Saturday, June 20, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty

The Trump Campaign’s Lies and Use of a Nazi-Era Symbol

Far right extremists, not Antifa, are the number one threat per DHS.
While Donald Trump may be ignorant of many historical facts and what is common knowledge to a majority of Americans - per John Bolton, Trump did not know the United Kingdom is a nuclear power - his campaign is not.  Thus, the recent use of a Nazi symbol that caused Facebook to take down Trump ads cannot be written off as mere ignorance.  The use of the symbol - a badge worn by Nazi political prisoners in concentration camps was no doubt used to send a message to the Neo-Nazis and white supremacist who make up the core of the Trump base of support (along with white evangelicals who belong to historically racist denominations). The other troubling aspect of the use of the symbol was that it was used to attack Trump's mythical boogeyman, Antifa, when the Department of Homeland Security's own documentation shows that neo-fascists - the antithesis of Antifa - is what posed the largest threat to law and order.  In short, the Trump campaign sought to deflect blame from its own base and blame a different group when the facts simply do not support the claim.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the use of the Nazi symbol and the active lying being advanced by the Trump campaign.   Here are excerpts:
President Trump’s campaign is under fire for employing a symbol once used by Nazis in a new batch of Facebook ads — a red inverted triangle that appeared alongside a warning about the dire threat posed by “antifa,” a loose motley group allied against neo-fascist activity.
An internal Department of Homeland Security document — which I obtained from a congressional source — makes the Trump campaign’s use of this symbol, and its justification for it, look a whole lot worse, by undercutting the claim that antifa represents any kind of threat in the first place.
After Facebook removed the ads amid an outcry, the Trump campaign continued to defend use of the image — which was used by Nazis to identify political prisoners — by claiming it’s a “common Antifa symbol.”
Meanwhile, Trump and his top officials have continued to blame unrest and violence at protests on antifa, to cast the violence more broadly as primarily left-wing in orientation.
But the DHS document I obtained undercuts this series of claims.
The [DHS] document — which is an assessment of ongoing “protest-related” threats to law enforcement dated June 17 — makes no mention at all of antifa in its cataloging of those threats.
The DHS document states that “anarchist and anti-government extremists pose the most significant threat of targeted low-level, protest-related assaults against law enforcement.” It bases this assessment on “the observed ideologies of recent attackers and the body of reporting of tactics noted by violent opportunists used over the last two weeks.” Thus, as of this week, “anarchist and anti-government extremists” pose the most serious ongoing threat, according to Trump’s own Homeland Security department.
The document defines “anarchist extremists” as:
groups or individuals who facilitate or engage in acts of unlawful violence as a means of changing the government and society in support of the belief that all forms of capitalism and corporate globalization should be opposed and that governing institutions are unnecessary and harmful to society.
Not only does this document not name antifa, this description of generic “anarchist extremists” does not remotely describe what we’ve come to understand “antifa” to be. While there might be some loose and occasional overlap between antifa and anarchists, antifa isn’t even a group, and adherents are characterized by specific resistance to perceived neo-fascist movements, which is wholly different from this definition of what motivates anarchist extremists.
This document shows that the government itself does not view antifa as a significant threat in the homeland,” Juliette Kayyem, a former DHS official who reviewed the document at my request, told me.
“The document shows how absurd the Trump campaign’s justification for using the symbol really is,” Kayyem added. “It undercuts their defense.”
The Anti-Defamation League has harshly criticized the Trump campaign for employing a symbol that “is practically identical to that used by the Nazi regime to classify political prisoners in concentration camps.”
The document also notes that “overall protest-related violence" has been "decreasing significantly during the last week,” which also undermines continued Trump fearmongering.
Notably, the continuing threat to law enforcement has been thrust to the forefront by the charging of Steven Carrillo for the alleged killing of one security officer and the wounding of another. Carrillo is an alleged adherent of the “boogaloo boys,” an extremist movement trying to exploit protests to incite race war.
The DHS document actually does cite the “Boogaloo movement” as a threat in this context. It notes that Carrillo is likely associated with it, defining it as “a term used by some violent extremists from a variety of movements who seek to incite a race war or the collapse of society.”
And yet, according to CNN reporter Marshall Cohen, Trump has yet to mention this as a threat, even though, as Craig Timberg demonstrates, it’s increasingly obvious this threat is becoming a serious one.
Similarly, another leaked intelligence document earlier this month assessed the greatest threat as coming from “lone offenders with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist ideologies,” not from antifa.
The new DHS document shows that the non-assessment of the threat of antifa hasn’t changed — even as the claims about antifa continue.
The broader story here, as Isaac Stanley-Becker details, is that the continued fearmongering about antifa by Trump and many top officials seems designed to distort the true nature of these multiracial, largely peaceful and broadly representative national protests in a very fundamental way.

If Trump or his campaign says something, assume it is a lie until documented otherwise.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Why Is the GOP Fighting to Preserve Monuments to Traitors?

