Monday, September 25, 2017

More Monday Male Beauty

Today's GOP: Caught in Its Own Lies

For many years now, the basic agenda of the GOP has been based on lies.  This traces all the way back to Reagan era promises that tax cuts and trickle down economics would work.  It didn't and it hasn't, yet 37 years latter the same lie is being repeated over and over by GOP candidates and elected officials.  Here in Virginia, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie is promising tax cuts that would leave a $1.4 billion gap in the budget just as was done in Kansas to disastrous effect.  Like Kansas, Gillespie has not solid plan for where replacement funds would come from.  More recently, of course, we had the Bush/Cheney lies that took the nation to war in Iraq, again with disastrous results.  This debacle has been followed by 8 years of Republican lies aimed at Barack Obama and his policies to the delight of racists within the GOP base.  Now, with the GOP controlling Washington until January, 2019 when things will hopefully change, the party is faced with trying to implement policies based on falsehoods that are becoming glaringly obvious to except the most deranged of the Kool-Aid drinking GOP base. The policies cannot work because they were false from the start.  A column in the New York Times looks at this growing problem of the GOP's own creation.  Here are excerpts:
On Saturday pretty much the entire medical sector — groups representing doctors, hospitals, and insurers — released an extraordinary open letter condemning the Graham-Cassidy health bill. The letter was written in the style of Emile Zola’s “J’accuse”: a series of paragraphs, each beginning with the bolded words “We agree,” pointing out the bill’s many awful features, from the harm it would do to people with pre-existing conditions to the chaos it would cause in insurance markets.
It takes a truly terrible proposal to elicit such eloquent unanimity from organizations that are usually cautious to the point of stodginess. So how did Republicans come up with something that bad, and how did that bad thing get so close to becoming law? Indeed, it still has a chance of being enacted despite John McCain’s “no.”
The answer is that Republicans have spent years routinely lying for the sake of political advantage. And now — not just on health care, but across the board — they are trapped by their own lies, forced into trying to enact policies they know won’t work.
Carl Hulse of The New York Times adds more detail: one big factor behind the push for Graham-Cassidy was anger among big donors, who wanted to know why Republicans had broken their vows to kill Obamacare. . . . . But repealing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t the only thing Republicans promised; they also promised to replace it with something better and cheaper, doing away with all the things people don’t like about Obamacare without creating any new problems. Yet Republicans never had any idea how to fulfill that promise . . . . the base, both the grass roots and the big money, believed the lies. Hence the trap in which Republicans find themselves.
The thing is, health care isn’t the only issue on which lies are coming back to bite the liars. The same story is playing out on other issues — in fact, on almost every substantive policy issue the U.S. faces.
The next big item on the G.O.P. agenda is taxes. Now, cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy may be an easier political lift than taking health insurance away from 30 million Americans. But Republicans still have a problem, because they’ve spent years posing as the party of fiscal responsibility, and they have no idea how to cut taxes without blowing up the deficit. . . . as with health care, these lies will be revealed once actual legislation is unveiled. It’s telling that Republicans are already invoking voodoo economics to justify their as-yet-unspecified tax plans, insisting that tax cuts will pay for themselves by leading to higher economic growth.
At this point, however, few people believe them. The Bush tax cuts didn’t create a boom; neither did the Kansas tax-cut “experiment.”
Foreign policy isn’t usually a central concern for voters. Still, past lies have put the Trump administration in a box over things like the Iran nuclear deal: Canceling the deal would create huge problems, yet not canceling it would amount to an admission that the criticisms were dishonest. And soon the G.O.P. may even start to pay a price for lying about climate change. As hurricanes get ever more severe — just as climate scientists predicted — climate denial is looking increasingly out of touch. Yet donors and the base would react with fury to any admission that the threat is real, after all. [T]he bill for cynicism seems to be coming due. For years, flat-out lies about policy served Republicans well, helping them win back control of Congress and, eventually, the White House. But those same lies now leave them unable to govern.

Trump Judicial Nominee Calls Transgender Individuals "Satan's Plan"

