Thursday, December 14, 2017

More Thursday Male Beauty

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Alabama: A Warning to the Virginia GOP

Neo-confederate, would be Trump mini-me, Corey Stewart
One question for the Republican Party of Virginia is whether or not it learned anything from the defeat of extremist nut case Roy Moore in Alabama this past Tuesday.  At present, the two announce GOP primary candidates seeking to challenge Senator Tim Kaine are extremists and whack jobs much akin to Moore.  One is a neo-Confederate would be Trump mini me named Corey Stewart who is popular with the rabid dog Virginia GOP base.  The other is self-styled "bishop" E.W. Jackson who went down to a crushing defeat in 2013 to Ralph Northam in the Lt. Governor race. Jackson is a virulent homophobe and ,in my view, is utterly un-tethered from objective reality - something that makes him the perfect for Virginia Christofascists.  A column in the Virginian Pilot questions whether the Virginia GOP will nonetheless select one of these extremists or someone else far from normalcy to challenge Kaine.  Given the lunacy of the Virginia GOP base, it is very possible Kaine will be given the gift of a lunatic as his opponent in November, 2018.  Here are column highlights:
Roy Moore's defeat in ruby-red Alabama may spell trouble for Virginia Republican Senate hopefuls Corey Stewart and E.W. Jackson, both of whom, like Moore, have pursued platforms far from the party's establishment wing.
Both Virginia hopefuls entered the Republican primary campaigning to the right of fellow GOP candidates: Stewart as a self- professed mini Donald Trump who has voiced support for Confederate statues and Jackson a firebrand preacher who has called gay people ill.
After the results were tallied in Alabama - first-time candidate Doug Jones bested Moore by more than 20,000 votes - Stewart, who had stumped for Moore, sounded off against GOP leaders who he said "colluded" with Republicans to undermine the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Jackson, an African-American minister, tweeted: "The black vote did not turn out against Roy Moore because of the sex scandal, but because of alleged racially insensitive remarks & perceived disdain for black voters."
But experts say such attention-grabbing statements don't represent a version of the Republican Party that can topple Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., next year.
"Extremist messaging is problematic in Virginia, but it's even problematic in Alabama," said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. Of Virginia, he said: "An evangelical message or a nativist-focused message might get you a nomination, but it'll be toxic in a general election."
The Virginia GOP's craving for a not-so-extreme candidate could be why Del. Nick Freitas, Culpeper, an Army veteran and tea party-style conservative, is picking up early buzz as an alternative to Stewart.
An hour after the results in Alabama came in, Freitas chose to post on Facebook about a youth counseling program and not the election. He did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.  
In a 2012 interview with the group Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, which has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Jackson called gay people "perverted" and "very sick people psychologically and mentally and emotionally." Later in the same interview he called homosexuality a "horrible sin" that "poisons culture" and "destroys families."  
[E]arlier this week Jackson suggested Stewart had "some dealings" with the Muslim Brotherhood - a jab Stewart labeled vintage Jackson.
"He's a crackpot," Stewart said in a phone interview Wednesday from Alabama. "He's getting even crazier." Stewart said Democrats would not let Jackson off the hook despite his attempts to moderate his comments on gay and transgender people - and neither would he.
Stewart shows no signs of backing off his self-described anti- politically correct soapbox.  In a minute-long video on Facebook shortly after the results came in, Stewart promised to never surrender to the "Republican establishment," which "colluded together with the Democrats to undermine Judge Moore" and will follow suit in his race next year.

