Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Male Beauty

Paris 2015 - Day 1

We finally landed in Paris around 11:30, nearly 3 hours after our scheduled arrival.  Once again based on our experiences, US Airways/American Airlines proved that it is a carrier to be avoided when possible.  We left Norfolk so late that we had to literally run between concourses to make check in on our flight to Paris which turned out to be yet another demonstration of incompetence on its own.  First, out on the taxiway, the plane's brakes began acting up - one would think everything would have been checked before we pushed off from the gate - which required a return to the terminal for repairs.  Meanwhile, some geniuses among the flight crew allowed some passengers off the plane without apparently keeping track of who they were.  As a result, the entire plane load of nearly 260 passengers had to deplane and then re-check in and re-board.  Three hours later, we finally took off.

Thankfully, our driver who was to pick us up followed the misadventures of or flight and was waiting for us at Charles De Gaulle airport and our trip to the apartment was smooth.  Views from the balcony of our apartment are above.  After unpacking we walked around in the Left Bank and had lunch and much needed cocktails.  Now, some are going to nap while yours truly is going to walk around Ile de la Cite.  Later, we are going to dinner at Le Dome du Marais which comes highly recommended by friends (see image below).  

Tomorrow we are off to Versailles.  I cannot wait.  When I was in Paris many years ago on business, I never made it out to Versailles.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Paris Bound - Posting

The husband and I leave with our friends for Paris today.  As such, posting will likely not resume until sometime tomorrow evening Paris time.  Our group heads to the airport early this afternoon and I am largely packed and set to go, although I will go to the office this morning for a few hours.  As is my custom, I will post about our travels and whatever else strikes my fancy over the coming week.  As I have said before, we'd love to hear from French readers - after the USA, of late France is the second highest country with page views - and perhaps meet up with some of you in Paris. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty

The GOP Clown Car: A Gift to Hillary Clinton

Despite the efforts of the right wing pundits to slime her - and liberal policies in general - to date the GOP attacks don't seem to be gaining much traction and, if anything, Hillary looks better and better simply because she is not one of the occupants of the GOP clown car of presidential contenders, declared or not.  The prospects of just how insane the GOP candidates will become as they pander to the evangelical voters in Iowa and South Carolina must be putting a smile on Hillary's face.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the phenomenon.  Here are excerpts:
At this point in the campaign, do you see the Republican presidential hopeful who’s going to beat Hillary Clinton? I didn’t think so.

Not if what we’re watching now is the best the GOP can do. Maybe a thoroughbred will emerge from the coming debates, assuming the party finds a way to cram all the candidates onto the same stage. So far, however, most of the GOP field seems to be in a contest to make the likely Democratic nominee look better. Jeb Bush has been the biggest disappointment. It’s one thing to be rusty after spending a few years away from politics — indeed, Clinton’s handling of her e-mail controversy was less than balletic. But Bush shows no sign of having given more than a passing thought to the central challenge he faces in reaching the White House: the fact that his brother got there first and made a mess of things.

This week, Jeb Bush struggled to deal with his brother’s biggest Middle East blunder: the invasion of Iraq. He sounded as if it had never occurred to him that someone might raise the subject.

Mistakes were definitely made in that answer, and other GOP contenders quickly piled on. Sen. Ten Cruz of Texas said that “of course” he would not have invaded, because “the entire predicate of the war against Iraq was the intelligence that showed they had weapons of mass destruction and that there was a real risk they might use them.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that “I don’t think you can honestly say that, if we knew then that there was no WMD, that the country should have gone to war.” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said that it was “a real problem if [Bush] can’t articulate what he would have done differently” and that “I thought the war, even at the time, was a mistake.”

How could he not anticipate that his brother’s and father’s presidencies might occasionally come up? How could he not formulate talking points on Iraq, commit them to memory and practice his delivery until they became pure reflex? Either Bush learns to deal with these dynasty questions, or the dynasty ends.

But hardly anyone is getting anything that looks like traction. There are far too many contestants to mention them all, but let’s start with Cruz, Paul and Christie, who remain stuck in the single digits in most polls. The same is true of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson got a bump from his formal announcement, but since he has never held elective office and believes Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery, I’m betting his prospects are limited.

This leaves a top tier of Bush, who can’t get out of his own way; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who seems to be fading; and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the flavor of the month, who hopes to win by propounding a robust, interventionist, Bush-like foreign policy, but without the whole Iraq part.

GOP to Hillary Clinton: Have a nice summer.

The GOP Fraternity of Failure

I have often noted that one of the consequences of not knowing accurate history is that mankind - or in this case, America - is doomed to repeat past mistakes.  An example?  No one was successful in subduing Afghanistan since the time of Alexander the Great, not the British, not the Russians, or, as time has shown, America.  Invading Iraq with no concern for the region's history and artificial creation following World War I only exacerbated the disaster.  Republicans, however, rather than knowing and remembering accurate history prefer to rewrite the inconvenient parts and/or seemingly suffer from amnesia.  Jeb Bush's incredibly insane remark of invading Iraq is a case in point.  But it is only one of a long list of issues on which the GOP refuses to face reality and what history teaches.  A column in the New York Times looks at this problem that plagues all of the GOP presidential contenders, but Jebbie worse of all.  Here are highlights:
Jeb Bush wants to stop talking about past controversies. And you can see why. He has a lot to stop talking about. But let’s not honor his wish. You can learn a lot by studying recent history, and you can learn even more by watching how politicians respond to that history.

