Saturday, July 09, 2016

Saturday Male Beauty

Orlando: The Complicity of Christians

I realize that I have beaten this horse a great deal recently, but given the batshitery just noted in Maine in the previous post, the time has come when Christians who continue to support anti-LGBT churches MUST be confronted with their complicity in anti-LGBT discrimination, animus, and, yes, the murder of LGBT individuals.  No longer can these people be given a pass and allowed to speak out of both sides of their mouths.  They have a moral choice to make: they must renounce the religious based bigotry and cease funding anti-LGBT churches and organizations.  They need to grow the balls and spine to demand that their respective churches end their anti-LGBT policies and positions now, or they need to walk away.  Doing the morally correct thing often brings discomfort with it, but this Christian complicity needs to end.  I came across this lengthy piece written by a Methodist minister that looks at Christian complicity in anti-LGBT animus and atrocities.  Here are some excerpts:
The horrific massacre of 49 people and wounding of 53 more at Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando confronted certain Christian leaders with the dreadful reality that their own denominations might be complicit. The possibility that their Biblically-based anti-homosexual beliefs and discriminatory practices could have contributed to the anti-LGBTQ climate inviting such shocking violence was too repulsive for them to consider. Thus they responded with denial — and compassion.
Yet the reality of their complicity must be acknowledged and transformed, if LGBTQ persons are going to feel safe and be themselves in nightclubs – and in sanctuaries. The reality of Christian complicity must also be confronted if Jesus’ fundamental teaching, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is to include everyone – rather than be perverted by denominational beliefs that brand certain neighbors as “incompatible” (United Methodist Church), “objectively disordered” (Catholic Church), or engaging in a “sinful” not “valid alternative lifestyle” ( Southern Baptist Convention).
While the 6,000 SBC messengers “regard those affected by this tragedy as fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors,” they could not bring themselves to identify their “neighbors” as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons, which leads to another enacted resolution.
In the face of the shocking violence in Orlando just days earlier, The Southern Baptist Convention messengers, representing some 6,000 local churches, adopted a resolution ‘ON BIBLICAL SEXUALITY AND THE FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE.’ This resolution reaffirms the biblical statement that “marriage is between one man and one woman ordered by God,” and rejects same-sex marriage, legalized by the Supreme Court in 2015, as it “does violence to the Constitution and is contrary to the Bible and natural order.” The resolution favors the enactment of religious freedom laws that protect the conscience of Christians, by giving them the right to discriminate against persons whose lifestyle conflicts with their anti-LGBTQIA biblical beliefs.
Something else is going on among Christian leaders of anti-LGBTQIA denominations when prayer is their primary response to the Orlando shootings. Their refusal to acknowledge and confront their own denomination’s complicity in creating an anti-gay climate,  . . . .  they are compensating for their comfortable commitment to the status quo. . . . The moral posture of folding one’s hands and doing nothing.
The horrible violence against LGBTQIA persons at the Pulse gay nightclub led the Vatican to issue a statement, which began, “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.”
Various Christian leaders used the word “senseless” to describe the horrific attack in Orlando. If the massacre of gay nightclub partygoers is defined as “senseless,” the complicity of Christian leaders and their anti-gay denominations disappears.
Florida Catholic Bishop Robert Lynch is one of the few Catholic bishops reported to have acknowledged the complicity of the Catholic Church in the massacre of people in the Pulse gay nightclub. To him, they were not “objectively disordered” second class church members. He wrote, “Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.”
The United Methodist Church engages in forked tongue theology by calling homosexuals “individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God,” and in the next breath rejects their integral identity in declaring that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” (Ibid) The practice of discrimination with a straight face. In reality, LGBTQIA United Methodists are relegated to an inferior position, and forced to ride in the back of United Methodism’s family bus — never behind the steering wheel.
But biblically-based and culturally indoctrinating homophobia dies hard. Just two months ago, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church met in Portland, Oregon, and continued its four decades-long practice of kicking the can of real inclusion down the road: another commission was formed to study The Book of Discipline’s discriminatory positions on homosexuality.

My July, 2016, VEER Magazine column looks at the issue of Christian complicity.  I am sure that many of the "godly folk" will be offended.  They need to be offended and forced to open their eyes and face the reality of their actions. 

