Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Right, Not the Left, are the Real Haters.

In the wake of the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, much effort has been expended by the far right to blame liberals and progressives as being haters and fostering an atmosphere where the targeting of Congressional Republicans was the natural outcome.  This effort, like so much else spewing from the right is a lie.  Yes, the shooter seemingly opposed the GOP's agenda, but he clearly seemed to have mental issues and a very troubled history.  Had he been a right winger, the same pundits and Republican apologists would have been listing all the reasons why the shooter was disturbed and argued ad nausea that their extremist agenda had nothing to do with his motivations.  A piece in looks at those really responsible for the hatred overtaking the political discourse and it is not those on the left.  Here are excerpts:
Many commentators are suggesting that both right and left are equally to blame for all the polarization between them. They’re wrong. The reason for all the bitterness between left and right is entirely the right’s fault. Right-wingers who suggest otherwise are self-deluded — and usually projecting.
Exhibit A: Newt Gingrich. On June 18, Gingrich capped off a week in which he once again blamed the left for a mass shooting by suggesting on ABC’s This Week that the Russiagate investigation is “baloney” because there is no evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians. When anchor Martha Raddatz suggested that an investigation is needed to reach this conclusion in the first place, Gingrich responded with the non-sequitur that Bill Clinton, John Podesta’s brother and the “Iranian deal” should be investigated.
And when Raddatz questioned Gingrich’s false statement earlier in the week that the president cannot in principle commit obstruction and reminded him that he himself tried impeaching President Clinton for this crime, Gingrich dodged with the same non-sequitur: “[T]here’s no evidence” that Trump committed obstruction.
What Gingrich exhibited in just this one interview is a problem that is rampant throughout not only the Trump administration but also the modern Republican Party: bad reasoning. Like the rest of them, Gingrich is marvelously inept at persuading. His points don’t even qualify as sophistry because sophistry at least has the form and appearance of valid, cogent argumentation. In 2008, Susan Jacoby wrote in her book The Age of American Unreason that the American right has “been so effective at turning the once honorable word [“intellectual”] into a political pejorative. The right wing has been able to get away with this disingenuous logic — and with putting it in the mouths of genuinely anti-intellectual right-wing politicians — because nonreading Americans know less and less about their nation’s political and intellectual history.” Similarly, five years later, then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged his fellow Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.”
Unfortunately, the GOP never heeded Gov. Jindal’s uncharacteristically sage advice. Instead, they continued in precisely the reverse direction and chose Trump to be their standard-bearer.
Trump is hardly a trendsetter. He is merely following the lead of the right’s most prominent propagandists on Fox News and hate/outrage/grievance radio: Newt, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, the formerly influential Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, etc. None of them can reason well. When challenged, they don’t act like good thinkers would — by listening carefully and then responding with careful, effective, fact-based arguments. Instead, they interrupt and shout down their opponents, belittle them with some pejorative term (“feminazi,” “libtard,” “snowflake,” “elitist”), attack their character or motives, and then avoid further challenge of their vapid rants by escaping to advertisements. Reactionary demagogues have effectively programmed millions in their audiences to argue in this willfully — indeed, proudly — ignorant manner. Hence the demonic, furious, malicious, sneering comments that routinely populate right-wing blogs and comments sections, not to mention social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. such baseless, inflammatory comments do not measure up to the kind of rational political dialogue envisioned by our Founding Fathers and encouraged by academic institutions. Just the opposite, they are the odious residue of minds poisoned by exposure to thousands of hours of manipulative, deceptive, McCarthyist filth. All of this toxic irrationality is very frustrating for the left, who, unlike the right, don’t have it all figured out. Quite the contrary, they always want to learn more, to make intellectual and moral progress, to pursue difficult questions and try to solve difficult problems. They are not afraid of different perspectives, which is why only they, not the right, value multiculturalism, immigration, diversity and scientific exploration. All that people like Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer have to offer is demonization — demonization of non-whites, of Muslims and of the left. This unenlightened, know-it-all mindset, completely impervious to conflicting facts and theories, is just not the stuff of rationality, progress and constitutional democracy. It is, rather, the stuff of superstition, cults and fascism. Fortunately, the brainwashed right constitute a minority — only 35 to 40 percent — of the American population. This is why Republicans have to cheat to win local, state and national elections. Because they can’t be honest about their self-serving, oligarchical motives, they have to resort instead to the most ruthless, unscrupulous, anti-democratic tactics: voter suppression (including voter purges), unconstitutional gerrymandering and dissemination of fake news. The election of the first black president alienated the right, but the fault for this alienation lies entirely with the latter. The same is true today, in Trump’s America; the right, not the left, are the real haters. [W]e on the left are “not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

