Saturday, January 27, 2018

Kathleen Parker: What Is Trump Hiding?

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker - who may or may not identify as a Republican any longer - has a column in the Washington Post that reviews what we do know so far about the Russiagate investigation and reaches the logical conclusion that Trump is definitely hiding something.  The big question, of course, is what is it?  But the old adage that if you do not have something to hide, then people normally do not act as if they do, much less try to impede investigations that will turn up nothing if one is innocent.  Despite Trump's claims that there was no collusion with Russia, the fact is that since he lies on average 5 or 6 times a day to the American public, a majority of Americas now are at a point where they simply do not believe anything that the man says since the odds are high that he's lying. Add this constant dishonesty to what we know and the only safe take away is as Parker concludes: he is hiding something. Here are column excerpts:

Conspiracies. Secret societies. Witch hunts.  During the past year, we’ve heard reference to all of the above to explain away any suggestion of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
There are lots of other dots in this constellation of rumor and innuendo, as well as documented facts and events that can be easily corroborated. Objectively, it is neither conjecture nor conspiracy to observe that the president strikes a defensive pose every time a well-sourced article reveals something that could seem incriminating. Indeed, he has become Clintonesque, reflexively dodging and covering up, whether he needs to or not.
Thus, the question is whether Trump is hiding something, an obvious inference, or whether his observably narcissistic personality means he can’t tolerate even the suggestion that he may be at fault. The narcissist’s first instinct is always to blame others. Combined with his excessive need for admiration, another narcissistic trait, it is conceivable that Trump punches back as a function of a personality disorder.  Whatever the verdict, either possibility inspires shivers.
These are the facts thus far:
First, Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey in May — after, according to Comey, Trump asked him for loyalty and to drop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whose three-week tenure ended upon revelations that he lied about conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Flynn subsequently pleaded guilty to lying in exchange for his cooperation with the Russia investigation. . . . this episode is factual.
Trump also asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into possible collusion. But Sessions did recuse himself for sound reasons and, for a brief spell, became a target of Trump’s Twitter feed.
Then Trump began pressuring Sessions to fire acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, tweeting that McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, had received $700,000 from the Clintons for her 2015 run for a Virginia state Senate seat. His implication was that McCabe couldn’t possibly be objective if his wife was supported by the Clinton machine. Life teaches us that untrustworthy people or people lacking personal integrity always suspect that others are the same.   The truth is, Jill McCabe received about $500,000 from a political action committee affiliated with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. 
Then, a few days ago, reports surfaced that Trump in June ordered the firing of Mueller. When White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn threatened to quit rather than carry out the command, the president backed off. Meanwhile, we also learned that Mueller wants to interview Trump about Flynn, Comey and the president’s outreach to several top Republicans to quickly end the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own investigation into possible Trump-Russia collusion in the election.
[Y]ou’d be a damned fool not to conclude that Donald Trump has something to hid

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Of Course the Christian Right Supports Trump

White evangelicals have been taking a much deserved beating over their support of thrice married, serial adulterer Donald Trump who now appears to have cheated on his third wife with at least one porn star.  The result is that evangelicals' have about as much moral authority as the Catholic Church that lectures people on the use of contraception while protecting the bishops and cardinals who protected thousands of predatory priests who preyed on children and youths for decades, if not far longer.   But the moral toxicity of the majority of evangelicals extends far beyond turning a blind eye towards repeated sexual infidelity - even as they rant about gay marriage - and extends to the racism that was a founding element of the so-called "Religious Right" as we know it today.  And because racism is the pillar of the political rise of evangelicals, as a column in the New York Times lays out, it should come as no surprise that evangelicals love the high priest of racism, Donald Trump.  Here are column excerpts:
In 1958, the Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, who would go on to found the Moral Majority, gave a sermon titled “Segregation or Integration: Which?” He inveighed against the Supreme Court’s anti-segregation decision in Brown v. Board of Education, arguing that facilities for blacks and whites should remain separate.
“When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line,” he wrote, warning that integration “will destroy our race eventually.” In 1967, Falwell founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy — later Liberty Christian Academy — as a private school for white students.
The Lynchburg Christian Academy, in Virginia, was one of many so-called seg academies created throughout the South to circumvent desegregation. In the 1970s, these discriminatory schools lost their tax-exempt status. Feeling under siege as a result, conservative Christians started organizing politically. This was the origin of the modern religious right, and it helps explain why a movement publicly devoted to piety has stood so faithfully by Donald Trump.
Dartmouth historian Randall Balmer quotes the conservative activist Paul Weyrich: “What caused the movement to surface was the federal government’s moves against Christian schools. This absolutely shattered the Christian community’s notions that Christians could isolate themselves inside their own institutions and teach what they please.” (This should sound familiar to anyone who has heard Christian conservative outrage over being forced to accommodate gay marriage.)
In 1980, the nascent religious right overwhelmingly supported Ronald Reagan, a former movie star who would become America’s first divorced president, over the evangelical Carter. In doing so, it helped destigmatize divorce. “Up until 1980, anybody who was divorced, let alone divorced and remarried, very likely would have been kicked out of evangelical congregations,” Balmer, who was raised evangelical and is now a scholar of evangelicalism, told me.
Given this history, it is not surprising that the contemporary leaders of the religious right are blasé about reports that Trump cheated on his third wife with a porn star shortly after the birth of his youngest child, then paid her to be quiet. Despite his louche personal life, Trump, the racist patriarch promising cultural revenge, doesn’t threaten the religious right’s traditional values. He embodies them.
This week, Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council, told Politico that Trump gets a “mulligan,” or do-over, on his past moral transgressions, because he’s willing to stand up to the religious right’s enemies.
On Wednesday, Jerry Falwell Jr., who inherited his father’s job as head of the evangelical Liberty University, defended Trump on CNN through an acrobatic act of moral relativism. . . . . To defend Trump, Falwell seems to be taking the position that no Christian has the right to criticize anyone else’s sexual behavior.
The people who are most disturbed by such theological contortions are earnest evangelicals who fear the disgrace of their religion. Trump’s religious champions, Michael Gerson writes in The Washington Post, are “associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.”
I sympathize with his distress. But the politicized sectors of conservative evangelicalism have been associated with bigotry, selfishness and deception for a long time. Trump has simply revealed the movement’s priorities. It values the preservation of traditional racial and sexual hierarchies over fuzzier notions of wholesomeness.
“I’ve resisted throughout my career the notion that evangelicals are racist, I really have,” Balmer told me. “But I think the 2016 election demonstrated that the religious right was circling back to the founding principles of the movement. What happened in 2016 is that the religious right dropped all pretense that theirs was a movement about family values.” . . . This is one reason I find it hard to take seriously religious conservatives who say they are being persecuted for their defense of traditional marriage.
Rod Dreher, a social-conservative Trump critic, wrote, . . . . sees a fundamental difference between Christians who thought their religious freedom was trampled by desegregation and Christians who think their religious freedom is trampled when their business and charities have to serve gay people.
But it seems absurd to ask secular people to respect the religious right’s beliefs about sex and marriage — and thus tolerate a degree of anti-gay discrimination — while the movement’s leaders treat their own sexual standards as flexible and conditional.
Christian conservatives may believe strongly in their own righteousness. But from the outside, it looks as if their movement was never really about morality at all.

Message to the GOP: Right-to-Carry Laws Lead to More Violent Crime

SB 372 Place of religious worship; carrying dangerous weapon.

log in | tally sheet 
floor: 01/23/18  Senate: Read third time and passed Senate (21-Y 18-N)

YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner--21.
NAYS--Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton--18.

Recently Republican political whores of the NRA passed a bill in the Virginia Senate committee which would allow guns to be carried by worshippers into churches.  As WTKR reports, the senators voted 21-18 in favor of SB 372, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ben Chafin of Russell County.  Thankfully, Governor Northam - who has said that as a doctor he understands the damage gus cause to the human body - has vowed to veto the measure which is little more than yet another NRA effort to increase gun sales that will benefit its masters, the gun manufacturers.  The ridiculous Republican argument that more guns make society safer fly directly in the face of modern analysis which finds that more guns lead to more violent crime, not to mention many more guns in the hands of criminals as the number of stolen guns continues to soar.  A piece in Salon looks at the real truth which is lost on Republicans who are akin to pigs gorging themselves at the trough of NRA money.  Here are highlights:

One of the most contentious arguments within the larger gun control debate is over whether right-to-carry laws that make it legal for gun owners to carry loaded weapons in public, usually concealed on their person, make people safer. Gun rights advocates argue that packing heat is a prevention against crime and violence, invoking slogans like, "An armed society is a polite society." Gun control proponents, however, argue that a proliferation of loaded weapons is bound to lead to more violence, if only because people have easier access to the means to harm others.
John Donohue, a legal researcher who works for Stanford Law School, has been working on this question for the better part of two decades.  . . . But now "this data [has] become complete enough, and some of the new statistical techniques have been implemented," he continued.
The correlation between the passage of right-to-carry or RTC laws and violent crime has long been documented, Donohue explained, but as anyone with even the most basic knowledge of statistics understands, correlation is not causation. Now, with a combination of sophisticated statistical analysis techniques, Donohue and his team believe they have been able to document a causal relationship.
"Ten years after the adoption of RTC laws, violent crime is estimated to be 13-15 percent higher than it would have been without the RTC law," explains the paper, published at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“The most obvious problem is people get into disputes that, without guns, would at the most lead to a bloody nose," Donohue explained. If one or both parties are carrying guns, such conflicts "can now lead to death." 
A high-profile killing in Minnesota last week offers a good example. A 25-year-old man named Alexander Weiss, who had a bumper sticker on his car that read "Gun Control Means Hitting Your Target," was arrested for allegedly shooting 17-year-old Muhammed Rahim to death after a traffic accident. Witnesses describe the two young men as confrontational, and Weiss has claimed he was acting in self-defense. But it's hard to imagine the incident would have ended in death if Weiss hadn't been carrying.
"[W]hen you start carrying guns, you make them much more likely to be stolen," which means that right-to-carry laws offer a steady supply of guns to people who are already inclined to commit crimes. 
"American gun owners, preoccupied with self-defense, are inadvertently arming the very criminals they fear," explained Brian Freskos at The Trace, kicking off his November investigative report on the way stolen guns have become a major component of the gun crime problem.
More than 237,000 guns were stolen from legal gun owners in 2016 alone, though Freskos believes that is a drastic underestimate, as many gun owners never report thefts to the police. One reason gun theft is so common is because right-to-carry laws and NRA propaganda encourage gun owners to have their firearms accessible at all times: in their cars, in their homes or on their person. If people kept guns locked up (as responsible firearms owners did for generations), this problem largely wouldn't exist. . . . Reliable estimates suggest as many as 3.5 million stolen guns have entered the black market over the past decade.
The gun industry profits from all those stolen guns, since many people who have a gun stolen are back in the store the next day, buying a replacement. So the NRA has every incentive to encourage people to carry guns or otherwise store them in places where they can easily be stolen. That ends up boosting profits for manufacturers, whom the NRA represents first and foremost.
Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the NRA has been eagerly pushing "permitless carry" laws. Getting a concealed carry license is already laughably easy. . . . . Such a change opens up a new market for the gun industry: People who want to feel tough and walk around strapped, but can't be bothered to learn to shoot the thing or answer a few simple questions first.
On Wednesday, the Indiana General Assembly will have a committee hearing on just such a proposal, HB 1022, introduced by state Rep. Jim Lucas, which would repeal the law requiring any permit whatsoever in order to carry a handgun in the state. Gun control activists, who have testified previously against this proposal, plan to show up in force at the hearing.
The reality is that carrying guns may make people feel safer, but all the available evidence suggests that it makes society less safe. Having guns everywhere makes lethal violence more likely, and also has a psychological effect, making it seem more socially acceptable — desirable, even — to resolve conflicts with violence instead of diplomacy. We all need to heed the immortal words of Johnny Cash: "Don't take your guns to town, son/ Leave your guns at home."

The Catholic Church's Decline in Latin America

As regular readers know, I was raised Roman Catholic, served as an altar boy for roughly a decade and rose to the level of a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus.  All of that preceded my "coming out" but more importantly, the sex abuse scandal that has continued to shock decent moral people around the world since it first exploded on Boston.  Since then, no part of the world has been exempt from stories of years of abuse and many decades of deliberate cover ups by bishops, cardinals and, yes, popes. Unlike countless altar boys globally, I was never sexually molested back in the days when women only entered a parish sacristy to collect soiled altar linens or to return fresh ones. I understand how easy it was for predator priests to groom and select their victims.  What I do not understand is the refusal of the Church from the current Pope on down to punish those who aided and abetted predators.  No bishop or cardinal has been punished and when Cardinal Law who became the face of cardinals who were derelict in their duties to protect children and youths died at the Vatican during the past month, Pope Francis attended his funeral. Why?  Was he blind to the message that his presence sent to Catholics and former Catholics trying to grasp the magnitude of the evil done?    The Church can on occasion still do good - I attended the funeral mass of a long time client and the service was beautiful and brought comfort to the grieving family. But until the stain of the sex abuse scandal is directly faced and the guilty severely punished, the Church's moral authority will continue to wither.  A piece The Americas Quarterly looks at the Church's plummeting influence in Latin America, once a bastion of Catholicism.  Here are excerpts:
When Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio was elected the first Latin American pope, he was expected to take the helm of a Roman Catholic Church severely weakened by sex abuse scandals and by a growing secularity, and strengthen its influence in the region.
Indeed, since March 2013, Pope Francis has prioritized Latin America. His first trip abroad, in July 2013, was to Rio de Janeiro. Although he has not yet returned to his native Argentina, he has visited nine Latin American countries, making six stops in the region during his 22 trips abroad.
Though there is a widespread perception that the pope has made progress with the faithful, there is also growing criticism of his wavering response to cases of sex and child abuse committed by members of the clergy. This was evident during his visit to Chile and Peru from Jan. 15 to 21, when he was greeted with far less enthusiasm than his predecessors – particularly in Chile.
This is, in part, because Chile itself has changed. It is a more developed and secular country. Unlike during Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1987, there is no oppressive dictatorship violating human rights, which made the pastoral visit by the leader of the Catholic Church far less salient in the national public debate. 
More than that, in recent years, Chile – and to a lesser extent and more recently Peru – has been shocked by revelations of sexual and child abuse committed by Catholic priests. Much of the papal visit was framed by the church’s limited official reaction to the scandal, and by the presence in all papal events of an active bishop who is accused of helping cover up the most notorious sex abuse cases.
The presence of the bishop of the city of Osorno, Juan Barros, 61, on the front lines of events and masses during the visit overshadowed the image of Francis for many Catholics, and marred his outreach and his message of repentance and reconciliation. . . . . Victims’ advocates demand his removal. Because Francis has not asked Barros to resign, many advocates allege that the Pope is not fully committed to combating what they call a culture of protecting abusers that still exists in the church.
Despite the two formal apologies issued by the Pope for the sex abuse scandals – he apologized in his first statement in Chile, then again a day later in a public meeting with members of the clergy – this impression was reinforced when, in an impromptu declaration, Francis asked for proof of the controversial bishop’s involvement in the sex abuse case. Though the pope later apologized to the victims for his words, among many Chileans the dominant perception is that the church has not fully realized the magnitude of the crisis and how its image has suffered. For too many Chileans, Francis’ apologies came too late, were not enough, and worse, they were undermined by his candid remarks and his inclusion of Barros.
It is true that Chileans were not keen on Francis’ visit even before Barros took center stage in the public activities. In two of the three public masses held in Chile, attendance was far lower than expected. Even the biggest mass held in Santiago in the pope’s second day in Chile, attendance was below the one registered when John Paul II came in 1987.
To be fair, comparing Francis’ visit to that of John Paul II in 1987, when the country was still under the rule of Augusto Pinochet, is unfair. Today Chile is a buoyant democracy, and among the most developed countries in Latin America. Poverty in 1987 was over 40 percent; today, it is less than 5 percent.  Chileans then were in great need of a pastor who could give them hope. Today, Chilean society is far more secular, with fewer economic needs. Despite high levels of inequality, Chileans are hopeful about the future.
The country has become increasingly secular. Among those who are religious, the Catholic Church has lost ground to protestants and evangelicals. . . . . Protestants and evangelicals account for 20 percent of the population, 2 percent declare allegiance to other religions and 18 percent declare to be non-believers, agnostic or atheist.
[T]he Catholic Church’s response to the allegations of sexual abuse and its organization of the visit – along with the unscripted comments by Pope Francis himself – will be remembered largely as a valuable missed opportunity to reach out to many Chileans who no longer see the Catholic Church as a part of their lives.
Add Chile to the list of countries like Ireland where the sex abuse scandal has left a one time bastion of the Church now a place where the Church holds no moral authority, and the Roman Catholic Church is rapidly headed towards becoming a largely black, Africa based church.  Francis - and others in the hierarchy remain oblivious to the reality that until severe punishments ate meted out to bishops and cardinals (and the Church's 12th century understanding of human sexuality changes), parishioners will continue to quietly drift away, many joining the ranks of the "Nones."

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, January 26, 2018

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Blame Trump for Growing Anti-LGBT Backlash

The year 2015 saw heady advances for LGBT Americans under a gay-friendly presidential administration and the Supreme Court's marriage ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.  Fast forward three years and triumph has turned into nightmare as the Trump/Pence wages war on LGBT citizens, argues that we have no civil rights protections and can be rejected by health care professionals that cling to Bronze Age beliefs.  In larger metropolitan areas, most of us still fell some remaining sense of safety, but in the hinterland and "Red America", things must be terrifying for many, especially LGBT youth who may see their hopes for the future fading and suicide perhaps looking more attractive as a means of escape.  An article in the Washington Post looks at the increasing and well justified anxiety felt by many LGBT Americans who now find themselves back in the cross-hairs of hate merchants and a vile White House regime.  Here are excerpts:
The movement for LGBT rights has made stunning progress in recent years. But the latest results of an ongoing poll commissioned by the gay rights organization GLAAD, which is releasing the results at the World Economic Forum in Davos today, suggests that just because change has come swiftly doesn’t mean it’s durable. For the first time since the survey began in 2014, non-LGBT Americans told pollsters that they’re less comfortable with their LGBT neighbors. And the number of LGBT survey respondents who told pollsters that they’d experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity jumped by 11 points. [T]he results suggest that Americans are taking advantage of an environment in which it has become more permissible to express discomfort with marginalized groups, even as people don’t want to be thought of as bigots. The number of non-LGBT Americans who gave what Gerzema called “the PC response,” telling pollsters that they support equal rights for LGBT people, held steady at 79 percent. But the number of respondents who said they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable having LGBT members of their faith communities, learning that a family member was LGBT, having their child taught by an LGBT teacher or study LGBT history in school, finding out that their doctor was LGBT, or even seeing same-sex couples holding hands all ticked upward. President Trump’s most venomous public statements haven’t targeted LGBT Americans. But his policies have, from his selection of Mike Pence as his running mate and Neil Gorsuch as his first Supreme Court nominee to his attempts to ban transgender people from the military. The rollback of LGBT rights may be quiet, but it’s still consequential. . . . . especially w1hen it means failing to respond to rising homophobia and anti-LGBT violence in countries such as Chechnya, Egypt and Indonesia.
 Yet facing off against procedural changes when other Americans have to contend with the president’s undisguised animosity is actually more of a challenge for us, because it keeps it out of the headlines more so than immigration,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.  Philanthropist Ari Getty is supporting some of that work via a $15 million grant to GLAAD that she sees as an investment in the future for her children, August and Natalia, both of whom are LGBT, and their friends. She hopes in particular that storytelling can focus as much on the achievements of LGBT youth as on their struggles. It’s a revelation that progress isn’t always permanent. The Supreme Court struck down elements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, and efforts ranging from voter ID laws to attempted purges of voter rolls have made it harder for many Americans to cast their ballots. The Americans who integrated city buses, public schools and lunch counters are held up as heroes even as the country has become increasingly segregated once again. But these reversals represent slow declines after major victories. This rising discomfort with LGBT Americans comes just eight years after Obama signed a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that kept members of the military closeted and a mere 2½ years after a Supreme Court ruling made marriage equality the law of the land. A 2015 GLAAD study found that 50 percent of Americans “said that we were done, that we had achieved full rights and acceptance,” even as “in 29 states, you can still be fired for being LGBT,” Ellis said. 

Gay Conversion Therapy Continues to Ruin Lives

Thankfully, I was never formally subjected to "gay conversion therapy."   But that is not to say I don't have some sense of the damage it does to loves having been raised Roman Catholic and subjected to the Church's odious brainwashing when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.  The result was decades of self-hate and ultimately suicide attempts - all because of the psychosis of  12th century "Church fathers" who by modern standards likely deeded mental health interventions of their own.  Sadly, despite society's overall rejection of Medieval medical and mental health knowledge, forty-one states continue to allow minors to be subjected to witch doctor-like or worse forms of efforts to "change" one's sexual orientation, something that is rejected by every legitimate - i.e., every non-Christofascists funded - medial and mental health association in America, not to mention the world.  Here in Virginia, a ban on the practice faces a perilous fate in the Virginia General Assembly.  A column in the New York Times looks st this dangerous practice that continues to ruin lives, sometimes ending in suicide.  Here are highlights: 
In the early 2000s, when I was a middle schooler in Florida, I was subjected to a trauma that was meant to erase my existence as a newly out bisexual. My parents were Southern Baptist missionaries who believed that the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy could “cure” my sexuality.
For over two years, I sat on a couch and endured emotionally painful sessions with a counselor. I was told that my faith community rejected my sexuality; that I was the abomination we had heard about in Sunday school; that I was the only gay person in the world; that it was inevitable I would get H.I.V. and AIDS.
But it didn’t stop with these hurtful talk-therapy sessions. The therapist ordered me bound to a table to have ice, heat and electricity applied to my body. I was forced to watch clips on a television of gay men holding hands, hugging and having sex. I was supposed to associate those images with the pain I was feeling to once and for all turn into a straight boy. In the end it didn’t work. I would say that it did, just to make the pain go away.
I have begun to repair the damage that conversion therapy caused me and my family. But the failed promise of change has very likely caused a permanent tear in our relationship.
Many think that conversion therapy — the snake oil idea that you can forcibly change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity — is an artifact of the past, a medieval torture practice. But in fact it is still legal in 41 states, including so-called progressive ones like New York and Massachusetts. New York City fully banned the practice only last month.
We constantly hear from survivors of conversion therapy who have been so hurt that they are contemplating suicide. So we know the severity of the problem. A new report tells us just how huge it is. Nearly 700,000 adults in the country have received conversion therapy at some point, including about 350,000 who received the treatment as adolescents, according to a study by the Williams Institute, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy at U.C.L.A. It is heartbreaking that the study estimates that 20,000 L.G.B.T.Q. teens will receive conversion therapy from a health care professional before they turn 18. An even larger number of youth, an estimated 57,000 teenagers, will receive the treatment from a religious or spiritual adviser before adulthood.
Every prominent professional health association, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, opposes the use of conversion therapy on youth, calling it harmful and ineffective.
The practice can be performed by a licensed therapist in an office, in a correctional-style campground, by a parent continuously punishing a child for acting too feminine or by a pastor who wants to pray the gay away. The trauma of conversion therapy can cause depression, suicidal ideation, family rejection and a whole host of horrors that children must then face without the knowledge that mental health professionals are supposed to help rather than harm.
In the past couple of weeks, Virginia, Washington, Arizona and Missouri have introduced bills to ban conversion therapy. But there are still challenges in stopping this barbaric practice. In fact, New Hampshire recently rejected an effort to protect L.G.B.T.Q. youth from conversion therapy with a close vote in the Legislature, being swayed in favor of allowing the practice to continue; many legislators falsely believe that no such practice could exist. The new data from the Williams Institute shows just how wrong they are. We must pass legislation to stop licensed therapists who seek to harm L.G.B.T.Q. youth with conversion therapy. Everyone should know that you can’t change what you never chose.

Not only do we need to ban licensed therapists from engaging in conversion therapy, but it needs to be illegal for  religious "ministries" to subject youths to practises which are nothing less than child abuse. Religion cause much harm to mankind in my view, and this is one of the more insidious harms still widespread in America.  No parent should have the right to inflict such harm on their children simply because they cling to archaic beliefs. It is nothing less than child abuse. 

White House Counsel Resignation Threat Stopped Trump From Firing Mueller

Watching the train wreck that is the Trump/Pence White House, one would think that even a dumb as a brick narcissist like Trump would have learned from the firing of James Comey that firing those investigating you and/or your enablers and sycophants really is not a smart idea.  Yet, last night the New York Times reported that back in June, 2017, Trump ordered special counsel Robert Mueller fired.  Indeed, only the refusal of White House counsel  Donald F. McGahn II to carry out the order followed by McGahn's treat to resign stopped Der Trumpenführer from a move that would have greatly increased the political crisis that has basically gripped the country since before before Trump moved into the White House.  Trump's enablers and apologists can whine and rant all they want, but the one clear take away is that Trump is trying to hide something and will go to great lengths to thwart legitimate investigations. Here are excerpts from the Time's newest report: 
President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.
The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.
[Trump] began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, two of the people said.
First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.
After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.
Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.
Mr. McGahn, a longtime Republican campaign finance lawyer in Washington who served on the Federal Election Commission, was the top lawyer on Mr. Trump’s campaign. He has been involved in nearly every key decision Mr. Trump has made — like the firing of the former F.B.I. director — that is being scrutinized by Mr. Mueller. Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since March, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. Mr. Trump has long demonstrated a preoccupation with those who have overseen the Russia investigation. In March, after Mr. McGahn failed to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the inquiry, Mr. Trump complained that he needed someone loyal to oversee the Justice Department.
The former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said Mr. Trump asked him for loyalty and encouraged him to drop an investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Comey said he sidestepped those requests. He was soon fired.
The parallels between Trump's actions and the firings that brought Watergate - and Nixon's ultimate resignation - to a head are uncanny.  Having lived through that era and watched many of the hearings, I continue to believe that Trump is guilty of something be it collusion with Russia and/or obstruction of justice. Something stinks to high heaven.   

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, January 25, 2018

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What tax cut? GOP Worries Voters Won't Notice It

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Some 60% of Americans continue to view the Trump tax law negatively, correctly believing that the big winners are the wealthy and large corporation, the latter of which have shown little inclination to increase employee wages even though sitting on record amounts of cash and strong profits.  CEO bonuses and raised shareholder dividends find a much warmer place in cold corporate hearts.  Thus, the Republican Party which has largely bet the store - and the 2018 midterms - on this largely reverse Robin Hood tax plan are now fretting that average Americans will not notice what small and meager tax cuts they will receive - cuts that will fade away over time.  Will another $60.00 per month - barely enough to cover the costs of a few pizzas and beverages for a family - really win allegiance from voters?  Many believe that it will not be enough for most to even notice. A piece in Politico looks at GOP concerns that the existing dislike of the Trump/GOP give away will go by unnoticed.  Here are article excerpts:
The average person earning between $50,000 and $75,000 will see a roughly $30 increase in their checks, assuming they're paid biweekly.
Some may not notice the increase, especially when all sorts of other things can affect people's take-home pay, from pay increases to hikes in premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance.
Democrats, meanwhile, have made Republicans' sales job harder by highlighting those who will face tax increases under the GOP plan. A string of recent polls show one-third of voters believe they will pay more under the plan, though in reality, just 5 percent are expected to see tax hikes this year. About 15 percent of taxpayers will see essentially no change in their tax bills, according to the Tax Policy Center.
“For some people, this is going to be less visible than Republicans think,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow with the group. “It’s going to be really challenging to get people to notice that they got a tax cut.”
Many Republicans scoff at the idea that people may not realize their taxes have declined, saying they keep a close eye on their earnings, but it's happened before.
Former President Barack Obama had a similar tax cut in 2009 and 2010, offering up to $800 to couples that went largely unnoticed.
As with the new Republican plan, Obama's "Making Work Pay" cut was parceled out incrementally by changing how much was withheld from millions of workers' paychecks.
Many economists believed people were more likely to spend the money if it was distributed that way, rather than with a big, lump-sum payment, and the Obama administration was trying to stimulate the economy amid the Great Recession. But a 2010 New York Times/CBS poll found that fewer than 10 percent of voters had even realized their taxes had been cut.
Taxpayers should begin seeing changes in their checks as soon as next month, after the Trump administration released last week the withholding tables payroll administrators use to compute how much to take from each worker's paycheck.
The coming increases are key to Republicans’ efforts to sell their tax plan because for many people, it will be the first time the law affects them personally.
Though the centerpiece of the plan was a big cut in the corporate tax rate, it also reduced individual rates, expanded the standard deduction and doubled a popular credit for having children. But the law also scaled back a long-standing deduction for state and local taxes, pared the mortgage interest deduction and junked personal exemptions.
Those earning between $30,000 and $40,000 will see their taxes fall by $360, which, divided into 26 pay periods, equals about $14 per check. Those earning between $100,000 and $200,00 will get $2,260, or around $87 per pay period. The typical taxpayer earning between $200,000 and $500,000 will get $6,560, which translates to about $250 per check.
Those numbers are somewhat overstated because they assume people will benefit from the law's cuts in business taxes, even if that doesn't actually show up in their paychecks. Also, not all of the tax savings will be distributed this year in paychecks — some of the money won't come until people get their tax refunds next year.
They are also averages, and there will be wide variations among taxpayers, depending on individual circumstances. Some will get bigger tax cuts, and some will pay more.
Just 29 percent think they will benefit from the new law, according to a survey released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Sixty percent said they expect it to have a “mostly negative” or “not much” effect on them personally.

