Saturday, June 06, 2020

Gay Bar Owner Shot At By Police After Giving First Aid to Peaceful Protesters

Ruby Deluxe owner Tim Lemuel.
The ongoing protests over police brutality have underscored something that I have believed for a long time: America's police departments have a serious problem of officers who should never been hired because of their bigotry and/or a mindset where they feel free to abuse the citizens who they are supposed to protect.  Sadly, most internal affairs offices are far more focused on protecting officers than weeding out the bad apples - something I learned first hand after I filed a complaint against Norfolk police officers years ago (before phones had video options) for anti-gay harassment and mistreatment I experienced. Obviously, better screening of applicants is needed as is a thorough review of existing officer ranks to rid them of bullies and bigots.  Perhaps too, strict liability for chiefs of police for the misdeeds of their officers might make the department leadership finally stop protecting those who should not wear a badge and carry a gun. A piece in The Advocate looks at a case of police brutality in North Carolina where police shot at a bar owner while on his own business premises.  Here are story highlights:
Over the weekend, police targeted a queer bar in North Carolina amid ongoing protests across the nation following the death of George Floyd.
According to The News and Observer, Tim Lemuel, owner of the bar Ruby Deluxe in Raleigh, North Carolina, discovered on Sunday evening the bar had been vandalized with a white supremacist symbol and that the doors and windows were broken.
The next day, he and his staff showed up to protect the building from more damage as protests continued in downtown Raleigh.
Lemuel and his staff had set up a first aid station in the parking lot to treat peaceful protestors who had gotten injured. They also handed out water bottles and light snacks to the near 1,000 people who took to the streets. 
According to Lemuel, they had been doing this work for almost seven hours without interruption from authorities when law enforcement approached them with weapons. 
In video that has since gone viral, an officer can be heard screaming at Lemuel, “Move! Move!” to which Lemuel yells back, “This is my business. I rent this place. I rent here!”
The group of officers didn’t stop. As they kept approaching, wielding their guns, one screams out, “You’ve been told!” followed by, “I don’t care where you go, you gotta go!”
Two shots were then fired, after which the officer yells, “Move! The game is over. Get out!”
[W]e weren’t chanting. We weren’t yelling. We weren’t gesturing to them. There was nothing that we were doing to instigate a response like that."
According to Lemuel and Varani, the deputies had been watching them for hours but chose not to approach them or express any concerns until the moment they pulled out their weapons.
Lemuel later took to Facebook in response to a heated discussion on Reddit about the situation.  “I own a business," he wrote. "I was there during normal operating hours. I was on my lot and kept my friends contained within the lot. We had been there for 7 hours. The deputy sheriffs could have, at any point, come over to see what we were doing or voiced their concern. This basically sums up the reason folks are mad. No thought what-so-ever [was] put into the decision to come at us guns blazing.
“I also think they had no business using riot control cs, tear gas, firing foam batons, or whatever blanks they fired," he continued. "I was out the day before and witnessed so many officers shooting grenades at civilian's chests and heads.
When the video hit the Internet, city council members were quick to disavow the act — including council member Saige Martin, one of two out LGBTQ+ people elected to the council last year.
“It is a safe space for so many people,” Martin the Observer of Ruby. “It is a home to queer folks. For the response to be the game is over? When I heard that, it made the hair on my body stand up.”
Martin added that the experience reminded him of “Black and brown trans and queer bodies that started the queer liberation movement in New York in Stonewall,” adding, “We are still dealing with those same issues for those same people today. And hearing those words echo so aggressively as if there was a game to be had? I think (it) speaks perfectly well to the kind of culture and thinking that exists and pervades law enforcement today.”
Raleigh city council member Nicole Stewart was also distraught at the situation, telling the Observer, "Had it been anybody, it would have been bad enough. The idea that it was an individual, a business owner, trying to help other individuals in our community made it that much more startling. And I couldn’t let it sit.” Stewart has called on police chief Cassandra Deck-Brown to investigate the incident.
The country has a very real problem with a toxic segment of its police personnel.  The bigots and those too ready to use violence need to be removed and never allowed to wear a badge again. 