Maine Christofascists Want to Re-criminalize Homosexuality

As the acceptance of LGBT individuals continues to grow nationwide, the Christofascists who for centuries were allowed to force their ignorance and hate based beliefs on all of society are displaying more and more extremism against anything and anyone who challenges their fantasy world belief system.  As always, LGBT citizens are the favored targets for these members of the Christian Taliban - even in relative liberal states.  A case in point is Maine where a religious extremists have launched a new group that wants to roll back LGBT protections and make homosexuality a crime.   Hopefully, these lunatics will be treated with the derision and scorn that they deserve.  Hate and ignorance wrapped in the cloak of religion deserve absolutely no respect.  WGME-13 looks at the batshitery:
Mike Heath and other former heads of the Christian Civic League of Maine have formed a new group, "Equal Rights, not Special Rights."
They say they're tired of being forced to accept the homosexual lifestyle.
Paul Madore and this small group of people say they want to restore America to its former greatness by repealing same sex marriage laws and making homosexuality a crime.
"There is conduct that ought to be punished," Heath said. "And Christianity teaches, has always taught and still does teach, that sodomy is such a behavior."
In fact, they're against any public displays of affection by members of the LGBT community.
"These are two military men, at least one, and there's an open expression of homosexuality and sexual expression that is totally out of line for a country as great as the United States of America," Madore said.
But the first battleground for the group "Equal Rights, not Special Rights" is to push for a citizen's initiative to remove the phrase "sexual orientation" from the Maine Human Rights Act, even though Maine voters passed the measure 11 years ago.
"If it's removed, what does it do?" Heath said. "It very simply moves something, a behavior that belongs in the closet back into the closet."
Matt Moonen of Equality Maine called the referendum this group is pushing a waste of time.  "They think they can force people to accept their world view," Moonen said. "That's just not what America is, not what the State of Maine is. And it's not going to work."
Heath is a perennial anti-LGBT bigot and not surprisingly his efforts are affiliated with hate groups such as American Family Association and Focus on the Family which want a Christian theocracy in America.   Thankfully, the world view of these hate merchants is dying and it will be increasingly difficult for them to make a living preying on the ignorance and bigotry of others. 

68 Major Companies Join in Amicus Brief Against HB2

NC homophobe-in-chief, Pat McCrory with Paul Ryan
I continue to believe that the hate and batshitery embodied in North Carolina's HB2 and the corporate backlash to the bill ought to be an object lesson to Virginia's knuckle dragging Republicans and their spittle flecked Christofascist puppeteers.  Not only is North Carolina continuing to hemorrhage business losses  - Charlotte's convention business is being hammered - but the media coverage is unrelentingly negative.  Now, 68 major corporations have joined in an amicus brief arguing that HB2 must be struck down.  The list of companies is a who's who of household names and some are major players in North Carolina's business community that are livid over the North Carolina GOP's self-prostitution to the ugliest elements of the Christofascists in that state (and national hate groups funding some of them).  The Raleigh News & Observer looks at the companies joining in the brief. Here are excerpts:
American Airlines, Microsoft and Marriott are among 68 companies that signed an amicus brief in the lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2.
Former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson authored the brief on behalf of Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT advocacy group that is leading opposition to the law. The brief will be filed in the lawsuit currently pending between state leaders and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is trying to strike down the law as discriminatory.
“That so many in the business community are willing to stand up in opposition to HB2 underscores the immeasurable and irreparable harm the law is doing to the transgender community and to North Carolina’s economy,” Olson said in a news release.
In the brief, the companies argue that the law is “an affront to their nondiscrimination policies” and “undermines their ability to do business within and outside of North Carolina,” according to the news release.
Other companies that signed the brief include: Apple, Bloomberg, Capital One, General Electric, IBM, Nike, Morgan Stanley, PayPal, Dow Chemical and Red Hat.
Late Friday, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office issued a statement criticizing the companies’ involvement with the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, McCrory's Democrat opponent continues to hammer him on the harm he and anti-LGBT extremists are doing to the state.  As for McCrory's claim that HB2 "protects women and girls,"  there are ZERO cases of transgender individuals stalking in restrooms. ZERO cases.  In contrast, if one looks at Freethought Today, EVERY issue has multiple pages filled with reports crimes by clergy, many involving sexual misconduct.  Banning clergy from restrooms would do far more to protect the public than HB2.

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Army Veteran Was Lone Dallas Gunman

Officers killed in Dallas, Texas
The tragedy in Dallas ought to be a wake up call to America in a number of ways.  The first message, that we have received over and over again is that it ought to be impossible for civilians to purchase military style weapons.   Newtown, Orlando - the list is far too long - all have involve military grade weapons that have one purpose : killing numerous people quickly.  Despite this obvious threat to the majority of Americans and godsend to would be terrorists, thanks to the NRA and prostitute like politicians the sale of such weapons continues unabated, if not at a more rapid rate.  If Ronald Reagan could support a ban on assault rifles, why the Hell can't today's Republicans?  The Washington Post has these details on the Dallas shooter:
“At this time, there appears to have been one gunman with no known links to or inspiration from any international terrorist organization,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday afternoon.
Police said Friday that Micah Xavier Johnson, a black 25-year-old believed to be from the Dallas area, was the attacker. Dallas Mayor S. Mike Rawlings told the Associated Press Johnson used an AR-15 assault weapon in the ambush.
Johnson, who had no criminal history, deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army from November 2013 through July 2014 and was in the Army Reserve from 2009 until last year. Army records show that Johnson, whose home was listed as Mesquite, Tex., had served with an engineering brigade before he was sent to Afghanistan. He did not have a combat job and was listed as a carpentry and masonry specialist.
The Dallas Police Department said Friday that during a search of Johnson’s home, they found “bomb making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition, and a personal journal of combat tactics.” Authorities said they were still investigating the journal’s contents.
Texas law allows people to openly carry long firearms.
Johnson’s Facebook page, confirmed by a federal law enforcement official, shows that Johnson made his primary picture an image of himself raising a single fist in the air, a symbol associated with the Black Power movement of the 1960s. He also posted a similar image of a fist with the text, “Black Power.”
The profile also contains a picture of him and Richard Griffin, of the rap group Public Enemy — a point police noted in a statement they released Friday about the case. “The suspect’s Facebook account included the following names and information: Fahed Hassen, Richard GRIFFIN aka Professor Griff, GRIFFIN embraces a radical form of Afrocentrism, and GRIFFIN wrote a book A Warriors Tapestry,” police wrote. They also said others had told them Johnson was a “loner.”
An AR-15 and no criminal record.  The same story we hear over and over again, making it clear that background checks are not enough.  Such rifles need to be banned and those in circulation surrendered as was done in Australia.  No one needs to have such weapons.  For those who like to target shoot, get something else - which requires skill and not just a barrage of bullets.

