Saturday, June 13, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty

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Trump Regime Rolls Back LGBT Healthcare Protections on Anniversary of Pulse Massacre

The Trump/Pence regime is truly perverse- hateful might be a more accurate description - as it deliberately takes actions to send messages to its ugly base and simultaneously reminds those his base hates are constant targets. First, Trump announces a rally in Tulsa - the site of perhaps the most brutal attack on blacks post Civil War - to take place on Juneteenth, the date when blacks celebrate the of the announcement of their freedom in Texas at the end of the Civil War. Then yesterday, on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse night club massacre of LGBT individuals, the foul regime rolls out its new regulations that end LGBT protections in the health care realm and  give a green light to homophobes that they are free to discriminate and/or refuse services to LGBT individuals, particularly transgender individuals. Trump apologists will no doubt whine that the timings were coincidences, but rest assured that Stephen Miller (a look alike for Hitler's Joseph Goebbels) and other Trump henchmen know exactly what they are doing.  The two happenings are messages to white supremacists and homophobic Christofascists that Trump is their man.  A piece in The Advocate looks at the gutting of LGBT healthcare protections (thanks to Democrats on July 1st, Virginia will have state laws banning such discrimination).  Here are highlights:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Friday announced changes to the Affordable Care Act that reverse protections for transgender people added by the Obama administration in December 2016. The previous changes to Section 1557 of the ACA had defined gender as “one’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.” Today’s announcement signaled a return to the original text of the law.
“Today’s rule attempts to gut the robust nondiscrimination protections under the Health Care Rights Law, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, said in a written statement. “This move by the administration to undermine anti-discrimination protections in health care for LGBTQ people, women, people with limited English proficiency, people with disabilities, and others, including those who face multiple forms of discrimination, is unconscionable at any time.”
The new language also removes antidiscrimination protections for the groups of people Stachelberg noted, and allows for wide-ranging exemptions from providing services related to abortion if health care workers have faith-based objections.
Lynn Dawson, associate director of HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told NPR that changes will be felt beyond basic health care issues. She says insurance companies might be able to raise premium prices for LGBTQ+ people, and trans patients might find limited remedies through the legal system.
"Because of limited access to litigation, I think that it's fair to state that the ramifications [of this rule] could be pretty significant," she lamented.
Several LGBTQ+ groups, other civil rights groups, and medical organizations issued statements condemning the administration's action, and the Human Rights Campaign plans to sue over it.
Today, the Human Rights Campaign is announcing plans to sue the Trump administration for exceeding their legal authority and attempting to remove basic health care protections from vulnerable communities including LGBTQ people. And, to add insult to injury, the administration finalized this rule on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting, where a gunman killed 49 people in an LGBTQ nightclub,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “LGBTQ people get sick. LGBTQ people need health care. LGBTQ people should not live in fear that they cannot get the care they need simply because of who they are. It is clear that this administration does not believe that LGBTQ people, or other marginalized communities, deserve equality under the law. But we have a reality check for them: we will not let this attack on our basic right to be free from discrimination in health care go unchallenged.
“It is particularly brazen of Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and the President to undermine health care access at a time when the nation is confronted by the coronavirus,” said Andy Marra, Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. “Today’s published rule demonstrates this administration would rather promote discrimination in health care than deliver a comprehensive and evidence-based response to the pandemic. We look forward to challenging these reckless regulations alongside our partners to ensure trans protections remain intact.”
In my view, Trump and many in his regime are pure evil. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Donald Trump: Last President of the Confederacy

As more and more states and cities begin to finally recognize Confederate monuments - most, like those erected in Richmond fifty or more years after the end of the Civil War - for what they were meant to be, a message to blacks that whites were once again in charge and that blacks were again subjugated, die hard racists are foaming at the mouth.  These monuments all appeared as Southern states (sadly Virginia lead the way) formally ended Reconstruction and fully implemented the Jim Crow era.  As a piece in History notes, states implemented :black codes:
Black codes were strict local and state laws that detailed when, where and how formerly enslaved people could work, and for how much compensation. The codes appeared throughout the South as a legal way to put black citizens into indentured servitude, to take voting rights away, to control where they lived and how they traveled and to seize children for labor purposes.
In addition, monuments to the Confederacy and the effort to romanticize the "Lost Cause" grew - Virginia has the most Confederate monuments of any Southern state. History also notes the timing of these memorials:
Most of these monuments did not go up immediately after the war’s end in 1865. During that time, commemorative markers of the Civil War tended to be memorials that mourned soldiers who had died  . . . . “Eventually they started to build [Confederate] monuments,” he says. “The vast majority of them were built between the 1890s and 1950s, which matches up exactly with the era of Jim Crow segregation.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s research, the biggest spike was between 1900 and the 1920s. In contrast to the earlier memorials that mourned dead soldiers, these monuments tended to glorify leaders of the Confederacy . . . 
Given this history, blacks have good reason to find the monuments offensive.  It also explains why they are so loved by white supremacists, including the current occupant of the White House who continues to speak out against their removal and to lash out against NASCAR's decision to ban confederate flags from its events.  A a column in the Washington Post looks at Trump's racism and efforts to please white supremacists (and white Christofascists).  Here are column highlights:

It should have happened 155 years ago, when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, but maybe — just maybe — the Civil War is finally coming to an end. And perhaps Donald Trump, not Jefferson Davis, will go down in history as the last president of the Confederacy.
Symbols like flags and monuments matter, because what they symbolize is our vision of ourselves as a nation: the heroes, battles, movements, sacrifices and ideals we honor. So when I see multiracial crowds toppling the statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians, when I see respected military leaders arguing that Army posts should no longer bear the names of Confederate generals, when I see NASCAR banning displays of the Confederate battle flag at its races — witnessing all of this, I let hope triumph over experience and allow myself to imagine that this may indeed be a transformational moment.
Like the Civil War itself, “Lost Cause” symbology is simply and entirely about white supremacy. It has nothing to do with “heritage” or “tradition” or any such gauzy nonsense. The heavily armed “liberate Michigan” mob that invaded the statehouse in Lansing, egged on by President Trump, had no historical reason to be waving the Confederate flag.
Lee’s surrender ended nothing, because the nation did not even begin to grapple with white supremacy. Reconstruction was strangled in its infancy; true racial reconciliation was never even attempted. The statue of Davis in Richmond, brought down by protesters Wednesday night, was not erected until 1907. Like almost all of the Lost Cause monuments, it was built during the revanchist era, when Southern whites were celebrating their reestablished dominance over African Americans via repressive Jim Crow laws and the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan.
Many recall that the Confederate flag at the South Carolina statehouse was taken down in 2015 following the massacre of nine African American worshipers by a white supremacist at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Few realize that the racist flag had been installed at the statehouse not in 1861 but a century later, in 1961, when black South Carolinians like my parents were agitating for the right to vote.
The killing of Floyd has provoked a national moment of reckoning with police violence and white supremacy. But the position of the Trump administration is that systemic racism does not even exist — that our unexamined and unaddressed racial problems all come down to a few “bad apples” here and there.
Trump has used this moment to side with Lost Cause white supremacy. His all-caps tweets for “LAW & ORDER” sound like George Wallace when he was governor of Alabama; his demand for a militarized response to the protests reminds me of Bull Connor, the Birmingham commissioner of public safety who attacked nonviolent civil rights protesters with water hoses and vicious dogs.
When it was reported that high-ranking Army officials are open to stripping the names of Confederate generals from military posts such as Fort Bragg, Fort Benning and Fort Hood, Trump reacted instantly. He tweeted Wednesday that he “will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
He may be historically ignorant enough not to know that the generals in question were traitors as famous for the battles they lost as for any of their triumphs; that ultimate victory went to the Union, not the Confederacy; and that the whole point of the rebellion was to deny freedom to African Americans. Or he may know these facts but believe his political base doesn’t.
NASCAR banned the Confederate flag. If there is one sporting venue that Trump might think of as a safe space, it would be a NASCAR race — until now. Heck, I might even go watch a race when the pandemic ends.
Trump must be bewildered. Unsubtle appeals to racial animus (remember his “birther” lies) have always worked for him in the past, but now he seems to be flailing. If it turns out that the Lost Cause is finally, truly lost, then so is the president who made himself its champion.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Dedicated to the RNC

GOP to Retain It's Anti-Gay, Anti-Woman, and Anti-Immigrant Party Platform

In yet another clear sign that the Republican Party remains the party of exclusion dominated by "Christian" extremists and white supremacists, the RNC has voted to retain the 2016 party platform in its entirety with no changes that might expand the the GOP's mythical and non-existent "big tent."  The "social issues" portion of the platform was largely written by Tony Perkins of Family Research Counsel, a certified hate group that is vitriolically anti-gay and seeks a total end to abortion in all cases.  On racial issues, Perkins has documented ties to white supremacy groups and retention of the 2016 platform - combined with Trump's objections to NASCAR ban of the confederate flag and changing the names of military bases bearing the names of Confederate generals - signals that the GOP will play the race card again in 2020.  Much of the opposition to any streamlining and toning down of the party platform has come from Christofascists to whom Trump continues to pander.  A piece Politico looks at the situation and a platform that hopefully harms down ballot candidates who may try to pretend they are moderates.  Here are highlights:
A vote by the Republican National Committee to leave the party’s 2016 party platform unchanged ahead of the November election has infuriated grassroots activists — including moderates who wanted to streamline its message and social conservatives who sought added language on emerging hot-button topics.
The decision by the party’s executive panel Wednesday means the GOP will maintain positions in the 4-year-old policy blueprint — including opposition to same-sex marriage and a nod to gay conversion therapy — and decline to stake out new positions on topics such as police reform, gender identity and third-trimester abortions. Party officials and senior Trump campaign aides had previously discussed ways to pare down the 58-page document to a single note card or abbreviated list of principles, but the effort broke down after several conservative groups registered complaints with the White House.
“America has changed incredibly since 2016 and not updating our platform to reflect that is an unforced error. The RNC should reconsider this terrible decision,” said Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project and a proponent of updating the platform to oppose efforts to defund law enforcement or permit transgender minors to undergo gender reassignment treatments.
“We can’t go into 2020 with the same platform we had in 2016, and by limiting the ability to make changes you run the risk of having a stale platform. It will be tone deaf,” Schilling added.
At the other end of the GOP spectrum, Jerri Ann Henry, former executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said the decision effectively upholds “one of the worst platforms in terms of LGBT issues.” Henry, who has spent years fighting for marriage equality within the Republican Party, was supportive of a condensed platform that “harkens back to the party’s big principles and not the minute detail of every microscopic policy.”
But when plans to shrink the bloated platform fell through, the only suitable alternative in her view was to proceed with platform deliberations, which typically occur in the week or two prior to the party’s nominating convention.
The widespread disappointment in the decision to leave the platform unchanged illuminates one of President Donald Trump’s major hurdles as he campaigns for reelection. The same traditional conservative groups that objected to condensing the platform in a way that would have eliminated controversial planks on abortion, parental rights and LGBT issues are now annoyed they can’t change the platform to strengthen its language on some of those same issues and others.
At the same time, positions contained in the 2016 platform on abortion, education, marriage, LGBT rights and family structure could further alienate suburban voters and women. Those demographics abandoned the GOP in droves during the 2018 midterms and the Trump campaign has invested significant resources to try to win them back.
Grassroots conservatives [think Christofascists] view the platform as a mechanism for accountability and worried that eliminating its explicit language on social issues would open the door for Republican candidates to be deliberately vague on key issues. Among their concerns was that mentions of abortion — which comes up 35 times in the 2016 version — would be reduced.
“The full platform is still essential for guiding policy, holding legislators accountable, and for distinguishing policy differences between Republicans and Democrats,” the Eagle Forum had written in its Monday letter to Trump and McDaniels. “We respectfully request that all efforts to streamline the overall platform, which has been forged over more than a century of committed grassroots activism, be resisted.”
With the Platform Committee scrapped, the only official business that is likely to take place next month in Charlotte, N.C. — the original location of the 2020 GOP convention — is the selection of Trump as the party’s nominee. [Trump's] The president’s acceptance speech is expected to take place at a separate facility in Jacksonville, Fla., though the Trump campaign and RNC were still finalizing those details this week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Trump and Barr Consider Antifa Terrorists, But Not The KKK

