Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Male Beauty - Pt 2

click image to enlarge

Fraudulent "Ex-Gay" Therapy Advocates Thrilled by Trump/GOP Agenda

Last night ABC's 20/20 did a special on so-called conversion therapy which allegedly turns those that are LGBT into heterosexuals.  The practice is condemned by EVERY legitimate medical and mental health association in America and amounts to nothing less than psychological - and sometimes physical - torture of those often placed in the fraudulent programs by parents desperate not to have a gay child due to religious brainwashing and self-absorption and embarrassment.  A few states have banned the practice on those under the age of 18, but a huge loop hole exists for "religious" organizations and churches.  Vice President Pence is a huge advocate of this form of torture, and Der Trumpenführer sold his soul to the Christofascists who support these programs because (i) they are cash cows for organizations that run them, and (ii) they maintain the myth in the minds of many that sexual orientation is a choice regardless of what true experts say.  To me, such programs are further proof that religion is one of the great evils in the world.  Here are highlights from ABC News on this foul practice and how Trump/Pence has excited its disgusting advocates (Peter Sprigg who is mentioned in the piece has ZERO credentials that qualify him to opine on the subject other than his extremist religious beliefs): 
Advocates of long-discredited gay conversion therapy programs say they are heartened by the election of Donald Trump and are counting on Vice President Mike Pence and congressional Republicans to help fight off efforts to make such programs illegal.
“I certainly hope that this administration will pull back from some of the aggressive activism that the Obama administration engaged in,” said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a powerful conservative lobbying group in Washington that is active in supporting sexual reorientation efforts.
President Obama's Surgeon General Vivek Murthy publicly stated that “conversion therapy is not sound medical practice” and that such programs “are harmful and are not appropriate therapeutic practices.”
Conversion therapy has been outlawed for licensed mental health providers in California, Oregon, New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois and the District of Colombia, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group.
The Family Research Council and Sprigg have helped to fight legislative proposals in 20 other states that would make gay conversion therapy illegal.
“They certainly should not be outlawed. They certainly should not be prohibited by law,” Sprigg said in an interview to be broadcast this Friday on the ABC News program “20/20” in an investigation of gay conversion therapy programs. 
“As a Christian, I believe that the Bible teaches that to choose to engage in homosexual conduct is a sin,” he said, adding that he believes therapy can cause people to make different choices.
The “20/20” report includes revelations of two programs that conducted conversion therapy in Alabama, including one in which Christian pastors overseeing dozens of teens were convicted of child abuse amid stark allegations of beatings administered to teens who resisted efforts to change their sexual orientation.
The camps practicing conversion therapy uncovered by the “20/20” investigation were not operating as licensed mental health facilities and are therefore not covered by laws prohibiting the practice.
At the Republican National Convention last year, delegates voted for a party platform that appeared to tacitly endorse the right of parents to send their teens to conversion programs, supporting the “right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children.”
Sprigg said that his groups does not believe that “same-sex attractions are a choice” but that he also does “not believe that experiencing same-sex attractions is a normal and natural variant of human sexuality.”
He added that he believes Pence will be helpful in any battle with what he called the “gay lobby.”
In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its diagnostic manual, the field’s definitive book of mental disorders.
In 1975 the American Psychological Association said, “Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability or general social and vocational capabilities; further, the American Psychological Association urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.”
And in 1993 the American Academy of Pediatrics denounced conversion therapy, saying, "Therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”
Despite these unequivocal positions from the foremost U.S. mental health organizations, the “20/20” investigation found a cottage industry of so-called conversion camps operating across the country.
To learn more, and hear the harrowing story of how two gay youths escaped such camps, tune in to “20/20” on Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern time. 

If you missed the show, please watch it on demand.  These camps and their advocates are dangerous and often push detainees to suicide or, at a minimum, leave lasting emotional and psychological harm (an ex-boyfriend had been in such a program and it truly damaged him).  I myself tried to "pray away the gay" for 37 years and it simply does not work.  Self-hatred and thoughts of suicide are the only results. 

Are Liberals Underestimating the Danger of the Alt-Right?

