Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

GOP's Issa: Special Prosecutor Needed for Trump-Russia Probe

As Der Trumpenführer steps up his attacks on the press for reporting on his campaign's possible collusion with Russia - treason by another name - and limits access to certain press outlets, GOP Congressman Darrell Issa (who I generally view as despicable) called for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation of Trump-Russia ties.  Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell has pushed to quash the appointment of  a special prosecutor in what can only be deemed an effort to hide the truth, so Issa's move cannot be welcomed by either Der Trumpenführer's regime or those in the GOP trying to keep the truth from the American Public.  Politico looks at this surprising move by Issa.  Here are excerpts:
A Republican congressman who aligned with President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign called Friday for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into Trump associates' contacts with Russia.
Rep. Darrell Issa said on HBO's "Real Time" that Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who Trump appointed as the nation's top law enforcement officer — should not handle the problem.
"You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee," the California Republican said in response to a question from host Bill Maher. "You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office to take — not just to recuse. You can't just give it to your deputy. That's another political appointee."
Issa emphasized that "there may or may not be fault" with Trump's associates but said Russian President Vladimir Putin's brutality toward political enemies highlighted the need for such a probe.
Issa supported Trump during the 2016 election, a fact that Democrats exploited in an attempt to topple Issa in his bid for a ninth term in the House. Issa prevailed by less than a percentage point, and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the district by a wide margin. That result immediately left Issa as a top Democratic target for 2018.
Trump personally vouched for Issa during his reelection bid, tweeting on Nov. 1 "@DarrellIssa is a very good man. Help him win his congressional seat in California."

Will Americans Submit to Despotism?

Far too few Americans know accurate history - of America itself, which has many ugly aspects, or of the larger world.  History is down played in public education and many feel that history has no relevant lessons.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  History tells of mistakes made in the past and offers lessons on how to avoid repeating past errors that have all too often led to horrors, including millions of needless deaths and immense suffering.  Sadly, supporters of Der Trumpenführer are either too ignorant or refuse to see frightening parallels between between events in the past and those now overtaking America that range from ceaseless attacks on the free press to  cynical scapegoating of minorities to using "protecting the people" to justify authoritarian behavior. Add to this the endless brainwashing coming from Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, and Breitbart and the scene is set for some Americans to clamor for a strong man dictator.  The question now is whether the majority of citizens will wake up and stop the dangerous trend.  A piece in Salon looks at what must be done to save American democracy.  Here are excerpts: 
President Donald Trump took his rancorous feud with the press to a frightening new level last week when he posted an inflammatory tweet that echoed tyrants of the past, calling the all-caps “FAKE NEWS” media “the enemy of the American People.”
As many were quick to point out, the phrase “enemy of the people” has a disturbing and violent history, and has long been used by totalitarian dictators to foster resentment and hatred of certain groups, and eventually to crush dissent and opposition. The infamous French revolutionary and Reign of Terror apologist Robespierre declared that the revolutionary government owed “nothing to the enemies of the people but death,” while the term was widely used in Stalinist Russia to single out dissidents, who were either imprisoned, executed or sent to the Gulag (in the end, almost all of the original Bolsheviks became “enemies of the people” during the great purge — which in reality meant enemies of Joseph Stalin).
Needless to say, the fact that President Trump thought it was appropriate to use this incendiary language on the free press — long considered the “bulwark of liberty” — is dangerous and alarming, and just the latest manifestation of the Trump administration’s authoritarian tendencies. Just one month into his term, the president has spent most of his time in public scapegoating and demonizing the free press, blatantly lying and espousing conspiracy theories that undermine faith in the electoral system and displaying his contempt for the idea of separation of powers and judicial review.
Trump has surrounded himself with sycophantic enablers and right-wing extremists who appear eager to advance his authoritarian agenda. One of these individuals is the president’s 31-year-old senior adviser, Stephen Miller, a weaselly young man who would be perfectly cast as a Star Wars villain. Last week, Miller made the almost cartoonish assertion that “our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”
Like the phrase “enemy of the people,” this is the kind of language used by party hacks in a totalitarian state, not a free and democratic society.
Not long ago this kind of rhetoric would have provoked outrage from both sides of the aisle and widespread disapproval from the populace. But today, in our hyper-partisan political landscape, many Americans have instead cheered Trump and his administration’s increasingly dictatorial and undemocratic behavior.
Shortly after the election, Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who recently said that we have “at most a year to defend the Republic,” wrote a chilling article in Slate narrating Adolf Hitler’s unexpected rise to power — without once saying his name — to draw parallels with our current historical situation, and to highlight how the German people quickly fell in line once Hitler had consolidated power and established his totalitarian regime.
One of the many brilliant Jewish intellectuals to flee from Germany after Hitler’s rise, philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm attempted to explain the shocking spread of totalitarianism in his lifetime with his influential and urgent 1941 book, “Escape from Freedom.” This classic investigation into the psychology of authoritarianism can help elucidate some of what is happening today.
Fromm’s powerful thesis:
If the economic, social and political conditions on which the whole process of human individuation depends, do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality … while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.
It is not hard to see this psychology at work in modern America, where economic inequality has grown rapidly over the past several decades, where livelihoods have been outsourced or automated and where communities have collapsed due to the forces of globalization and the technological revolution, leaving millions of people desperate and isolated. When these economic factors are combined with other factors, including the perceived dangers facing America (i.e., Islamic terrorism) — which are greatly inflated by the mass media and politicians — and cultural/social shifts over the past few decades, the victory of an authoritarian demagogue like Trump becomes less surprising . . .
The danger of the increasingly authoritarian Trump administration is heightened by the growing number of Americans who are now prepared to support a strongman if it means restoring, as it were, “primary ties” that once provided “security and a feeling of belonging and of being rooted somewhere.”
Seventy-five years ago Fromm argued that to counteract this dangerous drive toward authoritarianism, it was necessary to “expand the principle of government of the people, by the people, for the people, from the formal political to the economic sphere.” Democracy, he continued, “will triumph over the forces of nihilism only if it can imbue people with a faith … in life and in truth, and in freedom as the active and spontaneous realization of the individual self.”
Fromm advocated democratic socialism and believed that only a truly democratic society — politically and economically — could stop the dark clouds of despotism. Today, as President Trump rehashes the language of past tyrants, one can only hope that the desire for freedom will triumph over the urge to submit.

