Saturday, December 31, 2016

Why Is Trump Refusing to Face Reality about Russia

The Washington Post editorial board smacks down Donald Trump for his refusal to face the reality of the danger Russia poses to America and the democratic world.  The evidence is there for anyone sane and rational and leaves one asking the question why is he doing this?  Yes, the man id a shallow, amoral narcissist, but one would thank that Putin's flattery would not outweigh reports from America's intelligence services.  So again, why this behavior that even a growing number of Republicans find disturbing.  One thought is that Trump's real estate empire is so beholden to Russian financiers that he is in being blackmailed by Putin.  Another is that Russian hackers have something on Trump that he does not want the world to see.  The last is that Trump actively collaborated with Putin and participated in orchestrating the hacking of the DNC and release of damaging information in order to have the presidential election thrown to him.  Now, of course Putin holds that evidence over Trump's head and stands in a position to have Trump charged with treason (such a lovely thought, isn't it?).  Personally, I suspect that that last alternative may be the correct one.  No matter how you cut it, it all boils down to Der Fuhrer putting himself and his ego ahead of the good of the nation.  Here are highlights from the Post's smack down:
ALTHOUGH PRESIDENT Obama’s sanctions against Russia for interfering with the U.S. presidential election came late, his action on Thursday reflected a bipartisan consensus that penalties must be imposed for Moscow’s audacious hacking and meddling. But one prominent voice in the United States reacted differently. President-elect Donald Trump said “it’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things.” 
No, Mr. Trump, it is not time to move on. U.S. intelligence agencies are in agreement about “what is going on”: a brazen and unprecedented attempt by a hostile power to covertly sway the outcome of a U.S. presidential election through the theft and release of material damaging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The president-elect’s dismissive response only deepens unanswered questions about his ties to Russia in the past and his plans for cooperation with Vladi­mir Putin.
For his part, Mr. Putin seems to be eagerly anticipating the Trump presidency. On Friday, he promised to withhold retaliatory sanctions, clearly hoping the new Trump administration will nullify Mr. Obama’s acts. Then Mr. Trump cheered on Twitter . . .
 For any American leader, an attempt to subvert U.S. democracy ought to be unforgivable — even if he is the intended beneficiary. Some years ago, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” and the fear at the time was of a cyberattack collapsing electric grids or crashing financial markets. Now we have a real cyber-Pearl Harbor, though not one that was anticipated. Mr. Obama has pledged a thorough investigation and disclosure; the information released on Thursday does not go far enough. Congress should not shrink from establishing a select committee for a full-scale probe.
Mr. Trump has been frank about his desire to improve relations with Russia, but he seems blissfully untroubled by the reasons for the deterioration in relations, including Russia’s instigation of an armed uprising in Ukraine, its seizure of Crimea, its efforts to divide Europe and the crushing of democracy and human rights at home.
Why is Mr. Trump so dismissive of Russia’s dangerous behavior? Some say it is his lack of experience in foreign policy, or an oft-stated admiration for strongmen, or naivete about Russian intentions. But darker suspicions persist. Mr. Trump has steadfastly refused to be transparent about his multibillion-dollar business empire. Are there loans or deals with Russian businesses or the state that were concealed during the campaign? Are there hidden communications with Mr. Putin or his representatives? We would be thrilled to see all the doubts dispelled, but Mr. Trump’s odd behavior in the face of a clear threat from Russia, matched by Mr. Putin’s evident enthusiasm for the president-elect, cannot be easily explained.

Add to the list of Russian wrong doing the cyber attack on a New England power company that gave the access to America's power grid and anyone sane or not subject to Russian blackmail or guilty of treasonous actions would not be acting like Der Fuhrer.  Until proven wrong, I will operate on the assumption that Trump is a traitor who needs to be exposed and, if guilty, given the harshest penalty possible.  #NotMyPresident

