Sunday, December 17, 2017

More Sunday Male Beauty

Trump's Gift to Democrats: His Plans to "Help" Republican Candidates in 2018

As numerous news outlets are reporting, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has ambitious plans to campaign for Republicans during the 2018 midterm election cycle.  There are few things more likely to aid Democrat candidates than tying their GOP opponents to the widely hated Trump, especially once the realization hits that the GOP tax bill, if enacted, screws most voters over time while heaping huge tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy.  Given Trump's proposed efforts  to "help" GOP candidates and efforts to get Democrats to intensify their get out the vote ground game, 2018 could be a very good year for Democrats. Yesterday afternoon between parties, the husband and I spent some time with Virginia governor elect Ralph Northam and his wife (while the husband cut Ralph's hair in their kitchen) and we spoke of the key role his ground game played in Virginia's blue sweep last month.  I truly hope that Democrats across the country replicate the ground game effort and send many Republicans into forced retirement. Here are highlights from the Washington Post on what hopefully will be Trump's disastrous efforts in 2018:
President Trump is not on the ballot in 2018, but the White House is planning a full-throttle campaign to plunge the president into the midterm elections, according to senior officials and advisers familiar with the planning. 
Trump’s political aides have met with 116 candidates for office in recent months, according to senior White House officials, seeking to become involved in Senate, House and gubernatorial races — and possibly contested Republican primaries as well.
The president  [Trump] has told advisers that he wants to travel extensively and hold rallies and that he is looking forward to spending much of 2018 campaigning. He has also told aides that the elections would largely determine what he can get done — and that he expects he would be blamed for losses, such as last week’s humiliating defeat that handed a Senate seat in Alabama to a Democrat for the first time in 25 years. 
But getting deeply involved in the midterms could be a highly risky strategy for a president with historically low approval ratings, now hovering in the mid- to low-30s in many national polls, and might be particularly disruptive in primary contests pitting establishment candidates against pro-Trump insurgents.
Many Democrats also say they relish the idea of being able to run against Trump.  “He absolutely is turbocharging the opposition. My guess is most of the people running for office in 2018 are not going to want to cleave too closely to him,” said David Axelrod, former president Barack Obama’s chief strategist. “He torques up both sides, but he torques up the opposition more. He is the greatest organizing tool that Democrats could have.”
Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors’ Association, said “we look forward to everything that comes out of the president’s iPhone.” 
On Saturday, Trump’s campaign sent out a “2018 candidates” survey to supporters on issues including abortion, gun rights and Trump’s call for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
But fundraising has been hurt in some quarters under Trump’s presidency, posing a financial challenge for a party increasingly spread thin in defending potentially vulnerable seats in the House and Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, for example, has raised only about $2 million a month for the last four months and is spending more money than it is taking in.
There are other risks for Trump on the campaign trail. The president [Trump] frequently wanders off topic at rallies and often prefers to talk about himself, sometimes generating new controversies and making the candidate a sideshow at best. But the president can also draw a crowd like few other Republicans can.
Chris Ruddy, a longtime Trump friend, said the president needs to work to broaden his appeal ahead of the midterms. . . . . “He must move to the center. He must be the old Donald Trump — the bipartisan dealmaker who is looking for consensus.”
The president [Trump] is also unpredictable in following his political team’s advice. In Alabama, [White House political director] Stepien warned Trump not to endorse anyone, according to White House officials. He first backed establishment favorite Sen. Luther Strange in the primary, who was trounced by Moore. Then, Stepien and others urged him to shy away from Moore after the candidate faced allegations of sexual misconduct; Trump vocally supported him anyway.
Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon remains another wild card as he pledges to continue backing anti-establishment candidates like Moore. 
Last week, defeated Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie — who was endorsed by Trump and attempted to reach Trump voters with incendiary positions on immigration and crime — said the political atmosphere was so “poisonous” that he would not recommend that other Republicans run for office. 
Democrats have been watching the Republican infighting from the sidelines with rising hope that Trump’s approach will play into their hands next year.  “They are mixing a very risky cocktail, where they are alienating suburban voters at the same time that they are motivating progressives and people of color,” said Joel Benenson, who served as the top pollster for Obama and continues to work on Democratic campaigns.
With the Republican tax cut package expected to pass in Congress this week, Stepien argued that the administration and Republicans have a marquee issue to sell despite its low approval among the public so far. 
“The president’s base is motivated and strong in every poll we see,” he said. “Off-year elections are all about turnout, and we believe the president’s base will be motivated to turn out.” 
But Steve Israel, who ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2012 and 2014, said there are many districts the president can’t touch and that he would be better off quietly raising money.
“Democrats have all the energy. They are on offense,” Israel said. “It’s very difficult for an unpopular president to move the needle in the other direction.” 

