Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty

How Far Left Has America Moved?

While the Republican Party has veered to the far right over the last two decades or more - pushed mostly by the Christofascists who want a form of Christian Sharia law imposed on the nation, and by the white supremacists who want to deport Hispanics and restore the Jim Crow laws - there is an argument to be made that the nation is actually moving to the left, at least outside of Fox News viewers who live in their own fantasy world.  The number of those professing no religious affiliation has soared, locally, once conservative country clubs and yacht clubs are accepting same sex couples as members, and many want the government to do more to rein in the vulture capitalism so loved by right wing Republicans.  An op-ed in the New York Times by a former Mitt Romney strategist suggests that the country is moving to the left.  Here are highlights:

FROM the earliest days of Barack Obama’s presidency, a comforting assumption developed among much of the center-right political world. The thinking went like this: President Obama was far more liberal than the majority of the country. But given his extraordinary political talents, the fatigue of the George W. Bush years, the economic crisis and the excitement of electing the first African-American president, the country picked him not because of his ideology but in spite of it.

Once this unique political figure was no longer on the ballot, America would revert to the less liberal, more center-right direction that was the norm after World War II. Under this scenario, President Obama wasn’t some profound historical shift but more of an eccentric diversion.

Now it’s February 2016 and an obscure socialist — O.K., a Democratic Socialist — from a tiny state just beat one of the most powerful forces in the Democratic Party in the New Hampshire primary. On the Republican side, a man whom National Review, the conservative movement’s flagship publication, has vigorously denounced, also won New Hampshire in a rout.

Though only 16 years separated the election of Bill Clinton and that of President Obama, the two politicians seemed to represent the same party in name only. The 1992 campaign was dedicated to defining “a different kind of Democrat.” That was basically a nicely packaged phrase to stress that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were not crazy — or weak — liberals like the party’s recent lineup of losers.

By 2008 a different set of issues emerged, addressed with a new vocabulary. Mr. Obama made the case that he and the Democratic Party were best able to deal with the crushing pain of disappearing jobs and escalating inequality. The urgent need to prevent any more terrorist attacks had morphed to an urgent longing to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Liberals now called themselves progressives and embraced the label.

The Barack Obama legacy debate is just beginning. One point up for discussion: whether the president pushed the country left, or whether he was just in step with how people felt. He passed the Affordable Care Act, announced support for same-sex marriage, and has argued passionately (if unsuccessfully) for more gun control.

For Republicans, this mostly proves that the president is out of sync with the majority of the country, though on same-sex marriage, the country has clearly changed.  . . . . But so far into the 2016 election, conservatives are on the run. Democrats are battling over who can really move the country left. And the leading Republican candidate is a man who has previously praised Canada’s single-payer health care system and described himself as “very pro-choice.”

This starts to paint a very different picture of the direction of the country. Instead of President Obama representing a quirky left shift engendered by his charisma, Iraq and the Great Recession, what if he turned out to have been a transitional figure to a considerably more leftward tilt? What if in 10 or 20 years we look back on the Obama years and they seem as conservative as the 1992 “Different Kind of Democrat” years do now?

It’s happening elsewhere. Canada has turned left, and a socialist, a long way from the days of Tony Blair, leads Britain’s Labour Party. In this global economy that everyone talks about but no one seems able to define, maybe larger forces are nudging the United States left. Unemployment is low and yet only 23 percent of the country believes we are headed in the right direction. Something clearly is wrong.

Perhaps the reality of the new American economy is becoming too exhausting.

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare,” opponents of the president’s health care bill once demanded. Like that confused, plaintive cry, will this be the election cycle when voters in both parties accept that they want a growing benevolent government, as long as they don’t have to admit they need it?
The Republican Party still believes it is 1980.  However, the world and society have changed radically.  Just maybe the larger public is waking up to the fact that what the GOP is selling just doesn't work anymore and that progressive - or, gasp, liberal - policies are what are needed to face the changed circumstances. 