Evangelical Christians: the Biggest Losers in Alabama Election

In the wake of yesterday's special election results in Alabama, the back biting, blame game, and back stabbing across various elements of the Republican Party is in full swing and will likely  intensify in the coming days.  While the Republican Party and Der Trumpenführer were the obvious losers, as a piece in Christianity Today makes the case (despite efforts to make apologies for evangelicals) that the biggest loser over all was evangelical Christianity, a segment of Christianity already viewed as repulsive, hate-filled and hypocrisy-filled by ever growing segments of American society.  As previously noted in previous posts, 36 percent of Millennials have walked away from Christianity/organized religion and the percentage of Millennials who see evangelical Christians unfavorably exceeds over 80%.  On top of this already bad situation, evangelical Christians' support of Roy Moore has further underscored that this segment of society is abhorrent and  hopefully will see its political influence plummet as decent, moral people walk away.  Here are article excerpts:
No matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.
[The election of] Doug Jones has only put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for a year and a half—ever since a core of strident conservative Christians began to cheer for Donald Trump without qualification and a chorus of other believers decried that support as immoral. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy.
From moderate and liberal brothers and sisters, conservatives have received swift and decisive condemnation.
This is not to excuse some statements by conservative leaders that cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a slur against gays, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. Some conservatives are fearful beyond reason. Some conservatives clearly worship political power as much as they do Jesus Christ. But too often, we mistake the inarticulate groanings of certain foolish conservative leaders for the actual beliefs and behavior of the mass of evangelicals who vote for Donald Trump or Roy Moore. Our concern here is with a cabal of noisy conservatives, whom the press has apparently (and unjustly) appointed as spokesmen for all conservatives. This group pretends that the choice for someone like Moore represents unalloyed godliness and refuses to unmistakably criticize immorality in other leaders they admire. To justify or ignore the moral failings of a politician because he champions your favored policies—well, that is to step onto the path of self-deception and hypocrisy, which according to Jesus, leads to no less place than hell (Matt. 23:15). As suggested above, some of the critiques by the Left and center (matched by a fair amount of critiques by leading conservatives, by the way), are hard to argue with. Hypocrisy is again the most salient charge.
As recently as 2011, PRRI found that only 30 percent of white evangelicals believed “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” But by late 2016, when Donald Trump was running for president, that number had risen sharply to 72 percent—the biggest shift of any US religious group.
The logic is then inexorable: “Where does that leave evangelicals? It leaves them with a choice. Do they sacrifice a little bit of that ethical guideline they’ve used in the past in exchange for what they believe is saving the culture?”
Apparently yes. This is precisely why, when serious and substantial allegations of sexual abuse of minors were made against Roy Moore, many doubled down on their support for him.
[M]any conservative Christians simply don’t believe the many news accounts and chalk it up to a secular, liberal, Democratic conspiracy against Moore. Others acknowledge that while the charges may be true, they are minor in nature or happened so long ago they don’t matter today. Some are simply Machiavellian, saying they are not electing Mother Teresa but a man who can look out for the interests of conservative Christians.
The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.
They have forgotten that old evangelical idea (and, before that, a Jewish idea) of putting a “hedge around the law.” That refers to behavior that is not wrong in itself but is practiced so as to not give even a hint of wrongdoing.
When combative conservative Christians refuse to suffer patiently in the public square, retaliate when insults are hurled at them, and do not refrain from the appearance of evil, they sabotage not only their political cause but the cause they care about the most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What events of the last year and a half have shown once again is that when Christians immerse themselves in politics as Christians, for what they determine are Christian causes, touting their version of biblical morality in the public square—they will sooner or later (and often sooner) begin to compromise the very principles they champion and do so to such a degree that it blemishes the very faith they are most anxious to promote.
And one of the biggest blemishes—for it is an open refutation of Jesus’ prayer that we be one—is when we start divorcing one another over politics. . . . . No wonder few believe much of anything we say anymore.

One can only hope that more and more Americans will realize that evangelical Christians today are the antithesis of what it means to be a true, believing Christian.  Meanwhile, as older evangelicals die off and younger generations walk away in disgust over Christian lies, hypocrisy and homophobia, if America is lucky, the influence of evangelicals will continue to go down the toilet figuratively and literally.   

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Tourism Authority Opposes Bermuda Parliament's Same-Sex Marriage Repeal

While Christofascists lost their effort in Alabama, in Bermuda, aided by American hate merchants and fraudulent "experts" they won the day as the Bermuda Parliament voted to repeal same sex marriage.  The Bermuda Tourism Authority - which in contrast functions in the real world and objective reality - has sounded the alarm that the move will wreak significant damage on the nation's tourism business and pleads with the governor to veto the bill.  Two years ago the husband and I cruised to Bermuda with numerous friends two of whom were the only Americans to ever own 100% of a resort in Bermuda.  It was beautiful and the people outwardly friendly, but if this bill is enacted, we will never go back.  Indeed, I am letting the the tourism Authority know how I feel.  I would encourage other readers to do the same by using the link here.     Here are highlights from Joe Jervis' blog:
Minutes ago the Bermuda Senate voted 8-3 to repeal same-sex marriage and replace it with domestic partnerships. Last week the Bermuda House approved the bill in a 24-10 vote. The bill now goes to the governor and if he signs it, Bermuda will become the second place in the world where same-sex marriage was repealed after having been legal. The first place was California.
In June 2016, Bermudan voters overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage by a 2-1 margin in a non-binding public referendum. The opposition had been rallied with the support of US hate groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, which provided materials featuring quotes from anti-LGBT activists Ryan T. Anderson and Mark Regnerus.
However in May 2017, the Bermudan High Court ruled in favor of a gay man who challenged the ban on same-sex marriage, arguing that Human Rights Act guaranteed his right to marry his Canadian boyfriend. (Their photo is above.) Marriages conducted since that ruling will reportedly remain intact if the governor signs the bill.
The Bermuda Tourism Authority expressed great concern in a statement issued before the Senate vote:
“Since last Friday’s vote, we have seen ample evidence of negative international headlines and growing social-media hostility towards Bermuda that we feel compelled to express our concern about what the negative consequences could be for tourism if the Domestic Partnership Bill passes the Senate this week. We believe the Bill poses an unnecessary threat to the success of our tourism industry.
“We urge you to vote no and appreciate the opportunity to lay out the reasons why. Importantly, we do not view domestic partnerships as a negative in isolation. In fact many jurisdictions permit domestic partnerships without adverse impacts on their economies.
“The circumstance in Bermuda is different — and troubling — in one important way: same-sex marriage is already the law of our island and to roll that back for what will be seen as a less equal union will cause us serious reputational damage. We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda.” 
If this becomes law. let's make sure that the loss in tourism business is huge. 

