Saturday, March 23, 2019

More Saturday Male Beauty

Michigan Ends Funding For Anti-LGBT Adoption Groups

In a move that needs to be followed in every state in the country, the sate of Michigan will no longer provide state funding to adoption and foster care agencies that refuse to work with LGBT individuals as adoptive parents or foster parents citing "religious belief."  Expect shrieks and flying spittle and claims of persecution from those who want to gorge themselves at the public taxpayer funds trough yet want to discriminate against taxpayers.  The choice is simple, if you take public funds, you work with all of the public.  If you are unwilling to do that, then do not take public funds. The reality is that many of these bigoted agencies cannot make a financial go of it without taxpayer funds - something that ought to tell them that their bigotry and exclusionary policies are not wanted in the public market place.  The Detroit Free Press looks at the development.  Here are excerpts:

Michigan will no longer financially support adoption and foster care agencies that refuse to work with same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals because of religious beliefs under the terms of a settlement of a lawsuit negotiated by Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The settlement, which was announced Friday, sets up a battle with the Republican-led Legislature, which passed a law in 2015 that allows adoptions agencies to refuse to work with members of the LGBTQ community.
The terms of the settlement require that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services agrees to maintain nondiscriminatory provisions in its foster care and adoption agency contracts. It also calls for the department to enforce the nondiscrimination provisions by terminating contracts with agencies that either discriminate against same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals who would otherwise qualify to become foster or adoptive parents or that refer them to other agencies.
In exchange for the policy, the plaintiffs in the case — Kristy and Dana Dumont of Lansing and Erin and Rebecca Busk-Sutton of Detroit — have agreed to dismiss their claims and pay their own attorney fees and costs.
In 2015, Republicans in the Michigan Legislature, voting mostly along party lines, passed a controversial bill that allows adoption and foster care agencies to cite religious convictions when refusing to work with same-sex couples who want to adopt  or foster a child.
The two couples filed a lawsuit in 2017 challenging the MDHHS contract with taxpayer-funded and state-contracted foster care and adoption agencies that refused to work with same-sex couples.
The couples said they approached St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services to adopt children the agencies had accepted through referrals from MDHHS.  They said the agencies refused to work with them.
The state contracts with 59 private adoption and foster care agencies across the state and while the MDHHS wasn't able to say specifically how many don't work with same-sex couples or LGBTQ individuals, 20 of the agencies are affiliated with religious organizations.
During her campaign for attorney general, standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community was a major theme.
“Discrimination in the provision of foster care case management and adoption services is illegal, no matter the rationale,” Nessel said in a statement. “Limiting the opportunity for a child to be adopted or fostered by a loving home not only goes against the state’s goal of finding a home for every child, it is a direct violation of the contract every child-placing agency enters into with the state.”
The ACLU said the settlement was a victory for the 12,000 children in foster care in Michigan.
“Our children need every family that is willing and able to provide them with a loving home," said Leslie Cooper, deputy director of the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project. "When agencies choose to accept taxpayer dollars to provide public child welfare services, they must put the needs of the children first.”
Leading the way in whining was the Catholic Church which routinely acts like a hog at a trough when it comes to seeking taxpayer funds to prop up its discriminatory agencies. 

Mueller Has Filed His Report, the Public Needs to See All of It

Yesterday afternoon, Robert Mueller filed his Russiagate report.  Other than no new indictments, no one knows what's in it.  In my view and the view of Democrat presidential candidates, the entire report needs to be made public, the good, the bad, the entire report. Absent a release of the full report, there will be many that believe a cover up has occurred and confidence in the legal system and the already damaged rule of law will be lost.  Moreover, with the 2020 presidential campaign beginning, voters deserve to know the full contents of the report in evaluating Trump's fitness - or more likely, unfitness - for office.  With the Southern District of New York and New York State still doing their own investigations, Trump is by no means out of potential serious jeopardy.  The New York Times looks at calls for the release of the full report:

Democratic presidential candidates wasted no time Friday evening demanding the immediate public release of the long-awaited report from Robert S. Mueller III, with several saying that Americans deserved to know any findings about President Trump, Russia and the 2016 election in order to form judgments about Mr. Trump and the 2020 race.
Former Representative Beto O’Rourke, campaigning in South Carolina on Friday night, told reporters that “those facts, that truth, needs to be laid out for all Americans to be able to make informed decisions going forward, whether at the ballot box” or in their discussions with their senators and representatives.
Mr. O’Rourke, asked if he supported impeaching Mr. Trump, said he believed the president and his 2016 campaign “at least sought to collude with the Russian government to undermine our democracy” and that Mr. Trump “sought to obstruct justice” once in office.
Marnee Robinson, 62, a local entrepreneur, said in an interview that the report — and questions about Mr. Trump and Russia — were her No. 1 issue as a voter.  “It flows from the top,” she said of what she believed to be questionable behavior, or worse. “Everyone is compromised in some way.”
Several candidates, in calling for the swift release of the report, also sought to gather new supporters and their email addresses by putting out “petitions” calling for complete transparency from the Justice Department.
“The Trump Administration shouldn’t get to lock up Robert Mueller’s report and throw away the key,” Senator Cory Booker argued on Twitter, asking people to sign a petition and provide their names and emails. Such information is often used for future fund-raising solicitations.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and the campaign arm of House Democrats were already placing ads on Facebook demanding the full report’s release, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seeking 100,000 signatures for its online petition.
With no detailed information available about the report, Ms. Warren and Mr. Booker — as well as Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris — sought to focus attention and pressure on how quickly Attorney General William P. Barr would release the full report.
Senators Harris, Warren and Gillibrand also joined Mr. Booker and Senator Bernie Sanders in asking supporters to sign their petitions calling for the report’s immediate release.
Five other candidates — Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington; former Representative John Delaney; and Juli├ín Castro — also called for the release of the full report.
“As Donald Trump said, ‘Let it come out,’” Senator Sanders wrote on Twitter. “I call on the Trump administration to make Special Counsel Mueller’s full report public as soon as possible. No one, including the president, is above the law.”

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, March 22, 2019

More Friday Male Beauty

500 Cities, Counties and Tribes Sue Owners of Oxycontin Manufacturer

Much of the Trump/Pence.GOP agenda has been aimed at slashing regulations that protect the public and creating a new Gilded Age where the wealthy are allowed to make fortunes at the expense of the larger populace and avoid accountability.  Among some of the most greed driven are the pharmaceutical companies which charge obscenely high prices to Americans for drugs that cost a small fraction of the US cost in Europe, Canada and elsewhere.  Previous post have looked at the greed of the manufacturer of PrEP that protects against HIV infection.  The other huge scandal involves the manufactures of opioids who made billions while misleading doctors and fueling the national opiod crisis.  Among such companies are the manufacturers of Oxycontin who have amassed a fortune at the cost and lives of many Americans.  The owners of that company now face a massive lawsuit to hold them responsible.  Here are highlights from The Guardian:

A group made up of more than 500 cities, counties and Native American tribes across the United States has filed a massive lawsuit accusing members of the Sackler family, who own the maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, of helping to create “the worst drug crisis in American history”.
The lawsuit represents communities in 26 states and eight tribes and accuses Sackler family members of knowingly breaking laws in order to enrich themselves to the tune of billions of dollars, while hundreds of thousands of Americans died.
“Eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the opioid epidemic,” the lawsuit, filed earlier this week in federal court in the southern district of New York, states.
The same eight members of the family had recently been added to a small number of lawsuits that are underway against a string of opioid-makers, including the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company the Sacklers wholly-own, Purdue Pharma, but they have not been sued as individuals on anything like this scale before.
“This nation is facing an unprecedented opioid addiction epidemic that was initiated and perpetuated by the Sackler Defendants for their own financial gain, to the detriment of each of the Plaintiffs and their residents. The ‘Sackler Defendants’ include Richard Sackler, Beverly Sackler, David Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Jonathan Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Mortimer DA Sackler, and Theresa Sackler,” this week’s lawsuit states.
Court documents accuse the eight family members of purposely playing down the dangers of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, which is more potent than heroin or morphine. They are accused of deceiving doctors and patients and directing sales and marketing techniques that drove huge over-prescribing and ever stronger doses for many patients who should never have been prescribed the pills in the first place.
“The defendants’ actions caused and continue to cause the public health epidemic…caused deaths, serious injuries, and a severe disruption to public peace, order and safety, it is ongoing and it is producing permanent and long-lasting damage,” the court documents allege.
The lawsuit filed in New York on 18 March is extraordinary because it focuses almost entirely on the individual Sacklers.
Richard and Jonathan Sackler are sons of the late Raymond Sackler, one of the founding brothers of Purdue. Beverly is Raymond’s widow and David his grandson.
Ilene, Kathe and Mortimer David Alfons are children of the late Mortimer Sackler, another of the founding brothers of Purdue, and Theresa is his widow.
The only other defendants named in the lawsuit are the family trust connected to Raymond Sackler’s branch of the family and Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, a company owned by the Sacklers that produces generic opioid painkillers.
Other cases focus mostly on Purdue and other well known pharmaceutical giants involved in opioid production, such as Johnson & Johnson and Allergan.
Drug overdoses now kill more than 72,000 people in the US a year, according to government figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 49,000 of those are caused by opioids.
Purdue’s business has attracted a wave of lawsuits alleging deception about the safety of OxyContin, which the company had admitted misbranding in a 2007 criminal case.
Purdue has not ruled out filing for bankruptcy, which would cause a hiatus in the civil cases brought against it, but also indicates it could be short of the kind of funds that would be needed for a massive settlement or a fine at trial in the cases against it, to compensate communities for the cost of the crisis.
But a victory in the latest lawsuit against the Sacklers would give the plaintiffs access to the Sacklers’ personal fortune.
One can only hope the lawsuit is successful.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Nones" Now as Numerous As Evangelicals and Catholics in the US

