Saturday, June 08, 2019
Washington Post looks at the rapid change in attitudes towards LGBT individuals and suggests that the fact that gays cross every demographic and region of the country and that sexual orientation is not immediately discernible may have been a driving factor in the speed of change. The piece also points out the glaring lack of non-discrimination protections in many states (if Democrats win control of the Virginia General Assembly in November, this may finally change in Virginia) and that "conservative" - think hate-filled - religion remains at toxic evil - which hopefully will ease as older generations literally die off. Here are article highlights:
Steve and Teri Augustine met, fell in love and got married in a conservative evangelical Christian community. They grew up believing homosexuality was a sin, and that the “gay agenda” was an attack on their values.Then, six years ago, their son Peter — their youngest child who loved theater and his church youth group — returned home to Ellicott City, Md., from his freshman year of college and came out to his family as gay.
Teri asked her son not to tell anyone else, and drove herself to a mall parking lot to cry. Steve questioned his son’s faith, reciting Bible passages from Corinthians. The Augustines decided to put their son through a year of conversion therapy, determined to “set him straight.”
But after the therapy failed, something changed. Steve and Teri Augustine started meeting Peter’s friends and inviting other gay Christians to dinner. Two summers after Peter came out, the family stood on the sidelines of the Capital Pride parade wearing rainbow beads and shirts with the words “I’m sorry.” Teri now hosts a support group for Christian moms of LGBTQ children.
The transformation in the Augustine family parallels a shift in public opinion that social scientists say is unlike any other of our time.
As recently as 2004, polls showed that the majority of Americans — 60 percent — opposed same-sex marriage, while only 31 percent were in favor, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, those numbers are reversed : 61 percent support same-sex marriage, while 31 percent oppose it.
“You can’t find another issue where attitudes have shifted so rapidly,” said Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas who has studied public opinion of LGBT rights over the years.
What’s perhaps most surprising is that support for same-sex marriage has increased among nearly all demographic groups, across different generations, partisan lines and religious faiths. Even among the most resistant religious group, white evangelical Protestants like the Augustine family, support for same-sex marriage has grown from 11 percent in 2004 to 29 percent in 2019, according to Pew.
But while it’s clear that the gay rights movement managed to change people’s minds faster than any other civil rights movement in memory, it’s less clear why. How, in 15 years, did Americans’ views flip on such a charged social issue? And why haven’t other groups that have also publicly fought discrimination managed to change public opinion as quickly? The answer lies in human behavior and demographic realities, as well as a winning strategy by gay rights activists that capitalized on both.
In a study published earlier this year, Mahzarin Banaji, a psychology professor at Harvard University, investigated patterns of long-term changes in attitudes toward six social groups — the elderly, the disabled, the overweight, black people, people with darker skin tones and gay people — over a decade. . . . Between 2007 and 2016, Banaji found that explicit attitudes toward all groups became less biased. But implicit attitudes toward some groups stayed the same — including bias toward people with disabilities and the elderly. Implicit bias against people who are overweight actually became worse. Respondents became less biased in their attitudes toward race and skin tone.
But of all of the groups, implicit attitudes toward sexuality changed, by far, the fastest. . . . This relatively recent acceleration came after decades of struggle.
In 1978, almost a decade after Stonewall, gay rights activist Harvey Milk gave an impassioned plea: “Every gay person must come out.” In the decades that followed, more and more Americans started coming out to their loved ones, some galvanized by the pain of the AIDS epidemic.
Then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the growing visibility of gay people in popular culture began to trigger a major shift in attitudes, social scientists said. By then, comedian Ellen DeGeneres had come out as gay, the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace” had taken off and Americans started seeing more examples of gay people in popular culture. Most of these characters and the most visible leaders at the helm of the movement were white people with the power and privilege to help LGBT rights reach the mainstream.
But there was something different about the gay and lesbian community, compared with other minority groups. They were in every socioeconomic and racial group, every generation, in small towns and big cities. Unlike other demographics, “sexuality is a dimension that is everywhere,” Banaji said. “It is not segregated.”
The more connections Americans made with gay or lesbian people, the more positive their attitudes toward them became — a trend social scientists call “the contact hypothesis.”
And families like the Augustines were forced to resolve an internal dilemma that social scientists call “cognitive dissonance.”
“When two beliefs come into conflict in our minds, our brains are not good at just holding the conflict. We have to resolve the conflict,” Banaji said. “You can disown your child or you can change your attitudes toward gay people.”
After conversion therapy failed to change their son’s sexuality, Teri and Steve Augustine resolved to understand it. Teri asked her children to invite gay Christians they knew to their home. Her daughter Bethany invited a gay colleague to come to dinner with his partner. Teri learned about the pain he endured when his church rejected him.
Then, during Peter’s junior year of college, his parents went to a Gay Christian Network conference, where they worshiped alongside hundreds of gay, lesbian and transgender Christians. “I grew up with a concept that those two words were mutually exclusive,” he said. He had already begun to believe that Peter could be both gay and Christian, “but Peter is only one person. I saw it in 1,500 people. . . . That was the closest thing I had to a lightbulb.”
What might be different about the gay community, Banaji speculated, is that even before a person came out, “love was in place.” A parent or a co-worker already knows and loves a gay person, and then discovers a person’s sexuality, which is often not obvious right away. “That, I think, is very different from something like age, or race, or body weight that just presents itself immediately upon seeing a person for the first time.”
But for much of the United States, the tipping point in the gay rights movement was something more obvious: marriage equality itself.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, several states had already begun legally recognizing same-sex marriages. A 2015 study found that residents of states with a same-sex marriage policy had the greatest reduction of anti-gay attitudes, when compared with residents of states where same-sex marriage was illegal.