Trump's anti-gay extremist judicial nominee
The canons of judicial conduct which apply to federal court judges require that judges avoid the appearance of impropriety and that they recuse themselves from any case where their personal beliefs prevent them from being unbiased.  This is the case also under most state canons of judicial conduct. Even Virginia's canons of judicial conduct (not that they are always properly enforced) provide that a judge cannot allow his views on homosexuality and gender identity to influence his ability to render an unbiased ruling in a case or to allow opposing counsel the be disrespectful or biased against an LGBT party to a case before the court.  Despite these established rules and norms, two of Donald Trump's recent judicial nominees would seemingly willing flout these restrictions on judicial conduct. Perhaps the worst is Jeff Mateer, Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, who has voiced extremely anti-LGBT animus.  Metro Weekly looks at this frightening nominee who is yet another cog in Trump's promises to Christofascists to roll back LGBT rights and to make our lives a living hell.  Here are excerpts:
Jeff Mateer, Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, once described transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan.”
In a pair of 2015 speeches, Mateer, the first assistant attorney general of Texas, bemoaned the trend of states banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors, denounced transgender rights, and alleged that allowing same-sex marriage would lead to efforts to legitimize polygamy and bestiality, reports CNN.
In a May 2015 speech titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer discussed a lawsuit in Colorado where parents of a transgender first-grader sued her school to allow their daughter to use the girls’ bathroom.
“Now I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity?” Mateer said. “I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.”
Mateer previously served as general counsel of the First Liberty Institute, a conservative advocacy group that has been involved in pushing anti-LGBTQ initiatives or opposing expansions of LGBTQ rights, such as passage of a nondiscrimination ordinance in Plano, Texas.
In November 2015, Mateer was speaking at a conference hosted by controversial anti-LGBTQ pastor Kevin Swanson [who has advocated for the execution of gays], during which he took issue with attempts to ban conversion therapy in New Jersey and California.
Unsurprisingly, Mateer, who must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, is facing criticism for his anti-gay statements.
“President Trump has once again demonstrated his complete disregard for the LGBT community by nominating a person to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas who opposes LGBT rights and dignity,” David Dinielli, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement. “The nominee’s past statements prove that he cannot and will not rule fairly on issues affecting the LGBT community.
“Jeff Mateer has demonized the most vulnerable members of our community and expressed support for conversion therapy — the dangerous, fraudulent, discredited and inhumane practice that purports to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.There is no place on our federal bench for people who harbor this sort of extreme and dangerous bias.”
“It’s concerning that the Trump Administration is trying to infuse its anti-transgender ideology into our judicial system,” Jennifer Levi, transgender rights project director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement. “Our courts must serve as a backstop to President Trump’s divisive and exclusionary policies, not promote discriminationCourts must treat all Americans fairly and promote equal rights.”

Another of Trump's disturbing judicial nominees is AmyConey Barrett, a right wing Catholic law professor who once suggested that one’s religious beliefs ought to take precedence over the U.S. Constitution. As Huffington Post noted, the Alliance for Justice (a progressive judicial advocacy group) called on the Trump regime to withdraw Barrett’s nomination because of her past writings on the role of faith in the courtroom. The organization also objected to her views on the matter of stare decisis, or the doctrine of legal precedent.  Stated another way, Barrett would seemingly ignore standing case law precidents that do no conform to her religious views. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Jared Kushner Used Private Email Account for White House Business

In addition to lies and insanity, another hallmark of the Trump White House is hypocrisy. Der  Trumpenführer ranted throughout the 2016 presidential campaign about "crooked Hillary" and called for her prosecution.  Now, in a story that broke a around 3:330 this evening by Politico, it turns out that Jared Kushner, a/k/a "Prince Jared," has been using a private email account to conduct official White House business on a regular basis:
Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business.
POLITICO has seen and verified about two dozen emails.  “Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, said in a statement Sunday. 
Note that per the article, Kushner is apparently note the only individual using a private personal account to conduct official business.  Like Clinton, Kushner said he did so as a "matter of convenience," although given some of Kushner's questionable - and initially unreported - meetings with Russian operatives and BFF's of Vladimir Putin, one has to wonder what other business might have been conducted using the account.  If we use Trump's standard for Clinton on his son-in-law, then Kushner should be looking at prison time.  The deliciousness of Trump's hypocrisy is off the charts.  Here are highlights from the Washington Post's story on the breaking story:
President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has used a private email account to conduct and discuss official White House business dozens of times, his lawyer confirmed Sunday.
Kushner used the private account through his first nine months in government service, even as the president continued to criticize his opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton, for her use of a private email account for government business. Kushner several times used his account to exchange news stories and minor reactions or updates with other administration officials.
Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, set up the private account before Donald Trump moved into the White House and Kushner was named a senior adviser to the president in January. Once in the White House, Kushner used his private account for convenience from time to time — especially when he was traveling or using a personal laptop, according to two people familiar with his practice. A person who has reviewed the emails said many were quickly forwarded to his government account and none appear to contain classified information.
Clinton offered a similar explanation in 2015 when it was revealed that she set up a private email account as her exclusive means of email communication when she was secretary of state. Clinton also said she opted for private email “as a matter of convenience.” She insisted that she never shared classified information on her private account or tried to sidestep the federal law that requires that official government communications are preserved. Kushner’s use of a private account was first reported Sunday by Politico.
Trump repeatedly blasted Clinton during the 2016 campaign for her email practices — and has continued to do so for many months after defeating her in the race to the White House.
“What the prosecutors should be looking at are Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails,” Trump said in West Virginia in early August. 
The president had a similar refrain in mid-July, when his son Donald Trump Jr. faced questions about a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer during the campaign after he was offered incriminating information about Clinton.
Lowell declined to answer questions about how it was determined that none of the emails contained classified information. Clinton also claimed none of her emails contained classified information, but later reviews founds hundreds contained secret information and a small handful contained top secret material.
People familiar with his communications said former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and former senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon also used private email accounts from time to time, including in their exchanges with Kushner. It’s unclear if these officials forwarded emails to their White House accounts, said one White House official.
It would appear that special prosecutor Robert Mueller and Congressional committees investigating Russiagate have more things to subpoena and review.  Again, Trump's hypocrisy is stunning.

