Sunday, April 30, 2017

More Sunday Male Beauty


Trump’s Alternative Reality Rally in Pennsylvania


To celebrate his 100th day in office with not a single legislative success to show, Der Trumpenführer held a campaign style rally in Pennsylvania, one of the states responsible for inflicting Trump on America.  This is Trump's preferred venue since typically only his delusional, reality free supporters show up and he can avoid speaking to the press which has the inconvenient habit of asking hard questions and pointing out the fact that he's lying.  Indeed, during the rally of deplorables, Trump lashed out at the news media and "fake news," even though the only fake news is what comes out of Trump's mouth and the mouths of his propaganda ministers and Republicans in general. The tactic of attacking the free press has long been favored y dictators and would be authoritarians.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the alternate reality of Trump and his very frightening followers.  And yes, there were members of hate groups in open attendance.  Here are excerpts:
President Donald Trump emerged with a wave and a clap of his hands from behind a blue curtain at the Pennsylvania Farm Show and Expo Center in Harrisburg on Saturday night, underneath a sign that read PROMISES MADE PROMISES KEPT.
He wanted, he said, to commemorate his first 100 days in office with the Pennsylvania voters who had helped put him there. But he also, he made clear, intended to provide counterprogramming to the events taking place back in the swamp: the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and the constellation of related events wherein the fake news media and the rest of the Washington elite dresses up and schmoozes from cocktail hour on Friday until hangover brunch on Sunday.
Entering a Trump rally in the year 2017 requires you suspend your critical faculties to a degree, since the people there — most of all the president — seem to be under the impression that the campaign is ongoing, that Hillary Clinton remains Trump’s most formidable foe, and that they are united against the creatures of a swamp controlled by … someone else … it’s not clear who. Several times Saturday night, the crowd chanted, “LOCK HER UP,” seemingly unaware that Clinton retreated long ago into some woods in Chappaqua.
In a less surreal time, the president of the United States would be at the dinner, which supports the White House Correspondents’ Association. . . . . Not showing up, then, was both a fuck-you to the media which Trump publicly pretends to hate and a thank-you to his fans who still believe he is a different sort of politician. One man walked around the floor of the stadium holding a sign that read MY PRESIDENT SKIPPED THE DINNER TO GIVE US OUR DESSERT. He proudly stopped before the press pen to ensure we all got a good look.
“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now. They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” — he lowered his voice mockingly — “without the president.”
As the crowd erupted in cheers and whistles, he smiled.
“And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much, larger crowd and much better people, right? Right?”
The space holds more than 7,000, but tickets for the event — like all Trump rallies during the campaign — aren’t sold; they’re offered for free on DonaldJTrump.com, and they aren’t required for admission. And while the crowd was substantial, it didn’t fill the room. Seats remained open in the stands, and space remained available on the floor.
[T]he people in attendance were excited — one man, sporting a long ponytail and a leather vest, turned to the person next to him when Trump started talking. “I love him,” he said. And they provided a stark contrast to the scene back in Washington, where people are dressed in gowns and tuxes and pretending to like each other. Studding the crowd were rather menacing-looking members of Keystone United (previously KSS, or Keystone State Skinheads), which the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes as a white-supremacist hate group. 
Outside, a man who said he was named Jeff Thomas wore a green Pepe the Frog mask — a symbol of the alt-right — and waved the fictitious flag of “The People’s Republic of Kekistan.”
And while the crowd was animated by Trump’s claims about his accomplishments — executive orders he’s signed, the Supreme Court justice he got confirmed (they chanted “build the wall!” although there is no concrete plan to do so) — they seemed to take the most delight in feeling, finally, a sense of superiority. “


Why Did Decent, Generally Moral People Vote for Trump?


Yesterday the husband and I attended the funeral services for a man who I had meet a few times - he was always gracious and friendly - but whom the husband had known for over 30 years.   By virtually every account the man was kind, non-judgmental, gave huge amounts of support to his local communities and charities.  Yet at one point during the reflections of speakers the comment was made that the deceased had been excited and happy when Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.  I was stunned and that remark totally shifted my mood for the balance of the service which was in an affluent Episcopal Church.  This man was seemingly everything Donald Trump is not: in a long and faithful marriage, rarely focused on himself, generous in helping others, etc., yet he supported an amoral and deplorable candidate.  I keep asking myself why?   

