Saturday, September 23, 2017

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty


Did John McCain Kill Obamacare Repeal?


As noted yesterday, the latest GOP effort to kill Obamacare is perhaps the most heinous to date as noted in a post yesterday.   I still remain disgusted with what the GOP has become and just how vicious its agenda has become.  Thankfully, John McCain has shown that a few in the GOP have not utterly thrown away their integrity and morality.  With his announcement yesterday that he will not support the latest Trumpcare travesty, with luck the GOP repeal effort is dead.  A piece in the New York Times looks at McCain's announcement.  Here are excerpts:
Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on Friday that he would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their last-ditch attempt to dismantle the health law and fulfill their longstanding promise to conservative voters.
For Mr. McCain, it was a slightly less dramatic reprise of his middle-of-the-night thumbs-down that killed the last repeal effort in July. This time, the senator, battling brain cancer and confronting his best friend in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, issued a statement saying that he could not “in good conscience” support the proposal by Senators Graham and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” Mr. McCain said. “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”
With two other Republican senators likely to vote no, Mr. McCain’s opposition to the bill could be fatal. With Democrats united in opposition, Senate Republicans can afford to lose only two of their members.
A bill of this magnitude “requires a bipartisan approach,’’ Mr. McCain added.  Those concerns were compounded by the decision of Republican leaders to press forward with a vote next week before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could complete a full analysis of the Graham-Cassidy legislation. The budget office is expected to provide a preliminary fiscal assessment early in the week, but it indicated that it would not be able to complete an analysis of the bill’s effects on health insurance coverage or premiums by Sept. 30.
McCain has reminded us that sometimes one person can make a difference.  Each of us needs to remember this as we oppose the ugliness of what the GOP and Der Trumpenführer are seeking to do to America.  Another piece in the Times looks at why the GOP is so hell bent to harm millions:
As more than 40 subdued Republican senators lunched on Chick-fil-A at a closed-door session last week, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado painted a dire picture for his colleagues. Campaign fund-raising was drying up, he said, because of widespread disappointment among donors over the inability of the Republican Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act or do much of anything else.
Mr. Gardner is in charge of his party’s midterm re-election push, and he warned that donors of all stripes were refusing to contribute another penny until the struggling majority produced some concrete results.
“Donors are furious,” one person knowledgeable about the private meeting quoted Mr. Gardner as saying. “We haven’t kept our promise.”
The backlash from big donors as well as the grass roots panicked Senate Republicans and was part of the motivation behind the sudden zeal to take one last crack at repealing the health care law before the end of the month.
This was not what Republicans had envisioned. Preparing for the 2018 midterm elections, they had thought they were in a strong position to maintain or expand their majority. Democrats must defend 25 seats — including 10 in states won last year by President Trump — while just eight Republican-held seats will be on the ballot. But their governing struggles — and attacks on congressional leaders by Mr. Trump — have soured their base, leaving the Senate majority feeling desperate.
Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, was even more blunt in a conversation with Vox. “If we do nothing, it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections, and whether or not Republicans still maintain control and we have the gavel,” he said.
Republicans say the fund-raising drop-off has been steep and across the board, from big donations to the small ones the party solicits online from the grass roots. They say the hostile views of both large and small donors are in unusual alignment and that the negative sentiment is crystallized in the fund-raising decline.
Republicans are also set to roll out their income tax overhaul plan next week in an effort to build support for it and find something the party can deliver to the president’s desk. They see the tax plan as their best opportunity to win back the allegiance of donors.
With health care repeal teetering yet again, the one thing they know for sure is that they need to show some accomplishments, and they need to do so fast.

What shocks me is that these Republicans seemingly fail to realize that perhaps some of the fund raising drop off is due to the ugliness of what the GOP is trying to pass. Not everyone is like the Koch brothers who happily want to restore the Gilded Age while the vast majority of Americans suffer.

OBX Pridefest - Day 1

Looking towards the ocean

The husband and I drove down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the 7th annual OBX Pridefest last evening.  While I make an effort NOT to spend money in North Carolina, we make an exception for Dare County which, other than the state's larger cities, was the only area to vote against anti-gay legislation.  We are stay at the home of friend who are letting six of us use their place for the weekend.  We kicked off the Pridefest weekend with a party in Nags Head.  The main event is this afternoon in Manteo on the waterfront.  The weather this morning is gorgeous, so we will likely hang by the pool this morning.   A few photos are set out above and below.
Yes, alcohol was involved
Me with Queen Mary
Jennifer Warner

