Saturday, November 28, 2015

More Saturday Male Beauty

Today's GOP: America’s Largest Hate Group

Look at any hate group and you will typically find the group claiming to be engaged in a good and positive activity.  The KKK claims to be protecting white civilization and deterring violence by blacks, even though it is the KKK that engages in the violence.  "Christian" hate groups such as Family Research Council and American family Association claim to be protection "Biblical values" and tradition, yet they disseminate lies and untruths incessantly and seek to engender hatred towards gays and others.  Now, the Republican Party has morphed into a hate group that is racist, homophobic and anti-non-Christians.  A piece in Salon looks at the transformation of the GOP into the nation's largest hate group.  Here are excerpts:
It is, however, clear that leading Republicans have engaged in extraordinarily racist and xenophobic rhetoric that incites and legitimates vigilante violence. On Saturday, Trump fans allegedly attacked a Black Lives Matter protester at a Birmingham rally. “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Trump said.

It’s not that brazen racism is new to the Republican Party. In 1964, Sen. Strom Thurmond — who ran for president on the segregationist Dixiecrat ticket in 1948 — became a Republican in protest of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s passage. That year, he worked hard across the then-solidly-Democratic South to support the Republican candidacy of libertarian and militarist Barry Goldwater, a Civil Rights Act opponent.

In 1968, Richard Nixon ran a television ad stoking fear of black riot and student anti-war protests, unsubtly declaring that freedom from street violence at home was in reality the “first civil right.”

It was in 1990, that Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, as the New York Times recounts, “unveiled a nakedly racial campaign advertisement in which a pair of hands belonging to a white job-seeker crumpled a rejection slip as an announcer explained that the job had been given to an unqualified member of a minority.” And it was in 2002 that incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott strongly suggested that America would have been better had de jure segregation been kept in place.

The Trump candidacy has combined fears over terrorism, crime and a coming white minority into a spectacular fever dream of dangerous refugees and a criminal threat posed by black people and Hispanic immigrants. That danger, in the right-wing view, is abetted by liberals who criticize police so harshly they are afraid to do their jobs, invite menacing foreigners to live amongst us, and restrain our military because of excessive concern for civilian casualties.

Trump, Carson and neo-McCarthyite Ted Cruz make some very conservative people seem centrist by comparison. These so-called moderate conservatives, after all, claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, a one-time right-wing challenger to the Republican establishment. Today, mainstream Republican Jeb Bush has suggested that we should prioritize Christian refugees, and Chris Christie has stated that many Black Lives Matter activists “advocate for the murder of police officers.”

White supremacist activists, as Evan Osnos reported in the New Yorker, have cheered Trump because he is mainstreaming the sort of xenophobia that is particularly amenable to the current American brand of white supremacy. 

The explosion of brazen racism on the right is not only dangerous but distracting. Extremist politics, and the reaction to it, crowds out discussion of structural problems like poverty and mass incarceration. Every minute spent reading about Trump’s idiocy is time not taken reflecting upon the fact that 22-percent children lived below the poverty line in 2013, according to USA Today, a situation more than twice as likely to befall children who are black, Hispanic and Native American. 

Trump Drops to Third Place in Iowa Poll

While it is far too early to know if the trend will continue, a new Iowa State University and WHO-HD poll shows Donald Trump falling to third place in that state.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that GOP idiot savant Ben Carson is in first place.  The take away is that perhaps even the Republican Party base is getting cold feet over Trumps increasingly fascist rhetoric.  But with Carson polling in first places, it's obvious that Iowa Republicans are still insane and not living in touch with objective reality.  In second place is the self-prostituting Marco Rubio.   WHO-TV has details on the poll findings.  Here are highlights:

A poll released Wednesday from Iowa State University and WHO-HD shows Ben Carson in the top spot among Republicans seeking their party's nomination for president.

The poll shows 27.2 percent of Republicans likely to participate in the Iowa Caucuses would support Carson, a former neurosurgeon. With 16.7 percent, Marco Rubio comes in ahead of businessman Donald Trump, who is in third place with 14.7 percent. Ted Cruz comes in fourth with 8.9 percent.

Mack Shelley, Iowa State University professor and chair of political science and professor of statistics, said there is still an ebb and flow of support among the large field of GOP contenders. “That can make a huge difference in that fragmented electorate, where a candidate could ‘win’ the caucuses with only about 20 to 30 percent of the vote."

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, with 49.5 percent support, continues to lead in the three-way race. Bernie Sanders trails with 27.8 percent of respondents saying they would support the Vermont senator. Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley receives 2.7 percent support in the poll.

"The contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination delegates in Iowa seems to have settled down to being in Hillary Clinton’s favor, barring some major personal or policy issue arising between now and Feb. 1,” said Shelley.

Are More Attacks on Planned Parenthood Invevitable?

