Saturday, June 29, 2019

Virginia's History of Stonewalling Against Gay Rights

This weekend as many in New York City - and many other parts of the USA - recognize the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an openly gay man is in the upper tiers of the Democrat presidential primary contest, Ralph Northam, the most gay friendly governor in Virginia's history occupies the Executive mansion in Richmond, and numerous LGBT individuals hold local and state elected office, Virginia still lacks any non-discrimination protections for LGBT employees or even those merely seeking housing. Why?  The answer can be summed up in one word: "Republicans." If a second word is needed, then I suggest "Christofascists."  These two groups have worked hand in glove for decades to thwart any advances in LGBT rights in Virginia and have stonewalled against any progress.  Thanks to them, same sex relationships carried the potential of a felony conviction until the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas' and Virginia's (and eleven other states') sodomy statutes in 2003. In 1975, a statute was enacted barring same sex marriage.  Not content with that message of hate, in 2006 the Republicans and Christofascists rammed through the so-called Marshall-Newman Amendment to the state constitution in a very disingenuous campaign only to have that struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014, and 2015, respectively. Despite the latter rulings, thanks to Republicans, the 1975 statute and the Marshall-Newman Amendment remain of the books even though unenforceable. A piece in the Roanoke Times looks at Virginia's discriminatory history which can only be ended by voting control of the Virginia General Assembly to Democrats  in Virginia's November, 2019, elections.  Here are highlights:

You may hear the word “Stonewall” a lot today. It will not refer to the Stonewall we’re most familiar with.
The Stonewall in this case is not the Confederate general but the 50th anniversary of the so-called “Stonewall riots” in New York in 1969.
If you don’t know what those are, then consider this more of the history we never learned, perhaps because this history concerns what one 19th century poet delicately called “the love that dare not speak its name.”
The Stonewall Inn was a famous gay bar in New York City. On June 28, 1969, police raided the establishment, and violence broke out. The details are complicated . . . What matters is what happens next: The two days of street violence marked the beginning of a gay rights movement.
Some context for the times: Even the city’s most liberal newspaper, the legendary counter-cultural Village Voice, refused to print the word “gay” in advertisements. Within six months of the Stonewall riots, no fewer than three gay-related publications sprang up in New York. Within two years there were gay rights organizations in every major city in the western world.
Of course, the Stonewall riots weren’t really the starting point of the gay rights movement, just the modern one. France was the first country to legalize homosexuality — in 1791. . . . .However, the Stonewall riots served as an ignition spark that galvanized a movement, in much the same way that Rosa Parks getting arrested served to ignite a civil rights movement for African-American equality that had been going on for a long time.
Social movements do not always move in straight lines, and Virginia provides a good example. In the years following Stonewall, Virginia took one step after another to crack down on anything that resembled gay rights. Meanwhile, gay Virginians — who, of course, had been there all along — were becoming more and more visible.
In 1975, Virginia decided to ban same-sex marriages. The idea of such a thing had not crossed the public mind before then, but now it had and Virginia wanted to make sure such a thing didn’t happen here. That same year, Roanoke had at least three establishments catering to a gay clientele. The first had been quietly operating since 1953 — the Trade Winds, on what is now Elm Avenue and Franklin Road. Others opened in 1973 and 1975. By the time The Park opened in 1978, Roanoke counted six gay bars, although many people were unaware any of them existed. Such was the nature of Roanoke, and the nature of the times. Roanoke’s gay community first gathered for a “Pride in the Park” event in 1990; the organizers also made sure it attracted no media attention. They later described the event as “real scary” because the 300 to 400 attendees weren’t sure how the event would go.
Subsequent “Pride in the Park” events were publicized, but many in Roanoke were still unaware there was any gay community here at all until one tragic night in 2000. That September, a Florida drifter targeting the gay community walked into the Backstreet Café on Salem Avenue and opened fire — killing one man and wounding six others. Even in those pre-social media days, Roanoke was national news. And Roanoke’s response? Nearly 1,000 people marched through the streets to decry the shooting. The Roanoke Times reported the reaction to the shooting this way:
It has led untold numbers of gays to reveal their orientation publicly for the first time, produced Roanoke’s first gay political action committee in years, persuaded two lawmakers to reconsider their opposition to adding sexual orientation to hate crime laws, and brought international attention to Roanoke’s heretofore barely visible gay citizenry. Until now, average straight Roanokers probably didn’t think they knew any gay people, said the Rev. Catherine Houchins, a lesbian minister. “Now they’re finding out we’re their neighbors, their customers ... their employers, their employees.”
In some ways, the Backstreet Café shooting was Roanoke’s Stonewall riot — except that no one died in New York. Someone here did. Yet six years later, Roanoke still voted against one major goal of the gay rights movement — the right to marry.
A mere statue against same-sex marriage wasn’t considered strong enough. In 2006, the General Assembly passed and sent to voters a proposed constitutional amendment than would write the ban into the state’s fundamental law. Called the Marshall-Newman Amendment after its sponsors — Del. Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, and state Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg — the amendment passed by 57% to 43%.
In 2014, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring declined to defend the amendment in federal court, calling it unconstitutional. The courts later agreed, striking down that provision of the state Constitution — a year before the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriage everywhere.
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, though, the Marshall-Newman Amendment remains part of the state’s Constitution — unenforceable but still on the books in case some future U.S. Supreme Court changes its mind.
Today, there are openly-gay elected officials in Blacksburg, Roanoke and the General Assembly, something unthinkable at the time of the Stonewall riots. One of the top-tier candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination is gay and that’s not even the most interesting thing about Pete Buttigieg’s background. Yet in Virginia (and lots of other states), someone can still be fired simply for being gay. In some ways, Virginia still stands like a stone wall.

