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.

Roy Moore - A Referendum on Alabama's Identity

Alabama Capitol

Years ago my first job out of law school took me to Mobile, Alabama, where I lived and worked for four (4) years.  I found the people to be conservative, but gracious and nowhere deserving of the horrible reputation that Alabama had in much of the rest of the country (when visiting my former wife's family in New York City, it was always interesting to see people's reactions when we said we lived in Alabama). In the legal realm, the state had updated its rules of civil procedure and was actually much more modern than Virginia's to this day very outdated rules governing court actions.   Mobile, with its Catholic majority population was very different from the Baptist dominated northern part of the state.   Most importantly, the Christofascists had not yet hijacked the Alabama Republican Party.  But this latter event came to pass and now, Alabama has become a place I barely recognize, all thanks to the evangelicals/Christofascists.  Graciousness has given way to extremism in all too many contexts and, as a piece in the Washington Post notes, the state is posed to engage in a referendum on its identity and how it will be perceived by decent, moral people across the country and world.  The referendum centers on Roy Moore, a foul person in my view and a disgrace to Alabama.  Here are article highlights:
For many Alabama voters, unaccustomed to a competitive election and the national attention that has come with it, the bitter showdown between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones has become something more personal than a race to fill an open Senate seat. It is now a referendum on the state’s identity.
Supporters of Jones say with concern that a win Tuesday by the firebrand Moore would derail the state’s efforts to escape its painful history and rebrand as a forward-thinking place welcoming to Fortune 500 companies and a highly educated workforce. And they express a nagging feeling that a Moore victory would be a deflating sign that Alabama remains beholden to its past.
“You travel across the country and you say ‘Alabama,’ and something goes right across people’s eyes every time,” said retired actor Jonathan Fuller, a 61-year-old Democrat, as he shopped at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket in the suburbs south of Birmingham. “I don’t want to apologize anymore for where I’m from because there is this pocket of stubbornness in my state.”
Supporters of Moore, meanwhile, see his candidacy as a conduit for their rejection of the national media and political elites who they believe unfairly caricature their home state as a cultural backwater. They shrug off the notion that sexual misconduct allegations against Moore — allegations that some see as a fabrication by outsiders — should make a difference. . . . He said people outside of Alabama “have no right to judge us.”
The vivid contrast between the two candidates — Moore, 70, with his apocalyptic warnings about Muslims and gay rights, against Jones, a low-key 63-year-old lawyer best known for prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members who planned the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham — has put in sharp relief the idea that the results could speak volumes about Alabama to the rest of the country — and to itself.
One pivotal group on Tuesday will be voters who feel caught between these two visions and must pick a side, especially ­Republican-leaning voters who feel pulled between their traditional values and a desire to turn the page on the uglier parts of Alabama’s past.
“We’ve got a lot of good here, a lot of people who died for equal rights. And we’ve got a lot of people who are stuck in 1930, and that’s not going to change,” Phillip Hutchins, a 67-year-old Democrat and retired aircraft worker, said last week outside a grocery store in Titusville, a heavily black neighborhood in Birmingham.
Business-minded white Republicans — a bloc that sees itself as modern and puts an emphasis on education, commerce and tradition — have been uneasy about Moore. They have recoiled, too, at the cascade of controversies that have gripped the state this year, making the current race a culmination of various discomforts rather than a sudden drama.
The competition with other states for corporate investment is fierce, and state business executives have watched closely what happened in North Carolina after its ban on gender-neutral bathrooms.  Jones has courted the business establishment, many of them Republicans, on both moral and economic grounds, urging them to abandon their partisan instincts to protect the state’s economy and reputation.
But Jones, who supports abortion rights and whose campaign headquarters has a Planned Parenthood poster on its wall, has struggled to win over Republicans such as JoAnn Turner, a 71-year-old nurse who lives in Vestavia Hills, a mostly white Birmingham suburb.
“I’ve been in Alabama for 42 years, and I’m so tired of the publicity being so bad. It’s not who we are, and it’s embarrassing,” Turner said, . . . “All that said,” Turner added, “I can’t vote for Roy Moore, and I can’t vote for Doug Jones. . . . . Turner plans to write in Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.). . . .
[V]eteran Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) have remained wary of the former judge who was twice removed from the state Supreme Court — and have called the allegations against him credible and disturbing.  Shelby has opted to cast a write-in vote, telling The Washington Post that he is anxious about how a Moore victory would affect the corporate world’s impressions of Alabama. 
Outside of Birmingham and in rural towns to the east — home to massive evangelical churches and family-owned barbecue restaurants that puff black smoke out of chimneys — Moore’s support is heartier, particularly in his home town of Gadsden on the Coosa River. . . . Otis Dupree, a 53-year-old retired chicken-plant worker who works part time at the Burger King in Gadsden, said he is “disgusted” with the city’s embrace of Moore.
More than 100 miles southwest on the state’s flagship campus — the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa — hundreds of students in athletic clothing and T-shirts stream out of dorm buildings and sorority mansions across the street from the school’s beloved Bryant-Denny Stadium.
As with the men and women in Vestavia Hills, many of them are financially stable and white — and Republican in a cultural sense as much as ideologically. They see themselves as Alabama’s future and are eager to define it.  Roy Moore isn’t part of that plan, according to Ella Jernigan, a 19-year-old Republican student who’s studying marketing. . . .  I can’t stand us getting pinned now as rednecks or uneducated.”  She added, “Every time you think we’re going forward, something like Roy Moore sets us back.”