The second message is that something must be done to address the excessive use of force by police - especially against black Americans.  I have black friends - one is even in law enforcement - who live in fear of being pulled over for something trivial and ending up dead.  Law abiding citizens should not have to live with that kind of constant fear. Yes, the majority of police are good people seeking to do their jobs.  But using arrests and court fees to fund city operations - locally, Norfolk is horrendous in this regard - which drives up the number of needless stops must stop.  Likewise, the "bad apples" need to be weeded out and, in my view, much more psychological screening done before individuals are hired by police forces.  Bullies, authoritarians, and racists have no place on police departments.  Over my life time I have met too many police who were brutish assholes.  If I white attorney can have such experiences, imagine what a young black male experiences.  It needs to stop!!!

To me a third message is that America needs to do more for its military veterans, especially in the area of mental health.  Republicans are always only too quick to send men and women to war, but then don't want to properly fund and equip the troops - making me want to vomit when I hear them lie and claim that they "support our troops.  But the abuse continues once these men and women leave active duty.  Funding is far to low for medical and other care for veterans, especially in the mental health realm in the wake of horrible wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan.   If GOP blowhards in Congress will not properly fund all aspects of the wars they love to launch, then they need to shut up and never mutter a word about wanting "boots on the ground."  They need a boot of their asses and, ideally, a defeat in the next election cycle.

OK, my rant is over.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, July 08, 2016

Trump's Facebook Fans Call for Race War

UPDATE:  Here in Virginia, Trump's batshit crazy Virginia Chairman, Corey Stewart of Prince William County - where the water definitely seems to be contaminated with mind altering agents - joined those seeking to cast blame on blacks and Democrats who believe in equal rights and treatment under the law.   The Virginian Pilot reports on Trumps disavowal of Stewart's lunatic statements:
Donald Trump's campaign disavowed Facebook comments from its Virginia chairman, Corey Stewart, in which he said politicians, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, encourage murder of police officers.
Stewart's comment came in response to the shooting of officers in Dallas during a protest over police killings. 
Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, posted on his Facebook: "Liberal politicians who label police as racists – specifically Hillary Clinton and Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam – are to blame for essentially encouraging the murder of these police officers tonight."
Stewart is a prime example of why sane, non-racists are exiting the Virginia GOP.

While Donald Trump's statement in the wake of the Dallas shootings last night were sane and reasonable - especially by Trump standards - even if there was perhaps too much emphasis on "restoring law and order." Many of his followers were not so reserved and some are flat out calling for a race war and for citizens to form their own paramilitary units to defend against attacks "our way of life."  It goes without saying that LGBT individuals don't rate very well with the "real American" crowd, so the enemies list is far longer than just African-Americans.  Mother Jones looks at the fear and hate driven batshitery.  Here are excerpts: 
The morning after five Dallas police officers were killed and six others were wounded in a shooting spree, Donald Trump posted a message to his Facebook wall calling for the restoration of "law and order." He also cited to the "senseless, tragic" deaths in Baton Rouge and suburban Minneapolis, referring to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were killed by police earlier in the week, without mentioning their names. (This was his first official statement regarding those shootings.) He added, "racial tensions have gotten worse."
Trump's reasonable statement prompted overheated and extreme reactions from his Facebook followers. Some claimed a race war was underway. Others predictably slammed Obama. And some defended Trump's supposed defense of white people. Here's a sampling:

Arming more citizens is the last thing that we need and it is far past time that America emulate what Australia did back in the 1990's: get ALL assault style weapons out of civilian hands.  