Saturday Male Beauty

Trump Is Fast Forwarding America's Decline

Trump as Wilhelm II.
Donald Trump's mantra is to "make America great again" yet his regime is rapidly destroying standing in the world. While using many of Adolph Hitler's tactics of attacking the free press, demonizing targeted groups, and lying incessantly, as noted in a prior post, Trump's behavior mimics that of the narcissistic, impetuous Kaiser Wilhelm II who used nationalism to lead Germany into WWI  and ultimate disaster, including an overthrow of the monarchy.  The other irony, of course, is that if one looks at those who attended Trump's rallies - e.g., his recent kick off in Florida - they look like losers and what my late maternal grandmother would have described as "white trash" were she still living. Hardly folks that reflect American greatness. Under Trump, America has gone from the recognized leader of the democratic world to being an untrustworthy ally with a leader who prefers hobnobbing with dictators and autocrats, or in the case of Saudi Arabia, out right murderers.  A column in the New York Times looks at America's accelerating decline under Der Trumpenführer. Here are excerpts:

So Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has told The Financial Times, “The liberal idea has become obsolete.” It has, he says, “outlived its purpose.” President Trump finds him amusing. In Japan, at the G-20 summit meeting, he wags his finger at Putin and says, with a grin: “Don’t meddle in the election, President.”
It’s a measure of American decline over the past three decades that Putin’s claim, however objectionable, is no longer preposterous and Trump’s frivolity no longer surprising. Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. Two years later, the Soviet Union was gone. The liberal idea was triumphant, and American power virtually uncontested in “the unipolar moment.”
Liberalism posited the indivisibility of freedom and human dignity, as well as the idea that the rule of law and democracy offered the best chance for human advancement, peace and prosperity. Its spread appeared inevitable and irreversible. Its guiding spirit was the United States.
The road from that high-water mark of the American idea to Trump’s autocrat-coddling indecency offers a story of squandered American opportunity and eroded American self-belief that Edward Gibbon would have qualified as “decline and fall.” All Democratic candidates should be asked what they intend to do about it.
I can think of no better guide for reflection than William Burns’s book, “The Back Channel,” his wonderful memoir of a life in diplomacy. . . . back in 1993, in a memo to the incoming Clinton administration, he wrote: “Democratic societies that fail to produce the fruits of economic reform quickly, or fail to accommodate pressures for ethnic self-expression, may slide back into other ‘isms,’ including nationalism.”
Burns, now the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, attributes the loss of America’s “unrivaled position of strength” in part to inevitable geopolitical trends, including the rise of China and India in the “Pacific century.”
This was, however, compounded by what he calls “grievous missteps.” They included the post-9/11 “inversion of force and diplomacy” that saw a disoriented United States lurch onto a “road to war in Iraq” that “was distinctive for its intensity and indiscipline.”
The unhappy sidelining and devaluation of diplomacy is a theme of the book. It has, for Burns, culminated in Trump’s “savaging of American diplomacy” that has left “our friends confused, our adversaries emboldened, and the foundations of the international system we built and preserved for seven decades alarmingly fragile.” He writes of “unilateral diplomatic disarmament” under Trump, born of “equal parts ideological contempt and stubborn incompetence.” The president’s view of diplomacy is “narcissistic, not institutional,” Burns observes, full of “muscular posturing and fact-free assertions” that insult allies and indulge autocrats. Burns played a leading role in negotiating [the Iran nuclear deal] that Trump called “the worst deal ever” before withdrawing from it. This, Burns writes, “was exactly the kind of risky, cocky, ill-considered bet that had shredded our influence before, and could easily do so again.” For Burns, the erosion of American power and influence long predates Trump. He regrets the loss of the extraordinary American cohesion that, at the end of the Cold War, secured the place of a united Germany in NATO. He notes the failure to perceive early enough how Russian “humiliation and wounded pride” would, under Putin, spur a Russian resurgence.
NATO expansion was, he suggests, “premature at best, and needlessly provocative at worst” — a debatable point in my view, given the need to secure and stabilize the liberation of more than 100 million long subjugated people in Central Europe and the Baltic States.
He thinks President Obama made a mistake by not upholding his “red line” against the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. The Obama administration “had blinked” and, Burns notes, “it would leave an enduring mark.” Into that vacuum Putin strode.
Now the Russian president claims liberalism is obsolete. He is wrong. It is more necessary than ever even as Trump scoffs at it. But America’s ability to promote liberal democracy cannot be served by what Burns calls “a State Department in which officers are bludgeoned into timidity, or censor themselves, or are simply ignored.”

Be very afraid.

Friday, June 28, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

Buttigieg Calls Out GOP Religious Hypocrisy

There were a number of standout lines from last night's Democrat presidential candidate debate, but one in particular echoed something this blog has argued for years, namely that the GOP's claims of being a party of those with religious values is a lie.  Both Republicans and their supporters among evangelical Christians are morally bankrupt and have perverted and sullied Christianity. Two things and only two things define one as a Christian Republican: being anti-abortion and being anti-gay. The rest of the bible simply doesn't matter, especially the New Testament call to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, cloth the naked and care for the sick.  Indeed, the entire GOP platform of destroying the social safety net and showering tax breaks on the obscenely wealthy is the antithesis of what true Christians should support and do in the community.  Last night, Pete Buttigieg called them out.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at this much deserved condemnation.  Like so many others, it falsely describes evangelicals and right wing Catholics as "conservative" rather than what they really are: racist, bigots and modern day Pharisees. Here are highlights:

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, called out Republicans for what he described as moral hypocrisy during the second night of the first Democratic presidential debates, in Miami. The conversation had turned to the border, where Donald Trump’s administration has continued to separate families seeking asylum and is detaining children in facilities reportedly without soap or toothbrushes or showers. “For a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that … God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages,” Buttigieg said, “has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.”
Under Trump, [white supremacist] conservative Christianity has come to be singularly associated with [Trump] the president. White evangelical voters brought him to the White House and continue to give his administration high approval ratings. White Catholics were arguably the swing voters who gave Trump his 2016 victories in states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And Trump has leaned into this image as the ultimate president for religious voters.
On the debate stage, Buttigieg gave voice to a view that has become common among Democratic voters: Many of Trump’s policies, along with his conduct as president, do not reflect Christian values. “The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion,” Buttigieg said. “We should call out hypocrisy when we see it.
This has been a theme throughout Buttigieg’s campaign. The mayor has spoken openly about his religious faith and rallied religious rhetoric to his advantage: This spring, he called out Mike Pence for his opposition to same-sex marriage, saying, “Your quarrel, sir, it is with my creator.”
This is a departure from the usual playbook for the Democratic Party. As Buttigieg himself pointed out, “Our party doesn’t talk about [religion] as much.” The reason for this, he said, is that Democrats are committed to the separation of Church and state, and that the party wants to stand for all people, regardless of their religion.
Buttigieg’s knack for speaking in the language of God makes him exceptional within his generation, but it may also be a strength in reaching the swing voters and voters of color whom Democrats so badly need. Of all the candidates onstage, he spoke most directly to the anger that many Americans seem to feel at the way religion has been co-opted by the Trump administration, at odds with the faith they deeply hold.

One simply cannot support the GOP agenda and be a true Christian - the two are mutually exclusive.  I am over the feigned and false piety and believe Trump supporting "Christians" need to be called out daily.

Justice Roberts Follows Constitution And the Right Convulses

The relevant portion of the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) that mandates census every ten (10) years reads in relevant part as follows:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Note, there is NO reference to citizenship.  Only a reference to "free persons" and then to "all other persons."  Yet, when Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Supreme Court opinion rejecting the Trump/Pence regime's disingenuous effort to add a citizenship question on the 2020 national census, you would have thought he committed some combination of blasphemy and treason to listen to some on the political right.  A piece in Politico looks at this reaction by this group which the media continues to false label as "conservatives."  Here are excerpts:

Chief Justice John Roberts just keeps on breaking conservatives’ hearts. On two consecutive days this week, Roberts sided with the court’s liberal wing to deliver 5-4 rulings that deeply disappointed right-leaning lawyers and pundits who had been counting on near-certain victory from a court now stocked with a pair of Trump-appointed justices handpicked by conservative legal activists.
On Thursday, Roberts stunned many court watchers by invalidating a Trump administration decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.
Adding to the sting is the fact that the chief justice wasn’t just along for the ride on the closely watched ruling: He penned the majority opinion, which essentially accused Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross of lying about his reasons for seeking to add the question on citizenship.
A day earlier, Roberts was the sole GOP appointee to side with the liberal wing in a case many legal conservatives were hoping would deal a major blow to the much-loathed administrative state by overturning decades of precedent allowing federal agencies wide leeway to interpret their own regulations.
Among some conservatives close to Trump, the sense of anger and betrayal was palpable, with some on the right suffering painful flashbacks to Roberts’ 2012 decision to join with the court’s Democratic appointees and uphold Obamacare’s individual mandate even as all of his Republican-appointed colleagues dissented. The anger seemed especially acute with possible abortion-related cases on the horizon for the next term.
There is a degree of selective outrage at Roberts. Trump’s newest nominee to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, sided with liberals in a series of 5-4, late-term decisions this year, but they were less high-profile. As Gorsuch ruled in favor of criminal defendants — including a child pornography convict — in a pair of cases related to sentencing, there was no outcry from the right that Trump’s pick was abandoning his backers.
Still, Roberts’ tendency to side with liberals in some cases embraced by many Republican activists seems to grate on many conservative lawyers, including some who helped lead the fight to confirm him.
Levey said the political polarization in the country may be prodding Roberts to go further than he otherwise would in trying to ensure that the court is viewed as moderate and not being buffeted by the political winds. Last November, when President Donald Trump made derisive comments about “Obama judges,” Roberts shot back with a statement declaring “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. ... What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
“At the end of the day, Roberts wants the court to be well-respected,” Levey said, calling the chief justice “a compromiser and people pleaser.”
“I think the hysteria on the left about an ‘arch conservative’ court is having an effect,” the legal activist said. “At the end of the day, [Roberts] wants the court to be well respected and a highly divided nation is a threat to the legitimacy of the court because with every decision the half the public is convinced the court is acting for political reasons.”

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Republicans Will Paint Democrats As Socialists as the GOP Pushes a Fascist Agenda

As the second night of Democrat presidential candidate debates takes place with serious discussions about means to address some of the most pressing problems facing millions and millions of average Americans, including the nation's health care crisis, an economy that is providing little if any financial increase to working Americans, and a thoroughly broken immigration system, a column in the New York Times looks at the lies and disingenuous tactics Republicans will utilize to dupe voters into voting against their own best interests.  Yes, the familiar ploys of racism and religious extremism will be trotted out, but the lead GOP mantra will likely be that Democrats are socialists and they seek to take the nation down the road of Venezuela - ignoring, of course, that Democrat plans are no different than those in other leading western industrial nations.  The piece also calls attention to just how extreme the GOP agenda is in terms of historic perspective.  Indeed, the GOP has become a de facto white supremacist, oligarchical political party. Lastly, the piece looks at the need for the media to stop parroting Republican lies and report lies as the lies they are in fact.  Here are column excepts:

