Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump's Transgender Military Ban is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" All Over Again.

Among the countless disgusting things that Donald Trump has done is to make a pact with Christofascists and evangelical Christians whereby in exchange for their support, he would reignite the culture wars against LGBT Americans. Sadly, keeping his promises to these hate merchants has been one of the few campaign promises Trump has kept.  The sudden diktat this week that transgender troops are unwelcome in the U.S. military is but one example of this poisonous alliance. Another is Jeff Sessions' filing of an amicus brief in a civil lawsuit where the government is not a party to argue that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 affords no protections to LGBT citizens. Yet another cloud over LGBT Americans exists in the form of the pending bill in Congress which would grant Christian extremists the right to discriminate at will against LGBT individuals in accommodations, services and even medical treatment if they cited religious belief as the motivation for their bigoted actions.  A column in U.S. News and World Reports looks at this slide back towards hate and bigotry. Here are excerpts:
It was with a familiar sickness of heart that I watched as President Donald Trump launched an all-out assault on the LGBTQ community and active duty service members by tweeting that he is reinstating a transgender military service ban. You see, I've been there. . . . . I was discharged because I am gay. I still mourn the loss of the career I had aimed for, serving the country I love.
Sadly, Trump's heinous and disgusting action – which could lead to the discharge of as many as 15,000 transgender Americans serving our country at this critical time – is "don't ask, don't tell" all over again. Trump's nakedly political aim to isolate, target and discriminate against transgender troops courageously serving our country has, in a few hundred Twitter characters, threatened to return us to a deeply shameful policy that weakens our military. Discharging thousands of highly trained and talented troops just because of their gender identity would be unconscionable.
I was just out of college when I decided to enlist, after the tragic events of Sept. 11. Though I was proud to honorably serve my country in the U.S. Marine Corps, after re-enlisting for another four years, I knew I could no longer go on pretending I wasn't gay.
I wanted to continue to serve, but the law said I was suddenly unfit for duty, simply because of who I am. A huge burden was lifted off of my family's shoulders when "don't ask, don't tell" was finally repealed under President Barack Obama, allowing my Marine husband to keep his distinguished career. He's now serving a year-long deployment in one of the world's most dangerous areas.
All of our brave troops – including my husband, who is currently serving in harm's way – are counting on us to have their backs, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Instead, since the day he set foot in the White House, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have appointed anti-LGBTQ extremists across the government and sought to roll back our rights at every turn. It's bad enough that Trump and Pence oppose marriage equality, that they endorse license to discriminate laws, that they defend anti-LGBTQ measures like North Carolina's HB2, that they appoint anti-equality justices and that they campaign with anti-LGBTQ hate groups.
It is a new low to target thousands upon thousands of actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, and impugn the honor of tens of thousands more who have served with valor and distinction — including more than 134,000 transgender veterans who are alive today. This attack undermines military readiness and harms the military's ability to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, regardless of their gender identity.
We enlist and commission to protect our most fundamental values: freedom, justice, equality under the law. It is an outrageous tragedy that our commander in chief has decreed transgender troops – who are fighting for those ideals we all share – should be treated so shamefully.

Trump and Pence are hardly the only anti-LGBT Republicans in Washington.  In the northern portions of  Hampton Roads Congressman Rob Wittman - a man who the best I can tell never served in the military himself - is supporting the ban on the pretext that the military needs to save money (this is a portion of a statement I secured from Wittman's extremely nasty press person): 
Rep. Wittman voted in support of an amendment offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri that would have prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars for gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy for members of the U.S. military. Mr. Wittman's belief is that the job of the U.S military is to fight and win our nation’s wars but that the current, ill-conceived, transgender policy will most likely lead to increased costs, decreased readiness, and decreased lethality.

Naturally, Wittman has no problem with the fact that the military spends ten times as much money on Viagra prescriptions than it does for transgender health service.  And, of course, he has no problem with the millions wasted every weekend when Trump travels to Florida or one of his golf resorts at taxpayer expense.  Hmm . . .  why do I think of the word hypocrite? 

Don't get me started on "friends" who voted for this toxic regime.

Don't Shed Any Tears for Reince Priebus

Long before his ignominious firing by Der  Trumpenführer, Reince Priebus had come to embody for me the extremist cancer and moral bankruptcy that has metastasized in the Republican Party.  While RNC chairman, Priebus demonstrated that no lie and no amount of dissembling was too foul to pass from his lips.  The man would do and say anything to further his own interests and the malignant agenda of today's GOP.  When he accepted the chief of staff position in Der  Trumpenführer, he signaled that his moral bankruptcy was complete.  He was only too willing to lie for and prostitute himself to a vulgar, malignant narcissist utterly unfit for the office of the presidency.  Thus, Priebus deserves not one shred of sympathy. When you get in bed with someone utterly toxic and and amoral, you deserve what you get.  A piece in Politico looks at Priebus's fall while one in the New Yorker looks at what may lie ahead with the arrival of Trump's "mini me," Anthony Scaramucci, at the West Wing.  First these highlights from Politico:
Reince Priebus spent his last day as White House chief of staff like nothing was out of the ordinary. . . . By 4:49 p.m., it was over. “I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump tweeted from the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, where Priebus still sat waiting in a black SUV. Other aides riding with him hopped into a different car once the tweet posted. His SUV separated from the motorcade and went on a rainy ride through Washington alone.
Priebus, in an interview on CNN Friday evening, tried to downplay his tensions with Trump, while saying it was his decision to resign.
It was an ignominious close to an operatic six months during which Priebus was sidelined from the outset, first by chief strategist Steve Bannon, then by Trump’s children and finally by Anthony Scaramucci, whose arrival last week as communications director heralded the imminent end of Priebus’ tenure.
But finally it was the absence of progress on Trump’s legislative agenda—health care, taxes, infrastructure—that prompted the president, in consultation with his family, to finally tell people around him it was time “to try a different approach,” said one senior administration official.
“It’s hard to overstate how much the family had to do with this,” this person added. After Scaramucci shredded Priebus in a vulgar rant to the New Yorker, published Thursday just as the health care debate was coming to its fruitless end, Priebus expressed his frustrations inside the White House. But the president took Scaramucci’s side—and Spicer’s successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, went on television to excuse the comments.

