Saturday, July 20, 2019

Today's GOP: The Joy of Hatred

Growing up, my parents and grandparents belonged to a Republican Party where science, knowledge, an effort to treat others decently and with respect, and a level of decorum were the norm.  Indeed, it was expected. While not members of country clubs, in retrospect, their economic position made them the equivalent of the so-called "country club" Republicans. One simply did not associate with a certain kid of people: uncouth, uneducated, and hateful people. Now, such people make up the GOP base.  My parents and grandparents have all passed away, but they would be horrified to see today's GOP lead by a lying carnival barker fixated on bringing out the worse elements of society and making them mainstream.  While the GOP continues to be the party of Christian values, its policies and, now, legitimizing of open hatred of others makes it the antithesis of such values. Nowhere is this ugly reality more visible than at a Trump rally.  Whether they like it or not, when my Republican "friends" continue to refuse to flee the GOP, they tell the world that they are part of this ugliness. A column in the New York Times looks at the GOP celebration of hate and reminds us of America's horrific history of racially motivated hatred.  Here are excerpts:
The chanting was disturbing and the anger was frightening, but what I noticed most about the president’s rally in Greenville, N.C., on Wednesday night was the pleasure of the crowd.
His voters and supporters were having fun. The “Send her back” chant directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was hateful but also exuberant, an expression of racist contempt and a celebration of shared values.
This dynamic wasn’t unique to the event. It’s been a part of Trump’s rallies since 2015. Both he and his crowds work from a template. He rants and spins hate-filled tirades; they revel in the transgressive atmosphere.
To watch raucous crowds of (mostly) white Americans unite in frenzied hatred of a black woman — to watch them cast her as a cancer on the body politic and a threat to a racialized social order — is to see the worst of our past play out in modern form.
[W]atching the interplay between leader and crowd, my mind immediately went to the mass spectacles of the lynching era. There’s simply no way to understand the energy of the event — its hatred and its pleasures — without looking to our history of communal racial violence and the ways in which Americans have used racial others, whether native-born or new arrivals, as scapegoats for their lost power, low status or nonexistent prosperity. And in that period, one event stands out: an 1893 lynching in Paris, Tex., where Henry Smith, a mentally disabled black teenager, was burned alive.
The 17-year-old Smith, “generally considered a harmless, weak-minded fellow,” according to Ida B. Wells-Barnett in “The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynchings in the United States,” had been accused of the rape and murder of 3-year-old Myrtle Vance, the daughter of the local sheriff. The white community of Paris believed the murder was retaliation for an earlier arrest by the sheriff, and the accusation of rape was added, in Wells-Barnett’s words, “to inflame the public mind so that nothing less than immediate and violent death would satisfy the populace.”
On the day of the lynching, an estimated 10,000 people crowded along Paris’s main street to witness the killing. Smith was bound to a float and paraded across town in a theatrical performance meant to emphasize his guilt. The audience jeered and chanted, cursed and gave the rebel yell. . . . Around noon, Smith was tortured, doused with kerosene and lit ablaze, immolated for the crowd’s enjoyment.
Smith was accused of something greater than a mere crime. He was accused of violating a sacred moral order — of defiling the white home and white society. “In the minds of many white southerners,” the historian Amy Louise Wood writes in “Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890—1940,” “black men came to personify the moral corruption that they believed to be the root cause of social disorder.” Lynching, then, “acted as more than a form of political terror that restored white dominance against the threat of black equality.” It also became a “divinely sanctioned retribution for black ‘sin’ that threatened not only white authority but white purity and virtue.”
Later, in his 1935 book, “Black Reconstruction in America,” Du Bois would expand on this idea, rooting white racism in a collective bargain of sorts. “It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage,” he wrote, outlining the ways in which this “public and psychological” wage strengthened ordinary white Americans’ attachment to a system that ultimately exploited them too:
They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent upon their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. . . .
When this wage was threatened — by black social mobility and economic success, by black political action, by interracial contact that challenged the boundaries of caste — the response was violence. Not just as punishment but, as the lynching of Henry Smith demonstrates, as a communal defense of the existing social order.
We shouldn’t conflate the past with the present, but we should also be aware of ideas and experiences that persist through time. A political rally centered on the denunciation of a prominent black person demands reference to our history of communal, celebratory racism. It’s critical for placing the event in context, and it can help us understand the dynamic between [Trump] the president and his base.
“He gets us. He’s not a politician, and he’s got a backbone,” a woman who attended a recent “Women for Trump” kickoff event in Pennsylvania told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s not afraid to say what he thinks. And what he says is what the rest of us are thinking.” 
America is exceptional alright, but not in a good way. Trump is unleashing the worse elements from the past.  As for those who attend Trump's rallies, my late southern belle grandmother - who was far ahead of her time on matters of race - would have a term for them: white trash. Is this what my Republican "friends" want to be associated with?