In what I consider to be very positive news, a new survey indicates that those who identify as "Nones" - those with no religious affiliation - now equal the numbers of those who identify as Roman Catholic and those who identify as evangelical Christians.  While those who identify as "Nones" skew younger and less consistent when it comes to voting, if the trend continues, it could mean a real threat to the Republican Party's future prospects. Moreover, as the "Nones" age, they could well become more politically active even as their overall numbers continue to increase. Some will think I am anti-religion and, when it comes to ignorance embracing conservative religion - be it Christian, Muslim or something else - I will plead guilty. God, the Creator or whatever name you choose to embrace gave us intelligence and the ability to reason yet conservative Christianity (and Islam) rejects knowledge and reason and embraces ignorance and bigotry.   A piece in Religion News Service looks at the survey findings.  Here are highlights:

In a shift that stands to impact both religion and politics, survey data suggests that the percentage of Americans who don’t affiliate with any specific religious tradition is now roughly the same as those who identify as evangelical or Catholic.
According to newly released General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, Americans claiming “no religion” — sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?” — now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016.
That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) as the largest religious — or nonreligious — groupings in the country.
The shift could signify coming political changes. Evangelicals often lean conservative and are known to have outsized influence on American elections: According to exit polls, white evangelicals alone made up 26 percent of the electorate in 2016, even as their share of the American population has dipped far below that, according to Public Religion Research Institute.
A rising tide of religiously unaffiliated voters — a group that a 2016 PRRI analysis found skews young and liberal — could potentially offset that influence. But the same PRRI analysis also noted that religiously unaffiliated Americans do not vote in the same percentages as evangelicals, and are often underrepresented at the polls.
As such, the most immediate impact of the rise in religiously unaffiliated is likely to be felt in religious communities themselves, where their absence will be noted.
[W]hile most religious groups in the GSS survey either saw dips in affiliation or remained roughly consistent — such as black Protestants and those listed as “other faiths” — one group did see an increase: Mainline Protestants, who have been declining at a steady clip for decades, saw their numbers tick up slightly, from 10.2 percent to 10.8 percent.
Even so, Burge noted that the change is not statistically significant, and more years would have to pass to register if it signifies a resurgence among mainliners. In the meantime, he pointed to another trend: The rise of the religiously unaffiliated tracks closely with the decline of mainline Protestantism beginning in the early 1990s.
“The biggest story is that ‘no religion’ is coming from the mainline,” he said. “Mainliners are jumping ship.”
Click image to enlarge.

More Thursday Male Beauty

New Zealand To Ban Military-Style Semiautomatic Weapons

New Zealand's prime minister.

In a stunning display of what can happen when politicians are not bought and owned by the gun lobby, less than a week after it experienced a horrific mass shooting, New Zealand is moving to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons.  Meanwhile, in the USA where mass shootings are all too prevalent, Congress continues to fail to pass common sense gun control legislation.  While the Democrat controlled House of Representatives will try to change this sad reality, the political whores of the NRA and gun manufacturers in the Senate will likely kill any such legislation.  Huffington Post looks at the quick and dramatic action underway in New Zealand.  Here are article highlights (note the stiff fines and possible prison time for offenders):

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday that the country will ban military-style semiautomatic weapons in an announcement that comes just six days after shootings at two mosques in Christchurch killed 50 people.
“Every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned,” Ardern said at a news conference.
Ardern said Thursday that the shooter used two legally purchased semiautomatic rifles that were modified with high-capacity magazines, “turning them into military-style semiautomatic weapons.” A suspect in the massacre, a white supremacist extremist, has been arrested.
A day after the shootings, Ardern pledged to change New Zealand’s gun laws and said she would announce plans within 10 days.
The ban includes military-style assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and tools to modify firearms, and the arms “will be categorized as weapons with an E-class endorsement” until legislation formally passes, according to Ardern. Most people in New Zealand likely do not have a license for that class of firearm, meaning an owner of such weapons would be breaking the law with the new categorization. Once legislation on the ban passes, which is expected, possessing such firearms will result in a $4,000 fine or three years in prison.
The ban is also supported by the opposition party in New Zealand, according to its leader. Parliament is hoping to create a buyback scheme in which gun owners will be compensated for returning their weapons. Ardern said weapon sales “should now cease” and expects stores to return their firearms stock to suppliers.
Police Minister Stuart Nash said Thursday that “owning a firearm is a privilege and not a right in New Zealand.”  Nash also said the full ban will go into effect in three weeks and that anyone who applies to buy a gun during that period is wasting their time.
The prime minister said her Cabinet will meet Monday to consider more changes to gun laws, saying there are still loopholes.

How inspiring to see politicians who put the safety of the public first rather than lining their pockets with campaign donations from the gun lobby. 

