much, much worse.
But the biggest death toll is likely to come from Trump’s agenda of deregulation — or maybe we should call it “deregulation,” because his administration is curiously selective about which industries it wants to leave alone.
Consider two recent events that help capture the deadly strangeness of what’s going on.
One is the administration’s plan for hog plants to take over much of the federal responsibility for food safety inspections. And why not? It’s not as if we’ve seen safety problems arise from self-regulation in, say, the aircraft industry, have we? . . . Or as if there was a reason the U.S. government stepped in to regulate meatpacking in the first place?
Now, you could see the Trump administration’s willingness to trust the meat industry to keep our meat safe as part of an overall attack on government regulation, a willingness to trust profit-making businesses to do the right thing and let the market rule.
[W]e normally think of Republicans in general, and Trump in particular, as people who minimize or deny the “negative externalities” imposed by some business activities — the uncompensated costs they impose on other people or businesses.
[T]he Trump administration wants to roll back rules that limit emissions of mercury from power plants. And in pursuit of that goal, it wants to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from taking account of many of the benefits from reduced mercury emissions, such as an associated reduction in nitrogen oxide.
But when it comes to renewable energy, Trump and company are suddenly very worried about supposed negative side effects, which generally exist only in their imagination.
So it’s deregulation for some, but dire warnings about imaginary threats for others. What’s going on?
Part of the answer is, follow the money. Political contributions from the meat-processing industry overwhelmingly favor Republicans. Coal mining supports the G.O.P. almost exclusively. Alternative energy, on the other hand, generally favors Democrats.
Whatever the drivers of Trump policy, the fact, as I said, is that it will kill people. Wind turbines don’t cause cancer, but coal-burning power plants do — along with many other ailments. The Trump administration’s own estimates indicate that its relaxation of coal pollution rules will kill more than 1,000 Americans every year. If the administration gets to implement its full agenda — not just deregulation of many industries, but discrimination against industries it doesn’t like, such as renewable energy — the toll will be much higher.
So if you eat meat — or, for that matter, drink water or breathe air — there’s a real sense in which Donald Trump is trying to kill you. And even if he’s turned out of office next year, for many Americans it will be too late.

Barr Has Made a Total Mess of the Mueller Report, and Undermined DOJ

Many felt that William Barr should never have been confirmed as Attorney General given his unseemly effort to audition for the position by releasing an unsolicited opinion that basically trashed the basis for the Mueller report and made the argument that the office of the president was above the law - a concept that would have shocked the Founding Fathers. Through his handling of the release of the Mueller report, Barr has confirmed the worse fears of his critics and, worse yet, has further damaged the reputation and public perception of the U.S. Department of Justice. What is puzzling to many is why Barr - who was retired and had a decent reputation - has chosen a course that will likely sully him in the view of history not to mention further undermine the public trust in governmental institutions. Is the public political fellatio of Donald Trump worth that? Barr's window of opportunity to save his own reputation and that of the Justice Department is closing rapidly and time will tell if he will opt throw away and shred of honor and principle like so many Republicans have done to date.  A piece in Politico looks at the damage Barr is doing. Here are highlights:

Ever since would-be First Gentleman Bill Clinton stepped onto Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s plane in June 2016, the Justice Department has found itself in the worst position possible for a nonpolitical law enforcement agency — that of leading actor in the nation’s most hotly contested political dramas.
William Barr’s confirmation as Sessions’ successor was supposed to provide a reset to those turbulent times. A respected former attorney general who didn’t need the job, he promised that his extensive experience and end-of-career status would allow him to make decisions regardless of what a president notoriously hostile to the Justice Department’s normal practices wanted.
Instead, Barr’s handling of the conclusion of the 22-month long investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election has thrust a new cloud over the Justice Department and his leadership, one that has grown darker with the reports that some members of the special counsel’s team believe he has mischaracterized their findings and needlessly inserted himself into the process to make his own determination as to whether the president obstructed justice.
Barr is now in open warfare with the special counsel’s office, with his spokesperson releasing a statement Thursday that seemed to push back on the contention, leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post, that he could have released a summary written by the special counsel’s office rather than his own version of events.
Barr has also moved the goal posts on what categories of information would be redacted from the report, adding two new ones to the list he announced on March 24, while refusing so far to ask a court for permission to release grand jury material, as the Justice Department did at the conclusion of two previous investigations into presidential misconduct.
The attorney general’s actions raise suspicions about whether he is acting primarily to benefit [Trump] the president because they don’t make sense when viewed through any other lens. Barr is neither inexperienced nor naive, yet when deciding among the several options available to him when he received Mueller’s report, he chose the one course of action that would raise questions about his own integrity and plunge the Justice Department into political controversy.
Barr simply could have told Congress that he had received the report and would make a version available when he had completed his review and made appropriate redactions. He could have released Mueller’s principal findings, as he initially said he would do, without adding his own conclusion on obstruction of justice. Or he could have released one of the multiple summaries prepared by Mueller’s team while review of the full report continued.
Barr instead chose the one path that could call his behavior into question, while negating the entire reason for appointing a special counsel in the first place: to ensure that the taint of politics is removed from the Justice Department’s decision-making. That choice would be odd for any attorney general. It makes even less sense for one whose impartiality was questioned from the outset, given that he was chosen for the job after he wrote an unsolicited memo questioning some of the very foundations of the special counsel’s investigation.
Barr still has a chance to lift the cloud his actions have placed over his leadership, but to do so, he will have to reverse course quickly. . . . he should follow the precedent the department set in both the Starr investigation and the 2016 Clinton email investigation and provide underlying investigative materials to lawmakers.
Mueller is one of the most talented and respected prosecutors of his generation, and his integrity will accrue to Barr’s benefit, if only Barr will let it. The sniping the Justice Department has directed toward the special counsel’s office in the press over the past two weeks, both on the record and through leaks to reporters, is not just unseemly — it also hurts the entire department and its ability to do its job.
If the Justice Department has any hope of restoring the reputation that has been tarnished — sometimes fairly, sometimes not — through the past three years of political combat, it will be by leaning on Mueller’s hard-earned reputation and letting his work speak for itself. Barr should get out of the way and let that happen. Otherwise, he will deserve all the criticism he gets, and both he and the Justice Department will suffer for it.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Mayor Pete Buttigrieg Is Plenty Gay

