Saturday, January 14, 2017

America's National Nightmare Begins

A piece in the Boston Globe provides a timely summary of where America finds itself less than a week from the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, a possible traitor who may have collaborated with a hostile foreign government to steal the presidential election for himself.  Adding to the cause for fear is Trump's clear intention to disregard the U. S. Constitution and the fact that the Republican controlled Congress could care less.  Rather than facing up to and taking action against the perhaps the greatest threat to the nation since the Civil War, Republicans have one fixation: repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act and depriving millions of Americans of health insurance coverage and triggering a crisis within the health care industry that literally could force hospitals to file for bankruptcy close.  If there is any positive glimmer it is that Trump voters will be disproportionately harmed by the policies of the Republicans they voted into office.  Here are column highlights:
I have spent much of my life reading and writing about American politics, but nothing I’ve seen before has prepared me for what happened this week. Increasingly, it feels as though the country is careening out of control and heading straight off a cliff — and nothing can slow it down.
In the past week, admittedly sketchy allegations emerged that the Russian government might have financial and/or personal information that could be used to blackmail President-elect Trump.
We’ve found out that the Trump campaign may have been in direct contact with the Russian government to throw the election to him. We’ve discovered that the FBI sought and eventually received a FISA warrant to look at phone calls allegedly related to this question.
We found out that the intelligence community found these claims credible enough that they brought them to the attention of both President Obama and Trump.
Information has been leaked that suggests Mike Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, phoned Russia’s ambassador the United States multiple times on the day that the Obama Administration announced sanctions against Russia for its efforts to undermine the US election.
If evidence emerges of collusion between Trump’s advisers and the Russian government, it would represent a potential constitutional crisis. That we are a week away from Trump’s inauguration and we don’t know the truth behind these allegations is terrifying.
As if this isn’t bad enough, we are also a week away from what will unambiguously be a constitutional crisis — namely Trump’s refusal to disentangle himself from his various business enterprises. It’s not an exaggeration to say that at the moment Trump takes the oath of office, he will be in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bans the president from taking gifts or payments from a foreign entity or individual. Since Trump does not believe that conflict of interest laws apply to him at all and that he’s under no obligation to ensure that he is not profiting from being president, he will take office under an ethical cloud that we’ve never seen in the 240-year history of the United States.
 Republicans in Congress are too busy pushing forward with a plan to repeal Obamacare and in the process, take health insurance away from 20-30 million Americans. They are doing this with minimal debate and with no effort to engage Democrats, the American people, or those who are at risk of losing insurance coverage. Worst of all, there is zero indication that Republicans fully appreciate the potentially catastrophic consequences of what they are preparing to do.
Meanwhile, the president-elect is giving press conferences in which he is bashing the news media for reporting stories he doesn’t like and branding it, falsely, as fake news. 
Taken all together, this confluence of events represents perhaps the most profound political crisis that this country has faced since Watergate. We have a president-elect fully prepared to violate the Constitution. We have allegations that his advisers might have worked directly with a foreign government to win the presidential election and who could also, potentially, be blackmailed by that same government. We have a Congress indifferent to these potential crises and focused instead on repealing legislation that will literally cause the premature deaths of thousands of Americans.
It’s almost hard to take all of this in. It’s a disorienting and surreal moment in our history and the worst part is that last week might have represented the calm before the true storm.

The Existential Threat Trump Poses to the Western Alliance

A piece in the New York Times lays out the threat Donald Trump poses to NATO and the Western Alliance that has maintained peace in Europe since 1945 as he insanely succumbs to Vladimir Putin's flattery - or perhaps more likely blackmail as further elaborated in a Washington Post piece.  What is frightening is that the always self-absorbed Trump is seemingly oblivious to the manner in which he is being played by Putin, a former head of the Soviet Union's KGB, an organization that specialized in assassinations, torture and, of course, blackmail and intimidation.  First these highlights from the Times column:
There’s a mood of confidence in Moscow bordering on triumphalism. Russia is dictating the grim outcome in Syria. It has annexed with impunity part of Ukraine and set limits on the country’s Westernizing ambitions. It has influenced through hacking the outcome of the American election. It has fostered the fracture of the European Union.
In addition, whether or not Donald Trump was ever lured into some Moscow honey trap (the oldest trick in town for Vladimir Putin’s intelligence services), Russia has reason to regard with satisfaction the coming presidency. Trump has called Putin “very smart” and “very much of a leader” (more than Obama); he has cheered on a British exit from the European Union; he has signaled deep skepticism of NATO; he has, in short, intimated that he may be ready to be complicit with Putin in the dismemberment of the Western alliance.
America’s European allies are in a state of high anxiety. For the first time in decades there seems to be a possibility that the White House will deal with Moscow at Europe’s expense.
No more important challenge awaits Trump than clarifying where he stands on Putin’s threat to the West. Hurtling into some macho love fest with Vlad based on the vague shared aim of smashing ISIS would be calamitous. Trump said that if Putin likes him, “That’s called an asset, not a liability.” Wrong. It’s a liability if Trump is so susceptible to being liked he forgets to be tough.
Trump must make clear soon after Jan. 20 that the United States stands by its NATO allies in the Baltics and that Article 5 of the NATO treaty guaranteeing collective defense is sacrosanct. Trump must leave no doubt that sanctions imposed on Russia for the annexation of Crimea and for interference in the American election will stand. He must warn Putin against attempts, in a reprise of the American operation, to sway the French and German elections through hacking and fake news.
Putin believes the way to restore Russia’s great power status is at the expense of an American-led order, particularly in Europe, but also in the Middle East,” William Burns, a former deputy secretary of state and the president of the Carnegie Endowment, told me. “Trump must recognize this without any illusions.”
I don’t know if he can. Dispensing with illusions means curtailing impulsiveness and the gut instincts that constitute Trump’s worldview, such as it is. Trump is drawn to Putin’s authoritarianism, toughness and embodiment of white Christian resolve against threatening (read Muslim) hordes. He needs to get over these inclinations fast and get on with defending the free world.
Trump’s approach to Russia is “a travesty” and has “raised more questions about our leadership than at any time since the 1920s,” Nicholas Burns, a Harvard professor, told me. More alpha-dog Trump-Putin connivance will endanger the world.
It is said that a century ago, Czar Nicholas II of Russia wrote in his diary, “The year 1916 was cursed; 1917 will surely be better!” Illusion is the mother of disaster, as Trump will learn if he does not change course on Russia.
For those, including Trump and his sycophants and propagandists who down play the likelihood that Russia has blackmail information on Trump, the Washington Post piece should be an eye opener. Here are highlights:
In 1999, Russia’s prosecutor general — the rough equivalent of a U.S. attorney general — vowed to investigate corruption allegations involving the family of then-President Boris Yeltsin.
Then a funny thing happened. Russian TV began showing grainy video footage of the prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, cavorting in the nude with two young women. Some observers expressed skepticism that the man in the video was actually Skuratov. But any doubts were put to rest by the head of Russia’s internal security service, who declared that his agency’s experts had confirmed the prosecutor’s identity. The man who made the statement was Vladimir Putin, and his words sealed Skuratov’s political fate. 
Blackmail exists everywhere, of course. But nowhere else has it become such a prominent part of political life as in post-Soviet Russia. . . . . Putin learned well. As president he soon cracked down on both the freelance spies and the journalists, but he never forgot his early lessons about the uses of kompromat, from the Russian for “compromising material.” Discrediting an enemy, he realized, can be far more effective than throwing them in jail, so the culture of kompromat has continued to thrive under his rule — though it’s now primarily deployed in the services of the Russian state.
A liberal political rival wants to be president? Have the evening news show an interview with members of a gay club singing his praises (a great way to discredit him in the eyes of a homophobic public). A billionaire oligarch challenges your power? Dig into his seamy financial dealings and share them with muckrakers. An elderly dissident criticizes you from the safety of British exile? Have your hackers covertly plant child pornography on his computer and notify the relevant authorities. As these examples show, kompromat is best viewed as a form of information warfare, sometimes true, sometimes not. More often it’s an artful mixture — all the better to intimidate and confuse.
Donald Trump actually seems to know all this quite well. . . . . If he knows the place so well, though, he must realize that, when it comes to the business of blackmail and intimidation, Russia is indeed in a class of its own. Only Moscow has transformed the principle of kompromat into a major component of its foreign policy. Europeans both East and West witness daily how the Kremlin deploys information against the people and institutions it wants to destroy or control. In places such as Sweden and the Czech Republic, Moscow operates dozens of websites purveying conspiracy theories and falsified news, all aimed at discrediting its myriad enemies. The Russian hand has made itself felt in the outcomes of last year’s British vote to leave the E.U. and a Dutch referendum on relations with Ukraine. No other country has been doing anything like this on a comparable scale.
The recipe in each case may differ, but the objective is always the same: to weaken Western institutions, such as NATO and the E.U., that are capable of offering a united front against Russian designs. This strategy should tell you everything you need to know about Putin’s plans and the nature of the system that he runs.
[W]hy does he [Trump] continue to preach the need for a friendlier relationship with Russia? Is a government that operates the way that Putin’s does — spreading lies in the shadows — really the one that you want as an ally? One can’t help but wonder.

