Saturday, August 29, 2020

More Saturday Male Beauty


The Republican Party and the White Nationalist Agenda

Some in the Republican Party have long used dog whistle racism to frighten white voters to support them even though the GOP's economic agenda was contrary to such voters' own best interest.  Now, what used to be winks and nods to such dog whistle messaging has been replaced by open racism and the GOP's embrace of white nationalism and open white supremacy as displayed at the just ended Republican convention.  One of the architects of this foul and morally bankrupt political fear mongering is Stephen Miller who bears a striking resemblance to Adolph Hitler's minister of propaganda, Josef Goebbels. Like Goebbels, Miller and Miller's master, Donald Trump, are using hatred and the demonizing of others to further their quest to cling to power.  Blacks, Hispanics, and whites who support racial justice are depicted as enemies of America and of Western civilization itself. Meanwhile, the true enemies are Trump, today's GOP and the white supremacists and Christofascists who comprise the GOP base.   A column in the New York Times looks at this vicious, racist campaign.  Here are excerpts:

Over the past week, the Republican National Convention sought to conjure a “radical left” hellscape.

Speakers conflated anti-racist protesters with deranged criminals out to destroy the country. Donald Trump Jr. called Joe Biden “the Loch Ness monster,” while the conservative activist Charlie Kirk praised Donald Trump as “the bodyguard of Western civilization.” In his speech on Thursday, the president denounced “mob rule.” “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens,” he said.

The language at the convention comes from the “white genocide” conspiracy theory, which warns, among other things, that brown and Black people will destroy white civilization with the help of their anti-racist allies. It echoed that of the racist-dystopian novel “The Camp of the Saints,” which Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior policy adviser and speechwriter, promoted in 2015 through the right-wing website Breitbart.

The book, by the French author Jean Raspail, characterizes “anti-racists” as an apocalyptic “mob” of “agitators” and “anarchists,” and depicts the destruction of the white world by brown refugees described as “monsters,” “beasts” and “toiling ants teeming for the white man’s comfort.” He wrote of a world where “anti-racists” are “servants of the beast”

Language is a tool for shaping minds, and Mr. Miller knows how to weaponize it. It’s why he draws from books like Mr. Raspail’s to shape rhetoric. It’s why, in 2015, he asked writers at Breitbart to produce an article about the parallels between the book and real life that painted the book as prophetic. It’s also why he inserts vivid, gory descriptions of crimes ostensibly committed by migrants into Mr. Trump’s speeches.

In July, Mr. Miller told Tucker Carlson that the federal crackdown on anti-racist protesters in Portland, Ore., was about “the survival of this country.”

Mr. Trump is leaning on Mr. Miller’s dystopian vision to stoke white fear the way Mr. Miller did in 2016, when he helped his boss depict Democrats as elites seeking to “decimate” America through immigration. This time around the targets have expanded beyond Mexicans and Muslims to include Black Lives Matter protesters and their allies. The Trump campaign’s strategy is to cast the president’s opponents as an existential threat to the nation.

The term “cancel culture,” used throughout the Republican convention, lumps together and demonizes critics of white male supremacy, in an attempt to silence them. The use of the term in this context allows the far right to dictate the terms of the conversation, as does the news media’s reluctance to call Mr. Trump and his chief adviser what they are: traffickers in hate, pushing a white nationalist agenda through narratives about national identity, prosperity and security.

Mr. Miller seeks to re-engineer immigration into this country to keep brown and Black people out . . . . This obsession with the supposed dangers of people of color, particularly immigrants or left-wing extremists, ignores reality. Right-wing extremists have committed the most terrorist attacks in the United States since the 1990s.

Officials say that a 17-year-old named Kyle Rittenhouse opened fire on people during a protest in Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, killing two and wounding a third. Mr. Rittenhouse, a supporter of Mr. Trump and the pro-law enforcement “Blue Lives Matter” movement, traveled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill., in response to online appeals from a right-wing militia group . . . .

Last August, a gunman drove to a Walmart in El Paso, targeting Hispanics in massacre that left 23 people dead. The man charged in the killings, Patrick Crusius, wrote an anti-immigrant manifesto that spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” mirroring Mr. Trump’s characterization of migrants from Central and South America as perpetrating “an invasion of our country.”

False Black and brown crime statistics are a common recruiting tactic in white supremacist circles; the website American Renaissance, which Mr. Miller also promoted through Breitbart, pumps out misleading statistics characterizing people of color as more prone to violence.

As Mr. Trump increasingly adopts the playbook of white supremacists, a new solidarity is emerging among white, Black, brown and other groups as they confront the growing threat of right-wing extremism together. The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket reflects this new solidarity.

“Trump knows that if we find real solidarity, it’s a wrap,” said Aida Rodriguez, an Afro-Latina activist. “We’re all waking up to it, and you’re going to see it in November.” These alliances are a real-life manifestation of the mob of Mr. Miller’s nightmares. But that “mob” will not destroy America, as he imagines. It will destroy the white supremacist fantasy he and so many others live inside.

