Saturday, November 26, 2016

More Saturday Male Beauty

A Legal Argument of Why the Electoral College Should Reject Trump

I like man find it maddening that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than a 2 million vote margin, yet the dangerous and unqualified loser, Donald Trump will be president unless the electors in the Electoral College do their job and confirm Clinton as president.   A Harvard professor makes the argument of why the Electoral College electors should over ride the Electoral College results and confirm the winner of the popular vote as the next president of the United States.  Yes, there would howls and screams from Trump and his would be fascist and/or Klan member supporters.  Here are highlights of the argument via the Washington Post
Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  — most important, the electors themselves.
The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].” But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” — and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about “winner take all.” It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule “the people” or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel.
Many think we should abolish the electoral college. I’m not convinced that we should. Properly understood, the electors can serve an important function. What if the people elect a Manchurian candidate? Or a child rapist? What if evidence of massive fraud pervades a close election? It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election — so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely — if ever — should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason.
So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason?
Only twice in our past has the electoral college selected a president against the will of the people — once in the 19th century and once on the cusp of the 21st.
In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote by a tiny fraction — half a percent — and beat Al Gore in the electoral college by an equally small margin — less than 1 percent.
In both cases, the result violated what has become one of the most important principles governing our democracy — one person, one vote. In both cases, the votes of some weighed much more heavily than the votes of others. Today, the vote of a citizen in Wyoming is four times as powerful as the vote of a citizen in Michigan. The vote of a citizen in Vermont is three times as powerful as a vote in Missouri. This denies Americans the fundamental value of a representative democracy — equal citizenship. Yet nothing in our Constitution compels this result.
Instead, if the electoral college is to control who becomes our president, we should take it seriously by understanding its purpose precisely. It is not meant to deny a reasonable judgment by the people. It is meant to be a circuit breaker — just in case the people go crazy.
In this election, the people did not go crazy. The winner, by far, of the popular vote is the most qualified candidate for president in more than a generation. Like her or not, no elector could have a good-faith reason to vote against her because of her qualifications. Choosing her is thus plainly within the bounds of a reasonable judgment by the people.
Yet that is not the question the electors must weigh as they decide how to cast their ballots. Instead, the question they must ask themselves is whether there is any good reason to veto the people’s choice.
The framers left the electors free to choose. They should exercise that choice by leaving the election as the people decided it: in Clinton’s favor.

Clinton Camp Will Join Recount Push

Who knows where a recount in three key swing states - Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania - will lead, but at this point I support almost anything that could save the nation from the nightmare of a Donald Trump presidency.  The thought of Trump appointing Supreme Court justices even as he uses the office of the presidency to further enrich himself is stomach wrenching.  Given the unprecedented evidence of Russian efforts to influence the election in favor of Trump, if nothing else the recount will confirm that hacking did not occur.  The down side of that result, of course, is that the foulness and mindlessness of 25% of American's registered voters would be confirmed. The New York Times looks at the recount effort.  Here are excerpts:
The top lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid said Saturday that the campaign would join a third-party candidate’s effort to seek a full recount in Wisconsin, and potentially two other states, though he said the campaign had seen no “actionable evidence” of vote hacking.
In a post on Medium, Marc Elias, the campaign’s general counsel, described an intensive behind-the-scenes effort by the campaign to look for signs of Russian hacker activity or other irregularities in the vote count.
The essay suggested that the campaign was joining the recount effort with little expectation that it would change the result. But many of the campaign’s supporters, picking up on its frequent complaints of Russian interference in the election, have enthusiastically backed the recount effort led by Jill Stein, who was the Green Party candidate.
Ms. Stein filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday afternoon, about an hour before the deadline.
“Now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”
Should Ms. Stein pursue additional recounts, “we will take the same approach in those states as well,” he wrote. But he noted that the “number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states — Michigan — well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.”
Mr. Trump issued a statement on Saturday calling the recount push “ridiculous” and “a scam by the Green Party.”
The Obama administration issued a statement to The New York Times on Friday in response to questions about intelligence findings related to Russian interference in the election. In the statement, it said it had concluded that the election had been free of interference.
The administration issued a second statement on Saturday saying that “the federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyberactivity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day.”
Now Mrs. Clinton finds herself in a difficult position of not wanting to lead the charge for a recount that Democrats believe will go nowhere, but also not wanting to abandon supporters who have donated to Ms. Stein’s last-ditch effort.
Mr. Elias’s post offered a revealing look at how much time and energy the campaign has spent in the past two weeks looking for evidence of Russian hacking or other irregularities, and how it has tried to keep those efforts secret.
“Since the day after the election, we have had lawyers and data scientists and analysts combing over the results to spot anomalies that would suggest a hacked result,” Mr. Elias wrote.
“Most of those discussions have remained private, while at least one has unfortunately been the subject of leaks,” he wrote, a reference to conversations between Mr. Podesta and a group of experts that included J. Alex Halderman, a computer scientist with deep experience in the vulnerabilities of voting systems.

