Saturday, July 08, 2017

Donald Trump and the Call to Dehumanize Others

One thing that unites much of Donald Trump's base of support - especially the white supremacists and the evangelical Christians, although in my view, the two groups overlap to a great extent - is their hatred of those who are different.  Gays are target of their hate as are blacks, Muslims, non-Christians of every stripe, Hispanics, those born overseas.  They insist that they are the "real Americans," ignoring the fact that America was stolen from its original occupants through genocide or that some of those they deem "other" have ancestries in America that go back for many decades - or centuries - longer than their own.  Some of my own ancestors go back to New England prior to 1800 while others seem to trace back to Louisiana following the "Great Expulsion" of  French Acadians from Canada by the British during the 1755–1764 time-frame, but since I am gay, in the world of these people I do not rate "real American" status.  During his campaign, Trump called to the racism and simmering hate and has since incited violence against the media - CNN has increased security to protect its employees - and those who oppose his toxic agenda.  A piece in the New York Times looks at one of the victims of such hate, the wife of an Indian man murdered by "real American" in Kansas. With my large number of Hindu clients, the piece resonated with me and made me sad for what Trump and his followers are doing both to the country and to decent, hard working people who are just as human and deserving of life, liberty and happiness as anyone else.  Here are article excerpts (please read the entire piece):
Mr. Kuchibhotla, an Indian-born engineer, was confronted about his immigration status at a bar, then fatally shot. By the time the police arrived, Mr. Kuchibhotla was dying, and his close friend Alok Madasani was wounded. Another patron who tried to stop the attack was also struck by gunfire.
In some ways, what one man shouted in anger and one woman uttered in grief capture one of America’s most troubling intersections.
“Get out of my country!” the gunman would yell, before opening fire on the two Indian men he said he believed were from Iran.
The episode happened at dinnertime in America, in a neighborhood bar, part of a spasm of hatred uncoiling in small towns and big cities across the nation — and in rising numbers.
A month before the shooting, the Victoria Islamic Center in Texas was torched, destroying the mosque. A month after the shooting, a white supremacist traveled from Baltimore to New York City on a mission to randomly kill a black man. He did just that. The reason:a deep hatred of black men.
Ms. Dumala had wondered how the couple fit into this new narrative, if they should move to a different country, and once even asked her husband, “Are we doing the right thing of staying in the United States of America?”
The realization that her husband was killed because of intolerance, because he was not born in America, is what forced her to emerge from this personal, private hell. If people were to know the aftermath of a hate crime, the crater-sized void and endless questions left behind, if the victims were rendered as three-dimensional, maybe there would be less fear, less hate, she thought.
“My story needs to be spread,” she says plainly. “Srinu’s story needs to be known. We have to do something to reduce the hate crimes. Even if we can save one other person, I think that would give peace to Srinu and give me the satisfaction that his sacrifice did not go in vain.”
The best friends, more like brothers, were at Austins. Typically the two went with another close friend from the office, Manju Nag, but he had been out of town on business. That night, it was just Mr. Kuchibhotla and Mr. Madasani at their regular table on the patio, the one closest to the door, discussing Bollywood movies and drinking a pair of Miller Lites.
The assailant approached the friends. Witnesses recall him wearing a white T-shirt with military-style pins, his head wrapped in a white scarf. He was intent on finding out one thing: Did the men at the table belong in the country?
Adam W. Purinton, a white Navy veteran, turned to the two brown-complexioned men, both living in the United States for years, and demanded to know their immigration status.
Not long after, according to the authorities, Mr. Purinton returned to the bar with a handgun. He stood in the door entrance, pointed his gun toward the two men, and fired.
Mr. Kuchibhotla was hit first. Mr. Madasani, who had been sitting on the other side of the table, hit the ground, forced by a bullet, instinct or both. He crawled on his belly toward the opposite door. He thought the bullets were close by because the floor shook with each gunshot. “All I was thinking about at the time was about my baby, all I was thinking of was my wife’s belly,” said Mr. Madasani, whose wife was pregnant with their first child, a boy due in July. “In flashes, I was thinking, ‘I have to live.’”
Once outside, he realized he had been shot in the left leg. “I saw Srivinas on the floor, not moving. I kept on yelling to everyone, ‘Leave me, go and attend to him.’”
Mr. Grillot, the bar patron who had intervened earlier, chased Mr. Purinton into the parking lot. Mr. Purinton turned and shot him in the chest and hand.
Mr. Purinton, 52, was formally charged with premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of premeditated attempted murder. Last month, he was also indicted on federal hate-crime charges.
The term “hate crime” was being used over and over and by the police, journalists and politicians to describe the death of her husband. All of a sudden, Mr. Kuchibhotla was a hate crime statistic, an example to bolster anti-hate legislation  . . . . . 
This is not the America that I want to live in.  The majority of Americans I suspect do not either.  It is time we take back America from the bigots and haters. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, July 07, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Republican Plan to End Marriage Equality

Gorsuch and Roberts - will they end marriage equality?