More Sunday Morning Male Beauty

The Racial Demagoguery of Donald Trump

Unfortunately, some in the media are still stating that economic conditions drove whites to vote for Donald Trump - even though post election studies have shown that latent racism was the true motivator for voting for an unfit and foul individual.  Since occupying the White House, Trump has continued to appeal to the racists in his base - as well as Christofascists, although most of those are racists from my years of following "family values" organizations that are always lily white - and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon as evidenced by his attacks this weekend on minority athletes.   A piece in the New Yorker - have you noticed how NYC based publications hate Trump with a passion - looks at the latest racist batshitery flowing from Trump.  Here are excerpts:
Every day, and in countless and unexpected ways, Donald Trump, . . . .  finds new ways to divide and demoralize his country and undermine the national interest. On Tuesday, he ranted from the lectern of the U.N. General Assembly about “Rocket Man” and the possibility of levelling North Korea. Now he has followed with an equally unhinged domestic performance at a rally, on Friday evening, in Huntsville, Alabama, where he set out to make African-American athletes the focus of national contempt.
In the midst of an eighty-minute speech intended to heighten the reëlection prospects of Senator Luther Johnson Strange III, Trump turned his attention to N.F.L. players, including the former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and asked a mainly white crowd if “people like yourselves” agreed with his anger at “those people,” players who take a knee during the national anthem to protest racism.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ ” Trump continued.
“People like yourselves.” “Those people.” “Son of a bitch.” This was the same sort of racial signalling that followed the Fascist and white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is no longer a matter of “dog whistling.” This is a form of racial demagoguery broadcast at the volume of a klaxon. There is no need for Steve Bannon’s behind-the-scenes scriptwriting. Trump, who is desperate to distract his base from his myriad failures of policy, from health care to immigration, is perfectly capable of devising his racist rhetoric all on his own.
Trump is making clear his moral priorities. He is infinitely more offended by the sight of a black ballplayer quietly, peacefully protesting racism in the United States than he is by racism itself. Which, at this point, should come as no surprise to any but the willfully obtuse. Trump, who began his real-estate career with a series of discriminatory housing deals in New York City, and his political career with a racist calumny against Barack Obama, has repeatedly defined his Presidency with a rhetoric that signals solidarity to resentful souls who see the Other as the singular cause of their troubles. Trump stokes a bilious disdain for every African-American who dares raise a voice to protest the injustices of this country.
In addition to urging the N.F.L.’s owners to fire any politically impertinent players, Trump also disinvited the N.B.A. champions, the Golden State Warriors, from visiting the White House after one of the team’s stars, Stephen Curry, voiced hesitation about meeting with the President.
“Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!” LeBron James said. Many professional athletes tweeted in the same spirit as James, and even the N.F.L. commissioner, Roger Goodell, who has hardly been stalwart in the interests of his players, issued a statement calling Trump’s comments “divisive” and showing an “unfortunate lack of respect” for the league and its players. Compared to the N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver, who has been consistently anti-racist and supportive of the players’ right to protest, Goodell is a distinctly corporate figure, whose instinct is nearly always to side with the owners. (At least six N.F.L. owners each contributed a million dollars, or more, to Trump’s Inauguration fund, including Woody Johnson, of the Jets, Robert Kraft, of the Patriots, and Daniel Snyder, of the Redskins.)
What Trump is up to with this assault on athletes, particularly prominent black ones, is obvious; it is part of his larger culture war. Divide. Inflame. Confuse. Divert. And rule. He doesn’t care to grapple with complexity of any kind, whether it’s about the environment, or foreign affairs, or race, or the fact that a great American sport may, by its very nature, be irredeemable. Rather than embody any degree of dignity, knowledge, or unifying embrace, Trump is a man of ugliness, and the damage he does, speech after speech, tweet after tweet, deepens like a coastal shelf. Every day, his Presidency takes a toll on our national fabric. How is it possible to argue with the sentiment behind LeBron James’s concise tweet at Trump: “U Bum”? It isn’t.
Never in my life time did I think we'd see a mainstreaming of hatred flowing nonstop from the White House.

Is Trump mentally ill? Or is America?

