Saturday, April 09, 2016

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

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Prosecutors Give Details on Dennis Hastert’s Sexual Abuse of Teenagers

As is often noted on this blog, if one is worried about stopping sexual predators, the focus should be on anti-gay Republican politicians (and conservative religious leaders), not gays and/or transgender individuals.  Over and over again we see GOP politicians with anti-gay voting records who espouse "family values" being caught having affairs, seeking gay sex, or in the case of former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, sexually molesting minors.  The Washington Post has details on Hastert's sexual misconduct that set the state for his attempts to pay over $3 million in hush money to one of his former victims.  Here are excerpts:
Federal prosecutors on Friday detailed some of the lurid allegations of sexual misconduct against former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert and asked a federal judge to subject the Illinois Republican to a sex offender evaluation.
In a memo in advance of an April 27 sentencing hearing, prosecutors spelled out in graphic detail how Hastert sexually molested or inappropriately touched five teenagers who trusted him as their wrestling coach. And as Hastert rose to power, believing that his wrongdoing would never be made public, his victims struggled with the effects of the abuse, prosecutors wrote.
“He made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty and devoid of dignity,” prosecutors wrote. “While defendant achieved great success, reaping all the benefits that went with it, these boys struggled, Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty last year to violating federal banking laws, admitting in a deal with prosecutors that he withdrew money from banks in increments low enough to avoid mandatory reporting requirements. Thatcharge, though, always belied the case’s actual underpinnings.and all are still struggling now with what defendant did to them.”
A federal law enforcement official has said Hastert withdrew the money so he could pay off someone he sexually molested decades ago. And after the first victim emerged, more people came forward alleging that they or their relatives were also victimized by the Yorkville, Ill., high school teacher and coach.
Prosecutors detailed remarkably similar stories from each of the now-grown men.
One — who said he was a 14-year-old freshman when the abuse occurred — alleged that Hastert told him to get on a table so he could “loosen him up,” then massaged and performed a sex act on him. Another — who said he was 17 years old when the abuse occurred — alleged that Hastert offered him a massage to help him cut weight, then performed a sex act on him. That victim said Hastert kept a chair in direct view of the locker room shower stalls.
“The federal and state statutes of limitations have long expired on potential charges relating to defendant’s known sexual acts against Individual A and other minors,” prosecutors wrote. “With this case, the government seeks to hold defendant accountable for the crimes he committed . . . . 
Sadly, Hastert is the poster boy for the hypocrisy of anti-gay Republicans who make a mockery of the professed devotion to "family values."  I have zero sympathy for Hastert.

North Carolina Continues to Be Pummeled Over Anti-Gay HB 2

When not making disingenuous statements - lies is perhaps a more accurate description - in support of the heinous HB2, one has to wonder what North Carolina Republicans are really thinking. The list of those boycotting the state, cancelling conventions, Broadway performances, and now even a Bruce Springsteen concert continues to grow.  Add to this NAACP threats of massive sit ins if the law is not repealed.  Perhaps the most delicious fall out is that UVA's Larry Sabato has changed his projection on the gubernatorial race in November from "leans Republican" to "toss up" because of the furor HB2 has unleashed. Rarely does one find big business, liberal religious groups, minority groups, and many localities all coming together to oppose a piece of legislation.  Can the Christofascist vote which this law was designed to please overcome the huge uprising?  Gov. Pat McCrory my yet discover that self-prostitution to Christian zealots can carry a very high cost.  Here's a look at some of the latest developments, starting with Larry Sabato's revised projection:
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, one of the nation’s top campaign-rating organizations, on Thursday moved North Carolina’s gubernatorial election from “leans Republican” to “toss-up,” based on the state’s controversial nondiscrimination law and the impact on down-ballot races of having Sen. Ted Cruz or Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee.  He also nudges the U.S. Senate race from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.”
“Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has generally had fairly weak approval numbers throughout his time in office, and he is now dealing with a challenge similar to the one (Indiana Gov. Gary) Pence faced last year: McCrory just signed a bill that bans cities from creating local policies dealing with gender-identity discrimination and forces transgender students in public schools to use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth gender. ...
“Republicans have long recognized the threat that Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) presents to McCrory, and both sides are gearing up for an expensive, nasty race. Because of incumbency, we were giving McCrory the benefit of the doubt. But no longer . . .

Very fun suff in my view - especially since McCrory's damage is self-inflicted.  Even South Carolina's Nikki Haley has suggested she would veto such a bill if it reached her desk.

Then there's the NAACP threat to join the protests against HB2.  Here are excerpts from The State:
N.C. NAACP president William Barber says his group will hold a “mass sit-in” at the legislature if a controversial LGBT law isn’t repealed by April 21.
Barber, whose Forward Together Moral Movement has organized numerous Moral Monday protests and acts of civil disobedience, plans to announce more details about the event at a news conference Saturday morning.
“We cannot be silent in the face of this race-based, class-based, homophobic and transphobic attack on wage earners, civil rights, and the LGBTQ community,” Barber said in a news release. “Together with our many allies, we will coordinate a campaign of nonviolent direct action along with other forms of nonviolent protest that will instruct our legislators with respect to the rights of all people.”
The N.C. General Assembly isn’t scheduled to return until April 25, so it would have to hold a special session if it wanted to repeal House Bill 2 earlier. Republican leaders have said they aren’t willing to repeal the law . . . Barber’s organization is among several groups planning rallies on both sides of the House Bill 2 issue. 