The GOP's Three Big Lies About Trumpcare

One thing that has been noteworthy about the Christofascist takeover of the Republican Party base is that as the power of the Christofascist has grown, so has the dishonesty of the Party.  Sadly, as a number of analyses of the Christofascists have shown, they have no compunction about lying.  Anything that furthers their theocratic, largely white supremacist agenda is perfectly fine in their minds.  The Commandment against lying is treated as if it simply doesn't exist.  The Senate GOP's health care "reform" bill underscores how Mitch McConnell - never one for truth and veracity - and his cronies have embraced the tactic of lying without shame.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the three big lies being marketed to the public at the moment by Senate Republicans. Here are highlights:
To succeed in gutting health coverage for millions of Americans, Senate Republican leaders need to get a series of lies accepted as truth. Journalists and other neutral arbiters must resist the temptation to report these lies as just a point of view. A lie is a lie.
Lie One: Democrats and progressives are unwilling to work with Republicans and conservatives on this issue. “If we went and got the single greatest health-care plan in the history of the world, we would not get one Democrat vote,” President Trump told an Iowa crowd last Wednesday.
In fact, Democrats, including President Barack Obama when he was in office, have said repeatedly that they would like to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer’s office put out a list of such offers, including a June 15 letter from Schumer to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a cross-party meeting to “find a way to make health care more affordable and accessible.”
 This first lie is important because it rationalizes the Republican claim that the bill has to be draconian because it can’t pass without support from the party’s most right-wing legislators. 
This brings us to Lie Two: This bill is primarily about improving health care for American families. No, this effort is primarily about cutting taxes. When it comes to health care, the main thing the bill does is take money away from providing it to pay for the tax reductions it contains and for future bonanzas the Republicans have promised.
The tax cuts in this legislation alone would amount to some $700 billion over a decade, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. About $33 billion of this would go to tax cuts conservatively averaging $7 million every year to each of the 400 highest-income families in the country. What could $33 billion buy? The CBPP reports it would be enough to pay for the expansion of Medicaid in Nevada, West Virginia, Arkansas and Alaska. Talk about income redistribution.
If this bill were truly about health care, Republicans would take all the tax cuts out and use that money to ease the pain their bill would cause. But they won’t, because the tax cuts are the thing that matters to them.
Lie Three: The Senate bill is a “compromise.” Really? Between whom? The House wants to destroy Obamacare quickly, the Senate a bit more slowly while also cutting Medicaid more steeply over time. This is only a “compromise” between two very right-wing policies.
I hope I never have to write about Lie Four, which would be Republican senators who surely know better — including Susan Collins, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Shelley Moore Capito and Rob Portman — justifying their votes for this monstrosity by claiming that it’s the best they could do. . . . . I would like to believe they are too decent for that. I hope I’m not lying to myself.

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Male Beauty - Pt 2

Pence to Hate Group: You Have President Trump’s "Unwavering Support"

Much of Der Trumpenführer presidential campaign focused on fomenting racial hatred among white voters and pushing the Christofascists' agenda of placing them above the law under the smoke screen of "religious freedom" - religious freedom for them and no one else.  Since taking office, Trump has sought to deliver on his promises to the Christofascists - numerous anti-gay executive actions and promises of special rights for churches - even as he breaks promises right and left on everything else, not the least, his promises that millions would not lose their health care coverage.  Both the Republican House bill and now the Republican Senate bill which Trump is lauding demonstrate just how big Trump's lie was in fact.  But back to the Christofascists.  Mike Pence recently attened a gathering of religious extremists at Focus on the Family - an anti-gay hate group with strong white supremacist leanings - and reassured them that they have an unwavering ally in Der Trumpenführer.  Here are highlights from LGBT Nation:
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at an event in Colorado today honoring the work of an anti-LGBTQ organization Focus on the Family at a celebration of its 40 year anniversary.
“The vice president is a man of faith,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said in his introduction. “He’s one of us. And I’ve been asked by the media over and over again, why did you invite the vice president? It’s a simple answer: He’s a man of faith, he believes in life, he believes in marriage.”
Pence was then welcomed to the stage, alongside his wife Karen Pence.
Pence congratulated the organization on 40 years of work, and promised them that “you have an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump.”
“He was excited that I was coming here today and wanted me to give you all his thanks and regards,” Pence added to applause.
Pence called Focus on the Family a “cornerstone of American life for so many Americans” and called its founder, James Dobson, on whose radio program he appeared during the presidential campaign, a “friend and mentor to me.”
When Pence wasn’t talking up the work of Focus on the Family, he was promoting the administration’s agenda, and presenting Trump as a president who was one of them.
He pointed to the president’s words at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he spoke of the importance of so-called “religious freedom,” so often used as a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
Pence also noted Trump’s signing of an executive order going after the Johnson Amendment, which prevents nonprofits, including churches, from politicking for any particular candidate or party.
He asked those in attendance to rally behind the health care bill, to help get it “across the finish line.”  “While discussions will continue, let me be very clear that the president and I are very supportive of the Senate bill,” he added.
The Senate bill would make deep cuts to Medicaid, putting the lives of many at risk, including those living with HIV/AIDS.
To make matters worse, Trump’s proposed budget would cut $300 million from HIV/AIDS funding. The president’s obvious apathy on the issues led to six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) to quit in protest.