More Saturday Male Beauty

89 Former Defense Officials Condemn Trump

It has become increasingly clear that Donald Trump views himself as a monarch or similar type of autocrat who is above the law and who views personal loyalty to him as far more important than the U.S. Constitution or defending the constitutional rights of American citizens.  It is only about him and he has threatened to use members of the U.S. military against citizens - much like was done in former Soviet block nations in the past (Trump might be wise to remember what happened to Romanian strongman Nicolae Ceausescu to whom the UK's Boris Johnson has compared Trump).  In response, 89 former Defense Department officials - including a number of former Secretaries of Defense - in an op-ed in the Washington Post have condemned Trump's actions and called for the U.S. military to never be used against American citizens exercising their constitutional rights.  Here are column highlights:
President Trump continues to use inflammatory language as many Americans protest the unlawful death of George Floyd and the unjust treatment of black Americans by our justice system. As the protests have grown, so has the intensity of [Trump’s] the president’s rhetoric. He has gone so far as to make a shocking promise: to send active-duty members of the U.S. military to “dominate” protesters in cities throughout the country — with or without the consent of local mayors or state governors.
On Monday, [Trump] the president previewed his approach on the streets of Washington. . . . . As part of the show of force that Trump demanded, military helicopters made low-level passes over peaceful protesters — a military tactic sometimes used to disperse enemy combatants — scattering debris and broken glass among the crowd. He also had a force, including members of the National Guard and federal officers, that used flash-bang grenades, pepper spray and, according to eyewitness accounts, rubber bullets to drive lawful protesters, as well as members of the media and clergy, away from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. All so he could hold a politically motivated photo op there with members of his team, including, inappropriately, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Looting and violence are unacceptable acts, and perpetrators should be arrested and duly tried under the law. But as Monday’s actions near the White House demonstrated, those committing such acts are largely on the margins of the vast majority of predominantly peaceful protests.
As former leaders in the Defense Department — civilian and military, Republican, Democrat and independent — we all took an oath upon assuming office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as did the president and all members of the military, a fact that Gen. Milley pointed out in a recent memorandum to members of the armed forces. We are alarmed at how the president is betraying this oath by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.
Beyond being unnecessary, using our military to quell protests across the country would also be unwise. This is not the mission our armed forces signed up for: They signed up to fight our nation’s enemies and to secure — not infringe upon — the rights and freedoms of their fellow Americans. In addition, putting our servicemen and women in the middle of politically charged domestic unrest risks undermining the apolitical nature of the military that is so essential to our democracy. It also risks diminishing Americans’ trust in our military — and thus America’s security — for years to come.
[W]e call on [Trump] the president to immediately end his plans to send active-duty military personnel into cities as agents of law enforcement, or to employ them or any another military or police forces in ways that undermine the constitutional rights of Americans.
The members of our military are always ready to serve in our nation’s defense. But they must never be used to violate the rights of those they are sworn to protect.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Gay Porn Star Threatens to Out Lindsey Graham

I have caught flack over the years for referring to GOP Senator Lindsey Graham as the "Palmetto Queen."  Generally, I believe that when one comes out is a personal decision with one exception: if you hold elected office and are in the closet and supporting anti-gay policies and/or anti-gay politicians, then you are open game for "outing."  It's a simple matter of exposing hypocrites.  Rumors have swirled around Lindsey Graham for years, but his self-prostitution to Donald Trump, a man who is waging war on LGBT Americans, has made outing him a high priority if he's a closeted gay and aiding those harming the LGBT community.   If Graham is a closeted hypocrite, then he deserves to be outed.  FitNews based in South Carolina) has details on the latest rumors about about Graham.  Here are excerpts:

Around the time most South Carolinians were sitting down to their evening meals on Thursday night, a gay porn star by the name of Sean Harding fired off a tweet that set tongues-a-wagging across the Palmetto State (and in the nation’s capital).
“There is a homophobic republican senator who is no better than (Donald Trump) who keeps passing legislation that is damaging to the LGBT and minority communities,” Harding tweeted. “Every sex worker I know has been hired by this man. Wondering if enough of us spoke out if that could get him out of office?” Wait … what?
“I cannot do this alone,” Harding added in a follow-up tweet. “If you’d be willing to stand with me against LG please let me know.”
Considering there is only one member of the U.S. Senate with those initials, speculation quickly turned (again) to U.S. senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has been dodging rumors like this for the better part of the last decade. This time, though, the allegation quickly took on a life of its own. By Friday afternoon, the hashtag “Lady G” – which is purportedly Graham’s nickname among male sex workers – was trending on Twitter.
Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any crazier, right?
For years (most recently in October 2018), Graham has denied being a homosexual.
“I know it’s really gonna upset a lot of gay men – I’m sure hundreds of ’em are gonna be jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge – but I ain’t available,” he famously told The New York Times Magazine in 2010. “I ain’t gay. Sorry.”
Still, the rumors have persisted … with many of Graham’s conservative opponents espousing the theory that he was being manipulated (or blackmailed) politically due to secrets surrounding his sexuality.
To be clear: This news outlet does not care about Graham’s sexual orientation. In fact, the sooner we can stop contemplating whatever might turn on the 64-year-old Central, S.C. native, the better.
We are much more concerned with Graham’s chameleon-esque inability to settle on a political orientation. An erstwhile #NeverTrumper, he flip-flopped and began supporting Trump in late 2017 when it became clear he was about to lose his seat.
Were we surprised? No … everything with this guy is calculation.
Thankfully, there are those in Trump’s orbit who are able to see this career chameleon for what he is … an ally in name only.
We think his votes are bad … and we would like to see him out of office. But we are not going to vilify him over something in his personal life without a damn good reason. Like abuse of power. Something involving tax money. Overt hypocrisy. Or maybe … a clown mask?
Graham is facing a tougher-than-expected fight this fall from Democrat Jaime Harrison, who has attracted significant national support (and raised some serious cash) in his bid to oust the third-term lawmaker. Harrison, incidentally, has been the focus of similar rumors over the years … which we care as much about as the rumors surrounding Graham.
Still, something about this particular installment of the “Lindsey Graham is about to be outed” rumor that seems … different. Lots of national reporters are clearly chasing it (including several who have called our news desk), and the chatter about numerous male escorts contemplating the consequences of violating alleged nondisclosure agreements seems curiously (disturbingly) specific.
Stay tuned … we will have to wait and see what the future holds for the senior senator from South Carolina as he battles the latest (and greatest) round of rumors.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Why Trump Is So Obsessed With Antifa

