Saturday, June 25, 2016

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

GOP Delegates Can Save the GOP From Trump

Although I am a former Republican activist, I now bear no love for the GOP and, in truth, believe that the party needs to die since I view it as being beyond saving.  The cancer of the Christofascists, white supremacists and know nothing elements that were cynically invited into the party has metastasized to a point where the death of the patient is the only thing that will stop the disease.  Yet, it would be refreshing to see that some shred of decency and morality is left in the GOP.  The best way for that to happen is a delegate uprising in Cleveland where Donald Trump is rejected.  The party leadership in the form of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and others - one surprising exception being Lindsey Graham, a/k/a the Palmetto Queen - have sold their souls and truly care nothing for rank and file voters.  Indeed, Ryan's agenda continues to be one of a reverse Robin Hood policy that aims at the total degradation of working Americans.  To reach that goal, Ryan, et al, need to keep fanning the racial fears, homophobia and xenophobia of low information voters.  A piece in Salon appeals to GOP delegates to step up and dump Trump and perhaps begin the process of saving the soul of the GOP.  Here are highlights:
Dear Republican Delegates:
On July 18th, a demagogue named Donald Trump will begin the process of stealing the GOP out from under you. He’s a know-nothing maniac with an ideology that consists of ego-driven tribalism. Absolutely nothing about him is truly conservative.
Trump supports big government more than Hillary Clinton, if we’re to believe his economic aside about straight-up stealing money from wealthy Americans in what hecalls a “one-time tax.” Even Bernie Sanders would tell Trump he’s gone a step too far on this one.
What tricks low-information voters into believing that Donald Trump is a conservative can be condensed to a single word: authoritarianism. Republican leaders have been flirting with authoritarianism since Jerry Falwell uttered the words “Moral Majority.” There is a rabid Evangelical Christian subset of hardcore fundamentalists who want to use the government to impose the Christian equivalent of Sharia law upon the United States. Reasonable everyday Christians are terrified of them, and for good reason. But GOP leaders saw an opportunity and bought off this fundamentalist segment of society by completely bowing to their extremist social demands on issues like abortion, racial equality and LGBT rights during the 1980s. Many of the party officials never gave a hoot about these issues in reality. Their interests were with big business.
Republicans just knew that, so long as they played along, this low-information voting bloc would cling to them like they were the Second Coming of Jesus while they short-changed the brighter part of the electorate out of their hard-earned money in the interest of corporate greed.
What Republican leadership failed to understand was that this voting bloc wasn’t stupid enough to not notice that the GOP was selling them a bill of goods it had no plan to actually deliver. The Supreme Court, Executive Branch and Democratic Party were never going to allow the United States to roll backwards into the outright legal bigotry of the early 1900s. While Republican voters thought they were electing James Dobson, the GOP was really selling Joel Osteen to them in a Pat Robertson mask.
Republican voters started noticing the GOP’s ideological duplicity in earnest around the 2008 election, when the Tea Party movement arose. It claimed to be a group dedicated to lower taxes, but the truth was apparent. The Tea Party is where the woman-hating, LGBT-bashing racists plopped on their goofy hats and set about taking America back with their dear leader, Sarah Palin. Sen. John McCain sat helplessly in the corner, wondering what he had done while America fell in love with a black man and made some damn history.
After the GOP rolled over and played dead on marriage equality in 2015, the Tea Party bigots decided they’d had enough. Their plan this time is to completely destroy your party by electing an alleged billionaire with a distinctly warm hue to evict the Muslims, wall out the Mexicans, march the LGBTs from the bathrooms and jail those women who dare to get an abortion.
Does Donald Trump plan to actually do any of this? Of course not. He’s a grade-A con man on a bizarre branding exercise. But, what he will do is destroy what’s left of your party’s conservative foundation and place America in a position that could easily lead to economic and cultural disaster. The Economist ranks a Trump presidency as a higher economic risk than jihadi terrorism and the exit of the UK from the EU. Think about that for just a second.
Trump appears totally uninterested in the basics of law, governance or general knowledge. He makes up information as he goes and doesn’t care if it’s correct. All he needed: America’s dumbest voters to line up for him. (Or salute him like Hitler.) It worked. He’s about to be your nominee.
Now, you have the power to fix this. As party gatekeepers, you can come together to divorce yourself from the popular decision and vote your conscience. Speaker Paul Ryan is desperately hoping you’ll do this. Reasonable Democrats (like me) are hoping you’ll do this, despite the fact it puts our nominee at possibly greater risk. Most importantly, America needs you to do this, because Trumpism could permanently take over the GOP. . . .  a Trump-magnitude political destabilization of the GOP could throw our economy, culture and American families into chaos.
My hope is that, through voting your conscience, you will reshape the Republican Party into what it once was, which I admire. Your party is supposed to stand for freedom and smaller government. It’s intended to stop the Democrats from trying to stretch red tape from California to Virginia and wrap Americans in a suffocating bureaucratic bow. Heck, the Republican Party ended slavery. Your history is noble and represents the very best of this country. America needs you to revive that spirit and fight the greatest internal threat you’ve ever faced.
So, GOP delegates, go pull a Lincoln on that moron and banish him back to the Manhattan high rise from whence he crawled.

