Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Anglican Bishop Slams 'Christian Right' for Backing Trump


As noted during my recent visit to Great Britain, most Britons view Donald Trump with revulsion and rightly so. Indeed, it was an embarrassment to be American and have to repeatedly stress that the majority of voters had voted AGAINST him and continued to oppose his toxic regime.  I have also noted - many times - my impatience with what I call "good Christians" who fail to take on and directly challenge and condemn their supposed coreligionists who traffic in hate and bigotry and seemingly utterly ignore the Gospel message. Their cowardice and refusal to call evangelical and fundamentalists out as hate merchants and modern day Pharisees parallel's those who sought to appease Adolph Hitler in the late 1920's and into the 1930's.  Bad people and bad ideologies need to be strongly confronted and condemned. Politeness and attempts at quiet and calm reasoning gets nowhere with such people. Yet too many liberal/progressive Christians do nothing more that occasionally write letters or hold prayer services that do nothing to openly and vigorously confront the hate merchants of the "Christian Right."  Anglican Bishop, Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds, shows us how "good Christians" should be acting.  Here are highlights from a piece in Christian Today:
An Anglican Bishop has launched a scathing attack on the 'narcissistic amorality' of 'lying' Donald Trump, along with the American 'Christian Right' for failing to recognise the president's traits before he was elected last November.
Nicholas Baines, the liberal-leaning Bishop of Leeds, launched his comprehensive assault on 'shameless' Trump and his evangelical backers in a blog post written in the wake of the violence carried out by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which Trump initially failed specifically to condemn.
Bishop Baines issues blame on what he calls the 'Christian Right' for failing to see the disastrous presidency coming.
'His misogyny, amorality, financial track record, sexual behaviour, narcissism and nepotism (to name but a few of the obvious challenges) would have ruled out the candidacy of any other semi-reputable politician for the Presidency of the United States of America. His subsequent lying, shamelessness, vindictiveness and inhabiting of some "alternative reality" (in which things that happened didn't happen and things that didn't happen did happen; in which things he said he didn't say and things he didn't say he did say) cannot have come as a disappointing revelation to anyone with half a brain or ears to hear.
His espousal of the alt-right has not come as news. His condemnation of anyone and anything he sees as a challenge to himself ([former President Barack] Obama, for instance) is weighed against his silence in the face of inconvenient truth or facts.
'Yet, none of this is a surprise. It was all there to be seen before he was elected. How on earth did the Christian Right even conceive of the possibility of backing a man who can't put a sentence together and who epitomises narcissistic amorality? If Hillary Clinton couldn't be trusted because of her handling of an email server (or because Americans had had enough of political dynasties), by what stretch of moral imagination could Trump have been thought of as a cleaner, brighter alternative? To which base values did he appeal?'
Turning to Charlottesville, Baines says that the 'brazen impunity' of the white supremacists there 'is only possible because the fascists believe they can get away with it – or might even get approval from the top'.
Baines adds that 'there are moments in history where a tipping point is reached and it matters that people stand up and challenge the danger. This is one of them. Charlottesville is only one (relatively small) town in an enormous country, and most of the USA will have been as horrified as the rest of us at what they witnessed this weekend; but, the images coming out of this one place become iconic of a deeper malaise. People are right to look for consistency in the rampant condemnations and criticisms of their President in his favoured medium Twitter. If he damns Islamic terrorists and wet liberals for their actions, we can expect him to damn right-wing militias and neo-Nazi criminals when they walk his streets and drive cars into ordinary people. Silence.'
I remain incredulous that evangelical Christian leaders, Bible in hand, can remain supportive of the President and administration that is corrupting their country. When will the Republican Party take responsibility, stop wringing their hands, and stand against this regime that will be able to do little without their support?'

The Real Story Behind All Those Confederate Statues


Before I continue, let me disclose for the record, that I have my own Confederate ancestors through my maternal grandmother, a New Orleans belle in her youth.  Not only were some of these family members of the past in the Confederate army (I would qualify for membership in the sons of Confederate Veterans if I were ever to apply, which I won't), but one was even a prisoner held in a Union prison camp in Michigan for a period of time.  No one still living can comment on whether any of these ancestors were slave owners, but there is a good chance that they were. 

I have read a great deal about the Civil War and the Southern effort to undo Reconstruction's empowerment of former slaves.  Sadly, Virginia - which has so often been on the wrong side of history- was a leader in this effort.  Thus, I am well aware of the horrible things done after Reconstruction ended and whites regained virtual total political, social, and economic control.  Knowing the "real history" of the Old South and the Jim Crow era, there is no way I can support the Trump/Pence and alt-right effort to bring back the Jim Crow era and to exalt white privilege (no moral person can).  I am also cognizant of the fact that the Confederate monuments now embroiled in controversy in Charlottesville and elsewhere were for the most part erected when Jim Crow laws were reaching their pinnacle.  Their purpose?  To intimidate blacks and to send the message that white privilege was untouchable.  A piece in Mother Jones looks at this reality.  Here are highlights:
[A]ll the way to 1890 there were very few statues or monuments dedicated to Confederate leaders.
[Here's an] oversimplified summary:
1861-1865: Civil War.
1865-1875: Reconstruction Era.
1875-1895: Reconstruction Era ends. Blacks are steadily disenfranchised, allowing Southern whites to enact Jim Crow laws. In 1896, Jim Crow is cemented into place when the Supreme Court rules it constitutional.
1895-1915: With blacks disenfranchised and Jim Crow laws safely in place, Southern whites begin a campaign of terror against blacks. Lynchings skyrocket, the KKK becomes resurgent, and whites begin building Confederate statues and monuments in large numbers.
1915-1955: Jim Crow reigns safely throughout the South.
1955-1970: The Civil Rights era starts after the Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that Jim Crow laws are unconstitutional. Southern whites mount massive and violent resistance, and start putting up Confederate monuments again.
Yes, these monuments were put up to honor Confederate leaders. But the timing of the monument building makes it pretty clear what the real motivation was: to physically symbolize white terror against blacks. They were mostly built during times when Southern whites were engaged in vicious campaigns of subjugation against blacks, and during those campaigns the message sent by a statue of Robert E. Lee in front of a courthouse was loud and clear.
No one should think that these statues were meant to be somber postbellum reminders of a brutal war. They were built much later, and most of them were explicitly created to accompany organized and violent efforts to subdue blacks and maintain white supremacy in the South. I wouldn’t be surprised if even a lot of Southerners don’t really understand this, but they should learn. There’s a reason blacks consider these statues to be symbols of bigotry and terror. It’s because they are.