More Friday Morning Male Beauty

Trump Riles GOP During Meeting Aimed at Finding Common Ground

Donald Trump continues to engage in behavior that confuses and/or enrages Republican politicians. Yes, Trump has ridden a wave of racism, xenophobia and extremism carefully nurtured by the GOP for nearly two decades or more.  Yet his erratic behavior is seemingly inexplicable at times unless one keeps in mind the fact that Trump suffers from narcissistic personality disorder - a disorder that makes his opinion of the moment the only one that matters and that makes all focus on satiating his uncontrollable ego and tempestuous love affair with himself.  A column in Talking Points Memo looks at some of the dismay and blow back arising in the wake of Trump's meeting with congressional Republicans that was supposed to be aimed at building party unity.  Here are highlights:
Everything that happened in that meeting underscores Trump's extreme ignorance and, just as importantly, extreme indifference to being ignorant. But the exchange about Hispanic support has a unique significance in the context of that meeting.
Trump was asked - not surprisingly and not unreasonably - what about your unpopularity with Hispanics voters and what about down-ballot races? Trump's response: No, Hispanics love me!
This is obviously ridiculous on its face. The GOP is generally unpopular with Hispanics and Trump is personally unpopular with Hispanic Americans at a level that is historic and unprecedented. We know this from a limitless trove of public opinion data. As a factual matter, it's no more ridiculous than the 12th Article of the Constitution Trump pledged to protect or numerous other examples of Trump nonsense. But it has a particular import here.
This was a private meeting, meant to reassure skittish members of Congress. A predictable and half way reasonable way to respond might have been, "Look, the border is important and it's what our core voters care about. But we've got a plan to soften that opposition from Hispanic voters over coming months."
Given everything we've seen, that wouldn't be a terribly convincing response. But it would be a response that at least engaged the reality of the situation. If I were a Republican member of Congress and heard what Trump said, I'd be angry. And I strongly suspect many of them were. If I'm a GOP member of Congress I hear that and think, "Damn, you've got zero plan to ensure I don't lose my job. I can't even tell if you care. But you definitely haven't even thought about it." 
We often say that the GOP has collectively cast anchors from the world of empiricism and the reality based universe others inhabit. But even the biggest numskull in the House, the biggest nonsense spewer is very, very empirical when it comes to getting reelected. . . . . they want real answers on this one very specific question.
When that's Trump's answer, his real answer in private, to a serious and for some Republicans existential danger, it's immediately clear there's no there there, no net, no back-up plan, nothing but a jackass riffing and talking the way he does when he's trying to get a mark to sign on the dotted line. That's fine about global warming, Putin, ISIS, virtually anything. But politicians need to get reelected. That's real. I have great confidence that many of the electeds in that room weren't just dumbfounded by the Hispanics response. They were mad.

The GOP establishment and many of the elected officials nurtured the base that loves Trump.  They are reaping what they have sown.  I continue to hope that Trump destroys the GOP - it needs to die given how ugly and foul it has become.

Chaos in Dallas as Snipers Kill 5 Police and Wound 6 Others

What began as a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas, Texas - one of many across the country in the wake of two recent shootings of black males - turned into a nightmare and chaos as possibly four (4) snipers used the gathering to launch a full scale attack on police that left five officers dead and six more wounded.  Three suspects are in custody and one sniper was killed during the exchange of gunfire.  If the shooters had any connection to the protests other than taking advantage of the gathering of police at the event is under investigation.  If nothing else, the event again shows that America's ridiculous gun laws allows those who should not have guns to easily purchase them and commit mayhem.  Here are some highlights from the New York Times:  
DALLAS — Five Dallas police officers were killed and six others were wounded by snipers Thursday night during a demonstration protesting shootings by officers in Minnesota and Louisiana this week, the authorities said.
The police say they believe four people coordinated the attack with rifles, Police Chief David O. Brown said, and positioned themselves in triangulated locations near the end of the route the protesters planned to take. The police had three people in custody and were negotiating in the early-morning hours with a fourth, who was in a garage in downtown Dallas at El Centro, a community college.
That suspect had exchanged gunfire with the police and was being uncooperative in talks, Chief Brown said at a news conference in the lobby of City Hall.
The suspect “has told our negotiators that the end is coming and he’s going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement, and that there are bombs all over the place in this garage and downtown,” Chief Brown said.
The three other suspects are a woman who was taken from the garage and two others who were taken in for questioning after a traffic stop.
[President Obama remarked] “Police in Dallas were on duty doing their jobs, keeping people safe, during peaceful protests. These law enforcement officers were targeted, and nearly a dozen officers were shot. Five were killed. Other officers, and at least one civilian, were wounded. Some are in serious condition and we are praying or their recovery.”
Chief Brown said the suspects in custody were not providing investigators with many details. “We just are not getting the cooperation we’d like, to know that answer of why, the motivation, who they are,” he said.
The shooting had been carried out by snipers who fired down on a demonstration in the city’s downtown area that until that point had been peaceful, the chief said.
They “planned to injure and kill as many law enforcement officers as they could,” Chief Brown said.
“Some were shot in the back,” the chief said. “We believe that these suspects were positioning themselves in a way to triangulate on these officers.”
Chief Brown said it was too early in the investigation to say whether there was any connection between the shooters and the demonstration. He suggested that those involved had some knowledge of the march route.
The protest was planned by Dominique R. Alexander, an ordained minister and the head of the Next Generation Action Network.
He said that the organization “does not condone violence against any human being, and we condemn anyone who wants to commit violence.”  “I was right there when the shooting happened,” Mr. Alexander said. “They could have shot me.”
This killing spree will do nothing to improve already strained relations between black citizens and police.  It also underscores a continuing problem in America: the total inability of far too many to see the common humanity of others of different races, religious faiths and sexual orientations.   Whatever the shooters thought they would accomplish other than killing police officers, they likely set things backward instead of improving things. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Bernie Sanders To Endorse Hillary Clinton Next Week

