Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Charity Database Tags "Family Values" Organizations as Hate Groups

Tony Perkins - the white supremacist president of Family Research Council ("FRC") who is pictured above - is livid that charity database group Guidestar has tagged his organization and similar Christofascists groups a hate groups.  For those unfamiliar with Guidestar, it posts publicly available tax documents for charities to enable would donors to see which organizations make the best use of donated dollars and other information that is relevant to making charitable donations.  FRC is not the only "family values" organization that pretends to be an educational charity to receive the hate group designation even as it disseminates lies and untruths about gays and others.   Having followed the activities of FRC for roughly 20 years, there are few more dishonest organizations other than perhaps The American Family Association and Traditional Values Coalition.  All three are designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups across America due to the virulent lies and propaganda they publish (some have used Nazi like propaganda against LGBT individuals).  The Raw Story looks at these groups finally being exposed for what they are (The Family Foundation in Richmond needs to be added to the list).  Here are story highlights:
A non-profit resource that posts publicly available tax documents for charities has infuriated anti-gay Christian and conservative nonprofits by  using a widely available database at the Southern Poverty Law Center and tagging  each of them as a “hate group.” 
Charity database  GuideStar— which bills itself as “the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations” — now includes information provided by the SPLC.
Among the putative Christian non-profits with a political bent who made the “hate group”  list are the Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, Family Research Council, and the American Family Association — all of whom promote anti-LGBTQ policies,
Also being tagged with the “hate group” designation is the anti-Muslim group American Freedom Defense Initiative, headed by conservative gadfly Pam Geller.
As Guidestar notes on their website: “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a respected hate group watchdog. There is disagreement on some of SPLC’s specific choices, but on balance GuideStar believes the analysis is strong enough to share. We leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.”
Fearful that the “hate group” designation may be cutting into their non-profit cash haul, the groups are lashing out at Guidestar for “liberal bias.”
FRC vice president Jerry Boykin also blasted Guidestar, calling bet use of the database, “another attack on conservative Christian organizations and individuals.”
Greg Scott, the spokesperson for the Alliance Defending Freedom said his organization would like to ignore it, and attempted to dismiss the civil rights watchdog SPLC as a “tabloid’ operation.
Several of the organizations have pushed back at Guidestar, writing a letter at letter to CEO Jacob Harold that attacks the SPLC, saying it incited violence. . . .
“Despite its denials to the contrary, this highly refined method of ostracism and dehumanization practiced by the SPLC isn’t just about verbal debate – it can foreseeably lead to violence,” the letter read.

In truth, the only ones seeking to incite violence are these false charities.  It is long past time that they public be informed of their true toxic nature.  Kudos to Guidestar..   

The Catholic Church's New Assault on Gays

I have a Google search agent function that brings me stories from all around the world involving the sexual abuse of children and youths by Catholic clergy and, most typically, the Catholic hierarchy's efforts to protect predators and avoid paying compensation to victims.  While  the sex abuse scandal is no longer regular front page news in America, it continues to explode in many parts of the world ranging from Guam and Australia to parts of Africa and India.   The pattern is always the same: bishops and cardinals covering up sexual abuse and shuffling predators to new parishes where they could molest a new set of vulnerable victims.   And despite much hand wringing and lots of crocodile tears, the Church has not truly addressed the problem.  High clergy who enabled and covered up abuse continue to live in princely settings and have servile parishioners give them deference.  It is in this background that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois has launched an effort to deal with what he sees as the Church's biggest problem: married gays receiving communion and having church burials.  Child rape is fine, married gays threatens humanity in Paproki's twisted world. This would almost be humorous but for the fact that in reflects the continued moral bankruptcy of the Church leadership and a near psychosis when it comes to an obsession with gay sex.  Why any self-respecting LGBT person remains in the Catholic Church is mind numbing to me - I left Catholicism back in 2002 around the time the Boston Globe broke the story of the rampant abuse in Boston. A piece in NPR looks at Paprocki's new jihad against gays:
A Catholic bishop has instructed priests in his central Illinois diocese to deny communion, last rites and funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages – unless they repent.
In the decree he sent to priests, deacons, seminarians and staff in his Springfield diocese last week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki sets forth a set of norms on same-sex marriage and related pastoral issues that he says are the policy of the diocese.
Paprocki's decree bans priests and parish staff from performing same-sex marriages or allowing same-sex weddings or receptions at any Catholic facilities. People in same-sex marriages "should not present themselves for Holy Communion, nor should they be admitted to Holy Communion." A person in a same-sex marriage who is facing death may only receive communion after expressing "repentance for his or her sins."
Finally, Paprocki writes that "unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death," people in same-sex marriages may not receive a Catholic funeral.
The Springfield Diocese defends the decree as necessary "in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues."
A 2015 Supreme Court ruling made gay marriage legal across the United States, and Paprocki has made headlines with his opposition to gay marriage before. In 2013, he held an exorcism in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois.
"[T]he Church has not only the authority, but the serious obligation, to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage and to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state," it said in a statement to NPR. "Regarding the specific issue of funeral rites, people who had lived openly in same-sex marriage, like other manifest sinners that give public scandal, can receive ecclesiastical funeral rites if they have given some signs of repentance before their death."
The Archdiocese of Chicago told NPR that the policies decreed by Paprocki are not its own, but otherwise would not comment. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops directed a request for comment back to the Springfield diocese. . . . . "it's considered brutta figora – an ugly figure – to speak ill of other bishops on the record."
"The notion that a murderer could receive a Catholic funeral and someone in a same-sex union could not is absurd. ... Every Catholic deserves a Catholic funeral." 
Don't hold your breath waiting for Pope Francis to censure Paprocki - it simply will not happen. Meanwhile, my children (and grand children when they are older) are even more motivated to never darken the door of a Catholic church other than perhaps for a friend's wedding, although fewer and fewer Millennials are having church weddings at all. 