Too many have said "let the monuments remain, they are part of history."  Sadly, they typically do not know all of the real history.   The Old South was not the pretty picture of Gone With the Wind. Behind the beautiful plantation homes there was much suffering and brutality - some inflicted by falsely labeled "pragons of virtue" like Robert E. Lee. Even Lee's great grandson has said he id OK with the removal of the monuments. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Trump’s Business of Corruption


While Donald Trump's embrace of white supremacists and the KKK has been dominating the news headlines, special prosecutor Robert Mueller has been continuing his investigation of the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia and, perhaps most importantly, following the money in Trump's seemingly Russian financed projects where suspicions of money laundering abound. A very lengthy piece in The New Yorker looks at what Mueller may find and the possibility that Trump may yet try to fire Mueller if he gets too close to exposing the truth about the ugly underbelly of Trump's real estate empire.   The article suggests that Trump has good reason to fear Mueller's scrutiny of his deals since many appear to (i) have ties to Kremlin cronies, and (ii) been structured to launder money.  Here are article highlights:
Donald Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow recently told me that the investigation being led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, should focus on one question: whether there was “coördination between the Russian government and people on the Trump campaign.” Sekulow went on, “I want to be really specific. A real-estate deal would be outside the scope of legitimate inquiry.” If he senses “drift” in Mueller’s investigation, he said, he will warn the special counsel’s office that it is exceeding its mandate.
[I]f Mueller and his team persist, Sekulow said, he might lodge a formal objection with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to dismiss Mueller and end the inquiry. President Trump has been more blunt, hinting to the Times that he might fire Mueller if the investigation looks too closely at his business dealings.
Several news accounts have confirmed that Mueller has indeed begun to examine Trump’s real-estate deals and other business dealings, including some that have no obvious link to Russia. But this is hardly wayward. It would be impossible to gain a full understanding of the various points of contact between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign without scrutinizing many of the deals that Trump has made in the past decade. Trump-branded buildings in Toronto and the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan were developed in association with people who have connections to the Kremlin.
Other real-estate partners of the Trump Organization—in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere—are now caught up in corruption probes, and, collectively, they suggest that the company had a pattern of working with partners who exploited their proximity to political power.
One foreign deal, a stalled 2011 plan to build a Trump Tower in Batumi, a city on the Black Sea in the Republic of Georgia, has not received much journalistic attention. But the deal, for which Trump was reportedly paid a million dollars, involved unorthodox financial practices that several experts described to me as “red flags” for bank fraud and money laundering; moreover, it intertwined his company with a Kazakh oligarch who has direct links to Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. As a result, Putin and his security services have access to information that could put them in a position to blackmail Trump.
Trump did very little to develop the Batumi property. The project was a licensing deal from which he made a quick profit. In exchange for the million-dollar payment, he granted the right to use his name, and he agreed to visit Georgia for an elaborate publicity campaign, which was designed to promote Georgia’s President at the time, Mikheil Saakashvili, as a business-oriented reformer who could attract Western financiers. The campaign was misleading: the Trump Tower Batumi was going to be funded not by Trump but by businesses with ties to Kazakh oligarchs, . . . few Western investors or brands were willing to put money into the country. Saakashvili himself was increasingly unpopular, and the Trump deal was meant to help salvage his reputation.
Virtually none of the things that Saakashvili and Trump said about the deal were true. The budget of the Trump Tower Batumi was not two hundred and fifty million dollars but a hundred and ten. Trump, meanwhile, could hardly have invested such a sum himself. He professed to be a billionaire, but a few months earlier an appeals court in New Jersey had shut down Trump’s legal campaign against Timothy O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation,” which argued that Trump had wildly inflated his fortune, and was actually worth less than a quarter of a billion dollars. . . . The country’s economy was floundering, and shortly after Trump’s visit it was revealed that the government had been torturing political opponents.
The developer that had paid Trump and invited him to Georgia—a holding company known as the Silk Road Group—had been funded by a bank that was enmeshed in a giant money-laundering scandal. And Trump, it seemed, had not asked many questions before taking the money.
It would have taken only a Google search for the Trump Organization to discover that the Silk Road Group had received much of its funding from B.T.A. Bank, which, at the time of the Batumi deal, was mired in one of the largest fraud cases in recent history. The Silk Road Group had even been business partners with the central figure in the scandal: Ablyazov and the Silk Road Group were two of the owners of a bank in Georgia.
When I described to John Madinger, the retired Treasury official, the various entities and transactions involved in the funding of the Trump Tower Batumi, he said, “That is what you would expect to see in a money-laundering operation: multiple shell companies in multiple countries. It’s designed to make life hard for people trying to follow the transaction.”
With minimal due diligence, Trump Organization executives would have noticed that the Silk Road Group exhibited many warning signs of financial fraud: its layered and often hidden ownership, its ornate use of shell companies, its close relationship with a bank that was embroiled in a financial scandal. Trump’s visit to Georgia occurred while his company was making a series of similar foreign deals.
Trump had defaulted on loans multiple times, and nearly every bank in the U.S. refused to finance deals bearing his name. And so Trump turned to people in other countries who did not share this reluctance to give him money. In 2012 alone, the Trump Organization negotiated or finalized deals in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Georgia, India, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay. . . . . According to former executives at the Trump Organization, the company lacked rigorous procedures for assessing foreign partners.
A month after Trump visited Georgia, he agreed to license his name to, and provide oversight of, a luxury hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan, a deal that I examined in an article in The New Yorker earlier this year. Trump received several million dollars from the brother and the son of an Azerbaijani billionaire who was then the Minister of Transportation—a man who, U.S. officials believe, may have been simultaneously laundering money for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The Financial Action Task Force, headquartered in Paris, is led by representatives from thirty-seven nations. In 2007, the task force issued a report about the use of real-estate projects for money laundering. The report makes note of several red flags. It warns of “complex loans” in which businesses “lend themselves money, creating the appearance that the funds are legitimate.” It also warns of the use of offshore shell companies and tangled corporate legal structures, especially those in which third parties are hired to administer a company and conceal its true ownership. These intertwined companies can then trade property among themselves, in order to create inflated valuations: “An often-used structure is, for example, the setting up of shell companies to buy real estate.
The report states that money launderers often find that “buying a hotel, a restaurant or other similar investment offers further advantages, as it brings with it a business activity in which there is extensive use of cash.” Casinos—like the one planned for the Trump Tower Batumi—are especially useful in this regard.
So many partners of the Trump Organization have been fined, sued, or criminally investigated for financial crimes that it is hard to ascribe the pattern to coincidence, or even to shoddy due diligence. In criminal law, there is a crucial concept called “willful blindness”: a person can be convicted of a crime even if he was unaware of certain aspects of the crime in which he was engaged. In U.S. courts, judges routinely explain to juries that “no one can avoid responsibility for a crime by deliberately ignoring what is obvious.”
The Trump Organization, with its extensive experience in the luxury real-estate market, could surely sense that it would not be easy to enlist hundreds of wealthy people to buy multimillion-dollar condominiums in Batumi. I asked several New York real-estate developers to assess the proposed tower. One laughed and said that the Batumi deal reminded him of “The Producers,” the Mel Brooks movie about two charlatans who create a horrible musical designed to fail. Another New York developer, who spent years making deals in the former Soviet Union, told me, “A forty-seven-story tower of luxury condominiums in Batumi is an insane idea. I wouldn’t have gone near a project like this.”
Keith Darden is a political scientist at American University who has written extensively on the use of compromising information—kompromat—by former Soviet regimes against people they want to control. He told me that Kazakh intelligence is believed to collect dossiers on every significant business transaction involving the country. This would be especially true if a famous American developer was part of the deal, even if it would not have occurred to them that he might one day become the U.S. President. “There is no question—they know everything about this deal,” Darden said.
Darden explained that Kazakh intelligence agents work closely with their Russian counterparts.
Robert Mueller has assembled a team of sixteen lawyers. One of them is fluent in Russian, and five have extensive experience investigating and prosecuting cases of money laundering, foreign corruption, and complex financial conspiracies. The path from Trump to Putin, if one exists, might be found in one of his foreign real-estate deals.
When Mueller was appointed special counsel, his official writ was to investigate not just “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” but also “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
When investigating a businessperson like Trump, “you have to follow the money and go wherever it leads—you must follow the clues all the way to the end.” 
While Trump's embrace of white nationalists and white supremacists may well reveal the true Donald Trump, the ensuing media storm may be welcomed by Trump as a distraction that takes media attention off of his many questionable transactions. 