The Democratic Party has clearly moved left in recent years, but none of the presidential candidates are anything close to being actual socialists — no, not even Bernie Sanders . . . . Nobody in these debates wants government ownership of the means of production, which is what socialism used to mean. Most of the candidates are, instead, what Europeans would call “social democrats”: advocates of a private-sector-driven economy, but with a stronger social safety net, enhanced bargaining power for workers and tighter regulation of corporate malfeasance. They want America to be more like Denmark, not more like Venezuela.
Leading Republicans, however, routinely describe Democrats, even those on the right of their party, as socialists. . . . And everyone in the news media accepts this as the normal state of affairs.  Which goes to show the extent to which Republican extremism has been accepted simply as a fact of life, barely worth mentioning.
To see what I mean, imagine the media firestorm, the screams about lost civility, we’d experience if any prominent Democrat described Republicans as a party of fascists, let alone if Democrats made that claim the centerpiece of their national campaign. And such an accusation would indeed be somewhat over the top — but it would be a lot closer to the truth than calling Democrats socialists.
The other day The Times published an Op-Ed that used analysis of party platforms to place U.S. political parties on a left-right spectrum along with their counterparts abroad. The study found that the G.O.P. is far to the right of mainstream European conservative parties. It’s even to the right of anti-immigrant parties like Britain’s UKIP and France’s National Rally. Basically, if we saw something like America’s Republicans in another country, we’d classify them as white nationalist extremists.
[I]t matches up with lots of other evidence. Political scientists who use congressional votes to track ideology find that Republicans have moved drastically to the right over the past four decades, to the point where they are now more conservative than they were at the height of the Gilded Age.
Or just compare the G.O.P., point by point, with parties almost everyone would classify as right-wing authoritarians — parties like Hungary’s Fidesz, which has preserved some of the forms of democracy but has effectively created a permanent one-party state.
Fidesz has cemented its power by politicizing the judiciary, creating rigged election rules, suppressing opposition media and using the power of the state to reward the party’s cronies while punishing businesses that don’t toe the line. Does any of this sound like something that can’t happen here? In fact, does any of it sound like something that isn’t already happening here, and which Republicans will do much more of if they get the chance?
One might even argue that the G.O.P. stands out among the West’s white nationalist parties for its exceptional willingness to crash right through the guardrails of democracy. Extreme gerrymandering, naked voter suppression and stripping power from offices the other party manages to win all the same — these practices seem if anything more prevalent here than in the failing democracies of Eastern Europe.
So it’s really something to see Republicans trying to tar Democrats as un-American socialists. If they want to see a party that really has broken with fundamental American values, they should look in the mirror.
But that won’t happen, of course. Whoever the Democrats nominate — even if it’s Joe Biden — Republicans will paint him or her as the second coming of Hugo Chávez. The only question is whether it will work.
Republicans have squandered much of the accusation’s force. And Donald Trump, who was installed in office with Russian help and clearly prefers foreign dictators to democratic allies, is probably less able to play the “Democrats are unpatriotic” card than previous Republican presidents.
Still, a lot will depend on how the news media handle dishonest attacks. Will we keep seeing headlines that repeat false claims (“Trump Says Democrats Will Ban Hamburgers”), with the information that the claim is false buried deep inside the article? Will we get coverage of actual policy proposals, as opposed to horse-race analysis that only asks how those proposals seem to be playing?  I guess we’ll soon find out.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

America Is Losing Its Soul

This photo sums up the horrors of Trump?pence. 
America has much ugliness and many horrors in its history, ranging from genocide committed against Native Americans, to over two centuries of slavery as a legal institution, to concentration camps for Japanese Americans during WWII.  Most of us like to think that at least since WWII America has by and large embraced its better angels and cast aside the hate and bigotry of the past.  Yet, as the ongoing human rights crisis at America's border with Mexico reveals, a portion of Americans, including Donald Trump and Mike Pence, exhibit a moral bankruptcy not that far removed from that of Germans who either participated in or conveniently looked the other way as Hitler and his Nazi regime committed atrocities and millions were murdered. Among those seemingly condoning the horrors at the border are evangelical Christians who continue to support Trump and his nightmarish policies.  Indeed, as I have noted before, in the era of Trump, one cannot be a decent and moral person and be a Republican or Trump supporter.  The two are mutually exclusive.  For the rest of us, if we do not do all in our power to remove Trump and his acolytes from power, we become as soulless as his followers.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at America's steady loss of its soul.  Here are excerpts:

The photograph conforms to all the necessary standards for a media image depicting tragedy. It shows a father and his daughter, face down, at the edge of a river, their bodies floating in the muddy water. They can’t be identified and their faces are not visible, which would violate standards of “taste” at many media outlets. But the story of the two people in the photo by Julia Le Duc has been documented.
Salvadoran migrant Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his toddler daughter, Valeria, died Sunday after being swept away by a strong current while the family was trying to cross the Rio Grande into the United States. Unknown to most of the world until this week, they are now briefly famous, a toddler in red shorts and tiny shoes, tucked inside her father’s dark T-shirt, seemingly at rest as if napping with her dad on a hot afternoon.
[I]t recalls the vulnerability of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian Kurdish boy whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015. Nilüfer Demir’s picture of the boy, who seemed to be resting after play, became one of the most searing images of the European refugee and emigration crisis. Both images share elements with other photographs in which the innocence of childhood highlights the cruelty of human or natural forces . . . .
[T]hese images have already broken through our own resistance to seeing pain and tragedy in the world, we imagine that they must break through the collective conscience as powerful political icons. They enter our consciousness almost by stealth and then explode, and that is how we assume they’ll work in the public square, too.
As it circulates, we believe it will acquire enough force and familiarity that our political leaders will have to do something different — change policies, reverse course, revise their own understanding of the severity of a problem. For more than a century, this metaphor has been in operation behind the scenes whenever journalists, or activists, hold up photographs to the world, and say: This is a truth you must acknowledge.
The metaphor of “breaking through,” however, relies on an understanding of the human conscience that is being sorely tested at the moment, not just in the United States, but in every country where nationalism and nativist populism are creating divisions between us and them, between the rightful “folk” and the supposedly illegal outsider.  . . . The thing that needs to be broken through is a basic sluggishness in the moral apparatus, a resistance to doing the hard work of humanizing the other.
But when nationalism has successfully dehumanized the other, there is no breaking through, and people who imagine that a photographic message must assuredly be so powerful that it will touch all hearts are forced to grapple with a more confounding truth: Not all consciences operate alike, not everyone is susceptible to what seems a basic, even rudimentary level of empathy. And so, there is a paradox: We resist the idea of living in an us-vs.-them world only to find that our basic sense of “us” is already fractured. We look out at our fellow humans and can’t honestly understand how their minds work. At some level, we think, “Can’t you see what is happening in this image?” As if seeing and understanding are identical.
This one photograph tells us very little about Ramírez and his daughter, and perhaps with all the attention it has received, we will learn more about the reality of who they were. But just as important is the imaginative reality of the viewer’s effort to sense them as humans, absolutely identical in value and dignity to any person in our most intimate circle of acquaintance.
Of course, one doesn’t have to do this work. Images of tragedy that arrive in a divisive political context often have an off-ramp. You may look at this photo and think that its deep message is “We are all hoping for a better life and will take extraordinary risks on behalf of those we love.” But someone else will probably say, “People shouldn’t cross borders without permission.” The drowning becomes a kind of punishment, a river stands in for ideas of human authority, and the photograph doesn’t break through anything. It merely reiterates an old and cherished belief: Bad things happen to those who break the rules.
There is a fundamental difference between these two interpretations: One requires time and effort, an act of engaged empathy, while the other is a quick judgment that reaffirms an existing sense of the world.
The day after these two people perished in the Rio Grande, the president of the United States dismissed an accusation that he had sexually assaulted a prominent author and columnist in the 1990s. He used a phrase similar to ones he has used in the past to deflect similar allegations: “She’s not my type.” It is a terrible thing to say, with a specifically misogynistic meaning in the context of how men practice violence against women.
But it is a perfect summation of our new and deformed American conscience. . . . . For anyone who wants an off-ramp to the moral demands made by this image, this could be the universal caption: “They weren’t our type.”
Once again, I find myself deeply ashamed to be an American.  As for the "Christians" supporting Trump, they make an outstanding case not only of their own hypocrisy, but of why one should reject their form of Christianity entirely.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

The Insanity of Pence's "Latinos for Trump" Initiative

Donald Trump has called Mexican and Central American migrants coming to the United States  “rapists,” “criminals,” and “animals,” yet has his morally bankrupt lap dog, Mike Pence out launching an initiative called "Latinos for Trump."  Apparently, Trump and Pence are hoping there is an element within the Latino voting block that will act like gay Republicans and vote against their own best interests and certainly that of their larger community.  The further irony of the endeavor is that Trump's core base of white supremacists and evangelical Christians (the two groups, in my view are more or less synonymous) absolutely hates Latinos - indeed anyone without lily white skin.  So far, the Trump/Pence theme is playing heavily on the supposed dangers of socialism in the form of expanded health care for all and, will likely include calls to religious extremists within the Latino community and Cubans still more obsessed with harming Cuba than their own best interests in America.  A piece The Atlantic looks at this effort to recruit supporters for their own worse enemy.  Here are excerpts:

Vice-President Mike Pence, an Irish-American from Indiana, visited Miami on Tuesday to launch a new 2020 initiative for his boss’s reelection called Latinos for Trump. Describing it as “one of the most important coalitions of the 2020 campaign,” Pence praised the president — whose robust support of the demographic mostly consists of a picture of himself with an inedible Trump Tower taco bowl and the caption “I love Hispanics!” — as “a great champion of Latino and Hispanic Americans.”
There are many reasons why Pence’s statement isn’t true, and why this thing is unlikely to work. Polling among Hispanic voters seems to be the most prominent one: In Florida, which has a more conservative Hispanic population than in other states, only 34 percent of Hispanic voters said they’d reelect Trump while 56 percent said they’d elect a Democrat, according to a poll by Telemundo and the firm Mason-Dixon.
In California, that ratio dipped to 26-66 and dropped further in Texas, where just 25 percent of Hispanic voters want a two-term Trump presidency and 69 percent want him out in January 2021. In the New York metro area, only 19 percent want him reelected, while 73 percent prefer a Democrat.
If the numbers show a grim chance for Trump’s viability among Latino voters, [Trump's ]the president’s rhetoric certainly isn’t helping. (Nor does his administration’s failure to respond to Hurricane Maria benefit his image among the estimated 1.2 million Puerto Ricans living in Florida.) For four straight years, he has derided Mexican and Central American migrants coming to the United States as “rapists,” “criminals,” and “animals,” a verbal history that certainly hollows out Pence’s “great champion” designation. As In the Thick host Julio Ricardo Varela wrote last year:
It’s pretty clear that the xenophobic narrative of all Latinos as somehow “other” has become a central part of his administration’s policies. From the Central American children dying preventable deaths at the Southern border, to ending temporary protected status for Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Hondurans who fled wars and natural disasters, to making it more difficult for victims of domestic violence to apply for asylum, to parading around white people whose family members were victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants (even though immigrants are less likely to commit serious offenses and now less likely to report being victimized), Trump’s rhetoric about “Mexicans” was as much about bashing Latinos in general as about Mexican Americans in particular.
A heavy theme of Pence’s speech was the dangers of socialism, comparing the offerings of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal to the state-run economy of Venezuela. . . . Undoubtedly, such calls will be a frequent theme of the campaign’s new initiative, as it seeks to boost Trump’s percentage of Florida’s Hispanic vote, of which he won 35 percent last time around — just seven points higher than his overall take of the demographic, despite winning well over half the state’s Cuban voters.