Democrat Debate Winner and Loser

I watched the Democrat presidential debate last night and was once again struck by the difference between it and the largely substance free Republican debates that focus mostly on sound bites and pandering to the racism, religious extremism and general misogyny of the GOP base.  Last night - as in the prior Democrat debate - real substance was discussed and when there were vague generalities, most often they came from Bernie Sanders.  As a piece in the Washington Post notes, the night overall went to Hillary Clinton.  Here are some excerpts:
* Hillary Clinton: Beginning to end, this was Clinton's best debate of the election.  In the first half hour, Clinton poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast the Vermont senator as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.  She was calm and cool throughout -- even when fighting on Sanders's home turf on wage inequality. Clinton also effectively cast Sanders as insufficiently loyal to President Obama, a point that will resound with black voters among whom Obama remains extremely popular.

Clinton was helped by the dearth of questions about uncomfortable topics for her (paid speeches, State Department investigations); when pressed on her super PAC being financed heavily by a few individuals, Clinton was uncomfortable and gave one of her worst answers of the night. But, those moments were few and far between. If she -- and her campaign -- were knocked back after her massive loss in New Hampshire, it didn't show.  She was in total control all night.

* Bernie Sanders: If the challenge for Sanders was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal Thursday night. Sanders did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past -- a low bar -- but he struggled to score clean hits on Clinton during the first hour of the debate, which focused exclusively on domestic policy, which should have been his strong suit. Sanders, at times during that first hour, sounded like a broken record -- citing millionaires and billionaires and Wall Street to explain almost anything he was asked.

Then there was Sanders's insistence that he would be better on race relations than Obama, a slip that you can be sure that the Clinton campaign will make sure African American voters hear about (and then hear about some more) in the coming days and weeks.

Perhaps Sanders' biggest problem, as noted by the husband who is usually good at picking up on average voter reactions is that Sanders comes across as always angry - something that in general election could prove damaging. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

More Thursday Male Beauty

Heidi Cruz: Nutcase or Pandering Whore for her Foul Husband?

Just when you think things in the GOP presidential nomination contest can't get any crazier, one of the candidates - or in this case, one of their spouses - says something that demonstrates that these folks belong in an insane asylum, not the White House.  Heidi Cruz, campaigning for her sinister looking and sleazy husband, said that the election of her husband, Ted Cruz, would "show the face of the God we serve" to the nation and the world.  Cruz's god, of course, is very terrifying if one is gay, non-Christian, and anyone else deemed"other" by the Christofascists and white supremacists who make up the core of the GOP party base.  Right Wing Watch looks at the batshit craziness  of Ms. Cruz and by extension, her thoroughly nasty husband.  Here are highlights:
Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi, who has been campaigning for her husband full-time over the past several months, explained the role of faith in the Texas Republican’s presidential campaign yesterday, telling a South Carolina radio host that Cruz is running to “show this country the face of the God that we serve.”

Cruz’s father Rafael made a similar statement last month when he said that Ted, whom he has implied was chosen by God for the White House, was running for president to “share the love of Jesus Christ” with “every person in America.”

Heidi Cruz told South Carolina radio host Vince Coakley yesterday that even if she were not married to Ted, she’d be trying to work on his campaign because “this country is in crisis and this individual has an incredible talent to bring us out of this crisis.”

This is in a large part, she said, because “this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country” and people need to be reminded that “Christians are loving people, are nonjudgmental people, but there is right and wrong, we have a country of law and order, there are consequences to actions and we must all live peaceably in our own faiths under the Constitution.” 

[I]t also became clear to me that we are at a cultural crossroads in our country and if we can be in this race to show this country the face of the God that we serve — this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country, our country was built on Judeo-Christian values, we are a nation of freedom of religion, but the God of Christianity is the God of freedom, of individual liberty, of choice and of consequence.

And Ted is uniquely able to deliver on that combination of the law and religion.

The last parts are utterly ludicrous given the reality that the Christofascists want their faith forced on all other citizens and a special license to discriminate against those who do not knuckle under to their faith demands.  Perhaps Ms. Cruz needs to get her head out of her ass before she suffocates.