The Trump Obstruction Case is Gaining Momentum

With all the noise over the Senate Republican's Dickensian "healthcare reform" bill - it does everything short of instituting work houses for the poor and debtor's prisons - and the daily lies by Der  Trumpenführer aimed at distracting the media and duping his base (the New York Times has a must read compilation here), something noteworthy has failed to get adequate coverage: the case against Trump for obstruction of justice is gaining momentum.  The biggest question remains one of whether and when Vichy Republicans will put the rule of law and the nation ahead of their own party. Things will likely get very nasty and it will be incumbent on true patriots to demand that Congressional Republicans cease their own obstruction and allow Trump to suffer the consequences of his actions against Comey and others.  Here are highlights from a piece in Vanity Fair:
It’s a very long walk, inside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, from Rachel Brand’s fifth-floor office to Rod Rosenstein’s space on the fourth floor. But the more important gap—in relative power—between the associate attorney general and her boss, the deputy attorney general, could shorten in a hurry.
Rosenstein has become an unexpectedly pivotal figure in the Donald Trump-Russia mess. Two weeks after joining the administration, the mild-mannered career prosecutor wrote a three-page memo that the president used to justify firing F.B.I. director James Comey. After Trump, on national television, revealed the memo to be a ruse, Rosenstein responded by appointing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Those twists pretty much guarantee that Mueller will eventually call Rosenstein as a witness in the investigation—at which point, goes the conventional wisdom, Rosenstein will recuse himself from all things Russia-related.
But the break could come sooner. “It really depends on Rod’s exact role in the firing of Comey, and what Trump told him,” a Department of Justice insider says. Mueller will also want to know about any communications between Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein regarding the firing, and if he establishes those links through other witnesses, Rosenstein may need to step aside even before he’s scheduled to answer the special counsel’s questions himself.
Or he could be given a shove toward recusal by a summons from the newly energized Senate Judiciary Committee. Its rival, the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been faster out of the investigatory gate, reeling in Comey and Sessions for dramatic, headline-making hearings.
Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, a former federal prosecutor, has loudly speculated that he believes that Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived, highly compromised national security director, has already started cooperating with Russia investigators.
On Wednesday, the committee’s leaders met with Mueller to coordinate their probes. Afterward, Grassley proclaimed that Judiciary would now take the Senate lead on allegations of obstruction of justice—which would mean calling Rosenstein, among others, to testify, an appearance that could trigger the deputy A.G.’s recusal.
That would leave the previously obscure, 44-year-old, Dutch-clog-dancing Brand in charge to make what could be administration-toppling decisions. . . . If Brand’s role increases, she could face some wrenching choices: whether to go along if Trump ever tries to fire Mueller, and, if he doesn’t, what to do when Mueller eventually delivers his report, especially if it recommends criminal charges against high administration officials. “She’s got a good reputation as a solid lawyer, committed to the rule of law,” says Matthew Miller, who was an aide to former attorney general Eric Holder. “But so did Rod Rosenstein. People have a way of sacrificing their good reputation for Donald Trump, for some reason. Hopefully, we’ll never find out how she would
Brand would also be making those decisions in a political atmosphere that’s growing ever more poisonous. So far, the attacks on Mueller’s credibility have been scattershot and seemingly freelance: Trump’s nasty tweets, Sean Hannity’s nightly diatribes. The Washington Post acquired a set of anti-Mueller talking points distributed by the Republican National Committee. handle that test.
Trump dropped plans to assemble a White House “war room” to push back against the Russia allegations, but are the president and his allies beginning to mount a coordinated effort to undermine the integrity of the Russia investigation? “Could be,” a Democratic operative says. “To the extent that this White House is organized, which is questionable.”