As a classic demagogue, Donald Trump always seeks to divide and conquer Americans.  Moreover, he correctly understands that his gullible and bigoted base of support needs a bogeyman to fear so that they willingly give into his autocratic and fascists agenda.  He needs an "us versus them" meme be it whites versus Hispanics or whites versus blacks.  He always divides and never unites. If there is no actual threat, then he will manufacture one to (i) keep dividing the population and, (ii) more importantly, distract from his own incompetence and malfeasance.  He is fanning racial unrest for the purpose of distracting from his failed handling of the covid-19 pandemic and the cratering economy.  His base, like mindless sheep, are eating it up, although his threats of military force against civilians seems to be finally waking some of the edges of his base to the fact that he is a threat to constitutional government. As part of his effort to divide and deflect, Trump has latched onto Antifa - a shorthand for antifascist - for a much needed bogeyman to frighten his mindless base - which seemingly knows little accuracte history - even though the FBI has found no basis for the claim.  But then when has the truth ever mattered to Trump.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump's newest obsession.  Here are highlights (the piece notes that past dictators have used tactics like Trump's):
This nation has been roiled with anguish and anger this past week over the police and extrajudicial killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and yet the White House is engaging in the same old rhetorical tactics of divisive scapegoating.
Only now that rhetoric comes in the service of ominous ends: President Donald Trump relies on the shadowy specter of “antifa”—a label for a diffuse militant movement unified by a drive to counter fascism through direct action—to evoke fear in the American people. Since his inaugural speech and its dark focus on “American carnage,” Trump has used the Nixonian vocabulary of “law and order” to paint himself as a bulwark against a descent into anarchy. Now he is manufacturing bogeymen.
As usual, the tweets came first. . . . he declared on Twitter, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization”—despite the fact that, as many observers have pointed out, [Trump] the president has no legal authority to designate domestic terrorist groups. And antifa, short for “antifascist,” isn’t even a distinct organization with central leadership, but rather a loose confederation of like-minded activists, often acting anonymously.
When Trump invokes antifa, he infuses the word with a vaguely foreign-sounding otherness, heightened by the fact that he never expands it to its full form, antifascist—a strategic omission. That would complicate the simplistic dichotomy that Trump and his allies have been constructing, between right-leaning patriots and the far-left extremists who must be to blame for any violent eruption. By latching on to a nebulous and under-defined term such as antifa, Trump can ascribe all manner of ills to a scapegoat that shifts to satisfy his needs at the moment.
Trump doubled down in his remarks in the Rose Garden on Monday by enumerating a panoply of malefactors: “Our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others.”
Though some activists who identify with the antifa movement may very well have taken part in recent demonstrations, The Nation reports that the FBI’s Washington field office “has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence” in the D.C.-area protests on May 31, according to internal documents. While inveighing against “Antifa,” Trump elided the violence that set off the protests in the first place: the police brutality that took the life of Floyd, just as it has imperiled the lives of other black Americans.
This kind of attempt to shift the political discourse away from issues of systemic racism has long been a hallmark of Trumpian rhetoric. The president’s response to the Unite the Right rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which descended into violence nearly three years ago, notoriously included the false equivalence that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Antifa first entered his personal lexicon at a campaign rally in Phoenix on August 22, 2017, a week and a half after Charlottesville, . . . . Since then Trump has returned to the term often in speeches, reciting “an-tee-fah,” as he pronounces it, with an air of alien menace.
Both “antifa” and “antifascist” are, in fact, designations with extremely complex and commonly misunderstood histories, as explored in Mark Bray’s 2017 book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. Bray gives the pronunciation as an-tee-fa, reflecting the word’s origins in a number of European languages, including German, where it abbreviated the noun Antifaschismus or the adjective antifaschistisch. As Bray explains, antifa was first used in Germany in the 1930s for a militant movement opposing the Nazi regime, and “Antifa committees” emerged toward the end of World War II with a revolutionary socialist bent. The modern antifa movement grew out of the punk scene in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when young leftists clashed with neo-Nazi skinheads.
The current scapegoating of antifa has historical echoes in other countries as well. I checked in with Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a history professor at NYU and the author of the forthcoming book Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present, who recently tweeted a quote from Mussolini referring to antifascists and other “degenerates” in 1927: “We remove these individuals from circulation just like a doctor does with an infected person.” “During Italian fascism,” Ben-Ghiat told me via email, “when they needed to wipe out the political opposition, antifascists were first treated as terrorists and a special tribunal was created, as well as a special political police, to deal with them.
Other right-wing regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet’s in Chile, declared “wartime” as “a continuing state of exception,” in which “the left were treated as terrorists and counter-insurgency methods were used against them,” Ben-Ghiat said. This was accompanied by a “moral discourse of healing the nation,” in which “the terrorist” is treated as a moral and political sickness. Ben-Ghiat sees similar rhetoric extending from Mussolini to Franco to Pinochet up to present-day regimes such as that of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Trump’s Rose Garden speech bore all of these authoritarian hallmarks. It used protests over grave injustices merely as a pretext for an aggressive militaristic stance against the country’s own citizens—any of whom might now be branded as “domestic terrorists” by the state. Being alert to how language can be weaponized in this way is a necessary step in deconstructing Trump’s would-be strongman act.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