Trump and the GOP MUST be defeated in November. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty


"Christian" Site Raising Money For Kenosha Killer

I have long viewed many right wing "Christian" organizations - e.g., Family Research Council - as racist if one but scratched the surface.  Of course, the Southern Baptist Convention has documented racist roots since it arose to support the continuation of slavery so no scratching the surface is required. Now to further emphasize the moral depravity of the Christian far right, a "Christian" fundraising site is raising funds for the Kenosha shooter who killed two people and wounded a third after traveling across state lines with an assault weapon (what was a 17 year old doing with an assault rifle?).  Incredibly, the site is claiming that the shooter was merely "defending himself" from "Antifa," conveniently leaving out how the shooter called a friend after shooting his first victim before going on to shoot two more people.   Of course had he not injected himself into someone else's community, there would have been no need to "defend himself."  The story line presented by the site is both a work of fiction and shows just how depraved evangelicals and Christofascists have become. Tellingly, the site GoFundMe had refused to allow fundraising for someone involved in racially motivated murder.  A piece at Patheos looks at this disgusting site and situation.  Here are excerpts:

Domestic Terrorism For Jesus: The Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo is hosting a fundraising drive for alleged domestic terrorist Kyle Rittenhouse after legitimate crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe refused to do so.

GiveSendGo, which self-identifies as the “fastest growing Christian Crowdfunding site made by Christians for Christians,” has already raised over a $100,000 for the Kenosha killer Kyle Rittenhouse, the domestic terrorist charged with murder after killing two BLM protesters and wounding another.

The “Fundraising Story” for Rittenhouse reads:

Kyle Rittenhouse just defended himself from a brutal attack by multiple members of the far-leftist group ANTIFA – the experience was undoubtedly a brutal one, as he was forced to take two lives to defend his own.

Now, Kyle is being unfairly charged with murder 1, by a DA who seems determined only to capitalize on the political angle of the situation. The situation was clearly self-defense, and Kyle and his family will undoubtedly need money to pay for the legal fees.

Let’s give back to someone who bravely tried to defend his community. 

The comments on the site are even more obnoxious. For example:

May it be remembered in the annals of history that the first shots were fired by this young patriot as he was defending himself, and by extension our country, against a terrorist mob that the rest of the country up until this moment would not consider using fire power against. This young man’s freedom will be secured before this war is over, if we have to burn the justice system that holds him to the ground.

Previously supporters of Rittenhouse tried to use the respected and trusted site GoFundMe to raise funds for the terrorist, but GoFundMe immediately removed any such effort. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

GoFundMe spokesperson Angelique McNaughton said Thursday the platform removed the fundraisers because they violated GoFundMe’s terms of service. McNaughton said the platform refunded all the donors.

GoFundMe forbids people from using the platform to raise money for “the implicit or explicit purpose of or involving for the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, serious disabilities or diseases, financial crimes or crimes of deception,” according to the terms of service.

In short, GoFundMe is much more ethical than the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo.

Needless to say, this whole affair reinforces my view that if one says they are an evangelical, the safest bet is that they are likely a racist and horrible person despite pretense to the contrary. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

More Friday Male Beauty


A Fitting End to Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Years of Anti-LGBT Hypocrisy


Like the occupant of the White House that he has supported, Jerry Falwell, Jr. - and most of the so-called leaders of evangelicals - has always been a con artist using religion and the gullibility of others to enrich himself and gain political power.  A key part of the scam has been to incite hatred against LGBT individuals and to depict us as sinners and all to often allege that we are a threat to both children and western civilization itself. Thus, it is delicious to see Falwell  laid low by a sex scandal that involves a three way relationship with a handsome and much younger man (one of at least two handsome young men favored by Falwell).  The situation underscores the hypocrisy of both Falwell, but also so many evangelicals who support Donald Trump, an admitted sexual predator and likely the most immoral individual to ever occupy the White House.  A piece in the Daily Beast looks at Falwell's much deserved fall.  Here are excerpts:

A pool boy allegedly fu*ked his wife as he sat, watched, and enjoyed every second.

For such a virulently anti-gay, Christian conservative, props to Jerry Falwell Jr. for at least serving up a note of pure Jackie Collins camp in the scandal that has led to his reported resignation as president of Liberty University, . . . “Becki [Falwell’s wife] and I developed an intimate relationship, and Jerry enjoyed watching from the corner of the room,” Giancarlo Granda told Reuters of his affair with the couple.

Granda told Reuters that these liaisons took place “multiple times per year” from 2012 to 2018 at hotels in Miami and New York, and at the Falwells’ home in Bedford County, Virginia. Granda showed Reuters texts and emails that showed the alleged trajectory of the affair.

Whoever speaks to him next, ask Falwell who he likes to have sex with. Ask him what he masturbates over. Ask him who he masturbates over. Ask him about Granda’s ass pumping away in front of him as Granda fucked Becki. What and who was he into at that moment?

Ask him all about it. Ask him about his sexuality. Ask him about his sex life. Don’t worry about seeming tasteless or intrusive, because Jerry Falwell Jr. has been tastelessly intruding on LGBTQ people—apparently disgusted by what they do in bed—all his life. Judge, judge, and sex-shame some more: this has been Falwell’s chosen way to promote himself and his beliefs at the expense of LGBTQ people’s safety and equality. Now he may get to know just a small dose of what that judge-and-shame spin-cycle feels like.

Falwell is not the first right-wing hypocrite, quick to judge others while apparently sinning on the sly. Judgment in these circumstances seems not only appropriate, but also karmic.

Falwell has actively sought to judge and hurt LGBTQ people for the duration of his life—just like his late father, Jerry Falwell Sr., who founded the “Moral Majority” in 1979, and spent his life whipping up as much hatred as he could against LGBTQ people.

One significant strand of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ campaigning today, which goes under the soft-sounding nom de plume of “religious freedom,” piloted by Mike Pence and his cohorts, springs direct from the Falwell Sr. template.

