Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

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Anti-Gay Betsy DeVos Seeks to Inject Right Wing Christianity into Public Education


One thing is always a constant with the Christofascists: they believe that everyone must adhere to their beliefs and they will resort to any means to accomplish the imposition of their version of Sharia law on all.  With Donald Trump's selection of a cast of the most racists and reactionary individuals in recent memory for his cabinet, religious freedom for non-Christofascists will be under attack. Indeed, Betsy DeVos wants to inject right wing Christianity back into the public schools to do "advance God's kingdom," as defined, of course by Ms. DeVos and her fellow extremists.  Among those specifically targeted by DeVos are gays against whom she has long wage war going all the way back to the 1990's when she and other zealots mapped out a plan to defeat the "homosexual agenda"  and "organized homosexuality."  DeVos has been a huge bank roller for anti-gay and anti-religious freedom groups ever since.   The Advocate looks at DeVos' frightening vision for public education as she works to dismantle it.  Here are excerpts:
Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of Education, compared her work in public education reform to the battle of David and Goliath, and said she wants to "advance God's kingdom."
In an audio clip exclusively obtained by Politico, Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, revealed how their religion fuels their drive to reform public education.
The audio from a 2001 conference known as "The Gathering," an annual meeting featuring some of the nation's most wealthy Christians, DeVos, and her husband, Dick DeVos, were interviewed about a failed Michigan ballot initiative that was going to amend the state's constitution to allow public funds to be used on private and religious schools. The couple backed the initiative.
Betsy DeVos is also not exactly a friend to public education. An advocate of school choice, she believes government bodies should provide vouchers to parents who want to send their children to private schools but can’t afford them.
They also commented on how public education has "displaced" the place of the church at the center of communities, and they said that providing parents with school choice is one way to undo that displacement.
Betsy and Richard DeVos have previously provided funding to antigay initiatives. They headed the effort to amend Michigan’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and gave $200,000 to the campaign, Raw Story notes. Voters approved the amendment in 2004; it was struck down, along with other states’ anti–marriage equality laws, by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

A transcript from one of the meetings of "The Gathering" provides more insight into the bizarre and obsessed world of DeVos as others like her.  The agenda? To infiltrate the public schools and oppose everything from the "safe schools" concept which argues that schools should be a refuge for all students to stamping out gay-straight alliances.  That DeVos will be in a position to implement some of her agenda is frightening.  Not only LGBT individuals and their friends and families but anyone who believes in religious freedom for all Americans should be very, very  disturbed.

Are HGTV's Joanna and Chip Gaines Typical Anti-Gay Hypocrites?


One of the favorite tactics of anti-gay Christian zealots - hate merchants is actual a more appropriate term - is to the claim that they and their ignorance and hate based beliefs deserve to be treated with respect and tolerance even as they spread lies and hatred about LGBT citizens who are merely seeking the same civil rights that heterosexuals have enjoyed for centuries. Somehow in the bizarre world of the Christofascists their efforts to criminalize other citizens and strip them of civil rights deserves the same "tolerance" as the efforts of those who seek to end discrimination, mistreatment of others, the discarding of children by their "godly Christian" parents, and oppose to quack "experts" who claim that sexual orientation is as choice and can be "changed" if one merely resolves to "stop sinning."  If nothing else, the recent presidential election has served to unmask many who are seemingly more motivated by hatred of others, a desire to hold onto white privilege, and to inflict their religious views on all (for these folks, religious freedom only applies to them and no one else). Now, thanks to BuzzFeed we have learned that "Fixer Upper" stars Joanna and Chip attend a church headed by a stridently anti-gay pastor who opposes gay rights and support "ex-gay" conversion therapy that is condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America,  As the piece also pointed out, the Gaines, unlike many of the remodeling and flip shows on HGTV, do mot work with same sex couples.  Here are highlights from the BuzzFeed piece:
Chip and Joanna Gaines’ series Fixer Upper is one of the most popular shows on HGTV. The couple has recently graced the cover of People magazine; their book, The Magnolia Story, has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for five weeks; and they were the subject of a long profile in Texas Monthly that credited them with revitalizing the city of Waco, Texas, where the show is set and where their businesses are located. The couple are riding a wave of success, largely due to their charm and appeal. 
They are also, as they detail in The Magnolia Story, devout Christians — Joanna has spoken of and written about her conversations with God. (God told her both to close her store to spend time with her children, and then to reopen it a few years later.) Their church, Antioch Community Church, is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. And their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as “dear friends” in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.
 So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. HGTV’s PR department did not respond to initial emails and calls. Two days after this story was published, they released the following statement: “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”
 Seibert clearly does not offer any wiggle room on the issue, as he says emphatically in his sermon: “Business leaders, you will have to be clear about who you are. And you will have to be willing to stand to lose even a deal or two or 
While Joanna and Chip Gaines have yet to directly respond to requests for comment, the usual suspects and "news" outlets like Breitbart, The Federalist and The Christian Post to name a few are rallying to the Gaines' defense and attacking the author of the BuzzFeed piece while fanning the flames of the carefully manufactured myth that American Christians are being persecuted.  Anything rather than admit the truth that what is really happening is that many - perhaps a majority in society - are finally saying "enough!" to the Christofascists' persecution of others.  In the sick minds of the Christofascists, being challenged about their centuries of mistreatment and persecution of others somehow equates to persecution.