SCOTUS Slaps Anti-LGBTQ Groups for Misgendering Gavin Grimm

As I have said many times over the last decade and a half and longer, no one lies as consistently or viscous as the "godly Christians" and their "family values" organizations.  The truth, scientific and medial knowledge mean nothing to these people who are most motivated by hatred towards others and who seemingly only feel happy about themselves when attacking and denigrating others be it through spokesmen such as Tony Perkins of Family Research Council who has documented ties to racist and white supremacist groups to the briefs that these purported non-profit, "educational" organizations file in federal law suits where LGBT rights issues are at play.  Indeed, I still believe that some of the insane and vicious briefs filed by these groups in the Lawrence v. Texas case may have actually helped the LGBT cause because their were so vile, dishonest and unhinged.  Now, in G.G. v. Gloucester County, as Slate reports, we may be seeing a similar phenomenon where these groups have revealed the deep animus that motivates them.  The myth is that conservative Christians are kind and decent when in reality, they are not whatsoever. One can only hope the Supreme Court moves forward notwithstanding Der Trumpenfüher' effort to undermine the appeal from the 4th Circuit which had ruled in Grimm's favor. Here are article excerpts:
In March, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a case about transgender bathroom access. Gavin Grimm, the plaintiff—who has legally and medically transitioned from female to male—argues that under Title IX, his high school must let him use the men’s bathroom. The case has drawn a great deal of interest from both liberal and conservative advocacy groups, many of which have filed amicus briefs in support of either Grimm or his school. Three of these briefs caught my eye this week—one filed by Liberty Counsel, and two filed by the National Organization for Marriage together with the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. These briefs, which argue against Grimm’s right to use the men’s bathroom, identifies him this way in their front-page captions (emphasis mine):
But the Supreme Court, as well as all lower courts, identify him this way:
That slightly odd formulation reflects the formal way that federal courts style a juvenile litigant’s name. (Grimm is 17.) It also obviously necessitates a gendered pronoun use. Did these anti-LGBTQ groups misgender Grimm by mistake? I posed the question to Liberty Counsel on Wednesday, and the organization confirmed that it used a female pronoun because “Gavin Grimm is a biological girl who now says she subjectively ‘identifies’ as a ‘boy.’ ”
These groups may passionately believe that Grimm is a girl—but unfortunately for them, they aren’t entitled to change his gender in the caption of their amicus briefs. The court has very specific rules governing these briefs, and Rule 34 of the Rules of the Supreme Court requires that each brief “shall bear on its cover ... the caption of the case as appropriate in this Court.”
On Thursday, I asked the Supreme Court’s press office whether the clerk of the court considered the altered pronoun in the briefs’ captions to be “appropriate.” And on Friday, a spokeswoman for the court informed me that the clerk, Scott S. Harris, had sent out letters reprimanding the groups that misgendered Grimm and demanding that they comply with the rules moving forward. You can read the letters here and here
[This should] effectively disqualify these amicus briefs from serious consideration. By misgendering Grimm, these briefs clearly reflect the kind of animus that moved the school board to bar Grimm from the correct bathroom in the first place. The briefs reject the very validity of Grimm’s identity in a manner that is both offensive and petty. Indeed, these organizations are so eager to deny Grimm this basic dignity that they intentionally flouted the rules of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is difficult to imagine a justice citing anything these groups’ briefs say—even those who vote against Grimm. Liberty Counsel, NOM, and the CCJ have given the game away, revealing that while they claim to care about bathroom predators, they are really attempting to repudiate trans people’s identity.
And to think—they might’ve convinced a few justices to cite their bigoted illogic if they had only put aside their animus for a moment and followed the rules of the court.
Again, in my experience, especially in the political realm, conservative Christians have been afforded undeserved deference from the media and others who have fabricated the myth that these people are kind and decent.  They are not.  They willingly embrace ignorance, bigotry and hatred of others.
Millennials seem to have recognized this truth, hence the massive exodus of Millennials from organized religion, especially Christianity. 