As for what Scaramucci's arrival may foretell (none of it good), here are excerpts from the New Yorker:
The Mooch is a man in a hurry. But while he looks to most like someone racing into a wall, he is, to his patron, doing precisely what is required.
Within moments of arrival, Scaramucci was declaring his everlasting fealty to the President (“I love the President”), erasing the digital evidence of his previous contempt for the President (“an inherited money dude from Queens County”), and comparing his relationship with Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, to that of Cain and Abel, the killer and the killed. And then, the other night, he called Ryan Lizza, of The New Yorker. First, Scaramucci tried in vain to unearth the source who revealed that he had dined at the White House, and wrongly presumed it was Priebus. He then went on an obscene tirade about Priebus’s mental stability, Steve Bannon’s dorsal flexibility, and, most alarming of all, his intention to “fucking kill all the leakers” by employing the capacities, human and technological, of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The reaction to all this was predictable. It roiled, yet again, the sense of vertigo that has accompanied the Trump era. And there were laughs all around, can-you-top-this jokes on Twitter, gleeful one-liners on late-night television, grave pronouncements on the morning shows. And yet the reaction that matters most was that of Scaramucci’s patron, the President of the United States. Mike Allen, the co-founder of the Web site Axios, wrote, “We’re told the President loved the Mooch quotes.”
Of course he did. After all, Scaramucci was, in language and in manner, channelling Trump himself. What about Scaramucci’s rant could possibly have offended Trump’s sense of propriety, dignity, or politics? As so many audiotapes, tweets, interviews, and speeches have made clear, Trump has no compunction about treating people, even his most self-abnegating loyalists, as vassals; he speaks in the language of obscenity and contempt.
Scaramucci, who was endorsed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, seems to have been installed to carry out Trump’s form of personnel management—to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests. Sean Spicer. Reince Priebus. Steve Bannon. Jeff Sessions. And, ultimately, Robert Mueller.
In other words, the Mooch matters because the Mooch helps to clarify what matters most to the President and his family. What matters most is Trump’s grip on his base voters and his survival in office. Everything else—a sane health-care policy, the dignity of the transgender people who have volunteered to serve their country, a rational environmental policy, a foreign policy that serves basic democratic values, rule of law—is of tertiary interest.
Trump’s focus is not impossible to divine. He is increasingly anxious that Mueller and congressional investigators are exploring the details of his business transactions and financial holdings, and how they might have exposed him to being targeted by the Russian government.
In the meantime, Trump’s capacity to demean and diminish everyone in his proximity continues apace.
Scaramucci matters because he has divined what Donald Trump wants, and he is speaking in his language. Last night, John McCain and many others refused to be cowed or intimidated. They acted in favor of the most elemental notion of rationality and principle. Who else will follow?

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The One Thing That Now Motivates Trump

