Saturday, June 02, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

Goucester County School Board Continues War Against Transgender Students

Gloucester County School Board - a study in bigotry and cowardice.
Ironically, in the same issue of the Washington Post that has the piece cited in the prior post about the failure of evangelicals to police their own houses of worship, another story reports on how the Gloucester County, Virginia, school board - pressured no doubt by the same evangelical crowd who started the witch hunt in the first place - has opted to continue its war against transgender students.  Rather than do the right thing and abide by the recent federal court ruling that ordered the school board to protect the rights of transgender students, the board has filed an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which, with luck, will render a legal form of bitch slapping to the board. Meanwhile, Gloucester County continues to enjoy a worldwide image of a bigoted backwater that ought to be avoided by progressive businesses and truly moral people.  Here are article highlights:
The Virginia school board that was sued by a transgender student over its bathroom rules said Friday it is appealing a federal judge’s decision.
Gavin Grimm, now 19, sued the Gloucester County School Board when he was a high school sophomore. Grimm, who is transgender, said the school board’s policy barring him from using the boys’ bathroom was discriminatory.
Late last month, a federal judge ruled in his favor, saying that the board’s policy violated Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in public schools, and the Equal Protection Clause, which assures parity under the law.
In a brief filed Friday, the board’s attorney, David P. Corrigan, challenged the ruling. Corrigan argued that Title IX does not protect the right of transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. He said the board’s policy, which requires students to use bathrooms according to their “biological sex,” is constitutional.
Grimm had the backing of the Obama administration, which filed briefs in his favor and argued the bathroom rule violated Title IX. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, sided with Grimm in 2016, deferring to the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX.
Grimm’s case was appealed to the Supreme Court by the school board, and the court was set to hear it in spring 2017. But the Supreme Court sent Grimm’s case back to a lower federal court after the Trump administration reversed the guidance on transgender student rights.
Grimm’s attorney, Joshua Block of the ACLU, welcomed Friday’s appeal by the school district. Grimm is now a 19-year-old activist in Berkeley, Calif.
“The vast majority of courts have already made clear that these discriminatory and harmful policies violate Title IX,” Block said. “We’re confident that the 4th Circuit would agree.”
Gloucester County remains a place to be avoided.

Epidemic of Denial About Sexual Abuse in Evangelical Churches

Even as the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has agreed to pay a $210 million in settlement of to victims of clergy sex abuse, one of the largest payments in a never ending saga, there is another sex abuse epidemic that continues to go under reported: sex abuse in the evangelical churches (the Freedom From Religion Foundation puts out a monthly report of clerical crimes that takes up two newspaper sized pages).  Part of the explanation is the lack of a tight hierarchical structure in such denominations unlike in the Catholic Church, which makes tracking crimes more difficult.  The other phenomenon, is the tendency of parishioners to blame the victims and rally to the support of the abusers.  The victim, rather than the abuser often is the one who becomes the outcast - or at least until the abuse becomes too widespread. The result is that victims all too often blame themselves and/or remain silent.  The ultimate irony, of course, is that it seems to be denominations most obsessed with and repressive towards sex are the very ones that have the most wide spread abuse problems.  A long piece in the Washington Post looks at the denial that still remains the norm in the evangelical church.  The takeaway, to me, is that until evangelicals clean up their own churches, they have no moral authority to lecture others on issues of sexuality.  Here are excerpts:

Moxon was furious that her church community hadn’t listened. But she never told anyone what had happened to Rachael. “We had already tried once and weren’t believed,” Moxon says. “What was the point?”

Today, Denhollander can see how her church, which has since shut down, failed to protect her. But as a child, all she knew from her parents was that her abuse had made their church mad and that she wasn’t able to play with some of her friends. She blamed herself — and resolved that, if anyone else ever abused her, she wouldn’t mention it.

And so when Larry Nassar used his prestige as a doctor for the USA Gymnastics program to sexually assault Denhollander, she held to her vow. She wouldn’t put her family through something like that again. Her church had made it clear: No one believes victims. 

Across the United States, evangelical churches are failing to protect victims of sexual abuse among their members. As the #MeToo movement has swept into communities of faith, several high-profile leaders have fallen: Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was forced into early retirement this month after reports that he’d told a rape victim to forgive her assailant rather than call the police. Illinois megachurch pastor Bill Hybels similarly retired early after several women said he’d dispensed lewd comments, unwanted kisses and invitations to hotel rooms. 

[I]n any community of faith, there is also sin — often silenced, ignored and denied — and it is much more common than many want to believe. It has often led to failures by evangelicals to report sexual abuse, respond appropriately to victims and change the institutional cultures that enabled the abuse in the first place. 

