Thursday, May 24, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Virginia Hardware Store Fires Anti-Gay Employee

On Monday I did a blog post that looked at the ugly anti-gay incident that occurred at Nichols Hardware in Purcellville, Virginia.  Faced with calls for a boycott and a deluge of upset phone calls, the store management announced that it had fired the offending employee who had thrown an Eagle Scout candidate out of the store after launching into an anti-gay tirade. The lesson, of course, is that if one is a business in the public square, all customers should be welcome and treated courteously. No doubt the lesson will be lost on Christofascists who will parade the employee - whose name has not been released - as the latest martyr in an effort to stir up anti-gay outrage.  The Washington Post reports on this development:

A historic hardware store in Purcellville, Va., announced Tuesday morning it has fired an employee accused of using an anti-gay slur while kicking out a teenage Boy Scout seeking donations for a service project.
“The Nichols Hardware family regrets that this even has come to pass,” the store said in a Facebook post. “The employee in question has been terminated and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Nichols Hardware.”
“He told them, ‘Your organization is not the ‘Boy Scouts’ anymore. We will not support you and you need to leave,’ ” Carlyn Hamilton wrote in her post. Then the employee, she said, turned to her and continued, “You know they let homos in, right? They are not the ‘Boy’ Scouts anymore. We do not support any homos.”
The store manager, who would only identify himself as Glenn, said in an interview Tuesday that this wasn’t the first time the employee had angered customers with his politically charged comments.
Months ago, he said, he had told the employee to stop talking to customers like that and thought the problem had been resolved until the incident Friday. . . . He described the employee as “set in his ways,” and added that he would like to apologize in person to the boy and his father but didn’t know their names or phone numbers. “It was uncalled for,” he said.
The clash marked another skirmish in the nationwide culture war over the rapid expansion of gay rights in the United States. Few organizations have been more emblematic of this than the Boy Scouts. In 2013, the organization ended its prohibition on openly gay youths . . . . The moves haven’t been universally popular. Many religious conservatives have seen the Boy Scouts as a pillar of traditional values. This month, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches that gay relationships are immoral, ended its century-long relationship with the organization.
People have demanded a boycott of the store on social media, and its phones have been deluged with calls.  The store has now moved to quell the firestorm.  “The family, who has been in Loudoun County since 1742, and which expresses tolerance in all areas of life, deeply regrets any disrespect to any organization or person,” it said in its statement Tuesday.

Collusion With Russia Happened

The Hill recently reported that 59% of Americans do not believe that the Mueller investigation has revealed any crimes.  In light of the over a dozen indictments handed down and multiple guilty pleas that have occurred, that percentage is shocking.  Obviously, far too many Americans are too lazy and/or stupid and bigoted to keep themselves politically informed - it baffles me how men in particular can talk about sports teams yet know nothing about activities in Congress or the General Assembly.  Add to this laziness/idiocy the constant bellowing of Der Trumpenführer that no collusion occurred despite facts to the contrary that resonates all too well with his base that eats up every racist taunt Trump throws out or the Christofascists thrilled by every anti-LGBT action taken by the Trump/Pence regime.  Indeed, a piece in The Atlantic lays out why Trump's claims of "no collusion" are lies, just like so much of what comes out of his braying mouth.   Here are article highlights:

Trump aides colluded with foreign governments.  This is a simple, straightforward statement, and by this point, it ought to be an uncontroversial one. There’s ample evidence on many fronts, from legal documents to reliable reporting. . . . . it  . . . . mean that attempts to dismiss the Russia investigation as a witch hunt that lacks any evidence are not merely disingenuous—they’re simply wrong.
What do we mean by collusion? As the Columbia Journalism Review explored last year, there are a range of meanings, but a clean synthesis would be a secret compact or conspiracy with an illegal or deceitful aim. The examples of such cooperation, between Trump aides and agents of foreign governments, abound. So far, three people have pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about it. The unresolved question, at this stage of the investigation, is not whether such cooperation was attempted; it’s how successful it proved, how large an impact it actually had, who was involved, and whether they broke any laws.
There is, most prominently, the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, where Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer they believed had damaging information to offer about Hillary Clinton. In another meeting in August 2016, also at Trump Tower, former Blackwater chief Erik Prince (the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos) brought together an Israeli social-media specialist and an emissary who said the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi wanted to aid the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos carried on conversations with at least two people he believed had substantial connections to the Russian government. Roger Stone, an on-again, off-again Trump adviser, exchanged messages with the hacker Guccifer 2.0, a Russian intelligence agent who released emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee.
This leaves out plenty of other examples of peculiar but less fleshed-out stories, including Trump campaign aide Carter Page’s mysterious trips to Russia and Hungary; fired National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s post-election discussions with Russia; and Jared Kushner’s reported attempt to establish a “back channel” to allow the Trump transition team to communicate with Russia outside of standard channels. There may be other examples that are not yet known to the public.
In June 2016, for example, publicist Rob Goldstone wrote to Donald Trump Jr.:
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin.
Trump Jr. infamously replied, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Yet despite the evidence, and despite people like Steve Bannon acknowledging it, the question of whether or not collusion occurred persists well past its expiration date, lingering like a flat-earth theory. That there is still a debate is a testament to [Trump's] the president’s persistence in saying that no collusion occurred loudly and repeatedly, and in his strongest supporters’ willingness to believe him and take up the banner.
Giuliani, who joined Trump’s legal team about a month ago, is taking a different line of argument: instead of denying that the Trump campaign colluded, saying it simply doesn’t matter because that didn’t break the law.
This is all actually a replay of last summer’s arguments. The emails that Trump Jr. released about the June 2016 meeting made clear that the Trump campaign was perfectly willing to collude, and was in fact frustrated that Veselnitskaya couldn’t deliver the goods Goldstone had implied.
[T]here were a couple of flaws with the claim. First, it wasn’t clear that everyone would react that way. Former campaign staffers of both parties expressed shock that the Trump team had gone forward with the meeting, bringing up concrete examples where campaigns had gone to law enforcement in less egregious circumstances. Furthermore, although there is no crime of “collusion” per se, it is quite possible that a campaign-finance law could have been violated. Despite what Giuliani says about the source of the information not mattering, foreign nationals are prohibited from contributing to campaigns, and opposition research could represent an in-kind contribution.
This week, Trump is in a tizzy over the revelation that there was an informant passing information to the FBI about the ties between some Trump campaign staffers and Russia.Trump contends that there was no collusion, and that his campaign was being spied upon by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department for political reasons. The accusation of political spying has no evidence to back it up.
If there was no collusion, and not even any evidence of collusion, it would be strange and disturbing for the FBI to be interested in what was going on inside the Trump campaign.
Yet we know that isn’t the case, because there was collusion. There was the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, the August 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Papadopoulos’s contacts (which triggered the FBI’s investigation) and more. . . . . it gives a plausible reason why the FBI was interested in the Trump campaign.
There are many questions about Russian interference in the 2016 election that remain unanswered. Whether there was collusion between Trump aides and foreign governments is not one of them.

Remembering the HMS Hood and Her Gallant Crew

HMS Hood at flank speed
HMS Hood

One of the last photos of Hood from May 23, 1941, as she steamed to meet
Bismark and destiny, taken from the Battleship Prince of Wales 

Perhaps I am a bit of a history nerd (growing up gay and deeply in the closet, books were one of my means of escape), but one of the things that has always fascinated me since I was a child is ships and the ocean.  There are certain ships that achieve iconic status due to their magnificence or their tragic ends or a combination of the two.  Ships such as the French super liner Normandie, perhaps the most beautiful liner ever built, the super liner S.S, United States built just miles from where I sit at the moment, the Lusitania, the Titanic, and in the military realm, the U.S.S Arizona, the Bismark, Houston, Lexington, and for me, the HMS Hood.  To paraphrase an eloquent member of a Facebook page who wrote:

On this day 77 years ago at around 6:00 am Britain and the Royal Navy suffered their most terrible loss.  HMS Hood, British battle cruiser, the largest warship in the world (she was larger than the German battleship Bismark), a 21 year veteran and pride of the Fleet and indeed the entire British Empire, was lost in combat against the Germans in the Battle of Denmark Strait. She went down , fighting for our survival against tyranny and evil, and of her ships company of 1418 galant men and boys, only 3 survived the tragedy. A freak, one in a million hit, from Bismark caused a fire on Hood which caused it to explode and sink in mere minutes.
So many of her crew were so young, some as young as 17 who had enlisted as Britain stood alone against Hitler's Nazi Germany.  The HMS Hood Association is compiling a pictorial roster of the crew that went down with Hood in the battle of the Denmark Straits.  The roster can be found here.
My reverence for HMS Hood in no way diminishes my respect for for other ships that fought valiantly or their gallant crews who strove to do their best for their countries.  May all of them rest in peace. 
A photo of but one of the 1,415 men lost:

The lesson, at least to me, is that war is Hell and should be avoid.  At the time of Hood's loss, few comprehended the horrors of the next 4 years - e.g., Pearl Harbor, the fall of British and French Indochina, D Day, etc.) - much less the full nightmare of the Holocaust. A pox on politicians who recklessly send members of the military to war without just cause or to satiate their meglomanical and/or narsarcist egos.  WWII was perhaps one of the last wars were the causes of good and evil were starkly drawn. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