Last but least, Bruce Springsteen has announced that he is cancelling his concert scheduled for Greensboro due to HB 2.   Here are highlights from Springsteen's Facebook statement:
As you, my fans, know I’m scheduled to play in Greensboro, North Carolina this Sunday. As we also know, North Carolina has just passed HB2, which the media are referring to as the “bathroom” law. HB2 — known officially as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act — dictates which bathrooms transgender people are permitted to use. Just as important, the law also attacks the rights of LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace. No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden. To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress. Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them.

Bernie Sanders Over the Edge

Some of my friends who are Bernie Sanders supporters will not be pleased with this post, but a column in the New York Times by Paul Krugman who is certainly no big supporter of Wall Street and the Republican worship of vulture capitalism gets to the heart of my problem with Bernie Sanders: he is largely a one over arching issue candidate who I worry could not hold up in a brutal campaign against a Republican candidate who will say and do anything to win.  Both Cruz and Trump fall into this category as does Kasich if one looks behind the false facade he is painting for himself.  That's not to say that I in love with Hillary Clinton.  One simply has to sometimes pick who one believes will do the best job and be able to get the most of what needs to be done accomplished under adverse conditions (meaning a GOP controlled House and possibly Senate as well) even if it is less than ideal in a perfect world.  Sanders supporters are, in my view, losing sight of this reality.  Here are column highlights:
From the beginning, many and probably most liberal policy wonks were skeptical about Bernie Sanders. On many major issues — including the signature issues of his campaign, especially financial reform — he seemed to go for easy slogans over hard thinking. And his political theory of change, his waving away of limits, seemed utterly unrealistic.
Some Sanders supporters responded angrily when these concerns were raised, immediately accusing anyone expressing doubts about their hero of being corrupt if not actually criminal. But intolerance and cultishness from some of a candidate’s supporters are one thing; what about the candidate himself?
Unfortunately, in the past few days the answer has become all too clear: Mr. Sanders is starting to sound like his worst followers. Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro.
Let me illustrate the point about issues by talking about bank reform.
The easy slogan here is “Break up the big banks.” It’s obvious why this slogan is appealing from a political point of view: Wall Street supplies an excellent cast of villains. But were big banks really at the heart of the financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?
Many analysts concluded years ago that the answers to both questions were no. Predatory lending was largely carried out by smaller, non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big. And the financial reform that President Obama signed in 2010 made a real effort to address these problems. It could and should be made stronger, but pounding the table about big banks misses the point.
Yet going on about big banks is pretty much all Mr. Sanders has done. On the rare occasions on which he was asked for more detail, he didn’t seem to have anything more to offer. And this absence of substance beyond the slogans seems to be true of his positions across the board.
You could argue that policy details are unimportant as long as a politician has the right values and character. As it happens, I don’t agree. For one thing, a politician’s policy specifics are often a very important clue to his or her true character — I warned about George W. Bush’s mendacity back when most journalists were still portraying him as a bluff, honest fellow, because I actually looked at his tax proposals. For another, I consider a commitment to facing hard choices as opposed to taking the easy way out an important value in itself.
But in any case, the way Mr. Sanders is now campaigning raises serious character and values issues.
It’s one thing for the Sanders campaign to point to Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street connections, which are real, although the question should be whether they have distorted her positions, a case the campaign has never even tried to make. But recent attacks on Mrs. Clinton as a tool of the fossil fuel industry are just plain dishonest, and speak of a campaign that has lost its ethical moorings.
And then there was Wednesday’s rant about how Mrs. Clinton is not “qualified” to be president.
This is really bad, on two levels. Holding people accountable for their past is O.K., but imposing a standard of purity, in which any compromise or misstep makes you the moral equivalent of the bad guys, isn’t. Abraham Lincoln didn’t meet that standard; neither did F.D.R. Nor, for that matter, has Bernie Sanders (think guns).
And the timing of the Sanders rant was truly astonishing. Given her large lead in delegates — based largely on the support of African-American voters, who respond to her pragmatism because history tells them to distrust extravagant promises — Mrs. Clinton is the strong favorite for the Democratic nomination.
Is Mr. Sanders positioning himself to join the “Bernie or bust” crowd, walking away if he can’t pull off an extraordinary upset, and possibly helping put Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the White House? If not, what does he think he’s doing?
The Sanders campaign has brought out a lot of idealism and energy that the progressive movement needs. It has also, however, brought out a streak of petulant self-righteousness among some supporters. Has it brought out that streak in the candidate, too?
I have been involved in politics for a number of decades - first as a GOP activist before the GOP went off the rails and was hijacked by the Christofascists and for later for quite a few years now as a LGBT rights activist.   Throughout this period I've learned that one must focus on pushing for what is possible and within reach of achieving.  I feel that many Sanders supporters are losing sight of this reality.  Worse yet, their attacks on Hillary Clinton could end up putting a Republican back in the White House which would be a worse case nightmare for anyone who likes Sanders' progressive ideas.  