I suspect that future historians will long ponder what level of insanity prompted Americans - thanks to an Electoral College that lacked the courage to fulfill the Founder's design to protect the country - to put Donald Trump in the White House (I refuse to utter his title before his name because dishonors the office). At the same times, those future historians will likely ponder the precise form of Trump's serious mental disorders that put the both America and the world at risk).  The Washington Post reviews some new books by mental health experts that collectively conclude that Trump is dangerous and either mentally ill or at best a very horrible person.   As for Trump's supporters, sadly in my view, they fall into that latter category, if not the first.  Here are highlights from the review:
Gone are the days when euphemisms about President Trump’s mental health insulated the man like so many padded walls. 
ErraticUnpredictableUnstableUnmooredTemperamentally unfit. This was what politicians and commentators said when they wished to question Trump’s state of mind but feared the consequences of a more colloquial assessment. Yet the deeper we plunge into this presidency, the more willing people become to call it like they see and hear it.
Now, some psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals are shedding long-held norms to argue that Trump’s condition presents risks to the nation and the world. “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” features more than two dozen essays breaking down the president’s perceived traits, which the contributors find consistent with symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy and other maladies. “Collectively with our coauthors, we warn that anyone as mentally unstable as Mr. Trump simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency,” Judith Lewis Herman of Harvard Medical School and Bandy X. Lee of the Yale School of Medicine write in the book’s prologue.
If so, what should we make of the nation that entrusted him with precisely such powers? In his new book, “Twilight of American Sanity,” psychiatrist Allen Frances asserts that Trump is not mentally ill — we are. “Calling Trump crazy allows us to avoid confronting the craziness in our society,” he writes. “We can’t expect to change Trump, but we must work to undo the societal delusions that created him.”
[D]epending on which of these books you trust — and their persuasive powers vary considerably — you might conclude that Trump is of unsound mind, or that we’re the deranged ones for electing him, or that America has always been disturbed, with Trump’s presidency just the latest manifestation.  And here’s the really crazy thing: These options are not mutually exclusive.
[C]ontributors argue that Trump’s behavior — his political statements and actions as well as his interviews, books and social-media activity — suggest more ominous possibilities.
Trump displays signs of “extreme present hedonism,” the tendency to live in the moment without considering consequences, seeking to bolster one’s self-esteem no matter the risk. Or he exhibits “narcissistic personality disorder,” which includes believing you’re better than others, exaggerating your achievements and expecting constant praise. Combine hedonism, narcissism and bullying, and you get “an impulsive, immature, incompetent person who, when in the position of ultimate power, easily slides into the role of the tyrant,” Philip Zimbardo (of the famous Stanford prison experiment) and Rosemary Sword write. Others suggest that Trump shows indications of sociopathy, including lack of empathy, absence of guilt and intentional ma­nipu­la­tion. Put it all together and you have “malignant narcissism,” which includes antisocial behavior, paranoid traits, even sadism.
Over time these characteristics will only become worse, either because Mr. Trump will succeed in gaining more power and more grandiosity with less grasp on reality, or because he will engender more criticism producing more paranoia, more lies, and more enraged destruction.” And when the president stands before the U.N. General Assembly and threatens to “totally destroy” an enemy country of 25 million people, enraged destruction seems on point.
The volume’s contributors take solace in Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, a 1976 casein which the California Supreme Court held that mental-health experts have a responsibility to speak out when they determine that someone poses a physical danger to others. 
In the final chapter, psychiatrists Nanette Gartrell and Dee Mosbacher call for an independent panel to evaluate Trump’s fitness for office, and they urge Congress to pass legislation ensuring that future presidential and vice-presidential candidates undergo evaluations. I would not want Tansey, for one, serving on that body. Wouldn’t dream of it.
We are living in very frightening times to say the least.  We can only hope that Mueller does his work quickly and can not only take down Trump but Pence as well.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Saturday, September 23, 2017

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Did John McCain Kill Obamacare Repeal?

As noted yesterday, the latest GOP effort to kill Obamacare is perhaps the most heinous to date as noted in a post yesterday.   I still remain disgusted with what the GOP has become and just how vicious its agenda has become.  Thankfully, John McCain has shown that a few in the GOP have not utterly thrown away their integrity and morality.  With his announcement yesterday that he will not support the latest Trumpcare travesty, with luck the GOP repeal effort is dead.  A piece in the New York Times looks at McCain's announcement.  Here are excerpts:
Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on Friday that he would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their last-ditch attempt to dismantle the health law and fulfill their longstanding promise to conservative voters.
For Mr. McCain, it was a slightly less dramatic reprise of his middle-of-the-night thumbs-down that killed the last repeal effort in July. This time, the senator, battling brain cancer and confronting his best friend in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, issued a statement saying that he could not “in good conscience” support the proposal by Senators Graham and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” Mr. McCain said. “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”
With two other Republican senators likely to vote no, Mr. McCain’s opposition to the bill could be fatal. With Democrats united in opposition, Senate Republicans can afford to lose only two of their members.
A bill of this magnitude “requires a bipartisan approach,’’ Mr. McCain added.  Those concerns were compounded by the decision of Republican leaders to press forward with a vote next week before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could complete a full analysis of the Graham-Cassidy legislation. The budget office is expected to provide a preliminary fiscal assessment early in the week, but it indicated that it would not be able to complete an analysis of the bill’s effects on health insurance coverage or premiums by Sept. 30.
McCain has reminded us that sometimes one person can make a difference.  Each of us needs to remember this as we oppose the ugliness of what the GOP and Der Trumpenführer are seeking to do to America.  Another piece in the Times looks at why the GOP is so hell bent to harm millions:
As more than 40 subdued Republican senators lunched on Chick-fil-A at a closed-door session last week, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado painted a dire picture for his colleagues. Campaign fund-raising was drying up, he said, because of widespread disappointment among donors over the inability of the Republican Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act or do much of anything else.
Mr. Gardner is in charge of his party’s midterm re-election push, and he warned that donors of all stripes were refusing to contribute another penny until the struggling majority produced some concrete results.
“Donors are furious,” one person knowledgeable about the private meeting quoted Mr. Gardner as saying. “We haven’t kept our promise.”
The backlash from big donors as well as the grass roots panicked Senate Republicans and was part of the motivation behind the sudden zeal to take one last crack at repealing the health care law before the end of the month.
This was not what Republicans had envisioned. Preparing for the 2018 midterm elections, they had thought they were in a strong position to maintain or expand their majority. Democrats must defend 25 seats — including 10 in states won last year by President Trump — while just eight Republican-held seats will be on the ballot. But their governing struggles — and attacks on congressional leaders by Mr. Trump — have soured their base, leaving the Senate majority feeling desperate.
Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, was even more blunt in a conversation with Vox. “If we do nothing, it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections, and whether or not Republicans still maintain control and we have the gavel,” he said.
Republicans say the fund-raising drop-off has been steep and across the board, from big donations to the small ones the party solicits online from the grass roots. They say the hostile views of both large and small donors are in unusual alignment and that the negative sentiment is crystallized in the fund-raising decline.
Republicans are also set to roll out their income tax overhaul plan next week in an effort to build support for it and find something the party can deliver to the president’s desk. They see the tax plan as their best opportunity to win back the allegiance of donors.
With health care repeal teetering yet again, the one thing they know for sure is that they need to show some accomplishments, and they need to do so fast.