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

I Can't Be "Friends" With A Trump Supporter - Part 2

Two weeks ago I posted about my blogger friend Michelangelo Signorile's open letter at Huffington Post to a long-time, long-distance friend after he learned that she had voted for Donald Trump. Michelangelo's letter well summarized my feelings towards "friends" who had voted for Trump (and in my view, racism, bigotry, homophobia and neo-fascism) when he said that he had realized that he had never really known the woman addressed in his letter.  Like the woman Michelangelo addressed, many of my Trump supporting "friends" can not seek to excuse themselves by citing that they live in the Rust Belt and/or had experienced “economic anxiety” during the Obama years (most are actually quite well off financially).  Now, Michelangelo has a new post that looks at the reactions his open letter has evoked.   Like Michelangelo's experience, many of my "friends" seek to either depict me as "intolerant" or claim that this is only disagreement about "politics" and conveniently ignore the extremists and vitriolic homophobes Trump is placing in positions of power.  The reality is that I will likely never trust or feel comfortable with these "friends" some of whom I continue to see for the sake of neighborhood and social harmony.  Here are highlights from Michelangelo's latest piece:
There was a lot of response on social media and elsewhere, most of it positive, much of it from people in far more difficult situations ― people who opposed Trump and were struggling with relationships they’ve had with parents, siblings, children or closer friends who voted for Trump. Many expressed how the letter articulated thoughts similar to their own, no matter how differently (or similarly) they may navigate this in their own lives.
Then there were the Trump supporters who criticized the piece. They almost universally claimed they couldn’t believe anyone was breaking off a friendship over “politics.” This, to me, was both ludicrous and disingenuous ― if very telling ― particularly since I’d addressed it right there in the open letter.
Many of these Trump supporters ― a lot of them traditional Republicans who went “home,” as political pundits nauseatingly put it ― are defensive about the fact that they voted for the unstable racist, misogynist and self-proclaimed sexual assaulter, and they’re fearful of admitting to themselves and certainly others that they tolerated hate and bigotry. They can’t face that they’re in bed with what appears to be a large swath of other Trump supporters who actually revel in their own racism, pushing white supremacist hate and feeling emboldened by what they view as Trump’s embrace: making Steve Bannon his chief White House strategist. So, they conjure up all kinds of rationalizations or whirl around in a sort of denial.
These are the Trump supporters that went bonkers over my open letter to my friend. . . . On several websites and on social media they portrayed me as the “intolerant” liberal. Of course, I’m proudly intolerant of bigotry -– but that’s not what they meant.
I’ve pointed out how Mike Pence is running the transition and is already getting the anti-LGBTQ agenda set regarding domestic policy, and that Trump’s cabinet picks who will run the government departments are a who’s who of homophobia
But even if that weren’t true, why would you give a chance (as this critic put it) to someone who pandered to those who hate you? Trump courted evangelicals and promised to appoint judges to overturn the historic Obergefell ruling on marriage equality (and he has publicly opposed marriage equality since 2000). Even if you believe he wouldn’t do that, why would you give even conditional support to a man who has given hope to the people who detest you and wish you harm?
The rationalizers can’t face the fact that there will be no peace because Trump is a bigot who ran a hate-filled campaign and has shown no remorse for doing so, nor is he making any attempt to heal any wounds.
Debating them about my personal choice regarding a friendship ― or even referring to them here by name ― would only be giving them an opportunity to attempt to legitimize the terrible choice they made in the election. And they surely don’t deserve that.

Snatching Health Care Away From Millions

The perverse part of me takes some measure of delight in watching the media coverage of the many cretins - many of whom are highly religious (see the previous post) - who voted for Donald Trump and Republicans agonizing over the consequences of a repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act.   Many of these individuals, especially GOP loving red states, could literally find themselves losing all health care coverage and being at the mercy of hospital emergency rooms as their sole source of medical treatment - treatment that will not include preventive care or maintenance care.  Adding to the mix is the danger that smaller rural hospitals will be forced into bankruptcy and closing.  And who is to blame for this dire situation?  Trump and GOP voters, of course.  They allowed appeals to racism, xenophobia and bigotry to dupe them into committing what may prove to be a form of suicide.  Do I have sympathy for these folks?  None whatsoever, although I fear for the consequences to children who may lose health care access thanks to the stupidity of their elders.  As a column in the New York Times points out, regardless of the spin efforts of the GOP and Trump, a/k/a Der Fuhrer, these people must be made to realize that they themselves and the GOP/Trump will be responsible if their fears are realized.  Here are column highlights:
If James Comey, the F.B.I. director, hadn’t tipped the scales in the campaign’s final days with that grotesquely misleading letter, right now . . . . the huge gains achieved so far — tens of millions of newly insured Americans and dramatic reductions in the number of people skipping treatment or facing financial hardship because of cost — look as if they’re here to stay.
Or they would be here to stay if the man who squeaked into power thanks to Mr. Comey and Vladimir Putin wasn’t determined to betray his supporters, and snatch away the health care they need.
To appreciate the good news about Obamacare you need to understand where the earlier bad news came from. Premiums on the exchanges, the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, did indeed rise sharply this year, because insurers were losing money. But this wasn’t because of a surge in overall medical costs, which have risen much more slowly since the act was passed than they did before. It reflected, instead, the mix of people signing up — fewer healthy, low-cost people than expected, more people with chronic health issues.
The question was whether this was a one-time adjustment or the start of a “death spiral,” . . . And the answer is that it looks like a one-shot affair. Despite higher premiums, enrollments in the exchanges are running ahead of their levels a year ago; no death spiral here.
In other words, Obamacare hit a bump in the road, but appears to be back on track.  But will it be killed anyway?
In a way, Democrats should hope that Republicans follow through on their promises to repeal health reform. After all, they don’t have a replacement, and never will. . . . because they can’t; the logic of broad coverage, especially for those with pre-existing conditions, requires either an Obamacare-like system or single-payer, which Republicans like even less. That won’t change.
As a result, repeal would have devastating effects, with people who voted Trump among the biggest losers. Independent estimates suggest that Republican plans would cause 30 million Americans to lose coverage, with about half the losers coming from the Trump-supporting white working class. At least some of those Trump supporters would probably conclude that they were the victims of a political scam — which they were.
Why do the Republicans hate health reform? Some of the answer is that Obamacare was paid for in part with taxes on the wealthy, who will reap a huge windfall if it’s repealed, even as many middle-income families face tax hikes.
More broadly, Obamacare must die precisely because it’s working, showing that government action really can improve people’s lives — a truth they don’t want anyone to know.
How will Republicans try to contain the political fallout if they go ahead with repeal, and tens of millions lose access to health care? No doubt they’ll try to distract the public — and the all-too-compliant news media — with shiny objects of various kinds.
When the number of uninsured Americans skyrockets on their watch, they’ll claim that it’s not their fault — like everything, it’s the fault of liberal elites.
If, as seems all too likely, a health care debacle is imminent, blame must be placed where it belongs: on Donald Trump and the people who put him over the top.
As for James Comey, I hope that history comes to view him as one of the great villains of 2016 and the ruin of America.   