Recently some articles have asked the question of whether the LGBT Rights movement is drawing to a close.  Where such views come from are mind numbing given the reality that LGBT Americans, while finding growing acceptance in society, may soon face an existential threat in the form of a Trump packed United States Supreme with a majority of right wing justices who may deliver the Christofascist dream of overturning marriage equality and perhaps other LGBT legal gains. Only one liberal or moderate current justice need retire before a right wing majority will be in control.  This reality ought to make LGBT Americans wake up with nightmares.  A piece in Slate looks at the likely approach the far right may take to undo marriage equality or make it meaningless in most circumstances.  Indeed, the extremist Texas Supreme Court has already begun the process.  Here are article excerpts:
Will marriage equality remain the law of the land in the United States? When the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects same-sex couples’ right to wed, its thundering decision seemed enduring and irrevocable. Yet just two years later, gay Americans’ marriage rights are once again under attack in conservative states—with the encouragement of some Supreme Court justices. It’s now clear that not all states, and certainly not all courts, view same-sex marriage as a settled issue. In fact, it’s increasingly apparent that marriage equality opponents have a long-term plan to roll back, and eventually reverse, the signature achievement of the U.S. gay rights movement.
[T]he Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges remains secure so long as its author, Justice Anthony Kennedy, remains on the court along with the four justices who joined his opinion. On June 26, in Pavan v. Smith, the court reaffirmed Obergefell’s core holding that states must extend all benefits and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples. But shortly thereafter, Kennedy retirement rumors resurfaced with a vengeance . . . .
At the very least, Kennedy is likely mulling retirement under Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Senate. The consequences of Kennedy stepping down are difficult to overstate: Trump would likely replace him with a conservative hardliner like Justice Neil Gorsuch, creating a five-member bloc that could potentially demolish reproductive rights, voting rights, environmental protections, gun restrictions, and redistricting reform. No progressive victory enabled by Kennedy’s vote would be safe.
If Kennedy retires, Roberts will become the swing vote on marriage equality. It is difficult to imagine the chief justice supporting Obergefell in light of his previous dissent. An optimist might speculate that the chief justice, who cares deeply about the court’s institutional legitimacy, would uphold the decision as a matter of stare decisis. Roberts might reason that while he initially opposed Obergefell, he now has an obligation to follow it as a precedent of this court. Overturning the decision, after all, would throw same-sex couples into legal limbo. The ensuing chaos would not be a good look for the Roberts court.
But as the assault on Roe v. Wade has taught us, not all challenges to precedent must confront the original ruling head-on. Through sideways attacks, opponents can chip away at a decision until its foundation has been fatally undermined. Already, conservative states have launched two such attacks on Obergefell.
In the first of these efforts, Arkansas asserted that the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision did not require the state to list married same-sex parents on their children’s birth certificates. This argument is plainly wrong . . . And yet, in late 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the state’s refusal to extend these privileges to same-sex couples. Its decision appeared to be a bad-faith misreading of Obergefell: A majority of the (elected) justices claimed, falsely, that birth certificates are a record of biology, not a benefit of marriage, and are therefore exempt from Obergefell’s command of equal treatment. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision in Pavan v. Smith, . . .
Roberts did not explicitly dissent from that ruling, which was issued per curiam without a single author. . . . . Gorsuch, on the other hand, did dissent, along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The newest justice wrote that the Arkansas Supreme Court “did not in any way seek to defy but rather earnestly engage Obergefell”—a laughable contention given the lower court’s obvious desire to avoid compliance with that ruling. Gorsuch then maintained that Arkansas has “a birth registration regime based on biology” and “rational reasons” to exclude same-sex couples, another blatant fiction.
Was Gorsuch genuinely baffled by the case? Was he intentionally muddying the waters? Who knows? Either way, his broader willingness to play along with Arkansas’ game sent a clear signal to other conservative states: If you want to defy Obergefell, my conservative colleagues and I are OK with that.
A few days later, the Texas Supreme Court signaled right back to Gorsuch that it was listening loud and clear. In a unanimous decision, the (elected) justices held that Obergefell does not clearly require states to extend spousal benefits to same-sex couples. Their bizarre decision approaches outright defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. Spousal benefits, such as health insurance, obviously fall within “the constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage”—which under Obergefell, must be extended to same-sex couples. By pretending to believe otherwise, the Texas Supreme Court might as well have declared that it would not apply Obergefell at all.
The Texas justices were not quite as defiant as the Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jefferson Hughes III, who announced in 2015 that he would never apply Obergefell because same-sex couples are child molesters (among other dubious reasons). But the result is largely the same: State supreme court justices are giving their governments the green light to resume discrimination against same-sex couples.
But what happens if Kennedy is replaced by a Gorsuch-style conservative? At that point, Roberts would be free to rewrite Windsor and Obergefell however he wants. Roberts could remain faithful to the original text of both decisions. He could also reverse them. But the likeliest possibility is that Roberts first cuts them down to a single guarantee—the right for same-sex couples to receive a marriage license with no attendant privileges. In case after case, Roberts could vote to allow discrimination against same-sex couples but affirm their right to the license itself. He could, for instance, permit the denial of spousal benefits to same-sex couples, contending that so long as gay people can marry, their rights have not been abridged.
And then, once Obergefell has been mostly gutted, Roberts could drop this pretense and deliver the final death blow, asserting that the decision had already been lethally eroded. It’s a classic Roberts trick.
Marriage equality is secure today. Obergefell will not fall tomorrow. But it is on shakier ground than most Americans probably realize. If Kennedy retires, the future of same-sex marriage will rest in the hands of a man who vehemently opposes gay rights. And nobody should count on the chief justice to uphold a decision he hates.
The irony is that same sex marriage in no way diminishes heterosexual marriage.  The only thing it threatens is Christofascist beliefs that gays are sinners and less than human.  Full equality invites the younger generations to question the Christofascists fear and hate based beliefs and that is why Gorsuch and those like him seek to destroy marriage equality.