The Perversity of Trump and the Republican Party

click image to enlarge
I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to bemoaning and condemning what the Republican Party has become.  The election of Der Trumpenführer is but the culmination of two decades or more of descent into moral bankruptcy.  Throughout this descent we have witnessed never ending hypocrisy as the Republican Party falsely claims to be the party of Christian values, voices false concern about the average citizen, and, of course, pretense that it supports our men and women in uniform, and our military veterans.  Nothing could be farther from the truth if one looks at the actual facts and changes the channel from Fox New, a/k/a Faux News.  Like the Christofascists who have hijacked the party base, the safest bet nowadays is to assume that if a Republican elected officials lips are moving, he/she is lying.  Things truly have gotten that bad.  The newly released Senate Republican "healthcare reform" bill epitomizes the perversity of the GOP.  In deed, how "decent people" not driven by racism, religious extremism, greed and/or hatred of others can vote Republican makes me question their morality. 

For newer readers, many may not know of my son-in-law's story of being badly injured in Afghanistan while on his third tour in that hell hole of a country. His recovery was remarkable and he is now back in college securing a new degree that will allow him to give back to others the type of care that helped him make it through his nightmare experience.  His experience and meeting a number of his friends, some of whom were no where near as lucky as he was, has made me very conscious of the GOP's broken promises to veterans. He steered me to a piece that examines the huge number of veterans who will be harmed under Trumpcare/Ryancare.  It's the ultimate betrayal of those who sacrificed so much for their country - far more than the most of the foul Republicans in Congress ever will.  The article here is a must read.  So too is Andrew Sullivan's latest assessment of Trump and the GOP.  First these highlights from how are veterans will be harmed:
A new analysis by the Center for American Progress finds that 441,300 veterans would lose Medicaid coverage by 2026 under the plan of President Donald Trump and House Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate proposal, crafted behind closed doors, contains even larger Medicaid cuts in the long term than the House plan—cuts that would ultimately result in more veterans losing Medicaid coverage. Moreover, like the House bill, the Senate plan allows states to make changes to essential health benefits, which would reduce current protections for veterans with pre-existing conditions—including service-connected disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, amputations, and post-traumatic stress disorder—and lead to steep increases in medical costs, harming American veterans and their families.
Contrary to common misperceptions, the majority of the nation’s 20 million veterans do not get their health care coverage from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs but instead depend on other types of insurance. This includes Medicaid, which currently covers nearly 1.8 million American veterans.
The cuts not only break President Trump’s pledge to support veterans, they also disproportionately harm voters in the areas that most strongly supported him. New CAP analysis reveals that in the counties Trump won in the 2016 presidential election, 10 percent of adults are veterans—45 percent more than the share who are veterans in counties Trump lost.
The message to veterans and the members of the military: stop reflexively voting Republican.  It is NOT in your best interest.  Hollow sound bites about supporting our troops need to be ignored. Actions, not words, are what need to be watched.   But as Sullivan notes, the perversity of today's Republican Party and, of course, Der Trumpenführer, goes far beyond the betrayal of veterans.  Here are excerpts from Sullivan's piece:
I was mulling, as one does, over this presidency, and something crystallized in my head that I had not quite grasped before. Its policies are best described as simply perverse. The new Senate health-care bill is just the latest shining example. . . . it has no vision of how it wants health care to be organized; the loss of health care for the working poor will be most intense in Republican districts; . . . For good measure, by ending many of the taxes in the bill that make it work, and by removing the individual mandate, it risks sending the insurance markets into a deeper crisis.
So what on earth is the point? For Trump, it seems to me, the whole point is to have a “win.” He doesn’t give a shit about what the bill actually contains. He’ll just lie about it afterward and assume his cult followers will believe him. For Ryan, it’s just a way to make a future tax cut for the superrich more budget-friendly, while pushing the political costs of shredding Medicaid onto some future sucker.
And then you think about those tax cuts Ryan wants so badly. We are told that these cuts will spark so much growth they will pay for themselves — and more. And yet if there is one thing we really do know by now, it is that this strategy has spectacularly failed and failed again to work. Reagan’s tax cuts left the U.S. with an unprecedented peacetime deficit; George W. Bush inherited a small surplus and, after his tax cuts didn’t spur higher growth, handed Obama a Treasury close to bankrupt. In Kansas, the exact same strategy has incurred so much debt that a supermajority of the legislature, led by Republicans, have junked it. To pursue it a third time on a national scale is the definition of madness.
We are also living in an era of extreme inequality. . . . the policy of the Republicans is to further increase such inequality to levels beyond even the robber-baron era. Again, the only word for this is … perverse.
Ditto, for that matter, the idea that coal is the future of energy, and that climate change is a hoax. . . . It was an utterly pointless way to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world, and cede leadership to China. There was really no point at all in trashing the modest opening to Cuba under Obama, poisoning relations, and then just fiddling with the details.
Elsewhere in foreign policy, we have just begun a deepening of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in American history, with no strategy in place. . . . . The opening to Iran gave the U.S. far more leverage in the region, balancing out our previous Sunni commitments with a Shiite counterweight. Now Trump has fully committed the United States to one side of an intra-Muslim divide, while trashing Qatar, which houses the most important military base in the entire region. Again: perverse.
One of the ironies of the impact on veterans is that Texas, a red state that loves to huff and puff about patriotism will see the larges number of veterans harmed by Trumpcare if it passes.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The GOP’s Suburban Nightmare