GOP Freedom Caucus’s Plan Could Hand the House to Democrats

One phenomenon I have noted over the years both during my time in the GOP and since is that it is nearly impossible to reason with ultra-conservatives and Christofascists.  Tellingly, both groups cannot seem to grasp that their views/beliefs are NOT mainstream and that outside of the bubble of Fox News and batshit crazy evangelical churches, the majority of Americans do not subscribe to their beliefs.  Indeed, I suspect the majority of Americans find them frightening if not repulsive.  Now the infamous GOP "Freedom Caucus" in the U.S. House of Representatives wants to withhold campaign funding from moderate Republicans ("moderate being a relative term) as punishment for supporting a discharge petition that might get immigration reform acceptable to all but the Trump base passed by Congress.  It's a case of cutting off one's nose to spite their face.  But, such is the irrationality of the far right.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the idiocy - which I frankly hope prevails - roiling the GOP conference.  Here are highlights:

For years the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus has been a thorn in the side of the GOP leadership. Now, in a twist, GOP moderates have banded together in an effort to force votes on immigration, including a bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. The Freedom Caucus will not stand for a vote on so-called “amnesty,” so they’re calling for harsh punishments for moderates who dare to defy party leaders – though that could make it even likelier that Democrats win control of of the House in November.
The moderate Republicans have banded together with House Democrats to support a discharge petition, a rare maneuver that would allow them to circumvent Speaker Paul Ryan and force a vote on four immigration measures. This would include a measure that protects young undocumented immigrants in exchange for border security funding, without provisions from Representative Bob Goodlatte’s conservative immigration bill, like legal-immigration cuts and money for Trump’s border wall.
The Freedom Caucus already derailed passage of the Farm Bill last week over Ryan’s failure to meet their demand for a vote on the Goodlatte bill, and now the immigration issue is plunging the House GOP deeper into chaos. Though by definition, a discharge petition means members are acting without the leadership’s consent, conservatives are holding Ryan responsible for the moderates’ efforts, claiming he and other party leaders could be doing more to stop them.
 So the conservatives are suggesting that months before an election in which Republicans may lose control of the House by just a few seats, the leadership should punish their weakest members by withholding campaign money.
In general, threatening engaging more intra-party squabbling isn’t a smart strategy for the midterms. During a closed-door meeting on Tuesday morning, Ryan told members of the caucus that they need to remain united and act like they’re the majority party . . .
For now it’s unclear whether Republicans will be voting on one, two, or four immigration proposals in the coming weeks, and in the meantime they’re engaging in yet another form of self-destructive behavior: floating the idea of replacing Ryan as speaker prematurely.
But there’s little evidence that ousting Ryan is the solution to the caucus’s problems. While Ryan has endorsed McCarthy and he’s the frontrunner for the job, many aides and lawmakers told the Washington Post on Tuesday that there currently isn’t anyone who could easily win a race for speaker.
“If we have a speaker’s race, then it takes everyone’s eye off the ball of what’s most important, and that is keeping the majority,” said Representative Rodney Davis, chair of the centrist Republican Main Street Caucus. “It would be the most short-lived time in the speaker’s chair that anyone could have asked for.”
Let the insanity continue!

Another Big Shoe Drops in the Mueller Probe

One thing that supporters of Der Trumpenführer - including far too many Congressional Republicans - seemingly do not want to discuss is how their claims that the Mueller probe is a "witch hunt" simply do not match up with the number of individuals in the Trump orbit, including some involved in the 2016 campaign, who continue to cop guilty pleas.   Congressional Republicans and many in their brain dead base want renewed investigations of Hillary Clinton, yet don't bat an eye that Trump apparently surrounded himself with a bunch of criminals.  Given Trump's past in New York City and elsewhere, of course, his affinity for criminals should come as little or no surprise.  Trump's nouveau riche status was never the only reason old New York society finds Trump so distasteful.  Now, one of Trump consigliere Michael Cohen's business partners has likewise agreed to take a plea and cooperate with prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York.  This event doesn't bode well for Cohen or Der Trumpenführer.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post:  
When it comes to seminal moments in the Russia investigation that we will one day look back upon, Tuesday could be one.
The Post's Rosalind S. Helderman confirms that Michael Cohen's one-time business partner, Evgeny "Gene" Freidman (a.k.a. the "Taxi King"), has reached a plea deal with prosecutors and will cooperate with the government (the news was first reported by The New York Times):
Evgeny “Gene” Freidman, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union long known as the “taxi king” of New York, pleaded guilty to criminal tax fraud in Albany County Court. He is a former business partner of Cohen who managed taxis owned by the president’s lawyer for several years.
Both the timing and the circumstances are key. Freidman faced allegations that he failed to pay $5 million in taxes, including four counts of tax fraud and one of grand larceny. As part of the deal, he will serve no jail time. That suggests that he has been able to provide information of some value when it comes to Cohen, who is widely seen as a target for prosecutors to, in turn, flip against Trump.
“Do you understand the nature of the benefit your attorneys have accomplished on your behalf?” Judge Peter Lynch asked Freidman on Tuesday, according to the Times. That question that should frighten both Cohen and President Trump's legal team.
There is no official indication that Freidman has agreed to inform specifically on Cohen, but it's not difficult to connect the dots. . . . . If anybody knows about what Cohen has done wrong, Freidman may have been the most likely candidate — especially if Cohen did keep Trump in the dark about his Stormy Daniels payment and other matters.
Just as it has been clear that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a target for flipping against Trump, Cohen's fate seems to revolve around whether he might be pressured into taking a deal, like Freidman was.
Cohen has said that won't happen, and Trump wagered last month that Cohen won't flip. But it looks increasingly like we're about to find out just how much pressure Cohen can withstand.
Money launderers and tax cheats - not to mention those with suspicious Russian ties - are the norm in Trump's orbit.  One can only imagine what Trump and/or his family members have done. 