More Thursday Male Beauty

The incredible Gullibility of Trump Supporters/the Right

Idaho white vigilantes.
As I have noted many times, I continue to amazed - shocked might be a better term - at the willingness of Trump supporters, evangelical christians (lower case "c"), and the far right in general to believe every Trump lie and far fetched lie put out by extremist groups or just as likely Russian bots. Fact checking is seemingly an unknown concept to many of these people and they share falsehoods on social media and have near apoplexy over "news stories" that are not even true - often not even legitimate.  I truly do not comprehend a mindset so eager to believe the worse about others or believe any and ever inflammatory lie. Are they simply ignorant and too lazy to fact check, bigots or some mix of the two?  This gullibility and mindlessness was recently illustrated by events in a town in Idaho that were based on a social media myth that bore no relation to reality.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the manner in which armed white vigilantes/residents were played for fools while endangering the rest of the public.  Here are article excerpts:
Protesters had only begun assembling peacefully in Idaho when a Facebook page for retired police officers advised its followers to stay on high alert. “We will protect our neighborhoods,” it vowed.
So when early reports about potential violence surfaced a day later — claiming “ANTIFA agitators” were storming the state this week — scores of residents took to the streets. Armed with military-style assault rifles, they stood guard in places such as Coeur d’Alene, a resort town of 50,000 on a lake in northwest Idaho.
“Enough of us swung into action, and put the word out on social media and elsewhere, that we were able to deploy and meet any violent elements that might come here from out of state,” said Trevor Treller, a sommelier and one of the armed locals. Treller, 48, said he mobilized after hearing from trusted voices that “antifa types” were on the move.It would not prove to be true.
As vigils and protest actions unfolded in Idaho this week, local officials across the state confirmed that not a single participant was known to have defiled a home or storefront in the name of “antifa,” a loose label attributed to far-left activists. Many of the rumors about violent protests originated from dubious Facebook posts, often shared widely and rarely debunked, residents there said.
The raft of myths and misstatements that triggered visceral reactions throughout Idaho illustrates how long-standing grievances have fused with the vast reach of social media during protests that have swept through the country — in big cities and rural towns — after the killing of a black man in the custody of Minneapolis police last week.
As President Trump militarizes the government’s response to the roiling demonstrations, armed civilians across the country are taking matters into their own hands. They have engaged in preemptive acts of escalation, often in response to imaginary threats, raising tensions at demonstrations touched off by the death of 46-year-old George Floyd and intensified by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic collapse, which have disproportionately affected black Americans.
Such actions are particularly visible in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, long a hotbed of the anti-government militia movement and a magnet for disaffected whites fleeing more-diverse and increasingly liberal enclaves, experts said. The mobilization of counterprotesters, these observers said, offers stark evidence that rising calls for racial justice are echoing across the country at the very moment that white resentment is also flaring.
“It’s combustible,” said Todd Shallat, a historian at Boise State University. “The local acts of vigilantism show how a rising population of discontented whites is reacting to the increasingly visible claims of minority groups.”
There’s so much implicit bias about black people’s criminality that some people assume there’s going to be violence or infiltration when we gather,” said Whitney Mestelle, a local activist in Boise who helped organize a peaceful vigil Tuesday. “They may even have good intentions, but it doesn’t make me feel more comfortable to see people open-carry.”
[D]iscussion about antifa has reverberated especially widely across Facebook, including on a page that bills itself as “North Idaho News.” The page acknowledges in fine print that it is “not affiliated with any real news company.” On Monday, though, it claimed to have “credible information that violent rioters, not just peaceful protesters, have plans to come to Coeur d’Alene.” Reached Wednesday via Facebook message, the unidentified operator of North Idaho News declined to comment.
The post quickly gained widespread attention, troubling the likes of Chris Dawson, a retired police officer from Santa Clarita, Calif., and the president of the ex-law-enforcement group on Facebook that put its members on high alert. His Facebook page shared the notice, and Dawson said he had been “given information that antifa would be coming in from Portland or Seattle.” Amplifying their fears was the destruction that marked some demonstrations in neighboring states.
Soon, armed members of local militia groups began patrolling the streets of cities including Coeur d’Alene, said David Hagar, a captain in the city’s police department who described the gatherings as peaceful. Asked whether antifa-affiliated individuals had targeted the city, Hagar said, “Not that we’ve identified.”
“I think a lot of it was fueled by social media,” Hagar said.
Similar rumors gripped Payette County, a rural expanse on Idaho’s western edge. One post shared widely on Facebook said antifa had dispatched a “plane load of people” arriving from Seattle, targeting Idaho’s rural regions. “The sheriff in Payette has already spotted some of them,” the notice continued.
Phone calls soon flooded the sheriff’s office, leaving local law enforcement perplexed.
The false notion continues to have traction with local paramilitary groups, including the far-right Three Percenters, who draw their name from the disputed claim that just 3 percent of American colonists were fighting at any one time during the revolt against the British crown. An Idaho branch said in a Facebook post Sunday that it had “credible intel” about plans for an antifa-induced riot in Boise. No such riot took place.
What is truly frightening is that people this ignorant and bigoted are walking around with military assault style weapons.  They would appear to be a bigger threat to public safety than mythical leftists.