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, July 19, 2019

How November 2019 Could End Virginia’s Anti-LGBT Laws

Anti-LGBT House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox.
While Virginia was recently voted the best state for doing business, one area where it lost points and which could cause its top ranking to slip in the future was its lack of non-discrimination laws for LGBT citizens.  Big business likes such laws because they allow them to attract the best and brightest,  This November the entire membership of the Virginia  General Assembly is up for election.  By flipping a few seats in each chamber, Democrats could win control and end the decades of GOP enforced homophobia that has blocked passage of non-discrimination laws in both employment and housing as the Virginia GOP has pandered to Christofascist hate groups such as The Family Foundation.  A piece in Mother Jones looks at how this sea change might come to pass.  It also should make it clear that every LGBT Virginian needs to be engaged and supporting Democrat candidates.  If you live in districts that are safe seats already held by Democrats, work to support other Democrats - the husband and I are actively supporting Shelly Simonds and Martha Mugler even though we do not live in their districts.  The goal is to win Democrat control of both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates.  Here are highlights from Mother Jones:
Days before the Virginia House of Delegates was set to consider two nondiscrimination bills in January, gay and transgender activists were excited for what they thought would end in a long-sought victory. For years, LGBTQ activists in Virginia had been working to pass laws that would ban discrimination in housing and government employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
But right before the dual bills were scheduled to be heard in committee, they were suddenly removed from the agenda by Republican House leadership and not rescheduled before the legislative session ended, sparking outrage from LGBTQ supporters.
LGBTQ advocates directed the blame at two men: House majority chair Tim Hugo and Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican representing the state’s 66th district who’s comfortably held his seat since 1990 and is up for reelection this fall. But come November, Cox might face a tougher challenge: LGBTQ advocates are gearing up to launch a massive campaign against Cox. And thanks to redrawn district lines, which the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed, they have better odds of booting Cox, flipping the state’s House of Representatives, and ending this years-long battle for LGBTQ rights.
Virginia doesn’t currently have laws to protect residents from being fired (or not hired in the first place) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Similarly, there aren’t any discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents seeking housing. For years, fighting these issues has been a priority for state LGBTQ advocates. One of former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s last actions before he left office was to sign an executive order to protect gay and transgender state contractors from workplace discrimination. The state’s current governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, signed a similar, more expansive version of that executive order shortly after he was sworn to office, which extended to state employees.
According to LGBTQ advocates, Cox and Hugo put “pressure on members of their caucus” to pull the bills from committee, Metro Weekly reports. Though Cox hasn’t said anything publicly about the two nondiscrimination bills (and didn’t respond to Mother Jones‘ request for comment), he has a history of siding against LGBTQ rights in Virginia. In 2014, when the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, announced he would not defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, Cox attacked his position. Cox told NPR at the time that “the attorney general has a constitutional and statutory obligation to enforce and defend the duly adopted laws and constitution of Virginia.”
[E]ver since the Supreme Court threw out a challenge to the state’s legislative map last month, upholding a redistricting map that could boosts the Democrats’ chance at retaking the House, Parrish says Equality Virginia is ready to do whatever it takes to unseat Cox.
The GOP currently holds a a two-seat majority in both bodies of the assembly. In the newly redrawn legislative map that was approved by a federal court in February, Democrats hold an edge to retake control in several Republican-held districts, including Cox’s, which lies just below Richmond in the center part of the state. According to projections based on census data and past voting patterns from the 2012 presidential election, the 66th District is expected to swing a full 32 points toward Democratic control, tilting the new district lines slightly in favor of Democrats.
“We’ve identified just over 7,000 LGBT voters in the new parts of this district,” Parrish says. He says Equality Virginia plans to tour the state this summer to host educational campaigns on the election and how the changes to the legislative map will affect voters—especially those who support LGBTQ rights.
And they’re getting help from national LGBTQ advocates: the Human Rights Campaign tells Mother Jones that they’ll be deploying resources to help Equality Virginia unseat Cox. “HRC will be going door to door and engaging our 10,000 plus equality voters in Cox’s district, and millions more across Virginia, to put him out of a job come November,” says Lucas Acosta, an HRC spokesperson.
SheilaBynum-Coleman, a real estate agent running on the Democratic ticket [against Cox] . . . tells Mother Jones she supports both of the nondiscrimination bills and also blames Cox for not pushing them through to a committee vote. “It’s hurtful to our democracy that the leader of the House of Delegates will not allow a bill to come to the floor that has enough votes to pass when it’s stuff that he doesn’t agree with,” she says. “It hurts our democracy.”
Both Equality Virginia and the Human Rights Campaign told Mother Jones they haven’t made any endorsements yet, but Acosta emphasizes the importance of the election: “If we want to see change in Virginia,” he says, “Cox must go.”
The message is to get involved.  Similar efforts need to be made in every competitive district.  Do NOT rely on the efforts of Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia - these organizations are lead by the same cretins (in my opinion) who stupidly demanded Ralph Northam - the most LGBT friendly governor in Virginia history - resign back in February.  I have zero confidence in the ability of these organizations to pull off this effort.  Everyday LGBT Virginians need to be involved and make the effort to unseat Cox and others successful. Consider going to Bynum-Coleman's campaign page and making a contribution.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Gay WWII Code Breaker to Be Face of £50 Note

While the Trump/Pence regime and its Christofascist supporters wage war against LGBT Americans, the United Kingdom plans to honor WWII code breaker Alan Turing - the subject of the movie The Imitation Game - by placing his image on the new £50 Note.  Sadly, Turning was not well treated while he was living and posthumous pardons and honors will never make up for the mistreatment he suffered and which drove him to poison himself after he was criminally convicted for being gay.  That said, at least in the UK the government seems to be trying to be learning from past wrongs.  Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Trump and today's GOP are striving to bring back the worse elements of the past, including overt racism and government approved homophobia.  The Advocate looks at the belated honor being bestowed n Turning.  Here are excerpts:

The monumental achievements of British computer mastermind Alan Turing continue to be recognized by his nation, with officials announcing today he will be the face of the £50 banknote.
The Bank of England-backed bill will enter circulation by the end of 2021, reports the BBC. The currency is red and features Turing's face on the right, with his calculations to the left.
Turing helped decode the Germans' Enigma communication device and helped turn the tide of World War II against the Nazis. Turing was also instrumental in the early days of computing and he's often referred to as not only the father of computer science, but artificial intelligence; his "Turing Test" helped determine the intelligence of machines.
Turing's achievements during the war were mostly dismissed when officials discovered he was gay and had an affair with a young man. He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 and subjected to chemical castration. Two years later, Turing was dead at 41 after poisoning himself.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest and appreciation in his work. In 2013, the Queen of England posthumously pardoned Turing for his "crime." A year later, the critically-acclaimed film The Imitation Game chronicled the codebreaker's memorable life.
Far too Americans sadly never learn from the past or the actions of other nations.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The GOP Defines Patriotism As Complacency About Racism

If there has been any benefit to be derived from Donald Trump's racist tweet storm, it is that far right "intellectuals" - something that is increasingly an oxymoron - and the base of the GOP equate white skin and indifference to racial inequality, if not out right racism, with being a "true American" and a patriot.  Given Trump's words and his long history of racism, including racial discrimination in housing in apartment properties his family owned in Norfolk, Virginia, it is near impossible to say the man is not a racist if one indulges in any shred of honesty, yet the right refuses to condemn him. Why?  Because it supports the underlying premise that only whites are true Americans. Everyone else is supposed to be happy to be in America and keep their mouths shut when it comes to enunciating America's many flaws. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the redefining of patriotism and the right to be an American with skin color.  Here are excerpts:

Over the past 48 hours, Donald Trump has tweeted several things that respectable conservatives do not wish to defend. No National Review columnist has seconded Trump’s assertion that U.S.-born congresswomen Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” And only a few GOP officeholders have implored Ilhan Omar to heed the president’s guidance, and return to the “crime infested” place from which she came.
But beneath these distastefully forward flirtations with white nationalism, many conservative intellectuals see an argument worth redeeming. Trump’s chief complaint with “the squad” of progressive nonwhite congresswomen was that they had been “loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States … how our government is to be run” (apparently, the voters who elected AOC & Co. are not among “the people of the United States,” and opining on government operations is an aberrant behavior for members of Congress).
GOP operatives have been trying to pretend that this was his only point: Far-left Democrats hate our great country. Congressional Republicans got the memo. . . . Trump, meanwhile, shifted his emphasis from whether AOC & Co. are American to whether they deserve to be.
Once sanitized by GOP message-makers, Trump’s stance ceases to be overtly racist. Ilhan Omar’s claim to national belonging is now negated by her anti-American attitude, not her Somali origins. And yet the moment one examines what “anti-American” means, in this context, the true color of Trump’s nationalism becomes plain.
[N]one of the congresswomen in question have said that they “hate America.” They’ve merely expressed dissatisfaction with its present state and challenged popular conceptions about its past — prerogatives of citizenship in a free society that Donald Trump has never denied himself. . . . And Trump has no compunction about goring the sacred cows of conservative nationalism. He has expressed contempt for American prisoners of war, said that George W. Bush did not keep us safe, questioned whether the U.S. government was more “innocent” than Vladimir Putin’s, and declared that America had done “a tremendous disservice to humanity” in the Middle East.
Clearly then, neither Trump nor his defenders believe that dissent is inherently unpatriotic. It is something about the content of the congresswomen’s dissent — and perhaps the congresswomen themselves — that causes conservatives to see their protests as expressions of unforgivable ingratitude.
Of course, that something isn’t difficult to discern. The American right refuses to recognize any distinction between the claim “racial inequality was fundamental to our nation’s founding, and remains a pervasive force in American society today,” and an expression of “hatred” for the United States. This refusal is not peculiar to Trump or his loyalists. Even the president’s most highbrow (and lukewarm) apologists regularly denounce the anti-Americanism of progressives who express dissatisfaction with the state of racial progress in the U.S.
Take Charles C.W. Cooke. On Monday, the National Review’s senior editor penned a column arguing that Ilhan Omar had a moral obligation to “temper her critiques of American politics and culture” because she came to the U.S. as a refugee, and therefore owes this country a debt of gratitude.
But directly engaging with Omar’s dissent would create a problem for the pundit, because not once in the Washington Post column he cites does the congresswoman say “America is a disaster” or “needs complete rethinking.”
Omar clearly expresses disappointment with the United States. But the cause of her disappointment is the discrepancy between her country’s egalitarian ideals and its inequitable realities. Her defining mission, as a politician, is to close that gap and realize the “promise that’s not kept.”
The difference, as Cooke subsequently makes clear, is that Omar’s critique challenges America’s racial innocence, while Trump’s does not.
Beto O’Rourke has no allergy to praising America. But when asked about what he would do to combat racism at a campaign event, he did acknowledge the fact that white supremacy was a de jure reality in the American republic for its first 188 years of existence, and that the legacy of centuries of race-based subjugation has not been fully eradicated in the 55 years since 1964. If Cooke regards the public airing of this sentiment as an invitation to “cultural suicide,” one must ask whose culture he wishes to preserve.
African-Americans have deeper roots in our country than virtually any other U.S. community. The hard labor of black slaves served as a (if not the) primary engine of American prosperity throughout our civilization’s first centuries of existence. Chattel slavery didn’t just fill the coffers of southern planters; “as a source of the cotton that fed Rhode Island’s mills, as a source of the wealth that filled New York’s banks, as a source of the markets that inspired Massachusetts manufacturers,” historians Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman write, slavery “proved indispensable to national economic development.”
And yet for the unspeakable sacrifices that their ancestors made in service of our nation’s development, black Americans have never been compensated. Rather, most were systematically excluded from the wealth creation that followed the Second World War. And studies suggest that African-Americans still face de facto discrimination in housing, employment, and the criminal-justice system.
Why would it be more “grateful” of Omar to evince indifference to the maltreatment of a deeply rooted American community whose past subjugation is inextricable from the comforts and opportunities that she presently enjoys? Or, to put the question more pointedly: Why does Cooke — a British-American immigrant who earns his livelihood at a publication that defended southern segregation and apartheid — believe that his relative complacency about racial progress is a mark of gratitude rather than entitlement?
The ostensible answer is that Cooke believes white, conservative Americans are entitled to his (and Omar’s) gratitude, while black liberal ones are not, no matter how long the latter’s “people” have been here. This belief does not appear to be conscious. But absent that premise, his argument becomes unintelligible. . . . 
On the same day that Cooke’s reflection on Omar’s ingratitude went live, the National Review’s editor Rich Lowry published an editorial with nearly identical flaws. . . . Like Cooke, Lowry does not quote the object of his critique because that would make it harder for him to misrepresent her argument.
As a response to Rapinoe’s actual argument, Lowry’s history lesson is a non sequitur. Her complaint is with America’s racial order, not its flag. But like Cooke, Lowry refuses to acknowledge a distinction between the two. On a surface level, both columnists assail the left for equating love of America with indifference to white supremacy; in actual fact, it is Cooke and Lowry who insist on that equation.
Trump has made the color of conservative nationalism more plain to the naked eye. But a tacit faith in white Christian Americans’ superlative claim to national belonging has always been native to the creed.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Far Right Catholics Join Evangelicals in Favoring Trump Over the Gospel Message

