Saturday, August 03, 2019

Trump’s Racism Betrays America's Victims

For many it is far easier to bloviate about American exceptionalism and to ignore the racism that Donald Trump both embodies and seeks to fan for perceived political advantage. But doing so betrays the many victims of America's often ugly past, especially the evils of slavery and the Jim Crow era. Slavery and racial sins are often close to mind living in Hampton, Virginia, the site where the first African slaves were brought into the British colonies that became the original states of the United States of America.  Where I sit at this very moment a mere few miles down the coast of Hampton Roads harbor from that site where the evil of slavery arrived 400 years ago this year.  Four hundred years of mistreatment and often outright horrors have been perpetrated all because some whites continue to be obsessed with being the supposed supreme or superior race. Trump intentionally continues this cancer that still haunts America. Ignoring his conduct and racism betrays the many victims of America's ugly and brutal past. While we cannot change the past, we can learn from it and vow to never ever let such hate and violence occur again.  A column in the Washington Post reminds us of just how hideous some of America's past is in fact and why we must not betray its victims.  Here are column highlights (warning, some of it is disturbing):
I had fully intended to ignore President Trump’s latest round of racially charged taunts against an African American elected official, and an African American activist, and an African American journalist and a whole city with a lot of African Americans in it. I had every intention of walking past Trump’s latest outrages and writing about the self-destructive squabbling of the Democratic presidential field, which has chosen to shame former vice president Joe Biden for the sin of being an electable, moderate liberal.
But I made the mistake of pulling James Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” off my shelf — a book designed to shatter convenient complacency. Cone recounts the case of a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., in 1918 that lynched an innocent man named Haynes Turner. Turner’s enraged wife, Mary, promised justice for the killers. The sheriff responded by arresting her and then turning her over to the mob, which included women and children. According to one source, Mary was “stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.”
God help us. It is hard to write the words. This evil — the evil of white supremacy, resulting in dehumanization, inhumanity and murder — is the worst stain, the greatest crime, of U.S. history. It is the thing that nearly broke the nation. It is the thing that proved generations of Christians to be vicious hypocrites. It is the thing that turned normal people into moral monsters, capable of burning a grieving widow to death and killing her child.
During more than 300 years of routine horrors — the slave ships, the brandings, the separation of families, the beatings, the lynchings, the constant flood of humiliation, the racist ads for soap and toothpaste, the anti-black riots, the segregation of buses and pools and schools and suburbs, the sundown towns, the kangaroo courts, the police dogs and water cannons, the church bombings, the cruel and petty tyranny of whites, reinforced by the most prominent politicians in the country — during all of this, none of the descendants of Europe were able to stamp this evil out. As James Baldwin said in 1963, “The only people in the country at the moment who believe either in Christianity or in the country are the most despised minority in it.”
Racism is the fire that left our country horribly disfigured. It is the beast we try to keep locked in the basement. When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020. It is a cause for shame. It is the violation of martyrs’ graves. It is obscene graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial. It is, in the eyes of history, the betrayal — the re-betrayal — of Haynes and Mary Turner and their child. And all of this is being done by an ignorant and arrogant narcissist reviving racist tropes for political gain, indifferent to the wreckage he is leaving, the wounds he is ripping open.
I am finding it hard to look at resurgent racism as just one in a series of presidential offenses or another in a series of Republican errors. Racism is not just another wrong. The Antietam battlefield is not just another plot of ground. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is not just another bridge. The balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel is not just another balcony. As U.S. history hallows some causes, it magnifies some crimes.What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.
Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.
The fact that evangelicals continue to overwhelmingly support Trump is an indictment of them and proof that they are morally bankrupt and have zero moral authority to lecture others.  The fact that many of my Republican "friends" conveniently look the other way is likewise an indictment of them. Anyone with a shred of moral decency in them needs to condemn and shun Trump. It is far past time when a desire for lower taxes justifies enabling outright evil. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, August 02, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