More Wednesday Male Beauty

The GOP Fallout from Alabama's Special Election

The fallout for the Republican Party from yesterday's loss in Alabama is multi-fold.  Perhaps the most serious issue is how the GOP will be able to nominate candidates with a chance of winning in a general election when the party's base of primary voters now display the temperament of dogs suffering from rabies.  There simply are not enough racists and religious extremists to put extreme GOP candidates over the finish line in a general election - even it seems in Alabama.  Here are thoughts from Politico for what this means for the GOP:
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A Democrat has been elected to the Senate from Alabama for the first time in a quarter-century, and the political earthquake has just begun. 
The shock result presented Republicans a brief opportunity for relief, as they would not have to stand by Moore. But Election Night reshaped the political landscape: one in which Republicans’ majority in the Senate is down to one seat, and in which one of the most conservative states in the nation has a Democrat representing it.
Here are POLITICO’s five takeaways after Alabama’s wild, ugly, controversial, and historically unparalleled Senate race:
Bannon's bruisingFormer White House chief strategist Steve Bannon went all-in for Moore — and then some. . . . Moore’s loss deals a serious blow to the anti-establishment campaign Bannon had been planning for next year’s midterms, one that was predicated on defeating incumbents and other mainstream Republicans that are being propped up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The ever-defiant Bannon may not back down, but Moore’s loss gave ammunition to McConnell allies, who called the Alabama race proof that Bannon’s insurgent favorites were unelectable.
What black voter problem?All the chatter across Alabama for the final week of the race focused on Democrats’ alleged problems turning out black voters. But after a blockbuster turnout operation designed by Jones’ campaign and national Democrats, African-American voters turned out in massive numbers for the former U.S. attorney.  . . . . with strong minority support energized by both hatred of Donald Trump and Roy Moore, Jones provided Democrats with a model for 2018, even in the deep South.
Trump loses capital
The president [Trump] put his political capital on the line – and lost. .
. . . Trump jumped in for Moore. Just days before the election, he went to the Florida Panhandle, just outside the Alabama state line, to campaign for Moore. He also cut a robo-call for the candidate and he tweeted his support.
Yet his endorsement wasn’t enough to pull the embattled candidate over the line, just like when he backed Strange in the primary.
That the loss took place in Alabama only adds salt to the wound: the conservative state helped to catapult Trump’s 2016 primary win.
Revenge of the soccer mom
The other primary reason for Jones’ win was strong antipathy toward Moore among white, suburban, college-educated conservatives.
Many of them chose to sit out the election or follow the lead of Sen. Richard Shelby and write in an option other than Moore. That follows the pattern of Republican under-performance in the suburbs during earlier races in 2017, and it creates a clear opportunity for Democrats in 2018 — especially given their enormous turnouts.
[D]iscomfort with Trump among educated voters outside of cities — especially women — has now propelled Democratic candidates to closer-than-expected margins or victories in multiple races so far this year, from Virginia’s gubernatorial race to the close special U.S. House race outside of Atlanta in June. . . . . said Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster based in Montgomery. “You do have to ask yourself, if you’re a Republican, if you’re on the verge of losing a critical part of the Republican coalition.”
Democrats to Trump: Watch outJones' euphoric victory party in Birmingham on Tuesday night quickly spilled over into a dance party, reflecting the kind of rumbling Democratic enthusiasm that's punctuated statewide races across the country in 2017.
Riding what they are increasingly convinced could be a blue tsunami powered by millennials, furious women, and minority voters, Democrats are newly eyeing opportunities to take back the House and Senate, as well as governors' mansions from Maine to Arizona.
The eye-popping turnout numbers coming from Democratic strongholds like Birmingham and Montgomery in Alabama . . . . are giving Republicans reason to sweat in the Trump era, as they face up to a potential backlash.

Alabama and the Triumph of Sanity and Decency

Alabama rejected immorality and extremism

There were many losers in yesterday special election in Alabama in addition to the foul and delusional Roy Moore - who has refused to concede despite a roughly 20,000 vote deficit - that range from Der  Trumpenführer,  who endorsed a fellow sexual predator, Steve Bannon, the RNC , and GOP primary voters who backed a man that a majority of voters found repulsive.   The latter group here in Virginia, comprised on neo-Confederates, white supremacists and religious extremists, will likely nominate a challenger to Tim Kaine who will, like Moore, be far outside the mainstream and push yet more moderate Republicans to flee the GOP and vote for a Democrat.  Hopefully, the larger message is that the days of Donald Trump and his foul brand of Republicanism is moribund.  A column in the New York Times looks at what yesterday's vote might signify.  Here are excerpts:
Good riddance to Roy Moore and the horse he rode in on.  If I sound jubilant, you bet I am. And if I’m being snarky, well, Moore of all people warrants it.
In short order I’ll talk about the political implications of his surprising, jolting defeat by Doug Jones in Alabama, the first time in more than a quarter century that voters in this deep-red state elected a Democrat to the United States Senate.
But those can’t be divorced from the soaring emotions of his win. What it does for the spirits of people petrified by his country’s trajectory can’t be overstated.
For more than a year now, virtually all Democrats, many independents and even a significant share of Republicans have looked at President Donald Trump’s conduct and governing priorities and felt that they were suddenly in a foreign land. I count myself among this stunned and despairing group.
We saw decency in retreat. We saw common sense in decline. We saw a clique of unabashed plutocrats, Trump foremost among them, brazenly treating the federal government as a branding opportunity or a trough at which they could gorge. We saw a potent strain of authoritarianism jousting with the rule of law.
And we saw many Americans, including most Republican leaders, either endorsing or quietly putting up with this, to a point where we wondered if some corner had been turned forever.
That’s still an open question. But Alabamians provided a partial answer on Tuesday, showing that there are limits to what voters will tolerate, in terms of the lies they’ll believe, the vices they’ll ignore and the distance they’ll stray from civilized norms.
Moore, an accused child molester who sugarcoated slavery and seemed intent on some sort of extreme Christian theocracy, was simply too far.
With his defeat comes relief, yes, but also a desperately needed encouragement.
Trump openly supported Moore, urging the residents of a state that he won by about 30 points in November 2016 to reward him anew and smile again on the G.O.P. Their refusal to do so is vivid proof of the president’s vulnerability, no matter Moore’s flaws. If Trump can be foiled here, he can be foiled elsewhere.
[A]s Trump completes a crazily turbulent first year in office, Democrats are on a streak — or certainly feel that way. Last month, the party’s candidate handily won the governor’s race in Virginia, where heavy Democratic turnout translated into huge gains for Democrats in the state legislature.
Alabama adds to that, and it’s a different story altogether, a state in which the Republican candidate in recent gubernatorial and Senate elections has typically prevailed by a whopping double-digit margin similar to the one that Trump achieved.
Alabama amplifies Democrats’ sense of momentum going into the 2018 midterms, which, on the evidence of what happened Tuesday, could be a blood bath for Republicans.