Friday, April 08, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Papal Document Again Kicks Divorced Catholics and Gays to the Curb

In the last post I stated that religion, particularly conservative Christianity (I would add Islam to that category) is the enemy of human progress and the embrace of knowledge.  In a new document ludicrously titled "Amoris Laetitia," or “the Joy of Love,” Pope Francis made it clear once more that there is little room for love for those who are divorced or LGBT in the Roman Catholic Church.  No changes in Church doctrine are made and at best, Francis tells Catholics to be less condemning in the treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics and LGBT Catholics.  Once again, I am left thinking that gays who remain Catholic suffer from a severe form of masochism.  Why remain in a Church that treats you as little better than garbage?  The only way the Catholic Church will ever change is for people to walk away in a mass exodus, taking their financial support with them.  The Washington Post looks at Francis' mealy mouthed  blathering that proves again that he is not the great hope that liberal Catholics and others desperately wanted him to be.   Here are excerpts:
He called for divorced and remarried Catholics to participate more fully in church life. But he closed the door on gay marriage. . . . But more than anything, Pope Francis’s long awaited document on family life, released Friday by the Vatican, amounts to an exultation of traditional marriage while recognizing that life, in his own words, isn’t always “perfect.” 
Some two years in the making, the 256-page document known as an apostolic exhortation and titled Amoris Laetitia, or “the Joy of Love,” amounted to his most sweeping pronouncement to date on the social issues that have deeply divided his senior clergy. . . . offered no changes in church laws – either to the status of gay people or those who divorce and remarry outside the church.
Nodding to the fact that many hoped for a blanket rule allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to take communion, [Cardinal] Schönborn said “many people expected such rules, but they will be disappointed, and persuaded that this is the necessary choice made by our pope.” But he suggested that the pope did offer “renewed encouragement” for a pastoral path in “particular cases.”
Austen Ivereigh, a prominent Francis biographer, wrote Friday that Francis basically punted in the document in terms of the very specifics of who gets Communion and when.
“In effect, Francis has cleared the ground for maximum pastoral flexibility, refusing to treat civilly remarried divorces as a category,” he wrote on the Catholic site Crux.
Ivereigh said this of the changes that might come as a result: “Yet while this is a significant development, it is unlikely to affect that many people.” 
“There is some disappointment in Pope Francis [among progressives] now because they want him to act quickly, they want him to change laws, they want him to be different,” said Christian Weisner, a founding member of the Munich-based Catholic reform group who advocates church-sanctioned same sex unions.
On the topic of gay equality, Francis repeated words he has written and said before: same-sex unions are no in way “similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” Yet for the pope who floored the planet when he said, of gay priests, “who am I to judge,” there may be others who still hold out hope, based on other comments Francis wrote in his document.
After praising Christian marriage as being “fully realized in the union between a man and a woman…” he write that “Some forms of union radically contra­dict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way. The Synod Fathers stated that the Church does not disregard the constructive elements in those situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to her teach­ing on marriage.”
There will undoubtedly be Catholics who see Francis as closing the door on gay equality forever while others will say he left it open a crack .

Pardon me as I go vomit.  The good news is that the under 30 generations are walking away from the Church in droves - many spurred to leave because of the Church's continued anti-gay jihad.  In my own family where we were all raised attending mass, almost no one now darkens the door of a Catholic Church other than perhaps to attend a wedding or a funeral.  Let's hope Francis is hastening the Church's own funeral and irrelevance.  

Columbia Embraces Marriage Equality

Even as Republicans in the USA try to turn back time and give special rights to Christian extremists, other parts of the world are moving to embrace modernity and modern knowledge of sexuality.  A case in point is Columbia - for knuckle dragging Christofascists, Columbia is a nation in South America - whose top court ruled 6-3 in support of marriage equality.  It's telling when nations once viewed as backwaters and/or third world are now more modern and progressive in their laws than US states, especially those in the American South.  Here are highlights from The Advocate  on this development:
Colombia’s Constitutional Court voted in favor of legal marriage equality today, in a 6-3 decision, reports Spanish-language Colombian LGBT media outlet EgoCity. The ruling takes effect immediately, meaning same-sex couples can now marry throughout the South American nation. 
The decision was not wholly unexpected, as the court had long been considering a case filed by four same-sex couples who argued that the state was required to provide equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. 
Colombia becomes only the fourth Latin American nation to fully embrace marriage equality. Same-sex couples have been able to wed in Argentina since 2010, and in Brazil and Uruguay since 2013. Several Mexican states have embraced marriage equality — beginning with Mexico City in 2010 — and that country’s high court has ruled those marriages must be recognized nationwide
Moments after the court’s decision was made public, equality advocates gathered outside the Palace of Justice, which houses the court, in Bogotá. Wearing rainbow flags and carry pro-equality signs, demonstrators chanted “Iguales en impuestos, iguales en derechos,” according to video (below) from Colombian newspaper El Espectador. The chant translates to: “Equal in taxes, equal in rights!”
There are some who try to claim that Christianity has improved mankind's existence.  I beg to differ. The concepts of equality, logic, reason and knowledge are Enlightenment values, not a result of Christianity.  Indeed, the more deeply "Christian" states and nations are, the more embracing they are of ignorance and bigotry.  It's not a coincidence that the level of education steeply declines as one moves from liberal Christian denominations downward to the most fundamentalist denominations. Religion is the enemy of knowledge, modernity and equality.