Without a centralized theological body, evangelical policies and cultures vary radically, and while some church leaders have worked to prevent abuse and harassment, many have not. The causes are manifold: authoritarian leadership, twisted theology, institutional protection, obliviousness about the problem and, perhaps most shocking, a diminishment of the trauma sexual abuse creates — especially surprising in a church culture that believes strongly in the sanctity of sex. “Sexual abuse is the most underreported thing — both in and outside the church — that exists,” says Boz Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham and a former Florida assistant state attorney.
As a prosecutor, Tchividjian saw dozens of sexual abuse victims harmed by a church’s response to them. (In one case, a pastor did not report a sexual offender in his church because the man had repented. The offender was arrested only after he had abused five more children.)  

[T]he three largest insurers of churches and Christian nonprofits said they received about 260 claims of sexual abuse against a minor each year. Those figures, though, exclude groups covered by other insurers, victims older than 18, people whose cases weren’t disclosed to insurance companies and the many who, like Denhollander, never came forward. In other words, the research doesn’t include what is certainly the vast majority of sexual abuse. The sex advice columnist and LGBT rights advocate Dan Savage, tired of what he called the hypocrisy of conservatives who believe that gays molest children, compiled his own list that documents more than 100 instances of youth pastors around the country who, between 2008 and 2016, were accused of, arrested for or convicted of sexually abusing minors in a religious setting. 

The problem in collecting data stems, in part, from the loose or nonexistent hierarchy in evangelicalism. Catholic Church abusers benefited from an institutional cover-up, but that same bureaucracy enabled reporters to document a systemic scandal. In contrast, most evangelical groups prize the autonomy of local congregations, with major institutions like the Southern Baptist Convention having no authority to enforce a standard operating procedure among member churches.

This means researchers attempting to study this issue have to comb through publicly available documents. That’s what Wade Mullen, the director of the M.Div. program at Capital Seminary & Graduate School, did as a part of his PhD dissertation. . . . . Over 2016 and 2017, Mullen found 192 instances of a leader from an influential church or evangelical institution being publicly charged with sexual crimes involving a minor, including rape, molestation, battery and child pornography. (This data did not include sexual crimes against an adult or crimes committed by someone other than a leader.) 

Of the 166 people who said they had been victims of sexual abuse before or during their time at BJU [Bob Jones University], half said school officials had actively discouraged them from going to the police. . . . BJU officials declined to comment for this article. 

Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC), an influential chain of congregations, many located on the East Coast, allegedly failed to report sexual abuse claims during the ’80s and ’90s to the authorities and caused secondary trauma to victims through pastoral counseling, according to an extensive investigation by Washingtonian magazine. In one instance, an SGC pastor allegedly told a wife whose husband sexually abused their daughter to remain with him. When she asked how she could possibly stay married to a man attracted to children, she was told that her husband “was not attracted to his 11-year-old daughter but rather to the ‘woman’ she ‘was becoming.’ ” Two years into the husband’s prison sentence, SGC pastor Gary Ricucci wrote in support of his parole using church letterhead, and the church welcomed him back to the community after his release. . . . The wife no longer attends.  

The evangelical defense of God-fearing offenders extends to the political realm. Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said President Trump’s “grab them by the p—y” comments and other crude language didn’t matter because “all of us are sinners.”  Roger Canaff, a former New York state prosecutor who specialized in child sexual abuse, tells me that many worshipers he encountered felt persecuted by the secular culture around them — and disinclined to reach out to their persecutors for help in solving problems. This is the same dynamic that drove a cover-up culture among ultra-Orthodox communities in New York, where rabbis insisted on dealing with child abusers internally, according to several analysts. 

But among evangelicals, there is an added eschatological component: According to a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of Americans believe that the end times will occur before 2050. In some evangelical teachings, a severe moral decay among unbelievers precedes the rapture of the faithful. 

This attitude could explain the 2017 case of an assistant pastor at Agape Bible Church in Thornton, Colo., who was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison for repeatedly sexually assaulting an adolescent girl. The police investigation revealed that church leaders and the girl’s father agreed not to contact the police because the “biblical counseling” received within the church was sufficient to handle the case. According to an officer who interviewed the father, “His interest was in protecting the church and its reputation more than protecting his daughter.” 

Partly, church leaders tend to circle the wagons out of arrogance. “I’ve worked with churches across the theological spectrum, from fundamentalist to progressive,” Tchividjian says. “They say: ‘I’m the man God’s placed in charge. I have the Bible. I know how to handle this.’ ” But another, less visible problem is the overall attitude toward sex. Sexual sin is talked about constantly, and extramarital sex is considered a heinous moral lapse. (A student at Patterson’s seminary who told him she’d been date-raped was disciplined for being in the man’s room) It stands to reason that churches don’t want to air an epidemic of wickedness among their flocks. 