Trump Reveals His Inner Bigot/Racist/Fascist


Many continue to express shock at the behavior and statements of Donald Trump, yet I am dumbfounded by their claimed shock.  One needed only to look back over Trump's career all the way back to when his companies were hit with civil rights law suits here in the Norfolk, Virginia, area for discriminating against blacks to know that the man has racists inclinations.  Then of course, there is Donald Trump's arrest at a KKK rally in Queens, New York, in 1927 (Der Trumpenführer denies that the arrest happened even though documentation proves that it happened).  Add to this Trump's embrace of birthers who were outraged by a black man occupying the White House.  The evidence of Trump's foulness is available at every turn, including the course of his business dealings for decades. No one hid any of this.  Instead, people simply chose to close their eyes and allow themselves to support a toxic, amoral man.  To now plead surprise over Trump is to either admit that one is an idiot or a disingenuous liar.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this reality:
President Trump’s initial response to events is always the truest expression of his outlook. The scripts that follow are post-facto damage control by his staff and never stick. In the case of Trump’s remarks on the horrific events in Charlottesville — his third go-around — he not only undid his aides’ handiwork but also confessed the words he read on Monday didn’t represent his true views.
“First, he tried to argue that he initially hesitated to condemn the explicitly racist elements at Charlottesville only because he didn’t have enough information to do so.” When has Trump ever required facts to make an assertion? Indeed, after three days he decided that the facts as we all had seen them — neo-Nazis and white nationalists chanting anti-Semitic statements, bearing tiki torches, engaged in street battles, and one of their ilk committing an act of domestic terrorism, killing one and injuring dozens — didn’t really matter. He alone was convinced there was equivalence between the neo-Nazi and the protesters objecting to the white supremacist message. . . . But only one side killed someone, right? Trump did not make that distinction.
And to top it off, he equated Robert E. Lee, who waged war against the United States and fought to continue enslavement of fellow-human beings, with George Washington. Plainly, the New York education system, Fordham University and Wharton School of Business have failed Trump, promoting him without ensuring that he possessed basic reasoning skills and a grasp of American history. But in these institutions’ defense, he is unteachable, we have learned.
Unless and until Republicans are willing to censure the president, withhold endorsement for a second term and vigorously pursue avenues for impeachment, they are wasting their breath and our time.
How bad was his press conference? Well, when you lose Fox News you might as well throw in the towel. (Fox News’s Kat Timpf declared, “It’s honestly crazy for me to have to comment on this right now because I’m still in the phase where I’m wondering if it was actually real life what I just watched. It was one of the biggest messes that I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe it happened. . . . It shouldn’t be some kind of bold statement to say, ‘Yes, a gathering full of white supremacist Nazis doesn’t have good people in it. Those are all bad people, period.’”
We  should be clear on several points. First, it is morally reprehensible to serve in this White House, supporting a president so utterly unfit to lead a great country. Second, John F. Kelly has utterly failed as chief of staff; the past two weeks have been the worst of Trump’s presidency, many would agree. He can at this point only serve his country by resigning and warning the country that Trump is a cancer on the presidency, . . .
Finally, Trump apologists have run out of excuses and credibility. He was at the time plainly the more objectionable of the two main party candidates; in refusing to recognize that they did the country great harm. They can make amends by denouncing him and withdrawing all support. In short, Trump’s embrace and verbal defense of neo-Nazis and white nationalists should be disqualifying from public service. All true patriots must do their utmost to get him out of the Oval Office as fast as possible.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dispatch from Charlottesville: “It Was a War Zone With Countless Nazis