Vatican: Catholic Bishops Not Obliged to Report Clerical Sex Abuse

Sometimes one has to wonder what planet top Vatican officials are from.  They surely seem utterly detached from reality and what most would consider basic morality and decency.   With the movie Spotlight garnering increased attention and set to get even more during the Academy Awards ceremony, the official Vatican training program for newly appointed Catholic bishops informs the new appointees that they have NO obligation to report sexual abuse of minors to local police authorities.  That's right, no obligations to report crimes against children.  The Church prefers to deal with the problem internally.  As Spotlight has so wonderfully demonstrated, the Church's track record on self-discipline and protecting children and youth  is nothing less than abysmal.  The Guardian looks at this shocking Vatican position.  Here are highlights:
The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.

A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.

“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.

The training guidelines were written by a controversial French monsignor and psychotherapist, Tony Anatrella, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family. . . . . Details of the Catholic church’s policy were first reported in a column by a veteran Vatican journalist, John Allen, associate editor of the Catholic news site,

Allen noted that a special commission created by Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, had appeared to play no role in the training programme, even though it is supposed to be developing “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.

Indeed, a church official familiar with the commission on abuse said it was the committee’s position that reporting abuse to civil authorities was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not”. The official said the committee would be involved in future training efforts.

The current guidelines written by Anatrella make only passing references to prevention policies. The French monsignor is best known for championing views on “gender theory”, the controversial belief that increasing acceptance of homosexuality in western countries is creating “serious problems” for children who are being exposed to “radical notions of sexual orientation”. He did not return a request for comment.

The guidelines reflect Anatrella’s views on homosexuality. They also downplay the seriousness of the Catholic church’s legacy of systemic child abuse, which some victims’ right groups say continues to be a problem today. . . . . the training guide emphasises statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assaults against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbours, not other authority figures.

Pope Francis has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors  . . . .  . He said in a 2012 interview – when he was still a cardinal – that he was once called by a bishop asking him for advice on how to deal with an allegation of sex abuse. Cardinal Bergoglio – as he was then known – allegedly told the bishop to take away the priests’ licences and begin a canonical trial that would deal with the matter internally.

SNAP, a US-based advocacy group for abuse victims that has been very critical of Pope Francis on the issue, said the news outlined in John Allen’s Crux article proved that the church had not substantially changed.

It’s infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary – like this disclosure by Allen – emerges,” the group said in a statement.

The news comes just days after the abuse commission forced one of two abuse survivors who had personally been appointed by Pope Francis to leave the committee following a vote of no confidence.  Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor and vocal critic of the church’s alleged lack of action on abuse, said he was blind-sided by the vote.
The Vatican declined to comment.
I continue to baffled as to how good and moral individuals can continue to remain in the Church, must less continue to finance such a morally bankrupt institution.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

The Problem With the Word "Queer"

Yet another internal controversy has reared its ugly head in the LGBT community: attempts to use the word "queer" to describe the community at large.  The tempest has been launched by certain activists and the Huffington Post's decision to change "Gay Voices" to "Queer Voices." An opinion piece in The Advocate - which I agree with 100% - makes the case that the move is a huge mistake and that rather than unifying the LGBT community, it will alienate many.  I for one won't use it and believe the term plays directly into the hands of our Christofascist enemies.  It could likewise dampen my enthusiasm to support organizations that use the term, which I despise.  Here are excerpts  from the column:
There seems to be yet another controversy in our community this week. The issue du jour is The Huffington Post changing its dedicated LGBT site’s name from Gay Voices to Queer Voices. While there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue, when I heard about it, it brought a smile to my face.

Since the beginning of my activism back in 1969, I’ve witnessed our community’s attempts to unite over a word or term to define ourselves. There was “homosexual,” “homophile,” “gay,” “gay and lesbian,” and most recently, and most accepted, “LGBT.” So what about “queer”?

HuffPost’s reasoning? “We, like many others before us, have chosen to reclaim ‘queer.’ ‘Queer’ functions as an umbrella term that includes not only the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people of ‘LGBT,’ but also those whose identities fall in between, outside of or stretch beyond those categories, including genderqueer people, intersex people, asexual people, pansexual people, polyamorous people and those questioning their sexuality or gender, to name just a few.”

