Friday, May 26, 2017

4th Circuit Rules 10-3 Against Trump Muslim Ban


Donald Trump ranted against the 9th Circuit when his first attempt at a ban against Muslims went down in flames. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has struck down Der Trumpenführer's second attempt at banning Muslims from entering America.    In its ruling, the Court recognized the motivation behind the executive order: religious based  intolerance and animus. The ruling will not sit well with Christofascists but ought to be encouraging for those who continue to believe in true religious freedom - not the perverted Christofascist version - and the First Amendment.  Salon looks at the ruling which will likely push the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Here are highlights:
Yet another federal court ruled against President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from six majority-Muslim nations. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the so-called Muslim travel ban executive order “drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.” The court refused to lift a nationwide injunction blocking the ban.  
In a 10-3 ruling, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, noted that President Trump’s power to deny entry to immigrants, while “broad,” isn’t “absolute.”
[A]n Executive Order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination. Surely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment yet stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding principles—that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy, or favor or disfavor one religion over another. Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked
Trump’s revised ban “cannot be divorced from the cohesive narrative linking it to the animus that inspired it,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote.
Trump’s revised ban was announced in March after the first version of the ban was shot down by federal courts. But the ban on people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days never got off the ground because federal courts blocked it just hours before it was set to go into effect.

Trump Calls Germany "Very Evil", Threatens Trade War



While Donald Trump kissed the asses of members of the Saudi royal family and said not a word about Saudi Arabia's horrific human rights abuses and religious extremism, he apparently has no qualms about trashing America's European allies.  In addition to deriding NATO countries and shoving the president of Montenegro out of his way during a photo, Trump decided to pick a fight with Germany and bitched about the sale of German cars in America, seemingly oblivious to the reality that many BMW's and Mercedes-Benz's are built in states like South Carolina and Alabama and that the two companies employ thousands of Americans.  Volkswagen Chattanooga  (Tennessee) employs another 2,000 Americans. The Raw Story looks at Trump's anti-German statements.  Here are excerpts:
President Donald Trump is ready to fight Germany in an auto battle according to Germany’s Der Spiegel.
Trump got a chilly reception at the NATO summit in Belgium after attacking fellow members. But he was caught pledging a battle with German automakers as part of his anger with “back dues” he feels the country owes to NATO. As CNN’s Jake Tapper noted Thursday, “Trump seems to think it’s like a country club.”
In a discussion about the country’s trade surplus, Trump said. “The Germans are evil, very evil.”  “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US, and we’ll stop that,” sources told Der Spiegel. 
According to the report, EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker took up for Germany explaining that “free trade is good for all.”
According to a report from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” the EU allies were horrified by the willingness of the Americans to view global trade with such a lack of awareness. Trump’s economic consultant Gary Cohn was said to have chided German auto trade during a discussion between the US and Germany and the USA and Belgium. Trump had previously attacked them during another conversation.
“I would say to BMW if they want to build a factory in Mexico and sell cars to the US without a 35 percent tax, they can forget that,” Trump said at the time.
Trump is bothered by Germany’s trade surplus because many other countries have deficits, particularly the U.S.

The man is an idiot.  Meanwhile, the husband and I have owned or now own 7 Mercedes-Benz's  and a Volkswagen.  Why?  Because of the quality of the cars for the money.  Perhaps if American automakers focused more on quality and fuel efficiency rather than big ass SUV's Germany would have fewer car sales in America.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jared Kushner Now a Focus in Russiagate investigation


While Der Trumpenführer is on his first foreign trip -  and no doubt hoping he can distract the media from Russiagate coverage here at home - the Washington Post and New York Times, among others, continue to have new stories that are not only keeping Russiagate alive, but breathing even more new life into the roiling scandal,  Now, the Washington Post has released a story that reveals that Jared Kushner is a target in the probe due to (i) his numerous meetings with Russian officials and bankers, and (ii) his failure to report such meetings when he applied for security clearance.  Frankly, it makes sense that Trump would have used Kushner as his go between with Russian operatives since he is both a family member and reportedly one of Trump's closest advisers.  That said, Mike Flynn, who had received payments from Russia, also remains a target of the investigation.  Here are highlights from the story:
Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.
FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe.
The Post has not been told that Kushner is a target — or the central focus — of the investigation, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. “Target” is a word that generally refers to someone who is the main suspect of investigators’ attention, though prosecutors can and do bring charges against people who are not marked with that distinction.
In addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking broadly into possible financial crimes — but the people familiar with the matter, who were not authorized to speak publicly, did not specify who or what was being examined.
In early December, Kushner met in New York with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and he later sent a deputy to meet with Kislyak. 
Kushner also met in December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In addition to the December meetings, a former senior intelligence official said FBI agents had been looking closely at earlier exchanges between Trump associates and the Russians dating to the spring of 2016, including one at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Kushner and Kislyak — along with close Trump adviser and current attorney general Jeff Sessions — were present at an April 2016 event at the Mayflower where then-candidate Trump promised in a speech to seek better relations with Russia. It is unclear whether Kushner and Kislyak interacted there.
In many ways, Kushner is a unique figure inside the White House.   He is arguably the president’s most trusted adviser, and he is also a close member of the president’s family. His list of policy responsibilities is vast — his foreign policy portfolio alone includes Canada and Mexico, China, and peace in the Middle East — yet he rarely speaks publicly about any of them.
A small group of lawmakers known as the Gang of Eight was recently notified of the change in tempo and focus in the investigation at a classified briefing.
Investigators are continuing to look aggressively into the dealings of Flynn, and a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., recently issued a subpoenas for records related to Flynn’s businesses and finances, according to people familiar with the matter.
Separately from the probe now run by Mueller, Flynn is being investigated by the Pentagon’s top watchdog for his foreign payments. Flynn also received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization.