Thursday Male Beauty

The Supreme Court Is on the Brink

While the Supreme Court made the right call late last Friday in rejecting a church challenge to California's shutdown order involving church services, what is disturbing is that four of the justices (two are Trump appointees) put right wing ideology and a preference to grant special rights to far right christian groups - I use a small "c" because many are Christian in name only - ahead of public safety and religious freedom for all citizens. But for Chief Justice Roberts' shift to vote with the so-called "liberals," gubernatorial orders across the nation would have been struck down.  These four justices exemplify the extremists and ideologues that Trump and his Senate Republican enablers are appointing to life time positions on the federal bench.  The harm being done will last literally for decades.  Should Trump get to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court, the damage could be irreparable during the lifetimes of anyone over 40 years of age.  It is yet another reason Trump must be defeated in November.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the politicizing of the Court by Trump and the far right.  Here are excerpts:
The Supreme Court made the indisputably right call last week when it refused to block California from limiting attendance at religious services in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19.
Given the obvious difference between walking through a store and sitting among fellow worshipers for an hour or more, as well as the documented spread of the virus through church attendance in such places as Sacramento (71 cases), Seattle (32 cases) and South Korea (over 5,000 cases traced to one person at a religious service), California’s limits are both sensitive and sensible, hardly the basis for constitutional outrage or judicial second-guessing.
So why did the court’s order, issued as midnight approached on Friday night, fill me with dread rather than relief?
It was because in a ruling that should have been unanimous, the vote was 5 to 4. And it was because of who the four dissenters were: the four most conservative justices, two of them appointed by the president who a couple of months ago was demanding that churches be allowed to open by Easter and who, even before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, was openly encouraging protests in the capitals of states not reopening as quickly as he would like.
As an astonished country witnessed on Monday night, as he [Trump] held a Bible in front of a church near the White House after demonstrators were violently cleared from his path, Donald Trump is using religion as a cultural wedge to deflect attention from the consequences of his own ineptitude. The recognition that four Supreme Court justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — would have invoked the court’s power to undermine fact-based public policy in the name of a misbegotten claim of religious discrimination was beyond depressing. It was terrifying.
Take a look at Justice Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion. “California’s latest safety guidelines discriminate against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses,” he wrote. “Such discrimination violates the First Amendment.”
It’s interesting that while Justices Gorsuch and Thomas signed Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion, Justice Alito did not. Perhaps he’s just too good a lawyer to subscribe to the flimsy analysis underlying this opinion. . . . . but he evidently couldn’t be bothered to explain his own dissenting vote. And no less than his fellow dissenters, he obviously inhaled the unfounded claim of religious discrimination that the president has injected into an atmosphere already saturated with polarizing rhetoric.
The concept of discrimination, properly understood, simply doesn’t fit this case. California is not subjecting things that are alike to treatment that’s different. Churches are not like the retail stores or “cannabis dispensaries” in Justice Kavanaugh’s list of “comparable secular businesses.” Sitting in communal worship for an hour or more is not like picking up a prescription, or a pizza, or an ounce of marijuana. You don’t need a degree in either law or public health to figure that out. If anything, California is giving churches preferential treatment, since other places where people gather in large numbers like lecture halls and theaters are still off limits.
So what was the dissenters’ problem?
Last weekend was also Shavuot, a major Jewish holiday. But it’s the Christian calendar about which recently appointed federal judges seem exclusively concerned. In April, Judge Justin Walker of the Federal District Court in Louisville, Ky., blocked that city from enforcing a ban on drive-in church services. “On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” his overheated opinion began.
The only other opinion filed in this case was that of Chief Justice John Roberts, explaining why the court was denying the church’s request. I am willing to bet that he never intended to write anything; orders denying applications of this sort are typically issued without explanation.
But he must have concluded that the Kavanaugh dissent couldn’t go unrebuted. Writing just for himself in five paragraphs devoid of rhetoric and labeled “concurring in denial of application for injunctive relief,” he offered a sober explanation of the obvious. He noted that “similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.” The California rule, he observed, “exempts or treats more leniently only dissimilar activities, such as operating grocery stores, banks, and laundromats, in which people neither congregate in large groups nor remain in close proximity for extended periods.”
After noting the severity of the pandemic and the “dynamic and fact-intensive” question of how to respond to it, Chief Justice Roberts said that the politically accountable state officials charged with answering that question were entitled to act within “broad limits” and “should not be subject to second-guessing by an unelected federal judiciary, which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people.”
Predictably, the chief justice was excoriated on the political right, in recognition that his vote was the one that mattered, just as in the Obamacare case eight years ago, for which the right has never forgiven him.
Everyone who cares about the Supreme Court is busy looking for signs of how John Roberts will navigate the political thicket in which the court finds itself, how he will reconcile his conservative heart and his institution- and history-minded head.
Justice Kavanaugh might have chosen to observe the norm, casting his vote without issuing an opinion that served only to raise the political temperature. Instead of that unspoken gesture toward collegiality, he gave us more proof that the polarization roiling the country has the Supreme Court in its grip. The court can’t save us; that much is clear. It can’t even save itself.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The Entire Republican Party is Complicit in the Assault on Lafayette Square