Murderer Robert Lewis Dear (L) and anti-abortion extremist, David Daleiden
Ninety-seven percent of the budget for activities at Planned Parenthood have noting to do with abortion services.   Services range from STD testing, treatment and vaccines to contraception services to sex education to cervical cancer screening; pregnancy testing, vasectomies; and LGBT related services.  Half of the Planned Parenthood facilities provide no abortion services whatsoever.  Planned Parenthood centers are known for providing services to minorities and the poor who have no other access to health care services other than hospital emergency rooms.  Of course, far right Christians oppose contraception of any form and have shown by their overwhelming support for Republican policies that providing health care services to the poor is not even on their radar screens.  Meanwhile, the Christofascists and professional Christian set continue to do all they can to spread lies and disinformation about Planned Parenthood - they spread similar lies and falsehoods about LGBT citizens - in the hope of whipping up violence against both Planned Parenthood and LGBT Americans.  With these "godly folk" the truth and honesty are unknown concepts. A piece in The Raw Story makes the case that the shootings in Colorado Springs yesterday were inevitable given the Christofascist non-stop propaganda.  Here are article highlights:

What happened at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on the Friday after Thanksgiving was inevitable. After the deceptively-named Center for Medical Progress released the equally deceptively-edited videos accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of fetal parts, someone had to die in the end.

Of all the phony attacks and accusations made against Planned Parenthood by a new generation of anti-choice activists like James O’ Keefe and Lila Grace Rose, the videos created by former O’Keefe confederate David Daleiden raised the bar — or lowered it depending on how you view them — on over the top accusations intended to fire up Christian conservatives and embolden lawmakers to do all they can to destroy Planned Parenthood.

Where Daleiden really hit one out of the park for the anti-choice crowd was when he accused Planned Parenthood of selling  fetal tissue — used by researchers looking for cures for Alzheimer’s, among other things — and making a profit off of it.  Which turned out to be a lie.

When interviewed, Daleiden carefully parsed his words and flagrantly misinterpreted the words of the people caught on tape, thereby filling his nothing-burger of an exposé — for which he received a nice budget that allowed him to work on the project for two years — with red meat for the anti-choice crowd.

Daleiden was more than modestly successful. Republican lawmakers in conservative states were able to cut some funding for Planned Parenthood, while GOP presidential candidates had yet something else to grandstand about in order to woo the evangelical base.

With so much heat thrown off by Daleiden’s anti-abortion project, it is no surprise — and it absolutely cannot be to him — that someone somewhere would take his lies to the extreme and try and do something about it. With extreme prejudice.

According to NBC, Robert Lewis Dear — who killed three people including a cop, making him a hero to these “pro-life” folks while shooting up a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood — reportedly told investigators “no more baby parts" after he was arrested.
So it appears that Robert Lewis Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood because he was familiar with David Daleiden’s videotape lies. This is not to say that this is something that Daleiden was hoping for. But when Daleiden published his videos with great fanfare, he primed more than a few future domestic terrorists to take the law — God’s or their own — into their own hands.

David Dalieden didn’t pull the trigger — he just showed Robert Lewis Dear where he needed to aim the gun.
Rather that obsess about Islamic terrorists, perhaps the FBI and Home Land Security ought to be paying more attention to Christian extremists and their allies who create an atmosphere where murders occur.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Ugliness of the Republican Party Base

Not to sound like a broken record, I was a Republican activist for 8 years and held a City Committee seat for the Republican Party of Virginia Beach.  Back in those days the GOP wasn't pushing for special rights for Christian extremists and did not all but openly embrace white supremacists.  Sadly, those days are gone and today the party base looks like a mixture of a huge KKK rally and a gathering of snake handling Christian nutcases.   Worse yet, no Republican candidate has the will or ability to stand up to this mass insanity.  A piece in The Atlantic focused on Donald Trump's candidacy provides a snap shot of the mindset that is now widespread across the GOP base.  It is not a pretty picture and I again find myself wondering how these people can be so ignorant and blind.  The reality is that these are not nice and decent people even though I suspect most pat themselves on the back daily for being "god fearing Christians."  Here are article excerpts:
They seem so nice, your friends and neighbors. Your fellow Americans.

“In today’s time, if I’m a white person who’s proud to be white, I’m a racist,” says 44-year-old Kevin Stubbs, a land surveyor who shared his Marlboro Reds with an African American T-shirt vender on the way in. “Yet a minority can say that.”

“I do not feel safe,” says his fiancee, Loree Ballenberger, 42. “People are coming in across the border, and we have no idea where they are coming from.” She recently called her congressman to urge him to vote for a bill limiting Syrian refugees.

“I remember seeing Muslims around the world celebrating after 9/11,” says Chip Matthews, a 63-year-old retired carpentry teacher in glasses with tinted lenses. So what if it was the Mideast and not New Jersey? “The basic point, I think, is true,” he says.

“I look at the pictures of those refugees and they all look like able-bodied young men, 18 to 30 years old,” says his wife, Patrice Matthews, a 62-year-old retired school-district worker. Matthews doesn’t see why we have to be the ones to help these people. “It’s their country—they need to take it back,” she says.

I hear versions of the point about able-bodied young men from five different people. I hear, over and over again, that illegal immigration is the biggest problem we face. Almost everyone says their second-choice candidate is Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas; many express a wish that he and Trump would run on the same ticket.

“Just because he thinks illegal immigrants and terrorists should be deported doesn’t make him a racist,” he says. “He’s calling it as it is. You’ll never see CNN do that.”