Will the Emoluments Clause be Trump's Undoing?

The Founding Fathers were very suspicious of potential efforts of foreign powers to influence the new nation's leaders, especially the president. As a result, they wrote the so-called emoluments clause into the United Sates Constitution which provides in relevant part as follows:
"no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without Consent of Congress, accept ... any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."

The goal was to prevent bribery of government officials and office holders and to seek to ensure that the best interest of the nation rather than personal financial gain was the guiding motivation for decisions made by office holders.  Up until now, there has been little focus on the Emoluments Clause because (i) most office holders were not in positions to be easily bribed or influenced by financial benefits and (ii) for decades Presidents have liquidated assets and placed them in blind trusts to avoid even the appearance of out right conflict of interest.  With the election of Donald Trump - a man obsessed with enriching himself and satiating his unrestrained narcissism - suddenly the Emoluments Clause is looming large. Indeed, it could be what leads to Trump's impeachment early on during his term.  A piece in NPR looks at the likely coming scandals and controversies.  Here are highlights:
Donald Trump's extensive business dealings around the globe have focused attention on an obscure provision of the Constitution most law professors barely look at — the Emoluments Clause. Now, one of the hottest legal debates around is whether the president-elect is going to violate the Constitution if he continues doing business with companies controlled by foreign governments.
Emolument is defined by Merriam-Webster as "the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites."
The Foreign Emoluments Clause can be found in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution. It provides that "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without Consent of Congress, accept ... any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
The clause has been interpreted as an anti-bribery provision by constitutional scholars.
"The underlying concern of the clause is divided loyalties," said Erik Jensen, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. "The founders wanted U.S. officials not to have any arrangements under which there could be questions about whether they were acting in the best interests of the United States, or in the interests of a foreign state."
Trump's companies do deal with businesses that are controlled or influenced by foreign government officials. Legal experts say the potential for constitutional violations is high.
Take the Bank of China, for example. It's a lender for one of Trump's buildings in Midtown Manhattan. If the Bank of China were to offer Trump a lower interest rate on that loan after he takes office, it might raise an Emoluments Clause issue. Some legal scholars say it could be perceived as an attempt to curry favor with the president or influence policy.
Not only have prior presidents been careful to steer clear of any perceived violations of the clause, there's never been a president like Trump, whose companies have such vast global reach. And Trump hasn't fully disclosed the full extent of his global business dealings.
"The services theory would be along the lines of, 'Well, if Donald Trump himself as president could not perform services for the foreign government, he can't have his hired help people who work for him in that hotel — provide those services, and then he receives the payment.' That would be an end-run around the prohibition on any type of emolument," said Painter.
The issue of whether a U.S. government official is violating the Emoluments Clause for services rendered actually does comes up in real life, says Ken Gross, a government ethics lawyer in Washington, D.C. Sometimes government officials go on a foreign detail or sabbatical and want to earn compensation for teaching at a government-funded university in that foreign country. In those cases, Gross said, U.S. government officials have had to forego pay to avoid violations of the clause.
Legal standing depends on how you articulate the injury. Here's one theory of injury: Trump is enriching himself at the expense of companies that can't compete for business the way the president of the United States can. So maybe a company that's lost business because of some financial transaction between Trump Organization and a foreign government could articulate a legal claim.
Or, the perceived harm could be more nebulous. Here's another theory: Trump is opening himself up to attempts by foreign governments that want to influence U.S. policy. But who would have standing to bring a legal claim in that case? Legal experts say it's not clear.
[T]he best option for Trump is to simply liquidate his stake in his company — that is, take the company public, sell off all his shares and put the cash proceeds in a blind trust. That way, if there are any entanglements between the Trump Organization and foreign countries — he'll be cleared of any conflicts.
But nobody's holding their breath for that to happen anytime soon.
Given Trump's documented history of shady business dealings and selling others down the river financially so as to benefit himself, it is, in my opinion, a pretty safe bet that Trump will put his personal finances ahead of the interest of the nation.  This is why a greed driven narcissist should never be elected to high political office.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Dedicated to Douglas.  Hope you and Dennis had a great Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trump Voter Fired for Racist Rant