The institution of marriage put a stamp of legitimacy on same-sex couples that allowed straight ones to see them as a family unit, just like theirs, said Andrew Flores of American University, a co-author of the study.
Despite the rapid progress of the gay rights movement, members of the LGBTQ community continue to be targets of violence and hate crimes. The Trump administration has rolled back a number of transgender protections at the federal level and emboldened a conservative base pushing for religious liberty — a backlash that Haider-Markel says parallels the rise of anti-gay movements in the 1970s, such as singer Anita Bryant’s anti-gay “Save Our Children” campaign in Florida, and the Briggs Initiative, a ballot measure in California that would have mandated the firing of any teacher who was gay or pro-gay rights.
“Look at the fact that in many states, if a gay or lesbian couple gets married and has their marriage in the local newspaper, they might lose their jobs,” Haider-Markel said. “That’s not trivial.”
And attitudes about same-sex marriage have remained mostly frozen since 2017. “The positions are hardened,” Haider-Markel said. Statistically, once support for an issue reaches a majority like this one, movement toward 100 percent becomes much more difficult . . . In conservative evangelical circles like the Augustines’, the work of changing minds happens even more slowly.
As for the Augustines, the family left their old church, a conservative evangelical megachurch, for Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Laurel, Md., which calls itself “an affirming community of faith.”
After the service, Teri met with a group of about 10 mothers of LGBT children. Fanning themselves while sitting on floral-printed couches, they went around sharing their stories to a newcomer.
As I said, "conservative" religions remain a toxic evil that sow hate and division.There was the mother whose father, grandfather and uncles were all conservative pastors, and whose daughter recently came out as gay, though none of the extended relatives know. There was the mother of a transgender son who lost touch with her parents after they told her, “If you don’t disown your child, we’ll disown you.”
The Trump/Pence regime's slogan is "make America great again" and many of those who support this toxic regime strut around patting themselves on the back for being "real Americans" and viewing themselves as great patriots. Meanwhile they and the regime they support - a mix of a would be Hitler and the Three Stooges - are destroying America from within. In their minds, American greatness equates solely to maintaining and/or restoring white privilege and bullying the less fortunate and non-whites and non-Christians. Worse yet, blinded by their hatred of others be they blacks, gays, Hispanics and anyone else they deem as "other," they are silently permitting the institutions that made America great (despite its many failings) are being eroded and/or destroyed by the narcissistic occupant of the White House and Republicans only too happy to lick his boots so as to avoid a primary challenge by the ugliest elements in today's GOP. Rather than being patriots, these Trump supporters are subversives and, if support for the U.S. Constitution defines the government, are actively supporting its overthrow. A column in the New York Times looks at this destruction of America from within. Here are highlights:
It’s hard to work up much sympathy for the hollowed-out husk of a human being that is Mitch McConnell, or Lindsey Graham for that matter. This country is a harder, colder, more meanspirited place because these senators would rather bootlick a bully than stand for the principles they once espoused.Surely, they know the price of their vassalage. To serve Donald Trump is to lose all self-respect. You lie for him. You cover for him. You hate for him. John Boehner, the former House speaker, has more honor as a mercenary for marijuana than the elected Republicans shoveling dirt over the grave of the Constitution.
But Americans should care about a more lasting and damaging corrosion — the destabilizing of venerable institutions. It’s one thing to corrupt a politician, the natural osmosis of the species. It’s quite another to debase the foundations of a great democracy.
It started on Day 2, when the hapless liar, newly subsidized by taxpayers, tried to conscript the National Park Service into the fantasy that his crowd was the largest ever.
After the inauguration debacle, Trump moved on to bigger targets — the judiciary, the military, the press, and the professional class of bureaucrats who have made the United States a model for competence and incorruptibility in the Civil Service.
With William Barr, Trump now has an attorney general who doesn’t care how much lasting damage he does to truth, justice and the American way. His mandate as the nation’s top prosecutor is to carry out Trump’s private vendettas.
Next week, the House will vote on whether to hold Barr in contempt for defying the constitutional role of oversight by the legislative branch. Get used to it. Barr is marshaling the enormous legal muscle of the people’s Justice Department as a political hit squad. He’ll use the law, which he ignores when it suits him, to try to imprison public servants who launched an early investigation of Russian attempts to subvert an American election.
No matter that an earlier presidential quisling, failed Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach, could find no evidence of another of Trump’s fictions, millions of illegal voters. Barr’s job is to muddy the origins of the Russian investigation enough to frame career public servants as traitors.
Normally, the courts would be bulwarks against the barbarians. And indeed, many judges have stood up to some of Trump’s most outlandish and illegal behavior. But the Trump effect, turning everything he touches to a cheap commodity, is to denigrate the legal arbitrators as “Obama judges” or “Mexican” judges. You’re with him or against him.
This is dangerous stuff. And it gets worse. The most disgusting of the recent corruptions is the attempt to make the military another extension of presidential vanity. The White House wanted to “minimize the visibility” of the U.S.S. John S. McCain while Trump was in Japan. So, a family name synonymous with sacrifice on behalf of country was covered up so that President Bone Spurs would not be offended. Kim Jong-un has to be jealous.
You would think that matters of the soul would be harder for the soulless occupant of the White House to tarnish. After a round of golf last Sunday, a disheveled-looking Trump abruptly showed up at a church in Virginia. The White House said Trump wanted parishioners to pray for victims of a recent mass shooting. Instead, they were asked to pray for Trump. The pastor later said he had been blindsided.