As regular readers know, I find the current Democrat "purity test" that leaves no allowances for past mistakes, present personal quirks, and the differences in the conversation/culture now versus 10 or even 40 years ago to be totally maddening.  Here in Virginia, we have seen the damage done by this self-defeating standard as the Democrat party attacked its own and seemingly was bent on a suicide pact.  Thankfully, so far none of Virginia's statewide leadership has given in to the demands of those who would destroy the party from within - much to the delight of Republicans. Now, we are seeing similar idiocy and personal destruction being waged as a huge field of candidates chases after the Democrat 2020 presidential nomination.  A column in the New York Times by Frank Bruni (who is gay) which looks at the insane argument that somehow Pete Buttigrieg is not "gay enough" as its launch point looks at what could be a key part of handing Donald Trump a second term.  Distressingly, to the self-anointed purity police, winning elections is less important than satisfying all of their unrealistic sensibilities. Here are column excerpts:
How do Democrats properly vet their candidates for president without cannibalizing them? How do they rightly insist on sensitive and inclusive leaders while making allowances for past mistakes, present quirks, human messiness and the differences in the conversation and the culture now versus 10 or 20 or 40 years ago?
That’s emerging as a central challenge of the Democratic presidential primary. And it’s worrying me.
I’m worried because there was an actual mini-debate on the left recently over whether Pete Buttigieg is gay enough. Do his whiteness, upper-middle-class background and Harvard and Oxford degrees nullify his experience as a minority and undercut his status as a trailblazer? This question is out there, in both senses of that phrase.
I’m worried because it in some ways echoes an earlier question about whether Kamala Harris — whose father came from Jamaica, whose mother came from India and whose husband is white — is black enough.
And I’m worried because of what Joe Biden is going through — because of the intensity of the censure that he faced after the Nevada politician Lucy Flores’s allegation and because of the fixation on precisely what kind of apology he must issue.
I’ve written that I don’t think Biden, 76, should run, for many reasons, including that someone in politics as long as he has been carries too much baggage; that Democratic voters have generally preferred candidates significantly younger than he is; and that he mismanaged and failed miserably in his two prior presidential campaigns.
But I feel just as strongly that Democrats need to show some proportion, realism and reason as they assess and react to candidates (or, in Biden’s case, probable candidates). With Biden especially but with others as well, too many Democrats aren’t doing that.
It’s nonnegotiable that Democrats hold their presidential aspirants to high standards on issues of racial justice, gender equality and more. It’s crucial that the party nominate someone who can credibly represent its proudly diverse ranks. But it’s also important that the party not demand a degree of purity that nobody attains.
I’m not recommending the Republicans’ course in accepting and protecting Donald Trump, which was to bury principles so deep that they may never be exhumed. I’m saying that to turn the Democratic primary into a nonstop apology tour when the nominee will be going up against a president never expected to apologize for anything is a risky strategy. It obsesses over the flaws in candidates who have many strengths, defining them in terms of what they seek forgiveness for. It blurs the line between job interview and inquisition. Taken too far, it rips contenders to shreds before Trump even takes out his scissors.
As for the mini-debate about Buttigieg’s gayness, it arose principally from this column in Slate, which included the following paragraph:
“A marginalized sexual orientation can remain unspoken and unnoticed for as long as a queer person desires. A gay man who conforms to a critical mass of gendered expectations can move through life without his sexuality attending every interaction, even after he comes out. Buttigieg, for instance, would register on only the most finely tuned gaydar. Most people who are aware of his candidacy probably know he’s gay, but his every appearance doesn’t activate the ‘Hey, that’s that homosexual gentleman’ response in the average brain. That doesn’t mean he’s not gay enough — there’s really no such measure. It just means that he might not be up against quite the same hurdles that a gay candidate without such sturdy ties to straight culture would be.”
The author is asserting that Buttigieg, 37, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., doesn’t come across as particularly gay, meaning . . . what? That he lacks stereotypical mannerisms? That his voice isn’t high-pitched? I’m kind of floored, because I and other gay people around my age (54) or older spent most of our lives educating people about the bigotry and inaccuracy of those very stereotypes and trumpeting the message — the truth! — that gay people can be every bit as buttoned-down and strait-laced as, well, Pete Buttigieg! Now his divergence from those stereotypes is deemed remarkable and in need of dissection? Strange days indeed.
[T]his is how he {Buttigrieg] argued that Democrats should reclaim the word “freedom” from Republicans, who have tried to reserve it for their brand:
“You’re not free if you have crushing medical debt. You’re not free if you’re being treated differently because of who you are. What has really affected my personal freedom more: the fact that I don’t have the freedom to pollute a certain river, or the fact that for part of my adult life, I didn’t have the freedom to marry somebody I was in love with? We’re talking about deep, personal freedom.”
He sounds sufficiently gay to me. His powers of empathy seem plenty informed by his sexual orientation. And we need to stop making assumptions about how well someone can understand and address what minorities go through based on his or her looks or vocal inflections or anything of the sort. That’s the quintessence of prejudice. And it’s the antithesis of enlightenment.
Very well said. And I'd also note that under the Slate column standard,  with me being white, having enjoyed a fairly privileged childhood and youth, and having attended a top university and law school, I'm not gay enough.  It's utter idiocy and it needs to stop.

More Thursday Male Beauty

Moron Donald Trump Says Wind Turbines “Cause Cancer”

Ever the malignant narcissist, Donald Trump thinks he knows everything about every subject and never hesitates to shoot off his mouth spewing idiocy.  The behavior says a lot about Trump - none of it good - but even more about the morons in his base who believe the falsehoods he routinely shouts out (evangelical Christians are the least educated of any religious group, which may explain their continued allegiance to a pathological liar). Indeed, its to a point where if Trump makes a claim, the safest course is to presume he is lying until proven otherwise (which will not happen often).  A case in point is Trump's attacks on wind power even as he supports coal, perhaps the dirtiest and one of the most toxic energy sources on the planet.  Vanity Fair looks at Trump's idiocy and lies.  Here are excerpts:

Donald Trump has a long history of attacking wind energy, which he views as a threat to coal and his campaign to transform the planet into a truck-stop urinal, the kind you have to unlock with a key attached to a giant steering wheel. “It’s Friday,” he tweeted one innocent afternoon in August 2012. “How many bald eagles did wind turbines kill today?” A couple months later, he opined: “If Obama keeps pushing wind turbines our country will go down the tubes economically, environmentally & aesthetically,” not mentioning that his own personal aesthetic could be best described as “Louis XIV projectile vomit.” He spent most of 2013 and 2014 fighting Scotland‘s First Minister over plans to build an offshore wind farm near his Aberdeenshire golf course, telling an Irish paper that “wind farms are a disaster for Scotland, like Pan Am 103 . . . Returning to his avian anxieties, the noted animal-rights activist told a West Virginia crowd last summer, “You look underneath some of those windmills, it’s like a killing field [for] birds.” 
His concerns, it seems, aren’t limited to wildlife. “If Hillary got in. . . you’d be doing wind. Windmills. Weee,” he told the crowd at a rally in Michigan last week during an aside that, were he not president, would be submitted as evidence to have him committed. “If it doesn’t blow, you can forget about television for that night. ‘Darling, I want to watch television.’ ‘I’m sorry! The wind isn’t blowing.’ I know a lot about wind.”
[O]n Tuesday [Trump] launched his latest wild attack on wind turbines, an energy source that has long attracted his ire.  “They say the noise causes cancer,” [Trump] the president remarked of the turbines at the National Republican Congressional Committee fund-raiser in Washington, D.C. “If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations—your house just went down 75 percent in value.”
As virtually everyone on the Internet was quick to point out, out here, on planet Earth, cancer is not caused by noise, wind-induced or otherwise. Meanwhile, an energy source that does tend to cause health issues, as New York’s Jonathan Chait notes, “is coal, an extremely dirty fuel Trump loves and has attempted to bolster, with almost no success. Aside from costing more to produce than other sources of power, and in addition to enormous air-pollution side effects, coal also emits greenhouse gases in large amounts.”
“Wind turbines cause cancer” isn’t the first piece of medical advice Dr. Trump has dispensed to his followers. In April 2012, he tweeted a story claiming that “people who live up to 2 miles away from the turbines develop such things as sleep, stress and mood disorders once wind farms go up.” (More likely, experts say, the symptoms are psychosomatic.) That same year, he warned that L.E.D. light bulbs cause cancer, and that one must “be careful,” because “the idiots who came up with this stuff don’t care.” Meanwhile, he believes fracking poses “ZERO health risks” and is, in fact, good for you.
Trump is a moron and liar.  His followers are even worse when it comes to stupidity.

Trump's Ass Backwards Approach to Stopping the HIV Epidemic

In addition to the scandal of allowing Gilead raking in billions of dollars and imposing astronomical prices for PrEP, a totally government and charity developed drug, the Trump/Pence regime is moving to slash funding to family planning clinics that provide free HIV testing to the poor, including poor women who increasingly make up those being diagnosed with the virus.  The Trump/Pence motivation is simple: attack family planning clinics to please the anti-abortion Christofascists who remain the regime's most loyal base of support.  Never mind that abortion services/referrals are offered by only a small percentage of such clinics which often provide the only means of medical treatment for the poor - a group that Trump despises, especially those who are non-white. Such ass backward actions reveal the disingenuous nature of Trump's claim he wants to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.  A piece in Politico looks at the damage the Trump/Pence approach will do to stopping the rate of HIV infections (which is the worse in the South/Bible Belt).  Here are excerpts:
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report detailing the state of the HIV epidemic in the United States. One finding stood out: Nearly 40 percent of new HIV transmissions come from a relatively small group of people who don’t know they have the virus.
In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump announced an initiative to end the HIV epidemic in our country by 2030. . . . . There’s just one problem: The Trump administration is also cutting funding to many of the safety net medical clinics that do a significant number of these tests.
One reason that some Americans don’t know they have HIV is that they lack access to routine health care. While millions of people have gained access to health care through Obamacare or the expansion of Medicaid that accompanied it, there remains a significant coverage gap in states that decided not to expand Medicaid, and it’s those states, many of them in the South, which have the highest rates of HIV infection.
For the more than 2.5 million poor, uninsured Americans who cannot get Medicaid or any financial support to purchase Obamacare, one of the only remaining places they can get health care, including low-cost or free HIV testing, is at so-called Title X clinics.