At an untold number of Christian churches and institutions, the silence on sexual abuse is deafening. Statistically, evangelical pastors rarely mention the issue from the pulpit. According to research from the evangelical publishing company LifeWay, 64 percent of pastors said they talk about sexual violence once a year, or even less than that. Pastors drastically underestimate the number of victims in their congregations; a majority of them guessed in the survey that 10 percent or less might be victims. But in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 4 women (women make up approximately 55 percent of evangelicals) and 1 in 9 men have been sexually abused. There is no evidence suggesting those numbers are lower inside the church.

Immanuel Baptist Church faced a choice, the same one before many American churches today: Face the sin in their midst and make the church a place that follows the biblical command to care for the powerless and victimized — or avoid the disruption and churn out another generation of silenced victims who learn, like Denhollander did, that the church isn’t safe.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, June 01, 2018

More Friday Male Beauty

How Trump's Tariffs Will Harm Americans

America's largest trade deficit issues lie with China, yet Der Trumpenführer, like a peevish playground bully who only feels good when threatening or harming others, has lashed out at America's closest allies and is imposing tariffs that will result in retaliatory tariffs in return that will have a net negative impact on Americans - also the insane malignancy in the White House can feel like he's "winning" even as almost all of the rest of us suffer economic harm.  This on top of the Trump/GOP tac law which is going to harm many small businesses this year (the husband and I will see our taxes go up even as billionaires receive hundreds of thousands in tax cuts).  A piece in Politico looks at how Americans will be harmed by Trump's petulance.  One can only hope that Trump's Mid-West base is harmed the most since they are the ones how put this misogynist in office.  Here are article excepts:
Donald Trump has said that trade wars are easy to win. . . . The flip side of the trade war is the squeeze that America’s strongest allies will impose.
In the meantime, there are also many industries that will suffer collateral damage of higher tariffs that they may absorb by cutting jobs, pinching wages or taking other cost-cutting moves.
Here’s a look at how the new trade war could play out:
ConsumersConsumers could soon be paying higher prices for cars and trucks, electronics, homes and staple goods like canned foods and canned beer. Aluminum has been a lightweight substitute for heavy steel components in manufacturing, and Canada provides 40 percent of the U.S. imports of the metal.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers warned Thursday of a direct correlation between Trump's tariffs and the sticker prices of cars at dealerships.  . . . these tariffs will result in an increase in the price of domestically produced steel — threatening the industry’s global competitiveness and raising vehicle costs for our customers," the trade group said in a statement.
Some may say that the counter-tariffs that U.S. trading partners are imposing won’t be felt by Americans. But the tariffs that Canada is imposing on goods like cheese — and Mexico is imposing on products like pork bellies — could result in a glut in the United States if consumers abroad don’t want to pay more for U.S. imports.
Manufacturers and exporters
[M]anufacturers like Boeing will have to pay more for raw materials than rivals like Canada’s Bombardier or Europe’s Airbus will. In addition, Canada and the European Union are already working on bringing down tariffs with each other on all sorts of other goods.
Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Florida orange juice, Virginia ham and Washington state apples are all expected to be hit by retaliatory tariffs by the European Union, Mexico and Canada. Those producers could, in turn, make adjustments to lower their expenses, leading to other economic harm here.
Farmers and agricultural products
America's farmers and ranchers, a crucial part of Trump's political base, often find themselves on the front lines of trade disputes, but stand to gain little from the benefits of the steel and aluminum penalties. One of the U.S. heartland's biggest cash crops — corn — is on the EU's retaliation list. Wisconsin produces about half of the U.S. cranberry crop — another product on the EU’s list.
Bourbon whiskey (which Congress has deemed to be a "distinctive product of the United States") is also on Europe’s target list. And citrus farmers in Florida and California are in no position to absorb trade hits, having seen their crops destroyed by blight and Hurricane Irma.
U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Tom Sleight said that exporters are worried that years of hard-won gains could be lost. "We have spent years building markets in these countries based on a mutual belief that increasing trade benefits all parties," he said.Global suppliers
Parts and supplies crisscross the globe, especially in automotive manufacturing, but also in hundreds of other industries. If a company has a choice of putting a plant in Detroit, where it may have to pay the tariffs, or over the border in Windsor, Ontario, where it doesn‘t, it may choose the latter.
The Coalition of American Metal Manufacturers and Users is concerned that overseas customers will flee to other sources. "Our members are also reporting concerns over their own exports as their overseas customers shift to non-U.S. suppliers who do not face government restrictions on steel and aluminum," said Paul Nathanson, a spokesman for the group. "And when a customer removes you from their supply chain, especially for smaller, family-owned businesses, it is tough to bring that work back to the U.S."