Some Democrat 2020 Candidates Need to Drop Out

Having watched both sets of Democrat presidential debates - although debate is not an accurate description of the format - I , like I suspect many others, have wondered with some of the Democrat gaggle "why the hell are they running?" Is it simply a vanity project when they have a snowball's chance in hell of passing the next threshold, much less winning the primary contest.  Thankfully, the DNC has upped the requirements for future rounds of the debate process so that we begin to better see the difference between those who are serious contenders.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the need to narrow the field and allow Democrats and voters to see more of those with serious chances of winning.  Here are article highlights that considers who makes the next round and who needs to call it quits:
Speaking anecdotally, it’s been clear that the most commonly held opinion about the two rounds of 2020 candidate debates occurring in June and July is that it’s a really bad idea to give so many of these people a nationally televised platform. But now as the “invisible primary” moves to its next, more voter-adjacent phase, the great winnower approacheth, mainly through the significantly heightened thresholds for participation in the September and October debates, set out by the Democratic National Committee.
Put concisely, the DNC is limiting the third debate(s), sponsored by ABC and Univision, on September 12 and 13, to candidates who can demonstrate they have 130,000 unique donors (with 400 in at least 20 different states), and can hit 2 percent (rounded up from 1.5 percent if need be) in four of a specified list of national or early-state polls taken up to August 28. There will be an additional qualifying window for the fourth debate(s) planned for October (date and sponsor TBD), though the criteria stay the same. Not only have the donor and polling thresholds doubled since the first two rounds, but candidates have to meet both, not one or the other, to qualify (dual qualification became a tiebreaker in the early rounds, but was not generally required). . . . Here’s how the field is shaping up:
At present seven candidates — Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — have already qualified for the September debate.
It’s possible, of course, that qualifying candidates could drop out of their own volition, either because they aren’t doing well (I’m looking at you, Beto), or in order to downshift to a Senate race (also a possibility for O’Rourke, along with the lower-polling Steve Bullock and John Hickenlooper).
Andrew Yang . . . . Like Yang, Julián Castro has met the donor threshold and needs one more qualifying poll to make the cut. After two solid debate performances, he should be fine.
Amy Klobuchar has met the polling threshold, and is reportedly just 10,000 donors short of that threshold as well, with a month to get across the line. She should be able to accomplish that. 
From here on projections get very iffy, depending mostly on how the debates affected both fundraising and poll standings.
Billionaire Tom Steyer didn’t even enter the race until July, but his face on the many advocacy ads he’s run since Trump became president should give him a very good shot at meeting the polling threshold by the end of August (he’s already hit 2 percent relevant surveys). And while he doesn’t need the small-dollar money 130,000 donors can give him, he certainly has the resources and the mailing list to buy that qualifier, too. He’ll probably make the cut, but it could get hairy.
Another tardy entrant, Steve Bullock, was long considered a potentially viable dark horse for the actual nomination, though his late start squandered an awful lot of buzz. Like some other “moderates” in the field, he could have really used a midsummer collapse of support for Joe Biden that does not appear to be forthcoming.
Tulsi Gabbard is close to the donor threshold, but has only one qualifying poll. She got attention in Detroit for an impressively efficient takedown of Kamala Harris’s criminal-justice record, and may be building a following of foreign-policy noninterventionists. But she has a lot of media detractors.
So, too, does Marianne Williamson, whose generally well-regarded performance in Detroit gave her a shot at a polling surge, even as it has (based on negative reactions to my own piece about her appeal) definitely enraged her critics. We’ll know very soon if she can begin to make a splash in the polls; she probably does have the capacity to meet the donor threshold given the far-flung nature of her following.
10 Who Should Be Waving Good-bye
Kirsten Gillibrand would seem to have a shot at meeting the donor threshold, but her debate performance and her general positioning in the race seem unlikely to lift her in the polls any time soon. She’s likely to finish as the greatest disappointment of the 2020 Democratic field.
Michael Bennet has impressed some observers with his debate performances — while others have debated which cartoon characters his voice echoes. He’s done relatively well in fundraising (and much better than his fellow Coloradan and former boss John Hickenlooper), but doesn’t seem close to the grassroots donor threshold.
Jay Inslee has won a lot of positive attention for his climate-change-focused candidacy, but his campaign hasn’t taken off in the early states at all. Nothing that happened in the debates seems likely to change that, though on paper he should have as much potential as the more highly ranked Bullock. He has a fine future as a 2021 Cabinet member if a Democrat wins.
John Delaney got a lot of attention during the first night in Detroit (though much of it was negative); he’s got tons of personal money and has been campaigning in Iowa roughly since that state was admitted to the Union. But his candidacy mostly resembles that of Martin O’Malley in 2016: a lot of effort with little payoff. If he makes the cut it will be as the most conspicuous moderate not named Joe.
John Hickenlooper is another credible-on-paper moderate, but one who has not at all distinguished himself in the debates and has struggled to raise money and keep staff.
Everything you can say about Bennet, Delaney, and Hickenlooper you can also say about Tim Ryan, who hasn’t translated his midwestern, white working-class street cred into tangible support so far as I can tell. He’s one of those candidates who could conceivably drop out even if he somehow makes the September cut.
And then there is Bill de Blasio, the presidential aspirant who has united his own city in overwhelming antipathy towards his candidacy.
Three other candidates — Seth Moulton, Mike Gravel, and Joe Sestak — didn’t make the earlier debate cut, and there’s really no reason to think anything has suddenly made any of them viable. Besides, there will soon be a hue and cry for nonviable candidates to drop out that will dwarf any possible groundswell of support for them. [I]t will be time for a number of candidates to take a long look in the mirror and see not the next president of the United States, but just another pol who looked at the current occupant of the Oval Office and thought: Why not me?

Let's hope some drop out sooner as opposed to later.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, August 01, 2019

The Republican Exodus From Congress

Sabato's Crystal Ball notes that one forecasting model based on postwar electoral history along with the president’s approval rating and the House generic ballot - which shows an 11 point advantage for Democrats - points to Democratic gains in 2020. Add to that Donald Trump's ongoing efforts to alienate everyone outside of his racist and religiously extreme base and it is perhaps little wonder that a number of Republican House members are announcing their retirement from Congress. Some believe there will be many more retirements which, in competitive districts offers Democrats potential seat pickups. A piece in the New York Times looks at what will hopefully be a worsen problem for Republicans - assuming, of course, Democrats do not seize defeat from the jaws of victory, always a big if.  Here are highlights from the New York Times

On Wednesday afternoon, Representative Mike Conaway, Republican of Texas, announced that he would not run for re-election next year. At a news conference in Midland, Mr. Conaway expressed distress at the partisan dysfunction in Congress, nodded to the term limits that his party places on committee leadership positions and said he’d been pondering retirement for a year or so. He said he wanted to leave on his “own terms.”
After eight terms in the House, the 71-year-old Mr. Conaway is entitled to a new adventure. But as the fifth congressional Republican to issue a retirement announcement in the past two weeks — and the eighth this year — his decision is being received as more than a personal choice. It’s being seen as evidence that Republican lawmakers are not feeling upbeat about retaking control of the House in 2020. Some party strategists have said they expect the trend to accelerate, with another round of announcements after members return from the August recess.
Besides Mr. Conaway, Utah’s Rob Bishop confirmed his retirement on Monday, and Alabama’s Martha Roby announced hers on Friday, one day after the announcement by Pete Olson of Texas, which came one day after the announcement by Paul Mitchell of Michigan. Indiana’s Susan Brooks announced her retirement in June. Georgia’s Rob Woodall did the same in February. And in January, just two weeks after being sworn in, Pennsylvania’s Tom Marino resigned. And let’s not forget Justin Amash of Michigan, who switched from Republican to Independent in disgust on July 4. [L]awmakers often start eyeing the exits with special longing when stuck in the minority with little hope of escape. Unlike in the Senate, where every lawmaker has some ability to influence — or at least disrupt — operations, life in the House minority tends to be a soul-crushing experience. Add to this the strain of endlessly being asked to defend the rantings of a volatile president who prides himself on being offensive. While some Republican lawmakers seem to thrive in the role of Trump apologist, others find it “exhausting and often embarrassing,” as one confided to The Hill this week. “Serving in the Trump era has few rewards,” said the member.
In terms of electoral impact, not all retirements are created equal. Ms. Roby and Mr. Conaway hail from blood-red districts that the party is expected to hold. But Ms. Brooks’s district is more competitive, and Mr. Woodall’s and Mr. Olson’s are considered tossups.
Some of the departures are problematic for the party’s overall brand. Ms. Brooks and Ms. Roby are two of only 13 women in a Republican conference with 197 members. (Eighty-nine of the House’s 235 Democrats are women.)
[T]he 2020 fight promises to be bloody. Republican leaders may want to be extra nice to their team. Who knows how many other members might decide to leave on their own terms?