Australian Abuse Report: Catholic Church Must End Celibacy Rule

Ever since the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal first exploded in Boston over 15 years ago, the Church hierarchy and Church apologists like blow hard William Donahue of the Catholic League (a largely two person operation) and the cite Church Militant have worked hard to blame gays for the wide spread abuse of children and youths by Catholic priests.   Great efforts have been made to ignore the roles of (i) Church's bizarre 12th century view of sexuality and (ii) the unnatural rule of mandatory celibacy for Western rite priests (no such requirement applies to Eastern rite priests) have played in creating the atmosphere for widespread abuse.  Now, after a years long study, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released a report that lays blame squarely on the celibacy rule, a rule first implemented by the Church hierarchy to preserve Church funds and assets from the costs of maintaining priest' families (money has always been the Church leadership's real god).    A piece in DeutscheWelle looks at the report's findings which will not be happily received by the bitter old men in dresses at the Vatican.  Here are some article highlights:
Among the 189 recommendations put forward by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are two for the Catholic Church to lift its demand for mandatory celibacy and enforce mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, even if it is heard during confession.
A five-year study from Melbourne's RMIT University on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church found that mandatory celibacy is the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse.
DW spoke to Professor Des Cahill, who co-authored the report with Dr Peter Wilkinson.
DW: How did you come to the conclusion that mandatory celibacy is a risk factor for child sexual abuse?
Professor Des Cahill: In the [psychological and psychiatric] studies of priest offenders, the key facts were that the offending priest perpetrators were either psychologically immature or psychologically mal-developed and suffering from loneliness, lack of intimacy and sexual deprivation, and they became terrorized with their own sexual desires and sexual thinking. In their sexual deprivation their thinking mutated towards children, and so they began grooming young children and eventually abusing them sexually and emotionally. . . . . I and the Commission in the report make very clear that homosexuality is not the cause of clerical sex abuse.
Does that mean sexual deprivation and lack of physical relationships is the major reason that someone might become a child sex offender?
It's the clericalist incubating culture, and celibacy is part of that. One of the elements is the lack of contact with women. Take the example of the Christian Brothers who are the major teaching order for boys in Australia. Young men who were educated in all-male Catholic schools, went to all-male minor seminaries and then went on to all-male novitiates, perhaps went to university and became teachers, but didn't have much contact with the feminine. Then they lived in all-male communities, teaching in all-male schools.
Eugen Drewermann would argue that is a psycho-spiritual recipe for disaster and that's what happened among the Christian Brothers in Australia. 22 percent offended sexually against the boys they were in charge of, especially in orphanages and farming schools in country areas.
[T]he profile – and the Royal Commission is strong on this – of Catholic clerical offenders is different from the profile of child sex offenders generally. They offend much later in life, they are better educated, and in other aspects of their personality profile they are reasonably normal although, as the Royal Commission points out and as we point out in our report, there is a high degree of narcissism amongst Catholic priests and that also is a factor in the offending. They are totally focused on self and their own sexual identity, their own sexual thoughts etcetera.
Would lifting the ban on mandatory celibacy result in a decrease in child sex abuse in the Catholic Church?
When we looked at Eastern Rite Catholic Churches we found there was virtually no clerical sex abuse because in those eastern churches the priests have a choice between marrying or not marrying. In the Latin Rite Catholic Church, [priests] took on celibacy as part of the priesthood package. This is why the Royal Commission has recommended – and it was based partly on our report – the Australian Catholic Bishops make a request to the Vatican that married persons should be admitted to the Catholic priesthood.
What effect does the seal of confession have on cases of child sexual abuse being reported?
Until now in Australia priests have not been required to report any cases of child sex abuse. The Royal Commission has recommended this should be applied to Catholic priests even when they are hearing confessions. Already there is opposition to that from the two leading archbishops in Australia.
There is a tension between the seal of confession and obligation towards the welfare of vulnerable children. Unfortunately Pope Pius the 10th in 1910 lowered the age of confession from 13-14 to seven, which meant offending priests had access to younger children and were able to begin the process of grooming those children, and that, I think, is one reason why the problem became worse in the 20th century.
It should be noted that celibacy is not the only causation factor.  The Southern Baptist Convention which clings to similar 12th century views of sexuality likewise has a huge sexual abuse problem.  Ridiculous obsessions with all things sexual, rejection of modern knowledge, and the embrace of ignorance all seem to also play a role in setting the stage for sexual abuse.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Saturday, December 16, 2017

More Saturday Male Beauty

Will Democrats Do What it Takes Claim a New Majority?