As for Joanna and Chip Gaines, until they have the spine to publicly respond to the allegations, the husband and I will no longer be watching their show (which until now had been a favorite).  Their silence seems to be an admission that they support their pastor's foul and scientifically false views.  Yes, the Gaines are free to believe such horrible lies if they choose and attend a church that preaches hate - they reportedly attend the church this past weekend - but the rest of us are equally free to change channels when their show comes on and to avoid purchasing any merchandise connected to them.  Whether the Christofascists like it or not, freedom of religion is a two way street and Joanna and Chip Gaines may be about to receive a harsh lesson in that reality if they do not disclaim their church's toxic anti-gay lies.  They might even want to have a chat with the Benham brothers who destroyed their own careers.

From my own experience, sexual orientation is not a choice.  Embracing ignorance, anti-science myths, and hatred towards others in contrast is 100% a choice. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Monday, December 05, 2016

The Betrayal of Democracy by "Moderate" Conservatives


I suspect that history will blame much of the mainstream media for enabling the rise of Donald Trump and the extremism that has devoured the Republican Party.  During the Obama presidency, "moderate" conservatives who never did anything to support or defend the legitimacy of America's first black president did nothing to condemn or criticize the growing extremism and out right racism, religious fanaticism, and bigotry of the Republican Party.  Only when it was too late did the likes of David Brooks, Michael Gerson and a host of others begin a rear guard effort to stop Trump.  But it was too little and much too late.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this failure and targets Brooks in particular although the criticism applies to many who foolishly see themselves as "moderates".  Here are highlights:
Of all the failures that have led to the historical disaster of the Trump presidency, perhaps the least-remarked-upon is the abdication of responsibility of the American center. Those of us with moderate inclinations need an effective center as a brake against extremism. When one party veers too far from the center, the center joins the opposing party, until the extreme one can be coaxed back into the mainstream. David Brooks calls for a rejuvenation of the center under the Trump presidency. But Brooks himself is the perfect encapsulation of why the center has proven so hapless, allowing itself to enable extremism rather than prevent it.
The premise of Brooks’s column is that there needs to be space “between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.” This is a terrible way to conceptualize the political map. First, it distorts the ideas of the two sides, equating a small-d democrat like Sanders (who merely proposes more regulation, taxes, and spending) with Trump, who — as Brooks concedes — is authoritarian. And second, it distorts their power. Sanders remains a left-wing outlier among his party, while Trump is the dominant force within his.
Brooks spent the last eight years defining the center as something Obama was not. It didn’t matter that Obama supported a health-care plan first devised by Mitt Romney, or a cap-and-trade plan endorsed by John McCain. Brooks nestled himself into the territory between Obama and the angry, no-compromise Republicans who were shutting down government and boycotting all negotiations with the president. If Obama endorsed the policies Brooks preferred, he would simply pretend that Obama had not proposed them. Indeed, one of the most common genres of David Brooks column was a sad lament that neither party would endorse policies that in fact Obama had explicitly and publicly called for.
If Obama offered a deal to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody was willing to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements. If Obama favored education reform, an infrastructure bank, and more high-skill immigration, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody favored those things. 
The effect of all this commentary was not to empower the moderate ideas Brooks favored, but to disempower them. Brooks was emblematic of the way the entire bipartisan centrist industry conducted itself throughout the Obama years. It was neither possible for Obama to co-opt the center, nor for Republicans to abandon it, because official centrists would simply relocate themselves to the midpoint of wherever the parties happened to stand. The well-documented reality that the parties were undergoing asymmetric polarization was one they refused to accept, because their jobs was to be bipartisan, and it is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon not understanding it.
The centrists could have played a role in braking the growing extremism of the Republican Party. It would have meant telling the country that there was now one moderate, governing party and one extremist faction, and parking themselves with the moderate party until such time as the dynamic changed. They could not do it. If there’s not much of a center left to stop Trump from trampling democratic norms, it is because the centrists abdicated their responsibility and destroyed themselves.