Via Facebook I found a piece in the Jewish Journal that brings into sharp focus the sickness of the Trump/Pence regime and Trump's consigliere, AG William Barr.  The FBI's own records show that white supremacy groups pose the largest domestic terrorist threat, yet instead Trump and Barr want to declare Antifa - a loose organization with no leaders or organizational structure - as a "terrorist organization."  As for White supremacists in Charlottesville and other far right actions since, Trump refers to them as "very good people." Just today, Trump overruled the Department of Defense move to rename military bases named after Confederate generals in an effort to win allegiance from his white supremacist supporters. Here are article highlights:
“The United States of America will be designating Antifa as a Terrorist Organization,” President Donald Trump tweeted on May 31, the morning after American cities were engulfed with protests decrying the death of George Floyd. In major metropolises including  New York, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Dallas and Los Angeles, the demonstrations spiraled out of control, devolving into looting, vandalism and arson. 
Trump declared the lootings were “being led by antifa,” a decentralized movement threaded together by its militant, sometimes violent opposition to fascism and the far-right. 
Pittsburgh’s chief of police, agreed. Attorney General William Barr also pointed his finger at the group, saying the protesters were using “antifa-like tactics.” However, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said,  “A number of different groups are involved in these whether it’s antifa or it’s others, frankly.”
Whether you agree with antifa’s ideology or approach, [Trump's] the president’s announcement is shocking, given that many of the most violent hate groups in the United States aren’t designated as terrorists. One notable example is the Ku Klux Klan, which for decades has used bloodshed, intimidation and crime to terrorize Americans.
“White supremacist extremism is currently the most lethal form of extremism in the U.S.,” American University professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss told Congress in September. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the far-right was the source of 73% of domestic extremist-related slayings from 2008 to 2019. 
However, Trump has been much more hesitant to declare these menacing groups as terrorists.
The first time the U.S. labeled a white supremacist group as a terrorist organization was in April. However, the Russian Imperial Movement was not American-based. The ultra-nationalist organization is widely known for plotting bomb attacks on asylum seekers in Sweden. Meanwhile, countless other home-grown neo-Nazi, Holocaust denial, neo-Confederate and Skinhead organizations remain undesignated. 
When the United States labels a group as “terrorist,” it is not a symbolic gesture. . . . .
Terrorist groups are under the purview of terror-related intelligence bodies such as the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is uniquely suited to handle these deadly organizations. Right now, the NCTC is prohibited from preventing violent anti-Semites like the Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., shooters. Trump’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism includes preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons. However, known neo-Nazis still are able to obtain firearms.
Unlike white supremacist groups, which explicitly call for victimizing racial and religious minorities, antifa’s mission is not inherently violent. One could argue that by opposing fascism, the group seeks to prevent mass violence. Antifa’s rampages normally end in property damage. It’s hard to argue that the group is lethal; the only recorded death related to antifa was in January 2019 when member Charles Landeros fired at police while being arrested. He missed and was killed by returning fire.
Compare that to self-described white supremacist Robert Gregory Bowers, who is charged with walking into the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018 and killing 11 Jews. That incident was not isolated. Patrick Crusius is charged with killing 23 people at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart in August, leaving behind a white nationalist manifesto. 
Crusius had posted about his intent to kill on the website 8chan. If white nationalists were considered terrorists, the NCTC might have been able to track and potentially stop the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history. 
However, Trump isn’t only ignoring white supremacist terrorism but actively pushing American institutions overlook it.
According to Reuters, Trump attempted to rename the Countering Violent Extremism program to “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” — erasing white nationalist violence from its mission entirely. Under the current administration, federal prosecutors are limited in how they can bring white nationalists to justice. 
Whether you approve of antifa’s message or tactics, it is not nearly as consequential a threat to Americans as the vast number of white supremacist groups in this country. Although it might be more politically advantageous for Trump to rail against the anarchy-loving movement, he is driving this nation, and his blind spot endangers all Americans in his backseat.