This blog frequently looks at (i) the still raging sex abuse scandal and moral bankruptcy in the Roman Catholic Church and (ii) the rejection of the Gospel message - and, I would add, any shred of morality - by evangelical Christians who continue to embrace Donald Trump.  While seemingly two separate issues, the two are intersecting as far right Catholic "news" outlets continue to increasingly join evangelicals in their preference for enraging in political fellatio or Trump and members of his ministry of propaganda and an outright rejection of Christ's Gospel message.   A piece in the National Catholic Reporter - which is not controlled by the Vatican - looks at the manner in which Eternal Word Television Network ("EWTN") is rapidly becoming the Fox News of religious broadcasting networks, including fawning interviews of Trump sycophants and outright liars like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.   Here are article highlights: 
On Memorial Day, viewers who tuned into EWTN's News Nightly for "news from a Catholic perspective" were treated to two previously recorded one-on-one interviews by anchor Lauren Ashburn.
In the first, a 10-minute sit-down with Mike Pence during his March visit to Ave Maria University in Florida, the vice president bashed "media elites and Hollywood liberals," called Democrats "the party of abortion on demand, even the party of infanticide" and described President Donald Trump as "the most pro-life president in American history." 
In the second interview, Ashburn served up softball questions for 11 minutes with former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. The EWTN anchor gushed about the latest unemployment numbers and asked why the mainstream media hasn't given more coverage to this accomplishment, held up a devotional book she learned Sanders reads daily before asking about religious liberty . . .
The segment was clear evidence of how a television outlet once devoted to expressions of Catholic piety and conservative catechesis and apologetics has grown into a truly influential media empire, well connected to Republican politicians and the Trump White House. EWTN, where the "Catholic perspective" is unabashedly partisan, has also become the media star in a web of connections including wealthy conservative Catholic donors and some of the most public anti-Pope Francis forces in the Catholic world. Those connections, traceable through a maze of non-profit organizations, helped fuel EWTN's development. It is a complex tale involving the matchup of a peculiar brand of U.S. style conservative Catholicism with conservative political ideology and economic theory.
Less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election — while Trump was still embroiled in the "Access Hollywood" controversy in which he was caught on tape joking about sexually assaulting women — EWTN news director and anchor Raymond Arroyo did an "exclusive" sit-down with the candidate at Trump's Miami hotel.
Arroyo asked about the tapes and gave Trump two chances to apologize or take back the extremely lewd comments about women, but the candidate insisted it was "all made up" and "just locker room talk," adding that "You can't go back. You have to look forward." In the end, he blamed the "nasty primary" and "nasty campaign."
During the 15-minute interview, Trump refused to talk about his prayer life and rambled about the Affordable Care Act being a "disaster" and religious liberty being "in tremendous trouble," but he gave clear, succinct answers when it came to an issue that is a central concern to the EWTN audience.
"Yes, I am pro-life," Trump affirmed. "You said you are going to appoint judges who are pro-life," Arroyo said, again in statement form. "Right," said Trump.
Although the network had been friendly in the past to the Republican party because of shared positions on abortion, gay marriage and religious liberty issues, EWTN's political partisanship has become more visible since Trump's election, most notably on its two news shows, "News Nightly" and "The World Over."
Both shows regularly include as guests political conservatives discussing domestic and international policies.
Since 2017, Arroyo has been a regular contributor to Fox News and has substituted for Laura Ingraham on her commentary show on Fox News. Ingraham has stirred considerable controversy for defending a white nationalist, mocking a Parkland school shooting survivor and calling immigrant detention facilities "summer camps."
While secular alternatives to Fox News exist — from its counterpart on the left, MSNBC, to more centrist major network broadcasts — no alternatives are available to EWTN in the Catholic world. Once it overtook an early and flawed attempt by the U.S. bishops to form their own network, EWTN quickly became the only major Catholic voice on the television landscape in the United States — and that voice has gone global.
[T]he network founded in 1981 in the monastery garage of a then-unknown Poor Clare nun named Mother Angelica, arguably has more influence than the official church leaders, especially since their authority, already in decline, was further diminished by their mishandling of the clergy sex abuse crisis.
The bishops themselves are now apparently shaped by the EWTN empire. According to a recent study of the U.S. episcopate, the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register is the religious publication read by the most bishops, with 61 percent saying they read it.
But what the bishops — and others, Catholic and non-Catholic alike — are getting is a very particular slice of Catholicism from EWTN and its affiliate organizations, one not necessarily representative of the U.S. church as a whole. Polling and ongoing studies of the Catholic population in the United States consistently finds a far greater diversity of views and tolerance for questions than is the case on EWTN broadcasts. EWTN has become the only regularly televised image of Catholicism in America.
The media portions of the organization — from EWTN to the Register to the Catholic News Agency — are hardly objective, doing a type of "journalism" expected on Fox News but not necessarily from what started as a devotional network where the homebound could find televised Mass and other spiritual programming.
In addition to its slanted political coverage, EWTN and its affiliate journalistic enterprises also have connections to economic libertarian ideologues, including EWTN governors' board member and major donor Timothy Busch, who has said he supports anti-union "right to work" laws, opposes minimum wage increases and advocates for free market capitalism as a tool for raising people out of poverty.
This merging of ideological and political causes with theological ones is concerning. Said Massa [Jesuit Fr. Mark Massa, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College]: "When religion links itself to political causes, it always turns out badly for religion."
Knowingly or not, EWTN may accelerate the exodus of younger generations from Catholicism.  It certainly is increasing the perception that Catholicism is a morally bankrupt tradition that cares only about abortion and persecuting gays while covering up for sexual predators. 