Falwell Sr. and his supporters argued that gays preyed on kids, and that LGBTQ acceptance would lead to nothing less than the destruction of America. In his later years, Falwell Sr. moved to a kind of “love the sinner, hate the sin” position, but his outright bigotry remains his more memorable trademark.

If it sounds wildly absurd to a millennial generation there was nothing funny or absurd about it at a time when gays were dying, alone and stigmatized, of AIDS thanks to a Reagan administration that cared more about the evangelicals Falwell spouted his poison for than it did for dying gay Americans. 

Back then, there were no positive images of anything gay in pop culture. A gay kiss on TV led to advertising boycotts. Falwell was one of the chief bullies of a one-sided anti-LGBTQ hate playground—ready to extinguish even the mildest flame of social acceptance with ferocious gales of hate.

Just like his father, Falwell Jr. is apparently fine with hating LGBTQ people, while being completely non-judgmental about any number of ungodly misbehaviors and scandals involving Republicans—such as a leader who proudly boasts of grabbing women by their genitals. And so much more.

But this alliance isn’t about a true expression of faith. How could it be with a president of America who openly mocks religion, while courting its most fervent followers, who holds a Bible upside down in front of a church, after having peaceful protesters violently set upon?

This relationship between evangelicals and Republican leaders in 2020 is based on the same thing it was based on when Falwell Sr. founded the Moral Majority: political expediency. It is about Falwell and evangelicals merrily making a deal with the best devil who can advance their prejudice-filled, discriminatory agenda, and the Republicans leaning in to their hatred for easily bankable votes.

Just like his father, Falwell Jr. has stoked his hatred of LGBTQ people personally and professionally. Just like his father he has had influence within the Republican Party. . . . He has done all he can to make LGBTQ people as unequal and stigmatized as they were in his father’s era.

Granda told Reuters that he feels the Falwells preyed upon him. “Whether it was immaturity, naïveté, instability, or a combination thereof, it was this ‘mindset’ that the Falwells likely detected in deciding that I was the ideal target for their sexual escapades,” he told Reuters.

As Falwell Jr. faces questions of who he is attracted to and his own sexual morality, he may do so in the hypocrisy-streaked light of the litany of anti-gay remarks he has made in the past.

Now, Falwell Jr. finds himself in the same position as his father saw his gay friend [Mel] White, who was, said Falwell Sr. “caught and exposed… it’s a terrible thing to leave behind the wreckage of a family, just so that I can sleep with somebody I want to sleep with.

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Republican Fantasy World: Day Four

Day four of the Republican Convention saw more lies and a total distortion of reality and culminated by the speech of the liar-in-chief, Donald Trump. It's shocking how dishonest and devoid of morality the GOP has become, a trend that began with the infiltration of the party by evangelicals who (i) live in a fantasy world based on myths and a rejection of any and all science and knowledge that threatens that fantasy world, and (ii) lie with abandon to achieve their self-centered dominionist agenda.  Trump is the culmination of the GOP's slide to the gutter and white supremacy where facts and objective reality simply do not matter.  Sadly, a certain percentage of Americans - mostly whites - are only too happy to embrace the lies and hatred that is so visibly on display.  A column in the New York Times looks at the Trump/GOP fantasy world that sooner or later will crash headlong into reality and the mindlessness of GOP voters.  Here are column highlights:

The alt-reality show on the screen this week, a Republican National Convention without platform or ideas, mixed Dear Leader adoration with primal fear jabs aimed at the weary American voter. And it may work.

But the reality outside the screen was a perfect fusion of elements central to the master con of Trumpism. The trick of tying the president to something more than the blimp of his ego — to religion, family, guns, a border wall, support for the forgotten man and woman, law and order — was exposed as an elaborate fraud in elaborate detail.

Even the riots in the cities, framed by the choreographers of fear as a preview of Joe Biden’s America, could not be time-traveled beyond the irrefutable: The violent dystopia is happening in Donald Trump’s America. The guns of August 2020 are his.

Credit Trump’s television hagiographers, veterans of vanity art from years of crafting the fiction of “The Apprentice,” with trying to make a stump of rotted timber into a golden throne. But they could not whittle away the real events of the summer.

The words of Trump’s own sister, the former federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, hung over the opening day of the convention. “He has no principles,” she said in a leaked recording from midway through his presidency. “None! None!”

Add Judge Barry’s words to those of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer and one of numerous felons from the law-and-order president’s inner circle. “I was complicit in helping conceal the real Donald Trump,” he says in a new ad. “And I’m here to tell you he cannot be trusted, and you shouldn’t believe a word he utters.”

On convention’s eve, Trump had tried to divert attention from the historic tragedy of his presidency, the death of nearly 180,000 Americans from Covid-19, by promoting a miracle therapeutic. But by day one of the party infomercial, the food and drug commissioner, Stephen Hahn, had been forced to apologize for vastly overstating, in a disgraceful news conference with Trump, the curative effect of blood plasma treatment.

Day three of the convention marked the six-month anniversary of Trump’s assertion that the coronavirus might soon disappear. As of that day, August 26, more than 5.8 million Americans had contracted the deadly disease.

In the spiritual realm, the downfall of the president’s most forceful evangelical promoter fit the pattern of the big scam. Jerry Falwell Jr., was ousted from Liberty University after reports that he liked to watch his wife having sex with a former Miami pool boy.

Hypocrisy among holy rollers in high places is as old as the stones of Rome’s first church. But in this case, the tie to Trump’s world is telling: Becki Falwell, wife of the disgraced evangelical, was on the advisory board of Women for Trump. She appeared in a campaign video last year promoting — What else? — traditional family values.