Yes, we continue to see Der Trumpenführer preening and seeking to satiate his narcissism and making efforts to threaten and intimidate anyone who crosses him, but as a column in New York Magazine argues, what truly motivates Trump now comes down to one thing: stopping the Russiagate investigations and the possible treason and criminal conduct that they likely to reveal.  Hence his incessant attacks on Jeff Sessions and the news media.  No one acts this desperate unless there are very serious matters that must remain hidden.  Donald Trump, Jr.'s, emails are likely the tip of the iceberg and with Vladimir Putin furious over the new sanctions against Russia coming from Congress with a veto proof vote, one has to wonder when Putin will decide to throw Trump to the wolves since other than causing chaos and destabilizing America, he's proving to have been a poor investment for Putin.  Here are excerpts that look at Trump's now consuming obsession:
At this juncture the priorities of Donald Trump have winnowed down to a single agenda item: saving himself and his family from legal culpability for their campaign interactions with the Russians and their efforts to cover up those transactions ever since. Almost everything this president does must be viewed through this single lens. If you do so, you’ll find his actions usually make sense.
This overriding motive explains both this week’s orchestrated staff turmoil in the White House and the simultaneous assaults on the civil rights of transgender American troops and all LBGTQ employees in the private workplace. The primary purpose of all of it is to distract from investigations into potential Trump-family criminality and to galvanize a base that Trump believes will protect him against the rule of law. If you have already forgotten Jared Kushner’s loophole-strewn profession of innocence from Monday, that’s the point.
It would seem particularly counterintuitive for Trump to go after the like-minded Sessions, who was not only the first sitting senator to endorse his campaign but whose Department of Justice has just filed the court papers seeking to cripple federal civil-rights law to roll back protections for employees based on sexual orientation. Sessions also shares Trump’s xenophobic opposition to immigration and his antediluvian approach to criminal justice. What’s more, Session’s political allies are Trump’s allies — from conservative Republican senators like Richard Shelby and Orrin Hatch to media cheerleaders like Breitbart and Tucker Carlson. But all of that is negated by Trump’s sole priority of derailing the Russian investigation.
Trump assumed that Sessions would fix the investigation on his behalf, much as he expected corruptible local officials to fix his legal violations as a real-estate developer, and was appalled that Sessions’s recusal made that impossible. If Sessions survives, it will be only because Trump finds an easier way to achieve his No. 1 goal, the firing of Robert Mueller. That’s bound to happen no matter who stands in the way.
Trump is a diva who doesn’t like anyone else to share his spotlight, and Scaramucci is a drama queen who seems determined to pull focus from his boss at any opportunity. He just can’t help himself. . . . His inevitable sadomasochistic humiliation at the hands of the man he “loves” will be nothing if not entertaining to watch.
Meanwhile, the departures and purges, this White House’s Nights of the Short Knives, will continue. The secretaries of Defense and State, Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson, often considered the adults in the cabinet, are now castrated, serving as at best bystanders to major policy decisions. (Mattis, typically, was given only one day’s notice about the transgender troop ban.) The only Trump appointees whose jobs are safe are Ivanka and Jared. Trump is in the bunker now.
The president no doubt feels that he could pull out a gun and shoot his attorney general on Fifth Avenue, and his base would still remain loyal. I have no doubt he’s correct: This is the same quarter of the populace that believes it makes sense to endanger themselves by replacing Obamacare with a wish and a prayer — the same crowd that believes transgender patriots serving their country in uniform, not Russians who hacked our election, are a clear and present danger to American security.
The Democrats will inevitably rebound after Trump’s implosion as they did after Richard Nixon’s, but, as was the case in the short-lived Jimmy Carter interregnum of the 1970s, the party’s comeback will prove short-lived if there is not a blood transfusion of new leaders and genuinely “bold” ideas.

Is Obamacare's Repeal Finally Dead?

Out of all the Republicans in the United States Senate, only three had the decency and morality to vote "no" to Mitch McConnell's "skinny bill" that would have cause 16 million Americans to lose health insurance coverage according to the calculations of the Congressional Budget Office.  Thankfully, three Republican Senators was enough to kill this abortion of a bill hypocritically pushed by the political party that claims it is "pro-life." Pro-life now meaning opposition to abortion but a willingness to harm millions, including children and the elderly.  Once one passes from the womb, you are trash to be callously kicked to the curb unless, of course, one is lucky enough to be born to wealth.  The moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party is near complete. Ironically, it took two women,  Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski - the latter of whom was threatened by Der Trumpenführer - and John McCain who is suffering from a life threatening battle with cancer - to stop the effort to harm millions so that the wealthy could reap a huge tax cut.  A column by conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin looks at what happened.  Here are highlights:
We’ve said it before, but the Senate has reached a new low point in a once revered body. . . . . To the rescue, however, rode two brave women and a war hero stricken with cancer.
Since the healthcare debate got underway, the Republican-controlled Senate has had a fundamental problem: It had no bill it could pass. We’re not talking about meeting the 60-vote threshold; they had not been able find 50 votes (plus Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaker) for any version of repeal and replace. So they hit upon the idea of passing an atrocious bill that would repeal the individual mandate, dumps 15 million people off healthcare insurance and raises premiums 20 percent. Then the kicker, as The Post reported Thursday:
In other words, millions more people wouldn’t have insurance, and it’d be more expensive for everybody else. It’s no wonder, then, that even the Republicans who are voting for this bill don’t want it to become law. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called it a “disaster” and a “fraud.”
Three senators actually held a press conference to say they’d vote for it — but only if they got an ironclad guarantee the House wouldn’t pass it. That’s right: They would only pass something they hate in order to kick the can down the road, with no prospect they can find a bill satisfactory to enough Senate Republicans. Really, gentleman, that’s your idea of responsible governance?
[A] final (we think) vote on the skinny repeal took place in the wee hours of the night on Friday. . . . In the end, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — in a sort of Hollywood ending — voted no along with Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill died, and with it perhaps, finally, the quixotic vote to end Obamacare.
And what was the excuse for the rest of the Senate? They all had the power to stop a bill many openly trashed as a joke and conceded would do great damage. Nevertheless, all hoped someone else would do the dirty work of derailing it. I’m hard-pressed to think of another instance in which virtually all senators of one party (save three) declared their inability to make a critically important decision. 
It took three brave souls, one in the twilight of his career, to finally put their constituents and the country above partisan hackery.

How any one moral can still call them self a Republican is baffling to me.  How much more depraved and hate-filled must the GOP become before they will open their eyes and face the fact that the GOP all of us once knew is dead and gone.  The election of Der Trumpenführer was its death knell. 

Trump's Misrule - Is The Worst is Yet to Come?