The Rust Belt, Trump and Voter Delusions

A piece in Politico Magazine looks at the appeal of Donald Trump to areas of the so-called "Rust Belt."  In particular, the piece looks at counties in Southwest Pennsylvania - the area where the husband's late parents were from and where we go for a family reunion each August.   The physical beauty of the area is remarkable, but socially and culturally, it is akin to Southwest Virginia, although perhaps not quite as shockingly backward.  Each year after visiting, I remark that if I had to live there permanently, taking razor blades to my wrists might look like an attractive option.  The region is prime Trump territory: almost all white, low education levels, reliance on dying industries, most notably coal,  Coming from an urban area, driving Mercedes Benz's with Hillary stickers, and being fashion conscious, the husband and I do not exactly blend, although the people are always pleasant - even if they probably thing we are from Mars.  As the article notes, Trump's boasting that he will "make America great again" resonates as does his proclamations that he "loves coal."  Never mind that  Trump has offered no specifics other than campaign sound bites as to how he would do any of what he promises or how he would counter the global decline in demand for coal as cleaner fuels become preferred. It is disheartening to see desperate people being played for fools by Herr Trump.  Here are some article excerpts:
Cambria County is 94 percent white—with low rates of college education and high rates of unemployment, hovering around seven percent. And most importantly for Trump, it’s a county that appears on the map, by different names, again and again across the American Rust Belt: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and beyond. “He’s got to win these places,” Borick said, “and win big.” There is, Borick added, just one important question—for Trump, his campaign, and his quest for the White House.  “Are there enough Cambria Counties out there?”
In these wooded hillsthick and green, almost 70 miles east of Pittsburgh—the talk of making America great again aren’t empty words slapped on a red ball cap, retailing for $25 on Donald Trump’s web site. It’s part of the everyday conversation—among shopkeepers in rural Ebensburg, truck drivers in remote Carrolltown and unemployed steelworkers in the county’s largest city, Johnstown.
It’s fair to say, over time, no one saw the changes coming. Between the 1850s and 1870s, Johnstown specifically, and Cambria County at large, became one of greatest industrial centers in the country. “And probably the world,” said Richard Burkert, the president of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association. Using natural deposits of iron ore, the Cambria Steel Co. and later Bethlehem Steel built an empire, of sorts, on the banks of the Conemaugh River. The steel jobs—some 18,000 of them by World War I—attracted immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. Coal mining jobs did, too. And the county, once just a few thousand people, exploded. By 1940, the population had peaked at around 213,000 people.
They also remember what happened next: how cheaper steel, produced by modern mills overseas in the post-World War II years, undercut the U.S. industry; and how Johnstown’s location, in those hills, connected by river and railroad, became less advantageous in the new era of interstate highways.  . . . . Since 1980, the county’s population has declined by a quarter.
“Us guys, it’s all Democrats here,” said Dave Kirsch, who lives in Cambria County and hauls coal for a living. But he sat out the 2012 election, after voting for Obama four years earlier. And he’ll do the same again this fall—unless, he said, he votes for Trump. “Everybody I’m talking to, they’re switching,” Kirsch said. “Trump says he’s for coal, and Hillary hates coal—and that’s a shame. Because, in my opinion, he’s a little nuts. She’s more qualified. But if she wants to take my job—then, no.” Rooney, the former state chairman of the state’s Democratic party, has heard similar sentiments all across the state. "There’s a general perception that Democrats—Barack Obama, in particular—have made it so the playing field is no longer level. Forget about the merits of the argument,” Rooney said. “The reality is, that narrative has set in. It has baked into the cake. And that makes the job of running for any office, as a Democrat, more difficult. That’s just the cold hard reality.”
“Ninety percent of my employees are Democrats,” he said. And by his estimation, about 70 percent of the workers were supporting Trump. . . . . I think you’ve got a group of frustrated voters. They’re working. They’re not getting handouts. They’re proud to be working, proud to be Americans, and they’re seeing this country go in the wrong direction.” . . . . Today, the Polaceks say, JWF Industries is nearly back to what it was generating before the recession struck.
“The problem is,” Bill Polacek said, “wages aren’t going up.” Costs for the company are high, especially health insurance. At least once in the last two years, they lost a lucrative contract overseas. “They moved it all down to Mexico,” John Polacek said. And so, this November, while the two brothers will be supporting many local Democrats—they’ve hung a giant sign outside their factory for a Democratic state senator—they’ll be voting for Trump.
[L]ike his blue-collar neighbors in Cambria County, Polacek wants to send a message.  “That’s probably what you’re seeing in this election,” he said. “People are fighting back. They’re saying: This is not complicated. You’ve got to do something. They’re tired of talk. And that’s the thing with these candidates: Hillary is talk; Trump is going to do something.”

“She’s [Hillary's] in big trouble in Cambria County. And a lot of other counties in southwest Pennsylvania,” said Rob Gleason, the state chairman of the Republican party, who was born and raised in Johnstown, and still lives in the county today. “She won’t win Washington, Green, or Fayette—these are all Democratic counties. She won’t win Beaver. She won’t win Allegheny”—where Pittsburgh is located. “You can just go down the list.”
But in the details, the threads of this argument begin to fray. For one thing, many voters who switched to the GOP in Pennsylvania this spring were Democrats in name only, having long voted Republican in presidential elections. Neither Polacek, Frear, or Joey Del could remember voting for a Democrat for president in any recent election. When they switched parties, the electoral outcome didn’t exactly change. Trump’s other problem is the math. “There just aren’t enough rural voters to put him over the top,” said Berwood Yost, director for the Center of Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. Trump may indeed win Cambria County and others nearby. But Mitt Romney did, too, and he still lost the state to Obama, who won just 12 of the Pennsylvania’s 67 counties four years ago, six fewer than he won in 2008.
 “In this state, a Republican has got to appeal to moderate Republicans and Republican voters in the southeast part of the state, who are mostly educated and mostly affluent,” Yost said. “And I don’t know that we’re seeing that sort of appeal from Trump.”
[S]ometimes Havener catches himself wishing for something else: for Trump to win.
“It would be devastating for the country, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I have no confidence in the man’s ethics. I have no confidence in the man’s diplomacy.” It’s why, in the end, he said, he’ll probably vote for Hillary. Still, the thought is there. Havener—and a lot of other Democrats in Cambria County—are thinking it. “There’s a little piece of me,” he said, “that wants to see Trump win. So I can say, ‘There you go—you got what you want now.’”