The Title X Family Planning Program was enacted by Congress in 1970 and it is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing all individuals, regardless of their ability to pay, with family planning and related preventive health services including HIV testing. In establishing Title X, Congress made clear that its major goal was to “decrease adverse health and financial effects on children, women, and their families of inadequately spaced childbearing” by providing information, access to birth control and preventative health services. For nearly 50 years, this government-funded program has greatly improved access to vital medical care for millions of low-income, uninsured people.
Currently, there are nearly 4,000 Title X-funded family planning clinics across the U.S., and they serve approximately 4 million people each year. In addition to providing family planning services like low-cost or free birth control, Title X clinics also provide low-income men and women with services such as free testing for HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and breast and cervical cancer screening.
[N]early half a million men also receive care in these clinics each year, mostly driven by their need for testing services. In 2017 alone, Title X clinics performed 1,192,119 confidential HIV tests, resulting in 2,195 new HIV diagnoses.
Another key component of Trump’s plan is to focus on geographic HIV hotspots. The Southern U.S. is the current epicenter of the national HIV epidemic; Southern states account for over half of new HIV diagnoses despite having only 37 percent of the population. This is particularly true for women; of all U.S. women recently diagnosed with HIV, 56 percent were living in the South. In fact, my home state of Georgia has the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the country.
In states like Georgia that did not expand Medicaid, Title X clinics serve as the sole source of heath care for the majority of their female clients.
Sadly though, the administration announced in February changes to Title X that will result in cutting funding to a sizable portion of family planning clinics. The motivation for these cuts is purely political, with the singular goal of removing Planned Parenthood and other medical clinics that provide abortions or refer patients for abortions out of the Title X network within the coming months. As it happens, only 13 percent of all Title X clinics are operated by Planned Parenthood, and an additional 26 percent are nonprofit, community-based family planning clinics, many of which may be in jeopardy of losing funding as well.
Title X funds have never been allowed to pay for abortions, but the new rule will cut funding to family planning clinics solely because they provide or refer patients elsewhere for abortions. Due to the loss of federal funds, some of these vital safety net clinics may close, others will have to lay off staff and reduce hours, and many may have to reduce services—like HIV testing—in order to offset costs.
Rather than dismantling Title X clinics, the Trump administration should leverage and expand on the important role that this network of family planning clinics has always played in providing HIV testing to the 4 million people they serve each year.
I]t’s time to increase funding to family planning clinics to expand HIV testing, not decrease access to HIV testing through politically motivated efforts that may result in the closing of vital safety net clinics.

As always, actions speak louder than words and Trump's actions send a message to the poorest Americans: just get sick and die.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Mueller’s Team: Their Findings More Damaging for Trump Than Barr Indicated

Is Barr covering up for Trump?
When Attorney General William Barr issued his 3 and a half page letter summarizing the Mueller report, the reaction of many - including yours truly - was that Barr was trying to protect Donald Trump and sanitize a report that likely contained many disturbing findings on the Trump campaigns contacts with Russian operatives and Der Trumpenf├╝hrer's efforts to sabotage any meaningful investigation of Trump and his campaign.  Such distrust of Barr hearkens back to his unsolicited memo  to the Department of Justice on the validity of the Mueller investigation ion the issue of obstruction of justice.  Here are reminders from CNN about the Barr's memo:
Nearly a year before his letter Sunday telling lawmakers he did not believe President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice, Attorney General William Barr authored a memo saying he thought the obstruction investigation was "fatally misconceived."
Barr, then a private citizen and former attorney general to President George H. W. Bush, issued the memo to senior Justice Department officials in June 2018.  In his memo, Barr added that Trump asking then-FBI Director James Comey to let go of the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and later firing Comey was within his powers as head of the executive branch.