Throughout my years of activism, in educational issues, as a Republican activist, and now as an LGBT activist, I have personally believed in a confrontational approach while armed with facts and data is always preferred to a polite and non-confrontational approach.  Yes, you hurt some feelings, but sometimes feelings need to be hurt and lies and hypocrisy need to be harshly confronted.  In the current political atmosphere where Republicans, Der Trumpenführer, and their Alt-Right allies are destroyng environmental protects, education and degrading healthcare coverage - mental health coverage will no longer have to be covered - "playing nice" is not enough.  Indeed, history and the rise of past fascist regimes shows that liberals need to grow a spine and cease being afraid of confrontation.  If "friends" are offended and are willing to be complicit in immoral actions, then you do not need them as friends.  A column in Salon looks at these issues:
Since the election of Donald Trump as president, liberals and leftists have been discussing how to best respond to American conservatism’s transformation from a shopworn, Cold War, anti-government philosophy into something else.
To the anarchists and socialists who consider themselves part of the global “antifa” movement (an abbreviation for “anti-fascist”), the transition currently taking place on the right is all too familiar. The rise of the alt-right and white nationalism within the U.S. is something the mainstream left doesn’t take seriously enough, they say, even as many Democrats compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.
 If it is true that the civic nationalism of Trump and his top strategist Steve Bannon are helping to lay the groundwork for a more radical right — intentionally or otherwise — then their self-described opponents on the left need to do more than wear safety pins and post Facebook denunciations of the president they didn’t vote for say the antifa advocates.
Instead of merely talking among themselves about opposing racism, say the anti-fascists, leftists need to take direct action to make being a white nationalist as difficult as possible. That’s why many antifa proponents have concentrated their efforts on tactics such as targeting the financial means of support for websites they see as enabling or promoting fascist views; they have even engaged in acts of physical assault against members of the far right.
“Only by fighting and destroying fascism can we actually defeat it,” an anonymous member of the website It’s Going Down told Salon via email. . . . they take politics much more soberly than their less extreme counterparts do. For the antifas, understanding that white nationalists are deadly serious about instigating a “racial holy war” is the key to countering them.
“During the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany, while anarchists and communists were literally fighting the fascists in the streets, the liberals and social democrats attempted to debate the Nazis point for point in the halls of power,” the anonymous activist continued. “This did nothing, and also normalized the positions of the Nazis and also made them into legitimate positions.”
Liberalism [has] proven itself unable to prevent the rise of fascism over and over again,” the activists wrote. “By the time liberals are comfortable with cracking down on fascism, it’s almost always too late.
Beyond targeting far-right activists’ financial means and showing up to physically confront them at their events, many antifa activists have made it their mission to expose the true identities of popular alt-right figures so they cannot hide behind pseudonyms. The Nebraska activists provided an example of this tactic in December when they exposed the identity of Cooper Ward, a University of Nebraska student who was outed as the co-host of a popular neo-Nazi podcast. He quit the podcast program after being identified and hasn’t returned.
Antifa activists also take issue with liberals who think that letting people with racist or anti-Semitic views state them publicly somehow serves as a method of relieving societal pressures. Instead, as an anonymous essayist on the anarchist website CrimethInc wrote, such expressions merely increase the reach and influence of the far right:
Fascists are only attempting to express their views “peacefully” in order to lay the groundwork for violent activity. Because fascists require a veneer of social legitimacy to be able to carry out their program, giving them a platform to speak opens the door to their being able to do physical harm to people. Public speech promoting ideologies of hate, whether or not you consider it violent on its own, always complements and correlates with violent actions. By affiliating themselves with movements and ideologies based on oppression and genocide, fascists show their intention to carry on these legacies of violence — but only if they can develop a base of support.
By definition, the antifa arguments are both radical and controversial. The unanswered question is whether liberals, moderates and others who oppose the radical right can learn something from the antifa activists’ confrontational stance. Or will the violent tactics they advocate only worsen tensions in a divided society and beget more violence?
I do not condone violence.  That said, sometimes quiet, peaceful protests may not be enough, especially when confronted with white supremacists and alt-right violence and viciousness.  

Trump Scammed Many of His working-Class Supporters

I have said hat a vote or Trump and/or Republicans is akin to a 1930's German Jew voting for the Nazi Party.  Yes, we have heard all about the smoke screen that working class whites voted for Trump due to economic concerns rather than admit that Trump/GOP appeals to racism, Christian Right extremism, and anti-immigrant hatred were their true motivation.  As the GOP replacement for Obamacare has been rolled out, it is becoming clear that many of these Trump voters are about to realize that they were scammed and sold a false bill of goods.  As noted, if enacted, Trumpcare will hit Trump voting "red states" particularly hard.  Yet another column looks the way in which these folks are about to e royally screwed,  Do I feel sorry for them?  Not at all - they need to reap what they have sown.  Here are column highlights:
Ever since President Trump was elected, launching the latest GOP drive to destroy Obamacare, some of us speculated that the GOP approach would hit many Trump voters hard. Trump strongly indicated to his working-class white supporters that he would not adopt a typical Republican’s ideological stance on health care that would leave many of them stranded. But now he has.
new analysis by Nate Cohn of the Upshot confirms that Trump supporters may have the most to lose from the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This chart summarizes its key finding, which is that those groups that stand to lose the most in subsidies to pay for health coverage on the individual market backed Trump:
·        Those who stand to lose more than $7,500 in subsidies went for Trump by 58-39.
Those who stand to lose between $5,000 and $7,500 went for Trump by 60-35.
·        Those who stand to lose between $2,500 and $5,000 went for Trump by 49-45.
·        Those who stand to lose between $1,000 and $2,500 went for Trump by 46-46.
To oversimplify, the analysis combined data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which estimated how the GOP bill would impact people based on age, income and location of their insurance market, with data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, which surveyed tens of thousands of voters about their health care and their 2016 presidential vote.
The above conclusion is driven by the fact that the GOP plan, which replaces Obamacare’s subsidies with a tax credit scheme, ends up offering less financial assistance to older, lower-income Americans, particularly in rural areas where premiums are higher — groups that tended to support Trump. On top of that, the plan would permit for higher premiums on older Americans (which is one reason AARP opposes it).
This new analysis reflects only part of the way Trump voters could be impacted by the GOP plan. It does not estimate its direct impact on those benefiting from the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. But there is reason to believe a lot of them, too, would be adversely impacted.
It is true that many Trump voters who benefit from ACA are still unhappy because of problems with its subsidy scheme. But the GOP plan would not solve this; it would be less generous. It is also true that Trump’s appeal to working-class whites centers not just on his vow of safety net help, but also of jobs — a promise to bring manufacturing and coal jobs roaring back, and with it, the restoration of the old economic order.
Trump did not only promise to restore that old economic order, via renegotiated trade deals and infrastructure spending (there is no assurance that under Trump either of these will actually do that, by the way). He also telegraphed that he envisions a robust government role in protecting the old, poor and sick and that this would guide the GOP replacement for Obamacare. This combination was arguably a driver of Trumpism’s appeal. But if he fails to carry out the former promise, even as he is now reneging on the latter one, the outcome for many Trump supporters could be doubly cruel. And it is almost certainly not what they thought they were voting for.