More Thursday Male Beauty

Trump's Trade Wars Continue to Decimate Farmers

Many farmers, especially in the Mid-West voted for Donald Trump whose appeals to racism and xenophobia won them over despite the false narrative than it was financial insecurity rather than bigotry that won their votes.  Now, many are paying - in my view - a much deserved price as Trump's trade wars continue to wipe out markets for American agricultural products and leave many farmers dependent on government bailouts (something they condemn when benefiting others) to stave off bankruptcy. A piece in Yahoo News looks at this self-inflicted harm and notes how farmers want a return to "more normal times" - something that will only be achieved by voting Trump and Mike Pence out of office.  While my heart goes out to children and youths in struggling farm families, I find it hard to dredge up any sympathy for their parents who voted for Trump. Here are article excerpts:
The White House recently announced that it would be providing an additional $16 billion in aid to American farmers affected by the trade war between the U.S. and China.
But the problem for American farmers has becomes bigger than something a bailout can fix.
“This trade thing is what’s brought on by [Trump] the president and it’s really frustrating because he took away all of our markets,” Bob Nuylen, a farmer from North Dakota who grows spring wheat and sunflowers, told Yahoo Finance. “We live in an area where we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere. It costs us a lot of money — over $1 a bushel to get our grain to markets.”
Since trade tensions began in 2018, farmers have faced major financial challenges, since China was once a major U.S. agriculture buyer.
And losing customers has become a major issue. Soybean farmers have been dealing with this, as China has turned to other countries like Brazil for soybeans. Nuylen said this is also happening for wheat farmers, as China has begun importing wheat from Russian regions.
“All these countries went to different countries to get their grain,” Nuylen said. “How are we going to get the relations back with them to buy our grain again and be our customers?”
“Our prices are probably as low as I’ve seen them in a long time,” he told Yahoo Finance. “We were losing just about $70 an acre just by putting our crop in [the ground] this spring.” The Trump administration pledged two installments of a farmer bailout program. The first round of payments totaling $4.7 billion was paid in September 2018, while the second round was distributed in December. By February 2019, the total aid payments reached $7.7 billion.
“Payments are a welcome help for the bottom line of Missouri farmers,” Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, told Yahoo Finance in an email statement. “Although the trade payments vary widely from county to county, they’ll keep more than a few farmers in business for another year. ...
“Having said all that,” the statement added, “farmers are profoundly wary of the trade war, embarrassed that ad hoc government subsidies are all that stands between many of us and financial ruin, and ready for the return of more normal times.”
If these farmers continue to support Trump, they deserve any and every misfortune that befalls them. Hate, racism and bigotry need to carry a very heavy price.

National Cathedral likens Trump to Joseph McCarthy

Washington National Cathedral.
Far too often those  I refer to as "good Christians" remain silent and allow the hate and misogyny of evangelicals and far right Catholics define Christianity.  The result is the exodus of many from religion, especially those under age 30 where 40% want no more of organized religion.  Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to see the leadership of the National Cathedral sharply rebuke Donald Trump and condemn his racism and the hatred he sows on a daily basis.  Indeed, they likened him to Joseph McCarty and the manufacturer "red scare" of the 1950's.  If Christianity is to retain any legitimacy in the minds of many, we need more "good Christians" speaking out and condemning evil and countering the poison peddled daily by evangelicals and their toxic leadership.  NBC News looks at this much needed condemnation of Trump.  Here are highlights:

In unusually forceful language, the leadership of the Washington National Cathedral condemned what it called the "racialized rhetoric" of President Donald Trump and directly compared him to 1950s anti-communist demagogue Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
The statement, released Tuesday, isn't so much an appeal for Trump to retract or soften his statements as it is a call for the nation as a whole to reject them.
It asks: "After two years of President Trump's words and actions, when will Americans have enough?"
The criticism comes after a particularly inflammatory month for Trump. He has publicly told four outspoken congresswomen of color — three of whom were born in the U.S. — to "go back" where they came from. He also feuded with Rev. Al Sharpton, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and called the city of Baltimore a "rodent-infested mess."
The statement, issued in the name of three of the cathedral's top leaders — Revs. Mariann Budde, Randolph Hollerith and Kelly Douglas — makes multiple direct references to the communist witch-hunts of the 1950s led by McCarthy.
It accuses Trump of deliberately fanning racial divisions for political gain in the same way that McCarthy used fears of communist infiltration.
"When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call and give cover to white supremacists," it states. "We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person's sacred identity as a child of God."
It [belongs to the Episcopal Church] has a history of liberal political stances and has condemned Trump's ban on transgender members of the U.S. military and the policy of separating immigrant families at America's southern border.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Boris Johnson, Brexit and the End of the United Kingdom

Previous posts have looked at the parallels between Trump supporters and pro-Breixt voters in the United Kingdom: both groups are motivated by racism and a longing for a past that will never return. Now, in the person of Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom has a prime minister who is the equivalent of Donald Trump who is antagonizing allies and causing division with in the country.  Some believe it could end in the dissolution of the United Kingdom, with Scotland leaving the union and Northern Ireland ultimately joining the Irish Republic.  If this happens, Brexit supporters will find themselves in a much smaller and far weaker country that will only make the past they so long for even more impossible to recreate. With both groups - Trump supporters and Breixt supporters - racism and delusions have set them on a course for long term national disaster.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the potential collapse of the UK as a untied country.  Here are highlights:

In his first speech last week as Britain’s new leader, Prime Minister Boris Johnson exhibited his customary bravado: “The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we are going to restore trust in our democracy,” he said, reiterating his promise to lead the country out of the European Union, “and we are going to fulfill the repeated promises of Parliament to the people and come out of the E.U. on October 31st. No ifs or buts.”
But already, it’s Johnson who is starting to look like the prime minister with no clothes.
On Tuesday, the British pound dropped to its lowest level in two years, a reaction to growing alarm over the likelihood of Johnson’s government crashing Britain out of Europe in a “no-deal” Brexit. His cabinet is packed with hard-line Brexiteers who, like Johnson, want to see Brexit achieved at almost any cost. One minister has already indicated that the government is operating under the “assumption” that it must prepare for a “no-deal” departure: a scenario that would see tariffs immediately slapped on British exports to the continent, financial chaos, lines and delays at border checks, and an endless assortment of other (in some cases, still unforeseen) problems.
Johnson, undaunted, has engaged in a game of brinkmanship with Brussels and Dublin. Over the weekend, he talked tough on his Brexit intentions, voicing his opposition to the “Irish backstop” — the current understanding forged between Britain and the European Union that would preserve a soft border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and therefore theoretically keep all of Britain in the E.U.’s customs union.
Officials in Brussels, meanwhile, may be hoping that Johnson is compelled to blink first and that Britain’s Parliament acts to block a no-deal Brexit. That also may be a scenario Johnson actually wants. Another impasse at Westminster could prompt a snap general election that may yield a Parliament more inclined to back Johnson’s agenda.
[T]he domestic picture for Johnson is hardly rosy, either. For two days in a row, the prime minister was greeted by jeering crowds of protesters as he embarked on a tour of the United Kingdom’s home nations. On Monday, he received an icy welcome from Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, and was compelled to leave her residence in Edinburgh through a back door to avoid the angry demonstrations.
"The people of Scotland did not vote for this Tory government, they didn’t vote for this new prime minister, they didn’t vote for Brexit, and they certainly didn’t vote for a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, which Boris Johnson is now planning for,” Sturgeon said before his arrival. As my colleagues reported, the chaos and damage of a “no-deal” Brexit may speed calls for a new independence referendum in Scotland — a cause backed by Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalist Party.
The next day in Wales, Johnson met a similarly dubious Welsh first minister. Mark Drakeford, a member of the opposition Labour party, warned in an interview with the Guardian that a no-deal Brexit would endanger Wales’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors and “a whole way of life that has existed for centuries.” He stressed that Johnson’s characteristic “bluff and bluster” was testing the unity of the United Kingdom itself.
“The prime minister’s twin ambitions are on a dangerous collision course,” noted an editorial in the Financial Times, referring to Johnson’s stated desire to both strengthen ties among Britain’s four home nations and lead the country swiftly out of the European Union. “Brexit in any shape promises to weaken the bonds between the nations of the British Isles. In the extreme form that seems to be the working assumption by Johnson’s new administration, it will impose intolerable strains. This could set in train a process that ends with the break-up of the union.”
On Tuesday, almost a full week after taking office, Johnson placed his first phone call to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. Their exchange was reportedly “testy” and not particularly productive. According to an Irish readout, Varadkar reminded Johnson that the backstop was “a consequence” of Britain’s political decision to embark on Brexit and that Ireland had the full strength of the E.U. behind it.
On Friday, Varadkar hinted at the possibility of Northern Ireland severing its ties with the United Kingdom in the event of a no-deal Brexit. “I think increasingly you see liberal Protestants and Unionists who will start to ask where they feel more at home,” he said. “One of the things that ironically could really undermine the union of the U.K. is a hard Brexit, both for Northern Ireland and for Scotland, and that is a problem they are going to have to face.”
Not for nothing did former British prime minister Gordon Brown remark at a London event last week that Johnson could be remembered “not as the 55th prime minister of the U.K. but as the first prime minister of England.”

Vladimir Putin must be truly smiling.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Right-Wing Evangelicals are Driving Americans to Atheism

"Christian" hate group leader Tony Perkins.
This blog frequently looks at the hypocrisy of evangelical Christians - and far right Catholics - and the manner in which they are driving younger generations in particular away from religion entirely. But hypocrisy is only part of the behavior of these self-anointed "godly folk" and their professional Christian leaders engage in that increasingly makes the case that religion is a net evil in the world (my own personal view) and that "godly Christians" are actually not very nice people. Evangelicals' support of Donald Trump has merely served to underscore these attributes of "conservative Christians."  A piece in Raw Story looks at the exodus from religion and the ways evangelicals are driving more and more Americans to atheism or agnosticism.  Here are excerpts (Note the reference to The Black Collar Crime Blotter which is a must read):
If the Catholic Bishops, their Evangelical Protestant allies, and other Right-wing fundamentalists had the sole objective of decimating religious belief, they couldn’t be doing a better job of it.
Testimonials at sites like show that people leave religion for a number of reasons, many of which religious leaders have very little control over. Sometimes, for example, people take one too many science classes. Sometimes they find their faith shattered by the suffering in the world – either because of a devastating injury or loss in their own lives or because they experience the realities of another person’s pain in a new way. Sometimes a believer gets intrigued by archaeology or symbology or the study of religion itself. Sometimes a believer simply picks up a copy of the Bible or Koran and discovers faith-shaking contradictions or immoralities there.
But if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along. They may turn a doubter into a skeptic or a quiet skeptic into an outspoken anti-theist, or as one former Christian calls himself, a de-vangelist.
Here are some top ways Christians push people out the Church door or shove secret skeptics out of the closet. Looking at the list, you can’t help but wonder if the Catholic Bishops and their Evangelical allies are working for the devil.
Gay Baiting. Because of sheer demographics, most gay people are born into religious families. In this country almost half are born into Bible-believing families, many of whom see homosexuality as an abomination.  The condemnation (and self-condemnation) can be excruciating, as we all know from the suicide rate.  Some emotionally battered gays spend their lives fighting or denying who they are, but many eventually find their way to open and affirming congregations or non-religious communities.
Ignorant and mean-spirited attitudes about homosexuality don’t drive just gays out of the Church, they are a huge deconversion issue for straight friends and family members. . . . . Since most people Gen X and younger recognize equal rights for gays as a matter of common humanity, gay baiting is a wedge issue that wedges young people right out of the church. 
Prooftexting.   People who think of the Bible as the literally perfect word of God love to quote excerpts to argue their points.  . . . They then proceed to quote whatever authoritarian, anti-gay, or anti-woman verse makes their point . . .Suppose such a Christian gets confronted with a verse that says, for example, Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man (Numbers 31:17-18), or No man who has any defect may come near [to God in the temple]: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed;  no man with a crippled foot or hand,  or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, . . . (Leviticus 21:17-23).  . . . Biblical literalists, on the other hand give someone like me an excuse to talk about sexual slavery or bias against handicapped people in the Bible – in front of an audience who have been taught that the good book is uniformly good.  For a wavering believer, the dissonance can be too much. 
Misogyny. For psychological and social reasons females are more inclined toward religious belief than males.  They are more likely to attend church services and to insist on raising their children in a faith community.
Women are the Church’s base constituency, but fortunately for atheists, this fact hasn’t caused conservative Christians to back off of sexism that is justified by – you got it – prooftexting from the Old and New Testaments. . . . . Between 1991 and 2011 the percent of women attending church in a typical week dropped by eleven points, from 55 to 44 percent. 
Hypocrisy.  . . . High profile hypocrites like Ted Haggard or Rush Limbaugh may be loved by their acolytes, but for people who are teetering, they help to build a gut aversion to whatever they espouse.   But often as not, the hypocrisies that pose a threat to faith are small and internal to a single Bible-study or youth group.   Backbiting and social shunning are part of the church-lady stereotype for a reason.   They also leave a bitter taste that makes some church members stop drinking the Kool-aid.
Disgusting and Immoral Behavior.   The priest abuse scandal did more for the New Atheist movement than outspoken anti-theists like Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith) or Bill Maher (Religulous) ever could. To make matters worse—or better, depending on your point of view– Bill Donohue of the Catholic League seems to be doing everything possible to fan those flames:  On top of the abuse itself, followed by cover-ups, he is now insisting that the best defense of Church property is a good offense against the victims, and has vowed to fight them “one by one.”  The Freedom from Religion Foundation publishes a bi-monthly newspaper that includes a regular feature:  The Black Collar Crime Blotter.  It features fraud, drug abuse, sex crimes and more by Protestant as well as Catholic clergy.  The obvious purpose is to move readers from Religion isn’t true to Religion isn’t benign to Religion is abhorrent and needs fighting.  Moral outrage is a powerful emotion.
Science denial. . . . . science denial doesn’t just move believers to nonbelief.  It also rallies opposition ranging from cantankerous bloggers to legal advocates.   It provides fodder for comedians and critics: “If the world was created 6000 years ago, what’s fueling your car?” It may produce some of the most far reaching opposition to religious belief, because science advocates argue that faith, even socially benign faith, is a fundamentally flawed way of knowing.  The Catholic Church, perhaps still licking wounds about Galileo (they apologized finally in the 20th Century), has managed to avoid embarrassing and easily disproven positions on evolutionary biology.  But one could argue that their atheism-fostering positions on conception and contraception similarly rely on ignorance about or denial of biological science –in this case embryology and the basic fact that most embryos never become persons.
Political meddling. . . . The Religious Right, and now the Catholic Bishops, have brought religion into politics in the ugliest possible way short of holy war, and people who care about the greater good have taken notice.  Lists of ugly Bible verses, articles about the psychology of religion, investigative exposes about Christian machinations in D.C. or rampant proselytizing in the military and public schools –all of these are popular among political progressives because it is impossible to drive progressive change without confronting religious fundamentalism.
Intrusion.  . . . Catholic and Evangelical conservatives have made a high stakes gamble that they can regain authoritarian control over their flocks and hold onto the next generation of believers (and tithers) by asserting orthodox dogmas, making Christian belief an all or nothing proposition.. . . .  the more they resort to strict authoritarianism, insularity and strict interpretation of Iron Age texts, the more people are wounded in the name of God and the more people are outraged.  By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition – they force at least some would-be believers to choose “nothing.”  Anti-theists are all too glad to help.

More Tuesday Male Beauty

"Moscow Mitch" Fumes at Being Called Out

The Mueller Report and the findings of all of America's intelligence services are in agreement that Russia conducted a cyber attack on the United States in 2016 and will likely do so again in 2020.  Yet despite this unanimous view of the need for increased election security, Mitch McConnell, Republican majority leader in the U.S. Senate, has blocked all legislation that would fund beefed up cyber security and aid states in upgrading their election systems and machinery. Why? Most likely because McConnell believes Russian interference in 2020 is needed to help re-elect Donald Trump and other Republicans - including perhaps McConnell himself.  Yet McConnell bristles at the nickname "Moscow Mitch."  Sorry, but if the nickname fits and aptly describes his conduct, then I hope it sticks to McConnell like the strongest glue or adhesive.  Yes, Donald Trump is foul and an insult to common decency and morality, but so is Mitch McConnell who has proven to be one of Trump's most toxic enablers.  A piece in the New York Times looks at McConnell's efforts to make Russian interference easier and his conniption fit over being called out.  Here are excerpts:

Senator Mitch McConnell is usually impervious to criticism, even celebrating the nasty nicknames critics bestow on him. But Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is incensed by the name “Moscow Mitch,” and even more miffed that he has been called a “Russian asset” by critics who accuse him of single-handedly blocking stronger election security measures after Russia’s interference in 2016.
Democrats had been making the case for months, but it was supercharged last week by the testimony of Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, who told the House Intelligence Committee that the Russians were back at it “as we sit here.”
Mr. McConnell cites several reasons for his opposition — a longstanding resistance to federal control over state elections, newly enacted security improvements that were shown to have worked in the 2018 voting and his suspicion that Democrats are trying to gain partisan advantage with a host of proposals.
But whatever Mr. McConnell’s reasoning, the criticism has taken hold — even back home in Kentucky, where the majority leader faces re-election next year.
“Democrats want more aggressive legislation to protect America’s elections after Robert Mueller’s stark warning about Russian interference,” began one report aired on a Louisville television station last week. “Mitch McConnell blocked it.”  Even President Trump felt compelled to come to his defense — as only he could. That did not relieve the heat on the majority leader, who on Monday had appeared to open the door ever so slightly to doing more on election preparedness. For once, Democrats seemed to be getting to a man who has embraced his portrayal as Darth Vader and the Grim Reaper overseeing a Senate graveyard for legislation that he opposes. Democrats pressed their advantage. And why not? The hashtag #MoscowMitchMcTraitor was trending on Twitter, and Senate Republicans of all stripes were being asked about the blockade.
“So long as the Senate Republicans prevent legislation from reaching the floor, so long as they oppose additional appropriations to the states, so long as they malign election security provisions as, quote, partisan wish lists, the critics are right to say Leader McConnell and Republican senators are blocking election security,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on the floor Tuesday.
Mr. Schumer has in the past suggested that another potential reason behind Mr. McConnell’s position is the thought that interference emanating from Russia could aid Republicans. “I hope it’s not because he thinks it will benefit him, because Putin could turn around in a minute, and then do things that he doesn’t like,” Mr. Schumer said in June. Mr. McConnell’s opposition to any and all election legislation has bottled up the bills in the Senate Rules Committee. The panel’s chairman, Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, has hesitated to advance any of the measures since they would go nowhere on the floor. Proponents of the bills say they are devised to keep the states in the lead. A Democratic measure approved by the House would send more than $1 billion to state and local governments to tighten election security, but would also demand that states use the money for machines with backup paper ballots and require a national strategy to protect American democratic institutions against cyberattacks. States would be required to spend federal funds only on federally certified “election infrastructure vendors.”
A bipartisan measure in both chambers would require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads. Another bipartisan Senate proposal would codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials and provide federal incentives for states to adopt backup paper ballots.
All of the proposals mentioned are common sense in nature and would better protect the nation.  That McConnell opposes all of them leaves truly one conclusion: he wants Russian interference in 2020 and believes it will aid Trump and Republicans. 

GOP 91st District Candidate Colleen Holcomb - A Far Right Extremist

Holcomb - an extremist in sheep's clothing as shown
on her Eagle Forum profile.
With the entire Virginia General Assembly up for re-election, one would think at first blush that the Republican Party of Virginia would have worked diligently to field sane, somewhat mainstream candidates in order to improve its chance of clinging to control of House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. That first reaction would, however, would require forgetting just how extreme the Republican Party has become. In the person of Colleen Holcomb, the GOP candidate for the 91st District, where the GOP is seeking to retain a Democrat leaning seat held by a retiring Republican, the true extremism of the Virginia GOP is on full display.  Not that one would know this from Holcomb's campaign website which conveniently omits  much of her background and disturbing affiliations.

Based on opposition research I have seen, Holcomb embodies the all too typical far right wing "Christian" who is anti-gay, anti-choice (even in cases of rape or incest), anti-contraception, anti-women's rights, and anti-Obamacare.  Meanwhile, like so many "conservative Christians" her positions on marriage do not carry through to her own life.  She is the third wife of  her twice divorced husband. Her support of "covenant marriage laws" - which would make divorce far more difficult - apparently do not apply to her or her husband.  To understand Holcomb's hidden agenda, one must look at her past and present jobs and affiliations.  These are extremely telling: Regent University, Eagle Forum (which has endorsed Holcomb and continues to show her as part of its Washington DC office), the far right Family Foundation, extreme Christian "legal" groups.  In short, Holcomb's supporters and affiliates are a who's who of Christian extremist organizations who one could argue oppose modernity itself.  Again, not surprisingly Holcomb's campaign website omits all of these telling affiliations.

Unlike Holcomb, her Democrat opponent, Martha Mugler, the current Hampton school board chairwoman, is  a candidate of mainstream values and achievement.  More importantly, Ms. Mugler would not be pushing a hidden extremist agenda that would harm Virginia's future and likely frighten away progressive, future looking businesses and potential residents. 

Here are some highlights from the background research on Holcomb and the organizations with which she is in leadership roles (there is much, much more):   
When she was executive director she had “a leadership role in nearly all the Eagle Forum’s activities.” Colleen Holcomb, who has been on the Eagle Forum board of directors since 2017, said working there “was and still is my dream job.” Since college she considered Eagle Forum founder Phyllis “Schlafly to be a personal hero” and “an excellent role model.” Phyllis Schlafly, who was a “hero” and “role model” for Colleen Holcomb, thought “that President Obama is a secret Muslim,” embraced Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, and thought husbands cannot rape their wives within a marriage. She also blamed Africans for slavery in the United States. Colleen Holcomb is anti-reproductive choice. She was also the longtime executive director and is currently a board member of the Eagle Forum, which “has always been” anti-reproductive choice for rape and incest victims.
Colleen Holcomb helped write an article that said, “women are victimized by other women’s free exercise of…personal liberty. Colleen Holcomb is registered to lobby in Virginia for the anti-gay, anti-reproductive choice Family Foundation, which supports requiring women to be given an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. It “believes in marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman,” and it opposes adding “sexual orientation/gender identity to the list of protected classes in nondiscrimination laws,” since “no evidence of discrimination exists.”

The Family Foundation also supports the “Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit,” which is essentially a voucher program to divert moneys from public schools. The Eagle Forum opposes the Violence Against Women Act, which it calls “dangerous,” and equal pay legislation, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

It also stands with conservatives on numerous random political issues, including climate change and marijuana legalization. Colleen Holcomb, in 2008, was “scheming to dredge up gay ‘horror stories’ to convince the world that ‘homosexuality is wrong’ and gay troops – currently serving, and dying for, America – ‘threaten our national security’ and the ‘personal safety’ of other soldiers.”  She acknowledged in e-mails “that such ‘horror stories are very difficult to find,’ but could be one of the only tools left to combat growing acceptance of homosexuality.”  

