Thursday, December 08, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


The Silence and Moral Bankruptcy of Paul Ryan


Yes, Donald Trump and his Cabinet nominees to date are very frightening individuals. Never in my life time with the possible exception of Richard Nixon have such delusional and/or extreme individuals been about to take power in America.  I remain convinced that the results will be disastrous for many citizens, including the angry white cretins who voted for Trump and the GOP to protect their white privilege without realizing they were cutting their own economic throats.  But just as scary, in my view, is Paul Ryan who has cultivated a reputation with a press corps that is just as vapid and easily fooled as Trump's angry white voters.  The man often wears his Catholicism on his sleeve, yet other than his opposition to abortion and gay rights, Ryan's goals and policies are diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church's social gospel.  He wants to take away health care coverage for millions, he wants to gut Medicare into an inadequate voucher program, he wants to gut Social Security, and he's in bed with Christofascist extremists many of whom are anti-Catholic.  Yet the idiots in the media still project an image of Ryan as principled and thoughtful.  Compatred to what?  One of Hitler's henchmen?  A column in the New York Times rightly takes Ryan to task.  Here are excerpts:
Paul Ryan has long been cast as Congress’s Boy Scout: earnest, honest and brimming with the best intentions, whether you agree with his proposals or not.
Donald Trump is putting an ugly end to that.
Or, rather, Ryan himself is, with his example of utter submission to Trump. Other Republicans are looking to the speaker of the House for guidance on when to confront the president-elect and when to let his craziness go unchecked. And Ryan is charting the wrong course.
I’m referring to his recent “60 Minutes” interview, the apotheosis of all of his tongue biting and conscience snuffing to date. In particular I mean the part when he was asked about Trump’s reckless — and wholly unsubstantiated — tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.
“I’m not really focused on these things,” Ryan said, all too blithely. Then: “I have no knowledge of such things. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Such things? Was he at a tea in the Cotswolds, discussing the pesky upkeep of the carriage house?
Doesn’t matter? No, I guess a president-elect’s effort to undermine Americans’ confidence in our political system — and, beyond that, his attachment to conspiracy theories — aren’t pressing concerns. My bad for assuming otherwise.
Ryan’s answer was marginally better than the one given on the ABC News show “This Week” by Mike Pence, who described Trump’s tweets as “refreshing.” An adjective’s connotations can change from era to era as a language evolves, but I still associate “refreshing” with lemonade and dips in the sea, not wild accusations of voter fraud.
Pence, of course, is Trump’s designated sycophant. That’s practically written into a vice president’s job description. Ryan has no similar duty, just a growing willingness to part ways with principle.
But they can’t afford to stay mum when Trump, merely to stroke his own ego and assert his potency, tells a lie about election results, calling Clinton’s advantage in the popular vote a sham. Certainly Ryan can’t, because he’s a role model and because this lie epitomizes Trump’s demagogic tendencies and legitimizes fake news, the dark consequences of which are becoming ever clearer.
The disregard for truth — and indulgence of fantasy — among people at the pinnacle of power right now is chilling. Beyond Trump there’s Michael Flynn, his nominee for national security adviser, who has tweeted pure bunk about Clinton’s ties to pedophilia and money laundering.
On the subject of Trump, Ryan has spoken out of so many sides of his mouth that it’s less an oval than an octagon at this point. Last spring he even affirmed his endorsement of Trump while calling him out for racism. Behold leadership at its most gelatinous.
Trump is giving a green light to kooks and the finger to the dignity that Americans rightly expect of a president and that Ryan should demand of him.
Ryan is sacrificing too much for too little, and it’s time he rummaged through his wobbly endoskeleton and made fresh acquaintance with his spine. 

Support Ralph Northam fro Governor This Evening


Tickets are still available for the fundraiser this evening to support Raplh Northam's gubernatorial campaign.  Given the threat - at least in our view - that Donald Trump and a Republican congressional majority pose to LGBT rights and civil liberties in general, it is all the more important that we elect Ralph Northam as Virginia's next governor.  We need a firewall against some of the worse extreme policies that may be forth coming, especially given some of Trump's anti-LGBT appointees to date.  The husband (Barry D. Menser) and I know Ralph and his wife personally and we believe it is absolutely critical that we do all we can to support his election effort.  Hence, we are on the host committee for a fundraiser on December 8, 2016.  We encourage you to join us at the event (if you cannot attend, we will be hosting an event in our home at a later date).  The details are below:
Please join
Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam  
and 
Jimmy R. Chisman | Jerri & Frank Dickseski | Duncan & Diana Garnett  
Barry Menser & Mike Hamar | Jay & Tara Joseph | Mamie Locke
Monty Mason | Jim McNider | Ross & Martha Mugler
Leonard A. Bennett & Dr. Drina A. Northam
BJ Roberts | Molly & Forrest Ward
At the 
Northam For Governor Hampton Kick-Off

Thursday, December 8, 2016 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm 
At the home of Molly and Forrest Ward
801 Park Place | Hampton, VA 23669

