Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

"Pro-Life" Texas Representative Threatens to Kill O’Rourke With an AR-15

I am not an advocate of abortion and believe it should be safe and rare,  That said, I have no use for most of the "pro-life" crowd which seemingly worships fetuses and loses all interest in children the moment they exit the birth canal.  How else to explain the manner in which these "conservatives" and right wing "Christians" routinely oppose funding for programs for the poor - often children - and support the Republican agenda that would shred the social safety net that many, including the elderly, need to survive.   These programs are assuredly "pro-life" in a different form but they are anathema to the "godly folk."  But the hypocrisy and ugliness goes goes even further:  these folks demonize those with differing views and are not adverse to using violence against their political and culture war opponents as was demonstrated by a self-style "pro-life" Texas Republican who threatened to use an AR-15 on Beto O'Rourke after he proposed a common sense confiscation of assault weapons in civilian hands.  Here are highlights of this disturbing but all too typical story:
It might seem surprising that Briscoe Cain, the Texas state representative who proudly told Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke that his automatic rifle was “waiting for” him, considers himself ardently “pro-life,” but of course it’s not.
Hopping on Twitter last night during the Democratic debate, after O’Rourke had given a stirring answer about seizing high-capacity weapons from citizens if he was elected president, Cain decided to threaten his fellow Texan with his own automatic rifle — also calling him “Robert Francis,” deliberately eschewing O’Rourke’s Spanish nickname “Beto.”
Per an O’Rourke spokesperson, Cain has been reported to the FBI for his violent speech, which you might think would fly in the face of the “sanctity of life”–type rhetoric he uses as an anti-choice legislator in the Texas legislature. Earlier this year, Cain was an architect of the draconian heartbeat bill, which failed in the Texas House in May, that sought to ban abortion at six weeks, before most women even realize they’re pregnant. When introducing it, he said in a statement, “When you have a heartbeat you have a life and we should honor that life at all cost.” So zealous is he in these views that, just this week, he took the bold stance of wanting to abolish the city of Austin, after it voted to provide $150,000 to help women retain access to abortion care.
The twin conservative principles of protecting both fetuses at the very moment of conception and the right to buy the kinds of guns that can (and have) murdered dozens of fully grown children in just a few minutes is a well-worn contradiction, a hypocrisy even older than the many Republican men who have been caught railing against abortion in public, then quietly paying for them in private. Restricting women’s autonomy over their own bodies is a cornerstone of the Republican Party’s ongoing national project, which is to consolidate power among the white and wealthy over the most vulnerable Americans.

People like Cain are disgusting not to mention complete hypocrites in their wailing about being "pro-life."  They are anything but pro-life and constitute a threat to the lives and well-being of countless Americans.

Friday, September 13, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

Poquoson: Home of Trump Supporters and Something Ugly

Locally, one of the bastions of Trump supporters is the small city of Poquoson which sits eastward of Hampton and York County.  Ironically, Poquoson faces the largest threat of any local city from rising sea levels, yet strongly backs a man and political party that denies the existence of climate change.  A recent even involving the Poquoson High School football team suggest the root of Trump's appeal: racism.  Two videos leaked of members of the team using racial slurs and foul language - seemingly directed at black members of a rival football team. Thankfully, the school division - likely the most lily white in the region - did the right think and forfeited the game to the rival school and an investigation is ongoing.  The Virginian Pilot looks at the incident which, I suspect to many, is not surprising.  Here are story excerpts:
Poquoson High School’s football team forfeited its upcoming game against York High School after online videos surfaced of students at the school using a racial slur and foul language.
The two videos were posted to Snapchat, then quickly began to spread to Twitter and other online platforms Thursday. The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press obtained copies of the videos after they were reposted by others.
Poquoson School Superintendent Jennifer Parish said some of the students in the videos are members of the football team. Parish said the videos were recorded at a party off school property, and it appeared to be a club room.
Both videos are less than 30 seconds long. In one, a boy, who is white, threatens to beat up someone, repeatedly using a racial slur. In the background, students are gathered around a table.
He puts his middle finger up in the camera, and another boy comes up behind him and says “If you’re from York County and you want some, come get some.”
In the other video, another teenager appears to be challenging other teens from York County, and repeatedly uses racial slurs.
“The language and behavior in these videos have no place in our schools or in our community," Parish said in a statement released Thursday evening . . . . we are taking action within the scope of our Code of Conduct and under division policy.”
That included, she said, the decision to forfeit Friday’s game against York High School. It was scheduled to be played in Poquoson.
Poquoson is the smallest city in Hampton Roads, with a population of just more than 10,000. It became an incorporated town in York County in the 1950s, and then a city in 1975. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the city’s school district is made up of 92% white students, 2% Hispanic or Latino students and 1% black students.
York County has a population of about 67,000. In its school district, 72% of students are white, 13% are black and 6% are Hispanic and Latino.
In October, a 53-year-old Poquoson man was charged with assault and battery after he confronted a Poquoson High School student who was waving a Confederate flag at a football game against Tabb High, another York County school.
This post will not make me popular in Poquoson, but the racist undercurrent of the city needs to be exposed.  And personally, I try to avoid Poquoson since gays aren't exactly welcome either.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Ominous Signs For Republicans' Retaking the House

