Saturday, May 21, 2016

Former Local Republican Party Chair Arrested for Aggravated Child Molestation

As Christofascist extremist continue to harass shoppers at Target and Republicans continue to prostitute themselves to the "godly folk" by continuing to push anti-LGBT legislation, a story out of Georgia again reminds us that the real threat to children and women is Republican elected and party officials. The former chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party was arrested yesterday and charged with child molestation.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has details.  Before engaging in anti-transgender hysteria, the GOP needs to clean its own putrid house.  Here are story highlights: 

The former chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party was arrested Friday morning and charged with child molestation. 
Joseph Russell Dendy, 71, was arrested at his West Cobb home and charged with aggravated child molestation and child molestation, both felonies. He was being held at the Cobb jail without bond early Friday afternoon.
Dendy allegedly molested two boys, ages 4 and 12, during separate incidents inside his Creekview Court home, his arrest warrant says. One victim, who is now 20, told police he was molested in 2007 or 2008, when he was 12 or 13 years old. A second victim said Dendy molested him in December 2011, according to police.
An arrest warrant was issued for Dendy late Thursday, and deputies went to his home and arrested him at 9 a.m. Friday, booking records showed.
Dendy served two, two-year terms as leader of the Cobb GOP and was succeeded last year by his vice chair, Rose Wing.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

The Dangerous Exceptance of Donald Trump

Having grown up in a Republican family and held a position on the GOP city committee for Virginia Beach, I witnessed a slow decline of the party's morality over the years.  With the rise of the Christofascists within the party, the moral bankruptcy accelerated.  Now, with the ascendancy of Donald Trump as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, the moral bankruptcy is now complete. Equally chilling has been witnessing the willingness of Republicans who know better to close their eyes and sell their souls for what they believe will be the self-promoting expediency of jumping on the Trump band wagon.   Most frightening, however, is the willingness of these individuals to put the national future at risk by backing a man whose entire platform has been based on racial hatred, support of white privilege, nativism, and a preference for mob rule that would trample on America's constitutional order.  A piece in the New Yorker looks at this dangerous trend underway.  What I find equally disturbing is Bernie Sanders' willingness to put his ego and vanity first and aid and abet Trump by refusing to end his campaign.  Here are article  highlights:
The three-part process by which the gross becomes the taken for granted has been on matchlessly grim view this past week in the ascent of Donald Trump. First merely endured by those in the Republican Party, with pained grimaces and faint bleats of reluctance, bare toleration passed quickly over into blind, partisan allegiance—he’s going to be the nominee, after all, and so is our boy. Then a weird kind of pity arose, directed not so much at him (he supplies his own self-pity) as at his supporters, on the premise that their existence somehow makes him a champion for the dispossessed, although the evidence indicates that his followers are mostly stirred by familiar racial and cultural resentments, of which Trump has been a single-minded spokesperson.
Now for the embrace. One by one, people who had not merely resisted him before but called him by his proper name—who, until a month ago, were determined to oppose a man they rightly described as a con artist and a pathological liar—are suddenly getting on board. Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’ No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, the kind who does not know the difference between lies and truth. Whatever the clinical diagnosis, we do appear to be getting, in place of the once famous Big Lie of the nineteen-thirties, a sordid blizzard of lies. The Big Lie was fit for a time of processionals and nighttime rallies, and films that featured them. The blizzard of lies is made for Twitter and the quick hit of an impulse culture. Trump’s lies arrive with such rapidity that before one can be refuted a new one comes to take its place. He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis.  The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire. There is a difference between major and minor issues, and between primary and secondary values. . . . . What we all should agree on is that the one thing worse would be to have no constitutional order left to argue about. If Trump came to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don’t really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right—not by PerĂ³ns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks. The nation may survive, but the wound to hope and order will never fully heal. Ask Argentinians or Chileans or Venezuelans or Russians or Italians—or Germans. 