All of this is lost on the cretin at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  It is only about him and boosting his ego as a "tough guy." To Hell with the rest of us. As the harm begins to take hold, Democrats need to hang it around Trump and the GOP's necks. Oh, mone more fun fact via the Washington Post:
. . . exports actually account for a greater proportion of economy in counties that voted for Trump than in counties that voted for Clinton. That means Trump voters would likely end up feeling the heaviest effects from changes to trade . . . 

Trump Continues to Enable Cruelty and Abuse

Twenty-five years ago (when I was still a Republican), Republicans and conservative Christians would harp that character in an elected official mattered and was a defining reason whether or not to support a candidate or officeholder.  Fast forward to today, and Trumpists - who have more or less replaced the Republican Party in all but name - evangelical Christians have made it most clear that to them, no matter how abhorrent Donald Trump's conduct or his immortality,  they will stand by Trump (in my view, because he panders to their racist bigotry). Seemingly, no amount of bigotry, misogyny, and calls for acts of cruelty causes these individuals to reach a point of saying "enough is enough" and support decency.  In contrast, Democrats, progressives, and individuals like me - an "out" gay, former Catholic and non-church attending member of the ELCA -  believe that character in public officials DOES indeed matter.  A column in the Washington Post makes the case for character and morality in our public officials, including the occupant of the White House.  Here are excerpts:
America suffers from a persistent misunderstanding of the role of character in public life. For some — a diminishing few — political leaders should be moral exemplars. They should be men and women whom children can look up to and emulate. 
Democrats surrendered this standard in their defense of President Bill Clinton. Republicans are abandoning this standard in their defense of President Trump. There is apparently no remaining constituency for the belief that high office should involve moral leadership.
Given human nature, this expectation was always a recipe for disillusionment. But while it is true that politicians are not called to be pastors, something has been lost in abandoning the ideal of rectitude. Trump did not just (allegedly) have a fling. He bragged about sexual assault and dismissed it as locker-room talk. He expanded the boundaries of acceptable misogyny.
It is one thing for public officials to fail a moral standard. That makes them human. It is something else to shift a standard in favor of cruelty and abuse. That makes them poor stewards of public trust. 
This points to an underestimated role for politics. Politicians may not be moral examples, but they help set the margins of permissible behavior and speech. I’m not talking about the law. We have a Constitution that protects hurtful, even hateful language. But public officials help determine the shape of social stigma, which is based on our self-conception as a community. 
[T]he stigmas we feel against misogyny and against racism are tremendous social achievements. Shifting those social expectations in favor of decency was the hard, sometimes dangerous work of generations. 
And political leaders — displaying good public character — have helped determine those expectations. It mattered when President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House. It helped break an oppressive social convention against the social mixing of blacks and whites. It mattered when Clinton began the tradition of celebrating Eid al-Fitr at the White House. It sent the signal that American public traditions reach beyond Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism. It also mattered when Trump in 2017 discontinued the White House Eid celebration.  
Trump’s political use of this idea [that "political correctness" has gone too far] has had little to do with academic freedom and disruptive student protests. It has had everything to do with testing the limits of prejudiced public language against migrants (particularly Mexicans) as potential rapists and Muslims (particularly refugees) as potential terrorists. 
This is a failure of public character with serious consequences. Trump is urging Americans to drink at a poisoned well of intolerance. This desensitizes some people to the moral seriousness of prejudice. It creates an atmosphere in which bigots gain confidence and traction. And one sad social consequence is the emboldened racism of Roseanne Barr and many like her, many of whom surely believe — on good evidence — that [Trump] the president of the United States is on their side. There are many drawbacks to being ignorant of and indifferent to history. But one of the worst is a failure to appreciate the depth of U.S. racism and the heroism of the long struggle against it. 
We are a country in which 1 out of 7 people was owned by another. We had an American version of apartheid within living memory. It was a hard-won lesson that racism is a form of oppression that destroys the soul of the oppressor as well. 
[I]t hurts to have [Trump] a president of poor character placing his thumb on the other side of the moral scale.

Trump has made it impossible for decent, moral people to support him and his agenda.  Those who continue to support him should be acknowledged by the decent, moral majority as being morally bankrupt and, in the case of evangelicals, utter hypocrites.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, May 31, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Trump Immigration Policy Veers to Evil

Unless one is of 100% Native American descent, everyone of us in America is an immigrant and our ancestors often came to the New World to escape danger, discrimination, or religious persecution.  In a sense they were refugees seeking safety and better opportunity. Sadly, the ancestors of many, if not most, African Americans were forcibly brought to America, their families torn asunder in the process and then they faced being treated as chattel property.  This, combined with the genocide against  Native Americans are the two original sins of America - the ugly underbelly that flag waving self-anointed "patriots" conveniently forget.   Now, the Trump/Pence regime is adding another chapter of evil to America's record through its treatment of refugees arriving at the southern border.  Disturbingly, his strongest supporters are white Christian nationals who underscore just how hideous conservative Christianity has become. Trump is not only committing daily lies but he and the always reprehensible Jeff Sessions are killing America's soul and basic human decency.  A column in the New York Times takes a look at what is being done in the name of every American citizen.  It is ugly and it is evil, plain and simple.  Worse yet, I believe racism against non-whites is the lynch pin behind it all. "Christians" who support this ought to save all of us from the display of hypocrisy of them parking their despicable assess in church pews on Sunday mornings. Here are column excerpts:  

We as a nation have crossed so many ugly lines recently, yet one new policy of President Trump’s particularly haunts me. I’m speaking of the administration’s tactic of seizing children from desperate refugees at the border.
“I was given only five minutes to say goodbye,” a Salvadoran woman wrote in a declaration in an A.C.L.U. lawsuit against the government, after her 4- and 10-year-old sons were taken from her. “My babies started crying when they found out we were going to be separated.”
“In tears myself, I asked my boys to be brave, and I promised we would be together soon. I begged the woman who took my children to keep them together so they could at least have each other.”
This mother, who for her protection is identified only by her initials, J.I.L., said that while in El Salvador she was severely beaten in front of her family by a gang, and she then fled the country to save the lives of her children.
J.I.L. noted that she had heard that her children might have been separated and sent to two different foster homes, and added: “I am scared for my little boys.”
Is this really who we are? As a parent, as the son of a refugee myself, I find that in this case Trump’s policy has veered from merely abhorrent to truly evil.
Family separations arise in part because of the new Trump administration policy, announced last month, of “zero tolerance” for people who cross the border illegally. That means that parents are jailed (which happened rarely before), and their kids are taken away from them.
Mirian, a Honduran woman who arrived in the U.S., broke no law. She simply followed the established procedure by presenting herself at an official border crossing point and requesting asylum because her life was in danger in Honduras — nevertheless, her 18-month-old was taken from her.
“The immigration officers made me walk out with my son to a government vehicle and place my son in a car seat in the vehicle,” Mirian said in a declaration accompanying the A.C.L.U. suit. “My son was crying as I put him in the seat. I did not even have a chance to comfort my son, because the officers slammed the door shut as soon as he was in his seat.”
Likewise, Ms. G, a Mexican in the A.C.L.U. suit, went to an official border crossing point and requested asylum with her 4-year-old son and blind 6-year-old daughter. None of them had broken American law, yet the children were taken from their mother.
But even for those parents who commit a misdemeanor by illegally entering the U.S. — because they want to protect their children from Central American gangs — the United States response seems to be in effect to kidnap youngsters.
If you or I commit a misdemeanor, we might lose our kids for a few days while we’re in jail, and then we’d get them back. But border-crossers serve a few days in jail for illegal entry — and after emerging from criminal custody, they still don’t get their kids back soon, said Lee Gelernt, an A.C.L.U. lawyer. In one case, he said, it has been eight months and the child still has not been returned.
It’s true that immigration policy is a nightmare, we can’t take everyone and almost no one advocates open borders. . . . Yet none of that should be an excuse for brutalizing children by ripping them away from their parents.
So what’s next, Mr. President? Minefields at the border would be an even more effective deterrent. Or East German-style marksmen in watch towers to shoot those who cross?
We as a nation should protect our borders. We must even more assiduously protect our soul.
When the husband and I travel to Europe in September, we will likely have to explain repeatedly that (i) we opposed Trump's election, and (ii) the majority of Americans oppose the immorality of his regime's brutal policies.  Right now, I am ashamed to be an American. 

Trump "Spygate" Myth Loses Steam

The GOP's Trey Gowdy who has refuted Trump's "spygate" lies.