Driving from work this evening I was tuned in to satellite radio listening to a show co-hosted by former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele.  The guest was a columnist from National Review who summed up the Trump White House's never ending chaos in this way: When you elect a reality TV personality - he did not call Trump a "star" - to be president, expect a the White House to become a reality show akin to the Bachelor, Survivor, and other sleazy reality shows where logic, reason and circumspection are unknown concepts.  Sadly, not a day goes by when there isn't coverage of some new Trump outrage or actions evidencing that Trump doesn't grasp - or perhaps cannot grasp due to his malignant narcissism - that running the White House is not like running a real estate business that consistently skirted the law and engaged with all sorts of shady, if not criminal, elements.  A column in the Washington Post predicts that the worse may be yet to come: 
The Court of Mad King Donald is not a presidency. It is an affliction, one that saps the life out of our democratic institutions, and it must be fiercely resisted if the nation as we know it is to survive.
I wish that were hyperbole. The problem is not just that President Trump is selfish, insecure, egotistical, ignorant and unserious. It is that he neither fully grasps nor minimally respects the concept of honor, without which our governing system falls apart. He believes “honorable” means “obsequious in the service of Trump.” He believes everyone else’s motives are as base as his.
The Trump administration is, indeed, like the court of some accidental monarch who is tragically unsuited for the duties of his throne. However long it persists, we must never allow ourselves to think of the Trump White House as anything but aberrant. We must fight for the norms of American governance lest we forget them in their absence.
It gets worse and worse. The past week has marked a succession of new lows.
Trump has started a sustained campaign to goad or humiliate Attorney General Jeff Sessions into resigning. Trump has blasted Sessions on Twitter, at a news conference, in newspaper interviews and at a campaign-style rally. He has called Sessions “beleaguered” and said repeatedly how “disappointed” he is in the attorney general. [W]hat kind of leader treats a lieutenant with such passive-aggressive obnoxiousness? Trump is too namby-pamby to look Sessions in the eye and say, “You’re fired.”
That’s what the president clearly is trying to summon the courage to do, however. The Post reported that Trump has been “musing” with his courtiers about the possibility of firing Sessions and naming a replacement during the August congressional recess.
Trump has no respect for the rule of law. He is enraged that Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the election, and thus is not in a position to protect the House of Trump from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. 
Trump seeks to govern by whim and fiat. On Wednesday morning, he used Twitter to announce a ban on transgender people serving in the military, surprising his own top military leaders. . . . . Would the thousands of transgender individuals now serving in the military be purged? Was this actual policy or just a fit of indigestion?
Inside the mad king’s court, the internecine battles are becoming ever more brutal. Members of Trump’s inner circle seek his favor by leaking negative information about their rivals. This administration is more hostile to the media than any in recent memory but is also more eager to whisper juicy dirt about the ambitious courtier down the hall.
Trump’s new favorite, Anthony Scaramucci, struts around more like a chief of staff than a communications director, which is his nominal role. 
Why bring in Scaramucci? Because, I fear, the mad king is girding for war. Trump is reckless enough to fire Mueller if he digs too deeply into the business dealings of the Trump Organization and the Kushner Companies.
What then? Will Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) draft and push through a new special-prosecutor statute so that Mueller can quickly be reappointed? Will House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately open debate on articles of impeachment? Will we, the people, defend our democracy?
Do not become numb to the mad king’s outrages. The worst is yet to come.

Christofascists Lobbied Trump for Transgender Ban

While many are news outlets are reporting that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der  Trumpenführer, tweeted ban against transgender Americans serving in the military "came out of the blue," the reality is that the supposed ban was part of Trump's effort to (i) deliver on promises made to evangelical Christian and hate group leaders in June, 2016, and (ii) change the topic from the Russiagate investigations that seem to be turning out more and more potentially damaging information on Trump and his sycophants.   CNN is now reporting that Trump's action was anything but "out of the blue" and that conservative members of Congress have been lobbying long and hard for the transgender ban (and I suspect, the Justice Department filing arguing that the Civil Rights Act of 1064 affords no protections to LGBT Americans).  My main complaint with the CNN piece is that it refers to those who lobbied for Trump's action as "conservatives."  These people members of Congress and their masters are not conservatives.  The correct labels for them include theocrats, Christofascists, Christian Taliban, hate merchants, and religious extremists, among others.   Locally, Congressman Rob Wittman seems to be clicking his heels and saluting Trump on this issue.  I have sought to secure an official comment from Wittman's office but have been rebuffed so far.  Here are highlights from CNN's coverage:
Republicans on Capitol Hill are scrambling to respond to President Donald Trump's announcement Wednesday to reinstitute a ban on transgender people serving in the military after conservatives who lobbied the White House say they were pushing only to prevent the Pentagon from paying for medical costs associated with gender confirmation -- not an outright ban.
Trump's decision, announced Wednesday on Twitter and sparking bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill, comes after the White House was lobbied by conservatives on the issue, including Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who proposed an amendment on the defense authorization bill to ban the Pentagon from paying what Hartzler called "transition surgeries," as well as hormone therapy. The Missouri Republican lobbied the White House in recent weeks to do something on the issue, a GOP congressional aide familiar with the situation told CNN. House Republican leaders knew the White House was already looking to change policy related to transgender people, but only as it relates to how or whether taxpayer money is being used for medical treatments, two Republican leadership sources told CNN. Trump's announcement on a total ban of transgender people serving in the US military was "far beyond leaders' expectations and caught many by surprise," one of those sources told CNN.
 Hartzler tried to engage with Defense Secretary James Mattis on service members' gender-related medical costs before the House took up the defense authorization bill, the aide said. When her amendment to that bill failed, she went to the White House to "address the issue" before the security spending bill was brought to the floor, a GOP congressional aide familiar with the situation told CNN.
News of conservatives lobbying Trump on transgender issues was first reported by Politico. . . . The House defeated Hartzler's amendment 209-214 on the defense authorization bill earlier this month, with 24 Republicans joining with Democrats to defeat the measure.
Some conservatives, such as Rep. Mark Meadows and others in the Freedom Caucus, had been threatening to try to kill the spending package if the transgender health provision was not included, but Republican leadership was confident they had the votes to get the bill over the finish line, according to congressional aides. House conservatives were trying to avoid a roll-call vote, too, pushing leadership to add the amendment banning medical expenses for trans service members as a "self-executing" provision to the House Rule for the security bill, which would have avoided a specific vote, according to a senior GOP aide. But leadership rejected that idea.
 House armed services committee Chairman Mac Thornberry told CNN Trump's decision appeared to catch the Pentagon by surprise, too, in addition to Congress.
"It was a complete surprise, not only to us but to the Pentagon apparently," Thornberry said.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Witnessing the Collapse of the Rule of Law in America