The GOP Has Become the Post Truth Party

While speaking in Europe on his latest foreign trip Donald Trump flat out lied about the America security agencies' consensus that Russia interfered with last year's  presidential election.  He said there was no consensus, yet the conclusion of 17 different agencies was unanimous on this reality.  Why does this matter?  Because it is emblematic of what the Republican Party has become  both at the national level and at the state level as well.  The truth simply no longer matters.  The cynic in me sees this development tied to two things: (i) the ride of Trump who lies routinely at least  three quarters of the time (and that's likely being charitable), and (ii) the take over of the GOP base by Christofascists and their white supremacist first cousins.  Each of these groups lies incessantly, especially the "godly folks."  The result is that the Congressional Republicans simply flat out lie, the best example being the ongoing lies on health care "reform."  Here in Virginia, the GOP candidates for statewide office are just as dishonest with only the AG candidate being honest enough to reveal that he is nothing short of a right wing religious fanatic.   A column in the New York Times looks at the now complete dishonesty of the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
Does anyone remember the “reformicons”? A couple of years back there was much talk about a new generation of Republicans who would, it was claimed, move their party off its cruel and mindless agenda of tax cuts for the rich and pain for the poor, bringing back the intellectual seriousness that supposedly used to characterize the conservative movement.
But the rise of the reformicons never happened. What we got instead was the (further) rise of the decepticons — not the evil robots from the movies, but conservatives who keep scaling new heights of dishonesty in their attempt to sell their reverse-Robin Hood agenda.
Consider, in particular, Republican leaders’ strategy on health care. At this point, everything they say involves either demonstrably dishonest claims about Obamacare or wild misrepresentations of their proposed replacement, which would — surprise — cut taxes for the rich while inflicting harsh punishment on the poor and working class, including millions of Trump supporters.
Despite encountering some significant problems, the Affordable Care Act has, as promised, extended health insurance to millions of Americans who wouldn’t have had it otherwise, at a fairly modest cost. In states that have implemented the act as it was intended, expanding Medicaid, the percentage of nonelderly residents without insurance has fallen by more than half since 2010.
A few days ago the Indiana G.O.P. asked residents to share their “Obamacare horror stories”; what it got instead were thousands of testimonials from people whom the A.C.A. has saved from financial ruin or even death.
How do Republicans argue against this success? You can get a good overview by looking at the Twitter feed of Tom Price, President Trump’s secretary of health and human services — a feed that is, in its own way, almost as horrifying as that of the tweeter in chief. Price points repeatedly to two misleading numbers.
First, he points to the fact that fewer people than expected have signed up on the exchanges — Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces — and portrays this as a sign of dire failure. But a lot of this shortfall is the result of good news: Fewer employers than predicted chose to drop coverage and shift their workers onto exchange plans. So exchange enrollment has come in below forecast, but it mostly consists of people who wouldn’t otherwise have been insured
Second, he points to the 28 million U.S. residents who remain uninsured as if this were some huge, unanticipated failure. But nobody expected Obamacare to cover everyone . . . . And you have to wonder how Price can look himself in the mirror after condemning the A.C.A. for missing some people when his own party’s plans would vastly increase the number of uninsured.
The main story here is very simple: In order to free up money for tax cuts, G.O.P. plans would drastically cut Medicaid spending relative to current law, and they would also cut insurance subsidies, making private insurance unaffordable for many people not eligible for Medicaid.
Republicans could try to make a case for this policy shift; they could try to explain why tax cuts for a wealthy few are more important than health care for tens of millions. Instead, however, they’re engaging in shameless denial.
On the other side — even I was shocked by this one — senior Republicans like Paul Ryan dismiss declines in the number of people with coverage as no big deal, because they would represent voluntary choices not to buy insurance.
How is this supposed to apply to the 15 million people the C.B.O. predicts would lose Medicaid? Wouldn’t many people drop coverage, not as an exercise in personal freedom, but in response to what the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates would be an average 74 percent increase in after-tax premiums? Never mind.
Political spin used to have its limits: Politicians who wanted to be taken seriously wouldn’t go around claiming that up is down and black is white.
Yet today’s Republicans hardly ever do anything else. It’s not just Donald Trump: The whole G.O.P. has become a post-truth party. And I see no sign that it will ever improve.
To my mind, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell remain perhaps the most immoral national level Republicans.  Trump is mentally ill, but Ryan and McConnell know exactly what they are doing and simply lie about it.  Most Americans in their view are merely disposable garbage.  The moral bankruptcy is stunning - and chilling.