“I’m against the anchor babies, and I’m against the Muslims,” says Kathy Parker, a tiny former elementary-school teacher with gold hoop earrings. “We can’t have churches in their countries—why should they have mosques in ours? He is the only one with the guts to speak out and say it.”

“We’re just tired of paying for people who don’t deserve to be here,” says Nina Lewis, a blue-eyed 33-year-old former sheriff’s deputy who is going back to school to be a veterinary technician.
They are, it is true, overwhelmingly white people. Do you have a problem with that?

The other night, at a Trump rally in Alabama, a black protester who shouted “Black lives matter!” was surrounded by white men who punched and kicked him. Far from apologizing for this, Trump is gloating about it: “What an obnoxious, terrible guy that was,” he tells the crowd in Myrtle Beach, who turn around and hiss at the press on his cue. In August, two Boston men said Trump inspired their vicious beating of a homeless Mexican immigrant. This week, a group of civil-rights protesters in Minneapolis was fired upon by four white men in masks and camouflage.

The people wave and make faces at the press as they go by. One gray-haired lady in a sweatshirt keeps pointing at her butt and sticking out her tongue at us as she ambles by. She has a savage look on her face.

Something tells me that these crowds are not what one would consider "gay friendly."   Their entire world view seems defined by those they hate: blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, non-Christians, I suspect gays, and a host of others.  Welcome to today's Republican party.

Domestic Terrorist Kills 3 at Planned Parenthood Clinic

Robert Lewis Dear
UPDATED: More information on the Planned Parenthood shooter is yet to be revealed, but the right wing outlet Redstate is already seeking to put distance between Robert Lewis Dear and right wing anti-abortion Christians.  Even if that connection is not established, from what facts about Dear that are known, he is a testament as to why we need much more restrictive gun laws in America.

The far right in America, including self-prostituting Republican presidential candidates, is obsessed with Islamic terrorists, yet a shooting spree yesterday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs underscores once again that Americans are more likely to be killed by domestic terrorists than by followers of Islam.  Sadly, the FBI was caught off guard and was likely focused on Muslims rather than domestic extremists. The shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, age 59, was captured alive, and I - and I suspect many others - are waiting  confirmation that Planned Parenthood was the target and that Dear is a Christian extremist.  If this is confirmed, then it will confirm my repeated statements that far right Christians are dangerous.  As The Daily Beast notes, this shooting is at least the fifth high-profile crime at a Planned Parenthood clinic since the release of doctored videos by abortion opponents in July.  It certainly again confirms the desperate need for sane gun control laws in this country since Dear used an assault rifle in his attack.  No one outside of the military and law enforcement needs an assault rifle for any legitimate reason. Here are highlights from the New York Times:

COLORADO SPRINGS — A gun battle erupted inside a Planned Parenthood center here on Friday when a man armed with an assault-style rifle opened fire and began shooting at officers as they rushed to the scene. The authorities reported that three people were killed, a police officer and two civilians, and nine were wounded before the suspect finally surrendered more than five hours after the first shots were fired.

A police official in Colorado Springs, who was not authorized to speak, identified the man in custody as Robert Lewis Dear, 59. No other information about him was available.   The police did not describe the gunman’s motives.

Lieutenant Buckley said the gunman had brought several suspicious items to the clinic, and investigators were trying to determine whether they were explosives.

The shooting came at a time when Planned Parenthood has been criticized because of surreptitious videos made by anti-abortion groups of officials discussing using fetal organs for research. It transformed a shopping area near the clinic into chaos as snow fell and gunshots rang through the parking lot. Black-clad tactical officers stood guard with guns in hand, ambulances lined up and dozens of shoppers and employees were ordered to stay away from windows and lock their businesses’ doors.

Despite being at a heightened state of alert, F.B.I. officials in Washington appeared caught off guard in the hours after the shooting and said that they knew little about what occurred.

Officials from both law enforcement and Planned Parenthood said they did not know whether the group’s Colorado Springs center had been specifically targeted. But the attack carried echoes of other violent assaults on abortion providers, and it prompted the police in New York City to deploy units to Planned Parenthood clinics in the city.

Since abortion became legal nationally, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, many abortion clinics and staff members across the country have been subjected to harassment including death and bomb threats, and hundreds of acts of violence including arson, bombings and assaults and eight murders, according to figures compiled by the Naral Pro-Choice America Foundation.

Bryan Hawke, 35, a chiropractor who was holed up with six others in his one-story brick-fronted chiropractic office that is across the parking lot from Planned Parenthood, said the center is the scene of near-daily protests.

Meanwhile, some far right outlets are claiming that the entire event was part of a "leftist" conspiracy.  These people are downright scary!!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP's Self-Created Frankenstein Monster

What happens when a political party welcomes (i) religious extremists who want a theocracy and reject science and knowledge, (ii) white supremacists that want to return to the Jim Crow era, and (iii) vulture capitalist who want to revive the Gilded Age?  You get today's Republican Party and it's current front runner, Donald Trump.  The slide of the GOP into insanity began first with Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in the late 1960's, but it rocketed into crazy land when Karl Rove and imbecilic George W. Bush decided to energize and welcome in the Christofascists, using anti-gay animus as the inducement.  Now, the so-called GOP establishment is in shock at the results of its handy work.  A column in Talking Points Memo looks at why there should be no surprise that Donald trump is so far the GOP presidential nomination front runner.  Here are highlights:  

Read the editorial and news pages today and you'll find a mix of hand-wringing and demands about an uncouth and outrageous outsider who is threatening to wrest the Republican party from its rightful owners.