I'm sorry, they knew what they were voting for: white supremacy and special rights for Christofascists.  They deserve whatever misfortunes befall them.  As noted before, they did this to themselves and they will bet no sympathy from me.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, March 10, 2017

GOP Plan Makes Health Insurance Less Affordable in High-Cost States

Paul Ryan - one of the most dishonest men in Congress, in my view - pretends that the Republican abortion that he and his party are pushing makes healthcare "more affordable" and gives Americans "freedom" to select a healthcare plan that fits their needs.  The truth, of course, is something far different and underscores the reality that if Ryan's lips are moving, it is a near 100% bet that he's lying.  The chart above shows how residents in some states would be especially hard hit in the drop in subsidies that would otherwise assist them in paying health insurance premiums. The irony is that some of the states hardest hit are so-called "red states" that voted for Der Trumpenführer.  As a column in the New York Times notes, the poor and the elderly (who could be charged far more) are the hardest hit.  The main beneficiaries?  The wealthy who will see significant tax cuts in accordance with Ryan and the GOP's reverse Robin Hood agenda.  Here are column highlights:
It has long been obvious to anyone following health policy that Republicans would never devise a workable replacement for Obamacare. But the bill unveiled this week is worse than even the cynics expected; its awfulness is almost surreal. And the process by which it came to be tells you a lot about the state of the G.O.P.
Given the rhetoric Republicans have used over the past seven years to attack health reform, you might have expected them to do away with the whole structure of the Affordable Care Act — deregulate, de-subsidize and let the magic of the free market do its thing. This would have been devastating for the 20 million Americans who gained coverage thanks to the act, but at least it would have been ideologically consistent.
But Republican leaders weren’t willing to bite that bullet. What they came up with instead was a dog’s breakfast that conservatives are, with some justice, calling Obamacare 2.0. But a better designation would be Obamacare 0.5, because it’s a half-baked plan that accepts the logic and broad outline of the Affordable Care Act while catastrophically weakening key provisions. If enacted, the bill would almost surely lead to a death spiral of soaring premiums and collapsing coverage. Which makes you wonder, what’s the point?
Obamacare rests on three main pillars. Insurance companies are regulated, prevented from denying coverage or charging higher prices to Americans with pre-existing conditions. Families receive subsidies linked to both income and premiums, to help them buy insurance. And there is a penalty for those who don’t buy insurance, to induce people to sign up even if they’re currently healthy.
Trumpcare — the White House insists that we not call it that, which means that we must — preserves some version of all three elements, but in drastically, probably fatally weakened form.
Insurers are still barred from excluding the sick, but they’re allowed to charge older Americans — who need insurance the most — much higher premiums.
Subsidies are still there, in the form of tax credits, but they’re no longer linked to either income (as long as it’s below $75,000) or the cost of insurance.
Affluent young people might end up saving some money as a result of these changes. But the effect on those who are older and less affluent would be devastating. AARP has done the math: a 55-year-old making $25,000 a year would end up paying $3,600 a year more for coverage; that rises to $8,400 for a 64-year-old making $15,000 a year. And that’s before the death spiral.
The result would be even more people dropping out. Republicans have been claiming that Obamacare is collapsing, which isn’t true. But Trumpcare, if implemented, would collapse in a Mar-a-Lago minute.
How could House Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who the media keeps assuring us is a smart, serious policy wonk, have produced such a monstrosity? Two reasons.
First, the G.O.P.’s policy-making and policy analysis capacity has been downgraded to the point of worthlessness. There are real conservative policy experts, but the party doesn’t want them, perhaps because their very competence makes them ideologically unreliable — a proposition illustrated by the rush to enact this bill before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office can estimate either its costs or its effects. Basically, facts and serious analysis are the modern right’s enemies; policy is left to hacks who can’t get even the simplest things right.
Second, Republicans seem to have been undone by their reverse-Robin-Hood urges. You can’t make something like Obamacare work without giving lower-income families enough support that insurance becomes affordable. But the modern G.O.P. always wants to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted; so the bill ends up throwing away the taxes on the rich that help pay for subsidies, and redirects the subsidies themselves away from those who need them to those who don’t.
[Y]ou might ask what happened to all those proclamations that Obamacare was a terrible, no good system that Republicans would immediately replace with something far better . . . . the answer, of course, is that they were all lying, all along — and they still are. On this, at least, Republican unity remains impressively intact.