When goes to France, one does not see statutes of those who held positions in the Vichy government.  Across the former Soviet block one sees few monuments to communist leaders and even in Russia, there has been a resurgence of recognition of the tsarist era which in retrospect was no where near as repressive and murderous as the communist era ushered in by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Brutal regimes and the losers in the stage of history are not typically honored by statutes and monuments once the regimes have fallen.  Except in the American South where a battle now rages over the statutes to the Confederacy - most erected during the Jim Crow era, not the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.  On the side of honoring those who in effect were traitors to the United States is the Republican Party, the descendant party of the one that fought the Civil War to end slavery and defeat those honored by monuments and statutes such as those on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, a truly beautiful street and grand residential area. An editorial in the New York Times asks the question of why.  My own short hand answer is that today's GOP is the party of white supremacy lead by the racist-in-chief, Donald Trump.  Here editorial highlights:
Confederate statues are being pulled down across the South — from Birmingham, Ala., to Decatur, Ga., to Richmond, Va., the Confederacy’s former capital. The U.S. Navy and the Marines have banned public displays of the Confederate battle flag — as has NASCAR.
Now, Congress is taking its own halting steps forward. On Thursday, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, announced that portraits of four former House speakers who also served the Confederacy would be removed from display in the Capitol in observance of the Juneteenth holiday.
The portraits are of Robert M.T. Hunter of Virginia, who was speaker from 1839 to 1841 before serving in various high positions in the Confederacy, including secretary of state; Howell Cobb of Georgia, who was speaker from 1849 to 1851 and later served as a Confederate Army officer; James L. Orr of South Carolina, speaker from 1857 to 1859, who went on to serve in the Confederate Army and in the Confederate Senate; and Charles F. Crisp of Georgia, the House speaker from 1891 to 1895, who served in the Confederate Army as a young man.
“As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” Ms. Pelosi wrote to the clerk of the House, requesting the removal. “There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy.”
Over in the Senate, Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, tried to nudge his chamber forward as well. He and the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, moved Thursday to pass a bill by unanimous consent that would remove 11 monuments to Confederates from the National Statuary Hall Collection displayed in the Capitol.
Not all of Mr. Booker’s colleagues agreed. Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, blocked the move. . . . The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was more outspoken in his opposition. On Tuesday, he derided brewing efforts to “airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery” as “nonsense” and “a bridge too far.” He even felt moved to list for reporters some of the early presidents who owned slaves.
None of those presidents, it should be noted, went to war against the United States to defend slavery. Nor are all the 11 statues of peripheral figures who had just “any connection” to the war for chattel slavery. The statues include one of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America; Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the vice president; and its most famous general, Robert E. Lee. There are other statues of men less central to the rebel cause. But given that states can select any person of note from their state, surely there are many other men or women who don’t have the Confederacy on their résumés.
Is this really the hill that the Party of Lincoln wants to fight on in 2020? What an ignoble, lost cause.
Once again, America is showing itself to be exceptional, but not in a good way.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Case for the Repudiation of Donald Trump in November

Former Republican Michael Gerson - who held positions in the Bush administration - makes the case in the Washington Post of why Donald Trump needs to be defeated in November, hopefully in a sting landslide that will trash his ego.  As I continue to state, the choice in November ultimately comes down to one of voting morality and decency or voting for immorality and hatred.  It's that simple and no desire for lower taxes - something I support, especially after having to write a fife figure check for additional taxes - does not justify voting for a man who is the embodiment of the seven deadly sins. Sadly, most evangelicals have shown they are on the side of immorality despite all of their false piety and self-congratulation.  As Gerson lays out, the Trump/Pence regime has proven to be perhaps the most incompetent and ugly in the nation's history and deserves a resounding defeat that might - I'm not holding my breath given the grip the white supremacists and Christofascists have on the party's base - result in some moral regeneration within the GOP.  Here are column excerpts:

The stage is being set for the repudiation of President Trump in November.
This is not merely because he has faced dual crises — the pandemic and the protests — that would have tested any president. It is because his reactions to those crises have been among the worst performances by any president. Trump’s eventual rejection by the electorate (if it comes) will be due to his own conscious choices in the face of challenge.
Without the pandemic and protests, Trump had a serious chance of reelection, which is a disturbing commentary on American politics. But this is now like saying that Herbert Hoover would have been a spiffing president without the Great Depression. Trump has been similarly and permanently marked by failure.
What other president would have played down the advance of a global health crisis to keep stock prices inflated? . . . . This delay in facing reality was an error on the scale of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act signed by Hoover, which set off a global round of protectionism that expanded and deepened the depression.
What other president would have fed populist resistance to public health measures as the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread? It was in mid-April that Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!,” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd amendment. It is under siege!” Trump actively undermined advice on lockdowns from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health in favor of the fringe views of a small number of armed protesters. And he chose — amazingly, alarmingly — to equate essential health measures with gun confiscation. I can think of no presidential precedent. It is unique in its recklessness.
When it came to the protests, Trump both cowered and raged. What other president would have employed a quote used by segregationists — “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — in dealing with a national revolt against deadly discrimination? What other president would have turned tear gas and stun grenades against lawful protesters in order to strut across a park and hold up a Bible for the cameras? Not even Richard Nixon made such a public display of his viciousness and crassness.
Trump’s failure to rally the “silent majority” against social disorder is a hopeful commentary on American politics. Most Americans, silent or not, quickly realized that the overwhelming majority of protesters were enemies not of social order but of social injustice. When Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) eventually joined a Black Lives Matter march, Trump was left discredited and largely isolated in his racism.
This is not to say that a repudiation of Trump would quickly lead to a Republican rejection of Trumpism. The president’s use of economic distress, demographic transition and security threats to scapegoat migrants, Muslims and refugees found a deeper resonance among party regulars than I thought it would. Trump’s exploitation of rapid social change to fertilize evangelical Christians’ fears and harvest their support has been a signature success (though it has badly damaged the reputation of evangelicalism in the process).
A Trump defeat would at least begin a GOP debate on its ideological future. If Republicans lose control of the Senate, that debate will be more urgent. But most Republicans angling to be Trump’s political successor (see Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and even former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley) are embracing key elements of Trumpism — without, presumably, the erratic megalomania.
None of Trump’s flailing and dereliction guarantees reelection defeat. It is not possible to reliably predict presidential weather patterns five months in advance. But on the health of our country, and on the unity of our country, Trump has been a peerless failure. If he loses, it will be because he already belongs on the Mount Rushmore of presidential losers.