Federal Court Rules for Gavin Grimm

Gavin Grimm and his amazing mother - proud to know both of them.

It has been a long legal saga for Gavin Grimm and has family as they have fought the Gloucester County, Virginia, School Board which sought to discriminate against Gavin, an individual that we know personally, rather than stand up to a faction of LGBT hating Christofascists who forced that Board due to its cowardice to rescind the original policy applied to Grimm.  Gavin's mother noted on Facebook following the latest federal ruling as follows:
So 4 years ago the Gloucester County School Board chose to single out my son to discriminate against instead of doing the right thing by protecting his rights as a transgender boy and now once again the judge has said that he and all transgender kids ARE protected under Title IX of our constitution so let’s see if the school board will now change their policy and protect those that come after Gavin or if they will continue to discriminate against transgender people in our district. This case will be far reaching in this country so I think it is HIGH TIME this school board does what is right! My son had dedicated the last 4 years of his life to this cause and this school board ruined his high school experience!   
A press release by the ACLU looks at the court's ruling (which can be found here).  Here are excerpts:
A federal court today denied the Gloucester County School Board’s motion to dismiss a case brought by former student Gavin Grimm, holding that Title IX and the Constitution protect transgender students from being excluded from the common restrooms that align with their gender identity.
The court directed the parties to schedule a settlement conference within 30 days. The case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia. 
Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT &HIV Project, had this reaction:
"The district court’s ruling vindicates what Gavin has been saying from the beginning. Federal law protects Gavin and other students who are transgender from being stigmatized and excluded from using the same common restrooms that other boys and girls use. These sorts of discriminatory policies do nothing to protect privacy and only serve to harm and humiliate transgender students.”
Gavin Grimm had this reaction:
“I feel an incredible sense of relief. After fighting this policy since I was 15 years old, I finally have a court decision saying that what the Gloucester County School Board did to me was wrong and it was against the law. I was determined not to give up because I didn’t want any other student to have to suffer the same experience that I had to go through.”
Having wasted who knows how much taxpayer money and brought worldwide derision to Gloucester County, the Gloucester County School board needs to come into the 21st century and stop kissing the asses of local Christofascists.  

Interestingly enough, a piece in LGBTQ Nation reports on a new study led by a Belgian neurologist that found that transgender individuals how functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender,” said Bakker. . . . .nd that brain activity in transgender people resembles that found in heterosexual individuals of their identifying gender more than their sex assigned at birth. . . . they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender,” said Bakker.  Obviously, the study - and many others - exposes the arguments of anti-science, anti-knowledge Christofascists such as those in Gloucester County to be fraudulent and based on little more than bigotry and an embrace of ignorance.  Here are article excerpts:
Their brain scans were compared to people of comparable age who were not diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The study found that transgender boys’ brain activity resembled cisgender boys’, and transgender girls’ brains resembled cisgender girls’.
The researchers said that their technique could be used to help transgender children at an earlier age.
“Although more research is needed, we now have evidence that sexual differentiation of the brain differs in young people with GD, as they show functional brain characteristics that are typical of their desired gender,” said Bakker.
“We will then be better equipped to support these young people, instead of just sending them to a psychiatrist and hoping that their distress will disappear spontaneously.”
The study’s results, which were presented at the European Society of Endocrinology’s meeting, fall in line with previous neurological studies that showed that transgender adults have similar brain structures to cisgender people of their gender.
Again, the Gloucester County School Board needs to kick the Christofascists to the curb where they belong, embrace modern science and knowledge, and put in place the polices sought by Gavin Grimm.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty