Saturday, October 21, 2017

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Extremist John Adams Attacks Mark Herring for Not Defending Unconstitutional Gay Marriage Ban

As I have noted in a number of posts and in my columns in VEER Magazine, Republican Attorney General candidate is a religious extremist.  He thinks his far right wing beliefs should be binding on all and indeed has given his services without charge to support Christofascist who believe their claimed religious beliefs put them above the law.  In the last debate against incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring who is running for reelection, Adams repeatedly attacked Herring for refusing to defend Virginia's unconstitutional ban on same sex marriage.  In Adams' view, Herring should have followed the example of previous attorney generals that defended Jim Crow laws and  and Virginia's ban on interracial marriage that was eventually struck down by the United States Supreme Court after the Virginia Supreme Court twice upheld the ban, citing religion as one of the justifications.  In attacking Herring Adams displays an ignorance that even a first year law student would not engage in: the United States Constitution supersedes the Virginia Constitution and if a provision of the Virginia Constitution violates the United States Constitution, then it should not be enforced or defended.  Because of his reactionary religious beliefs, Adams ignores this basic principle.  This fact alone underscores that Adams is unfit for the office of attorney general.  The Virginian Pilot looks at the debate.  Here are highlights:   
Attorney General Mark Herring's refusal to defend Virginia's ban on gay marriage was his signature act during his four-year term. Now it's the key point of contention in his re-election campaign against Republican challenger John Adams.
At a debate Friday in Leesburg, Adams said it was dereliction of duty when Herring switched the state's legal position in a lawsuit challenging the ban once he took office in 2014. A federal judge who struck down Virginia's ban cited Herring's switch as a compelling factor in her analysis.
Adams attributed Herring's decision to a political calculation, noting that Herring actually voted for the gay marriage ban a few years earlier when he was a state senator.
Herring, who received national attention when he announced his decision to oppose the gay-marriage ban in court, said his position was ultimately vindicated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down gay-marriage bans as unconstitutional.
Herring said he considered the fact that Virginia was on the wrong side of history in the civil rights era when the state argued to keep segregated schools, and didn't want to make the same mistake.  "It was the right thing to do," Herring said.
Herring, in his opening statement, said Adams would not protect abortion rights and would oppose gun safety measures. He said Adams worked as a lawyer in private practice to weaken rules protecting coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.  "John is fixated on conservative social issues," Herring said.
Adams' biggest lie of the evening was when he said this:
"I am running to get politics out of the attorney general's office," he said. "I'm not running to limit anybody's rights."

Adams is running to limit the rights of LGBT Virginians, women and of course, minorities since he strongly supports Republican efforts to disenfranchise minority voters.  In my opinion, Adams is a dishonest, vicious and very dangerous man.   Vote for Mark Herring on November 7, 2017.

The Rising Global Tide Against LGBT Individuals

I generally do not view myself as paranoid, but if one looks at what is happening both here in America and around many places in the world, if one is LGBT, there is much to worry about.  Here in America the Trump/Pence regime is waging a relentless war against LGBT Americans and has already taken measures rolling back LGBT protections put in place by the Obama administration, has intervened in a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit arguing that existing federal civil rights laws do not apply to LGBT individuals and that gays can be fired at will, and had its representative to the United Nations recently voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemned the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.  Meanwhile, Betty Price, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and wife of former Trump Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, asked this week whether the government could quarantine people with HIV to limit transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.  In doing so, Price parroted a long time talking point of Christofascist organizations - much like what the Nazis did toward Jews - that gays are diseased and pose a public health crisis.  In her ignorance, Price ignored the fact that the exploding HIV crisis now is among blacks, but then again the Trump regime and evangelical Christians do not like blacks anymore than they like gays.

Overseas, things are just as disturbing.   In Russia, that country's awful law that fines anyone expressing support for LGBT rights in public could get even harsher after a senior official in the Ministry of the Interior suggested making it a criminal offense.  A piece in the Washington Post lists other anti-LGBT efforts fueled by religious belief and opportunist politicians only too happy to scapegoat gays to divert attention from their failing policies.  Here are excerpts:
This week, a government journal in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan announced that the country's interior ministry had compiled a registry of “proven” gays and lesbians. The list named 319 men and 48 women, whom Tajik federal prosecutors identified in operations they called “Morality” and “Purge.”
A purge — likely in the form of mass incarcerations — is exactly what human rights organizations are afraid will happen. But the phenomenon would not be unique to Tajikistan: Over the past few months, police in Egypt, Azerbaijan, Tanzania, Indonesia and the Russian republic of Chechnya have rounded up people suspected of being gay — and in many cases tortured or publicly humiliated them.
What's more, many of the crackdowns look like “copycats” of one another. “There are a lot of ways in which these crackdowns follow the same sequence of events,” said Kyle Knight, a researcher on LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch. “And there's reason to believe that what's happening in Tajikistan now is based on things their government there has learned from, say, what Azerbaijan just did.”
The sequence generally starts with someone — most likely a religious figure or government official — publicly denigrating acts of alleged sexual deviance. In countries where homosexuality is taboo and driven underground, such comments may be the first thing a person has heard in public about LGBT people. “It is easy to say that these particular people are spreading disease, that they are foreigners or sinners. From a starting point of ignorance, prejudice is an easy next step,” said Knight.
Then things get dangerous. . . . In most of the countries listed above, homosexuality is not illegal. But there also aren't any nondiscrimination laws that include sexuality. Without them, political leaders have to expend their own political capital to step in — assuming they think LGBT communities deserve protection at all. Instead, leaders usually side with the denunciations, or even calls for criminalization, and obscenity and prostitution laws are often turned against sexual minorities.  My colleagues in Jakarta, Moscow and Cairo have all recently documented that sequence.
As of this Tuesday, at least 20 people in Egypt had received prison sentences ranging from six months to six years, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told our Cairo bureau chief, Sudarsan Raghavan. Four people were sentenced to three years each, and rights groups say some have already been beaten and forced to undergo anal examinations.  Of the 20, some were arrested for waving rainbow flags at a concert, others for Facebook posts supporting the LGBT community, and some were tracked down by police on gay dating apps and chatrooms.
In Azerbaijan, meanwhile, more than 80 people have been arrested since mid-September for suspected homosexuality.
The United Nations and Human Rights Watch have interviewed some of those arrested in Azerbaijian, who claim they were subjected to “electric shocks, beatings, forced shaving and other forms of humiliation to force them to incriminate themselves before being released,” according to a U.N. spokesman.
That torture and humiliation is reminiscent of what rights groups were hearing out of the Russian republic of Chechnya earlier this year. Roughly 100 people, mostly young men, were allegedly detained and mercilessly beaten as police attempted to force them to confess their homosexuality. This week, Maxim Lapunov became the first of them to lodge a formal complaint with Russia's Investigative Committee, which has previously dismissed allegations that any such “gay pogrom” ever took place.
Knight, of Human Rights Watch, said conditions are ripe for similar crackdowns in countries all over the world, pointing to Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova as examples.
 International out cry can push back against these horrific agendas.  Yet the United States in the age of Trump has signaled that it will not champion human rights for all even as it strives to give Christian extremist at home special rights to ignore non-discrimination and public accommodation laws. Here in Virginia, extremist GOP attorney general candidate John Adams has made it clear that he thinks religious belief should trump the Constitution's right of freedom of religion for those who are not right wing Christians.  It is indeed a worrisome time to be LGBT.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, October 20, 2017

More Friday Male Beauty

GOP Voter Suppression Laws May Have Won Wisconsin for Trump

With their aging white, heterosexual, conservative Christian voter base literally dying off, Republican efforts around the country have shifted increasingly towards disenfranchising voters who they believe will vote against their agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, special rights for Christofascists, emboldening white supremacists, and taking from the poor to give to the rich.  This effort takes many forms, but a favored method is to pass so-called voter ID laws under the guise of fighting non-existent voter fraud.  Other efforts include wrongfully purging voters from voter records and here in Virginia making it difficult for convicted felons who have served their time to regain their voting rights.  Hand in hand with this, of curse, is the disproportionate prosecution of minorities under Virginia's often very low threshold felony laws.  Now, a study suggests that these efforts bore fruit last year when Wisconsin's efforts to disenfranchise voters may have thrown Wisconsin to Trump.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at this disturbing situation which Republicans will no doubt seek to replicate in other states (Mother Jones also has coverage here).  Here are highlights: 
Close elections almost by definition conjure up countless explanations of what might have changed the result. As the fine voting-rights journalist Ari Berman notes, one of the more shocking and significant developments on November 8, 2016, was Donald Trump’s win in Wisconsin, a state that had not gone Republican in a presidential election since the 49-state Reagan landslide of 1984. Explanations were all over the place. . . .
Virtually no one, says Berman, talked about voter suppression, even though Scott Walker’s hyperpolarized state had enacted and fought successfully to preserve one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws, expected and designed to reduce minority turnout.
Yet there is evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that voter suppression efforts had a lot to do with a sharp reduction in minority and student voting in Wisconsin.
After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County were surveyed about why they didn’t cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote. According to the study’s author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee—and as many as 45,000 statewide—were deterred from voting by the ID law. “We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” he says.
Trump carried the state by less than 23,000 votes.
Wisconsin’s voter ID law was designed to create complex hoops prospective voters had to jump through to secure an ID, particularly for those without driver’s licenses, and also for college students attending schools that did not issue the kind of IDs the law demanded. Berman found abundant evidence that election personnel in the state went beyond the letter of the law to discourage compliance.
And voter ID was just part of the arsenal of voter suppression techniques at the GOP’s disposal:
The voter ID law was one of 33 election changes passed in Wisconsin after Walker took office [in 2011], and it dovetailed with his signature push to dismantle unions, taking away his opponents’ most effective organizing tool. Wisconsin’s Legislature cut early voting from 30 days to 12, reduced early voting hours on nights and weekends, and restricted early voting to one location per county, hampering voters in large urban areas and sprawling rural ones. It also added new residency requirements for voter registration, eliminated staffers who led statewide registration drives, and made it harder to count absentee ballots.
It all added up, and for Republicans, it paid off handsomely in 2016.
One lesson of the Wisconsin saga is that control of the federal courts matters a great deal in vindicating voting rights and political representation; this is, after all, the state where a GOP gerrymander of the legislature was so overtly partisan that the U.S. Supreme Court may find it unconstitutional.
Republican-controlled statehouses have already passed more voting restrictions in 2017 than they did in 2016 and 2015 combined. Taken together, “there’s no doubt that these election changes affected the turnout among young voters, first-time voters, voters of color, and other members of the Obama coalition that overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton,” . . .
If you think of voting rights as a wonky “process” issue that’s less important than health care or the environment or avoiding war with North Korea, think again. It’s entirely possible we wouldn’t be dealing with a President Trump at all if voting rights were regarded as a fundamental right of citizenship that should be strongly and universally encouraged.

I only meet one of the GOP's preferred voter base of white, heterosexual, conservative Christians - Like author Anne Rice, I don't call myself Christian anymore given the hideousness that Christianity has taken on under the Christofascists.  What will the GOP try to come up with to disenfranchise people like me?  If Republicans win the Virginia statewide elections next month, expect a new wave of voter disenfranchisement in Virginia. Be very afraid. Get out and vote while you still can. 

Americans Helped Spread Russian "GOP" Propaganda

Conway re-tweeted Russian Internet troll lies as did Donald, Jr., and numerous right wing "news" sites
One lesson from the 2016 presidential campaign as more information comes out about the lengths Russia used social messaging via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to influence voters and throw those open to bigotry, homophobia and, of course white supremacy towards the Trump campaign is how gullible some Americans were and how they actively spread the Russia sourced lies and propaganda.  I still suspect that Russia had inside help from as yet unidentified Americans in designing their fake accounts and targeting susceptible demographics.   That said, frighteningly, far too many Americans - including right wing "news sites" like Fox News, the Daily Caller and Breitbart not to mention a number of Trump campaign officials - were only happy to believe the lies and further circulate them by re-posting and sharing them.  Indeed, I have Facebook "friends" (who I will not name, but hope will recognize themselves and change their behavior) who time and time again forward, re-post and share fake news, at least some of which appears to have been authored by Russian operatives in Moscow or St, Petersburg, Russia.  BuzzFeed reports on this disturbing co-opting of Americans to undermine American democracy.  Here are story highlights:
A popular, divisive Twitter account, purporting to be the work of Tennessee Republicans but allegedly the creation of Russian trolls to sow division in the US, was repeatedly cited in multiple articles by many prominent US news sites.
The Tennessee Republican Party flagged the account, @TEN_GOP, to Twitter, saying it was a fake, but it wasn't until 11 months after the first notification that the social media company "permanently suspended" the account.
By then, however, the site's inflammatory tweets had reached not only its more than 136,000 followers, but thousands of other people through retweets and references by some of the most prominent sites and personalities on the internet.
The account's purported Russian roots were revealed this week by Russia's RBC news outlet in an investigation that identified @TEN_GOP as one of dozens of accounts created by the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” whose work was aimed at sowing division online.
A BuzzFeed News survey of major American news sites showed just how wildly successful the account had been in injecting a divisive voice into US media, even after the 2016 election.
@TEN_GOP's tweets were used by Fox News to illustrate conservative reaction to minor news events, including the controversy that a writer for Saturday Night Live created when she referred on Twitter to Donald Trump's youngest son, Barron, as "this country's first homeschool shooter." Fox News Insider wrote that conservatives were outraged by the joke, citing five tweets, including that of @TEN_GOP.
In other cases, outlets seemed to base entire articles around sentiments expressed by @TEN_GOP. In March, Breitbart wrote about purported bias at Politico in an examination of that publication's description of the process by which Trump and Barack Obama had selected federal judges. It embedded an @TEN_GOP tweet to bolster its case.
All told, the account was quoted dozens of times across conservative news outlets. Fox News quoted an @TEN_GOP tweet in at least three stories, including one syndicated by the Daily Caller. The Daily Caller itself quoted it in six stories. Breitbart mentioned it in seven; Infowars in four; RedState in eight.
The Gateway Pundit, another conservative outlet, cited the Russian account in 19 different stories, . . . The account's tweets often derided African-Americans, Muslims, and immigrants.
The account became so prominent that a Daily Beast investigation found that some of the highest profile members of Trump's campaign endorsed it.
Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Trump digital director Brad Parscale, and Trump son Donald Jr. all retweeted @TEN_GOP in the weeks leading up to the election.
Longtime Trump friend Roger Stone also retweeted the account, as did Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump's national security adviser before resigning amid reports he'd lied about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  

Taking Down Trump for His Lies and Misogyny

I am not fan of George W. Bush.  A search of this blog will reveal more posts than I can recall off hand taking Bush - who I referred to as the Chimperator - and Emperor Palpatine Cheney.  And yes, Bush's evil minion Karl Rove set the blue print for the general ugliness, homophobia and racism that Donald Trump with the apparent aid of Russians posing as Americans on social media took to  horrific new levels.  Yet despite all of this, Bush seems to have lacked the total lack of even a shred of empathy for others that is the norm for Der Trumpenführer.  Similarly, although in my view in way over his head and far too deferential to Cheney, Bush seems to have lacked the viciousness and cruelty that are also the norm for Trump.  A piece in the Washington Post (and numerous other legitimate news outlets) looks at Bush's denunciation of Trumpism and the hate and white supremacy that define the Trump/Pence regime and its base.  Here are excerpts:
For the past nine years, George W. Bush has largely stayed out of presidential politics; he declined to criticize his successor, Barack Obama, and he chose not to endorse but largely ignored President Trump. While Mitt Romney and others spoke out publicly against Trump, Bush stayed above the fray.
That changed in a big way Thursday.
Speaking at a George W. Bush Institute event in New York, Bush didn't use Trump's name, but his target became clearer as the speech progressed. Here's a sampling:
  • “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
  • We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism.”
  • “We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity.”
  • “It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals.”
  • “Bullying and prejudice in our public life … provides permission for cruelty and bigotry.”
  • “The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them.
[A]lmost each of these quotes has some connection to Trump. “Conspiracy theories and fabrications?” Check and check. “Nationalism and nativism?” Check. A “degraded discourse?” Big check. “Bigotry and white supremacy?” Trump was criticized for not calling them out strongly enough in Charlottesville. “Bullying?” Huge check. Not “living up to civic values?”
On Thursday, Bush clearly decided that silence was no longer tenable.

Meanwhile, another column in the Post looks at Trump's lying and ties the pattern to one of the biggest liars, propagandists and sociopaths in history: Adolph Hitler.  Trump may not be another Hitler, but his pattern of lying and attacking the free press do bear frightening similarities to what Hitler did in the late 1920's and early 1930's via a campaign of lies.  Here are column excerpts:
It is a commonly accepted rule among those who are in the business of argument, especially online, that he or she who invokes Adolf Hitler, either in oratory or essays, automatically forfeits the argument.
The reference is deemed far too extreme, too explosive, too far beyond rational correlation. No matter how bad a present-day politician, not one of them has charted or is charting a course to exterminate millions of innocent people as an act of ethnic cleansing.
Hitler stands alone in this regard, without rival, a warning to the world about how evil and lethal human beings can be, a warning that what he did can never be allowed again.
That said, there are strategies that Hitler used to secure power and rise — things that allowed his murderous reign — that can teach us about political theory and practice. And very reasonable and sage comparisons can be drawn between Hitler’s strategies and those of others.
One of those lessons is about how purposeful lying can be effectively used as propaganda. The forthcoming comparison isn’t to Hitler the murderer, but to Hitler the liar.
According to James Murphy’s translation of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”:
“In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”
The text continues:
“It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
This demonstrates a precise understanding of human psychology, but also the dangerously manipulative nature that operates in the mind of a demon.
And yet, as many have noted, no person of sound reason or even cursory political awareness can read this and not be immediately struck by how similar this strategy of lying is to Donald Trump’s seeming strategy of lying: Tell a lie bigger than people think a lie can be, thereby forcing their brains to seek truth in it, or vest some faith in it, even after no proof can be found.
Trump is no Hitler, but the way he has manipulated the American people with outrageous lies, stacked one on top of the other, has an eerie historical resonance. Demagogy has a fixed design.
Just this week, Trump told the colossal lie that “President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls” to the families of fallen soldiers.
When called out about this lie, he quickly retreated to one of his shield phrases: “That’s what I was told.”
This is not a simple fear of the truth; it is a weaponizing of untruth. It is the use of the lie to assault and subdue. It is Trump doing to political ends what Hitler did to more brutal ends: using mass deception as masterful propaganda.
Maybe I have crossed the ink-stained line of the essay writer, where Hitler is always beyond it. But I don’t think so. Ignoring what one of history’s greatest examples of lying has to teach us about current examples of lying, particularly lying by the “president” of the most powerful country in the world, seems to me an act of timidity in a time of terror. It is an intentional self-blinding to avoid offending frail sensibilities. 
I do not believe the column author crossed the line. History has many lessons to offer if we are but willing to see the truth and ignores the calls of  sycophants of evil doers that one has gone to far or is being overly dramatic.  As one who has read a great deal about the rise of Hitler, one lesson is to never believe that evil cannot happen.  All it needs is a complacent and non-engaged populous. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, October 19, 2017

More Thursday Male Beauty

Virginia 2017 Elections - Political Endorsements

The following are excerpts from my column in the October, 2017, issue of VEER Magazine. (I write a monthly column)  To read the full column (and many other timely columns, look for VEER on news stands now. across Hampton Roads.  Here are the excerpts:
With Virginia's off year elections, LGBT Virginians find themselves confronted with crucial decisions at the ballot box every year.  But this year may be more critical than most given the war against LGBT Americans being relentlessly waged by the Trump/Pence regime in Washington, D.C.  On top of some of the already egregious measures - e.g., rolling back LGBT protections and intervening in a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to argue that existing federal civil rights laws do not apply to LGBT individuals - the Trump regime representative to the United Nations recently voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemns the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.  In voting against the resolution, the American delegation joined with Islamic countries such as Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.   One way to create a firewall against such anti-LGBT animus is to elect LGBT allied candidates to the offices of Governor, Attorney General and Lt. Governor on November 7, 2017.    As has become increasingly the case, the allies to the LGBT community in Virginia among elected officials are almost without exception the Democrat candidates.  
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR.   My endorsement goes to Democrat, Ralph Northam.  There are numerous reasons to endorse Democrat Ralph Northam over his challenger, former lobbyist Ed Gillespie, a/k/a "Enron Ed," but Dr. Northam's strong support for LGBT community and our civil rights, including our right to marry the person we love, certainly is a powerful factor.  No American citizen should have to worry one election cycle to the next about whether or not their civil rights will be abrogated or restricted based on the results of the coming election, yet that is the reality faced by LGBT Virginians, especially given the offensive being waged against us by the Trump White House.
 Just like the dishonesty and disingenuousness we see daily from the Trump/Pence regime, Ed Gillespie has tried to have it both ways and lied while speaking out of both sides of his mouth on LGBT rights and other issues.  Late last month, desperate to secure the endorsement of the Northern Virginia Business Political Action Committee, the PAC for the Northern Virginia Chamber, Gillespie privately promised to veto any anti-transgender bathroom that might come to him if he is elected governor.  Not surprisingly, that privately made promise is directly opposite of the many promises Gillespie, like Trump, has made to the evangelical Christians who wield huge influence within the GOP base in Virginia.  This Christian extremist influence is best embodied by The Family Foundation ("TFF"), a virulently anti-gay, anti-transgender organization that vigorously opposes any legal protections for LGBT Virginians and which, if given its way, would bring back the sodomy laws struck down in 2003 by the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.  Equally disturbing is Gillespie's repeated promises to Christian right extremists about his dedication to protecting their "religious freedom."  Sadly, this religious freedom ruse has become the standard Republican double speak which means Gillespie will protect the right of Christofascists' to discriminate against others based on real or claimed "religious belief." Stated another way, Gillespie supports license to discriminate laws veiled behind a smoke screen of "protecting religious freedom."  As icing on the cake, Gillespie believes in "traditional marriage" and is no fan or supporter of same sex marriage.
 In sharp contrast to each of Gillespie's positions, Ralph Northam has consistently supported LGBT rights initiatives, ran for the office of Lt. Governor on a platform that openly supported same sex marriage, and believes that real or feigned religious belief should not be a license to discriminate against or mistreat other citizens, be it in the form of refusing service to LGBT customers or refusing them housing. No one should be exempt from the scope of non-discrimination laws. If Gillespie's embrace of the larger GOP anti-LGBT rights agenda isn't enough to cause you to vote for Ralph Northam, then one should consider Gillespie's dangerous positions on health care, gun control and or fiscal responsibility.  . . . . Gillespie promises a 10% across the board tax cut if elected.  This tax cut would cause well over a $1.3 billion budget deficit for Virginia according to reports published by the Washington Post.  On his campaign website Gillespie claims that this would equate to a $1,300 tax cut to a family of four.  Like most GOP projections this claim does not seem to match mathematical reality.  My husband and I with our two wage earner incomes and CPA generated returns would see nowhere near this large of a cut in our annual state taxes.  One can only wonder what Gillespie considers to be a "typical family.”  By my calculation it would mean only those families making over perhaps approximately $200,000+ per year would realize the tax cut Gillespie promises. The very wealthy would be the big winners. 
On gun control, Ralph Northam is again the better candidate.  With America still reeling from the mass murder in Las Vegas earlier this month and the Pulse night club massacre still in the minds of many in the LGBT community, it is important to be aware of Ed Gillespie's opposition to sensible gun control laws.   In fact, earlier this year, Gillespie (and GOP Attorney General candidate John Adams) bragged about his top ratings from the NRA.  In sharp contrast to Gillespie, Ralph Northam received an "F" rating from the NRA, an organization that is little more than a front for gun manufacturers.  As a former military physician, Northam knows all too well what automatic weapons can do to the human body in the wrong hands and supports both a ban on the sale of assault weapons and other common sense legislation to reduce the carnage  from gun violence.  Remember those ratings when you vote in November and vote for Ralph Northam (and Mark Herring who is similarly disliked by the NRA). On healthcare, Gillespie is a supporter of the failed Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and despite promises to the contrary sees no problem with thousands of Virginians losing health insurance coverage.
OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL: My endorsement goes to Democrat, Mark Herring.  Since taking office in January, 2014, Mark Herring has been a steadfast supporter of the constitutional rights of all Virginians, including LGBT Virginians, as evidenced by his refusal to defend Virginia's unconstitutional ban on same sex marriage, a ban based on far right religious belief rather than the concept of equal protection under the law.  Similarly, Herring has opposed Republican efforts to employ voter ID laws to disenfranchise minority voters.  Herring's opponent, John Adams hypocritically whines that Herring has allowed "politics" to influence his actions as Attorney General, yet Adams, if elected, would bring back a religious right and white supremacist political agenda not seen since Ken Cuccinelli left office.   Adams would do all in his power reverse the McAuliffe/Northam/Herring effort to "make sure that Virginia is business-friendly and welcoming to all."
 Demonstrating Herring's effectiveness over the last almost four years, in endorsing Herring, the Northern Virginia Business Political Action Committee stated “General Herring has ably served the Commonwealth, just as he did serving Northern Virginia in the Senate and Loudoun County on the Board of Supervisors,” . . . . “He has a record of leadership on a host of key business issues important to the Northern Virginia Chamber, including his unwavering support for the landmark HB2313 transportation plan, and his commitment to modernize Virginia’s regulatory framework to prepare the Commonwealth for the emerging technologies that will lead private sector growth in the 21st century.”
 Adams' attacks on Herring simply are not true and ultimately reflect his own bias against equality for all Virginians, those who are LGBT in particular.  Adams supports a ban on same-sex marriage and has stated that "“I have a religious faith that tells me that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. That’s what I believe.”  As the Washington Post this past summer noted, Adams even longs for a Trump packed Supreme Court that can reverse the 2015 ruling in Obergefell.  He also supports voter ID laws that have little or nothing to do with perverting voter fraud, but which instead, are aimed at stopping "those people" from voting, so draw your own conclusions as to whether the label "racist" applies to Adams.   
Like Ed Gillespie, Adams is also very big on "religious freedom" laws and the myth that American Christians are being persecuted.  Adams' vision of religious freedom does NOT include religious freedom for gays, Muslims, Hindus or other non-Christians despite his dishonest posturing that he would represent all Virginians.  And yes, he supported the toxic Hobby Lobby decision (he worked on the case for free of charge Hobby Lobby when it opposed contraception coverage in health care plans).  It goes without saying that Adams counts as friends and endorsers a veritable who's who of right extreme wing Republicans. Vote for Mark Herring on November 7, 2017. OFFICE OF LLIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:  My endorsement goes to Democrat Justin Fairfax.  Justin Fairfax, the Democrat candidate, tracks the positions of Ralph Northam and Mark Herring: expand healthcare coverage to poor and working class families, common sense gun control laws, increased efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay and policies to address climate change and rising sea levels.  He also backs common sense women's reproductive rights policies, equal pay for equal work, and marriage equality and non-discrimination protections for hard working LGBT Virginians. Fairfax opposes Republican efforts to dismantle America's healthcare laws and leave hundreds of thousands of Virginians without health care coverage.
 Similar contrasts exist between Fairfax, and Republican, Jill Vogel, as note in the other statewide races. Like Adams, Vogel is an extremist and was the sponsor of one of the bills (SB484) during the McDonnell governorship that would have forced women seeking abortions to undergo forced invasive trans-vaginal ultra sounds.  This effort subjected Virginia to national and international ridicule and proved that Vogel is no moderate despite the deceptive effort on her campaign website.  A review of Vogel's "issues" are a warmed over version of those of Gillespie and Adams and appear aimed at deceiving voters from realizing her true right wing, reverse Robin Hood agenda, best embodied by Gillespie's tax cut promise that will disproportionately reward the very wealthy while bankrupting Virginia.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 underscores the dangers of not voting and the danger posed by Republican government control of all branches of government. We cannot allow a similar disaster to happen in Virginia.  

Big Pharma - Drug Dealers in Lab Coats

Last weekend the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” did a major public service and reported that pharmaceutical lobbyists had manipulated Congress to hamstring the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Just as frightening, Donald Trump intended to name big Pharma's point man in Congress to be his new drug czar until the scathing coverage derailed that effort and Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino, withdrew his name from consideration.  The crisis of deaths from opioids is a prime example of why strict government regulation is needed because sadly in too many corporate board rooms the only thing that matters is money - even when it comes from actions that lead to needless deaths. Rather than rail against petty anti dealers and increase the arrests on users of small amounts of marijuana, Trump and the ever despicable Jeff Sessions need to go after big Pharma which not only has become a merchant of death but also overcharges everyday Americans on virtually a daily basis.  A column in the New York Times looks at the underlying cause for the opioid crisis.  Here are highlights:
For decades, America has waged an ineffective war on drug pushers and drug lords, from Bronx street corners to Medellin, Colombia, regarding them as among the most contemptible specimens of humanity.
One reason our efforts have failed is we ignored the biggest drug pushers of all: American pharmaceutical companies.
Our policy was: You get 15 people hooked on opioids, and you’re a thug who deserves to rot in hell; you get 150,000 people hooked, and you’re a marketing genius who deserves a huge bonus.
Big Pharma should be writhing in embarrassment this week after The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” reported that pharmaceutical lobbyists had manipulated Congress to hamstring the Drug Enforcement Administration. But the abuse goes far beyond that: The industry systematically manipulated the entire country for 25 years, and its executives are responsible for many of the 64,000 deaths of Americans last year from drugs — more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined.
The opioid crisis unfolded because greedy people — Latin drug lords and American pharma executives alike — lost their humanity when they saw the astounding profits that could be made.
Today, 75 percent of people with opioid addictions began with prescription painkillers. The slide starts not on a street corner, but in a doctor’s office.
That’s because pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s sought to promote opioid painkillers as new blockbuster drugs. Company executives accused doctors of often undertreating pain (there was something to this, but pharma executives contrived to turn it into a crisis that they could monetize). The companies backed front organizations like the American Pain Foundation, which purported to speak on behalf of suffering patients.
The opioid promoters hailed opioids as “safe and effective,” and they particularly encouraged opioids for returning veterans — one reason so many veterans have suffered addictions.
Drug companies employed roughly the same strategy as street-corner pushers: Get somebody hooked and business will take care of itself. So last year, Americans received 236 million opioid prescriptions — that’s about one bottle for every adult.
[T]he Sackler family, owner of the company that makes OxyContin, joined Forbes’s list of richest American families in 2015, with $14 billion.
It’s maddening that the public narrative is still often about an opioid crisis fueled by the personal weakness and irresponsibility of users. No, it’s fueled primarily by the greed and irresponsibility of drug lords — including the kind who inhabit executive suites. The Washington Post quoted a former D.E.A. official as referring to pharmaceutical company representatives as “drug dealers in lab coats.”
Our pattern of opioid addiction points to a tragedy, driven by the greed of some of America’s leading companies and business executives, systematically manipulating doctors and patients and killing people on a scale that terrorists could never dream of.
There’s a lot of talk in the Trump administration about lifting regulations to free up the dynamism of corporations. Really? You want to see the consequences of unfettered pharma? Go visit a cemetery.