St. Paul's Episcopal where people were trapped by torch carrying white supremacists and Neo-Nazis
Today Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, threw aside his mealy mouthed condemnation of the KKK, white supremacists, and Neo-nazis during a press conference where he attacked the press, liberals and a creation of his disturbed imagination, the "alt-left."  During the press conference, Trump made it clear that he prefers defending the white nationalists which comprise his most loyal base to recognizing the terror that they inflicted on residents of a generally peaceful small city.  

I and 9 of my extended family members are alumni of the University of Virginia and a former brother -in-law was mayor of Charlottesville a number of years ago. The husband and I were in Charlottesville just a couple of months ago.  My sister and her family live in Charlottesville.  Bottom line: We know Charlottesville far better than Der Trumpenführer whose only contact has been his purchase of the former Kluge winery south of the city (where he employs foreign laborers rather than American employees). 

A piece in Religion Dispatches gives a taste of what law-abiding residents suffered at the hands of Donald Trump's would be brown shirts and storm troopers.  For those unfamiliar with Charlottesville, St. Pauls Episcopal Church referenced in the article (and pictured above) is located across the street from the north portico pf the Rotunda on the UVA campus.  Here are article excerpts:
Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, an RD contributor . . . . is currently in Charlottesville, Virginia. . . .  [She] was inside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Friday night when torch-bearing white supremacists surrounded the church, trapping congregants who had gathered for a prayer service ahead of Saturday’s planned “Unite the Right” rally. On Saturday, Henderson-Espinoza and Rev. Traci Blackmon were outside Emancipation Park offering prayerful presence and witness when neo-Nazis, fascists, and unhooded Ku Klux Klan members descended on the intersection, unleashing violence that caused the security detail protecting Blackmon and Henderson-Espinoza to literally yank Rev. Blackmon off-camera during a live interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid.
Just a few hours later and only blocks from where Blackmon and Henderson-Espinoza had been standing, counter-protestor Heather Heyer was dead and 19 others were injured in an act of domestic terrorism when a white supremacist rammed his Dodge Challenger through a packed crowd that was marching peacefully down a narrow street.
I spoke with Dr. Robyn on Monday morning, asking for their first-hand account of the chaos white supremacists unleashed on Charlottesville this weekend. Henderson-Espinoza was clear about the roots of this violence, and particularly the silence—from the Trump Administration and white clergy members—that continues to embolden neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and proud racists to terrorize communities. . .
We gathered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, for training and a legal briefing. And then we had an interfaith worship service. During that worship service, I was getting security briefings and updates that white supremacists were having their torch rally, and were moving toward the church. And that some of them were gathered outside the church.
So in the middle of a peaceful worship service, a prayer service for the city of Charlottesville, I was unable to be present in the work that I had been brought in to do because of safety concerns. . . . . Security became a real concern; not just for those of us who were in clergy-wear. . . . we could not release people into the streets, because white supremacists were gathering a block away.
It was unsafe for people to leave the church, so essentially, we were held hostage in a place of worship—and it was not safe.
These people [the white nationalists] were carrying bats as weapons, and sticks as weapons, and fire-burning tiki torches.
[W]hen antifa [anti-fascist] and other counter-protestors encountered nazis, it was just an outright battle. It was a war scene—a war zone.  Also, let me make clear that without antifa and anarchists being present in the streets, I may have been killed at the hands of fascists and white supremacists. This is important. . . . . You had armed militia there, standing, with assault rifles—you know, the Three Percenters were there in their camouflage and assault rifles.
The nazi groups just kept coming and coming. This is an exaggeration, but it felt like there were a million nazis, to like, 100 counter-protestors. That’s an exaggeration, but I’m just saying, that the number of nazis compared to counter-protestors was unreal. I’m just like, where in the hell did all these people come from?
These people had literally taken over the fucking city, and were beating people up in their neighborhoods. What amazes me is that these white supremacists are filled with so much hate and rage, that they just dominated the city. And our current [White House] administration did not condemn white supremacy. They were complacent and silent about it, which means that our administration gave consent.
I think that that is what is so amazing to me: these people are filled with so much hate and rage, that they can’t just have a rally. They have to take over a city, colonize the city with their violence. And that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer.
Charlottesville is hurt and broken. But this is not just about Charlottesville: this is a resurgence of white nationalism that is being supported by our current [White House] administration.
[W]hite people need to get real serious about the parasitic relationship between Christian supremacy and white supremacy. And if white clergy are preaching about social justice on Sunday mornings behind their pulpits, and refusing to get into the streets, to hold the hand of a dying person who has been pulverized by a car—or refusing to stand side-by-side with the antifa who were opposing the nazis, then they need to stop preaching about social justice on Sunday morning. 
[M]y plea for white clergy, and for white people of conscience, is this: please take your body out of the safety of your worship places and your churches, and move into the streets. Please. People are dying. People are dying because white clergy, in particular, refuse to speak out against white supremacy and white nationalism.
And what that has done is create a religion of white nationalism. The liturgy of white nationalism is this culture of violence. And the outcome of that religion and liturgy is death.
I agree 100% with the remark about the ties between white Christian supremacy and white supremacy.  If one does their research, almost every "family values" Christian organization traces back to ant-desegregation groups and, in some cases such as Family Research Council have leadership which has documented ties to white supremacy groups.  Some may find it offensive, but when I see evangelical Christians I automatically assume that they are white supremacists until it is documented otherwise. As noted numerous times, here in Virginia, The Family Foundation traces directly to those who supported Massive Resistance and the maintaining of the Jim Crow laws.



Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Why Maintaining Confederate Statutes is NOT About Protecting History/Heritage


One of the main cries of apologists for the white supremacists who went on a rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend is that maintaining statutes honoring Confederate figures is honoring history and Southern heritage.  Never mind that these statutes sit not in museums where they could be used for history lessons but instead in public squares often near court houses and city halls.   In the case of the Lee statute in Charlottesville that triggered white supremacists' wrath on others, it used to sit literally in the courthouse square where it no doubt sent a message to black Virginians - as was the intent behind it in the first place.  Thus, those who bleat that these statutes represent history ignore the purpose behind them.  Anything rather than have to face the reality of their own feelings or the motivations of hate groups.  A piece in The Atlantic makes the case for the removal of such statutes and their relegation to museums and other locations that do not give a stamp of approval to what lay behind the South's rebellion: slavery and maintaining it as an institution. Blather about state's rights is merely a well crafted smoke screen.  Here are article highlights:
On Saturday in Charlottesville, a rally in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee turned into a reenactment of the cause he led—white supremacists marching behind the Confederate battle flag, their opponents left injured or dead on the ground.
But like Lee’s soldiers, today’s defenders of white supremacy are fighting for a losing cause, a defeat that their violence will only serve to make deeper and more lasting than it otherwise would have been. Across the United States, the statues are starting to topple, the streets renamed, the memorials removed. These visible inscriptions of white supremacy into the American landscape are being erased. . . . . This was the rising tide of change that the Charlottesville rally hoped to stem.
As of August 2016, there were still more than 1,500 public commemorations of the Confederacy, even excluding the battlefields and cemeteries: 718 monuments and statutes still stood, and 109 public schools, 80 counties and cities, and 10 U.S. military bases bore the names of Lee, Jefferson Davis, and other Confederate icons, according to a tally by the Southern Poverty Law Center. More than 200 of these were in Virginia alone.
And one sits in the center of Charlottesville.  . . . . His defenders today insist that Lee’s heroism lay not least in his laying down his sword when the war was done, deciding to “promote harmony once he recognized defeat.” The speakers at the dedication likewise stressed Lee’s role as a peacemaker; one went so far as to imagine the statute depicted “not the lurid splendor of the battlefield,” but instead, Lee riding to Lexington to begin his tenure as a university president.
Yet this is not what the statue depicts. Not this one, nor the others. Where are the statues of Lee seated at Appomattox, signing the terms of that surrender? Where are the marbles and bronzes of Lee the college president, wearing civilian clothes, ensconced behind a desk piled high with paperwork? Why is this peacemaker always immortalized girded for war? . . . . And the reconciliation he offered was between whites—it pointedly excluded those he had held as property, whose freedom the war secured, but whose equality he bitterly contested.
Lee himself, after the war, encouraged a friend to banish the 90 newly freed women, children, and old men working on his plantation. The government could pay for their care, Lee advised; better to replace them with white labor. “I have always observed that wherever you find the negro, everything is going down around him, and wherever you find a white man, you see everything around him improving.” That is the harmony Lee promoted.
Lee’s army was ordered to respect white property, but chose to regard the blacks it encountered as contraband—to be seized and returned to the South, whether born free, manumitted, or escaped. The army seized scores of their fellow Americans as slaves, actions sanctioned at the highest level of command; it took as many as a thousand back to Virginia.
Lee’s army, retreating in defeat, released some, but most were hauled South to the auction block. For the crime of refusing to cross back to Virginia, one boy was horribly mutilated, doused in turpentine, his genitals sliced off, and left to die in a barn by his Confederate captors. . . . . At the Battle of the Crater, Lee’s army slaughtered black prisoners; one soldier lamented that some survived because “we could not kill them as fast as they [passed] us.” This is what the uniform Lee wore represented; this is what the army he commanded did; this is the pose in which he is immortalized in the center of Charlottesville.
There is a reason why statues of Confederate generals are still powerful political symbols; a reason why a candidate came a hair’s breadth from securing the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Virginia by campaigning to preserve them. The statues in public squares, the names on street signs, the generals honored with military bases—these are the ways in which we, as a society, tell each other what we value, and build the common heritage around which we construct a nation.
The white nationalists who gathered in Charlottesville saw this perhaps more clearly than the rest of us. They understood the stakes of what they were defending. They knew that Lee was honored not for making peace per se, but for defending a society built upon white supremacy—first by taking up arms, and then when the war was lost, by laying them down in such a way as to preserve what he could.
The myth of reunion was built around this understanding, that the nation should treat both sides in a war that killed three-quarters of a million Americans as equal, or at least not inquire too closely into the merits of each cause. And that unity would come not from honestly grappling with events, but from studiously ignoring injustice, and condemning those who oppose it as hateful.
This is why the city council of Charlottesville voted, a century after it was commissioned, to remove the statue of Robert Edward Lee.
And ultimately, it is why the others will come down, too. The statues will be moved, the streets renamed, and the military bases will honor patriots who fought for their country and not against it. Because a century and a half after Reconstruction began, America is still working on the project of constructing a more equal society, and reinvesting in the experiment of a multi-ethnic democracy.
The white nationalists in Charlottesville hoped to halt this project. Instead, they have simply given it fiercer, redoubled urgency.
 Much in history is ugly and not something to be honored or glorified. Pretending that the ugliness did not occur or wrapping it in the "Lost Cause" myth, however, does not change the real facts.  Defenders of these statutes ignore the hideous crimes committed by the Confederacy while at the same time longing for the white supremacy that it and the Jim Crow laws embodied.  Decent people should not mindlessly defend the indefensible by merely pretending they are protecting history.  Indeed, the history they are protecting is a false one compared to the ugly reality.