Researchers Discover Genes Linked to Male Homosexuality

While no completely definitive biological cause for homosexuality has been conclusively proven, researchers continue to inch closer to categorically debunking the Christofascist myth that one's sexual orientation is a "choice."  Of course, these scientific strides will mean nothing to those who actively celebrate ignorance and embrace a book written by uneducated, ignorant Bronze Age authors such as Colorado baker Jack Phillips. But for sane individuals who live in a fact based reality, the new discoveries provide further proof that one is (i) justified in looking down on Christofascists as the vicious individuals that they are in fact and (ii) supporting legislation to ban fraudulent "ex-gay" reparative therapy.  The Daily Telegraph looks at the development.  Here are excerpts:
Genes linked to homosexuality have been discovered by scientists in the biggest ever study into the genetic basis for sexual orientation.  For the first time, researchers looked at the complete genome - a person’s entire DNA code - for more than 1,000 gay men and compared it to genetic data from a similar number of heterosexual males.
They discovered that DNA was different for gay and straight men around the genes SLITRK5 and SLITRK6.  SLITRK6 is an important gene for brain development, and is particularly active in a region of the brain which includes the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is crucial for producing the hormones which control sex drive, and previous studies have shown parts of it are up to 34 per cent larger in gay men.
The researchers, from North Shore University Health System’s Research Institute, in Illinois, US, also discovered differences in the TSHR gene, which is linked to the thyroid, another area which has previously been associated with sexual orientation.
“Because sexuality is an essential part of human life – for individuals and society – it is important to understand the development and expression of human sexual orientation,” said lead author Dr Alan Sanders.
“The goal of this study was to search for genetic underpinnings of male sexual orientation, and thus ultimately increase our knowledge of biological mechanisms underlying sexual orientation.
“What we have accomplished is a first step for genome wide study on the trait, and we hope that subsequent larger studies will further illuminate its genetic contributions.”
-- Participants in the study were rated for sexual orientation based on their self-reported sexual identity and sexual feelings.
Men were asked to provide DNA by blood or saliva samples that were then genotyped and analysed.  Although previous studies have pointed to a genetic predisposition for homosexuality, it is the first time researchers have studied the entire genome of individuals and so is the most comprehensive assessment of the genetic basis of sexuality ever undertaken.
However British experts said more work was needed before it was possible to identify ‘gay genes’ because the genetic differences could point to other traits shared by the homosexual respondents. 
Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute,said: “The topic of this paper is important if we are to learn more about the influence of genes on aspects of our behaviour, but this is one that is notoriously difficult to study.
“Even if a gene variant does show some correlation with sexual orientation, this does not mean that the gene is in any way responsible for being gay – it just means it has some association with a trait that is more likely to found in the relatively few people involved as subjects in the study.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Ask any LGBT individual and they will assure that no "choice" is involved.  They are who they were born to be.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Saturday, December 09, 2017