New Proof Wikileaks Worked With Russia to Elect Trump

Meanwhile, if Trump's overt racism is not enough to drive true patriotic Americans away from his regime, CNN has a new bombshell on how Wikileaks worked hand in glove with Russian intelligence to see Trump elected in 2016. The report further validates the Mueller Report findings on Russian election interference.  The take away?  Trump supporters - and sadly, Bernie Sanders supporters - were played for fools by the Kremlin.  The CNN piece looks at surveillance reports that confirm Julian Assange's close work with Russian operatives and the timing of the drops of stolen DNC documents and emails to most help Trump and drive Sander's supporters away from supporting Hillary Clinton once she became the Democrat nominee.  Here are highlights (read the entire piece):
New documents obtained exclusively by CNN reveal that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange received in-person deliveries, potentially of hacked materials related to the 2016 US election, during a series of suspicious meetings at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
The documents build on the possibility, raised by special counsel Robert Mueller in his report on Russian meddling, that couriers brought hacked files to Assange at the embassy.
The surveillance reports also describe how Assange turned the embassy into a command center and orchestrated a series of damaging disclosures that rocked the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States.
Despite being confined to the embassy while seeking safe passage to Ecuador, Assange met with Russians and world-class hackers at critical moments, frequently for hours at a time. He also acquired powerful new computing and network hardware to facilitate data transfers just weeks before WikiLeaks received hacked materials from Russian operatives.
These stunning details come from hundreds of surveillance reports compiled for the Ecuadorian government by UC Global, a private Spanish security company, and obtained by CNN. They chronicle Assange's movements and provide an unprecedented window into his life at the embassy. They also add a new dimension to the Mueller report, which cataloged how WikiLeaks helped the Russians undermine the US election.
An Ecuadorian intelligence official told CNN that the surveillance reports are authentic.
After the election, the private security company prepared an assessment of Assange's allegiances. That report, which included open-source information, concluded there was "no doubt that there is evidence" that Assange had ties to Russian intelligence agencies.UC Global did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
By June [2016], Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had emerged as the de facto nominees of their parties and were gearing up for what would be a bruising general election. . . . Assange was busy back at the embassy. That month, members of the security team worked overtime to handle at least 75 visits to Assange, nearly double the monthly average of visits logged by the security company that year. He met Russian citizens and a hacker later flagged in the Mueller report as a potential courier for emails stolen from the Democrats. . . . Assange took at least seven meetings that month with Russians and others with Kremlin ties, according to the visitor logs.
Assange also had five meetings that month with senior staffers from RT, the Kremlin-controlled news organization. US intelligence agencies have concluded that RT had "actively collaborated with WikiLeaks" in the past and played a significant role in Russia's effort to influence the 2016 election and help Trump win. For several months in 2012, Assange hosted a television show on RT.
The Mueller report explicitly referenced that "Assange had access to the internet from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, England." The rest of that paragraph is heavily redacted.
It's unclear whether Mueller ever obtained these surveillance reports as part of his investigation.
Mueller concluded that hackers from Russia's military intelligence agency, known as the GRU, attacked Democratic targets in spring 2016 and removed hundreds of gigabytes of information. They created online personas -- Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks -- to transfer some of the files to WikiLeaks and publicly claim responsibility for the hacks, falsely disavowing any Russian ties.
Meanwhile, he [Assange} still has allies in Russia. Within hours of Assange's arrest, senior officials from President Vladimir Putin's government rushed to Assange's defense and slammed the US for infringing his rights, declaring that, "The hand of 'democracy' squeezes the throat of freedom."