Colleen Holcomb opposed legislation to protect people from hate crimes based on “race, religion, ethnicity or gender.” She called this hate crimes legislation “radical social engineering.” According to the Eagle Forum, “school shootings have nothing to do with guns themselves. The common thread of these shooters has been fatherlessness” and playing violent video games. It thinks “focusing on mental health is not a fix-all,” and “an increase in psychiatric evaluations can be very dangerous.” 

The Eagle Forum thinks “restricting gun laws devalues our freedoms.” It thinks people on the No Fly List should be allowed to buy guns and teachers should be allowed “to arm themselves while at school.” Colleen Holcomb, two months after Senate candidate Todd Akin claimed “in a TV interview …that victims of ‘legitimate rape’ very rarely get pregnant because their bodies prevent them from doing so,” campaigned for him.
 Eagle Forum supports anti-vaccine extremists.

Do not be fooled by Holcomb's campaign website or her efforts to hide her true extremism.  Sadly, Holcomb is not an exception in today's Republican Party.  If your House and Senate districts are not competitive, consider making donations to or volunteering for Democrat candidates in competitive districts. Virginia does not need more far right extremists in the General Assembly. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty

No One Is Safe: How Saudi Arabia Makes Dissidents Disappear

Brutal Saudi Crown Prince MBS.
Saudi Arabia is allegedly an ally of the United States notwithstanding the reality that it supplied the vast majority of the 9-11 hijackers and is the leading financier of the indoctrination of Islamic extremism in the world. Moreover, it treats those perceived to be dissidents in a manner all too reminiscent of the Gestapo's approach to perceived enemies of the Nazi regime: one disappears or ends up dead. Human rights violations are the norm and there is no respect for the borders of other sovereign nations as "enemies" of the brutal regime are hunted down.   Indeed, Saudi Arabia in many respects ought to represent the type of regime America opposes.  Yet, thanks to oil and likely shady dealings between the Saudi regime and Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, Saudi Arabia gets special treatment and the Trump/Pence regime looks the other way as human rights abuses pile up and a reign of terror continues against those labeled and "dissidents."  A long piece in Vanity Fair looks at this behavior of America's false ally.  Tell you representatives in Congress to hold Saudi Arabia accountable. Here are article excerpts:
Prince Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud sat in one of the few safe locations he frequents in Düsseldorf and ordered each of us a cup of coffee. With his close-cropped goatee and crisp gray suit, he looked surprisingly relaxed for a hunted man. He described his constant fear of being abducted, the precautions he takes when venturing outside, and how German law enforcement officials routinely check on him to make sure he is all right.
Recently, bin Farhan, who rarely grants interviews to Western reporters, had incensed the kingdom’s leaders with his calls for human rights reforms—an unusual grievance for a Saudi prince. What’s more, he spoke openly of his desire to establish a political movement that might eventually install an opposition leader, upending the kingdom’s dynastic rule.
As we sat over coffee, he relayed a story that at first sounded innocuous. One day in June 2018, his mother, who lives in Egypt, called him with what she thought was good news. The Saudi Embassy in Cairo had contacted her, she said, and had a proposal: The kingdom wanted to mend relations with the prince and was willing to offer him $5.5 million as a goodwill gesture. Since bin Farhan was struggling financially (reportedly due, in part, to a dispute with the ruling family), his mother welcomed this chance for a reconciliation. But as tempting as the overture was, he claimed he never considered it seriously. And when he followed up with Saudi officials, he realized the deal had a dangerous catch. They had told him he could collect his payment only if he personally came to a Saudi embassy or consulate. That immediately set off alarm bells. He declined the offer.
Two weeks later, on October 2, 2018, bin Farhan saw a startling news report. Jamal Khashoggi—the Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post columnist who had been writing articles critical of his homeland and working clandestinely to undermine some of the government’s social media initiatives—had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up paperwork required for his pending marriage. Minutes after his arrival—as revealed in leaked audiotape transcripts compiled by Turkish authorities—Khashoggi was tortured and strangled by a Saudi hit squad. His body was then presumably carved up with a bone saw, the remains later carted away. The assassination was condemned by nations around the world, though Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and others in the Trump administration are still on close terms with the Saudi leadership and have continued to conduct “business as usual” with the kingdom. 
Among those present at the consulate the day Khashoggi was killed was Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a close aide to Mohammed bin Salman, colloquially referred to as M.B.S., who since 2015 has been steadily consolidating power. Mutreb, according to the transcripts, made multiple calls during the ordeal, possibly to Saud al-Qahtani, the kingdom’s cybersecurity chief and overseer of clandestine digital operations. He may have even phoned M.B.S. himself, who was singled out this spring in a scathing U.N. report, which found “credible evidence” that he was likely complicit in Khashoggi’s “premeditated execution” . . . . Mutreb—well-known in diplomatic circles, and one of the advisers who accompanied M.B.S. on his high-profile visit to the United States last year—gave a particularly chilling sign-off: “Tell yours: The thing is done. It’s done.”Omar
Abdulaziz, like bin Farhan, is a Saudi dissident. An activist living in Canada, he had been an associate of Khashoggi’s. Together, they had planned to publicize the plight of the kingdom’s political prisoners and tried to sabotage the Saudis’ online propaganda efforts by sending out anti-government videos, mobilizing followers, and devising social media schemes to counterprogram messages posted by the regime.
Abdulaziz met me in a Montreal hotel where, the previous year, he had been living in hiding. . . . In May 2018, he said, two representatives of the royal court had shown up in Canada, bearing a message from M.B.S. The pair, accompanied by Abdulaziz’s younger brother Ahmed, a Saudi resident, arranged a series of rendezvous in Montreal cafés and public parks. They encouraged him to stop his activism and return home, urging him to visit the Saudi Embassy to renew his passport. The implicit understanding, he told me, was that if he continued with his political activities, his family might be endangered.