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Trump's Dangerous Economic Nationalsm


For Donald Trump and his most loyal followers, real objective facts do not matter.  Rather, for Trump, when not satiating his own ego, "facts" are whatever he needs to support his demagoguery. For his followers, "facts" are whatever allows them to blame others for their bad decisions - e.g., dropping out of high school or not pursing a college degree - and misfortunes.  The problem is, however, that objective reality and true facts  do not change to fit the needs of a demagogue or those who live detached from reality.  Nowhere is this more true than in economic and foreign trade policies.  Trump readily blames foreign trade and/or trade agreements for the decline of American jobs, but the true cause overall is something far different: automation and technological advances.  Plants that once needed thousand of workers can now operate - often at higher outputs - with a fraction of the number of workers. A column by an economist in the Washington Post looks at the dangerous falsehoods in Trump's economic nationalism.  Here are excerpts:
For starters, it vastly exaggerates the role of trade in destroying U.S. jobs. Of course, many American factories have shut, and their production has moved abroad (Mexico, China) or been replaced by the imports from foreign competitors. But these losses don’t explain the steep declines in manufacturing jobs, which dropped a third since 1990 (from almost 18 million to 12 million in 2015), even though factory output — of planes, earth-moving equipment, pharmaceuticals, computer chips — nearly doubled over the same years. Automation is the main cause. 
The often-overlooked truth is that the U.S. economy, despite much rhetoric to the contrary, is less globalized than virtually all other advanced countries. We produce most of what we consume. True, we imported nearly $2.8 trillion of goods and services last year, but we also exported almost $2.3 trillion. As a share of the $18 trillion economy, the deficit was less than 3 percent and about half its 2006 level. 
The danger of economic nationalism is that it deludes us into thinking that our problems mainly originate abroad and can be fixed by “tougher” trade policies. Not so. It’s worth recalling that the two largest economic setbacks since World War II were both domestic in origin: the high inflation of the late ‘70s, peaking at more than 13 percent (caused by easy money); and the 2008-2009 financial crisis (caused by reckless financial speculation). 
Although the United States should pursue its economic interests, it’s doubtful that trade concessions will cure chronic trade deficits. These mainly reflect the dollar’s role as the major international money for trade and international investment. Demand for dollars by foreigners raises the currency’s value, putting U.S. producers at a competitive disadvantage in global markets. This is unfair to American factories and farms, but the alternative — ruining the dollar through high inflation or exchange controls — would be worse.
Trade remains foreign policy. It’s true that today’s circumstances are very different from those after World War II. But the basic reality endures: Who we trade with and how are expressions of national purpose and power. Trump is wrong to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would encourage trade between the United States and other Pacific-rim countries, creating an alternative to a China-dominated system. 
Trump’s economic nationalism . . . . Down that path lie protectionism, isolationism, more trade conflicts and threatened economic growth. It would redefine America’s relationship with the world. 