Note: The husband and are personal friends wit Gavin Grimm and his amazing mother Dierdre Grimm.  Gavin is being honored on April 1, 2017. along with me at Equality Virginia's Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond, Virginia, where Governor McAuliffe is the keynote speaker.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, February 24, 2017

Life Expectancy is Increasing Except in the U.S.

America has the most expensive and least efficient healthcare system of any advanced nation.  On average Americans - at least those who can pay - pay two to three times more for heathcare notwithstanding Republican lies that the free market will lower costs.  History has shown, the opposite has been the case.  Now, even with Obamacare helping millions, the results are showing: life expectancy is increasing everywhere except in America.  The policies so extolled by the GOP simply aren't working.  The irony, of course, is that in many cases those most harmed by the GOP agenda voted Republican thanks to calls to racism and religious extremism.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this sad picture.  Here are highlights:
 Here's a rare bit of good news: People are living longer than ever.
According to a new Lancet study, life expectancy will jump across much of the industrialized world in the next two decades. By 2030, women in South Korea can, ahem, expect to live to 90, up from 84 in 2010. Women in France, Japan and Spain on average will hit at least 88 or 89 years, up from around 85. Men in South Korea, Australia and Switzerland will also see big gains, living to about 84 by 2030. Fellows from Canada, Spain, New Zealand and the Netherlands will also make gains.
But one country is stuck treading water: the United States. According to experts who studied 35 countries, Americans will see only a small boost. In 2010, average life expectancy for men here was 76. By 2030, they can expect to live just three more years. For women, life expectancy will jump just two years, from 81 in 2010 to 83 in 2030.
Researchers said our low performance is notable because “life expectancy at birth is already lower than most other high-income countries, and is projected to fall further behind such that its 2030 life expectancy at birth might be similar to the Czech Republic for men, and Croatia and Mexico for women.” It's worth noting, too, that the researchers only looked at data until 2013 — so they missed the unprecedented decline in life expectancy that hit two years later.
Experts attribute the lag to economic inequality, particularly when it comes to health care. The United States is one of the only industrialized nations without universal health care. “This means that some groups are getting left behind, and it’s pulling the average down,” James Bennett, a researcher in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Imperial College London, told Vox. Americans also suffer higher rates of death from alcohol, drug use and mental disorders. We also have high rates of obesity, homicide and infant mortality, which drags down our average.
Other countries with high projected life expectancy include Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Researchers credit their high-quality health care, along with low smoking and traffic accidents. France and Switzerland did well because they had some of the lowest rates of obesity.

Yes, America is exceptional alright, but not in a good way!