Per the last two posts, really I have no use for Trump supporters who, despite their gyrations to explain their vote in terms other than racism and bigotry, are fooling no one other than themselves.  One Trump supporter in Alabama was honest enough to clearly state her reasoning.  Her honesty - and open racism - cost her her job and rightfully so given her position dealing with the public, which in Alabama includes many blacks. looks at Regions Bank's decision to fire this KKK member want to be.  Here are highlights:
A Regions Bank senior-level employee who was labeled "Racist of the Week" on social media after posting comments on Facebook derogatory of President Obama and his family, some of which alluded to slavery, is no longer with the company, the bank says.
June Pridmore was senior vice president of loan operations since 2008, according to her LinkedIn profile, which has been deleted.
"I voted [Trump] in," she wrote, in part. "I like him. He has a beautiful wife unlike the ugly and embarrassing woman (for lack of a better word), in the White House now. Ms. Trump's face would make Michele (sic) O'Bama (sic) a Sunday face." . . . .
Not surprisingly, the comments, like the spate of similar racists thought expressed through social media since President-elect Donald Trump's victory, ignited a social media firestorm.
Regions, headquartered in Birmingham, initially said it launched an investigation and revealed its response today.
Bank spokesperson Jeremy King said: "We appreciate the concerns shared about offensive social media comments that were made through an associate's personal Facebook account. We want you to know that we share those concerns. Those comments do not reflect our values as a company or the way we do business. The associate is no longer an employee of the company."
Pridmore's comments also raised concerns about whether her apparent biases might have influenced any loan approvals.
I can only imagine what Ms. Pridmore thinks of gays and Jews, not to mention Hispanics and non-Christians. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

When Will the White Working Class Realize Trump Scammed Them?

Yes, each of us is entitled to believe what we want, even if it is utterly untrue and/or motivated by racism, homophobia and/or bigotry.  That doesn't mean that I and others have to respect the views and beliefs of those who we view as clinging to ignorance and hatred of others. Sadly, many of us will nonetheless suffer the consequences of the votes of those played for fools by Donald Trump and other Republican scam artists who sold a false bill of goods to individuals only too ready to fall of appeals to racism, anti-immigrant animus or a last gasp of inflicting their poisonous religious beliefs on all of citizenry.  Now, the question is that of how soon it will be before these cretins realize that they were conned?  Or will further GOP appeals to racism and bigotry make them close their eyes to the fact that they duped yet again?  A column in the Washington Post looks at this question.  Here are excerpts:
While we’re still analyzing the election results and debating the importance of different factors to the final outcome, everyone agrees that white working class voters played a key part in Donald Trump’s victory, in some cases by switching their votes and in some cases by turning out when they had been nonvoters before.
And now that he’s about to take office, he’s ready to deliver on what he promised them, right? Well, maybe not so much:
President-elect Donald Trump abruptly abandoned some of his most tendentious campaign promises Tuesday, saying he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email system or the dealings of her family foundation, has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he vowed to withdraw the United States and is no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea.
The billionaire real estate developer also dismissed any need to disentangle himself from his financial holdings, despite rising questions about how his global business dealings might affect his decision-making as the nation’s chief executive.
[A]t the same time, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans are getting ready to move on their highest priorities, cutting taxes for the wealthy, scrapping oversight on Wall Street, and lightening regulations on big corporations.
What are you thinking as you watch this?
If you have any sense, you’re coming to the realization that it was all a scam. You got played. While you were chanting “Lock her up!” he was laughing at you for being so gullible. While you were dreaming about how you’d have an advocate in the Oval Office, he was dreaming about how he could use it to make himself richer. He hasn’t even taken office yet and everything he told you is already being revealed as a lie.
During the campaign, Trump made two kinds of promises to those white working class voters. One was very practical, focused on economics. In coal country, he said he’d bring back all the coal jobs that have been lost to cheap natural gas (even as he promotes more fracking of natural gas; figure that one out). In the industrial Midwest, he said he’d bring back all the labor-intensive factory jobs that were mostly lost to automation, not trade deals. These promises were utterly ludicrous, but most of the target voters seemed not to care.
The second kind of promise was emotional and expressive. It was about turning back the clock to a time when immigrants hadn’t come to your town, when women weren’t so uppity, when you could say whatever you wanted and you didn’t feel like the culture and the economy were leaving you behind.
So what are we left with? What remains is Trump’s erratic whims, his boundless greed, and the core of Republican policies Congress will pursue, which are most definitely not geared toward the interests of working class whites. He can gut environmental regulations, but that doesn’t mean millions of people are going to head back to the coal mines — it was market forces more than anything else that led to coal’s decline. He can renegotiate trade deals, but that doesn’t mean that the labor-intensive factory jobs are coming back. And by the way, the high wages, good benefits, and job security those jobs used to offer? That was thanks to labor unions, which Republicans are now going to try to destroy once and for all.