While there is much to be discouraged about if one holds progressive values, rejects the view that the poor are refuse to be disposed of, and believes in religious freedom for all, not just Christofascists, there may be some good news from the recent special elections in Georgia and South Carolina: the narrowness of the Republican victories and the GOP's dimming support in suburban areas, especially those near larger cities.  If the GOP decline in support in suburbia continues, along with the nation's changing demographics, it could mean the GOP's triumphal attitude may be short lived.  A long piece in Politico looks at what hopefully comes to mean the death knell for many Republican elected officials. Here are story highlights:
Surveying the Democratic wreckage after a disastrous 1952 campaign, Robert Taft, the typically taciturn Ohio Republican senator, made a bold prediction about the opposition. “The Democratic Party,” the onetime Senate majority leader asserted, “will never win another national election until it solves the problem of the suburbs.”
Taft wasn’t exactly right, but he wasn’t wrong either. The millions of voters fleeing overcrowded cities to seek the American dream would ultimately power Republicans to victory in six of the next nine presidential elections, and in the process, reshape the GOP’s postwar image as the party of the suburbs.
But that Republican Party is now gone, and suburbia is no longer its trusted wingman. Although Donald Trump managed to win the suburbs narrowly in 2016, 49 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 45 percent, a little over half of suburbia voted against him, according to exit polls. This marks the third presidential election in a row in which the GOP nominee failed to crack 50 percent of the suburban vote.
Once the Republican Party’s stronghold, suburban America threatens now to become its nemesis. A combination of demographic change and cultural dissonance is gradually eroding its ability to compete across much of suburbia, putting entire areas of the country out of the GOP’s reach. It’s a bigger crisis than the party acknowledges, a reckoning that threatens Trump’s reelection and the next generation of Republican office-seekers.
Karen Handel’s Georgia special-election victory Tuesday enabled the GOP to kick the can down the road, but not for long. The same Atlanta suburbs that once produced Republicans like Newt Gingrich voted for Clinton in November. They followed up a few months later by nearly sending a 30-year-old, first-time Democratic candidate to Congress. Republicans may be gloating now, but it’s an ominous sign for the 2018 midterm elections. . . 
Trump won the 2016 election, of course, boosted by the margins he ran up in smaller cities and rural areas. But he lost the populous close-in suburbs of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., home to the precincts that first heralded suburbia’s arrival as a political powerhouse. That wasn’t the real story, though. He was also defeated in other, later-blooming suburban giants, including Atlanta’s Cobb County and Southern California’s iconic Orange County, both onetime exporters of Sun Belt conservatism that occupy storied roles in the formation of the contemporary Republican Party.
There’s a reason Ronald Reagan once said Orange County was the place good Republicans go to die—before 2016, it had last voted Democratic for president more than 80 years ago.
He [Trump] also barely squeaked by in traditional GOP stalwarts like Richmond’s Chesterfield County—the most populous in the state outside Northern Virginia—and Johnson County, the wealthy Kansas-side suburb of Kansas City. In many of the rock-ribbed Republican suburbs where Trump won easily—places like Waukesha County outside Milwaukee, and Hamilton County, on the outskirts of Indianapolis—he trailed well behind Mitt Romney’s 2012 pace.
But the truth is that Trump arrived in what was already the twilight of the GOP’s suburban era.
In the decades following World War II, the suburbs formed the electoral backbone of the party, providing a reliable counterweight to big-city Democratic margins.  . . . For suburbia, the GOP functioned not just as a validator of its lifestyle but also as a guarantor. It was the party of growth, low taxes and law and order. Just as important, it served as a bulwark against racial integration. . . 
The Northeastern and Midwestern suburbs were the first to go wobbly on the GOP, turned off by the culture wars waged by an increasingly Southern and socially conservative party.
Other subtle but important changes began to loosen the GOP’s grip. As the suburbs aged, they began to experience more and more of the pathologies previously associated with the cities—among them increased crime, poverty and crumbling infrastructure. At the same time, America’s great cities began to return to relative health.
Perhaps the biggest change of all: The suburbs themselves grew far more diverse. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of racially diverse suburbs increased by 37 percent, growing at a faster clip than majority-white suburbs, according to one study. . . . . there are 106 counties—with a combined population of 66.5 million—that include the near-in suburbs of most major cities and display many big-city characteristics. In 2016, Trump lost 89 of them. That’s a dramatic departure from Ronald Reagan’s 1984 performance in those places—he won 92 of those 106 . . . .
What happened in between Reagan and Trump? These suburbs gradually came into political alignment with their neighboring cities, moving the longtime antagonists toward something like a metropolitan alliance. At roughly the same time, the GOP largely gave up on competing among minorities and in the most densely populated areas.
The new GOP iteration differs in at least one important way from the one that dominated the suburbs in the Reagan years: It is now a conservative party that rejects metropolitan values, rather than a metropolitan party that embraces conservative values.
New York state stopped being competitive around the same time the populous New York City suburbs began going blue. The days when the GOP could carry Maryland ended when Baltimore County left the fold. Colorado and Virginia are likely to be the next dominoes to fall. Colorado’s Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, home to roughly 1.3 million residents, voted Republican in eight consecutive presidential elections through 2004. But since then, they’ve voted Democratic in the past three. In November, Trump bottomed out at 39 percent of the Arapahoe vote.
Trump’s coalition relied on several factors that won’t be easy to replicate going forward, though. First among them: Trump’s opponent. No matter the place designation—urban, suburban or rural—Clinton ran behind Obama’s pace, according to exit polls. And in the suburbs, she was outperformed by Obama, John Kerry and Al Gore.
Trump’s victory was also rooted in the strongest rural performance by a presidential nominee in decades—he won 61 percent amid a huge turnout. That’s where the GOP’s math problem comes in. To win reelection, Trump will need another gangbusters rural showing and to improve or at least maintain his 2016 levels in the suburbs, where roughly half the vote was cast last year. There’s little margin for error: Amped-up turnout in just three big cities alone—Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia—could have flipped the 2016 election.
Three years is a long time, but it won’t be easy for Trump to win over his suburban detractors. Recent history suggests that once these big suburbs go blue, they don’t come back. . . . . The president need only gaze across the Potomac to get a close look at the problem. Northern Virginia’s suburban behemoth, Fairfax County, flipped in 2004—by 2016, Trump could manage only an anemic 29 percent there. In nearby Loudoun and Prince William counties, the tipping point came in 2008.
No Republican has won the presidency in the postwar era without winning the suburbs. Trump will put that to the test in 2020. And with that, the GOP’s suburban era may come full circle . . . 
Hopefully, the GOP decline in the suburbs will only accelerate.