The prior post looked at the condemnation of Trump by Mike Mullen and James Mattis.  But as a column in the Washington Post by a former Republican, the condemnation  needs to be much broader in scope.  Indeed, the condemnation needs to extend to the entire Republican party - particularly congressional Republicans who threw away their chance to rid the nation of Trump - and, I would argue, also to those who out of deliberate ignorance and/or intentional refusal to listen legitimate (as opposed to Fox News, a/k/a Faux News) cling instead to right wing propaganda news outlets that continue to repeat the Trump/Pence lies.  At some point history will hopefully harshly indict these Trump enablers and sycophants. In the meanwhile, voters need to go to the polls and vote the scum out.  Here are column highlights:

I’m old enough to remember when complacent Republicans told themselves that, if elected, Donald Trump would spend most of his time on the golf course while Republican elders would run the government. Now, most of the supposed adults — from then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — are long gone, and Trump is surrounded by the sycophants and enablers he always craved.
The latest result of this was the assault at Lafayette Square on Monday night. Security forces bludgeoned and tear-gassed peaceful protesters so that Trump could hold up a Bible as a talisman to rally his base. The meticulous New York Times reconstruction of this fiasco suggests that it was planned during an Oval Office meeting that included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and presidential adviser Hope Hicks. . . . None of these people would be employed in any other administration, yet they are setting the highest-level policy in this one.
The bad lieutenant who gave the orders to take Lafayette Square was Attorney General William P. Barr. Barr has long acted as Trump’s enforcer rather than as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. He has been pursuing investigations of the investigators who probed Trump’s links to Russia, while all but abandoning investigations of unconstitutional policing tactics that have resulted in the abuse of so many minorities.
Barr was quick to conflate peaceful demonstrators with dangerous looters. Without citing any evidence, the attorney general claimed that “the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and far left extremist groups using Antifa-like tactics.” This has now become Trump’s mantra . . . .
National security adviser Robert C. O’Brien — a.k.a. the Invisible Man — has been a lesser enabler, his role seemingly limited to opining, in defiance of all the evidence, that there is no “systemic racism” in law enforcement.
Much more important have been Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. . . . . Now, having reaped the whirlwind, Esper and Milley are trying desperately to distance themselves from [Trump] the president. . . . . This is a long overdue sign of independence from a defense secretary who — from shifting Pentagon funds to build a border wall to refusing to reinstate Navy Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt — has, until now, been a Trump enabler. Naturally, Esper’s hint that he has a backbone at all has placed his job in danger.
That is not a risk the Republican invertebrates in Congress are willing to run. When MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asked GOP senators whether they had any comment on the disturbing events in Lafayette Square, almost all of them dodged the question. Two of the senators — Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Rob Portman of Ohio — used as their excuse that they were “late for lunch.” Out to lunch is more like it.
Only a few Republicans expressed even the mildest disagreement. . . . . It is also painful to watch so many Republicans who had the opportunity to impeach and remove Trump refuse to grapple with their own complicity — or to do anything, even now, to rectify their cravenness. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) effortlessly segued from expressing disappointment with events in Lafayette Square (it was “a bad night”) to launching Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into the deranged “Obamagate” conspiracy theory that Trump has been promulgating in his effort to win reelection.
It is impressive to see the speed with which Republicans metamorphose from critics of presidential tyranny into advocates of it. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Army veteran, advocated the deployment of “the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry — whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.” This is how a leading light of the GOP wants to deal with anti-racism protests — by employing maximum force and taking no prisoners (which is what “no quarter” means). Trump said Cotton was “100% correct.”
By contrast, when gun-waving white extremists terrorized the Michigan Legislature last month to protest public health decrees, Trump advocated a policy of appeasement. . . . . Now, Trump is stoking the fires of racial discord as out-to-lunch Republicans pretend not to notice.
Anne Applebaum is right in her brilliant, clear-eyed Atlantic essay: “History will judge the complicit.” But we don’t have to wait for the judgment of history. Voters can and should deliver their own judgment on Nov. 3: Vote out Trump’s collaborators. Every single one.

Mullen and Mattis Slam Trump - Call Him a Threat to the Constitution

Photo: Christie Hemm Klok.
First, former Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and now General James Mattis, former Defense Secretary, each in columns reported in The Atlantic (scroll down at the link above for Mattis' full statement) have condemned Donald Trump's actions against peaceful protesters and, in the case of Mattis out and out called him a threat to the Constitution. Both fear Trump's efforts to politicize the military and to turn them into his own version of Hitler's brown shirts.  Moreover, both are appalled by Trump's contempt for peaceful protest and the constitutional right to assembly.  While they never flat out state it, both suggest Trump wants to be a dictator.  First, these excerpted statements of  General Mattis:
I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.
We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society.
James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.
We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.
Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
Strong language.  Mike Mullen is not any kinder to Trump and his enablers and sycophants.  Here are excerpts:
It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel—including members of the National Guard—forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate [Trump’s] the president's visit outside St. John's Church. I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump's leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent.
Whatever Trump's goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.
There was little good in the stunt.
While no one should ever condone the violence, vandalism, and looting that has exploded across our city streets, neither should anyone lose sight of the larger and deeper concerns about institutional racism that have ignited this rage.
As a white man, I cannot claim perfect understanding of the fear and anger that African Americans feel today. But as someone who has been around for a while, I know enough—and I’ve seen enough—to understand that those feelings are real and that they are all too painfully founded.
We must, as citizens, address head-on the issue of police brutality and sustained injustices against the African American community. We must, as citizens, support and defend the right—indeed, the solemn obligation—to peacefully assemble and to be heard. These are not mutually exclusive pursuits.
And neither of these pursuits will be made easier or safer by an overly aggressive use of our military, active duty or National Guard.
I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will serve with skill and with compassion. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops.
I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes.
Even in the midst of the carnage we are witnessing, we must endeavor to see American cities and towns as our homes and our neighborhoods. They are not “battle spaces” to be dominated, and must never become so.
We must ensure that African Americans—indeed, all Americans—are given the same rights under the Constitution, the same justice under the law, and the same consideration we give to members of our own family. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy, and must never become so.
Too many foreign and domestic policy choices have become militarized; too many military missions have become politicized.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Trump’s Threats to Deploy Troops Move America Closer to Anarchy