The Washington Post gives us a look at the waiting game members of the GOP donor class are playing, resisting calls to spend money on a Stop Trump movement because they remain convinced that GOP base voters will eventually reject Trump's brand of politics. 

But for now the most notable is the focus group data suggesting that there's basically nothing Trump can say or anything that can be revealed about him that will sway his supporters.  After conducting two focus groups of Trump supporters this fall, GOP consultant Frank Luntz said he has concluded that there is no political issue or stance that will turn off his supporters.

But all of this is simply a mix of denial, willful ignorance and aggressive flimflam. My first thought when I started writing this post was that Trump is nothing so much as the Frankenstein's monster of the contemporary Republican party.

Is Trump really too anti-immigrant for the 21st century GOP? Or too hostile to Muslims in the US and abroad? Or has he broken with the party in pushing caricatures of black criminals either threatening the safety of ordinary Americans or mobilizing through voter fraud to take away the stuff earned by middle class white people? It's not too much to say that there's nothing Trump has said in recent weeks that you couldn't hear any given Monday on the Rush Limbaugh Show, from various backbench House conservatives or a million other places in conservative media.

What Trump has done - I suspect more intuitively than with a conscious strategy or plan - is to package them all together and strip away the window dressing which has allowed this menu of resentment to both stoke base conservative anger and appeal to more respectable conservative elites without creating channel conflict between the two. This is no more than the monster which Republican elites created and used to marvelous effect. Only now it appears to be in the process of slipping its leash and devouring its creators rather than uneasily or crankily serving it.

There's nothing new under the sun about Trumpism. It's just a turbo-charged, more media savvy version of the resentment politics the GOP has been tapping for fuel and riding for decades. 

I know many of my Republican friends are aghast and will insist that Trump's politics is one they abhor rather than endorse. For many that's true. But the Republican party has also been relying on this politics for many years to drive its campaigns. Trump, in his current incarnation, is no more than right wing politics turned up to eleven. It shouldn't surprise us he's garnered a ton of support or that it's proven, thus far, almost impossible to dislodge.

The GOP establishment sold its soul to the ugliest elements of the party base and is now reaping the whirlwind that it created.  The party bears no relation today to the party I once was involved in.  Now that the haters and extremists hold the grass roots, I honestly do no know how control has been seized back from the lunatics. 

Ted Cruz Refuses To Respond To Questions About That “Death To Gays” Event

While Donald Trump campaigns to create a police state, his fellow Republican presidential nominee contestant, Ted Cruz, continues to refuse to seriously address his presence at an event that expressly argued for the execution of gays, not once, but several times.  To date, Cruz has only disputed what video of the event clearly shows what transpired at the gathering of hate group members and religious extremists.  Joe My God has details.  Meanwhile, most of the mainstream media has been silent and given Cruz a pass on attending an event that called for the murder of millions of Americans:
Last night Rachel Maddow again delivered an excellent report on Pastor Kevin “Death To Gays” Swanson and the appearances of three GOP presidential candidates on the same stage from which Swanson called for the genocide of millions of gay Americans. The Cruz campaign sent Maddow a two-word response to her inquiry – “not explicit” – meaning that they claim Swanson didn’t literally call for executions of gays, when of course the video shows that he did. While mainstream outlets have given scant, passing mentions of the “death to gays” event, Rachel Maddow remains the sole network reporter who has stayed on this story.

Donald Trump’s Police State

Sadly, many Americas know very little accurate history of their own nation much less that of other nations.  This deficit of knowledge and the vulnerability it creates for demagogues to simply lie at will is becoming increasingly obvious as one watches the Republican Party swing towards fascism, especially in the person of Donald Trump who seems to believe that Americas are willing to accept a police state in exchange for "security."  It's the type of pact with the devil that many Germans accepted in the early days of the 1930's and lived to regret - assuming they and their families survived World War II intact.  If one really listens to Trump, it is frightening, especially since 75% of his "facts" are untrue.  A column in the New York Times looks at what a Trump regime could bring to America.  It's not a country in which I would want to live.  Here are excerpts:
[O]ver the last three months, in listening to plans of the Republican presidential front-runner and the views of his increasingly thuggish followers, I’m starting to have some dark fears should Donald Trump become president.

Take him at his word — albeit, a worthless thing given his propensity for telling outright lies and not backing down when called on them — Donald Trump’s reign would be a police state. He has now outlined a series of measures that would make the United States an authoritarian nightmare. Trump is no longer entertaining, or diversionary. He’s a billionaire brute, his bluster getting more ominous by the day.

“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before,” he said in the demagogic spiral following the Paris attacks. “And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.”

What’s he talking about? In his words, he wants to implement “the unthinkable.”

Let’s start with his most far-reaching crush of cruelty, the Trump promise to create a huge “deportation force” to storm into homes, churches, schools and businesses and round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants. In doing so, he would need an army of agents to go door-to-door, breaking up families, and snagging many citizens caught up the in the mass sweeps.