As a history major I've often wondered what people living during times when dictators came to power and democratic norms must have felt.  Examples of such times include the the fall of the Roman Republic and, of course, the rise of Adolph Hitler.  Now, it seems, I know some of their distress and fear for the future as I watch a presidency out of control, normal political behavior throw in the trash, and the Republican controlled Congress acting much as the Roman Senate did as Augustus Caesar made himself the first Roman emperor.  The main difference is that Augustus was a man of intelligence who sought to stabilize the empire and outwardly followed the practices of the Republic.  With Trump, we are witnessing a man devoid of morality and driven only by self interest and the apparent need to cover up his own criminality.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the destruction of the rule of law taking place before our very eyes.  Here are excerpts:
On both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, we are witnessing a collapse of the norms of governing, constant violations of our legitimate expectations of political leaders, and the mutation of the normal conflicts of democracy into a form of warfare that demands the opposition’s unconditional surrender.
Trump’s latest perverse miracle is that he has progressives — along with everyone else who cares about the rule of law — rooting for Sessions. The attorney general is as wrong as ever on voter suppression, civil rights enforcement and immigration. But Sessions did one very important thing: He obeyed the law.
When it was clear that he would have obvious conflicts of interest in the investigation of Russian meddling in our election and its possible links to the Trump campaign, Sessions recused himself, as he was required to do.
Trump’s attacks on Sessions for that recusal are thus a naked admission that he wants the nation’s top lawyer to act illegally if that’s what it takes to protect the president and his family. Equally inappropriate are Trump’s diktats from the Oval Office calling on Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton and those terrible “leakers” who are more properly seen as whistleblowers against Trump’s abuses.
Our country is now as close to crossing the line from democracy to autocracy as it has been in our lifetimes. Trump’s ignorant, self-involved contempt for his duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” ought to inspire patriots of every ideological disposition to a robust and fearless defiance.
But where are the leaders of the Republican Party in the face of the dangers Trump poses? They’re trying to sneak through a health-care bill by violating every reasonable standard citizens should impose on public servants dealing with legislation that affects more than one-sixth of our economy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan have little time for worrying about the Constitution because they are busy doing Trump’s bidding on health care.
Let it be said that two Republican senators will forever deserve . . . . In voting upfront to try to stop the process, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski demonstrated a moral and political toughness that eluded other GOP colleagues who had expressed doubts about this charade but fell into line behind their leaders.
The most insidious aspect of McConnell’s strategy is that he is shooting to pass something, anything, that would continue to save Republicans from having a transparent give-and-take on measures that could ultimately strip health insurance from 20 million Americans or more. Passing even the most meager of health bills this week would move the covert coverage-demolition effort to a conference committee with the House.
The Senate’s unseemly marathon thus seems likely to end with a push for a “skinny repeal” bill that would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual and employer mandates and its medical device tax. But no one should be deluded: A vote for skinny repeal is a vote for an emaciated democracy.
It was disappointing that Sen. John McCain’s passionate plea on Tuesday for a “return to regular order” did not match his votesin this week’s early roll calls.
But McCain could yet advance the vision of the Senate he outlined in his floor speech and rebuke “the bombastic loudmouths” he condemned by casting a “no” vote at the crucial moment. Here’s hoping this war hero will ultimately choose to strike a blow against everything he said is wrong with Congress.
And when it comes to the ongoing indifference to the law in the White House, Republicans can no longer dodge their responsibility to speak out against what Trump is doing. They should also examine their own behavior. The decline of our small-r republican institutions can be stopped only if the party brandishing that adjective starts living up to the obligations its name honors.
I for one am not optimistic about the future.  Once again I find myself wonder whether the husband and I should emigrate - like many Germans did in the 1930's under Hitler's growing menace - before the bottom falls out.  The main concern if we take that course is how to get my children and their families out while there is still time to do so.  I have no faith that Republicans will do their sworn duty and uphold the U.S. Constitution while there is still time to do so.  Be very afraid. 