Why Are Religious People (Generally) Less Intelligent?

A piece in the Intellectualist looks at a topic that I have touched on previously over the years: the general negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity.  One prior post for instance looked at education levels of different denominations and showed highest education levels among Episcopalians and Evangelical Lutherans - the liberal denominations always attacked by fundamentalist Christofascists - and descending downward toward Pentecostals and other fundamentalist sects.  With the election of Donald Trump supposedly being a triumph for low education whites (at least according to the spin of some in the pundit class and Trump sycophants) and 81% of evangelical Christians having voted for Trump, it is worth considering whether what we just witnessed instead was a triumph of ignorance and the low IQ portion of society setting the nation on a course for disaster.  I don't deny that I hold religion in general in low regard because it opposes science, knowledge and logic and too often provides an excuse to avoid thinking and making one's own reason based decisions.  Given the negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity one has to ask why politicians give such deference to to the religious.  Are they merely playing to the least intelligent and most easily duped?  Here are article excerpts:
1) A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity.
2) The study indicates that it is uncommon to meet someone who is both highly intelligent and is also (sincerely) highly religious.
3) This study doesn’t mean that there are not some highly religious people among intelligent people (law of large numbers). This is a probabilistic model.
4) Yes, there are very famous scientists who were also devout Christians, however, if you notice, this combination tends to decrease when the time period shifts to the 19th century and becomes even less common in the 20th century. Atheism (or similar) was a serious crime against the State until fairly recently (It still is in many countries).  
5. Not being religious, doesn’t imply being an atheist.
The key question of the study is why are religious people generally less intelligent? And the authors of the study did not shy away from the answer, offering three compelling explanations:
(1) Intelligent people are generally more analytical and data-driven; formal religions are the antithesis: they are empirically fluffy and their claims are often in direct contradiction with scientific evidence, unless they are interpreted metaphorically – but maybe intelligent people are not that keen on metaphor. Another way of putting it is that people with a high IQ are more likely to have faith in science, which isn’t religion’s best friends (yes, yes, I do know about Einstein’s quotes).
(2) Intelligent people are less likely to conform, and, in most societies, religiosity is closer to the norm than atheism is. Although this interpretation is based on extrapolation, it still makes sense: first, smarter people tend to be less gullible; second, in most societies religious people outnumber atheists and agnostics – though global levels of religiosity have been declining, and there is substantial cultural variability in religiosity levels.
(3) Intelligence and religiosity are “functionally equivalent”, which means that they fulfill the same psychological role. Although this intriguing argument contradicts points 1 and 2, it deserves serious consideration. Humans will always crave meaning.
Religion – like science and logical reasoning – provides them with a comprehensive framework or system to make meaningful interpretations of the world.
At times, religion and science are in conflict; but they can also act in concert, complementing each other to answer non-falsifiable and falsifiable questions, respectively. The authors conclude that some people satisfy their desire to find meaning via religion, whereas others do so via logical, analytical, or scientific reasoning – and IQ predicts whether you are in the former or latter group.
It is noteworthy that these three explanations assume that IQ influences religiosity rather than vice-versa, which seems plausible: IQ levels remain very stable after childhood, whereas religiosity levels keep fluctuating – childhood IQ predicts adult IQ, but childhood religiosity is a very poor predictor of adult religiosity.
 I am sure some will find all of this insulting or "elitist," but the next time you are forced to someone expounding on their religiosity, know that you are likely listening to either a dullard or someone - i.e., a "scamvangelist" - preying on the less intelligent.  Either way, it is not a positive phenomenon. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, December 30, 2016

Final Friday Male Beauty

Victims Of Pedophile Priests Claim Pope Francis Ignored Warnings About Predator Priests

Despite a few seemingly LGBT -supportive comments made by Pope Francis, his actions during his reign so far have shown that things at the Vatican remain largely "business as usual" with gays continuing to be viewed as inherently disordered and inclined toward evil to quote the writings o the Nazi Pope, Benedict XVI.  One other thing that has apparently not changed despite rivers of crocodile tears from the Vatican and disingenuous statements by Pope Francis himself is the Vatican's and papacy's willingness to turn a blind eye when it comes to warnings about predator priests who continue to prey on children and youths.  A piece in the Latin Times reports allegations that Pope Francis deliberately ignored warnings about a predator priest shuffled to a different parish where he could prey on innocent victims.  Here are highlights:
Sexual abuse in Catholicism has been a sticky topic over the years with many priests being subjected to rumors and some proven to be guilty of crossing the line with children. While the Vatican has been made of aware of the recent allegations, more troubling news is coming to surface with many people demanding answers.
According to FOX News Latino, alleged victims of Rev. Nicola Corradi said they wrote a letter to the pontiff in 2014 warning him that the purported pedophile had been reassigned to the South American country.
The site reports that the victims' families contend that the Vatican knew about him since at least 2009, when he was publicly accused of abusing students at the Provolo Institute in Verona, Italy, where he then worked.
We recently reported that Argentine police arrested 82-year old Nicola Corradi, priest Horacio Corbacho, 55, and three other men at the Antonio Próvolo Institute, a school for youths with hearing disabilities in the northwest of the country for sexually abusing the children.
Corradi, and Corbacho were arrested last month along with three employees for the alleged abuse of at least 24 deaf children who attended the Antonio Provolo Institute, in the city of Mendoza.
The victims are now speaking out saying that nothing was done then nor later in 2014, when they told Pope Francis in a letter that Corradi was living in his native Argentina.
"From the pope down ... all of the Catholic Church hierarchy is the same. They all knew," one of the victims told The Associated Press through a sign language interpreter.
Another victim said the priests would rape again if released.
"This happened in Italy ... it happened again here, and it must end," the victim said, insisting on speaking anonymously. "Enough!"
Pope Francis and the Vatican have yet to speak publicly about the accusations and the investigation.
Sadly, it is the same story we have heard over and over again since the Boston Globe broke the story of the Catholic Church's cover ups of predatory priests in 2002. In truth, nothing has really changed which brings up the question I have asked before: how can any moral person remain a Roman Catholic? Thankfully, the last of my family members who had continued to attend mass finally woke and has walked away.  Now, no one in my family who was raised Catholic remains an active member of the Catholic Church, including children and grandchildren.  Three generations have walked away in disgust. Others need to do likewise.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Elite Washington Schools Snub Trump's Mistress of Lies

Perhaps there remains some small measure of justice as the nation hurls towards disaster under the regime of Der Fuhrer.  It seems, according to Page Six and some other sources that despite Kellyanne Conway's efforts, elite schools around Washington, D.C., want nothing to do with Conway's children.  Since Donald Trump wants to destroy public education as evidenced by his Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVoes, it is fitting that Conway might have to place her children in public school or settle for some church affiliated school high on toxic theology and short on quality science and fact based education. I have no malice towards Conway's children - none of us get to choose our parents - but Ms. Conway is hopefully learning that there are consequences to selling one's soul to the service of a narcissistic, sexual predator pathological liar.  Conway forgets that less than 27% of voters supported Der Fuhrer and that no election land slide occurred except in the mind of that psychopathic liar and is sycophants.  Here are highlights from Crooks and Liars:
This is a Page Six story, so we look at it with the usual amount of skepticism we have for DC gossip. But after all her whining that she wasn't going to take a White House job because her children needed their mom at home (Re-launching the mommy wars to garnish sympathy from Stuart Varney, Kellyanne? Nobody cares.), it now appears poor Kellyanne Goebbels Conway can't seem to get the DC elite public schools to bend to her will.
“My children are 12, 12, 8, and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside [the White House],” Conway said. “They have to come first and those are very fraught ages.” She then implied that the same standards should apply to all mothers who are seeking high-level jobs. When male colleagues suggested Conway take a White House job, she said, “I did politely mention to them that the question isn’t, ‘Would you take the job?’ … but ‘Would you want your wife to?’ And you really see their entire visage change. It’s like, oh, no, they wouldn’t want their wife to take that job.”
The struggle is real, Kellyanne. No one around DC wants Kellyanne or her children infesting their schools. Yes, I know, they are innocent children and shouldn't be punished because their mother is a soulless, vapid, shallow, narcissistic, lying liar or all liars who talks out of both sides of her mouth while also sucking the life out anyone in her path.
So here is the story: Page Six reports that Sewer Rat Barbie is worried that her kids will get blackballed from DC elite schools because, get this, they are *prejudiced* against President Trump. Yes, prejudiced. Oh my, she is feeling discriminated against because of who she is and that is so hard, right? How unfair it is to her children to be banned from things purely because of something out of their control, like their parent's beliefs or heritage, right?
The irony is delicious, coming from a party and candidate that literally only wins elections because of voter suppression, gerrymandering and racism. Oh, and her candidate quite literally ran on a racist campaign. But she feels discriminated against? Of course.
I expect the schools have no problem with Conway children attending but would rather Kellyanne stayed away from the PTO meetings.
And given her history of lying, it's entirely possible that Kellyanne floated this story herself in order to remind everyone what a great mom she is and how persecuted her President Trump's White House is by the Beltway insiders, boo hoo.
Meanwhile, Kellyanne is reaching out of her *friends* at her kids' current private school for help finding a placement for her children.  Welcome to the swamp, Kellyanne!

Trump's America - Warnings from a Witness of the Past

With Donald Trump's inauguration roughly 3 weeks away, my sense of dread and foreboding seems to be intensifying.  America is headed towards a nightmare.  Yet, through this holiday season far too many people seem oblivious and more concerned about holiday party frivolity than what the future may bring.  It's happened before, of course.  In Italy in the 1920's, Germany in the 1930's and more recently in Russia where that nations fragile democracy was trans formed once again into a dictatorship under Vladimir Putin.  The Seattle Times has a column that sets out reasons to be concerned and why it's hard for me to say "Happy New Year" now since I doubt that 2017 ill be happy for many Americans or the world as Der Fuhrer takes power.  Saying "it cannot happen here" does nothing to prevent future horrors.  Only actively resisting and opposing the wave of white supremacy and would be fascism can prevent the worse from happening. Here are column excerpts:
Franz Wassermann is not the only person worried about his country. But he is among the few Americans who’ve seen a country upended by words and actions that most people didn’t take seriously, until it was too late.
“I was born in Munich, Germany, in 1920. I lived there during the rise of the Nazi Party and left for the U.S.A. in 1938. The elements of the Nazi regime were the suppression of dissent, the purging of the dissenters and undesirables, the persecution of communists, Jews and homosexuals and the ideal of the Arians as the master race. These policies started immediately after Hitler came to power, at first out of sight but escalated gradually leading to the Second World War and the holocaust. Meanwhile most Germans were lulled into complacency by all sorts of wonderful projects and benefits.”
He sees similarities in our country today, early warning signs of what could happen if people go along imagining that there is no real danger.
We can hope that our government of checks and balances will be more resistant than the Weimar Republic was. Don’t count on it.” - Franz Wassermann
In our time, he wrote, “The neo-Nazis and the KKK have become more prominent and get recognition in the press. We are all familiar with Trump’s remarks against all Muslims and all Mexicans. But there has not been anything as alarming as the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon has, apparently, made anti-Semitic remarks for years, has recently condemned Muslims and Jews and he and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the pick as National Security Adviser, advocate the political and cultural superiority of the white race. At the same time Trump is trying to control the press.”
Wassermann wrote that the entire Nazi ideology is in place and wonders how far it will go here. “We can hope that our government of checks and balances will be more resistant than the Weimar Republic was. Don’t count on it.”
Wassermann was 12 when Hitler came to power in 1933. He said the German economy had been in bad shape for a long time, and no one seemed to be able to do anything about it. The Nazis were the last party left to turn to.
The party negotiated a softening of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which punished Germany for World War I, and the party was praised for speeding up construction of the Autobahn highway system and creating the Volkswagen. The nation acquired new territory. Everything seemed wonderful, Wasserman said. But it wasn’t.
Wassermann kept all the letters that crossed between family in Germany and America in those years and translated them into English so that they could be a record of what happened. Actors read from the letters in two performances this year in Seattle.
And now he is reaching out in this letter of warning, which concluded with a plea:
“We have to counter this trend toward fascism in every way we can. Being alert to all manifestations in word and action. Alerting our representatives and urging them to act. Writing to newspapers. Making our friends aware. Demonstrating when appropriate.”
Could our democracy be subverted in some way similar to what happened in Germany? Only someone who doesn’t know history would say it absolutely couldn’t happen. We are responsible for protecting our democracy, which means recognizing danger signs and challenging ideas and actions that violate the ideals we claim as our own. “I didn’t see it coming” is no longer an excuse.

I am very afraid of what America's future will hold and what my children and grandchildren may face.  Far too many - including "friends" who voted for Trump - have their eyes closed and, if they don't open them, will be claiming in later years "I didn't see it coming" even though all the warning signs were there in plain sight.  Silence and inaction equal complicity.