I don't mean to be condescending towards these people, but are they blind to the fact that Trump has offered ZERO specifics on what he would do to turn things around for these economic backwaters?  European demand for coal is down sharply.  The trend everywhere is for coal to be in less and less demand.  Trump can't waive a magic wand and change this reality or other economic forces that are hammering such regions.  And then there's another factor that these hurting individuals ignore - just like they do in Southwest Virginia - namely that given their backwardness on social issues, most industries that might be their salvation are likely to locate elsewhere.  21st century businesses and industries simply do not want to move to areas that still want to bring back the 1950's.  

Saturday Morning Mail Beauty

Friday, June 24, 2016

More Friday Morning Male Beauty

The Real "Conservative" Agenda: "Make America White Again"

While in the past conservative politicians - at least until the rise of Donald Trump - tended to try to hide their blatant racism and use dog whistle messaging instead of putting it in full view.  Now, apparently emboldened by the response that Trump has received to his open message of racial based hatred, Rick Tyler, an independent candidate for Congress, is using billboards that display what the real "conservative" agenda is all about: restoring white privilege and putting those of differing racial groups "in their place."  Hand in glove with this agenda is an effort to push LGBT Americans back into the closet and make us simply invisible.  The images in this post are from Tyler's campaign web site and illustrate future billboards he wants to utilize in his campaign.  Here are excerpts from a Washington Post piece that look at Tyler's openly racist campaign ploys:
An independent candidate for Congress from Tennessee has been swept up in a wave of criticism for his campaign billboard vowing to "Make American White Again."
Rick Tyler, who is running for the 3rd Congressional District in the northeastern part of the state, said he put up the billboard alongside Highway 411 in Polk County to make a point that "the 'Leave It to Beaver,' 'Ozzie and Harriet,' 'Mayberry' America of old was vastly superior to what we are experiencing today."
In a Facebook post Wednesday night, Tyler wrote: "It was an America where doors were left unlocked, violent crime was a mere fraction of today's rate of occurrence, there were no car jackings, home invasions, Islamic Mosques or radical Jihadist sleeper cells."
But the billboard's message, a spin on Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, has been widely derided as a display of bigotry and racism.
It was taken down Tuesday night, according to ABC affiliate WTVC.
Tyler, a 58-year-old self-described "entrepreneur, pastor and political candidate," ran as an independent in the 2014 Senate race, getting less than half a percentage point of the vote against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
"There's no room for this type of hateful display in our political discourse," Ryan Haynes, the Tennessee Republican Party chairman, told WRCB in a statement. "Racism should be rejected in all its heinous forms in the Third Congressional District and around the country."

Note two things: (i) that Tyler identifies as a pastor, and (ii) the disingenuous condemnation by GOP party chair.  Tyler is merely saying openly what the GOP has been messaging for years.  Here's more from Tyler's campaign website:
The Make America White Again billboard advertisement will cut to the very core and marrow of what plagues us as a nation. As Anne Coulter so effectively elucidates in her book, Adios America, the overhaul of America’s immigration law in the 1960’s has placed us on an inevitable course of demise and destruction. Yes…the cunning globalist/Marxist social engineers have succeeded in destroying that great bulwark against statist tyranny…the white American super majority. Without its expedited restoration little hope remains for the nation as a whole.

Britain Votes to Leave EU; Markets Plunge

In a move that seems more motivated by bigotry and racism, not to mention nostalgia for a past that will never be again, a majority of voters in the United Kingdom voted for withdrawal from the European Union - despite agreement by virtually all economists that the move would significantly harm Britain's economy.  Like it or not, the days of the sun never setting on the British Empire are gone for ever, but why rely on logic and objective reality when one can satisfy one's racist bent and xenophobia.   As  piece in the Washington Post, those who voted for withdrawal in many ways mirror the know nothings and white supremacists rallying to Donald Trump.  Here are article highlights:
It may be pure coincidence that Donald Trump flew to Scotland on the day that British voters decided to leave the European Union. But in striking ways, the forces fueling Thursday’s historic referendum here were similar to those that have shaken U.S. politics to its core in the past year.
On both sides of the Atlantic, political establishments and the elites have found themselves on the defensive. Rising resentment over the fallout from globalization and the effects of the financial collapse of 2008, which has widened the gap between the rich and everyone else, has divided voters in Britain and the United States.
Added to that are emotional issues of national and cultural identity at a time of growing demographic diversity, highlighted in both countries by often-angry debates over immigration. Both Trump and those pushing for Britain to leave the European Union have found the immigration issue to be their most potent political weapon.
Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” could easily have been adapted to the messaging of those in the “leave” campaign across the pond. Here, that desire for a return to an earlier time — to make Britain great again — is expressed through the issue of control.
Those who have pushed for Britain to leave the E.U. want to reclaim a measure of sovereignty by wresting power from the bureaucrats in Brussels, the headquarters of the 28-member bloc. They feel about the E.U. bureaucracy as tea party Republicans do about the federal government.
Early Thursday, Steve Devereux, an economist and teacher, was passing by the polling place at London’s Methodist Central Hall, a short distance from Parliament. . . . . On balance, Devereux said he feared that rattling the establishment’s doors by voting to leave the E.U. would pose a great risk. But it is clear that the sense of disgust and disenfranchisement is deep and widespread.
Distrust with political establishments cannot be overstated, on either side of the Atlantic. During the debate here, Michael Gove, a Conservative Party lawmaker and a leading voice in the “leave” campaign, sought to discredit studies warning of the economic consequences of leaving. “People in this country have had enough of experts,” he said.
The choices in the two countries may be different, but what animates the sentiment behind the votes springs largely from the same set of grievances. Even the contours of the electorates are similar. Here, as in the United States, voters are polarized along recognizable lines: young vs. old; college-educated vs. non-college-educated; urban vs. small town and rural.
A SurveyMonkey online poll showed that voters younger than 45 favored the “remain” campaign, with the very youngest overwhelmingly in favor. Those 45 or older supported the “leave” campaign. Similarly, those with a college degree supported the “remain” campaign by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. Those without a degree favored the “leave” campaign, though by a narrower margin.
By better than 2 to 1, those here who cited immigration as their most important issue said they would back Britain’s exit. Those worried about the economy, poverty and inequality, or defense and foreign affairs, all backed remaining.
Beyond the issues that have shaped the campaign here and in the United States, there are other parallels. As in the United States, the campaign here has been marked by a coarsening dialogue, befitting perhaps of the age of social media and the culture of cable television.
The SurveyMonkey poll found that people here who said they would support Trump for president if they could vote in the United States backed the “leave” campaign by a significant margin. Those for Clinton said they were voting to remain in the bloc.
It is sad to see that like America, Britain has a significant uneducated white trash element that can be duped into voting against its own financial best interest by appeals to racism and the fantasy of restoring the past.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Father Refused to Claim Body of Orlando Shooting Victim