While the word “queer” is popular with young LGBT activists, many in our community detest it. Reclaiming a derogatory word is not a new trend. Some of us used to use the word “faggot.” 

It’s popular with only one segment of our population, and that segment is overwhelmingly activist-driven. Most in our community do not consider themselves activists and still feel hurt when they hear that word. Are we trying to teach our own community, or are we trying to fight for equality? Are we trying to hurt the seniors in our community who suffered harassment by the use of that word and give them another barrier to overcome? 

Maybe we should attempt to solve some of the hard-core issues in our community rather then spending time debating semantics. While all individuals have the right to identify with whatever term or image they wish for themselves, and that should be respected, the word-reclaiming, like that in the black community, will eventually be passé.

So if you spend any capital or time on this, you’re ignoring issues such as homelessness, poverty, employment discrimination, the need for housing to protect our seniors, and anti-trans violence. Those are problems I’d rather address, not a word — and especially not one that some of the most endangered people in our community see as another barrier.
I hope Huffington Post will rethink its idiocy.  Many of us have worked hard for changed attitudes and put ourselves on the line socially and at work and do not need to be labeled by a derogatory term. As for organizations that are stupid enough to adopt the term, they can plan on seeing a stop in the flow of checks from me!!

How Similar are Trump and Sanders?

One thing that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are claiming is that they have caused disengaged voters who have shunned politics in the past.  Both also claim to be electrifying younger voters, although the claim seems more appropriate for Sanders.  There are other similarities between the two candidates - the use of scapegoats, over simplified offered solutions, a refusal to hold voters accountable for the results of their own past disengagement  and/or voting against their own interests after falling for race baiting and feigned religiosity - as noted in a main editorial in the Washington Post which may outrage Sanders supporters.  Yes, there are huge differences between the extravagant, narcissistic Trump, but the similarities should be noted.  Here are editorial excerpts:

Donald Trump, the Republican victor, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the socialist victor on the Democratic side. The similarities are important — but the differences are more so.

Both have positioned themselves as outsiders appealing to voters who believe the system, and the leaders of the two major parties, have failed them. The grievances they speak to are real: a sense that the economy has left too many people behind, that globalization and technological change are helping the few while stranding the many. 

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders offer convenient scapegoats and simple-sounding solutions. For Mr. Sanders, the “greed” of the “billionaire class” has rigged the system against working people. Tax the 1 percent, and everyone else can have free college and free health care. Political obstacles can be swept away by a “political revolution.” America’s enemies will be fought by a mythical Sunni Muslim coalition. The villains for Mr. Trump are “stupid” people running the government who allow foreigners to take advantage of the United States. The solution — well, his solution — is to elect Mr. Trump.

We think both men are dangerously if seductively wrong in their facile diagnoses and prescriptions. But Mr. Sanders’s platform is at least well-meaning. We think forcing working people to subsidize, through their taxes, the college tuition of wealthier Americans is not a progressive policy; we believe Mr. Sanders has not leveled with Americans about the true costs of single-payer health care. But few would object in theory to more widely available education and health care.

By contrast, Mr. Trump’s proposals are pernicious as well as preposterous. There is no way to round up 11 million illegal immigrants and deport them — but no one should want to live in a nation that would attempt such a thing. Nor would most Americans want a government that deliberately kills the innocent relatives of terrorists.  

Mr. Trump is mocking the democratic process, not engaging in it. He feels no obligation to explain how he would implement his ideas, and he does not care whether his statements are true. Thousands of Muslims in New Jersey did not publicly celebrate the downing of the World Trade Center towers in 2001, but Mr. Trump is content simply to repeat the lie. And lies come easily to Mr. Trump because, unlike Mr. Sanders, he does not believe in anything other than his own brilliance.

[T]the most essential difference between these two outsider campaigns: the utter ugliness of Mr. Trump’s. To further his ambition, he has gleefully demeaned Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, people with disabilities, blacks and anyone else he can present as the “other” as he proceeds to exploit the nation’s divisions. As president he would not be able to deliver on his promises, and it is fearful to contemplate the scapegoats he might find to distract from his failures.