Trump’s Deranged Thirst for a Clash of Civilizations

If one looks at Donald Trump's business career, other than inherited wealth, his rise has depended in considerable measure in lying, cheating others, threats, seeking confrontation, being a bully, skirting the law and dealing with undesirable personages ranging from Mafia figures to Russian Mafia figures. Contracts mean nothing to the man - and by extension, the same seems to hold for international treaties - and his word means little.  The only thing that can be relied upon is that he will lie and boast about himself while feeding his insatiable ego.  Now, thanks to the dereliction of its duty by the Electoral College, Trump finds him holding the office of president of the United States and he seemed poised to bring all of his distasteful repertoire to the world stage.  Compounding the toxicity is his apparent embrace of the Christofascists' desire to impose their beliefs and "culture" on the rest of the world.  His current trip to Poland and the G20 summit is no exception.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Trump's alternate universe and thirst for conflict.  Here are highlights:
“A little learning is a dangerous thing,” wrote the poet Alexander Pope. Three centuries later, Pope’s aphorism perfectly — and dangerously — describes President Trump’s understanding of history as a zero-sum clash of civilizations in which “the West” can triumph by imposing its will.
The speech Trump delivered Thursday in Warsaw’s Krasinski Square might have been appropriate when Britannia ruled the waves and Europe’s great powers held dominion over “lesser” peoples around the globe. It had nothing useful to say about today’s interconnected world in which goods, people and ideas have contempt for borders.
 Trump added what he probably thought of as a Churchillian flourish: “I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.”
Triumph over whom? Trump mentioned “radical Islamic terrorism” as one of the enemies posing “dire threats to our security and to our way of life,” but he didn’t stop there. He went on to add Russia and — weirdly — “the steady creep of government bureaucracy” to the list.
But what does Trump mean when he speaks of “the West” and its civilization? “Americans, Poles and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty,” he said. “We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.
If the president read a few history books, he’d know that for most of the past 2,000 years, China and India were the world’s leading economic powers and Europe was a relatively primitive backwater. He’d know that Europe rose to dominance not by erecting walls but by opening itself to the rest of the world — its resources, products and people.
There is nothing pure about Western civilization. Its ability to absorb and incorporate outside influences has proved a great strength, not a weakness. Imagine Italy without tomato sauce, a gift from the New World — or the United States without the high-tech companies founded by immigrants, gifts from the Old.
Of course Trump is right to call for a united front against terrorism. But the solution, in a globalized world, cannot be to hunker behind walls . . . . Global issues, such as nuclear proliferation and climate change, demand global solutions. Like it or not, we are all in this together.
The correct response to the terrorism threat, which is real, is to isolate it as an abomination that is as much a grievous insult to Islam as to any other faith — and that has taken the lives of far more Muslims than non-Muslims. The wrong response is to posit that “the West” is besieged by, and therefore at war with, a hostile civilization.
But viewing the fight against terrorism as some kind of civilizational Armageddon is wrong. Trump seems to view himself as the West’s defender against 1.6 billion Muslims, almost all of whom want only to live in peace. We need a capable president, not a crusader in chief.
George W. Bush saw the Iraq War as a crusade of sorts.  In the end, it ended little better than some of the failed Crusades of the 11th and 13th Centuries but had one thing in common with the: thousands lost their lies needlessly.  One can only cringe in fear of what batshitery Trump may unleash.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Toxic Fruits of "Values Voters"

As the previous post noted, GOP attorney general candidate John Adams believes that his beliefs and "values" should be imposed on all Virginians.  His attitude is shared by much of the increasingly extreme GOP base and certainly the extremists at The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group, which dictates much of the Virginia GOP's policy on social issues.  The mind set shows two things, in my view: extreme selfishness and a callous disregard for the lives of others.  Like it or not, conservative Christians are among the most selfish and self-centered individuals that one will meet.  Only their beliefs matter to them and they care nothing of the consequences they inflict on others.  A column in HuffPost provides a good response to individuals like John Adams and the hate merchants at The Family Foundation.  Here are highlights:
Pride month has come and gone.  . . . . There are still large swaths of the population committed to quelling that powerful tide—people who would rather stop the surge than learn to swim; those for whom either religious conviction or willful ignorance provide a convenient, yet increasingly insufficient, refuge. For such people, the rationale for voting against LGBTQ rights often comes down to one maddeningly flawed quip: “It goes against my values.”
Here’s the problem with the values argument in relation to LGBTQ rights: it’s not about you.
It’s not about your belief structure or what your interpretation of any religious text seems to say.
It’s not about unsubstantiated fears of how public restrooms are utilized.
It’s not about maintaining your comfort level at the expense of others.
It’s not about your perception of what love, marriage, and families should look like.
It’s not even about the overwhelming science that demands legitimization of LGBTQ individuals.
It is not about you. Full stop.
What it’s actually about is ensuring that all American citizens are given the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest extent possible. It’s about affording everyone the wealth of governmental protections marriage guarantees, including end-of-life decision making, insurance benefits, visitation rights in medical facilities, parental rights safeguards, and the ability to file joint tax returns. It’s about recognizing that the human condition exists upon a continuum of biological differences and that one’s ability to understand those differences is not required for extending respect and acknowledgement. It’s about granting dignity to those who have been denied it their entire lives. It’s about decency.
LGBTQ individuals are not asking for anything more than the same freedoms heterosexual cis-gendered Americans have always been granted. They have no agenda other than to be recognized as fully human—a remarkably simple request. And while absolute acceptance is the end goal, nobody is seeking to upend your worldview overnight. It’s unnecessary because, frankly, they do not need your approval to exist, to thrive. They do, however, need your vote.
When you refuse to do so, you aren’t simply following your religious conviction or personal belief structure. You are doing more—far more.
The reality is, using your values as an excuse to vote against LGBTQ rights causes genuine harm. And when viewed through the lens of self-righteousness, it becomes all-too-easy to ignore the real-world implications.
Your values insist that good people die without loved ones by their side. They ensure that an overstretched foster system retain children who might otherwise find fulfillment and purpose in loving homes. They cultivate a system of violence and bullying that results in a suicide rate for LGBTQ youths four times higher than that of their peers. Those same youths are often rejected by their own families, forced onto the streets and left to fend for themselves. Your values foster the kind of environment in which 66% of transgender individuals are victimized by physical and sexual assault, despite the factually inaccurate depictions of them as perpetrators of such assaults.
If, indeed, your values compel you to perpetuate so much tragedy, violence, and heartbreak, are they really as admirable as you have been lead to believe? Is the very real suffering of the LGBTQ community worth the satisfaction of having voted your conscience? If so, I see nothing of merit in the so-called values you seek to defend. They ring hollow and disingenuous.
As for my own, they demand I look beyond myself. They insist on being fully, unconditionally supportive of anyone who seeks to find fulfillment and live authentically. Because society can only benefit from a world in which self-acceptance is encouraged and love flourishes. I intend to continue working toward that kind of world.