I will confess that I have a growing contempt for religion in general and Christian fundamentalists and conservative denominations in particular.  While claiming to be supporters of "family values," this in fact fundamentalist Christianity holds family relationships in low regard and rant that one must be willing to put god - their imaginary friend in the sky - ahead of spouses and children.   And stories like this one in the wake of the Orlando massacre at Pulse, the gay nightclub, show just how despicable these people truly are - and how self-centered they are.  Orlando Latino looks at the father of one of the victims who lost his life refusing to accept his son's body.  Indeed, other relatives had to step up and see to the young man's burial. Here are story highlights:
All the Pulse nightclub shooting victims’ bodies have been released to next of kin. Even the shooter’s body has left the Orange County Medical Examiner’s building off Michigan Avenue, according to information released this week.
“We effectively and efficiently completed the identification, notification and autopsy process within a 72-hour period – a monumental task,” according to an earlier statement by OCME, which worked with the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System to complete the gruesome task.
But it was touch and go for one particular shooting victim whose father didn’t want to claim the body. Because the son was gay. Because the father was ashamed. Finally and after much convincing, the body was released to Orlando-area relatives.
This young man shall remain anonymous so as not to further victimize the deceased, who was Puerto Rican. But Orlando Latino confirmed the information with several sources. The tale is part of the untold stories of the Latino victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
The pain of being Puerto Rican and gay is real. In the island’s macho culture (relative to the states), anti-gay bias is not subtle and has reached the highest levels of government.
Perhaps this why it took pop star Ricky Martin a while before declaring his sexual orientation. He is now the most famous gay Puerto Rican and no doubt his coming out in 2010 helped many others to do the same. In Puerto Rico, everybody loves Ricky Martin – he is famous, wealthy, good looking and more.
But nobody knew the Orlando shooting victim. No coming out on Oprah for him. And the victim’s family – or at least his father –didn’t accept the son’s sexual orientation, adding further insult to the sad and sensational circumstances of his death.
Note how the father was ashamed.  Not for his lost son, but rather it was all about him and "what will people think?"  These people are vile and churches that foster such bigotry deserve to be destroyed.  It's one of the reasons why I favor taxing churches just like every other business. Why should I and others be forced to indirectly subsidized such misogyny?  Moreover, if these nests of haters and vipers cannot survive without tax exempt status, then they deserve to wither and die.   

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday Male Beauty

Federal Court Rules Against Anti-LGBT Gloucester County School Board

After squandering who knows how much taxpayer money and made their county look like a bigoted backwater to the rest of the nation and the world, the Gloucester County school board went down to final defeat in its war against transgender students.  Today, U.S. District Court judge Robert Doumar - who got a spanking himself by the U. D. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit - ordered the Gloucester County school board to allow transgender boy, Gavin Grimm to use the school system's male restrooms.  Would that the board members who proved spineless when confronted by spittle flecked cranks and Christofascists   had to personally reimburse taxpayers for the wasted funds which might just as well have been placed in a trash can and set afire. BuzzFeed looks at today's much deserved defeat,   Here are highlights:
In the country’s most watched case over transgender student rights, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Doumar ordered a Virginia school district to let a transgender boy use the boys restroom when he returns to high school classes in September.
 “I am elated to hear that I’ll be able to attend my senior year of high school with my full rights restored,” Gavin Grimm told BuzzFeed News in a statement. “After nearly two years of humiliation and intense struggle, equality has finally prevailed. Now hopefully other transgender individuals will not have to face this type of discrimination.”
 Grimm had sued the Gloucester County School Board in 2015, challenging a policy that bans transgender students from using school restrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Represented by the ACLU, Grimm alleged the rule violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
 Judge Doumar had initially thrown out the Title IX claim, despite the U.S. Education Department’s interpretation of the law — that Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination also applied to transgender discrimination. Overturning Doumar on that point, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Education Department has the authority to establish that interpretation of Title IX.
 [O]n Thursday, Doumar issued a preliminary injunction in Grimm’s favor, stating, “This Court, pursuant to Title IX, hereby ORDERS that Gloucester County School Board permit the plaintiff, G.G., to use the boys’ restroom at Gloucester High School until further order of this Court.”
 Joshua Block, a staff attorney for the ACLU who is representing Grimm, said of the injunction, “The writing is on the wall how this case will ultimately end in Gavin’s favor.”
 Lawyers for the school board did not immediately answer a question BuzzFeed News about whether they would attempt to appeal the preliminary injunction order.
No doubt we will hear the usual rants about judicial tyranny by ignorance embracing Christofascists even as they strive to force their beliefs on all of society.   Meanwhile, thinking Virginians are embracing the 21st century as opposed to wanting to live by a 12th century version of "natural law."