A Necessary Comparison: 2016 Americans and 1932 Germans


Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and election, one of the distressing things has been the utter ignorance of far too many Americans on historical precedents for the rise of Donald Trump and perhaps more chilling, his supporters who have been only too eager to rally to calls of hate and bigotry and, of course, scapegoating.  Anything rather than admit their own failings and culpability for their own misfortunes.  This has happened a number of times throughout history, but the most similar perhaps was Germany in the aftermath of World War I through the period Hitler achieved dictator status.  Like Trump, Hitler first came to power through the democratic process and was supported by those who (i) were full of resentment over German's loss of the war and the economic chaos that followed, and (ii) only too willing to blame others for Germany's defeat and/or their economic woes.  Hitler was only too happy to target Jews and communists, among others, as the culprits responsible for Germany's misfortunes. Anytime was preferable to admitting that Germany's decision to go to war had been insanely foolish and, as the book "Ring of Steel" makes clear, more or less doomed to result in defeat.  Fast forward to 2016 and we have America battered from global economic change and still bogged down in wars in the Middle East that it should never have launched.  The question now is, will Americans act like Germans did or will they oppose those seeking to play upon their worse instincts and stand for decency.  A column looks at this issue and reminds us who easily people can go along with horrible actions and policies.  Here are highlights:
Liberals should stop asking whether Donald Trump—or his chief strategist and the former head of Breitbart, Steve Bannon—is a Nazi. Not because the employees of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser said so in an embarrassing paean to the “zealous Zionist” who has Trump’s ear, or even because, like one high school history teacher and Holocaust expert in Northern California, you could be forced into retirement.
No, the reason to resist the temptation to whether our president elect and his ghastly racist retinue are bona fide Nazis is that it’s the wrong question, and it’s always been the wrong question.[T]he efforts to divine the darkest thoughts of their souls and then compare them to various Nazi leaders miss the point in an extraordinarily American way.
The Nazis gained power in Germany through democratic elections and maintained it through maintaining the support of a plurality, if not a true majority, of Germans well into the 1940s. Thus, the question isn’t whether Trump and his ilk are Nazis; it’s whether Americans are, or would be willing to accept it if they were.
[O]ur approach to history, for better and mostly for worse, stems from the nineteenth century Great Man philosophy of history. Under this view of things, all historical change is a project reserved for our leaders; the rest of us are just drawn along in their wake with little agency or responsibility.
The “with little agency or responsibility” disclaimer ought to ring a few bells here. That’s the underlying philosophy that allows white Americans to evade responsibility for the institution of slavery and the long-term harm it has created for African Americans by saying that their ancestors never enslaved anyone.
But history is lived and influenced by more than just “Great Men”; going along to get along is as much a choice as taking to the streets to protest (and possibly risking your life to do so). Our collective world is shaped by everyone’s actions or courses of inaction—which is the philosophy behind Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, one of the most popular and influential critiques of Great Man pedagogy.
Though often decried as a left-wing radical and popularly re-imagined by conservatives as an purveyor of politically correct pseudo-historical inquiry, Zinn was chiefly invested in reclaiming the project conspicuously name-checked in the title of his best known work: a people’s history. In this regard, had a great deal in common with post-war West Germans who, in policy, in art and in academic settings (including mandatory education) grappled—often imperfectly—with the collective responsibility Germans shared for the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust.
“Those who do not learn how people like them participated in history are doomed to repeat it.” . . .
The Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald sits on Ettersberg Mountain, broadly overlooking Eisenach (where Martin Luther first translated the Bible), Weimar (the home of German literary greats Goethe and Schiller and the seat of liberal Weimar Republic, established after World War I) and Erfurt (the site of the first-ever university in what is now Germany). Before an Erfurt-based company installed the crematorium on the mountain in 1940—20 meters from the bear exhibit in the zoo established for the amusement of SS families—the SS used to send prisoners’ emaciated corpses on open trucks to the municipal crematorium in Weimar, often losing bodies at the curves of the mountain road.
[O]n that mountain, overlooking many of the places fundamental to the establishment of liberal, modern Germany and in full view of the Germans who lived and worked there, the Nazi regime began systematically starving, torturing, experimenting on, and killing Jews (and Roma, and LGBT people, and people with disabilities and political prisoners).  . . .  nobody said or did much of anything about it, except for the men who helped build the Nazis a more convenient crematorium.
In America, we learn that Hitler and the Nazis committed the Holocaust; in Germany, German children learn that they all participated in it, because the Germans came to believe that acknowledging their collective culpability as individuals was the only way to prevent it from ever happening again.
Americans, meanwhile, continue to debate whether the Civil War was fought to preserve the institution of slavery, as stated by actual Confederates at the time, or to settle a far more abstract and nebulous quarrel over the less morally indefensible concept of “states rights.” History isn’t always written by the victors, especially if there’s a version that makes everyone feel a little less guilty. 
We like to think of Hitler and the Nazis as uniquely evil, but the Holocaust wasn’t just committed by Hitler and the 10 percent or so of Germans who joined the Nazi party: it was committed by tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of people throughout Europe and even the Soviet Union, many of whom said they were “just following orders,” and abetted by men and women across the continent who, at best, simply looked away as atrocities were committed in their names.
 That infamous Nuremburg defense, of course, takes on new meaning when a President Elect has suggested that he will order members of the military to torture prisoners, create (or resurrect) a Muslim registry and encouraged his supporters to engage in acts of violence against protesters. We all like to think that we’d stand up to wholesale abrogations of our fellow Americans’ constitutional rights (or, at least, for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). But a large body of psychological research suggests that once we’re ordered to do something atrocious, we feel relieved of the burden of feeling guilty about doing it. 
The scariest question to consider in 2017 and beyond isn’t whether President Trump will use the power of the federal government to commit acts that many of us, under other circumstances, might consider at least travesties and at worst atrocities. It is, rather, the question of whether Americans will shrug their shoulders, cheer him on as long as the economy improves, or participate.
Frighteningly, I am afraid that the answer is "yes. many will go along or cheer him on." Hitler never won a majority of votes at the polls, but a majority went along with the growing nightmare.  I am very much afraid that Americans will act in a similar manner.