Keep the popcorn coming.  To be honest, I want to see Trump - and Pence - go down and whoever needs to go with them is fine with me.  

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Protecting LGBT Youth From Betsy DeVos and Bullying


With Republicans pushing for "bathroom bills" and "religious freedom laws" - better described as special right to discriminate laws - and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wanting to "bring God back into the classroom," the atmosphere for LGBT children and youths could quickly become toxic. And then there is racist and homophobic Jeff Sessions' reversal of Justice Department support for the protection of LGBT youth under existing laws that would grant protection against discrimination due to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  It is a troubling situation, especially given the higher drop out and suicide rate for LGBT youth, not because of their sexuality or gender identity per se, but because of the mistreatment and abuse the "godly folk" and their off spring believe they have the right to inflict upon them.  Indeed, Betsy DeVos' family has given millions of dollars to groups that seek to guaranty the continued right to abuse and bully LGBT students and obstruct efforts to protect them.  A piece in The Advocate looks at the problem and proposes some solutions that may be difficult to achieve given the anti-LGBT agenda being pushed by the Trump/Pence regime.  Here are excerpts: 
A recently released RTI International study sheds new light on the school safety issues facing LGBTQ youth. The study, which examined two decades of research on victimization among LGBTQ youth, uncovered a troubling picture of the environments LGBTQ students face in schools.
Physical and verbal bullying of LGBTQ students is commonplace. In a representative sample of eighth-graders in Washington State, 14 percent of boys and 11 percent of girls reported being bullied because of their perceived sexual orientation in the past 30 days alone. LGBTQ students are two to three times more likely than their peers to be physically assaulted or threatened at school. 
Students who experience anti-LGBTQ bullying are significantly more likely to report depression and suicide attempts, skipping school, poorer school performance, and dropping out of school. Victims of anti-LGBTQ bullying tend to fare worse than students bullied for other reasons, perhaps due to the ways that hate-related victimization reinforces existing perceptions of hostility (e.g., hearing homophobic comments at school).
Even within this scenario, Orwellian equality rears its head. While research shows many LGBTQ students are victimized, some are more likely to be than others. Transgender youth and youth with unique gender expressions are at a higher risk for bullying, as are those in rural or impoverished communities and those who attend schools without gay-straight alliances. 
As LGBTQ individuals come out earlier than before, it’s becoming even more pressing for schools to create a safe environment for their students.
Action is urgently needed to address the hostile environment that LGBTQ youth face at school and its effects on school engagement, mental health, and long-term opportunities. Our study points to three potential strategies that could help to address these issues:
Competency and advocacy training for school psychologists and teachers — who generally report supportive attitudes toward LGBTQ students but lack the knowledge and skills to advocate for them — could help create more supportive, less hostile climates in schools.
Fostering the development of gay-straight alliances in schools, which seem to offer some protection against school-based victimization risk, is another promising approach. Although secondary schools are not permitted to ban gay-straight alliances if they allow other extracurricular groups (per the Federal Equal Access Act of 1984), school principals still commonly take measures to exclude them (American Civil Liberties Union, 2015). Such discriminatory practices must be addressed and replaced with active support for groups and services that make schools safer.
Increasing resources to respond to victims of anti-LGBTQ bullying, particularly to prevent suicide and school dropout. Affirming and culturally responsive services for LGBTQ bullying victims are critical, particularly given the fact that help-seeking often requires LGBTQ students to disclose not only the stigmatized experience of bullying and victimization, but also a stigmatized gender or sexual identity to school counselors or other professionals.
 While I was not "out" in high school - I remained closeted for over two decades after I graduated - I recall some of the bullying and harassment I received.  No student should ever be place in a situation where thoughts of suicide are ever present and suicide seems to be the only means of escape.  I experienced this first hand.  