The Republican Plan to Kill Medicare

It was not only angry unemployed rural/under employed, low information whites who voted against their own economic interest when they cast their vote for Donald Trump and other Republicans. Many of the elderly did the same and will likely now face the consequences as Congressional Republicans now feel empowered to move forward on a long held dream: gutting Medicare and turning it into a limited voucher program.  The pipe dream of Republicans is that "increased competition will drive down premium costs" - something that has NOT happened in the regular heath insurance arena.  Faced with suddenly vastly increased medical care costs, many of the elderly will find their so-called golden years turning into nightmare years.  Indeed, Paul Ryan may get his wish at long last of forcing many seniors to live off inadequate resources once they must choose between eating, having heat in the winter or medical care. Meanwhile, Ryan will bloviate about his Catholic values even as he utter betrays the Church's social gospel message and cuts healthcare support in order to fund tax cuts for the very wealthy.  The man, as are his GOP allies, is evil.  As for those who voted Republican, they once again allowed Republican appeals to their racism, religious extremism and/or general bigotry to cut their own throats.  The New York Times looks at the coming GOP effort to end Medicare.  Here are excerpts:
[W]ith Election Day behind them, emboldened House Republicans say they will move forward on a years-old effort to shift Medicare away from its open-ended commitment to pay for medical services and toward a fixed government contribution for each beneficiary.
The idea rarely came up during Mr. Trump’s march toward the White House, but a battle over the future of Medicare could roil Washington during his first year in office, whether he wants it or not.
“Let me say unequivocally to you now: I have fought to protect Medicare for this generation and for future generations,” Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, a Democrat running for re-election in 2018, said this week in a video message to constituents. “I have opposed efforts to privatize Medicare in the past, and I will oppose any effort to privatize Medicare or turn it into a voucher program in the future.”
For nearly six years, Speaker Paul D. Ryan has championed the new approach, denounced by Democrats as “voucherizing” Medicare. Representative Tom Price of Georgia, the House Budget Committee chairman and a leading candidate to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of health and human services, has also embraced the idea, known as premium support.
And Democrats are relishing the fight and preparing to defend the program, which was created in 1965 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. They believe that if Mr. Trump chooses to do battle over Medicare, he would squander political capital, as President George W. Bush did with an effort to add private investment accounts to Social Security after his re-election in 2004.
Democrats will “stand firmly and unified” against Mr. Ryan if he tries to “shatter the sacred guarantee that has protected generations of seniors,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader.
Republicans have pressed for premium support since Mr. Ryan first included it in a budget blueprint in 2011. As he envisions it, Medicare beneficiaries would buy health insurance from one of a number of competing plans. The traditional fee-for-service Medicare program would compete directly with plans offered by private insurers like Humana, UnitedHealth Group and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Democrats say that premium support would privatize Medicare, replacing the current government guarantee with skimpy vouchers — “coupon care for seniors.” The fear is that the healthiest seniors would choose private insurance, lured by offers of free health club memberships and other wellness programs, leaving traditional Medicare with sicker, more expensive patients and higher premiums.
“Beneficiaries would have to pay much more to stay in traditional fee-for-service Medicare,” said John K. Gorman, a former Medicare official who is now a consultant to many insurers. “Regular Medicare would become the province of affluent beneficiaries who can buy their way out of” private plans.
“I am terrified of vouchers,” said Kim Ebb, 92, who lives in a retirement community in Bethesda, Md., and has diabetes, atrial fibrillation and irritable bowel syndrome. “You get a fixed amount of money to draw on for your expenses. Then you are on your own.”
Charles R. Drapeau, 64, of East Waterboro, Me., said he was rattled by the Republican plans.
“I’m scared to death,” said Mr. Drapeau, who has multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, and takes a drug that costs more than $10,000 a month. “We don’t know exactly how it will work, but just the fact that they are talking about messing with Medicare, it’s frightening to me.”
Mr. Gorman said that premium support would be “a seismic change” in Medicare and could increase costs for many people in the traditional fee-for-service program, fueling a big increase in enrollment in private Medicare Advantage plans.
The Congressional Budget Office analyzed two of the leading options and found that “most beneficiaries who wished to remain in the fee-for-service program would pay much higher premiums, on average, under either alternative.” At the same time, the budget office said the proposal could slow the growth of Medicare spending if more beneficiaries enrolled in lower-cost private plans.
Consumer advocates express several concerns about premium support. Private plans, under pressure to rein in costs, could respond by creating smaller networks of doctors and hospitals. Such plans would then be less attractive to sicker patients who need more health care services.
“What happens if the voucher doesn’t grow with the cost of health care?” asked Leslie B. Fried, a health lawyer at the National Council on Aging, a service and advocacy group. “Will people have more and more out-of-pocket costs?”
The winners?  The wealthy who receive tax cuts and the insurance companies. The losers?  The average American.  Welcome to the Trump/GOP America. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Support Ralph Northam for Governor