Saturday Morning Male Beauty Pt 1


Friday, September 22, 2017

More Friday Male Beauty

Click image to enlarge

The Catholic Alt-Right Attacks Pro-Gay Catholics


As the previous post noted, today's GOP base is largely controlled by those who claim to be Christian yet seem to hate nearly everyone who thinks, looks or loves differently than they do.  The same holds true for what I believe is a minority of Roman Catholics in America and certainly across Europe. While proclaiming their piety and wearing their religion on their sleeves, their conduct would likely shock even the hypocritical Pharisees of the New Testament.  Indeed, the New Testament message of loving others is nowhere to be seen in their agenda of clinging to outdated customs, denigrating women, embracing 12th century ignorance and hating others, especially LGBT individuals.  As noted in prior posts, Jesuit author James Martin is finding out just who vicious and un-Christian these alt-right Catholics can be. Indeed, many remind one of the German Catholics who rallied to Adolph Hitler' message of hate more than 80 years ago.  Martin takes a shot back at these vicious elements in the Catholic Church in a column in the Washington Post.  Here are excerpts:
After a gunman killed 49 people at Pulse, a predominantly gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016, I found myself disappointed that more Catholic leaders did not offer support to the LGBT community. And that the few who did found it difficult to acknowledge that LGBT people specifically had been targeted for murder.
For me, that silence highlighted a certain failure to be compassionate to the LGBT community even in a moment of tragedy. It also revealed that the LGBT community was still largely invisible to some church authorities. In response, I recorded a brief video that was posted on Facebook. It offered some support for the LGBT community during a terribly difficult few weeks.
Not long afterwards, New Ways Ministry, an organization that ministers to and advocates for LGBT Catholics, invited me to accept their Bridge Building Award. Until then, I had never done what you might call formal ministry with LGBT Catholics, besides the counseling that almost every church worker does in his or her ministry. But the Catholic Church’s response to the events in Orlando encouraged me to do so in a more public way. So, with my Jesuit superiors’ permission, I accepted the award and offered a lecture on how to build a “two-way bridge” between LGBT Catholics and the institutional church — that is, the church’s hierarchy and decision-makers.  From that talk came the first half of my book, “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.”
Now, in the past few weeks, three lectures I was invited to have been canceled, and I have been targeted by some far-right groups whose actions betray a level of homophobia that is hard to fathom. These groups, a kind of Catholic alt-right, are increasingly attempting to substitute themselves for legitimate Church authority by passing judgments on which Catholics are orthodox and which are not. “Heresy” is a word they use as frequently as “and” and “the.”
My reflections, which can be summarized as a call for respect on both sides, were based on the gospel, and on the Catechism’s call for the Church to treat “homosexual persons” with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” As with all my books, I sought the formal ecclesial approval of my Jesuit superiors, who vetted my what would become “Building a Bridge.” Perhaps to the disappointment of some critics, it is about dialogue and prayer, not about sexual morality or the sexual practices of LGBT people. On sexual matters, the LGBT community and the institutional church are simply too far apart at this moment. 
What I didn’t know was that, in a few quarters, the pushback would be hysterical, vicious and immediate. . . . The vast majority of people have responded positively, both in person and online. And people in the pews, especially LGBT Catholics and their parents, have told me that they are grateful that a priest is raising this topic. Many of these conversations have transpired through tears.
This makes any backlash worth it.  But the backlash from the far right is more intense than anticipated. I’ve been accused of heresy, ridiculously, by some critics (I’m not contradicting any revealed truths); there have been over-the-top condemnations (I should be removed from the priesthood) and name-calling that I thought was confined to 1950s playgrounds (faggot, fairy, pansy and worse.) Here’s a quote from a letter received just this week: “You’re leading souls to hell where you will surely reside in a few years.” 
[R]eflection on various biblical passages and an invitation to prayer seems to be of no interest to them; perhaps they feel that LGBT people do not, and should not, have access to the Holy Spirit.
 The far-right backlash has led, perhaps inevitably, to the cancellation (or rescheduling) of several speaking events . . . Each of these talks was not about LGBT issues, but about Jesus. And in each of the cities in which the talk was scheduled, the local bishop (in each case a cardinal) had no qualms about the upcoming lecture. . . .  the organizers admitted that they were responding to people who had been persuaded by online campaigns of far-right sites designed to lead people to view me as a heretic, even though I am what Catholics call a “priest in good standing” and the book had been vetted and endorsed by legitimate Church authorities.
There is such widespread homophobia in some dark corners of the Church that it causes people to become enraged by a book that they have never read. These individuals and sites trafficking in such obvious homophobia operate through means of vicious social media campaigns, relentless personal attacks, gross misrepresentations, as well as simple lies and deceit. They end up trying to be so Catholic that they are barely Christian.
Ironically, these groups, like the website Church Militant, which tout their desire for “traditional” Catholic practices consistently set themselves against bishops and religious superiors. Thus, groups that have zero legitimacy in the Church (and which have often been criticized by Church leadership) are setting themselves up against legitimate authorities. Pope Francis himself, for example, is a frequent target.
I am trying to do what Jesus did, in reaching out to people on the margins and telling them that God created them, God loves them and God welcomes them. And that is the truth.