It is Republicans Who Have a Religion Problem, Not Democrats

Time and time again we hear about Democrats having a "religion problem" and not being able to connect with religious voters.  In fact, there is yet another op-ed in the New York Times by a history professor in Georgia that suggests that Democrats lost the recent special election because of an inability to connect with "religious voters."  I would argue that in contrast that it is Republicans who have a a religion problem - one that will soon catch up with them as the Millennials begin voting in large numbers and older religious voters finally wake up to the reality that the GOP's religion is one motivated by hatred of others, a betrayal of the social Gospel, and down right meanness. In short, the GOP is becoming synonymous with the Christofascists.  The hideousness of the new Senate GOP's healthcare "reform" bill shows just how little the GOP's religious values have to do with Christ's message.  One third (1/3) of Millennials have left organized religion completely. Nones will soon equal the number of evangelical Christians.  The number of non-Christians of other faiths is growing and many view the GOP/Christofascists with alarm.  Long term, the GOP, not Democrats will have a severe religion problem, notwithstanding the usual whining about Democrats not coddling the "religious" sufficiently.  Here's a sample of the usual whining via the Times op-ed: 
Jon Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District election on Tuesday wasn’t just a sign that Democrats may have a harder time winning in the Trump era than they had hoped. It is a symptom of a larger problem for the party — a generational and racial divide between a largely secular group of young, white party activists and an older electorate that is more religious and more socially conservative.
Put simply, outside of a few progressive districts, secular-minded young activists in the party are unable to win voters’ trust.
Mr. Ossoff, 30, represented this new wing of the party. . . . Mr. Ossoff’s secularism would have surprised many American liberals of the 1950s and 1960s, who looked to the moral inspiration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, both of whom saw a religious imperative for social justice. The civil rights movement was grounded so thoroughly in the theology and culture of the African-American church that the historian David L. Chappell has called it a “religious revival.” And the economic views of New Deal and Great Society liberalism echoed the positions of mainline Protestant denominations and the social teachings of 20th-century Catholicism.
[N]ow younger, secular Democrats are attempting to separate their party’s progressive values from those religious traditions. Some may belong to a religious tradition or consider themselves to be spiritual people, but they are not able to speak the language of a communally based faith because it does not inform or shape their political views.
Democratic voters are not as secular as these activists might assume. While only 47 percent of white, college-educated Democrats identify as Christians, Christianity remains the faith of 81 percent of African-American Democrats and 76 percent of Latino Democrats.
The religious differences between generations are just as stark as the differences between racial groups. While 35 percent of millennials report having no religious affiliation, only 17 percent of baby boomers — and fewer than 11 percent of Americans born before 1945 — are religiously unaffiliated.
The party is thus split between a minority of young, educated, secular white activists and a larger group of African-Americans, Hispanics and older whites whose political values are closely tied to their faith. No wonder candidates like Mr. Ossoff struggled to connect with key blocs of the Democratic coalition.
And it’s also no wonder that the Democratic congressional leadership is still dominated by a graying generation of leaders; they are the only ones who can bridge the party’s religious divide.
What can Democrats do to bridge the divide between young, secular party activists and the rest of voters? Oddly, last year’s presidential run by Senator Bernie Sanders, a secular Jew, may suggest a way forward.
Mr. Sanders’s non-Christian background may have hurt him in the South; he did poorly among African-American voters, despite his consistent civil rights record. But he did what few other secular candidates have done: He won a sympathetic hearing from conservative evangelicals with a speech that gave a religious grounding for his economic views, complete with biblical citations. When Mr. Sanders spoke at Liberty University, he did not pretend to share evangelical Christians’ faith, but he showed respect for his audience’s religious tradition.
To do the same, secular Democrats need to study the religious language of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. They need to take the time to learn the religious values of their audience. They need to be honest about their own secularity, but acknowledge their debt to the religious traditions that have shaped their progressive ideology.
Only through a willingness to ground their policy proposals in the religious values of prospective voters will they be able to convince people of faith that they are not a threat to their values but are instead an ally in a common cause.
The author strikes me as one of the many who are still trying to maintain the myth that religion is a positive force for society and that, therefore, it deserves continued deference and respect.  In reality, "people of faith" - or at least evangelical Christians - are among the number one problems with America today.  Let's not forget that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump and happily embraced his appeals to racism and religious based hatred and bigotry.  Simply put, they are not nice and decent people and rather than follow the suggestions of the author, what Democrats need to do better is educate the public about the ugliness of the religious agenda of the GOP base/Christofascist and that they need to stop being duped into voting against their interest by dishonest appeals to religiosity.  The Senate healthcare bill can be used as a teaching tool for Democrats.  True Christians should find the bill abhorrent.  Liberty University and its leadership represents the antithesis of the Gospel message. 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt -1

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Charity Database Tags "Family Values" Organizations as Hate Groups

