Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Virginia Beach School Board's Anti-LGBT Ploy Backfires

All of my children attended the Virginia Beach public schools and for a time I was a pro-education activist striving to see programs that the city now boasts about put into place.  To say I was hated by some on City Council and the Virginia Beach School Board is probably not an overstatement. Frighteningly, some of the same players who in my opinion consistently put the best interest of students, especially those who were different, last are still on the School Board - Board Chairman Dan Edwards being a prime example. Now the Board has gotten itself embroiled in seemingly anti-LGBT controversy which is garnering national and international attention via the Washington Post and numerous LGBT blogs and news outlets.  Virginia Beach likes to see itself as a first class city, but until small minded individuals like Edwards are removed from positions of governance, the city will remain petty ante at best.  What I find most disturbing is that the mealy mouthed excuse given for cancelling a long scheduled gay-straight alliance assembly is that it suggests to me that the School Board may be cowering before demands of Christofascist within the city who are likely emboldened by Donald Trump's naming of anti-gay zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  The disturbing and to me telling part of the excuse is as follows via the Virginian Pilot:
Cox, a school division spokeswoman, said the event was postponed “ in order to give school organizers, led by school counselors, an opportunity to involve a variety of student and community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”
“The decision to postpone was made in an effort to be more inclusive of all groups and students, not to marginalize any particular student, group or organization,” Cox said.
If you haven't followed the activities of the Christofascists around the country - or even in Gloucester County where a pastor began the lynch mob mentality against Gavin Grimm's restroom usage - you might not catch the language that parrots their favorite excuse for torpedoing anything that might suggest that LGBT students have equal rights and should be free from bullying.  The language: "community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”

Translated, this means that the Christofascists - be they from Regent University, The Wave Church or other "Christian" groups dedicated to making life Hell for LGBT individuals as they force their beliefs on all - want to be involved to (i) kill any pro-LGBT activity, and (ii) argue that "tolerance" includes allowing them to persecute other citizens who do not share their beliefs.

I hope this story continues to get much media coverage and show Virginia Beach for the back water that it remains.  As the Virginian Pilot reports, there is growing blow back from citizens, including my friend Janet Wren Moore who addressed the School Board:
Hours after the school division announced that an assembly hosted by Cox High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance has been rescheduled for an evening in January, pushback from the community continued Tuesday night.
The assembly scheduled for Monday during school hours was to have included a speech by the president of Hampton Roads Pride and a question-and-answer panel hosted by students. School administration decided Sunday to postpone it.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Tuesday said it was looking into the postponement.
Speaking before the School Board, Janet Moore, a Hampton Roads Pride board member whose son came out as gay while attending Tallwood High, said the worry is that some students will not be able to attend the January event because it begins several hours after school ends.
She condemned the administration for making its decision to postpone the assembly less than 24 hours before it was scheduled, saying the students who planned it for months “didn’t have any time to regroup.”
“It’s unfortunately encouraging misunderstanding and mistrust – a fertilizer for bullying,” she said of the last-minute decision.
She wasn’t alone in her disappointment at the administration’s actions.
Nearly 200 people have signed an open letter [authored by friends' now adult daughter] in solidarity with Cox High’s Gay-Straight Alliance, many of them Virginia Beach parents or former students of the division.
The ACLU has requested access to or copies of records on speakers at school assemblies at the 12 high schools in the city dating back to September 2014.
“Students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, and content-based distinctions by the school division in the regulation of student speech would raise significant legal concerns,” said Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, executive director.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Kathleen Parker: The Electoral College Should be Unfaithful

