Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Male Beauty - Pt 2


Pence to Hate Group: You Have President Trump’s "Unwavering Support"


Much of Der Trumpenführer presidential campaign focused on fomenting racial hatred among white voters and pushing the Christofascists' agenda of placing them above the law under the smoke screen of "religious freedom" - religious freedom for them and no one else.  Since taking office, Trump has sought to deliver on his promises to the Christofascists - numerous anti-gay executive actions and promises of special rights for churches - even as he breaks promises right and left on everything else, not the least, his promises that millions would not lose their health care coverage.  Both the Republican House bill and now the Republican Senate bill which Trump is lauding demonstrate just how big Trump's lie was in fact.  But back to the Christofascists.  Mike Pence recently attened a gathering of religious extremists at Focus on the Family - an anti-gay hate group with strong white supremacist leanings - and reassured them that they have an unwavering ally in Der Trumpenführer.  Here are highlights from LGBT Nation:
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at an event in Colorado today honoring the work of an anti-LGBTQ organization Focus on the Family at a celebration of its 40 year anniversary.
“The vice president is a man of faith,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said in his introduction. “He’s one of us. And I’ve been asked by the media over and over again, why did you invite the vice president? It’s a simple answer: He’s a man of faith, he believes in life, he believes in marriage.”
Pence was then welcomed to the stage, alongside his wife Karen Pence.
Pence congratulated the organization on 40 years of work, and promised them that “you have an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump.”
“He was excited that I was coming here today and wanted me to give you all his thanks and regards,” Pence added to applause.
Pence called Focus on the Family a “cornerstone of American life for so many Americans” and called its founder, James Dobson, on whose radio program he appeared during the presidential campaign, a “friend and mentor to me.”
When Pence wasn’t talking up the work of Focus on the Family, he was promoting the administration’s agenda, and presenting Trump as a president who was one of them.
He pointed to the president’s words at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he spoke of the importance of so-called “religious freedom,” so often used as a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
Pence also noted Trump’s signing of an executive order going after the Johnson Amendment, which prevents nonprofits, including churches, from politicking for any particular candidate or party.
He asked those in attendance to rally behind the health care bill, to help get it “across the finish line.”  “While discussions will continue, let me be very clear that the president and I are very supportive of the Senate bill,” he added.
The Senate bill would make deep cuts to Medicaid, putting the lives of many at risk, including those living with HIV/AIDS.
To make matters worse, Trump’s proposed budget would cut $300 million from HIV/AIDS funding. The president’s obvious apathy on the issues led to six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) to quit in protest.


The Trump Obstruction Case is Gaining Momentum


With all the noise over the Senate Republican's Dickensian "healthcare reform" bill - it does everything short of instituting work houses for the poor and debtor's prisons - and the daily lies by Der  Trumpenführer aimed at distracting the media and duping his base (the New York Times has a must read compilation here), something noteworthy has failed to get adequate coverage: the case against Trump for obstruction of justice is gaining momentum.  The biggest question remains one of whether and when Vichy Republicans will put the rule of law and the nation ahead of their own party. Things will likely get very nasty and it will be incumbent on true patriots to demand that Congressional Republicans cease their own obstruction and allow Trump to suffer the consequences of his actions against Comey and others.  Here are highlights from a piece in Vanity Fair:
It’s a very long walk, inside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, from Rachel Brand’s fifth-floor office to Rod Rosenstein’s space on the fourth floor. But the more important gap—in relative power—between the associate attorney general and her boss, the deputy attorney general, could shorten in a hurry.
Rosenstein has become an unexpectedly pivotal figure in the Donald Trump-Russia mess. Two weeks after joining the administration, the mild-mannered career prosecutor wrote a three-page memo that the president used to justify firing F.B.I. director James Comey. After Trump, on national television, revealed the memo to be a ruse, Rosenstein responded by appointing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Those twists pretty much guarantee that Mueller will eventually call Rosenstein as a witness in the investigation—at which point, goes the conventional wisdom, Rosenstein will recuse himself from all things Russia-related.
But the break could come sooner. “It really depends on Rod’s exact role in the firing of Comey, and what Trump told him,” a Department of Justice insider says. Mueller will also want to know about any communications between Jeff Sessions and Rosenstein regarding the firing, and if he establishes those links through other witnesses, Rosenstein may need to step aside even before he’s scheduled to answer the special counsel’s questions himself.
Or he could be given a shove toward recusal by a summons from the newly energized Senate Judiciary Committee. Its rival, the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been faster out of the investigatory gate, reeling in Comey and Sessions for dramatic, headline-making hearings.
Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, a former federal prosecutor, has loudly speculated that he believes that Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived, highly compromised national security director, has already started cooperating with Russia investigators.
On Wednesday, the committee’s leaders met with Mueller to coordinate their probes. Afterward, Grassley proclaimed that Judiciary would now take the Senate lead on allegations of obstruction of justice—which would mean calling Rosenstein, among others, to testify, an appearance that could trigger the deputy A.G.’s recusal.
That would leave the previously obscure, 44-year-old, Dutch-clog-dancing Brand in charge to make what could be administration-toppling decisions. . . . If Brand’s role increases, she could face some wrenching choices: whether to go along if Trump ever tries to fire Mueller, and, if he doesn’t, what to do when Mueller eventually delivers his report, especially if it recommends criminal charges against high administration officials. “She’s got a good reputation as a solid lawyer, committed to the rule of law,” says Matthew Miller, who was an aide to former attorney general Eric Holder. “But so did Rod Rosenstein. People have a way of sacrificing their good reputation for Donald Trump, for some reason. Hopefully, we’ll never find out how she would
Brand would also be making those decisions in a political atmosphere that’s growing ever more poisonous. So far, the attacks on Mueller’s credibility have been scattershot and seemingly freelance: Trump’s nasty tweets, Sean Hannity’s nightly diatribes. The Washington Post acquired a set of anti-Mueller talking points distributed by the Republican National Committee. handle that test.
Trump dropped plans to assemble a White House “war room” to push back against the Russia allegations, but are the president and his allies beginning to mount a coordinated effort to undermine the integrity of the Russia investigation? “Could be,” a Democratic operative says. “To the extent that this White House is organized, which is questionable.”

It is Republicans Who Have a Religion Problem, Not Democrats


Time and time again we hear about Democrats having a "religion problem" and not being able to connect with religious voters.  In fact, there is yet another op-ed in the New York Times by a history professor in Georgia that suggests that Democrats lost the recent special election because of an inability to connect with "religious voters."  I would argue that in contrast that it is Republicans who have a a religion problem - one that will soon catch up with them as the Millennials begin voting in large numbers and older religious voters finally wake up to the reality that the GOP's religion is one motivated by hatred of others, a betrayal of the social Gospel, and down right meanness. In short, the GOP is becoming synonymous with the Christofascists.  The hideousness of the new Senate GOP's healthcare "reform" bill shows just how little the GOP's religious values have to do with Christ's message.  One third (1/3) of Millennials have left organized religion completely. Nones will soon equal the number of evangelical Christians.  The number of non-Christians of other faiths is growing and many view the GOP/Christofascists with alarm.  Long term, the GOP, not Democrats will have a severe religion problem, notwithstanding the usual whining about Democrats not coddling the "religious" sufficiently.  Here's a sample of the usual whining via the Times op-ed: 
Jon Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District election on Tuesday wasn’t just a sign that Democrats may have a harder time winning in the Trump era than they had hoped. It is a symptom of a larger problem for the party — a generational and racial divide between a largely secular group of young, white party activists and an older electorate that is more religious and more socially conservative.
Put simply, outside of a few progressive districts, secular-minded young activists in the party are unable to win voters’ trust.
Mr. Ossoff, 30, represented this new wing of the party. . . . Mr. Ossoff’s secularism would have surprised many American liberals of the 1950s and 1960s, who looked to the moral inspiration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, both of whom saw a religious imperative for social justice. The civil rights movement was grounded so thoroughly in the theology and culture of the African-American church that the historian David L. Chappell has called it a “religious revival.” And the economic views of New Deal and Great Society liberalism echoed the positions of mainline Protestant denominations and the social teachings of 20th-century Catholicism.
[N]ow younger, secular Democrats are attempting to separate their party’s progressive values from those religious traditions. Some may belong to a religious tradition or consider themselves to be spiritual people, but they are not able to speak the language of a communally based faith because it does not inform or shape their political views.
Democratic voters are not as secular as these activists might assume. While only 47 percent of white, college-educated Democrats identify as Christians, Christianity remains the faith of 81 percent of African-American Democrats and 76 percent of Latino Democrats.
The religious differences between generations are just as stark as the differences between racial groups. While 35 percent of millennials report having no religious affiliation, only 17 percent of baby boomers — and fewer than 11 percent of Americans born before 1945 — are religiously unaffiliated.
The party is thus split between a minority of young, educated, secular white activists and a larger group of African-Americans, Hispanics and older whites whose political values are closely tied to their faith. No wonder candidates like Mr. Ossoff struggled to connect with key blocs of the Democratic coalition.
And it’s also no wonder that the Democratic congressional leadership is still dominated by a graying generation of leaders; they are the only ones who can bridge the party’s religious divide.
What can Democrats do to bridge the divide between young, secular party activists and the rest of voters? Oddly, last year’s presidential run by Senator Bernie Sanders, a secular Jew, may suggest a way forward.
Mr. Sanders’s non-Christian background may have hurt him in the South; he did poorly among African-American voters, despite his consistent civil rights record. But he did what few other secular candidates have done: He won a sympathetic hearing from conservative evangelicals with a speech that gave a religious grounding for his economic views, complete with biblical citations. When Mr. Sanders spoke at Liberty University, he did not pretend to share evangelical Christians’ faith, but he showed respect for his audience’s religious tradition.
To do the same, secular Democrats need to study the religious language of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. They need to take the time to learn the religious values of their audience. They need to be honest about their own secularity, but acknowledge their debt to the religious traditions that have shaped their progressive ideology.
Only through a willingness to ground their policy proposals in the religious values of prospective voters will they be able to convince people of faith that they are not a threat to their values but are instead an ally in a common cause.
The author strikes me as one of the many who are still trying to maintain the myth that religion is a positive force for society and that, therefore, it deserves continued deference and respect.  In reality, "people of faith" - or at least evangelical Christians - are among the number one problems with America today.  Let's not forget that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump and happily embraced his appeals to racism and religious based hatred and bigotry.  Simply put, they are not nice and decent people and rather than follow the suggestions of the author, what Democrats need to do better is educate the public about the ugliness of the religious agenda of the GOP base/Christofascist and that they need to stop being duped into voting against their interest by dishonest appeals to religiosity.  The Senate healthcare bill can be used as a teaching tool for Democrats.  True Christians should find the bill abhorrent.  Liberty University and its leadership represents the antithesis of the Gospel message. 

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt -1


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2


Charity Database Tags "Family Values" Organizations as Hate Groups


Tony Perkins - the white supremacist president of Family Research Council ("FRC") who is pictured above - is livid that charity database group Guidestar has tagged his organization and similar Christofascists groups a hate groups.  For those unfamiliar with Guidestar, it posts publicly available tax documents for charities to enable would donors to see which organizations make the best use of donated dollars and other information that is relevant to making charitable donations.  FRC is not the only "family values" organization that pretends to be an educational charity to receive the hate group designation even as it disseminates lies and untruths about gays and others.   Having followed the activities of FRC for roughly 20 years, there are few more dishonest organizations other than perhaps The American Family Association and Traditional Values Coalition.  All three are designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups across America due to the virulent lies and propaganda they publish (some have used Nazi like propaganda against LGBT individuals).  The Raw Story looks at these groups finally being exposed for what they are (The Family Foundation in Richmond needs to be added to the list).  Here are story highlights:
A non-profit resource that posts publicly available tax documents for charities has infuriated anti-gay Christian and conservative nonprofits by  using a widely available database at the Southern Poverty Law Center and tagging  each of them as a “hate group.” 
Charity database  GuideStar— which bills itself as “the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations” — now includes information provided by the SPLC.
Among the putative Christian non-profits with a political bent who made the “hate group”  list are the Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, Family Research Council, and the American Family Association — all of whom promote anti-LGBTQ policies,
Also being tagged with the “hate group” designation is the anti-Muslim group American Freedom Defense Initiative, headed by conservative gadfly Pam Geller.
As Guidestar notes on their website: “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a respected hate group watchdog. There is disagreement on some of SPLC’s specific choices, but on balance GuideStar believes the analysis is strong enough to share. We leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.”
Fearful that the “hate group” designation may be cutting into their non-profit cash haul, the groups are lashing out at Guidestar for “liberal bias.”
 
FRC vice president Jerry Boykin also blasted Guidestar, calling bet use of the database, “another attack on conservative Christian organizations and individuals.”
Greg Scott, the spokesperson for the Alliance Defending Freedom said his organization would like to ignore it, and attempted to dismiss the civil rights watchdog SPLC as a “tabloid’ operation.
Several of the organizations have pushed back at Guidestar, writing a letter at letter to CEO Jacob Harold that attacks the SPLC, saying it incited violence. . . .
“Despite its denials to the contrary, this highly refined method of ostracism and dehumanization practiced by the SPLC isn’t just about verbal debate – it can foreseeably lead to violence,” the letter read.