Like the Protestant Christofascists, these alt-right Catholics ceased to be Christian long ago.

Today's GOP: Cruelty, Incompetence and Lies


As I note frequently, I am a former Republican.  Once upon a time I held a city committee seat for the Republican Party of Virginia Beach.  I even was the original incorporator of that entity as filings at the Virginia State Corporation Commission confirm.  Yet now I find myself embarrassed to ever have been a Republican give the hideousness of today's Republican Party.  A hideousness starkly revealed by the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill currently in the U.S. Senate which would have millions of Americans and leave those with pre-existing conditions without coverage.  Virtually every part of the healthcare industry opposes the bill as does AARP which will hopefully go on a rampage against Republicans in the 2018 election cycle if this travesty passes (if it does, it will be based solely on Republican votes).  So why is the GOP leadership pushing so hard for this bill?  Two main factors, in my view: thanks to Citizens United, the big money players in the GOP donor class want its passage and will punish the GOP if this massive tax cut for the wealthy disguised as "reform" is not passed.  The other factor is the make up the GOP base which is controlled by Christofascists and racists, groups best defined by their hatred of others and their hatred of Barack Obama.  In their warped and hate-filled minds, this bill will punish minorities and others they despise.  The irony will be, of course, that they themselves will end up suffering greatly when many find themselves without health care at some point down the road.  A column in the New York Times looks at the cruelty, incompetence and lies behind this foul bill.  Here are excerpts:
Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing when they put it together. Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies.
Nonetheless, the bill could pass. And that says a lot about today’s Republican Party, none of it good.
The Affordable Care Act, which has reduced the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low, created a three-legged stool: regulations that prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, a requirement that individuals have adequate insurance (and thus pay into the system while healthy) and subsidies to make that insurance affordable. For the lowest-income families, insurance is provided directly by Medicaid.
Graham-Cassidy saws off all three legs of that stool. Like other Republican plans, it eliminates the individual mandate. It replaces direct aid to individuals with block grants to states, under a formula that sharply reduces funding relative to current law, and especially penalizes states that have done a good job of reducing the number of uninsured. And it effectively eliminates protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
[E]veryone, who knows anything about health care warns [the bill] would cause chaos.  It’s not just progressives: The American Medical Association, the insurance industry and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have all warned that markets would be destabilized and millions would lose coverage.
How many people would lose insurance? Republicans are trying to ram the bill through before the Congressional Budget Office has time to analyze it — an attempt that is in itself a violation of all previous norms, and amounts to an admission that the bill can’t bear scrutiny. But C.B.O. has analyzed other bills containing some of Graham-Cassidy’s provisions, and these previous analyses suggest that it would add more than 30 million people to the ranks of the uninsured.
Both Cassidy and Graham insist that their bill would continue to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions — a claim that will come as news to the A.M.A., Blue Cross and everyone else who has read the bill’s text.
Independent analyses find that most states would, in fact, experience serious cuts in federal aid — and everyone would face huge cuts after 2027.
So we’re looking at an incompetently drafted bill that would hurt millions of people, whose sponsors are trying to sell it with transparently false claims. How is it that this bill might nonetheless pass the Senate?
One answer is that Republicans are desperate to destroy President Barack Obama’s legacy in any way possible, no matter how many American lives they ruin in the process.
Another answer is that most Republican legislators neither know nor care about policy substance. This is especially true on health care, where they never tried to understand why Obamacare looks the way it does, or how to devise a nonvicious alternative.
I’d add that the evasions and lies we’re seeing on this bill have been standard G.O.P. operating procedure for years. The trick of converting federal programs into block grants, then pretending that this wouldn’t mean savage cuts, was central to every one of Paul Ryan’s much-hyped budgets. The trick of comparing dollar numbers over time to conceal huge benefit cuts has, as I already noted, been around since the 1990s.
In other words, Graham-Cassidy isn’t an aberration; it’s more like the distilled essence of everything wrong with modern Republicans. . . . even if the handful of Republican senators who retain some conscience block it — we’re looking at you, John McCain — the underlying sickness of the G.O.P. 
I again find myself how any one morally decent vote Republican given what the GOP has become both at the state and at the federal level.  It epitomizes moral bankruptcy and cruelty towards others. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Austin Victoria - Click image to enlarge