Hillary Clinton and America's Child Care Cost Crisis

With two daughters with small children who work full time - one is currently off on unpaid maternity leave because the USA is the only  advanced nation that has no paid maternity leave requirement - I am well aware of the difficulty that working women face in finding good child care for their children. On top of the challenge of finding a facility that you trust, there is the huge issue of the cost.  In many cases, monthly child care costs far exceed what families are paying on their mortgages or for rent. In my daughter's case, while on unpaid maternity leave, she is allowed to live rent free because I happen to own the house she and her family live in, but all that does is effectively pass the financial strain on to me as I still have a mortgage to pay each month.  Most young families are not so lucky and the phenomenon of high child care costs are a part of the war on today's middle class. Hillary Clinton has an op-ed in the Washington Post that looks at this huge problem and possible solutions.  Here are excerpts:
Jennifer lives in Loudoun County. She has three young boys. She pays $2,500 every month for child care. That’s more than her mortgage.  This month in Northern Virginia, I met several moms and dads who told me similar stories.
In every state in the country, child care for two kids now costs more than the average rent. You read that right — child care costs more than housing. And in many states, it’s even more expensive than college tuition.
For parents who need to work, this is more than an inconvenience. It’s a crisis.
A recent national survey found that more than three-quarters of mothers and half of fathers say they’ve had to pass up work opportunities, switch jobs or even quit working because there was no other way to pay for child care. But working fewer hours or dropping out of the workforce altogether can have long-term consequences for families’ incomes.
A lack of quality child care can be dangerous, too. In 2014, nine children in Virginia died in unlicensed day-care centers. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) recentlysigned a bill to improve statewide safety standards, but without more federal funding, there’s only so much that states can do.
We’ve got to make investing in child care a national priority, especially for young parents, many of whom are trying to pay off student loans.
Child care, college and housing costs have skyrocketed while incomes have barely budged. And workplace policies haven’t changed even though families have, with women earning more of the family income than ever and men doing much more to care for kids and aging parents.
Many workers don’t have paid family leave. Many women don’t even get a single paid day off to give birth. The pressures are so intense that some workers worry that taking an earned vacation day will be seen as slacking off.
Let’s double our investment in programs I helped develop as first lady: Early Head Start and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program. These programs bring an evidenced-based curriculum to child care and make sure kids get the best possible start in life, no matter how much money their families have.
Let’s lighten the burden on the one-quarter of college students who are parents by providing scholarships of up to $1,500 per year for child care.
 In addition to affordable child care, working parents deserve the security of knowing they won’t lose income — or their jobs — for taking care of themselves or a loved one. One dad in Virginia told me that to stay home for his newborn’s early days, he had to cobble together sick days and vacation days. Many people can’t do even that.
It’s time we stopped being the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t offer workers paid family leave. That’s why I strongly support the paid family leave proposal the D.C. Council is pursuing. We should encourage states and local communities to take action as long as Congress refuses to act.
Under my plan, working Americans would earn up to seven days of paid sick leave each year. They would be guaranteed up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new baby or sick family member or to recover from an illness or injury. And we can fully fund this program by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share of taxes.
It’s all too easy for “kitchen table issues” such as these to get overlooked in our politics. But they matter to families. They matter to kids. And they’ve been the work of my life.

From my daughters' experience and what many of the law firm staff go through, this is indeed a crisis.  If the GOP was the party of family values that it claims to be, it would support programs such as what Hillary Clinton is proposing.  Sadly, it opposes all such spending and prefers giving more tax cuts to the wealthy as the majority of Americans slide towards a lifestyle like out of Charles Dickens novel.  Indeed, some in the GOP has questioned the propriety of child labor laws.  Elections matter and the working families of America cannot afford to have the GOP retake the White House.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty

House Republicans Again Confirm Their Anti-LGBT Animus

Republican controlled state legislatures have launched an aggressive anti-LGBT jihad, enacting so-called "religious liberty" laws and bathroom bills aimed at transgender Americans.  Now, the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have made clear their anti-LGBT animus by blocking an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have protected LGBT individuals from employment discrimination by federal contractors.  The goal: to allow blatant anti-LGBT discrimination. The GOP will seemingly go to any and all lengths to please its Christofascist overlords and make life Hell for LGBT Americans.  Politico looks at the circus that occurred as the Republicans made their animus clear.  Here are excerpts:
The House erupted in chaos Thursday morning with Democrats crying foul after Republicans hastily persuaded a few of their own to switch their votes and narrowly block an amendment intended to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.
It was an unruly scene on the floor with Democrats chanting, "Shame!" after GOP leaders barely muscled up the votes to reject, 212-213, an amendment by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would have effectively barred federal contractors from getting government work if they discriminate against the LGBT community.
At one point, a monitor in the House gallery showed there were 217 votes supporting the legislation, eliciting cheers of joy from Democrats who thought the measure might actually pass. But over the course of about 10 minutes, those votes suddenly dropped one by one to 212 — and the amendment failed.
A number of lawmakers from western states, who originally voted yes, changed their votes. According to a list tweeted out an hour after the vote by House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office, they included: California Reps. Darrell Issa, David Valadao, Jeff Denham, Mimi Walters, and Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, Rep. David Yong of Iowa and Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine.
Republicans are saying privately that if the amendment had passed, it would have killed the appropriations bill because Republicans would no longer vote for it.  "Our veterans and troops were prioritized over a political messaging amendment that could have jeopardized the final passage of the appropriations bill," said Speaker Paul Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong in a statement.
The acrimony undermined a success for Ryan earlier that day regarding his commitment to regular order. Just moments before the LGBT vote, he’d shepherded the first House vote to bar the Confederate flag from flying in mass graves at federal cemeteries.
Almost every Democrat was on his or her feet shouting and eventually they broke out in a chant, pointing their fingers at the other side of the chamber where the Republicans sit: “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