In his recent letter, Barr - not surprisingly - found that no obstruction of justice had occurred. Recently, two pundits aptly described Barr's unsolicited memo as the equivalent of a prostitute hiking her skirt up to her waist to show her "wares" as Barr seemingly sought to catch Trump's attention and secure the AG nomination for himself.  Now, members of Mueller's investigative team have alleged that Barr had understated the damaging findings of the Mueller report.  Here are highlights from the New York Times:

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.
At stake in the dispute — the first evidence of tension between Mr. Barr and the special counsel’s office — is who shapes the public’s initial understanding of one of the most consequential government investigations in American history. Some members of Mr. Mueller’s team are concerned that, because Mr. Barr created the first narrative of the special counsel’s findings, Americans’ views will have hardened before the investigation’s conclusions become public.
The special counsel’s investigators had already written multiple summaries of the report, and some team members believe that Mr. Barr should have included more of their material in the four-page letter he wrote on March 24 laying out their main conclusions, according to government officials familiar with the investigation.
Barr was also wary of departing from Justice Department practice not to disclose derogatory details in closing an investigation, according to two government officials familiar with Mr. Barr’s thinking.
[T]he report is believed to examine Mr. Trump’s efforts to thwart the investigation. It was unclear how much discussion Mr. Mueller and his investigators had with senior Justice Department officials about how their findings would be made public. It was also unclear how widespread the vexation is among the special counsel team, which included 19 lawyers, about 40 F.B.I. agents and other personnel. . . . . the special counsel’s investigators fell short of their task by declining to decide whether Mr. Trump illegally obstructed the inquiry, according to the two government officials.
A debate over how the special counsel’s conclusions are represented has played out in public as well in recent weeks, with Democrats in Congress accusing Mr. Barr of intervening to color the outcome of the investigation in the president’s favor.
Barr said that Mr. Mueller found no conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia’s 2016 election interference. While Mr. Mueller made no decision on his other main question, whether the president illegally obstructed the inquiry, he explicitly stopped short of exonerating Mr. Trump.
Mr. Barr’s promises of transparency have done little to appease Democrats who control the House. The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to let its chairman use a subpoena to try to compel Mr. Barr to hand over a full copy of the Mueller report and its underlying evidence to Congress. The chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, has not said when he will use the subpoena, but made clear on Wednesday that he did not trust Mr. Barr’s characterization of what Mr. Mueller’s team found.
I remain adamant that the full report - redacted only to protect confidential sources and true national security issues - be publicly released ASAP.  I and other Americans do not need Mr. Barr telling us what a report says that we are perfectly capable of reading for ourselves.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Democrat Quandary of Hispanic Voters