As a history major and having studied the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party in the 1930's a nagging question has always been how and why did decent, moral Germans allow it to happen.  Now, in America, we are seeing a similar trend lead by a foul, narcissistic man who is aided and abetted by Republican elected officials who care only about power and by roughly 40% of the population.  Some of his supporters I understand: they are racists and misogynists.  But others who seem like decent people simple refuse to admit that they are being played for fools and refuse to see that Trump is the antithesis of what they claim to believe in.  They are exactly like the 1930's Germans who allowed Hitler to rise and ultimately destroy Germany.  With his attacks on the free press and now threats to use military troops against American civilians Trump is driving America towards anarchy which he will no doubt use as an excuse to declare martial law and the suspension of civil liberties.  It CAN happen in America and people are allowing it to happen.  An editorial in the Washington Post looks at the danger.  Here are excerpts:
ATTORNEY GENERAL William P. Barr on Monday ordered federal police and National Guard forces to disperse protesters who were peacefully gathered in front of the White House. As flash munitions exploded and tear gas swirled, President Trump delivered a Rose Garden rant denouncing “acts of domestic terror” he said had taken place in Washington and other U.S. cities, and threatened to “deploy the United States military” to those that fail to “dominate the streets.”
[Trump] The president then walked across Lafayette Square to pose with a Bible in front of a church. The clearing of the square — carried out without the involvement of D.C. police, who were not told about it until moments before it occurred — enabled this cheap political theater, and we suspect the same term can be applied to Mr. Trump’s vow to deploy active-duty Army units. But military and congressional leaders ought to be telling him that any such action would be unacceptable.
As it is, Mr. Trump appears to be mobilizing federal forces to Washington, where he has the authority to take over the National Guard and deploy other troops without consulting local authorities.
One military official told the Times Mr. Trump was creating his own “palace guard.” Mr. Trump said he was “dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to the District “to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and wanton destruction of property.”
There has been vandalism and some looting in the District — often carried out, as The Post reported, by mostly white extremists and criminals who have nothing to do with the thousands who have peacefully and justifiably demonstrated for racial justice. But calling the smashing of shop windows “domestic terror” is cynical hyperbole designed to cast Mr. Trump as a “president of law and order,” as he put it. D.C. police are capable of containing the disturbances without interference by “heavily armed soldiers.”
The deployment of regular military forces to Washington or any other city would be still more counterproductive. . . . To do so now, especially over the objections of local elected officials, would be, as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) put it, “unsustainable militarily” and “unsustainable socially because it’s the antithesis of how we live.”
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, surely know this. Yet they allowed themselves to be used as props in Mr. Trump’s march across Lafayette Square and participated in a phone call Monday in which the president demanded that governors use the National Guard to suppress protests.
Mr. Esper even spoke of U.S. cities as “the battlespace.” In enabling his incitement, Mr. Trump’s aides are helping him to push the country closer not to order but to anarchy.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