Trump Delegate Indicted on Weapons and Child Porn Charges

As Bernie Sanders continues his ego driven campaign, we are again being offered a look at the type of people supporting Donald Trump and his fascist agenda.  In addition to white supremacy groups and ignorance embracing Christofascists, it turns out that one of Trump's Maryland delegates has been indicted on federal weapons charges and for child pornography.  Yet, Sanders seems intent on helping to put Trump and his ugly agenda in the White House.  Mother Jones looks at this latest expose of the ugly underbelly of the Trump army of supporters.  Here are story highlights:

A Maryland delegate selected by Donald Trump's presidential campaign for the Republican National Convention was indicted on Wednesday on federal weapons and child pornography charges.
The federal indictment alleges that Caleb Andrew Bailey, 30, of Waldorf, Maryland, illegally mailed a cache of ammunition and explosives through the US Postal Service and illegally possessed a machine gun and child pornography. The indictment also further alleges that Bailey "attempted to use and did use a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct to produce child pornography."
Joe Cluster, the executive director for the Maryland Republican Party, confirmed to Mother Jones that Bailey was approved by the Trump campaign as a delegate to the GOP convention from Maryland's 5th Congressional District. Bailey could not immediately be reached for comment.
Questions remain as to how the Trump campaign has vetted its delegates for the GOP national convention. Earlier this month, Mother Jones reported that the Trump campaign approved a white nationalist leader as one of its delegates from California. That prompted the delegate, William Johnson, to resign. The Trump campaign blamed Johnson's inclusion on a "database error."

Sanders' Continued Campaign Is a Gift to Trump

Hypocrisy and an overweening ego seem to be showing themselves to be two main aspects of Bernie Sanders' character.  In some ways, he and Donald Trump are cut out of the same egomaniac cloth, Trump simply being much more flamboyant in his own self-worship.  Sanders claims to want a significant political change in the country, but he seems to be only too happy to assist Trump's campaign rather than give up a primary contest he cannot win.  In his ongoing temper tantrum, he seemingly would prefer to tear the Democrat Party apart and put Trump in the White House - a man who is the antithesis of what Sanders claims to want and support - solely because of his huge ego.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Sanders' destructive behavior which is only serving to help Trump.  Here are excerpts:
Bernie Sanders is playing a dangerous game. If he and his campaign continue their scorched-earth attacks against the Democratic Party, they will succeed in only one thing: electing Donald Trump as president.
I say this as someone who shares much of Sanders’s political philosophy; I, too, for example, see health care as a basic right. He has run a remarkable and historically significant campaign, pulling the party to the left and pumping it full of new progressive vigor. His crowds are almost as big as Trump’s and perhaps even more enthusiastic. Most important, he has brought legions of young people into the political process.
But he hasn’t won the nomination.  Hillary Clinton has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, earned by her performance in primaries and caucuses. In the aggregate, she leads Sanders by about 3 million votes. The will of the party is clear: More Democrats prefer Clinton over Sanders as their nominee.
Instead of accepting this obvious fact, the Sanders campaign is behaving like a 2-year-old who can’t have ice cream for breakfast.  . . . Now the Sanders people have gone further and are deliberately stoking anger and a sense of grievance — less against Clinton than the party itself. This is reckless in the extreme, and it could put Trump in the White House.
I do not believe I am being alarmist. The RealClearPolitics poll average has Clinton narrowly leading Trump, 45.8 percent to 42.5 percent; a Fox News poll released Wednesday actually showed Trump with a slight lead. At this point in a presidential year, general-election polls usually don’t mean much. And yes, Democrats have a built-in Electoral College advantage. But it would be foolish not to plan for a tight contest in which every single vote counts.
Clinton is a better campaigner than many people give her credit for, but she has two major vulnerabilities that Trump will seek to exploit: Many people do not find her trustworthy, and she has been a leading member of the political establishment for decades.
Trump’s central flaw is much more serious — he is completely unfit for the job of president and could do great damage to the nation both domestically and internationally. But clearly many Americans are in an anti-establishment mood. The question is whether they are so disgusted with traditional politics and politicians that they will cross their fingers and take a flier on Trump.
I hope not. But the Democratic nominee will be all that stands between Trump and the White House. It is possible to believe Clinton would be far from an ideal president and also believe she must be elected because Trump would be an unthinkable disaster.
Given this context, Sanders and his campaign are being shamefully irresponsible. . . . if he means it when he says he will do everything in his power to keep Trump from being elected, he has to do more than just modulate his rhetoric against Clinton. He and his campaign must stop attacking the Democratic Party in a way that might discourage voters in the fall.
Any respect I had for Sanders is now gone and I now view him as a threat to the nation's future,  He needs to put his ego aside and end his campaign now. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