Big City Mayors Ban Purchasing from North Carolina and Mississippi

Just when some in North Carolina - and now Mississippi - are probably wondering what additional threat can slam their state in the wake of Republicans enacting heinous anti-LGBT laws, a number of big city mayors have announced that they are banning taxpayer funded purchases of goods from those states.  This is on top of bans by many of the same cities and a half dozen or more states that have banned employee travel to North Carolina and Mississippi.  Let's hope the economic pain these hate embracing states suffer is severe indeed.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at this latest shoe to drop against Christofascist/Republican extremism.  Here are highlights:
Ten mayors from some of the nation's largest cities will ban the use of taxpayer funds not only for official travel to North Carolina and Mississippi, but ban the use of taxpayer funds to purchase goods and services from companies located in those two states. The boycott is a direct response to governors in North Carolina and Mississippi signing into law legislation that discriminates against LGBT people. The mayors have joined together to create a new group, Mayors Against Discrimination.
Truly a nationwide effort, the founding members of the group are New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (photo), Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
"Some are trying to turn back the clock to a deeply flawed time in our history," Mayor de Blasio said, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"By joining together in this effort, we are creating a coalition of mayors across the country to combat discrimination of any kind and to protect civil rights everywhere," Mayor Murray added.
The group will also "develop model resolutions that can be adopted by city councils and other legislative bodies, and other measures that mayors and cities can take individually and collectively," The Bay Area Reporter reports. 
They say they will also "work with private sector leaders and companies, like Marc Benioff from Salesforce, Wells Fargo, Starbucks and hundreds of others to apply direct political and economic pressure to repeal or stop the alarming spread of discriminatory laws in the United States."

Thursday, April 07, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

Despite Recent Bills, Are Anti-LGBT Forces Losing?

After the euphoria of last years Supreme Court marriage ruling in Obergefell v. Hughes, the recent successes of the Christofascist in pushing their tawdry whore-like supporters in the Republican Party to enact anti-LGBT laws that grant special privileges to animus motivated "conservative Christians" has been frightening.  Indeed, but for its Republican governor, Virginia would be saddled with a heinous license to discriminate law.   Longer term, however, these successes may be paving the way for the ultimate defeat of Christofascist backed candidates.  Two pieces look at the possible longer term loss on the part of Christofascist forces.  One appears in The Daily Beast.  The other is in The State, one of South Carolina's largest newspapers.  The State piece is interesting because (i) it shows GOP Governor Nikki Haley arguing that a North Carolina-like law is not needed in South Carolina, and (ii) looks at the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce's plan to actively campaign against and anti-LGBT Republican.  Here are excerpts:
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that a proposed law to limit the bathrooms that transgender people can use is not needed.
Haley said her office has not received any complaints about the issue, adding South Carolinians are respectful to people of different backgrounds.
“I don’t believe it’s necessary,” the Lexington Republican told reporters. “There’s not one instance that I’m aware of.
“When we look at our situation, we’re not hearing of anybody’s religious liberties that are being violated, and we’re again not hearing any citizens that are being violated in terms of freedoms,” she said. The S.C. Chamber of Commerce will campaign actively against state Sen. Lee Bright, a Spartanburg Republican seeking a third term this year, chamber president Ted Pitts said Thursday. The chamber had concerns about Bright’s Senate performance before he introduced his transgender bill, Pitts said. Bright has three GOP primary challengers.
Sen. Bright is trying to create a political crisis that doesn’t exist to save his political career,” said Pitts, a former chief of staff to Haley. “Meanwhile, our state has real issues we need to address, including crumbling roads and a (workforce) skills gap. We’ll be working on electing serious senators next year who will be focused on addressing the state’s infrastructure and workforce needs, and limiting government’s role in our lives.” 
Haley also questioned whether Bright’s proposal, introduced Wednesday, could win passage in the Senate before the May 1 deadline for a bill to cross over to the S.C. House for consideration. “Nothing is going to happen with the bill this year.”