What shocks me is that these Republicans seemingly fail to realize that perhaps some of the fund raising drop off is due to the ugliness of what the GOP is trying to pass. Not everyone is like the Koch brothers who happily want to restore the Gilded Age while the vast majority of Americans suffer.

OBX Pridefest - Day 1

Looking towards the ocean

The husband and I drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the 7th annual OBX Pridefest last evening.  While I make an effort NOT to spend money in North Carolina, we make an exception for Dare County which, other than the state's larger cities, was the only area to vote against anti-gay legislation.  We are stay at the home of friend who are letting six of us use their place for the weekend.  We kicked off the Pridefest weekend with a party in Nags Head.  The main event is this afternoon in Manteo on the waterfront.  The weather this morning is gorgeous, so we will likely hang by the pool this morning.   A few photos are set out above and below.
Yes, alcohol was involved
Me with Queen Mary
Jennifer Warner

Saturday Morning Male Beauty Pt 1

Friday, September 22, 2017

More Friday Male Beauty

Click image to enlarge

The Catholic Alt-Right Attacks Pro-Gay Catholics

As the previous post noted, today's GOP base is largely controlled by those who claim to be Christian yet seem to hate nearly everyone who thinks, looks or loves differently than they do.  The same holds true for what I believe is a minority of Roman Catholics in America and certainly across Europe. While proclaiming their piety and wearing their religion on their sleeves, their conduct would likely shock even the hypocritical Pharisees of the New Testament.  Indeed, the New Testament message of loving others is nowhere to be seen in their agenda of clinging to outdated customs, denigrating women, embracing 12th century ignorance and hating others, especially LGBT individuals.  As noted in prior posts, Jesuit author James Martin is finding out just who vicious and un-Christian these alt-right Catholics can be. Indeed, many remind one of the German Catholics who rallied to Adolph Hitler' message of hate more than 80 years ago.  Martin takes a shot back at these vicious elements in the Catholic Church in a column in the Washington Post.  Here are excerpts:
After a gunman killed 49 people at Pulse, a predominantly gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016, I found myself disappointed that more Catholic leaders did not offer support to the LGBT community. And that the few who did found it difficult to acknowledge that LGBT people specifically had been targeted for murder.
For me, that silence highlighted a certain failure to be compassionate to the LGBT community even in a moment of tragedy. It also revealed that the LGBT community was still largely invisible to some church authorities. In response, I recorded a brief video that was posted on Facebook. It offered some support for the LGBT community during a terribly difficult few weeks.
Not long afterwards, New Ways Ministry, an organization that ministers to and advocates for LGBT Catholics, invited me to accept their Bridge Building Award. Until then, I had never done what you might call formal ministry with LGBT Catholics, besides the counseling that almost every church worker does in his or her ministry. But the Catholic Church’s response to the events in Orlando encouraged me to do so in a more public way. So, with my Jesuit superiors’ permission, I accepted the award and offered a lecture on how to build a “two-way bridge” between LGBT Catholics and the institutional church — that is, the church’s hierarchy and decision-makers.  From that talk came the first half of my book, “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.”
Now, in the past few weeks, three lectures I was invited to have been canceled, and I have been targeted by some far-right groups whose actions betray a level of homophobia that is hard to fathom. These groups, a kind of Catholic alt-right, are increasingly attempting to substitute themselves for legitimate Church authority by passing judgments on which Catholics are orthodox and which are not. “Heresy” is a word they use as frequently as “and” and “the.”
My reflections, which can be summarized as a call for respect on both sides, were based on the gospel, and on the Catechism’s call for the Church to treat “homosexual persons” with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” As with all my books, I sought the formal ecclesial approval of my Jesuit superiors, who vetted my what would become “Building a Bridge.” Perhaps to the disappointment of some critics, it is about dialogue and prayer, not about sexual morality or the sexual practices of LGBT people. On sexual matters, the LGBT community and the institutional church are simply too far apart at this moment. 
What I didn’t know was that, in a few quarters, the pushback would be hysterical, vicious and immediate. . . . The vast majority of people have responded positively, both in person and online. And people in the pews, especially LGBT Catholics and their parents, have told me that they are grateful that a priest is raising this topic. Many of these conversations have transpired through tears.
This makes any backlash worth it.  But the backlash from the far right is more intense than anticipated. I’ve been accused of heresy, ridiculously, by some critics (I’m not contradicting any revealed truths); there have been over-the-top condemnations (I should be removed from the priesthood) and name-calling that I thought was confined to 1950s playgrounds (faggot, fairy, pansy and worse.) Here’s a quote from a letter received just this week: “You’re leading souls to hell where you will surely reside in a few years.” 
[R]eflection on various biblical passages and an invitation to prayer seems to be of no interest to them; perhaps they feel that LGBT people do not, and should not, have access to the Holy Spirit.
 The far-right backlash has led, perhaps inevitably, to the cancellation (or rescheduling) of several speaking events . . . Each of these talks was not about LGBT issues, but about Jesus. And in each of the cities in which the talk was scheduled, the local bishop (in each case a cardinal) had no qualms about the upcoming lecture. . . .  the organizers admitted that they were responding to people who had been persuaded by online campaigns of far-right sites designed to lead people to view me as a heretic, even though I am what Catholics call a “priest in good standing” and the book had been vetted and endorsed by legitimate Church authorities.
There is such widespread homophobia in some dark corners of the Church that it causes people to become enraged by a book that they have never read. These individuals and sites trafficking in such obvious homophobia operate through means of vicious social media campaigns, relentless personal attacks, gross misrepresentations, as well as simple lies and deceit. They end up trying to be so Catholic that they are barely Christian.
Ironically, these groups, like the website Church Militant, which tout their desire for “traditional” Catholic practices consistently set themselves against bishops and religious superiors. Thus, groups that have zero legitimacy in the Church (and which have often been criticized by Church leadership) are setting themselves up against legitimate authorities. Pope Francis himself, for example, is a frequent target.
I am trying to do what Jesus did, in reaching out to people on the margins and telling them that God created them, God loves them and God welcomes them. And that is the truth.

Like the Protestant Christofascists, these alt-right Catholics ceased to be Christian long ago.

Today's GOP: Cruelty, Incompetence and Lies

As I note frequently, I am a former Republican.  Once upon a time I held a city committee seat for the Republican Party of Virginia Beach.  I even was the original incorporator of that entity as filings at the Virginia State Corporation Commission confirm.  Yet now I find myself embarrassed to ever have been a Republican give the hideousness of today's Republican Party.  A hideousness starkly revealed by the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill currently in the U.S. Senate which would have millions of Americans and leave those with pre-existing conditions without coverage.  Virtually every part of the healthcare industry opposes the bill as does AARP which will hopefully go on a rampage against Republicans in the 2018 election cycle if this travesty passes (if it does, it will be based solely on Republican votes).  So why is the GOP leadership pushing so hard for this bill?  Two main factors, in my view: thanks to Citizens United, the big money players in the GOP donor class want its passage and will punish the GOP if this massive tax cut for the wealthy disguised as "reform" is not passed.  The other factor is the make up the GOP base which is controlled by Christofascists and racists, groups best defined by their hatred of others and their hatred of Barack Obama.  In their warped and hate-filled minds, this bill will punish minorities and others they despise.  The irony will be, of course, that they themselves will end up suffering greatly when many find themselves without health care at some point down the road.  A column in the New York Times looks at the cruelty, incompetence and lies behind this foul bill.  Here are excerpts:
Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing when they put it together. Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies.
Nonetheless, the bill could pass. And that says a lot about today’s Republican Party, none of it good.
The Affordable Care Act, which has reduced the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low, created a three-legged stool: regulations that prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, a requirement that individuals have adequate insurance (and thus pay into the system while healthy) and subsidies to make that insurance affordable. For the lowest-income families, insurance is provided directly by Medicaid.
Graham-Cassidy saws off all three legs of that stool. Like other Republican plans, it eliminates the individual mandate. It replaces direct aid to individuals with block grants to states, under a formula that sharply reduces funding relative to current law, and especially penalizes states that have done a good job of reducing the number of uninsured. And it effectively eliminates protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
[E]veryone, who knows anything about health care warns [the bill] would cause chaos.  It’s not just progressives: The American Medical Association, the insurance industry and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have all warned that markets would be destabilized and millions would lose coverage.
How many people would lose insurance? Republicans are trying to ram the bill through before the Congressional Budget Office has time to analyze it — an attempt that is in itself a violation of all previous norms, and amounts to an admission that the bill can’t bear scrutiny. But C.B.O. has analyzed other bills containing some of Graham-Cassidy’s provisions, and these previous analyses suggest that it would add more than 30 million people to the ranks of the uninsured.
Both Cassidy and Graham insist that their bill would continue to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions — a claim that will come as news to the A.M.A., Blue Cross and everyone else who has read the bill’s text.
Independent analyses find that most states would, in fact, experience serious cuts in federal aid — and everyone would face huge cuts after 2027.
So we’re looking at an incompetently drafted bill that would hurt millions of people, whose sponsors are trying to sell it with transparently false claims. How is it that this bill might nonetheless pass the Senate?
One answer is that Republicans are desperate to destroy President Barack Obama’s legacy in any way possible, no matter how many American lives they ruin in the process.
Another answer is that most Republican legislators neither know nor care about policy substance. This is especially true on health care, where they never tried to understand why Obamacare looks the way it does, or how to devise a nonvicious alternative.
I’d add that the evasions and lies we’re seeing on this bill have been standard G.O.P. operating procedure for years. The trick of converting federal programs into block grants, then pretending that this wouldn’t mean savage cuts, was central to every one of Paul Ryan’s much-hyped budgets. The trick of comparing dollar numbers over time to conceal huge benefit cuts has, as I already noted, been around since the 1990s.
In other words, Graham-Cassidy isn’t an aberration; it’s more like the distilled essence of everything wrong with modern Republicans. . . . even if the handful of Republican senators who retain some conscience block it — we’re looking at you, John McCain — the underlying sickness of the G.O.P. 
I again find myself how any one morally decent vote Republican given what the GOP has become both at the state and at the federal level.  It epitomizes moral bankruptcy and cruelty towards others. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Austin Victoria - Click image to enlarge