Perhaps Bernie Sanders has awoken to the reality that his refusal to concede defeat and actions that some view as helping Donald Trump is undermining his standing in the Democrat Party and among voters opposed to Trump.  Whatever the factors that caused the change of heart and suppression of Sanders' huge ego, CBS News is reporting that Sanders will endorse Hillary Clinton next week at an event in New Hampshire.  Here are story highlights:
CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reported the Vermont senator will endorse Clinton next Tuesday in New Hampshire and bring the Democratic Party together before Donald Trump and Republicans meet for their convention.
Garrett told WCBS 880 the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee would have preferred the endorsement sooner but the campaigns are organizing it in a way to build sense of unity and momentum to counteract Trump and the Republicans a week before the Republican National Convention.
“Bernie Sanders will make it clear that he is not only with Clinton, but diametrically opposed to Trump,” Garrett explained.
Garrett also reported Sanders was getting word from Democrats that he was taking too long to endorse Clinton, and that he needed to get on board and unify the party “because Trump is the overriding existential threat to the Obama agenda and everything the Democrats accomplished the last eight years.”
Sanders told PBS’ “Charlie Rose” show that Clinton needs to be elected president.
“We have got to do everything that we can to defeat Donald Trump and elect Hillary Clinton,” Sanders said. “I don’t honestly know how we would survive four years of a Donald Trump” as president.

Better late than never!!  All efforts need to be focused on defeating Donald Trump, seeing Democrats retake control of the U.S. Senate and  drastically reducing GOP power in the House of Representatives. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Thursday Evening Male Beauty

GOP Does Clinton Favor with FBI Director Comey Hearings

One would thing that House Republicans would have learned a lesson from the Benghazi hearings where they grilled Hillary Clinton for 11 hours and allowed Clinton to leave as the victory.  Such lessons happen routinely in the real world, but nowadays, Republicans do not live in the real world. Instead, conspiracy theories run amok and, thanks to Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, and other defacto Republican news outlets, help members of the GOP to live in a fantasy world that is detached from objective reality.  Today's interrogation of FBI Director James Comey was a case in point where Republican blindness and Clinton derangement syndrome drove House Republicans to hand a favor to Hillary Clinton.   While some of Comey's remarks on Tuesday were outwardly damaging to Clinton, today's hearing circus allowed Comey to walk back some of what were at first glance gifts to the GOP.  MSNBC looks at the House Republican's self-inflicted wounds.  Here are highlights:
GOP lawmakers had clearly identified protagonists and antagonists. Just as importantly, they’d convinced much of the media that their tale was as important as it was riveting. Today, however, Republicans lost the plot. On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that while Hillary Clinton’s email server protocols were careless, no sane prosecutor would find her actions worthy of an indictment. House Republicans, who were counting on an indictment to improve the GOP’s election chances, were apoplectic and hastily threw together a hearing, forcing Comey to go to Capitol Hill to explain himself. What Republicans didn’t realize is the degree to which they were doing Clinton and Democrats a favor. NBC News reported on the proceedings:
FBI director James Comey stuck to his guns Thursday and defended his decision not to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime for her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state. Summoned to appear before the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Comey insisted again that Clinton “did not break the law” and that there was not enough evidence to charge her with a crime. “That’s just the way it is,” Comey said.
I honestly have no idea what Republicans thought they were going to achieve with this spectacle. Did GOP lawmakers expect Comey to declare, “Now that you’ve yelled at me for a few hours, I’ve changed my mind and now support criminal charges against Clinton”? Before the hearing Republicans had a series of fairly specific talking points: Clinton lied to the FBI; she created a national security threat; she plays by a different set of rules than everyone else. But instead of simply repeating those talking points, GOP lawmakers invited the FBI director – a lifelong Republican, whom GOP officials have repeatedly praised for his honesty – to testify about how wrong the party’s arguments are. “We have no basis to believe she lied to the FBI,” Comey said. Asked about Clinton benefiting from a different set of rules, he responded, “It’s not true.” Asked about classified emails, Comey said there were only three messages – each of which were not properly marked classified when she received them. In other words, congressional Republicans had the bright idea of holding a hearing with a credible witness who was perfectly happy to explain to them how wrong they are. Making matters worse, GOP lawmakers forgot who the villains and heroes were supposed to be in their story. Republicans were supposed to make Clinton the scoundrel of this narrative, but today, they decided instead to go after the director of the FBI – because he had the audacity to say a Democrat didn’t commit a crime.
Now the story is Comey vs. Republicans – GOP lawmakers had some baseless allegations and reckless conspiracy theories, some of which targeted Comey directly, and they asked the FBI director to give testimony knocking down each of their bad arguments. For their part, Democrats suddenly found themselves keeping up with Republican attempts to change the subject – talking about Clinton’s emails is suddenly less important than talking about Comey’s credibility and reliability. When congressional Republicans take stock this evening and reflect on their failed gambit, one wonders whether they’ll appreciate the fact that this Comey hearing was a bad plan, executed poorly. The last time Democrats were this pleased with GOP hearing, it was Clinton’s 11-hour Benghazi Committee testimony – in which Republicans made fools of themselves and their conspiracy theories, and Clinton turned her entire presidential campaign around. It helps sometimes to be blessed with incompetent enemies.