The big “Let’s move on” story of the past few days involved Mr. Bush’s response when asked in an interview whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He answered that yes, he would. No W.M.D.? No stability after all the lives and money expended? No problem.

Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time” is a “disservice” to those who served in the war.

Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews.

Wait, there’s more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that “mistakes were made.” Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who’s-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.

Seriously, consider that list, which includes such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, who insisted that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would cost almost nothing, and Michael Chertoff, who as director of the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina was unaware of the thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water.

In Bushworld, in other words, playing a central role in catastrophic policy failure doesn’t disqualify you from future influence. If anything, a record of being disastrously wrong on national security issues seems to be a required credential.

Voters, even Republican primary voters, may not share that view, and the past few days have probably taken a toll on Mr. Bush’s presidential prospects. In a way, however, that’s unfair. Iraq is a special problem for the Bush family, which has a history both of never admitting mistakes and of sticking with loyal family retainers no matter how badly they perform. But refusal to learn from experience, combined with a version of political correctness in which you’re only acceptable if you have been wrong about crucial issues, is pervasive in the modern Republican Party.

Take my usual focus, economic policy. If you look at the list of economists who appear to have significant influence on Republican leaders, including the likely presidential candidates, you find that nearly all of them agreed, back during the “Bush boom,” that there was no housing bubble and the American economic future was bright; that nearly all of them predicted that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the economic crisis that developed when that nonexistent bubble popped would lead to severe inflation; and that nearly all of them predicted that Obamacare, which went fully into effect in 2014, would be a huge job-killer.

Given how badly these predictions turned out — we had the biggest housing bust in history, inflation paranoia has been wrong for six years and counting, and 2014 delivered the best job growth since 1999 — you might think that there would be some room in the G.O.P. for economists who didn’t get everything wrong. But there isn’t.

What’s going on here? My best explanation is that we’re witnessing the effects of extreme tribalism. On the modern right, everything is a political litmus test. Anyone who tried to think through the pros and cons of the Iraq war was, by definition, an enemy of President George W. Bush and probably hated America; anyone who questioned whether the Federal Reserve was really debasing the currency was surely an enemy of capitalism and freedom.

It doesn’t matter that the skeptics have been proved right. Simply raising questions about the orthodoxies of the moment leads to excommunication, from which there is no coming back. So the only “experts” left standing are those who made all the approved mistakes.

It’s kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it. Will they get the chance to add more chapters to their reign of error?
Personally, I believe a main reason why the GOP is plagued by this mindset/blindness is the rise of the Christofascists in the party base.  When your party's base clings to the myths/writings of ignorant Bronze Age herders and hill fort leaders over objective reality and science, as a party you are doomed to the behavior of which the author complains.  Embracing ignorance and putting ideology over reality is not a virtue and ought to disqualify anyone from holding high political office.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

More Thursday Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

Publisher of "Clinton Cash" Hit Piece Corrects Inaccuarcies

I am certainly no Clinton apologists and supported Barack Obama in 2008.  That said, as noted in prior posts, the book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” which excited the far right blogosphere and right wing pundits. (i) found now smoking guns and (ii) was authored by an individual with right wing ties.  Now, the publisher HarperCollins has corrected "7 or 8 inaccuracies" some of which underscore the less than credible "research" done by the book's author.  A piece in Politico looks at HarperCollins' damage control and corrections.  Needless to say, the book's author is trying to down play his work which sought to maximize sensation while ignoring factual accuracy.  Here are excerpts:
In trying to defuse the potential damage of the buzzy book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” Hillary Clinton’s campaign and its allies seized on factual errors identified in author Peter Schweizer’s reporting.

Now, at least for Kindle eBook readers, those passages with errors have been deleted or edited in an updated version of the book.

Amazon on Tuesday blasted out an alert to purchasers of the book . . . . notifying them that “significant revisions have been made.”

“An updated version of your past Kindle purchase … is now available,” reads the email. “The updated version contains the following changes: Significant revisions have been made.”

Among them, Schweizer says in the original version of the book that TD Bank, a major shareholder in the Keystone XL pipeline, paid Bill Clinton for speeches and then said it would “begin selling its $1.6 billion worth of shares in the massive but potentially still-born [sic] Keystone XL crude pipeline project” after Hillary Clinton left office. But as his source on the sale of TD Bank’s shares, Schweizer used a press release that was revealed to be fake in 2013.   That passage has been removed from the most recent Kindle version of the book.

Schweizer also appears to have edited a passage in which he claims Bill Clinton was paid $200,000 per speech by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien for three speaking engagements he delivered in Ireland. The implication was that, while Hillary Clinton’s State Department was giving O’Brien’s company taxpayer money through the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative, “O’Brien was in turn making money for the Clintons.”

But Clinton was not paid personally for those speeches, according to his spokesman. And the Clinton Foundation was paid for just one of the three speeches. 