I think the answer to this last question is that Putin has information on Trump and Trump knows this. The question then becomes one of how willing is Trump to throw the American people and America's allies under the bus to keep a lid on the blackmail materials Putin is holding?  Be very afraid. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Coming Trump/Pence War on LGBT Americans

As the previous post noted, the number of LGBT Americans is growing as is their acceptance by larger and larger portions of the general population.  Indeed, 68% of Americans now support same sex marriage or some form of legal recognition of same sex relationships.  The exception to this trend?  The Christofascist and falsely named "family values" organization, many of which are certified hate groups, and, of course, scamvangelists like Pat Robertson and similar carnival barkers who use religion to fleece the ignorant and gullible while enriching themselves.  Sadly, Mike Pence is himself one of these religious extremists and Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Fuhrer, sold his soul to the Christofascist leadership in exchange for evangelical support.  Trump is now keeping his bargain with these foul people by way of his cabinet nominees and legislation he has promised to support. Ben Carson displayed the war about to be launched against the LGBT community when he said he opposed "extra rights" for LGBT Americans.  Seemingly, in Carson addled mind, being treated equally and not being subjected to discrimination for which other demographics already enjoy have legal protections constitutes "extra rights."  Unfortunately, Carson is the norm among Trump's cabinet appointees.  LGBTQ Nation looks at Carson's disturbing view of LGBT citizens and taxpayers.  Here are excerpts:
Ben Carson was asked about his position on LGBT housing discrimination and said he opposed “extra rights” for LGBT people.
In confirmation hearings for the Housing and Urban Development Secretary-nominee  on Thursday, Senator Sherrod Brown pressed Carson on whether he believed the HUD had “a duty” to take actions to reduce anti-LGBT discrimination.
“Of course, I would enforce all the laws of the land,” Carson responded. “And I believe that all Americans regardless of any of the things that you mentioned should be protected by the law. What I have mentioned in the past is the fact that no one gets extra rights. Extra rights means you get to redefine everything for everybody else. That doesn’t seem very fair to me.”
Later, in response to a question from Senator Cortez Masto, Carson said he would “absolutely” protect the LGBTQ communinity from discrimination.
It is unclear what exactly Carson meant in his answer. There is no statutory law that prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and discrimination on the basis of gender identity is only actionable under the Fair Housing Act’s ban on sex-based discrimination. Discrimination is only prohibited by the HUD’s Equal Access Rule that bans discrimination in FHA-backed loans.
The term “extra rights” is also unclear in this context. Carson defined it as “to redefine everything for everybody else,” an apparent reference to same-sex marriage rights, which the HUD does not regulate.

The Growing Numbers of LGBT Americans

Click image to enlarge
While the Christofascist may have won the battle of the 2016 presidential election by putting Donald Trump, ironically, a morally bankrupt individual, in the White House, they continue to lose the larger cultural war, especially when it comes to the visibility and self-identification of LGBT individuals in American society.  Not only are the number of gays increasing in every state and across ever demographic of the population, but the acceleration of the phenomenon is increasing, especially among Millennials. And with increased LGBT visibility, experience has shown that growing visibility correlates with (i) growing societal acceptance, and (ii)  increases in those who have walked away from organized religion.  Indeed, white evangelical Christians are a shrinking portion of American society notwithstanding the Republican Party's never ending self prostitution to a demographic increasingly know for its hatred of others by a majority of Americans, certainly among  the younger generations.   

A new Gallup survey has a number of findings that religious extremists like Vice President elect Mike Pence will find alarming, not the least of which is that 7.3% of Millennials identify as LGBT. The Christofascist myth that gays are only 1-3% of the population is clearly wrong.  Personally, I have always believed that if the stigma manufactured by religion were to suddenly disappear, the true number of LGBT individuals in society might hit 10% or more of Americans.    Here are some survey highlights:
The portion of American adults identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) increased to 4.1% in 2016 from 3.5% in 2012. These figures, drawn from the largest representative sample of LGBT Americans collected in the U.S., imply that more than an estimated 10 million adults now identify as LGBT in the U.S. today, approximately 1.75 million more compared with 2012.
Millennials, defined here as those born between 1980 and 1998, drive virtually all of the increases observed in overall LGBT self-identification. The portion of that generation identifying as LGBT increased from 5.8% in 2012 to 7.3% in 2016. LGBT identification remained relatively stable over the five-year period at 3.2% among Generation X and declined slightly from 2.7% to 2.4% among baby boomers and from 1.8% to 1.4% among traditionalists.
Among racial and ethnic minorities, the largest increases since 2012 in LGBT identification occurred among Asians (3.5% to 4.9%) and Hispanics (4.3% to 5.4%). Among whites, the comparable figures are 3.2% to 3.6%. Black Americans showed only a slight increase from 4.4% to 4.6%, and among "other" racial and ethnic groups, the increase was from 6.0% to 6.3%.
While the portion of LGBT individuals decreases with income, all income groups saw similar increases in the proportion of adults identifying as LGBT.
The proportion of highly or moderately religious adults who identified as LGBT remained virtually the same between 2012 and 2016, but increased from 5.3% to 7.0% among those who are not religious. As a result, nonreligious adults are now more than three times more likely to identify as LGBT than those who are highly religious.
Self-identification as LGBT represents only one aspect of measuring sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, research shows that direct assessments of same-sex sexual behavior or attraction yield very different (and often larger) population estimates when compared with estimates of LGBT self-identification.
Gallup research shows that data security and confidentiality are not major concerns of millennials. This could be one factor that explains why they are so much more likely to identify as LGBT when compared with other generations. They are more comfortable than their older counterparts with the idea of sharing what some might consider private information on surveys.
Perhaps an even larger factor concerns the differences in social climate that existed when individuals were teenagers and young adults. This is when many LGBT people begin the process of coming out and sharing their sexual orientation and gender identity with others.
Since 1977, Gallup has asked Americans if they think that gay and lesbian relationships between consenting adults should be legal. In July 1986, just 32% supported legalization of same-sex relationships, marking a low point in that support in Gallup polling. By 1999, when the first millennials were becoming adults, half of Americans supported legalization and, as of May 2016, the figure had risen to 68%.
In a span of only five years, the demographic composition of Americans who identify as LGBT has markedly changed. It has become larger, younger, more female and less religious. These demographic traits are of interest to a wide range of constituencies.
Corporate America also increasingly views the LGBT community as a market for consumer products and services and actively courts its support.

As Christofascist in the Trump/Pence nightmare regime - e.g., Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Ben Carson - wage war on LGBT Americans, I expect the exodus from organized religion will accelerate and the contempt with which evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are viewed will correspondingly increase.  If we are lucky as a nation, the Trump/Pence nightmare will be white heterosexual fundamentalist Christians last hurrah and when looked back upon by history will, in fact, have been what ultimately killed fundamentalist Christianity as a political force.   The over reaching and hypocrisy of these people is about to be put on high display and will show that they care nothing about others and that their policies are the antithesis of the Gospel message. 

P.S., not sure what's going on with South Dakota, but 5% of the population identifying as LGBT was a surprise.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump's War on the Media and Reality

One of the first things that would be dictators do is to discredit and undermine the free press since it represents the greatest threat to their quest for power.  The ultimate goal is to eventually control the press and change reality in the minds of the public to fit the fake reality that the dictator wants to impose.  Frighteningly, Donald Trump has already begun this process as demonstrated by his repeated lies, constant attacks on any portions of the media not pumping out his propaganda and lies. One can only hope that while there is still time, the media will ferret out enough truth and facts to destroy Trump before he destroys American democracy.  Indeed, as Der Fuhrer increasingly shows himself as a threat to world order, perhaps allied nation intelligence services will find and release bombshell information that will force even traitorous and power mad Republicans to flee Trump. A piece in Vanity Fair looks at Trump's war on the media.  Here are highlights:
So, who won this week? So far, Donald Trump. During a press conference, his first since winning the election, he sounded entirely unruffled by BuzzFeed’s disclosure of unverified opposition research alleging ties between himself and Russia. Trump said that he was always hyper-aware of surveillance when he was traveling abroad and suggested that he would never do something as stupid as hiring local prostitutes to relieve themselves on the bed of a Moscow hotel suite—and he said it in a way that managed to make the charge look silly, as indeed it probably is. He openly insulted BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage” and insulted CNN as a purveyor of “fake news,” passing over its reporter Jim Acosta and telling him to be quiet when Acosta kept talking anyway. Trump also used the news of the hour to take attention off of what appeared to be inadequate measures to protect against conflicts of interest between his business and his new day job.
Trump is now as powerful as ever, and if you want to topple him, you’d better have your army in order. This is a good lesson and a bad lesson. It’s good because, if a truly scandalous story emerges, journalists have to do it properly. It’s bad because it feeds into what seems to be a tacit assumption that the criterion for journalism in the Trump administration will be its power to shake the foundations of the presidency.
Journalists also learned to withhold documents from the public unless the claims within them have been thoroughly investigated. This, again, is both a good lesson and bad lesson. It’s a good lesson, because nothing good can come of reputable publications trafficking in rumor and gossip as if they’re In Touch. But it’s a bad one, too, because journalists are also way too willing to hide their work, as if readers must be shielded from the bright light of primary sources. When BuzzFeed disclosed the document in full, ordinary readers got to see an ill-kept secret that had been circulating all through the halls of journalism and government. Regular Americans at this point deserved to see it, too, and they’re probably better off for it, even if BuzzFeed isn’t. Better lesson: when you make a call to disclose the raw evidence, try to give a detailed annotation on what we know and don’t, and don’t just toss out a facile line about doing it so that “Americans can make up their own minds about [the] allegations.”
All of this has been distracting from more important troubles, like Trump’s conflicts of interest or his more dubious nominees. Mike Pompeo is a genuinely disconcerting nominee for heading up the C.I.A., far too inclined, it seems, to overestimate threats. Ben Carson is almost certain to be bad news at H.U.D., not because of his convictions, but because of his lack of knowledge.
We learned, too, that holding Trump accountable will be very, very hard, and the blame for that rests with far more than just Trump. Mainstream journalists have been asking why they’ve been losing credibility with the public, often blaming right-wing media and fake news. Rarely considered is the possibility that we’ve lost the trust of readers because we’re not trustworthy. . . . Instead, the issue is just that the media increasingly sees only what it wants to see. . . . Much of the work of mainstream watchdogging will depend on buy-in from the right if it’s going to matter. That’s just the way of it.
Finally, we learned this week that the intelligence community may well be going to war with our incoming president. . . . . For the moment, our press outlets and our intelligence agencies seem to be mounting nothing organized, just running stray sorties. But if something more coordinated emerges, with the intelligence world joining forces with reporters to mount a serious effort to remove Trump from power, things could very ugly. It would also be very dangerous.