Religiously Inspired Hate Is Still Hate

As regular readers of this blog well know, one of my pet peeves is the undeserved deference that religion is afforded both by the media and by America's political establishment.  Take something that would never otherwise be respected or catered to and wrap the smoke screen of religious belief around it and suddenly it becomes acceptable and critics are labeled as "anti-religion."  Throughout history all kinds of atrocities and rape and pillaging have been justified because of conflicting religious beliefs.  Hate and, in some cases, genocide don't suddenly become something different merely because the perpetrators point to the Bible or Koran for justification.  It is long past time that the "get out of jail free" given to hate filled religious extremists end and their words and actions be judged for what they are regardless of the claimed justification on "deeply held religious belief."  A piece in Huffington Post looks at a controversy in Canada  over the accreditation fight over Trinity Western University ("TWU") proposed law school.  TWU is a Christian extremist institution that openly discriminates against the LGBT community.  Properly, the Canadian accreditation bodies have to date refused to approve TWU application because of its discriminatory policies.  Now, three courts will determine whether such refusal was appropriate.  Here are article excerpts:
The complete picture of what occurred in Orlando last week, of what motivated the worst mass shooting in United States' history, is complicated and may never fully emerge.
But what we do know is that the shooter targeted an LGBTQ club, and that most of the people he murdered and injured belonged to the Queer community. We also know that this was not a coincidence. Gay, lesbian, and transgendered folks in the United States, and elsewhere, are among the most vilified -- the most hated -- minorities in the world.
In Canada, courts in three provinces are poised to issue decisions related to Trinity Western University's ongoing efforts to establish an accredited law school in British Columbia. TWU, as many are aware, requires its students, staff, and faculty to sign a contract promising not to engage in "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman." The University cites biblical passages vilifying and condemning homosexuality to support its policy of discrimination against gays and lesbians. The passages refer to homosexuality as "vile" and "shameful."
Law Societies in Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia decided that TWU's law degree could not be accredited because the University excludes gays and lesbians. TWU appealed those decisions and courts in each of these provinces are now faced with striking the right balance between TWU's freedom of religion and the equality rights of sexual minorities. Getting this balance right is critically important.
The issue is not whether TWU should be able to teach law. The issue is whether public bodies, like law societies, should accredit TWU's law degree given its discriminatory policy. These three law societies were rightly concerned about the detrimental impact on the equality interests of sexual minorities that would occur if they accredited an institution that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.
Why was it right for them to deny accreditation? Because, unfortunately, our society remains filled with hatred for sexual minorities. This is not, as Justice Jamie Campbell of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court grossly mischaracterized the issue, a matter of "hurt feelings." Queer people are beaten, raped, and murdered because of our sexual orientation and gender identities.
From the perspective of those of us who remain the subject of this disgust and detestation, it matters not whether this hatred is born of religious belief. The effects of religiously inspired homophobia are every bit as real as homophobia motivated by fear of difference or intolerance of others. Practices of exclusion based on views that perpetuate this type of hatred, whether intentionally or inadvertently, are no less damaging when supported by scripture.
Public institutions, such as law societies, are obligated not to put their stamp of approval on an organization that excludes one of the most vilified minorities in Canada and around the world. They are legally obligated not to contribute to the hatred of sexual minorities.
This does not mean that TWU should be prevented from practicing its beliefs or from teaching law from its evangelical Christian perspective. But as with all rights, there are limits to freedom of religion. For example, it must be balanced with equality. Requiring public bodies to accredit an institution that discriminates against a despised minority, a group subject to the most violent hate crimes in Canada, would allow freedom of religion to trump equality.
The mass murder of gays and lesbians that occurred last week in Orlando provides a horrific example of what can occur when a country allows one of its constitutional rights to run amok.  Let's hope that the British Columbia Court of Appeal, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, and the Ontario Court of Appeal recognize that a just and humane balance between freedom of religion and equality protections for sexual minorities draws a line between what a religious organization can do privately and what our public bodies will accept. Let's hope these courts recognize that offering state sanction to an organization that discriminates against gays and lesbians because of a religious belief that homosexuality is "vile" and "shameful" would contribute to the kind of hatred that makes LGBTQ communities the target of such virulent homophobia.

Here in Virginia we see two law schools that routinely use follow practices  like those advanced by TWU.  Regent University and Liberty University both  have law schools that support hate and bigotry as part of their agenda.  Sadly, both received accreditation from the American Bar Association.  Shame on the ABA. 

More Thursday Male Beauty

Catholic Bishops Back NOM’s Anti-Gay Hate March

I for one have long believed that the National Organization for Marriage ("NOM") is a front for the Roman Catholic Church.  Hence NOM's strenuous efforts to keep the names of its donor secret, particularly the two or three large donors who have basically funded NOM's anti-LGBT jihad.  It is , therefore, no surprise that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is trying to drum up support for NOM's hate march on June 25th.  Here are highlights from Joe Jervis:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a statement urging Catholics to attend NOM’s anti-LGBT hate march this weekend. They write:
On June 25, 2016, the day before the one year anniversary of the erroneous and unjust Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a rally and March for Marriage will be held in Washington, D.C. The event is meant to highlight the importance of the unique meaning of marriage to society and the importance of mothers and fathers for children.
Participants will be gathering at the reflecting pool in front of the Capitol building around 11:30 a.m. for the program, and the march to the Supreme Court will begin at 1:00 p.m. Please consider joining the March for Marriage 2016 to witness to the continued importance of authentic marriage!
When you look at the NOM website about the march, it is focused on (i) overturning the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell which it describes as  "illegitimate and anti-constitutional," (ii) the continued denigration of transgender individuals and support for so-called bathroom bills, (iii) and supporting "freedom, which NOM defines as  special rights for Christofacists who want a license to discriminate against and abuse those who do not subscribe to NOM's hate inspired Bronze Age beliefs.  

The net take away is that the bishops want to keep anti-LGBT animus alive and well and to inspire further horrors against the LGBT community. 

How Low Can the GOP Go?