As noted in previous blog post Donald Trump and certain of his sycophants have been spreading the lie that the FBI and/or other government agencies improperly placed "spies" within the Trump presidential campaign.  As Rudy Giuliani shockingly admitted more or less that all of the "spygate" lies were part of a "PR" effort to dupe the American public should Trump find himself facing impeachment.  Now, that false storyline is collapsing as even some right wing Republicans are conceding that the FBI acted appropriately given the questionable Russian ties of some of Trump's "inner circle." In my view, the real issue that Trump is deliberately ignoring is the fact that he surrounded himself with individuals suspected as being Russian agents. This, of course, leads to the question of why Trump surrounded himself with individuals in some instances for years prior to the launch of the Trump candidacy/campaign.  A piece in Politico looks at Trump's crumbling line of lies and bullshit.  Here are story excerpts:
President Donald Trump’s claim that the FBI embedded a spy in his campaign for political purposes began to crumble Wednesday after a prominent Republican, as well as defenders of the president, said he might have the story wrong.
In less than 24 hours, Trump’s allegations were publicly refuted by House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), one of just nine lawmakers briefed on highly classified details of the FBI’s operation; Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, a Trump favorite; and prominent legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, a vocal Trump ally who has advised the president on legal strategy.
Legal experts and Trump critics say the defections have exposed cracks in the president’s narrative and undermine his attempts to discredit the FBI investigation into Russian contacts with his campaign as a partisan, “deep state” attack on his presidential bid.
And notably, a slew of Trump's congressional allies who have been active purveyors of what the president dubbed “spygate” — including Reps. Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin — were silent Wednesday. POLITICO reached out to a handful of these lawmakers and did not hear back.
The White House declined to directly rebut Gowdy on Wednesday, but made clear the president hasn’t backed off his concern. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “clearly, there's still cause for concern” about the president's "spy" allegations."
The blowback began Tuesday night when Gowdy, pressed during a Fox News interview, insisted that the FBI acted appropriately when it deployed an informant to collect information during the 2016 presidential election from Trump campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Both men had been suspected of having questionable Russian contacts and the FBI's attempt to follow the lead was appropriate and necessary, Gowdy said.
“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got,” said Gowdy, one of just five Republicans in a classified DOJ briefing last week for congressional leaders about the issue.
Wednesday morning, Gowdy doubled down on CBS.  “When the FBI comes into contact with information about what a foreign government may be doing in our election cycle, I think they have an obligation to run it out," he said.
The lawmaker's comments were echoed by Napolitano, who said Trump's “spy” claim seemed to be “baseless” and that the use of an informant on the periphery of the campaign is “standard operating procedure” in the FBI’s counterintelligence operations.
Dershowitz joined in Wednesday morning by conceding that he was “on the way to being persuaded” that the FBI’s use of an informant was proper.
The confluence of conservative defenses of the FBI undercuts Trump’s aggressive PR strategy to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian election meddling and whether there was any coordination with the Trump campaign.
Jordan (R-Ohio) and Gaetz (R-Fla.), who have also vocally excoriated the FBI and Justice Department, were also not immediately available to comment.
The other Republicans who attended last Thursday's briefing — House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes — have also declined to publicly comment on how the meeting affected their opinion of the issue. 
Those Republicans remaining silent are little better than the Vichy French who collaborated with the Nazi occupation, hence why I refer to them as "Vichy Republicans."

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Medicaid Expansion Approved by Virginia General Assebly

Ralph Northam on inauguration day 2018.
In a major triumph for Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Democrats - not to mention the tens of thousands of working Virginians who will benefit - the Virginia General Assembly has approved Medicaid expansion.  The move will end Virginia's export of taxes that have accrued to adjoining states which previously embraced Medicaid expansion, an aspect of the Affordable Health Care Act which Congressional Republicans have worked to kill with no regard for the millions of Americans who will be harmed through either a loss of health insurance coverage or significantly increased health insurance premiums all so the 1% could reap obscene tax cuts.   Many of Virginia's rural hospitals, especially in Southwest Virginia where bigotry and religious extremism make it difficult to attached a new industrial base, that have been teetering on bankruptcy  or closure, will be among the big winners on this development.   Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:
The Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday evening to a state budget expanding Medicaid coverage to the state's poor, acting swiftly after the Senate broke years of partisan gridlock on the issue.
The House of Delegates voted Wednesday only about an hour after the state Senate voted in favor of expansion. Several Republicans in both chambers joined with Democrats to support Medicaid expansion.
The House had previously endorsed expansion, while the Senate had held out in opposition until Wednesday.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the budget in coming days that continues the plan. Expanding Medicaid was a key provision of then-President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, and a tally from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows Virginia will become the 33rd state to approve Medicaid expansion.
Senate passage came by a 23-17 vote with four Republicans joining Democrats for passage. The House quickly followed about an hour later with a lopsided 67-31 final endorsement.
Wednesday's voting marked the end of a more than four-year battle over whether Virginia should expand the publicly funded health care program for the poor. 
Virginia Democrats have pushed for years to expand Medicaid, saying their state should not pass up the roughly $2 billion in extra federal funding the program would bring to the state.  Sen. Ben Chafin, a Republican lawmaker from Virginia's economically depressed southwest coal country, announced his support for expansion on the Senate floor. He said his rural area needed expansion to help bolster its hospitals and provide care for constituents in need.  "I came to the conclusion that no just wasn't the answer anymore," Chafin said.
Expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income families was a key provision of the Affordable Care Act secured by then-President Barack Obama.
A federal-state collaboration originally meant for poor families and severely disabled people, Medicaid has grown to become the largest government health insurance program, now covering 1 in 5 people. Obama's health care overhaul gave states the option of expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.
The GOP-controlled General Assembly's support for Medicaid comes despite Trump administration rejections.
Last year, Virginia saw its state legislature reshaped by an anti-Trump wave as Democrats made unexpectedly large gains in the state House. And a failure by the GOP-led Congress to repeal and replace the health law helped spur several of Virginia's Republican state legislators to flip positions.
Democrats campaigned heavily on expanding Medicaid last year and some House Republicans were eager to take the issue off the table before next year's election, when both House and Senate seats are up.