In Virginia, the immediate focus is on ending Republican control of the Virginia General Assembly in November, 2019, and allowing Virginia to finally become the progressive state the majority of its population wants.  Longer term the focus is on 2020 and hopefully ending the political career of Donald Trump and numerous Republicans.  Outwardly, Congressional Republicans are boasting that they will retake control of the House of Representatives in the 2020 elections.  Privately, many are singing a different song - one that I and decent Americans should hope proves accurate, namely that such a GOP win is unlikely and there are numerous signs that such bragging is little more than hot air.  A piece in Politico looks at some of the danger signs facing the GOP which is powerless to change the dynamics as long as Trump is in the White House and the party base remains controlled by white supremacists and "Christian" religious extremist (often, the two are one and the same group).  Here are article highlights:

A parade of Republican retirements. Red flags about the economy. President Donald Trump’s approval ratings under water. A nail-biter race in a GOP stronghold.
House Republicans are grappling with a string of ominous warning signs from over the past month that could spell doom for the party’s chances of clawing back power in 2020, an unsettling prospect for the GOP conference as it prepares for its annual retreat in Baltimore on Thursday.
[T]he big picture for Republicans remains dim. Even some of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill recognize that it’s going to be an uphill climb in flipping the 18 seats they need to win back the House. . . .  there are a host of reasons for Republicans to be rattled by Bishop’s 2-point victory. The GOP had to go all-out to save the seat in a district that Trump won by 12 points in 2016 and which has been in Republican hands since the 1960s. And Bishop performed poorly in the suburbs, a key battleground where voters fled the GOP last year.
Even more ominous for the party: There are 35 GOP-held House seats that are even less Republican than North Carolina’s 9th District, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
“This is like a five-alarm fire for Republicans in prosperous suburbs,” Dave Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, said in an interview. “[The GOP] averted disaster, but there’s nothing in the results to persuade House Republicans who are sitting on the fence about running for reelection that they are any likelier to take back the majority.”
A mix of veteran and vulnerable Republicans have called it quits in recent weeks, a sign that GOP lawmakers may be growing less confident about their chances of seizing back the House next year. Some Republicans — two-thirds of whom have never served in the minority — would rather call it quits than continue to roam the political wilderness.
Several of the retirements have been especially devastating for the GOP. The party is losing Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, a rising young star and the only black Republican in the House; . . . .
[A]t least three of the races have become more competitive in the wake of the retirement announcements, and more endangered members could jump ship if they don’t want to duke it out another term — especially if the GOP’s prospects look bleak in 2020.
GOP leadership, however, has downplayed the recent wave of retirements and maintains they are in a strong position to flip the House.
The GOP is banking on strong economic growth and low unemployment rates to serve as their calling card in 2020.
But Trump has thrown that strategy into question. [Trump] The president escalated his trade war last month, slapping a new round of tariffs on China that directly hit consumers for the first time — though on Wednesday he announced he would delay imposing an additional 5 percent duty on about $250 billion of goods from China. And there have also been signs of a possible economic recession, including a shrink in the manufacturing sector and the so-called inverted yield curve.
[T]he public doesn’t seem to have as much confidence in the economy. Six in 10 Americans think a recession is likely in the next year, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Trump is also lagging behind his top 2020 Democratic rivals, while his approval ratings have dipped 6 points, down to 38 percent, according to the same survey.
“In both 2018 and last night, House race results have been highly correlated with Trump’s approval ratings,” Wasserman said. “It’s unlikely that [Republicans] win back control of the House either way. Right now, I would put the chances at somewhere between 25 and 35 percent.”
Let's hope the odds shrink even more.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

More Thursday Male Beauty

America Is Failing Its Children and Youth

We hear incessant bloviating (lies is a better term) from the White House about "making America great again." yet Trump's trade war is inflicting serious harm on both American manufacturing and farmers are being decimated financially. Yes, many of these individuals/businesses back Trump and arguably deserve whatever befalls them.  What is less covered by the media and far too many politicians is the reality that statistics increasingly show that America, now more than ever, is failing its children and youth.  "Old Europe" - so much maligned by the far right and Republicans - now affords significantly more upward social/economic mobility to its citizens than America now offers to its citizens.  Infant mortality continues to be far higher in America - the United States ranks 37th in terms of child well-being - and the costs are astronomical both in terms of cost and lost lives and lost potential.  With Democrat presidential candidates debating as I write this blog, let's hope that some part of the debate focuses on America's youth.  A column in the New York Times looks at this pressing problem.  Here are excerpts:

[I]gnoring the welfare of our young is a day-to-day problem in America, where our children are falling behind those in other wealthy countries.
On Thursday, 10 Democratic presidential candidates will debate. It would be a natural opportunity to provoke a national conversation on the subject. But a question about child poverty hasn’t been asked at a presidential debate in 20 years, not since a Republican primary debate in 1999, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.
UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.
American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.
Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record.
These problems have been magnified under President Trump, though American policy has shortchanged children as a whole for decades. The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.
Trump also gave the green light to a pesticide that I call Dow Chemical’s Nerve Gas Pesticide. Formally called chlorpyrifos, it is associated with brain damage among young children. Over the objections of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Trump administration claims it’s safe. So when will we see it sprayed in the White House to handle cockroaches?
James Heckman, a Nobel laureate in economics at the University of Chicago, calculates that investments in early childhood programs for at-risk kids have an astronomical return, because of improved productivity and reduced spending on police forces, courts, jails, special education and health care.
Likewise, one study found that each dollar invested in reducing lead poisoning among children pays for itself at least 17 times over.
Here’s a suggestion for the candidates: Embrace a landmark report this year from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that outlines how to reduce child poverty by half over 10 years. This can be done: Britain under Tony Blair halved child poverty in less than a decade.
The national academies calculate that a combination of job programs and child allowances could cut child poverty in half in the United States at a cost of about $100 billion a year. Yes, that’s a lot of money. But child poverty has an economic cost in crime, lost productivity and other expenses that is at least $800 billion a year, the academies report. The real question isn’t whether we can afford to act, but whether we can afford not to.
We don’t lack the tools to help, or the resources. The challenge is just that in our political system, children don’t count — and never get mentioned in presidential debates.
“Kids don’t vote,” notes Nadine Burke Harris, the surgeon general of California and an expert on the lifelong costs of childhood trauma. “They require us to speak for them.”

Thursday Male Beauty

Trump's Theft of Military Funding Harms Military Families

Norfolk Naval Base.
Living in southeast Virginia, the military is a constant presence.  So to are military members and their families who are both friends, neighbors and clients.  They are not props for some ego boosting reality show that exists in Donald Trump's mind.  Yet, these dedicated military members are being compromised by Trump's raiding of military funding to build his ridiculous border wall that serves no purpose other than to fire up his racist, xenophobic base. Yesterday was the anniversary of 9-11, yet true to form, Trump turned it into all about himself, putting his mental disorders yet again on open display.  A column in Newsweek looks at this theft of funds previously allocated by Congress - the branch of government that holds the power of the purse - to fund a boondoggle that merely stokes Trump never satisfied ego and thrills only the ugliest elements of his base who might as well dress in KKK garb on a daily basis. Meanwhile, military families and projects are thrown under the bus.  Here are column excerpts:

As a young man, Donald Trump actively avoided military duty, seeking five draft deferments. But now, as commander in chief, he says that "I'm making up for it rapidly because we're rebuilding our military at a level that it's never seen before." So why is this chicken hawk president stealing $3.6 billion from the U.S. military construction budget?
Trump is asking service members and their families to suffer so he can pay for a wall on our southwest border, a costly and wasteful project that is nothing more than a xenophobic vanity project. . . . . Here are just a few examples of the 127 projects that will be put on hold.
In Virginia, two hazardous materials warehouses built in the World War II era will continue storing harmful materials in "structures that do not meet current life safety/fire safety requirements."
In Kentucky, children of military families will continue attending an overcrowded middle school at Fort Campbell because planned renovations no longer have funding. Shamefully, schools for service members' families take one of the biggest hits in Trump's plan.
In Florida, Tyndall Air Force Base—which only recently got supplemental disaster funds to recover from Hurricane Michael due to repeated Republican delays—will lose funding for a fire and crash rescue station.
From West Point to Pearl Harbor, soldiers in nearly two dozen states will sacrifice projects like fire houses, flight simulation facilities, roads, clinics and dining halls. Similar projects will be postponed at U.S. bases around the globe.
These are construction projects that military leaders asked Congress to fund. Each one was reviewed, prioritized and weighed carefully against fiscal restraints and operational necessity.
Conversely, Trump's wall is a hastily considered response to a campaign applause line. Remember, Mexico, not our military and their families, was the one that was supposed to pay for this wall.
And make no mistake: This [Trumpian] presidential theft of appropriated funds would violate Congress's power of the purse. It is, simply, unconstitutional.
Worse, these cuts put our service members in danger. They degrade the quality of life and morale for them and their families. Just last year, the Pentagon rated more than 30 percent of its infrastructure worldwide as poor or failing. Thanks to Trump, that number will surely climb.
Ultimately, these Trump cuts impede our military readiness and threaten our national security—and all for a project that has repeatedly been rejected by Congress on a bipartisan basis.
Many national security experts agree that such an edifice would be ineffective. Its construction price tag has been both elusive and massive, yet, some argue, it is sure to run over any current estimates.
There are also bound to be enormous unanticipated costs to this physical representation of bigotry and nativism—from forcibly and possibly illegally seizing land, to the environmental cost of disturbing protected land and threatening endangered species. It's possible the United States would have to cede land to Mexico.
[Trump] is not only exhibiting a horrific level of disrespect for our military; he is also asking them to make additional sacrifices—not for our country, but to satiate his own ego. . . . To him, stealing money from our military is just another ratings-generating plot line: like shutting down the government or caging children at the border. As our neighbors and communities suffer the consequences, Trump tweets, lies and moves on to the next harmful policy decision that keeps him in the spotlight.
[Trump] The president would do well to remember that Americans are not characters. Americans are real people. Real people who experience the real impacts of his impetuous decisions. Real service members who will work in unsafe conditions, or keep their kids in overcrowded schools or worry about the failure of mission-critical equipment. Our military deserves better. And our country deserves better.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Refusal of Interracial Couple Shows Dangers of "Religious Freedom" Exemptions

Wedding Hall that refused an interracial couple due to "Christian belief."