What LGBT Americans Need to Brace for Under Trump

Some in the news media have tried to depict Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Fuhrer, as the most gay-friendly Republican president-elect in history. Nothing could be more untrue.  First, the comparison sets an extremely low bar.  Remeber Ronald Reagan who did nothing to assist long time friend Rock Hudson as he was dying of AIDS?  The there was "Chimperator" George W. Bush who used anti-gay animus to rally the Christofascists to return him to the White House in 2004.  More importantly, the ridiculous statement ignores two things: (i) Trump's pick of the hysterically anti-gay Mike Pence as his running mate, and (ii) Trump's pact with the Christofascists last June which he is fulfilling by nomination for the most part extreme homophobes to his cabinet.  "Friends" who voted for Trump/Pence conveniently ignore these points and feign shock that members of the LGBT community are fearful for the future.  A piece in Keen News Source lays out what LGBT Americans may face during Der Fuhrer's first 100 days.  Here are highlights:
No matter what Trump might do as president to signal his unique level of comfort with LGBT people compared to his Republican conservative base, the departure of President Obama, indisputably the most pro-gay president in history, will stand in stark contrast to what many LGBT people fear will become an inevitable string of disappointing inactions (at best) and hostile attacks (at worst).
And the hopes for a better tomorrow for LGBT people –hopes that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made abundantly clear she supported – are replaced now with the uneasy feeling that anti-LGBT legislation will breeze through a Republican-dominated Congress and be signed as part of some “deal” President Trump might feel compelled to make to demonstrate his solidarity with his rabid right base and a certain admired foreign leader.
So, what exactly should the LGBT community be braced to see? Here’s a look at the most likely events in Trump’s first 100 days:
The Executive Branch:Contractor discrimination: President Obama signed an executive order in July 2014 that prohibits contractors doing business with the federal government from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It also added gender identity to a previously existing Executive Order 13087 that prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation. Trump could rescind both executive orders . . . .
Hospital Memorandum: President Obama issued a memorandum April 15, 2010, calling for an end to discrimination against LGBT people by hospital visitation policies that limit visitors to immediate family members. The directive applies to hospitals receiving federal funds through Medicare and Medicaid. Many same-sex couples now have the benefit of marriage to protect those visitation rights, but not all same-sex couples with close, long-term relationships do.
Education discrimination: In May 2016, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a “Dear Colleague” letter advising schools that discrimination against transgender students violates a federal law against sex discrimination. The Trump administration could issue a new letter with its own interpretation of the reach of Title IX. And Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, was a leading supporter of a 2004 ballot campaign against marriage equality in Michigan, and her family has given millions to anti-LGBT causes and groups.
Health discrimination: In May last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations stating that the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination in health coverage and care includes a prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity. The Trump HHS could issue its own interpretation of the ACA’s sex discrimination. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of HHS, Tom Price, has a long history of hostility toward the LGBT community. Plus Trump has already made clear that he would like to repeal the ACA.
The Republican-led Congress:Nullifying executive orders: Even if President Trump chooses not to rescind any of President Obama’s executive orders or memoranda, Congress could pass legislation to nullify any or all of them, and one Trump ally, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, predicted last month that Trump would rescind 70 percent of President Obama’s executive orders. So a Trump veto on such action by Congress seems unlikely.
First Amendment Defense Act: This bill was introduced to Congress shortly before the Supreme Court’s ruling that said state bans on marriage for same-sex couples are unconstitutional. The FADA is part of the effort to circumvent laws that prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples. It would allow a person or business discriminating against LGBT people to defend themselves by claiming the discrimination is an exercise of the person or business’s religious beliefs.
Johnson Amendment repeal: The Johnson Amendment is a law that ensures taxpayer money is not used to subsidize partisan political activity. Trump has said he wants the Johnson Amendment repealed because it prevents clergy from speaking about politics from the pulpit. A bill to repeal the Johnson Amendment was introduced January 3.
In the courts:The Supreme Court nominee: The most long-standing influence Trump could have on the LGBT community is through his choice or choices to fill U.S. Supreme Court seats. He released lists of potential nominees last year, and they all look decidedly conservative and some have a history of hostility toward equal rights for LGBT people. He will almost certainly announce his first choice within the first 100 days, to fill the seat vacated by the death of right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia last February. Replacing one right-wing justice with another right-wing justice may not tip the court’s balance, but it will re-establishes a necessary four-vote bloc needed to accept conservative appeals for review. And a second Trump opportunity to nominate a justice will almost certainly bend the arc of the moral universe at the high court away from justice for the LGBT community.
The North Carolina challenge: Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law HB2. . . . If confirmed by the Senate, it seems likely Sessions, with the support of Trump, will withdraw the U.S.’s lawsuit against the North Carolina law. It also seems likely the Trump DOJ will weigh in on the side of North Carolina should the Supreme Court eventually review the constitutionality of HB2 as other lawsuits against it continue. And similar bills are now proceeding through the Texas and Virginia legislatures.
The Title IX showdown: In the spring, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case, Gloucester v. Grimm, to decide whether Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination in schools should be read to include a prohibition on gender identity discrimination. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice supported the transgender student’s claim . . . . Under the Trump administration, a DOJ led by Sessions will almost certainly take sides with the Gloucester school district.