As his jackbooted minions grab legal Americans (the children born in this country, citizens per the 14th amendment) and separate them from their illegal parents, he will place them — where? In foster homes? In detention centers? In concentration camps?

He says it will take only two years for him to disrupt nearly every community in the United States, destroying thousands of businesses in the process. “I’m going to remove them so fast your head would spin.”

To go with his Deportation Force, Trump would send another wave of federal authorities out to identify, track and monitor Muslims in America. All of them? He hasn’t said. He’s building his police state on the fly. But in just a few days he went from saying he would “strongly consider” closing houses of worship (mosques), to saying he would have “absolutely no choice” but to shut them down. As for tracking Muslims through some kind a database, he’s been squishy, but also unequivocal, saying, “I would certainly implement that.”

To further clamp down in this land of the formerly free, Trump could borrow a few police state ideas from his fellow Republican presidential candidates. Mike Huckabee has suggested using federal agents to invade doctors’ offices and homes, physically preventing women from ending a pregnancy.

[A]ttend a Trump public event.   These rallies are scary spectacles of rabid brown shirts in Dockers. His followers cheer while others pummel protesters, or spit on them. A few days ago in Alabama, a black protester was punched and kicked by his supporters. Trump suggested the man had it coming.

Like any good authoritarian — Soviet or banana republic — Trump concocts plots and dark doings to scare the quivering masses. And no one on the public stage is better at the Big Lie this year than Trump. PolitiFact found that 75 percent of his so-called factual statements are “mostly or entirely false.” The other 25 percent were “half true” or “mostly true.” His score in the flat-out “true” column was zero.

The more lies he tells, the more popular he is with a large part of the Republican base that lives in a world of made-up horror and blunt force solutions.

So, hordes of Mexicans continue to rush into the United States, he says, when in fact more people are now returning to Mexico than are coming in. Syrian refugees are “pouring into the country” when barely 2,000 have been admitted. And Trump continues to say “I saw” thousands and thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11, when no such thing has ever been documented. The goal is to get you to hate them — Mexicans, Muslims, the object of all your fears.

As we enter the holidays, there is one more Trump vow to consider. “If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.” With Trump, the seasonal salutation may be mandatory, and creepy.
So why is Trump so popular with the many in the Republican Party base? Very simple.  The party base is now mostly made up of straight, white, far right Christian, white supremacists who embrace ignorance and feel threatened by anyone who is different and/or threatens their white privilege and/or their fantasy based world view (if one can even call their restricted version of reality a world view).  Trump is playing to everyone of their prejudices and making them promises just as Hitler did as he began his rise to power. The rest of us should be very, very afraid.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving: A 'National Day Of Mourning' For Some Americans

I enjoy Thanksgiving as a time to be together with family.  But beyond that, I really have little use for the holiday, especially some of the quasi-religious overtones.  Perhaps it's because I living Virginia and resent the way in which the Pilgrim's hijacked the Thanksgiving story which actually began in Virginia at Berkeley Plantation before the Pilgrims - who in reality were religious extremists - even arrived in North America.  But, it's really more about the fraudulent mythology that is perpetuated around the holiday that glosses over the genocide done by the Pilgrims and their descendants against the indigenous people they found.   It's also about the religious persecution that the Pilgrims inflicted on others - both settlers and native American - who failed to subscribe to their foul version of Christianity.   Indeed, the Pilgrims launched the model of religious persecution that has long haunted America, with LGBT individuals long being a favored target of religious based animus. A piece in Huffington Post reminds us of the other side of the Thanksgiving myth.  Here are highlights:

When Cedric Cromwell sits down with his family for a meal on Thanksgiving each year, the day holds a unique kind of significance.

Cromwell is the chairman and president of the tribal council of the Mashpee Wampanoag, the same Native American tribe that first made contact with the Pilgrims who arrived in Massachusetts in 1620. While the Wampanoag welcomed the Pilgrims and helped them ensure a successful first harvest, they were nearly wiped out by warfare and disease that arrived with the settlers. 

For Cromwell, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to give thanks, but also to highlight the way that his people suffered at the hands of the settlers.

The day is both a chance to ceremoniously express gratitude -- a practice that existed in Native American culture before the Pilgrims arrived -- and an opportunity to highlight the challenges the community faces today. Just as some are pushing to recognize "Indigenous Peoples' Day" on Columbus Day, there is an effort to use the Thanksgiving holiday to bring an accurate representation of Native American history into mainstream American culture.

Cromwell said that it was important to both give thanks and highlight the brutal history Native Americans have faced.

"Some would say, 'Why be so dark about it?' Well, it's real, it's truthful, it was a holocaust, and that holocaust must be shared and communicated so that we ensure that mankind doesn't do that to each other again," Cromwell said. 