Having followed various right wing "Christian" organizations and prominent "professional Christians" - e.g. Tony Perkins of Family Research council - I have long believed that not only are these folks anti-gay and anti-abortion (even as they kick children to the gutter once they are born), but they are also racist and anti-anyone who doesn't have white skin.  Thus, I believed it was only a matter of time before some followers of this toxic form of religious belief showed their hand and would demand the right to discriminate against blacks and/or interracial couples based on their "deeply held religious belief."   Sure enough, the owners of a wedding hall in Mississippi rejected an interracial couple and cited their "Christian religious beliefs" as justification for refusing to allow a mixed race couple to have their wedding at the venue.  Yes, lots of sputtering and denials of what was meant ensued, but the first statement showed the real mind set of many of these "godly Christians," especially in Deep South states like Mississippi which typically ranks dead last among the 50 states in numerous categories. More troubling is the fact that this is precisely the type of bigotry and discrimination that the Trump/Pence regime seeks to legalize under the euphemism of protecting "religious freedom."  A piece in Religion Dispatches looks at what happened and the danger that it exposes, namely that Christian extremist want to be above the law and able to discriminate at will.  My personal prediction: we are already headed down that road and four more years of Trump/Pence would lead to the legalization of such racial discrimination if bigots cite "religious belief" as their justification. Here are article highlights:
The owner of a Mississippi wedding hall, Donna Russell, made news last week for refusing to provide space for an interracial marriage due to her religious beliefs. Russell was caught on film stating that “First of all, we don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race—I mean, our Christian belief. . . .”
It took twenty years after the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, banning state laws against interracial marriage, for Mississippi to amend its constitution and remove the amendment prohibiting miscegenation. Loving nullified all state laws in 1967, but Mississippi clerks and courts refused to perform or honor interracial marriages for years after. Even in 1987, a bare majority of 52% of Mississippians voted to remove the language from the state constitution.
Currently, Mississippi has the distinction of having one of the broadest explicitly anti-LGBT laws in the country: the state permits state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBT people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious belief; it permits state officials to decline to marry couples of whose marriage they disapprove; and it likewise permits medical professionals to decline to serve LGBT clients.
In a fiery opinion from 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves issued a temporary injunction halting Mississippi’s broad anti-LGBT law from going into effect, finding that “It is not rationally related to a legitimate end.” But the Governor appealed to the Fifth Circuit, who held that the plaintiffs who challenged the law lacked standing (the ability to show an injury stemming from the law). The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, effectively letting the Circuit Court’s approval stand and the law to go into full effect.
As the Christian right, bolstered by evangelical donors and the Trump administration, continues to undermine justice for LGBTQ people through religious exemptions based on a narrow theology, rhetoric like that of the Mississippi wedding hall owner gives one pause for thought. In states where same-sex marriages neither need to be solemnized nor honored, are interracial marriages far behind? And if people like Donna Russell believe their refusal to honor interracial marriages is rooted in faith how solid is the holding in Loving?
In fact, this “slippery slope” argument was brought up during oral arguments for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, when the former asks: “Same case or not the same case, if your client instead objected to an interracial marriage?”
To which the Cakeshop’s lead counsel, Kristen Waggoner replies: “Very different case in that context.” Waggoner is trying to make a very specific argument here: that marrying someone of your same gender is a choice, is speech, is not a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment’s right to Equal Protection under the law because, in her view, and in the view of Alliance Defending Freedom, there is nothing there to protect. ADF, and Waggoner, are arguing that asking a baker to make a cake to celebrate your marriage to someone of your same gender is closer to asking a baker to make a penis cake for a bachelorette party. The inference, in other words, is that being gay is a choice and therefore that the “message” these two men were trying to convey was the choice to marry someone of the same sex, a kind of message a business ought to be able to reject.
But what of those, like Donna Russell, who believe that interracial marriage is as wrong as same-sex marriage, regardless of legal or theological justification?
There aren’t current data on state-by-state support for interracial marriage, but while 18% of all newly married people in urban areas are married to someone of a different race, only 3% of newlyweds in Jackson, Mississippi are married to someone of a different race, the lowest percentage in the country. Discrimination on the basis of race is prohibited by federal statute, and states are explicitly prohibited by federal case law from banning marriage for interracial and same-sex couples. But, with conservative Christian legislators, litigators (like the Alliance Defending Freedom, who drafted Mississippi’s anti-LGBT statute), and judges growing in power and number, how slippery is the slope of religious exemptions? And are the exemptions merely codifying what’s already taking place? 