The same cannot be said for the man who oversees the Census Bureau, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. He’s trying to use a mandate of the Constitution, the decennial census, to shore up power in the Electoral College and Congress for the aging white men of Trump’s base.
Any day now, the Supreme Court will rule on Ross’s effort to insert, into the census form that goes out to every household, a citizenship question, something that hasn’t been asked since 1950. It could mean that about 6.5 million people would go uncounted — citizens and noncitizens.
This is a blatant abuse of power and of an otherwise benign government agency, affecting not just the number of representatives or electoral votes each state gets, but also the fate of numerous cities dependent on federal billions in mostly blue America.
We’ve had a census every decade since 1790, after the colonies threw off a king and created a governing document establishing an independent judiciary, a legislative branch that writes the rules of the land, and asserting that no man is above the law. To the present occupant of the White House, it’s only a piece of paper.
Frighteningly, far too many Americans are simply looking the other way or bloviating that they stay out of politics because they don't like politics - just like many "good Germans" did as Hitler rose to power. Citizenship imposes obligations as well as privileges, one of which is to be informed and support constitutional government. Too many Americans prefer watching mind numbing reality TV and sitting on their asses. Be very afraid.
Friday, June 07, 2019
While North Carolina may be the epicenter of GOP racial gerrymandering, it is hardly the only state in which the GOP has gerrymandered districts to dilute minority voting strength. Indeed, Virginia had some of its congressional districts redrawn to undo racial gerrymandering and the Virginia GOP is still litigating to try to stop new, non-gerrymandered districts from being in place for the 2019 elections for the Virginia General Assembly where every seat in the House of Delegates and Senate is up for election. The GOP, of course, never admits that race is the main motivator behind its drawing of election districts. The alleged party of "Christian values" would much prefer to lie about its true motives. In North Carolina, however, the lie has now been exposed thanks to the daughter of that state's main architect of racially gerrymandered districts who turned over her late father's computer drives to those challenging the GOP's districts. A piece in Huffington Post looks at documentation of what many always suspected. Here are excerpts:
North Carolina Republicans lied to a federal court in 2017 when they claimed that they didn’t use racial data about voters as they drew new electoral maps, according to a blistering filing in a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit this week.Common Cause of North Carolina, the lead plaintiff in the case, says the state’s legislative maps are so gerrymandered to benefit Republicans that they violate the state’s constitution. The daughter of Thomas Hofeller, a GOP master of gerrymandering who assisted lawmakers in drawing the maps, gave the files to the voting rights group. Stephanie Hofeller found the files after her father died last August, and lawyers representing Common Cause subpoenaed them.
The files contained evidence that North Carolina Republicans misled the court ― both about how racial data was considered in creating the maps and their ability to create new ones in time for a special election, according to the filing. The court opted not to order special elections in 2017, leaving lawmakers elected under racially gerrymandered maps in power for a little bit longer.
North Carolina has been ground zero in the battle over redistricting over the last decade. The Supreme Court is set to rule this month on whether the state’s congressional map is unconstitutionally gerrymandered for partisan gain. The new filings suggest the extent to which lawmakers were willing to go to preserve their power.
After getting caught racially gerrymandering in 2017, the North Carolina lawmakers told the court late they didn’t use racial data when they drew the new maps. Lawmakers told the court in September 2017 that data regarding race of voters “was not even loaded into the computer used by the map drawer to construct the districts.”
But Hofeller’s files show he did consider racial data when drawing the maps, according to the filing. All of Hofeller’s draft maps include racial data, the lawyers said.
The North Carolina lawmakers statements to the court came after the court had found in 2017 that 28 districts had been unlawfully racially gerrymandered. The next scheduled elections were set for 2018, but the plaintiffs in the case wanted the state to hold special elections in 2017 so voting would not take place under the racially-gerrymandered maps. In a July filing before the court, lawyers for the lawmakers said they needed time that year to develop a record, get public input and implement a new map. Ultimately, the court sided with lawmakers and decided not to order special elections in 2017.
The lawmakers were lying to the court about needing more time though, lawyers for the plaintiffs say. Hofeller’s files show that when the lawmakers made that claim, the mapmaker had already completed several draft maps and nearly all of the new state Senate and state House plans, the lawyers wrote.
Lawyers representing North Carolina lawmakers did not immediately return a request for comment.
Hofeller’s files first drew national attention last week as part of a challenge to a citizenship question to the census. Lawyers from Arnold & Porter, representing plaintiffs in both the census and North Carolina suit, discovered evidence that Hofeller helped a Commerce Department official compose what would become the official rationale for getting the citizenship question on the census.
The lawyers say their discovery is particularly alarming because Hofeller conducted a 2015 study showing that adding a citizenship question was a necessary precondition to being able to draw electoral districts based only on the number of citizens, not all persons. Drawing districts that way, Hofeller wrote in the study, would benefit white people and Republicans. The Justice Department denies Hofeller influenced the Justice Department official who drafted the formal request for a citizenship question.
After the census accusations, lawyers representing North Carolina Republicans tried to block Arnold & Porter lawyers from reviewing Stephanie Hofeller’s documents and suggested they were improperly obtained. R. Stanton Jones, a lawyer at the firm, responded in a letter Wednesday calling those accusations “baseless in every respect” and was an attempt to intimidate lawyers.
Stephanie Hofeller told The New York Times in an interview that allies of her father were putting pressure on her to keep the hard drives private. That pressure, she told the Times, only made her more resistant to do so.
Lying is now a Republican value - just as it is with the Christofascists and white supremacists who now control the party base - and Donald Trump, the liar-in-chief.