Let’s look away from that tawdry spectacle to a pair of bigger grifts, the border wall and the gun lobby. Was anyone surprised when Steve Bannon was charged with defrauding the poor saps who gave millions to his We Build the Wall campaign?

Over at the gun lobby, another insider is telling all in a forthcoming book. The National Rifle Association was “rife with fraud and corruption,” writes Joshua L. Powell, who was the chief of staff to the N.R.A.’s leader, Wayne LaPierre. “We only knew one speed and one direction: sell the fear.”

Ah yes, sell the fear: the message of this convention. And using the powerful prop of the federal government, in a Hatch Act crime spree, didn’t bother anyone at the top of this den of defalcators. “Nobody outside the Beltway really cares,” said Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff.

Surely many of Trump’s supporters know they’re getting played. And they don’t mind, so long as they can “own the libs.” The libs, certainly, give them much to want to own. But this is a deadly game Republicans are playing.

On one night, the convention trotted out a pair of gun-toting white suburbanites to scare people into taking up arms against protesters. One night later, a white teenager with a semiautomatic rifle was arrested on a charge of gunning down several protesters.

At the same time, California is burning and the South is underwater. If you play the sucker, you won’t notice that this confederacy of con men has been unable to gaslight the seasonal rage of climate change. Nor would you care.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Day Three of the GOP CA Fantasy Land of Lies

As regular readers know, I have zero use for Mike Pence - a man who I view as a self-loathing closet case who wears a phony religiosity as his cloak to convince himself and others that his is not who is really is. As one who was in the closet for 37 years and tried desperately to "pray away the gay," all of the signs are there.  But sadly, Pence's lies go far beyond lying about who he really is.  His address at the Republican convention was so devoid of a connection with objective reality in America - including the Trump/Pence regime's utter failure in handling the Covid-19 pandemic - that one would have thought he was speaking from either a fantasy land or certainly some other nation.  One cannot help but wonder how bungled the response to Hurricane Laura will prove to be based on the regime's track record.  Of course, Pence was not the only liar on display throughout the evening who sought to paint a picture of America that exists only in the right wing media and the minds of Trump's Kool-Aid drinking followers.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this disconnect from reality.  Here are highlights: 

What 176,000-plus deaths from covid-19? What devastating shutdown and recession? What double-digit unemployment? What mass uncertainty over whether and how to open the schools? What shocking police killings of African Americans? What long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism?

Let me put it another way: What country does Vice President Pence live in?

During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, Pence sounded as though he lived in some kind of fantasyland that perhaps had encountered a few tiny little bumps in the road. His party has spent the week claiming to represent “the common man,” but Pence spoke as though he knew next to nothing about the daunting challenges that Americans are having to deal with every day. The most he could muster was an acknowledgement that “we’re passing through a time of testing,” as though he were consoling a motorist after a fender bender.

[H]is only pointed and specific words were his attacks against the Democratic nominee — “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” — and his full-throated endorsement of President Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric.

So far, the GOP has misused the White House — the people’s house — to have President Trump and his acting secretary of homeland security stage a naturalization ceremony, crassly reducing five newly minted U.S. citizens to photogenic props; have Trump pardon an African American ex-convict, as part of an all-out attempt to whitewash the administration’s shocking racism; and have first lady Melania Trump deliver her convention address, standing before Republican partisans in the Rose Garden she recently renovated.

The party also had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak to the convention from Jerusalem, playing an active partisan role in a way no sitting secretary of state has done in living memory — in the middle of an overseas diplomatic trip, no less. He is supposed to represent the entire nation, but apparently he represents only the loyal Trump base.

Pence is supposedly leading the nation’s response to the coronavirus emergency. One might have expected that he, of all speakers, would at least try to deal with that crisis substantively. But one would have been wrong.

As Pence spoke, a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm was grinding toward landfall along the Gulf Coast. Many thousands of people were trying to evacuate their homes near the Texas-Louisiana border — and, because the Trump administration so bungled its response to covid-19, had to scramble for shelter and safety in the middle of a raging pandemic.

Pence apparently hadn’t noticed the reason for the Kenosha protests. And he apparently really didn’t notice the killing Tuesday of two protesters, allegedly by a young White vigilante and Trump supporter.

I wasn’t surprised. Earlier in the evening, the convention brought out Michael McHale, president of the National Association of Police Organizations, to describe Biden (who wrote the 1994 crime bill) and vice-presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris (a former prosecutor) as somehow anti-police

But what all of this actually reveals is Trump’s own naked fear.  He and the Republicans are pulling these stunts because they know that right now, according to polls, they are losing this election. Badly. And deep down, I hope, at least some of them realize that defeat is what they richly deserve.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty


Today's GOP: Home of Conspiracy Lunatics and Bigots

Like any political party, before the rise of Donald Trump the Republican Party had adherents that held troubling beliefs and were hostile to various segments of American society, but such individuals were not mainstream in the party and were pushed to the fringes.  With Trump, the doors were thrown wide open to such people and as they gained ascendancy sane and rational people began to exit the party which now finds its main base among three groups: the greed driven wealthy who will over look any moral outrage if they get lower taxes, open white supremacists who see one of themselves in Trump, and right wing Christian fanatics to whom Trump has promised power and exemption from non-discrimination laws. Despite this reality of who now controls the GOP, the party still tries to pretend it's still the party of yesteryear.  Increasingly, however, the lunatics and bigots who now find a home in the GOP are making that fanciful ruse harder to pull off. A column in the Washington Post looks at the batshitery and bigotry which is now mainstream in the GOP.  Here are column highlights:

Let’s face it: Once you try to delegitimize the only African American president (and then the only African American nominee for vice president), deploy a not-so-subtle call to return the old political order when Whites dominated (“Make America Great Again”), treat immigrants as if they are despoiling America, celebrate the ultimate symbol of white supremacy (the Confederate battle flag) and race-bait your way through three-plus years in office, it is pretty much a given that anti-Semites and conspiracy kooks will come come out from under every rock to support you.