Of course this mindset which is common in Mississippi is precisely why new and progressive businesses avoid Mississippi like the plague.  Hopefully more business will pay heed and scratch Mississippi - and similar states - off the list of potential locations for new plants and operation centers. Bigotry needs to carry a heavy price even when wrapped in the smoke screen of feigned religious belief. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Extremist Narrowly Wins North Carolina 9th District

With North Carolina roughly 30 miles or less from where I set, like many in Southeast Virginia and along Virginia's southern border, I pay attention to North Carolina politics particularly since the state has veered to the far right and made itself hostile to LGBT individuals. Thus, seeing the architect of North Carolina's anti-transgender bathroom bill - who was backed by anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim organizations and white supremacist groups - narrowly win (after rallies by both Trump and Pence to rally the ugliest elements of the right) doesn't make me want to visit that state anytime soon. The loss for Democrats suggests that the party's base still doesn't grasp the need to get out and vote in every election, not just presidential elections.  That said, the silver liming may be that Dan Bishop barely squeaked by in a district Trump won by almost 12 points in 2016.  A piece in Politico looks at why Bishop's win should not necessarily make Republicans hopeful for 2020.  Here are highlights:
Republicans went all-in to keep hold of a key congressional district in a special election Tuesday, and they won — but they still have good reason to be concerned about the result.
While the GOP can celebrate the election of a new congressman, Dan Bishop, his 2-point victory in a district President Donald Trump carried by 12 points in 2016 continues a worrisome trend for the party, which suffered heavy losses in the 2018 midterms and has not seen the political environment improve as Trump gears up for reelection.
Tuesday’s results outlined the path to 2020 victory for both parties, cut along the fundamental trend of politics in the Trump era: cities and suburbs swinging more and more Democratic, while the president’s appeal brings exurbs and rural voters deeper into the GOP fold. Trump pushed harder on one side of the scale to win in 2016; Democrats pushed back on the other side to take the House last year. And next year, it will decide whether Trump gets another term or a Democrat takes the White House for four years.
Trump’s election-eve rally for Bishop brought thousands to Fayetteville on Monday night on the eastern edge of the district, and it’s hard to argue with results: McCready had carried the surrounding county, Cumberland County, by more than 4 percentage points last year. But Bishop won it by the narrowest of margins on Tuesday, also making improvements in neighboring counties far from the Charlotte suburbs where McCready was strongest.
“The rest of the party is going to live or die based on how the president, in ’20, performs,” said Patrick Sebastian, a GOP consultant in the state. “If Trump can win North Carolina by a point or two, that’s excellent news for party.”
Meanwhile, Democrats were quick to find the silver lining in McCready’s narrow defeat. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee noted that there are nearly three dozen GOP-held House seats that are less Republican-leaning than North Carolina’s 9th District.
“We fell an inch short tonight, but it took more than $6 million in outside Republican spending and a last-minute Trump rally to scrape by in a district that the president carried by 11.9 points,” Bustos said.
“If we don’t connect with rural voters — if we don’t show up in 2020 and win these places back — then Trump wins,” Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted late Tuesday night.
Republicans were quick to trumpet the success of their coordinated effort — from last-minute visits from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, all the way down to the congressional leaders and the constellation of official and outside groups and super PACs — in pushing Bishop across the finish line.
That may not be replicable in November 2020 all the way down the ballot. But Trump’s robust campaign operation — which he continues to build as Democrats fight for their party’s nomination — will be formidable, despite the president’s low political standing compared to past incumbents.
“We may not have won this campaign, but that does not mean we were wrong,” McCready said in his concession speech. “And as long as there are people who thrive off our division, there is still work to be done.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

New Photos Emerge of Jerry Falwell, Jr., at Miami Nightclub

I had said that I hope the media scrutiny of modern day Pharisee and grifter Jerry Falwell, Jr., would continue in the wake of Politico's lengthy expose that looked at both questionable financial transactions, sex rumors and boasting, and drinking and dancing - both things that are banned at Liberty University and could lead to the expulsion of students guilty of such transgressions.  In true lying Christofascist/professional Christian form, Falwell claimed that photos of him dancing and drinking at a Miami nightclub were "false" or hand been "altered."  Now, the owner of the club has released an additional batch of photos putting Falwell's hypocrisy on further display.  Politico looks at the release of the additional photos.  Here are highlights:
One day after POLITICO published a piece in which Jerry Falwell Jr. denied visiting a Miami Beach nightclub in July 2014 and alleged that any images showing such were “photo-shopped,” a new trove of photos showing Falwell at the club has been released. 
Seth Browarnik, the owner of World Red Eye, a photography company that documents Miami’s bustling nightlife scene, says he was unaware how many photos he had of Falwell until Falwell alleged that his site’s images were manipulated—prompting Browarnik to explore his photo archive to prove otherwise.
On Tuesday, Browarnik published the newly unearthed photos on his website,, along with a strongly worded “rebuke” of Falwell’s claim of photoshopping. In the article, Jerry Falwell Jr. repeatedly claimed that the photos—which POLITICO obtained from World Red Eye, which World Red Eye has had on their website for five years, and which show Falwell partying at Wall on July 19, 2014—were manipulated. “If the person in the picture is me, it was likely photo-shopped,” Falwell said.
Browarnik said he felt insulted. “My integrity is everything in this business,” he said. . . . . For the past 21 years, Browarnik has photographed Miami nightlife. Because of his trusted reputation as a photographer, he thought it was important to quickly quash Falwell’s accusation.
“That’s why I have an archive of five million photos,” Browarnik told me. “That’s why we catalog everything.”
In the images, the Falwells can be seen in the middle of the club’s dance floor while lasers and other light effects reflect around them. In at least two photos, Falwell family members can be seen holding alcohol. (Liberty University is notoriously strict about alcohol consumption, and students can receive demerits for co-ed dancing and be expelled for drinking.)