The new version deletes any mention that Clinton was paid for those speeches, and edited a claim that Clinton received $225,000 for a speech in Jamaica sponsored in part by O’Brien’s company Digicel. Another edit appears to have been made on the timing of a speech Clinton gave in Jamaica, which was also paid for by O’Brien.
Sadly, the Clinton haters of the far right could care less about the truth.  After, all these are the same lunatics who continue to cling to the myth that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and isn't a a natural born American citizen.  The embrace of ignorance on the right is near complete.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Jeb Bush's "W Problem" Persists

Some accuse Hillary Clinton of having a sense of entitlement and a coronation for the presidential candidate nomination for her party.  Perhaps they have her confused with Jeb "Jebbie" Bush who seems to have a major sense of entitlement problem and an exemption from having to face the consequences of all of the disasters his feckless brother brought on America.  You know, things like admitting that his brother set the stage for the rise of ISIS and the continuing chaos in the Middle East.  Try as Jebbie might to blame the Obama administration for the current state of affairs, the facts all track back to the Chimperator's regime and a war that was launched on the basis of what are now known to have been deliberate lies.  Republicans are trying to tarnish Hillary Clinton on her vote for war, but her response really only needs to be that she, like much of the nation, was duped by Bush/Cheney lies.  A piece in the New York Times looks at Jebbie's ongoing "W problem."  Here are highlights:
A young woman berated Jeb Bush in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday for his brother’s bungled war in Iraq, saying it had spawned the group calling itself the Islamic State. “Your brother created ISIS,” she declared. Mr. Bush said he “respectfully” disagreed.

A middle-aged man pressed Mr. Bush to answer whether he would have supported the 2003 Iraqi invasion given the intelligence known today. Mr. Bush acknowledged mistakes but sprinkled in praise. “I give him credit,” he said of his brother, for the 2007 troop surge.

Mr. Bush began exploring a presidential run by declaring that he would be his own man. But he is struggling to navigate his relationship with George W. Bush and his legacy. He has fumbled the most basic, predictable questions about the Iraq war — while behind the scenes, he has assured skeptical conservatives that he draws wisdom and important counsel from the former president.

[I]t also reflects Mr. Bush’s challenge in trying to deal with a fractured electorate in which some conservatives cling to the former president, but he remains a focus of anger across much of the rest of the political spectrum.

Mr. Bush is being confronted with a distressing realization: He may now need to lean on his brother to survive the Republican primary, despite the damage that could do to Mr. Bush in a general election.  In private conversations, Mr. Bush’s allies have often taken note that his brother’s approval ratings among likely primary and caucus voters are sky high.  Quinnipiac University survey this month showed George W. Bush’s favorability at 81 percent among likely Republican caucusgoers in Iowa. People familiar with Republican polling in South Carolina say the former president’s numbers are similarly strong among primary voters there.

In both states, conservative Christians, who were among the most devoted members of George W. Bush’s coalition in 2000, are major factors. Jeb Bush, whose positions on immigration reform, education standards and other issues have cost him, could benefit from his brother’s reflected glow with evangelicals.

Matthew Dowd, a strategist who worked on George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign, warned that Mr. Bush’s strong approval ratings do not translate into voters wanting to see his third term in office.
“And I think that’s the quandary that Jeb’s now got himself in.

[E]ven as Mr. Bush seeks to present a forward-looking vision, he can count on having to answer questions about — if not answer for — his brother’s two terms in office. 

If he is successful in winning the Republican nomination, Mr. Bush would probably be pressed on the issue of same-sex marriage — which his brother used as a wedge issue to boost conservative voter turnout in his 2004 re-election campaign. He could also face revived complaints about how his brother’s administration responded to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But no issue is as fraught for Mr. Bush as the Iraq war. During a television interview this week, Mr. Bush suggested that he still supported invading Iraq even with hindsight knowledge about intelligence failures. He later said he had misunderstood an interviewer’s question, but refused to answer it, saying it was a “hypothetical.” On Wednesday, he said such hypotheticals were insensitive to the families of fallen soldiers in the war.

Some of Mr. Bush’s allies complain that he is in a no-win situation.

Gay Marriage: The 21st Century Beckons the GOP

When one looks at the basic aspects of the Republican Party today, the main theme is opposition to modernity and a desire to drag the country back in the past (the 1890's or earlier) be it in the form of returning to the days when blacks were disenfranchised, gays remained closeted and invisible, women knew their place, and the economy functioned for the benefit of the robber barons.  And, of course, back then, white privilege in ever aspect was unchallenged.  For these people, the 21st century is nothing short of terrifying.  As a column in the Washington Post notes, gay marriage is but one way the GOP can accept the 21st century and move forward.  Here are excerpts:
Ah, Texas. The Loon Star State whose governor two weeks ago stirred paranoia by calling up the State Guard to keep tabs on U.S. military exercise because of fears of a rumored “invasion.” Now, the state’s legislature is on the verge of passing a law that would prohibiting clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, thereby defying a presumed Supreme Court ruling in June in favor of marriage equality. This isn’t just a Texas problem. It’s a Republican Party problem. The GOP continues to shake its fist at the 21st century as the rest of the nation and world moves forward into the modern world.