Hampton Roads Retail Alliance Gala 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award

click image to enlarge

A number of our friends tease us about the number of formal events we go to each year. but if one supports worthy causes and wants to support friends and community advocates, it actually takes an effort NOT to go to many events.  Tonight, on a reminder from our dear friend Cindy Cutler (a former Legends honoree), we attended the Greater Hampton Roads Retail Alliance Gala that honored top retailers from both the Virginia Peninsula and the so-called "Southside" - i.e., the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk -  and, most importantly, our dear friends, Claus Ihlemann (another past Legends honoree and Equality Virginia "Outstanding Virginian" and his husband, Robert Roman, the owners of Decorum Furniture.

Not only are Claus and Robert great supporters of LGBT equality - the are presenting sponsors at the 2016 Pride fest event in Norfolk on June 18, 2016 (the husband and I are also sponsors, but on nowhere near that level) - but their philanthropic efforts extend to ACCESS/AIDS Care, Hope House, Tidewater Arts Outreach and many other causes that seek to enhance the greater Hampton Roads community.  Their constant refrain for what they do is "Pay it forward."

The husband and I consider ourselves lucky to count this year's lifetime achievement winners as friends.  Moreover, the set the stand for other to emulate, including their willingness to live their lives honestly and authentically, making no apologies for who they are. The same goes for our friend Cindy Cutler, mentioned above, a formidable "straight ally" to the LGBT community.

As I have advise in the past for those coming out - especially those coming out later in life - the key to thriving is to get involved and surround yourself with inspiring people.  Each of us has the ability to create change and to make sure that it gets better for those coming after us.  

As for the event itself, it was well done, with a masquerade theme - many guest sported formal wear and stylish masks - we wore masks from Venice - and to liven up the evening, performers from the based Hurrah Players (which among others, first launched actor Grant Gustin ) providing well done renditions from Phantom of the Opera.   In short, it was a wonderful evening.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Decline and Fall of Bernie Sanders

I have been truly dismayed with the rise of Donald Trump and the complete hijacking of the Republican Party by those most motivated by hate, bigotry and a under current of greed.  Over the last month or so, I have likewise grown increasingly dismayed by Bernie Sanders and the worsening conduct of his followers.  In some ways, Sanders is trying to ride a wave of resentment akin to Donald Trump.  Worse yet, he is proving to be just as big of egomaniac as Trump.  He once boasted that he had never lost and election and the fact that he is losing to Hillary Clinton appears to be more than his psyche can handle.  He seems only too willing to trash the Democrat Party and throw the election to Trump simply to appease his damaged vanity.  What respect I once had for the man is gone and he needs to get out of the presidential contest.  A piece in Mother Jones echos my concerns.  Here are excerpts:
So tonight's Democratic primaries basically ended in a tie. There's really nothing of interest left anymore: Hillary Clinton will win the nomination, as we've all known she would for at least the past month.
The one thing I do keep wondering about is what happened to Bernie Sanders. Before this campaign, he was a gadfly, he was a critic of the system, and he was a man of strong principles. He still is, but he's also obviously very, very bitter. I wonder if all this was worth it for him? By all objective measures he did way better than anyone expected and had far more influence than anyone thought he would and he should feel good about that. Instead, he seems more angry and resentful with every passing day.
I know this happens all the time in presidential primaries. Everyone starts out promising to run high-minded campaigns, but the attacks always come sooner or later—and the targets inevitably believe the attacks are unfair and slanderous. As a result, the losers develop a deep personal disdain for their opponents.
That's what's happened this time, and I suppose there's nothing unusual about it. I don't even blame anyone in particular. Maybe Hillary's team played too rough. Maybe Bernie's team is too thin-skinned. I just don't know. But it's sort of painful to see a good person like Bernie turned into such a sullen and resentful man. And doubly painful to see him take his followers down that path too.
Usually these things fade with a bit of time. Politics is politics, after all. But for Bernie, it's always been more than politics. I wonder if he's ever going to get over this?

As for the behavior of Bernies' followers - which he has yet to adequately condemn - a piece here from the Nevada Democrat Party underscores that Sanders is by default condoning behavior akin to the mobs at Trump rallies.  It is ugly, disappointing, and speaks very badly of Sanders.