More Tuesday Male Beauty

John Bolton: Proof That Prostituting Oneself to a Narcissistic is a Bad Idea

I have never been a fan of now former National Security Adviser John Bolton.   I have always seen him as dangerous and a threat to the international alliances that has served the USA well. Indeed, I'd even call Bolton a war monger.  But compared to Donald Trump, Bolton is sane and rational and my have restrained some of Trump's more insane and dangerous impulses. With Bolton gone, many worry who will replace him and what further damage can Trump inflict on the nation and world given his disturbing mental state. Meanwhile, the lesson to be learned from Bolton's demise is that endeavoring to prostitute oneself to a malignant narcissist is a dangerous game and the likely loser will be one's reputation and place in history.  A column in the Washington Post by a former Republican looks at the troubling situation we face.  Here are excerpts:
John Bolton should never have joined an administration in which the president was overtly corrupt, sympathetic to dictators, weirdly beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a pathological liar. Like so many others, Bolton will go down as someone driven by unquenchable thirst for relevance and power with the hubris to think he could bend President Trump to his will. Instead, Bolton became an enabler for a president who allowed himself to be snowed by North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and revealed he never had a game plan for Iran . . . .
 Rather than quit on principle at dozens of junctures, Bolton clung to his job, only to be rudely fired. Bolton, to put it mildly, never played well with others and therefore was uniquely unqualified for the job of national security adviser, who is supposed to be the honest broker in government. It would be an understatement to say both anti-Trump conservatives and Democrats are positively giddy seeing the blusterous, aggressive adviser end his career in semi-disgrace. Quite apart from the double scoop of schadenfreude, many in the foreign policy community are genuinely relieved. “I’m just thankful we got through Bolton’s tenure without him starting a war,” said Max Bergmann of the Center for American Progress and a former State Department official. “He no doubt tried, but was boxed in by the administration’s own incompetence and his inability to convince others to go along.” Others, however, are more worried now. Former ambassador to Turkey, Eric S. Edelman, told me, “For his flaws, I think John was one of the few forces really holding Trump back from doing some crazy things. This is is just one more indication that we are now facing Trump unplugged. He is really thrashing around. It is very worrisome.” Veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller notes, “You can only play Dr. No so many times. Bolton was out of sync with Trump on Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Venezuela." He added, “[Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo played the game of Trump whisperer better than Bolton.” Precisely because Bolton differed with Trump on all these topics, sycophantic Sens. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and other uber-hawks who thought they, too, could bend Trump toward their view should wise up. Trump is not a valiant defender of the West and protector of our allies. He’s a dangerous and corrupt patsy in the hands of strongmen. Likewise, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who served in the Obama administration, said, “No glee [here]. I’ve obviously never been a Bolton fan, . . . . However, he said, Bolton “was fired for something he was right about — his opposition to capitulating to the Taliban — and because Trump doesn’t like being laughed at and needed to lash out at someone. I worry about who and what comes next.” This is also a dicey move for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sacrificed bipartisan friendship with the United States to gain favor in the eyes of Trump. Netanyahu kids himself if he thinks Trump would let Israel stand in the way of the historic deal he is itching to sign. Former Israeli ambassador Daniel Shapiro tells me, “Trump fired Bolton over disagreements they had. Chief among them was Bolton’s support for ever-escalating pressure on Iran versus Trump’s desire for talks on a new nuclear deal.” He adds, "Israel and the Gulf states have to wonder if this move presages not just a meeting between Trump and [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, but a real move by Trump toward a modestly upgraded Iran nuclear deal. It sure looks like it.” In fact any deal is likely to be worse, given that the Iranians know Trump is the worst negotiator on the planet. Other allies should be equally nervous since when unrestrained, even from questionable advice, Trump does things such as invite the Taliban to Camp David, side with Putin over our intelligence community, try to pullout abruptly from Syria, attack allies (even Denmark), involve us in a no-win trade war and make the United States a laughingstock on the international stage. If Bolton wants to save his reputation, he can render one final service: Collect up all the former national security officials and tell the American people just how unfit is this president. It’s time for the sycophancy and careerism to end and the patriotism to start.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Trump's Increasingly Obvious Mental Health Issues