Historical patterns already boded ill for the G.O.P.; the Alabama results are a brutal harbinger on top of that. I happened to speak midday Tuesday with one of the smartest Republican strategists I know, and he predicted a Republican comeuppance in 2018 so profound that it could alter the party forever or even jeopardize its survival.
And this was before Moore’s defeat, which the strategist did not feel comfortable wagering on. Think about that.  And about this: Trump, a man amply unbalanced, is being thrown further off stride and out of whack.
Democrats are the bigger victors. Scratch that: Americans are. If Alabama isn’t beyond redemption, then the country isn’t, either. To use a word that Moore would appreciate: hallelujah.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Doug Jones Wins Alabama U.S. Senate Seat

First snow in the Deep South last week and now a Democrat winning the Alabama U.S. Senate in a special election.  True, Roy Moore was always a flawed candidate known for racist and religious extremism plus more recently credible allegations of sexual predatory behavior towards teenage girls.  But both Der  Trumpenführer and Steve Bannon threw their weight behind Moore as did the RNC after a brief hiatus.  Interestingly, eleven (11) counties that had voted for Donald Trump swung to the Democrat candidate in this election. Already Mitch McConnell is throwing blame at Bannon and less directly Donald Trump.   Following the GOP disaster in Virginia last month, I suspect that a number of Congressional Republicans are seeking a clean pair of underwear and dreading November, 2018.  Yet, in many ways they have brought the GOP low but throwing decency, the rue of law, and norms on the trash heap.   I can only hope this victory further energizes Democrats, progressives, and anti-Trump/Pence forces across America.  As a former Alabamian myself, I am also thrilled that a majority of voters in Alabama decided to put decency, concern for fellow citizens and morality ahead of partisan habit.  Tonight the vote reflected the Alabama that I experienced years ago where the majority were decent people. I am also happy for the Alabama business community which will hopefully be boosted in its efforts to remake Alabama.  The Washington Post looks at this wonderful upset victory.  Here are highlights:
Democrat Doug Jones has won the special election to fill a Senate seat in Alabama, according to exit polls and returns – a shocking upset in a solidly Republican state, in which massive turnout among African American voters helped defeat a candidate enthusiastically backed by President Trump.
The Associated Press called the race at 10:23 p.m. Eastern time.  Jones becomes the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama since 1992. 
Jones’s victory followed a pattern set earlier this year in Virginia’s gubernatorial election: a wave of enthusiasm among the Democratic party’s traditional base, which was aided by a swing from Republicans to Democrats among well-educated suburban voters.
Jones, 63, is a former U.S. attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham Baptist church, which killed four girls. The bombers were not tried until the 1990s.
Jones’s opponent, Republican Roy Moore, is a former state chief justice who believes that “God’s law” trumps the U.S. Constitution. [T]he night’s early returns showed Moore ahead, as mainly rural votes came in. But he [Jones] surged ahead after 10 p.m. Eastern, as large cities like Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham reported huge increases in turnout and large margins for the Democrat. Overall, news reports indicated that statewide turnout had smashed expectations, roughly doubling what officials had predicted. Jones’ victory will reshape the calculus of the Senate, where Republicans will see their thin majority shrink from two votes to one. While Republicans are likely to pass a huge tax-reform push before Jones is officially seated, the rest of the GOP’s agenda may now plunge into jeopardy. The coalition that backed Jones was sketched out in early exit polls. They indicated that black turnout might be slightly higher than the levels in 2012 and 2008, when Barack Obama was on the ballot. African Americans made up 28 percent of the electorate in 2008, and 29 percent in 2012. In this election, they make up about 3 in 10 Alabama voters so far on Election Day according to preliminary exit polls. During the campaign, Jones sold himself as a centrist who would work with Republicans – and as a politician who would not embarrass Alabama or drive away business. He took advantage of a scandal that began with a report in The Washington Post: several women said that Moore had pursued romantic relationships with them decades before, when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens. Jones also encouraged voters to put “decency” ahead of party loyalty and urged them to consider how Alabama will be viewed by business leaders as a result of the election.
In the longer term, Jones win may signal the limits of President Trump’s political pull – and the drawbacks of remaking the GOP in his image. Trump had joined enthusiastically. He become one of Moore’s most fervent defender in recent days, tweeting about him repeatedly and recording a robocall to drive out the vote. “Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!” Trump tweeted on election day. ““This is the first time I’ve voted for a Democrat,” said Henry Waller, 24, who works in logistics for a granite company, said at a polling place in Mountain Brook, Ala. “I’m a Christian, and I think Moore represents the absolute worst way to put Christianity into politics.”