5th Circuit Allows Anti-LGBT Law to Go Into Effect

Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, a number of Republican controlled state legislatures rushed to pass falsely named "religious freedom" laws that would allow open discrimination against LGBT citizens.  Backward hell hole, Mississippi was among the first states to pass such a bill (a less hideous bill in Virginia was vetoed by Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe).   Now, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Thursday ruled that Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.  The ruling reversed the District Court ruling that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.  How the Court believes that openly targeting a minority for mistreatment will pass muster under Supreme Court rulings such as Romer v.Evans is baffling.  There has never been much reason to visit Mississippi, now there is even less reason to do so.  To my "friends" and acquaintances who have said that I and other taxpaying LGBT citizens have nothing to fear under Trump/the GOP, my comment is this: when are you going to pull your head out of your ass and wake up to reality? Blogger friend Joe Jervis looks at this disturbing development.  Here are are excerpts:
A federal appeals court says Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a judge’s decision that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves had ruled that the law unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and other supporters say the law protects beliefs that marriage can be between only a man and a woman, and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.
Via press release from Lambda Legal:
Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the injunction against Mississippi House Bill 1523, the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation challenged in Barber v. Bryant, the federal lawsuit brought by Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal.  The advocates will continue to fight this discriminatory law. 
Overruling the lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied that LGBT Mississippians are subject to imminent discrimination by HB 1523 and ordered the block to the law lifted because the plaintiffs—a group of ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists—lack standing since they cannot claim a specific harm caused by the law that has yet to go into effect.
“We had to put guards in front of our church after the bill initially passed because there was a truck with a swastika parked across the street and just this week the Christian Knights of the KKK distributed flyers throughout the Hattiesburg area. Today’s ruling leaves us more exposed, so we will have to be more vigilant than ever before to protect our church, our families and our dignity,” said Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, Barber plaintiff.
Note: government employees can now discriminate.  So much for equality under the law.  The Christofascists want nothing less than an established religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  Political whores in the GOP are only too happy to prostitute themselves to these foul people. 

