Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Male Beauty - Pt 2

Key West 2017 - Day 2

Our second day in Key West (yesterday) was great other than the four (4) hours I put in doing legal work/responding to office e-mails, text messages and phone calls.  The afternoon was spent by the pool at the Equator Resort, followed by cocktail hour pool side.  We had an early dinner at the Roof Top restaurant a few blocks from Mallory Square.  After dinner, we walked to Mallory Square for the ritual of watching the sun set (see photos above) before going to the Waterfront Playhouse to see the bawdy and very funny Avenue Q.

After the play, we braved the St. Patrick's Day madness of Duval Street and made our way the at new club behind Aqua that reportedly is a dance club.  It was a huge disappointment with so-so music and no one dancing.  After a quick drink - which we needed like a hole in the head - the husband and I walked back to the Equator and crashed. Today's wonderful events will be covered in a post tomorrow morning.

I absolutely love Key West and for those who have never visited, I recommend it highly!

Russians Bought $100 million in Trump South Florida Buildings

Der Trumpenführer continues to deny that he has financial ties to Russia, but a Reuters special report shows how vital Russian money has been to the success of Trump branded properties.  The report, which only looks at a handful of Trump properties - no review was done of New York properties - reveals nearly $100 million of Russian money poured into seven properties in South Florida.  If similar patterns extend to other Trump owned or branded properties, the role of Russian money in Trump's survival would be immense.  Trump's own son conceded to the New York Times in the past that Russian money had been crucial to several Trump projects in New York City.  While the money came ostensibly from wealthy individuals, one cannot help but wonder whether or not Vladimir Putin had a hand in encouraging such "investments."  Here are some report highlights:
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump downplayed his business ties with Russia. And since taking office as president, he has been even more emphatic.
“I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,” President Trump said at a news conference last month. “I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”
But in the United States, members of the Russian elite have invested in Trump buildings. A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.
People from the second and third tiers of Russian power have invested in the Trump buildings as well. One recently posted a photo of himself with the leader of a Russian motorcycle gang that was sanctioned by the United States for its alleged role in Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.
The tally of investors from Russia may be conservative. The analysis found that at least 703 – or about one-third – of the owners of the 2044 units in the seven Trump buildings are limited liability companies, or LLCs, which have the ability to hide the identity of a property’s true owner. And the nationality of many buyers could not be determined. Russian-Americans who did not use a Russian address or passport in their purchases were not included in the tally.
The review focused on Florida because the state has a large concentration of Trump-branded buildings, and determining the ownership of properties is easier there than in some other states.
Edgardo Defortuna, a leading Miami developer, estimated that Trump likely made between one percent and four percent in initial sale commissions, based on the standard fees paid on similarly branded projects. If so, Trump stood to reap a total of $20 million to $80 million in Sunny Isles.
Informed of the Reuters analysis of Trump’s Russian condo investors, two Democratic opponents of the president, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), renewed their calls for greater disclosure of his finances.
“While the president has denied having invested in Russia, he has said little or nothing about Russian investment in his businesses and properties in the United States or elsewhere,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “This should concern all Americans and is yet another reason why his refusal to release his tax returns should be met with considerable skepticism and concern.”
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Republican chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees, declined to comment.
Schiff, as well as two U.S. intelligence officials and one former senior law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Russian government sometimes directs funding at prominent individuals in the United States and Europe in hopes of improving their perception of Russia.
One wealthy Russian buyer was Alexander Yuzvik. . . . . From 2013 to 2016, Yuzvik was a senior executive at Spetstroi, a state-owned company that has carried out construction projects at military facilities.
The Spetstroi website says the firm was involved in construction projects at the Moscow training academy of the FSB, Russia’s primary civilian intelligence service and successor of the KGB. Spetstroi also did construction work in the administrative building of the general staff of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service.
If Trump has nothing to hide, he would release all of his tax returns.  Those who have nothing to hide do not act like they do.

Conservative Fantasies, Collide With Reality

Two pathological liars

As often is the case, in a New York Times column, Paul Krugman cuts to the core of the Republican Party's dysfunction: its core base lives in a fantasy world, as do so many of its elected officials.  Thanks to "news" outlets like Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, Breitbart, Drudge Report and a host of similar propaganda mills, the party base remains in a bubble and rails against government even as the morons of the base fail to grasp that their own reliance on Social Security, Medicare and a host of other programs constitutes reliance on government programs and what they condemn as handouts if benefits go to anyone else - especially those with darker skin color. The irony is especially stunning with older white voters who suck up Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid benefits like pigs at a trough.  And don't get me going on welfare benefits that are used by whites more than any other group in red states. The willful ignorance is dumbfounding.  Here are column highlights:
This week the Trump administration put out a budget blueprint — or more accurately, a “budget” blueprint. After all, real budgets detail where the money comes from and where it goes; this proclamation covers only around a third of federal spending, while saying nothing about revenues or projected deficits.
As the fiscal expert Stan Collender put it: “This is not a budget. It’s a Trump campaign press release masquerading as a government document.”
So what’s the point of the document? The administration presumably hopes that it will distract the public and the press from the ongoing debacle over health care. But it probably won’t. And in any case, this pseudo-budget embodies the same combination of meanspiritedness and fiscal fantasy that has turned the Republican effort to replace Obamacare into a train wreck.
In this vision, much if not most government spending is a complete waste, doing nobody any good. The same is true of government regulations. And to the extent to which spending does help anyone, it’s Those People — lazy, undeserving types who just so happen to be a bit, well, darker than Real Americans.
This was the kind of thinking — or, perhaps, “thinking” — that underlay President Trump’s promise to replace Obamacare with something “far less expensive and far better.” . . . . however, Republicans turn out to have no ideas about how to make the program cheaper other than eliminating health insurance for 24 million people (and making coverage worse, with higher out-of-pocket spending, for those who remain).
And basically the same story applies at a broader level. Consider federal spending as a whole: Outside defense it’s dominated by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — all programs that are crucial to tens of millions of Americans, many of them the white working-class voters who are the core of Trump support.
Given this reality, why are so many people opposed to “big government”?
Many have a distorted view of the numbers. . . . . Many also fail to connect their personal experience with public policy: Large numbers of Social Security and Medicare recipients believe that they make no use of any government social program. . . . politicians can often get away with running on promises of drastic spending cuts: Many, perhaps most voters don’t see how such cuts would affect their lives.
But what will happen if anti-big-government politicians find themselves in a position to put their agenda into practice? Voters will quickly get a lesson in what slashing spending really means — and they won’t be happy.
[T]he reality is that the proposed cuts would have ugly, highly visible effects. Zeroing out the Community Development Block Grant program may sound good if you have no idea what it does (which Mr. Trump surely doesn’t); eliminating Meals on Wheels, an immediate consequence, not so much. Nor would coal country, which voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, like the consequences if he eliminates the Appalachian Regional Commission. 
Wait, there’s more. Effectively disemboweling the Environmental Protection Agency may sound smart if you imagine that it’s just a bunch of meddling bureaucrats. But the public wants stronger, not weaker, environmental protection, and would not be pleased to see a sharp deterioration in air and water quality.
The point is that Mr. Trump’s attempt to change the subject away from his party’s health care quagmire isn’t going to work, and not just because this supposed budget literally isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. At a more fundamental level, it doesn’t even change the subject.
 As a one time Republican activist, the party has sadly become a gathering of ignoramuses, racists, religious extremists and misogynists.  My Republican ancestors would be embarrassed to be affiliated with such people, many of who my southern belle grandmother would have viewed as "white trash.".

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, March 17, 2017

“Christian Advocate” , FRC Celebrates Budget Cuts Harming the Poor

While there are many faces to the Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians who preach a foul belief system that is the antithesis of the true Gospel message, one that wraps them all in one hideous hate filled package is Family Research Council (which has ties to The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group) and its white supremacist loving president, Tony Perkins.  If one needs a motivation to walk away form Christianity, Perkins and FRC are prime examples, although there are many others, including FRC affiliates scattered across America.  Franklin Graham is another reason to walk away.  In response to Der Trumpenführer proposed budget that would devastate programs for the poor and working class Americans,  In a press release, hate minister Perkins praised the brutal budget.  Here are excerpts:
There’s a new sheriff in town, and the White House’s budget proves it with deep cuts to some of the government’s bloated spending. Although the proposal is more of an exercise in vision-casting, plenty of Republicans would be happy to take Trump’s pared down projects seriously. To the cheers of fiscal hawks, the administration suggests cutting the EPA by 31 percent and the State Department by a similar amount.
A longer list of programs like community development block grants, the Weatherization Assistance Program, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program would be cut 100 percent. Included in that bunch are two longtime targets of the GOP: the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The latter, home to the Left’s pet media outlets NPR and PBS, would finally lose the crutch of millions of taxpayer dollars.
President Trump boosted funding, along with a dramatic shift in favor of school choice programs. While he slashes $9.2 billion from the Department of Education overall, he makes good on his campaign promise to expand charter schools and vouchers by 50 percent.
When the administration fills in the blanks of the budget later this month, we’ll also see if the White House rewards sexual risk avoidance programs with a bump in abstinence education dollars.
As Joe Jervis notes, The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Plan provides up to $300 to year to help poor families pay their heating and utility bills during the winter months. But who needs heat or electricity when you’ve got White Jesus to keep you warm?

Note the boost in school vouchers that will benefit segregated "Christian" schools and shift funds from public schools.  Note that Perkins wants to boost funding for abstinence only sex ed which has been documented to fail horrifically.  I also suspect such "education" programs would include a heavy dose of anti-LGBT propaganda as well not to mention cuts in HIV/AIDS funding which FRC likely views as a means to kill off gays and many in the black community where HIV/AIDS is a huge heterosexual crisis..  

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump's America: Dumber, Dirtier, Sicker and More Destitute

click image to enlarge
In keeping with the Republican Party's goal of restoring the worse aspects of the Gilded Age, Der Trumpenführer's proposed budget slashes budgets for programs that aid the less fortunate - even Meals on Wheels would be eliminated - and cut education spending while pouring money into the military.  The Washington Post described the budget as follows:
President Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad. . . . . would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.
It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The Hill list some of the programs to be cut and the only redeeming factor - if one is a cynic and believe that actions need to have consequences - is that many Trump voters will be severely hurt by the proposals, underscoring the dangers of voting based on calls to racism, religious extremism and general misogyny.   Here are a dew of the programs:
The Appalachian Regional Commission, which funds projects meant to bolster businesses, education, culture, and economic development in Appalachia.
The Chemical Safety Board, which investigates accidents in the chemical industry and makes safety recommendations.
The Denali Commission, which supports utilities and infrastructure in Alaska.
 The Legal Services Corporation, which provides civil legal aid for low-income Americans.
 The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, which funds community development project throughout the U.S.
The Northern Border Regional Commission, which supports economic development in poor areas near the Canadian border.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates efforts to fight homelessness among nearly 20 federal agencies.

Add these to the assault on the EPA, allowing coal mining wastes to be dump into rivers and streams, and the proposed curtailments to Medicaid and the message to poorer Americans is just go ahead and die.  The thing to remember through all of this is that the GOP claims to be the party of "Christian values."  The fact that 81% of evangelicals voted for this underscores the reality that conservative Christianity is toxic to the general welfare.  A column in the Washington Post aptly describes Der Trumpenführer's concept of "Making America Great Again."  Here are excerpts:
President Trump’s first budget is an attempt to reshape the federal government in his own image — crass, bellicose, shortsighted, unserious and ultimately hollow.
The reality is that if Congress were to accept these numbers — which it can’t possibly do — America would be made dumber, dirtier, hungrier and sicker. That may be Trump’s idea of greatness, but it’s certainly not mine.
Would we at least be safer? I doubt it. Trump wants to boost defense spending by $54 billion, or about 9 percent. But at the same time, he proposes cutting funding for the State Department by an incredible 28 percent, slashing the relatively modest hands-across-the-sea assistance and advice the United States gives to other nations. Most of the generals and admirals I know believe in projecting U.S. strength through soft power as well as hard power. Trump apparently disagrees.
[T]he proposal to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent can only be seen as a first step toward dismemberment. “The president wants a smaller EPA,” Mulvaney explained. “He thinks they overreach.”
Trump wants to eliminate more than 3,200 EPA jobs, representing more than 20 percent of the workforce. It was a Republican president, Richard Nixon, who founded the agency, and it is another Republican president who apparently wants to end the federal government’s role in protecting the environment. It is perhaps no surprise that Trump wants to end EPA programs and regulations aimed at halting global warming, since he has ventured the opinion that climate change is a Chinese hoax; NASA programs to study warming would be cut as well. But the budget would also eliminate federal funding for efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. Make America’s Water Dirty Again!
The National Institutes of Health would suffer a 19 percent cut, sharply reducing the amount of federal money available for research grants to universities.
There’s barely a peep in Trump’s budget about Medicare or Medicaid. Given the angry reaction to the Republican health-care plan, Trump must have decided — for once — that silence was the best choice.

Key West 2017 - Day 1

Our flights yesterday were both on time and we actually landed in Key West 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  The weather was great and we enjoyed the afternoon poolside at The Equator.  As usual, the other guests are from all over the USA, plus there is a couple from just outside of Paris, France. Our room is great and the guest house now has a full service bar in addition to its 5:00 pm happy hour.  

The downside, as is the case with all of our vacations, is that I NEVER escape work.  I had to field a dozen client calls and reviewed all office e-mails and dealt with documents until almost 3:00 pm, with half the afternoon shot.  That said, a couple of passion fruit daiquiris made things better. 

We dined at a great restaurant with a gorgeous waiter from Serbia and then window shopped on Duval Street.  The weather this morning is great and at 10:00 am I am finally done with work matters for now. Photos of our escapades will be posted as the trip progresses.

Friday Morning Male Beauty -Pt 1

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wave of Vandalism, Violence Hits LGBT Centers

While "friends" who voted for Der Trumpenführer continue to deny any responsibility for the rising tide of hate and intimidation that his campaign and election have ushered in, the sad reality is that threats against synagogues. Jewish community centers, mosques, and LGBT centers have sky rocketed.  Even in gay-friendly Key West a visiting Trump supporter attacked a gay couple on Duval Street.  Thankfully, he was arrested in his hometown in North Carolina, but many perpetrators are getting away with their acts of hate and violence.   Operating hand in glove with the violence are a slew of GOP sponsored anti-LGBT bills being introduced in legislatures across the nation. NBC News looks at the troubling attacks and threats.  Here are highlights:
When Ruby Corado arrived at her office on Sunday, she found broken glass everywhere, a door ripped off its frame and a shaken staffer.
Corado told NBC News a man had burst into Casa Ruby — the Washington, D.C. drop-in center and advocacy organization for transgender women she founded in 2004 — and demolished a door and physically attacked a trans woman working at the center.
"He grabbed something and threw it at her. It hit her on the arm. Then [he] walked toward her and said, 'I'm gonna kill you, faggot,'" Corado said. "Everyone was trying to control him. He goes to the door and leaves, then a brick comes flying through the door from the outside."
This is the third time in just two weeks that men have come to Casa Ruby to harass and attack the transgender women that meet there for support and companionship. And D.C. is not the only city to see its local LGBTQ community center hit by violence or vandalism in recent weeks.
In February and March, a spate of hate incidents occurred at LGBTQ community centers and similar venues across the nation, in a trend that has gone underreported.
When Ruby Corado arrived at her office on Sunday, she found broken glass everywhere, a door ripped off its frame and a shaken staffer.
Corado told NBC News a man had burst into Casa Ruby — the Washington, D.C. drop-in center and advocacy organization for transgender women she founded in 2004 — and demolished a door and physically attacked a trans woman working at the center.
 Casa Ruby, located in Washington, D.C., was vandalized and a staff member assaulted two days after Mayor Muriel Bowser reported a 100 percent increase in hate crimes against the transgender community.
On March 6, a drive-by shooting targeted the Tulsa, Oklahoma headquarters of Oklahomans for Equality. The very next day, a man entered the center harassing and threatening staff, reportedly saying "I wish you all would die." The center's executive director, Toby Jenkins, told The Tulsa World it was the most serious incident he'd seen in 12 years.
LGBTQ community centers in Los Angeles and Milwaukee were hit with hate graffiti in February, with workers in L.A. arriving to see "F**k Trannies" spray-painted across the walls. Milwaukee's Diverse & Resilient center was covered in paint reading "Fag."
Churchgoers in New Orleans were startled on Sunday morning when a brick flew through a stained-glass window. Members of the LGBTQ-affirming First Unitarian Church had held a widely publicized town hall on anti-transgender violence less than 48 hours prior to the attack. Rev. Deanna Vandiver told The Times-Picayune the town hall may have "stirred up hate mongering."
The offices of New Jersey's Garden State Equality and Orlando's Equality Florida were both vandalized about a week apart. On February 24, someone smashed the windows at Equality Florida, and two men kicked at the front door of Garden State Equality until it shattered on March 4.
Last Wednesday, police arrested an Indiana man they said threatened to carry out a Pulse-style shooting at a local gay bar.
New York's Anti-Violence Project (AVP) cited a "surge" of hate violence and incidents since the 2016 election, tying together recent threats called into Jewish community centers with the attacks on LGBTQ spaces.
AVP Communications Director Sue Yacka told NBC News she sees a connection between direct attacks on LGBTQ community venues and the more than 100 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation that have been proposed in just the first few weeks of 2017.
"It's a message that we shouldn't be in public, that we should be hidden away, that we should hide our identities," Yacka said. "You use legislation and intimidation and violence to make this happen, to try and make people go away. But we are not going away."