This is How Fascism Comes to America

Many - especially those on the Republican side of the aisle - refuse to accept the reality that drawing parallels between Donald Trump and his followers to fascist regimes of the last century are based on fact and ought to wake people up from their indifference or desire to cynically play on the phenomenon to further advance themselves.  Such people care nothing about the future of the nation and care only about their own short term gain.  I say short term gain because if one looks at the rise of Hitler or Mussolini, a number of their early sycophants and enablers later found themselves targeted for elimination or, at best, shoved to the sidelines as their movement's egomaniac leaders  no longer found them useful.   This cult of the supreme leader is frightening.  Also frightening is that now, on the left, we see Bernie trying to emulate some of the tactics and claims of a "rigged" system that we heard from Donald Trump earlier in the year.  A column in the Washington Post looks at Trump and the dangerous course he is taking the country on and the idiocy of those in the GOP who believe they can control him if he is elected to the White House.  Here are highlights:
The Republican Party’s attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic. If only he would mouth the party’s “conservative” principles, all would be well.
But of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party. Because it did not immediately and fully embrace Trump, because a dwindling number of its political and intellectual leaders still resist him, the party is regarded with suspicion and even hostility by his followers. Their allegiance is to him and him alone.
And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others”. . .
His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up. . . . . Trump himself is simply and quite literally an egomaniac. But the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.
Republican politicians marvel at how he has “tapped into” a hitherto unknown swath of the voting public. But what he has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the “mobocracy.” Conservatives have been warning for decades about government suffocating liberty. But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms. As Alexander Hamilton watched the French Revolution unfold, he feared in America what he saw play out in France — that the unleashing of popular passions would lead not to greater democracy but to the arrival of a tyrant, riding to power on the shoulders of the people.
This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.” Fascist movements, too, had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society. “National socialism” was a bundle of contradictions, united chiefly by what, and who, it opposed; fascism in Italy was anti-liberal, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist and anti-clerical. Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Fuhrer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. 
To understand how such movements take over a democracy, one only has to watch the Republican Party today. These movements play on all the fears, vanities, ambitions and insecurities that make up the human psyche. In democracies, at least for politicians, the only thing that matters is what the voters say they want — vox populi vox dei. A mass political movement is thus a powerful and, to those who would oppose it, frightening weapon. When controlled and directed by a single leader, it can be aimed at whomever the leader chooses. 
In such an environment, every political figure confronts a stark choice: Get right with the leader and his mass following or get run over. The human race in such circumstances breaks down into predictable categories — and democratic politicians are the most predictable. There are those whose ambition leads them to jump on the bandwagon. They praise the leader’s incoherent speeches as the beginning of wisdom, hoping he will reward them with a plum post in the new order. 
A great number will simply kid themselves, refusing to admit that something very different from the usual politics is afoot. Let the storm pass, they insist, and then we can pick up the pieces, rebuild and get back to normal. Meanwhile, don’t alienate the leader’s mass following. After all, they are voters and will need to brought back into the fold. As for Trump himself, let’s shape him, advise him, steer him in the right direction and, not incidentally, save our political skins.
What these people do not or will not see is that, once in power, Trump will owe them and their party nothing. He will have ridden to power despite the party, catapulted into the White House by a mass following devoted only to him.
In addition to all that comes from being the leader of a mass following, he would also have the immense powers of the American presidency at his command: the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence services, the military. Who would dare to oppose him then? Certainly not a Republican Party that laid down before him even when he was comparatively weak. And is a man like Trump, with infinitely greater power in his hands, likely to become more humble, more judicious, more generous, less vengeful than he is today, than he has been his whole life? Does vast power un-corrupt?
This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

Be afraid.  Very afraid.  Many Germans lived to rue the day that they fell in line behind Hitler. Likewise those who rallied to Mussolini.  It CAN happen in America and it needs to be stopped.  Sadly, those now rallying to Trump seem to know nothing of history and the dangers an ego filled  demagogue poses to the nation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Donald Trump's Anti-LGBT Supreme Court Picks