Frankly, it sounds as if Haley is positioning herself to veto the bill if it becomes necessary.  The piece in The Daily Beast expands on the blow back to Christofascist/Republican overreaching.  Here are highlights:
North Carolina’s Republican legislature and governor used what they thought would be their best tactic to repeal anti-discrimination ordinances, one that that worked in Houston and elsewhere: that pro-LGBT laws would let men use women’s restrooms.
And yet, the only way North Carolina could pass the law was in a bizarre special session, passing a bill that no one seems to have read. The bill was so overbroad, it was like putting out a match with a fire hose. And it was passed like a midnight massacre, suddenly and taking everyone by surprise.
This may seem like a victory, but in the long run, it will go down as a loss. The reaction has been swift, from Fortune 500 companies to religious leaders to celebrities. (Among others, PayPal just canceled plans to expand in the state.) The law has been widely condemned, and Gov. Pat McCrory is on the defensive. What he presumably hoped would help shore up his base now threatens to alienate the moderate voters he needs to win reelection this year.
But their defeat goes even further: Even within their own false context, they’re losing. This is not the way trans advocates wanted to have a public conversation about gender identity, but here the conversation is, and, not unlike same-sex marriage, trans people are persuading people simply by telling the truth.
There are little transgender girls out there, kids like Coy Mathis who were born biologically male but who have dressed like girls, played with “girl toys,” and understood themselves to be girls since as long as they could talk. And there are butch transgender men like the bearded, country-boy-looking James Sheffield, whose Twitter post to Gov. McCrory—“It’s now the law for me to share a restroom with your wife”—has gone viral.
Thanks to North Carolina’s odious, ignorant law, these folks are now able to tell their stories to wider audiences. And when they connect, on a human level, with reasonable people willing to listen, they are their own best advocates. 
The second tactic of the Right has been to talk about religion.  The Christian right can no longer directly demonize gays and transgender people, so it has to lie and even the lies are backfiring.
In the wake of last year’s loss on same-sex marriage, the Christian Right has begun to act tactically, attacking what it perceives to be the LGBT equality movement’s weakest links. And yet amazingly, this strategy is backfiring. Not only is the right failing to make their easiest cases, they are hardening opposition in those very cases, losing key battles in the areas of transgender rights and religious freedom.
Under clear First Amendment precedent, no church could ever be compelled to host any wedding of any sort. The government can’t make an Orthodox synagogue host an interfaith wedding, and it can’t make a Catholic church host a gay wedding. This is how it is, how it should be, and how it’s going to stay.
But the Right’s attempt to move out from there to include for-profit businesses (bakers and otherwise) has run into trouble, most recently in Georgia, where the Republican governor, Nathan Deal, vetoed a “religious freedom” bill that would have enabled businesses to discriminate for religious reasons, under heavy pressure from dozens of large corporations including the National Football League.
Ultimately, though, what the left has that the right doesn’t have is truth. I’m not naïve enough to think that’s enough to win every battle but it certainly does help. Just as gay men are not getting married in order to more effectively recruit youngsters to homosexuality, trans women are not transitioning in order to spy on the ladies room. There are actually facts of the matter, and they’re almost all on one side.
That, I think, is why these tactics are backfiring. For an ostensibly religious movement, they’re awfully cynical maneuvers. And sometimes, lying to folks is a bad idea.
 Sadly, the most common trait of the "godly folk" is their willingness to deliberately lie and their hatred towards anyone the deem "other" - a list that includes blacks, Hispanics, LGBT individuals, non-Christians, etc., etc.  Indeed, the hate just about everyone but their fellow extremists.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Will Cruz's Wisconsin Win Save or Doom the GOP?

The mud wrestling in the GOP continues in the wake f Ted Cruz's resounding win in the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday.   Some are depicting Cruz's win as the beginning of the end for Donald Trump while others see it as setting the stage for a brokered GOP convention where some non-candidate such as Paul Ryan - who I despise - can be given the nomination and, in the eyes of the so-called GOP establishment, save the party form the frightening rabble of the base that the very same GOP establishment empowered over the last 20+ years.  A piece in Politico looks at all of the maneuvering and in-fighting.  Here are highlights:
In the town of Ripon, Wisconsin, sits a small, white clapboard schoolhouse with the sign: “Birthplace of the Republican Party.” According to Wisconsin lore, the GOP was conceived there in 1853, when a small group of citizens, inspired by their opposition to the spread of slavery, came together to change “the future of our nation,” as the “Little White Schoolhouse” website puts it.
The question we face now is: Has Wisconsin done it again? That is, changed the future of the nation—or at least of the GOP? Republican elites are giddy over the trouncing of Donald Trump by Ted Cruz in Tuesday's primary, and the GOP establishment did pull off a victory when it came to slowing the Trump steamroller. For a few more weeks at least, the world has been made safe for the GOP as we’ve come to know it—aging white men who hold many of their voters in bewilderment or outright contempt and then, more often than not, go on to politely lose to the Democrats in the fall. Usually by a small enough margin that keeps the majority of GOP officeholders in power. (Which is all that really matters, right?)
But the GOP leadership is probably in deep denial. It's far more likely that the Republican Party as we know it died Tuesday night in the same state as it was purportedly born in. What’s forgotten amid the celebration is that 83 percent of Wisconsin Republicans still voted for the two candidates who are most determined to redefine the Party of Lincoln (and Ripon) and break the “establishment” hold on it. In some ways, the Stop Trump movement’s shotgun marriage to Ted Cruz—the most awkward coupling since Michael Jackson “dated” Brooke Shields—is actually a worse bet for what Cruz likes to call “the Washington cartel.” 
Cruz, a shrewd strategist, is also well aware that a number of the people who support him now really hope to force a contested convention and insert somebody more pleasing to their interests. In classic fashion, for example, Lindsey Graham used his awkward endorsement of Cruz, a man whose murder he had joked about only weeks earlier, to endorse John Kasich. The GOP’s all but powerless powers-that-be have said that Cruz is the least bad of two terrible options, with Wisconsin’s own Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential candidate and current speaker of the House, emerging as the favorite dark horse (or white knight: pick your political cliché) to save the party. If the Ryan scenario—however unlikely—does in fact play out, it’s entirely probable that Wisconsin and its favorite son could someday be viewed as saviors of the GOP, or at least of the GOP establishment.
In a blistering statement issued last night that preposterously labeled Cruz an establishment “puppet,” the Trump campaign hit on that point, which will likely be its main campaign theme here on out: The evil establishment is coming for you.
Cruz himself is unlikely to tolerate the label of establishment “puppet” for long. He’ll undoubtedly find a way out of his brief marriage of convenience with the GOP hierarchy—and basically do an end run around them, a tactic at which he is has proved to be highly skilled, after all. Thus, what the Republican elites are likely to have done in Wisconsin is make an eventual arrangement of sorts between the Trump and Cruz factions of the GOP all but inevitable—if only to stop the establishment from screwing them both. And the “Stop Trump” strategists will have to decide whether such blatant defiance of the express wishes of their own voters at Cleveland with Candidate X is worth potentially destroying the GOP once and for all.
In other words, the elites are still more dead than Jon Snow.  So what’s likely to happen now? 
1. The Trump ComebackFor the next few days at least, media pundits will discuss the dismantling of the Trump bandwagon with thinly disguised glee. That is, until they realize how much he helps the ratings. Without Trump dominating the news, what else are they going to talk about—issues? Probably by next week, the media narrative will feature the beginnings of Trump’s comeback.
2. The Cruz Cavalcade GrowsMeanwhile, the professional, even ruthless, Cruz campaign will continue to siphon off delegates wherever they can find them. The senator will score at least a few more victories—and maybe even have a battle to the finish in California. All of which means Cruz will have hundreds of devoted supporters descending on Cleveland with no love for the entrenched veterans of official Washington.
3. A Trump-Cruz PartnershipBoth candidates will arrive at the convention with a vested interest in permitting only one of two names to be placed in nomination—and they’ll collectively have the vast majority of delegates to enforce their will. Whether the two manage a more permanent partnership, as in a ticket together, seems almost unimaginable. But so was the idea that JFK would pick a man he despised, Lyndon B. Johnson, for vice president in 1960, among a half-dozen other odd-couple pairings in U.S. political history. 4. The Romney Do-Over Do-Over?There is one more sensible size 11 shoe that might drop. And that’s Mitt Romney deciding the third time’s the charm—making his interest in a “draft” at the convention a bit more obvious than it is already.
My prediction? Trump and Cruz, who have both come to prominence detesting and being detested by the GOP establishment, will find a way to upend that establishment once again. But whatever happens next, Wisconsin, you deserve the thanks. Or blame. We’re not sure yet.