Trumpcare: The Face of Republican Evil

Yesterday the GOP Senate healthcare bill saw the light of day and what could be seen was hideous if one feels any concern for children, the non-wealthy elderly and people with disabilities.   When disabled protesters in wheel chairs massed outside the office of GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to protest the bill, as reported by Think Progress and many other news outlets, Capitol police dragged them out of their wheel chairs, handcuffed and arrested.  Perhaps such treatment of the disabled is just a glimpse at what many disabled will suffer if the GOP Senate "healthcare reform" bill is enacted.  This bill is nothing than a humanitarian disaster to quote several critics.  Not surprisingly, the American Hospital Association has been quick to condemn it, recognizing that it would be a catastrophe for many hospitals, especially those in rural areas.   As explained below, this is very personal to me.  A piece in the New York Times looks at what we now know Republicans seek to inflict on millions of citizens in order to give massive tax breaks to the very wealthy.  Here are excerpts:
The bill is aligned with long-held Republican values, advancing states’ rights and paring back growing entitlement programs, while freeing individuals from requirements that they have insurance and emphasizing personal responsibility. Obamacare raised taxes on high earners and the health care industry, and essentially redistributed that income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades.
The draft Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would jettison those taxes while reducing federal funding for the care of low-income Americans. The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. The bill preserves many of the structures of Obamacare, but rejects several of its central goals.
Like a House version of the legislation, the bill would fundamentally change the structure of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to 74 million disabled or poor Americans, including nearly 40 percent of all children. Instead of open-ended payments, the federal government would give states a maximum payment for nearly every individual enrolled in the program. The Senate version of the bill would increase that allotment every year by a formula that is expected to grow substantially more slowly than the average increase in medical costs. States would continue to receive extra funding for Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to more poor adults, but only temporarily. After several years, states wishing to cover that population would be expected to pay a much greater share of the bill, even as they adjust to leaner federal funding for other Medicaid beneficiaries — disabled children, nursing home residents — who are more vulnerable. High-income earners would get substantial tax cuts on payroll and investment income. Subsidies for those low-income Americans who buy their own insurance would decline compared with current law. Low-income Americans who currently buy their own insurance would also lose federal help in paying their deductibles and co-payments.
The bill does offer insurance subsidies to poor Americans who live in states that don’t offer them Medicaid coverage, a group without good insurance options under Obamacare. But the high-deductible plans that would become the norm might continue to leave care out of their financial reach even if they do buy insurance.
Under the bill, states would be able to apply for waivers that would let them eliminate consumer protection regulations, like rules that require all health plans to cover a basic package of benefits or that prevent insurance plans from limiting how much care they will cover in a given year.
States could get rid of the online marketplaces that help consumers compare similar health plans, and make a variety of other changes to the health insurance system. The standards for approval are quite permissive.
Americans with pre-existing conditions would continue to enjoy protection from discrimination: In contrast with the House health bill, insurers would not be allowed to charge higher prices to customers with a history of illness, even in states that wish to loosen insurance regulations.
But patients with serious illnesses may still face skimpier, less useful coverage. States may waive benefit requirements and allow insurers to charge customers more. Someone seriously ill who buys a plan that does not cover prescription drugs, for example, may not find it very valuable.
Subsidies under the bill would help middle-income consumers buy insurance that pays 58 percent of the average patient’s medical costs, down from 70 percent under Obamacare; it would also remove a different type of subsidy designed to lower deductibles further for Americans earning less than around $30,000 a year. Out-of-pocket spending is the top concern of most voters. The insurance they would buy under the bill might seem cheap at first, but it wouldn’t be if they ended up paying more in deductibles.

To me, this displays complete moral depravity - by those who claim to embrace "Christian values" and their supporters like evangelical Christians.  A piece in  Salon looks at how the GOP got this morally bankrupt.  Here are highlights:
In the hellish months since Donald Trump’s inauguration, a dark parlor game of sorts has cropped up in liberal circles that I like to call “Would an Impeachment Even Be Worth It?” With the full acknowledgment that it’s unlikely to happen as long as Republicans are in charge, participants still sip cocktails and ponder out loud the question of whether booting out Trump on his butt would be enough to save our democracy, considering the fact that the Republican slimeball taking his place would invariably sign a bunch of retrograde legislation setting back this country decades.
These discussions break down into two camps: those who think Trump presents a unique threat to our democracy and replacing him with someone in the succession line, like Vice President Mike Pence or House Speaker Paul Ryan, would at least preserve our democratic norms; and those who think the corruption started long before Trump and has spread throughout the Republican Party, rotting it from the inside out.
[M]y view that the Republican Party as a whole is irredeemably antidemocratic has been borne out, yet again, in the process that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put into motion to destroy the Affordable Health Act, a process that will likely take out the U.S. health care system as we know it. One could even argue that bog-standard Republicans, under the leadership of Ryan and McConnell, represent an bigger threat to our democracy than Trump, possessing as they do more competence and cunning than the TV-addled overgrown toddler in the White House. McConnell has arranged to have the Senate version of the House’s American Health Care Act . . . . written in secret, with no hearings, no public discussion and no real debate. Republicans are barely even pretending the reason is anything other than the obvious: The bill is so terrible that it defies the will of people of all political stripes and sensibilities, whom legislators supposedly were elected to serve. McConnell’s contempt for the processes, much less the defining principles, of democracy couldn’t be more apparent. But he doesn’t really care. No doubt the election of Trump helped confirm the rising sense among Republicans that they can wipe their collective butts with the Constitution, flip the bird at their constituents and not really worry about losing many seats. Republican voters might not like it, but they like liberals, black people and feminists even less, so they will show up and dutifully vote against the Democrats every time. Losing health care access isn’t great, but for conservative voters, admitting that liberals might have a point is a hell from which there is no escape. . . . bedrock conservative voters don’t care about niceties like the rule of law or government by the people. They just want to punish women for having sex and gripe about “Obama phones,” and don’t care if the price paid is the ultimate ruin of this country.