Some have tried to claim that Donald Trump would be less hostile toward LGBT citizens than some of the other Republican presidential candidates would be.  Like so much of what hears from self-loathing (and greed motivated, money loving) gay Republicans,  such claims are seemingly nothing more than wishful thinking.  At least that is the conclusion to be reached from Donald Trump's supposed list of potential Supreme Court justice nominees.  None are gay friendly and some are outright hostile or backed by anti-gay organizations.  The Advocate looks at Trump's toxic list of would be Court nominees.  Here are highlights:
LGBT Americans have reason to worry about Donald Trump’s list of hypothetical Supreme Court nominees, which includes a judge who tweeted about marrying bacon and one who upheld public funding for student groups that discriminate.
All 11 of Trump’s potential picks, announced today, have solidly conservative judicial records. Not all have ruled in LGBT rights cases, but those who have are largely unsympathetic, and some have the backing of anti-LGBT activists.
Here’s a look at some of Trump’s favorite jurists.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett: He’s definitely one of the more colorful possibilities, as he’s known for his frequent use of Twitter to comment on legal and political matters. In 2015, as the nation was abuzz over the marriage equality case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Willett tweeted the following: I could support recognizing a constitutional right to marry bacon.  More recently, he made sport of transgender-inclusive school policies.
On Texas’s high court, Willett has not been inclined to recognize same-sex marriage. Last year a Texas judge allowed two women, one with ovarian cancer, to marry before the state’s ban on such unions struck down, and the state Supreme Court dismissed Attorney General Ken Paxton’s challenge to the marriage; Willett dissented. He also dissented from the Texas court’s decision not to take up a case on the validity of a same-sex divorce.
Willett was appointed to the court in 2005 by then-Gov. Rick Perry to fill a vacancy and has been reelected by voters twice. In his 2012 primary, he was endorsed by such religious right types as James Dobson, David Barton, Liberty Institute CEO Kelly Shackelford, and Greg Abbott — then Texas’s attorney general, now its governor.
Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Diane Sykes: Sykes was on a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit that in 2006 affirmed a student group’s right to discriminate against those who engage in “homosexual conduct” but still be recognized as an official campus group and receive public funding. Four years later, “the Supreme Court rejected her approach in a similar case,” notesThinkProgress.  
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras: In 2012, Stras was among the court majority in a case overruling the secretary of state’s assignment of a new title to an anti–marriage equality constitutional amendment going before voters. The original title, chosen by the state legislature, was “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie instead selected “Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples,” which legislators thought would make voters more likely to oppose the amendment. 
Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge William H. Pryor Jr.: LGBT activists have been wary of Pryor because he filed a friend of the court brief supporting sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas, and he “also cast the deciding vote to oppose hearing a challenge to Florida’s law that banned gay people from adopting,” ThinkProgress reports. He has also derided LGBT rights as “political correctness.”
For the remaining judges on Trump’s list, significant anti-LGBT rulings and comments have yet to surface. They are largely very conservative, though, with records of opposing or at least seeking to limit abortion rights, and seeking to restrict voting rights and workers’ rights.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

click image to enlarge

A Crusade to Release the Missing 28 Pages of the 9/11 Report

As noted frequently on this blog, with "friends" and "allies" like Saudi Arabia, one may not need any enemies.  As the leading exporter of Islamic extremism and a thoroughly theocratic based society, the Saudis seemingly have little in common with America but for oil and western dependence on the basket case that is the Middle East as a direct consequence.  Adding to this unease with the Saudis is the continued refusal of the Obama administration to release 28 missing pages from the 9/11 Report that seemingly contain information that would not favorably dispose Americans towards Saudi Arabia, the birth place of most of the 9/11 terrorists.  Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham is on a crusade to have these missing pages released.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at his quest and why it matters.  Here are highlights:
Former Florida senator Bob Graham caused a stir when he used the term “aggressive deception” to describe the FBI’s treatment of 28 pages from a 2003 congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.
The word choice was intentional, the co-chair of the investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks told The Daily Beast, because to Graham, what the FBI did was worse than the conventional Washington cover-up.
“Cover-up is a fairly passive action. You put something away and keep it out of the vision of other people who might wish to see it,” Graham explained. “Aggressive deception is where you try to change the narrative in an untruthful way, and then you keep the material that would provide the truth away from the people. So the only thing they see and are exposed to is the false narrative.”
It’s an explosive charge, a hair’s breadth away from calling the highest law enforcement officials liars, but when Graham lays out the sequence of events that brought him—a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee— to level such a broadside, his ire is understandable.
The last few years have pitted him against not only the FBI but also a range of government agencies and officials determined to keep under wraps information about Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks, which he believes the public has the right to know.
For Graham, getting this information to the public has been a lonely crusade—until recently. He finally succeeded, after months of trying, in getting an appointment scheduled for today with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who is overseeing the administration’s review of the 28 pages with an eye to releasing them.
Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission, told The Guardian that there is “clear evidence” that Saudis working for the Saudi government aided the hijackers, joining other Commission members calling for the public’s right to know.
Almost a decade after putting the investigation to bed, Graham got pulled back into the 9/11 probe in 2011 when writers researching a book on the 10th anniversary of the attacks discovered that a well-off Saudi family living in a gated community in Sarasota, Florida, had contact with three of the four 9/11 pilots, including Mohammad Atta.
As The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris detailed, the information was uncovered when neighbors recognized the hijackers from their photos as frequent visitors and told law enforcement.
The FBI field office in Tampa quickly refuted the story, claiming that a six-month investigation had found no relationship between the hijackers and the family, and that all documents had been turned over to the 9/11 Commission and the JICI (Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities) before and after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
That was the inquiry Graham chaired, and he couldn’t recall getting any information about Saudi involvement in Sarasota. He called Porter Goss, his co-chair at the JICI, who had been a CIA agent and later director, “So he knows the territory,” Graham said. Goss didn’t recall any such info and neither did Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean, who co-chaired the 9/11 Commission and said they turned over all documents to the National Archives.
Graham had a search done of the Archives and the Sarasota information was not there. 
The reports directly contradicted what the FBI had said publicly. “The agent in charge wrote (in the first report) that the investigation was NOT (Graham’s emphasis) completed and he suggested lines of several inquiries,” Graham recounted. “In the second file, he also wrote in very declarative language there was contact between the Saudis and three hijackers.”
Soon after reading those files, Graham and his wife flew into Dulles Airport for Thanksgiving with a daughter who lives in Virginia.  To their surprise, two FBI agents met the couple at the gate and guided them to where a third “higher up” agent was waiting to speak to Graham.  Then Deputy Director Sean Joyce, accompanied by a young female agent and a middle-aged Justice Department attorney, “told me basically everything about 911 was known and I was wasting my time and I should get a life,” recounts Graham.
Having just read those contradictory FBI files from the Tampa office, Graham pushed back, only to be told the FBI had “other information that put what I had read in a broader context and would lead to a different conclusion.”
Fair enough, Graham said. Can I see this information? Joyce asked the young female agent to get the materials that provided the context, and a date was set for after Thanksgiving to meet in the FBI’s downtown Washington office.  Graham arrived at the agreed upon time but when Joyce came in, he said the meeting adjourned. He also told Graham to stop calling the Tampa agent who had authored the memos, and who had been transferred to Honolulu.
“And that was the end of that,” says Graham. “The meeting ended before it began.”The FBI declined to comment when asked by The Daily Beast to respond to Graham’s charge of “aggressive deception.”
National security is the reason to de-classify the 28 pages, says Graham. “I think the country is paying a real price for withholding this information, emboldening them [the Saudis] to be the primary financiers of terrorists and the primary recruiters of terrorists through their madrassas, and this failure to hold them to account has been extremely damaging,” says Graham.
With the potential for release next month, or certainly by the end of the Obama administration, answers to one of Washington’s most puzzling mysteries could finally come to light.