Bill Barr's Corruption of the U.S. Justice Department

Trump and his consigliere.
Attorney General William Barr is a despicable individual serving an even more despicable individual, Donald Trump. Worse yet, he is utterly corrupting the U.S. Department of Justice and transforming it into a cog in Trump's crime syndicate like regime. Not only did Barr order the tear gas and rubber bullet attack on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square, but he is throwing the Justice Department's reputation down the toilet as evidenced by his efforts to dismiss the case against confessed criminal and former Trump regime member Michael Flynn. Thankfully, the judge in the Flynn case refused to be bullied and appointed a retired judge with stellar credentials to investigate the Barr instigated effort to dismiss the case against Flynn, no doubt at Trump's request.  That investigator has slammed the Barr led effort and shows that Barr's idea of an independent Justice Department looks like something out of Hitler's Germany. Some will shrug and say so what, but should be re-elected, the misuse of the Justice Department could be used to attack and persecute those who oppose Trump and the corruption that he embodies.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the investigator's findings and the depths of Barr's corruption.  Here are excerpts:

The latest development in the saga of Michael Flynn — disgraced former national security adviser, admitted criminal, conspiracy theorist and all-around sleazegives us yet more evidence of how completely President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr have corrupted the Justice Department.
Back in May, long after Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in their investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election — which got him fired as national security adviser after 24 days on the job — Barr took the extraordinary step of seeking to drop the case against him before he could be sentenced. In response, the judge in the case asked a respected retired judge to make a recommendation about how this highly unusual situation should be handled.
That retired judge, John Gleeson, not only recommended that Flynn be sentenced as planned but issued a scathing report condemning the Justice Department’s actions in the case:
In his argument, Gleeson said the government’s “ostensible grounds” for seeking dismissal were “conclusively disproven” by its own earlier briefs; contradict the court’s prior orders and Justice Department positions taken in other cases; and “are riddled with inexplicable and elementary errors of law and fact.”
 A former federal prosecutor and judge for 22 years in Brooklyn — best known for putting the late mob boss John Gotti behind bars and presiding over the trial of “Wolf of Wall Street” stockbroker Jordan Belfort — Gleeson wrote that judges are empowered to protect their court’s integrity “from prosecutors who undertake corrupt, politically motivated dismissals. That is what has happened here. The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President.”
Not only that, Gleeson stated that “Flynn has indeed committed perjury in these proceedings, for which he deserves punishment,” but recommended that instead of a separate prosecution, Flynn’s misdeeds should be taken into account when he is sentenced for the crime he pleaded guilty to.
Gleeson’s conclusions aren’t surprising in their particulars, because anyone familiar with this case knows them to be an accurate representation of the action Barr took. There is no doubt about what Flynn did, nor that it was against the law, nor that he would have known he was breaking the law when he did it.
Yet Barr carried out Trump’s obvious wishes by intervening to help Flynn (just as he had done with the case against Trump confidante Roger Stone). As the New York Times reported: “A range of former prosecutors struggled to point to any previous instance in which the Justice Department had abandoned its own case after obtaining a guilty plea.”
Barr did it because it was what Trump wanted, and because he evidently shares Trump’s belief that the government should essentially be run like a mob family, in which those who have the boss’s favor need not be held accountable for any crimes they commit. Asked how history would judge his actions, Barr laughed and said, “History is written by the winners.”
But he and Trump haven’t won yet, at least not in this case. An appeals court is about to hear Flynn’s request that the case against him be dropped so he can escape any sanction at all; they’ll have to decide whether the judge can go ahead and sentence him even after the Justice Department has withdrawn. The case could well go all the way to the Supreme Court.
But if nothing else, we can take solace that there are at least some moments when the system is capable of speaking an obvious truth. Not even the most partisan Republican actually believes that Flynn is some kind of martyr, or that impartial justice demands he be unburdened from accountability for his choices. He’s Trump’s guy, so Trump’s AG should let him go. It’s as simple as that.
Gleeson’s report makes that clear. Let me point to this passage:
The reasons offered by the Government are so irregular, and so obviously pretextual, that they are deficient. Moreover, the facts surrounding the filing of the Government’s motion constitute clear evidence of gross prosecutorial abuse. They reveal an unconvincing effort to disguise as legitimate a decision to dismiss that is based solely on the fact that Flynn is a political ally of President Trump.
We’re not used to reading that kind of blunt language in legal documents, but it’s completely appropriate here. We all know what’s happening: Barr is trying to spring Flynn on the president’s behalf. It’s repellent, it’s corrupt, and in a better world it would itself be grounds for Barr’s impeachment.
That won’t happen, and the Supreme Court may come to Flynn’s rescue in the end. But, at least for now, it’s good to hear the truth spoken.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Will America's Leftward Political Shift Continue

With more and more instances of police brutality caught on video and nationwide protests drawing attention to long standing problems, some believe America is shifting leftward politically.  Likely aiding in the current shift is Donald Trump's and the Republican Party's inept and tone deaf response to both the covid-19 pandemic and the increasingly obvious concentration of white supremacy in the Republican Party now largely defined by Trump.  Wile polls show a noted shift leftward, especially on racial relations, the question becomes whether or not the shift is permanent or whether the public - like the news media that has the attention span of a gnat - will lose interest over time and slide back to indifference.  Opinions are all over the map and ultimately only time will tell - some believe more of the older generations need to die off before change can become permanent. A long column in the New York Times looks at the shifting views and potential pitfalls for Democrats.  Here are column highlights:

America is at a racial and political crossroads. Protests over the past two weeks in response to an interrelated set of issues and events — the killing of George Floyd, police brutality, the Covid pandemic, a nation in lockdown, joblessness, a devastated economy and a presidential election — give rise to a key question. Will the Democratic coalition of minorities and liberal whites emerge empowered?
Current polling reveals a shift to the left in the public’s position on key race-related issues. But there are also some potential warning signs for Democrats.
Let’s look at some of the contradictory narratives in American race relations, starting with Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at the University of Maryland: As white supremacy concentrates its power in the G.O.P., it fosters an alliance of those that oppose it in the Democratic Party. The U.S. has never seen this kind of coalition. But it is showing its power now. This is one cause for hope — that we may be at the beginning of an overdue national reckoning with our legacy of white supremacy.
Mason posted a seven-part Twitter thread in which she makes a strong case that the United States is in the midst of a major transformation: For decades we have been worried about the terrible power of an entire political party dedicated to maintaining the historical racial (and gender) hierarchy that has oppressed and denied justice to so many Americans.
While attention has focused on Trump and the Republican Party, Mason continued, What we haven’t focused on as much is the potential power of the other political party that has been amassing a coalition of those who would like to upend that social hierarchy.
Now, she writes, the other party, the Democrats, has begun to flex its muscles: “This is one cause for hope — that we may be at the beginning of an overdue national reckoning with our legacy of white supremacy.
Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, is among those envisioning a new era of racial reconciliation. In comments accompanying the release of the June 2 poll, Murray declared: It seems we have reached a turning point in public opinion where white Americans are realizing that black Americans face risks when dealing with police that they do not. They may not agree with the violence of recent protests, but many whites say they understand where that anger is coming from.
In what Monmouth described as “a marked change in public opinion from prior polls,” its May 28-June 1 survey found that for the first time “a majority of Americans (57 percent) say that police officers facing a difficult or dangerous situation are more likely to use excessive force if the culprit is black.”
The trends to date provide a basis for Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, to point out that 1) There has emerged a much stronger awareness of racism and discrimination especially around policing and the chance to get ahead. 2) The pattern of killings and the video have had a cumulative effect of creating a real turning point. 3) Trump’s response had been so out of touch with what people were feeling and the pain, healing, and change they want. 4) It’s a different America than Trump understands especially with young voters so diverse and white women so upset at his style of governing. 5) And then there are unexpected and vivid validators, the generals and police themselves.
Some analysts are cautiously optimistic that the country is finally becoming more liberal on matters of race.
Antoine Banks, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, argued that the killing of George Floyd has brought racial injustice up to the surface for many Americans, and the video footage makes it hard for many to deny the intent behind his death.
But, Banks continued, there are questions as to whether the leftward shift seen in the polls “is short-term or reflects a long-term trend.” Whites’ racial attitudes, Banks wrote: are fairly stable. Once their attitudes are crystallized, they tend not to change. It would take a shifting of racial norms to change the country’s (e.g. whites’) views about policing and the black community.” He added that “much more would need to be done from both political parties and activists to cause a major change in the politics of race.
Trump, and the strategists running his campaign, are desperately looking for an opportunity to force current events back onto turf favorable to the right.
On June 7, the Trump campaign sent out an email with the all-caps headline “DEMOCRATS WANT TO DEFUND THE POLICE” that went on to warn: While ANTIFA THUGS are destroying our communities and burning down our churches, the Radical Left is shouting “Defund the Police.”
Trump is gambling that the language some protesters have adopted, combined with the commitment of big-city mayors like Bill de Blasio and Eric Garcetti, to cut or divert police spending, along with the pledge of a majority of the Minneapolis City Council to dismantle the city’s police department, will keep moderate voters who supported Trump in 2016 in the Republican fold.
A May 29-30 YouGov poll found that when voters were asked whether they support calls to “cut funding for police departments,” both Democrats (62-16) and Republicans (75-15) were solidly opposed.
Ronald Inglehart, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, said that for liberals, this moment is a delicate balancing act. Trump’s clumsy handling of the demonstrators and his misuse of the military to clear the way for a photo op — on top of his inept response to the pandemic — have damaged his credibility. He is vulnerable.
But, Inglehart continued, the white working class has a deep-rooted — and well-founded — sense that the system is failing them. A facile lurch to the “left” that doesn’t take into account their concerns — which once were the dominant concerns of the left — would be costly.
In order to make progress in race relations, Inglehart argues, We need to move there with a balanced approach, not a one-sided lurch — especially since today’s context of economic and physical insecurity makes people increasingly vulnerable to xenophobic appeals.
Trump’s handling of the protests has been disastrous, in the view of Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, who wrote in an email: Playing the race card so transparently, misusing the military as a political prop and disrupting peaceful protests have so far proved to be bad tactics, and Trump is paying for it.
Particularly worrisome for Democrats, according to Cain, “is the growing popularity of defunding the police.” He noted that terms like defunding the police or abolition are ready made for Republican 30 second ads. The Republicans are just much better at coming up with slogans that are harder to attack.
Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, struck a prescient note in an interview with Tim Alberta of Politico Magazine. In a story published June 8, Scott said that historically “the response from so many well-intended people was to overlook the brutality brought to African-Americans at the hands of the police.”
Now, Scott continued, I look at the public’s response to this situation and it feels like the first time in my lifetime that I’ve heard law enforcement agencies coming out with strong rebukes and condemnation of the officers in Minneapolis.
When Scott looked out his window in Washington at an overwhelmingly young crowd, he said he saw “10 protesters. Seven of them are white, and three of them are black.” Without question, Scott declared, “This is different. It feels different. It sounds different. The protesters are different.”
One can only hope that the trend continues to the detriment of Trump and the GOP.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty

The NFL's "Black Lives Matter Moment" Shows Trump’s Growing Weakness

I will admit I am not a fan of professional sports, especially football.  I go to a friend's annual Super Bowl party for the social event aspect, but never the game.  To the extent I follow sports at all, it's at the college level, typically focused on my alma mater and that of my late parents. And growing up, I focused on individual sports like cross country, skiing, water skiing and surfing.  All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I'm not a fan of the NFL which is all about money and appeasing fans as opposed to sportsmanship.  As for NFL/football fans, if as much attention and time was placed on politics so as to elect decent politicians and on bettering our communities, the nation would be a far better place.  Thus, I found it interesting that outwardly the NFL altered its position on racial discrimination and embraced (somewhat insincerely, in my view) the Black Lives Matter cause.  I doubt that the move was motivated by any real conviction but instead due to (i) the shifting winds of public opinion and (ii) the flagging influence of the racist-in-chief in the White House.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at Trump's shrinking ability to intimidate the NFL.  Here are excerpts:
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted in an oddly low-res video on Friday evening that the league was wrong for “not listening to NFL players earlier” — and then actually uttered the phrase “Black Lives Matter” — it was widely seen as a cynical gesture from a company hack who finally acquiesced to public pressure, rather than a heartfelt gesture of genuine remorse.
Slate’s Joel Anderson saw Goodell’s pandering for what it was, writing, “Goodell’s empty gestures tell us nothing about what the NFL thinks of black lives. . . . . the NFL loves nothing more than a hollow branding opportunity. Goodell’s “admission” was yet another one.
What happened next should not have been surprising. On Sunday night, President Trump, tweeting through it as always, attempted to bust out one of his greatest hits.
[B]ack when the NFL-kneeling story line began, Trump muscled his way into the conversation by claiming that owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now” when players took a knee, and encouraging fans to leave the stadium when it happened. (A month later, his vice-president would do just that, at considerable taxpayer expense.) Goodell called Trump’s comments “divisive,” but ignored players’ requests that he support a racial equality program. Ultimately, Goodell caved to Trump and his supporters by banning kneeling altogether during the national anthem; nevertheless, Trump was back at it a year later, just to make sure Goodell remembered who held the leash. That Goodell acceded so quickly and totally to Trump three years ago is one of the reasons his statement on Friday felt so empty; nobody believes his platitudes anymore, nor should they.
[T]here is reason to think that this time will be different. That’s partly because Goodell and the NFL owners have witnessed the same shift in power and influence over the last fortnight that you and I can. And it’s partly because so much of the frustration with the NFL’s stance on Black Lives Matter has come from inside Goodell’s organization; a terrific Athletic piece details how a video made by NFL players, and produced internally by a “rogue” employee, forced Goodell’s hand. I wonder, though, if the bigger reason for Goodell’s new posture is even simpler: Goodell isn’t particularly scared of Trump anymore. There was a time when Goodell had to bob and weave along with every presidential broadside, when he had to pattern league policy around Trump’s Twitter mood swings. But the Trump of 2017 — or even of a few months ago — was a much more powerful Trump than the one we have before us now.
You could attach Trump’s diminishment in influence to the widespread condemnation and disgust with his gassing of protesters for a particularly lame-brained photo-op stunt last Monday. You could say it’s because of his lagging poll numbers generally, or the fact that Trump is looking more and more like a scared man hiding inside a black-fence-fortified prison of his own making. But one of the undeniable takeaways from the last week is that Trump looks weaker than he has at any time during his presidency. (We have reached the point of the cycle when aides are anonymously complaining that his wife is undermining him.) And when you are weak, no matter how much you might bluster and stomp your feet, people don’t fear you like they once did. Even someone as skittish as Goodell.
When Trump’s national anthem tweets were front-page news, the NFL owners and a few player representatives held a secret meeting, which the Times obtained audio of. What’s telling reading that story today is how terrified the league was of Trump:
If there’s a lesson the NFL earned from the entire debacle, it’s that Trump didn’t have the power back then that they feared he did … and that he definitely doesn’t have it now. Look at the week Drew Brees just had. On Wednesday, he told Yahoo Finance he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag.” There has probably never been a time in NFL history, up until now, when  expressing that opinion would have constituted  a problem for Brees. But on Thursday, after an overwhelming uproar (including among his own teammates), Brees apologized, and then apologized again. That led Trump to tweet that he was a “big fan” of Brees but that he should have never said sorry,  and that “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high.” But Brees, smartly, realized that Trump was nothing to be scared of. He went on Instagram and addressed the president directly: “We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.”
That has to be a large part of the mindset of Goodell: While the safe thing three years ago might have been to capitulate to Trump, the safe thing now is to do the exact opposite. In 2017, you knew you had to deal with the president, one way or another, for the next three years. Now? Now you might be rid of him in a few months. And you’re aware — more aware than you were then — that his bark is a lot worse than his bite. This is the one trick he has, the Big Kneeling Threat. He’s beginning to look like an elderly coach trying to win in today’s NFL with the old T-formation playbook he used in the 1950s — in other words, like someone whose time has passed.
How is the league going to deal with Trump trying to turn this into a wedge issue once again? I think Goodell and the NFL are going to just ignore him. The players have shown the power they have in this situation, and their willingness to wield it. The fan base has shown it isn’t actually going to stop watching football because of Trump’s perpetual culture war.
The proper response, it’s becoming increasingly clear, is to either pretend he doesn’t exist — or maybe even to actively defy him. He’s not the Trump of three years ago. The movement and the people are more powerful than he is, and they always were. Roger Goodell knows that now. The NFL knows that now. Maybe, now, we all do.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Bigotry Dominates the GOP and Fox News