One of the burdens of living in Virginia is the fact that we have elections every year - federal elections in even numbered years and state elections in odd numbered years.  It is easy to get burned out.  However, given the threat - at least in our view - that Donald Trump and a Republican congressional majority pose to LGBT rights and civil liberties in general, it is all the more important that we elect Ralph Northam as Virginia's next governor.  We need a firewall against some of the worse extreme policies that may be forth coming, especially given some of Trump's anti-LGBT appointees to date.  The husband (Barry D. Menser) and I know Ralph and his wife personally and we believe it is absolutely critical that we do all we can to support his election effort.  Hence, we are on the host committee for a fundraiser on December 8, 2016.  We encourage you to join us at the event (if you cannot attend, we will be hosting an event in our home at a later date).  The details are below:
Please join
Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam  
Jimmy R. Chisman | Jerri & Frank Dickseski | Duncan & Diana Garnett  
Barry Menser & Mike Hamar | Jay & Tara Joseph | Mamie Locke
Monty Mason | Jim McNider | Ross & Martha Mugler
Leonard A. Bennett & Dr. Drina A. Northam
BJ Roberts | Molly & Forrest Ward
At the 
Northam For Governor Hampton Kick-Off

Thursday, December 8, 20166:00pm to 8:00pm 
At the home of Molly and Forrest Ward
801 Park Place | Hampton, VA 23669

Host - $5,000+ | Co-Host - $2,500 
Sponsor - $1,000  | Benefactor - $500 
Supporter - $250 | Guest - $100

To RSVP, please click here or email
You may also call 804-397-9877 

Thanksgiving Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Where Life Is Getting Worse for LGBT People