The Far Right's White-Extinction Conspiracy Myth

In addition to depicting racial minorities as a physical threat to whites - e.g., Trump repeatedly saying that Hispanics are rapists and criminals - the far right and white supremacist politicians are sending a message, in some cases overtly and in others through dog whistle messaging, that whites in the USA and Europe face extinction and that drastic action is needed to stop the decline of the white race.  This was certainly true of the mass murderer in New Zealand who even cited Trump approvingly.   It was also the message of white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017 who chanted "you will not replace us." A column in the New York Times looks at this false and dangerous myth being utilized to inflame hatred and to bolster support for Republican candidates.  Ironically, outside of the Old South where whiteness gave status to those deemed "poor white trash," this myth plays best in regions with few minorities and, of course, among white Christofascists who almost by definition are anti-minority. Here are column excerpts:

“The Great Replacement” is a racist and misogynistic conspiracy theory that holds that white people face existential decline, even extinction, because of rising immigration in the West and falling birthrates among white women (caused, of course, by feminism).
That’s pretty much the whole argument; as a bit of rhetoric, the theory is about as deep as the one pushed by flat-earthers, though without that group’s scientific rigor. White people are not going extinct. As a group, they are only maybe, possibly, becoming a smaller share of the population in the United States and Europe — but how much smaller is a wide-open question among demographers, because the future is unknowable and demography is an imprecise science.
But what “The Great Replacement” lacks in any factual basis it makes up for in digital branding appeal. The white-extinction theory plays well online. It has found its greatest purchase among a certain type of basement-dwelling incel edgelord, to whom it offers both an explanation for self-pitying personal circumstance and a set of convenient antagonists (roughly, the blame falls on race-betraying, sexually empowered women; immigrants; and the Jews said to control the whole system).
The theory has also found a foothold in more mainstream political circles. Donald Trump has flirted with Twitter users who espouse white-extinction theory, Tucker Carlson caresses it lovingly every now and then, and Steve King grabs it by the baby.

For white supremacists, the new term {Great Replacement] offers several branding advantages. First, it sounds kinda smart. The phrase was coined in 2012, as “le grand remplacement,” by the French writer Renaud Camus, giving the whole movement a patina of ivory tower intellectualism. “Replacement” is also more polite than “genocide,” which fits with a long-term effort among white supremacists to craft a cleaner-cut image for themselves. . . 
[W]hen a man killed 50 people in a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, last week, he called his loopy manifesto “The Great Replacement.”
“The attacker was structuring his manifesto not only to speak to audiences but to algorithms,” said Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard. “‘The Great Replacement’ is a ‘data void,’ in the sense that it would be very easy to capture that space on the front page of Google.”
Research shows that when you present white people with facts that counter the white-extinction theory, they become less alarmed and anxious about demographic change. Racial categories are blurry, and there’s a big debate among demographers about how one of the fastest-growing racial groups — people of mixed-race who have one white parent — will identify in the future. It could be that they will not be thought of as “white.” It could also be that they will marry white people, have mostly white children, and generally become “absorbed” into mainstream white culture, which is what has happened with previous generations of immigrants who were not considered white (like Eastern and Southern Europeans). Under the most inclusive definitions of whiteness, America could remain a white-majority society indefinitely. [W]hite people are still by far the wealthiest Americans. The net worth of the median black American family is only around fifteen percent of that of the median white American family. While most other groups experienced a net decrease in wealth in the six years after the Great Recession, “white families' net worth was essentially unchanged,” according to government surveys. Whites are also less likely than people of other races to live in poverty, and they are more likely to be among the superrich. Just about every American chief executive, billionaire and large political donor is a white person. Sure, white political overrepresentation is likely to fall. But not quickly, and not drastically. According to one projection, in the 2036 election, 59 percent of voters will be white.
The Great Replacement is a lie. The country is becoming more diverse, but white people are not losing their grip on America, nor on the world, not by a long shot.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Key West 2019 - Day 5 and 6

Celebrity Cruise's "Edge" in Key West.

I am a little late in posting about the balance of our 2019 trip to Key West, one of my most favorite places.  For readers who follow our travels, I do apologize.

Day five was calmer than the first four days and we were much less scheduled since a number of our friends had headed back either to Hampton or to the Fort Lauderdale area where they have the principal residences.  We had  lunch at BO's Fishwagon at 801 Caroline Street, Key West, where we had numerous Conch fritters and I had a a Presidente beer.

Afterward, we walked to the waterfront and saw the Celebrity Cruise's massive "Edge" (pictured above) which was hosting an all gay Atlantis cruise.  Duval Street and the gay bars were well populated by passengers from the ship.  Personally, I prefer cruise ships that are not so large - perhaps in part because I am a fan of the ocean liners of yesteryear - e.g., the United States or the incredible Normandie - that were much more streamlined, built for speed and taking rough seas in stride and less a high rise hotel slapped on a hull (I do wonder about the seaworthiness of the huge modern ships should they get caught in a hurricane or be hit by a rogue wave). 