Keep the popcorn coming.  The spectacle will continue to be interesting to watch.

RNC Issues Resolution In Support Of Anti-LGBT Laws

While we have been seeing a new round of anti-LGBT viciousness on the part of Republicans at the state level, the demonization of LGBT citizens within the Republican Party does not stop at the state level.  Now, the RNC has adopted a resolution that supports the wave anti-LGBT laws being pressed at the state level.  The development is evidence of the reality that even as the business community becomes more supportive of LGBT equality, the Republican Party has sold its soul to the ugliest of the Christofascists.   Hatred of others is now a defining element of the Republican Party.  Here are highlights from The New Civil Rights Movement

While the Republican presidential candidates are trying to outdo one another with their proud displays of Islamophobia, the Republican National Committee under chairman Reince Priebus, (photo above) is reminding voters there is more than one kind of scary "other" Republicans are unreasonable afraid of.  

The Republican National Committee has issued a resolution encouraging state legislatures to enact anti-trans bathroom legislation which The Washington Blade has dubbed "papers to pee" laws. They want states to require people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth.

Republicans also want to the U.S. Department of Education to change its interpretation of Title IX - the law known for bringing us equal funding for women's sports - to exclude the use of bathroom and locker rooms by transgender students. They want the Department of Education to institute a policy in which a student must use the bathroom associated with his/her anatomy that can be confirmed by DNA. 

It is election season, so unsurprisingly, the resolution takes the opportunity to attack Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for her support of transgender rights. 

Here it is in all its paranoid glory: 

Republican National Committee Counsel’s Office 
WHEREAS, A person’s sex is defined as the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined at conception, identified at birth by a person’s anatomy, recorded on their official birth certificate, and can be confirmed by DNA testing;
WHEREAS, Transgender policies deal with students who choose to be designated by their desired gender identity; an identity that conflicts with their anatomical sex;
WHEREAS, The U.S. Congress has never included gender identity within the Title IX Federal Law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity and that mandates allowing students of one biological sex to play sports designated for the opposite biological sex;
WHEREAS, Federal courts have ruled that Title IX does not extend to claims of discrimination based on gender identity and that schools can maintain separate restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities on the basis of sex where privacy is a concern;
WHEREAS, The Obama Administration’s Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights released an updated policy letter stating that Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to an individual’s chosen gender identity of male or female;
WHEREAS, Federal courts have ruled that the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX is not legally binding because the Department lacks authority to promulgate such an interpretation; and
WHEREAS, Policies of the Obama Administration, presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and public schools that allow any students to use the restrooms, locker rooms, or other facilities designated for the exclusive use of the other sex infringes on the rights of privacy and conscience of other students; and therefore be it
RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee calls on the Department of Education to rescind its interpretation of Title IX that wrongly includes facility use issues by transgender students.
RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee encourages State Legislatures to recognize that these Obama gender identity policies are a federal governmental overreach, a misinterpretation of Title IX policies, and an infringement upon the majority of students’ Constitutional rights; and
RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee encourages state legislatures to enact laws that protect student privacy and limit the use of restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities to members of the sex to whom the facility is designated.
Note the repeated effort to link scary acceptance - at least for bigots - of transgender individuals to the nations black president.  If anyone poses a threat to the nation, it is the Christofascists and their political whores in the GOP.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