Religion and "religious values" cause immeasurable harm on a daily basis.  Sadly, the Christofascists of the Republican Party base see only themselves as fully human.  The rest of us simply don't matter. Indeed, they'd prefer if the rest of us simply died and disappeared.  WWJD?

Republicans to Use Virginia AG Race to Attack LGBT Rights

John Adams with Jill Vogel and Ed Gillespie - be very afraid

This fall's Virginia elections are likely to draw much more national attention than in other years and, frighteningly, rolling back LGBT rights and reversing the legalization of same sex marriage appears to be one of the preferred talking points of the GOP attorney general candidate, John Adams.  Adams may come across as a more polished version of Ken "Kookinelli" Cuccinelli, but he is every bit as much of an extremist as Cuccinelli.  Especially on the issue of LGBT rights. Among the knuckle draggers of Virginia rural areas and so-called Tea Party activists - actually Christian extremists hiding under a different label - the message resonates and it will be critical that progressives and the LGBT community not discount the danger Adams and the rest of the Republican ticket pose to basic civil rights.  Not only is Adams and anti-gay extremist, but he is also a huge fan of voter ID laws aimed at disenfranchising as many minority voters and Democrat leaning voters as possible.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the extreme agenda Adams and his fellow ticket mates will be pushing. Here are excerpts:
John Adams, the prominent Richmond lawyer who wants to be Virginia’s next attorney general, is no fan of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the country.
“Totally made up, totally made up,” he told a Tea Party gathering in Virginia Beach last year. “Not in the constitution anywhere.”
But the Republican also told the crowd they had to live with the high court’s ruling unless one of two things happens. Either Virginia secedes from the union, something that did not work out so well 150 years ago. Or the court gets a big makeover.
“I’m an optimist,” he said. “I clerked for Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. You give me four more Clarence Thomases, we’re good. OK? I’m not kidding. We’re good. Because they will fix that court in a minute.”
Adams is running as both blunt conservative and strict adherent to the rule of law. The premise of his campaign is that Herring is neither – that the sitting attorney general has bent the law to advance a liberal agenda . . . Herring, of course, flatly disagrees with that notion. He won election four years ago promising to “take the politics out of the office,” a swipe at the activist tenure of his conservative Republican predecessor, Ken Cuccinelli II.
As attorney general, Herring went on to advance gay rights and abortion access, offer in-state tuition to certain illegal immigrants and to tighten gun control. Herring contends all of his moves were grounded in the law.
Virginia’s race plays out as national forces have politicized the office of state attorney general around the country. Herring and other Democratic attorneys general are branding themselves as the “resistance” to President Donald Trump, much as Republicans cast themselves as a firewall against President Barack Obama’s “overreach.”
Ahead of Virginia’s November election — the nation’s only attorney general’s contest in 2017 —the Republican Attorneys General Association voted early this year to scrap a long-standing “gentlemen’s agreement” with its Democratic counterpart to stay out of contests with an incumbent.
Long regarded as head of the state’s law firm and sometimes as Virginia’s top cop, the attorney general has evolved in recent years into a high-profile, highly politicized figure, said Bob Holsworth, a longtime Richmond political analyst.  “Cuccinelli began the change,” Holsworth said, referring to the attorney general who filed the first suit against “Obamacare,” investigated a university climate scientist and played hardball with the state Board of Health over abortion.
The Herring-Adams contest could grab more of the spotlight than usual. Republicans plan to play up the down-ticket race since Herring is more of a lightening rod than the low-key Northam.  “Mark Herring fires up our base,” House Speaker-designee Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said with a mock shudder.
And Democrats are zeroing in on Adams’s conservative views as they try to paint the Republican ticket as too far right for a changing Virginia. Gillespie treads lightly on social issues, as does the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Jill Holtzman Vogel (Fauquier). Adams speaks far more frankly.  . . . Adams volunteers his personal opposition to gay marriage on his web site.
Democrats say Adams takes after someone else: Cuccinelli. They have seized on pro bono, friend-of-the-court briefs Adams wrote supporting the rights of two organizations – the Hobby Lobby retail chain and the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns – to be exempted from an Obamacare birth-control mandate due to religious objections.
“He did it on his own, in his spare time,” Herring said in a June 17 debate with Adams in Virginia Beach. “That’s where his passion is, in taking people’s rights away from them.” . . . Adams said his only interest was in protecting religious freedom [the right's code name for license to discriminate laws].
Do not be fooled by Gillespie's and Vogel's relative silence on far right issues.  While not voicing Adams' views, they will nonetheless pursue them if elected to office.  Virginia's women, minorities, non-Christians and gays should be terrified by all three of these candidates. 