A Lament of a Former Republican

As I have often recounted on this blog, I am a former Republican.  Indeed, my entire extended family was Republican and I served as a City Committee Member for the Republican Party of the City of Virginia Beach for 8 years.  But then the GOP began to change.  Church (i.e., right wing Christian) and state became intertwined; learning, science and objective fact became irrelevant, if not an outright enemy of America; and racism increased, thanks in large part to the Christofascists, most of whom are closet white supremacists.  I left the GOP as a result.  Other family members such as my late mother fled when John McCain tapped the idiot from Wasilla as his VP pick. With the nomination of Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Fuhrer, the descent of the GOP into bigotry and insanity became complete. Expect the exodus to continue despite Trump's electoral vote victory.   A column in The Hill contains the lament of a former Republican.  Here are highlights:
For sixteen years now, I have identified as a classic conservative. I enthusiastically supported Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in his primary fight back in 2000, and was glad to see him make it to the final round eight years later, although I couldn’t ultimately support him in the wake of his running mate selection.
I’m a proud gun owner and concealed carry permit holder. I drive a big, ridiculous V8 Mustang because ‘Murica. I believe in fiscal responsibility, a government that doesn’t intrude into the private lives of its citizens, and largely believe in the power of properly regulated markets and private enterprise to innovate towards solutions to the big problems.
Know what I want? I want to get back to arguing against my liberal friends. I want to return to really rubbing their noses in it. I want to go back and have a real knock-down, drag-out argument over the best way to tackle healthcare in this country, whether we should go to single-payer, or keep the ACA and tweak it to make our private, for-profit healthcare system work for everyone. 
I want to get back to arguing over how to approach global warming, either with top heavy government regulation, or a free-market, cap-and- trade type system. I want to get back to shooting down dumbass arguments against “assault weapons” (which is redundant) or supporting reasonable alternatives like universal background checks.
But I’m not doing that.  Do you know why I’m not doing that?  Because the party that is supposed to represent my values as a conservative has lost its ever-loving mind.
Instead of arguing over the most cost-effective to deliver affordable healthcare to all Americans, Republicans continue to argue that the plan they spent thirty years fighting for is suddenly socialist because it was signed into law by a black dude, and that twenty million people need to lose their health care without any plan in place to help them. 
I know some of these people personally. They are old clients of mine from back when I was selling health insurance. They are friends and colleagues I’ve met as an author and comic, self-employed people who were finally able to start their own businesses because they didn’t need their old employer’s group insurance anymore.
Instead of looking for market-based solutions to the undeniably real crisis of global warming, the President elect claimed that it’s all a lie invented by the Chinese and that 97 percent of the world’s climatologists are in on the conspiracy for, I don’t know, all that sweet Greenpeace money? 
The economies and infrastructure systems of the future will be green, not because of tree-huggers, but because of bedrock market forces. We can either embrace that reality and start running ahead of the curve in preparation, or we can continue to fall further behind, wasting untold billions propping up an outdated system that only benefits the wealth of extractors at the cost of the health of everyone else.
[H]is campaign rhetoric, coupled with his victory, has given a semblance of credibility to xenophobia, racism, sexism and religious bigotry. 
Since the election, hate crimes have spiked, with over a thousand incidents reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center since Nov. 8.  One of which I witnessed personally not a week later.
Instead of fighting for conservative solutions to our shared problems, I find myself arguing with “conservatives” who, despite all the objective, verifiable evidence, can’t even admit that our shared problems even exist in the first place.
I am a conservative. I have always been a conservative. And I really, really want to go back to arguing for conservative causes. But until the people who have stolen that word from me return it, and return to the evidence-based ideology demanded of them by people like Edmund Burke, and Michael Oakeshott, I have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my liberal friends.
Because I have tell you, as it sits, they are far closer to where I have always stood on the political spectrum than anyone who wears an (R) after their name in Congress or pulled the lever for that precancerous orange colon polyp who is about to enter the White House. 
 "Orange colon Polyp"  - I will have to remember that term since it fits perfectly.  I also have to confess that I generally view Charlie Sheen as an idiot, his tweets "Trump next . . . Trump next  . . " after all the recent celebrity deaths would seem to be brilliant.