Host - $5,000+ | Co-Host - $2,500 
Sponsor - $1,000  | Benefactor - $500 
Supporter - $250 | Guest - $100

To RSVP, please click here or email david@ralphnortham.com.
You may also call 804-397-9877 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Virginia Beach School Board's Anti-LGBT Ploy Backfires


All of my children attended the Virginia Beach public schools and for a time I was a pro-education activist striving to see programs that the city now boasts about put into place.  To say I was hated by some on City Council and the Virginia Beach School Board is probably not an overstatement. Frighteningly, some of the same players who in my opinion consistently put the best interest of students, especially those who were different, last are still on the School Board - Board Chairman Dan Edwards being a prime example. Now the Board has gotten itself embroiled in seemingly anti-LGBT controversy which is garnering national and international attention via the Washington Post and numerous LGBT blogs and news outlets.  Virginia Beach likes to see itself as a first class city, but until small minded individuals like Edwards are removed from positions of governance, the city will remain petty ante at best.  What I find most disturbing is that the mealy mouthed excuse given for cancelling a long scheduled gay-straight alliance assembly is that it suggests to me that the School Board may be cowering before demands of Christofascist within the city who are likely emboldened by Donald Trump's naming of anti-gay zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  The disturbing and to me telling part of the excuse is as follows via the Virginian Pilot:
Cox, a school division spokeswoman, said the event was postponed “ in order to give school organizers, led by school counselors, an opportunity to involve a variety of student and community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”
“The decision to postpone was made in an effort to be more inclusive of all groups and students, not to marginalize any particular student, group or organization,” Cox said.
If you haven't followed the activities of the Christofascists around the country - or even in Gloucester County where a pastor began the lynch mob mentality against Gavin Grimm's restroom usage - you might not catch the language that parrots their favorite excuse for torpedoing anything that might suggest that LGBT students have equal rights and should be free from bullying.  The language: "community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”

Translated, this means that the Christofascists - be they from Regent University, The Wave Church or other "Christian" groups dedicated to making life Hell for LGBT individuals as they force their beliefs on all - want to be involved to (i) kill any pro-LGBT activity, and (ii) argue that "tolerance" includes allowing them to persecute other citizens who do not share their beliefs.

I hope this story continues to get much media coverage and show Virginia Beach for the back water that it remains.  As the Virginian Pilot reports, there is growing blow back from citizens, including my friend Janet Wren Moore who addressed the School Board:
Hours after the school division announced that an assembly hosted by Cox High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance has been rescheduled for an evening in January, pushback from the community continued Tuesday night.
The assembly scheduled for Monday during school hours was to have included a speech by the president of Hampton Roads Pride and a question-and-answer panel hosted by students. School administration decided Sunday to postpone it.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Tuesday said it was looking into the postponement.
Speaking before the School Board, Janet Moore, a Hampton Roads Pride board member whose son came out as gay while attending Tallwood High, said the worry is that some students will not be able to attend the January event because it begins several hours after school ends.
She condemned the administration for making its decision to postpone the assembly less than 24 hours before it was scheduled, saying the students who planned it for months “didn’t have any time to regroup.”
“It’s unfortunately encouraging misunderstanding and mistrust – a fertilizer for bullying,” she said of the last-minute decision.
She wasn’t alone in her disappointment at the administration’s actions.
Nearly 200 people have signed an open letter [authored by friends' now adult daughter] in solidarity with Cox High’s Gay-Straight Alliance, many of them Virginia Beach parents or former students of the division.
The ACLU has requested access to or copies of records on speakers at school assemblies at the 12 high schools in the city dating back to September 2014.
“Students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, and content-based distinctions by the school division in the regulation of student speech would raise significant legal concerns,” said Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga, executive director.



Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Kathleen Parker: The Electoral College Should be Unfaithful