Thursday, June 06, 2019
|General - and later President - Eisenhower with troops.|
Today is the 75th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy on D-Day. To listen to the speakers - even Der Trumpenführer, if one could avoid vomiting as he spoke - made it sound as if western democracies and America were unified and a far different country than the one we see today where hatred and division are the staples of right-wing and Republican politics. The truth is something far different and the forces that are the antecedents of today's nativists, isolationists and white supremacists were very active in opposing the USA's involvement in World War II and the D-Day invasion to liberate Europe from the Nazi menace. They similarly opposed the New Deal programs that sought to aid poor and disadvantaged Americans. Somethings seemingly never change especially since then as now, the forces of racial hate, isolationism and nativism used the slogan "America First." Read the article and you will discover that Trump and the far right have merely dusted off a many decades old playbook.. A piece in Politico Magazine looks at the divided America that helped launch the D-Day invasion at Normandy. The opponents of the effort were wrong 75 years ago and their descendants are wrong today. Here are article highlights:
When Allied forces launched a dramatic air and sea assault on German-occupied France 75 years ago Thursday, the very scale and audacity of the operation were awe-inspiring. In the early-morning hours of June 6, hordes of planes dropped over 10,000 paratroopers behind enemy lines; hundreds of warships and thousands more landing craft would soon deliver 130,000 troops to the beaches of Normandy—most of them British or American—on the first day of the assault.It was a remarkable achievement—and one of the reasons why, so many years later, Americans in a divided country now think of THE WORLD WAR II years as a beacon of feel-good unity and patriotism: Glenn Miller tunes on the radio, war bond posters in every window, Rosie the Riveter at her station “all the day long whether rain or shine, she’s a part of the assembly line.”
That image, however—the war as a moment of American domestic comity—might come as a surprise to anyone who lived through those years. In fact, the nation that waged that war was racked by deep political divisions, some with echoes that are still reverberating today.
In the years leading up to its entry into World War II, the United States was bitterly divided over the New Deal and vehemently at odds over whether it should enter the conflict erupting in Europe. Even during the war, the country remained beset by racial and ethnic animosities that pitted Protestants against Catholic, Catholics against Jews and white Americans against people of color. . . . Even as the country fell in line with this vast expansion of state authority, outwardly uniting behind the war effort, discord boiled just beneath the surface, revealing itself in violent homefront outbursts and acid displays of political demagoguery.
The war almost tore America apart. And yet, it didn’t. The country ultimately rallied behind its popular but controversial wartime president to transform itself into the “arsenal of democracy.”
It’s easy to forget how unlikely an achievement it was. Just four years before D-Day, as Franklin Roosevelt launched his campaign for an unprecedented third term as president, America’s military lay in shambles. . . . . The following year, when Japan attacked and largely obliterated the Navy’s Pacific fleet, little remained of America’s capacity to prosecute the war.
The story of how Americans surmounted their fractured political culture to mobilize for D-Day remains a trenchant example, in our own age of discord and division, of how a country desperately wanting for consensus can rally together in a moment of common purpose.
“Our bond with Europe is a bond of race, and not of political ideology,” the famed aviator and outspoken isolationist Charles Lindbergh informed a national radio audience in October 1939. “Racial strength is vital, politics is a luxury.” Urging listeners to close ranks with Germany in common struggle against “Asiatic intruders”—Russians, Persians, Turks and Jews—who would defile America’s “most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood,” Lindbergh tapped into a deep well of popular nativism. It was a theme he hammered relentlessly from his perch as a spokesperson for the America First Committee, an anti-interventionist organization that marshalled considerable support from prominent names in business and industry to oppose aid to Britain and France. The “three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration,” he intoned in a speech two years later.
It wasn’t just Lindbergh. The anti-interventionist movement enjoyed widespread support in 1939 and 1940, and Lindbergh’s brand of anti-interventionist politics—bordering on being pro-Nazi, and laced with a conspiratorial distrust of Jews—was common in circles opposed to Roosevelt’s domestic and foreign policies. The America First Committee included outspoken anti-Semites like Avery Brundage, the former head of the U.S. Olympic Committee who had visited ignominy upon the athletic community when he booted two Jewish runners from the track team at the Berlin games in 1936. In Kansas, the America First state chairman told followers that Eleanor Roosevelt, the leading liberal light in FDR’s White House, was “Jewish,” and Winston Churchill, a “half-Jew.”
Even the most respectable opponents of Roosevelt’s mobilization policy verged on extremism. In an editorial entitled “A Plea for Realism,” the Wall Street Journal argued in 1940 that “our job today is not to stop Hitler,” who had “already determined the broad lines of our national life at least for another generation.” Instead, Americans would better direct their focus to “modernize our thinking and our national planning,” a none-too-subtle nod to Nazi state planning and central power.
Isolationist politics were consistent with the increasingly shrill nature of opposition to the New Deal in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor.
Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, campaigning unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination, warned there was “a good deal more danger of the infiltration of totalitarian ideas from the New Deal circle in Washington than there will ever be from any activities of the communists or Nazi bunds.” When Roosevelt asked Congress to pass a conscription act in 1940—a bold move in the heat of a presidential campaign—Republican Congressman Hamilton Fish denounced the measure as “the very essence of Nazism and Hitlerism in the United States.”
If Jews were widely rumored to be profiting from wartime mobilization and skirting military duty, in the South, white communities were rife with rumors that African Americans were stockpiling weapons in advance of a massive race riot. Black domestic workers were rumored to be forming “Eleanor Roosevelt Clubs,” preparing for the day when white women would staff black women’s kitchens. Black soldiers were said to be consorting with, and even marrying, young white women. These fears of caste inversion reflected an ugly response to the limited but appreciable wartime mobility African Americans achieved both in the military and civilian sectors.