Dinner on day five was at El Siboney on Catherine Street, a great family style Cuban restaurant.  We dined with a very nice couple from Sweden who were also staying at The Equator Resort. The place has wonderful Cuban food in a no frills atmosphere.  The sangria is terrific.

El Siboney on Catherine Street.

Day six, the day of our departure was the only day that we had rain which curtailed our activities.  Nonetheless, we walked around Old Town Key West before heading to the airport. Before leaving The Equator, we made our reservations for next year in more or less the same time slot - something many regular guest do.  This was our sixth year at The Equator which I cannot recommend highly enough for gay men traveling to Key West.  The place has beautiful amenities (which are continually upgraded) and encourages its guest from across America and the globe to socialize and create friendships.
The smaller pool at The Equator on the day of our departure.

Trifecta of Hate: Chick-Fil-A, National Christian Foundation, and Brazilian President Meets with Hate Groups

Today was a trifecta when it comes to exposing the anti-gay and anti-LGBT hatred that passes as supporting "Christian" hate groups and rallying Christofascists to bolster raw political power based on the hatred of others. The first piece was actually not anything news wise since Chick-Fil-A has been financing anti-gay hate groups for years and those in the know who value themselves or their LGBT friends have avoided Chick-Fil-A for that very reason.  Nonetheless, today's news confirms that Chick-Fil-A's claims that it had changed its bigoted ways was and remains a deliberate lie. Out Magazine has details.  Here are excerpts:
Chick-fil-A is serving up more than just poultry. The Georgia-based fast-food chain, which has claimed in the past that is has no social or political agenda, has donated more than $1.8 million to a trio of groups who have records of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, according to newly released tax filings, ThinkProgress reports.

The company’s 2017 tax filings show that the company gave over $1.6 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home and $150,000 to the Salvation Army, each of which is an increased donation from the previous year.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a Christian sports ministry that requires strict “sexual purity” and bars its employees from any “homosexual acts.” Paul Anderson Youth Home is a Georgia-based Christian residential home for troubled youth that, according to Think Progress, teaches those living there that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is “rage against Jesus Christ and His values.” Though the Salvation Army claims that it does not discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, it has a history of referring LGBTQ+ people to conversion therapy.
Chick-fil-A does not have a nondiscrimination policy that includes explicit protection for employees based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In 2012, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy said that America is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.”
The company has claimed in the past that it would stay out of politics and focus on chicken and that they would cease donations to anti-LGBTQ+ groups.
Mr. Cathy, like it would seem most evangelical Christians, sees himself as exempt from the Commandment against lying and bearing false witness. But Chick-Fil-A has company when it comes to being a modern day Pharisee best defined by lying, hypocrisy and hatred towards others.   The lesson is that, if one wants to give to charities, pick one that is non-religiously affiliated (locally, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation is a good option).  Here is part of the expose on the National Christian Foundation:

The nation’s eighth-largest public charity is pouring tens of millions of dollars each year into a number of mostly anti-LGBT hate groups, a Sludge investigation shows. . According to the three most recent available tax filings—which cover 2015-17—it has donated $56.1 million on behalf of its clients to 23 nonprofits identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups.
“I certainly don’t know of any public disclosures of funds to hate groups at levels anywhere near this,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Sludge. “It’s pretty astounding and certainly concerning.”
The far-right evangelical National Christian Foundation (NCF), which offers Christian donors “expert guidance and creative giving solutions,” is the fourth-largest donor-advised fund by 2017 revenue in the U.S., having raised over $1.5 billion that year.In 2017, NCF’s donation to anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant hate groups rose to over $19 million.
By far the biggest recipient of NCF donations is Alliance Defending Freedom, a large network of Christian extremist lawyers who have supported criminalizing homosexuality, sterilizing transgender people, and claimed that gay men are pedophiles. The group recently came out against congressional Democrats’ Equality Act, which would ban discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.
Anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council, which has attempted to tie gay men to pedophilia for many years, accepted over $5.3 million from NCF from 2015-17.
Both organizations “spread vicious propaganda and disinformation, othering and maligning members of the LGBTQ community, which is a key reason they are rightly considered hate groups,” said Stroop.

The last piece of this trifecta of hate is the meeting of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and a who's who of Christian hate merchants, including Virginia Beach's never ending embarrassment, Pat Robertson who has a long history of lying about gays, blacks and minorities while enriching himself by preying on the ignorant and gullible.  Here are excerpts from Right Wing Watch:
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s right-wing president, visited President Trump in the White House on Tuesday and followed up his official business with a Christian Broadcasting Network interview and meeting with conservative religious leaders, including CBN’s Pat and Gordon Robertson. U.S. right-wing leaders had supported Bolsonaro’s campaign and celebrated his election as an answer to prayer.
At a Rose Garden press conference with Trump, Bolsonaro said, “Brazil and the United States stand side-by-side in their efforts to ensure liberties and respect the traditional family lifestyles and respect to God, our creator, against the gender ideology and the politically correct attitudes and against fake news.” 
CBN noted that Bolsonaro “has surrounded himself with well-known Brazilian evangelicals,” including influential pastor Silas Milafaia, who told CBN he believes Bolsonaro is God’s chosen man to lead Brazil. He praised Bolsonaro for opposing abortion and the “privilege” of the LGBT movement. CBN also reported on Bolsonaro’s meeting with evangelical leaders, which included the Robertsons, Ralph Reed, Steve Strang, Penny Nance, Jonathan Falwell and Harry Jackson. “The American delegation prayed for Bolsonaro and promised to stand with his administration as he fights to protect Brazil’s Christian heritage and family values.”
As RWW reported last summer, Bolsonaro’s campaign got a boost from right-wing activists in the U.S., including former White House adviser Steve Bannon and former Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Bolsonaro’s far-right record and rhetoric has demonstrated contempt for women, LGBTQ people, the media, and democratic values. And shortly after his inauguration he began issuing executive orders and taking other actions going after the people he had targeted in his campaign rhetoric: the LGBTQ communityindigenous people

Bolsonaro meeting with American Christofascist leaders.
As noted before, often I feel like I am witnessing a reprise of the 1920's and 1930's when fascist dictators rose to power and American Nazis even held a huge rally in Madison Garden in New York City.  Then as now, most people seem to be oblivious to the growing menace to the civil rights and ultimately, their personal safety. If Trump secures re-election in 2020, I think it will be time to emigrate and ry to take my children and grand children with me.  

Wednesday Male Beauty

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

It's Time for Honesty About Rural America

As the beginnings of the 2020 presidential campaign heat up, much focus will be directed towards attracting the votes of rural voters and those in "rust belt" states.   As a piece in the New York Times points out, many politicians will make pie in the sky promises and seek to avoid speaking honestly about rural  and delivering a truthful message that rural voters do not want to hear:  No one knows how to fix the downward decline of rural areas that have seen farming consolidate into large corporate ventures as family farms fall in number and industries such as coal shrink due to changing global economic forces.  In Southwest Virginia, the Northam administration is trying to expand broadband Internet access to aid competitiveness, but rural areas simply are not attractive to many industries and businesses no matter what the Internet access may be.  Improving Interstate 81 would help transportation wise for through traffic, but likely do little to grow shrinking towns and businesses.  For many rural residents, sadly, the true solution may be to leave for more urban areas.  Here are highlights from the Times piece:

Democratic presidential hopefuls are crisscrossing Iowa, trying to assure farmers that they share their concerns. Commentators are publishing opinion pieces about how Democrats can win back rural voters. Think tanks are issuing manifestoes about reviving heartland economies.
There’s nothing wrong with discussing these issues. Rural lives matter — we’re all Americans, and deserve to share in the nation’s wealth. Rural votes matter even more; like it or not, our political system gives hugely disproportionate weight to less populous states, which are also generally states with relatively rural populations.
But it’s also important to get real. There are powerful forces behind the relative and in some cases absolute economic decline of rural America — and the truth is that nobody knows how to reverse those forces.
Many of the problems facing America have easy technical solutions; all we lack is the political will. . . . . But reviving declining regions is really hard. Many countries have tried, but it’s difficult to find any convincing success stories.
What’s the matter with rural America? Major urban centers have always been magnets for economic growth. They offer large markets, ready availability of specialized suppliers, large pools of workers with specialized skills, and the invisible exchange of information that comes from face-to-face contact. As the Victorian economist Alfred Marshall put it, “The mysteries of the trade become no mysteries; but are as it were in the air.”
But the gravitational pull of big cities used to be counteracted by the need to locate farming where the good land was. . . . Nor was farming the only activity giving people a reason to live far from major metropolitan areas. There were, for example, almost half a million coal miners.
[H]owever, while America’s population has doubled, the number of farmers has fallen by two-thirds. There are only around 50,000 coal miners. The incentives for business to locate far from the metropolitan action have greatly diminished. And the people still living in rural areas increasingly feel left behind.
Some of the consequences have been tragic. Not that long ago we used to think of social collapse as an inner-city problem.  Nowadays phenomena like the prevalence of jobless men in their prime working years, or worse yet, the surge in “deaths of despair” by drugs, alcohol or suicide are concentrated in declining rural areas.
And politically, rural America is increasingly a world apart. For example, overall U.S. public opinion is increasingly positive toward immigrants. But rural Americans — many of whom rarely encounter immigrants in their daily lives — have a vastly more negative view.
So what can be done to help rural America? We can and should make sure that all Americans have good health care, access to good education, and so on wherever they live. We can try to promote economic development in lagging regions with public investment, employment subsidies and, possibly, job guarantees.
But as I said, experience abroad isn’t encouraging. West Germany invested $1.7 trillion in an attempt to revive the former East Germany — more than $100,000 per capita — yet the region is still lagging, with many young people leaving.
I’m sure that some rural readers will be angered by everything I’ve just said, seeing it as typical big-city condescension. But that’s neither my intention nor the point. I’m simply trying to get real. We can’t help rural America without understanding that the role it used to play in our nation is being undermined by powerful economic forces that nobody knows how to stop.

Rural voters will not like this message, but that doesn't mean it is not accurate.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Monday, March 18, 2019

Key West 2019 - Day 4

A mini Chesapeake Avenue reunion at La Te Da - click image to enlarge.
Things got lively yesterday at Tea Dance at La Te Da, especially with it being St. Patrick's Day which gave folks in Key West even more motivation to enjoy their cocktails.  The music  by DJ Rude Girl was great and LOTS of folks danced, including just about everyone in our group.  As in past years, we saw a number of locals who we see annually at Tea Dance.

Dinner yesterday evening at Martins was wonderful as we dined under the stars.  Overall, it was a great day.  Today we have not set plan or schedule for the first time this trip. Some of our friends have headed back to Fort Lauderdale and Hampton. Other than checking office emails later in the day, it will hopefully be a lazy day of reading and relaxing by the pool. 
A Key West realtor we see each year.
Dancing with one of our Hampton neighbors.

Beto O'Rourke Raises $6.1 Million on First Day, Topping Sanders

So far I have not decided which would be Democrat nominee I support, although I have most certainly decided on who I do NOT support.  Leading in this category are Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.  I do see the first two as remotely electable despite the views of Sanders' cult like followers who in their own way are as blind to reality as Trump's base. Thus, I was delighted to see Beto O'Rourke out raise Sanders on his first day of fundraising, clearly sending a message that Sanders' may have passed his shelf-life.   Ditto for Elizabeth Warren who has already done herself in with her idiotic claim of Native American ancestry.  A piece in NBC News looks at O'Rourke's fundraising hall.  Here are excerpts:
WASHINGTON — Beto O'Rourke raised $6.1 million in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, according to his campaign, surpassing Bernie Sanders and every other 2020 Democrat who has disclosed their figures.
O'Rourke's campaign announced Monday that he had taken in $6,136,763 in online contributions in the day after declaring his candidacy Thursday morning.
"In just 24 hours, Americans across this country came together to prove that it is possible to run a true grassroots campaign for president — a campaign by all of us, for all of us, that answers not to the PACs, corporations, and special interests but to the people," O’Rourke, who has sworn off PAC donations of any kind, said in a statement.
That's a strong showing for the former Texas congressman who lost a Senate race last year to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, while setting a new fundraising record.
Sanders beat expectations and stunned observers by raising a then-record-setting $5.9 million in his first 24 hours as a candidate last month.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala Harris collected $1.5 million, which was seen as impressive haul for the California Democratic lawmaker. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., raised $1 million in 48 hours, as did former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. It took Jay Inslee 72 hours to raise more than $1 million, but that still surpassed expectations for the Washington governor.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raised at least $300,000 on New Year's Eve, her first partial day in the race, according to filings from the online donation clearinghouse ActBlue. But her campaign declined to disclose their complete one-day fundraising picture.
O'Rourke's campaign did say he had collected money from every state and territory in the union before noon on the day he declared his candidacy.
The Texan built a massive email fundraising list during his failed campaign against Cruz and some allies wondered if donors would be as eager to support his presidential campaign as they were to try to oust the Texas GOP senator.

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Key West 2019 - Day 3

Yesterday was a largely non-stop day, especially for the husband who did hair for three of of friends (who are long time clients).  One of the highlights of the day was lunch at Lattitudes on Sunset Key where the image above was taken on the island's pier.  As is the tradition, our "Auntie Mame" friend treated.  The food was wonderful as were the beverages.  Two Key Lime Martinis caused me to need a nap when we returned to the Equator.  We dined at a restaurant called Michael's just a block or two from the Equator with our friends from Light House Point, Florida, our former neighbors who now call Key West home, and current neighbors to celebrate our neighbor's birthday.

Today will be more laid back with no set activities until Tea Dance at La Te Da this afternoon (an annual tradition), followed by dinner at Martin's an amazing German restaurant.