[T]here is a message for the Republican Party on same-sex marriage in British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decisive reelection last week. Supporting marriage equality is not anathema to conservatism and won’t hurt you at the polls. Turns out, David Frum of the Atlantic agrees.
“Center-right leaders are in charge of every one of America’s closest English-speaking allies,” he writes. The conservative parties in those allied nations, he notes, “have updated for the 21st century their core message of respect for family, work, and community.” 
Frum adds, 
“All have accepted gay equality, with Australia on the verge of a parliamentary vote to permit same-sex marriage.….”

[Y]ou need a conservatism that makes its peace with the actual changes that have come to the society. The point is to govern the society you have, not the society you imagine you once had or wish you might have in the future. You were elected by the voters of today. And one of the great conservative virtues is realism and to take people as they are. 
The Texas move to bar the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is a prime example of a conservatism that has not made peace with the actual changes that have come to society. As are the so-called religious freedom laws that use scripture to hide flagrant prejudices behind God’s grace. 

[T]here are plenty of people in the GOP trying to change the party on same-sex marriage. Much has been written about the deep-pocketed Republicans like Paul Singer  . . . . And then there are the millennials. Citing a 2014 Pew Research Center poll in an op-ed for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a Virginia group called NextGen GOP notes that “61 percent of Republicans under 30 favor same-sex marriage.”

Those crazy kids are hosting “An Open Conversation about Gay Marriage” event on May 20 in Arlington, Va. Bravo to them. They and others will drag the Republican Party into the 21st century on marriage equality — eventually. It’s a pity something so vital to the GOP’s future involves so much kicking and screaming.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Anti-Gay Missouri GOP Representative Caught in Sex Scandal With Barely Legal Intern

As I have noted over and over again, it seems that it is always "family values," anti-gay Republicans (most of whom seem to be fat and singularly unattractive) who are the ones caught in titillating sex scandals.   The latest hypocrite to get caught is Missouri House Speaker John Diehl who has been linked to a college freshman in a Missouri Capitol internship program.  Diehl - who has been married to a woman for 23 years and  has three children - in true "Christian" fashion at first tried to lie about the inappropriate relationship.  In the past, Diehl sponsored a bill to ban gay-straight alliance clubs in public schools. He also filed an anti-gay marriage amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit much to the praise of hate group Family Research Council.   The Kansas City Star has details on Diehl's conduct and the scandal.  Here are highlights: 
Text messages obtained by The Star reveal a sexually charged relationship between House Speaker John Diehl and a college freshman in a Missouri Capitol internship program that shut down abruptly last month.

The conversations unveil a flirty rapport and suggest an intimacy between arguably the state’s most influential lawmaker and a young woman taking some pleasure in a secret association.

Diehl initially declined to comment. But about six hours after the story was posted online Wednesday morning, he issued a statement admitting the relationship.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and am truly sorry to those I let down,” Diehl’s statement said. “I apologize for the poor judgment I displayed that put me and those closest to me in this situation. I also regret that the woman has been dragged into this situation. The buck stops here. I ask for forgiveness. I will begin immediately working to restore the trust of those closest to me, and getting back to the important work that is required in the final days of session.”

Read more here:

Read more here:
The discovery of the text messages between Diehl and the intern follows a decision by Missouri Southern State University to end its Capitol internship program more than a month prematurely.

Richard Miller, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Missouri Southern, told The Star that the school pulled its four interns out of the state Capitol this spring after an unspecified incident. Yet Miller, citing student privacy laws, declined to be more specific about what led the university to end the internships.

Read more here:

I suspect that Diehl's apology isn't worth a damn.  He obviously cares nothing about "the sanctity of marriage" and is only sorry that he got caught.


Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Why You Can’t Kill the Christian Right Yet

As noted in a post yesterday, the number of Americans identifying as Christians  is falling and the numbers of the "nones" is soaring.  Long term, this should be welcomed news to anyone who supports the concept of separation of church and state and who recognizes that religion's main fruit is hate and division.  The bad news is that evangelical Christians remain a metastasizing cancer in the Republican Party and they are increasingly becoming dominionists who want their toxic brand of Christianity to set public policy for America and seem only too happy to have America remain involved in crusades against non-Christian "infidels," especially in the Middle East.  Adding to the problem is the fact that the Christian Right has a large number of parasites both in the leadership of "family values" organizations and in the pulpits who continue to whip up persecution complexes among the mentally challenged ranks of their followers who seemingly will believe every liar and bogus conspiracy theory (ignorance, of course, is celebrated with these folks).  A piece in Salon looks at why sadly, we cannot count the Christian Right dead - at least not yet.  Here are highlights: 

The news cycle has been busy lately, so I don’t know if left-leaning political observers have yet had time to plan their victory dance over the latest Pew Poll on religion. But you can be sure that when they notice some of these numbers, we will soon be seeing another round of “ding dong the religious right is dead,” accompanied by the usual patting on the back and self-congratulations that goes with it. After all, something quite significant has started to shift, and at first glance it doesn’t bode well for social conservatives: There has been an 8 percent decline in the number of Americans identifying themselves as “Christian” since 2007, along with a 6 percent increase in the number who call themselves “atheist, agnostic, and otherwise religiously unaffiliated,” to nearly 23 percent of all Americans.