Trump Can't Save White Christian America

As noted in a recent post, the number one cause of the decline of Christianity in America is the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who through their lies, hypocrisy and general hatred of others have made the entire Christian brand, if you will, toxic.  Yet despite this reality, 81% of evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump who shamelessly prostituted himself to the Christofascists and held himself out as the would be savior of the self-anointed "godly folk."  A constant campaign meme from Trump was the broadcasting of the myth that American Christians are being subjected to persecution.  As other post have explored, this myth is a lie and if the Christofascists are experiencing anything, it is a growing opposition to the Christofascists' persecution of others.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at why Trump will not be able to halt the decline of white Christian America.  Here are article highlights:
Down the home stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign, one of Donald Trump’s most consistent talking points was a claim that America’s changing demographics and culture had brought the country to a precipice. He repeatedly cast himself as the last chance for Republicans and conservative white Christians to step back from the cliff, to preserve their power and way of life. In an interview on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in early September, Trump put the choice starkly for the channel’s conservative Christian viewers: “If we don’t win this election, you’ll never see another Republican and you’ll have a whole different church structure."
Michele Bachmann, a member of Trump’s evangelical executive advisory board, echoed these same sentiments in a speech at the Values Voters Summit, an annual meeting attended largely by conservative white Christians. That same week, she declared in an interview with CBN: “If you look at the numbers of people who vote and who lives [sic] in the country and who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to bring in to the country, this is the last election when we even have a chance to vote for somebody who will stand up for godly moral principles. This is it.” Post-election polling from the Public Religion Research Institute, which I lead, and The Atlantic showed that this appeal found its mark among conservative voters. Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of Trump voters, compared to only 22 percent of Clinton voters, agreed that “the 2016 election represented the last chance to stop America’s decline.”
Does Trump’s victory, then, represent the resurrection of White Christian America? The consequences of the 2016 elections are indeed sweeping. . . . . The evidence, however, suggests that Trump’s unlikely victory is better understood as the death rattle of White Christian America—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—rather than as its resuscitation. Despite the election’s immediate and dramatic consequences, it’s important not to over-interpret Trump’s win, which was extraordinarily close. Out of more than 136 million votes cast, Trump’s victory in the Electoral College came down to a razor-thin edge of only 77,744 votes across three states . . .
Trump’s intense appeal to 2016 as the “last chance” election seems to have spurred conservative white Christian voters to turn out to vote at particularly high rates . . . . white evangelicals went from being overrepresented by five percentage points at the ballot box in 2008 to being overrepresented by nine percentage points in 2016. This is an impressive feat to be sure, but one less and less likely to be replicated as their decline in the general population continues.
[T]wo trends with 2015-2016 data also confirms that the overall patterns of demographic and cultural change are continuing. . . . . The percentage of white Christians in the country fell from 54 percent in 2008 to 47 percent in 2014. That percentage has fallen again in each subsequent year, to 45 percent in 2015 and to 43 percent in 2016. Similarly, the percentage of Americans who supported same-sex marriage rose from 40 percent in 2008 to 54 percent in 2014 . .  . but jumped to 58 percent in 2016.
[T]he key long-term trends indicate White Christian America’s decline is continuing unabated. Over the last eight years, the percentage of Americans who identify as white and Christian fell 11 percentage points, and support for same-sex marriage jumped 18 percentage points. . . . . “The waning numbers of white Christians in the country today may not have time on their side, but as the sun is slowly setting on the cultural world of White Christian America, they’ve managed, at least in this election, to rage against the dying of the light.”
Twenty years from now, there is little chance that 2016 will be celebrated as the revival of White Christian America, no matter how many Christian right leaders are installed in positions of power over the next four years. Rather, this election will mostly likely be remembered as the one in which white evangelicals traded away their integrity and influence in a gambit to resurrect their past.
Meanwhile, the major trends transforming the country continue. If anything, evangelicals’ deal with Trump may accelerate the very changes it was designed to arrest, as a growing number of non-white and non-Christian Americans are repulsed by the increasingly nativist, tribal tenor of both conservative white Christianity and conservative white politics. At the end of the day, white evangelicals’ grand bargain with Trump will be unable to hold back the sheer weight of cultural change, and their descendants will be left with the only real move possible: acceptance.
I hope the author is correct.  Indeed, I hope the decline of the Christofascists accelerates.  