The conservative press railed against “the New Deal-Communist axis” (New York Daily Mirror) and claimed “the people who support the New Deal … are supporting the Communists and building them up for the day when they plan to bring the Red Terror sweeping down upon America” (Chicago Tribune). John Bricker, the GOP nominee for vice president, warned that “insidious and ominous are the forces of communism linked with irreligion that are worming their way into national life. … First the New Deal took over the Democratic Party and destroyed its very foundation. Now these Communist forces have taken over the New Deal.”
Then and later, private sector barons who turned out tanks and rifles for the Army, and who staffed wartime agencies as “dollar a year men,” congratulated themselves on the victory of free markets over the state economies of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. “If Free Enterprise has not flourished here,” wrote the Saturday Evening Post, “the cause of world freedom might be lost for centuries.” Capitalism, it claimed, was “the last bulwark of civilization,” and the reason America prevailed was “mass employment, mass production, mass advertising, mass distribution and mass ownership of the products of industry.”
This spirit of triumphalism masked a darker reality: In 1940 and 1941, the Roosevelt administration faced widespread resistance, particularly from auto companies, to switch from civilian to war production. The reason Chrysler converted to tank building, and Ford to bombers, was that the government was compelled to offer “cost-plus” contracts that guaranteed defense manufacturers a profit, no matter the efficiency of production. America’s triumph in World War II did not derive from the magic of private-sector genius. It owed to precisely the brand of top-down, state planning that business leaders disdained during the New Deal era but learned to love when it delivered reliable profits in war years.
A country that could scarcely outfit its small Army with rifles in 1940 emerged within four years to outfit one of the most formidable militaries in modern history. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill had likened the United States to a “gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.”
America needs a new New Deal and a form of government intervention that won World War II - despite the shrieks of the far right and demagogues such as Trump.Seventy-five years ago, Operation Overlord proved Churchill right, as Americans saw the culmination of a collective effort unprecedented and since unseen—made all the more remarkable by its successful navigation of very real divisions that threatened, but did not break, the public spirit.
Having followed the far right for over two decades, one phenomenon has been constant: groups of bogus experts and supposed lobbyists who are little more than leeches who enrich themselves by fleecing the gullible and ignorant. Evangelical Christians (who typically have the lowest levels of education) seem to be among the easiest marks for these grifters as exemplified by both scamvangelists - think Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham and a host of others - who live the lives of multi-millionaires as they cajole those struggling financially to tithe to their organizations and "ministries." In the far right political realm, things are little better. The ignorant and gullible are played time and time again by appeals to their bigotry and/or extremism to hand over money so the scammers and con-artists can live the good life. This situation existed long before Trump, but he has played upon the ease with which much of the so-called conservative base can be suckered. A piece in National Review and another in New York Magazine look at this ongoing phenomenon of the right. The National Review piece begins by providing a list of political action committees and groups that have one thing in common: they take in tons of money and very little of it ever gets to the supposed cause. Here's a sampling of what follows:
Politico didn’t specify which 33 PACs they reviewed; if their list overlaps entirely with the RightWingNews list, then the total sum listed above would be $127 million; if they don’t overlap at all, it would be $177 million. That is money that could have gone directly to candidates’ campaigns or other actions that would have advanced the conservative cause in recent cycles. But instead it went into more fundraising expenses, more overhead costs, or into the pockets of those running these PACs.Why is the conservative movement not as effective as its supporters want it to be? Because day after day, year after year, little old ladies get called on the phone or emailed or sent letters in the mail telling them that the future of the country is at stake and that if they don’t make a donation to groups that might as well be named Make Telemarketers Wealthy Again right now, the country will go to hell in a handbasket. Those little old ladies get out their checkbooks and give what they can spare, convinced that they’re making a difference and helping make the world a better place. What they’re doing is ensuring that the guys running these PACs can enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle. Meanwhile, conservative candidates lose, kicking the dirt after primary day or the general election, convinced that if they had just had another $100,000 for get-out-the-vote operations, they might have come out on top.
What’s more, most of these PACs thrive on telling conservative grassroots things that aren’t true. Clarke didn’t want to run for Senate in Wisconsin, Laura Ingraham wasn’t interested in running for Senate in Virginia, and Allen West wasn’t running for Senate in Florida. The PACs propagate a narrative in which they’re the heroic crusaders for conservative values, secure borders and freedom, up against corrupt establishment elites . . . when they’re in fact run by those coastal political operatives and keeping most of the money for their own operations.
We can apply this beyond the realm of politics, as well. Why is America not enjoying a widespread revival of Christian values? There are a bunch of reasons, but we can start with televangelist Kenneth Copeland attempting to justify his purchase of a third private plane, a Gulfstream V. Copeland’s excuse was that flying commercial “like getting into a long tube with a bunch of demons.” I’m pretty sure I’ve sat next to the passengers he’s describing, and we all got through it okay.