We saw the welcome mat go out for anti-Semites in 2016, when Donald Trump initially refused to disavow David Duke and when his campaign resorted to anti-Semitic imagery. We witnessed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) play the “Jewish money” card by invoking George Soros and two other Jewish billionaires. We heard Trump argue that Jews who do not support him are “disloyal to Israel” and Republicans increasingly equate being American with being White and Christian and view outsiders as ruining America. . . . . in 2019, PRRI found "approximately two-thirds of Republicans agree both that discrimination against whites has become as much of a problem as discrimination against blacks (69%) and that immigrants are invading the country and changing American culture (63%).”

And so it should be no surprise that anti-Semitism and conspiratorialists have infected the Republican National Convention.

First, on Tuesday, QAnon conspiratorialist Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom Trump praised when she won the nomination for the Republican Party’s primary in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, proudly showed off her invitation to the White House to watch Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday                           . . . . In the years before she ran for office, GOP congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote two conspiracy-laden blog posts speculating that the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to one counter-protester’s death was an “inside job” and promoting a debunked conspiracy alleging some Democratic Party leaders were running a human-trafficking and pedophilia ring -- known as “Pizzagate” -- was real.

Also on Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported that Republicans canceled a convention appearance by Mary Ann Mendoza, a member of the Trump campaign’s advisory board who was supposed to speak during the second night of the convention. The Daily Beast reports:

Hours before she was set to speak at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, Mary Ann Mendoza took to Twitter and urged her followers to investigate a supposed Jewish plot to enslave the world.

Mendoza was supposed to talk about illegal immigrants and specifically the tragic loss of her son in a car crash. However, she holds some other views, which once upon a time were not acceptable in a mainstream party and now don’t seem to raise an eyebrow:

Her tweet on Tuesday linked to a lengthy thread from a QAnon conspiracy theorist that laid out a fevered, anti-Semitic view of the world. In its telling, the Rothschilds—a famous Jewish banking family from Germany—created a plot to terrorize non-Jewish “goyim,” with purported details of their scheme that included plans to “make the goyim destroy each other” and “rob the goyim of their landed properties.”

Only after the story surfaced did Mendoza’s speech get pulled. (No word yet if Greene is losing her invitation as well.) Apparently, Mendoza’s views did not raise any eyebrows before then.

Maybe the Republican National Committee — as thoroughly incompetent as it is — just did not vet her, you may say. But again, this ignores the fact that the Republican Party has put out the welcome mat for white supremacists, bigots and anti-Semites. The GOP can hardly be surprised when such people show up, anxious to venerate a president who they see is on their side.

The Biden campaign’s Jewish engagement director, Aaron Keyak, first expressed sympathy for Mendoza for having lost her child. . . . However, he observed, her planned appearance was sadly not a surprising choice for the Trump convention. “As much as they may try to disguise it, giving room for these ideas is what Trump has done from Day One.” He continued, “No parade of speakers can drown out the phrase ‘very fine people on both sides’ after the anti-Semites marched in Charlottesville to the chant of the ‘Jews will not replace us.’ To anyone really watching and listening, that refusal of Trump to condemn such hatred still rings loudly and clearly.”

In the United States, there is only one major party that provides a comfortable refuge and a party leader who mouths the same “replacement” fears that violent white nationalists espouse. It is  precisely for this reason that so many former Republicans understand the necessity of leveling the party to the ground and starting an opposition anew.

As I have often said, in my view, this move to open bigotry and conspiracy theory insanity began when evangelicals and Christofascists were cynically voted onto city and county committees. Now, the inmates have taken control of the asylum and the only solution is to burn it down. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

More Tuesday Male Beauty


The Platform the GOP Is Too Afraid to Publish

As the Republican convention continues, it is displaying the alternate universe in which the Republican base dwells.  It's a reality that is disconnected with the reality of America's changing demographics and the reality in which the majority of Americans live their lives.   As a consequence, the true party platform - even though the GOP claims not to have one in 2020 - would alienate the majority of Americans and voters and perhaps set the stage for a Trump defeat even in critical swing states and possibly some red states.  What's in this unspoken agenda?  The usual: more tax cuts for the super wealthy, dismantling the Affordable Health Care Act where access to health care is the privilege of the few, voter suppression,  the rejection of science and knowledge that shows that Covid-19 and climate change are not hoaxes, and white supremacist policies.  As David Frum, a former Republican argues in a piece in The Atlantic, it's little wonder the GOP claims not to have a 2020 party platform even though the goals of the GOP are very clear and the antithesis of a diverse and equal society. Here are article highlights:

Republicans have decided not to publish a party platform for 2020.

This omission has led some to conclude that the GOP lacks ideas, that it stands for nothing, that it has shriveled to little more than a Trump cult.

This conclusion is wrong. The Republican Party of 2020 has lots of ideas. I’m about to list 13 ideas that command almost universal assent within the Trump administration, within the Republican caucuses of the U.S. House and Senate, among governors and state legislators, on Fox News, and among rank-and-file Republicans.