American Allies on an Execution Spree

Once again we see America turning a blind eye to horrific human rights abuses under the guise of "fighting terrorism" by putative allies who have less than clean hands themselves when in comes to sponsoring the very terrorism that they claim to oppose.  Among the worse offenders?  Saudi Arabia, of course, where there is no religious freedom and a new jihad has been launched against LGBT individuals.  As noted in prior posts, Saudi Arabia is the number one funder of Islamic extremism worldwide.  Along side of Saudi Arabia is another false ally, Pakistan.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the foul regimes that America is propping up and squandering money on.  Here are excerpts:
Phony terrorism strategies employed by some of America’s key counter-terror partners are at the heart of a shocking surge in death penalty usage, which has reached its highest level in a quarter of a century.
Amnesty International recorded 1,634 state-sanctioned executions in 2015—more than 50 percent higher than in the previous year.
The regimes in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—where the increase has been starkest—have used false claims about fighting terrorism to justify a dramatic increase in the execution of prisoners convicted of conventional crimes. The U.S. has given Pakistan more than $13 billion in military aid since the invasion of Afghanistan but seems to exert little influence over the nation’s counter-terrorism strategy. 
“They [the U.S.] should speak out about a country like Pakistan using a counter-terrorism justification for the horrific scale of executions,” Audrey Gaughran, a director at Amnesty International, told The Daily Beast. “Very few of the executions in 2015 were for people who’d been convicted of terrorism-related offenses. The reality of who is being executed doesn’t match up with the rhetoric.”
By the end of the year, 326 people had been put to death—the highest number of executions Amnesty International has ever recorded for Pakistan, putting it third in the world behind Iran and China.
Joining them in the 2015 top five—with the U.S.—was Saudi Arabia, where there has been another huge surge in executions under the guise of a crackdown against terrorism.
Saudi Arabia executed 158 people last year almost twice the 2014 figure, and more than any other year since 1995.
“The on-going surge of executions is deeply uncomfortable for Saudi Arabia’s Western allies who collaborate so closely on intelligence and security issues,” said James Lynch, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East. “The Saudi Arabian authorities suggest that these executions are carried out to fight terror and safeguard security but it’s clear that they are also using the death penalty in the name of counter terror to settle scores and crush dissidents.”
The vast majority of those executed in Pakistan were not convicted of terrorist offenses, or had terror charges added to their cases with little or no justification. Many of those on death row had no resources to fund an adequate defense, and those executed included people with mental and physical impairments and juveniles. Under international law, executing minors is not permissible.
One of those put to death in Pakistan last year was Muhammad Afzal, who was 16 when he robbed and killed someone. In his final words before he was hanged, he said the police told his family to pay a 60,000 rupee bribe or they would add a bogus terrorism charge to his rap sheet. That is equivalent to only $600, but his family had no means to pay.
“We’re very concerned that this is happening,” said Gaughran. “The death penalty is being portrayed as a way that the government looks like it’s doing something about terrorism.”
Sadly, as it has done so often in the past, America is supporting despotic governments and making a mockery of its alleged concerns about human rights.  When these regimes fall, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the new regimes will be anti-American.

Sanders Stumbles in New York Daily News Interview

Bernie Sanders edged out Hillary Clinton in the Wisconsin primary yesterday, but in an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board he stumbled and revealed that in some ways his approach to reform is akin to that of Donald Trump - vague generalities and few details.  Indeed, when Sanders strays from a few of his standard talking points, he has difficulty explaining how he would implement the list of benefits that are attractive to his followers.  This phenomenon is one of the reasons I have not been able to get on board the Sanders bandwagon.  Talking Points Memo looks at the near disastrous interview.  Here are highlights:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) struggled to detail how he would break-up the big banks and move toward a "moral economy" during an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board published Monday.
A member of the editorial board asked Sanders what authority he would have as President to break-up banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.
Sanders answered:
Well, by the way, the idea of breaking up these banks is not an original idea. It's an idea that some conservatives have also agreed to. You've got head of, I think it's, the Kansas City Fed, some pretty conservative guys, who understands. Let's talk about the merit of the issue, and then talk about how we get there.
Right now, what you have are two factors. We bailed out Wall Street because the banks are too big to fail, correct? It turns out, that three out of the four largest banks are bigger today than they were when we bailed them out, when they were too-big-to-fail. That's number one. Number two, if you look at the six largest financial institutions of this country, their assets somewhere around $10 trillion. That is equivalent to 58% of the GDP of America. They issue two-thirds of the credit cards in this country, and about one-third of the mortgages. That is a lot of power. And I think that if somebody, like if Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, he would look at that. Forgetting even the risk element, the bailout element, and just look at the kind of financial power that these guys have, would say that is too much power.
"OK," an editorial board member responded, according to a Daily News transcript, before pressing Sanders for more specifics about the policy plan.
"How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail," Sanders said.
If the banks were to be broken up, the editorial board asked, what would happen to the hundreds of thousands of employees who would be affected?
"What I foresee is a stronger national economy. And, in fact, a stronger economy in New York State, as well. What I foresee is a financial system which actually makes affordable loans to small and medium-size businesses," Sanders responded.
The senator also suggested the Justice Department was not forceful enough in prosecuting Wall Street executives.
"I'm saying, a Sanders administration would have a much more aggressive attorney general looking at all of the legal implications," he said.
When pressed for specific statutes that could be invoked to bring charges, Sanders couldn't answer.
"Do I have them in front of me, now, legal statutes? No, I don't," he said. "When a company pays a $5 billion fine for doing something that's illegal, yeah, I think we can bring charges against the executives."
Read the full conversation here.