An op-ed in the New York Times makes the case that if Democrats will up their ground game and spend more attention and money on getting out minority voters (and by extension, younger voters) who often fail to vote, they have an opportunity to become the new American majority.  The piece cites Doug Jones' victory in Alabama as a shining example.  But a similar phenomenon made the Democrat sweep in Virginia possible as well - the Northam campaign, in coordination with the Herring and Fairfax campaigns, invested a huge effort in the turn out the vote drill, especially with minority and younger voters.  Having a Northam staffer live with us for over 4 months, the husband and I witnessed first hand the intensity of the effort. It is a lesson that Tim Kaine and Virginia congressional candidates in 2018 need to take to heart and replicate.  The same goes for the rest of the country.  If Trump/Pence has done anything, it has shown the dangers that not voting can unleash on minority communities and those not favored by the white, racist, Christofascist base of today's Republican Party.  Yes, you need an on air ad campaign, but the old fashion approach remains crucial.  Here are column highlights:
The Alabama special election for the Senate affirms that the coalition that elected and re-elected an African-American as president of the United States remains a majority of the country’s population. By combining a large and inspired turnout of voters of color with the meaningful minority of whites who consistently vote progressive — even in a state like Alabama — Democrats can win across the country.
A majority of people who voted for Doug Jones in Alabama were black — 56 percent, in fact, according to the exit polls. Mr. Jones’s stunning election victory highlights the path to victory for Democrats. The question is whether they will be smart enough to follow it.
African-American voters were a decisive force in the election, showing up in huge numbers and casting nearly all their votes — 96 percent — for Mr. Jones. They made up a larger percentage of the electorate than they represent in the state as a whole (29 percent versus 27 percent). Overperformance by African-Americans — in an election decided by about 21,000 votes — amounted to 38,000 more Democratic votes than would have been cast had African-Americans been just 27 percent of the that side’s total.
The task should be easier in other states, considering Alabama’s history of supporting racial segregation. . . . . The composition of a progressive multiracial coalition — what I call the New American Majority — in the rest of the country, however, is much more promising.
[W]hat made the difference in Alabama were independent, under-the-radar, grass-roots, on-the-ground voter turnout efforts by black leaders and organizers in black neighborhoods across the state. . . . . Organizations such as BlackPAC blanketed the state with canvassers doing the old-fashioned work of picking people up and escorting them to the polls. These groups and leaders are the “hidden figures” of the Alabama election . . . .
Looking ahead to 2018, can Democrats progress from being lucky to being smart? Being smart means learning the lessons of Alabama and moving money in ways that will continue to chalk up wins. . . . . The outlook for 2018 is hopeful with the right plans. . . . . this formula for victory is more applicable in other states because most white voters outside of Alabama are not as conservative as those inside the state.
By emphasizing turnout in 2018 — especially of voters of color — Democrats can take control of the Senate, the House of Representatives and at least five statehouses. Republicans’ margin in the Senate has now slipped to just a two-seat advantage, and the Senate contests in Arizona, Nevada and Texas are all winnable if there is a robust turnout of voters of color. Texas may be considered as conservative as Alabama, but its actual demographics are much more favorable: Only 53 percent of Texas eligible voters are white (and a quarter of the whites are strong Democrats). Mr. Trump won Texas by 800,000 votes, but there were four million eligible, nonvoting people of color in 2016, three million Latinos alone.
In the 2018 races for governorships, six states could swing from red to blue with the right voter mobilization plan and the proper funding and support. Maryland and Illinois are decisively Democratic, for example, but have Republican governors because Democratic turnout has been abysmal in the off-year elections.
The demographics in other Southern and Southwestern states — Georgia, Florida, New Mexico and Arizona — have brought them within striking distance with a well-funded Sun Belt game plan.
Ultimately priorities are expressed through budgets, and the allocation of political dollars will show whether Democratic strategists have learned the right lessons from the Alabama upset. Which leaders will spend the millions of dollars to win in 2018?
If Democrats want to win, they will elevate and give broad budgetary authority to strategists and organizers with long histories and deep ties in the country’s communities of color. They sent Doug Jones to the United States Senate, and they can bring Democrats back to prominence and power in states and districts across the country.