Among the so-called conservative columnists Kathleen Parker has strayed more consistently from the GOP reservation than many.  That said, like David Brooks, Jennifer Rubin, and Michael Gerson, to name a few, she all too often nonetheless played the role of an apologist for the ugliest aspects of the Republican Party agenda and waited far too long to began calling the hate, racism and misogyny of the GOP base (which began to metastasize at least 20 years ago) for what it was and, in the process normalized what would become Donald Trump's main platform.  Now, in a column in the Washington Post, Parker calls for the Electoral College electors to do what responsible and morally decent Republican voters should have done during the election: reject Donald Trump.   Here are column highlights:
If you thought Donald Trump was the face of America’s anti-establishment movement, hold on to your chapeaus: A wild wind is rising.
Want to know what’s more anti-establishment than a president-elect who refuses to play by the rules? How about similarly spirited electors going AWOL and sending someone else to the Oval Office?
A movement headed by a mostly Democratic group calling itself Hamilton Electors is trying to persuade Republican electors to defect — not to cede the election to Hillary Clinton but to join with Democrats in selecting a compromise candidate, such as Mitt Romney or John Kasich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.
Mathematically, only 37 of Trump’s 306 electors are needed to bring his number down to 269, one less than the 270 needed to secure the presidency.
On the Hamilton Electors’ Facebook page, elector Bret Chiafalo, a Democrat from Washington, explains the purpose of the electoral college. If you haven’t previously been a fan of the electoral system, you might become one.
Bottom line: The Founding Fathers didn’t fully trust democracy, fearing mob rule, and so created a republic. They correctly worried that a pure democracy could result in the election of a demagogue (ahem), or a charismatic autocrat (ahem), or someone under foreign influence (ditto), hence the rule that a president must have been born in the United States. We know how seriously Trump takes the latter.
Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the electoral college was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.
It is worth noting that 50 former Republican national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter saying that Trump would be a “dangerous president.” Do we simply ignore them?
Alexander Hamilton, suddenly a star on both Broadway and Main Street, wrote that the electoral college “affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
Electors would prevent the “tumult and disorder” that would result from the candidate’s exploiting “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” Speaking of Trump. How wise our founders were. And how unwise are we to pay so little attention to their far keener insights.
It is, perhaps, a sign of these upside-down times that Democrats, usually preferring the popular vote, are suddenly genuflecting to the electoral college and Republicans, who so often defer to the founders’ original intent, shift principle so swiftly, presumably in hopes of taking the ultimate escalator ride in the golden palace of King Trump. Tut-tut.
Meanwhile, those on both sides who remain opposed to Trump are dismissed as either sorry losers or as dining on crow and sour grapes. But the stakes are too high — and the evidence of Trump’s presidential aptitude deficit too severe — for such trivializing designations. His demonstrated lack of judgment and impulse control should send shivers down the spines of all Americans in consideration of the nuclear arsenal he is poised to have at his fingertips.
Trump’s friends have told me they’re confident he’ll solemnly respect the burden of such power, but nothing thus far justifies their faith. After his election victory, Trump hasn’t much bothered himself with intelligence briefings. He ignored 37 years of diplomatic precedent by chatting with the president of Taiwan, upsetting China. He spoke like an inarticulate ninth-grader with Pakistan’s prime minister, according to that country’s readout. 
Electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their respective states to cast their final ballots. If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written.  Please, be brave.
As noted in a post over the weekend, there were numerous times that Germans could have halted Hitler's rise to power.  Then, as I fear will prove true on December 19, 2016, courage was in short supply and too many decent individuals shrugged their shoulders and took the easy way out.  That easy way out proved catastrophic for Germany and the world. 

Electoral College Elector: Why I Will Not Cast My Vote for Trump

I have addressed the founders' purpose in writing the Electoral College into the United States Constitution - to protect the nation from a demagogue who would undermine the constitutional order. Yes, Alexander Hamilton had his issues not withstanding the hit musical Hamilton.  But he and other members of the authors of the Constitution tried to guard against all contingencies, including efforts by foreign rulers to bribe America's political leaders.  The so-called Emoluments Clause had this specific purpose and with every passing day Trump has revealed his intention to ignore the Emoluments clause and to enrich himself and his family members as much as possible.  On December 19, 2016, the Electoral College electors will cast their votes to finalize the 2016 election results.  One Texas elector has an op-ed piece in the New York Times explaining why he will not cast his vote for Donald Trump.  Here are op-ed highlights:
DALLAS — I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think presidents-elect should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.
Fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. That attack and this year’s election may seem unrelated, but for me the relationship becomes clearer every day.
George W. Bush is an imperfect man, but he led us through the tragic days following the attacks. His leadership showed that America was a great nation. That was also the last time I remember the nation united. I watch Mr. Trump fail to unite America and drive a wedge between us.
Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of “Saturday Night Live” for bias. He tweets day and night, but waited two days to offer sympathy to the Ohio State community after an attack there. He does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage.
This is unacceptable. For me, America is that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan envisioned. It has problems. It has challenges. These can be met and overcome just as our nation overcame Sept. 11.
The United States was set up as a republic. Alexander Hamilton provided a blueprint for states’ votes. Federalist 68 argued that an Electoral College should determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence. Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards. Given his own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.
I owe a debt to my children to leave them a nation they can trust.
Mr. Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief. During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, “he would be a dangerous president.” During the campaign Mr. Trump even said Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This encouragement of an illegal act has troubled many members of Congress and troubles me.
Hamilton also reminded us that a president cannot be a demagogue. Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it.
Finally, Mr. Trump does not understand that the Constitution expressly forbids a president to receive payments or gifts from foreign governments. We have reports that Mr. Trump’s organization has business dealings in Argentina, Bahrain, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest. He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Mr. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue.
The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be.
Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Click image to enlarge