Will Charlottesville and Growing GOP Fascism Severe the Right Wing Catholic/Evangelical Alliance?

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 11
over a plan to remove the statue of a Confederate general from a city park 
I left both the Republican Party and the Roman Catholic Church years ago because of the former's subversion of the U.S. Constitution and the mortal bankruptcy of the latter as exemplified by the worldwide sex abuse scandal.   Yet in recent years, far right Catholics and evangelical Christians have bonded over their mutual opposition to abortion and a mutual hatred of LGBT individuals.  One of the examples of this poisonous alliance is the fact that Donald Trump currently occupies the White House thanks to the support these two groups (especially by evangelicals).   Now, in the wake of the white supremacists terror in Charlottesville, Virginia, some are conjecturing that this unholy alliance may become strained or even collapse.  Whether this is nothing more than wishful thinking on the part of Catholics who want to give Neo-Nazism a wide berth - especially given the Catholic Church's failure to adequately oppose the rise of Hitler and his agenda that included genocide - remains to be seen A piece in the Jesuit publication America looks at this hopefully fraying alliance.  Here are excerpts:
The first photos from the Charlottesville white supremacist rally began to appear on social media late on Friday night, surreal images of young white men marching by torchlight to kick off what became a violent weekend of hate culminating in the death of a counterprotester allegedly at the hands of a Nazi sympathizer.
Responses from Catholic leaders began to appear late Saturday afternoon, with many of them initially calling for unity, peace and for both sides to come together. But by Sunday evening, the statements were unequivocal in denouncing white supremacy and neo-Nazism, the ideologies that drove the events in Charlottesville.
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Diocese of Richmond, which includes Charlottesville, wrote in a statement on Saturday afternoon: “I pray that those men and women on both sides can talk and seek solutions to their differences respectfully.”
As for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it released its first statement on Saturday afternoon.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the conference, said he condemned the “violence and hatred” on display in Charlottesville, which he called “an attack on the unity of our nation” and urged “fervent prayer and peaceful action.”
Sentiments like that led to some backlash on social media, with some people pointing out that such statements failed to condemn racism and white supremacy, both considered sins by the Catholic Church. Some Catholics pointed to a 1979 document written by U.S. bishops that begins, “Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church.”
By Saturday night, messages from some church leaders became more pointed. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, for example, tweeted, “When it comes to racism, there is only one side: to stand against it,” seemingly a reference to President Trump’s initial comments on the violence, which have been widely criticized.
On Sunday morning, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia released a statement, which began, “Racism is a poison of the soul.”
“It’s the ugly, original sin of our country, an illness that has never fully healed,” he continued. “Blending it with the Nazi salute, the relic of a regime that murdered millions, compounds the obscenity. Thus the wave of public anger about white nationalist events in Charlottesville this weekend is well warranted. We especially need to pray for those injured in the violence.”
But he also said “we need more than pious public statements.”
“If our anger today is just another mental virus displaced tomorrow by the next distraction or outrage we find in the media, nothing will change,” he continued. “We need to keep the images of Charlottesville alive in our memories. If we want a different kind of country in the future, we need to start today with a conversion in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others.”
The following day, Sunday, U.S. bishops took the unusual step of releasing a second statement about the same event.
Whereas the first statement did not name the ideology driving the protests in Charlottesville, the second statement was more direct: “We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism.” . . . the statement continued, “At Mass, let us offer a special prayer of gratitude for the brave souls who sought to protect us from the violent ideology displayed yesterday,” in reference to local clergy and people of faith who demonstrated against the white supremacists.
Audrey Gyolai, a student at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., told America that the priest where she attended Mass preached about Charlottesville during a homily about institutional sin. In addition to the rally, the priest also talked about deportations, highlighting a local case where a woman had been deported by federal agents. 
If we are lucky, the unholy alliance of right wing Catholics and evangelical Christians/white supremacists will collapse.  

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Trump and the GOP Ultimately to Blame for Charlottesville Violence