"The real underlying issue is the mythology; there's a view that we're this big melting pot country, or there's a view that the Natives and the Pilgrims lived happily ever after and the Native people just evaporated into the woods or something to make way for the Pilgrims and all of the other aspects of the European invasion," she continued. "All around the country, schools continue to dress up their children in little Pilgrim and Indian costumes and the Indians welcome the Pilgrims and they all sit down together and everybody says 'Isn't that cute, that's so nice.' That's not at all what happened."
Here's some sobering evidence from of the intent to exterminate the native peoples in New England:
Throughout the Northeast, proclamations to create ‘redskins’, or scalps of Native Americans, were common during war and peace times. According to the 1775 Phips Proclamation in Massachusetts, King George II of Britain called for “subjects to embrace all opportunities of pursuing, captivating, killing and destroying all and every of the aforesaid Indians.”

Colonists were paid for each Penobscot Native they killed – fifty pounds for adult male scalps, twenty-five for adult female scalps, and twenty for scalps of boys and girls under age twelve. These proclamations explicitly display the settlers’ “intent to kill”, a major indicator of genocidal acts.
  • 10 million+ Estimated number of Native Americans living in land that is now the United States when European explorers first arrived in the 15th century
  • Less than 300,000 Estimated number of Native Americans living in the United States around 1900

That's right, state sponsored murder of children and the near annihilation of a people.  As we gather today, let's pause and remember the horrors done by the Pilgrims and other European settlers who painted the indigenous peoples as "savages" and "heathens" and used these labels as a justification for the extermination.   Much of America's history is very ugly and we need to remember this reality.

Rubio Continues to Prostitute Himself to Christofascists

Every time I begin to remotely think that Marco Rubio in the White House might be a survivable tragedy the man goes and make statements that demonstrate that he is unfit for the office and/or a tawdry political whore.  Case in point?  During an interview on Pat Robertson's delusional CBN channel, Rubio said that religious believers - translate, the American Taliban - are entitled to ignore laws that "violate their faith."  Of course, if a Muslim did what Rubio is giving Christofascists license to do, the hew and cry would be deafening.  As a gay American, I found it particularly offensive that Rubio is stoking Christofascist fantasies that the Supreme Court's same sex marriage ruling can be ignored and is not "settled law."  Right Wing Watch looks at Rubio's self-prostitution.  Here are excerpts:
In an interview today with David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Sen. Marco Rubio said that the Supreme Court’s rulings on marriage equality and abortion rights in the Obergefell and Roe decisions, respectively, are “not settled law.”

The Republican presidential candidate said that states should “do everything possible within the constraints that its placed upon us” to curtail abortion rights, before insisting that government officials “ignore” Supreme Court rulings if they believe they conflict with “God’s rules.”

“We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules,” he said. “When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win. In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

Brody, unsurprisingly, took that as an endorsement as Kentucky clerk Kim Davis’ stance that she could flout the Supreme Court and refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
 What a douche bag!! He is in effect, advocating anarchy where the godly folk ignore whatever laws they dislike.

Thanksgiving Morning Male Beauty

Ted Cruz's Frightening "Donnie Jr." Strategy

The Republican presidential primary contest continues to be a train wreck in slow motion.  As Donald Trump seems to be trying to channel Adolph Hitler or Hermann Goering, the even more frightening (in my view) Ted Cruz is moving up in the polls.  Cruz is downright terrifying for several reasons, not the least that he seems to want to reprise the reign of the late Joseph McCarthy.   He is a more sinister version of Trump and likewise is playing to the ugliest elements in American society, especially the Christofascists - something that ought to terrify LGBT Americans.  No one ever thought Hitler would come to power in the early years, yet through fear mongering, playing to persecution complexes, and nationalism, he ultimately took Germany to ruin.  Cruz wants to emulate Hitler's rise to power and is just as insane, although he tries to hide this dangerous streak.  The question is what the GOP establishment will do to stop Cruz whom they despise.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at Cruz's apparent strategy to win the GOP nomination and the dilemma that faces the party establishment which helped create the Frankenstein monster that is now the party base.  Here are excerpts:

Cue the scary-minor-key power chord: Ted Cruz is within the margin of error of Donald Trump in Iowa. It’s Trump 25, and Cruz 23, but as we will see further down, other numbers from the poll suggest that Cruz is well positioned to win what might now be a two-man race in the Hawkeye State.

One can now begin to see how this may all be shaping up. I tweeted it last Friday. Trump becomes the crazy, not-really-electable, neo-fascist candidate—the choice of a good chunk of the base, but one the establishment can’t live with. Marco Rubio, the guy the establishment is most comfortable with, becomes the establishment candidate—but by definition that will make him unacceptable to a sizable chunk of the base. And so emerges Cruz—the “compromise” candidate! (That the scenario of Cruz as compromise candidate is not at all implausible is one stark measure of what Trump’s presence has done to the GOP.)

Cruz is now running—and smartly, it must be said—what you might call the “Donnie Jr.” strategy. Be like Donald, but not as... Not as out there. Not as openly racist. Not as extreme. Differentiate where principle absolutely demands, as Cruz did on the question of religious ID cards for Muslim Americans, which Cruz ruled out as Trump did not. But basically, be the acceptable Trump.  It’s working, at least as far as Iowa is concerned.

Also worth noting is the grim finding that Cruz, Trump, and Carson combined for 66 percent. That shows how out there this particular electorate is. . . . Numbers like these really put the squeeze on Rubio. He’s not going to win Iowa. He can win New Hampshire if Trump totally collapses, but he keeps not collapsing and getting stronger. Rubio won’t win South Carolina. 