As LGBT Americans gather for Thanksgiving this year, in many cases a pall will color the celebration as we await for the other shoes to fall in the wake of Donald Trump's election and the elevation of homophobes and Christofascists to positions where they can harm and undermine the lives of the LGBT community.  Sadly, this trend is not unique to America and defeating it will require renewed resolve and efforts to resist and defeat the pestilence of fundamentalist religion and the hatred that it promotes.   As we have seen over and over again, religion is the principle threat to human rights and a never ending justification for evil and hatred. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the negative, animus inspired trend in other parts of the world.  Here are highlights:
The moral arc of history bends toward justice. Right?
Not necessarily, especially when it comes to justice for LGBTQ people and other sexual and gender minorities. Here in the United States, recent gains are now imperiled by the upcoming Trump presidency. And around the world, there are many places where, contrary to Dan Savage’s popular video series, it is steadily getting worse.
Consider three very different examples: Brazil, Indonesia, and Nigeria. Three continents, three different cultural and religious contexts, different forms of government with different kinds of leaders. And yet, in all three, a steadily worsening situation for LGBTQ people.
1. Brazil
For sexual and gender minorities, Brazil has long experienced the best of times and the worst of times. The country is cosmopolitan, libertine, and legally progressive, with laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI in international human rights parlance).
But Brazil is also the deadliest place in the world to be gay. An astonishing 1,600 people have died in anti-LGBTQ hate attacks over the last four and a half years—nearly one person every day.
[A] primary reason is the export of U.S.-based homophobia. Evangelicals have risen from 5 percent of the Brazilian population in 1970 to nearly 25 percent today, and their leaders—many trained in the United States—have exported the U.S. Christian right’s extreme homophobia to the Brazilian context.
They are also in Brazil’s congress. The “parliamentary coup” that removed liberal president Dilma Rousseff from office was accomplished with back-benchers affiliated with evangelical Christian groups.
Now, with the conservative government led by Michel Temer (and his all-male cabinet), those factions are in power. Investigative journalist Joao Ximenes Braga told The Daily Beast that the Temer government has already shut down human rights programs in the country and that members of his coalition have called for a repeal of laws protecting LGBTQ people.
[W]ith Brazil’s right wing in power, the precarious situation of LGBTQ people in the country is threatened still further.
2. Indonesia
Indonesia is half a world away and threatened by right-wing Islam, rather than right-wing evangelical Christianity—but some of the patterns are eerily familiar.
According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, 2016 has marked a turning point in the country. “Beginning in January 2016,” the report said, “a series of anti-LGBT public comments by government officials grew into a cascade of threats and vitriol against LGBT Indonesians by state commissions, militant Islamists, and mainstream religious organizations. That outpouring of intolerance has resulted in proposals of laws which pose a serious long-term threat to the rights and safety of LGBT Indonesians.”
The severity and swiftness of the persecution . . . . is particularly surprising for Indonesia, which prides itself on its moderate form of Islam. In the past, anti-LGBT acts were largely confined to militant Islamists, even though anti-gay sentiment is widespread.
But this was different. Government officials have called for LGBT organizations to be banned from campuses and for LGBT people to be banned from holding office. One minister called being LGBT “a disease of the chromosome, and it should be treated.” . . . Meanwhile, a group of conservative law professors has filed a court case attempting to force the criminalization of same-sex sexual behavior. A paramilitary training program with 1.8 million participants declared homosexuality to be one of the nation’s enemies.
What’s behind the flareup? Activists say the abrupt shift in government rhetoric is “cower[ing] in the face of militant Islamists.” And indeed, the rightward drift in Indonesian political life—not entirely unlike that in Brazil—appears to be part of the reason for the change in official rhetoric, with the attendant consequences felt in the streets of Jakarta. Ironically, Indonesia’s relatively tolerant indigenous form of Islam is being supplanted by fundamentalist Islam brought in from outside—yet the Islamists claim to be protecting Indonesian culture.
3. Nigeria
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, with 173 million people. And in 2014, it passed one of Africa’s worst anti-gay laws, the so-called Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.
On paper, the SSMPA merely prohibits anything that could support same-sex marriage. In reality, however, it’s known as the “Jail the Gays Law” and has been used as a pretext for horrifying violence, state-sanctioned or state-tolerated, against LGBTs.
Nor was the SSMPA a backlash against the United States—or to same-sex marriage, which no one has advocated for in Nigeria. Rather, Christian LGBT activist Davis Mac-Iyalla told The Daily Beast, the real battle is religious in nature. African Anglican Church leaders, “tainted” by the Episcopal Church’s support for LGBT people, took a hard line in order not to seem more lenient than Muslims (Sharia governs 12 Nigerian states and punishes homosexuality by imprisonment, caning, or stoning).
“It is time the international community take a pause on its relationship with Nigeria,” Alimi said, “and demand a detailed evaluation of the Nigeria human rights record as it concerns LGBT people. The picture is more bleak than we imagined.”

While the husband and I are thankful for the good things in life that we enjoy, we also understand the precarious nature of our rights and safety.  Be thankful, but be prepared to fight and resist.  

In Anti-Gay Crackdown, Tanzania Suspends U.S.-Funded AIDS Programs

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency and the emboldening of Christofascists and haters in general that has been a key part of Trump's campaign has not just LGBT Americans terrified.  LGBT communities overseas, especially in Africa and Muslim nations are worried that the new regime will usher in an end to America's stance in support of LGBT rights and the decriminalizing of homosexuality.  Based on what is happening in Tanzania, such fears appear to be completely justified. For years American Christofascists have been exporting anti-gay extremism to developing nations and brainwashing the locals into believing that homosexuality is a colonial import to their countries when the truth is just the opposite.  Anti-gay beliefs and penal code provisions were imported to those nations by - you guessed it - Christian missionaries who were obsessed with imposing Victorian sexual mores on the inhabitants of their colonies.  As noted in many previous posts, wherever the missionaries went tolerance, if not full acceptance of homosexuality, was brutally stamped out, with those involved in same sex relations being executed and/or imprisoned.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the anti-gay jihad underway in Tanzania.  Here are highlights:
 East African nations have launched some of the world’s most vicious campaigns against gay men and women, outlawing same-sex liaisons and threatening punishments of years in jail.
But in a move that has alarmed health workers, Tanzania is turning its anti-homo­sexual fury in a new direction — targeting HIV/AIDS programs that have helped tame a disease that once ravaged the region.
Last month, the minister of health announced that Tanzania will ban HIV/AIDS outreach projects aimed at gay men, pending a review. That forced the closure, at least temporarily, of U.S.-funded programs that provide testing, condoms and medical care to gays. About 30 percent of gay men in Tanzania are HIV-positive; now health workers say that figure could rise.
Tanzania’s actions appear to mark the first time that a country has suspended parts of the United States’ hugely successful foreign HIV/AIDS initiative in an attempt to crack down on the gay community. 
The ban comes after months of bitter speeches and threats from Tanzanian officials aimed at the gay community and at organizations treating its HIV/AIDS patients. This year, police raided two U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS organizations and seized confidential patient information and supplies, officials said. In September, the deputy minister of health, Hamisi Kigwangalla, accused HIV treatment organizations of “promoting homosexuality.”
People convicted of same-sex liaisons in Tanzania can be jailed for up to 30 years.
The health minister, Ummy Mwalimu, explained in a statement last month that officials had suspended HIV/AIDS outreach programs for gay patients to review whether they promoted same-sex relationships.
“In the short term, there are people who won’t go to [health] service centers, and if they aren’t on antiretrovirals, what happens? It’s a major concern,” said Warren Naamara, a doctor who is the director of the U.N. program on HIV/AIDS in Tanzania, referring to the drugs that suppress the virus.
PEPFAR, or the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, launched by George W. Bush with bipartisan support, has become one of the most important U.S. assistance programs ever in Africa. Tanzania is an example of its success. Since 2002, the overall HIV/AIDS rate in the country has declined from 12 percent to 5 percent. The number of people receiving treatment has grown in the past five years from 289,000 to over 700,000.
But even as assistance programs have sharply reduced the death toll from AIDS, some countries in eastern Africa have been escalating their campaigns against homosexuality. . . . This year, a Kenyan high court ruled that “anal tests” aimed at determining people’s sexual orientation were legal.
[S]ince John Magufuli was elected president last year, the government’s tolerance on the issue has disintegrated. Although Magufuli has not said anything publicly about homosexuality, a number of his appointees have made harsh remarks. Critics of gay rights say this nation — which has large numbers of Muslims and Christians — must protect traditional values.
U.S. officials said they are hopeful that the outreach programs will soon be restored, noting that the health minister has said the government is considering which HIV services would be appropriate for the gay community. But members of that community are pessimistic.
“It’s clear that the government doesn’t care whether we live or die,” said one 22-year-old gay man who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of punishment.
The take away?  That religion - especially those of the Abrahamic tradition - are a pestilence on society.  The embrace of ignorance and hatred of others are the twin pillars of all three variations.  Judaism and Christianity devolve from myths written by ignorant unknown authors  while Islam traces to a man who nowadays would be permanently locked up in a psych ward.   Yet, we still give deference to these so-called faiths.  Why?  

Thanksgiving Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Eve Reflections

The dining area set for dinner with the husband and six friends tomorrow
Fourteen years ago I had my first Thanksgiving after I had come out and moved to an apartment from the family home.  While I had dinner on Thanksgiving with my late parents in their home in Virginia Beach along with some of my siblings, my children were not present and, truth be told, it was perhaps the worse Thanksgiving of my lifetime.  I knew very few people after having been abandoned by most of friends from the straight phase of my life and depression was my near constant companion.  Fast forward to today and I have the life I wanted back then but never expected to have: a loving husband, great relationships with my children and grandchildren, and an involved and active social life.