Since November 9, 2016, I have asked myself this question many times in connection with "friends" who supported Trump.  For some I know the answer: they are basically racists who in polite company typically keep their bigotry under the veneer of civility.  One individual I have even blocked on Facebook and am minimally polite when I encounter him in public settings where I cannot avoid speaking to him. I have no intention of going to social events at his home in the future.  Yes, it will cause a stir, but I frankly do not care what he or other neighbors think.  I simply do not want to be around people who are filled with contempt and hatred towards those who through no actions of their own were born with a different skin color. This is not a matter of "political differences" as some have tried to shrug off their vote for someone vile. 

Perhaps it's my Catholic upbringing that I cannot escape even though I have walked away from organized religion at this point.  To me, some things are black and white, or good versus evil, if you prefer.  Some things are morally wrong and those who engage in such behavior do not deserve a pass just so that socially awkward moments can be avoided.  Racism is one of these things. Contempt for the poor who have suffered misfortunes is another.  

But back to the larger question.  How could decent people vote for Trump?  I'd love to hear reader's thoughts.  

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Saturday, April 29, 2017

More Saturday Male Beauty


Are Black Christians Finally Realizing White Evangelicals Are the Enemy?


One thing that has driven me to distraction for years is the manner in which black Christians - especially many black pastors - have allowed themselves to be manipulated by racist white evangelicals.  Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation ("TFF") - an organization that traces its history to many of the the white supremacists who backed "Massive Resistance" rather than integrate public schools - has played black pastors for fools for decades and turned them into TFF's trained circus dogs.  Positions on abortion and gays have been cynically used by TFF to rally these pastors to support Republican candidates who once in office are enemies to minorities in general and blacks in particular.  A piece in Religion Dispatches speculates that just maybe in the face of the Trump/Pence regime and racist GOP agenda black Christians and evangelicals are waking up to the fact that white evangelicals are NOT their friends.  Here are excerpts:
But this new administration has changed everything for George and evangelicals of color across the nation. The fact that 81 percent of white evangelicals supported a candidate who channeled white nationalism is not lost on minority believers. Nor is the unending news of travel bans, appointments of white nationalists, mass deportations and racial hate crimes. It has forced a reckoning.
Today, believers of color are redefining their relationships with white evangelicalism in ways that could dramatically shift the landscape. Already, people of color make up a larger portion of the entire American Christian population than before, and church growth experts predict they will make up the majority of the Christian population after 2042. And their values are largely at odds with the white evangelical support for Trump; pre-election surveys showed that nonwhite evangelical Protestant voters, which included black, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific Islander Protestants, supported Clinton over Trump by a very wide margin (67% vs. 24%), according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
So while white evangelicals captured the election, they may have lost their fellow believers, the very people who could keep their churches, denominations and institutions from the attrition that has many Christian institutions and leaders genuinely worried for the future. These days, evangelicals of color are talking next steps. Their endeavors run the gamut, but the ones gaining steam include leaving evangelicalism altogether, reframing the evangelical world as a mission field as opposed to a place for spiritual nourishment, creating ethnic safe spaces or staying firmly planted in evangelical community to combat racism from within. It’s too early to tell which will prevail, but the urgency and organization happening within communities of color point to a fundamental shift in the evangelical landscape.
Like these evangelicals of color, in the aftermath of the election and that party, George began to question everything.
For one attendee of a California megachurch, the questions began after her pastor made a sermon joke about how King Nebuchadnezzar’s Median Wall was built because he “got the Mexicans to pay for it.” The audience roared with laughter, but “Jan,”* who is Korean American, and her Mexican-American husband, ushered their children out of the service. Jan asked her pastor for a public apology. When he shrugged off her request, she was shocked. He had been a spiritual guide for years. He officiated the funeral of her son. But now it was as if they didn’t know each other. She resigned from her role in the children’s ministry, and her family has left that church for good.
Jan is one of many evangelicals of color choosing to depart from white evangelical spaces. For some, that means leaving churches and communities while for others, it means not supporting evangelical conferences or organizations that are predominantly white. Many describe these moves as “divestment” from white evangelicalism: they’re moving money, bodies and souls elsewhere.
“For some people, the divestment began before the election,” says Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes, associate professor of practical theology at Mercer University and author of Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength. “One friend said the election was the ‘final nail in the coffin of my relationship with the evangelical church.’”
She sees firsthand how nearly “everyone is reconsidering whether or not they want to remain under the moniker ‘evangelical,’” including minorities, white people, the young and the old, “because the word ‘evangelical’ has been truly hijacked by a movement to maintain the political, economic and social supremacy of whiteness.”
For those staying, they must contend with a dominant white theology, shaped in the cauldron of privilege, which suggests that a successful life springs from an individual’s good, moral choices alone. It fails to recognize how unfair policies and societal structures harm the economic and social wellbeing of those subject to those systems.
Those who stay must also contend with a politicized evangelical movement fundamentally shaped in the late 1970s by a desire to preserve segregation. As documented by historian Randall Balmer, the religious right galvanized evangelicals into a political movement when the IRS threatened to revoke the tax exempt status of racially discriminatory Christian schools. Today, evangelicals of color staying to “combat racism from within” are working against a deeply entrenched culture.
Shortly after the party, George resigned from his post as the executive pastor of his megachurch. After seeing the white evangelical role in electing Trump and after that toxic party interaction, George knew it was time for a change. His departure wasn’t a rebuke of his church, but of a faith culture that denies its brutal legacy while indoctrinating its followers to perpetuate it.
“I think evangelicalism is the empire that’s about to fall,” he says. “It needs to be dismantled because it’s too powerful and it’s all about money.” Rather than centering the needs of the marginalized and justice work, George sees a toxic faith system that platforms capitalism, unsustainable growth, a prosperity narrative, flashy services and pastors who hang with celebrities. To George, “everything” is at stake.  “We’re at the part of the story where Jesus goes into the temple and flips over tables.”
Better late than never.