The "Christian" Enemies of LGBT Americans

Having followed the "Christian Right", the "Christofascists," the "Professional Christians" or whatever you may care to call these hate-filled throcrats for the better part of 20 years now, what continues to be unknown to the vast majority of Americans is just how complex and intertwined and full funded these enemies of freedom and equality are in fact.   And while much of their focus is to denigrate and criminalize LGBT citizens, all these groups are also racist and white supremacist oriented and want the unfettered right to discriminate against others based on their claimed religious beliefs.  Thankfully, a column in the Washington Post looks at who some of these groups are and the sources of their funding.  These folks are not isolated, simple church attendees.  They are vicious and relentless in their quest to impose a Christian theocracy on America.  Here are column highlights:
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans know in their bones there is a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to deny them their humanity and dignity. A conservative cabal actively working the levers of power to block their rights. Well, now we have the evidence that one actually exists.
Freedom for All Americans (FFAA) is a “bipartisan campaign seeking nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide” that was created last year in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. FFAA executive director Matt McTighe told me that the immediate backlash against that historic decision, such as Indiana’s so-called religious freedom law, was expected. But he said that it was the emerging coordination of the resistance that pushed his organization to sift through public filings to unearth the ties that bind anti-LGBT efforts around the country.
“We started seeing bills that looked 80 to 90 percent identical in language start to pop up around the country,” McTighe said. “The language was so clearly being coordinated.” In a report to be released on Thursday called “Enemies of Equality,” FFAA shows that 17 bills in 14 states that target transgender Americans “used almost identical language and it’s based off of a model policy ADF started pushing four or five months ago.” All told, there are more than 200 anti-LGBT bills pending in 34 states.
According to FFAA’s research, one of the hubs of this coordination is Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a 22-year-old group that “advocates for your right to freely live out your faith.” Another is the National Christian Foundation (NCF), which funds a lot of the groups aggressively working to chip away at the equal rights of LGBT Americans. One of them is Family Research Council (FRC), which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “extremist group.”
Another is Liberty Council. Listed as an “extremist group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, . . . But the National Christian Foundation also received funding, notably from the owners of Hobby Lobby. That’s the company at the center of the 2014 Supreme Court case that ruled the sincerely held religious beliefs of corporation owners are protected by the Constitution. And the interconnectedness revealed by FFAA is several layers deep.
For instance, James Dobson is founder of the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family. Tom Minnery is a board member at ADF and senior vice president of policy at Focus on the Family, which gets money from NCF and the family of Forbes 400 billionaire Richard DeVos, founder of Amway. He and his family have given money to all of the organizations founded by Dobson.
McTighe of FFAA said of his group’s effort to expose the intricate web of anti-LGBT interests. “We expect that this will be even more pronounced in the coming legislative session and that the ADF and the groups that it has sway over will continue to get more engaged and will continue to file more and more anti-LGBT bills that are being coordinated…by…national organization[s] with a clear anti-LGBT agenda.”

Read the entire piece.  What is even more sicken is the fact that many of the leaders of these organizations make an extremely lucrative living peddling hatred and preying on the fears of the ignorant and uninformed, often by disseminating deliberate lies. 

More Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Like Bush/Cheney, Tony Blair Took Britain to War Based on Lies

The results of a seven year post mortem on how Britain moved to join in the Iraq War has been released and to say that it trashes British Prime Minister Tony Blair is an understatement.  Indeed, Blair told  George W. Bush, a/k/a the mindless Chimperator,  eight months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq “I will be with you, whatever”, and relied on flawed intelligence and legal advice to go to war.  Besides being an indictment of both Bush and Blair, in my view, the findings are also an indictment of a news media that was only too eager to jump on the jingoism and xenophobia that sought to distract the public from the fact that the purported reasons for war were all based on lies and manufactured intelligence.  The tale ought to be a cautionary one as we find ourselves in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign in which Donald Trump lies with abandon with too little media exposure of his lies and misogyny in general.  Talking Points Memo looks at the British findings.  Here are highlights:
At long last, civil servant Sir John Chilcot released his 12-volume study of Britain’s participation in the Iraq War. The report condemns Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government for misjudgments and miscalculations and for subservience to American foreign policy objectives, but it also blames Blair himself for misleading the British people and members of Parliament in making the case for war on September 24, 2002.
In that speech, and in the famous “dodgy dossier” that accompanied it, Blair declared that Saddam Hussein’s “WMD program is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD program is not shut down. It is up and running” and that “he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes.. and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.” In his preface to the dossier, Blair had asserted that British intelligence had “established beyond doubt” that Iraq was producing WMDs.
All that turned out to be not only false, but unwarranted even by Britain’s existing and flawed intelligence. “The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons,” the report says, and it concludes that “the judgments of the severity of the threat, the WMD, were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
Yet while Bush and Blair continue to have their strong detractors . . .  they have remained honored public servants enjoying lucrative perks and pensions. Shouldn’t there have been some official consequences for their having misled their publics about whether the country needed to go to war?
In 1974, the Greek junta undertook a disastrous invasion of Cyprus intended to oust the Turks. They failed, and were booted out of office by their colleagues in the armed forces. Later, an elected Greek government had them tried for treason and sentenced them to long jail terms. Similarly, the Argentine generals who in 1982 invaded the Falklands and lost a war ended up in jail. By these standards, Bush and Blair should be currently occupying prison cells.
In my opinion, American presidents should not be jailed for poorly executing a war — by that standard, James Madison might have spent his last years in a cell — but what needs to be considered is whether chiefs of state in democracies should be officially punished for undermining the process by which a major decision, like whether to go to war, is made. Bush and Blair will have gotten off scot free. In the U.S., the threat of impeachment for a “high crime” does not quite do it. There needs to be some kind of sanction that will give the next president and prime minister a second or third thought before he starts exaggerating the danger that the U.S. or the UK faces from an adversary.