The Trump/Pence regime will likely be a continuing nightmare for LGBT Americans.  As for my "friends" who voted for this, they should not be surprised that I no longer trust them and will never feel the same level of friendship or affection for them.  True friends do not vote for those who seek to ruin your life and open the door to discrimination against.  The "I did not know" excuse gets nowhere with me.  15 minutes on the Internet would have revealed all of this.  I will not forgive such "friends" for the abject laziness.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tillerson Won't Say Whether "Gay Rights are Human Rights"

First we had Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions denying that LGBT Americans face discrimination.  Now, during his confirmation hearings, Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State nominee, won't admit that gay rights are human rights.  Yet "friends" who voted for Trump continue to be baffled as to why I remain upset with them and find being around them difficult. I truly wish that these individuals had to walk in the shoes of typical LGBT citizens who fear firing daily and other sorts of discrimination so that they could get their heads out of their asses.  Here are highlights from the Washington Blade:
President-elect Trump’s nominee for secretary of state on Wednesday declined to specifically say whether “gay rights are human rights.”
“American values don’t accommodate violence or discrimination against anyone,” said former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson in response to a question U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) asked during his confirmation hearing that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held.
Coons also asked Tillerson whether he believes the promotion of gay rights is “a piece of our human rights advocacy and agenda around the world.”
Tillerson did not specifically mention lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people.
Coons noted in his question that he previously met with a woman from Zimbabwe who received asylum in the U.S. because she was tortured “for who she was.” He also told Tillerson, who was a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s executive board when it voted to allow openly gay scouts into the organization in 2013, that he was “encouraged by his tough leadership moment.”
The promotion of LGBT and intersex rights abroad has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy during President Obama’s second term.
Tillerson on Wednesday did not say whether the Trump administration would continue the Obama administration’s policy. It also remains unclear whether the position of special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights will remain at the State Department.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

James Comey is Running Out of Excuses

Comey - Trump and Putin's accomplice?
If Donald Trump did collaborate with Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 presidential election, it increasingly looks like they had an accomplice" FBI director James Comey who broke long time precedent and floated a letter against Hillary Clinton just eleven days before  election day.  The letter turned out to have no basis - something likely known by Comey.  Meanwhile he was sitting on explosive information about Trump's possible collusion with Putin and the likelihood that Putin had information with which to blackmail Trump once he was in office.  If Comey wasn't an actual Russian agent, he surely gave a major assist to Putin plans to put his puppet in the White House.  As a column in the Washington Post notes, Comey is about of excuses for his actions harming Clinton while protecting Trump.  Here are column highlights:
The rash of stories on Donald Trump and Russia published Tuesday leave many questions unanswered. The allegations, as sensational as some are and as damning as others are, are just that: allegations. Intelligence agencies (not to mention countless news outlets) have sought to verify them for months now, with little or no success. Though it might be nice to imagine Trump’s presidency collapsing before it’s even begun, the fact remains that we know little more now than we did last week about Trump’s ties to Russia and whether Vladimir Putin’s government has compromising information on the president-elect. There is one thing we do know, though: FBI Director James Comey’s intervention in the election last October — controversial at the time — looks completely indefensible now.
A few hours before the explosive CNN and BuzzFeed reports landed on Tuesday, Comey was at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked the director whether the FBI has “investigated these reported relationships [between the Trump campaign and Russia]?” Comey replied, “I would never comment on investigations … in an open forum like this.” When Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) pressed Comey on the same question later in the hearing, he repeated that “especially in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation.” (King dryly replied, “The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot avoid.”)
So Comey understands that the FBI weighing in publicly on open investigations, when charges are still being proved, is unwise. Doing so puts those being investigated at the mercy of innuendo and rumor. Yet Comey ditched this rule when he notified Congress 11 days before the election that the FBI was looking into whether there were previously unrevealed emails from Hillary Clinton on a laptop belonging to her aide’s estranged husband. (It should also be noted that this followed months of anti-Clinton leaks from Rudy Giuliani’s friends in the FBI’s New York field office.)
Worse, the search warrant for the emails unsealed in December shows that, as The Post reported at the time, investigators “had no new evidence of actual wrongdoing” on Clinton’s part. Meanwhile, the Guardian reported Tuesday that the FBI thought the allegations of ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia credible enough that they sought a wiretap on four members of Trump’s team.
[W]hile Comey stayed silent about new accusations against Trump, he piped up about a big nothing-burger against Clinton.
Despite a second letter later clearing Clinton (again) of wrongdoing, the blow Comey’s letter struck against Clinton’s poll numbers is obvious, . . .
Comey’s behavior remains inexcusable. It is a shocking and disturbing double standard: staying silent on allegations against one candidate despite reams of new information, while reviving allegations against another candidate despite absolutely no new information.
It is unlikely that a Trump administration will punish Comey for this mistake. History, however, will not judge him so kindly.