Well said.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Supreme Court Blocks Trump’s Bid to End DACA

This week has not been a good week for Donald Trump and his racist/Christofascist base. On a number of fronts - especially LGBT rights and today the so-called Dreamers - the Supreme Court has handed Trump and his Department of Justice that reminds one of 1930's Germany major loses.  Frankly, defeat could not happen to more deserving people.  In both rulings, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the so-called liberal Justices to hand Trump defeat - suggesting to me that Roberts cares more about his place in history and the legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of a majority of Americans than her cares about pleasing the ugliest elements of today's Republican Party - including the horrific occupant of the White House. The sad truth is that Trump's actions were motivated by his hatred of non-whites and his desire to pander to the white supremacist/Christofascist base of his support.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at today's ruling.  Here are excerpts:
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, a reprieve for nearly 650,000 recipients known as “dreamers.”
The 5-to-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., stunned President Trump, who said in a tweet that it and a ruling earlier this week that federal law protects LGBTQ workers were “shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”
Roberts was in the majority in both cases, and Thursday’s ruling showed once again the pivotal role he now plays at the center of the court.
His low-key ruling was technical — the administration had not provided proper legal justification, he said, for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented by President Barack Obama eight years ago. It allows qualified enrollees to work, study and remain in the United States on a renewable permit.
Trump has often suggested the conservative-leaning Supreme Court would protect him against adverse rulings from lower-court judges. But Roberts has at times joined the court’s liberal members — as happened Thursday — to make clear for [Trump] the president that his administration does not make the rules.
Whether this pattern continues over the coming weeks will frame what already has proved to be one of the court’s most controversial terms in years.
Still to come: decisions on Trump’s long-running legal battle to shield his private financial records from Congress and a New York prosecutor; several cases involving the separation of church and state; and the court’s first reexamination of abortion rights since Trump’s nominees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, ascended to the bench.
Politicians on the other side of the issue were elated, even if they were as stunned as Trump seemed to be.
“I cannot — the Supreme Court, who would’ve thought, would have so many good decisions in one week, who would’ve thought . . . wow,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), seemingly overcome with emotion.
Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, advised the new administration to end it, saying it was illegal.
But lower courts found that directive questionable. At any rate, they said, the Department of Homeland Security did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation, and the ability to work legally. Roberts agreed.
He added: “We address only whether the [Department of Homeland Security] complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”
“Since 2012, DACA recipients have enrolled in degree programs, embarked on careers, started businesses, purchased homes, and even married and had children, all in reliance” on the DACA program, Roberts wrote, quoting from briefs in the case.
“The consequences of the rescission, [advocates] emphasize, would ‘radiate outward’ to DACA recipients’ families, including their 200,000 U.S.-citizen children, to the schools where DACA recipients study and teach, and to the employers who have invested time and money in training them. . . . In addition, excluding DACA recipients from the lawful labor force may, they tell us, result in the loss of $215 billion in economic activity and an associated $60 billion in federal tax revenue over the next ten years.”
Immigration advocates were euphoric over the court’s actions.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who led a coalition of 20 states and the District of Columbia in bringing the challenge, said in a statement that ending DACA “would have been cruel to the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who call America home, and it would have been bad for our nation’s health.”
Nearly 800,000 people over the years have taken part in the program. More than 90 percent are employed and 45 percent are in school, according to one government study. Advocates recently told the Supreme Court that nearly 30,000 work in health care and that their work is necessary to fighting the coronavirus.
While the program does not provide a direct path to citizenship, it provides a temporary status that shields them from deportation and allows them to work. The status lasts for two years and can be renewed.
Technically, the Trump administration could restart the process and provide the justification the court’s majority said was required. But the process is long, and there is no evidence Congress would want to pass legislation that would end the program.
In fact, it is quite popular with the public. A Pew Research survey conducted this month found that 74 percent of Americans favored granting permanent legal status to immigrants who came illegally to the United States when they were children, while 24 percent opposed.
Trump is so sick that he may try to restart the process.  Hopefully, Americans will throw him out of office in November and end his reign of hate, bigotry and misogyny.

More Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Is It Time to Claim Victory in the Gay Rights Struggle?