Gillespie Lamely Blames Trump for His Gubernatorial Loss

At the moment that I write this post, the results from the Alabama U.S. Senate special election are still coming in and Doug Jones is in potential striking distance.   Time will tell, especially as the largest counties in the state - Mobile, Montgomery, Jefferson, Madison, Shelby and Tuscaloosa - come in.  Meanwhile, here in Virginia failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie is seemingly blaming Donald Trump for his loss last month.  Yes, Donald Trump is toxic in Virginia outside of the evangelical Christian and neo-Confederates who predominate in the rural regions (especially in Southwest Virginia), but Gillespie conveniently forgets his ridiculous tax proposal that would have bankrupted the state or his racist Trump style campaign ads that many voters found to be repulsive and/or frightening.  The Hill looks at Gillespie's effort to throw blame solely at Trump.  Here are excerpts:
Republican Ed Gillespie said that President Trump may have been a "big factor" in his defeat in the Virginia gubernatorial race last month.
In an interview with CNN's David Axelrod on his podcast "The Axe Files," Gillespie said that during his race against Democrat Ralph Northam, the eventual winner of the election, he tried to separate his campaign from the president and instead make it about Virginia.  But the race was widely seen as an early referendum on Trump's presidency.
"If you're not standing up for President Trump, for his supporters, they see you as not for him," Gillespie said. "And it's not that I was not for him, it's just that I'm not against him. I wanted to be for Virginia and I wanted to keep the focus on Virginia."
"It's a tough tightrope to walk, and it may not be walkable, to be honest with you."
On the campaign trail, Gillespie appeared at times to distance himself from Trump, who remains deeply unpopular in Virginia. He said that he never asked Trump to campaign with him in the state, and that the president never offered to.
Gillespie fell to Northam by about 9 points in the state's Nov. 7 gubernatorial election, and Democrats swept statewide, picking up 16 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates.
After the results of the election, Trump tweeted that Gillespie lost because he did not fully embrace the president and his brand of politics.
Should Roy Moore lose in Alabama, it will be interesting to see if he likewise throws blame at Trump.  Ditto for Congressional Republicans. 