Progressives ought to be cheering the ease with which those on the right get fleeced literally daily. The New York Magazine continues the examination of this reality and the fact that the right complained about Obama era efforts to stop the frauds:
Republicans have long complained, usually in private, that their fundraising apparatus is overrun with fraudsters. National Review’s Jim Geraghty has a column, “The Right’s Grifter Problem,” saying what many of them have been whispering. Many of President Trump’s most publicly strident loyalists are in the business of raising money for political projects that spend virtually all their funds on operating expenses.An unstated irony behind Geraghty’s complaint is that there is an agency tasked with overseeing the kind of misconduct he denounces: the IRS. When the first wave of tea-party scam PACs appeared, the IRS did look into them. Republicans insisted the agency was “targeting” the right for political reasons, probably at the behest of the Obama administration. While they spent years investigating the agency and making wild charges, a series of investigations by the agency’s inspector general, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Department of Justice refuted all their claims. The Obama administration had no involvement in the IRS’s enforcement priorities, and the agency was not even targeting the right at all — its criteria for regulating donors included keywords to search for activists on the left as well as the right. It was in fact clear all along the tea-party fundraising apparatus was rife with grifters. Stephanie Mencimer reported a clearheaded analysis of this in 2013, at the height of the “targeting” hysteria. But Republicans did succeed in their goal of harassing the agency into leaving political donors almost totally unscrutinized. The ironic result is that it has left their own party vulnerable to the financial parasites they rallied to protect themselves from.
The fact Republicans have rejected the conclusions of all these investigations and clung to their targeting theory tells you a lot about the intellectual environment that has proved so welcoming for grifters.
Geraghty’s column lacks any operating theory as to why Republican politics in particular has attracted so many grifters. Such types have exploited two long-standing aspects of conservative thought: a tendency toward Manichaean thinking and a rejection of neutral expertise.
Every victory for the Democratic Party or incremental extension of the welfare state is a twilight struggle to safeguard the last flickering hopes for freedom from the ravages of socialism.
These predictions are not just scare tactics. They reflect the authentic ideology of the American right, which treats liberalism as either indistinguishable from, or an unstoppably slippery slope toward, Bolshevistic central planning. But these beliefs are also very effective as scare tactics. Conservative fears that Democrats will usher in total societal collapse are good ways to scare conservatives into buying gold (an especially lucrative Obama-era conservative grift) or guns.
The right hardly has a monopoly on fearful predictions, of course. But their impact is magnified by the conservative distrust of the intellectual elite. Conservatives have spent decades training their supporters to reject the authority of bureaucrats, professors, the media, or any institution not explicitly committed to the right-wing agenda. Thus kook notions like the Laffer curve and climate-science denial have become cherished precepts of Republican Party thought.
The most supreme unstated irony of Geraghty’s complaint is that Trump himself is a grifter. This is true not only in the general sense of Trump’s lying constantly and exploiting his supporters’ loyalty, but also in the specific sense that Trump ran fraudulent business enterprises.
So it seems a little strange for Geraghty to complain that Republican grifters are letting down President Trump. Donald Trump grifted his way to the presidency and has kept on grifting. It seems positively unfair that his fellow grifters should have to stand down while he keeps wetting his beak. Geraghty complains that many tea-party groups are a “pyramid scheme,” but the essence of a pyramid scheme is that they connect a partnership of con artists with the greatest share of profits flowing to the person at the top.
Let's hope the right never wises up!The fact that the conservative media can publish a column entitled “The Right’s Grifter Problem,” and that the column will depict Donald Trump as a victim rather than a perpetrator, tells you most of what you need to know about why the phenomenon exists in the first place.
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Yesterday, my friend Governor Ralph Northam called a special session of the Virginia General Assembly to consider gun control reform in the wake of the horrific massacre in Virginia Beach last Friday by an individual armed with a silencer and extended magazines - all items legal for purchase under Virginia's current insane gun laws. Coincidentally, I attended a continuing legal education seminar today where the presenter was Republican Senate majority leader Tommy Norment who took time before the seminar began to figuratively take shots at Governor Northam and the majority of Virginians who favor universal background checks and the banning of extended magazines and silencers - things no law abiding citizens needs for self-protection or hunting. If Norment represents the GOP mindset, the special session will be filled with much vitriol and GOP political fellatio of the gun lobby. As a column in the Washington Post lays out, this go round it may be far harder for the Republicans in the General Assembly to smother gun control measures. Let's hope the column proves to be correct. Here are column excerpts:
If you want to know how things have rolled in Virginia on the firearms issue, consider that Gun Lobby Day is an unofficial but highly memorable event held every year at the state Capitol on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“That was so wrong for so many reasons,” Jennifer Wexton, a former state senator who is now a member of Congress, observed about the timing of the pro-firearms offensive. Wexton, first drawn to politics in part by her desire for tougher gun laws, said that the state Senate’s Republican leadership would “put up all the gun bills on that day and kill them, one after another.”
It was quite a spectacle, said state Sen. Janet D. Howell, who, like Wexton, is a Northern Virginia Democrat. “We would have citizens wandering the halls carrying Uzis and other assault weapons,” she said. “That was Virginia, darlin’.”
But it may not be Virginia anymore, or so Wexton, Howell and other advocates of gun safety hope. On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced he was calling a special session of the state legislature to take up a package of gun-control bills in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach. They include many measures that Republicans, who narrowly control both houses of the state legislature, have smothered in committee before.
They may try to do this again. But it will be harder with an election looming this fall and the power on the gun issue shifting toward those who favor regulations that only the most fanatical gun rights advocates would question. They include background checks, restrictions of silencers and bump stocks, and “red flag” laws allowing families to seek the removal of firearms from those they fear pose a danger.
Democrats need to pick up only two seats in each body to take control of the House and the Senate, and after years in which opponents of gun-safety laws had the upper hand in mobilizing and organizing, the energy has switched sides. Wexton says she noticed a large shift after the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“It’s clear from several recent elections that there’s been a sea change from the old arithmetic that the only people who vote on guns are pro-gun,” said Geoff Garin, who has polled for Democratic candidates in Virginia — Northam among them — for three decades. In his successful 2017 campaign, Garin said, Northam “leaned into support for gun-safety legislation and used his F-rating from the National Rifle Association as a badge of honor.”