Trump DOJ Continues Attacks on LGBT Americans

While Der Trumpenführer's diktat against transgender members of the military is receiving the most media attention, another sinister effort is being pushed by Trump's Department of Justice that would declare that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not afford any protections to LGBT individuals targeted for discrimination.  Specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions - a man with a long history of both racism and anti-LGBT animus - filed an amicus brief filed in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  The case involves an employee, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, who filed suit against his employer in federal court in New York, alleging that the company terminated him for his sexual orientation in violation of Title VII.   The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")  supported Zarda last month in its own court filing.  BuzzFeed looks at the case and Trump/Sessions' effort to leave LGBT with no non-discrimination protections (something that would thrill Christofascists and evangelical Christians). Here are highlights:
The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday argued in a major federal lawsuit that a 1964 civil rights law doesn’t protect gay workers from discrimination, thereby diverging from a separate, autonomous federal agency that had supported the gay plaintiff’s case.
The Trump administration’s filing is unusual in part because the Justice Department isn’t a party in the case, and the department doesn’t typically weigh in on private employment lawsuits.
But in an amicus brief filed at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, lawyers under Attorney General Jeff Sessions contend that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, does not cover sexual orientation.
The Justice Department also contends that Title VII only applies if men and women are treated unequally.
"The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect," the brief says.
After a lower court ruled and the case was appealed, the 2nd Circuit invited outside parties to weigh in. Zarda v. Altitude Express is now before before a full panel of judges at the court.
Among Zarda’s boosters is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a largely autonomous federal agency that handles civil rights disputes in the workplace, which supported Zarda last month in its own court filing.
For several years, the EEOC has declared in federal court that Title VII bans anti-gay discrimination, saying it is based on sex stereotyping, and therefor discrimination on the basis of sex.
If Zarda’s argument were to prevail — despite his death in base-jumping accident in 2014 — it would set new precedent in the circuit by overturning two cases from the 2000s.
Further, it would give momentum to the argument as a general matter, given that the 7th Circuit ruled in favor of lesbian in April who made the same claim.
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump announced he would end all transgender military service.
“On the day that will go down in history as Anti-LGBT Day, comes one more gratuitous and extraordinary attack on LGBT people’s civil rights," said a statement from James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT & HIV Project. "The Sessions-led Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working to expose people to discrimination."
Let it not be forgotten that every friend, family member or neighbor of an LGBT American voted for this attack on our basic civil rights when they voted for Donald Trump. Do NOT give them a pass or forgive them for the harm that they set in motion and will be continuing to support as long as they continue to support Trump and the GOP more generally.  With "friends" like these Trump supporters, one doesn't need an enemy.   

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump's Cruel and Cynical Transgender Ban

Donald Trump made many promises during the 2016 presidential campaign.  So far, other than putting anti-gay Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, Trump has delivered on few of his promises.  At least the publicly made ones.  Time will tell what promises he may have made to Vladimir Putin, but today we witnessed Trump delivering on one of his promises to Christofascist leaders in June, 2016.  Today, Trump issued a fiat ban on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military - much to the near orgasmic joy of hate group leaders such as Tony Perkins.  Pleasing the evangelical Christians who bear responsibility for Trump's presidency is far more important than delivering jobs to those in Youngstown, Ohio, or western Pennsylvania who he played for fools.   So too is causing distractions to divert media attention from the increasingly serious Russiagate scandal.  A piece in The New Yorker looks at Trump's cruel and cynical action against one of the most beleaguered segments of society.  Here are excerpts:
Nearly a half century ago, young Donald Trump—a Wharton graduate, and an avid player of squash, football, and tennis—scored a 1-Y medical deferment. Hundreds of thousands of young men were being deployed to Vietnam. Trump had some bone spurs. He then limped happily into his father’s real-estate business without delay.
When Trump was interviewed by the Times about his deferment during the 2016 campaign, he admitted that the foot condition was “temporary” and “minor”—usually orthotics or stretching eased the pain—and yet, “I had a doctor that gave me a letter—a very strong letter on the heels.” He promised the paper that he would look for the letter. Amazingly, it never turned up.
On Wednesday morning, the Commander-in-Chief declared by tweet-fiat that, “after consultation with my Generals and military experts,” he had decided to reverse an Obama Administration decision and bar transgender individuals from serving in the military “in any capacity.” Trump tweeted further, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming . . . victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
Let’s begin with the retrograde cruelty. There are thousands of transgender people already serving among the 1.3 million active-duty members of the military. These are people who have volunteered their service and have potentially put their lives on the line, and yet their President, who managed to come up with a flimsy doctor’s note back in the day, denies them their dignity, their equality. He will not “accept or allow” them in the military. Imagine the scale of this insult.
However, today’s outrage—they seem to come at least once daily—is not merely one that reflects on Trump’s low character. It also reveals yet another layer of his political cynicism, and his willingness to use any tactical means available to try to emerge whole from his current predicament.
The President is in the midst of a colossal scandal, and the country, to an increasing measure, knows it. It’s not merely a matter of poor popularity polls. A sizable portion of the country wants to be rid of him and suspects he is unworthy of his office. Six months into his Presidency, according to a USA Today/Media Ethics poll, the country is split on whether or not he should be impeached . . . . The scandal is broad-based, but it surely includes (but is not limited to) contacts with Russian officials during the campaign and potential collusion . . . . the accumulating evidence of a history of sleazy business practices and partners; and the level of sheer incompetence in the West Wing.
It is implausible that Trump paid much attention to his highest-ranking generals, or to experts, generally; Secretary of Defense James Mattis has supported transgender individuals joining the military. And the hardly radical Rand Corporation has published an in-depth study refuting the idea that transgender soldiers are somehow expensive, or that they undermine the morale and cohesion of the military over all. Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from the military is pure politics, cheap and cruel politics, a naked attempt to divert attention from his woes, to hold on to support from his base . . . . In other words, it is a decision straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook. Cue the organs of the alt-right press.
When you begin to consider the meanness of what Trump has done, it is worth remembering him saying that he was “smarter” than the generals on military matters, and that he mocked John McCain’s service in Vietnam because “I like people who weren’t captured.” When you begin to think about the scale of this offense, it is worth remembering Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who lost a son in Iraq, addressing Trump directly from the lectern of the Democratic National Convention: “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
Not my president.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Why Alliance Defending Freedom Is A Hate Group