Once you read the list, I think you’ll agree that these are authentic ideas with meaningful policy consequences, and that they are broadly shared. The question is not why Republicans lack a coherent platform; it’s why they’re so reluctant to publish the one on which they’re running.

1)      The most important mechanism of economic policy—not the only tool, but the most important—is adjusting the burden of taxation on society’s richest citizens. Lower this level, as Republicans did in 2017, and prosperity will follow. The economy has had a temporary setback, but thanks to the tax cut of 2017, recovery is ready to follow strongly. No further policy change is required, except possibly lower taxes still.

2)      The coronavirus is a much-overhyped problem. It’s not that dangerous and will soon burn itself out. States should reopen their economies as rapidly as possible, and accept the ensuing casualties as a cost worth paying . . .

3)      Climate change is a much-overhyped problem. It’s probably not happening. If it is happening, it’s not worth worrying about. If it’s worth worrying about, it’s certainly not worth paying trillions of dollars to amend.

4)      China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United States. Military spending should be invested with an eye to defeating China on the seas, in space, and in the cyberrealm. U.S. economic policy should recognize that relations with China are zero-sum: When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.

5)      The trade and alliance structures built after World War II are outdated. America still needs partners, of course, especially Israel and maybe Russia. But the days of NATO and the World Trade Organization are over. The European Union should be treated as a rival, the United Kingdom and Japan should be treated as subordinates, and Canada, Australia, and Mexico should be treated as dependencies.

6)      Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make their own best deals in the insurance market with minimal government supervision. Those who pay more should get more. Those who cannot pay must rely on Medicaid, accept charity, or go without.

7)      Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate that privilege in such a way as to minimize voting fraud, which is rife among Black Americans and new immigrant communities.

8)      Anti-Black racism has ceased to be an important problem in American life. At this point, the people most likely to be targets of adverse discrimination are whites, Christians, and Asian university applicants. Federal civil-rights-enforcement resources should concentrate on protecting them.

9)      The courts should move gradually and carefully toward eliminating the mistake made in 1965, when women’s sexual privacy was elevated into a constitutional right.

10)  The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. Overly strict conflict-of-interest rules will only bar wealthy and successful businesspeople from public service. Without endorsing every particular action by the president and his family, the Trump administration has met all reasonable ethical standards.

11)  Trump’s border wall is the right policy to slow illegal immigration; the task of enforcing immigration rules should not fall on business operators. Some deal on illegal immigration must be found. The most important Republican priority in any such deal is to delay as long as possible full citizenship, voting rights, and health-care benefits for people who entered the country illegally.

12)  The country is gripped by a surge of crime and lawlessness as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and its criticism of police. Police misconduct, such as that in the George Floyd case, should be punished. But the priority now should be to stop crime by empowering police.

13)  Civility and respect are cherished ideals. But in the face of the overwhelming and unfair onslaught against President Donald Trump by the media and the “deep state,” his occasional excesses on Twitter and at his rallies should be understood as pardonable reactions to much more severe misconduct by others.

So there’s the platform. Why not publish it?

There are two answers to that question, one simple, one more complicated.

The simple answer is that President Trump’s impulsive management style has cast his convention into chaos. The location, the speaking program, the arrangements—all were decided at the last minute. Managing the rollout of a platform as well was just one task too many.

The more complicated answer is that the platform I’ve just described, like so much of the Trump-Republican program, commands support among only a minority of the American people. The platform works (to the extent it does work) by exciting enthusiastic support among Trump supporters; but when stated too explicitly, it invites a backlash among the American majority. This is a platform for a party that talks to itself, not to the rest of the country.

And for those purposes, the platform will succeed most to the extent that it is communicated only implicitly, to those receptive to its message.

The challenge for Republicans in the week ahead is to hope that President Trump can remember, night after night, to speak only the things he’s supposed to speak—not to blurt the things his party wants its supporters to absorb unspoken.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty


The GOP Convention Becomes a Festival of Fear

Many of us anticipated that the Republican convention would be a cavalcade of batshit craziness  and the first night did not disappoint as it alternated between abject - and ridiculous - fear mongering to fawning over the "glorious leader," Donald Trump. Perhaps none of this should have been a surprised since the lead consultant to the convention produced “The Apprentice” for Trump. Some of the commentary was so over the top as to be utterly absurd to anyone sane and not subsumed in the cult of Trump.  Jim Jordan - who looked away while male athletes were being sexually abused - insanely accused Democrats of not allowing Americans to go to church. Meanwhile, most of us going about our daily lives and not obsessed with perceived lost privilege and a desire to take the country back to the 1950's could not recognize the nation as described by the list of extremist speakers.  Indeed, if we have any real fear it is that we will be infected with Covid-19 by Trumpists who refuse to follow CDC guidelines and wear masks. If anyone is a threat to western civilization, it is the science and knowledge denying Visigoths of the GOP base.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the fear mongering and insanity.  Here are highlights:

President Trump over the weekend said he expected a “very uplifting and positive” convention. Uh-oh. Dude must have gotten into the hydroxychloroquine again.

The Republican National Convention on its opening day was as uplifting as the apocalypse, as positive as perdition.

“The woke-topians,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) warned, “will disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door, and the police aren’t coming when you call.”

Kimberly Guilfoyle, the former Fox News personality and current girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., informed the convention that Democrats “want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom.

Midway through this rage-fest, the convention went to news footage of violence and destruction in the streets and bleeped-out obscenities — then cut to the wood-paneled interior of the mansion of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who were charged with firearms violations after they threatened racial-justice demonstrators with a pistol and military-style weapon.