One of the big quandaries for Democrats as they approach the 2020 elections - here in Virginia, the same applies to the 2019 elections - is how they increase their margin of support among Hispanic voters.  With Trump in office, one would think Hispanic voters would be flocking to the polls to vote for almost any Democrat yet in Florida, Republicans wooed Hispanics and increased their margins while Democrat candidates failed to adequately campaign for the Hispanic vote and seemingly took it for granted.  The other issue that applies to all Millennials, but Hispanic Millennials in particular is the lower turn out among younger voters even as they will be the ones most harmed by Trump/GOP policies over time. A column in the New York Times looks at this issue (while not mentioned, I suspect GOP appeals to conservative Catholic Hispanics is also a problem).  Here are column highlights:
The future success of the Democratic Party depends on the crucial — but unsettled — allegiance of the nation’s growing Hispanic electorate.
Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster and podcast host based in Miami, addressed the party’s Latino quandary in a December interview with The Associated Press: The question is not are Democrats winning the Hispanic vote — it’s why aren’t Democrats winning the Hispanic vote 80-20 or 90-10 the way they are winning black voters?
In the 2018 midterms, Democrats showed gains among Hispanic voters in most states, compared with 2014. Party operatives are concerned, however, about the slow rate of growth of these improved Democratic margins. They are equally worried about turnout — at a time when many thought that President Trump’s rhetoric and policies would produce impressive gains among Latino voters for the Democratic Party.
Take turnout. Hispanics are one of the fastest growing ethnic constituencies in the United States, but their level of political participation is not keeping pace with their overall population numbers.
[T]he number of Hispanic voters in midterm elections has grown steadily, from 2.9 million in 1986 to 6.8 million in 2014. At the same time, however, turnout — measured as a percentage of total eligible adult citizens 18 and over — has experienced a relative decline.
In a preliminary analysis of Hispanic voter turnout last year, Catalist, a Democratic firm that builds voter lists, found significant increases in turnout of three to five percent, comparing 2018 with the 2014 midterms. Texas, Nevada and California saw five percent increases, Florida four percent, New Mexico and New York three percent.
Turnout rates and levels of support are two key (but quite different) political measures. While Latinos had a turnout rate of 27.1 percent in 2014, their support for Democratic House candidates that year was 62 percent. Their support for Republican House candidates was 36 percent, according to exit polls.
Republicans won two close statewide races in Florida in 2018, one for senate and one for governor — despite the gradual erosion of Republican support among Cuban-Americans in the state and despite the continuing influx of pro-Democratic Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Nationally, Democrats went from 62-36 (26 pts) in 2014 to 69-29 (40 pts) this election. In Florida, Democrats went from 58-38 (20 pts) in 2014 to 54-44 (10 pts) this year. . . . this shift occurred despite the fact that Trump did everything possible to alienate Latinos, along with undercutting Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis, the winning Republican candidates for Senate and governor.
By all accounts, Scott and DeSantis campaigned almost daily in Hispanic precincts, while their Democratic opponents, Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum, took the Hispanic vote for granted.
“We had no infrastructure,” Christian Ulvert, Gillum’s director for Spanish-language media, told Politico:
And honestly, Democrats have been playing catch-up on Hispanic outreach for two decades, because Republicans have invested in it. You can’t close that gap overnight.
Despite the decline in Republican support among Cuban-Americans, Michelson emphasized that [t]here has always been a contingent of Latinos who identify as Republican and are more interested in Republican/conservative (or anti-Communist) policies than in immigration issues or racism.
Revealing a contrast to Florida, Matt A. Barreto, a political scientist at U.C.L.A. and a co-founder of Latino Decisions, analyzed turnout and voting patterns in Texas. In a March report, Barreto described a huge pro-Democratic turnout increase there, ranging from 105 to 125 percent in eight counties where Hispanics make up more than 90 percent of the population. There were significant gains in counties with white majorities of 83 to 91 percent too, but these upturns were smaller, in the 35 to 55 percent range.
The ability of two conservative Florida Republicans to make such inroads simply by campaigning diligently suggests that the Democratic hold on Latinos is less firm than many believed.
The data, provided to The Times by Public Opinion Strategies, one of the two firms that conducted the survey, found that Trump’s approval among Hispanics was highest among men and among the affluent — 40 percent for both — and among men without college degrees, at 39 percent.
While many Democrats expected Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, especially the family separation debacle, to produce a decisive shift to the left among Hispanics, that has not proved to be the case.
Asked about the declining share of eligible Hispanics turning out on Election Day, Barreto countered that the growing numbers of eligible Latinos are almost entirely driven by U.S. born young Latinos turning 18 and entering the eligible voter pool.
In a common pattern, Barreto pointed out, “young people have very low rates of voter registration and voter turnout — especially in midterm elections.” Because of that, Barreto said that in order to get a better picture, the data should be age-adjusted so that turnout levels of older voters of different races and ethnicities could be compared.
What conclusions and what questions remain in the wake of these complex and sometimes conflicting trends in the Hispanic electorate?
First and foremost, Latinos remain a decisively Democratic constituency, with important caveats.
Latinos’ partisan loyalties are much less hard and fast than, say, those of either African-Americans or white evangelicals. The results in Florida demonstrate that Democrats risk defeat if they fail to campaign heavily in Hispanic communities, and Republicans stand to gain at the margins if they are prepared to invest time, money and energy.
The major question mark going into 2020, assuming Trump is the Republican nominee, is whether Hispanic opposition to his presidency will prevent a recurrence of the Florida 2018 phenomenon. Will Trump’s presence so nationalize the election that down-ballot Republicans will face a brick wall when they try to make modest inroads among Hispanics?
To date, Trump has shown every intention of turning the election into a referendum on himself, and all the baggage he carries, with no regard for the political survival of fellow Republicans.
If anything, he appears determined to drive up hostility to him among Latinos. For the past two days, for example, the president has ranted on Twitter, attacking Puerto Rico and its political leaders.
Behaving this way, Trump may succeed in driving up support among “his people,” as he likes to call his voters. But if he keeps it up, he will be doing both his Democratic opponent and the Democratic Party as a whole a huge favor as far as the Latino vote goes.