Tony Perkins - the white supremacist president of Family Research Council ("FRC") who is pictured above - is livid that charity database group Guidestar has tagged his organization and similar Christofascists groups a hate groups.  For those unfamiliar with Guidestar, it posts publicly available tax documents for charities to enable would donors to see which organizations make the best use of donated dollars and other information that is relevant to making charitable donations.  FRC is not the only "family values" organization that pretends to be an educational charity to receive the hate group designation even as it disseminates lies and untruths about gays and others.   Having followed the activities of FRC for roughly 20 years, there are few more dishonest organizations other than perhaps The American Family Association and Traditional Values Coalition.  All three are designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups across America due to the virulent lies and propaganda they publish (some have used Nazi like propaganda against LGBT individuals).  The Raw Story looks at these groups finally being exposed for what they are (The Family Foundation in Richmond needs to be added to the list).  Here are story highlights:
A non-profit resource that posts publicly available tax documents for charities has infuriated anti-gay Christian and conservative nonprofits by  using a widely available database at the Southern Poverty Law Center and tagging  each of them as a “hate group.” 
Charity database  GuideStar— which bills itself as “the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations” — now includes information provided by the SPLC.
Among the putative Christian non-profits with a political bent who made the “hate group”  list are the Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, Family Research Council, and the American Family Association — all of whom promote anti-LGBTQ policies,
Also being tagged with the “hate group” designation is the anti-Muslim group American Freedom Defense Initiative, headed by conservative gadfly Pam Geller.
As Guidestar notes on their website: “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a respected hate group watchdog. There is disagreement on some of SPLC’s specific choices, but on balance GuideStar believes the analysis is strong enough to share. We leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.”
Fearful that the “hate group” designation may be cutting into their non-profit cash haul, the groups are lashing out at Guidestar for “liberal bias.”
FRC vice president Jerry Boykin also blasted Guidestar, calling bet use of the database, “another attack on conservative Christian organizations and individuals.”
Greg Scott, the spokesperson for the Alliance Defending Freedom said his organization would like to ignore it, and attempted to dismiss the civil rights watchdog SPLC as a “tabloid’ operation.
Several of the organizations have pushed back at Guidestar, writing a letter at letter to CEO Jacob Harold that attacks the SPLC, saying it incited violence. . . .
“Despite its denials to the contrary, this highly refined method of ostracism and dehumanization practiced by the SPLC isn’t just about verbal debate – it can foreseeably lead to violence,” the letter read.

In truth, the only ones seeking to incite violence are these false charities.  It is long past time that they public be informed of their true toxic nature.  Kudos to Guidestar..   

The Catholic Church's New Assault on Gays

I have a Google search agent function that brings me stories from all around the world involving the sexual abuse of children and youths by Catholic clergy and, most typically, the Catholic hierarchy's efforts to protect predators and avoid paying compensation to victims.  While  the sex abuse scandal is no longer regular front page news in America, it continues to explode in many parts of the world ranging from Guam and Australia to parts of Africa and India.   The pattern is always the same: bishops and cardinals covering up sexual abuse and shuffling predators to new parishes where they could molest a new set of vulnerable victims.   And despite much hand wringing and lots of crocodile tears, the Church has not truly addressed the problem.  High clergy who enabled and covered up abuse continue to live in princely settings and have servile parishioners give them deference.  It is in this background that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois has launched an effort to deal with what he sees as the Church's biggest problem: married gays receiving communion and having church burials.  Child rape is fine, married gays threatens humanity in Paproki's twisted world. This would almost be humorous but for the fact that in reflects the continued moral bankruptcy of the Church leadership and a near psychosis when it comes to an obsession with gay sex.  Why any self-respecting LGBT person remains in the Catholic Church is mind numbing to me - I left Catholicism back in 2002 around the time the Boston Globe broke the story of the rampant abuse in Boston. A piece in NPR looks at Paprocki's new jihad against gays:
A Catholic bishop has instructed priests in his central Illinois diocese to deny communion, last rites and funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages – unless they repent.
In the decree he sent to priests, deacons, seminarians and staff in his Springfield diocese last week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki sets forth a set of norms on same-sex marriage and related pastoral issues that he says are the policy of the diocese.
Paprocki's decree bans priests and parish staff from performing same-sex marriages or allowing same-sex weddings or receptions at any Catholic facilities. People in same-sex marriages "should not present themselves for Holy Communion, nor should they be admitted to Holy Communion." A person in a same-sex marriage who is facing death may only receive communion after expressing "repentance for his or her sins."
Finally, Paprocki writes that "unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death," people in same-sex marriages may not receive a Catholic funeral.
The Springfield Diocese defends the decree as necessary "in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues."
A 2015 Supreme Court ruling made gay marriage legal across the United States, and Paprocki has made headlines with his opposition to gay marriage before. In 2013, he held an exorcism in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois.
"[T]he Church has not only the authority, but the serious obligation, to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage and to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state," it said in a statement to NPR. "Regarding the specific issue of funeral rites, people who had lived openly in same-sex marriage, like other manifest sinners that give public scandal, can receive ecclesiastical funeral rites if they have given some signs of repentance before their death."
The Archdiocese of Chicago told NPR that the policies decreed by Paprocki are not its own, but otherwise would not comment. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops directed a request for comment back to the Springfield diocese. . . . . "it's considered brutta figora – an ugly figure – to speak ill of other bishops on the record."
"The notion that a murderer could receive a Catholic funeral and someone in a same-sex union could not is absurd. ... Every Catholic deserves a Catholic funeral." 
Don't hold your breath waiting for Pope Francis to censure Paprocki - it simply will not happen. Meanwhile, my children (and grand children when they are older) are even more motivated to never darken the door of a Catholic church other than perhaps for a friend's wedding, although fewer and fewer Millennials are having church weddings at all. 