In truth, the only ones seeking to incite violence are these false charities.  It is long past time that they public be informed of their true toxic nature.  Kudos to Guidestar..   

The Catholic Church's New Assault on Gays


I have a Google search agent function that brings me stories from all around the world involving the sexual abuse of children and youths by Catholic clergy and, most typically, the Catholic hierarchy's efforts to protect predators and avoid paying compensation to victims.  While  the sex abuse scandal is no longer regular front page news in America, it continues to explode in many parts of the world ranging from Guam and Australia to parts of Africa and India.   The pattern is always the same: bishops and cardinals covering up sexual abuse and shuffling predators to new parishes where they could molest a new set of vulnerable victims.   And despite much hand wringing and lots of crocodile tears, the Church has not truly addressed the problem.  High clergy who enabled and covered up abuse continue to live in princely settings and have servile parishioners give them deference.  It is in this background that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois has launched an effort to deal with what he sees as the Church's biggest problem: married gays receiving communion and having church burials.  Child rape is fine, married gays threatens humanity in Paproki's twisted world. This would almost be humorous but for the fact that in reflects the continued moral bankruptcy of the Church leadership and a near psychosis when it comes to an obsession with gay sex.  Why any self-respecting LGBT person remains in the Catholic Church is mind numbing to me - I left Catholicism back in 2002 around the time the Boston Globe broke the story of the rampant abuse in Boston. A piece in NPR looks at Paprocki's new jihad against gays:
A Catholic bishop has instructed priests in his central Illinois diocese to deny communion, last rites and funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages – unless they repent.
In the decree he sent to priests, deacons, seminarians and staff in his Springfield diocese last week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki sets forth a set of norms on same-sex marriage and related pastoral issues that he says are the policy of the diocese.
Paprocki's decree bans priests and parish staff from performing same-sex marriages or allowing same-sex weddings or receptions at any Catholic facilities. People in same-sex marriages "should not present themselves for Holy Communion, nor should they be admitted to Holy Communion." A person in a same-sex marriage who is facing death may only receive communion after expressing "repentance for his or her sins."
Finally, Paprocki writes that "unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death," people in same-sex marriages may not receive a Catholic funeral.
The Springfield Diocese defends the decree as necessary "in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues."
A 2015 Supreme Court ruling made gay marriage legal across the United States, and Paprocki has made headlines with his opposition to gay marriage before. In 2013, he held an exorcism in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois.
"[T]he Church has not only the authority, but the serious obligation, to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage and to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state," it said in a statement to NPR. "Regarding the specific issue of funeral rites, people who had lived openly in same-sex marriage, like other manifest sinners that give public scandal, can receive ecclesiastical funeral rites if they have given some signs of repentance before their death."
The Archdiocese of Chicago told NPR that the policies decreed by Paprocki are not its own, but otherwise would not comment. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops directed a request for comment back to the Springfield diocese. . . . . "it's considered brutta figora – an ugly figure – to speak ill of other bishops on the record."
"The notion that a murderer could receive a Catholic funeral and someone in a same-sex union could not is absurd. ... Every Catholic deserves a Catholic funeral." 
Don't hold your breath waiting for Pope Francis to censure Paprocki - it simply will not happen. Meanwhile, my children (and grand children when they are older) are even more motivated to never darken the door of a Catholic church other than perhaps for a friend's wedding, although fewer and fewer Millennials are having church weddings at all. 

The Perversity of Trump and the Republican Party

click image to enlarge
I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to bemoaning and condemning what the Republican Party has become.  The election of Der Trumpenführer is but the culmination of two decades or more of descent into moral bankruptcy.  Throughout this descent we have witnessed never ending hypocrisy as the Republican Party falsely claims to be the party of Christian values, voices false concern about the average citizen, and, of course, pretense that it supports our men and women in uniform, and our military veterans.  Nothing could be farther from the truth if one looks at the actual facts and changes the channel from Fox New, a/k/a Faux News.  Like the Christofascists who have hijacked the party base, the safest bet nowadays is to assume that if a Republican elected officials lips are moving, he/she is lying.  Things truly have gotten that bad.  The newly released Senate Republican "healthcare reform" bill epitomizes the perversity of the GOP.  In deed, how "decent people" not driven by racism, religious extremism, greed and/or hatred of others can vote Republican makes me question their morality. 

For newer readers, many may not know of my son-in-law's story of being badly injured in Afghanistan while on his third tour in that hell hole of a country. His recovery was remarkable and he is now back in college securing a new degree that will allow him to give back to others the type of care that helped him make it through his nightmare experience.  His experience and meeting a number of his friends, some of whom were no where near as lucky as he was, has made me very conscious of the GOP's broken promises to veterans. He steered me to a piece that examines the huge number of veterans who will be harmed under Trumpcare/Ryancare.  It's the ultimate betrayal of those who sacrificed so much for their country - far more than the most of the foul Republicans in Congress ever will.  The article here is a must read.  So too is Andrew Sullivan's latest assessment of Trump and the GOP.  First these highlights from how are veterans will be harmed:
A new analysis by the Center for American Progress finds that 441,300 veterans would lose Medicaid coverage by 2026 under the plan of President Donald Trump and House Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate proposal, crafted behind closed doors, contains even larger Medicaid cuts in the long term than the House plan—cuts that would ultimately result in more veterans losing Medicaid coverage. Moreover, like the House bill, the Senate plan allows states to make changes to essential health benefits, which would reduce current protections for veterans with pre-existing conditions—including service-connected disabilities such as spinal cord injuries, amputations, and post-traumatic stress disorder—and lead to steep increases in medical costs, harming American veterans and their families.
Contrary to common misperceptions, the majority of the nation’s 20 million veterans do not get their health care coverage from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs but instead depend on other types of insurance. This includes Medicaid, which currently covers nearly 1.8 million American veterans.
The cuts not only break President Trump’s pledge to support veterans, they also disproportionately harm voters in the areas that most strongly supported him. New CAP analysis reveals that in the counties Trump won in the 2016 presidential election, 10 percent of adults are veterans—45 percent more than the share who are veterans in counties Trump lost.
The message to veterans and the members of the military: stop reflexively voting Republican.  It is NOT in your best interest.  Hollow sound bites about supporting our troops need to be ignored. Actions, not words, are what need to be watched.   But as Sullivan notes, the perversity of today's Republican Party and, of course, Der Trumpenführer, goes far beyond the betrayal of veterans.  Here are excerpts from Sullivan's piece:
I was mulling, as one does, over this presidency, and something crystallized in my head that I had not quite grasped before. Its policies are best described as simply perverse. The new Senate health-care bill is just the latest shining example. . . . it has no vision of how it wants health care to be organized; the loss of health care for the working poor will be most intense in Republican districts; . . . For good measure, by ending many of the taxes in the bill that make it work, and by removing the individual mandate, it risks sending the insurance markets into a deeper crisis.
So what on earth is the point? For Trump, it seems to me, the whole point is to have a “win.” He doesn’t give a shit about what the bill actually contains. He’ll just lie about it afterward and assume his cult followers will believe him. For Ryan, it’s just a way to make a future tax cut for the superrich more budget-friendly, while pushing the political costs of shredding Medicaid onto some future sucker.
And then you think about those tax cuts Ryan wants so badly. We are told that these cuts will spark so much growth they will pay for themselves — and more. And yet if there is one thing we really do know by now, it is that this strategy has spectacularly failed and failed again to work. Reagan’s tax cuts left the U.S. with an unprecedented peacetime deficit; George W. Bush inherited a small surplus and, after his tax cuts didn’t spur higher growth, handed Obama a Treasury close to bankrupt. In Kansas, the exact same strategy has incurred so much debt that a supermajority of the legislature, led by Republicans, have junked it. To pursue it a third time on a national scale is the definition of madness.
We are also living in an era of extreme inequality. . . . the policy of the Republicans is to further increase such inequality to levels beyond even the robber-baron era. Again, the only word for this is … perverse.
Ditto, for that matter, the idea that coal is the future of energy, and that climate change is a hoax. . . . It was an utterly pointless way to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world, and cede leadership to China. There was really no point at all in trashing the modest opening to Cuba under Obama, poisoning relations, and then just fiddling with the details.
Elsewhere in foreign policy, we have just begun a deepening of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in American history, with no strategy in place. . . . . The opening to Iran gave the U.S. far more leverage in the region, balancing out our previous Sunni commitments with a Shiite counterweight. Now Trump has fully committed the United States to one side of an intra-Muslim divide, while trashing Qatar, which houses the most important military base in the entire region. Again: perverse.
One of the ironies of the impact on veterans is that Texas, a red state that loves to huff and puff about patriotism will see the larges number of veterans harmed by Trumpcare if it passes.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1