If there is nothing to hide, one has to wonder why all the effort to hide the information from the American public.   Sadly, we need Saudi cooperation and our allies remain dependent on Middle East oil.  But if the Saudis are plotting against us and financing extremists, we and the Western world need to know about it. 

Is White Voters Support for Trump Overestimated?

The mainstream media has been accused of boosting Donald Trump while tearing down Hillary Clinton.  Why?  Because a close, "horse race" election is more newsworthy and helps attract more television viewers and sell more newspapers than one that is lopsided and boring.  The media, especially the talking heads and pundit class, in short, has a vested interest in not having one candidate all but assured of victory - at least according to the media's pontificating.  Donald Trump is running all but an avowed racists campaign and is focusing on lower class white males in particular. The question is, are there enough of them to save the day for Trump.  A column in the Washington Post suggests that the white support for Donald Trump is being over estimated as part of this phenomenon.  Here are column excerpts:
There is a strain of reporting on Donald Trump’s strengths and Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses that is becoming rather irritating. The presumptive Republican nominee’s popularity with white voters is seen as a red flag for his all-but-certain Democratic opponent. Meanwhile, her overwhelming support among African American and Latino voters is practically dismissed.
Neither Clinton nor Trump will win without a coalition of voters. And right now, the former secretary of state running to succeed the nation’s first black president has the upper hand. But that advantage in theory will evaporate in reality if those constituencies don’t show up at the ballot box in November.
I got to thinking about this after seeing the latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll. If the election were held today Trump would win 53 percent of the white vote compared to 39 percent for Clinton. That’s a 14 percentage point gap. Black voters would pull the lever for Clinton over Trump, 84 percent to 9 percent. And Hispanic voters would go for the former senator from New York over the Manhattan real estate mogul, 65 percent to 28 percent. That’s a 75-point spread among African American voters and a 37-point gap among Hispanic voters.
In op-eds for The Post and the Wall Street Journal, Republican pollster and strategist Whit Ayres laid out the dismal demographics facing the GOP.
Ayres pointed out in the WSJ that Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, “won 59% of white voters, the highest percentage of any Republican challenging an incumbent president in the history of exit polling.” In The Post, Ayres wrote that current demographic trends mean that in order for the GOP to win in November, its nominee must now win 65 percent of the white vote. That’s six percentage points higher than four years ago. Trump’s white support right now is six percentage points below what Romney got and 12 percentage points below the Ayres projection for 2016.
[W]hite voters are a shrinking part of the electorate. “Whites accounted for 72 percent of the national electorate in 2012, down from 83 percent in 1992 and 88 percent in 1976,” Ayres wrote in the WSJ last year. “If this pattern continues—with an average decline since 1996 of 2.75 percentage points each presidential election—the 2016 electorate will be about 69 percent white and 31 percent nonwhite.” On the other hand, 50,000 U.S.-born Hispanics will become eligible to vote every month for the next 20 years.
All told, Romney only earned support from 17 percent of nonwhite voters. So, an already difficult task might have been made impossible due to Trump’s racist and xenophobic campaign for the nomination. . . . Because of this downward demographic trend, Ayres wrote in The Post that the Republican nominee would need to win 30 percent of the nonwhite vote or 65 percent of the white vote to win the White House.
If the election were held today, as the NBC/Survey Monkey survey posits, Trump wouldn’t hit either of the necessary benchmarks. The same survey results show Clinton in much better shape. Her standing among white voters is on par with the Democratic average. No doubt Obama will be a big help energizing African Americans. And Trump may be Clinton’s greatest gift when it comes to motivating Latinos to vote. Turnout among black and brown voters is essential. Without them, Clinton is toast. She knows this. It’s time the media recognized it, too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More Tuesday Male Beauty