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The GOP Flimflam Game on Obamacare "Replacement"

Listening to lying Republicans like Paul Ryan one is told that with Obamacare repeal, Americans will again have the freedom to purchase healthcare insurance that fits their needs.  Missing, of course, is any acknowledgement that for millions, the costs of such coverage is prohibitive and millions would be forced to give up coverage.  Amnesia reigns in terms of the fact that the free market and supposed competition was NOT keeping costs down before the advent of Obamacare and that insurance companies gladly price gouged and raped consumers with out of sight and ever increasing premiums.  Paul Ryan's solution: tax credits that would allegedly allow Americans to buy insurance.  The problem is that such credits would be nowhere near adequate.  Case in point, the husband and I pay over $1,200.00 each and every month out of pocket for coverage (this equates to almost $15,000 per year).  Yes, we are older, so premiums are higher, but then we aren't even purchasing family coverage.  The point is, a tax credit would have to be massive to cover this cost and many people are age bracket do not have our combined income and the ability to pay the difference. Ryan's plan is hogwash as discussed in a column in the New York Times:
Across the country, Republicans have been facing crowds demanding to know how they will protect the 20 million Americans who gained health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and will lose it if the act is repealed. And after all that inveighing against the evils of Obamacare, it turns out that they’ve got nothing.
Instead, they’re talking about freedom — which these days is the real refuge of scoundrels.
Actually, many prominent Republicans haven’t even gotten to the point of trying to respond to criticism; they’re just whining about how mean their constituents are being, and invoking conspiracy theories. Talk about snowflakes who can dish it out but can’t take it!
But perhaps the saddest spectacle is that of Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, whom the media have for years portrayed as a serious, honest conservative, a deep thinker about how to reform America’s safety net. That reputation was never justified; still, even those of us who long ago recognized him as a flimflammer have been struck by his utter failure to rise to this occasion.
After years to prepare, Mr. Ryan finally unveiled what was supposedly the outline of a health care plan. It was basically a sick joke: flat tax credits, unrelated to income, that could be applied to the purchase of insurance.
These credits would be obviously inadequate for the lower- and even middle-income families that gained coverage under Obamacare, so it would cause a huge surge in the number of uninsured. Meanwhile, the affluent would receive a nice windfall. Funny how that seems to happen in every plan Mr. Ryan proposes.
That was last week. This week, perhaps realizing how flat his effort fell, he began tweeting about freedom, which he defined as “the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.” Give me consumer sovereignty or give me death! And Obamacare, he declared, is bad because it deprives Americans of that freedom by doing things like establishing minimum standards for insurance policies.
I very much doubt that this is going to fly, now that ordinary Americans are starting to realize just how devastating loss of coverage would be. But for the record, let me remind everyone what we’ve been saying for years: Any plan that makes essential care available to everyone has to involve some restriction of choice.
Suppose you want to make insurance available to people with pre-existing conditions. You can’t just forbid insurance companies to discriminate based on medical history; if you do that, healthy people won’t sign up until they get sick. So you have to mandate the purchase of insurance; and you have to provide subsidies to lower-income families so that they can afford the policies. The end result of this logic is … Obamacare.
So yes, Obamacare somewhat restricts choice — not because meddling bureaucrats want to run your life, but because some restrictions are necessary as part of a package that in many ways sets Americans free.
For health reform has been a hugely liberating experience for millions. It means that workers don’t have to fear that quitting a job with a large company will mean loss of health coverage, and that entrepreneurs don’t have to fear striking out on their own. It means that those 20 million people who gained coverage don’t have to fear financial ruin if they get sick — or unnecessary death if they can’t afford treatment. For there is no real question that Obamacare is saving tens of thousands of lives every year.
So why do Republicans hate Obamacare so much? . . . . No, mainly they hate Obamacare for two reasons: It demonstrates that the government can make people’s lives better, and it’s paid for in large part with taxes on the wealthy. Their overriding goal is to make those taxes go away. And if getting those taxes cut means that quite a few people end up dying, remember: freedom!

Ryan's hypocrisy and dishonesty is mind numbing.  Making it all worse are his claims of being a devout Catholic - even though every single one of his policies goes directly against the Church's social gospel.  Ryan ought to be excommunicated. 