Trump Cuts to AIDS Treatment Programs Could Cost a Million Lives


There are two groups that the 81% of evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, hate just as fervently as Hispanic immigrants: gays and blacks.  If one looks, beneath the veneer of most supposedly Christian "family values" groups - think Family Research Council or The Family Foundation here in Virginia - there is a strong white supremacist undercurrent. The anti-gay agenda of these groups is in open view for all to see.  Thus, who would be pleased by drastic cuts in AIDS treatment programs?  The Christofascists and "family values" crowd, of course. And in his proposed budget cuts, Trump appears anxious to please this portion of his base.  The consequences in Africa would be horrific and cost a million lives.  These lost lives would be black individuals, so Trump and his evangelical Christian base seemingly believe this is just fine.  A piece in the New York Times looks at this ugly proposal (Note: funding for contraception - another thing opposed by the Christofascists - would also be slashed) .  Here are story highlights:
At least one million people will die in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, researchers and advocates said on Tuesday, if funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration to global public health programs are enacted.
The United States currently spends more than $6 billion annually on programs that buy antiretroviral drugs for about 11.5 million people worldwide who are infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The Trump administration has proposed slashing those programs by at least $1.1 billion — nearly a fifth of their current funding, said Jen Kates, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“These are lifesaving interventions, and these levels of reductions will significantly curtail service delivery,” Ms. Kates said.
Much of the success of anti-AIDS efforts in Africa has come from a guarantee in many countries that people who test positive for H.I.V. can immediately receive treatment.
With a huge share of Africa’s population reaching sexual maturity in the next four years, the virus could again imperil much of the continent if fewer people are treated, said Brian Honermann, deputy director at amfAR, a foundation that invests in AIDS research.
Much of the United States government’s funding for AIDS treatment and research is funneled through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, which was established in 2004 by President George W. Bush in an effort to save Africa from an epidemic that threatened to kill much of the population of entire countries, like Botswana and Namibia.
President Barack Obama expanded Pepfar, and combined with the Global Fund and other international efforts, the spending is widely credited with arresting the AIDS epidemic.
The Trump administration has also proposed eliminating $524 million in funding for contraceptives and other family planning efforts that mostly benefit women in developing nations.
It is unclear how many lives could be lost as a direct result of the budget cuts, but the Global Fund estimates that every $100 million invested saves about 133,000 lives. An amfAR calculation found a similar effect, suggesting that the administration’s proposed cuts to AIDS programs alone could cost more than one million lives and orphan more than 300,000 children.
“All of these programs have multiplier effects beyond just those immediately served by them,” said J. Stephen Morrison, who directs global health work at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For the first time ever, after 15 years of steady growth, we’re going to see a radical regression that will have huge effects.”
Even George W. Bush - an individual I continue to loath - supported these AIDS programs.  Sadly, since 2009, the GOP and is allegedly Christian base has become increasingly hideous and callous to the lives of others.   

AG Jeff Sessions Lied About Russia Meetings in Security Clearance Form

Trump and Jeff Sessions
As noted in prior posts, I have been acquainted with former Senator and now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions since my days in Alabama in the late 1970's and early 1980's. The man was foul and reprehensible then and he is equally so now.   Here's what I said about Sessions back in early February:
While I was still living in Mobile, a 19 year old black man named Michael Donald was murdered in what was the last recorded lynching in the United States. Several Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members beat and killed Michael Donald, and hanged his body from a tree.  Session's office did not prosecute the case, but both men were arrested and convicted.  Subsequently, due to the efforts of Thomas Figures, the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Mobile, FBI agent James Bodman, and Michael Figures, a state senator and civil rights activist, the killers were ultimately arrested over two and a half years after the murder and were prosecuted, with one receiving the death penalty. After dropping the ball on the Donald case, Sessions prosecuted three black community organizers in the Black belt of Alabama, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s former aide Albert Turner, for voter fraud, alleging tampering with 14 absentee ballots. The prosecution stirred charges of selective prosecution of black voter registration. The defendants, known as the Marion Three, were acquitted of all charges by a jury.