Meanwhile, the women's movement surges, gays are threatened with refusal of health care professionals to treat them, and non-white minorities watch as white supremacists remain the darlings of the White House and Republican Party even as evangelicals seemingly ignore, if not bless,  Der Trumpenführer adulterous affair with a porn star and hush money payments.  Let's hope Republicans are disappointed and the tax give away remains highly unpopular. 

Court Tosses Liberty Counsel’s “Hate Group” Designation Lawsuit Against Rating Site

Many among the grifters, hate merchants and charlatans who make up a who's who of the so-called Christofascist have been highly overwrought by the hate group designations that they have rightly received from the Southern Poverty Law Center ("SPLC") - the same organization that tracks Neo-nazi and white supremacy groups.  That whining and bitching rose to new levels when GuideStar, a charity-information site that discloses to would be donors information of purported charities noted the hate group designation for Liberty Counsel, a viciously anti-gay organization that has disseminated malicious anti-gay lies and disinformation for literally decades.  The Chronicle Of Philanthropy looks at the ruling that was handed down by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk, Virginia.   Here are excerpts:
GuideStar, the charity-information site, scored a major victory as a federal court ruled it was in legal bounds to put a hate label on a nonprofit’s profile.
A federal judge in Virginia dismissed a lawsuit against GuideStar pursued by the conservative Christian legal-defense group Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel sued after a label was placed on its GuideStar profile page noting that the legal organization had been designated a hate group for its anti-LGBTQ stances. Liberty Counsel said the label was defamatory and hurt its reputation. It also charged that the label violated a federal law against unfair competition and false advertising.
Judge Raymond Jackson of the Federal District Court in Norfolk, Va., however, said the designation was “an informative statement” and “not commercial speech” in his ruling— and rejected Liberty Council’s claim that its business was affected. Mr. Jackson also dismissed the legal group’s defamation claim.
Liberty Counsel said in statement Wednesday that it is considering an appeal of the decision.
GuideStar added warning banners last year to the profile pages of 46 organizations, including Liberty Counsel, to notify visitors that the Southern Poverty Law Center had accused the charities of spreading hate. The message directed visitors to the anti-hate group’s website. 
GuideStar announced it was pulling the warning labels last June after the designations caused a firestorm among conservative groups that said they had been unfairly targeted.
The nonprofit information site said it backed away from the labels after its staff members had faced threats to their personal safety from opponents of the labels.
The groups that have received these "hate group" labels  purport to be "Christian" organizations, most claiming the "family values" label.  If anyone questions the hate group label in the case of Liberty Counsel - or Family Research Council and numerous "Christian" organizations, I invite them to visit SPLC's site and look at the documentation.  I defy them to describe the conduct described in any way Christian .  It is also noteworthy that Guidestar backed away from the labels due to threats to its employees by supporters of these bogus charities.  In all of my years of writing this blog, the only death threats I have received has been from "devout Christians."  No Muslims have threatened me - and I am just as hard on Islam as Christianity - nor has anyone else.

Thursday Morning Morning Male Beauty

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Ex-GOP Chair to Evangelicals: ‘Don’t Ever Preach to Me Again!’