Donald Trump’s Favorite Dictators

There are many things to fear about Donald Trump one of the most troubling of which is his apparent love for heinous dictators which suggests that he can see himself in such a role should he win the White House in November (should that happen, I will seriously move to confirm my dual citizenship and have an escape route in place).   Besides being a very sick narcissist, Trump seems to revel in authoritarianism - something that excites equally loathsome evangelical Christians.  And as with all things Trump, The Donald never can keep his mouth shut and keep his thoughts to himself.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at Trump's favorites from a list of villains in history.  Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump’s regular praise for authoritarian governments and dictators has come under fresh scrutiny this week following his latest laudatory comments about the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose human rights abuses and support for international terrorism made him a top enemy of the United States for decades.
“He was a bad guy, really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” Trump said during a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday evening. “They didn’t read them the rights — they didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over. 
The remarks have revived worries among Republican lawmakers and members of the party’s foreign-policy establishment, many of whom have become increasingly despondent over Trump’s loose and threatening rhetoric on international relations. Many critics in both parties also say that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is laying out an alarmingly dark worldview that should give voters serious pause.
“This follows a disturbing trend of Trump relating to the way brutal tyrants executed policy in their countries. I do think that there’s something dark about Trump’s view of the world,” said Republican strategist Tim Miller, a former Jeb Bush aide who has played an active role in the anti-Trump movement. “When a person running for president continually compliments brutal, undemocratic dictators and their methods, I think it’s fair to have some concerns that those are methods that they might be interested in deploying if necessary.”
He [Trump] also spoke dismissively in December about Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurds: “Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy. ‘Oh he’s using gas!’ ”
Trump has also repeatedly praised Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as “strong” leaders “unlike what we have in this country,” citing the control they have over their people. When Putin complimented Trump last year, Trump called it “a great honor,” . . . “Trump’s past comments on this were overshadowed by other crazier, wackier, more offensive things, but it stood out yesterday,” Miller said.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who has endorsed Trump, distanced himself forcefully from the candidate’s Hussein comments. “He was one of the 20th century’s most evil people. He was up there. He committed mass genocide against his own people using chemical weapons,” Ryan said on Fox News Channel late Tuesday.
Among other Republicans, Trump’s staunchest backers offered a full-throated defenses while others kept their distance Wednesday.
Trump’s free-wheeling rhetoric on foreign policy has presented tangible problems for his campaign, which has struggled to court respected foreign-policy minds. Many fear that their professional reputations would be damaged if they joined the Trump operation.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Trump’s latest remarks on Hussein. But in a March presidential debate, Trump was confronted over similar comments by CNN’s Jake Tapper, who pressed him on his positive remarks about authoritarian governments in China and Russia. Tapper asked Trump about his assertion in a 1990 Playboy interview that the Chinese government massacre of students in Tiananmen Square “shows you the power of strength.”
 There's more in the piece.  The take away? Be VERY afraid.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

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James Comey’s Abuse of Power