Thursday, September 21, 2017

More Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Trump Nominee's Illegal Vote Exposes the Voter-Fraud Charade

If one listens to Republicans - especially the vulgarian-in-chief in the White House - voter fraud is rampant and millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 presidential election.  The truth, of course, is something very different with study after study showing that voter fraud is rare and not a pressing concern for anyone other than Republicans who are increasingly desperate to disenfranchise voters as their aging white voter base literally dies off.  To win, the GOP must decrease the votes of minorities and younger voters who wisely see the GOP as an enemy of their own future and prosperity.  Thus, it is delicious irony that one of Der Trumpenführer's nominees cast an illegal vote in Virginia in last year's presidential election.  True, it wasn't part of any insidious plan, but it shows the farce of the Republican charade that voter fraud is a pressing national concern.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the issue and Jeffrey Gerrish's illegal vote.  Here are highlights:
Jeffrey Gerrish made a mistake. Not a big one, although he did break the law. But it’s a mistake many people make, and for the most part, they aren’t called out by the Senate Finance Committee and in the pages of The New York Times.
Most of the people who make the error, however, are not nominees of a president who has alleged that there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election, or who empaneled a commission to consider voter fraud that is on a dubious hunt to try to validate that wild, unsubstantiated claim. Jeffrey Gerrish, however, is President Trump’s nominee to be deputy U.S. trade representative, so it happens that investigators realized he cast his vote in the 2016 election in Virginia, even though he had moved to Maryland—a far less competitive state in national elections.
Actually, Gerrish broke two laws. Although Virginia allows people to vote there 30 days after moving—after all, they probably know the candidates and issues in their old home best—he was outside that grace period. The Times adds: “A Trump administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the case in detail, said that Mr. Gerrish had a Virginia driver’s license at the time of the election and was under the impression that the state granted a longer grace period for former residents.” But Maryland also requires that new residents get a Maryland license within 60 days of moving, which he had not done. Of course, such laws about getting new licenses are routine and routinely ignored. Many people just wait for their old license to expire before getting a new one, no one gets hurt, and no one launches a commission of inquiry. But that’s just the point about Gerrish’s old vote. The story isn’t so much a gotcha on Gerrish as it is a statement about the folly of Trump’s vote-fraud commission. The commission is chaired by Vice President Pence, but its co-chair and driving force is Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas. Kobach is a long-time advocate for tighter voting laws, which he says are needed because of widespread voter fraud. In particular, he’s concerned about what’s known as in-person voter fraud: Someone actually shows up and casts an unlawful ballot, either because they aren’t registered, because they’re registered unlawfully, or because they vote in someone else’s name. The problem is that this is highly unusual. Repeated studies have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare, . . .
 Kobach is particularly into the idea of databases of voter lists from various states, which can then be crosschecked against each other to find people who are unlawfully double-voting—or at least double-registered—in several states. That was the motivation behind his controversial request that states provide full voter rolls to the commission. The problem is that the technique has repeatedly failed to find widespread fraud, even as it produces lots of false positives from similar names. In one instance, Kobach dramatically announced more than 2,000 dead voters who were still on rolls, only for the supposedly dead to be revealed as still alive quite quickly. More recently, Kobach declared in a Breitbart column that there was proof of widespread fraud in New Hampshire, then saw the state’s secretary of state shred his claim. Many people, including some of Trump’s closest relatives and advisers, are registered in two states (probably because they, like most people, didn’t bother to cancel their old registrations), but also almost certainly don’t vote twice. When there really is in-person voter fraud, however, it’s probably more likely something like what Gerrish did. He’s not the first person to decide to vote in his old home in the hopes of casting a more consequential vote. . . . . This is illegal, but it’s unlikely to be prosecuted, and it’s also naively idealistic: Those occasional ballots mailed back home to Nevada and Ohio and Florida are unlikely to swing any election. The same is true for Gerrish’s ballot. Even with his vote, Clinton won Virginia by more than 200,000 votes, and she won Maryland by more than 700,000. Contra the Trump voting commission’s starting assumptions, there’s very little in-person voter fraud, and where it occurs, it’s usually individuals exercising poor judgment—not massive, coordinated campaigns that stuff the ballot boxes with Trump’s fictitious millions of illegitimate votes. Then again, that doesn’t make much of a story, does it?