In 1999/2000 one of my children was stricken with bacterial meningitis.  We were lucky, had purportedly "excellent healthcare coverage"  and my child had a miracle recovery (even if it wiped us out financially).  A key part of her survival was being in close proximity - less than 10 minutes - to a first rate hospital that could stabilize my child before a transport to a world class children's hospital.  If rural and inner city hospitals close thanks to Trumpcare, people will literally die for lack of close proximity to a hospital.  Mere minutes can make a life and death difference.

More recently, one of my grand children was born 2 months early.  He ended up staying in the hospital for a month.  A month earlier, my daughter had been ordered to do bed rest to try to delay his birth. Since Virginia and the USA do not have mandatory paid maternity leave, my daughter lost her heathcare coverage.  Thankfully, she signed up with Medicaid and my grandson had coverage. Without it, he may have died.

Sadly, average Americans simply no longer matter to the GOP, especially those like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.   I'm sorry, but to me, voting Republican is now synonymous with moral bankruptcy. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Donald Trump Is a Crook

A piece in New York Magazine cuts to the chase and addresses what his racist, white supremacist, knuckle dragging supporters - and the Vichy Republicans - simply want to ignore: the man is a crook and has been for years.  Indeed, Trump is a profiteer who is openly abusing his office to enrich himself and his family much in the style of third world despots and Vladimir Putin if on a much lesser scale.  The fact that none of Trump's profiteering bothers the Congressional Republicans underscores just how morally bankrupt the GOP has become. Stealing from the poor to give the very rich now stands side by side with turning a blind eye to Trump's violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution and business practices that only a few years ago would have driven a president from office.  Here are column highlights:
On November 17, 1973, President Richard Nixon delivered a speech that became famous for his self-defeating boast, “I am not a crook.” The windup to the infamous phrase consisted of Nixon defending his aggressive, but legal, tax-avoidance strategies. “I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service — I have earned every cent,” he insisted. (This was perhaps half-true.) “And in all of my years of public life,” he continued, “I have never obstructed justice.” (This was not true — the year before, Nixon had tried to get the CIA to quash the FBI investigation into Watergate.)
Like Nixon, Donald Trump denies having engaged in obstruction of justice, even though he plainly has (both by asking intelligence agencies to push back against the FBI, according to reports, and by firing the FBI director over the Russia investigation, by Trump’s own admission). Unlike Nixon, Trump does not deny profiting from public service. He does it brazenly and flamboyantly.
If he were a normal president, rather than one who produced calamities at an unprecedented pace, Trump’s open profiteering would receive five-alarm media coverage and threats of impeachment. The Washington Post recently reported that Trump’s budget slashes funding for a wide array of low-income housing programs, the one notable exception being a program that his own firm benefits from. The story connects this shady decision to an even shadier one: Trump’s appointment of Lynne Patton — a wedding planner close to the Trump family who possesses zero relevant experience and who has falsified her résumé — to oversee the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s programs in New York City. That is, Trump is using his budget to suspiciously single out for favoritism a program from which his firm benefits, and then installing a wildly unqualified personal loyalist in a position where she could protect his funding stream. This scandal alone could shake a non-Trump presidency to its foundations.
That it has caused barely a ripple helps to explain why Trump feels emboldened to locate the first fundraiser for his reelection campaign at his hotel in Washington. Trump’s Washington hotel has already raked in cash from lobbyists and government officials, foreign and domestic, seeking to curry favor with the First Family. Trump has gotten away with it because his party has evinced zero interest in restraining him. The GOP Congress has quashed investigations of his profiteering or demands that he produce his tax returns. Now the party elite will literally be suborned at an event conjoining his public duties and the fattening of his own wallet.
History has mostly forgotten what Nixon said after his famous line: “I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.” The premise of that statement was that a president who enriches himself through office is a crook. So, what does that make Donald Trump?

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Special Prosecutor Working with Large Number of FBI Agents

With new reports out that Russia hacked the election systems of 39 different states and may have targeted large Democrat voting cities, Der Trumpenführer continues to rant that it is all "fake news" and a "witch hunt."  Clearly special prosecutor Robert Mueller and the FBI believe otherwise based on the testimony of acting FBI director Andrew McCabe yesterday.  In fact, McCabe made it clear that the FBI is providing a large amount of man/woman power to Mueller's probe of Russiagate.  Meanwhile, other news reports suggest that Trump may have been involved in money laundering efforts with Russian oligarchs and mob figures.  He certainly has ties to known criminals and unsavory figures.  Politico looks at McCabe's testimony before Congress.  Here are excerpts:
The acting head of the FBI said Wednesday that his agency is providing a substantial number of personnel to support the special prosecutor appointed last month to look into alleged Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, including possible connections to the Trump campaign.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who took over after President Donald Trump fired FBI chief James Comey on May 9, told a House appropriations subcommittee that the FBI is giving special counsel Robert Mueller all the help he needs.
"We have a great number of folks that have already been detailed to that team and I have assured Director Mueller that we will do everything necessary to deliver the resources and meet the needs that he has to do that work," McCabe said.
McCabe, temporarily elevated from the position of deputy FBI director, said discussions to coordinate the FBI's assistance to Mueller are ongoing.
"I've had many, many interactions with the special counsel and his representatives. In fact, we are meeting in the next 24 hours to discuss exactly that," McCabe said.
The FBI official stressed that Mueller isn't taking over all the FBI's counterintelligence work, or even all such work related to Russia.
"The FBI continues to maintain responsibility for counterintelligence issues write large against all of our foreign adversaries. We still do work in the Russia counterintelligence space but we’re careful to leave for the special counsel what is the special counsel’s," McCabe said.
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) asked McCabe whether he'd been asked for a loyalty oath by Trump, as Comey has said he was, and how he would reply.
"I have taken an oath already to the United States of America to protect and defend the Constitution. That is the only oath I will take, so that's really not an issue for me," McCabe said. He added that it wouldn't be appropriate "in this forum" to discuss his conversations with the president.
As in past testimony, McCabe did dispute claims by Trump and other officials that morale at the FBI suffered under Comey.
"Director Comey enjoyed a great relationship with the men and women of the FBI. So, his removal took many many people by surprise. It was a shock. It's something that we’ve all had to come to terms with," McCabe said.
"We understand it is the president's privilege to remove the FBI director or any appointee, whenever he chooses to do so. ... It's been my challenge to keep people focused on the mission during this time of transition."
Most disturbing is the fact that most Congressional Republicans remain indifferent to Russia's attack on America's electoral system.  Remaining in power is all that matters to them, the interest of the nation and the Constitution be damned.