Mike Flynn Worked as a “Foreign Agent” While With Trump Campaign

Yet more foreign entanglements with foreign governments and Trump campaign officials were revealed today with the news that Mike Flynn, Der Trumpenführer's short-lived National Security Adviser, was receiving payments from the Trurkish government throughout much of the time he was with the Trump campaign.  True to form, Flynn had lied about the connections with Turkey - and the over $500,000 he received - and one can only wonder what else has Flynn lied about.  More importantly, what is Trump lying about?  Frighteningly, a growing number of Trump/Russia ties continue to be revealed and, combined with the new admission that Trump directed the change in the GOP platform in respect to Ukraine, suggest that collusion with Russia to throw the 2016 campaign to Trump may have occurred.  Here are highlights from Vox on Flynn's ties to Turkey:
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in February after lying about his contacts with the Russian government, has formally registered with the Justice Department as a “foreign agent” and admitted that he had lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government as recently as November 2016.
As the Associated Press reports, Flynn’s lawyer filed paperwork with the Justice Department Tuesday disclosing that the retired Army general had done lobbying work between August and November 2016 that “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” According to the filing, Flynn’s company, Flynn Intel Group Inc., was paid at least $530,000 for the work.
[T]he disclosure that Trump’s top campaign adviser on all issues of national security and foreign policy was receiving money to lobby on behalf of a foreign power all the way through Election Day is another black eye for Flynn, who has the rare distinction of having been fired by two US presidents (Barack Obama ousted him because of his mismanagement of the Defense Intelligence Agency). The FBI is also continuing to probe Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the aftermath of the election.
Suspicions about Flynn’s ties to the Turkish government were sparked by an op-ed he wrote in the Hill on November 8 that basically read like a bald piece of Turkish propaganda. In it, Flynn, who had been Trump’s top national security aide during the campaign, slammed the outgoing Obama administration — and the US media more broadly — for not being supportive enough of Turkey’s autocratic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
To summarize: A Trump campaign surrogate with substantial influence over the incoming president’s foreign policy views wrote an article parroting a conspiracy theory propagated by the Turkish government to justify a brutal and far-reaching crackdown on political dissent.
That got some American journalists wondering if there was something more there. And sure enough, just three days after the op-ed ran, the Daily Caller published a stunning report showing very suggestive links between Flynn's consulting firm and the Turkish government.
[A]s the AP report notes, “neither Flynn nor his company had filed paperwork with the Justice Department, which requires more extensive transparency about work that benefits foreign governments and political interests.”
After the Daily Caller report, Flynn’s company flatly denied having any ties to the Turkish government.
The new Justice Department documents essentially confirm that — contrary to the claims of both Kelley and Alptekin — the lobbying that Flynn Intel Group technically did for Inovo was actually being done on behalf of the Turkish government.
[Flynn] was literally acting as an agent of a foreign government right up to the point that he became Trump’s national security adviser, and during a time when he was acting as a top Trump campaign surrogate.
Given Trump's constant criticism during the campaign about the Clinton Foundation taking money from foreign countries, and Flynn’s own criticism of Hillary Clinton’s “lack of accountability,” this is pretty rich.
These latest revelations suggest that Flynn’s failure to be fully forthcoming about his ties to a foreign government didn’t stop with Russia.

NARTH Ex-Gay Torture Founder Joseph Nicolosi Dead

Nicolosi - the face of hate and evil
One of the biggest lies promoted by the Christofascists  - and even the Vatican - is the myth that sexual orientation is a "choice" and that through "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy," gays could become heterosexual.  All gays needed to do was admit their sinful behavior and decide to "change."  One of the high priests of this dishonest campaign was Joseph Nicolosi, a co-founder of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which peddled the "choice" myth for decades - and made a plush living "treating" desperate gays and getting paid for speaking engagements at Christofascist venues.  As The Daily Beast reports, Nicolosi died today at age 70, leaving behind him a wake of lives damaged - or ended through suicide -  by the foul lies and practices Nicolosi championed.  Here are highlights on the passing of this foul individual:
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a co-founder of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and a prominent figure in the ex-gay movement, has passed away, the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, where he served as clinical director, confirmed over the phone to The Daily Beast. Nicolosi, 70, was a practitioner of conversion or reparative therapy, treatments intended to change a person’s sexual orientation that have been widely denounced by major medical associations—including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association—and banned by legislation in five states: Vermont, Oregon, New Jersey, Illinois, and California.

As noted in numerous previous posts, Nicolosi and other practitioners of "conversion therapy"  not only enriched themselves at the expense of others, but also aided GOP allies by claiming that LGBT nondiscrimination protections  are unnecessary since homosexuality is a choice and a behavior, not an inherent characteristic. I may sound cruel, but the world is a better place now that Nicolosi has left it.  The damage he did will long out live him. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Religious Right's Hypocrisy Filled Battle on Trump’s Behalf