FBI, DHS Report on Russia Hacking, Trump Tries to Change the Topic

Given (i) previous reports of Donald Trump's and his business empires ties to and reliance on Russian financing, (ii) Trump's statements encouraging Russia to illegally hack DNC computer records, and (iii) Trump's reiteration today that "It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things" rather than investigate Russian hacking, until proven otherwise, I will operate under the premise that Trump colluded with Russia and at a minimum is guilty of criminal violations that would support impeachment and at worse treason.  What other explanation is their for Trump's efforts to block investigations that may have the potential of revealing his illegal and/or treasonous conduct? If Trump has nothing to hide - something hard to believe given his past underhanded and illegal behavior - why the effort to block the investigation?  A piece in The Hill looks at the report released by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.  Here are excerpts:
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday released a joint report detailing how federal investigators linked the Russian government to hacks of Democratic Party organizations.
The document makes clear reference to the hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, though it does not mention either by name. 
The 13-page report provides technical details regarding tools and infrastructure used by Russian civilian and military intelligence services to “compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities.” 
The report, known as a “Joint Analysis Report” or JAR, refers to the Russian hacking campaign as “Grizzly Steppe.”  
It comes as part of a slate of retaliatory measures against Russia issued Thursday by the Obama administration in response to the hacks, and expands on a joint statement issued by the two agencies in October, formally attributing the attacks to Russia.
In the October statement, officials described the hacks and subsequent publication of stolen emails on WikiLeaks as an attempt to “interfere” with the U.S. election that is “consistent with the Russian-directed efforts,” but provided no evidence to support their assessment. 
President-elect Donald Trump has denied that Russia was involved in the hacks, and Obama has been under pressure to provide proof. 
Private security firms provided more detailed forensic analysis, which the FBI and DHS said Thursday correlated with the IC’s findings. 
“The Joint Analysis Report recognizes the excellent work undertaken by security companies and private sector network owners and operators, and provides new indicators of compromise and malicious infrastructure identified during the course of investigations and incident response,” read a statement. 
The report identifies two Russian intelligence groups already named by CrowdStrike and other private security firms. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, is the main successor to the KGB — once headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The FSB is thought to be behind the hacking group known as APT29. A more traditional, long-range intelligence agency, the FSB lurked on the DNC systems for over a year.  
The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, is thought to be behind the second group that infiltrated the DNC, known as APT28. APT28 is also believed to have breached Podesta’s emails.Despite their overlapping targets, the two agencies have different missions in the cyber realm.APT28 is thought to be the group responsible for “doxxing” the DNC and Podesta by allegedly providing the stolen missives to WikiLeaks to publish.
Both organizations gained access to the DNC through targeted spearphishing campaigns, in which the hackers tricked targeted users into clicking bogus links that either deployed malware or directed them to a fake webmail domain hosted on Russian infrastructure. 
APT28 was able to use harvested credentials to then gain access and steal content, according to the report. This likely led “to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members.” 
“The U.S. Government assesses that information was leaked to the press and publicly disclosed,” the report says. 
The report also states that Russian intelligence operatives continued to launch spearphishing attacks on the Democratic party following the election, “including one launched ... just days after" the vote.

WWhat is just as frightening is that more than 1/2 of Trump voters could care less about (i) what role Russia played in stealing the election for Trump  and (ii) whether Trump committed crimes and/or treason.  Welcome to today's GOP the perversion of which in my view tracks directly back to the rise of the Christofascists in that party.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, December 29, 2016

RIP: Debbie Reynolds, Early Hollywood AIDS Activist

Like many, I am still reeling from the deaths of Hollywood stars Carrie Fisher - she will always be my Princess Leia - and her mother Debbie Reynolds the following day. I was a dedicated fan of both of these Hollywood stars and will confess that I have seen EVERY Star Wars Movie (some multiple times - Luke Hamill was a secret major crush object) and many of Reynolds' biggest hits.  What many of the reports on Reynolds' passing have failed to reflect is that she was an early AIDS activist and was among the first Hollywood stars to support the cause of the LGBT community as the AIDS crisis progressed.  Blogger friend Karen Ocamb thankfully has a piece that corrects this omission. Here are article highlights:
The LGBT community—reeling from the deaths of icons George Michael and Carrie Fisher and AIDS Project Los Angeles co-founder Matt Redman—was stunned again Wednesday by the news that Fisher’s funny and vivacious mother, Debbie Reynolds, died the day after her daughter. Reynolds’ son Todd told the Associated Press that she died of a broken heart saying “I want to be with Carrie” moments before she died.
Reynolds’ long and tumultuous career includes the gossip scandal of 1958 when pop singer Eddie Fisher, the husband of the “girl next door,” left her for sexy actress Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds and Taylor later reconciled their ‘50s friendship, even having dinner with her second husband and Taylor and Taylor’s next husband, Richard Burton.
Another interesting note in the less-than-six-degrees-of-separation relationship between Reynolds and Taylor is that Reynolds was an AIDS activist before Taylor. In fact, along with comedienne Joan Rivers, singer/actress Rita Moreno, and actor Robert Guillaume, Reynolds was among the first of the Hollywood celebrities to publicly appear in AIDS fundraisers at a time when HIV/AIDS was still a mysterious killer and gay men with AIDS were labeled lepers.
In 1983, Reynolds performed at an AIDS fundraiser with friend and Hollywood rival Shirley MacLaine. . . . . In his book “And The Band Played On” about the beginning of the AIDS crisis, Randy Shilts wrote about that June 23, 1983 AIDS fundraiser in San Francisco: “The fund-raiser for the National KS/AIDS foundation had all the raciness of a true San Francisco event. When host Debbie Reynolds introduced the surprise guest, actress Shirley MacLaine, with the comment that MacLaine had great legs, MacLaine responded by pulling down the top of her long strapless gown, demonstrating that she had other equipment to match. The crowd cheered enthusiastically: “We love you, Shirley!” Not to be outdone, Reynolds lifted the rear of her slitted gown to reveal her brief black underwear.
On August 28,1983, Reynolds appeared with comic Rip Taylor at the first AIDS benefit in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl.
Though Elizabeth Taylor eclipsed Reynolds in the AIDS activist/fundraising world after the AIDS death of Taylor’s dear friend Rock Hudson, Reynolds was known to always be available, without perks, to lend her name and talent to fighting the AIDS epidemic. And her fondness for the gays never disappeared either, landing the role as Kevin Kline’s mother in the satirical 1997 film “In & Out,” and playing her Emmy-nominated role as Deborah Messing’s eccentric mother in NBC’s “Will & Grace.” Her last role was Liberace’s mother in the 2013 HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra.”
Some "godly folk" and scamvangelists have attacked the memory of both Fisher and Reynolds for their "pursuit of fame and worldliness" but when it came to actually following the Gospel message they and Elizabeth Taylor walked the walk while their critics demonstrated only hate and hypocrisy.  RIP to all of them