The GOP Is Now the Party of Predators

Republican elected officials continue to bloviate about the GOP being the party of "family values" - especially during election season - yet their actions send a very different message.  It would appear that the GOP now has no vlaues whatsoever other than perhaps to steal for the poor to give to the rich.  Indeed, sexual predators are perfectly acceptable be they in the White House or running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama.  Meanwhile, in order to protect their new führer (who increasingly appears to have perhaps committed treason), these same Republicans attack the FBI and depict it as some sort of  "secret police" for liberals that manufactures "fake news."  A growing majority of Americans find what is occurring to be repulsive, yet the Republicans continue to forge ahead alienating the rising generations of voters.  Perhaps they hope for their führer to impose a dictatorship so that securing a majority of votes will simply no longer matter.  It seems the only explanation for what otherwise would appear to be long term suicide as a political party.  My Republican ancestors would be appalled by it all.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at how predatory sexual behavior is now the latest thing to be normalized by the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
Even The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which sold its soul to Donald Trump after the election, said this morning that “you have to believe in magic to think this is going to end well for Republicans.” Anticipating the resignation of Al Franken, the editorial pleaded with its party, from Trump down, to disown Moore — if only because the departures of both Franken and John Conyers rendered moot the GOP’s main talking point to deflect any questions about the party’s embrace of Moore.
But while the Democrats’ resignations have now ripped away that moral fig leaf, there’s zero chance the GOP will ditch Moore. Sure, some Republicans in Washington, including Mitch McConnell, have denounced Moore. But many of them have previously disowned Trump on multiple occasions — including, most pertinently, after the release of the Access Hollywood tape — only to fold soon after. The RNC’s renewed funding of Moore’s campaign tells you all you need to know about the Vichy Republicans. That’s an action that speaks louder than words. The GOP wants to add another vote to its slender Senate majority and will swallow anything required to get it.
The Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Predators. Maybe it always was: Do recall the histories of such GOP congressional leaders as Denny Hastert and Mark Foley. It should also be noted that a tolerance for sexual predation may be well on its way to becoming a majority plank among the GOP rank and file. While a new Quinnipiac poll finds that 77 percent of Democrats believe elected officials should resign in the face of multiple sexual harassment accusations, only 51 percent of Republicans do.
Moore has the wholehearted support of the Republican president, and if he is elected on Tuesday in Alabama (the likely outcome, I’d guess), the Senate will seat him no matter the posturing to the contrary. Among Republican elites, the only naysayers to Trump are either out of power (Mitt Romney) or not likely to face another election. In that latter category, even John McCain violated his professed principles about deficits and a “regular” legislative process to sign on to the tax bill that extravagantly rewards Republican donors. He and his colleagues will shed crocodile tears about the new sexual miscreant in the Senate chamber all the way to the bank. 

The piece goes on to say this about the sexual predator-in-chief:
Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital yesterday, upending nearly 70 years of U.S. policy. Critics of the decision include the Pope, some of the most powerful U.S. allies, and, reportedly, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis. What does Trump gain here?
Trump’s most incendiary presidential actions are generally prompted by one or all of three underlying motives: (1) to pander to the one third of the country that is his unfailingly loyal base; (2) to distract from the Mueller investigation and all its attendant story lines; (3) to enable the kleptocratic enrichment of himself, his family, and Trump business enterprises. At the very least (1) and (2) are at work here.
Trump’s most incendiary presidential actions are generally prompted by one or all of three underlying motives: (1) to pander to the one third of the country that is his unfailingly loyal base; (2) to distract from the Mueller investigation and all its attendant story lines; (3) to enable the kleptocratic enrichment of himself, his family, and Trump business enterprises. At the very least (1) and (2) are at work here.
[A] major component of the Trump base, the Evangelical right, led by its in-house representative Mike Pence, was the driver here. Evangelical Christians want to ensure that Jews remain in power in Jerusalem as a step toward the Second Coming. They see the provocative move of the American embassy as furthering that goal (which may prove to be far from the case). It tells you all you need to know about these lovely people that they clamor for an American embassy in Jerusalem, but back at home remain silent when Trump calls the alt-right stormtroopers of Charlottesville “very fine people” after they’ve chanted that “Jews will not replace us.”
Of course the announcement of the embassy move would fall on the day that Donald Trump Jr. was stonewalling investigators behind closed doors at the House Intelligence Committee.
Much was made by Republicans, not without reason, when Bill Clinton went on television to announce the American bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan at the height of the Lewinsky scandal. But how puny that Wag the Dog moment looks now when we have a president who thinks nothing of engulfing the world in war and environmental calamity to save himself from potential legal culpability on multiple fronts, from obstruction of justice and collusion with Russia to sexual assault.

As a former Republican, I truly do not comprehend how outwardly decent people remain Republicans given the hideousness of today's GOP. 

More Saturday Male Beauty