Labor Department Rule Change to Bringing Overtime Pay To Millions Of Workers

One standard way for employers to get around overtime pay (and perhaps even minimum wage requirements) for their employees has been to treat them as salaried employees rather than hourly employees who are subject to minimum wage and overtime pay rules.  Recognizing this, the Labor Department had previously set a threshold for salary incomes below which the overtime pay rules would be triggered.  However, until now, that threshold has been a pathetic $23,660.00.  Now, that threshold will be increased to $47,476.  Expect shrieks and screams from Republicans and those who want to bring back the bad old days of the falsely named Gilded Age.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at this change that may positively impact millions of Americans.  Here are article highlights:
The Labor Department announced Tuesday that it completed one of the most ambitious economic reforms of the Obama era, finalizing a new rule that will extend overtime protections to millions of additional workers.
The administration will accomplish that by raising what’s known as the overtime salary threshold. Nearly all workers earning salaries beneath that threshold are entitled to time-and-a-half pay whenever they work more than 40 hours in a week.
The current threshold is just $23,660. The White House will be doubling that number, to $47,476, guaranteeing overtime rights for salaried workers earning less than that. The Labor Department will now update the threshold every three years to make sure it keeps pace with inflation.
The White House estimates that the change will bring overtime rights to 4.2 million workers who are currently excluded. It will also clarify eligibility for another 8.9 million workers who may or may not have overtime protections under the current rules, officials said.
On a call with reporters Tuesday, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said the reform was meant to address “both underpay and overwork.”
With a minimum wage hike blocked on Capitol Hill, expanding overtime was the most aggressive way for the Obama administration to raise wages for private-sector workers. The White House is making the reforms through the executive rule-making process, under the Fair Labor Standards Act. It doesn’t need congressional approval to do so, although Republicans may still try to block the reforms through the appropriations process.
Passed during the Great Depression, America’s overtime law was meant to protect workers from being worked too long and paid too little. The rules guarantee that workers get paid extra when they work extra. The rules also discourage employers from working employees long hours by making it more expensive to do so, through a time-and-a-half premium.
But under the current regulations, many working-class employees who earn above the low salary threshold are classified as “managers” and therefore don’t have overtime rights. Employers have an incentive to pile work onto these employees, since their extra time essentially comes for free. As a result, in retail some store managers will clock 60, 70 or even 80 hours, but only take home a modest salary in the $30,000 range.
In 1975, 62 percent of salaried workers had overtime rights; now, that share is a mere 7 percent, according to White House estimates.   “And you wonder why the middle class is struggling,” Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday. “If you work overtime you should actually get paid for working overtime.”
“Overworked and underpaid managers, postdoctoral researchers, social workers, insurance claims workers, and many others will have their lives improved one way or another by this rule,” said Eisenbrey, who was one of the most vocal voices for the reform. “It’s great to see the government doing something significant to help the struggling middle class.”
EPI estimates that the effects could be greater than the White House anticipates. The group projects that 12.5 million workers will “directly benefit” from the new rules — slightly more than half of them women, and a disproportionate share of them African-American and Hispanic. The biggest effects will be felt in the South, where a larger share of workers are carved out of protections under the current rules.
Business groups lobbied hard against the new rules, claiming they would lead employers to cut back on hours, and force workers to start tracking their time as hourly employees. What the rules will undoubtedly do is give many employers a hard choice: Either limit workers’ hours to 40 per week so they don’t incur the time-and-a-half premium, or start paying workers more for the extra time they work.
What Republicans and business groups seem to never contemplate is that if workers have increased income, they will spend much of it in the marketplace and boost the economy - and the demand for goods and services.  It is not a zero sum game. I can think of many law firms and title companies that may need to revisit their wage practises.