During my years on the Republican City Committee for Virginia Beach, there were never open calls to racism and what can only be described as fascism.  True, in retrospect, Richard Nixon had set the outline when he devised the "Southern Strategy" to appeal to southern whites who opposed desegregation, but there was always a veneer to hide the rancor and open hatred not to mention opposition from moderate Republicans.  All of this began to change when the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians began their take over of the GOP base. Often lead by Southern Baptist leaders - a denomination founded on the principle of retaining slavery - these insurgents had no qualms about embracing racist attitudes and a white supremacist agenda.  The take over is now complete as events in Chralottesville over the weekend.  Virginians in particular need to be aware of what the GOP now stands for.  GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie made a mealy mouthed condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville, yet he will be courting and making promises to the very far right forces on display on Friday and Saturday.  A vote for any Virginia Republican - or national candidate - is a vote for this poisonous agenda.  A piece in Esquire makes this point.  Here are excerpts:
Back in February, before the prion disease that has afflicted conservative politics for four decades reached its current, virulent stage, and when people still thought that the president* had some sort of pivot left in him, his original Muslim ban sent people into the streets to protest. In Nashville, some protesters were walking through an intersection in the marked crosswalk when a car piled into them, carrying a couple of them down the street until the local police finally flagged it down. This was generally thought to be a bad thing. A Republican state legislator came up with an original solution. Inhumane, and almost incomprehensible in an evolved primate, but unquestionably original, via KDVR:
State Rep. Rep. Matthew Hill has filed a bill that says if a driver hits a protester who is blocking traffic in a public right-of-way, then that driver would be immune to civic liability if the demonstrator is hit and hurt, as long as it wasn't intentional. "If you want to protest, fine, I am for peaceful protesting, not lawless rioters," Hill said. "We don't want anyone to be hurt, but people should not knowingly put themselves in harm's way when you've got moms and dads trying to get their kids to school."
This bizarre public safety policy naturally caught on, because one thing this country does not lack is a universe of state legislators afflicted with the disease. In May, down in the newly insane state of North Carolina, a similar bill passed the state House of Representatives.
Somehow, this made sense to Republican legislators and to the modern conservative mind. (The tactic also was endorsed by prominent conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, who teaches law at the University of Tennessee.) Essentially, the statutes would create a protected class of vigilante motorists empowered to curtail free assembly with 4,000 pounds of mobile iron. This became an acceptable solution almost exclusively among Republican politicians.
So when anybody, especially the president*, talks about what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, from the Citronella Putsch on Friday night, to the violence on Saturday morning, to the graphic fulfillment of the philosophy behind these lunatic laws on Saturday afternoon, tells you that what happened in Virginia has anything to do with "polarization," or that it is a problem equally shared by Both Sides, that person is trying preemptively to pick history's pockets.
Every Republican who ever spoke to, or was honored by, the Council of Conservative Citizens and/or the League of the South owns this bloodshed.
Every Republican administration that ever went out of its way to hire Pat Buchanan, and every TV executive who ever cut him a check, and every Republican who voted for him in 1992, and everyone who ever has pretended his views differed substantially from the ones in the streets this weekend, owns this bloodshed.
Every Republican president—actually, there's only one—who began a campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to talk about states rights, and who sent his attorney general into court to fight for tax exemptions for segregated academies, owns this bloodshed.
Every Republican politician who followed the late Lee Atwater into the woods in search of poisoned treasure owns this bloodshed.
Every conservative journalist who saw this happening and who encouraged it, or ignored it, or pretended that it wasn't happening, owns this bloodshed.
Last November, we saw the culmination of four decades of the Republican Party trying to have it both ways, profiting from the darkest forces in American culture while maintaining a respectable cosmetic distance. On Saturday, we saw the culmination of the election that produced. At least, I'm praying this is the culmination. But I'm not sure about anything anymore. Every Trump rally came with an implied promise of some kind of violence. Sometimes, the promise was fulfilled. Sometimes it wasn't. But it was the dark energy behind that whole campaign. For all the relentless chin-stroking about the economically anxious and forgotten white working class, and for all the prayerful coverage of Donald Trump's "populist" appeal, there was no question what was driving events on the Republican side. Anyone who was at the Inauguration saw this coming. The address summoned up the desolate, witch-thickened wasteland he'd been handed. He had a memorable phrase for it.
American Carnage.
It came, finally—American Carnage, that is—on the streets and sidewalks of Thomas Jefferson's college town. 

The Continued Underestimation of the Far Right Threat

James Alex Fields, Jr. - Driver of the murder vehicle

The majority of the acts of terrorism since 9-11 have been committed by far right extremist, yet the media continually down plays the seriousness that these far right elements pose to law abiding citizens. Frighteningly, Der Trumpenführer wants to direct all anti-terror efforts towards Mulsims - no doubt to play to his base and his own bigotry - even as the events in Charlottesville underscore that the real threat is white supremacists/far right Christians (I see the two groups as largely the same since white nationalism is now the true religion of the Christofascists).  As a piece in the New York Times set out, the driver of the vehicle that drove into a crowd killing one and injuring 19 others - just like Islamic extremists in London - showed many warning signs that he was a potential threat. I'm sure in no time - if it hasn't already begun - the far right will claim he had mental illness problems rather than admit it is the toxicity of their beliefs and agenda that is the true cause of what happened on Saturday.  Here are article excerpts:
Although the crash was a grisly coda to a day of clashes between white nationalists and their opponents, family members, acquaintances and internet posts suggested that Mr. Fields had mostly gone unnoticed by the authorities and researchers, even as he trafficked in radical views and unnerving behavior long before the outbreak of violence.
As a young man in Kentucky, he sometimes espoused Nazi ideology at school. A military career ended in less than four months. On Saturday, before the crash that left Heather D. Heyer, 32, dead, and 19 others hurt, he stood in Charlottesville, donned a white shirt and clutched a shield that bore a symbol of the so-called alt-right. He is expected to appear in court on Monday to face an array of charges, including a count of second-degree murder; the federal authorities have opened a civil-rights inquiry.
[O]thers who knew Mr. Fields, especially from his teenage years, said that his demeanor and opinions had troubled them for years.
“On many occasions there were times he would scream obscenities, whether it be about Hitler or racial slurs,” a woman who attended middle school with Mr. Fields in Florence, Ky., said in an email on Sunday.
The woman, who requested anonymity because she feared retaliation, said Mr. Fields “mostly kept to himself” and “didn’t start fights or try to fight.” But she described him as “exceptionally odd and an outcast to be sure.”
“He wasn’t afraid to make you feel unsafe,” said the woman, who was among the students who said Mr. Fields had made them feel unnerved. The sources of Mr. Fields’s ideology were unclear on Sunday, but his Facebook page included memes and symbols associated with the far right. But in Charlottesville, Mr. Fields stood among men believed to be associated with Vanguard America, a group whose manifesto declares that “a government based in the natural law must not cater to the false notion of equality.”

There are many more James Fields out in society and they need to be identified and protective measures taken, including changes to America's gun laws that allow such people to be armed and even more dangerous.  

London 2017 - Days 5 and 6 and a Somber Homecoming

The husband in front of our hotel on Frith Street in the heart of Soho

The husband and I returned to the USA yesterday after enjoying two more wonderful days in London which included celebrating my birthday on Saturday.  With the disturbing event that unfolded in Charlottesville, I can truthfully say that I have mixed feelings about being back in America.  During the flight back I watched the Zookeeper's Wife, which recalled all to clearly what this kind of hatred that we are witnessing can lead to more quickly than many want to believe.  As previously noted, during our trip, it was constantly embarrassing being an American and having to explain that the majority of Americans did not vote for Trump and his call to racism and Neo-fascism, nor do we support him now.  We must save America's image in the world and say "No" to Trump and his supporters.