I've always viewed Donald Trump as mentally impaired and someone suffering from dangerous personality disorders.  This reality was on even more open display over the better part of a week with Trump lying about Hurricane Dorian and Trump's false claim that it threatened Alabama.  Indeed, it now appears that NOAA personnel were warned to lie to cover Trump's lie or else face potential consequences.  These are not the actions of a mentally sound individual.  Trump's malignant narcissism is increasingly out of control and his mental issues put both the country and the world in danger. He needs to be removed from office by whatever means necessary.  Disturbingly, a sizable portion of his base are seemingly as mentally tethered as he is.  Then, of course, there are the boot-licking Republicans who put staving off a primary challenge from wing nuts ahead of their oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution and the nation.  A piece in The Atlantic by a long time former Republican looks at the threat that Trump's mental illness poses.  Here are highlights:
During the 2016 campaign, I received a phone call from an influential political journalist and author, who was soliciting my thoughts on Donald Trump. Trump’s rise in the Republican Party was still something of a shock, and he wanted to know the things I felt he should keep in mind as he went about the task of covering Trump.
At the top of my list: Talk to psychologists and psychiatrists about the state of Trump’s mental health, since I considered that to be the most important thing when it came to understanding him. It was Trump’s Rosetta stone.
I wasn’t shy about making the same case publicly. During a July 14, 2016, appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, for example, I responded to a pro-Trump caller who was upset that I opposed Trump despite my having been a Republican for my entire adult life and having served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the George W. Bush White House.
My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”
That statement has been validated.
Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.
It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogyny, predatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this country, mocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. The most recent example is the president’s bizarre fixation on falsely insisting that he was correct to warn that Alabama faced a major risk from Hurricane Dorian, to the point that he doctored a hurricane map with a black Sharpie to include the state as being in the path of the storm.
“He’s deteriorating in plain sight,” one Republican strategist who is in frequent contact with the White House told Business Insider on Friday. Asked why the president was obsessed with Alabama instead of the states that would actually be affected by the storm, the strategist said, “You should ask a psychiatrist about that; I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.”
Yes, it is best to leave it to experts to determine whether Trump satisfies the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, some combination of both, or nothing at all.
But if a clinical diagnosis is beyond my own expertise, Trump’s psychological impairments are obvious to all who are not willfully blind. On a daily basis we see the president’s chaotic, unstable mind on display. Are we supposed to ignore that?
Even now, almost a thousand days into his presidency, the latest Trump outrage elicits shock and disbelief in people. The reaction is, “Can you believe he said that and did this?”
To which my response is, “Why are you surprised?” It’s a shock only if the assumption is that we’re dealing with a psychologically normal human being. We’re not. . . . Many Americans haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that we elected as president a man who is deeply damaged, an emotional misfit. But it would be helpful if they did.
[A]bove all, accepting the truth about Trump’s mental state will cause us to take more seriously than we have our democratic duty, which is to prevent a psychologically and morally unfit person from becoming president.
The office is too powerful, and the consequences are too dangerous, to allow a person to become president who views morality only through the prism of whether an action advances his own narrow interests, his own distorted desires, his own twisted impulses.
Whether or not his disorders are diagnosable, [Trump's] the president’s psychological flaws are all too apparent. They were alarming when he took the oath of office; they are worse now. Every day Donald Trump is president is a day of disgrace. And a day of danger.
Be very afraid.