Further evidence for this came from 2018 exit polling. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who also faced strong opposition from the NRA, won 82 percent among voters who said they cast their ballot on the basis of the gun issue, far exceeding his 57 percent statewide reelection total.
Almost all of McAuliffe’s gun proposals were killed by the GOP, but Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said that the special session called by Northam puts the party’s gun-control foes in a more difficult position.
“. . . the Republicans in the General Assembly are in a pincer,” Connolly said. “Either they act on the governor’s proposals, which are going to be sweeping, or they risk the rage of the electorate. . . . The patience of the electorate on these issues has been tested, strained and is at the breaking point.”
The changing politics on guns reflect a response to the pace of the threats — and to personal experiences. Democratic state Sen. Jeremy S. McPike (Prince William) told of his daughter’s suburban high school going on lockdown at the end of April after a gun was fired. “As the parent of a kid who was in lockdown, it’s real and it’s frightening to see that nothing’s getting done.
It’s your move, Virginia. The special session calls for a different kind lobbying day, one more in keeping with the spirit of nonviolence that King preached before he was gunned down.
|Trump, Pence and Ross.|
Numerous studies have shown that despite the myth that economic angst motivated whites to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, the real motivation was racial and a desire to protect white privilege and white political power. Under Trump, the GOP has moved from dog whistle racism to overt and express calls to white racism and has emboldened white supremacists across the country. Having spent last weekend in Charlottesville with family and attending my college reunion, that community remains traumatized over the actions of Trump emboldened white supremacists and Neo-Nazis - those who Trump called "very good people." Sadly, as a piece in The Atlantic argues, the GOP agenda is to uphold white political power and domination at the expense of racial minorities. Now, the looming question is whether the Supreme Court will validate this effort by allowing the Trump/Pence regime to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census to skew the results to increase white representation. Here are article highlights:
The disparate approaches taken by two of the Court’s conservatives to the Voting Rights Act reflect the right’s dueling impulses toward civil-rights laws. Where Scalia rejected the very effort to guarantee black people the same right to cast a ballot as white people as a “racial entitlement,” Roberts insisted that he agreed with the law’s underlying premises, but that the statute now did more harm than good.
Lingering beneath the surface was a defining question for the American right: Does it agree with Roberts that “any discrimination in voting is too much”? Or with Scalia, who saw ensuring equal participation in the polity as a black “racial entitlement”?
The Supreme Court’s looming decision over the addition of the citizenship question on the U.S. census will hinge on the answer to that question. The census provides the basis for congressional apportionment and the distribution of federal resources. Empirical studies of the impact of adding the question have determined that it would result in a dramatic undercount of Latinos and immigrants—exactly contrary to one of the Donald Trump administration’s stated rationales, that it would provide a more accurate count.
Since the rise of Trump, the American right has been offered a stark choice between the democratic ideals it has long claimed to believe in, and the sectarian ethno-nationalism of the president, which privileges white identity and right-wing Christianity over all. Scalia didn’t quite have it right: The fundamental question for American democracy since the founding has indeed been whether it is a “racial entitlement,” but only because of those who have tried for centuries to ensure that white people alone are entitled to it.
The Roberts Court has already taken steps in this direction. Last year it endorsed Trump’s travel ban, despite the president’s public statements identifying Muslims as the ban’s target, on the basis that the order itself did not mention religion, a blueprint for allowing further discriminatory efforts to pass constitutional muster as long as the high court’s conservatives retain control. Later that year, the conservative justices, self-styled champions of the freedom of religion, denied a request by a Muslim death-row inmate to have an imam present for his execution, forcing the condemned man to make do with the prison’s Christian chaplain. In both cases, the Court’s conservatives could hide behind the letter of the law in dismissing the government’s official disapproval of Islam. But recent revelations in the census case will force the Roberts Court to decide whether America is a nation for all of its citizens, or a white man’s republic.
On the surface, State of New York v. United States Department of Commerce appears to be a dry question of administrative and constitutional law. In January 2017, the news leaked that the Trump administration wanted to add a question asking census respondents whether they were American citizens. The Trump administration enlisted the acting head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, John Gore, to state that the question should be included to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Wilbur Ross, the head of the Department of Commerce, which administers the census, insisted to Congress that this was the reason for the addition of the question. In fact, Ross had sought the addition of the question long before this rationale was provided.
A recent Court filing by groups challenging the addition of the citizenship question shows what the administration really had in mind. The filing shows that Thomas Hofeller, the late Republican redistricting expert, concluded that adding the citizenship question would, in his words, “be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.” That analysis was offered in a 2015 memo, as Hofeller was helping Republicans draw redistricting lines that they believed would cement a majority in Congress. That memo, along with a 2017 document written by Hofeller on the subject, which contains some language identical to a later Justice Department memo on the matter, was turned over to the liberal group Common Cause by Hofeller’s daughter after his death.
Voting districts are typically drawn using total population. A switch to using the voting-age citizen population would, Hofeller concluded in his 2015 memo, expand white political power at the expense of people of color, and thereby increase Republican advantage. But, Hofeller wrote, that shift could only occur with the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, which would provide the federal government with data necessary for that switch.
In other words, long before Trump was even elected, Republican Party insiders were plotting to increase white political power at the expense of people of color. After Trump was elected, they implemented this plan by insisting that their actual goal was the protection of minority voting rights. As with the Voting Rights Act, there was the real reason and the stated reason, the truth and the pretext. . . . . “No one believes that anyone in this administration has any intention of enforcing the Voting Rights Act.”