Pence is despicable and his boss is even worse.  Both are little better than human excrement in my view. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Survey: Acceptance Of LGBTs Declines Among Young

The Stonewall Inn where some say the battle for LGBT
rights officially began.
In what ought to be disturbing news to all in the LGBT community and certainly LGBT rights organizations, a survey shows that for the second year in a row the percentage of Americans accepting of members of the LGBT community declined.  The decline included the younger Americans who heretofore have been more accepting.  The survey did not come to any set conclusion for the decline although references were made to the general normalization of hate and intolerance that has been a hallmark of the Trump/Pence regime and its pro-Christofascist, anti-gay policies. Personally, I believe fault also lies with organizations like Human Rights Campaign ("HRC") and Equality Virginia ("EV") here in Virginia.  In the case of EV, when not shaking down gay and lesbian Virginians for money, burning bridges with top pro-LGBT officeholders, EV's main activities are focused on the transgender community to the seeming exclusion of the rest of the LG and B components of the community. I am not anti-transgender, but other than the general need for non-discrimination laws, the issues of the transgender community are not synonymous with those of gays and lesbians. In an era where many now feel comfortable being open white supremacists, having LGBT rights organizations pretending that they are the same does a disservice to all of the involved groups. LGBTQ Nation looks at the disturbing survey findings:
A new survey shows that young people’s support for LGBTQ people has dropped for the second consecutive year.
The Harris Poll and GLAAD just released the results of their yearly survey in their Accelerating Acceptance report.
The survey was conducted this past January and involved 1970 respondents, including 1754 non-LGBTQ respondents. They were asked about whether they would be comfortable with an LGBTQ person in various situations, like having an LGBTQ doctor, their kid having an LGBTQ teacher, or a family member coming out.
Among non-LGBTQ people, 49% were comfortable in all the situations, the same percentage as last year. Two years ago, though, 53% of non-LGBTQ people were comfortable in all situations, a drop that coincided with the start of the Trump administration.
But the drop was more pronounced among 18- to 34-year-olds. 63% were comfortable in all the situations two years ago, 53% last year, and 45% this year.  Young men’s drop in support was even more dramatic. 62% were comfortable in all the situations two years ago, but now only 35% are. Support for LGBTQ people in each individual situation either stayed the same or dropped since two years ago. 34% of straight people said that they would be uncomfortable if their child learned about LGBTQ people at school. This year, 39% said they would be uncomfortable.
Among 18- to 34-year-olds, 39% said that they were uncomfortable in that situation, up from 27% two years ago. Young adults were 50% more likely to say that they would be uncomfortable if a family member came out this year compared to 2016.
“So it is surprising to see a notable erosion of acceptance for the LGBTQ community, which counters many of the assumptions we make about their values and beliefs. In this toxic age, tolerance – even among youth – now seems to be parsed out.”
“The sharp and quick rise in divisive rhetoric both in politics and in culture is now having a negative influence on younger Americans and coinciding with an alarming pattern of anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD.
“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, LGBTQ people and allies must urgently address today’s cultural crisis by being visible and vigilant.”
New strategies and efforts are needed - as is new leadership at leading LGBT rights organizations, particularly Equality Virginia to which I have ceased all financial support.  I stopped giving to the even more out of touch HRC years ago.

Joe Biden Doesn’t Look So Electable in Person

A column in the New York Times sets out some of my own misgivings about Joe Biden as the potential 2020 Democrat standard bearer.  Part of my concerns comes from remembering Biden's gaffe laden past runs for the the nomination and his seeming inability to ignite true enthusiasm.  Indeed, he reminds me of Bob Dole's ill-fated presidential run from back in 1996 during my days in the Republican Party. Despite a long, positive record, Dole simply never had the ability to spark enthusiasm.  As a result, he lost his election bid. Joe Biden is, to me, the Democratic version of Bob Dole and even faced with a widely loathed opponent in Donald Trump, the enthusiasm gap could be fatal much as it was with Hillary Clinton in 2016.  At this point, I admit, I do not know who the best candidate is to defeat Trump, other than my gut and years in politics suggest that it is not Joe Biden despite the bloviating of talking heads and others.  Here are highlights from the Times column:
On Saturday, Joe Biden was one of 20 presidential candidates to speak at a Planned Parenthood forum in Columbia, S.C., held right next door to the state’s Democratic convention. It was just a couple of weeks after he’d reversed his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion. One of the moderators asked him what he’d say to pro-choice voters who have concerns about his mixed record on the issue.
This was part of his answer: “The fact of the matter is that we’re in a situation where mortality rate for poor women and black women, here in this state, 26.5 percent of the, 24, 25.6 people, who of 100,000 who need, who end up dying as a consequence of birth, it’s absolutely absurd.” (He was referring to South Carolina’s maternal mortality rate, which is 26.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.)
Seeing Biden on the stump often feels like watching an actor who can’t quite remember his lines. Even if you don’t support him, it’s hard not to feel anxious on his behalf.
I had the chance to watch Biden campaign three times over the weekend, when almost the entire Democratic field descended on Columbia.
His performance was unnerving. I don’t want Biden to be the nominee for ideological reasons, but polls show him far ahead, and if he’s going to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer against Donald Trump, I want him to be a strong one. He didn’t seem strong in South Carolina.
Donald Trump, of course, also speaks in gibberish, but with a bombastic unearned confidence; rather than flailing around for the right figure he makes one up. Biden, by contrast, was just shaky. And while there’s great affection for him on the ground, there’s little excitement. You can see why his campaign has been limiting his public events and why he’s been avoiding the press.
It’s true that ordinary voters don’t seem to care about the gaffes that obsess cable TV commentators. No one I spoke to in Columbia was bothered by Biden waxing nostalgic about his civil relations with segregationist senators; most people hadn’t even heard about it. And his ability to forge personal connections remains impressive.
That’s Biden at his best — undisciplined, but with a big heart. But personal warmth won’t be enough without the ability to inspire masses of people. An ability to draw crowds isn’t everything — a tepid vote counts the same as a passionate one. Biden’s supporters are older than those of other Democrats, which gives his campaign less visible energy but a more reliable voting base. Still, as recent elections have shown, enthusiasm matters. Anyone convinced that Biden is the safe choice should go see him for themselves.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