GOP Senate Bill Expected To Make Massive Cuts to Medicaid

The elderly and children - main targets of GOP healthcare cuts
While much secrecy continues to surround the "healthcare reform" bill being drafted by Senate Republicans, some of the information that has leaked so far indicate that it will make massive cuts to Medicaid - the life line for millions of children, elderly, pregnant mothers and those with physical and intellectual disabilities.  Sadly, it is part and parcel with the GOP agenda of taking from the poor and middle class and giving to the very wealthy.  It is also in keeping with the GOP hypocrisy drenched claims that it is the party of Christian values even as it adopts policies that are the absolute opposite of the Gospel's social agenda.  And make no mistake, if enacted the GOP bill will harm the lives of millions of Americans, both young and old. A piece in the New York Times looks at the leaked details to date.  When you see your Republican friends, ask them if they support ending medical care for children or throwing elderly patients out of nursing homes.  When they say they do not, throw it in their faces that, yes the do if the voted for Trump/the GOP candidates last November.  Here are article highlights:
Tucked inside the Republican bill to replace Obamacare is a plan to impose a radical diet on a 52-year-old program that insures nearly one in five Americans.
The bill, of course, would modify changes to the health system brought by the Affordable Care Act. But it would also permanently restructure Medicaid, which covers tens of millions of poor or disabled Americans, including millions who are living in nursing homes with conditions like Alzheimer’s or the aftereffects of a stroke.
The results, according to independent analyses, would be major reductions in federal spending on Medicaid over time. States would be left deciding whether to raise more money to make up the difference, or to cut back on medical coverage for people using the program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the changes would lead to a reduction in spending on Medicaid of more than $800 billion over a decade. (That figure also includes additional cuts to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.)
About half of all births in the country are covered by Medicaid, and nearly 40 percent of children are covered through the program. Medicaid covers the long-term care costs of two-thirds of Americans living in nursing homes, many of them middle-class Americans who spent all of their savings on care before becoming eligible.
It covers children and adults with disabilities who require services that most commercial health insurance doesn’t include. It covers poor women who are pregnant or raising young children. Those populations were all included in the program before Obamacare became law.
It also provides insurance for poor adult Americans, and recent evidence shows that its expansion under Obamacare has given more poor people access to health care services and reduced their exposure to financial shocks.
“While details remain elusive, this is shaping up to be the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk in our country’s history,” said Matt Salo, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, in an email. Mr. Salo said that some of his directors would welcome caps if they came with more program flexibility, but said the current approach amounted to a funding cut.
Most researchers who study the program closely say that it is already quite lean. Major savings, they say, will be hard to achieve without reducing medical benefits or cutting higher-cost patients from the program.
Trump administration officials and Republican members of Congress have argued that the Medicaid changes won’t cause anyone to lose insurance coverage directly. That statement is true in only the narrowest sense.
Because the funding cuts would fall to states, it is state officials who would decide whether to save money by raising taxes, reducing payments to nursing homes oreliminating benefits like home-based care for disabled beneficiaries, a few available options under the law.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that enrollment in Medicaid would decline substantially over a decade, as states pursued a variety of strategies to save money, some of which would push people out of the program.
Several Republican senators have expressed concerns about changes to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which broadened the program to include more low-income adults in 31 states.
Others worry about changes to private insurance subsidies that would make insurance less affordable to older, middle-class Americans. Fewer have spoken out about the cuts to Medicaid’s legacy beneficiaries. That means that, as the Senate works out final details, the forced diet for Medicaid is likely to stay in the bill.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Poll: Opposition to GOP Healthcare Bill is Rising