In addition to being a racist, Sessions is also a virulent homophobe and, as CNN reports, a liar. Specifically, when Sessions submitted forms for his top security clearance, Sessions lied about every having meet with Russian intelligence and other Russian government officials.  Here are article excerpts:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.
Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year, didn't note those interactions on the form, which requires him to list "any contact" he or his family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the past seven years, officials said.
The new information from the Justice Department is the latest example of Sessions failing to disclose contacts he had with Russian officials. He has come under withering criticism from Democrats following revelations that he did not disclose the same contacts with Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year.
A legal expert who regularly assists officials in filling out the form disagrees with the Justice Department's explanation, suggesting that Sessions should have disclosed the meetings.
"My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business," said Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security law.
Zaid added that in a similar circumstance he advised a member of Congress to list all foreign contacts -- including those made during official US government business.
To obtain a security clearance, a federal official is not required to list the meetings if they were part of a foreign conference he or she attended while conducting government business. Sessions' meetings, however, do not appear to be tied to foreign conferences.
The omission comes after problems that Trump adviser Jared Kushner and the President's ex-national security adviser, Michael Flynn, have had on their own security forms. Kushner prematurely submitted his SF-86 form without listing foreign contacts and had to notify the FBI the next day that he was willing to provide the information. Flynn is under investigation for not properly disclosing payments linked to Russia for his foreign trips.
Lawmakers have raised questions about Sessions' meetings with Russian officials while he played a prominent role in the Trump campaign -- meetings that he only disclosed after The Washington Post revealed them. He is under scrutiny as well for his role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey despite his recusal from the Russia investigation.
At his confirmation hearing January 10, Sessions testified that he "did not have communications" with the Russians during the campaign. He made the same assertion in an official questionnaire.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees say it is possible that Sessions could be questioned about those meetings and his role in the campaign -- as well as the circumstances around the Comey firing.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the judiciary committee, called for Sessions to testify publicly after the news of Sessions' omissions broke. On CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," Blumenthal said that the news requires "intense and immediate investigation."

Sessions, of course, claims to be a  devout Christian - even though lying, refusing to prosecute KKK killers and racial bigotry don't exactly conform to Christ's gospel message. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Congressional Budget Office - Trumpcare Would Leave 23 Million Without Insurance


Remember all the bloviating by Paul Ryan and a host of other Republicans - including Der Trumpenführer about how the American Health Care Act, a/k/a Trumpcare or Ryancare depending on your inclination to lay blame, would lower costs and expand coverage?  Well, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office scoring released today underscores the magnitude of the lies uttered by these individuals.  The CBO says that Trumpcare would cause 23 million Americans to lose healthcare coverage.  As for the promise of lower premium costs and "quality coverage," that too is a lie.   Older Americans in particular would be severely hard hit as would those with seriosus healthcare issues. Indeed, a senior advisor at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the major takeaway from the CBO score is that Republicans’ talking points simply do not hold up.  That is a polite way of saying that Republicans are lying.  For Republicans, apparently the Commandment against lying has been excised from the Ten Commandments.  Candidly, the only beneficiaries of Trumpcare are the wealthy who would enjoy a huge tax break.  First these excerpts from the New York Times
A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would increase the projected number of people without health insurance by 14 million next year and by 23 million in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That 10-year figure is slightly less than originally estimated.
It would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over a decade, less than the $150 billion in savings projected in late March for an earlier version of the bill. And in states that seek waivers from rules mandating essential health coverage, the new law could make insurance economically out of reach for some sick consumers.
“Premiums would vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums,” the budget office concluded.
The new forecast of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper, is another blow to Republican efforts to undo President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The Senate has already said it will make substantial changes to the measure passed by the House, but even Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, is sounding uncertain about his chances of finding a majority to repeal and replace the health law.
The report provided fresh ammunition for Democrats trying to kill the repeal bill, which they have derided as “Trumpcare.”
Democrats say much of that instability [of the Affordable Health Care Act] stems from Republican efforts to repeal and undermine the Affordable Care Act. The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, harshly criticized House Republicans for voting on their revised repeal measure without an updated analysis from the budget office.
Under the House bill, states could opt out of certain provisions of the health care law, including one that requires insurers to provide a minimum set of health benefits and another that prohibits them from charging higher premiums based on a person’s health status.

Think Progress was even more unkind.  Here are highlights:
 Jacob Leibenluft, senior advisor at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that the major takeaway from the CBO score is that Republicans’ talking points don’t hold up. AHCA supporters still claim that the waivers wouldn’t harm anyone who needed essential health benefits or anyone with preexisting conditions, but this bill doesn’t bear that out.
“What the changes of bills have effectively done is resulted in system where sicker and older people are even worse off in terms of how much they would pay and quality of insurance coverage they would get.” Leibenluft said. Those changes would do little to boost overall coverage numbers, either.
“I think what that points to is how deeply unfixable the basic structure is. The problem is they’re pursuing hundreds of billions in tax cuts in a bill that needs to reduce deficit and that requires deep cuts to health coverage. And it’s not possible to undo those cuts to coverage while maintaining that basic structure.”