The pair, personal injury lawyers both, spoke about the “out-of-control mob” and the “Marxist liberal activist” and “radicals” who menaced them by walking past their house — which “could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country.” . . . “Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

It was a veritable festival of fear — made all the more intriguing because it was delivered by the incumbent president’s party, much of it from an ornate hall near the White House, the Mellon Auditorium, named for a robber baron. Four years ago, Trump pledged to end “American carnage.” Now he’s asking for another four years to put an end to all the additional American carnage he created in his first four years. The difference is his leadership has turned the dystopian America Trump pictured into more of a reality.

It served up implausible testimonies about what a fabulous job Trump has done handling the pandemic. The Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, spoke with a straight face about Trump’s “reverence for the office of the presidency.”

The party officially resolved to “adjourn without adopting a new platform.” Instead, the party made its convention into a virtual assembly of the cult of Trump. The president, after his afternoon appearance in Charlotte, appeared in two prime-time segments of the convention on Monday to receive praise from virus survivors, health workers and former hostages, and he is expected to speak Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, too. His wife, four of his children, a daughter-in-law and various Trump pals are also in the lineup. The lead consultant to the convention produced “The Apprentice” for Trump and was a judge on Trump’s Miss Universe pageant.

But the celebration of Trump was tedious — even Fox News cut away from live coverage — and the rage and dystopia invariably overtook the scripted calls for “hope.”

Charlie Kirk, head of a conservative group who has partnered with Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty University, proclaimed that “the American way of life is being dismantled by a group of bitter, deceitful, vengeful activists.” He cast Trump as “the bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley warned of a “socialist left” bringing “anarchy.” A Cuban American, Maximo Alvarez, accused Democrats of siding with “anarchy and communism.” And Donald Trump Jr. warned of “Beijing Biden” (“the Loch Ness monster of the swamp”) encouraging tyranny, illegal immigrants, rioting, looting, vandalism, torch-bearing mobs and “radicals who want to drag us into the dark.

 Amazing how Donald Jr. confused his father's torch bearing supporters for Democrats. Perhaps he should speak with the residents of Charlottesville so he can set the record straight.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Millions Fall Back into Crisis as Stimulus and Safety Nets End

As the Republican convention is poised to begin and display Trump's unmatched narcissism, millions of Americans are back on the brink of desperation as the stimulus payments and safety net of the CARES Act come to an end and the GOP controlled Senate is on recess having passed no extension of relief benefits.  It's a fitting dichotomy given that today's Republican party ceased caring about average Americans years ago, a trend that has only accelerated under Der Trumpenfurher.   America - among the wealthiest nations in the world - may soon see homelessness and hunger not seen since the Great Depression. The GOP convention will likely act as if none of this is happening.  Food banks are attempting to assist, but soon the magnitude of the problem will overwhelm their resources. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the magnitude of the problem.  Here are story highlights:

One of the most successful elements of the government’s response to the coronavirus recession — protecting people on the margins from falling into poverty — is faltering as the safety net shrinks and federal benefits expire.

Major recessions are especially fraught for low-income earners, whose finances can veer from tenuous to dire with one missed paycheck. But as the economy cratered this spring, economists and poverty experts were mildly surprised to discover that the torrent of government support that followed — particularly the $600 a week in expanded unemployment benefits and one-time $1,200 stimulus checks — likely lowered the overall poverty rate.

Now, data show, those gains are eroding as federal inaction deprives Americans on the financial margins of additional support. If the unemployment rate stays around 10 percent and no new stimulus is delivered, “we can expect poverty rates to rise and climb higher than those observed in the Great Recession,” Parolin said.

For the week that ended July 21, the most recent numbers available, roughly 29 million U.S. adults — about 12.1 percent — said their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat the preceding seven days, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Nearly 15 million renters said they were behind on rent during the same period.

Code of Vets is used to requests for help with funeral expenses, hospital bills and housing issues. Since the pandemic, the nonprofit says, it has been inundated by veterans who can’t meet their basic needs: groceries, medications, utility bills. Diapers are a chronic concern for those with young children.

In January, a typical month pre-pandemic, it handled 86 cases, . . . . In April, after more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs in the coronavirus recession, Code of Vets had more than 1,300 cases. The scale of need has been consistent, Smith said, even with the federal stimulus.

Karin Smith, 52, of Jupiter, Fla., recently opened the two-bedroom townhouse she shares with her 13-year-old son to a fellow single mom with a daughter. They’re all facing eviction, much like the 22 million other Americans behind on their rent, according to an analysis by the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project, a Colorado-based community group. Despite the federal moratorium that ended July 24, some landlords are raising rent, issuing late fees and initiating eviction proceedings earlier than the federal deadline, which requires 30 days notice for eviction.

Karin and her son, who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects connective tissue, have been living on food stamps and unemployment benefits that did not arrive until May. The state jobless aid started at $125 a week and was recently bumped to $225. She was earning $96,000 a year, but as a single mom with tens of thousands in student loans, health insurance premiums and other expenses, she didn’t have a lot of savings.

Although Karin has a PhD in educational psychology, she hasn’t been able to find a job in her field, and a minimum wage position wouldn’t cover the rent. When Sept. 1 rolls around, she doesn’t know what the four of them — plus two cats and two dogs, most taken in from others who had been evicted — will do.

Diane Yentel, the president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the 40 million U.S. households projected for eviction by year’s end — and the lack of legislative action to prevent them — is nothing she’s ever seen. . . . more people are living on the streets, in their cars, crowding into apartments, and living in shelters or encampments, Yentel said. Social distancing, a key defense against the coronavirus, is impossible.