More Tuesday Male Beauty

The Dangerous Partisan Attacks on Robert Mueller

So far in his investigation Robert Mueller has found that crimes WERE in fact committed and has two guilty pleas and two indictments to show for his efforts to date.  Many expect more indictments and more disclosures of illegal activities by members of the Trump/Pence campaign and Trump transition team, the latter of which was headed up by Mike Pence.   Polls show that a majority of Americans view Mueller's investigation is (i) important, and (ii) being properly undertaken.  The exception is a growing chorus of Republicans and Trump self-prostituting news outlets which have begun to attack not only Mueller but the FBI.  Why?  I suspect that they know that crimes were committed and are very fearful that if Mueller persists in his investigation Trump, Pence and perhaps even other senior Republicans could see indictments and/or may see their political careers go down in flames.  The one thing certain about today's Republicans is that party is more important than country or the truth and the rule of law.   A piece in The Atlantic looks at this dangerous phenomenon.  Here are highlights:
If you’re not a regular consumer of pro-Trump media outlets, it could be easy to underestimate or overlook the recent onslaught of attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There are a couple reasons for that. One is that this discourse exists almost entirely within that media ecosystem (which is distinct from, though overlapping with, the broader world of conservative media). The other is that critics have been calling for Mueller’s dismissal and an end to his probe since it was announced. Nonetheless, the intensity of the recent spree is notable, as is the gradual shift from ostensibly politically neutral critiques to openly partisan ones. “Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox News. The channel’s legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said Mueller was employing the FBI “just like the old KGB,” which Sean Hannity piously told viewers was “not hyperbole.” . . . . Fox host Jeanine Pirro said, “There is a cleansing needed at the FBI and Department of Justice. What all of these denunciations lack is any concrete instance of wrongdoing by a member of Mueller’s team, much less Mueller himself. They have seized on the case of FBI agent Peter Strzok, who apparently wrote some text messages critical of Trump to a girlfriend, but who, as I wrote last week, was immediately reassigned from Mueller’s team when Mueller learned of the texts, and about whom there is as yet no proof of wrongdoing. But the path from Mueller’s appointment to the current critiques bears close examination. When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May, the announcement drew varied conservative reactions. . . . . . some Trump backers welcomed Mueller’s appointment, seeing the former FBI director as a man of integrity who would finally clear the president. Newt Gingrich was one notable example:  "Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down." Gingrich was right about Mueller’s reputation in Washington: He was a celebrated former FBI director, a longtime Republican, and an appointee of both Democratic and Republican presidents. And Rosenstein, who appointed him, was another example of a lifelong Republican, appointed by Trump, who had an impeccable reputation for fairness. In hindsight, this was hopelessly naive. Trump’s black-hole-like gravity is such that it overwhelms even reputations for probity and impartiality built up over decades. . . . . The opposition to Mueller is partisan, but not in that it pits Republicans against Democrats. Its partisans are loyal first and foremost to President Trump. And in the inexorable logic of fiercely loyal partisans, they can only interpret other people’s actions through the same lens. Hence they have decided that Mueller, despite no real evidence in favor of the proposition and plenty of circumstantial evidence against it, must also be entirely partisan. Back in May, when Mueller started his work, Trump partisans could still argue with a straight face that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, there was no evidence of collusion, and there would never be any evidence of collusion. . . . . it has become impossible to claim that the special counsel’s probe is purely a fishing expedition. The July revelation of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer established that if there was no collusion, it was not for want of trying. . . . . George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn have since both pleaded guilty to lying about their contacts with Russian officials—in the former case, contacts that occurred during the campaign. Carter Page testified to the House about extensive contacts with Russians. [S]ince Mueller’s extensive indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, accusing them of laundering $75 million in foreign income, it has been harder to sustain the claim that there might not be serious crimes outside the campaign. Trump, too, has thought better of publicly repeating that he’d fire Mueller for poking into the Trump Organization or his personal finances, though that doesn’t mean he’s abandoned the idea.
Trump’s defenders have regrouped around the argument that the probe is a partisan effort to get Trump. . . . . Now, they are willing to state the stakes more bluntly: “Mueller poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency,” Newsmax CEO and Trump friend Chris Ruddy contends They are also seeking to discredit Mueller.
What drove Gingrich’s flip? . . . . Though he presents his objections today as principled, Gingrich’s reversal, and current labeling of Mueller as “corrupt,” are probably best viewed in the context of his many comically opportunistic reversals over the years. The strongest argument against Mueller is his friendship with James Comey. The problem is that given Comey’s experience as both FBI director and deputy attorney general, there is practically no qualified lawyer with government experience who isn’t connected to Comey in some way. As I wrote last week, concurring with arch-conservative Andrew McCarthy, the U.S. governmental system is constructed on the idea that politically interested individuals can set aside their biases to serve in government roles, with sufficient guidelines and checks and balances. This resembles similar right-wing critiques of academia and the press, and it is essentially nihilistic, seeking to disqualify not only avowed partisans but also those like Mueller, whose reputation Gingrich could praise heartily in May, denigrate in June, and call corrupt by December. The very idea of a reputation for fairness is obsolete before this totalizing partisanship. It doesn’t matter that Rosenstein last week rated Mueller’s work so far highly; as another lifelong Republican with a reputation for fairness, he can just as easily be written off, as Trump’s attack on him demonstrated. Thus the cynicism of The Wall Street Journal editorial board’s conclusion that “Mr. Mueller is too conflicted to investigate the FBI and should step down in favor of someone more credible.” This, of course, was just who Robert Mueller was said to be a few short months ago. Even if Rosenstein could find a replacement with a reputation as strong as Mueller’s, it’s clear that the Trump partisans would just as quickly work to undermine it. Who would satisfy the Journal’s editors? It’s hard to imagine many names beyond, say, Pirro or her Fox colleague Andrew Napolitano, both of them unshakeable Trump partisans. Appointing such a person would finally satisfy those critics, but it would also effectively end the special counsel’s investigation—which is, of course, the point.

I fully expect that Mueller, if allowed to complete his investigation, will find a panoply of crimes, some reaching up to Trump.  Congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell know this - they may even be already aware of the crimes and/or implicated themselves.  It is critical that this investigation be allowed to run its course and the crimes and possible treason that took place exposed.  A review of Trump's history in business dealings shows that he constantly has skirted the law if not broken it.  Does anyone sane think anything about the man changed once he moved into the political realm?