In this current election cycle, each time the GOP and its likely presidential standard bearer does or says something utterly shocking - not to mention, completely untrue - one ponders as to whether the Party/Trump as finally bottomed out.  And each time a new low is reached, the GOP and/or Trump shows that the party's descent into utter insanity is still a work in progress and that there seems to be no limit to the party's degradation and betrayal of constitutional system drawn up by the Founding Fathers.  And the consequence of all of this?  Growing concern that Trump will lead the GOP to an epic defeat that includes loss of control of the U.S. Senate or, although far less likely, control of the House of Representatives.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
As Donald Trump’s campaign continues to spiral, a crucial question arises: How much collateral damage could he inflict on the Republican Party? If recent patterns in straight-ticket voting hold and Trump’s campaign continues to falter, Trump could carry a host of Republican down-ballot candidates with him to defeat.
Take a look at the presidential election of 2012. That year, in 410 of 435 congressional districts, voters chose the presidential and House candidates of the same party. Put another way, voters split their tickets in only 5.7 percent of all congressional districts.
In the 1980s, by contrast, the percentage of congressional districts in which voters split their tickets ranged from 32.9 percent to 43.7 percent.
This year, according to Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia:
The presidential race looms very large down the ballot. And as we examine the state of the Senate, House and gubernatorial races coming up this year and next, the presidential outcome may be especially important in the highest-profile category: the Senate.
This concern for the fate of the broader Republican Party can be seen in the skittishness of party activists, conservatives and congressional leaders.
Less publicized trends among key demographic groups are compounding Republican anxiety. Trump’s heaviest losses, according to survey data, are among those voters he most needs to remain competitive: whites and especially white men.
When you compare polls taken between May 22 and 25 (the high point to date for Trump in matchups with Hillary Clinton) with polls published over the last week, you can see how much damage Trump has inflicted on himself. In matchups with Clinton, Trump has experienced double digit declines in support from men, from young voters, from all whites and from white college graduates in particular.
Polls are also showing an increase in the percentage of Republicans who are indicating that they might sit out the 2016 election.
There are other recent measures of Republican disaffection and Democratic enthusiasm.
A Marquette Law School survey of Wisconsin voters, published on June 15, shows that among Democrats an increasing number of people are committing to vote in November – from 80 percent in March to 84 percent in June – while the percentage of Republicans committed to voting fell from 87 percent to 78 percent over the same time period.
As Trump becomes the indelible image of the Republican Party, the problems for Republican candidates seeking to distance themselves from him are only going to worsen. Trump’s imprint on the party will be cemented in the minds of many voters during the convention in Cleveland from July 18-21, which Trump intends to turn into a four-day spectacle focused on his persona — an entertainment extravaganza designed to hold millions of voters to their television (and other) screens.
If Trump’s poll numbers continue to slide, Clinton is positioned to damage his campaign before the general election is fully engaged.
A number of analyses confirm that Republicans are correct to worry that their Senate or even their House majority could be overturned.
As Charlie Cook wrote presciently on March 25,
The Republican Senate majority is tenuous even if the GOP under performs even a little on Election Day, even without a disruptive candidate at the top of the ticket. With the GOP majority at 54 to 46, Democrats need a four-seat net gain if they hold the White House.
In the House, Cook wrote, a
plausible scenario, assuming the GOP presidential ticket is weak, would be a loss of a dozen or more seats for Republicans, cutting their House margin in half. Given the GOP’s difficulty in pushing through legislation even with the largest House majority since 1928, Paul Ryan will have a devil of a time winning votes if he loses this cushion.
This November, with Trump at the top of the ticket, 86 of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will be up for grabs, along with 1,210 state senate seats (61.4 percent of the total), 4,710 state house seats (87 percent of the total), according to Ballotpedia, an online encyclopedia of American politics and elections.

Let's hope Trump continues to run the GOP brand into the ground.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Real Reason Why American Politics Went Insane

One hears constant blather about the American political system being broken.  Various reasons are cited, but the truth is that the gridlock is due largely to only one of the nation's two main political parties - the Republican Party.  Sadly, much of the mainstream media nonetheless insanely tries to maintain a myth of equivalency between the GOP and the Democrat Party.  As a piece in New York Magazine looks at the attempt by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic that tries to maintain the myth that Democrats are no different from Republicans.  The piece then tears apart that effort and shines blame where it belongs - on the GOP.  The piece also briefly notes how the GOP became so broken and resistant to any compromise even when in the best interests of the country.  I'd go a step further a shine a further light on the cause within the GOP, namely the rise of the Christofascist who not only prefer to base decisions on myths and legends rather than objective fact and who can never admit that they are in error.  Here are excerpts:
It’s plain to many people that American politics has gone badly off the rails if we have reached the point where a bigoted and hyperbolically unqualified reality-television star can win a major-party nomination. But what, exactly, has gone wrong?
One answer is that the presidential system is inherently unstable, because it pits the legislature against the executive. During the 20th century, the system worked because the ideology of the two parties overlapped heavily, but polarization has turned the mechanism designed by the Founders into a doomsday machine.
Another answer specifically blames the extremism of the Republican Party, which, by the nature of its uniquely extreme ideas about the role of government, is unable to share power in a rational way. (These explanations are not mutually exclusive, and I find each somewhat persuasive: The design of American government is vulnerable to collapse under the weight of a radical faction like the modern GOP.)
Jonathan Rauch’s Atlantic cover story, headlined “How American Politics Went Insane,” offers up a third answer. Rather than the presidential system, or the Republicans, Rauch instead blames the demise of what he calls the “informal constitution.” Rauch has some things right. Large numbers of Americans fail to understand the source of partisan conflict, find gridlock inexplicable, and retreat to a simplistic populism to make sense of the mess.
But Rauch also fails to adequately or correctly explain the causes of political dysfunction. The trouble with his theory becomes clear if you run through his examples of government dysfunction. “House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker last year,” and then hard-liners revolted against the Speaker’s budget deal; members of Congress are worried about “being the next Eric Cantor,” the House leader who lost his primary to an upstart tea-partier; it’s “hard to raise the debt limit or pass a budget”; the Senate has refused to consider any nominee at all for the Supreme Court vacancy; annual appropriations bills often fail to pass; the government has shut down, and Congress has threatened not to lift the debt ceiling; a grand bargain on the long-term deficit failed in 2011; plus, of course, Trump, whose nomination is the most important factual premise of Rauch’s essay.
The links between these failures and the causes that Rauch identifies for them are tenuous at best. The link between the design failures of the presidential system itself and these failures is clear enough. The worse things go for the president, the better the chances for the opposition party to regain power. Cooperating would merely give the president bipartisan cover, making him more popular and benefiting his party as well. Republican leaders have openly acknowledged these incentives. In the Obama era, this has forced the Republican leadership to mount a scorched-earth opposition, demonizing the president as an alien socialist who threatens America’s way of life. That opposition has raged beyond their control, resulting in displays of anger like the shutdown, or birtherism, or the nomination of Trump that hamper rather than enable the party’s political interests.
The more serious problem with Rauch’s argument is this: Virtually every breakdown in governing he identifies is occurring primarily or exclusively within the Republican Party. Democrats have not been shutting down the government, holding the debt ceiling hostage, overthrowing their leaders in Congress, revolting against normal deal-making, or (for the most part) living in terror of primary challenges. The disconnect implies a fatal flaw in Rauch’s analysis. Since he identifies causes of illness that afflict both parties equally, while the symptoms have manifested in only one of them, what reason is there to trust his diagnosis?
Indeed, the more closely we look at the composition of the two parties, the more obvious it is that only one of them truly exhibits the tendencies he describes. Over the last decade, writers like me, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, and Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have written about the growing asymmetry between the two parties.
The GOP, but not the Democratic Party, is fully identified with an ideological movement. The almost-all-white Republican Party is far more ethnically monolithic than the polyglot Democratic Party, and more ideologically monolithic, too — more than two-thirds of Republicans identify themselves as conservative, while fewer than half of Democrats call themselves “liberal.” Democratic voters rely on news sources that, whatever their unconscious bias, strive to follow principles of objectivity and nonpartisanship. Republican voters mostly trust Fox News and other party organs that merely amplify the party’s message.
A series of polls have all found that Democratic-leaning voters want their leaders to compromise, while Republican-leaning voters do not. Many Democrats feel frustrated with the system, but they want to make it work. Republicans do not feel this way at all. Rauch believes that restoring the kludgy legislative structures of the postwar era would bring back the same results those systems produced. But the 20th-century party system worked because the parties of that era were qualitatively different. Rauch’s proposal is merely one more in the latest of a series of well-intentioned but doomed plans to bring back a world that can never be restored.