Abdulaziz became convinced that his brother was under duress from his Saudi companions. He recorded their conversations. He decided to turn down their offer. But his choice, he acknowledged, came with a heavy price. When his brother returned to the kingdom, according to Abdulaziz, he was put in jail, where he supposedly remains to this day. A month after his brother’s visit—and four months before Khashoggi’s murder—Abdulaziz discovered that his phone had been hacked, compromising sensitive plans he had been developing with Khashoggi.
Saudi officials did not answer VANITY FAIR’s questions about whether the kingdom attempted to forcibly repatriate Omar Abdulaziz and several others mentioned in this report.
The prince, the activist, and the officer are the lucky ones. They are merely three examples of the untold number of dissidents who have become entangled in a far-reaching dragnet the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia uses to coerce, bribe, and entrap its critics. Sometimes the Saudi enforcers send operatives to foreign countries to silence or neutralize their perceived foes. Of those who are caught and detained, many end up “disappeared”—a phrase popularized in Latin America during the deadly roundups of the 1970s and ’80s. Some are imprisoned; others are never heard from again. While the first known Saudi abduction occurred in 1979 (when a prominent dissident vanished in Beirut), the practice has only escalated on M.B.S.’s watch.
The targets tend to be those whom the Saudi leadership consider to be working against the interests of the state: dissidents, students, rogue royals, prominent businessmen, and M.B.S.’s personal enemies in nearly a dozen countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Switzerland, Germany, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Morocco, and China. Saudi Arabian residents, of course, are not immune. This past April, 37 Saudis accused of insurgent views, including a man who was a minor when taking part in student demonstrations, were executed. 
Through interviews on three continents with more than 30 individuals—activists, national security experts, relatives of the forcibly disappeared, and American, European, and Middle Eastern government officials—a clearer picture has emerged about the extent to which Saudi authorities have gone to imprison, repatriate, and even murder countrymen who dare to protest the kingdom’s policies or somehow malign the image of the nation. On these pages are the stories of eight recent abductees—and those of four others who managed to elude capture—part of a systematic program that goes far beyond the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
The Saudi campaign is ruthless and relentless. And it has more similarities with, say, the codes of a crime syndicate than it does with those of a traditional, modern-era ally of the United States of America. 
Just days after Khashoggi’s murder, the kingdom rushed to contain the diplomatic fallout by calling the crime a “rogue operation.” But it was hardly an anomaly. It soon came to light that the regime had been sending squads across sovereign borders to physically repatriate Saudi dissidents. Indeed, shortly after the grisly hit job in Istanbul, a journalist from Reuters, who was briefed in Riyadh by an unnamed government official, was presented with what the reporter described in an article as “internal intelligence documents which appeared to show the initiative to bring back such dissidents as well as the specific one involving Khashoggi. 
Similar threats have surfaced in Canada (as described above) and Europe. In April, Iyad el-Baghdadi, an exiled Arab activist living in Oslo, was surprised when Norwegian security officials came to his apartment. According to el-Baghdadi, they told him they had received intelligence, passed along from a Western country, that suggested he was in danger. . . . El-Baghdadi had been warned that M.B.S.’s leadership considered him an enemy of the state. In fact, according to el-Baghdadi, just weeks before the Norwegian officials paid him a visit, he had been helping Amazon determine that its CEO, Jeff Bezos, had been the subject of a Saudi hack-and-extortion plot. The Norwegians were not taking any chances, as el-Baghdadi recalled; they whisked him and his family to a safe house.
Some of these missions to silence or harm Saudi critics have occurred in countries closely allied to Riyadh. One brazen operation in France, for example, involved Prince Sultan bin Turki, who had lived in Europe for years. A grandson of King Ibn Saud, the kingdom’s founder, the prince had a longtime feud with powerful members of the monarchy, having accused them of corruption.
Like bin Turki, two other notable princes, both living in Europe, were similarly kidnapped. Prince Saud Saif al-Nasr, while residing in France, tweeted a message publicly endorsing a 2015 letter by activists calling for a coup. He would mysteriously disappear. One exiled Saudi friend of his told me that he believes the prince had been lured into participating in a dubious business project that was actually a ruse meant to force him to come to the kingdom against his will. A second prince, Turki bin Bandar—a senior officer in the Saudi police force who had fled to Paris—used his YouTube channel to demand political change back home. He even recorded and posted a phone conversation in which a Saudi official could be heard trying to tempt him to come home. In 2015, however, he was stopped at an airport in Morocco on what Rabat authorities claimed was an Interpol warrant and forcibly transferred to Saudi Arabia. 
[W]ell-heeled princes are not the only targets of the long arm of the regime. So, too, have been a variety of others, including businessmen, academics, artists, Islamists critical of the regime, and, according to Reporters Without Borders, 30 journalists who are currently in detention. 
Also at risk, according to academic and diplomatic sources, are Saudi foreign exchange students. Some who have been vocal about the kingdom’s human rights record have suddenly had their financial aid suspended. One graduate student—as revealed in emails obtained from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC—was informed that the only way to resolve an impending suspension would be to immediately return to Saudi Arabia to file an appeal. The case of Abdul Rahman al-Sadhan is particularly troublesome. A Saudi citizen—and the son of an American—al-Sadhan was a 2013 graduate of Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. After earning his degree, he returned to the kingdom to be part of what he thought would be a changing nation. He worked for five years in the Saudi Red Crescent Society, a humanitarian organization. Then, on March 12, 2018, uniformed men showed up at his office, saying he was wanted for questioning. He left with the authorities and, according to his U.S.-based mother and sister, would never be heard from again. 
The day after al-Sadhan disappeared, another student, Loujain al-Hathloul, vanished as well. Enrolled at Abu Dhabi’s Sorbonne University campus, she got into her car after a brief meeting, never to reappear at school. . . . Al-Hathloul would later resurface in a Saudi prison. According to accounts provided by human rights organizations, she was subjected to torture and sexual harassment. And during her periodic visits with family members, she identified one of the men who was involved in her interrogation: Saud al-Qahtani.
The Saudi government, despite multiple accounts to the contrary, denies it has tortured its detainees. The perpetrators of these crimes may never be brought to justice.