Among the so-called conservative columnists Kathleen Parker has strayed more consistently from the GOP reservation than many.  That said, like David Brooks, Jennifer Rubin, and Michael Gerson, to name a few, she all too often nonetheless played the role of an apologist for the ugliest aspects of the Republican Party agenda and waited far too long to began calling the hate, racism and misogyny of the GOP base (which began to metastasize at least 20 years ago) for what it was and, in the process normalized what would become Donald Trump's main platform.  Now, in a column in the Washington Post, Parker calls for the Electoral College electors to do what responsible and morally decent Republican voters should have done during the election: reject Donald Trump.   Here are column highlights:
If you thought Donald Trump was the face of America’s anti-establishment movement, hold on to your chapeaus: A wild wind is rising.
Want to know what’s more anti-establishment than a president-elect who refuses to play by the rules? How about similarly spirited electors going AWOL and sending someone else to the Oval Office?
A movement headed by a mostly Democratic group calling itself Hamilton Electors is trying to persuade Republican electors to defect — not to cede the election to Hillary Clinton but to join with Democrats in selecting a compromise candidate, such as Mitt Romney or John Kasich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.
Mathematically, only 37 of Trump’s 306 electors are needed to bring his number down to 269, one less than the 270 needed to secure the presidency.
On the Hamilton Electors’ Facebook page, elector Bret Chiafalo, a Democrat from Washington, explains the purpose of the electoral college. If you haven’t previously been a fan of the electoral system, you might become one.
Bottom line: The Founding Fathers didn’t fully trust democracy, fearing mob rule, and so created a republic. They correctly worried that a pure democracy could result in the election of a demagogue (ahem), or a charismatic autocrat (ahem), or someone under foreign influence (ditto), hence the rule that a president must have been born in the United States. We know how seriously Trump takes the latter.
Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the electoral college was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.
It is worth noting that 50 former Republican national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter saying that Trump would be a “dangerous president.” Do we simply ignore them?
Alexander Hamilton, suddenly a star on both Broadway and Main Street, wrote that the electoral college “affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
Electors would prevent the “tumult and disorder” that would result from the candidate’s exploiting “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” Speaking of Trump. How wise our founders were. And how unwise are we to pay so little attention to their far keener insights.
It is, perhaps, a sign of these upside-down times that Democrats, usually preferring the popular vote, are suddenly genuflecting to the electoral college and Republicans, who so often defer to the founders’ original intent, shift principle so swiftly, presumably in hopes of taking the ultimate escalator ride in the golden palace of King Trump. Tut-tut.
Meanwhile, those on both sides who remain opposed to Trump are dismissed as either sorry losers or as dining on crow and sour grapes. But the stakes are too high — and the evidence of Trump’s presidential aptitude deficit too severe — for such trivializing designations. His demonstrated lack of judgment and impulse control should send shivers down the spines of all Americans in consideration of the nuclear arsenal he is poised to have at his fingertips.
Trump’s friends have told me they’re confident he’ll solemnly respect the burden of such power, but nothing thus far justifies their faith. After his election victory, Trump hasn’t much bothered himself with intelligence briefings. He ignored 37 years of diplomatic precedent by chatting with the president of Taiwan, upsetting China. He spoke like an inarticulate ninth-grader with Pakistan’s prime minister, according to that country’s readout. 
Electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their respective states to cast their final ballots. If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written.  Please, be brave.
As noted in a post over the weekend, there were numerous times that Germans could have halted Hitler's rise to power.  Then, as I fear will prove true on December 19, 2016, courage was in short supply and too many decent individuals shrugged their shoulders and took the easy way out.  That easy way out proved catastrophic for Germany and the world. 

Electoral College Elector: Why I Will Not Cast My Vote for Trump


I have addressed the founders' purpose in writing the Electoral College into the United States Constitution - to protect the nation from a demagogue who would undermine the constitutional order. Yes, Alexander Hamilton had his issues not withstanding the hit musical Hamilton.  But he and other members of the authors of the Constitution tried to guard against all contingencies, including efforts by foreign rulers to bribe America's political leaders.  The so-called Emoluments Clause had this specific purpose and with every passing day Trump has revealed his intention to ignore the Emoluments clause and to enrich himself and his family members as much as possible.  On December 19, 2016, the Electoral College electors will cast their votes to finalize the 2016 election results.  One Texas elector has an op-ed piece in the New York Times explaining why he will not cast his vote for Donald Trump.  Here are op-ed highlights:
DALLAS — I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think presidents-elect should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.
Fifteen years ago, as a firefighter, I was part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. That attack and this year’s election may seem unrelated, but for me the relationship becomes clearer every day.
George W. Bush is an imperfect man, but he led us through the tragic days following the attacks. His leadership showed that America was a great nation. That was also the last time I remember the nation united. I watch Mr. Trump fail to unite America and drive a wedge between us.
Mr. Trump goes out of his way to attack the cast of “Saturday Night Live” for bias. He tweets day and night, but waited two days to offer sympathy to the Ohio State community after an attack there. He does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage.
This is unacceptable. For me, America is that shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan envisioned. It has problems. It has challenges. These can be met and overcome just as our nation overcame Sept. 11.
The United States was set up as a republic. Alexander Hamilton provided a blueprint for states’ votes. Federalist 68 argued that an Electoral College should determine if candidates are qualified, not engaged in demagogy, and independent from foreign influence. Mr. Trump shows us again and again that he does not meet these standards. Given his own public statements, it isn’t clear how the Electoral College can ignore these issues, and so it should reject him.
I owe a debt to my children to leave them a nation they can trust.
Mr. Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief. During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, “he would be a dangerous president.” During the campaign Mr. Trump even said Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This encouragement of an illegal act has troubled many members of Congress and troubles me.
Hamilton also reminded us that a president cannot be a demagogue. Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it.
Finally, Mr. Trump does not understand that the Constitution expressly forbids a president to receive payments or gifts from foreign governments. We have reports that Mr. Trump’s organization has business dealings in Argentina, Bahrain, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest. He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Mr. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue.
The election of the next president is not yet a done deal. Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be.
Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1