The False Christians Who Loved Trump’s Photo Op Stunt

A photo shopped image that confirms Trump is
mutually exclusive of true Christian values.
As a piece in Mother Jones notes, few Congressional Republicans could bring themselves to condemn Donald Trump's tear gassing of peaceful protesters and the roughing up of an Episcopal priest (who was also tear gassed) as Trump used St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op yielding a photo of Trump holding a bible in front of the historic church.  As the piece notes, only Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called the stunt for what it was: “I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop”  Even more sickening than Republican political whores has been the reaction of so-called Christians - some of whom seem to have had lobotomies given their inability to see Trump for what he is - who have applauded Trump's crass and brutal stunt.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump's disturbing reality TV like stunt and the modern day Pharisees who continue to rally to his banner.  Trump's supporters care nothing about true Christianity.  Rather their focus is on power, white privilege and special rights for far right Christians, a segment of society that hates almost everyone else.  Here are article highlights:
He wielded the Bible like a foreign object, awkwardly adjusting his grip as though trying to get comfortable. He examined its cover. He held it up over his right shoulder like a crossing guard presenting a stop sign. He did not open it.
Even by the standards of Donald Trump’s religious photo ops, the dissonance was striking. Moments earlier, he had stood in the Rose Garden and threatened to unleash the military on unruly protesters. He used terms such as anarchy and domestic terror, and vowed to “dominate the streets.” To clear the way for his planned post-speech trip to St. John’s Church, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.
A few hours after the dystopian spectacle, I spoke on the phone with Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor and indefatigable Trump ally. He sounded almost gleeful.
“I thought it was completely appropriate for the president to stand in front of that church,” Jeffress told me. “And by holding up the Bible, he was showing us that it teaches that, yes, God hates racism, it’s despicable—but God also hates lawlessness.”  “So,” he added, “I’m happy.”
In many ways, the president’s stunt last night—with its mix of shallow credal signaling and brutish force—was emblematic of his appeal to the religious right. . . . . .most white conservative Christians don’t want piety from this president; they want power. In Trump, they see a champion who will restore them to their [in their minds] rightful place at the center of American life, while using his terrible swift sword to punish their enemies.
This dynamic was on vivid display throughout the night. Even as cities across the country once again spiraled into chaos, prominent conservative evangelicals cheered Trump’s performance on Twitter.
“I don’t know about you but I’ll take a president with a Bible in his hand in front of a church over far left violent radicals setting a church on fire any day of the week,” wrote David Brody, a news anchor at the Christian Broadcasting Network. . . . .
Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, heaped praise on Trump for his visit: “His presence sent the twin message that our streets and cities do not belong to rioters and domestic terrorists, and that the ultimate answer to what ails our country can be found in the repentance, redemption, and forgiveness of the Christian faith.”
Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University, has argued that Trump’s religious base can best be understood through the lens of Christian nationalism. In his research, Whitehead has found that white Protestants who believe most strongly that Christianity should hold a privileged place in America’s public square are more likely than others to agree with statements such as “We must crack down on troublemakers to save our moral standards and keep law and order” and “Police officers shoot blacks more often because they are more violent than whites.”
Whitehead told me in an interview that Christian nationalism is often not really about theology (and thus can’t be ascribed to all conservative churchgoers): “It’s about identity, enforcing hierarchy, and order.”
That Trump’s religious posturing has little to do with religion has long been a matter of conventional wisdom (see: Corinthians, Two); fewer have grasped the extent to which that’s true of Trump’s “religious” base as well.
After the president’s unannounced visit to St. John’s, Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., gave an outraged interview to The Washington Post. “Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence … he’s done everything to divide us, and has just used one of the most sacred symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition,” she said.
But, of course, sacredness has never been a concern of Trump’s. He didn’t open the Bible he was brandishing for the cameras, because he had no use for its text. He didn’t go inside the church he was using as a backdrop, because he had no interest in a sermon.
To Trump, the Bible and the church are not symbols of faith; they are weapons of culture war. And to many of his Christian supporters watching at home, the pandering wasn’t an act of inauthenticity; it was a sign of allegiance—and shared dominance.
Just as Trump is a disgusting, immoral individual, so too are the falsely pious "Christians" who continue to blindly support him. They are NOT decent, moral people no matter how much they parade around wearing false piety and talking about god and prayers. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

White Supremacists Pose as Antifa Online, Call for Violence

If one were to believe Donald Trump and William Barr - who increasingly reminds me of Herman Goering - all of the violence over the last number of nights is due to fa left activists and Antifa.  The reality, as with all things with Trump, is quite different and behind the scenes are white supremacists - Trumps core base - who want to spark a race war, something Trump would likely welcome as an excuse for ordering military troops to fire on citizens who oppose his regime and the endemic police brutality directed towards minorities, particularly blacks. As CNN is reporting some white supremacists are posing as Antifa and aiding in creating the pretense that violence is flowing only from the left.  Sadly, there exists a mix of white supremacists, so-called militias, and, of extreme right "Christians" who want to take the nation back to a pre-desegregation 1950 and who would embrace a dictator if it assisted in achieving that goal.  Here are highlights from CNN:
A Twitter account that tweeted a call to violence and claimed to be representing the position of "Antifa" was in fact created by a known white supremacist group, Twitter said Monday. The company removed the account.
"This account violated our platform manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. "We took action after the account sent a Tweet inciting violence and broke the Twitter Rules." Although the account only had a few hundred followers, it is an example of white supremacists seeking to inflame tensions in the United States by posing as left-wing activists online.
 The revelation of the account comes as President Donald Trump increasingly blames left-wing activists for violence occurring at protests across America.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted he would designate Antifa a terrorist organization, despite the US government having no existing legal authority to do so. Antifa, short for anti-fascists, describes a broad, loosely-organized group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far-left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform.
The fake account, @ANTIFA_US, tweeted Sunday, "ALERT Tonight's the night, Comrades Tonight we say "F**k The City" and we move into the residential areas... the white hoods.... and we take what's ours #BlacklivesMaters #F**kAmerica."
 Twitter said that the account was in fact linked to Identity Evropa, a white power fraternity.
Though Twitter referred to the group as Identity Evropa when discussing the account's removal, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) states that the group dissolved and reformed under the name the American Identitarian Movement, which it also calls a white supremacist group.
 Twitter said it had shut down other fake accounts linked to Identity Evropa, too. The phenomenon of people on the right creating fake Antifa accounts predates the current wave of protests. The takedown Monday is not the first time a fake Antifa account linked to white supremacists has been suspended by Twitter, the spokesperson confirmed.