George Conway: Trump is a Racist President

As a post yesterday noted, the time has truly come for my Republican "friends" to decide once and for all who they are.  Are they decent, moral people, or are they with Donald Trump and the Klansmen and alt-right figures cheering his racism and cut from the same foul, racist cloth as Trump. It's time they condemned both Trump and the political party that refuses to condemn his overt racism and walk away from that political party all together.  Doing nothing is not a moral option.  If they fail to walk away from Trump and the GOP at all levels, they are complicit in that very same racism and, frankly, might as well start wearing a KKK or Neo-Nazi lapel pin so that the rest of us know at a glance just how toxic they are and can avoid them whenever possible. Similarly, those of us who make some true effort to follow the Gospel message can then point them out to our children and grandchildren and tell them such people are who they never want to emulate or even socialize with.  In a column in the Washington Post, George Conway, husband of Kellyanne Conway, part of Trump's equivalent to Hitler's Reich Minister of Propaganda - how they remain married baffles me - calls out Trump for what he is: a outright racist. By extension, he calls out all of those who continue to support Trump and/or try to conveniently look the other way.  Here are column highlights: 
To this day, I can remember almost the precise spot where it happened: a supermarket parking lot in eastern Massachusetts. It was the mid-1970s; I was not yet a teenager, or barely one. I don’t remember exactly what precipitated the woman’s ire. But I will never forget what she said to my mother, who had come to this country from the Philippines decades before. In these words or something close, the woman said, “Go back to your country.”
I remember the incident well, but it never bothered me all that much. Nor did racial slurs, which, thankfully, were rare. None of it was troublesome, to my mind, because most Americans weren’t like that. The woman in the parking lot was just a boor, an ignoramus, an aberration. America promised equality. Its constitution said so. My schoolbooks said so. The country wasn’t perfect, to be sure. But its ideals were. And every day brought us closer to those ideals.
How naive a child could be. The woman in the parking lot — there were many more like her, it turned out. They never went away. Today they attend rallies, and they post ugliness on Facebook or Twitter. As for the victims of historic racial oppression, no matter how much affirmative action (or reverse discrimination, or whatever you want to call it) the nation offered, they, too, had resentments that never went away — in part because of people like the parking-lot woman. Those resentments often led to more, not fewer, charges of racism as the years passed — charges of institutional racism and “white privilege.”
Which, in turn, bred another kind of resentment: Why, asked many an unaffluent white parent, who may never have uttered a racial slur or whose ancestors may never have held anyone in bondage, does my child have to check a box to her detriment, or be accused of “white privilege,” when the only privilege she has received came from the sweat of my brow? Why are people like me being called racist, when all I’ve done was mind my own business?
And how naive an adult could be. The birther imaginings about Barack Obama? Just a silly conspiracy theory, latched onto by an attention seeker who has a peculiar penchant for them. The “Mexican” Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel incident? Asinine, inappropriate, a terrible attack on the judiciary by an egocentric man who imagined that the judge didn’t like him. The white supremacists’ march in Charlottesville? The president’s comments were absolutely idiotic, but he couldn’t possibly have been referring to those self-described Nazis as “good people”. . . .
No, I thought, President Trump was boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent, narcissistic and insensitive. He’s a pathetic bully but an equal-opportunity bully — in his uniquely crass and crude manner, he’ll attack anyone he thinks is critical of him. No matter how much I found him ultimately unfit, I still gave him the benefit of the doubt about being a racist.
But Sunday left no doubt. Naivete, resentment and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear. Telling four non-white members of Congress — American citizens all, three natural-born — to “go back” to the “countries” they “originally came from”? That’s racist to the core.
What’s just as bad, though, is the virtual silence from Republican leaders and officeholders. . . . the Republicans don’t want to give succor to their political enemies; because, knowing how vindictive, stubborn and obtusely self-destructive Trump is, they fear his wrath.
But none of that is good enough. Trump is not some random, embittered person in a parking lot — he’s the president of the United States. By virtue of his office, he speaks for the country. What’s at stake now is more important than judges or tax cuts or regulations or any policy issue of the day. What’s at stake are the nation’s ideals, its very soul.
As I watch this horrible man spread hatred and division, I again get a sense of what decent Germans may have felt as Hitler rose to power.  Sadly, too many looked the other way rather than fight hatred.  That failure to act turned out very badly for many Germans, their country and the world.  Have we really forgotten the lessons of WWII and the bigot who helped bring it about?

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, July 15, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty

Republicans Refuse to Punish Trump for Openly Racist Rhetoric

The Republican Party of the past is dead and gone and has been replaced by a political party that relishes open racism and misogyny in general. The takeover the of the GOP base by white supremacists and religious extremists is nearly complete.  Old school Republicans who refuse to leave the party and/or pretend that the party of the past still exists are not only deluding themselves, but are complicit in the sins of the GOP and its head, Donald Trump. Seemingly, there is nothing beyond the pale that will cause Republicans to push back against Trump and the destruction of any shred of morality in the GOP.  They either enthusiastically support his overt racism or are such cowards they refuse to confront the hideous elements of the party base. Trump's racist tweet rant over the weekend has failed to bring any punishment or for that matter, even much hand wringing. A piece in CNN looks at the Republican refusal to condemn or rein in Trump.  Here are excerpts:

The most shocking thing about Donald Trump's racist tweets is that possibly the most fundamentally un-American outburst of modern presidential rhetoric did not come remotely as a surprise.
The second most shocking aspect of an episode that would have rocked any other administration is that the President knows he can trade in such base tactics because he will pay no price in a Republican Party cowed by his fervent political base. Many GOP voters and lawmakers are uncomfortable with Trump's conduct and sentiments. But most are sufficiently satisfied with the ideological direction of his presidency that they are willing to turn a blind eye to such behavior, making it a useful political weapon as he seeks to drive a rampant base turnout in 2020. In an attack clearly aimed at four minority Democratic lawmakers – [Trump] the President did not name the "progressives" in his tirade -- Trump underlined how his presidency has used bigotry as a lever of power and made it a fact of 21st century political life more than half a century after the peak of the Civil Rights era. His use of the nation's most revered office to make such unequivocally racist remarks emphasizes how a presidency stewing in rage, fear and identity politics lacks boundaries. And Trump's xenophobia made it more obvious than ever that he plans to win reelection by carving a nativist schism between white, rural America and the increasingly diverse population being courted by Democrats. He risks opening divides that will take years to heal.
By telling the four women — three of whom were born in the US — to "go back" to where they came from, Trump employed the most basic and crude racial taunt. He also implicitly rejected the motto emblazoned on America's Great Seal — E Pluribus Unum — from many one. He is implying that any American who is not white and native born has no place in the country. The silence from Republicans Sunday about Trump's tweets was near universal, emphasizing how his outlandish behavior is tolerated by lawmakers who represent half of the electorate and who won't risk their own political careers to condemn him. [T]he already poisonous tone of Trump's reelection campaign seems almost certain to become far, far worse. The question is whether Trump will alienate sufficient crops of more moderate voters to swing the White House to Democrats or whether his raging culture wars will maximize turnout in his own party and hand him a second term.His attack is a logical extension of an election strategy that is clearly designed to exploit racial and social divides. The reason why Trump's attack was not surprising is because it fits into a pattern of racially charged rhetoric that he has been willing to use in private life — dating back to his comments on the Central Park Five and the "birtherism" campaign against Obama. While it is shocking to see such open racism expressed by a President of the United States, Sunday's tweets were far from the first time that Trump has dealt in such toxicity in office. . . . The debate about whether Trump is a "racist" that pops up after such comments seems increasingly academic.
 Republicans who support Trump by margins of close to 90% in recent polls have long ago made peace with the President's outrageousness or are willing to look the other way as he implements a conservative agenda, especially in the courts. Trump's incessant catering to his base means he has little to fear politically from the modern Republican Party. [Trump] The President has only one hope of winning reelection -- thanks to the way that he has conducted his presidency. He must hope his fired up political base will show up to the polls in greater numbers than voters supporting Democrats that he is painting as extreme and bent on a communist takeover.  That's why Sunday's tweets are probably not a historical aberration but a taste of things to come.

Republican "friends" who consider themselves moral, decent people are running out of time to prove their decency.  The time has come to either leave the GOP or become complicit in its sins.  There really is no middle ground. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Doctors, Priests, Even Some Republicans Beg SCOTUS to Outlaw Discrimination

Out Magazine is reporting that a new study released by The Trevor Project – a suicide prevention organization - found that 39% of surveyed LGBT youth said they had “seriously considered” suicide in the past twelve month period. According to the report, 57% of youth who have undergone “conversion therapy” – a fraudulent practice much favored by Christofascists and Republican politicians like Mike Pence - reported a suicide attempt in the last twelve months. The study also found that more than half of the transgender youth surveyed “seriously considered” suicide.  Fueling these troubling statistics are the discrimination, bullying and often family rejection that so many LGBT youth experience. Yet what is the Trump/Pence regime doing?  Seeking to allow Christian extremists in the health care industry to refuse to treat LGBT individuals arguing that such treatment would offend the religious liberty of these modern day Pharisees and filing briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court ("SCOTUS") in support of employer’s right to fire employees based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  To counter this malevolent effort, numerous groups, including doctors, priests, activists, major corporations  - even some Republicans - are filing briefs urging SCOTUS to rule that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars anti-LGBT discrimination.  A piece in The Advocate looks at this effort.  Here are highlights:
As the Supreme Court prepares to take up LGBTQ employment discrimination, plenty of equality supporters have weighed in — in addition to the expected activist groups, they include doctors, religious leaders, major corporations, and even Republicans.
On October 8, the high court will consider the cases of two men (Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, and Gerald Bostock, a social worker) who say they were fired for being gay and a woman (Aimee Stephens, a funeral director) who was fired for being transgender. At issue is whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A brief led by the American Medical Association, in which it was joined by 15 other health care organizations, applies to all the cases but deals primarily with issues of gender identity. Citing more than four dozen health care studies and papers, it argues that protecting transgender people from employment discrimination is crucial to their physical and mental health. . . . it notes, “employment discrimination against transgender people frustrates the treatment of gender dysphoria by preventing transgender individuals from living openly in accordance with their true gender identity and impeding access to needed medical care.” Discrimination often results in loss of income and health insurance, the brief points out.
Religious bodies are represented in a brief filed by the Episcopal Church, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the United Church of Christ, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and more than 700 individual faith leaders. They “unite in believing it is both morally wrong and not constitutionally required to permit blanket discrimination in employment against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people based upon the personal religious beliefs of their employers or customers,” their brief states.
They note that in the Harris Funeral Homes case, a brief taking an anti-transgender position argues that some customers, because of their religious beliefs, would suffer “trauma” by dealing with a transgender funeral director in a time of grief. But that brief does not cite any cases in which someone was traumatized in this way — or why a business should be allowed to discriminate because certain customers object . . . . sustaining LGBTQ employees’ right to be free of discrimination will not interfere with the fundamental right to religious belief and practice, they say.
Another brief filed by religious organizations in support of the employees comes from several Muslim groups, including the Muslim Bar Association of New York, Muslims for Progressive Values, the Muslim Caucus of America, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
On the business side, a supportive brief was filed by 206 companies, including such major names as Amazon, AT&T, Bank of America, Ben & Jerry’s, Coca-Cola, Disney, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, IKEA, Microsoft, Nike, Prudential, the San Francisco Giants baseball franchise, and Xerox.
“Laws forbidding sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination are not unreasonably costly or burdensome for business,” they state. “To the contrary, recognizing that Title VII prohibits these forms of sex discrimination would strengthen and expand benefits to businesses, such as the ability to recruit and retain top talent; to generate innovative ideas by drawing on a greater breadth of perspectives, characteristics, and experiences; to attract and better serve a diverse customer base; and to increase productivity among employees who experience their workplace as a place where they are valued and respected.”
Organized labor is represented in briefs from the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO, and lawyers in one from the American Bar Association.
No currently serving Republican members of Congress were represented in the brief, but many currently serving Democrats — more than 150 — filed their own. “Title VII prohibits sex-based discrimination, and it is impossible to divorce an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity from their sex,” their brief says. “Thus, discrimination on all bases that are related to a person’s sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity and nonconformance with sex stereotypes, is prohibited.” There’s also a brief from numerous former executive branch officials, from both Republican and Democratic administrations.
No one knows how the court will rule, and it will be considering oral arguments by the parties’ lawyers, precedent, and other factors along with the amicus briefs. And there have been briefs filed supporting the right to discriminate. But the many supportive briefs before the court present a host of powerful arguments against discrimination.