While many have let out a sigh of relief that the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice will not be seeking indictments against Hillary Clinton, some are saying that by abusing his power and not complying with past FBI practices, Director James Comey - a Republican - gave the Hillary haters in the GOP precisely what they wanted.   Typically, if the FBI fails to find adequate evidence to indict, the investigation simply quietly goes away, sometimes without even an official announcement.  I this know from personal experience in both instances where I have an outside expert for the FBI and where I have testified as a witness in FBI/Justice Department prosecutions. An op-ed in the Washington Post by Matthew Miller, the director of the Justice Department’s public affairs office from 2009 to 2011, tears Comey apart shows the irregularity of Comey's behavior.  Here are op-ed highlights:
When FBI Director James B. Comey stepped to the lectern to deliver his remarks about Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, he violated time-honored Justice Department practices for how such matters are to be handled, set a dangerous precedent for future investigations and committed a gross abuse of his own power.
Some have praised Comey’s remarks as much-needed truth-telling from a fearless, independent law-enforcement authority, an outcome Comey no doubt had in mind. But in fact, his willingness to reprimand publicly a figure against whom he believes there is no basis for criminal charges should trouble anyone who believes in the rule of law and fundamental principles of fairness.
Justice Department rules set clear guidelines for when it is appropriate for the government to comment about individuals involved in an ongoing investigation, which this matter was until prosecutors closed it Wednesday. Prosecutors and investigators can reassure the public that a matter is being taken seriously, and in some rare cases can provide additional information to protect public safety, such as when a suspect is loose and poses a danger.
And when the department closes an investigation, it typically does so quietly, at most noting that it has investigated the matter fully and decided not to bring charges.
These practices are important because of the role the Justice Department and FBI play in our system of justice. They are not the final adjudicators of the appropriateness of conduct for anyone they investigate. Instead, they build cases that they present in court, where their assertions are backed up by evidence that can be challenged by an opposing party and ultimately adjudicated by a judge or jury.
In a case where the government decides it will not submit its assertions to that sort of rigorous scrutiny by bringing charges, it has the responsibility to not besmirch someone’s reputation by lobbing accusations publicly instead. Prosecutors and agents have followed this precedent for years.
In this case, Comey ignored those rules to editorialize about what he called carelessness by Clinton and her aides in handling classified information, a statement not grounded in any position in law.
In several instances, Comey made assertions that are outside the authority of the FBI. He inserted himself into a long-standing bureaucratic battle between the State Department and the FBI and intelligence agencies, making claims about classification practices at the State Department that do not fall under his jurisdiction. He raised the possibility of administrative sanctions that could be taken, another decision that is not his to make — any such sanctions, if appropriate, would be decided by the State Department, not the director of the FBI.
Comey argued that his statement was appropriate because this case was a matter of unusual public interest. But the department investigates cases involving extreme public interest all the time — suspected terrorist acts, alleged civil rights violations by police and possible crimes by financial institutions, for example. It is for precisely these situations that the rules exist, so that the department cannot speak outside the bounds of court when it does not bring charges.
Imagine a situation in which the Obama Justice Department investigates major conservative activists such as the Koch brothers for possibly violating the law, but finding no reason to bring charges, the attorney general holds a news conference to outline all of the ways in which she finds their conduct deplorable. 
While Clinton shouldn’t have received special treatment, she does not deserve worse treatment from her government than anyone else, either. Yet by inserting himself into the middle of a political campaign and making unprecedented public assertions, that is exactly what Comey provided.
The entire exercise seemed designed to protect Comey’s reputation for integrity, while not actually demonstrating integrity. Real integrity is making a decision, conveying it in the ordinary channels, and then taking whatever heat comes. Generations of prosecutors and agents have learned to make the right call without holding a self-congratulatory news conference to talk about it. Comey just taught them a different lesson.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

USA Today to Sanders: Sorry, Losers Don't Get to Write the Rules.

I have laid off Bernie Sanders lately, but the man is truly annoying me - especially in my irritable post-hand surgery condition.  Despite having NO WAY to secure the nomination, especially in the wake of the FBI and Justice Department decisions that no indictments are to be made in the Clinton e-mail "scandal,"  Sanders just doesn't grasp the concept of losers not getting to set the rules.  I am increasingly coming to believe that Sanders' ego - and level of delusion? - is far worse than that of Donald Trump.  The editorial board at USA Today have apparently reached at state such as my own.  In an editorial, they slay Sanders and make the case that his Kool-Aid drinking followers cannot seem to grasp.  Here are highlights:
Bernie Sanders and the Golden State Warriors have something in common. They both finished second this year. The Warriors lost in the NBA finals to theCleveland Cavaliers, four games to three. And Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries by a tally of 15.8 million votes to 12 million, or 2,220 pledged delegates to 1,831.
But the runners-up are different in one respect. So far as we know, the Warriors have not demanded the firing of NBA CommissionerAdam Silver, or rules changes that would benefit its peerless perimeter shooter,Stephen Curry. (Instead, they worked within the free-agent system and signed superstar Kevin Durant on Monday.)
Sanders, on the other hand, has made a string of demands in the run-up to the Democratic convention later this month in Philadelphia. . . . . he's calling for open primaries and an end to superdelegates.
Sanders should not be dismissed out of hand, but nor should the Democratic Party bend over backward to accommodate him. He has little standing to make his case, having spent a lifetime in politics as an independent. He is asking for what previous second-place finishers did not. And, having lost the nomination, he will have decreasing sway over his supporters, many of whom are growing increasingly edgy about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.
What’s more, his list of demands on the platform could push the party too far to the left for its own good. A national $15 minimum wage could be devastating to rural areas. And his call for opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership would put the party at odds with President Obama.
Moreover, Sanders' demands on the mechanics of elections are selective, incomplete and self-serving. Take his call for open primaries, which allow people to ask for any party's ballot, no matter how they are registered. These play to Sanders' strengths because his anti-establishment views appealed to many independents. But they might not be in the best interest of the party. While Sanders did well with independent voters, so did Trump, suggesting that it might not always be progressives like the senator from Vermont who take advantage of open primaries.
Noticeably absent from Sanders’ list is a call for Democrats to replace their caucuses in 13 states, three territories and the District of Columbia with primary elections. Caucuses are by far the most undemocratic element of the nomination process. They disenfranchise people who work at night, have small children or otherwise can’t take a couple hours out of their schedules. . . . And he won big in caucus states he would have won narrowly in a primary.
Ultimately, Democrats should act in ways they think will help their candidates in the future, not let the second-place guy call the shots.