[T]he left has good reason to see the growth of non-believers as a welcome addition to their coalition. After all, it’s highly unlikely that these people will be welcomed into the party that boasts candidates who say things like Zach Dasher (the nephew of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson), who ran for congress in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Take presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who suggested that atheist government employees should be fired:
“Some of you are frustrated and even upset and angry about America, and I get it. And I say to you, the answer is as simple as it is that the answer to the phones in our hearts that God is ringing. When we register people to vote, when we get them to the polls to vote, when we hire the people that will take our values to this city, and when we fire the ones who refuse to hear not only our hearts, but God’s heart.”
[S]ecular voters are often more scientifically based and see an activist government as a useful tool to solve problems. They are hostile to ideas such as climate change denialism and creationism and are more tolerant of social change such as civil rights and marriage equality. There is no philosophical reason that secularists could not be conservatives — indeed, history is full of them. But the modern Republican party is so closely aligned with rigid social conservatism and so dependent upon the Christian Right as an organizing institution that most secularists are not at home in the party at all.

So this is good news, right?  Unfortunately, as Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches ably demonstrates, that’s probably not correct. While it’s true that many Catholics and mainline Protestants have apparently switched to “unaffiliated” (which could mean many things) the evangelicals haven’t missed a beat . . . 

Posner points to studies showing that they have actually evolved over many decades of political involvement into a movement based on a “narrative of Christian nationalism.” She also notes that this might be what has driven some people out of their traditional religious homes. Unfortunately, the unaffiliated don’t have a shared identity or common institutions the way the Christian conservatives do, so they may not be much of a political counterweight.

Finally, and most importantly, the difference between the unaffiliated, atheist, secularist, “nones” — whatever you want to call them — and the Christian Right is the fact that the latter are a highly organized political machine that is controlled by professional political operatives like Ralph Reed, who runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition. It gets it’s people to the polls. Posner notes the depressing numbers:

This group [of religiously non-affiliated] is simply not a coherent political faction in and of itself. And I have no idea how one might organize such a group. It may not even be possible to organize them along the lines of their religiously unaffiliated status. So perhaps it would be best to simply stow the champagne and put away the party hats for the time being, and get back to work organizing voters on political grounds. That will likely sweep up most of these folks anyway, and would be more in keeping with America’s traditional understanding of the need for separation of church and state.

Unfortunately, that happens to be one tradition conservatives have completely abandoned.

Jrb Bush's Iraq Nightmare is Just Beginning

What do you do when you want to be president and your older brother ranks as one of the worse U.S.S presidents ever having (i) turned a budget surplus into a huge deficit, (ii) presided over the worse economic disaster since the Great Depression, (iii) taken America based on known lies and thrown away thousands of American lives and left countless more maimed for life, (iii) fanned the culture wars, and (iv) set the stage for the ongoing nightmare in the Middle East?  Most would say, run screaming from your brother and disavow his failed presidency.  But not Jebbie Bush.  No, Jebbie has said that his idiot brother is who he consults on Middle East policy and that he'd go to war in Iraq all over again even knowing what is now known. And remember, Jebbie is supposed to be "the smart brother."  It is frightening and, belatedly, Jebbie seems to be realizing the disaster he has launched for himself as he now is lying and claiming he "misheard the question."  A column in the Washington Post looks at why Jebbie is going to be hard pressed to avoid his brother's toxic shadow.  Here are excerpts:
Last night Fox News aired an interview in which Jeb Bush was asked the question about Iraq that every major politician should have answered by now. Somehow it seemed to catch Bush less than completely prepared. His answer generated the expected attacks from Democrats, but even some Republicans were critical. GOP consultant Ana Navarro now says Bush confided to her that he “misheard the question,” which suggests he’ll be clarifying what he really thinks soon.

This was bound to come up before long. The way it’s now playing suggests that Bush — along with many other Republicans — can’t quite figure out how to answer a question that for most people is pretty straightforward.

If you want to believe that Bush “misheard” the question — and thus answered as though the question was “what would you have done then?” instead of “knowing what we know now” — then you’re more generous than I. 

On one hand, it’s unlikely that he’ll deliver an implicit rebuke to his brother and his administration, all the key figures of which continue to argue to this day that the world is still better off for the war having taken place. What’s more, the imperatives of GOP politics push candidates toward tough talk and a refusal to admit that any Republican administration ever made a mistake about anything.

Yet at the same time, there are some prominent Republicans who don’t accept that line. . . . Byron York wrote: “If Jeb Bush sticks to his position — that he would still authorize war knowing what we know today — it will represent a step backward for the Republican Party.” . . .
If you ask the question by mentioning the cost in money and lives, over 60 percent of Republicans say it wasn’t worth it.

At the moment, the only GOP candidate who has said it was a mistake is Rand Paul. 

Does Bush have a way out? He may well continue to evade.  

Because of who his brother is, it was to be expected that Bush would be the first to confront this question. But now that it has happened, all the candidates are likely to be asked — including Hillary Clinton. There was no more damaging issue to Clinton in 2008 than her vote to authorize the war.

There may well be foreign policy issues that come up between now and next November — on Iran, Syria, or anyplace else — where she [Hillary] takes a position at odds with liberal Democrats. That could be a genuine problem for her. But it probably won’t amount to as big a problem as Jeb Bush now faces.