White House Squeezed FBI to Drop Investigation of Trump/ Russia Ties

I make no bones about the fact that I despise Donald Trump and in my gut suspect that he and his campaign were in league with Russian intelligence in order to throw the election to Trump.  Trump supporters, of course, don't want to hear anything about possible treason by Trump, et al,  They'd rather close their ears and eyes and become complicit in treason rather than admit they were duped by Trump and/or lured by his white supremacist oriented campaign.  What is telling is the White House's efforts to shut down investigations into or disparage reports of Trump/Russia contacts and by extension, collusion to undermine the electoral proceeds.  If everything was above board and not illegal, why the efforts to suppress the investigations?  In short, it becomes critical that the truth be ferreted out and that any collusion with Russia be exposed and, if applicable, treason charges and trials, and appropriate sentencing go forward. Here are highlights from CNN on White House efforts to pressure the FBI to cover up Trump/Russia ties:
The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.
White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.
The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.
The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.
The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case but wouldn't say exactly what McCabe told Priebus.
Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories, according to sources, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.
The White House did issue its own denial, with Priebus calling The New York Times story "complete garbage."
CNN has previously reported that there was constant communication between high-level advisers to then-candidate Trump, Russian officials and other Russians known to US intelligence during the summer of 2016.
Several members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees tell CNN that the congressional investigations are continuing into those alleged Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, despite Priebus' assertion that there is nothing to those reports.
It is uncertain what the committees will eventually find and whether any of the information will ever be declassified and publicly released. But the push to investigate further shows that Capitol Hill is digging deeper into areas that may not be comfortable for the White House.
The Trump administration's efforts to press Comey run contrary to Justice Department procedure memos issued in 2007 and 2009 that limit direct communications on pending investigations between the White House and the FBI.
"Initial communications between the [Justice] Department and the White House concerning pending or contemplated criminal investigations or cases will involve only the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General, from the side of the Department, and the Counsel to the President, the Principal Deputy Counsel to the President, the President, or the Vice President from the side of the White House," reads the 2009 memo.
The memos say the communication should only happen when it is important for the President's duties and where appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.The effort to refute the CNN and New York Times stories came as increasing numbers of congressional members were voicing concern about Russia's efforts to influence individuals with ties to Trump.
On February 17, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held a briefing with Comey. It's unclear what was said, but senators suggested there was new information discussed about Russia.
"Every briefing we go through we gain new information," said Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, a member of the committee. Lankford declined to be more specific about the briefing.
Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the goal of his panel's inquiry is to follow "leads wherever they go even if they may be uncomfortable to Republicans."
"The American public will want to know if the President had personal or financial ties to the Russian government," Swalwell said.

White House: Expect "Greater Enforcement" of Recreational Marijuana Laws

As I have noted on this blog and in my VEER Magazine column, rigid enforcement of marijuana laws against recreational users costs Virginia (and other states) millions and millions of dollars each year.  Worse yet, a marijuana conviction leaves young offenders with permanent criminal records that make securing good paying jobs in the future difficult, if not impossible. And as a crowning glory, such laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities who not only are arrested more frequently but who often cannot afford legal counsel who can facilitate a lesser sentence.  In short, enforcement of such laws creates an underclass and permanently stigmatizes countless young individuals.  So what is Der Trumpenführer proposing?  A crack down and stepped enforcement of federal marijuana laws.  Funny how the issue of transgender rights should be left to the states, but not marijuana laws.  Oh, and meanwhile, Trump wants to revert back to the use of private, for profit prisons.  One cannot help but wonder if he owns stock in such operations.  Here are highlights from Time on this wrongheaded effort:
The Trump Administration will step up enforcement of federal laws on recreational marijuana in states where its use is legalized, the White House said Thursday.
Asked about the conflict between federal laws barring recreational marijuana and the handful of states that allow it, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Administration would change direction from the more permissive approach under President Obama.

"I do believe you'll see greater enforcement of it," Spicer told reporters Thursday during the White House briefing.
It would represent the latest policy shift from the Obama Administration, which declined to enforce federal laws in states that legalized weed, such as Colorado and Washington, as long as the states regulated the marketplace. As he prepared to leave office, former President Obama came out in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Spicer repeatedly linked the use of marijuana to the nationwide opioid abuse epidemic, suggesting without offering proof that marijuana is a gateway drug to more serious substances.

Earlier in the briefing, Spicer touted the president and the GOP's commitment to deferring to the states over the federal government on controversial issues.