In contrast to that bleak and depressed Thanksgiving in 2002, tomorrow the husband I will host dinner for six friends and then afterward we will all go down the street to the home of neighbors for a "pie contest " - I baked a pie to take - with even more friends.  On Saturday, the daughters and grandchildren will come to the house.  I never could have envisioned the happiness and stability that I now have even though my therapist always lectured me that it would if only I would be patient and let go of the self-pity.

I don't mean to sound like I am bragging or self-satisfied.  Rather, my message to those coming out later in life as I did who may be experiencing the sadness and heartache I did, hang in there.  Time is on your side and in almost all cases your children, if you have them, will come around and support you and love you.  Let them know that you are there for them and always will be.  With time, they will figure it all out in time.  As far as rebuilding a social circle, that too can happen with time and effort.  Get involved in LGBT organizations, the arts, politics, or all of the foregoing and you will make new friends.  Some may even turn out to be some of the best friends you will ever have, It seems like an eternity at the time, but you too can move on and live a happy and authentic life.  Find some happiness this Thanksgiving.

As always, feel free to call or e-mail me if you feel the need.  I feel blessed to be able to help others on their journey.

Trump Taps Anti-LGBT Extremist to Head Department of Education

First we saw anti-black, anti-LBGT Jeff Sessions tapped by Donald Trump to be Attorney General of the United States.  Now, Trump  has tapped anti-LGBT extremist billionaire Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education.  Not only is DeVos stridently anti-LGBT rights, but she is a rabid supporter of school choice and school vouchers, a system that would drain funding from public schools and help fund schools run by Christofascist denominations.   Indeed, DeVos would happily do away with public schools all together. For those unfamiliar with DeVos, she and her husband have contributed huge sums of money to anti-LGBT and anti-public school causes. Meanwhile, neither DeVos nor any of her children have ever darkened the door of a public school, yet she is now to head the Department of Education which focuses - at least historically - on public education.   A piece at Joe My God looks at the DeVos family's anti-gay, anti-public school history.  Here are article highlights:

Her family is one of NOM’s most massive contributors. TheDetroit News reports:

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday said he intends to appoint West Michigan GOP mega donor and philanthropist Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary, putting an ardent supporter of school choice in charge of the nation’s education policy.
DeVos, 58, is seen as a national leader in the school choice movement, which she has called an attempt to “empower” parents to find good schools for their children, whether they be traditional public schools in other neighborhoods, charter schools, virtual schools or private institutions.
DeVos is a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman whose husband, Dick, unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006. The DeVos family, heirs to the Amway Corp. fortune, are the most prolific donors to the Michigan Republican Party, GOP officeholders and candidates.
From a 2012 ABC News story:

The Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation, financially supported by Amway president Doug DeVos, donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-gay marriage group that was one of the leading advocates against same-sex marriage initiatives in eight states. Because of that 2009 donation, gay rights activist are calling for a boycott of Ada, Mich.-based Amway, a health and beauty products company, and its affiliates including the Orlando Magic basketball team, which DeVos’ father and Amway co-founder Richard DeVos owns.

DeVos and her husband also donated $200,000 to Michigan’s ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage. 

The Michigan billionaire is a troubling choice, given her extreme history of supporting anti-LGBT causes and opposing efforts to bring fairness and equality to LGBT Americans. Between 2010 and 2013, the DeVos family and their various foundations have given millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups, including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Each of these organizations has fought vehemently against protecting LGBT students from discrimination and harassment. They have also lobbied for legislation to prohibit students from using the restroom that matches their gender identity; opposed rights for same sex parents; and are fighting to require education professionals – including teachers, counselors, therapists, administration and more – to out LGBT students to their parents, even if they are not ready.

An LGBT rights organization, Freedom for All Americans, had this to say about DeVos:

The Michigan billionaire is a troubling choice, given her extreme history of supporting anti-LGBT causes and opposing efforts to bring fairness and equality to LGBT Americans. Between 2010 and 2013, the DeVos family and their various foundations have given millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups, including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Each of these organizations has fought vehemently against protecting LGBT students from discrimination and harassment. They have also lobbied for legislation to prohibit students from using the restroom that matches their gender identity; opposed rights for same sex parents; and are fighting to require education professionals – including teachers, counselors, therapists, administration and more – to out LGBT students to their parents, even if they are not ready.

By the way, each of the groups cited above is a certified hate group.