I have long argued that there is no group of individuals more immoral and morally bankrupt than the so-called "Christian Right" who I refer to as the Christofascists.   They feign piety and wear their fake religiosity on their sleeves even as they support Republicans pushing policies that are the antithesis of the Gospel message.  Hate, bigotry and misogyny are their hallmarks.  And then there is their allegiance to Der Trumpenführer, who as you will recall made these remarks:
You know and ...She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.
I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
I did try and fuck her. She was married.
You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything. . . . Oh, it looks good.
Yes, the infamous Access Hollywood tape.   Not exactly exemplary language in any context much less among those who claim to be devout Christians - although, they ceased to be that many years ago when white nationalism and GOP greed and bigotry driven politics became their true gospel.  Now, despite ample evidence that Donald Trump is a pathological liar and that the GOP policies that they support will harm millions of Americans, the Christofascists are rallying to Trump's defense.  Their moral bankruptcy is now complete.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at how low these people have stooped.  Here are excerpts:  
President Trump’s escalation of his inflammatory claims that Obama loyalists are out to get him, . . . .  has brought his Breitbart-fueled siege mentality to a new level of conspiracy-mongering.
A host of fact-checks and explainers have poked holes in Trump’s claims, pointing out that they lack any evidence or substantiation. But even as the mainstream media has attempted to re-attach the public to reality, another group of people is already showing signs that it may rise to his defense: the religious right.
In so doing, the religious right — a core Trump constituency — is revealing something interesting about the bond that these millions of Americans have formed with Trump. His religious-right defenders see themselves as warriors in an epic battle for Christian America, not unlike the one underlying the agenda envisioned by top Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon — and as Trump hunkers down, they are invested in the narrative that Trump’s critics are satanic enemies bent on destroying him.
White evangelicals are Trump’s most ardent supporters. A January Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 66 percent of white evangelicals had a favorable view of Trump, the only religious constituency boasting a majority with a positive impression of him. 
Now religious-right figures are rising to Trump’s defense in the battle over whether Obama tapped his phones. For instance, Charisma magazine, a leading source for charismatic and Pentecostal writings, is credulously citing Breitbart as proof of the need for a congressional investigation of Trump’s claim that Obama ordered the wiretap. Charisma has long been a cheerleader for Trump; during the campaign, it promoted widely disseminated comparisons of Trump to the Persian King Cyrus, referred to in the Book of Isaiah as God’s “anointed” one.
Meanwhile, the Christian Broadcasting Network, which has long provided Trump favorable coverage, has also lent support to Trump’s claim about Obama.
The larger context here is that the religious right is girding for a much longer fight alongside Trump. His signing of his new travel ban today will signal to the religious right that he remains a strong defender of their Christian nation. A Pew pollin February found that 76 percent of white evangelicals supported his original executive order, and a Public Religion Research Institute poll found that white evangelicals are the only constituency whose support for a Muslim ban has grown since last year.
The policy-focused segment of the religious right . . . .  regularly praise the president in the hopes that he will grant their wishes for nominations and appointments, and will eventually sign a broad executive order creating unprecedented religious exemptions for opponents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and reproductive rights.
In a sense, what we’re seeing is a developing alliance of sorts between Breitbart and the religious right. Some of the religious right’s rhetoric about the Trump era has echoes in the worldview of Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and the mastermind of the Breitbart style.
[S]ome leading religious-right pundits appear ready to defend what they see as a Christian America, led by Trump, that is under attack by enemies, which include the left, the so-called “deep state,” Obama, a Muslim fifth column, and what they portray as immigrant and refugee criminal elements. 
This fuses two Trump allies in a shared belief in a civilizational showdown. With the White House giving all indications that it will stand by the notion that Obama wiretapped Trump’s phones, it would not be surprising if more religious-right figures rallied behind the claim, leading millions of evangelical Christian voters to believe it.

When the nation hopefully throws off the Trump regime - and hopefully, Congressional Republicans as well - one hope I have is that the Christofascists will have so discredited themselves and showed their moral bankruptcy that the exodus from religion becomes a stampede.  Both Trump and his Christofascist supporters are despicable and reprehensible.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Hospitals and Health Groups Denounce GOP Healthcare Bill

Ready to screw over working class families

To the surprise of few, the Republican Party's proposed replacement for the Affordable Health Care Act is a true abortion and despite the bloviating - translate lies - of Republicans, the plan would leave millions without the ability to secure coverage.  Two of the components Congressional Republicans blather about the most are basically worthless to lower income Americans: (i) tax credits, and (ii) health savings accounts ("HSA").  If you aren't making much money and are paying little in taxes, giving you a tax credit goes nowhere near providing the funds to purchase healthcare coverage.  The same more or less goes with having an HSA.  If you don't have the funds to fund the account - and most working class Americans don't - you are left with nothing.  In short, the GOP message to many Americans is that if you get sick, just go ahead and die.  As Congressman Joe Kennedy III noted, the plan is the reverse of the Gospel message Republicans falsely claim to honor.  The New York Times looks at the condemnation coming from hospitals - some of which would likely go into bankruptcy under the GOP plan - and other health care groups.  Here are excerpts:
Influential groups representing hospitals and nurses came out on Wednesday against a Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, joining doctors and the retirees’ lobby to warn that it would lead to a rise in the uninsured.
In a letter to lawmakers, major hospital groups wrote, “As organizations that take care of every individual who walks through our doors, both due to our mission and our obligations under federal law, we are committed to ensuring health care coverage is available and affordable for all.”
The groups, including the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the Children’s Hospital Association, said they could not support the bill “as currently written.”
The hospitals and the American Nurses Association joined the American Medical Association and AARP, which rejected the bill on Tuesday.
Squeezed between wary health care providers and angry conservatives who believe that the bill leaves too much of the Affordable Care Act in place, the Republican leadership and President Trump appear to be facing an uphill climb.
But the White House appears increasingly confident about the prospects for a health care overhaul to pass in the House. In a meeting with conservative leaders in the Oval Office on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said he anticipated the most trouble in the Senate, where moderate and conservative lawmakers are opposing the plan for different reasons. He said he was prepared to pressure holdout senators by holding the kind of stadium-style rallies he led during his presidential campaign.
The array of groups taking strong positions against the bill is evidence that its potential consequences extend far beyond health insurance coverage, to much of the nation’s economy.
The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation issued estimates this week showing how much revenue the government could lose starting in 2018 under the Republican bill, which the party has called the American Health Care Act, as a result of repealing taxes on drug makers (nearly $25 billion over 10 years), insurers (nearly $145 billion), makers of medical devices (nearly $20 billion), and high-income households (more than $270 billion from taxes on earned income and investment income).
The A.M.A., which has nearly 235,000 members and calls itself the voice of the medical profession, sent a letter to leaders of the two committees on Tuesday saying it could not support the Republican bill “because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations.”
In particular, the group said it opposed a plan to replace the sliding, income-based premium tax credits provided under the Affordable Care Act with fixed credits based on age. The current system, it said, “provides the greatest chance that those of the least means are able to purchase coverage.”
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance lobby, released its own lengthy statement on Wednesday. In a letter to the leaders of the House committees that drafted the bill, Marilyn B. Tavenner, the group’s chief executive, warned Republican leaders that their plans to change Medicaid financing, among other things, could harm coverage and care.
A day earlier, AARP — the association of middle-aged and older Americans that is another crucial supporter of the Affordable Care Act — declared its opposition to the bill and even started running an ad against it. In a letter to Congress, the group said the bill would increase health costs for people ages 50 to 64, could lead to cuts in Medicaid coverage of long-term care and would allow insurers to charge older people five times as much as younger ones.
There was also a creeping concern about how quickly the bill was moving. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, essentially promised to move the bill to the Senate floor without the hearings and other processes that are normal for such a far-reaching piece of legislation. He had promised when Republicans took the majority that they would honor normal Senate processes and traditions.
“I think if that’s the approach they take,” Mr. Rubio said, “they won’t have the votes in the Senate.”
Note the $270 billion tax cut to high income households and huge cuts to insurance companies.  That is what this bill is really all about.  Working class whites who fell for the GOP's appeals to racism, bigotry and religious extremism are about to learn that the GOP cares nothing about them and is going to f*ck them over thoroughly.  I have no pity for these people if this happens.  They did this to themselves and deserve to suffer greatly.

Trump Has Mainstreamed the Alt-Right, Racism and Bigotry

Threats against Jewish community centers across the country have sky rocketed, anti-LGBT violence is on the rise, and the dehumanization of Muslims and Mexican immigrants has the imprimatur of the White House.  Yet, many Republicans continue to close their eyes to what is happening and most certainly disavow any responsibility for the hate and ugliness that is now being mainstreamed and made acceptable (at least in some quarters) by Der Trumpenführer and his inner circle, many of whom are reminiscent of the thugs and losers who comprised Hitler's inner circle.  I believe that Republicans and other Trump voters need to be held personally accountable for what they have set in motion be it due to their own hatred towards others who are different, their laziness in not bothering to educate themselves on what they were voting for, or general indifference.  Republicans like to talk about "personal responsibility" and "holding people accountable,"so it's time to apply their words against them.  A column in the Washington Post underscores the responsibility of Trump and his Republican enablers in mainstreaming white supremacists and other hate merchants.  Here are column excerpts:
Leading conservatives have taken to pretending that the alt-right is a fringe movement that they and President Trump have disavowed. In recent interviews and at a high-profile conservative conference last month, conservatives have taken great pains to distance conservatism — and the Trump administration — from any alt-right influence.
But here’s the reality: The alt-right’s deep influence over this White House is on display daily — in Trump’s rhetoric and his administration’s policies. The alt-right influence on Trump matters: it means the most powerful man in the world is under the influence of a racist and white nationalist movement. And conservatives should reckon with this more forthrightly.
For instance, note this podcast that the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart conducted with American Conservative Union president Matt Schlapp. Capehart pointed out that Stephen K. Bannon and Stephen Miller are Trump’s top White House advisers, and asked: “Doesn’t that mean, that despite the concerns, the alt-right is now mainstreamed, if not the power within the White House?” Schlapp flatly denied that the alt-right had been mainstreamed in this manner.
Bannon — who is now Trump’s most influential adviser — told me last summer, when he was chairman of Breitbart, that his site was “the platform for the alt-right.” Capehart questioned Schlapp about this, but Schlapp argued, implausibly, that this is not as significant as it appears.
Yet Breitbart was and remains one-stop shopping for readers looking for anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-refugee rhetoric and disinformation, as well as stories about “black crime.”
This echoed similar head-in-the sand denials that were on full display last month at the ACU’s Conservative Political Action Conference.
The reality is that it is under Bannon’s influence that the administration has taken its actions that most thrill the alt-right, most notably his moves to step up deportation of undocumented immigrants, and ban refugees and migrants from Muslim-majority countries.
When Bannon and I spoke this summer, he tried to deny to me that the alt-right is a white nationalist movement, although he did concede that white nationalists and anti-Semites could be attracted to “some of the philosophies of the alt-right.” But, as I have written after Trump tapped him to head up his campaign, Bannon nonetheless praised the deeply Islamophobic ethno-nationalism on the rise in Europe, like the National Front in France, led by far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
And then there’s Trump’s choice of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. During the transition, alt-right leaders were delighted with the Sessions pick, pointing to his opposition to immigration as well as their hope that he would stop enforcing civil rights laws and might even prosecute Black Lives Matter protesters.
As Emily Bazelon writes, Sessions has long been a devoted Breitbart reader, and met regularly with the site’s writers. Trump’s dark vision of America as besieged by inner city crime, immigrants, and refugees, Bazelon notes, “provides clear justification for policies that will advance Sessions, Bannon and Miller’s divisive nationalism.”
Trump’s false claims about voter fraud are straight out of the ugly maw of alt-right meme-making, portraying supposed voter fraud as a scourge perpetrated by African-Americans and undocumented immigrants — a possible signal that a crackdown on voting rights is coming, one that Sessions would likely help carry out from the Justice Department.
[T]he reality is that Trumpism would not exist without the alt-right. Conservatives can pretend it’s fringe and has little to no influence on the Trump administration — but the proof is in the policy.

Betsy DeVos Meets with LGBT Groups

I opposed Betsy DeVos' appointment as the Secretary of Education in light of her history of working to defund public education and shift tax dollars to private and religious schools.  Then, of course, their is the issue of the millions of dollars that her family has given to anti-gay groups over the years. That said, DeVos reportedly opposed the reversal of the Obama administration's positions on Title IX and transgender rights and had to be "taken to the woodshed" by Der Trumpenführer at the Oval Office to get her on board with the changes which will inflict real harm on real individuals.  Now, in an apparent show that she represents the interest of all citizens, not just racists and extreme homophobes, DeVos meet with LGBT groups to discuss the issue of transgender rights.  Do I trust the woman?  Definitely not, but she at least is showing signs that she realizes the scope and responsibilities of her position.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Blade:
Representatives from a trio of LGBT organizations and families with transgender kids met Wednesday with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the aftermath of the Justice and Education Departments revoking Obama-era guidance assuring transgender students access to the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.
Mara Keisling, executive director of National Center for Transgender Equality, said the meeting came about as a result of the Trump administration rescinding the guidance, which informed discriminating against transgender students would violate Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. 
“They made an arbitrary, political, ideological decision to hurt trans youth, so we wanted to talk to them about enforcing the law that they’re statutorily required to enforce,” Keisling said.
The meeting was set up as a result of efforts by Equality Michigan, which is the state LGBT group for DeVos’ home state of Michigan and where she once served as head of the Michigan Republican Party. According to Equality Michigan, the Education Department informed the organization on Friday she had agreed to the meeting.
Stephanie White, executive director of Equality Michigan, said her organization sought out the meeting to convey the “profound negative consequences” of the withdrawal of the guidance protecting transgender students.
“We also ensured that the secretary heard from transgender students and their parents directly about the impact of discrimination and harassment at school,” White said. “We wanted her to understand that these are life and death issues for transgender young people across the country and that we will not waver or compromise in our commitment to ensuring that every student, regardless of their gender identity, is provided with equal protection and opportunity to thrive.”
In a statement, DeVos said she’s “grateful for the opportunity” to speak with families and LGBT rights supporters “about their concerns, thoughts, fears and suggestions.”
“Every school and every school leader has a moral responsibility to protect all students and ensure every child is respected and can learn in an accepting environment,” DeVos said. “I remain committed to advocating for and fighting on behalf of all students. Today’s meeting was compelling, moving and welcomed, and part of an ongoing dialogue with families and students throughout the country.”
The meeting, Keisling said, was with DeVos as opposed to Sessions or White House officials because the Obama-era guidance came from the Education Department and the Education Department would be responsible for putting it back in place.
“That’s where the guidance is, that’s who has to enforce Title IX and that’s who allegedly cares about students,” Keisling said, adding she was unsure if any effort was made for LGBT groups to meet with Sessions or LGBT groups.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Right/GOP's Psychology of Dehumanization

Throughout history one of the key elements of setting the stage for genocide has been the dehumanization of others.  Once the opponent becomes less than fully human, killing men, women and children becomes far easier on one's conscience - assuming you have one.  We have seen this taken to a high art in Nazi Germany where a campaign of making Jews less than fully human was pressed by the Nazi regime with horrific results.  Often religion has fostered a similar dehumanization and hatred of non-believers or those of differing faiths.  The Crusades are but one example.  The conflict in Northern Ireland where Catholics and Protestants dehumanized each other that costs so many lives is yet another.  But genocide and mass murder are not always the only example.  The Christofascists have sought to dehumanize gays for many decades and have pursued a campaign to depict gays not only as a threat to society and children, but as promiscuous, sex obsessed alcoholics/drug users.  More recently, we saw the Trump/Pence campaign use the dehumanization of others and racism to win the votes of white voters.  That dehumanization effort continues with the efforts to depict Muslims and brown skinned immigrants as a threat and "other."  The recent proposal to separate illegal immigrant mothers from their children is symptomatic.  As a commentator on radio asked, how many white Americans would approve such treatment for themselves and their children.  The answer, of course is none.  But it's just fine for those deemed other and not fully human.  A piece in Vox looks at this dangerous phenomenon that the Trump regime, much to the praise and applauding of most Republicans, is pursuing.  Here are excerpts:
You can think of human psychology as a series of overlapping mental programs. One program identifies faces as individuals we recognize. Another is working memory, which allows us to make quick calculations in our heads. These programs were coded by evolution and help us survive every day; they are the sources of our ingenuity and our compassion. They are everything we are.
These mental programs — etched in all of us — are also the sources of horror and pain.
Nour Kteily is a psychologist at Northwestern University whose research is about understanding one of the darkest, most ancient, and most disturbing mental programs encoded into our minds: dehumanization, the ability to see fellow men and women as less than human.
[T]he prevailing wisdom has been that most people are not willing to admit to having prejudice against others.
Kteily suspected otherwise. And so he and his colleagues created a new way to measure people’s levels of blatant dehumanization of other groups. It’s not subtle.
In Kteily’s studies, participants — typically groups of mostly white Americans — are shown this (scientifically inaccurate) image of a human ancestor slowly learning how to stand on two legs and become fully human. And then they are told to rate members of different groups — such as Muslims, Americans, and Swedes — on how evolved they are on a scale of 0 to 100.
Many people in these studies give members of other groups a perfect score, 100, fully human. But many others give others scores putting them closer to animals.
“We have this incredible capacity for cooperation; it’s what makes us human in many ways,” Kteily says. “And yet we have this capacity for othering.”
And that conclusion is opening a Pandora’s box of revelations about the new wave of intolerance toward Muslims and immigrants in America under President Donald Trump — and what it could bring about.
“Dehumanization doesn’t only occur in wartime,” says Nick Haslam, a psychologist who is the world’s current leading expert on the topic. “It’s happening right here, right now. And every day, good people who don’t see themselves as being prejudiced bigots are nevertheless falling prey to it.”
Often “people’s spontaneous, knee-jerk reactions to other people who are dramatically different from them is negative,” says Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University and a leading expert on prejudice. This is especially true when we have quick, minimal exposure to them — as we do today via the media. These thin slices activate the us-versus-them conflict encoded in our minds since the dawn of humanity.
Look back at some of the most tragic episodes in human history and you will find words and images that stripped people of their basic human traits. In the Nazi era, the film The Eternal Jew depicted Jews as rats. During the Rwandan genocide, Hutu officials called Tutsis “cockroaches” that needed to be cleared out.
At Stanford, Albert Bandura, showed that when participants overhear an experimenter call another study subject “an animal,” they’re more likely to give that subject a painful shock. If you think of murder and torture as universally taboo, then dehumanization of the “other” is a psychological loophole that can justify them.
From these experiments, and those that followed, it became clear that “it’s extremely easy to turn down someone’s ability to see someone else in their full humanity,” says Adam Waytz, a psychologist at Northwestern University who studies how people think about minds and collaborates with Kteily. Even children as young as 5 years old see the world in terms of us versus them.
What’s shocking about Kteily’s results from the “Ascent of Man” experiment, she says, is that “people are willing to admit that they have relative scales of humanity in their heads.” . . . . With the “Ascent of Man” tool, Kteily and collaborators Emile Bruneau, Adam Waytz, and Sarah Cotterill found that on average, Americans rate other Americans as being highly evolved, with an average score in the 90s. But disturbingly, many also rated Muslims, Mexican immigrants, and Arabs as less evolved.
“We typically see scores that average 75, 76,” for Muslims, Kteily says. “Which I think is a lot on a scale that’s so extreme.” And about a quarter of study participants will rate Muslims on a score of 60 or below.
In the months since Donald Trump was elected president, it’s become shockingly commonplace for Americans to blatantly dehumanize Muslims and Mexican immigrants — and then use violence against them. Hate crimes against Muslims in the US are at their highest levels since 2001. In the 1970s, Bandura predicted that dehumanization leads to increased aggression. Today, Kteily and colleagues find something similar: Willingness to dehumanize on the “Ascent of Man” scale predicts aggressive attitudes toward the Muslim world.
[B]latant dehumanization of Muslims and Mexican immigrants was strongly correlated with Trump support — even when compared with support for other Republican candidates. The data is “consistent with the idea that support for some of the Republican candidates (and Trump in particular) comes not despite their dehumanizing rhetoric but in part because of it,” Kteily and Bruneau conclude in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
“What we have in this era that’s unique is the legitimizing of those perspectives with laws, with people in [positions] of authority,” she says. “It’s given license and legitimacy to these perspective. they’re not perspectives that people have to hide or sugar coat, or qualify in any way.”
It’s hard to draw a direct line from Trump to these incidents. But it’s plausible that he is emboldening people with these feelings, and helping to change norms around talking about members of other racial and ethnic groups.

Something very ugly and dangerous is happening that must be opposed and stopped.  For now, Muslims and Mexicans are the targets, but Der Trumpenführer will find other targets down the road.  If the First Amendment Defense Act passes, LGBT citizens will be legally lesser under the law and subject to unrestricted discrimination, a first big step in the dehumanization process.  Be very afraid of what Trump and the GOP are unleashing. ,