Saturday, January 20, 2018

For Love of Country, and Each Other

A piece in the New York Times looks at a happy ending wedding story, something much needed by the LGBT community in the age of Trump/Pence.  Frankly, it is difficult at times to be optimistic if one is an LGBT American.  Over the last year, the Trump/pence regime has waged an unrelenting war on LGBT rights and, now, any day regulations will be released that will permit health care providers to refuse to treat and serve LGBT patients under the smoke screen of "religious freedom."  Meanwhile, here in Virginia, Senate Republicans seemingly are ignoring the message from voters last November when 15 house of delegates  seats flipped to Democrat.  Just this week a second Senate committee killed a pro-LGBT bill on a straight party line vote.  The bill would have banned "therapists" from subjecting minors to "conversion therapy" - something condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America.  The Washington Blade provides details:
The Virginia Senate’s Health and Education Committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy to minors in the state.
Committee members struck down Senate Bill 245 — which state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) introduced — by an 8-7 vote margin.
State Sens. Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Charles Carrico (R-Galax), Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico County), Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg), Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) and Dave Suetterlein (R-Roanoke County) voted against SB 245.  
State Sens. George Barker (D-Alexandria), Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County), Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack County), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) voted for the bill. 
Take note of the names of the Republicans and give serious thought to supporting whoever runs against them in the next election cycle.

But back to the happy story which features the wedding of  Captains Daniel Hall and Vincent Franchino, both Apache helicopter pilots, who were married at the Cadet Chapel at West Point.  The article is lengthy but worthy of a full read, especially by those not living in communities with large numbers of military personnel.  Here in Hampton Roads, the military surrounds us and many same sex couples are within the ranks and put their lives on the line daily for their country - even though their country has historically mistreated them.   Here are article highlights:
Apache helicopters — the kind of aerial weaponry immortalized in Hollywood tough-guy films such as “Rambo” and “Black Hawk Down” — are among the Army’s most revered killing machines, and those who fly them across enemy skies “have an attack mentality,” said Capt. Daniel Hall, a 30-year-old Apache helicopter pilot based at Fort Bliss, in Texas. As he spoke, Captain Hall was flanked by Capt. Vincent Franchino, a 26-year-old fellow Apache pilot who is also stationed at Fort Bliss, where they are both a part of another community: the group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers who serve there. “It’s been a bit of a bumpy road for us,” said Captain Franchino, who married Captain Hall on Jan. 13 in the Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where they are believed to be the first active-duty, same-sex couple to exchange vows at the legendary Army post.
The couple, beaming in their own immaculately pressed blue mess uniforms, the most formal threads in the Army’s wardrobe, were celebrated by a saber-arch salute as they departed the chapel.
“We’ve experienced everything from people feeling awkward around us to being called faggots while holding hands and walking down the street, stuff like that,” said Captain Franchino, who was born and raised in Stony Point, N.Y., the youngest son of Holly Franchino, a retired pharmacist, and Robert Franchino, a retired sergeant with the Police Department in Clarkstown, N.Y.
“But despite what we’ve been through,” Captain Franchino added, “nothing was worse than having served during the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ years.”
The emotions and romantic feelings felt by Captains Hall and Franchino, as well as scores of others from the L.G.B.T. military community, were hamstrung by “don’t ask, don’t tell,” . . . . “It’s really frustrating when two people have feelings for each other but are not allowed to act on them,” Captain Hall added. “We were serving under a policy that was telling all of us — perfectly capable soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — to lie about ourselves.”
In January 2010, they selected each other as a partner in a mentorship program that allowed seniors to offer instruction to freshmen who were following similar career paths.  By April of that year, it was clear to their fellow cadets that a spark had been ignited, but under the rules, there could be no flame.
But in September 2011, it was that way no longer. Congress repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and Captains Hall and Franchino were soon celebrating their new sense of freedom.
“We’ve just grown accustomed to being apart at times,” said Captain Franchino, who spent all of 2017 deployed in Germany and several countries in Eastern Europe. “It’s a part of who we are, a part of what we do, so we simply accept it.”
Captain Hall, who said he plans on “leaving the Army after spring,” also said that his military stint, especially the time he spent in the cockpits of Apache helicopters, “has brought a lot of excitement to my life, and so has Vinny.”
But when pressed, Captain Hall refused to say which of the two has brought him more excitement. “Don’t ask,” he said with a wink and a smile. “I won’t tell.”
One does not choose to be LGBT.  It's something you are born with and that is unchangeable despite how hard one might try (I tried for 37 years without success).  We are no different than others and in most cases are productive citizens, pay our taxes - the husband and I pay plenty - and are responsible neighbors.  It is time that religious based ignorance and bigotry be thrown on the trash heap of history where they belong. 

Quote of the Day - Michael Steele, Former RNC Chair

Former RNC chair, Michael Steele

With Republicans and the usual voices of right wing media - who would tell you it was raining on a bright sunny day if it fit their purposes - trying the blame the federal government shutdown on Democrats, a few responsible voices from the right are not buying it.  One is former RNC chairman, Michael Steele who I listen to often on satellite radio on my evening commute.  I sense Steele's frustration with what the Republican Party has become and his disgust with the current occupant of the White House.  Here's a quote from Sterele via Politico:
Despite the rhetorical effort to paste Democrats with “Schumer’s Shutdown” and to redefine what constitutes majority control of the senate (“60”? Really?), the fact remains that this shutdown rests at the feet of the GOP and it appears a majority of Americans agree. I don’t like it. It certainly could have been avoided, but the President wound up negotiating against himself by taking a potential agreement off the table, leaving Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to lament, “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.” That put Republicans in the position to spin their wheels right into another government shutdown. Pitiful.
Yes, 60 votes were needed in the Senate, so that means Republicans need to compromise.  Yet, that is something they are unwilling to do as is the lunatic in the White House who increasingly acts as if he is bi-polar and definitely not staying on his meds. One moment his conciliatory and then the next he swings back into obstruction.   believe that intelligent voters - sorry, but that excludes Fox News viewers - will understand that the blame falls on the GOP and Trump. 

More Saturday Male Beauty

Trump Will Cost Conservatives in the Long Run

As Donald Trump and the Republican Party become increasingly toxic in the eyes of Millennials - now the largest generation of voters - the long term prospects for the GOP are dimming notwithstanding the propaganda one sees on Fox News - viewing it from time to time, it's an alternate universe with little connecting it to reality.  Republicans have bet the farm on aging, racist and evangelical voters, all of which are slowly dwindling in numbers.  The fluke of the 2016 election has been interpreted as a mandate even though only something just under 26% of registered voters cast ballots fro Trump/Pence.   As for GOP policies, the quest to take from the poor and working class and giving to the rich and a refusal to reauthorize the CHIP program for children's health insurance and the refusal to fix the DACA situation show the ice cold hearts that are the norm among Republicans despite protests to the contrary.  Actions speak louder than words and the younger generations are watching and judging based on GOP actions.  Erick Erickson, a right wing conservative with whom I mostly disagree has a column in the Washington Post that looks at the long term costs that will eventually over take the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
Being a conservative who does not cheerlead President Trump can make one feel like the Prophet Amos. Amos went to Israel at a time of great prosperity to tell the nation God would destroy it for failing to care for its widows, its poor, its orphans and its refugees. Everyone looked around at the success, riches, and plenty and mocked the prophet. Like the people of Israel in a time of plenty, it is easy for conservatives right now to focus on the successes of Trump’s first year in office. But those on the right should consider the long-term costs.
Like many conservatives, I am delighted with a number of achievements in Trump’s first year. His administration has steered numerous good judges into the federal judiciary. . . . . Congress has passed a tax reform bill allowing U.S. businesses to repatriate tens of billions of dollars, give bonuses and pay raises to employees and invest in U.S. business infrastructure. These changes are inarguably good.
But there are many costs. Conservatives are reveling in their successes and increasing their immorality concurrently. The conservatives who 20 years ago wanted to chase President Bill Clinton out of town for having sex in the Oval Office are now trying to ignore the current president reportedly cheating on his current wife with a porn star. It has become far easier for conservatives to believe lies than believe truths, and it has become far easier for conservatives to turn a blind eye to injustices than speak up. More and more conservatives are modeling Trump’s bad behaviors. His vulgarity, his thin skin, his willingness to insult and demean, and his willingness to degrade his office are now reflected in conservative political leaders who increasingly see their goal as beating the other side instead of advancing ideas and sound public policy.
The party of small government is perfectly happy to grow government as long as Trump is spending the money. The party of limited government is perfectly happy to have a powerful chief executive as long as Trump is wielding the power. . . . . Trump now seems to revel in the idea of shutting down whole networks whose coverage he hates. Republicans who decried the left’s hostility to free speech in the Obama years now champion censorship of their opponents.
It is safe to say many of the president’s supporters have concluded that arguments and debates no longer work, so they will take what they can get as quickly as they can before the tide rolls in and washes this administration away. While perhaps an honest way of looking at things, those gains will be fleeting. The short-term gains of this administration, like those of the last, are being achieved by executive order and appointment. So too then can the gains of this administration be wiped out as easily as those of the last.
Conservatives have to worry about those in the middle who are persuadable. They have to worry about minority voters increasingly skeptical of the secular drift of the Democratic Party. They have to worry about younger voters. All of these people are not only increasingly alienated by Trump’s behavior but also by his defenders’ constant justifications for it.
At a time of growing hostility to people of faith in the United States and a collapse of morality, the evangelical embrace of Trump hurts their Christian witness and minimizes the number of sympathetic ears to their cause. It has become harder to make the case for family and morality as prominent evangelicals applaud and justify the bad behaviors of a thrice-married adulterer who believes immigrants should be judged based on their nation of origin, not the content of their own character.
Though many conservatives, myself included, have cheered the successes of this administration, most of them are easily reversible and, along the way, it will be harder and harder to separate the successes from the low character and behavior of the man whose name is connected to them. Conservatives may no longer care, but for most Americans, character still matters. At some point, those on the right will pay the price.

Pope Francis Fails the Test on Sexual Abuse

Pope Francis' visit to south America has not been well received by many.  True, large crowds of lemming like Catholics have turned out for his appearances, but many are unmoved by Francis' crocodile tears and false pleas of sorrow for the rampant sexual abuse that the Vatican and the Church hierarchy have allowed for many decades, if not longer.  There has been no real repentance and no real action to punish those who allowed this attitude that sexual abuse was a case of droit du seigneur for the hypocrisy filled priesthood.  In Chile, as CBS New notes, violence greeted Francis:

Overnight three more Catholic churches were torched, including one burned to the ground in the southern Araucania region where Francis will visit on Wednesday to meet with Chile's indigenous peoples. While not causing any injuries, the nine church firebombings in the past few days have marked an unprecedented level of protest against history's first Latin American pope on his home turf.

Sadly, no reform will come from within the Church and decent people should walk away.  If the fail to do so and continue to support the Church, they are complicit in abuse and continued cover ups.   An editorial in the New York Times rightly takes Francis to task for his continued failure to take decisive action.  Here are highlights:
 Pope Francis arrived in Chile with the right message: He was “pained and ashamed,” he said on Tuesday, about the irreparable damage abusive priests have inflicted on minors. Yet he refused to meet with victims of the country’s most nefarious sexual abuser, and when pressed about his support of a bishop linked to that priest, he dismissed the accusations as slander.
For all his professions of horror at the revelations about predatory priests whose activities were covered up by the hierarchy — and for all his other admirably enlightened and pastoral actions — it seems the pope has yet to fully appreciate that the abuse of minors is not simply a matter of a few deviant priests protected by overzealous prelates but of his church’s acceptance of a horrible violation of a most sacred trust: that of a devout and questioning youth and a spiritual guide.
Acknowledging and regretting the damage is not enough. If the Catholic Church is ever to lift the deep stain of child sex abuse, the pope must take every opportunity to reject not only clear violations but also the slightest appearance of tolerance for such behavior.
He missed that opportunity by attending the funeral last month for Cardinal Bernard Law, the powerful former archbishop of Boston who resigned after revelations that he protected abusive priests for years and became, in effect, the image of a hierarchy that concealed and thereby enabled sexual abuse. He missed it in the failure of the Vatican so far to appoint a new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors after the commissioners’ terms expired in December.
And Pope Francis missed it again in Chile. One of Latin America’s most staunchly Catholic countries, Chile had been shaken by revelations about the sexual crimes of Fernando Karadima, once one of Chile’s most respected and influential priests. It took years for the church to act on complaints about him, but a Vatican investigation in 2011 finally found Father Karadima guilty of sexual abuse and restricted him to a life of isolated penitence. A Chilean judge later determined that the allegations against the priest were truthful, but the statute of limitations had expired.
Among those accused of turning a blind eye to Father Karadima’s behavior was a priest and longtime member of Father Karadima’s entourage, Juan Barros Madrid. Yet Pope Francis made him a bishop in 2015 and, despite protests from victims of Father Karadima and from many priests and laypeople in the diocese, Bishop Barros participated in the pope’s official ceremonies in Chile. When reporters raised the subject on Thursday, Pope Francis answered sharply that there was “not one single piece of evidence” against the bishop. “It is all slander,” he declared. “Is that clear?”
Victims of sexual abuse may have only their tortured memories as evidence, and these have been dismissed for far too long as slander by a hierarchy intent on protecting the church’s reputation. Pope Francis has repeatedly pledged action to end the abuse and the cover-up, . . . . . . But too often he and his church raise doubts that they’re fully committed.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, January 19, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

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The GOP Is Incapable of Governing

If the federal government shuts down after today, the fault will lie directly on congressional Republicans who (i) cannot even agree among themselves, and (ii) continue to push proposals that contain no compromise.  Yes, disingenuous liars like Paul Ryan - perhaps the most dishonest man in Washington after Der Trumpenführer himself - and Mitch McConnell will try to blame Democrats, but I suspect that the public other than brain dead Fox News viewers will see through the lies.  The bottom line is the GOP controls both houses of Congress and the White House.  The buck stops with them. And yes, Trump bears much blame as well.  One can only hope that a majority of voters will take it upon themselves to fix the situation by handing control of Congress back to Democrats in November. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's inability to govern and even pass a basic budget. Here are excerpts:
The federal government late Thursday faced increasing odds of a partial shutdown, the culmination of a long period of budget warfare that has now imperiled what most lawmakers agree is the most basic task of governance.
[T]he impasse raised deeper questions about the GOP’s capacity — one year into the Trump administration — to govern. Never before has the government experienced a furlough of federal employees when a single party controls both the White House and Congress, but that’s what will happen after midnight Friday if a spending bill fails to pass Congress.
While Democrats criticized Republicans for failing to do what was necessary to win their support to keep the government open — a responsibility that has historically fallen to the party in charge — even some Republicans acknowledged there had been a profound breakdown in how Washington is run.
The 30-day extension, passed by the House but expected to be defeated in the Senate, would have been the fifth temporary funding measure in the past year, a period during which Republicans had failed to put in place a long-term budget plan.
Unlike almost any president or administration before him, Trump has fanned the flames of a shutdown.
Trump has repeatedly mused about the prospects of halting federal operations, saying at one point that the government needed a “good shutdown” to teach Democrats a lesson. The budget he proposed last year was so sparse on key details that the Congressional Budget Office said it could not analyze its impact on revenue.
His aides have not hashed out a broader spending agreement with GOP leaders or Democrats, and the White House and GOP leaders have remained split on how much money to appropriate for the military.
Senate Republicans spent the second half of 2017 immersed in tax negotiations, spending little time focused on how to pay the government’s bills this year.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, which votes on spending bills, has held just one full committee hearing since July. . . . The House Budget Committee, meanwhile, has had three different chairmen in 14 months.
Senate Republicans aren’t expected to vote on a budget resolution at all this year, a move that would have been unthinkable in recent years, as they said it was a cornerstone of good governing.
These continuing resolutions have made leaders from both parties restless and increasingly defiant heading into the November midterm elections, when Democrats see an opportunity to wrest control of one or both chambers of Congress.
Republicans have said that even though they control the White House and Congress, Senate rules make it impossible for them to pass spending bills without bipartisan support.
But there are no signs that Republicans are united behind their own budget proposals. . . . several Republicans have said they won’t support the spending bill. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is battling cancer and isn’t expected to be back in time for a vote on Friday, and they need 60 votes to proceed.
As congressional leaders searched for a solution Thursday, Trump upended the process by renewing his demand that the U.S. taxpayer fund construction of a border wall with Mexico and saying he opposed reauthorizing a health care program for children as part of the short-term spending bill — a stance that he later reversed.
The president’s rapidly fluctuating positions have frustrated Republicans who are working to blame the budget problems on Senate Democrats. Even though Democrats have their own divisions, especially between those from conservative states and other, more liberal members, they appear to be uniting because of Trump’s changing demands.
Those Twitter posts emboldened Democrats and infuriated a number of Republicans who were hoping to patch together enough votes to avert a shutdown.
Democrats, who also have major differences on spending bills, have used the GOP disunity to unite. They have insisted that any spending bill must take action to prevent the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Trump had appeared open to that idea early last week, but his approach changed.  . . . . “The President’s repeated statements urging a government shutdown are beneath the office and have heightened the budgetary dysfunction,” Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrats, said in a joint statement. Virginia would be hit particularly hard by a government shutdown, in part because of the large number of federal employees who live there.
Today’s budget dysfunction has many of its roots in the election of a tide of conservative tea party members in 2010. . . . . But the Republican Party never fully united during the Obama administration, with some members pushing for dramatic spending changes and others wary of slashing benefits for the elderly and the poor.
In 2017, Republicans took control of the White House and both chambers of Congress and they no longer had Obama to blame for budget disagreements.
After one year of complete GOP control in Washington, the government’s budget picture has only worsened. It now has roughly $21 trillion in debt. The U.S. government spent $666 billion more than it brought in through revenue last year, and that figure is expected to grow this year because of the deep tax cuts that went into effect Jan. 1.
Republicans are now pursuing a deal that could add close to $250 billion in new spending for military and nondefense programs. In addition, lawmakers have looked at adding another $80 billion in spending to address hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters that occurred in 2017.
But these negotiations have stalled repeatedly and are one reason that Congress kept passing short-term spending bills until lawmakers this week showed signs they had enough.
It goes without saying that a federal government shut down will hit Hampton Roads particularly hard given its large number of federal workers - things will be only worse in Northern Virginia.  One can only hope that the wake up to the fact that the only solution is voting Republicans like Scott Taylor and Rob Wittman out of office in November.  

Trump Is Trying to Erase the LGBTQ Community

This blog originated as part of my coming out saga at the recommendation of my therapist who was helping me overcome the emotional and psychological abuse I experienced being raised in a conservative Catholic household. The blog eventually morphed into a LGBT rights and political blog.   Along the way, including the 2008 LGBT Blogger Summit in Washington, DC - underwritten by Microsoft and Progressive Insurance - I had the good fortune to meet a number of amazing LGBT activists and bloggers with whom I have remained in contact over the last almost 10 years.  Over the last almost 12 months, the Trump/Pence regime has waged an unrelenting war against LGBT Americans.  The most recent salvo is the establishment of a "Conscience and Religious Freedom" division of the Department of Health and Human Services which will allow Christofascists who are health care providers or pharmacists to refuse provide services to LGBT individuals, those seeking abortions or who otherwise "offend their religious sensibilities." A piece in Time recommended by one of my activist friends looks at Trump/Pence's efforts to erase the LGBT community and to deny us the rights afforded other citizens.  Here are highlights:
It’s been almost a year to the day since my life – both personally and professionally – changed profoundly. It can only be described as moving from a place of possibility and progress to a nightmare for myself, my family and the LGBTQ community at large.
Personally, under the Obama administration, I stood on the White House lawn with my wife and our twins for the Easter Egg Roll. I attended LGBTQ Pride receptions and helped plan LGBTQ panel discussions at The White House. I celebrated as the White House was lit in a rainbow after marriage equality became law of the land.
More importantly, however, during those years LGBTQ rights and visibility expanded in new, historic and unprecedented ways. In fact, throughout my life there has always been forward motion — albeit sometimes trudging — on LGBTQ rights.
But on January 20th of last year, Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States, and since day one – when references to LGBTQ people were purged from the White House website – the LGBTQ community was forced to face a new world order.
The administration’s anti-LGBTQ actions are as numerous as they are insidious. President Trump announced his attempt to ban transgender people from the military, the LGBTQ community was erased from the National Survey of Older Americans, a budget was proposed that cuts funding to HIV and AIDS research, guidance protecting transgender youth in schools was rescinded, World AIDS Day passed without any mention of LGBTQ people and I could go on. But it’s not only about policy, it’s also about culture. Trump is waging a culture war with our communities, the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime. He aims to roll back rights and protections, but also general acceptance of LGBTQ people in society and culture. The White House was radio silent during LGBTQ Pride Month for the first time in eight years. At GLAAD we wake up and go to work every day to create a culture of visibility and acceptance for LGBTQ people. Think about LGBTQ young people who are just coming out now in an environment where they’re being attacked daily and erased by our own government. That world is not acceptable to us, and we will resist it.
GLAAD and the LGBTQ community have always been fighters – that is our legacy. Everything that our communities have achieved in the course of our history, we have fought for, and this time will be no different.
In response to the administration’s onslaught of erasure and hate, GLAAD created the Trump Accountability Project to hold Trump and those in his administration accountable for their actions and statements. We joined other LGBTQ people in the streets during the Women’s March and protests against the rollback of DACA and the implementation of the travel ban. Our community spoke out when Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and their allies tried to write discrimination into law with “religious exemptions” guidance.
GLAAD also leaked audio of Mark Green, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Army, making discriminatory remarks towards transgender people, which resulted in Green’s decision to withdraw from consideration. And when there were rumblings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention censoring certain words from their 2018 budgets, including “transgender” and “diversity,” LGBTQ leaders were some of the first to denounce it. We will not be removed. And to those young people coming out right now in this political environment – we have your backs. We will shape the future — our future — together.

Amen to the author's sentiments.  As for "friends" who continue to support Trump/Pence and the vile attacks on people like me and my husband, do not delude yourself into thinking that were are not watching your conduct. The time is coming when your must decide whether you are on the side of hate, ignorance and bigotry or not.  Yes, your friendships are at risk.  And for those friends who are actively resisting the cancer that Trump/Pence and  the Christofascists represent on American society, we must redouble our efforts to defeat Republicans whenever and where ever possible until Trump and Pence and their GOP enablers are driven from office.  To do otherwise will set America on a path akin to what Germany witnessed in the 1930's.  Good and decent people must resist.  Silence is equal to complicity. 

Commentators Too Cowardly to Reveal Their Identity

Unfortunately, over the life of this blog I have had to make it clear that those who wish to leave comments on blog posts who lack the spine to reveal their identities and put their name and who they are behind their opinions will not be given a platform.  Since the birth of this blog I have not hidden my identity and who I am, where I live, etc.  Yes, it has brought me death threats - typically from "godly Christian" types - but based om my upbringing and decades of involvement in politics, if you want to voice an opinion, have the balls to stand behind it and do not hide behind an "anonymous" identity. 

My post yesterday on physicians - cardiologists in particular - who disputed the findings of the White House physician on Der Trumpenführer's risk of death from a heart attack elicited "anonymous" comments taking shots at the named cardiologists and indirectly me.  As is the norm, these comments were by anonymous posters who lack the balls to publicly identify themselves. In short, they are the typical gutless cowards of the right who can take cheap shots at others as long as their identity remains anonymous. 

As I have said before, if you are too gutless and cowardly to reveal your true identity, then do NOT expect me to provide a platform for your noxious commentary.  You will not be provided with a platform.  In my view, such individuals are little better than contributors to dark money political action committees who do not reveal the identities of their donors.  If you want your comment published, have a profile that reveals your identity. Otherwise, your comment will be deleted and not published. 

Friday Morning MLale Beauty

Thursday, January 18, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Gay Olympian Blasts Selection of Pence to Lead U.S. Olympic Delegation

If one were to try to find the most anti-gay Republican elected official it would be difficult to find anyone more consistently anti-gay than Mike Pence who many suspect is the force behind the current Trump/Pence regime war on LGBT Americans.  Pence clings to ignorance and rejects all medical and mental health knowledge that sexual orientation is not a choice and not something that can be "cured," and believes that Christofascists should be above the law when in comes to non-discrimination laws and public accommodation laws.  Indeed, regulations to soon be released will allow health care providers to refuse to treat LGBT individuals, something that could cause very real harm in small localities with a parcity of medical provider choices.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that gay Olympian, Adam Rippon, has blasted Pence's selection as the leader of the U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics.  USA Today looks at Rippon's justified condemnation of Pence.  Here are excerpts:
Adam Rippon, the 2016 U.S. men’s figure skating champion who is believed to be the first openly gay U.S. Winter Olympian, criticized the White House’s selection of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the 2018 U.S. Olympic delegation to South Korea in a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports Tuesday night.
“You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy?” Rippon said. “I’m not buying it.”
Rippon, 28, who was selected to his first Olympic team earlier this month after finishing fourth at the U.S. national championships, said that he would prefer not to meet Pence during the traditional meet-and-greet between the official delegation and U.S. athletes in the hours leading to the opening ceremony. It’s possible Rippon would have to miss that event anyway to be part of the team figure skating competition.
“If it were before my event, I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick,” Rippon said. “I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that.
 “I don’t think he has a real concept of reality,” Rippon said of Pence. “To stand by some of the things that Donald Trump has said and for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory. If he’s okay with what’s being said about people and Americans and foreigners and about different countries that are being called ‘shitholes,' I think he should really go to church."
Rippon did say in his Tuesday night interview that if given a chance to meet Pence after competing (unlikely considering the relatively short length of any delegation’s visit to the Games), he would consider it.
“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon said. “He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump. … But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”Four years ago, President Barack Obama asked several openly-gay athletes to serve on the U.S. delegations to the opening and closing ceremonies in Sochi, including tennis legend Billie Jean King, Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano and two-time Olympic hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow.
Rippon, who said he was bullied and teased as a boy growing up in Scranton, Pa., came out publicly as being gay in October 2015. He often talks about how he hopes his story can help others, especially young people who might be struggling with their sexuality.
Always outspoken, Rippon said recently he will not go to the White House for a post-Olympic celebration hosted by President Trump. "I said no," he reiterated Tuesday. Legendary skier Lindsey Vonn has said she will not attend as well.
But Rippon also said he will not protest for gay rights or against the Trump administration in any way during the Olympics themselves.
“No, I’m a U.S. athlete representing my country. I will continue to share my story, but I will participate in no form of protest. I’m representing myself and my country on the world stage. I have a lot of respect for this opportunity. What makes America great is that we’re all so different. It’s 2018 and being an openly gay man and an athlete, that is part of the face of America now.”
Bible thumping Christofascists like Pence pose a clear and present danger to the civil rights of all Americans.  He is a modern day Pharisee best defined by hypocrisy and bigotry. 

2018 Democratic Wave Likely to Be a True Tsunami in California

With most indicators predicting a likely Democrat wave in the 2018 mid-term elections, things look even worse for Republicans in California where the wave is expected to be a veritable tsunami.  A government shutdown tomorrow due to Republicans - who control both houses of Congress - seemingly unable to pass a budget resolution will only worsen an already bleak outlook for the GOP.  The Trump/Pence decision to open the coast to offshore drilling - something equally unpopular in Virginia - only adds to the toxicity of the GOP with voters.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the likely bloodbath for Republicans in California.  Here are highlights:
Everyone knows how strongly Democratic California is, but it’s amazing how quickly and thoroughly the Donkey Party has monopolized political power in the Golden State.
As recently as 2010, California’s governor, lieutenant governor, and state treasurer were all Republicans. Now Democrats hold every statewide elected office. In 2010 there were 19 Republican U.S. House members in the state. Now there are 14. In 2010 there were 15 Republicans in the State Senate and 32 in the State Assembly. Those numbers are now down to 13 and 25. The losing Republican presidential nominees each won 37 percent of the popular vote in California, in 2008 and 2012. The winning Republican presidential nominee took 31 percent of the vote in California in 2016.
Bad as these trends look for the GOP, they are very likely to get worse this November — possibly a lot worse. In a thorough analysis of California’s political climate, Reid Wilson describes 2018 as a “perfect storm” for Democrats. The term we will soon begin to hear is tsunami, to distinguish California from the Democratic “wave” that’s developing nationally.
[T]he few assets Republicans carry into the midterms nationally probably won’t help much in California. The GOP’s signature piece of legislation, the tax bill, is viewed very negatively in California, where it will limit or deny state and local income and property deductions to an estimated 2.5 million taxpayers. And the humming economy is more likely to be credited to California’s own Democratic leadership than to Trump, partly because the state is so large and partly because state leaders have defied Trump’s policies wherever possible.
Trump himself is extremely unpopular in the state: . . . . Just 28 percent of adults approve of Trump’s job performance, according to a December survey by the Public Policy Institute of California. . . . . Two-thirds of independents disapproved of Trump’s performance, and 57 percent of all voters said they strongly disapproved.
Most ominously for Republicans, the state’s top-two primary system, which places the top two finishers in a nonpartisan primary on the ballot in the general election, is very likely to produce a November ballot with no Republicans running for the top two positions, governor and U.S. senator. No prominent Republican appears likely to run against Dianne Feinstein and her Democratic challenger state senate leader Kevin de Leon.
Having nothing but Democrats at the top of the ballot could be disastrous for Republican turnout, while contributing to what will probably be high levels of Democratic enthusiasm in the state. . . . .The top-of-the-ballot vacuum will add to the many problems of Republican U.S. House members from marginal districts, seven of which were carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
California’s move toward a system in which most voters automatically receive mail ballots could erode one remaining GOP advantage: the tendency of Republican-leaning voters to participate at higher rates in non-presidential elections than their Democratic counterparts.
With all these problems, California Republicans are in real danger of becoming a marginal factor as voters become accustomed to Democrats as the natural governing party in the state particularly if they succumb to the temptation of going Full Trump and spending their time lashing their fellow Californians for being godless hippie terrorist-coddling sanctuary city supporters. Republicans self-destructed in the state once before, in the 1990s, when Pete Wilson identified his party with anti-immigrant policies. If they now become the loud-and-proud “deplorables,” then their exile in the political wilderness could last for a long, long time.

Trump’s Physical Revealed Serious Heart Concerns

Like almost everything else that Donald Trump and his minions say, the claims that Trump's recent physical showed him  to be in "excellent health."  Having watched the press conference by White House physician, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, Jackson's body language and demeanor suggested that he was very uncomfortable with what he was saying, indicating that he is not as good of a lair as Trump or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, perhaps the most dishonest woman in Washington.  Now, as the New York Times, is reporting, a number of cardiologists believe that Trump is at significant risk of a heart attack.   No doubt Mike Pence is smiling behind the scenes.  As for Trump's golfing counting as "exercise," not really since he rides in a golf cart constantly.  Here are article highlights:
Cardiologists not associated with the White House said Wednesday that President Trump’s physical exam revealed serious heart concerns, including very high levels of so-called bad cholesterol, which raises the risk that Mr. Trump could have a heart attack while in office.
Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, a rear admiral and the White House physician, said Tuesday in his report on the president’s medical condition that Mr. Trump was in “excellent” cardiac health despite having an LDL cholesterol level of 143, well above the desired level of 100 or less.
Dr. David Maron, the director of preventive cardiology at Stanford University’s medical school, said Wednesday that it was alarming that the president’s LDL levels remain above 140 even though he is taking 10 milligrams of Crestor, a powerful drug that is used to lower cholesterol levels to well below 100.
Dr. Maron said he would “definitely” be worried about Mr. Trump’s risk for having a heart attack if the president were one of his patients. Asked if Mr. Trump is in perfect health, Dr. Maron offered a blunt reply: “God, no.”
Other cardiologists also disputed Dr. Jackson’s rosy assessment of the president’s heart health. Several said Mr. Trump’s goal should be to get his LDL below 100, or even under 70. He has a real risk of having a heart attack or stroke, especially considering his weight and lack of exercise, they said.
“That’s a really high LDL,” Dr. Topol said. “We’re talking about a 70-plus-year-old man who is obese and doesn’t exercise. Just looking at the lab value, you would raise a big red flag.”
He added: “I would never use the words ‘excellent health.’ How you could take these indices and say excellent health? That is completely contradicted.”
Asked whether Mr. Trump has heart disease, Dr. Jackson said he did not. “Technically, he has nonclinical coronary atherosclerosis,” Dr. Jackson told reporters.
Outside doctors — who have not directly examined Mr. Trump — questioned that conclusion, saying that the combination of Mr. Trump’s weight and the cardiac test results raised more concerns than Dr. Jackson’s comments would reflect.
The cardiologists said the president’s weight and diet were a serious problem that probably contributed to his high LDL level and increased his risk for heart problems. Dr. Topol dismissed as irrelevant the debate about whether the president technically met the definition of obese.
“Here the issue is, does he have abdominal obesity?” Dr. Topol said. “I don’t care what his height is. All you have to do is look at his abdomen. Abdominal obesity, that’s the machinery for inflammation for the heart.”

Virginia GOP Activist Quits Republican Party over Trump

As regular readers know, in my view, being a moral and decent person and being actively involved in today's Republican Party are mutually exclusive.  You simply cannot be both.  And I make this remark as a former GOP activist myself before the Party transformed into the racist, moral cesspool that it has become.  Indeed, Millennials other than evangelicals seemingly agree with me and shun the GOP by super majorities.  Now, a young rising star in the Republican Party of Virginia has resigned and left the GOP citing Donald Trump's racist comments about Africa and Haiti as the final straw.  One can only hope that those dwindling number of moral Republicans will follow suit.  Here are excerpts from the Washington Post:
A young Republican activist from Northern Virginia who was seen as a potential rising star quit the party Tuesday, citing President Trump’s “appalling comments” about Haitian immigrants and what he called a nativist streak in his home state.
Kyle McDaniel, 28, served on the party’s State Central Committee for two years and has worked as a top aide for Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who said he had hoped McDaniel would eventually run for public office.
But McDaniel said he harbored increasing reservations over where the party has been heading. On Tuesday, he sent a letter of resignation to State Party Chairman John Whitbeck that described events he “could no longer stomach,” including Trump’s reported reference last week to Haiti as a “shithole” country and the defense by some party leaders of this summer’s rally by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville that led to the death of a 32-year-old woman.
McDaniel also cited an unsuccessful effort by himself and other younger Republicans to remove or formally censure a member of the state party’s 11th Congressional District Committee in Northern Virginia, who, among other things, called Islam “a death cult created by Satan.”
Although McDaniel is not a marquee name in the state party’s leadership, the news of his departure touched a nerve among some officials, who said they worry that Trump is causing deep fissures in the party, especially among younger Republicans. In Northern Virginia in particular, anti-Trump sentiments run high, helping to fuel a wave of Democratic victories in November.
“We can’t even count or imagine how many people would be part of our ranks who just take a look at what’s going on and say ‘No thanks’, ” said Stephen Spiker, 32, another member of the 11th Congressional District Committee. “For the younger demographic, it’s a bridge they can’t cross.”
“We wish Mr. McDaniel the best in his future endeavors but he owes every member of his party an apology for repeating the Democrat talking points that Republicans are a bunch of racists,” Whitbeck said in a statement.
Herrity said he hoped McDaniel will someday return to the Republican fold. “I still think he will run for office one day,” he said. “I would hazard to predict he’ll do it as a Republican.”
McDaniel, who works as a real estate agent in Alexandria, said that isn’t likely.  “I’m totally out,” he said. “I’ll support candidates I agree with, but as far as any party affiliation, I’m out. I’m independent.” 

My message to Mr. Whitbeck: look in the mirror - you are a bunch of racists.  I've often speculated as to when KKK robes would be handed out at the start of GOP city and county committee meetings.  Kudos to McDaniel for walking away. 

Trump/Pence to Grant Health Care Workers License to Discriminate

As previous posts have stressed, the one group to whom Der Trumpenführer has kept his promises are the Christofascists and evangelical Christians to whom he owes his occupancy of the White House.  Key among those promises is the right to discriminate against others under the guise of "religious belief."  The attacks on the LGBT community have been unrelenting and now Politico looks at the disturbing plan to allow Christofascists to refuse health care services to those they dislike, something that has been a wet dream for evangelical leaders for years.  The effort puts one religious group above above all others and makes a mockery of the right to religious freedom for all citizens, no solely hypocrisy-filled, ignorance embracing bigots who wrap themselves in the cloak of religion.  No doubt some will say to themselves "I'm not gay" or "I haven't had an abortion" but for the Christofascists this is just the beginning of their agenda to have a de facto established religion in America.  Contraception rights could be next.  Here are highlights from Politico:
The Trump administration is poised to overhaul the HHS civil rights office as part of a broader plan to protect health workers who don't want to perform abortions, treat transgender patients seeking to transition or provide other services for which they have religious or moral objections.
Under a proposed rule — which has been closely guarded at HHS and is now under review by the White House — the civil rights office would be empowered to further shield these workers and punish organizations that don’t allow them to express their religious and moral objections, according to sources on and off the Hill. That would be a significant shift for the office, which currently focuses on enforcing federal civil rights and health care privacy laws.
That's alarmed advocates for LGBT patients, who say they're already fighting to overcome stigmas and discrimination and who warn that the policy shift will only worsen their situation.
"This is the use of religion to hurt people because you disapprove of who they are," said Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "Any rule that grants a license to discriminate would be a disgrace and a mockery of the principal of religious freedom we all cherish."
The pending rule, which could be released as soon as this week, has been described to POLITICO as establishing a new division of the HHS civil rights office that would conduct compliance reviews, audits and other enforcement actions to ensure that health care providers are allowing workers to opt out of procedures when they have religious or moral objections. The new division would be a third, co-equal branch with the office's existing two divisions that focus on federal civil rights laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Patient groups and legal organizations vowed to challenge HHS if providers are allowed to deny care based on criteria like a patient's gender or gender expression. "Should the administration choose to move forward to implement a discriminatory policy, we will see them in court," Louise Melling, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
The new rules — a priority for anti-abortion groups and supporters — could come just days before Friday’s March for Life, the annual gathering in Washington marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Republicans have typically timed votes on anti-abortion legislation to the event, the nation’s largest anti-abortion rally.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

GOP Insiders Brace for a 2018 Trumpocalypse

With the news that the Trump/Pence regime plans to issue new rules that would allow heath care providers to refuse to treat LGBT individuals, perform abortions or withhold treatment from anyone who offends their religious sensibilities (see the subsequent post to this one), it is more urgent than ever that Democrats, Millennials, minorities and, of course, LGBT citizens mobilize to deal Republicans a bloodbath defeat in the 2018 midterm elections.   Thankfully, indications are that social and other forces are coming together to make that needed electoral blood bath a reality.  A piece in Vanity Fair looks at the fear gripping veteran GOP operatives in the run up to November.  Frighteningly, Der Trumpenführer cited the 2002 midterms and suggested that a terror attack might help GOP prospects - a GOP equivalent to the Reichstag fire that Hitler used to assume dictatorial powers.   Here are highlights from Vanity Fair:
It doesn’t take a stable genius to comprehend the trouble that Republicans find themselves in 10 months before President Donald Trump’s first midterm election. Ignore the optimistic bromides about “fake news,” “fake polls,” and the political savior of a federal tax overhaul that Trump, and the Republican-controlled Congress, delivered late last year. . . . But veteran Republican operatives, scrambling to help the party survive the gathering storm, know better. The Democratic base is apoplectic and energized. The number of Republican lawmakers who are opting to retire, rather than walk into the electoral buzzsaw, is matched only by the surge of Democratic candidates running in suddenly competitive districts. And Trump, despite the occasional good news cycle, has become no less toxic.
“It’s bad,” a senior Republican strategist involved in a 2018 campaign told me flatly. “The environment is really bad. It’s challenging and it could get worse.”
Each of the dozen or so Republican strategists I spoke to offered a similar assessment. A Democratic base that couldn’t be bothered to show up to the polls for Hillary Clinton just 14 months ago is now supercharged. And a critical sliver of the traditional Republican coalition—the college-educated, upscale suburbanites, especially women—is disgusted with Trump despite the booming economy.
But as a senior Republican congressman told me during a recent conversation: with this president, Republicans have to navigate “political crosswinds.” Do Republicans run with Trump or against him? Do they run as traditional Republicans or Trump Republicans? How should Republicans on the 2018 ballot talk to all of the various voting blocs of G.O.P. voters, never mind swing voters and Independents, especially in instances where they have to hug a Trump-friendly primary electorate while appealing to a Trump-hostile crowd in the general election? “We’re not prepared,” the Republican congressman said. . . . . “If you don’t succeed in selling the middle-class tax cut, then the only villain is Trump.”
Republicans, meanwhile, are leaning on Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California to keep the blue tide at bay. . . . . Democrats are dismissive, noting that anti-Pelosi messaging failed in 2006, during President George W. Bush’s second midterm, in which they won control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years.
And this year has all the hallmarks of a wave against the president and the ruling party. The G.O.P. didn’t just blow the gubernatorial race in purple Virginia, on its own not necessarily a death knell. The party lost 15 state legislative contests, many in seats gerrymandered for G.O.P. control, and nearly control of the legislature. The Republicans also saw their power upended in historically red suburban counties outside of Philadelphia and New York City.
Those are the warning signs before accounting for Trump and his Twitter feed, and why many Republican strategists are resigned to the crash that’s coming, absent an intervening event, like a war or something unexpected that would rally the country behind the president. All that’s left to do is mitigate the damage. “It’s impossible to navigate Trump,” a Republican consultant said. “And it’s all about him.”

Democrats need to replicate the Northam grassroots organizing effort in Virginia in 2017 and Millennials - who will suffer the most from GOP/Trump/Pence policies long term - minorities and LGBT citizens mobilize to get people registered to vote and to the polls in November to deal Republicans an electoral bloodbath defeat in the 2018 midterm elections.