“We are a states’ rights party," he said while discussing a reversal of Obama-era guidance on transgender student bathroom use.
Let's be clear, Spicer and his boss are a**holes.  Oh, and did I mention that marijuana convictions often disenfranchise the disproportionately number of blacks who are prosecuted?  It all fits nicely with Trump's white supremacist agenda. .

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Trump Effect: Significant Drop in Tourism to the United States

Among the many things that Der Trumpenführer claims he will do is bring back jobs to America. Like most of what the man says, the claim is untrue, especially in terms of coal industry jobs and manufacturing jobs.  And in one industry, the travel industry, Trump is undermining jobs and  could be the cause of job losses.  It seems that many foreign tourists have no desire to visit America given the hate, bigotry and discrimination that Der Trumpenführer have unleashed.  Frommers reports that there has been a "devastating drop" in tourism to the USA.  Indeed, the husband and I are headed to the UK in August to visit a much more LGBT welcoming country.   Here are highlights from travel experts at Frommers:
Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income.  It’s known as the “Trump Slump.” And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it. Thus, the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all. As far as travel by distinct religious groups, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% in the last week of January and first week of February, according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%.  A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.  
According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million.  Other observers, including local tourist offices, have reached similar conclusions. In referring to New York City’s $60 billion tourist industry alone, the head of the city’s tourist effort complained that his agency’s effort to portray the United States as a welcoming destination to foreign citizens “was all in jeopardy.” Several other tourist officials have made like statements. . . . .  there is plenty of evidence for a negative conclusion.  

As I have long said, hate and bigotry carry a heavy economic cost.  Given Virginia's heavy reliance on tourism, this is not welcomed news. One can only hope that Trump hotels are especially hard hit - a number of bankruptcy would be a form of divine justice.  Are you paying attention Rep. Scott Taylor?

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump is Losing His War with the Media

Thankfully, polls continue to show that Der Trumpenführer's popularity is continuing to drop like a stone and that his efforts to wage war on the media appear to be failing.  True, there is still a minority - probably Fox News viewers and Rush Limbaugh listeners - who cling to America's version of Emperor Palpatine, but the majority believe the media over a man who seems incapable of telling the truth.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the welcomed poll findings. Here are excerpts:
It's pretty clear what President Trump is doing by going after the media. He sees someone who is tough on him, with a lower approval rating, and he sets up a contrast. It's like making yourself look taller by standing next to a short person.
Except maybe it's not really working.
A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that while people may be broadly unhappy with the mainstream media, they still think it's more credible than Trump. The president regularly accuses the press of “fake news,” but people see more “fake news” coming out of his own mouth.
 The poll asked who registered voters “trust more to tell you the truth about important issues.” A majority — 52 percent — picked the media. Just 37 percent picked Trump. . . . . voters are even more critical of Trump's treatment of the media, with 61 percent disapproving and 35 percent approving.
Even 23 percent of Republicans say Trump is mistreating the media, and independents disapprove 59-35.
Trump called the media “the enemy of the American people” in a tweet Feb. 17, drawing widespread condemnation from journalists and defenders of the free press. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) even compared Trump's tactic to what dictators do to undermine it.
In addition, Trump may have gone a little too far by proclaiming the media the “enemy of the American people.” A 2013 Pew poll showed broad, bipartisan support for the media's role as a watchdog of politicians. Fully two-thirds of Republicans, Democrats and independents said the press keeps political leaders from doing things they shouldn't. 