Many Americans Exited the GOP in 2017

When I left the Republican Party a good many years ago - my extended family followed me soon there after - there were two motivations: (i) that I could not in good conscience remain in a party that ignored the separation of church and state and that was rapidly becoming the captive of right wing religious extremists and racists, and (ii) there was basically zero chance of reforming the GOP from within given the manner in which the party grassroots was being hijacked by  right wing religious extremists and racists.  The only plausible way, therefore, to "save the GOP" was to work to see it defeated in as many electoral contests as possible.  Ironically, now that the GOP holds the White House and both houses of Congress, more and more Republicans are coming to the realization that I came to a good 15 or more years before them: the only way to retain one's moral integrity and basic decency is to leave the party. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the exodus from the Republican Party in no small part thanks to Der  Trumpenführer (a post yesterday looked at the reasoning behind one evangelical Republican's decision to disassociate from both groups).  Here are article excerpts:
For much of 2017, President Trump’s poll numbers have been pretty consistent. In its most recent weekly average, Gallup has Trump at 36 percent approval . . . . Trump is where he is because, although Democrats hate him and independents generally view him negatively, he continues to enjoy high approval ratings from Republicans. Eighty-two percent of those in his own party approve of Trump, as of last week. That’s pretty good, but not good enough to keep Trump’s overall approval from being historically low for a modern president.
The problem for Trump may not just be that only Republicans like him, but that there are fewer Republicans than there were a year ago.
Last week, Gallup reported that the gap in partisan identity between Republicans and Democrats was 7 points — narrower than during the summer but still wider than it was at this point last year. In other words, the percentage of Americans who say that they are Democrats, or independents who tend to vote Democratic, is 7 percentage points higher than the percentage who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning.
 “Democrats’ edge has expanded this year mainly because of a decline in Republican affiliation,” Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones wrote. “A year ago, 44% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, the same percentage as now. However, Republican identification and leaning is five points lower than it was a year ago.” . . .  Women are 5 points less likely to identify as Republicans relative to last November. White women are 7 points less likely to.
This raises the question of why Americans were giving up on the party. Was it a function of the president?
Gallup found slips in Trump’s approval across the board since his inauguration, but polling from Marist conducted last December and in November of this year seems to reinforce the idea that some Republicans soured on Trump specifically. Asked whether they view Trump favorably — a different metric than approval — Trump’s numbers have dropped six percentage points over that 11-month period. 
You’ll notice that the Democrats have fairly consistently had an advantage in terms of party identification. Republicans are more reliable voters, generally speaking, since voting propensity correlates to age and income, which both also correlate to Republican Party membership.
If partisan identification shows a wide advantage for the Democrats in November of 2018, that suggests that the party could see an advantage in the polls.
If Republican leaders think Trump is to blame for that shift, deservedly or not, Washington politics could get very interesting very quickly.

Trump is hardly the only reason to exit the GOP, but he is a malignancy that shows no sign of going away voluntarily and albeit belatedly more and more Republicans seem to be realizing that the man is a liar, sexual predator, and possible traitor.  And that doesn't even begin to look at the GOP's  war on average Americans as embodied by the versions of the GOP tax bill or the growing effort to grant special rights to Christofascists to discriminate against others at will. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Reminds me of my hard core surfing days when I had 70 consecutive months in the water, including all through the winter. 

 Me years ago nears the .Hatteras light

Monday, December 11, 2017

More Monday Male Beauty

An Evangelical Republican Calls it Quits

Peter Wehner, a heretofore Republican and evangelical who served in the previous three Republican administrations, has seemingly reached the point I reached long ago: the Republican Party and Christianity as defined by evangelicals, are now a toxic threat to American society. It's the same conclusion reched by Millennials, a super majority of which despise the GOP and over a third of whom have walked away from Christianity.  In a sane world such data would cause concern for the long term viability of bot the GOP and Christianity, but sanity no longer defines either one.  Today's GOP is sadly defined by a mentally unbalanced sexual predator in the White House and a core base that consists of religious extremists and white supremacists.  I's often questioned how decent moral people can remain a part of this toxic cesspool.  In Wehner's case, he has publicly stated that he can no longer be a part of such ugliness.  Here are highlights from an o-ed column he wrote in the New York Times:
There are times in life when the institutional ground underneath you begins to crumble — and with it, longstanding attachments. Such is the case for me when it comes to the Republican Party and evangelicalism.
I’ve been a part of both for my entire adult life. These days, though, in many important ways they are having harmful effects on our society.
The latest example is in Alabama, where Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate, stands accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct by nine women, including one who was 14 years old at the time. Mr. Moore leads in most polls, and solidly among most evangelicals, heading into Tuesday’s election.
A bit of personal history may be in order here. . . . . Both the Republican Party, which was created to end slavery and preserve the Union, and evangelicalism, a transdenominational effort to faithfully represent Christ in word and deed, shaped my life and outlook, helping me to interpret the world.
I don’t mean to imply that politics and religion are a perfect fit. Often they’re not, and over the years Christians, myself included, have not gotten the balance right. But overall I felt that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement were imperfect forces for good, and I spent a large part of my life defending them.
Yet the support being given by many Republicans and white evangelicals to President Trump and now to Mr. Moore have caused me to rethink my identification with both groups. Not because my attachment to conservatism and Christianity has weakened, but rather the opposite. I consider Mr. Trump’s Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I have concluded that the term evangelical — despite its rich history of proclaiming the “good news” of Christ to a broken world — has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.
Just the other day I received a note from a friend of mine, a pastor, who told me he no longer uses the label “evangelical” to describe himself, even though he meets every element of its historical definition, “because the term is now so stained as to ruin my ability to be what evangelicalism was supposed to be.”
Another pastor who is a lifelong friend told me, “Evangelical is no longer a word we can use.” The reason, he explained, is that it’s become not a religious identification so much as a political one. A third person, who heads a Christian organization, told me the term evangelical “is now a tribal rather than a creedal description.”
I cannot help believing that the events of the past few years — and the past few weeks — have shown us that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement (or large parts of them, at least), have become what I once would have thought of as liberal caricatures.
Assume you were a person of the left and an atheist, and you decided to create a couple of people in a laboratory to discredit the Republican Party and white evangelical Christianity. You could hardly choose two more perfect men than Donald Trump and Roy Moore.
Both have been credibly accused of being sexual predators, sometimes admitting to bizarre behavior in their own words. Both have spun wild conspiracy theories, including the lie that Barack Obama was not born in America. Both have slandered the United States and lavished praise on Vladimir Putin, with Mr. Moore declaring that America today could be considered “the focus of evil in the modern world” and stating, in response to Mr. Putin’s anti-gay measures in Russia: “Well, maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.” Both have been involved with shady business dealings. Both have intentionally divided America along racial and religious lines. Both relish appealing to people’s worst instincts. Both create bitterness and acrimony in a nation desperately in need of grace and a healing touch.
I hoped the Trump era would be seen as an aberration and made less ugly by those who might have influence over the president. That hasn’t happened. Rather than Republicans and people of faith checking his most unappealing sides, the president is dragging down virtually everyone within his orbit.
In the latest example of this, a rising number of Republicans are attempting to delegitimize the special counsel’s investigation into whether there were links between Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and Mr. Putin’s Russia because they quake at what he may find. Prominent evangelical leaders, rather than challenging the president to become a man of integrity, have become courtiers. What’s happening with Mr. Moore in Alabama — with the president, the Republican National Committee, the state party and many white evangelicals rallying around him — is a bridge too far for many of us. Where exactly is the bottom? And at what point do you pull back from associating yourself with a political party and a religious term you once took pride in but that are now doing harm to the things you treasure?
[A] solid majority of Republicans and self-described evangelicals are firmly aboard the Trump train, which is doing its utmost to give a seat of privilege to Mr. Moore. So for those of us who still think of ourselves as conservative and Christian, it’s enough already.