The latest tactic of anti-LGBT hate groups is to lie - lying is one of their hallmarks - and claim that they are being persecuted and slandered because of their religious beliefs.  The tactic is part of the organized effort to create the myth in America that Christians are facing persecution and, therefore, need to have "religious freedom" laws enacted in their favor.  As noted numerous times, these laws are in fact a license to discriminate and simply allow Christofascists to exempt themselves from non-discrimination laws and ordinances.  They undermine the rule of law and establish a de facto national religion in the form of extremist Christianity.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has a piece that looks at what these hate groups all have in common: spreading know lies and untruths and working endlessly to subject LGBT citizens to discrimination and, sometimes, criminalization.  It is a part of the Christofascists effort to destroy anything and anyone who does not comport with their fear and based beliefs and/or might make others question such beliefs.  Here are highlights from the piece which shows the deliberate dishonesty and viciousness of Alliance Defending Freedom (the same agenda applies to Family Research Council and a host of "family values" groups):
In 2016, The Southern Poverty Law Center added the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF; formerly Alliance Defense Fund until 2012) to its list of anti-LGBT hate groups.
The designation is a result of ADF’s propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people over the years (including the conspiracy theory that there is a “homosexual agenda” or “homosexual legal agenda” to undermine “the family” and Christianity), its demonization of LGBT people, its support of criminalization of gay sex in the U.S. and abroad and its continued attempts to create state and local policies and legislation (so-called “religious liberty” laws) that allow Christians to deny goods and services to LGBT people in the public sphere and marginalize LGBT students in schools.
The SPLC does not name groups to its anti-LGBT hate list simply for having biblical objections to homosexuality or for opposing same-sex marriage.
Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally. . . . . Since its founding, the ADF has expanded its operations abroad as it battles abortion, LGBT equality, and what it considers the “myth” of the separation of church and state.
The ADF’s longstanding antipathy toward LGBT people has become public through its work on lawsuits, various statements it has made, and materials it has offered on its website over the years. It has also promoted the idea of a “homosexual agenda— a nefarious scheme to destroy Christianity and, eventually, civilization through LGBT people’s efforts to secure equality under the law. To those who believe in this conspiracy theory, LGBT people are not really seeking equality; rather, they are actually seeking to destroy such things as Christianity, the family and culture.
ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley at the Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage conference, 2014:  “Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.
Alan Sears, then-president of ADF (he was president until January, 2017) publishes a book he co-wrote with then-ADF colleague Craig Osten titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which was heavily advertised for sale on the ADF website and offered in fundraising pitches for years. The book is the authors’ attempt to describe how far the conspiracy of “the homosexual agenda” has infiltrated the country and undermined Christianity through things like media and educational institutions. Sears and Osten described the media campaign conducted by LGBT activists in the 70s and 80s (as summarized in the account After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90s) to "a war of propagandajust as Hitler did so masterfully in Nazi Germany."
Sears and Osten also claim that homosexual activists are attempting to “indoctrinate children” as early as kindergarten. (p. 52)  The authors link homosexuality to pedophilia . . . .
Lawrence v. Texas amicus briefs . . . ADF files two friend-of-the-court briefs in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, which struck down anti-LGBT sodomy laws in the United States. Both briefs support retaining criminalization. One, with ADF attorney Glen Lavy, is a litany of graphic descriptions of sex acts and how dangerous same-sex sexual activity is (more so than opposite-sex sodomy, the brief argues), ultimately claiming that the state (Texas) should continue to criminalize same-sex sexual acts in the interest of public health and “morality.”
A pamphlet titled “The Truth about Homosexual Marriage” — available on the ADF’s website — claims that same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships are dangerous to children. . . . . The pamphlet promotes ex-gay ministry Exodus (Exodus International shut down in 2013) for its role in helping thousands of individuals stop homosexual behavior.”
According to the ADF website, “The homosexual legal agenda is one of the greatest threats to religious freedom in America today.” The strategy of proponents of this agenda “is twofold: dilute moral values so that homosexual behavior is thought to be normal, natural and good, while suppressing the religious and free speech rights of those who disagree.” Clearly, the ADF says, “The homosexual agenda is at odds with religious freedom.”
Alan Sears speaks in a plenary session (PDF) at the anti-LGBT World Congress of Families gathering in Madrid, Spain. The session is titled “The Homosexual Agenda” and Sears states that, “the homosexual legal agenda” reveals “an extremism that seeks out and persecutes any soul, in any corner of our society, who refuses to publicly embrace and aggressively promote homosexual behavior.”
ADF attorney Piero Tozzi addresses (PDF) an anti-LGBT conference in Jamaica, where he voices his support for the continued imposition of the Jamaican anti-sodomy law which, he says, is a “the bulwark” against a “larger agenda” and falsely links childhood trauma to homosexuality.
ADF attorney Erik Stanley speaks in Tennessee at a conference titled “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage” where he pushes the myth that Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder was “fabricated” and had nothing to do with his homosexuality. Rather, the story about his murder being a hate crime was to advance the “homosexual legal agenda.”
 ADF sends a letter to school districts around the country stating that no school is legally beholden to implement trans-inclusive policies and allow trans students to access bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. The letter denies the gender identity of such students and claims that such inclusive policies are allowing opposite sex students to access the facilities, which is “dangerous.”
ADF legal counsel Douglas Wardlow testifies in an Anoka-Hennepin school board meeting in Minnesota against allowing trans students to access facilities in accordance with their gender identities. Prior to his testimony, he sent a letter to the board in which he used the discredited research of Mark Regnerus and Paul McHugh to falsely claim that protecting trans students from discrimination is not supported by medical science (it is).