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Greatest Threat to America's Security: Trump

I have never believed that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, was fit for the office of the presidency of the United States.  Behavior that is acceptable for reality TV personality or the owner of a privately held business is far different from that required for the so-called leader of the free world.  Petulance, extreme narcissism, boorish behavior, intellectual laziness, failure to listen to experts - all traits that Trump personifies - simply are not acceptable in a president and commander-in-chief.  Candidly, I cannot comprehend how anyone rational could ever have thought Trump fit for office.  Dislike of Hillary Clinton or wanting "change" simply did not justify placing someone unfit and incompetent in the White House.   An op-ed in the Washington Post argues that the greatest national security issue now facing the United States is its unfit leader, Der Trumpenführer.  Here are highlights:
Last week, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, I moderated a panel on U.S. national security in the Trump era. . . . . Toward the end of the conversation, we turned to Trump’s erratic behavior and I noted that for the first time in three decades in the world of foreign policy, I was getting regular questions about the mental health of the president.
 I asked Petraeus, a man I respect, if he thought the president was fit to serve. His response was, “It’s immaterial.” He argued that because the team around Trump was so good, they could offset whatever deficits he might have. I was floored. It was a stunningly weak defense. That is where we are now. The president’s tweeting hysterically at the media is just an element of this. So too is his malignant and ever-visible narcissism. The president has demonstrated himself to have zero impulse control and a tendency to damage vital international relationships with ill-considered outbursts, to trust very few of the people in his own government, and to reportedly rant and shout at staff and even at the television sets he obsessively watches. Whether he is actually clinically ill is a matter for psychiatric professionals to consider. But when you take the above behaviors and combine them with his resistance to doing the work needed to be president, to sitting down for briefings, to reading background materials, to familiarizing himself with details enough to manage his staff, there is clearly a problem. Compound it with his deliberate reluctance to fill key positions in government and his wild flip-flopping on critical issues from relations with China to trade, and you come to a conclusion that it may be that Trump’s fitness to serve as president is our nation’s core national security issue. Not only does the president diminish the office with his pettiness; he also shows disregard for constitutional principles including free speech, freedom of religion and separation of powers, and he operates as though he were above ethics laws. Daily he shows he lacks the character, discipline, intellect, judgment or respect for the office to be president of the United States. In normal times, this would be worrying. But look at the news. North Korea is moving closer to having the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States. A confrontation is coming that will be a test of character pitting North Korea’s unhinged leader, Kim Jong Un, against our leader. If a dedicated enemy of the United States and opportunist such as Putin determines to take advantage of Trump’s narcissism, ignorance, paranoia, business interests or brewing scandals, he will do just that. If he sees Trump’s behavior as a tacit endorsement of his own thuggishness, he will seize the opportunity. Could Trump enter the meeting with good advice from the team that Petraeus and others admire so much? Yes. But they can’t undo Trump’s record, nor can they, we have learned, always shape the behavior of a man who has shown repeated propensity for ignoring the advice of his best allies. That is one reason, according to reports, that European officials are deeply concerned about the outcomes of the meeting that will take place in Hamburg this week. [T]he stark reality is that objective analysis reveals that we have never before seen a president so unfit for office. Even President Richard Nixon at his moments of darkest paranoia was a professional public servant who understood the office and the stakes associated with it. One might, on this Independence Day week, have to go back to King George III to find a head of state who so threatened America. But there is no precedent for one whose character is so obviously ill-suited to the presidency. 
Be very afraid.

 [I]t is not the incivility of modern politics that drives us to question Trump’s fitness; it is a respect for the lessons of history and for the national interests his profound deficits put at risk.

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists are Killing Christianity

In many posts on this blog I am very hard on evangelical Christians and fundamentalist Christians for a simple reason: they are increasingly the antithesis of Christ's message.  They cherry pick bible passages to condemn others, parade about feigning piety as they wear pretend religiosity on their sleeves.  Meanwhile, they are blind to the reality that they are the Pharisees condemned in the bible ten fold.  Their hypocrisy knows few limits and they are best defined by hatred of others and contempt for the religious freedom of others (e.g., John Adams, the GOP candidate for attorney general of Virginia thinks his religious beliefs should be binding on everyone).  People are watching their behavior, especially Millennials and, based on what they see, they are walking away from organized religion and rightfully so when atheists and agnostics act in far more moral ways then the self-anointed "godly folk."  There is a reason one third of Millennials claim no religious affiliation.  In a word, because of "Christians."  I came across a column that summarizes many of my thoughts on this issue. Here are excerpts:
Growing-up in the Church, I was taught that the worst thing one could be was a non-believer; that nothing was as tragic as a doomed soul that condemned itself by rejecting God. The religion of my childhood drew a sharp, clear line between the saved and the damned. All that mattered was making sure someone found themselves on the better side of this line—and the Atheists and Humanists didn’t have a shot.
 The Bible called it “making disciples” and it was the heart of our tradition. As the venerable hymn declared, we Jesus people were to be known—by our love.
 People outside the Church will tell you: love is no longer our calling card. It is now condemnation, bigotry, judgment and hypocrisy.  By operating in a way that is in full opposition to the life and ministry of Jesus—it is understandably producing people fully opposed to the faith that bears his name.
  Christians; people who no longer consider organized religion an option because the Jesus they recognize is absent.  In fact, this God may be toxic.
And that’s the irony of it all; that the very Evangelicals who’ve spent that last 50 years in this country demonizing those who reject Jesus—are the single most compelling reason for them to do so. They are giving people who suspect that all Christians are self-righteous, hateful hypocrites, all the evidence they need. The Church is confirming the outside world’s most dire suspicions about itself.
People are steering clear in droves, choosing to find meaning and community and something that resembles love outside its gatherings.
And one day soon, these same religious folks will look around, lamenting the empty buildings and the irrelevance of the Church and a world that has no use for it, and they’ll wonder how this happened. . . . . the reason the Church soon will be teetering on the verge of extinction and irrelevance, will be because those entrusted to perpetuate the love of Jesus in the world, lost the plot so horribly, and gave the world no other option but to look elsewhere for goodness and purpose and truth.