Don't get me wrong.  I like some of Sanders' concepts, but without a semblance of a plan of how he would get legislation passed, his promises end up akin to Donald Trump's slogan that he'd "make America great again"   while offering no details  or policy positions.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Dedicated to all the bigots and haters in North Carolina and Mississippi

Mississippi Enacts Extreme Special Rights Law for Christofacsist

Seemingly having learned nothing from the experience of Indiana last year and the current tumult surrounding Georgia and North Carolina, Mississippi Republicans just enacted a pro-Christofascist law that makes the abortion passed in North Carolina pale in comparison.  The Bill, House Bill 1523, prevents state and local government agencies from taking action against state employees, individuals, organizations and private associations that deny service based on religious beliefs.   The bill is so broad that businesses can discriminate against heterosexuals as well if they believe the straigh customers are "living in sin."  A piece in the New York Times looks at the shocking special rights granted to right wing Christians in Mississippi.  Here are highlights:
The divide between social conservatives and diversity-minded corporations widened Tuesday with developments in Mississippi and North Carolina related to the rights of gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender people in both states.
Mississippi’s governor signed far-reaching legislation allowing individuals and institutions with religious objections to deny services to gay couples, and the online-payment company PayPal announced it was canceling a $3.6 million investment in North Carolina.
The measure signed by Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi allows churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to decline services to people if doing so would violate their religious beliefs on marriage and gender. Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia, under pressure from business interests, two weeks ago vetoed a similar bill passed by the state Legislature.
The developments in Republican-controlled states reflected growing fissures between business interests and social conservatives, whose alliance has played a central role in the Republican coalition. Similar disputes have erupted in Indiana, Arkansas and other Republican-controlled states since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2014.
Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina and Mr. Bryant join a list of Republican governors who are being squeezed between the business groups that have formed the core of their support and conservative state lawmakers pushing back against recent gains made by advocates of gay rights and same-sex marriage.
In Mississippi, objections have been raised by companies such as Tyson Foods, MGM Resorts International, Nissan and Toyota, all of whom are major employers in the state.

North Carolina Reaps the Economic Whirlwind for Anti-LGBT Bigotry

The anger being unleashed by corporate America in the wake of that state's passage of a bill that repeals all LGBT non-discrimination protections statewide is truly epic.  What is almost laughable is how unprepared the Republican nitwits who rammed this bill through have been to deal with the fury that they have unleashed.  A small amount of research and consideration of the Supreme Court ruling in Romer v. Evans would have suggested to remotely sentient individuals that HB 2 was a very, very bad idea - at least outside of spittle flecked, knuckle dragging Christofascist circles.  One can only hope that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe is burning up the telephone lines contacting the businesses that are announcing plans to cancel expansion in North Carolina and soliciting them to move to Virginia.  The opportunities would seem to be numerous between the corporate announcements and conventions being cancelled and/or relocated.   Fist, here are highlights from Paypal's announcement that it is cancelling plans for a global operation in Charlotte:
Two weeks ago, PayPal announced plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte and employ over 400 people in skilled jobs.  In the short time since then, legislation has been abruptly enacted by the State of North Carolina that invalidates protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens and denies these members of our community equal rights under the law.
 The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.  As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte.
 This decision reflects PayPal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect. These principles of fairness, inclusion and equality are at the heart of everything we seek to achieve and stand for as a company. And they compel us to take action to oppose discrimination.    
But Paypal is not alone in rethinking expansion in North Carolina.   Marketing concern Red Ventures is rethinking a 500 person expansion as well.  Here are highlights from Fox 46 News
Red Ventures is also considering pulling out of their 500 person expansion in 2016 after HB2 was passed.
"HB2 does not reflect the values of our people, our state or our democratic process. The speed with which it was passed and lack of constituent input enabled a select group of North Carolina representatives to ignore their responsibility to represent the whole state and, instead, eviscerate the civil rights of North Carolinians," The CEO of Red Ventures, Ric Elias said.
Elias said as a CEO who is committed to expanding our Charlotte presence by 500 people in 2016 and thousands after that, I am forced to seriously reconsider adding more jobs in a state that tolerates discrimination. 

The largest threat to North Carolina's economy, however, comes from the specter of lost federal funding.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Post:
At least five federal agencies are weighing whether to withhold funds from North Carolina in response to a recently enacted state law that blocks protections for gay, lesbians and bisexuals, and prohibits transgender individuals from using bathrooms that are not the same as the gender they were assigned at birth.
The ongoing reviews at the Education, Transportation, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services departments are not yet complete, and it is unclear how much federal money might be involved. But the Obama administration’s decision to scrutinize what White House press secretary Josh Earnest described as “both policy and legal questions that are raised by the passage of this law” suggests that the measure signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) last month could have major implications for his state.
Earnest said that “individual agencies are undertaking” the review, and the White House had not issued specific guidance on how to proceed. But he emphasized that President Obama said that “ensuring that individual Americans are not discriminated against because of who they love is something that the president feels strongly about,” and he was not surprised that North Carolina officials “are feeling some pressure” on the issue.

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, noted that a host of federal laws — from Title IX in the Education Amendments of 1972 to the Affordable Care Act and Violence Against Women Act — have anti-discrimination language that suggests North Carolina could stand to lose funding on a range of fronts.

Personally, I want to see North Carolina crucified.  Ditto for Mississippi which just enacted an even more heinous and expansive law granting special rights to Christofascists.