GOP Consultant: Donald Trump Is Committing Political Suicide

Mike Murphy, a Republican Party consultant, has a piece in the Washington Post that looks at the train wreck that Donald Trump's campaign is quickly becoming.  It is caustic but right on point given my years of working on campaigns back in the days I was a Republican.  Hopefully Trump continues his out of control ways and, if the GOP does somehow manage to tell Trump "you're fired!," I for one hope that Trump's misfit supporters revolt and sit out the election.  As noted in a prior post, those who have analyzed Trump view him as having narcissistic personality disorder, so it is unlikely that he will listen to others since in his mind, he is always right and "huugely wonderful" just as he is.  The one lack in the column is that it ignores the fact that the GOP establishment created an atmosphere where a demagogue like could win the party base which no consists largely of white supremacists, anti-government nutcases, and the ignorant and uneducated (which is why Trump is so popular with many evangelical Christians).  Here are column highlights:
Here’s a pitch for a new reality TV show. Political neophytes run for office; then, when the harsh reality of running a serious national campaign thoroughly punctures their cocky naiveté, they are fired. Donald Trump is already starring in the pilot.
Forget, for a moment, all of Trump’s epic character flaws. A new question has seized the campaign: Can the self-proclaimed world-class business wizard actually manage anything? His campaign’s spiral into collapse proves he cannot. Let us count the ways:
Basic targeting. Presidential campaigns come down to a handful of swing states and a relatively small group of persuadable swing voters who ultimately decide the election. That’s why campaigns invest so much money in paid advertising and on-the-ground organizing in those key states. Trump has done neither. Instead he is careening around the country in his beloved jet, chasing elusive high-dollar donor support in Republican base states. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is gleefully beating his brains out in swing states with harsh but effective negative advertising — none of which is being answered and rebutted by the Trump campaign as his polling numbers tank.
Fundraising. Even if Trump wanted to rebut those Clinton attack ads, he lacks the money to fire back.  . . . Meanwhile, what relatively little money the braggadocious billionaire has invested in his campaign has mostly been structured as a loan from, you guessed it, Trump. So despite his endless promises during the primary, Trump is showing no actual interest in self-funding his effort. Instead he’s hoping donors pay him back for the cost of bouncing around in his garish airplane. It’s no surprise that so few donors are falling for this suckers’ ploy.
Message. Trump’s pitchfork rhetoric played well in the GOP primary; winning him about 44 percent of the voters. But the voters he needs most now — college-educated white women and Hispanics — are giving Trump record unfavorable ratings in recent polls. It’s almost as though he is trying to offend them. Well, it’s working.
Ground war. Person-to-person campaigning is effective, but it doesn’t happen without a well-run ground organization heavily linked to the metrics provided by modern digital marketing technology. Trump is doing none of this. He seems to think holding rallies with voters who already support him is the campaign activity that counts. That’s not strategy; it’s egomania.
What is Trump’s biggest failure? He lacks any real strategy. Trump appears to totally miss the fundamental fact that the general-election electorate is much larger and demographically very different from the small electorate he captured in the Republican primaries.
So as the Trump campaign moves into full meltdown, Republicans are seeing a presumptive nominee on a mission of political suicide. Nobody in the party wants a nominee with the Secret Service code name “Certain Train-wreck.” The question is: Can anything be done about it? The answer is yes. If Trump rolls into the convention broke and with a terrible deficit in the polls, the delegates may indeed act. Under convention rules, they have the power to do so. GOP conventions are party affairs empowered to pick the best candidate to win the general election. If Trump’s incompetence doesn’t change, he may well get fired in Cleveland.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Surgery Update - Wednesday Evening

My trip to the Medical College of Virginia hospital went well today and no skin graph was needed to cover the area on my left ring finger where additional tissue was removed as a precautionary measure.  Both the husband and I are relieved to have this behind us and that other than the removal of stitches the week after next, nothing further will be required.  Yes, it is very painful at the moment, but 10mg of Oxycodone makes it all SO, SO much better, even if I have to forego a glass of wine with dinner.  