Sadly, the non-toxic Christian denomination have yielded the field to the haters and for better or worse, the haters now define Christianity.  

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

4th of July Male Beauty - Pt 2

Upholding American Dignity on Independence Day

I probably have not been this depressed on the 4th of July since the early years of my coming out saga when every holiday that was associated with family gatherings sent me off the deep end notwithstanding the anti-depressants I was taking.   Things looked bleak to me and the future seemed frightening and uncertain.  Fast forward fourteen years and those feelings likely apply to many Americans who remained shocked and appalled that we have a vulgar, mentally unstable, narcissist in the White House who is rapidly making America a worldwide embarrassment (at least outside of his circle of knuckle dragging supporters).   Yet there is reason for optimism: Virginia may well remain under Democrat gubernatorial control after the November, 2017 elections; despite the efforts of Christofascists, a majority of Americans do not subscribed to a perverted version of Christianity dominated by greed and hatred of others - in fact, roughly a third of Millennials have walked away for religion - and so far the federal courts have reined in a number of Trump initiatives. A piece in the New Yorker reminds us to buck up and strive for the best ideals of America while continuing to battle the forces of ignorance and hate that embody the worst attributes of America's past.  Here are highlights:
More than three-quarters of a century after the delegates of the Second Continental Congress voted to quit the Kingdom of Great Britain and declared that “all men are created equal,” Frederick Douglass stepped up to the lectern at Corinthian Hall, in Rochester, New York, and, in an Independence Day address to the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society, made manifest the darkest ironies embedded in American history and in the national self-regard. “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” Douglass asked:
I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
The dissection of American reality, in all its complexity, is essential to political progress, and yet it rarely goes unpunished. One reason that the Republican right and its attendant media loathed Barack Obama is that his public rhetoric, while far more buoyant with post-civil-rights-era uplift than Douglass’s, was also an affront to reactionary pieties. Even as Obama tried to win votes, he did not paper over the duality of the American condition: its idealism and its injustices; its heroism in the fight against Fascism and its bloody misadventures before and after. 
Donald Trump, who, in fairness, has noted that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job,” represents an entirely different tradition. He has no interest in the wholeness of reality. He descends from the lineage of the Know-Nothings, the doomsayers and the fabulists, the nativists and the hucksters. The thematic shift from Obama to Trump has been from “lifting as we climb” to “raising the drawbridge and bolting the door.” Trump may operate a twenty-first-century Twitter machine, but he is still a frontier-era drummer peddling snake oil, juniper tar, and Dr. Tabler’s Buckeye Pile Cure for profit from the back of a dusty wagon.
Trump’s vows of solidarity with the struggling working class, with the victims of globalization and deindustrialization, are a fraud. He made coal miners a symbol of his campaign, but he has always held them in contempt. To him, they are luckless schmoes who fail to possess his ineffable talents. “The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son,” Trump once told Playboy. “If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination—or whatever—to leave their mine. They don’t have ‘it.’ ”
Trump is hardly the first bad President in American history—he has not had adequate time to eclipse, in deed, the very worst—but when has any politician done so much, so quickly, to demean his office, his country, and even the language in which he attempts to speak? Every day, Trump wakes up and erodes the dignity of the Presidency a little more. He tells a lie. He tells another. He trolls Arnold Schwarzenegger. He trolls the press, bellowing “enemy of the people” and “fake news!” . . . .  The President’s misogyny and his indecency are well established. When is it time to question his mental stability?
Trump began his national ascendancy by hoisting the racist banner of birtherism. Since then, as candidate and as President, he has found countless ways to pollute the national atmosphere. If someone suggests a lie that is useful to him, he will happily pass it along or endorse it. This habit is not without purpose or cumulative effect. Even if Trump fails in his most ambitious policy initiatives, whether it is liberating the wealthy from their tax obligations or liberating the poor from their health care, he has already begun to foster a public sphere in which, as Hannah Arendt put it in her treatise on totalitarian states, millions come to believe that “everything was possible and that nothing was true.”
Frederick Douglass ended his Independence Day jeremiad in Rochester with steadfast optimism (“I do not despair of this country”). Read his closing lines, and what despair you might feel when listening to a President who abets ignorance, isolation, and cynicism is eased, at least somewhat. The “mental darkness” of earlier times is done, Douglass reminded his audience. “Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe.” There is yet hope for the “great principles” of the Declaration of Independence and “the genius of American Institutions.” There was reason for optimism then, as there is now. Donald Trump is not forever. Sometimes it just seems that way.