Alt-Right Gays Mock Blacks and the Transgender at NYC Confab


I left the Republican Party years ago before I publicly "came out" when it became crystal clear that (i) being gay and being Republican were inherently incompatible, (ii) being a Republican was incompatible with supporting constitutional rights for all citizens, and (iii) being a Republican and being a truly moral person were likewise incompatible. Things have only gotten worse over the intervening years.  Indeed, in my view, being gay and a Republican in the age of Trump is akin to being a 1930's German Jew and actively supporting the Nazi Party.  I truly do not grasp what would motivate one to want to remain a Republican other than some sort of lingering internalized homophobia and/or religious brainwashing. Some friends will no doubt take offense at this assessment , but seriously, they need to take a look in a mirror and ask themselves WTF are they doing.  A gathering of gay "conservatives" at a Republican gathering in New York City underscored the ugliness and moral failings of these "gay Republicans. Both BuzzFeed and The Daily Beast have pieces that look at the general misogyny that marked the event.  Here are excerpts from BuzzFeed:
A forum at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City on Thursday night was billed as an "all-star" collection of activists in the "new gay movement in the Republican Party." And indeed, panelists inside the tony brownstone on Manhattan's Upper East Side were among the country’s most notable conservative gay-rights activists.
But rather than detail how they were building a new movement — or discuss their influence in the nascent Trump administration — the gay men on stage spent most of two hours ridiculing the left while peppering their speeches with cheap cracks about transgender people.
They mocked President Obama’s LGBT liaison as "the most unattractive tranny," joked that Caitlyn Jenner hadn't had "the operation," and said Obama-era rules to protect transgender students were “horrifying.”
People of color and women fared little better with the all-white, five-member panel. One claimed the gender wage gap was "a total fucking myth," while another opined that black people don't face oppression because they aren't enslaved. Then he laughed about adopted Asian babies.
This week, nearly 100 days into Trump’s term, these gay Republican activists had a chance to assess their success.  Or they could make fun of people.
To illustrate the left’s knee-jerk histrionics over Trump, Lucian Wintrich, who led a project during the campaign called Twinks for Trump, blasted Obama's LGBT liaison — a transgender woman named Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.
“Begrudgingly, I’ll say ‘she,’” said Wintrich, implying that he didn’t consider her a woman. He went on to call her “the most unattractive tranny," a line that cast the packed room of Republicans into guffaws under golden chandeliers and star-spangled bunting.
BuzzFeed News followed up with [Fred] Karger about whether anti-transgender slurs and comments from other panelists would actually entice young voters to the party.  Karger said he’d tuned out those comments.
Sadly, such behavior is the norm for the Republican Party base: greed and inhumanity, if no outright hatred towards others are pillars of today's GOP.  In my view, no one moral and decent - much less LGBT - can be a Republican.  