The Perversity of Trump and the Republican Party

click image to enlarge
I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to bemoaning and condemning what the Republican Party has become.  The election of Der Trumpenführer is but the culmination of two decades or more of descent into moral bankruptcy.  Throughout this descent we have witnessed never ending hypocrisy as the Republican Party falsely claims to be the party of Christian values, voices false concern about the average citizen, and, of course, pretense that it supports our men and women in uniform, and our military veterans.  Nothing could be farther from the truth if one looks at the actual facts and changes the channel from Fox New, a/k/a Faux News.  Like the Christofascists who have hijacked the party base, the safest bet nowadays is to assume that if a Republican elected officials lips are moving, he/she is lying.  Things truly have gotten that bad.  The newly released Senate Republican "healthcare reform" bill epitomizes the perversity of the GOP.  In deed, how "decent people" not driven by racism, religious extremism, greed and/or hatred of others can vote Republican makes me question their morality. 

For newer readers, many may not know of my son-in-law's story of being badly injured in Afghanistan while on his third tour in that hell hole of a country. His recovery was remarkable and he is now back in college securing a new degree that will allow him to give back to others the type of care that helped him make it through his nightmare experience.  His experience and meeting a number of his friends, some of whom were no where near as lucky as he was, has made me very conscious of the GOP's broken promises to veterans. He steered me to a piece that examines the huge number of veterans who will be harmed under Trumpcare/Ryancare.  It's the ultimate betrayal of those who sacrificed so much for their country - far more than the most of the foul Republicans in Congress ever will.  The article here is a must read.  So too is Andrew Sullivan's latest assessment of Trump and the GOP.  First these highlights from how are veterans will be harmed:
A new analysis by the Center for American Progress finds that 441,300 veterans would lose Medicaid coverage by 2026 under the plan of President Donald Trump and House Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate proposal, crafted behind closed doors, contains even larger Medicaid cuts in the long term than the House plan—cuts that would ultimately result in more veterans losing Medicaid coverage. Moreover, like the House bill, the Senate plan allows states to make changes to essential health benefits, which would reduce current protections for veterans with pre-existing conditions—including service-connected disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, amputations, and post-traumatic stress disorder—and lead to steep increases in medical costs, harming American veterans and their families.
Contrary to common misperceptions, the majority of the nation’s 20 million veterans do not get their health care coverage from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs but instead depend on other types of insurance. This includes Medicaid, which currently covers nearly 1.8 million American veterans.
The cuts not only break President Trump’s pledge to support veterans, they also disproportionately harm voters in the areas that most strongly supported him. New CAP analysis reveals that in the counties Trump won in the 2016 presidential election, 10 percent of adults are veterans—45 percent more than the share who are veterans in counties Trump lost.
The message to veterans and the members of the military: stop reflexively voting Republican.  It is NOT in your best interest.  Hollow sound bites about supporting our troops need to be ignored. Actions, not words, are what need to be watched.   But as Sullivan notes, the perversity of today's Republican Party and, of course, Der Trumpenführer, goes far beyond the betrayal of veterans.  Here are excerpts from Sullivan's piece:
I was mulling, as one does, over this presidency, and something crystallized in my head that I had not quite grasped before. Its policies are best described as simply perverse. The new Senate health-care bill is just the latest shining example. . . . it has no vision of how it wants health care to be organized; the loss of health care for the working poor will be most intense in Republican districts; . . . For good measure, by ending many of the taxes in the bill that make it work, and by removing the individual mandate, it risks sending the insurance markets into a deeper crisis.
So what on earth is the point? For Trump, it seems to me, the whole point is to have a “win.” He doesn’t give a shit about what the bill actually contains. He’ll just lie about it afterward and assume his cult followers will believe him. For Ryan, it’s just a way to make a future tax cut for the superrich more budget-friendly, while pushing the political costs of shredding Medicaid onto some future sucker.
And then you think about those tax cuts Ryan wants so badly. We are told that these cuts will spark so much growth they will pay for themselves — and more. And yet if there is one thing we really do know by now, it is that this strategy has spectacularly failed and failed again to work. Reagan’s tax cuts left the U.S. with an unprecedented peacetime deficit; George W. Bush inherited a small surplus and, after his tax cuts didn’t spur higher growth, handed Obama a Treasury close to bankrupt. In Kansas, the exact same strategy has incurred so much debt that a supermajority of the legislature, led by Republicans, have junked it. To pursue it a third time on a national scale is the definition of madness.
We are also living in an era of extreme inequality. . . . the policy of the Republicans is to further increase such inequality to levels beyond even the robber-baron era. Again, the only word for this is … perverse.
Ditto, for that matter, the idea that coal is the future of energy, and that climate change is a hoax. . . . It was an utterly pointless way to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world, and cede leadership to China. There was really no point at all in trashing the modest opening to Cuba under Obama, poisoning relations, and then just fiddling with the details.
Elsewhere in foreign policy, we have just begun a deepening of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in American history, with no strategy in place. . . . . The opening to Iran gave the U.S. far more leverage in the region, balancing out our previous Sunni commitments with a Shiite counterweight. Now Trump has fully committed the United States to one side of an intra-Muslim divide, while trashing Qatar, which houses the most important military base in the entire region. Again: perverse.
One of the ironies of the impact on veterans is that Texas, a red state that loves to huff and puff about patriotism will see the larges number of veterans harmed by Trumpcare if it passes.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The GOP’s Suburban Nightmare