Since I came out in mid-life, the changes in the legal rights for LGBT Americans have been stunning.  When I first came out, in Virginia a same sex relationship could land one with a felony convictions, you could be thrown out of the military for being LGBT, same sex couples could not marry and you could be fired at will by bigoted employers - as I was.  In a piece in New York Magazine gay conservative (and former Republican) Andrew Sullivan looks at the changes, starting with this week's stunning U.S. Supreme Court ruling which granted employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans nationwide. I believe that Sullivan's inclination to declare victory is premature for three reasons: (i) contrary to Sullivan's statement, public accommodation protections remain missing in the majority of states - in Virginia we will have them starting July 1st - (ii) there will be years of lawsuits against employers who ignore the new scope of Article VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and (iii) Christofascists will continue to strive to use alleged religious belief as an excuse for ignoring the law. That said, the wins have been immense and many LGBT rights organizations will find the focus of their efforts much more circumscribed - already Equality Virginia seems largely focused on transgender rights.  Here are highlights from Sullivan's column:
The last major obstacle to civil equality for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people was toppled this week — by another Republican-appointed justice, Neil Gorsuch. (It will surely be one of the ironies of this period that gay equality in America has been judicially delivered by white cis straight men nominated by, respectively, Ronald Reagan and Donald J. Trump). Gorsuch’s reasoning was far more constrained than Anthony Kennedy’s in Obergfell — which guaranteed gays and lesbians the right to civil marriage — and was, in many ways, a punt. He used the “sex” discrimination aspect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to retroactively grandfather in gay men, lesbians, and trans people. 
I don’t buy Gorsuch’s stated logic for an instant, of course. Rather, the ruling is a way to give gay and transgender people practical protection from discrimination in all states, without creating a new, explicit standard. And it doesn’t even pass Gorsuch’s own standard for textualism.
Gorsuch relies on a very simple idea to counter that point: that “sex” in the 1964 Act meant discrimination on the basis of being male or female, and that because gay men are penalized for having relations with men, rather than women, lesbians with women rather than men, and transgender people because they may no longer be the sex they started out as, it’s all a form of sex discrimination. It makes sense from that semantic point of view — but it’s a stretch on the substance. It dodges the core question of civil rights specifically for gay and transgender people, by subsuming us under the rubric of an existing category, sex. And it does so by mere textual reading of a statute, invoking no grander constitutional principles.
Nonetheless, its impact is immediate and transformative. Every single goal the gay-rights movement set out to achieve in my lifetime has now been won. Gays can marry; we can serve our country openly with pride; we are categorically protected from discrimination in employment [except] and public accommodations in every state.
[T]he remaining business: a battle between religious freedom and gay and transgender equality.
With any luck, we’ll reach a deal in Washington, D.C., rather like that achieved in Utah, where, in a very Mormon compromise, key measures against discrimination against gays were balanced with strong protections for religious freedom. . . . . . if Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics decide to die on the hill of firing gay people, they will experience a brutal defeat, and tarnish what credibility they still have. The Gospels are not about shunning sinners, or pharisaical puritanism. They are about the imperative to see in everyone the image of God.
But this comprehensive victory obviously presents the major institutions of the gay-rights movement with a dilemma: What do they exist for after this?
If current trends are any indication, these groups will simply merge into the broader intersectional left and become as concerned with, say, the rights of immigrants or racial minorities as they are with gay rights. In the political climate on the left at the moment, singling out gays as a separate category is increasingly impermissible.
None of this means that we live in a world where homophobia has ceased to exist, where discrimination is unknown, or where visceral fear of and disgust toward trans people does not endure. In fact, prejudice and discrimination against the unknown or different are part of human nature, and partly because of that, young trans people of color are very much at risk. So we can try to keep shifting the culture — and man, has it shifted — in order to lessen the prevalence of irrational prejudice. And we can ensure equality of opportunity and protections against discrimination in employment . . . . .
As Eleanor Roosevelt is believed to have said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
One of the remarkable truths of gay history is how so many, under social and legal pressures exponentially greater than today, were able to withhold that consent. They were objectively victims, but subjectively free. It took real imagination, courage, and vision for these heroes and heroines of our past — and that past stretches for centuries before Stonewall — to live lives of authenticity and integrity. Now that the formal and legal obstacles to gay and transgender equality have been entirely removed, let’s follow their example, and forge a future that requires the consent and approval of no one but ourselves.

I like the last sentiment.  Part of being a self-accepting LGBT individual is gaining a mindset where you need no one else's approval for who you are.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

John Bolton's Scathing Indictment of Trump

From the excerpts of John Bolton's new book that have been released by the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the worse views of Donald Trump by myself and many others have been confirmed.  Indeed, it is even more crystal clear that Trump is unfit to occupy the White House and constitutes a danger to both Americans and the rest of the world.  He is every bit the self-centered malignant narcissist that many in the mental health field said he was back before the 2016 election and afterwards.  Worse yet, he is utterly ignorant on a host of issues and has little interest in educating himself. While all of this has been known for years now, Bolton failed his duty to America by refusing to testify during the impeachment proceedings and put a lucrative book deal ahead of the interests of the nation.  For that he needs to be repeatedly condemned. A column in the Washington Post looks at the horrors Bolton reveals and also excoriates Bolton for his failure to expose Trump far earlier. Here are highlights:
Welcome to the “Never Trump” camp, John Bolton. It took you a long time to get there. In 2016, you gave this vapid celebrity TV host credibility on the right by praising him for having a “serious” foreign policy vision. You did not join the “War on the Rocks” letter signed by 122 Republican national security professionals, including me, warning that Donald Trump would “make America less safe, and … diminish our standing in the world.” You chose to ignore those warnings. Was it perhaps because you wanted to preserve your lucrative career as a right-wing lecturer and talking head — and your ambitions for higher office?
But better late than never. Reading the excerpt from your new book in the Wall Street Journal, along with summaries of it in The Post and the New York Times, makes clear that you are confirming in every particular — and then some — the indictment of Trump by his critics. The president is every bit as ignorant, incompetent, capricious and heedless of the public interest as many of us have been saying while you stayed silent or supported him.
You write: “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” and you provide ample documentation for that grave charge. Indeed, you quote Trump asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to help his reelection campaign.
You then demonstrate Trump’s contempt for human rights when you quote him urging Xi to build concentration camps for China’s Uighurs — “which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.” His hostility for human rights abroad was matched by his hostility for human rights at home: You quote him saying that reporters were “scumbags” who should be jailed or even executed for failing to reveal their sources. This makes clear that the private Trump is every bit as odious as the public one.
While obsequious to our enemies, you note, Trump is hostile to our friends. You reveal that during a NATO summit in July 2018, Trump said he had decided to withdraw from NATO if the allies did not commit to massively increase their defense spending within six months. According to your book, he dictated a message to you: “We will walk out, and not defend those who have not [paid].”  He did not carry out that threat because — mercifully — he has the attention span of a hyperactive 6-year-old.
You confirm that Trump’s ignorance is as vast as his ego, writing that he did not realize that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power and that he wondered if Finland was part of Russia. You also suggest that Trump is simply unhinged: You quote him saying it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela and that that nation is “really part of the United States.”
In sum, your book presents an ironclad case that Trump is utterly unfit for the office you thought he should win in 2016. As you write: “He second-guessed people’s motives, saw conspiracies behind rocks, and remained stunningly uninformed on how to run the White House, let alone the huge federal government.”
But here’s the thing you may not realize. The stronger you build the case against Trump — and you have constructed a titanium-strength case — the more you indict yourself for not speaking out sooner. You could have helped stop Trump in 2016 — when all of his deficiencies were evident — by endorsing his opponent. More recently, you could have aided the impeachment managers by testifying under oath. But you refused to do that.
And yet you have the gall to write: “Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different.” There is no one who could have done more to aid a wider impeachment inquiry than you — but you failed us when the nation needed you most. You are, as Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D.-Calif.) says, an author but not a patriot.
I hope you will at least now have the decency to campaign against Trump as he seeks a second term to continue the calamitous foreign policy you now decry.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