GOP Senate leader, the always despicable Mitch McConnell

As Senate Republicans meet in secret to draft their  "healthcare reform" bill - secrecy is admitted to be needed given how harmful the bill will be to millions of Americans and is aimed at leaving opponents with out time to educate the public on the toxicity of the bill - a new poll shows that public opposition to the GOP is rising.   I don't quite understand the mindset where passing something horrible and harmful to millions with little time for any public review is supposed to lessen the ultimate political fallout.  The details will get out either before or after a Senate vote, and those who voted to harm millions will not go un-wounded  once their constituents understand the extent of the betrayal.  A piece in Politico looks at the already rising opposition to Trumpcare.  Here are highlights:
As the GOP-led Senate prepares to take up the measure, only 35 percent of voters surveyed approve of the bill passed by the House last month. Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, disapprove of the bill. The other 16 percent don’t know or don’t have an opinion, the poll shows.
POLITICO/Morning Consult polling indicates the bill has become less popular since the House advanced it in early May. Immediately after the bill passed, slightly more voters approved of the bill, 38 percent. Opposition to the bill was lower, too, immediately after the House passed it: 44 percent.
The poll underscores the risks Republicans face in pursuing legislation for which opposition is creeping toward a majority of voters. The Senate’s so-far behind-closed-doors drafting process also complicates Republicans’ efforts to sell the proposal to their own voters — and there’s some evidence of slippage among the GOP base on the party’s Obamacare repeal bid.
Among Republican voters, 30 percent disapprove of the GOP health care bill. That is up from 15 percent of Republicans disapproving in early May.
Moreover, independent voters disapprove of the bill by a 2-to-1 margin: 26 percent approve, versus 53 percent who disapprove.
Other measures similarly show few voters are cheering for the legislation’s passage. Only 27 percent think it will make the U.S. health care system better, compared to 41 percent who think it will make the system worse. Just 17 percent think it will decrease costs for them and their families, while 46 percent think costs will increase.
And while voters haven’t heard much about the Senate’s progress, they want the GOP to work with Democrats on the final bill. Nearly two-thirds of voters, 65 percent, say they want Republicans to “compromise with Democrats to reach bipartisan reforms.” Only 18 percent want the GOP to “work only with other Republicans in Congress to achieve reforms.”
Even among GOP voters, a 54-percent majority wants the party to work across the aisle on the final product.
And Republicans are on perilous political ground, according to the poll's generic ballot test. Forty-three percent of voters say they would support the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district, compared to only 37 percent for the Republican candidate. Among voters who say their most important issue is health care, the Democratic candidate leads by 38 points, 61 percent to 23 percent.

Are giving huge tax breaks to the very wealthy that important to the GOP that depriving millions of coverage - including children and the elderly - outweighs all else?  The GOP is morally bankrupt and so are the evangelical Christians who vote Republican.

Court: Russia's "Gay Propaganda" Ban Violates International Law

With Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, seemingly seeking to emulate the authoritarian ruling style of Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, including Putin's anti-LGBT policies, it is worth noting that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled (with only one dissent by a -surprise, surprise - Russian judge) that Russia's "anti-gay propaganda law violates international law and conventions to which Russia is a signatory.  As noted previously, the law is part of Putin's effort to (i) scapegoat target minorities to distract the Russian public from the economic disaster Putin has brought to Russia and (ii) pander to the vitriolically homophobic Russian Orthodox Church the support of which Putin has needed to bolster himself politically.   The parallels between Putin's motivations and those of Trump who has prostituted himself to American Christofascists and scapegoated minorities are stunning.  BuzzFeed looks at the Court's ruling against Russia.  Here are excerpts:
Europe's top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that Russia's so-called "gay propaganda" ban violates international agreements protecting free speech and prohibiting discrimination.

Some regional governments in Russia adopted versions of this legislation beginning in 2003, and it was enacted nationwide in 2013, setting up a showdown over LGBT rights ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The law technically prohibits "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors," but authorities have also used the rule to justify shutting down LGBT rights protests, and to fine a newspaper for reporting on LGBT issues.
Tuesday's ruling came in a lawsuit brought by three LGBT rights activists, who were fined under local versions of the ban for protests staged between 2009 and 2012 at venues including a building used by the city administration of St. Petersburg, a children's library in Arkhangelsk, and a school in Ryazan. After losing appeals at Russia's Constitutional Court, they took their case to the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR enforces a human rights convention ratified not only by all EU member states, but also by Russia and 18 additional countries.
The ECHR ruled that the ban violates international law, and rejected all the Russian government's justifications for the provision.
"Above all, by adopting such laws the Court found that the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values – of equality, pluralism and tolerance – of a democratic society," the ECHR wrote in an opinion agreed to by six of the seven judges who reviewed the case.
The ECHR also dismissed the Russian government's claims that inappropriate material could "convert" children to homosexuality.
"The Court found that the Government had been unable to provide any explanation of the mechanism by which a minor could be enticed into '[a] homosexual lifestyle', let alone science-based evidence that one’s sexual orientation or identity was susceptible to change under external influence," the judges wrote. 
The lone Russian judge on the panel, Dmitry Dedov, dissented from the ruling in an opinion that said "positive image of homosexuality adversely affects the development of children and puts them under risk of sexual violence."
The decision orders the Russian government to pay €49,000 to the activists who brought the suit.
The Russian Ministry of Justice vowed to appeal the ruling, which is supposed to bind the courts of Russia under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights. But Russia has repeatedly thumbed its nose at the ECHR's authority in recent years, including adopting legislation in 2015 allowing for ECHR rulings to be ignored when they contradict the Russian Constitution.

As Trump's approval levels continue to plummet, expect more anti-LGBT efforts on his part to solidify his toxic evangelical Christian base.