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Code Red: Electing the Trump Resistance

For years now I have been saying that the only way to stop the anti-democratic, enrich the already rich agenda of the Republican Party is to vote for Democrats in every election possible.  Only in the face of sustained electoral defeat will the GOP modify its increasingly extreme and harmful agenda and maybe finally eject the white Christian extremists and white supremacists from the party who in a large party have set the stage for not only the election of Donald Trump but also a world and political view where lying is completely acceptable.  The 2018 midterm elections and other state level elections in November provide the most critical chance to stop the toxicity and, in my view, destruction of the country.  As a column in the New York Times notes, "vote for a Democrat, any Democrat."   It is the only way to stop the Trump/GOP agenda that is harming a majority of Americans.  Remember that only around 27% of registered voters put Trump in office.  Huge numbers of Americans failed to vote.  Its time for a high voter turnout to end the madness. Here are column excerpts:
With the primary season winding down and the midterms soon upon us, it’s time to point out that this election is not about what you may think it’s about. It is not a choice between the particular basket of policies offered by the candidates for House or Senate in your district or state — policies like gun control, right to choose, free trade or fiscal discipline. No, what this election is about is your first chance since 2016 to vote against Donald Trump.
As far as I am concerned, that’s the only choice on the ballot. It’s a choice between letting Trump retain control of all the key levers of political power for two more years, or not.
If I were writing the choice on a ballot, it would read: “Are you in favor of electing a majority of Democrats in the House and/or Senate to put a check on Trump’s power — when his own party demonstrably will not? Or are you in favor of shaking the dice for another two years of unfettered control of the House, the Senate and the White House by a man who wants to ignore Russia’s interference in our election; a man whose first thought every morning is, ‘What’s good for me, and can I get away with it?’; a man who shows no compunction about smearing any person or government institution that stands in his way; and a man who is backed by a party where the only members who’ll call him out are those retiring or dying?”
If your answer is the former, then it can only happen by voting for the Democrat in your local House or Senate race.
[W]hat we’ve learned since 2016 is that the worst Democrat on the ballot for the House or Senate is preferable to the best Republican, because the best Republicans have consistently refused to take a moral stand against Trump’s undermining of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Civil Service, the basic norms of our public life and the integrity of our elections.
These Republicans have made the craven choice to stand with Trump as long as he delivers the policies they like on tax cuts, gun control, fossil fuels, abortion and immigration, even though many privately detest him.
[U]nderstand that as long as Trump is president, he’s unlikely to sign any legislation a Democratic majority in Congress would pass — but that’s not their job for the next two years. Their job is to protect America from Trump’s worst impulses.
Their job is to get hold of at least one lever of power — the House or the Senate — in order to oust the most corrupt Republican lawmakers who lead key committees, to properly oversee the most reckless cabinet secretaries, like Scott Pruitt, and to protect the F.B.I., the Justice Department and Robert Mueller from Trump’s intimidation.
I’m not a card-carrying Democrat. I favor free trade, fiscal discipline, pro-business regulations, a democracy-expanding foreign policy, and I have an aversion to identity politics.
But all of that is on hold for me now, because something more fundamental is at stake: It’s not what we do — it’s who we are, how we talk to one another, what we model to the world, how we respect our institutions and just how warped our society and government can get in only a few years from a president who lies every day, peddles conspiracy theories from the bully pulpit of the White House and dares to call our F.B.I. and Justice Department a “criminal deep state” for doing their job.
So that’s why I have only one thought for this election: Get power. Get a lever of power that can curb Trump. Run for the House or the Senate as a Democrat; register to vote as a Democrat; help someone else register to vote as a Democrat; send money to a Democrat; canvass for a Democrat; drive someone to the polls to vote for a Democrat.
[Democrats] can, and must, out-organize him, out-run him [Trump], out-register him and out-vote him. Nothing else matters now.
Democrats can’t count on winning by just showing up. They still have to connect with some centrist and conservative voters. . . . In the end, I don’t want to see Trump impeached, unless there is overwhelming evidence. I want to see, and I want the world to see, a majority of Americans vote to curtail his power for the next two years — not to push a specific agenda over his but because they want to protect America, its ideals and institutions, from him — until our next presidential election gives us a chance to end this cancer . . . .
Again, this is Code Red: American democracy is truly threatened today — by the man sitting in the Oval Office and the lawmakers giving him a free pass.