Early in her career, Kay Cole James - now head of the Heritage Foundation - was involved in Virginia politics and we met back in my days of Republican activism.  For the most part she always came across as calm and level headed and nowhere near as strident as some in what was then considered the conservative wing of the GOP. Thus, it was interesting to see her statements after the death of George Floyd given that she has remained involved in a political party that is increasingly open in its racism, especially with an open white supremacist in the White House.  Of equal interest was the way in which her views and statements were basically trashed by Tucker Carlson - a vile individual in my view -  and many of the other talking heads on the network's propaganda channel not to mention across much of the GOP.  Michael Gerson (a former Republican) calls out Tucker and the GOP in a column in the Washington Post.  Here are excerpts: 
On the theory that decency and sanity are rare enough these days that they should be recognized, let us praise Kay Coles James, the president of the Heritage Foundation.
James — the first African American and the first woman to head the conservative think tank — reacted to the “horrific and needless death” of George Floyd in Minneapolis by recalling the reality of racism in her own story, in a Facebook post that appeared directly after the killing.
“When your family has had crosses burned on their front lawns,” she said, “when your own children have been stopped and harassed by police because they were driving through a white neighborhood . . . when you sit up at night with all the normal fears any parent would have when their kids are out, but have to add to that worry that they may not make it home just because they are Black males.”
James asked, “How many more black people must die, and how many more times will statements of sympathy have to be issued? . . . How many more committees will have to be formed until America admits that racism is still a problem in this country? . . . It’s time America takes responsibility and expands human flourishing to all of its citizens — not just the majority of them.”
Carlson attacked James’s article as a “long scream denouncing America as an irredeemably racist nation” and urged his listeners to stop sending funds to Heritage. This is what happens when the main media platform of American conservatism is dominated by bigotry.
James felt compelled to make her points because she is woman of faith and character. For a glimpse of what the total absence of faith and character looks like, see the Republican Party of Texas. In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, a dozen elected leaders of the GOP wrote or retweeted racist memes and conspiracy theories. Comal County Republican Party Chair Sue Gafford Piner propagated the idea that philanthropist George Soros is funding a race war. Bexar County GOP Chair Cynthia Brehm suggested that Floyd’s death was staged to hurt President Trump’s reelection chances. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wrote that the civil rights protesters are “domestic terrorists who were organized and paid for by George Soros.”
This is not the rejection of “political correctness”; it is the success of white supremacy in the Texas Republican Party. The GOP, in many places, has become an institution where leaders are elevated and groomed for cruelty and bigotry. This is what happens when the president of the United States normalizes racism and mainstreams ideological madness.
These habits of prejudice took root easily in the GOP, indicating a broad, preexisting disposition. If Republicans are ever to recover their moral balance, they will need to dispose of three pervasive assumptions.
[E]very abuser of rights is dismissed as one of a few bad apples — even when it is clear that some institutions (say, police forces or the Trump GOP) are engaged in the mass production of rotting fruit.
The second is the assumption of personal innocence — the belief that because an individual is not personally at fault for segregation, redlining and police abuses, he or she is not obligated to address their legacy. This amounts to a selfish rejection of the common good, as well as a denial of the Golden Rule.
The third is the assumption of historical irrelevance — the belief that if subjugation did not take place this morning, it is morally extraneous. This is a particularly absurd view for conservatives, given their traditional belief that the past has a powerful hold on the present. . . . this does not even start to cover the legacy of stolen labor, educational inequality and disenfranchisement.
There are many horrors in American racial history but also some powerful inspiration. It is extraordinary that a group of people who came to our country in chains came to understand the essence of Christianity and the essence of our country far better than their oppressors. You might even call it providential. And this should lead to an enduring lesson: America often sees itself more clearly through the eyes of the harassed and oppressed.
When one is black, Hispanic, gay or non-Christian, one must more more fully analyze and focus on what America should be given the reality that you cannot sit back and enjoy the level of societal privilege that goes with being white and heterosexual.  Your rights and safety are always at risk.

Monday, June 08, 2020

More Monday Male Beauty

Lindsey Graham's Queer Predicament

"Lady G" with Trump.
Over the weekend I wrote about the latest round in the long running story about South Carolina's closeted U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham - or "Lady G' or "Lady Graham" as the story has exploded across the twitter sphere.  In my post, I argued that the hypocrisy of closeted elected officials who support anti-gay policies and parties make them targets for "outing" and proper subjects of mainstream media investigation.  Sadly, many in the mainstream media are squeamish about the issue just as they use false equivalency as an excuse for not calling out politicians - think Donald Trump - for the liars that they are.  In a column Michelangelo Signorile makes the further argument that closeted politicians need to be outed because if they will lie about something so core as their sexual orientation, they will lie about many other things.  In Grahams case, I would argue that it also sets him up for blackmail by the crime boss in chief in the White House. Yes, Graham is terrified of the GOP base in his home state, but I suspect that he's even more afraid of whatever information Trump has on him. That fear makes him only too willing to sell out both his constituent and the nation.  Here are column highlights:

Let’s begin with Aaron Schock, while I have your attention.
First elected in 2008, he’s the disgraced, former Republican congressman from Illinois who stood against LGBTQ rights — including voting against “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, and coming out against marriage equality — though it was an open secret in Washington and in queer circles that he was gay throughout that entire time. There was discussion that he was gay even before the White House picnic in 2010 and the photo of him in white pants, teal belt and pink gingham shirt that went viral, but he’d denied it in 2004 in an interview.
Schock was allowed to present himself in the media as a bachelor whose college friends had all married while he was too busy in politics — but who would presumably marry when the right woman came along.
And yet, the open secret persisted. Schock denied he was gay again when I asked him on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012 for a response to those who believe he is gay and that he had voted against his own people.
Schock resigned in 2015 after a report about his Downton Abbey-inspired office set off a chain of investigations about his lavish lifestyle using taxpayer dollars and campaign funds. He was eventually indicted on 24 counts ( though, with a good lawyer, he struck an outrageous sweetheart deal in which all charges were dropped if he paid back the IRS and his campaign).
Then, this past March, Schock finally came out as gay, after living it up as a private citizen for some time, visiting gay vacation destinations and party spots, enjoying the very liberation that he worked with our enemies to try to destroy.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, too, has been discussed as gay for years, with those on both the left and the right hinting at it or saying it outright. He, too, has denied he is gay, most recently in 2018.
And yet, the discussion persists — as it did with Schock — and over the weekend, as reported by Towleroad, Twitter lit up with claims that an army of sex workers may be coming forward to speak out about Graham having hired them in the past, after gay adult film actor Sean Harding tweeted on Friday that it was time to reveal the truth about a “homophobic Republican Senator who is no better than Trump,” whom he referred to as “LG.” Harding claimed “every sex worker [he] know[s] has been hired by this man.”
“LadyG and “LadyGraham” — the alleged nicknames used by the sex workers — were soon trending, and tweets went viral that came from people claiming they had evidence, some of them claiming it was first hand. Harding, overwhelmed with inquiries, eventually set his Twitter feed to private, and on Sunday he tweeted:
Due to death threats against me and my family — and having my mom call me pleading to make it stop I will no longer be commenting on the LG story here. I know one individual has spoken to two prestigious media outlets with evidence but I'm not sure when that story will break.
It would be nice to think that mainstream media — or as Harding put it, “prestigious media outlets” — are finally getting it right, though I’ve learned not to hold my breath.
The closet, for powerful politicians, becomes a sort of practice run at the art of deception on a grander scale. And when you will sell out your own kind, there’s really no telling how low you will go.
Had journalists at mainstream outlets with vast resources, legal teams and researchers, been pursuing Schock for the hypocrisy of his anti-LGBTQ votes — and revealed that he was gay, with clear-cut evidence — it wouldn’t only have likely stopped an anti-gay hypocrite; it would likely have brought down a man who was spending campaign and taxpayer dollars to live in grand style and luxuriously travel around the world.
Back in 2006 when Mike Rogers, the founder of the site Blogactive — which exposed a slew of hypocritical, closeted gay politicians — revealed with detailed sources that Idaho GOP senator Larry Craig was gay, much of the mainstream media wouldn’t go near it.
They refused to follow up or track down the story further. It wasn’t until nine months later when “wide-stance” Craig was arrested for trying to have sex in an airport men’s room in Minneapolis that the mainstream media was all over it. Craig was then forced to resign, and the hypocrisy of the anti-LGBTQ Republican Party was on display.
But like Schock’s criminal activity, Craig’s arrest is the only thing that brought him down. If not for that action, involving criminal charges and thus a public record, he might still be in office, still railing against LGBTQ people. For much of the mainstream media, exposing a homophobe isn’t worth their time and effort — nor the resources of their newsrooms.
Even now, when the media is taking more seriously the issue of sexual harassment and tracking down stories of assault against women by powerful men, stories they once ignored but rightly now are focusing on — even when a story turns out to lose credibility — they still don’t see the story of the closeted hypocrite as one to investigate and report on.
Let me be clear: I’m not equating sexual harassment and assault with sexual orientation: I’m equating hypocrisy, deception and abuse of power that affects marginalized groups.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Colin Powell Endorses Biden:Trump is a Danger to the Nation

Donald Trump and some of the scamvangelists supporting him are having a fit that Colin Powell - and a number of other prominent one time Republicans - are endorsing Joe Biden and otherwise signaling that they will not support Trump's re-election.  Powell said that Trump is a liar and a danger to the nation - something this blog has been saying before the 2016 election.  He also went on to criticize Republicans who continue to remain silent or who are prostituting themselves to Trump.  Like it or not, the 2020 election will be about morality and decency on the one hand and Trump on the other.  A vote for Trump will underscore that one is morally bankrupt no matter how much you talk about your Christian faith or park you backside in a pew on Sunday mornings. Trump and morality and decency are mutually exclusive.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Powell's condemnation of Trump.  Here are highlights:  
Former military leaders kept up a barrage of criticism of President Trump on Sunday for his threat to use military force against protesters, warning the commander in chief’s actions could drive a wedge between the U.S. military and civilians.
The most withering critique came from Colin Powell in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The former secretary of state and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called Trump a chronic liar who had “drifted away” from the Constitution and become a danger to the country.
Powell said he plans to vote for Joe Biden for president and urged Americans to search their conscience and vote for the candidate who is best for the country as a whole, not only themselves.
“We’re not the country of just the president, we have a Congress, we have a Supreme Court,” said Powell, lamenting the silence from Republican members of Congress and lauding the retired military officials who have spoken out against Trump.
“But most of all we have the people of the United States, the ones who vote,” Powell said. “The ones who vote him in and the ones who vote him out. I couldn’t vote for him in 2016. I certainly cannot in any way support President Trump this year.”
Trump responded nearly immediately on Twitter, calling Powell “a real stiff” and “highly overrated.”
Powell’s comments came after more than a week of large, national protests over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. They come, too, days after Park Police used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters from a park near the White House so that Trump could walk to a nearby church for a photo op.
“The one word I have to use with respect to what he's been doing for the last several years is the word I would never have used before, never would have used with any of the four presidents I worked for, he lies,” Powell added. “He lies about things. And he gets away with it because people will not hold him accountable.”
[M]any retired military leaders worried that the incident could do long-term damage to morale among the rank and file and deal a blow to American leadership in the world and civilian support for the troops.
Retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former supreme NATO allied commander, expressed concern that the confrontation at Lafayette Square “rang echoes of what the founders feared more than anything, which was the use of armed active duty military against citizens.”
Powell,  . . . . worried that respect for America and its values is waning, a trend he attributed to Trump’s refusal to heed the advice of his advisers.
If you truly care about America and morality and decency, voting Democrat in 2020 is the only option.