One of my favorites.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Monday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge.

Jesuits Defy Order from Indianapolis Archbishop to Fire a Gay Teacher

Both the less than saintly Pope John Paul II and his successor, former Hitler youth Pope Benedict XVI stacked bishoprics across the globe with reactionaries who desired to take the Catholic Church backwards in time and keep women subjugated to men and gays stigmatized and marginalized. The Church remains saddled with many of these reactionary bishops and cardinals who seemingly prefer to drive members from the Church than face new scientific and medical knowledge and social enlightenment.  These reactionaries also seek to wage war with the Church's religious orders that do not fall directly under their leadership but instead have their own independent leadership.  One order, the Jesuits, has for centuries been the home of the Church's intellectuals and also the most educated of the Church's religious orders.  Now, this dichotomy within the Church has collided in of all places, Mike Pence's state of Indiana where a Jesuit run high school is defying a reactionary archbishop's order to fire a gay teacher.  NBC News looks at the conflict.  Here are highlights:
A Jesuit-run prep school in Indianapolis is defying a demand by the local archbishop that it fire a veteran teacher who is in a same-sex marriage, prompting the archdiocese to revoke recognition for the school as a Catholic institution.
In a letter to parents, the leaders of the Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School said Archbishop Charles Thompson’s “direct insertion into an employment matter of a school governed by a religious order is unprecedented.”
“After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations,” school officials said.
The letter was signed by the school president, the Rev. William Verbryke, and the heads of the board of trustees, W. Patrick Bruen and Daniel M. Lechleiter.
They wrote that for 57 years, school leaders have decided who gets hired.
“Brebeuf Jesuit has respectfully declined the Archdiocese’s insistence and directive that we dismiss a highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage,” they said in the letter.
The school leaders reassured parents that their stand “will not change the mission or operations of Brebeuf Jesuit” and insisted that “our identity as a Catholic Jesuit institution remains unchanged.”
“We will continue to offer a rigorous academic program that follows more than 450 years of Jesuit tradition and is committed to expansive and critical thinking, competent and compassionate ethical concern, creative and artistic expression, and excellence grounded in faith and the dignity of the human person,” they wrote.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis said in a statement that a Catholic school is required to "clearly state in its contracts and ministerial job descriptions that all ministers must convey and be supportive of all teachings of the Catholic Church."
The battle over the gay teacher has been going on for two years.
Brian Paulson, who leads the Society of Jesus Midwest Province, which represents Jesuits in the Midwest, called the archdiocese’s move “disappointing.”
“In the summer of 2017, Brebeuf Jesuit became aware that one of its teachers entered into a civil marriage with a person of the same sex,” Paulson said in a statement. “This fact became publicly known via social media.”  When the archdiocese asked that the teacher’s contract not be renewed, Paulson said the school refused.  “The teacher in question does not teach religion and is a longtime valued employee of the school,” Paulson wrote.
Paulson said they will appeal the archdiocese's decision.
The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest who is one of the leading advocates for LGBT Catholics, called the move by Brebeuf's leadership "courageous."
One of the top private schools in the city, Brebeuf Jesuit serves about 800 students in grades 9-12.

The Catholic Church needs to leave its 12th century dogma on sex and sexuality behind or else, over time, it will find itself a much smaller, Africa centered church.  Kudos to the school leadership for saying "no" to ignorance and bigotry. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

More Sunday Male Beauty

Trump's Betrayal of Gays Is His Betrayal of all of America

Polls indicate that on issue after issue, Donald Trump is out of sync with a majority of Americans. That's one reason why his approval ratings have never gotten out of the low 40% realm - more often they are under 40%.  Indeed, Trump's approval is limited to small factions: right wing evangelical Christians and extreme right Catholics - the so-called Christofascists - white supremacists, and Republicans who according to Gallup surveys comprise only 30% of voters (thus, 89% approval by Republicans equates to only 26.7% of overall voters). The take away, therefore, is that when Trump and the sinister Mike Pence claim that they represent American values, they, in fact, do not. They represent a rump minority of Americans who are at war with modernity, science and knowledge, and who cling to racism and religious superstition. As a result, Trump is at war with a majority of Americans and their values. A column in the New York Times makes the case that the Trump/Pence war against LGBT Americans personifies this betrayal of the beliefs of the majority.  Here are column excerpts:

During the 2016 campaign, he spoke out against a North Carolina law forbidding transgender people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and said that Caitlyn Jenner could use the commode of her choice in Trump Tower.
And then, of course, there was his speech at the Republican National Convention, when he carefully enunciated “L.G.B.T.Q.,” pledged to protect those of us represented by that consonant cluster and, upon hearing applause, added, “I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
I’m glad he enjoyed it. We L.G.B.T.Q. Americans aren’t enjoying him. Far from protecting us, he and his administration have stranded us, packing federal courts with judges hostile to gay rights, barring transgender Americans from military service and giving a green light to Americans who, citing religious beliefs, don’t want to give us medical care or bake us a cake. When several United States embassies — including the one in Berlin, over which Grenell presides — requested permission to fly the rainbow flag this month in honor of Gay Pride, the State Department said no.
It’s an ugly story, and it pretty much sums up Trump’s approach to governing. His treatment of gay people perfectly reveals the flabbiness of his convictions and his willingness to stand at odds with a majority of Americans if it pleases the smaller number who adore him. He’ll suffer our anger for their ardor. Decency and principle don’t enter into it.
And he is at odds with most of the country, very much so. Take the Trump administration out of the equation and the march toward gay equality continues apace. As gay and transgender Americans prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising on June 28, we inhabit a state of cognitive dissonance, staring at a split screen: insults from the White House on one half of it, positive reinforcement from elsewhere on the other.
Democrats’ embrace of Buttigieg, the first openly gay politician to land in the top tier of presidential candidates, illustrates the trajectory beyond Trump. “As recently as five or 10 years ago, I think, a project like this would have been dismissed out of hand,” Buttigieg told me in a recent interview, referring to his campaign. “It was unsafe for Democrats to support same-sex marriage at the beginning of this same decade that we’re living in now.”
Being gay, Buttigieg said, hasn’t been any impediment to his bid for the White House so far. “It led to there being more interest and attention early on,” he said. “Perhaps the most interesting thing is how often it doesn’t come up — all the interviews in which it’s not mentioned. At this point, it’s safe to say that that’s most of the time.”
I was given an exclusive advance copy of a new report by the Victory Institute, a group that promotes L.G.B.T.Q. candidates. It found that the number of known L.G.B.T.Q. elected officials at the municipal, state and national levels in America rose 24.9 percent, to 698 from 559, over the past year. And while some of that is attributable to more politicians coming out, much is attributable to more being voted into office.
With the congressional elections last November, the number of openly L.G.B.T.Q. members of Congress rose to an all-time high of 10 — eight in the House and two in the Senate — up from seven. That same month Jared Polis in Colorado became the first openly gay person to win a governorship. He told me that his sexual orientation was absolutely not a factor in his race: “There might be some people who care about it, but they wouldn’t be considered swing voters, so they’re not relevant in terms of who you have to win over. It never comes up in terms of scrapping for the votes you need in the middle.”
In Chicago in April, Lori Lightfoot became the first openly gay person to win the mayoralty of one of the country’s three most-populous cities. “The fact that I could run as an out lesbian, married, in an interracial relationship, with a child, would have been unthinkable not that long ago,” she said when I spoke with her recently. “You can’t stop progress. You just can’t. It’s like trying to stop a ball from rolling down a hill.”
While media attention focuses on proposed state legislation to deny rights to L.G.B.T.Q. people, there are probably more examples of bipartisan pushes to protect or expand those rights.
According to Freedom for All Americans, an advocacy group, more than two dozen Republican lawmakers in 15 states recently sponsored legislation to protect gay or transgender people from discrimination. They include the chairman of the Republican Party in Florida and the State Senate majority leader in West Virginia. Republican lawmakers were crucially involved in blocking discriminatory measures proposed in Texas, Tennessee and Georgia, the group said. In South Dakota, where Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, four different measures to permit discrimination against transgender people were defeated this year.
That reflects Americans’ values more accurately than the Trump administration does. In a Quinnipiac University poll in April, 92 percent of Americans said that employers should not be allowed to fire someone based on his or her “sexual orientation or sexual identity.” When Americans are asked whether a full spectrum of civil rights protections should be extended to L.G.B.T.Q. people, the number falls — but a majority of 53 percent still say yes. And in poll after poll, most Americans say that transgender people should be able to serve in the military, with 70 percent of them indicating support in one survey.
Yet the Trump administration keeps tugging in the opposite direction. Trump has nominated and the Senate has confirmed many jurists with explicit, unabashed hostility to gay and transgender rights, including, just days ago, Matthew Kacsmaryk, who received a lifetime appointment as a United States district judge for the Northern District of Texas.
 The choice of Kacsmaryk is hardly an aberration, said Sharon McGowan, the chief strategy officer and legal director for Lambda Legal, an advocacy group that has been tracking these appointments to the federal bench. “The arc of history may bend toward justice,” she told me, “but history will not be kind to those who are complicit in what has been happening over these past two years.” She meant in the White House, in the cabinet and on Capitol Hill, where a stubbornly retrograde social conservatism holds sway.
 Trump himself continues to murmur words kinder than his deeds, such as his tweet three weeks ago exhorting Americans to “celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made.”
But the contributions Trump is focused on are the votes and donations from the so-called religious right, given in gratitude for his opposition to abortion and his anti-gay actions. “Because he doesn’t have the ability to broaden his support, he’s playing to a narrow base, and at the center of that base is this right-wing faction that’s often garbed in religion,” . . . “He’s throwing them any meat he can find.”
On issue after issue it’s like that: He doesn’t act or speak for the majority, but he accomplishes some narrower purpose, and gets away with it partly because gerrymandering, the structure of the Senate and the Electoral College have led to a government out of sync with the governed.
Trump is on the wrong side of history. But he doesn’t care — so long as it’s right for Trump.
The majority of voters need to end the nation's nightmare and vote Trump from office in 2020.  Meanwhile, here in Virginia, we need to vote out Republicans in November, 2019, and give control of the Virginia General Assembly so that Virginia can become a true progressive state.