Anti-Gay Betsy DeVos Seeks to Inject Right Wing Christianity into Public Education

One thing is always a constant with the Christofascists: they believe that everyone must adhere to their beliefs and they will resort to any means to accomplish the imposition of their version of Sharia law on all.  With Donald Trump's selection of a cast of the most racists and reactionary individuals in recent memory for his cabinet, religious freedom for non-Christofascists will be under attack. Indeed, Betsy DeVos wants to inject right wing Christianity back into the public schools to do "advance God's kingdom," as defined, of course by Ms. DeVos and her fellow extremists.  Among those specifically targeted by DeVos are gays against whom she has long wage war going all the way back to the 1990's when she and other zealots mapped out a plan to defeat the "homosexual agenda"  and "organized homosexuality."  DeVos has been a huge bank roller for anti-gay and anti-religious freedom groups ever since.   The Advocate looks at DeVos' frightening vision for public education as she works to dismantle it.  Here are excerpts:
Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of Education, compared her work in public education reform to the battle of David and Goliath, and said she wants to "advance God's kingdom."
In an audio clip exclusively obtained by Politico, Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, revealed how their religion fuels their drive to reform public education.
The audio from a 2001 conference known as "The Gathering," an annual meeting featuring some of the nation's most wealthy Christians, DeVos, and her husband, Dick DeVos, were interviewed about a failed Michigan ballot initiative that was going to amend the state's constitution to allow public funds to be used on private and religious schools. The couple backed the initiative.
Betsy DeVos is also not exactly a friend to public education. An advocate of school choice, she believes government bodies should provide vouchers to parents who want to send their children to private schools but can’t afford them.
They also commented on how public education has "displaced" the place of the church at the center of communities, and they said that providing parents with school choice is one way to undo that displacement.
Betsy and Richard DeVos have previously provided funding to antigay initiatives. They headed the effort to amend Michigan’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and gave $200,000 to the campaign, Raw Story notes. Voters approved the amendment in 2004; it was struck down, along with other states’ anti–marriage equality laws, by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

A transcript from one of the meetings of "The Gathering" provides more insight into the bizarre and obsessed world of DeVos as others like her.  The agenda? To infiltrate the public schools and oppose everything from the "safe schools" concept which argues that schools should be a refuge for all students to stamping out gay-straight alliances.  That DeVos will be in a position to implement some of her agenda is frightening.  Not only LGBT individuals and their friends and families but anyone who believes in religious freedom for all Americans should be very, very  disturbed.

Are HGTV's Joanna and Chip Gaines Typical Anti-Gay Hypocrites?

One of the favorite tactics of anti-gay Christian zealots - hate merchants is actual a more appropriate term - is to the claim that they and their ignorance and hate based beliefs deserve to be treated with respect and tolerance even as they spread lies and hatred about LGBT citizens who are merely seeking the same civil rights that heterosexuals have enjoyed for centuries. Somehow in the bizarre world of the Christofascists their efforts to criminalize other citizens and strip them of civil rights deserves the same "tolerance" as the efforts of those who seek to end discrimination, mistreatment of others, the discarding of children by their "godly Christian" parents, and oppose to quack "experts" who claim that sexual orientation is as choice and can be "changed" if one merely resolves to "stop sinning."  If nothing else, the recent presidential election has served to unmask many who are seemingly more motivated by hatred of others, a desire to hold onto white privilege, and to inflict their religious views on all (for these folks, religious freedom only applies to them and no one else). Now, thanks to BuzzFeed we have learned that "Fixer Upper" stars Joanna and Chip attend a church headed by a stridently anti-gay pastor who opposes gay rights and support "ex-gay" conversion therapy that is condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America,  As the piece also pointed out, the Gaines, unlike many of the remodeling and flip shows on HGTV, do mot work with same sex couples.  Here are highlights from the BuzzFeed piece:
Chip and Joanna Gaines’ series Fixer Upper is one of the most popular shows on HGTV. The couple has recently graced the cover of People magazine; their book, The Magnolia Story, has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for five weeks; and they were the subject of a long profile in Texas Monthly that credited them with revitalizing the city of Waco, Texas, where the show is set and where their businesses are located. The couple are riding a wave of success, largely due to their charm and appeal. 
They are also, as they detail in The Magnolia Story, devout Christians — Joanna has spoken of and written about her conversations with God. (God told her both to close her store to spend time with her children, and then to reopen it a few years later.) Their church, Antioch Community Church, is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. And their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as “dear friends” in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.
 So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. HGTV’s PR department did not respond to initial emails and calls. Two days after this story was published, they released the following statement: “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”
 Seibert clearly does not offer any wiggle room on the issue, as he says emphatically in his sermon: “Business leaders, you will have to be clear about who you are. And you will have to be willing to stand to lose even a deal or two or 
While Joanna and Chip Gaines have yet to directly respond to requests for comment, the usual suspects and "news" outlets like Breitbart, The Federalist and The Christian Post to name a few are rallying to the Gaines' defense and attacking the author of the BuzzFeed piece while fanning the flames of the carefully manufactured myth that American Christians are being persecuted.  Anything rather than admit the truth that what is really happening is that many - perhaps a majority in society - are finally saying "enough!" to the Christofascists' persecution of others.  In the sick minds of the Christofascists, being challenged about their centuries of mistreatment and persecution of others somehow equates to persecution.