More Wednesday Male Beauty

With Luck, the Supreme Court’s Bostock Ruling May Destroy the GOP Coalition

With luck evangelicals will come to the realization that the current Republican Party has never cared for them or embraced their causes beyond lip service and the pandering of Donald Trump.  The GOP's real interest has always been focused on corporate America and what benefits corporate America.  In the amicus briefs filed in the combined cases under Bostock v. Clayton County, corporate America sought a ruling in support of LGBT Americans that would curb legalized religious based discrimination that interfered with both corporate America's recruiting/hiring efforts and  the sensibilities of wealthy, educated CEO's.  Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered for gays and for corporate America in his majority opinion and left evangelicals and the scamvangelists who routinely fleece them reeling and engaging in spittle flecked rants.  Gorsuch's ruling was right under the wording of Title VII, right under moral standards - no one is more immoral than evangelicals - and on the right side of history.  As we move into the 2020 elections, with luck evangelicals will defect from the GOP which has always viewed them as useful idiot. A piece in the Washington Post looks at this possibliity.  Here are highlights:
President Trump won the presidency in part because he rallied religious voters with his promise to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death with someone who would protect their values. It is thus ironic that the opinion of Scalia’s replacement, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, in Monday’s decision holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination against LGBTQ Americans, may start the unraveling of the coalition behind Trump — and the Republican Party.
Strongly religious voters have gravitated toward the Republican Party for some time now, but it wasn’t always this way. . . . . Clinton won the white Catholic vote, and Reagan won it in his two races by roughly the same margins that he won overall. Catholics did not tilt Republican in the 1980s or 1990s, and the evangelical GOP tilt was significantly less than it is today.
Data from the Pew Research Center shows this started to change in 2000, as the culture war led religious voters to increasingly back Republicans. In 2000, Bush won white Catholics by seven points while losing the national vote by about half a point. That difference between the white Catholic vote and the national vote grew with each succeeding election, rising to 11 points in 2004, 12 points in 2008, and 23 points in 2012. Evangelical voters made a similar shift. . . . The inference is clear: The more that secular elements within the Democratic Party successfully pushed their cultural agenda, the more religious voters moved to Republicans.
Trump moved these figures to new, astronomical heights. He won 81 percent of the white evangelical vote and 60 percent of the white Catholic vote even while losing the national popular vote by 2 percentage points. White evangelicals voted 67 points more Republican than the nation as a whole, while white Catholics voted 25 points more Republican than the nation.
Concern about the Supreme Court’s role in the culture wars clearly impacted this dramatic shift. The 2016 exit poll found that 21 percent of all voters said Supreme Court appointments were the most important factor in their vote; Trump carried them by a 56 to 41 percent margin. It’s clear that fear of a culturally liberal court drove a crucial number of normally Democratic-supporting white voters to back Trump.
Gorsuch’s decision Monday could throw all of this into the political dustbin. Regardless of the decision’s legal merits, religious voters clearly expected Gorsuch and his fellow Trump appointee, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, to oppose progressive attempts to advance their cultural agenda through the courts. “But Gorsuch” was a common phrase used to justify continued support for Trump among religiously motivated voters throughout 2017 and 2018. Now that Gorsuch has proved himself untrustworthy in their eyes, they would be right to question whether Republican assurances meant anything at all. Indeed, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), has already said as much on the Senate floor.
Even a small reduction in the Republican margin among the devout will destroy any hope Trump will be reelected. Evangelical voters made up between 21 and 38 percent of the vote in the key Southern states of Florida, Texas, Georgia and North Carolina in 2016.
If his margins among this demographic fell by only 10 points this year, he would lose Florida and North Carolina based on his 2016 result and would even lose Georgia and Texas if the 2018 election returns are a better measure of those states’ current partisan breakdowns.
Trump’s hold on the Midwestern “blue wall” is also imperiled by erosion in religious voters’ support.
Republicans and Trump will need to confront this challenge sooner rather than later. Trump will need to spend more time shoring up his support among religious voters than he might like, likely stressing religious liberty and pro-life measures. Congressional Republicans would also be well advised to demonstrate their support for measures important to these voters. None of this, however, can fully replace what these voters’ faith in Republicans ability to appoint the right people to the Supreme Court provided. For these voters, Trump and the GOP were tested and found wanting.
Let's hope evangelicals belatedly wake up to the fact that congressional Republicans never really cared about  evangelicals' litmus test issues.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Dedicated to the 5th District of Virginia GOP