As I have noted on Facebook, I earned my undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia and I know Charlottesville well. The white supremacists on display over the last few days such as n the image below are NOT representative of Charlottesville and its people.  They are, however totally representative of Trump's base, including evangelical Christians who despite lip service to the message of Christ long ago threw away and right to call themselves Christian.  They now worship a virulent form of white nationalism that sows hatred of anyone with different beliefs, skin color, faith and/or sexual orientation. Don't believe Trump's utterly disingenuous attempt to build a false equivalency between the gathered white supremacists and those who oppose racist and fascism. 

These white supremacists - and by extension every evangelical Christian who voted for Trump - need to become social and political outcasts. While the Trump/Pence regime will never properly condemn them in a meaningful way, the rest of us patriotic Americans must oppose them and ultimately silence them. The cancer that they represent must be stopped.


More images of the white supremacist via the New York Times make it clear that these people descended on Charlottesville to intimidate and cause violence.  You do not carry an automatic weapon to a "peaceful Protest."

Monday Morning Male Beauty


Friday, August 11, 2017

London 2017 - Day 4

The husband at the Tower of London
After the utterly horrid rainy weather on Wednesday, yesterday was warmer and mostly sunny.  As a result, the husband and I were up and out the door early  to see sights that we had put off due to the rain.  We started the day by visiting the Tower of London,. with a highlight being the Crown Jewels exhibit which has totally been redone and greatly expanded from what it was 35 years ago, the last time I had seen it.  We then proceeded to the Churchill War Rooms back at Whitehall from which Churchill and his war cabinet directed the war effort from underground offices, sleeping accommodations - the works.  The site also has an amazing museum on Churchill himself.  We had lunch at the nearby Westminster Arms Pub situated in a 1913 vintage building.  The food was good and the waitstaff very cute. 

The highlight of the day came when we toured the state rooms at Buckingham Palace.   Highclere Castle was very nice (I'd live there in a heartbeat), but Buckingham Palace is in a league of its own.  Like the Palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace underscores that Britain was once the world's dominant superpower with all the wealth that entailed.  The Palace's "gardens" that one never sees in photos are likewise gorgeous.  What was striking was how many public functions are held at the Palace and the number of non-tourists visit it each year.

We then rushed back to the hotel and headed to the home of one of the husband's friends and sometimes client who is originally from Newport News, Virginia.  After cocktails we dined at Bradley's and had an amazing meal.  On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Compton's of Soho for a drink and then another one at the Admiral Duncan where we met a very nice young man with whom we had a great conversation.  As always., the issue of Donald Trump came up and the man is universally hated (one shop we walked past was selling tee shirts with Trump as Hitler on the front side).
The husband walking up to our friend's home

Based on our busy day, no posts were published yesterday! 

Friday Morning Male Beauty


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

London 2017 - Day 3

Big Ben in the distance at center

It would be hard to describe the weather as anything other than wretched with heavy rain all day. Thankfully, tomorrow is supposed to clear and be mostly sunny.  As for today, only indoor activities were in order and when traversing the city, maximum use of the Underground was a must (we purchased 6 day unlimited passes).  Despite the rain, we did some shopping and I found two spot coats for work that had sleeves that were the correct length "off the rack" - something that never happens in American stores. 

The other main attractions visited were Westminster Abbey and the National Portrait Gallery - where the photo above was taken from the cafe.  We had hoped to see the Churchill War Offices, but the prospect of standing in line in the blowing rain ended that effort.

Several things I have noticed about London: no litter, few overweight people other than tourists, and many, many handsome men.  All contrasts from Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The FBI Raids Paul Manafort's Home in a Search for Documents


Things are already disturbing enough with the situation with North Korea, yet there is a further worry:  what will Der Trumpenführer do to change the media narrative away from the seemingly intensifying Russiagate investigation  as exemplified by the FBI raiding Trump sycophant Paul Manafort's home in a search for documents, including documents relating to Manafort's meeting with Kremlin connected Russian attorney along with Donald Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner.   One can well imagine the ranting that must have emanated from Trump's lips as the supposedly fabricated - at least in Trump's alternate universe world - took a new concrete turn.  The New York Times looks at this new development.  Here are excerpts:
Investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently searched the Northern Virginia home of President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, for tax documents and foreign banking records, a sign that the inquiry into Mr. Manafort has broadened, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The search was carried out at Mr. Manafort’s Alexandria, Va., home shortly after Mr. Manafort met with investigators for the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 25. In that meeting, Mr. Manafort answered questions and provided investigators with notes from a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians claiming to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Manafort’s spokesman confirmed that an F.B.I. raid had been carried out.
Until now, it was only known that Mr. Manafort was under investigation for his business dealings with his son-in-law, his role in the 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and the Russians and whether his work for the Ukranian government violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
[T]he search warrant for the tax and foreign banking records suggests that investigators are looking at criminal charges related to the federal Bank Secrecy Act, which requires Americans to report their foreign banking accounts.

Politico has more coverage on the fact that this raid should be considered a big deal and could spell trouble for Manafort, and perhaps others:
“It is a big deal,” former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg said. “Prosecutors do not take aggressive steps like this with subjects who the government feels are being open and cooperative. And they also do not do this to ‘send a message.’ They do it because they think there is evidence to be found and that if they do not act aggressively, it could be destroyed.”
Duke Law School professor Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor, said a search warrant would be needed only if Mueller doubted Manafort would comply with document requests or a subpoena.
"Of course it confirms, beyond doubt, serious, criminal investigative focus on Manafort," Buell said.
A Washington-based defense lawyer with a client caught in the Russia probe said Mueller may also want to turn Manafort into a cooperative witness, something the former campaign manager's representatives had previously said wasn't happening.
“Manafort is on many levels a key subject of the investigation and someone who might be leveraged to share information about others,” the white-collar attorney said.
Manafort is only one prong of a Mueller probe that is examining a wide range of issues related to the 2016 election, including the use of Kremlin-linked social media bots to influence American voters on Trump’s behalf; the hacks into email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta; and Trump’s decision in May to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Mueller has a team of 16 attorneys working on the investigation, and he’s also using a grand jury in Washington to present evidence, question witnesses and issue subpoenas for business and financial records.