CDC Lists ‘Fetus,’ ‘Transgender’, "Diversity", "Evidence Based" as Forbidden Words

One of the hallmarks of Nazi propaganda - when not vilifying targeted groups, especially Jews - was to work to erase people and terms from public discourse.  This effort went hand in hand with Adolph Hitler's and Joseph Goebbels' view (now practiced daily by Fox News and Breitbart), that if one lied often enough, the public would come to believe the lies as truth. Reports are now coming out that the Trump/Pence regime has directed the Center for Disease Control ("CDC") to cease using words that conflict with the regime's antiscience, anti-abortion, pro-discrimination agenda.  Two banned phrases sum this up: "evidence based" and "science based" are now verboten.  Along with this, of course, are other terms not popular with evangelical Christians and white supremacists, words like "diversity."  Frighteningly, just like in Germany as Hitler rose to power, much of the public is oblivious to what is happening.  The Daily Beast looks at this propaganda effort.  Here are excerpts:

Policy analysts working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told on Thursday about a list of forbidden words being imposed by senior CDC officials, according to a report in The Washington Post. The forbidden words are reportedly “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency’s Office of Financial Services, reportedly led the meeting and did not say why the words were being banned.

The cited Washington Post story provides in part as follows:
In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of "science-based" or ­"evidence-based," the suggested phrase is "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes," the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.
The question of how to address such issues as sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights — all of which received significant visibility under the Obama administration — has surfaced repeatedly in federal agencies since President Trump took office. Several key departments — including Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, as well as Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development — have changed some federal policies and how they collect government information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
HHS has also removed information about LGBT Americans from its website. The department's Administration for Children and Families, for example, archived a page that outlined federal services that are available for LGBT people and their families, including how they can adopt and receive help if they are the victims of sex trafficking.
The longtime CDC analyst, whose job includes writing descriptions of the CDC's work for the administration's annual spending blueprint, could not recall a previous time when words were banned from budget documents because they were considered controversial.
The reaction of people in the meeting was "incredulous," the analyst said. "It was very much, 'Are you serious? Are you kidding?' "  In my experience, we've never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint," the analyst said. 
"Community standards and wishes" is a indirect way of saying "Christofascist standards and wishes."  Be very afraid.

Evangelicals Have Only Themselves to Blame for Their "Perception Problem"

Having followed evangelical "Christian" family values groups for over two decades - not to mention some of the batshitery I was exposed to having been raised Catholic - I had a very negative view of conservative Christianity long before the rise of Roy Moore or Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer.  And this negative view had nothing to do with evangelicals' support of a particular candidate.  Rather, it arose from their hypocrisy, desire to impose their beliefs on all of society, their judgmentalism, a total lack of love and compassion for others, and their rejection of science and modernity to name just a few of the undesirable characteristics of this segment of Christianity.  These malignant characteristics seem to have only intensified as evangelicals have been the main supporters of morally foul individuals like Trump and Moore. As a piece in the Washington Post examines, some evangelicals are belatedly waking to the fact that outside their own circles, they are viewed as toxic, especially among Millennials and with good reason.  If they seek to change this "perception problem," a long look in the mirror at themselves is a much needed first step.  Here are article highlights:
After Roy Moore lost Alabama's special Senate election, despite running a campaign on what he called Christian values, some evangelical voters seem to be considering that their label has been co-opted.
There's a growing concern that aligning with people such as Moore and President Trump has hurt evangelicalism in the public eye. But others connected to the movement say evangelicals, particularly white evangelicals, had a perception problem long before Trump and Moore became the faces of the community’s politics.
Moore’s promise to bring Christian values to the nation’s capital helped him win 80 percent of the white evangelical vote, similar to Trump in the 2016 election. But Moore was highly unpopular with people outside of evangelicalism, in part because of his incendiary comments about Muslims, gay people, people of color and people he perceived did not share his Christian faith.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, told The Fix: “This did not start with our recent national scene. . . . . evangelicalism has been defined by the market, not by the gospel. Any label that can include both Bible-believing gospel Christians and prosperity gospel heretics is a label that has lost its meaning.”
For years, believers have debated whether Republican politics and culture-war battles have diluted the essence of their label “evangelical” — which means spreading the Gospel.
The term “evangelical” became popular decades ago as a way to tamp down differences, emphasizing that all people under its umbrella, regardless of denomination, agree to embrace the Bible and spread its word. But politicians such as Trump and Moore have shown how elusive shared faith and values are today.
Moore and Trump supporters are the norm within evangelicalism, so attempting to distance them from the movement fails to address the real issues.
“White evangelicals who are now discarding the evangelical label are a day late and a dollar short,” Uwan said. “From its inception, there was an unholy triumvirate of Republicanism, patriotism and nationalism at the core of white evangelicalism. Trump is the very embodiment of white evangelicalism, and they must own him and their complicity. . . . . To reject the label for a new one is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.”
From the religious right’s earliest days, stances such as opposing abortion and same-sex marriage have been at the core of the movement. At this point, it's nearly impossible to dissociate the religious values from the politics. . . . . As Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical Liberty University, previously said, “I think evangelicals have found their dream president.”
White evangelicals are one of the groups that propelled Republicans in national and local elections. And all signs point to evangelicals having to carry the negative implications of the label long after some of these controversial politicians have left the political stage.
Evangelicals want to be above the nation's nondiscrimination laws by citing their "religious beliefs."  If they succeed, then others should be allowed to discriminate against them because, to me, they represent modern day Pharisees, and we all know how Christ treated the Pharisees in the New Testament. There is a reason the ranks of the "Nones" is growing and much of it traces to the toxic hate and nastiness of evangelicals. 