For a long time now I have been making the argument that it is becoming increasingly impossible for an honest and moral person to remain a Republican.  That argument applies even more so to evangelical Christians.  Honesty and true morality and their allegiance to Donald Trump are simply mutually exclusive.  A growing number of Republicans - I wonder how long until some leave the GOP entirely - have become utterly nauseated with the Trump/evangelical love fest.  The other day, I quoted in part from a column by former George W. Bush White House official Michael Gerson and, much to my surprise, I received a personal email from him thanking me for reading his columns and further elaborating on his frustrations. Now, we have Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, stating on national television that he is disgusted by and basically washing his hands of evangelicals loyal to Trump.  Raw Story looks at this  honest and heartfelt statement of the truth:
Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele blasted Family Research Council president Tony Perkins for giving President Donald Trump a “mulligan” on paying hush money to former adult film star.
“When it comes down to giving Trump a pass, some top evangelical leaders are turning a blind eye to his past discretions and came to his defense following recent reports about his alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels,” host Chris Matthews explained.
“I have very simple admonition: just shut the hell up and don’t preach to me about anything ever again,” Steele suggested.
“After telling me who to love, what to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don’t matter, the grabbing the you-know-what doesn’t matter, the outright behavior and lies don’t matter, just shut up!” Steele blasted.
“They have no voice of authority anymore for me,” Steele concluded.

Steele is 100% correct - I was watching when he made the statements - and my Republican "friends" who continue to blindly vote for GOP candidates and then park their butts in church pews on Sunday mornings need to take a good look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves what happened to their honesty, integrity and simple morality?   You do not get to have it both ways.  Kudos for Steele for speaking the truth. 

Did Devin Nunes Invent His Own "Smoking Gun"?

Nunes, Trump and Flynn
Among Donald Trump's sycophants in Congress, perhaps none is more engaged in his own effort to obstruct justice and destroy the FBI as an independent agency than GOP congressman Devin Nunes who, after caught having bizarre  with the White House was supposedly going to recuse himself from his committee trying to investigate the Trump campaign and regime for collusion with Russia.  Except that he hasn't lived up to his promise and is now engaged in a full blown effort to aid Trump and potential traitors while savaging the FBI yet refusing to release information on the so called "smoking gun" of FBI abuses to anyone, including committee Democrats.  Things are to the point where along with Jeff Sessions, Nunes needs to be investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.  Much of what Nunes seemingly objects to - FISA surveillance that caught Trump minions talking to Russian spy operatives under surveillance - ultimately relates the brazenness and/or stupidity of  Trump regime members like Sessions, Kushner and Flynn who spoke on the phone with folks like the Russian ambassador and then seem shocked that their conversations were caught on surveillance and confirmed that they had lied about their contacts with Russia.  A piece in Vanity Fair looks at Nunes' continued improper conduct and extreme efforts to aid Der Trumpenführer.  Here are excerpts:
For all the jokes about his competence as a congressman, Devin Nunes pulled off something of a political masterstroke over the last week. Seeking to cast doubt on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, his office compiled a memo alleging scandalous misdeeds at the Department of the Justice and the F.B.I., based on classified information that few other people can access. He allowed his colleagues to look at it, then declined to make it public, setting off a social media firestorm around the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. . . . . House Republicans are refusing to share the memo with the very agencies the memo claims to unmask, fueling the histrionics on Fox News and on Donald Trump’s Twitter over alleged F.B.I. bias, and whipping the conservative base into a frenzy.
Here’s what we know: the memo reportedly claims that senior F.B.I. officials abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows U.S. law enforcement to conduct foreign surveillance on American soil. . . . . But Republican lawmakers, seemingly by design, aren’t divulging any specifics.
The overwrought rhetoric, and near-total lack of substance, suggests that the contents of the memo may not live up to expectations. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in statement that the memo, is “rife with factual inaccuracies” and “is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the F.B.I.” But the panel has moved to prevent Democrats from releasing a minority report characterizing the intelligence upon which the memo is based. As a result, the only thing the public knows is what lawmakers are saying about a partisan document—again, written by Nunes and his staff—based on confidential information that cannot be disclosed.
G.O.P. lawmakers are reportedly considering publicizing the memo through an obscure legislative process that would establish a five-day window for Donald Trump to approve or deny its release. If he were to choose the latter, the decision would be kicked to the full House, which would hold a closed vote on the issue. But releasing the memo could diminish its power—especially if the alleged smoking gun is more smoke and mirrors. Republicans could feasibly bolster their claims by releasing the source material.
And Trump could choose to declassify the entire thing, if he actually wanted to. But unless there’s a there there, it’s not clear there would be a point. If the memo is just Nunes’s ramblings, team “witch hunt” loses both credibility and leverage.
Unless and until Nunes' memo is released and vetted, it should be given about as much credit as a piece authored by Tony Perkins or Franklin Graham on the merits of same sex relationships - i.e., zero.  Meanwhile, Mr. Mueller needs to haul Mr. Nunes' ass in for questioning.