Trump Shouldn’t Be President

One of the standard bloviating points for Republicans is to talk about "supporting our troops" and "supporting our men in uniform."  When it comes to putting words into action, with a few exceptions Congressional Republicans never follow through.  Be it sending troops to war without proper equipment and armor as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan or cutting veterans' benefits (or somewhat similarly cutting funding to the State Department for security and then whining and throwing conniption fits over Benghazi), Republicans time and again confirm the old axiom that "talk is cheap."   Of course, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has taken dishonesty and disrespect for our members of the military to new heights as he displayed utter callousness toward the widow of a young soldier, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger - for Fox News viewers, Niger is a country in West Africa.  

Perhaps I take such things more personally than Der Trumpenführer who never served in the military (thanks to questionable deferments) or ever had family members in the military.  While, thankfully, I did not lose a family member, we came very, very close when one of my sons-in-law was badly wounded in Afghanistan on his THIRD deployment to that hell hole.   He languished for three days at Bagram Airbase before he was finally flown out to Germany (and then to Texas) to receive much needed medical care only after Democrat U.S. Senator from Virginia, Mark Warner's office got involved at my request.  Frankly, I am over the lying and dishonesty of the majority of Republicans when comes to supporting and respecting our men and women in uniform.  Der Trumpenführer could whine and tweet about NFL players "disrespecting our troops" yet his callousness and broken promises toward gold star families speaks volumes.  

A piece in the Washington Post looks at the situation of Sgt. Johnson after Trump lied about his unacceptable behavior.  Here are highlights: 
The mother of a soldier killed in an ambush in Africa said Wednesday that President Trump “did disrespect my son” with remarks in a condolence telephone call.
Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Washington Post that she was present during the call from the White House on Tuesday to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson. She also stood by an account of the call from Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) that Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson said.  Trump lashed back at Wilson. He denied her account in a Twitter message Wednesday.
But as is always the case with Trump, the family of Sgt. Johnson are not alone in the disrespect and mistreatment they have received at the hands of the foul individual in the White House.  A piece Talking Points Memo looks at Trump's broken promise to Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, killed in Afghanistan.  Here are excerpts:
Another simply bizarre new thread in the Trump bereavement call story. The Post called the families of service members who’ve died in the line of duty since Trump became President. There were some good stories, some bad; some had never heard from the President. There were a lot of what you might call Trumpian moments. But the really bizarre story was his conversation with Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, killed in Afghanistan. 
Trump told him he’d send him a personal check for $25,000. Not standard and complicated, inasmuch as presumably the President isn’t going to cut everyone a check. But it’s not unprecedented. I believe I remember that there are records of President Obama sending sums of money to private citizens who were struggling.  But then Trump forgot about it.
Trump apparently told Baldridge he’d have the White House staff set up an online fundraiser for Baldridge too. But then nothing happened.
So it certainly sounds like the check was sent after the Post started asking questions, in other words, sort of like how the Niger calls shook out.
The bottom line is that Trump is unfit for his office in so many ways that it is difficult to count them all.  Worse yet, as these stories underscore, he doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself.  If working class whites who voted for Trump think he gives a rat's ass about them, they are utter and total fools.   When Trump attacked Khizr Khan before the 2016 presidential election, anyone decent and moral should have known all they needed to know about Trump and should have voted for anyone other than Trump.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Quote of the Day - What's Wrong With Republicans

I typically disagree with almost everything columnist Ross Douthat says and believes, not the least because he sees religion, especially "conservative" Christianity,  as a positive good, whereas I see it as a net evil.  Much of the success of the Republican Party has been because of playing upon the hatred and bigotry that I see as being synonymous with right wing Christianity in America.  While Douthat still hasn't woken up to the reality of the negative effects of religion, he seems to have woken up to the evils of today's Republican Party under Der Trumpenführer: 
Thirteen years ago, in the midst of a different Republican administration, the liberal book of the moment was Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” In answering his title’s question, Frank argued that hardworking heartland Americans were being duped by a Republican Party that whipped up culture-war frenzy to disguise its plutocratic aims. Middle-class and working-class Republican voters, he insisted, were voting against their own economic self-interest and getting worse than nothing in return.
Trump has essentially become the Frankian caricature in full, draping the rhetoric of populism over an agenda that so far offers little or nothing to the middle class, making appeals to the religious right that are notable in their cynicism, and rallying his base through culture-war controversies distinguished mostly by their ginned-up phoniness.
What’s the matter with the Republican Party? Many things, but right now above all this: Far too many Trump supporters, far too many conservatives, have seen the then-inaccurate caricature that Frank painted 13 years ago brought to blaring, Technicolor life by Trump — and they’ve decided to become part of the caricature themselves, become exactly what their enemies and critics said they were, become a movement of plutocrats and grievance-mongers with an ever-weaker understanding of the common good.