ADF's lies are endless.  Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation spreads the same untruths and amazingly to date has escaped a formal hate group designation, perhaps because its propaganda is limited to within Virginia.  Both groups seek to spread anti-LGBT hatred and to give Christian extremists special rights and need to be recognized as a menace to true religious freedom. 

Trump's "Hitler Youth" Speech to Boy Scouts

Most American presidents are invited to the Boy Scout National Jamboree, but while many attend the event and speak, a significant do not.  Would that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der  Trumpenführer, had passed up the invitation.  What ensued when Trump addressed the Scout gathering sounded more akin to Adolph Hitler addressing a gathering of Hitler Youth members.  Rather than being uplifting and talking about good citizenship and living by the Scout Law, Der  Trumpenführer attacked the mainstream news media, sought to illicit boos against Barack Obama, and made the speech into a political case of verbal diarrhea aimed at harming anyone not swearing fealty to "Dear Leader." While cheers were heard on the audio of Trump's rant, many in attendance and others with strong ties to the Boy Scouts were not happy and the supposedly non-partisan non-profit organization felt compelled to distance itself from Trump's political and personal attacks.  Coverage in the Washington Post looks at this vile and inappropriate screed by a man who sounded more like a peevish child that the president of a global super power.  Here are highlights: 
Trump’s speech at the Jamboree in Mount Hope, W.Va., broke with years of tradition — presidential traditions and Scouting traditions both. Past presidents had used these moments to extol American exceptionalism and civic virtues — such as service and honesty — that have long been pillars of the Boy Scout ethos.
Trump did a little of that before veering into a speech about his own exceptionalism.
“It pivoted to essentially a typical Trump rally. And it was not a campaign-rally audience. It was an audience of young boys and young men, who’ve come from around the country to celebrate Scouting,” said Robert Birkby, a former Eagle Scout who wrote three editions of the Boy Scout Handbook. “He did not share in the event. He shared of himself.”
By Tuesday, Trump’s speech had prompted a backlash from many current and former Scouts and their families, who say it was not only inappropriate but also undermines efforts to diversify and modernize the century-old organization.
On social media and in interviews, many said they thought national leaders should have cut short or condemned the speech, which included strong language — “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” — and a reference to cocktail parties attended by “the hottest people in New York.” Trump at times tried to raise issues more traditionally discussed at Boy Scout gatherings, such as character and perseverance. But he also lingered on his campaign fight against Democrat Hillary Clinton and seemingly joked about firing his health and human services secretary over Republicans’ inability, so far, to pass health-care legislation.
By midday Tuesday, the organization’s Facebook page included hundreds of comments from former Scouts and parents of Scouts, calling for the organization to make a stronger statement condemning the speech. Many threatened to pull out of Scouting.
The controversy comes as the venerable organization, which has promoted civic engagement and character development among children since 1910, strives to stay relevant and appear inclusive. Membership in the Boy Scouts has dwindled by a third since 2000, to just more than 2 million as of 2016.
The organization has sought to reach out to Hispanics through its Valores para Toda la Vida (Values for Life) program. It founded its co-ed Venturing program, which focuses on outdoor exploration for teens and young adults, in 1998 and has opened some of its other programs to girls, though so far not its prestigious Eagle Scout program. The organization rescinded its ban on gay members in 2014 and in January announced that it will allow transgender members.
The efforts have in part been an effort to keep from driving away parents and students in more liberal areas of the country, said Alvin Townley, a Georgia-based author who wrote “A Legacy of Honor,” a history of the Eagle Scouts, who have earned the highest level of achievement in the organization. He suggested that the political nature of Trump’s speech undermines that goal.
“No president has used the Jamboree as a backdrop to advance a political agenda. . . . . And Scouting’s vitality relates directly to its inclusion of people from different backgrounds and different perspectives.”
Trump’s remarks were the last straw for at least one former Scout. Eric Styner, 31, who works in quality assurance at a technology company in Seattle, said Tuesday that he had decided to renounce his status as an Eagle Scout.
Styner said he gradually became alienated from the Scouts, beginning at age 14, when he was rankled by the requirement that a Scout profess a belief in God to pass his Eagle Scout Board of Review. He was further disillusioned when the Scouts held fast to a gay ban even after many states had legalized same-sex marriage. Trump’s speech clinched it, he said.
Some defended the organization, saying that it did the right thing by inviting Trump. The problem, they said, was Trump.

For the record, I was a scout as was my son.  That said, I have become increasingly disillusioned with the Boy Scouts which seems to aligned with Christofascists and pushes an anti-gay, anti-minority agenda.  That Trump was allowed to engage in such an inappropriate and dishonest rant makes me more resolved to make sure that my grandsons are not scouts.