Thursday, September 21, 2017

More Thursday Morning Male Beauty


Trump Nominee's Illegal Vote Exposes the Voter-Fraud Charade


If one listens to Republicans - especially the vulgarian-in-chief in the White House - voter fraud is rampant and millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 presidential election.  The truth, of course, is something very different with study after study showing that voter fraud is rare and not a pressing concern for anyone other than Republicans who are increasingly desperate to disenfranchise voters as their aging white voter base literally dies off.  To win, the GOP must decrease the votes of minorities and younger voters who wisely see the GOP as an enemy of their own future and prosperity.  Thus, it is delicious irony that one of Der Trumpenführer's nominees cast an illegal vote in Virginia in last year's presidential election.  True, it wasn't part of any insidious plan, but it shows the farce of the Republican charade that voter fraud is a pressing national concern.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at the issue and Jeffrey Gerrish's illegal vote.  Here are highlights:
Jeffrey Gerrish made a mistake. Not a big one, although he did break the law. But it’s a mistake many people make, and for the most part, they aren’t called out by the Senate Finance Committee and in the pages of The New York Times.
Most of the people who make the error, however, are not nominees of a president who has alleged that there were 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election, or who empaneled a commission to consider voter fraud that is on a dubious hunt to try to validate that wild, unsubstantiated claim. Jeffrey Gerrish, however, is President Trump’s nominee to be deputy U.S. trade representative, so it happens that investigators realized he cast his vote in the 2016 election in Virginia, even though he had moved to Maryland—a far less competitive state in national elections.
Actually, Gerrish broke two laws. Although Virginia allows people to vote there 30 days after moving—after all, they probably know the candidates and issues in their old home best—he was outside that grace period. The Times adds: “A Trump administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the case in detail, said that Mr. Gerrish had a Virginia driver’s license at the time of the election and was under the impression that the state granted a longer grace period for former residents.” But Maryland also requires that new residents get a Maryland license within 60 days of moving, which he had not done. Of course, such laws about getting new licenses are routine and routinely ignored. Many people just wait for their old license to expire before getting a new one, no one gets hurt, and no one launches a commission of inquiry. But that’s just the point about Gerrish’s old vote. The story isn’t so much a gotcha on Gerrish as it is a statement about the folly of Trump’s vote-fraud commission. The commission is chaired by Vice President Pence, but its co-chair and driving force is Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas. Kobach is a long-time advocate for tighter voting laws, which he says are needed because of widespread voter fraud. In particular, he’s concerned about what’s known as in-person voter fraud: Someone actually shows up and casts an unlawful ballot, either because they aren’t registered, because they’re registered unlawfully, or because they vote in someone else’s name. The problem is that this is highly unusual. Repeated studies have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare, . . .
 Kobach is particularly into the idea of databases of voter lists from various states, which can then be crosschecked against each other to find people who are unlawfully double-voting—or at least double-registered—in several states. That was the motivation behind his controversial request that states provide full voter rolls to the commission. The problem is that the technique has repeatedly failed to find widespread fraud, even as it produces lots of false positives from similar names. In one instance, Kobach dramatically announced more than 2,000 dead voters who were still on rolls, only for the supposedly dead to be revealed as still alive quite quickly. More recently, Kobach declared in a Breitbart column that there was proof of widespread fraud in New Hampshire, then saw the state’s secretary of state shred his claim. Many people, including some of Trump’s closest relatives and advisers, are registered in two states (probably because they, like most people, didn’t bother to cancel their old registrations), but also almost certainly don’t vote twice. When there really is in-person voter fraud, however, it’s probably more likely something like what Gerrish did. He’s not the first person to decide to vote in his old home in the hopes of casting a more consequential vote. . . . . This is illegal, but it’s unlikely to be prosecuted, and it’s also naively idealistic: Those occasional ballots mailed back home to Nevada and Ohio and Florida are unlikely to swing any election. The same is true for Gerrish’s ballot. Even with his vote, Clinton won Virginia by more than 200,000 votes, and she won Maryland by more than 700,000. Contra the Trump voting commission’s starting assumptions, there’s very little in-person voter fraud, and where it occurs, it’s usually individuals exercising poor judgment—not massive, coordinated campaigns that stuff the ballot boxes with Trump’s fictitious millions of illegitimate votes. Then again, that doesn’t make much of a story, does it?

I have heard Kobach in a number of interviews and try as much as he might to  pretend he's not a racist, he most certainly is one.  He's a white supremacists in all but formal affiliation with a white nationalist group.  Sadly, Kobach is all too representative of more and more of the GOP.  If one is not a white, heterosexual right wing Christian, they don't view you as fully human or someone they want having the right to vote. Just one more example of the "Christian values" of today's Republican Party.