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Sunday, December 10, 2017

More Sunday Male Beauty

The Degradation of the Republican Party

In follow up to the last post, a column in the New Yorker looks at the near complete degradation of the Republican Party.  Yes, Roy Moore is a disgusting figure, but so are his enablers and those who will close their eyes to virtually anything if it means one more GOP vote in the U.S. Senate.  And then, of course, there is Donald Trump, the foulest of the foul.  I sincerely hope that the GOP fails to pass a tax bill.  But if it does, I hope it particularly harms Trump supporters and evangelical Christians who have supported the normalizing of the reprehensible.   Here are column highlights:
When Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, was explaining last week why President Trump had chosen to endorse Roy Moore in this week’s special election for the U.S. Senate, in Alabama, she made the decision sound natural—and perhaps, in the current political moment, it was. Moore may be facing multiple allegations that he preyed on teen-age girls (he has denied “sexual misconduct”), but Trump, Sanders said, sees him as “a person that supports his agenda.”
In less than a year in office, Trump has led the G.O.P. into situations and alliances so degraded that the Party may never fully recover, even as he watches an investigation into Russia’s possible interference in the 2016 election, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, move ever closer to his immediate circle. Last week, Donald Trump, Jr., refused to answer questions before the House Intelligence Committee about his conversations with his father, and a plea deal that Mueller struck with Michael Flynn, the former national-security adviser, indicates that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may be under scrutiny, too. Mueller may also have turned his attention to records related to Trump’s finances.
Last Monday, the day that Trump endorsed Moore, Axios reported that one of the President’s lawyers, echoing Richard Nixon, had suggested that what might count as obstruction of justice for others would not in Trump’s case—because if the President does it, it isn’t really a crime. But each day dawns with a possibility that Trump will disgrace the Presidency more than he already has, whether he is insulting Native Americans or mangling relationships with our most trusted allies.
It would be inaccurate, though, to say that the President has acted alone, or without the coöperation of his party. There have been a few eloquent protests from members of Congress who are retiring or seem to think that they have nothing left to lose politically. . . . But, last week, when Trump let the R.N.C. know that he was supporting Moore, it began pouring money into his campaign. “The President says jump and the RNC jumps,” a Party official told the Wall Street Journal.
The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, for his part, backed away from his own previous condemnation of Moore, saying on “Face the Nation,” “The people of Alabama are going to decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate. It’s really up to them.”
Yet Moore, for all his talk of independence, was also selling himself as a party-line voter. What made the special election special, he said, was that “we’re going to see if the people of Alabama will support the President.” . . . . If his project in Washington would be loyalty to Trump, that would make him, by current standards, a fairly typical Republican.
With or without Moore, however, the [GOP tax] bill is an extraordinarily sloppy and reckless concoction: its benefits are concentrated at the top, and it casually sabotages the health-insurance system. The cost will be in untreated illnesses and unpayable medical bills. In the tally of amorality, for McConnell to accept being mocked by Moore on the campaign trail, and then have lunch with him on Capitol Hill before the roll call, may be nothing more than a rounding error.
At the rally in Fairhope, Moore reminisced that, when Trump was elected, it was as if “a big weight had been taken off my shoulders,” and asked if others had felt, as he did, “like we had another chance.” The Republicans have a fifty-two-seat majority, meaning that Moore’s presence would be helpful but, in terms of control of the chamber, not decisive. What would they tolerate in order to secure the fifty-first vote? Put another way, if the Party is willing to give its money and its credibility to protect a candidate accused of molesting teen-agers, what might it talk itself into doing to protect the President? Robert Mueller may be interested in the answer.