Monday, September 09, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty

Politico Expose: Liberty University - A Culture of Fear and Self-Dealing

Jerry Falwell Jr. and wife Becki.
Like many I have taken a certain amount of delight in seeing stories leak out raising questions about the seemingly bizarre relationship between Jerry Falwell, Jr. - a strident homophobe and Trump sycophant - and a Miami cabana boy (and possible compromising photos) and a young stud personal trainer, each of whom landed million dollar plus sweetheart deals from Mr. Falwell/Liberty University.  One of the goals of this blog from the outset has been looking at hypocrisy among both the political classes and "conservative Christians" who typically display little Christ-like behavior and all too often have a leadership focused on disseminating hatred while enriching themselves. Now, a major expose by Politico breaths not only new life into questions of possible sexual impropriety on the part of Falwell - and his wife - and even larger questions of financial irregularities involving Liberty University assets.  Then too, there are stories of dictatorial behavior and retaliatory  retribution against university staff for challenging the Falwell's fiats not to mention activities that suggest Liberty should lose its tax-exempt status.  Here are excerpts from the Politico piece (read the entire article):
At Liberty University, all anyone can talk about is Jerry Falwell Jr. Just not in public. . . . . That’s beginning to change.
Over the past year, Falwell, a prominent evangelical leader and supporter of President Donald Trump, has come under increasing scrutiny. News outlets have reported on business deals by Liberty University benefiting Falwell’s friends. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen claimed that he had helped Falwell clean up racy “personal” photographs.
Based on scores of new interviews and documents obtained for this article, concerns about Falwell’s behavior go well beyond that—and it’s causing longtime, loyal Liberty University officials to rapidly lose faith in him. . . . . and why they don’t think he’s the right man to lead Liberty University or serve as a figurehead in the Christian conservative movement.
In interviews over the past eight months, they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends.
“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
Liberty employees detailed other instances of Falwell’s behavior that they see as falling short of the standard of conduct they expect from conservative Christian leaders, from partying at nightclubs, to graphically discussing his sex life with employees, to electioneering that makes uneasy even those who fondly remember the heyday of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., the school’s founder and Falwell Jr.’s father, and his Moral Majority.
[T]hese new revelations speak to rising discontent with Falwell’s stewardship. The people interviewed for this article include members of Liberty’s board of trustees, senior university officials, and rank-and-file staff members who work closely with Falwell. They are reluctant to speak out—there’s no organized, open dissent to Falwell on campus—but they said they see it as necessary to save Liberty University and the values it once stood for.
Members of the Liberty University community are generally reluctant to go on the record. The school uses nondisclosure agreements to prohibit many university employees or board members from openly discussing what they’ve seen Falwell do. (“All trustees sign a confidentiality agreement that does not expire at the close of Board service,” Liberty’s attorney told board members in an email that was sent earlier this month after the school received inquiries from reporters on some of the issues outlined in this article.) Tenure and its protections are not available to Liberty faculty members outside the law school. If you teach or work at Liberty, you must get approval from Falwell’s office before you speak to the media. Talk to reporters without his approval—or publicly criticize him, even obliquely—and you could lose your job.
“It’s a dictatorship,” one current high-level employee of the school said. “Nobody craps at the university without Jerry’s approval.”
[Liberty University’s] growth is driven largely by a vast increase in the number of online students at the school, who now number some 95,000. Many Falwell confidants are concerned with where they see that university tuition money going: into university-funded construction and real estate projects that enrich the Falwell family and their friends.
Experts on tax law and nonprofit organizations said that having the president of a nonprofit university directing university business to a company led by his son would be troubling.
“It raises red flags to have your kids being able to profit off the activities of the organization,” said Philip Hackney, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School who specializes in taxation and nonprofit management. As a general matter of law, “a nonprofit director or officer owes a ‘duty of loyalty’ to the nonprofit. What this means is he cannot take unfair advantage of the nonprofit he controls to his advantage.”
Senior Liberty officials might whisper about the propriety of these business deals, but they told me that Falwell’s decisions on campus are rarely ever challenged by the school’s board of trustees. “There’s no accountability,” a former high-ranking university officer said. “Jerry’s got pretty free reign to wheel and deal professionally and personally. The board will approve an annual budget, but beyond that … he doesn’t go to the board to get approval. … It simply doesn’t happen.”
In July 2014, Falwell, Trey and Moon traveled to Miami together. Falwell said in his statement that he recalls “discussing University business” on the trip. During the trip, photos were taken of Jerry and Trey Falwell partying at a Miami nightclub—photos that multiple Liberty University officials said Jerry Falwell tried to make disappear.
According to several people with direct knowledge of the situation, Falwell—the president of a conservative Christian college that frowns upon co-ed dancing (Liberty students can receive demerits if seen doing it) and prohibits alcohol use (for which students can be expelled)—was angry that photos of him clubbing made it up online. To remedy the situation, multiple Liberty staffers said Falwell went to John Gauger, whom they characterized as his “IT guy,” and asked him to downgrade the photos’ prominence on Google searches.
In May 2019, Reuters reported that Cohen helped Falwell contain the fallout from some racy “personal” photos. Later that month, Falwell took to Todd Starnes’ radio talk show to rebut the claims.
“This report is not accurate,” Falwell said. “There are no compromising or embarrassing photos of me.” Members of Falwell’s inner circle took note of the phrasing.  “If you read how Jerry is framing his response, you can see he is being very selective,” one of Falwell’s confidants said. Racy photos do exist, but at least some of the photos are of his wife, Becki, as the Miami Herald confirmed in June.
Longtime Liberty officials close to Falwell told me the university president has shown or texted his male confidants—including at least one employee who worked for him at Liberty—photos of his wife in provocative and sexual poses.
At Liberty, Falwell is “very, very vocal” about his “sex life,” in the words of one Liberty official—a characterization multiple current and former university officials and employees interviewed for this story support. In a car ride about a decade ago with a senior university official who has since left Liberty, “all he wanted to talk about was how he would nail his wife, how she couldn’t handle [his penis size], and stuff of that sort,” this former official recalled.
More than simply talking with employees about his wife in a sexual manner, on at least one occasion, Falwell shared a photo of his wife wearing what appeared to be a French maid costume, according to a longtime Liberty employee with firsthand knowledge of the image and the fallout that followed. 
Falwell intended to send the image to his and Becki’s personal trainer, Ben Crosswhite, as a “thank you” for helping his wife achieve her fitness goals, the employee said. In the course of texting, Falwell accidentally sent the message to several other people, necessitating a cleanup. . . . Crosswhite did not respond to requests for comment.
“When I hear the laundry list of interested transactions and the questionable use of Liberty University’s assets … I hear a nonprofit that is not well-governed in a sense that I would hope and expect from a sizable nonprofit,” Pitt Law’s Hackney said. “It has the sense of being managed for a charismatic leader and his family and friends rather than for the mission of Liberty.”
Under Falwell Jr., Liberty University is “a totally dysfunctional organization,” one board member wrote in an email reviewed for this article. “Very similar to Trump’s White House.”

Let's hope the scrutiny and media coverage continues and intensifies.  In my opinion, Falwell is a fraud and it's past time that his scamming of the faithful stops.

Monday Morning Male Beauty