Trump Regime Rescinds Protections for Transgender Students

When Donald Trump meet with a who's who of right wing Christian extremists in June of 2016, he made many promises in order to win the backing of these individuals and their organizations.  Among those promises were the rescission of transgender protections, passage of the First Amendment Defense Act that when passed will grant Christofascists the right to discriminate at will, and the rolling back of same sex marriage rights.  Yesterday, Trump - or as I call him, Der Trumpenführer - delivered on the first of those promises by rescinding Obama administration protections to transgender students and by extension transgender adults as well. To my "friends" who voted for Trump, all I can say is "I told you so" and that they are complicit in this act and in what will follow.  The blood of those who will choose suicide as discrimination increases is on their hands as much as Trumps and the less than "godly" Christians who sought these measures.  The one irony in this foul move was that even Betsy DeVos, a woman with a long history of funding anti-LGBT hatred, opposed the move.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on this triumph of hatred:
President Trump on Wednesday rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, overruling his own education secretary and placing his administration firmly in the middle of the culture wars that many Republicans have tried to leave behind.
In a joint letter, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.
The question of how to address the “bathroom debate,” as it has become known, opened a rift inside the Trump administration, pitting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions, who had been expected to move quickly to roll back the civil rights expansions put in place under his Democratic predecessors, wanted to act decisively because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation.
But Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.
Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.
Ms. DeVos’s unease was evident in a strongly worded statement she released on Wednesday night, in which she said she considered it a “moral obligation” for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment.
Gay rights supporters made their displeasure clear. Outside the White House, several hundred people protested the decision, chanting, “No hate, no fear, trans students are welcome here.”
Individual schools will remain free to let transgender students use the bathrooms with which they are most comfortable. And the effect of the administration’s decision will not be immediate because a federal court had already issued a nationwide injunction barring enforcement of the Obama order.
[I]t showed how Mr. Trump, who has taken a more permissive stance on gay rights and same-sex marriage than many of his fellow Republicans, is bowing to pressure from the religious right . . .
[S]upporters of transgender rights said the Trump administration was acting recklessly and cruelly. “The consequences of this decision will no doubt be heartbreaking,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “This isn’t a states’ rights issue; it’s a civil rights issue.”
While Wednesday’s order significantly rolls back transgender protections, it does include language stating that schools must protect transgender students from bullying, a provision Ms. DeVos asked for, one person with direct knowledge of the process said. . . . was said to have voiced her concern about the high rates of suicide among transgender students. In one 2016 study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, for instance, 30 percent reported a history of at least one suicide attempt.
Mr. Trump appears to have been swayed by conservatives in his administration who reminded him that he had promised during the campaign to leave the question of bathroom use to the states. . . . . Trump’s decisions in office have been consistently conservative on social issues. And he has shown considerable deference to the religious right, naming many religious conservatives to top cabinet posts and pledging to fight for religious freedom protections and restrictions on abortion.
The dispute has underscored the influence that Mr. Sessions, an early and ardent supporter of Mr. Trump, is likely to exercise over domestic policy. As someone who has a long record of opposing efforts to broaden federal protections on a range of matters under his purview — immigration, voting rights and gay rights, for example — he has moved quickly to set the Justice Department on a strikingly different course than his predecessors in the Obama administration.
Perhaps went contraception becomes illegal - a goal for many Christofascists - intellectually lazy Trump supporters who failed to educate themselves on what they were voting for will wake up and realize that by falling for Trump's racism and xenophobia they voted against their own interests, both economic and personal. 

Hypocrisy Filled Republicans Accuse Protesters of "Organizing"

Back when the Tea Party was organizing, Republicans thought it was great since the target of the venom was Democrats and progressive policies. Once the aim was shifted to incumbent Republicans, the GOP love affair for the Tea Party became something different.  Indeed, much of the GOP is now controlled by the very same Christofascists and white supremacists who used the Tea Party moniker to hide their real agenda.  Now that these same pitch fork carrying reactionaries control the Republican Party and have Der Trumpenführer as their anointed leader, suddenly organizing for political change is something abhorrent - at least if the organizers and protesters are liberals and progressives rather than right wing Christian extremists and would be KKK members and white nationalists.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the hypocrisy filled Republicans now decrying what they applauded when the insurgents were "conservatives."  Here are excerpts:Last night, congressional Republicans came home to rooms full of angry people. At town halls across the country, conservative lawmakers were protested, heckled, and shouted at. A few unfortunate souls were even asked to explain — in detail — the GOP plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act.
But Republicans aren’t worried. They’re onto liberals’ cute little game. They’ve realized that these so-called “protests” are, in truth, tactical demonstrations — planned, in advance — by people who want to bring about political change.
“The so-called March on Washington was actually, in numerous cases, planned out by civil-rights activists.”
And yet, this seems to be a genuine Republican talking point. Two days before Trump’s tweet, Texas senator John Cornyn shared a New York Post article that also tries to discredit the protests by claiming that they are strategically organized.
To be fair, “the protests are planned” is a considerably more honest line of attack than the “paid protesters” claim that preceded it. 
So, liberal activists are conscious of optics and, when possible, try to engineer an impression of widespread opposition via such nefarious tactics as “not all sitting together.”
It’s legitimate for conservative commentators and politicians to highlight these tactics. And, for many Republican House members, it’s probably true that town hall protests give a false impression of the scale of dissent in their red districts.
But there’s still a certain comedy to these complaints. The “training manual” Sperry stumbled upon has been proudly shared by Democrats and liberal activists over social media for months. The central charge of Sperry’s op-ed is that Organizing for Action is, in truth, an Obama-aligned front-group whose true purpose is … organizing for action.
Of course, the audiences at these town halls aren’t perfect representations of district-wide public opinion. And of course, professional political organizers are trying to channel liberal outrage in productive directions. This is how politics is practiced on both sides of the aisle. Earlier this month, the tea-party-aligned outside group FreedomWorks announced that it will be organizing rallies and town hall counter-protests in support of Obamacare repeal.
OFA’s “training manual” isn’t what’s unusual here. What’s unusual is the number of people eager to study it.  Activists do try to create an exaggerated impression of public support for their goals. But the more people they organize, the less hyperbolic that impression becomes.
The anti-Trump and anti-GOP protests need to continue to grow and make sure that Trump's approval numbers tank further and to insure the Congressional Republicans start worrying more about their own re-election prospects supporting the delusional, if not insane, standard bearer of their party.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