BBC: Second Source Backs up Trump Russia Dossier

While Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Fuhrer and his sycophants and paid liars continue to whine that the dossiers released detailing Trump's ties to Russia and the blackmail information Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has on Trump is "fake news," the British Broadcasting Corporation ("BBC" says it has a second source that backs up the information released by CNN and BuzzFeed.   That is what The Week is reporting no doubt to the growing dismay of the non-brain dead Trump voters who may be starting to realize that they were conned by a possible traitor and his inner circle.  Suffice it to say, the U.S. intelligence agencies need to shift into high gear and verify the claims against Trump and, once verified, Trump and other participants needs to be indicted and prosecuted. Here are highlights from the story in The Week:
BBC correspondent Paul Wood came forward Wednesday to reveal that there are multiple intelligence sources alleging Russia is in possession of potentially embarrassing or compromising material regarding President-elect Donald Trump. Formerly, only a single source was known to have been aware of the alleged material.
"I saw the report, compiled by the former British intelligence officer, back in October," Wood said. "He is not, and this is the crucial thing, the only source for this.” The Wall Street Journal alleges the British source is Christopher Steele, a director of the London-based Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd.
A member of the U.S. intelligence community also told Wood that "at least one East European intelligence service was aware 'that the Russians had kompromat or compromising material on Mr. Trump,'" Raw Story reports. Wood said that he "got a message back" from the U.S. intelligence community member and that there is reportedly "more than one tape, not just video, but audio as well, on more than one date, in more than one place, in both Moscow and St. Petersburg."
BuzzFeed News has been heavily criticized for publishing the unsubstantiated intelligence in full Tuesday night, which alleges collusion between Trump and Russia as well as the existence of a tape that would be embarrassing for Trump were it to be released. CNN carried similar, but less detailed, allegations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday denied the reports and called them "an absolute fiction" and "a total bluff." Trump has called the reports "fake news" and dismissed all that has been alleged. .   
The number one priority of patriotic Americans must be to expose all of the information and either keep Trump from taking office or set the stage for his criminal prosecution as soon as possible. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

click image to enlarge

Trump Lies In Response to Russian Allegations

Throughout the presidential campaign fact checkers found that Donald Trump lied some 76% of the time.  Not that it seemed to matter to his low information, racists and bigotry motivated base of support. Now, confronted with information that Russia has potentially salacious blackmail information on Trump or even worse that Trump and/or his staff may be guilty of treason, Der Fuhrer does what he always does and says it is all "Fake News."   One can only hope that this time the news media and allied foreign intelligence services will ignore Trumps lies and go for the jugular and take the man down.  I find Mike Pence very frightening, but he might be a safer alternative in some ways than the narcissistic, megalomaniac Trump.  A piece in Politico looks at the growing firestorm that I hope consumes Trump and ends his presidency in its infancy.  If Pence is implicated, it would be all the sweeter as the GOP becomes the party of treason.  Here are article highlights:
Ten days before he’s sworn in as president, Donald Trump is facing a potential crisis amid reports that U.S. intelligence officials delivered a report to the president-elect last week outlining allegations that Russia could have compromising information about him.
Although the details of these revelations remain murky and unverified, their publication Tuesday night, on the eve of Trump’s first news conference since July, is upsetting any post-election honeymoon and forcing him to confront what is, at best, an uncomfortable public relations fiasco and potentially a new geopolitical pressure point that could cast a shadow on his incoming administration.
“FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT,” Trump tweeted at 8:19 p.m. Tuesday, more than two hours after the first reports began to surface.
On Tuesday evening, multiple reports attributed to anonymous sources contended that the nation’s four top intelligence chiefs informed President Barack Obama and Trump of allegations that Russia had collected compromising and tawdry personal information about the president-elect.
After the first report surfaced, BuzzFeed published the longer, unverified document that formed the basis of the two-page synopsis to the official report, which had been classified, that details the kompromat — a Russian term for compromising material — in graphic terms.
Trump, who survived a devastating scandal a month before the election after a tape surfaced of him bragging about his celebrity enabling him to get away with grabbing women's genitals, has had remarkable success pushing past controversies that would have sunk more conventional politicians and in counterpunching his adversaries.
But this situation is different — he's battling the nation's intelligence officers, not rival politicians. Now, it's not his campaign in turmoil but a nascent administration less than two weeks from inheriting the White House. And the stakes go beyond politics. With a matter of national security and geopolitical importance, Trump's uncanny ability to will his own, preferred alternative reality into being may meet its limits.
“I have no idea with Trump. You used to be able to say, ‘I think I know how this ends.’ But there's no way to know now,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist.
Neera Tanden, a longtime Clinton ally and the president of the Center for American Progress, said Tuesday evening the new allegations should be fully investigated.
“The intelligence dossier presents profoundly disturbing allegations; ones that should shake every American to the core,” she said in a statement.
The new allegations will provide fodder for critics hoping to block Trump’s planned realignment with Russia. The critics fear Trump could grant Moscow a freer hand in Syria, recognize Putin’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea, lift U.S. sanctions, and even call for a reduced NATO presence in Eastern Europe.
At a minimum, they are likely to make for uncomfortable moments at Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Several Russia hawks from both parties on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were already primed to grill Tillerson on his own relationship with Putin — with whom he struck massive energy deals as CEO of ExxonMobil — as well as Trump’s plans for U.S.-Russia policy.
While Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, was grinding through the first day of a long confirmation hearing, lawmakers in another hearing room were questioning Comey. Asked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) if his agency was currently investigating any possible contact between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, Comey demurred, saying he couldn’t comment on the nature of any current investigations.
Hours later, the reports detailing the addendum to the official report revealed allegations of an ongoing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government. 
Again, I hope the irresponsible press will this time smell blood in the water and go on a feeding frenzy that ultimately takes Trump down - and hopefully Pence with him.  