Democrats Are Their Own Biggest Enemies Going into 2020

I have given this rant before, but it bears repeating as the Democrat field of would be presidential candidates becomes increasingly crowded.  The short form of the message: nominate someone electable to top the Democrat ticket and then get behind the nominee whoever it may be.  Wonderful policies and wonkish command of facts and figures mean NOTHING if the candidate cannot get elected.  Sadly, this basic message which ought to be seared in every Democrat memory after 2016 when some holier than thou Democrats refused to back Hillary Clinton and thereby handed the election to Donald Trump.  We - and the nation - cannot stand another such debacle that could end up re-electing Trump, the most foul, anti-democratic and vile individual to ever occupy the White House.  A piece in Politico looks at the danger of Democrats defeating themselves through an intra-party civil war that loses sight of the ultimate goal. Moderate advances under a Democrat are better than more Trump, yet some do not grasp this simple concept.  Here are article highlights: 
I’ve lived through a Democratic Civil War before. In fact, I’ve been in the middle of two of them. The first was in 1968, when I was the research director for Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign. The second was in 1980, when I was Jimmy Carter’s policy director.
Both times, I watched pressure from the party’s liberal wing tear the party apart and bring down a Democratic presidential candidate. Both times, the Republicans took the White House. Both times, liberal dreams were shattered.
Today, I fear it could all be happening again.
As President Donald Trump moved the Republican Party sharply to the populist right, early entrants to the Democratic Party presidential contest have veered sharply to the left, along with several energetic new Democratic members of the House. The left’s new avant-garde has properly identified the need to confront serious national challenges, from rising income inequality and inadequate health care coverage to climate change.
But successfully dealing with these problems demands pragmatic solutions that can gain support from a majority of Americans and do not play into Trump’s false narrative that Democrats are socialists. Speaking from experience, by demanding the moon, their proposals will crash on the launching pad and lead to nowhere good.
Humphrey’s challenger from the left, Senator Eugene McCarthy, who had castigated Humphrey for the Johnson administration’s handling of Vietnam, didn’t get the nomination that year. But McCarthy failed to reconcile with his fellow Minnesotan and led his supporters back into the fold only after it was too late. Richard Nixon exploited the divisions in the party and the country and was elected by the thinnest of margins in November. His election led to an extension of the war Humphrey would have ended; during the next four years another 21,000 American soldiers were killed. Carter showed what moderates can accomplish. But, throughout his four years in office, Carter never got full credit for this record. He was criticized by women’s and civil rights groups, social welfare advocates and the party’s union leaders for not doing enough. Consumer groups failed to mobilize for him even though he appointed many of their leaders to regulate big business. The “greenest” president in American history got little credit from environmentalists even as he doubled the size of the national park system, made conservation a centerpiece of his energy policy and championed solar energy, even installing a solar panel on the White House roof.
But the big sticking point for the liberal wing of the party was health care. To obtain support from liberal labor unions in the primaries in 1976, Carter agreed to broad principles for national health insurance, but in office refused to accept Senator Ted Kennedy’s single-payer, government run bill at a time of raging inflation. Over many days of negotiations I had with the senator in his Capitol office, we came close to agreeing on a bill that would have substituted a government-run program for a privately managed program and full coverage phased in over many years. But in the end, Kennedy bowed to labor’s demands and refused to back Carter’s own bill, which looks much like Obamacare today: employer-mandated insurance, health care for children, catastrophic coverage for major illnesses and a major expansion of Medicaid. By asking for too much, health care reform stalled for decades.
In 1980, Kennedy decided to challenge Carter from the left. The senator’s liberal supporters gummed-up the 1980 convention with more than 50 minority floor amendments to the party’s platform, demanding more and more spending and full-blown national health insurance. Kennedy lost, but the damage was done. His challenge irrevocably split the party. Will the liberal wing this time around realize the damage a similar split will do to Democratic chances of regaining the White House? Maximalist ideology is a prescription for division and defeat. It would be better to focus on policies that can gain broad public support: Expand health care under the framework of Obamacare, encourage more investment in low-income neighborhoods, endorse affirmative action based on socioeconomic need, offer more government contracts to minority companies, repair the shredded social safety net, increase funding of Head Start for poor children and elementary and secondary education in poverty-stricken districts, and broaden Pell Grants to help make college affordable. It is a misreading of last November’s midterm elections to believe the House was flipped to Democratic control by the election of a few arch-liberals, most of whom displaced centrist Democrats. The greatest gains were made by moderate Democrats capturing Republican districts. A successful Democratic presidential candidate might take a leaf from Carter’s playbook, even more successfully accomplished by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, to appeal to both sides of the party’s coalition to attract and hold moderate Americans tired of partisanship—Americans who want the highest ethical standards in the White House, who will respect and strengthen the institutions that represent our values—from the FBI to the press to our public schools. A successful candidate will eschew identity politics and want to unite Americans rather than divide the country into warring tribes, will strengthen, not weaken, our worldwide network of alliances, and will recognize there is a big country with its own problems that must be addressed between the two coasts. The Democrats must iron out their differences and present a united front against Trump, who will have the advantages of incumbency, a positive economy and the support of a united Republican Party. If these progressives keep their eye on winning in 2020, they can be part of a broad coalition to shape their politics into laws which tackle the problems they have identified—which is why they took up arms and won their way to Washington in the first place. Otherwise, we could witness another divided Democratic Party leading to another Republican victory. And the progressive left will have accomplished nothing.

Very well said.  Frighteningly, I suspect the message will fall on deaf ears among those in the far left of the Democrat Party.