Unless and until Jebbie admits that the Iraq War was a disaster that should NEVER have been launched, it will confirm that he is utterly unfit for the White House. He may be even dumber than his idiot brother.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More Tuesday Male Beauty

UVA Dean Sues Rolling Stone Over Bogus Rape Article

Admittedly, I have a special interest in the University of Virginia given that (i) I am a graduate of both  the The College of Liberal Arts as an undergraduate the School of Law, and (ii) some ten relatives and past in-laws hold UVA degrees, including three of my siblings and one of my daughters.  I also belonged to a fraternity during my UVA days.  Hence, I always double check those who would malign "The University" as we call it without justification (like some Virginia Tech alumni I know).  But the heinous Rolling Stone article that has now been condemned by the Columbia School of journalism and even retracted by Rolling Stone indeed set new lows in unfounded attacks. Now, Rolling Stone is reaping the fruits of its irresponsible journalism - if that term can even be applied - as what is the first of possibly several lawsuits has been filed.  Huffington Post looks at the first multimillion dollar lawsuit.  Here are highlights:
A University of Virginia dean who played a major role in Rolling Stone's now-retracted rape piece is suing the magazine for defamation. 
Nicole Eramo, an associate dean of students at UVA who handles sexual assault cases on campus, is seeking more than $7.5 million in damages from Wenner Media, Rolling Stone's parent company. Eramo alleges that the November 2014 piece unfairly portrayed her as "indifferent" to the alleged victim's tale. Eramo is also suing the magazine and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, who wrote the controversial piece.

"The portrayal of Dean Eramo in 'A Rape on Campus' and in Erdely and Rolling Stone's subsequent public statements, are categorically false," the suit reads. "Indeed, publicly available information demonstrates that the highly disparaging claims about Dean Eramo are all untrue."

"A Rape on Campus" detailed the alleged sexual assault of a UVA student referred to in the article as only "Jackie." In the piece, Jackie claims she was raped and humiliated by several members of the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi. The story alleges that Eramo encouraged Jackie not to report the crime because "nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school."

The piece sent shockwaves through the campus. The university asked for a criminal investigation into the matter and suspended all fraternities on campus.

However, reports from The Washington Post and other news outlets called into question some of the story's most shocking elements. Friends of Jackie claimed that her account of the assault changed repeatedly over time. The Post also found that Jackie's description of one of the main fraternity members involved in the incident didn't match anyone in Phi Kappa Psi.
Rolling Stone backed away from the piece after the doubts emerged. After a lengthy investigation by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, the article was retracted.
  Rolling Stone declined a request for comment to HuffPost.
 Sadly, in my view, Rolling Stone wanted a sensational article and really did not care if it was true or not.

Federal Court Jury Begins Hearing Evidence in Gay Couple's Suit Against United/Continental Airlines

Christopher Bridgeman and Martin Borger with us on our wedding day in DC

I noted on May 3, 2015, that the case of our good friend against United/Continental Airlines for seemingly homophobic tampering with their luggage was set to go to trial in federal court after all kinds or maneuvering and court motions by United/Continental to have the case dismissed or to drive my friends into giving up (the court docket shows over 100 filings and motions).  Yesterday, the trial began and the story has made the Houston Chronicle and Towleroad.  As I have said before, given the fortune in legal fees that United/Continental has run up in this matter to date, I am dumbfounded that the airline - which claims to be gay friendly - has never made a settlement offer that, in my opinion, wasn't yet an a further insult to our friends.   Particularly disingenuous in my view is the airlines effort to shift blame to TSA personnel even though the tape used to affix the sex toy was clearly the airline's tap.  Here are highlights from the Chronicle's coverage:
A Houston federal jury is hearing opening arguments Tuesday in a case where baggage handlers are accused of humiliating a gay couple by manipulating a duffle bag to cause a sex toy to be exposed when released on a baggage claim carousel.

Christopher Bridgeman and Martin Borger filed the suit after a trip to Costa Rica in May 2011. They returned to the United States on a Continental flight through Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, cleared customs and rechecked their bags for the domestic trip home to Norfolk, Va.

Upon retrieving their belongings, they discovered an unexpected object taped between the zipper of one piece of luggage: A purple sex toy. The Virginia couple's 2012 federal lawsuit, filed in Houston, alleges that the device had been removed purposefully from the duffle and slathered with a greasy, foul-smelling substance to embarrass them. The petition claims the airline's baggage handlers intentionally inflicted emotional distress and invaded their privacy by searching through their luggage.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt of Houston dismissed the case in late 2012, but a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel reinstated the lawsuit a year later.

Since then, Continental's parent following that carrier's merger with United - United Continental Holdings - has been trying to have the lawsuit sacked.

United claims their employees did not open the bag and could not have known what was inside to intentionally target gay men. The airline's filings in the suit also question whether any alleged intrusion was the fault of a United employee because the federal Transportation Security Administration screens luggage and has some in-transit control over baggage.

The lawsuit has been featured in national news stories and discussed in legal blogs for more than three years.

Trial exhibits include photos of the toy. Expected witnesses include United baggage handlers based in Houston and Norfolk as well as the general manager of the Norfolk International Airport.