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Sunday, December 04, 2016

Seduced and Betrayed by Donald Trump


One of the big questions in the wake of the 2016 presidential election is how long it will take for the millions of low information, working class white voters to realize that both Trump and the Republican Party played them for fools with no intention of curing the ills that they believe afflict them and their future.  Succumbing to appeals to their own racism, xenophobia and nativism, these voters ultimately ignored their own best economic interest and put in office a team that will strive to give more and more to the wealthy and large corporations while shredding the social safety net and leaving these voters much worse off.  Yes, in the short term they may feel smug and superior and better about themselves as they look down on blacks, Hispanics, non-whites, non-Christians, and, of course, LGBT American, but down the road they themselves will be the biggest losers.  A column in the New York Times looks at this said tale of trickery and votes cast based on resentment rather than logic.  Do I have sympathy for these voters?  Candidly, no, none whatsoever. Given the base motives that ultimately motivated them, they deserve whatever misfortunes that may befall them.  After all, it will all have been self inflicted.   Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump won the Electoral College (though not the popular vote) on the strength of overwhelming support from working-class whites, who feel left behind by a changing economy and society. And they’re about to get their reward — the same reward that, throughout Mr. Trump’s career, has come to everyone who trusted his good intentions. Think Trump University.
Yes, the white working class is about to be betrayed.
The evidence of that coming betrayal is obvious in the choice of an array of pro-corporate, anti-labor figures for key positions. In particular, the most important story of the week — seriously, people, stop focusing on Trump Twitter — was the selection of Tom Price, an ardent opponent of Obamacare and advocate of Medicare privatization, as secretary of health and human services. This choice probably means that the Affordable Care Act is doomed — and Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters will be among the biggest losers.
The first thing you need to understand here is that Republican talk of “repeal and replace” has always been a fraud. The G.O.P. has spent six years claiming that it will come up with a replacement for Obamacare any day now; the reason it hasn’t delivered is that it can’t.
Obamacare looks the way it does because it has to: You can’t cover Americans with pre-existing conditions without requiring healthy people to sign up, and you can’t do that without subsidies to make insurance affordable.
Any replacement will either look a lot like Obamacare, or take insurance away from millions who desperately need it.
What the choice of Mr. Price suggests is that the Trump administration is, in fact, ready to see millions lose insurance. And many of those losers will be Trump supporters. . . . . we’re probably looking at more than five million Trump supporters, many of whom have chronic health problems and recently got health insurance for the first time, who just voted to make their lives nastier, more brutish, and shorter.
Why did they do it? They may not have realized that their coverage was at stake — over the course of the campaign, the news media barely covered policy at all. Or they may have believed Mr. Trump’s assurances that he would replace Obamacare with something great.
Either way, they’re about to receive a rude awakening, which will get even worse once Republicans push ahead with their plans to end Medicare as we know it, which seem to be on even though the president-elect had promised specifically that he would do no such thing.
And just in case you’re wondering, no, Mr. Trump can’t bring back the manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the past few decades. Those jobs were lost mainly to technological change, not imports, and they aren’t coming back.
There will be nothing to offset the harm workers suffer when Republicans rip up the safety net.
Will there be a political backlash, a surge of buyer’s remorse? Maybe. Certainly Democrats will be well advised to hammer Mr. Trump’s betrayal of the working class nonstop. But we do need to consider the tactics that he will use to obscure the scope of his betrayal.
One tactic, . . . will be to distract the nation with bright, shiny, trivial objects. True, this tactic will work only if news coverage is both gullible and innumerate. . . . . But judging from the coverage of the deal so far, assuming that the news media will be gullible and innumerate seems like a good bet.
And if and when the reality that workers are losing ground starts to sink in, I worry that the Trumpists will do what authoritarian governments often do to change the subject away from poor performance: go find an enemy.
Remember what I said about Trump Twitter. Even as he took a big step toward taking health insurance away from millions, Mr. Trump started ranting about taking citizenship away from flag-burners. This was not a coincidence.
The point is to keep your eye on what’s important. Millions of Americans have just been sucker-punched. They just don’t know it yet.
I always advise clients that they must put logic over emotion when making both business decisions or decisions to institute lawsuits.  Following emotion may feel good, but often the result is disastrous. Trump voters chose to go with emotion as opposed to logic and reason. Now they deserve to pay a very high price.