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Trump Sues to Block Bolton's Book as His Niece Releases Tell All Book

The November 2020 election is less than five months away and Donald Trump. a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, finds himself behind in numerous polls just as two new books are set to drop that promise to be anything but complementary.  One is by Trump's niece, Mary Trump, entitled "Too Much and Never Enough, How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man" that can be found here.   The Amazon write-up describes the book this way:
Mary L. Trump, a trained clinical psychologist and Donald’s only niece, shines a bright light on the dark history of their family in order to explain how her uncle became the man who now threatens the world’s health, economic security, and social fabric.
The other book is by former National Security Adviser, John Bolton - hardly my favorite individual -  and is entitled "The Room Where It Happened," which promises to be very unkind to Trump.  Were Trump a decent individual - something he decidedly is not - one might feel a teeny tiny amount of sympathy for him as he faces this double blast of accountability.  Since Trump is the embodiment of evil, one can only cheer on the two authors and hope that they inflict maximum harm.  The New York Times looks at Trump's last efforts to block the release of Bolton's book.  Here are highlights:

The Trump administration sued the former national security adviser John R. Bolton on Tuesday to try to delay publication of his highly anticipated memoir about his time in the White House, saying the book contained classified information that would compromise national security if it became public.
The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” is set for release on June 23. Administration officials have repeatedly warned Mr. Bolton against publishing it.
Mr. Bolton made clear in a statement this week that his book contained explosive details about his time at the White House. He and Mr. Trump clashed on significant policy issues like Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, and in his book, Mr. Bolton also confirmed accusations at the heart of the Democratic impeachment case over the president’s dealings with Ukraine, according to details from his manuscript previously reported by The New York Times.
The book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, has already printed and distributed copies, and the lawsuit did not name it as a party, in an apparent nod to the constitutional and practical impediments to trying to stop it. Instead, the Justice Department asked a judge to seize Mr. Bolton’s proceeds from the book deal and to order him to try to persuade Simon & Schuster to pull back the book and dispose of copies until the review is completed.
Mr. Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has said that his client acted in good faith and that the Trump administration is abusing a standard review process to prevent Mr. Bolton from revealing information that is merely embarrassing to President Trump, but not a threat to national security.
On Monday, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Bolton of violating policies on classified information by moving ahead with the book. The president also threatened Mr. Bolton with criminal charges for moving ahead, though there is no indication that federal prosecutors plan to pursue any.
The Justice Department did accuse Mr. Bolton in the lawsuit of leaking the manuscript, which contained classified information, without approval. Disclosing classified information is a federal crime.
But in a further sign that the Justice Department is not mounting a serious bid to try to block the book’s imminent release, the complaint does not seek a temporary restraining order — a legal step to freeze an action so the court can evaluate disputes — to block any further distribution of copies, Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, said on Twitter.
Mr. Trump has been enraged about Mr. Bolton’s pending book for months, and has told his advisers he wanted to try to stop it. On Monday, Attorney General William P. Barr criticized Mr. Bolton for publishing a book while the president he served under was still in office, erroneously calling it unprecedented. Other officials, including Robert M. Gates, a former defense secretary and C.I.A. director under presidents of both parties, have published books while the administration they worked in was still in power.
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday gestured at blocking publication, but it seemed more squarely focused on seizing Mr. Bolton’s profits.
Filed against Mr. Bolton — not Simon & Schuster — it asked for the court to take control of the money he made from the book, and to order that he “instruct or request his publisher, insofar as he has the authority to do so,” to retrieve and dispose of current copies of the book and further delay its release “until completion of the prepublication review process.”
A group of former national security officials said last year in a lawsuit that the review process for books and articles unjustifiably restricted their rights to free speech and due process.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