All of us can do our part be it volunteering, providing housing for a Democrat candidate staffer - something the husband and I have done before and may do again this year - and making a small campaign contribution.  Most importantly, be registered to vote and get to the polls and encourage family and friends to do so as well and make the see who critial voting is this November. 

Sessions Is A Key Witness In Mueller Probe

A piece in the New York Times sheds light on why Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has been so obsessed with either (i) getting Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal of himself from the Russiagate investigation, or (ii) firing Sessions so that he can appoint a new attorney general who will do Trump's bidding to torpedo and kill the Russiagate investigation. More importantly, the piece suggests that Jeff Sessions may be a principal witness for special prosecutor Robert Mueller.   What would Sessions testify about?  Although not stated in the piece, Mueller most likely wants to know about Trump's demands for loyalty and demands that the investigation of Trump and his co-conspirators killed.  All in all, it is part of the overall obstruction of justice agenda of Trump regardless of the efforts of Vichy Republicans and seeming Russian operatives like Devin Nunes to provide cover for Trump.  Here are article highlights:

By the time Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for dinner one Saturday evening in March 2017, he had been receiving the presidential silent treatment for two days. Mr. Sessions had flown to Florida because Mr. Trump was refusing to take his calls about a pressing decision on his travel ban.
When they met, Mr. Trump was ready to talk — but not about the travel ban. His grievance was with Mr. Sessions: The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.
Mr. Sessions refused.
The confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general.
The special counsel’s interest demonstrates Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be — encompassing not only the president’s interactions with and firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but also his relationship with Mr. Sessions.
Investigators have pressed current and former White House officials about Mr. Trump’s treatment of Mr. Sessions and whether they believe [Trump] the president was trying to impede the Russia investigation by pressuring him. The attorney general was also interviewed at length by Mr. Mueller’s investigators in January. And of the four dozen or so questions Mr. Mueller wants to ask Mr. Trump, eight relate to Mr. Sessions. Among them: What efforts did you make to try to get him to reverse his recusal? To [Trump] the president, no decision has proved more devastating during his time in office than Mr. Sessions’s recusal. In Mr. Trump’s view, Mr. Sessions, who had been one of his closest political allies and earliest prominent supporter in Washington, never would have appointed a special counsel, as the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, did last May after the president abruptly fired Mr. Comey. Trump complains to friends about how much he would like to get rid of Mr. Sessions but has demurred under pressure from Senate Republicans who have indicated they would not confirm a new attorney general. Pressure on Mr. Sessions to step aside from the Russia investigation began building almost as soon as he took office, culminating in a Washington Post report on March 1 that he had not been forthcoming during his Senate confirmation hearing about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. Career lawyers at the Justice Department had advised Mr. Sessions to step aside, citing ethics guidelines about impartiality and his role as a prominent supporter of the Trump campaign. To Justice Department officials close to Mr. Sessions, the request by the president made through Mr. McGahn was inappropriate, particularly because it was clear to them that Mr. Sessions had to step aside. After Mr. Sessions told Mr. McGahn that he would follow the Justice Department lawyers’ advice to recuse himself from all matters related to the election, Mr. McGahn backed down. Mr. Sessions recused himself on March 2. When Mr. Trump learned of the recusal, he asked advisers whether the decision could be reversed, according to people briefed on the matter. Told no, Mr. Trump argued that Eric H. Holder Jr., President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, would never have recused himself from a case that threatened to tarnish Mr. Obama. [Trump] The president said he expected the same loyalty from Mr. Sessions. [E]xperts said they could think of no instance in which a prosecutor stepped aside from a case in circumstances similar to Mr. Sessions’s. Justice Department guidelines on recusal are in place to prevent the sort of political meddling the president tried to engage in, they said. Unnerved and convinced the president wanted to install a new attorney general who could oversee the Russia investigation, Mr. Priebus called Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff at the time, Jody Hunt, who said that [Trump] the president would have to ask Mr. Sessions himself to resign. Unsure how to proceed, Mr. Priebus simply waited out the president, who never called Mr. Sessions but did attack him that week on Twitter. Days later, Mr. Priebus was out as chief of staff. The special counsel has told [Trump's] the president’s lawyers that he wants to ask Mr. Trump about those discussions with Mr. Priebus and why he publicly criticized Mr. Sessions.
Mr. Trump brought up the recusal again with associates later last year, expressing a desire for Mr. Sessions to reassert control over an investigation that has since resulted in the indictment of his former campaign chairman and guilty pleas by two other campaign aides and his former national security adviser.
I have little regard for Sessions, but I hape Sessions worries more about how history will view him and does the right thing even if that means throwing Trump fully under the bus.