More Sunday Male Beauty

Letter in Opposition to the State Department's "Commission on Unalienable Rights"

A trio of clear and present dangers to human rights.
In a post yesterday I looked at the Trump/Pence regime's dangerous and disingenuous "Commission on Inalienable Rights" which appears designed to roll back LGBT and women's rights.  The Commission's membership is full of far right Christian extremists to the exclusion of legitimate experts on human rights issues.  Now, a letter has been made available to stand in opposition to the Commission and to demand that resources be directed to legitimate and non-sectarian resources to fight human rights abuses both in America and across the globe.  The letter, which I encourage  both individuals and organizations to sign can be found here.  Follow the instructions to join the list of signatories.  Here are excerpts from the letter:
We . . . . write to express our deep concern with the Department of State’s recently announced Commission on Unalienable Rights. We object to the Commission’s stated purpose, which we find harmful to the global effort to protect the rights of all people and a waste of resources; the Commission’s make-up, which lacks ideological diversity and appears to reflect a clear interest in limiting human rights, including the rights of women and LGBTQI individuals; and the process by which the Commission came into being and is being administered, which has sidelined human rights experts in the State Department’s own Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).

We urge you to immediately disband this body, and to focus your personal attention on the significant challenges currently facing the protection of human rights globally, including those threats to human rights generated by Trump administration policy and rhetoric.

We are likewise dismayed by the well-documented views of a significant majority of the Commission’s 10 members. Taken as a whole, the Commission clearly fails to achieve the legal requirement that a federal advisory committee “be fairly balanced in its membership in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed.” Almost all of the Commission’s members have focused their professional lives and scholarship on questions of religious freedom, and some have sought to elevate it above other fundamental rights. The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is a fundamental right, but one of among 30 such rights enshrined in the [1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights] UDHR.
No Commissioner focuses nearly as exclusively on any other issue of pressing concern contained with the UDHR, including the right to asylum, the right to be free from torture, the right to equal protection against any discrimination, or any of the UDHR’s enumerated economic, social, and cultural rights, among other topics.
Moreover, the Commission’s chair and members are overwhelmingly clergy or scholars known for extreme positions opposing LGBTQI and reproductive rights, and some have taken public stances in support of indefensible human rights violations. The Commission’s chair has stated that marriage equality presents a danger to children. A Commission member has similarly stated that “the unavoidable message” of same-sex marriage “is a profoundly false and damaging one.” A third Commission member has argued publicly against the use of contraception even when that use is meant to limit the spread of deadly disease. A fourth has described questions of gender identity as “a matter of mental illness or some other pathology” and “a mark of a heartless culture.” A fifth has suggested that widespread outrage at the Saudi Arabian government’s premeditated murder and dismemberment of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi is grounded in U.S. domestic political considerations. A sixth has described the government of the United Arab Emirates as one “committed to tolerance…committed to civil society,” despite that government’s egregious and well-documented human rights record at home and abroad.
Rather than continue with this Commission, we urge you to use the resources of your office to take action on the great many grave human rights issues facing the world today, including those you have the power to improve directly. These include actions that have exposed children and other migrants to acute distress and, in some instances, long-lasting psychological damage. They include extreme selectivity and hypocrisy in raising human rights concerns, and rhetoric from the president and administration supportive of many of the world’s leading human rights violators, from Kim Jong Un to Vladimir Putin to Mohammed bin Salman. They include routine attacks on a free press and independent judiciary, behaviors emulated and applauded by strongmen worldwide. And they include policies that will exacerbate the impacts of climate change, which threatens the rights of every one of us.

Join me in signing this letter.   A piece in Slate further elaborates on the danger this commission poses to human rights.