As recently as last week, Hoyt denied United's claim to side with the company – thus, leaving the door open for trial.

Seven jurors – four women and three men – were selected Monday for the trial. Jurors also will consider if any airline employee intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the men.

The lawsuit claims that Bridgeman and Borger "experienced extreme shock and horror" when they saw their toy exposed and "when observing the surprised and/or laughing faces of numerous onlookers in the baggage claim area."
As noted before, I will NEVER fly United/Continental and I would like to know how the NGLCC allows United/Continental to remain a "gay friendly" carrier when this is how they treat gay travelers.  

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Is Hillary Clinton Good for Progressives?

I've been a political activist for more years than I like to dwell on - first as a Republican and then, after the GOP went insane like a rabid dog with the rise of the Christofascists, by default as a Democrat.  The constant has been the goal of electing candidates even when that means moderating some of one's goals and desires.  It's a concept lost on the knuckle dragging, Bible thumping GOP base as recently demonstrated by the Virginia GOP's failed 2013 slate.  It is also lost at times among those in the liberal wing of the Democrats.  You can love a candidate to death, but if you cannot get them elected, then you have wasted time, tons of money, and given the opposition a chance to enact horrific policies.  Currently, on the Democratic side of the aisle you have the vociferous supporters of Elizabeth Warren who pan Hillary Clinton.  They say Hillary is "untrustworthy" etc.  Perhaps, however, that is a good thing as argued by a piece in Salon.  Here are column highlights:
[L]ast week, the New York Times and CBS published a new poll on how the public views former secretary of state and current presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC). There were two big takeaways for the 2016 frontrunner, both of which could be reasonably seen by left-wing activists as good omens for the months and maybe years to come.

The poll’s most striking discovery pertained to how voters felt about Clinton’s handling of her email while at Foggy Bottom, . . . . during the weeks following the press’s wall-to-wall coverage of “emailgate,” Clinton’s favorability actually went up. And it wasn’t just a little statistical blip; it was an increase of nine full points.

The poll’s second notable finding, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly so much of a boon to Clinton supporters. According to CBS and the Times, fewer than half of respondents described her as “honest and trustworthy”; and that number was only near the 50 percent mark because around 80 percent of Democrats answered in the affirmative. This issue of HRC’s trustworthiness has been the thin reed on which many of the loudest promoters of the emailgate pseudo-scandal have hung their arguments. But as Ronald Brownstein writes in National Journal, a Clinton has already won the White House before while being seen as less than entirely untrustworthy.

However, just because American doubts about her honesty are unlikely to keep HRC out of the White House, that doesn’t mean that her image on this score is irrelevant. What it means instead is that Clinton’s low margin for error on trust will manifest in harder to perceive ways during her campaign and hypothetical presidency. For example, look at President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s argument over fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s the kind of debate Obama is having with those on his left — a debate over progressive bona fides — that a President Clinton probably will not.

Yet what matters for our purposes isn’t the TPP so much as the way Warren and Obama, arguably liberal America’s two favorite politicians, have been fighting about it through the media.

The biggest reason why Obama has been able to adopt this strategy can probably be found in a Gallup poll released earlier this month. On that question of trustworthiness, the president fares well, especially by the standards of our polarized era: 53 percent of respondents say “honest and trustworthy” applies to Obama, while just 45 percent disagree. That’s not a Grand Canyon’s worth of distance apart from HRC’s 48 percent, of course. But it is enough to make the White House feel relatively confident that liberals are willing to trust the president — and to make Warren skip over Obama and raise concerns about what the next (possibly Republican) president might do with fast-track’s powers.  

On the trail (as well as in the White House, if she wins) Clinton will be much more constricted. Yes, she’s very popular with self-identified liberals; and, yes, like Obama’s, much of her negative numbers on trustworthiness are the product of overwhelmingly disdain from conservatives. But while Democrats may on the whole approve of HRC, they don’t necessarily trust her, at least not yet. 

[I]f Brownstein is right, and HRC wins despite a majority of voters not exactly trusting her completely, it could be something of a win-win for liberal activists. Not only would they get a non-Republican president, but they’d get one with a stronger desire than the current incumbent to prove she’s one of them.

The GOP Moves Backwards Again

With religion on a sharp decline (see the previous post) and vast demographic changes overtaking the country one would think that the Republican Party would begin to grasp that retreating back to a fictional version of the 1950's is long term political suicide.  But coming to such a conclusion seems impossible in a political party where ignorance is celebrated and objective reality is simply ignored if it doesn't conform to an ideology increasingly out of touch with the lives and views of most Americans.  Among those leading the charge to the past in the GOP is Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions who makes the Alabama politicians from the years I lived in that state look progressive in comparison.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the GOP obsession with going backwards in time and ignoring pressing need for change.  Here are highlights:
If you want to see where the impulse to reform the Republican Party in a more libertarian direction of limited government, social tolerance, and free markets goes to die, look no further than the recent attacks on immigration and freer trade by Jeff Sessions, the influential senator from Alabama. Every time the GOP seems finally ready to orient itself in a forward-looking, post-culture-war direction, some holdover from an America that never quite existed to begin with blows his whistle and the next generation of would-be party leaders fall into line like the obedient von Trapp children in Sound of Music.