The Supreme Court’s LGBT Ruling Will Extend Far Beyond Employment Law

Justices Gorsuch and Roberts: targets of Christofascist venom.
Yesterday's much welcomed U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County was limited to Article VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and focused on employment discrimination.  However, the spill over effect will likely spread much farther and impact the application of other statutes that bar discrimination based on sex.  One likely victim of the ruling - even though court challenges will likely be required - is the Trump/Pence regimes efforts to roll back Obama era rules that bar discrimination in the health care realm. Applying the reasoning of Bostock, the Department of Health and Human Service's re-write of the rules runs head on into what the Court just ruled is illegal discrimination. Yes, the Christofascists are indeed seething because Bostock now provides a further weapon against their demands that the have a license to discriminate. A piece in Mother Jones looks at the likely spill over effects.  The irony, of course, is that a Trump appointee wrote the ruling,  Here are highlights:
On Monday, the Supreme Court handed LGBTQ Americans one of their biggest civil rights victories yet. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that gender identity and sexual orientation were protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination in employment. The decision means LBGTQ folks can no longer lose their jobs simply for being queer. 
“In our time, few pieces of federal legislation rank in significance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” writes Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, in the majority opinion. “There, in Title VII, Congress outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The ruling provides some much-needed clarity for lower courts and state officials, who are currently working with a hodgepodge of different (and sometimes conflicting) nondiscrimination policies.  
And though the case was specific to employment discrimination, the implications beyond the workplace are huge. The ruling won’t directly overturn discriminatory policies outside the realm of employment, says Sharon McGowan, Legal Director for Lambda Legal—which argued one of the Title VII cases before the Second Circuit Court—but it does set a precedent that makes it incredibly difficult to exclude gay and transgender people from other laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. 
Take, for example, the Fair Housing Act. In 1974, the act was amended to prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sex, but to date, only 24 states interpret that to include LGBTQ people (or have passed state legislation that explicitly includes them). One additional state, Wisconsin, prohibits discrimination against gay people, but not transgender people. Through the years, studies have shown that LGBTQ renters and home owners have been overcharged, less likely to secure rental housing or even evicted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Experts say the Supreme Court ruling could also effect things like Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972—which prohibits sex discrimination in education and has recently been weaponized against transgender student athletes—and health care nondiscrimination policies. 
Just last week, Trump’s Health and Human Services Department released a prepublication version of a rule change that would roll back protections for transgender patients under the Affordable Care Act. The change is meant to undo an Obama-era policy that barred providers and insurance from rejecting care based on gender identity.
“There is still a chance for HHS to see the error of their ways and pull the rule back and fix their mistake, which I hope they will do,” McGowan says. “But assuming that they’re going to continue to forge ahead, they basically have put forth a rule that says ‘we, in the federal government, think that sex discrimination doesn’t mean the things that the Supreme Court has just said sex discrimination means.’

But now, the bad news: Monday’s Supreme Court ruling does nothing for laws that don’t include sex in their nondiscrimination policies—and unfortunately there are more of them than you might think. Federal law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations (e.g. restaurants, retail businesses, parks, libraries) based on race, color, religion and national origin only. The same is true of discrimination prohibitions in certain federally funded programs. 
“I remain more optimistic than I’ve ever been, that we will continue to succeed in rooting out discrimination in all of its forms,” says McGowan. “But I do think that there are going to be issues that that many courts—particularly courts that are hostile to the underlying pinnings of these rulings—may try to find wiggle room maybe where it doesn’t exist. We know that our work is going to continue.”
The struggle for full equality under the law continues.

Monday, June 15, 2020

"Religious Liberty" - The Christofascists' Euphemism for the Mistreatment of Others

Aided by the Trump/Pence regime Christofascists have worked to conflate the terms "religious liberty" and "religious freedom" as part of their demand that they have special rights and privileges, not the least of which is carte blanche to discriminate against and to mistreat others.  Sadly, much of the mainstream media has given cover for such self-centered hate merchants by using these two terms and failing to describe the Christofascists' agenda for what it is: the right to discriminate at will and to be above the laws that govern the rest of us.  The same holds true for referring to these people as "Christian conservatives" rather than as bigots or those who embrace ignorance in the face of modern knowledge.  Today's Supreme Court ruling will hopefully shine a spotlight on the dis-ingenuousness of the Christofascists' word game and their continued demand that they be put above the law - something the Founders never contemplated. A piece in the Washington Post looks at more of this Christofascist effort to conflate religious freedom with unvarnished bigotry and often outright hatred of others.  Here are article excerpts:
In a landmark decision on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal law barring employment discrimination on the basis of sex also applies to sexuality and gender identity.
The decision was also met with alarm by several religious conservatives who fear what it could eventually mean for their [right to discriminate] religious freedom and how it could affect faith-based employers, including religious health-care providers, religious schools and social services operated by religious groups.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote that the ruling will make it harder for employers to operate according to their sincerely held beliefs.
The court’s 6-to-3 decision, written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, was met with surprise because Gorsuch’s appointment by President Trump had spurred delight among social conservatives.
Some, including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Andrew Walker and conservative commentator Erick Erickson, argued that Monday’s decision undercuts an argument from some Trump supporters that religious conservatives will vote for him based on his Supreme Court picks.
However, the court did not settle religious liberty questions in its Monday decision.
But worries about how Title VII may intersect with religious liberty are nothing new; they even predate the statute’s passage,” Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
The court combined two cases to consider whether gay workers are protected under the law. Attorneys for the two employers involved in Monday’s decision were not arguing the cases on religious grounds. In one of the cases, the owner of a Michigan funeral home had argued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a lower court but lost. It did not raise that argument in the appeal to the Supreme Court.
In 2012, the Supreme Court protected religious organizations from discrimination lawsuits brought by certain employees who are considered “ministers” of the faith. Two cases pending before the court concern whether teachers at parochial schools who do not primarily teach religion are among those who can’t sue.
While religious conservatives voiced concern, progressive faith leaders expressed support for the LGBT workers who won the case.
“Too often employers overstep the boundaries of personal religious freedom — the right to believe as we choose — to impose their beliefs on others through staffing decisions and workplace culture,” Katy Joseph, director of policy and advocacy at Interfaith Alliance, wrote in a statement. “Turning away LGBTQ+ job applicants and employees, or terminating their employment due to their identity, isn’t religious freedom — it’s discrimination.”
The Fairness for All Act, introduced last year in Congress, tried to reconcile nondiscrimination protections for people who are LGBT with protections for people of faith. It had the backing of groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals and the American Unity Fund.
Monday’s decision could kill those legislative efforts, said Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School.
“This will end all legislative bargaining over religious liberty in the gay-rights context,” Laycock wrote in an email. “There is no longer a deal to be had in which Congress passes a gay-rights law with religious exemptions; the religious side has nothing left to offer.”