Can the establishment big boys keep him afloat that long if he’s not winning primaries? . . . I don’t know but I have a feeling they might have to find a way to, because there’s just no way they’re going to let it come down to Trump vs. Cruz. They despise them both. One’s first reflex is to think, well, they’ll just have to find a way to make their peace with Cruz, because Trump is so obviously out of the question.

But on the other hand... remember how much congressional Republicans loathe Cruz. Almost all of his GOP Senate colleagues think he’s a grandstanding demagogue. Most members of the House do, too, except the small cadre that has named him its leader, the group that meets at that Tex-Mex restaurant on Capitol Hill. But except for them, the R’s do not like Ted.

They somehow might end up preferring Trump. Which would be really funny, him being an open racist and all. But you know what? Psssst: They’d actually prefer Hillary. Now no one’s ever going to say that publicly of course. But half a lifetime of covering these people has taught me a few things about how they think. And one of those things is this: Intra-party personal hatred is much more visceral than inter-party personal hatred. The prospect of someone they hate in their own party having more power than they have is like the bitterest, foulest bowl of hemlock these people can drink. Trust me on that.

So I can guarantee you, I mean guarantee you, that whatever he says publicly, Mitch McConnell would think something like this privately: “Well, OK, I hate seeing Hillary get to make all those Supreme Court appointments. We’ll have to come up with a strategy on that one. But the rest? On foreign policy, she won’t be as bad as the current guy, and it’s far better for us politically to have the Iran deal in place, as it gives us a target. And on the domestic stuff, we’ll bottle her up, she won’t do much damage. I’d much rather that than have to call Ted Fucking Cruz ‘Mr. President’ for eight years!”

We on the other side aren’t supposed to gloat. . . . .You just never know what can happen. But come on, it’s really, really hard to see Cruz getting more than about 180 electoral votes. So I say keep it seemly, tuck it back in when necessary, but, for the time being—gloat away!

As I have noted countless times, the GOP establishment has really created a nightmare for itself by welcoming the Christofascists and their equally insane and reality denying Tea Party first cousins into the party and then allowing them to hijack the party grass roots. How do you guide a successful political party when your base rules its life by fairy tale beliefs and rejects objective reality?

What Would You Do If Your Child Was Gay?

In follow up on a theme from yesterday, we have arrived in perhaps the most difficult time of the year for many in the LGBT community as they face either family acceptance or rejection.  Many of our friends who have experienced the latter or have no family close by, have gone on to create their own "family" and have moved on emotionally - one group of friends is having a large Thanksgiving dinner today (see image at left) at a friend's home that we affectionately call "the country club."  A new video from YouTube channel Culture Beats asks people from around the world, "what would you do if your child was gay?"  Some responses are encouraging, others are not.  As is always the case, religion is seemingly the evil that fuels anti-gay animus.  Towleroad looks at the video findings:
The people interviewed are both young and old and come from all different corners of the world.

Many indicated they would support their children if they were gay while others shared more disturbing reactions. A woman from Austria remarked, “You can’t do anything about it because it is not a decision he makes. He was born with this kind of orientation.” Meanwhile, a woman from the United Arab Emirates had almost the exact opposite reaction. “I will kill him,” she said.

An Irish couple touted their country’s recent nationwide referendum on same-sex marriage, saying they were very proud to be the first nation to pass marriage equality by a popular vote. Of having a gay son, the man from Ireland said, “I’d like to understand how he feels…I would wish that he could find happiness.”

A woman from the former Soviet republic of Georgia seemed to get it: “You cannot change him. He’ll live his life so let him live his life.” And, perhaps most surprisingly, a woman from Russia urged tolerance, saying, “God say that we can’t judge.”

One Iranian man, however, lamented the possibility of having a gay child, saying, “I would probably be sad…But maybe I would accept it in the end. You cannot get rid of your children. But I would not be happy, no.” And for a woman from Azerbaijan, she would “be very upset” and would consult a doctor to “see why he’s gay”–if it’s “his hormones, then it’s from God. If it’s because of society, then I will help him,” she said.
 My take away?  A world without religion would be a far, far better place.

The Civil War Within Islam

The American far right likes to paint Islam with a broad brush and equate all Muslims with violent and brutal Islamic extremists such as those who flew planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and more recently massacred innocents in Paris.  In fact, Islam is no more unified than the adherents of Christianity who range from Christian dominionists who want a Christian theocracy and advocate executing gays and others they view as non-believers to liberal Episcopalians and Lutherans.  To hold all Muslims responsible for the sins and horrible acts of the few is akin to holding modern day Lutherans and Episcopalians fully responsible the horrors done by the knuckle dragging evangelical fundamentalists.  Yes, the liberals of both faiths need to loudly condemn the hate and embrace of ignorance that defines the fundamentalist believers - something both groups of liberals and moderates fail to do sufficiently - but one must not miss the reality that a civil war is raging in Islam with large segments of the faithful opposing extremists.  The New York Times looks at what is happening in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation (I suspect that most American Bible thumpers do not even know that Indonesia is a Muslim nation).  Note the role of Saudi Arabia, America's false ally, in exporting extremist versions of Islam.   Here are article highlights:

The scene is horrifyingly familiar. Islamic State soldiers march a line of prisoners to a riverbank, shoot them one by one and dump their bodies over a blood-soaked dock into the water.