Once again, we were very impressed with MCV's hospital operation and, should we ever need surgery in the future, that's where I will certainly go.  Despite it's relatively large population, the Virginia Peninsula has a good ways to go before it matches - at least at the Sentara hospitals. I have also learned that it is always smart to get a second opinion.  

P.S., If my typing includes error, I will blame it on the Oxycodone!!

Catholic Church Hypocrisy and False Sympathy for Orlando Victims

Fr. Tony with Pope Paul VI
When I had the good fortune of being one of the 50 attendees at the December, 2008, LGBT Blogger Summit in Washington, D.C. - the event was underwritten by Microsoft and Progressive Insurance and hosted at the offices of the Center for American Progress - one of the bloggers I met was Tony Adams, a/k/a "Father Tony."   For background, Tony is a former Catholic priest who was once stationed at the Vatican.  There, he got to witness first hand the hypocrisy of the Church hierarchy on the issue of homophobia.  Suffice it to say, as Tony witnessed, there are MANY largely closeted, self-loathing gays at the Vatican.  Sadly, many of them (much like closeted Catholic Republicans such as Rick Santorum and Ken Cuccinelli) seem to direct their self-hatred at LGBT individuals.   

What is our main offense? We have found self-acceptance and moved forward with our lives as the Creator - whoever he/she/it may be - made us to be and in the process we have refused to subscribe to ignorant writings of unknown Bronze Age authors that denigrate us and deem us deserving of death.   We've found happy lives - unlike these high clerics- and worse yet, we have been role models for others in respect to throwing off the hate and misogyny marketed by the Catholic Church.   Despite their own complicity in fanning the flames of homophobia and anti-LGBT animus, in the wake of the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, many of these same self-loathing clerics issued meaningless statements of "prayers and condolence" for the victims and their families.  In a piece in the South Florida Gay News, Father Tony urges all of us to mark these hypocrisy filled statements back marked "return to sender."  Here are some highlights:  

The expressions of sympathy over Orlando sent by the Roman Catholic pope, cardinals and bishops in the form of sweet words for the victims and their families need to be returned to sender because no heap of flowers nor blazing bank of candles can glove the blood on the hands of those who daily condemn us in the name of their god.
The pope refused to mention the LGBT community in his official expression of horror at the massacre. He said, “We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence.” He will not have to look far beyond his own house to find those causes of hatred. But how will he uproot them when he cannot even bring himself to say that the specific target of the gunman was the LGBT community? I suspect his heart is filled with guilt.
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley says, “There is no place in the church and in society for hate and vilification of any person or group of persons. All people are created in the image and likeness of God, blessed with the gift of human dignity that calls for our respect and love.”  What he avoids mentioning is his belief that LGBT Catholics who have gay sex forfeit that God-given dignity and choose a clear and speedy road to hell. I do not think the 49 Orlando victims were celibate. Does he? In his heart, does he see their unrepentant souls in hell?
Chicago Archbishop Cupich said, “You know, 30 years ago the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter describing as deplorable the fact that some homosexual persons, as they put it, have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action […] they said that such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors whenever it occurs, so I believe it was important to raise my voice in this moment because this is what the church is asking us to do and has asked us to do for over 30 years now.”
If the directive has been in place for thirty years, his words invite us to ask the obvious. Could this slaughter have been avoided if this church had practiced what it preaches rather than effectively exclude LGBT souls despite all its rhetoric?
Cupich also calls for greater “outreach” to the LGBT community. Greater outreach? How about calling up all those Dignity chapters that were booted out of Catholic Churches and told they would have to hold their meetings elsewhere? How about apologizing for that and inviting them back? Until that happens, these official statements are just sweetly worded veneer over something rotten.
These insensitive patriarchs of Roman Catholicism have no right to jump on the bandwagon of Orlando grief in order to feel reconciled with those they continue to ostracize and persecute. To honor the victims, we must rebuff the Catholic bishops looking to be photographed with us in mourning just as they have shunned and excluded us from full celebration at their table. We should not allow the Catholic Church to enjoy its deceitful and self-serving performance unchallenged.
Locally, many Catholic parish priests stand by the open doors of their churches to receive the coffins of the victims and to recite traditional words of mercy and to sprinkle the remains with holy water, but these gestures are false. In life, the men and women in those coffins were not allowed to enjoy the consolation of the Catholic Church if they were openly and actively gay. In death, they are being used to assuage the guilt of their arrogant shepherds.
Only one Catholic bishop, the soon-to-be-retired Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, goes beyond hollow rhetoric and owns his church’s complicity in the massacre when he says, “Sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.
Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.” This is not the first time Lynch has spoken with authenticity about LGBT issues. He will be missed.
The Roman Catholic Church is not the only church to have nurtured a culture of homophobia and fear that coaxes a maniac to murder, but it is first among many. Real sympathy calls for action. Orlando is an opportunity that will be ignored by Catholic bishops whose false requiems are unacceptable.
Tony is 100% correct. All decent, moral people need to shun Catholicism until Church dogma and the constant denigration of LGBT people ceases everywhere. The same goes for every other Christian denominations that clings to selected passages in Leviticus while ignoring the many dozens of other things labeled as "abominations" in Leviticus.  Passages written by unknown authors who knew NOTHING of modern science, modern medicine, mental health care advances, and a near limitless list of other types knowledge.  Embracing ignorance is a choice, as is supporting institutions that daily denigrate others and inspire hatred by their actions regardless of lip service to the contrary.  In contrast, being LGBT is not a choice -  it is simply who we are and no more of a choice than breathing.