Monday, February 20, 2017

NBA and NFL Warn Texas that "Bathroom Bill" Could be Costly

One would think that the example of what happened to North Carolina after passage of HB2 - a heinous anti-LGBT, anti-civil rights bill backed by Republicans prostituting themselves to Christofascists - would chasten even the most whore like Republicans, but Texas Republicans seem hell bent to suffer similar economic consequences.  Now, both the NFL - which threatened that there would be no more Super Bowls held in Texas - has been joined by the NBA in issuing warnings to the state legislature.  Rational people would heed such warnings, but rationality and Christofascists and their political whores in the Republican Party are mutually exclusive.  LGBT Nation looks at the new NBA warnings to Texas.  Here are highlights:
The NBA is warning Texas over a proposed “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people that is similar to a North Carolina law that prompted the league to move the All-Star Game out of that state.
The NBA on Friday joined the NFL in suggesting that Texas will be overlooked for future big events if lawmakers pass a bill requiring people to use bathrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass says an environment where people are treated “fairly and equally” weighs heavily when the league chooses host locations. Texas has three NBA teams and has hosted three All-Star Games since 2006.
Charlotte was originally supposed to host the All-Star Game on Sunday. But the NBA moved the game to New Orleans after North Carolina adopted its “bathroom bill” last year.
It’s not as if Texas has not been warned before, either.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican, has voiced his opposition to the bill, calling it unequivocally bad for business.
This is a view shared by the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose president Phillip Jones told lawmakers economic fallout is inevitable.  “This is not speculation. This is facts, based on what we’ve seen first-hand,” he said.

ABC Anchor Trashes Trump Lies About the Media

In my view, Der Trumpenführer is rapidly pushing America towards a crossroads where either authoritarianism and propaganda based on lies will be rejected or the nation will go down the ugly road that has overtaken other nations in the past, with Germany and Italy being but two examples. Which path is taken will depend in large part on whether or not the media relentlessly confronts a would be autocrat and his enablers and insists on reporting the truth notwithstanding attacks and lies directed at it.  On This Week, Jonathan Karl laid into Donald Trump for his tweet attacking the “fake news media” and calling it an enemy of the American people, explaining that criticism of the press has a long and storied history involving U.S. presidents. Here is Karl’s full statement (transcript):
There’s been no shortage of outrage over the president’s statements on the press. But I’d like to close with a little perspective. There is nothing new about a President of the United States criticizing or even vilifying the press. Even Thomas Jefferson, the same Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence and who, ten years after that, wrote, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press” — even Thomas Jefferson, when he was a few years into his own presidency, was so upset about what was being written about his administration that he flatly declared, “Nothing can now be believed that is seen in a newspaper.”
Teddy Roosevelt, who now is next to Jefferson on Mt. Rushmore, once wrote, “To announce there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand with the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
I couldn’t agree more. But I also know that T.R. wrote that nearly a decade after he left office. When he was still in the White House, he coined the term “muckrakers” to denounce investigative journalists who he felt were so obsessed with the negative that they were missing the good in the world, including the good he was doing as president. Such negativity in the press, Roosevelt said, is one of the most potent forms of evil.
And that brings me to President Donald Trump, who has taken presidential criticism of the news media to yet another level. In a way, it surprised me. The Donald Trump I knew as a young reporter in New York was nothing if not media friendly. And for most of the past Republican primary, he was the most accessible major candidate. No one else was close.
At Thursday’s press conference, we saw flashes of that — seventeen reporters called on, many that he knew would ask tough questions. But now the president has declared the press the enemy of the American people.
I’ve reported in countries where leaders not only complain about a critical press, but also try to shut it down, throwing reporters in prison or worse. I’ve seen my colleagues risk their lives and, with increasing frequency, lose their lives in their pursuit of the truth. We are not about to stop doing our jobs because yet another president is unhappy with what he reads or hears or sees on TV news. There is a reason the founders put freedom of the press in the very first amendment to the Constitution.
As long as American democracy remains healthy, there will be reporters willing to pursue the truth, even if that means incurring the wrath of the most powerful person in the world. A free press isn’t the enemy of America; it’s a big part of why makes America great.
The media - or at least the honest media (which excludes Fox News, a/k/a Faux News) - MUST keep reporting on Trump and his henchmen and enablers in Congress.  The free press is in some ways all that stands between us and a dictatorship. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

“Religious Freedom" Laws Legalize Bigotry

One of the most serious threats facing freedom of religion for all Americans is the falsely named "religious freedom" bills pending in numerous state legislatures and in Congress under a bill ridiculously entitled the "First Amendment Defense Act" ("FADA") which destroys the religious freedom of everyone except Christofascists who would be in effect placed above the law.  Indeed, Christofascists would be allowed to ignore non-discrimination laws and public accommodation laws at will so long as they claimed to be acting in accord with their religious beliefs.  In his testimony before Congress, Rabbi David Saperstein summarized what these toxic laws permit:
This legislation would give many individuals, organizations, and corporations who claim a sincere religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage the right to deny employment and service to anyone they believed violated those beliefs:  individuals or families of LGBTQ people , unmarried mothers; divorced parents. If this is passed, we could expect to see discrimination in a range of areas where now it is barred.

While not cited, even one's use of contraception would be a basis for discrimination.  It is NOT just LGBT individuals who would be targeted, although we are obviously a primary target.  

A piece in Religion Dispatches looks at the disingenuousness of arguments that FADA would not legalized discrimination.  Here are article highlights:
National Review writer Alexandra Desanctis on Wednesday published a piece purporting to explain how recent conservative efforts to defend “religious freedom” aren’t really about discriminating against LGBT Americans.  Desanctis goes on to misrepresent almost every legislative and executive action she discusses. I can’t speak to any “malicious” intent of the author, but a cursory examination of her contemporaries reveals a lopsided tendency to use religion to justify anti-LGBT discrimination, then fall eerily silent when the religious freedom of non-Christians is threatened. The weaponized kind of “religious freedom” at issue in President Trump’s draft executive order is precisely the modern mutation of this foundational principle, which undoubtedly deserves to be placed in scare quotes, as publications ranging from New York magazine to the Wall Street Journal do.
Desanctis implies that “religious freedom” bills and the executive order are concerned only with marriage. And while the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges did directly deal with marriage equality (tossing a single sentence in Justice Kennedy’s masterful opinion to the anti-equality concerns of religious objectors), nearly every legislative effort billed as a protection of religious liberty since then has reached far beyond the county clerk’s office.
Desanctis herself mentions the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) as one prominent example of legislation introduced “to protect religious Americans who believe in heterosexual marriage.” Apart from neglecting to note that FADA does not protect religious Americans who believe in marriage equality (because they do exist), Desanctis declines to mention that the bill, as introduced last year, included provisions that would allow faith-based discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, and people of minority faiths.
Not only do religious freedom bills in general concern themselves with more than just marriage, but even the leaked draft order does so as well, explicitly targeting the validity of transgender identities by claiming that gender is an immutable characteristic defined by biology, anatomy, and a doctor’s declaration at birth.
By definition, the Americans who reject this biological essentialism are those who have experience with someone (or perhaps are themselves someone) whose gender identity differs from that which they were assigned at birth. Everyone else—indeed, the vast majority of Americans—are unlikely to critically analyze this provision, since most people’s sex assigned at birth corresponds with their internal sense of gender identity. This fact, however, has no bearing on the continued existence of trans people in America.
[I]n 30 states, it is expressly legal to fire someone because they are transgender. In 28 states, an employee could marry their same-sex spouse on Sunday, then be fired on Monday for putting a wedding photo on their desk. These aren’t hypothetical dilemmas—real people lose their livelihood every year because a supervisor didn’t approve of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
So while Desanctis points out that there is currently no law directly approving anti-LGBT discrimination, the policies she’s advocating for in her piece would change all that. The draft executive order, FADA, and similar “religious liberty” efforts nationwide would create a blanket license to discriminate, provided one claims their “sincerely held religious belief” has been offended. But even here, it’s important to note that the word “religious” is intended to mean “conservative Christian.” 

Attacks on the Free Press: How Dictatorships Begin

Numerous fact checking organizations have documented that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer on this blog, lies 76 to 80% of the time.  Often the lies are gratuitous and one wonders why the issue addressed even merits mention much less lying about it.  Others are far more sinister and it should be apparent to all except Der Trumpenführer's most extreme and/unthinking supporters that the man has an agenda: attack and destroy anything and anyone who sees through his lies or who diminishes his insatiable and delusional self-promotion.  The goal?  Much like that of Hitler and his propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels: destroy the free press and anything that can oppose their false narrative.  Sadly, Fox News and Breitbart are only too happy to fuel the false narrative.  Those that do not are now labeled "false news" as is every fact that undermines Der Trumpenführer's narcissistic view of himself or that calls into question his actions or self-enrichment.  An op-ed at CNN looks at the severe danger posed as does a piece in the New Yorker.  Here are highlights from CNN:
If you watched President Trump's astonishing press conference on Thursday, you might be forgiven for concluding that the most urgent problem facing America is that the media "is out of control." Some media "is fantastic," the president allowed. But on the whole, journalism is plagued by "false, horrible, fake reporting."
It's clear that America's new President has chosen his new best enemy. Now that the campaign is over and it's not very useful to drive the crowds into a frenzy of hatred against Hillary Clinton, Trump has found the new direction in which to focus his supporters' animosity. But this time, the anointed enemy serves an even more useful purpose.
On Friday, he made his point even more directly, tweeting "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!"
The advantages of having an enemy are well-known. In Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" -- suddenly a new best-seller in the Trump era -- the masses engage in a daily mandatory ritual, the "Two Minutes of Hate," during which their anger is feverishly stoked against the foe of the moment. Dictators, strongmen and autocrats have practiced the art of drumming up loathing toward others to great effect.
Trump . . . . .  knows that perceived enemies can help him fire up the base, rally the crowds and shift responsibility. Don't look at me, this script cries out; look over there, there is a threat, a danger, a foe.
When it comes to enemies, a demonized media is even more useful than the average antagonist.
Trump's real nemesis is the truth. By attacking the media, he opens up a new line of attack against facts, his true target. He is, after all, the Gaslighter in Chief. He is trying to confuse the public so that they will not believe inconvenient truths.
What he wants is to manufacture his own pseudo-truth; to create a reality where he always wins. Where the only polls that count are the ones where he's doing great. Where the only comments about him are compliments, and where anything negative is false, the work of an out-of-control media.
During Thursday's press conference, Trump unleashed torrents of lies, distortions and fabrications. When he said he won by the biggest Electoral College victory since Ronald Reagan, it took a reporter to point out that the last three presidents, Obama, Bush and Clinton, won by larger margins. He dismissed it all with a flippant, "Well, I don't know, I was given that information."
As the scandal surrounding his campaign's ties to Russia grows, Trump wants the public to think it's all the doing of the dishonest media. But journalists are not letting up, and the vast majority of Americans are not going to fall for Trump's tactics for very long. Even on the generally-supportive Fox News channel, the brave Shepard Smith called him out. "It's absolutely crazy," Smith said. "He keeps repeating ridiculous throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we're some kind of fools for asking the question."
When Trump says the people don't trust the media, he doesn't know that the media outlets the people don't trust are the ones he likes -- and like him in return; probably the ones he described as "fantastic."
Trump wants America to think that it is the media that is out of control, because he wants to control what people view as true and false. It seemed like a good plan, but it has a fatal flaw. People are learning the difference between good journalism and bad. 
The piece in the New Yorker looks further at the issue and the history of past distortions of the truth that have lead to horrific results.  Here are excerpts:
When the leaders of the Bolshevik movement—Lenin, Stalin, and the rest—used the term vrag naroda, an “enemy of the people,” it was an ominous epithet that encompassed a range of “wreckers” and “socially dangerous elements.” Enemies included clergy, intellectuals, monarchists, Trotskyists, “rootless cosmopolitans,” and well-to-do farmers. To be branded an enemy of the people was to face nearly inevitable doom . . . . . To be called an “enemy of the people” did not mean you had to hold oppositional thoughts or commit oppositional acts; it only meant that the dictator had included you in his grand scheme to insure the compliance of the population.
Robespierre, one of the architects of the Jacobin Reign of Terror, set out to “horrify” the opposition, and his instruments were the epithet, righteousness, and the blade. 
In 1917, the same year as the Bolshevik seizure of power, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin published an essay in Pravda called “Enemies of the People,” in which he lionized the Jacobin Terror as “instructive.” His party, “the Jacobins of the twentieth century,” he wrote, should follow suit, if not with the guillotine, then with mass arrests of “the financial magnates and bigwigs.” Once in power, Lenin was far more brutal than the revolutionary French.
Now, Donald Trump, the elected President of the oldest democracy on earth, a real-estate brander and reality-T.V. star, has taken not to Pravda but to his own preferred instrument of autocratic pronouncement—the tweet—to declare the media “the enemy of the American people.” 
For months, cool, responsible heads have been counselling hot, impulsive heads to avoid overreacting to Trump. We must give him a chance. We must not in all our alarm compare him to all the tin-pot dictators and bloody authoritarians who have disgraced history.  . . . . we were assured that everything was fine. He was simply fulfilling the agenda of his campaign. Calm down. Don’t react to every tweet. Don’t take the bait.
Then came his press conference, last week . . . . Trump instead took it upon himself to denounce repeatedly and at length the sinful, dishonest press and the “very fake news” it produces. It was unforgettable.
What Trump resembled at the lectern was an old-fashioned autocrat wielding a very familiar rhetorical strategy.
Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, makes the point that autocrats from Chávez to Erdoğan, Sisi to Mugabe, all follow a general pattern. They attack and threaten the press with deliberate and ominous intensity; the press, in turn, adopts a more oppositional tone and role. “And then that paves the way for the autocrat’s next move,” Simon told me. “Popular support for the media dwindles and the leader starts instituting restrictions. It’s an old strategy. 
At the same time, there are distinct signs that Trump is losing ground among members of the conservative media who had initially cut him some slack, not least because they felt the liberal media had been besotted by Barack Obama. The attacks on the legitimacy of the courts, on the intentions of the intelligence agencies, and on the patriotism of the press have become too evident, too repulsive to be discounted as mere sideshow. 
In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as in every genuinely authoritarian state, there are no “enemies”—or, at least, none with the capacity to challenge power. Calling on all the repressive means available in such a state—compliant courts and legislatures; the elimination of political competition; comprehensive censorship of television—soaring popularity ratings are achieved. President Trump may wish for such means, just as he wishes for such popularity. For all the chaos and resulting gloom these past weeks, it has been heartening to see so many “enemies of the American people”—protesters, judges, journalists, citizens of all kinds, even some members of Congress—do their work despite Presidential denunciation, not necessarily as partisans of one party or another but as adherents to a Constitution.

The resistance must continue and Trump must be driven from office, preferably after being found guilty of treason in such glaring terms that he and his agenda will be rejected by all but the most extreme racists, Christofascists and misogynists who have been the bedrock of his base. The man is unfit for office.  Oh, and if we are lucky, Mike Pence will be implicated as well. 

The Moral Collapse of the Republican Party

I left the Republican Party years ago as it was being infiltrated by Christofascists and the party began to trend towards the embrace of thinly veiled racists. Things have only gotten worse in the intervening years and self-prostitution, lying and hypocrisy are now prerequisites to GOP membership.  The irony is - if one doesn't regularly follow "family values" Christian groups - that these traits have intensified as the Christofascists have solidified their hold on the GOP base.   Oh, yes, there is still much bloviating about the party being the party of traditional morality and true patriotism.  Sadly, those claims have as much veracity as the drivel and bombast coming from the lips of Der Trumpeter who fact checking confirms lies roughly 80% of the time.  The result is that today's GOP poses a threat to America's national security.  A column in the New York Times looks at the moral decay of the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
The story so far: A foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a U.S. presidential candidate — and that candidate won. Close associates of the new president were in contact with the dictator’s espionage officials during the campaign, and his national security adviser was forced out over improper calls to that country’s ambassador — but not until the press reported it; the president learned about his actions weeks earlier, but took no action.
Meanwhile, the president seems oddly solicitous of the dictator’s interests, and rumors swirl about his personal financial connections to the country in question. Is there anything to those rumors? Nobody knows, in part because the president refuses to release his tax returns.
Maybe there’s nothing wrong here, and it’s all perfectly innocent. But if it’s not innocent, it’s very bad indeed. So what do Republicans in Congress, who have the power to investigate the situation, believe should be done?
Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, says that Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador were “entirely appropriate.”
Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, angrily dismissed calls for a select committee to investigate contacts during the campaign: “There is absolutely not going to be one.”
Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House oversight committee — who hounded Hillary Clinton endlessly over Benghazi — declared that the “situation has taken care of itself.”
Just the other day Republicans were hot in pursuit of potential scandal, and posed as ultrapatriots. Now they’re indifferent to actual subversion and the real possibility that we are being governed by people who take their cues from Moscow. Why?
[Y]ou can’t understand the mess we’re in without appreciating not just the potential corruption of the president, but the unmistakable corruption of his party — a party so intent on cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating banks and polluters and dismantling social programs that accepting foreign subversion is, apparently, a small price to pay.
[W]hile the potential scandal here is far worse than Watergate — Richard Nixon was sinister and scary, but nobody imagined that he might be taking instructions from a foreign power — it’s very hard to imagine today’s Republicans standing up for the Constitution the way their predecessors did.
So how does this crisis end?
It’s not a constitutional crisis — yet. But Donald Trump is facing a clear crisis of legitimacy. His popular-vote-losing win was already suspect given the F.B.I.’s last-minute intervention on his behalf. Now we know that even as the F.B.I. was creating the false appearance of scandal around his opponent, it was sitting on evidence suggesting alarmingly close relations between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. And nothing he has done since the inauguration allays fears that he is in effect a Putin puppet.
Again, a thorough, nonpartisan, unrestricted investigation could conceivably clear the air. But Republicans in Congress, who have the power to make such an investigation happen, are dead set against it.
The thing is, this nightmare could be ended by a handful of Republican legislators willing to make common cause with Democrats to demand the truth. And maybe there are enough people of conscience left in the G.O.P.
But there probably aren’t. And that’s a problem that’s even scarier than the Trump-Putin axis.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Russian Readership Soars

Thanks to the blogger template I use for this blog, I can track traffic from around the world.  As in the past, when I write about Trump, Putin and treason, the level of Russian readership soars.  Indeed, during the last week, readership from Russia almost equals the level of that from the USA.  Always reliable France comes in in third place (it is usually in second place).  The UK and Germany round out the top 5 countries.  Funny how trashing Trump plays well in Russia.    I guess I need to keep it up. :)

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2