Why the Republican Party Cannot Govern


The best news at the end of the first 100 days of the ill begotten regime of Der Trumpenführer is that other than some admittedly horrible executive orders and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the Republicans in Washington, DC, have accomplished almost nothing.  Rather than proving himself to be another Hitler - he has too little self-discipline or core ideology - Trump has shown himself instead to be a version of Sargent Schultz from the old Hogan's Heroes TV show. (he even has a similar girth).  All of which is good news for America given that so much of what the Trump/GOP agenda has to offer is toxic to all but the extremely wealthy or large corporations.   Yes, there remain plenty of reasons to be fearful of what the narcissist-in-chief might do, but with luck his regime will remain a do nothing one and that his supporter's sole source of glee will be limited to no longer a black man in the White House.  A column in the Washington Post by a conservative columnist looks at the GOP dysfunction and incompetence at governing.  Here are excerpts: 
The markets are waking up to the reality that President Trump is not going to accomplish much of anything, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
Markets are signaling caution after investors greeted President Donald Trump’s election with enthusiasm.
Bets on higher economic growth, inflation and interest rates—which became known as the “reflation trade”—have eased since the election. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is lower than it was when Mr. Trump took office, including a decline Wednesday after the White House unveiled its tax proposal. 
If one had any doubt, this week’s events — a half-baked tax proposal that would not pass one let alone two houses, another failed effort at Trumpcare, White House bluffs and retreats on the budget — should have disabused observers of the notion that Trump’s agenda would sail through Congress.
The Trumpcare effort was the quintessential “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” For every Freedom Caucus member who figured he’d jump on the bandwagon (the opt-out for states who could choose to do away with the list of essential benefits), there was a moderate who jumped off. What did Ryan and the rest expect would happen when they made a bad bill even less attractive to the great majority of Americans?
Trump cannot manage to devise attractive legislation or get down in the weeds of negotiation, while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) seems willing to accommodate whatever group is currently rocking the boat, regardless of the likelihood of success. Neither Ryan nor Trump can lead a successful legislative effort. As a result, members of Congress figure there is little reason to stick their necks out for either one. 
To a large degree, the GOP’s angst is to the country’s benefit. The national and world economies are slowly recovering from the 2008 financial meltdown. Unemployment is way down in the United States. If “do no harm” (or, as President Barack Obama would say, “Don’t do stupid stuff”) is the watchword, then gridlock and inaction may not be the worst thing. Not exiting from NAFTA, not pulling the rug out from millions of people who got coverage under Obamacare and not building a wall or harassing cities (for refusing to do the feds’ work on immigration enforcement) are certainly preferable to Trump “succeeding” on these issues. A tax plan that exacerbates the gap between rich and poor and starves the federal government of revenue so that it cannot make worthwhile investments in worker training, education, science and infrastructure would arguably be worse than the current situation. If they fail on the big, ambitious items, then small improvements in Obamacare or the tax code may be possible.
[T]his president and this Congress have not a clue how to proceed. They would potentially do much more harm than good. They are prisoners of extreme ideology, unrealistic expectations and their own incompetence.
Perhaps under another president, the center-right and center-left can make progress on key issues. For the remainder of Trump’s term, however, the best-case scenario would be no new wars or new nuclear powers and the status quo at home.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1