The Right's Desperate Assault on Robert Mueller

When I left the Republican Party years ago I learned how quickly "friends" can turn on you once you suddenly are dreamed "other" or the opposition.  I went from being respected for "doing my homework and never going off half-cocked" to being dragged through the model not the least for the "lifestyle" I had chosen.   It was ugly and save for one of my "friends" in the Virginia Beach delegation to the Virginia General Assembly I never received an apology - not even after Ed Schrock was "outed" by Mike Rogers, something all of them, including Bob McDonnell had been told about in advance.   Now, on a much grander scale it is Robert Mueller's turn to feel the wrath of Republican more concerned about protecting their own or their own ties to power than the best interests of the nation or simply morality and the rule of law.  And what drives such vicious attacks?  Personally, I suspect that many know that Mueller is on the verge of exposing crimes committed by the Trump/Pence campaign  and/or are fearful that their own prior knowledge of such crimes may come to light.  Andrew Sullivan looks at both the data that shows a majority of Americans oppose the GOP backed cancer and the vengeance Mueller is under unjustified attack.  Here are highlights:
I have three sites tucked away to check when I’m having a bad Trump day. There’s the Gallup approval chart, FiveThirtyEight’s poll of polls, and Real Clear Politics’ graphic of Trump polling. They sit there like little squares of visual Xanax whenever the anxiety of living in a country run by a delusional rage-aholic gets a bit too much. And they’re all looking good. Squinting at Nate’s blurry orange and green, it looks to me as if the gulf between approval and disapproval is widening still further. . . . And then Virginia and now Alabama. And the Democratic flood of potential candidates for 2018, especially women.
And yet this still feels like a phony oasis. A huge majority of Republicans stuck with Moore and Trump last Tuesday. And we’ve learned one new and sickening thing this past month: Republican tribalism demands that the Mueller investigation be aggressively smeared in advance, its findings preemptively discredited, and its lawyers smeared for political loyalties, even when there is no evidence that this is affecting the special counsel’s work. In much of Trump media, Mueller’s alleged corruption and bias are fast becoming an article of faith. Night after night on Fox, it’s an endless diatribe against the special counsel, a constant drumbeat of propaganda about a “tainted probe.”
The House Judiciary Committee’s grilling of Rod Rosenstein this week also revealed a near-universal Republican consensus that the investigation is rigged. E.J. Dionne recently noted “the statement of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, that if every member of Mueller’s team who was ‘anti-Trump’ were kicked off, ‘I don’t know if there’d be anyone left.’” Jordan also declared that “the public trust in this whole thing is gone.” Ben Wittes is rightly worried that the House Republicans “are braying for actions inimical to the very idea of independent law enforcement. They are doing it about someone, Mueller, with whom they have long experience and about whom they know their essential claims to be false.”
The best news from Alabama is that the right’s strategy of constantly upping the ante, of mainlining tribalism so that the completely indefensible becomes a badge of honor, has reached an apparent limit. It took an alleged teen predator with contempt for the Constitution and nostalgia for the Confederacy to get us there, but we now know there is some kind of backstop. And so if Trump decides to wage war against Mueller, and pits his own ego against bedrock principles of the rule of law, there’s a chance he won’t quite get away with it. About a 51–49 chance. Our system of government — whatever today’s polling numbers — is hanging by roughly that margin.  And they say Alabama was a nail-biter.
For now, the majority of Americans seem to recognize the cancer in the GOP and White House.  Let's hope that continues and that November, 2018, sees a historic bloodbath for the GOP.  A blood bath that will set the stage for the removal of Trump and Pence and a decades long permanent minority status for the GOP.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty Pt 1