Monday Male Beauty

Supreme Court: Yes to Gays, Clean Water and Sanctuary Cities, No to Trump/Pence

Today was a wonderful day for LGBT Americans as the U.S. Supreme Court in Bostock v. Clayton County ruled that existing civil rights non-discrimination laws regarding sex applied to LGBT citizens, thereby effectively making employment discrimination and other forms of anti-LGBT discrimination illegal nationwide. It was also a good day for California which saw the Court reject the Trump/Pence regime attack on so-called sanctuary cities   It was also a good day for environmental activists as the Court left the Clean Water Act intact.  The big loser was the Trump/Pence regime which was on the opposite side of the issue in all three cases.  The other big losers were white evangelical Christofascists who sought to have their bigotry and hatred placed above the law so that they could discriminate against LGBT citizens at will.  Indeed, some of the usually suspect in the Christofascist world are shrieking as if the world was ending - and also attacking Trump for his Court appointee, Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion.   As a gay man, it is hard to describe my feelings.  Had this decision been handed down almost 20 years earlier, I might have been spared a financial nightmare when I was forced from a law firm for being gay.  At the time, I had zero employment non-discrimination protections.  I am SO happy that in the future LGBT individuals may be spared the experience that befell me. A piece at SCOTUS Blog explains the importance and impact of this ruling:
In affirming that Title VII’s broad scope prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Supreme Court immediately ended a form of stigmatic injury suffered by millions of citizens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth. The question whether the phrase “because of … sex” means what it says in the context of employer actions prohibited by Title VII has been definitively answered—it does. That is, because sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be explained as traits that someone has without making reference to the sex of the person, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is also because of an individual’s sex. The Supreme Court also once again concluded that it makes no difference under the text of Title VII whether an employer intended also to discriminate based on an additional reason, like motherhood or the identity of one’s spouse, if sex is a basis for the decision.
With that legal uncertainty removed, gone too is the practical uncertainty faced by real individuals weighing questions of whether to make career moves, geographic moves or moves to reveal aspects of their personal lives by openly sharing their authentic selves at work.
The opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County fulfills the best promises of textualism. The Supreme Court’s confirmation that all people have the right to be given the full measure of protection afforded to them by laws having meaning anchored in the written word is a powerful statement about the enduring power of people-led movements.
Maryland, along with 20 other states and the District of Columbia, expressly prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity through statute or regulation. Title VII now definitively joins these statutes in prohibiting all forms of discrimination based on sex, including discrimination based on traits like sexual orientation and gender identity that cannot be separated from an individual’s sex. The Bostock decision affirms that citizens may rely on the achievement of broad legislative protections against discrimination to provide long-lasting victory.
Importantly, the confirmation of Title VII’s sweep immediately cements protections for federal government workers, no matter their state of residency, and for individuals who work in states that have not yet specifically prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In those states, LGBT workers facing discrimination may now bring complaints under Title VII to directly improve their own working conditions.
Other benefits will accrue over time. As Maryland and the 20 states and District of Columbia set forth in their amicus brief, discrimination is expensive. Reducing salary disparities, health care instability and increased health care costs due to the mental health effects of stigmatic discrimination will immediately benefit individuals and the states that care for them. There is also a body of evidence demonstrating that private industry benefits from reducing discrimination because of the increased creativity and productivity LGBT people bring to the workplace when they are included and when they are freed from the health effects of stigmatization. LGBT individuals and their families benefit from better working conditions, and so do states, which experience decreased use of their public benefits system and increased tax revenue as a result of increased innovation and productivity.

Indeed, everyone benefits except religious extremists - think Trump's evangelical base - motivated by hatred and a sick need to have others to denigrate so that they can feel a sense superiority.  

But, as noted, LBGT Americans were not the only winners today.  In its opinion in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund the Court (including Justice Kavanaugh) sided with clean water advocates that point source discharges to navigable waters through groundwater are regulated under the Clean Water Act.   The Supreme Court also rejected the Trump administration’s effort to blow a big hole in the Clean Water Act’s protections for rivers, lakes, and oceans. As explained here these were defeats for the Trump/Pence regime:
In other words, the Clean Water Act prohibits unpermitted discharge of pollution “into navigable waters, or when the discharge reaches the same result through roughly similar means.” In doing so, the Court rejected the Trump administration’s polluter-friendly position in the clearest of terms: “We do not see how Congress could have intended to create such a large and obvious loophole in one of the key regulatory innovations of the Clean Water Act.”
Lastly, the Court also ended Trump's war on blue states that include so-call sanctuary cities.  A column in the Los Angeles Times looks at the Court's action (it is noteworthy that both of Trump's appointees ruled against his regime): 
Since his inauguration in 2017, President Trump has waged a mean-spirited, costly and unnecessary war against undocumented immigrants — many of whom have been living in this country for years and have been hard-working, law-abiding members of the their communities. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed Monday that states and cities can’t be forced to support that pernicious effort.
California has been a regular target of Trump’s anger and frustration, particularly after the state passed a so-called sanctuary law in 2017 that limits how state and local law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal immigration agents. Former Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions sued to overturn the state’s restrictions, complaining that California was trying to secede from federal law.
The Supreme Court brought that lawsuit to a halt Monday when it sided with California and rejected the Trump administration’s challenge. Notably, even Trump’s two appointees on the court — Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — refused to hear the administration’s appeal.
At least for now, my faith in the Court is somewhat restored.  It would seem that with Trump's decline in the polls, even his appointees to the Court have decided to put the law first and Trump's whims and misogyny last.