Did the Trump Campaign Coordinated with Russia to Steal the Presidency?

As yesterday's final post indicated, there appears to be growing evidence that while Republican elected officials at all levels were prostituting themselves to Donald Trump and his basket of deplorables base, at Vladimir Putin personal direction Russia was compiling it blackmail dossier to use against Trump once he was elected with Russian intervention.  But even worse, there is growing concern that the Trump campaign - and perhaps Trump himself - coordinated with Russian efforts to throw the election to Trump and undermine American democracy itself.  A piece in Politico looks at the reality of what some members of Congress are reluctantly in some case beginning to have to face.  Here are highlights:
Members of Congress made clear Tuesday they're increasingly willing to broach a taboo topic: possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Their emboldened approach comes amid a bombshell CNN report that intelligence officials last week presented Trump with alleged claims by Russian operatives that they have compromising information on the president-elect. According to CNN, Trump was also presented with allegations there was an "exchange of information" during the campaign between his surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.
Trump responded Tuesday night with an emphatic all-caps tweet: "FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!"
The subject is one lawmakers have largely avoided discussing since the presidential election, even as anti-Trump advocacy groups have sounded alarm bells about the president-elect.
But that changed Tuesday, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's meddling in November's election.
The hearing followed Friday's release of an unclassified version of an intelligence community investigation into Russia's interference in the election, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence operation to undermine Hillary Clinton and help Trump.
During the intelligence hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) noted the extensive ties between Trump advisers and the Russian government and pointed to an interview shortly after the election in which a top Russian diplomat said his government had had "contacts" with the Trump campaign.
Wyden then asked FBI Director James Comey, "Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships, and, if so, what are the agency's findings?"
Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, saying he could not comment publicly about such matters. His response raised some eyebrows among Democrats and led to a biting response from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): "The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot avoid, but I'll move on."
During his exchange with Comey, Wyden urged the FBI director to provide an unclassified answer to his question before Inauguration Day, saying the American people "have a right to know" whether the FBI is investigating possible ties between the Trump team and Russia.  "If it doesn't happen before January 20th," Wyden said, "I'm not sure it's going to happen."
And the intelligence panel's ranking member, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said the committee's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election should look specifically at possible coordination between the presidential campaigns and the Russian government.
"In my view, our committee investigation should focus on three broad areas," he said, before listing them: "The Russian hacking and release of stolen information; Russia's use of state-owned media and other means to amplify real and fake news to further their goal; and contact between the Russian government and its agents, and associates of any campaign and candidate."
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also discussed the possibility of an investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, suggesting that a probe might already be underway. . . . Graham said he does not know whether there's an active FBI investigation but made clear he wants a congressional investigation into every aspect of Russia's election meddling.
Since the election, lawmakers have largely sought to avoid making statements that would appear to question Trump’s legitimacy.
But during the campaign, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a letter to Comey, "it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government," urging Comey to make the information public.
Now, some anti-Trump groups are seeking to raise awareness about the Trump camp's ties to Russia.
"Whether Trump's pandering to Putin is a result of Trump's potential ties to Russian investors, impending business deals, or simply gratitude for Russia's hacking on his behalf — it's clear that Trump for some reason feels beholden to Putin," said the group's president, Jessica Mackler. "It's a disgrace that Republicans are capitulating to Trump and standing by Trump's attacks on the U.S. intelligence community and defense of Putin."
Until it is definitively proven otherwise, I will continue to believe that at best Trump is selling out America due to blackmail pressure from  Vladimir Putin.  Worse case, Trump could well be a full blown traitor.  If the later is true, I hope he is exposed, tried for treason and sentence accordingly.