The use of the Civil Rights Division, which was established to protect Americans’ fundamental rights, to undermine those very rights is a perversion of justice. But it also illustrates that Trumpism merely traveled a few stops down the road from where the Republican Party leadership had been. The risk with Trump was not that the GOP would become a vehicle for the preservation of white political and cultural hegemony; it was that he would discredit that project by making its agenda explicit, by saying, as Scalia did, the quiet part loud.
That the Republican effort to increase white political power might be motivated by partisanship rather than racism is little solace. . . . Whether motivated by partisanship or racism, though, the result is the same. If the Roberts Court does not draw a line here, this will not be the last step toward reestablishing a white man’s government it will be asked to take.
The census case does not hinge on whether the citizenship question is discriminatory. Rather, as a matter of administrative law, the executive branch must follow certain procedures before making decisions. The Trump administration’s blatant dishonesty settles the question of whether it followed procedure definitively: It did not.
“This kind of smoking-gun evidence of what the real illicit reason is behind a government action is incredibly rare. Court decisions don’t require it, and it’s really quite shocking to read it so explicitly,” Wendy Weiser, a voting-rights expert at the Brennan Center, told me. “Every procedural constraint on agency decisions was violated in this case, and the reason that was provided, every lower court found, was not the real reason that the secretary of commerce added the citizenship question.”
The census case is not ultimately about administrative procedure; it is, more fundamentally, about whether the Trump administration can use the federal government for the explicit purpose of increasing white political power. The Trump administration, and by extension, the conservative masses, are already on board, convinced by years of right-wing propaganda that all the opposition’s victories at the ballot box are suspect. Those elements of the Republican establishment that funded and conceived of the census scheme are all in, as well. The only remaining question is whether, and to what extent, the high court is willing to ratify this step toward white man’s government. It is not the first time it has been asked to do so.
Trump’s victory settled the question of whether the GOP would seek to expand its base by diversifying it, or rely on the imposition of white political hegemony over a changing electorate. This is a counter-majoritarian strategy that, in the long run, relies on abandoning the pretense of liberal democracy in favor of something else: A white man’s republic, if they can keep it.
Tuesday, June 04, 2019
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker is definitely "off the reservation" with her latest column in the Washington Post which could well bring her death threats from the unwashed fanatics of Donald Trump's cult followers. That, of course, doesn't mean that Parker isn't 100% on point on her pitch that Trump is a crass boor and that his money - or supposed money - surely has not bought him class or the knowledge of how to behave in polite society, not to mention the social stratosphere of royal function in the United Kingdom. Frighteningly, the Beverly Hillbillies from the 1960's television show were more refined than Trump is in present day and they certainly did not suffer from his toxic narcissism. For a good laugh while reading the hard truth, here are excerpts from Parker's column:
If there was “great love all around” during President Trump’s state visit to Britain, as he tweeted Monday, the participants royal and decidedly otherwise were deceptively discreet.
But then, what would one expect when New York’s most famous hillbilly drags his entire entourage to sup at the sumptuous table of the queen of England as though word had leaked of an all-you-can-eat buffet and free booze over at Lizzie’s Eatery? Donald Trump may have plenty of dough and houses dripping with gold, but his money has that new smell, and his crass behavior is testament to the adage — and more recently Countess Luann de Lesseps’s song — “Money can’t buy you class.” To which I would only add, “honey.”
Queen Elizabeth II, as in “The Crown,” was born to class, of course, and has spent her royal career marinating in irony. As a descendant of generations of royals, she epitomizes the definition of proper behavior, rarely displaying emotion or affection, always stoic in the face of adversity. A far cry is she from the effluvious Donald and his bloviating histrionics. But there she was playing sober hostess to a reality-show president and his carnivalesque courtiers.
The queen has seen it all: Her son, Charles, gallivanting with his then-lover-now-wife Camilla whilst married to the fair Princess Diana; the “people’s princess” shedding crocodile tears for television cameras while sharing her miseries and family secrets; her grandson wedding an American actress who, in an apparent act of defiance, declined to attend the state banquet.
’Tis a shame, because Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, surely would have brought a smile to the Buckingham Palace proceedings. Instead, we saw mostly waxen, strained faces in the dinner procession of mismatched royals and American hirelings. Most expressions suggested that a hair shirt was concealed beneath their finery. There was the queen with The Don. Prince Edward, the queen’s first cousin, marched dutifully alongside Kellyanne Conway, bedecked in silver sequins and affecting a royal air her weary-eyed escort would be loath to approximate.
Princess Anne, the queen’s daughter, walked with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who, in one frame, seemed to be trying to convince her that she was lucky. I’m a prince, you know, did you know that? , I thought he was saying. Then again, reading lips is second only to my snake-handling skills. Poor Countess Peel, granddaughter of Winston Churchill, got stuck with Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, whom she seemed to be trying to ignore. As do we all, Countess, as do we all.
My favorite visual, however, was U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and his muscular mustache paired with Viscountess Brookeborough, who looked as though something most unpleasant had reached her nostrils.
[T]he whole affair felt tawdry and cheap, joyless and stilted beyond the usual norms of pomp and circumstance. The queen must have wondered, did Trump raffle off tickets? Who are these people? Fair question.
Money can’t buy you class, but it can sure buy loyalty. Trump’s court at the palace was essentially his family and the few remaining White House staffers still willing to tell the president that, indeed, his exposed derriere is absolutely rocking raiment of finest silk and gold. The fake news media, of course, are unable to see.
Ms. Parker indeed out did herself! Her descriptions, while sarcastic are on point in zeroing in on the fact that Trump is white trash with money. One has to pity the royals who had to pretend to enjoy an evening with a carnival barker and a bunch of staffers who, in my view, have the social graces of low rent streetwalkers and sleazy bar bouncers.