I have heard Kobach in a number of interviews and try as much as he might to  pretend he's not a racist, he most certainly is one.  He's a white supremacists in all but formal affiliation with a white nationalist group.  Sadly, Kobach is all too representative of more and more of the GOP.  If one is not a white, heterosexual right wing Christian, they don't view you as fully human or someone they want having the right to vote. Just one more example of the "Christian values" of today's Republican Party. 

Manafort Offered Putin Ally "Private Briefings" on 2016 Presidential Race

If there is any doubt that members of the Trump campaign were willing to put electing Der Trumpenführer and/or lining their pockets with money ahead of America, increasingly one need only look at former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.  With details are so far lacking as to whether Russia accepted his efforts to collude, Manafort certainly left little doubt that he and his allegiance to America were for sale.  When combined with the Manafort/Kushner/Trump, Jr. meeting with Russians with Kremlin ties, it obviously paints a questionable picture of the Trump campaign's claims that there was no collusion with Russia.  Add in the question of who was coordinating anti-Clinton Facebook ad buys by apparent Russian operatives - some of the payments to Facebook were even made in Russian rubles - and the circumstantial evidence appears increasingly damning.  Meanwhile the vast majority of Trump voters seem utterly unconcerned that they may have put Vladimir Putin's minion in the White House).  Here are highlights from a Washington Post article that looks at the growing clouds of possible collusion - let's call it what ir is, treason - by Manafort and likely others:

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.
“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.
The emails are among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as they probe whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
[I]nvestigators believe that the exchanges, which reflect Manafort’s willingness to profit from his prominent role alongside Trump, created a potential opening for Russian interests at the highest level of a U.S. presidential campaign, according to people familiar with the probe. Those people, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters under investigation.
Several of the ex­changes, which took place between Manafort and a Kiev-based employee of his international political consulting practice, focused on money that Manafort believed he was owed by Eastern European clients.
The notes appear to be written in deliberately vague terms, with Manafort and his longtime employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, never explicitly mentioning Deripaska by name. But investigators believe that key passages refer to Deripaska, who is referenced in some places by his initials, “OVD,” according to people familiar with the emails. One email uses “black caviar,” a Russian delicacy, in what investigators believe is a veiled reference to payments Manafort hoped to receive from former clients.
In one April exchange days after Trump named Manafort as a campaign strategist, Manafort referred to his positive press and growing reputation and asked, “How do we use to get whole?”
Collectively, the thousands of emails present a complex picture. For example, an email exchange from May shows Manafort rejecting a proposal from an unpaid campaign adviser that Trump travel abroad to meet with top Russian leaders. “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips,” Manafort wrote, according to an email read to The Post.
The email exchanges with Kilimnik add to an already perilous legal situation for Manafort, whose real estate dealings and overseas bank accounts are of intense interest for Mueller and congressional investigators as part of their examination of Russia’s 2016 efforts. People close to Manafort believe Mueller’s goal is to force the former campaign chairman to flip on his former Trump associates and provide information.
Mueller has also summoned Maloni, the Manafort spokesman, and Manafort’s former lawyer to answer questions in front of a grand jury. Last month, Mueller’s team told Manafort and his attorneys that they believed they could pursue criminal charges against him and urged him to cooperate in the probe by providing information about other members of the campaign. 
The emails now under review by investigators and described to The Post could provide prosecutors with additional leverage.
Deripaska, one of Russia’s richest men, is widely seen as an important ally of President Vladi­mir Putin. A U.S. diplomatic cable from 2006, published by WikiLeaks, referred to Deripaska as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”  . . . 
The billionaire has struggled to get visas to travel to the United States because of concerns he might have ties to organized crime in Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The emails under review by investigators also show that Manafort waved off questions within the campaign about his international dealings, according to people familiar with the correspondence. Manafort wrote in an April 2016 email to Trump press aide Hope Hicks that she should disregard a list of questions from The Post about his relationships with Deripaska and a Ukrainian businessman, according to people familiar with the email.
When another news organization asked questions in June, Manafort wrote Hicks that he never had any ties to the Russian government, according to people familiar with the email.
People close to Manafort told The Post that he and Kilimnik used coded language as a precaution because they were transmitting sensitive information internationally.
In late July, eight days after Trump delivered his GOP nomination acceptance speech in Cleveland, Kilimnik wrote Manafort with an update, according to people familiar with the email exchange.
Kilimnik wrote in the July 29 email that he had met that day with the person “who gave you the biggest black caviar jar several years ago,” according to the people familiar with the exchange. Kilimnik said it would take some time to discuss the “long caviar story,” and the two agreed to meet in New York.
Investigators believe that the reference to the pricey Russian luxury item may have been a reference to Manafort’s past lucrative relationship with Deripaska, according to people familiar with the probe. Others familiar with the exchange say it may be a reference to Ukrainian business titans with whom Manafort had done business.
Kilimnik and Manafort have previously confirmed that they were in contact during the campaign, including meeting twice in person — once in May 2016, as Manafort’s role in Trump’s campaign was expanding, and again in August, about two weeks before Manafort resigned amid questions about his work in Ukraine.