While there is much to be discouraged about if one holds progressive values, rejects the view that the poor are refuse to be disposed of, and believes in religious freedom for all, not just Christofascists, there may be some good news from the recent special elections in Georgia and South Carolina: the narrowness of the Republican victories and the GOP's dimming support in suburban areas, especially those near larger cities.  If the GOP decline in support in suburbia continues, along with the nation's changing demographics, it could mean the GOP's triumphal attitude may be short lived.  A long piece in Politico looks at what hopefully comes to mean the death knell for many Republican elected officials. Here are story highlights:
Surveying the Democratic wreckage after a disastrous 1952 campaign, Robert Taft, the typically taciturn Ohio Republican senator, made a bold prediction about the opposition. “The Democratic Party,” the onetime Senate majority leader asserted, “will never win another national election until it solves the problem of the suburbs.”
Taft wasn’t exactly right, but he wasn’t wrong either. The millions of voters fleeing overcrowded cities to seek the American dream would ultimately power Republicans to victory in six of the next nine presidential elections, and in the process, reshape the GOP’s postwar image as the party of the suburbs.
But that Republican Party is now gone, and suburbia is no longer its trusted wingman. Although Donald Trump managed to win the suburbs narrowly in 2016, 49 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 45 percent, a little over half of suburbia voted against him, according to exit polls. This marks the third presidential election in a row in which the GOP nominee failed to crack 50 percent of the suburban vote.
Once the Republican Party’s stronghold, suburban America threatens now to become its nemesis. A combination of demographic change and cultural dissonance is gradually eroding its ability to compete across much of suburbia, putting entire areas of the country out of the GOP’s reach. It’s a bigger crisis than the party acknowledges, a reckoning that threatens Trump’s reelection and the next generation of Republican office-seekers.
Karen Handel’s Georgia special-election victory Tuesday enabled the GOP to kick the can down the road, but not for long. The same Atlanta suburbs that once produced Republicans like Newt Gingrich voted for Clinton in November. They followed up a few months later by nearly sending a 30-year-old, first-time Democratic candidate to Congress. Republicans may be gloating now, but it’s an ominous sign for the 2018 midterm elections. . . 
Trump won the 2016 election, of course, boosted by the margins he ran up in smaller cities and rural areas. But he lost the populous close-in suburbs of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., home to the precincts that first heralded suburbia’s arrival as a political powerhouse. That wasn’t the real story, though. He was also defeated in other, later-blooming suburban giants, including Atlanta’s Cobb County and Southern California’s iconic Orange County, both onetime exporters of Sun Belt conservatism that occupy storied roles in the formation of the contemporary Republican Party.
There’s a reason Ronald Reagan once said Orange County was the place good Republicans go to die—before 2016, it had last voted Democratic for president more than 80 years ago.
He [Trump] also barely squeaked by in traditional GOP stalwarts like Richmond’s Chesterfield County—the most populous in the state outside Northern Virginia—and Johnson County, the wealthy Kansas-side suburb of Kansas City. In many of the rock-ribbed Republican suburbs where Trump won easily—places like Waukesha County outside Milwaukee, and Hamilton County, on the outskirts of Indianapolis—he trailed well behind Mitt Romney’s 2012 pace.
But the truth is that Trump arrived in what was already the twilight of the GOP’s suburban era.
In the decades following World War II, the suburbs formed the electoral backbone of the party, providing a reliable counterweight to big-city Democratic margins.  . . . For suburbia, the GOP functioned not just as a validator of its lifestyle but also as a guarantor. It was the party of growth, low taxes and law and order. Just as important, it served as a bulwark against racial integration. . . 
The Northeastern and Midwestern suburbs were the first to go wobbly on the GOP, turned off by the culture wars waged by an increasingly Southern and socially conservative party.
Other subtle but important changes began to loosen the GOP’s grip. As the suburbs aged, they began to experience more and more of the pathologies previously associated with the cities—among them increased crime, poverty and crumbling infrastructure. At the same time, America’s great cities began to return to relative health.
Perhaps the biggest change of all: The suburbs themselves grew far more diverse. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of racially diverse suburbs increased by 37 percent, growing at a faster clip than majority-white suburbs, according to one study. . . . . there are 106 counties—with a combined population of 66.5 million—that include the near-in suburbs of most major cities and display many big-city characteristics. In 2016, Trump lost 89 of them. That’s a dramatic departure from Ronald Reagan’s 1984 performance in those places—he won 92 of those 106 . . . .
What happened in between Reagan and Trump? These suburbs gradually came into political alignment with their neighboring cities, moving the longtime antagonists toward something like a metropolitan alliance. At roughly the same time, the GOP largely gave up on competing among minorities and in the most densely populated areas.
The new GOP iteration differs in at least one important way from the one that dominated the suburbs in the Reagan years: It is now a conservative party that rejects metropolitan values, rather than a metropolitan party that embraces conservative values.
New York state stopped being competitive around the same time the populous New York City suburbs began going blue. The days when the GOP could carry Maryland ended when Baltimore County left the fold. Colorado and Virginia are likely to be the next dominoes to fall. Colorado’s Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, home to roughly 1.3 million residents, voted Republican in eight consecutive presidential elections through 2004. But since then, they’ve voted Democratic in the past three. In November, Trump bottomed out at 39 percent of the Arapahoe vote.
Trump’s coalition relied on several factors that won’t be easy to replicate going forward, though. First among them: Trump’s opponent. No matter the place designation—urban, suburban or rural—Clinton ran behind Obama’s pace, according to exit polls. And in the suburbs, she was outperformed by Obama, John Kerry and Al Gore.
Trump’s victory was also rooted in the strongest rural performance by a presidential nominee in decades—he won 61 percent amid a huge turnout. That’s where the GOP’s math problem comes in. To win reelection, Trump will need another gangbusters rural showing and to improve or at least maintain his 2016 levels in the suburbs, where roughly half the vote was cast last year. There’s little margin for error: Amped-up turnout in just three big cities alone—Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia—could have flipped the 2016 election.
Three years is a long time, but it won’t be easy for Trump to win over his suburban detractors. Recent history suggests that once these big suburbs go blue, they don’t come back. . . . . The president need only gaze across the Potomac to get a close look at the problem. Northern Virginia’s suburban behemoth, Fairfax County, flipped in 2004—by 2016, Trump could manage only an anemic 29 percent there. In nearby Loudoun and Prince William counties, the tipping point came in 2008.
No Republican has won the presidency in the postwar era without winning the suburbs. Trump will put that to the test in 2020. And with that, the GOP’s suburban era may come full circle . . . 
Hopefully, the GOP decline in the suburbs will only accelerate.