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Selfishness of Evangelical Christians

Evangelicals - A study in hypocrisy?

As regular readers know, I have little use for or tolerance towards evangelical Christians who consistently reveal themselves to be among the most selfish, self-centered inhabitants of America. They make a great show of their supposed religiosity and piety yet where the rubber hits the proverbial road, lies and hypocrisy are the main realities one sees.  Their charity rarely extends far outside their own circles and their churches are exclusive clubs for those who look and believe like themselves.  Equally disturbing is their belief that any restriction on their ability to abuse and mistreat others is tantamount to persecution.    A piece in Christian Science Monitor looks at the self-centered attitude and desire for revenge on "liberals" and those they deem "other" that motivates these poor excuses for humanity.  Here are article excepts:
After eight years of feeling “like an outcast” as a Christian, David Cox has been walking a lot lighter the past few weeks.
Given an election where more evangelical Americans voted for twice-divorced Donald Trump than they did for church-going George W. Bush, Mr. Cox has witnessed a major mind-set shift among many fellow Evangelicals – from trepidation, even fear, to hope – a sense, he says, of “being accepted again.”
[H]e believes a Trump presidency will help reconnect the country to its Judeo-Christian values, much like his own 187-year-old Union United Methodist Church re-laid original antebellum wooden beams as the foundation when it built a new sanctuary in rural Georgia’s Henry County.
“Christians really got a chance to see what could happen to this country under Obama, and we knew we needed a change,” says the retired small-business owner, one of the 81 percent of Evangelicals who voted for Trump. “Now it’s liberals who are finding out that if you try to grab too much, it can come back to bite you – hard.”
In many ways, that is now the question before many Evangelicals like Cox: How much to push back. Should they attempt to roll back laws that they see as antithetical to Christian values – from LGBT rights to abortion – or should they focus on defending their constitutional right to freedom of religion, which they feel has been infringed upon?
The forces that would turn the tables on those who, many Evangelicals feel, have essentially targeted a Christian way of life are strong. But there is also evidence that some wish to use this moment to change the conversation to ensure that Christian concerns are more heard and respected going forward.
“Yes, there is a sense of relief [among Evangelicals],” says Michael Griffin, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga. “The perception of the Obama leadership allowed for extreme overreaching in LGBT activism, and that impetus is no longer going to be there.
For many Evangelicals, the Obama administration’s promotion of transgender rights on bathroom choice, as well as the mounting number of lawsuits against religious business owners has felt like persecution.
Some 32 percent of American evangelical leaders say they currently experience persecution for their faith, while 76 percent believe they will experience persecution in the form of social, financial, and political pressure in the future, according to an October survey by the National Association of Evangelicals.
Now, Republicans are marshaling forces to expand the ability to invoke religious values in the public square. Congressional leaders including Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah said this week that they will reintroduce the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA).
The bill would prohibit the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person who acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
Likewise, state legislators have been emboldened by Trump’s victory.
The lifting of a sense of persecution on one side, however, risks simply shifting it back to the other side, with the LGBT community, in particular, noting that they have felt persecuted for centuries. That looming clash could make common ground difficult to find, constitutional law experts say.
“The debate is [now] in the control of extremists on both sides: FADA goes way, way beyond small business and the wedding industry, and the gay-rights movement increasingly wants no religious exemptions of any kind – not even for religious nonprofits,” says Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia law professor.
Americans are divided on the extent to which the Constitution protects Christians and other religious adherents who say they are compelled by their beliefs to push back in some way. 
In my view, evangelical Christians should never "be accepted again."  Christianity helped bring on the Dark Ages and, if allowed, Evangelicals and their embrace of ignorance and rejection of science are a threat to the nation's future. They need to be defeated as a force in society once and for all.  Let them worship as they wish, but keep their poisonous views out of public policy and the civil laws.