But instead of the celebratory music and words of praise expected in a jihadi video, the soundtrack features the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, singing a Javanese mystical poem: “Many who memorize the Quran and Hadith love to condemn others as infidels while ignoring their own infidelity to God, their hearts and minds still mired in filth.”

That powerful scene is one of many in a 90-minute film that amounts to a relentless, religious repudiation of the Islamic State and the opening salvo in a global campaign by the world’s largest Muslim group to challenge its ideology head-on.

The challenge, perhaps surprisingly, comes from Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population but which lies thousands of miles away from the Islamic State’s base in the Middle East.

“The spread of a shallow understanding of Islam renders this situation critical, as highly vocal elements within the Muslim population at largeextremist groups — justify their harsh and often savage behavior by claiming to act in accord with God’s commands, although they are grievously mistaken,” said A. Mustofa Bisri, the spiritual leader of the group, Nahdlatul Ulama, an Indonesian Muslim organization that claims more than 50 million members.

“According to the Sunni view of Islam,” he said, “every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with love and compassion, and foster the perfection of human nature.”

This message of tolerance is at the heart of the group’s campaign against jihadism, which will be carried out online, and in hotel conference rooms and convention centers from North America to Europe to Asia. The film was released Thursday at the start of a three-day congress by the organization’s youth wing in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.

As world leaders call for Muslims to take the lead in the ideological battle against a growing and increasingly violent offshoot of their own religion, analysts say the group’s campaign is a welcome antidote to jihadism.

The campaign by Nahdlatul Ulama, known as N.U., for a liberal, pluralistic Islam also comes at a time when Islam is at war with itself over central theological questions of how the faith is defined in the modern era.

In a way, it should not be surprising that this message comes from Indonesia, the home of Islam Nusantara, widely seen as one of the most progressive Islamic movements in the world. The movement — its name is Indonesian for “East Indies Islam” — dates back more than 500 years and promotes a spiritual interpretation of Islam that stresses nonviolence, inclusiveness and acceptance of other religions.

Indonesian Islam blended with local religious beliefs and traditions, creating a pluralistic society despite having a Muslim majority.

Indonesia today has more than 190 million Muslims, but also has a secular government and influential Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities.

Such liberalism poses a counterargument to the Islamic State, analysts said.  “We are directly challenging the idea of ISIS, which wants Islam to be uniform, meaning that if there is any other idea of Islam that is not following their ideas, those people are infidels who must be killed,” said Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary to the N.U. supreme council. “We will show that is not the case with Islam.”

N.U. has established a nonprofit organization, Bayt ar-Rahmah, in Winston-Salem, N.C., which will be the hub for international activities including conferences and seminars to promote Indonesia’s tradition of nonviolent, pluralistic Islam, Mr. Yahya said.

N.U. is also working with the University of Vienna in Austria, which collects and analyzes ISIS propaganda, to prepare responses to those messages, which N.U. will disseminate online and at conferences.

A prevention center based in Indonesia, expected to be operational by the end of the year, will train male and female Arabic-speaking students to engage with jihadist ideology and messaging under the guidance of N.U. theologians who are consulting Western academia.

In scene after scene, they challenge and denounce the Islamic State’s interpretations of the Quran and the Hadith, the book of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, as factually wrong and perverse.

The Islamic State’s theology, rooted in the fundamentalist Wahhabi movement, takes its cues from medieval Islamic jurisprudence, where slavery and execution of prisoners was accepted. The filmmakers accept the legitimacy of those positions for the time but argue that Islamic law needs to be updated to 21st-century norms.

“The problem with Middle East Islam is they have what I call religious racism,” said Azyumardi Azra, an Islamic scholar and former rector of the State Islamic University in Jakarta. “They feel that only the Arabs are real Muslims and the others are not.”

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the main source of financial support for Wahhabism worldwide, has had more success in imposing its interpretation and has even made inroads in Indonesia. Analysts say a steady flow of money from Persian Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, supports an active and growing Wahhabist movement here.

Hedieh Mirahmadi, president of the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, an organization based in Washington that works to combat extremism, said that, according to open source data, supporters of the Islamic State were sending an average of 2.8 million messages a day to their followers on Twitter.

“Who’s going to counter that?” she asked.  “It’s what they are doing in Indonesia, it’s what we are doing in the U.S., and in other places,” she said. “You flood the space, and you hope people get the right messages.”

Frankly, to me it is maddening that the United States doesn't have a very blunt conversation with the Saudi royals.  Either the export of extremism abroad stops or America needs to drastically rethink its support for the Saudi royals and make it clear that Saudi funds in American banks will be frozen and/or confiscated.  The Saudi regime can crack down on moderates and bloggers but turns a blind eye to the export of Wahhabism.   This is simply unacceptable.

As for Muslims in the USA, my Muslim clients are incredibly hard working and want nothing to do with extremism - they came to America to escape it and make a better life for themselves and their families.   Just like most of our ancestors did.