5th Circuit Allows Anti-LGBT Law to Go Into Effect

Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, a number of Republican controlled state legislatures rushed to pass falsely named "religious freedom" laws that would allow open discrimination against LGBT citizens.  Backward hell hole, Mississippi was among the first states to pass such a bill (a less hideous bill in Virginia was vetoed by Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe).   Now, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Thursday ruled that Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.  The ruling reversed the District Court ruling that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.  How the Court believes that openly targeting a minority for mistreatment will pass muster under Supreme Court rulings such as Romer v.Evans is baffling.  There has never been much reason to visit Mississippi, now there is even less reason to do so.  To my "friends" and acquaintances who have said that I and other taxpaying LGBT citizens have nothing to fear under Trump/the GOP, my comment is this: when are you going to pull your head out of your ass and wake up to reality? Blogger friend Joe Jervis looks at this disturbing development.  Here are are excerpts:
A federal appeals court says Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a judge’s decision that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves had ruled that the law unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and other supporters say the law protects beliefs that marriage can be between only a man and a woman, and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.
Via press release from Lambda Legal:
Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the injunction against Mississippi House Bill 1523, the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation challenged in Barber v. Bryant, the federal lawsuit brought by Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal.  The advocates will continue to fight this discriminatory law. 
Overruling the lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied that LGBT Mississippians are subject to imminent discrimination by HB 1523 and ordered the block to the law lifted because the plaintiffs—a group of ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists—lack standing since they cannot claim a specific harm caused by the law that has yet to go into effect.
“We had to put guards in front of our church after the bill initially passed because there was a truck with a swastika parked across the street and just this week the Christian Knights of the KKK distributed flyers throughout the Hattiesburg area. Today’s ruling leaves us more exposed, so we will have to be more vigilant than ever before to protect our church, our families and our dignity,” said Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, Barber plaintiff.
Note: government employees can now discriminate.  So much for equality under the law.  The Christofascists want nothing less than an established religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  Political whores in the GOP are only too happy to prostitute themselves to these foul people.