Hunger has hovered near record highs since the beginning of the pandemic, as shuttered school meal programs and vanishing income left many without a way to feed their families. About 22 percent of the population has been food-insecure since the pandemic began, according to an April report by the Hamilton Project, an economic policy project of the Brookings Institution. For mothers with children 12 and younger, the figure is more than 40 percent, according to Lauren Bauer, who wrote the report.

the Trump administration recently decided against extending a food stamps waiver that allowed needy families to bypass certification, such as providing pay stubs. The move will reduce the number of eligible families in the coming months, even as other stimulus measures expire.

Food banks nationwide have struggled to keep up with demand, and surging grocery prices are compounding the strain, said Crystal FitzSimons, the director of school and out-of-school time programs at the Food Research & Action Center.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

More Sunday Male Beauty


The Lost Cause Myth: South’s Fight for White Supremacy

One hundred and fifty five (155) years after the end of the Civil War, the Lost Cause myth created after the South's defeat is alive and well in many quarters and with the presidential election bearing down on us, Donald Trump has embraced Confederate statutes and military base names as a means to fire up his white supremacist base.  Like much of America's true history the "Lost Cause" myth seeks to sanitize and cover over some of the ugliest aspects of the nation's past and those brutalized by the predominate culture.  The movie Gone with the Wind's original introduction epitomizes the myth making

The fanciful, introductory foreword to the film explains:

There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind... 

A piece in the New York Times review of books looks at the the myth's creation and the continuing effort it embodies to avoid recognizing America's racist past and present.  Here are highlights:

He had tried, and failed, once before. In 1859, the Virginian Edward Alfred Pollard, a journalist and Southern partisan, had published a defense of slavery, “Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South.” Then came the election of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, which abolished the system of slavery Pollard had hoped to preserve. After the Confederate surrender at Appomattox in April 1865, he turned to a new project, publishing, in 1866, a book titled “The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates.

This effort would succeed where the first had fallen short. Pollard’s framing of the “Lost Cause” was to long endure, and it’s safe to say that no other American title of 1866 is shaping the nation in the way Pollard’s is even now.

Here, then, was the ur-text of the Lost Cause, of the mythology of a South that believed its pro-slavery war aims were just, its fate tragic and its white-supremacist worldview worth defending. In our own time, the debates over Confederate memorials and the resistance in many quarters of white America, especially in the South, to address slavery, segregation and systemic racism can in part be understood by encounters with the literature of the Lost Cause and the history of the way many white Americans have chosen to see the Civil War and its aftermath.

To Pollard, the Southern side had fought nobly for noble ends. “The war has left the South its own memories, its own heroes, its own tears, its own dead,” he wrote. “Under these traditions, sons will grow to manhood, and lessons sink deep that are learned from the lips of widowed mothers.” Pollard declared that a “‘war of ideas,’” a new war that “the South wants and insists upon perpetrating,” was now unfolding.

And in many ways it unfolds still. The defiance of federal will from Reconstruction to our own day, the insistence on states’ rights in the face of the quest for racial justice and the revanchist reverence for Confederate emblems and figures are illuminated by engaging with the ethos of which Pollard so effectively wrote. He enlarged on his thesis in “The Lost Cause Regained,” published in 1868. Pollard wrote that he was “profoundly convinced that the true cause fought for in the late war has not been ‘lost’ immeasurably or irrevocably, but is yet in a condition to be ‘regained’ by the South on ultimate issues of the political contest.” The issue was no longer slavery, but white supremacy, which Pollard described as the “true cause of the war” and the “true hope of the South.”

As the decades after the war went by, that post-bellum victory seemed assured. In his essential book “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory,” David W. Blight detailed how a white narrative of the war took hold, North and South, after Appomattox.

White Americans chose to celebrate one another without reference to the actual causes and implications of the war. “The memory of slavery, emancipation and the 14th and 15th Amendments never fit well into a developing narrative in which the Old and New South were romanticized and welcomed back to a new nationalism,” Blight wrote, “and in which devotion alone made everyone right, and no one truly wrong, in the remembered Civil War.” To recall that the war had been about what Lincoln had called a “new birth of freedom” meant acknowledging the nation’s failings on race. So white Americans decided to recall something else.

By minimizing race in the story of the war, white Americans felt free to minimize race not only in the past but in the present — leading, as Blight wrote, to “the denigration of Black dignity and the attempted erasure of emancipation from the national narrative of what the war had been about.”

As in the Lost Cause of the South and the reunion narrative of the whole nation, white Christianity of midcentury America chose the comforting elements of history and theology rather than the uncomfortable ones.

Baldwin closes the book by imagining the interior monologue of the white American who has been raised on the false history of the Lost Cause. “Do not blame me,” Baldwin wrote of the white “stammering” in his conscience. “I was not there. I did not do it. My history has nothing to do with Europe or the slave trade. Anyway, it was your chiefs who sold you to me. … But, on the same day … in the most private chamber of his heart always, he, the white man, remains proud of that history for which he does not wish to pay, and from which, materially, he has profited so much” — a history manipulated to make the unspeakable palatable.

“A man is a man,” Baldwin wrote, “a woman is a woman, and a child is a child. To deny these facts is to open the doors on a chaos deeper and deadlier, and … more timeless, more eternal, than the medieval vision of Hell.” Only when Pollard’s Lost Cause is truly lost will the nation escape those flames, and begin at last to glimpse the light.