Indeed, Scott Walker has explicitly attributed his remarkable flip-flop on immigration to conversations with Sessions. Just a few years ago, the Wisconsin governor and leading Republican presidential candidate used to favor liberal immigration and a path to citizenship for illegals. Now he’s calling for “no amnesty” and universal, invasive, and error-prone E-Verify systems for “every employer...particularly small businesses and farmers and ranchers.”

[H]e wants to curb not just illegal and low-skill immigration but also the number of folks chasing the American Dream under H1-B visas, which apply to “workers in short supply” who are sponsored by specific employers with specialized needs.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Sessions complained  that “legal immigration is the primary source of low-wage immigration into the United States.” Exhibiting the zero-sum, fixed-pie economic thinking that conservatives and Republicans routinely chastise in liberals and Democrats, Sessions continues, “We don’t have enough jobs for our lower-skilled workers now. What sense does it make to bring in millions more?”

Sessions brings the same populist and anti-immigrant animus to his critique of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the trade deal the Obama administration is brokering between the United States and 11 other countries. Sessions, along with progressive Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Martin O’Malley, only see the shadowy machinations of elites at work in the reauthorization of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) or “fast-track” negotiations.

Such rules, which have been standard operating procedure since 1974, allow the executive branch to negotiate terms and then bring the deal to Congress for an up or down vote.

Contra Sessions, there is no clear public desire for reducing immigration, except among Republicans. Fully 84 percent of Republicans are dissatisfied with the current generous levels, a super-majority that only shows how out of touch the GOP faithful is with the rest of the country. Earlier this year, Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans are either satisfied with current levels of immigration or want more immigration. Just 39 percent were dissatisfied and want less immigration, which is 11 points lower than the same figure in 2008.

[I]mmigrants are twice as likely to start their own businesses as native-born Americans. The fact is they tend to be either higher- or lower-skilled than the typical worker, so they complement rather than displace natives. And, as the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh documents in his exhaustive rebuttal to Sessions’s Washington Post piece, immigrants not only consume less welfare and commit less crime than the average American, they pay taxes (often without any hope of getting the money back) and stop coming when the economy sours.

Sadly, lived reality holds little appeal for Sessions and Republicans such as Walker, who are instead doing their damnedest to turn the party of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush decisively against its long and glorious history of relatively open borders and freer trade.

With 2016 coming into clearer and clearer focus—and with Hillary Clinton doing her own flip-flop on immigration and now embracing newcomers—the GOP and its presidential candidates have a choice to make. They can follow Ronald Reagan’s example and embrace libertarian positions on immigration and free trade. Or they can follow Jeff Sessions’s retrograde populism and see just how few Hispanic votes they can pull.

Survey: Christianity Experiencing Sharp Decline in America

Yet another Pew Research Center survey builds upon what other surveys and studies have shown: Americans are leaving Christianity in droves.  Personally, I suspect there are many reasons for the sharp decline, not the least of which is the growing negative connotations of what it means to be a "Christian" thanks to the Christofascists who seemingly hate virtually everyone other than themselves and who seek to trample on the rights of others when not demanding special rights for themselves.  Americans' increased mobility and the easy access to information and other views via the Internet are also likely reasons.  An article in the Washington Post looks at what to me is a welcome phenomenon given the undeserved and divisive influence religion has had in public policy.  Here are article excerpts:
Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

“It’s remarkably widespread,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research for the Pew Research Center. “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.”

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent in the same time period.

Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

1. Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older 

The older generation of millennials (those who were born from 1981 to 1989) are becoming even less affiliated with religion than they were about a decade ago, the survey suggests. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center did their last Religious Landscape Survey and these adults were just entering adulthood, 25 percent of them did not affiliate with a religion, but this grew to 34 percent in the latest survey.

“Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” he said.

2. There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans than Catholic Americans or mainline Protestant Americans

The numbers of Catholics and Protestants have each shrunk between three and five percentage points since 2007. The evangelical share of the American population has dropped by one percentage point since 2007.

There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans (23 percent) than Catholics (21 percent) and mainline Protestants (15 percent).
Thirteen percent of Americans were raised Catholic but are no longer Catholic, compared with just 2 percent of Americans who are converts to Catholicism. . . . . There are 3 million fewer Catholics today than there were in 2007.

Pew estimates there are about 5 million fewer mainline Protestants than there were in 2007.

3. Those who are unaffiliated are becoming more secular

The “nones,” or religiously unaffiliated, include atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe in “nothing in particular.” Of those who are unaffiliated, 31 percent describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up six points from 2007.

And people in older generations are increasingly disavowing organized religion. Among baby boomers, 17 percent identify as a religious “none,” up from 14 percent in 2007.

“There’s a continuing religious disaffiliation among older cohorts. That is really striking,” Smith said. “I continue to be struck by the pace at which the unaffiliated are growing.”

The long term implications for the Republican Party ought to be terrifying as the GOP continues to prostitute itself to the ugliest elements of the Christofascists who are making Christianity itself increasingly toxic in the minds of more and more Americans.  The GOP seemingly has a death wish.  Meanwhile the "godly folk" who would save Christianity are the ones doing the most to kill it.