click image to enlarge

The Much Deserved Implosion of Milo Yiannopoulos

As noted on prior occasions, I have no use for Milo Yiannopoulos and other gay "conservatives" who, in my view, are most motivated by either greed, racism or internalized homophobia.  Indeed, some personal acquaintances who will remain unnamed could use some intense therapy sessions to deal with their unvoiced self-loathing and masochism.  A column in Slate looks at the rise and even more rapid implosion of Yiannopoulos who has learned a harsh lesson in the willingness of the right to use supposed gay conservatives only so long as it fits the agenda.  Then one is discarded like worthless trash.  Yiannopoulos should be a lesson to other gays who allow themselves to be cynically used by their actual enemies.  Here are column excerpts:
You can thank Steve Bannon, now a central figure in Donald Trump’s administration, for making the clownish hustler Milo Yiannopoulos a star. As the editor of Breitbart, Bannon recruited Yiannopoulos to the site, where he published columns like “No, J.C. Penney, Fat People Should Absolutely Hate Themselves” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” If Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person, Yiannopoulos is a Trump voter’s fantasy of a decadent gay sophisticate. His shtick is to wrap various shades of reaction—anti-feminism, racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims—in camp, to sell bigotry as cheeky provocation. He and co-author Allum Bokhari put it this way, in a Breitbart ode to the alt-right: “Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish ‘Shlomo Shekelburg’ to ‘Remove Kebab,’ an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide.”
Yiannopoulos uses his gayness to grant absolution to his mostly straight right-wing audiences, telling them that by reveling in prejudice, they are bravely flouting taboos. During the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, an at event billed as an America First Unity Rally, Yiannopoulos told a crowd full of bikers and Alex Jones acolytes: “I might be a dick-sucking faggot, but I fucking hate the left … the left in this country is a cancer that you need to eradicate.” As a gay man, he added, he aims to be “transgressive, to be naughty, to be mischievous. And today in America that means being right-wing.”
It turns out the right isn’t quite as enamored of transgression as Yiannopoulos thought. In the past few days, his career has imploded, thanks to old but previously little-noticed recordings in which he celebrates sex between teenage boys and adult men. In quick succession, Yiannopoulos’ invitation to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference was withdrawn, his $250,000 Simon and Schuster book contract was canceled, and on Tuesday afternoon, he resigned from Breitbart. Even Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term alt-right, now dismisses him.
Yiannopoulos, a sworn enemy of victim culture, reacted to his sudden fall by playing the victim card. “I’m a gay man and a child-abuse victim,” he said, at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in SoHo. . . . Over the next 30 minutes, Yiannopoulos apologized, deflected, complained about a political witch hunt, and tried to cast himself as a performer being held to an unfairly literal journalistic standard.
Yiannopoulos’ act was all about baiting liberals over free speech; he’d say something repulsive, the left would react, and conservatives could play the defenders of edgy self-expression. In the end, however, the right shut him down the second he made conservatives uncomfortable. Going forward, even if any right-wingers are willing to be associated with him, it will be hard for him to continue the fiction that conservatives are uniquely open-minded. That means he’s no use to them, or to anyone, really. Poor snowflake.