As for Joanna and Chip Gaines, until they have the spine to publicly respond to the allegations, the husband and I will no longer be watching their show (which until now had been a favorite).  Their silence seems to be an admission that they support their pastor's foul and scientifically false views.  Yes, the Gaines are free to believe such horrible lies if they choose and attend a church that preaches hate - they reportedly attend the church this past weekend - but the rest of us are equally free to change channels when their show comes on and to avoid purchasing any merchandise connected to them.  Whether the Christofascists like it or not, freedom of religion is a two way street and Joanna and Chip Gaines may be about to receive a harsh lesson in that reality if they do not disclaim their church's toxic anti-gay lies.  They might even want to have a chat with the Benham brothers who destroyed their own careers.

From my own experience, sexual orientation is not a choice.  Embracing ignorance, anti-science myths, and hatred towards others in contrast is 100% a choice. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Betrayal of Democracy by "Moderate" Conservatives

I suspect that history will blame much of the mainstream media for enabling the rise of Donald Trump and the extremism that has devoured the Republican Party.  During the Obama presidency, "moderate" conservatives who never did anything to support or defend the legitimacy of America's first black president did nothing to condemn or criticize the growing extremism and out right racism, religious fanaticism, and bigotry of the Republican Party.  Only when it was too late did the likes of David Brooks, Michael Gerson and a host of others begin a rear guard effort to stop Trump.  But it was too little and much too late.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this failure and targets Brooks in particular although the criticism applies to many who foolishly see themselves as "moderates".  Here are highlights:
Of all the failures that have led to the historical disaster of the Trump presidency, perhaps the least-remarked-upon is the abdication of responsibility of the American center. Those of us with moderate inclinations need an effective center as a brake against extremism. When one party veers too far from the center, the center joins the opposing party, until the extreme one can be coaxed back into the mainstream. David Brooks calls for a rejuvenation of the center under the Trump presidency. But Brooks himself is the perfect encapsulation of why the center has proven so hapless, allowing itself to enable extremism rather than prevent it.
The premise of Brooks’s column is that there needs to be space “between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.” This is a terrible way to conceptualize the political map. First, it distorts the ideas of the two sides, equating a small-d democrat like Sanders (who merely proposes more regulation, taxes, and spending) with Trump, who — as Brooks concedes — is authoritarian. And second, it distorts their power. Sanders remains a left-wing outlier among his party, while Trump is the dominant force within his.
Brooks spent the last eight years defining the center as something Obama was not. It didn’t matter that Obama supported a health-care plan first devised by Mitt Romney, or a cap-and-trade plan endorsed by John McCain. Brooks nestled himself into the territory between Obama and the angry, no-compromise Republicans who were shutting down government and boycotting all negotiations with the president. If Obama endorsed the policies Brooks preferred, he would simply pretend that Obama had not proposed them. Indeed, one of the most common genres of David Brooks column was a sad lament that neither party would endorse policies that in fact Obama had explicitly and publicly called for.
If Obama offered a deal to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody was willing to raise taxes through tax reform while reducing entitlements. If Obama favored education reform, an infrastructure bank, and more high-skill immigration, Brooks would write a sad column about how nobody favored those things. 
The effect of all this commentary was not to empower the moderate ideas Brooks favored, but to disempower them. Brooks was emblematic of the way the entire bipartisan centrist industry conducted itself throughout the Obama years. It was neither possible for Obama to co-opt the center, nor for Republicans to abandon it, because official centrists would simply relocate themselves to the midpoint of wherever the parties happened to stand. The well-documented reality that the parties were undergoing asymmetric polarization was one they refused to accept, because their jobs was to be bipartisan, and it is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon not understanding it.
The centrists could have played a role in braking the growing extremism of the Republican Party. It would have meant telling the country that there was now one moderate, governing party and one extremist faction, and parking themselves with the moderate party until such time as the dynamic changed. They could not do it. If there’s not much of a center left to stop Trump from trampling democratic norms, it is because the centrists abdicated their responsibility and destroyed themselves.