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Key West Bound - 2017 Annual Pilgimage

Click image to enlarge
Posting may be reduced today as the husband and I head down to Key West for our annual pilgrimage so to speak.  We will once again be staying at The Equator on Fleming Street in Old Town - just a few blocks from The Island House.  This will be my ninth trip with the husband to one of our favorite get away destinations.  Added is fun comes from the fact that (i) two friends from Hampton will be traveling down to stay at The Equator, (ii) friends from Washington, DC, will be down for part of the time that we are there., (iii) former neighbors live in Key West, and (iv) one of the husband's clients who winters in the Keys will join us on Saturday for our annual lunch at Lattitudes on Sunset Key (pictured above).  

On the home front, a friend from the Hampton Yacht Club will be staying at the house to house sit and care for the two Chihuahuas while we are away.  As always, I will post about our visit to this island paradise. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump in Lindsey Graham's Cross Hairs in Russia Probe

I have often been less than kind to Sen. Lindsey Graham who I often refer to as the "Palmetto Queen" given the wide suspicions that Graham is a closeted gay.  Despite such criticisms, unlike so many in the Republican Party, there are moments where Graham puts America ahead of the GOP and actually seems to care about the nation and its citizens.  We may get to see this loyalty to nation over loyalty to party as the Senate investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election - and possible Trump/Putin collusion - gets underway.  I continue to believe that Trump has dirty secrets that he doesn't want revealed.  The man has always seen himself above the law and, as a man suffering from malignant narcissism, thinks that anything that furthers his interests and/or inflated ego is perfectly acceptable.  Thus, it is no stretch to see him colluding with a hostile foreign power and a dictator he longs to emulate.  Highlights from Politico look at the likely coming clash between Der Trumpenführer and Graham:
Lindsey Graham lacks the resources and access that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have to investigate Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.  But his Senate Judiciary subcommittee has something the intelligence panels don’t: a Republican chairman viewed not as a Donald Trump ally but as a fierce critic, who has no qualms with bucking party leaders to unravel the mystery of Russia’s interference in the election.
Graham and his Democratic partner, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, will seize the spotlight Wednesday during a public hearing on Russia’s election interference, to be held by Graham’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, which has jurisdiction over the FBI.
Graham and Whitehouse plan to use their perch to help ensure the public gets a full accounting of Russia’s intrusion and any possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
The bipartisan duo already has its first target: getting the FBI to clear up Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in the run-up to the 2016 election. They sent a letter last week to the Justice Department asking it to turn over information that would confirm or refute Trump’s accusation — including warrant applications and court orders. The House Intelligence Committee is seeking the same information and so far neither has been unable to shake it loose.
Graham suggested Tuesday there would be consequences if the FBI continues stonewalling Congress — and said he plans to make an announcement at the start of the hearing on Wednesday warning the bureau to comply.
“If they don't honor this request and give us an answer, then I would say that we need a joint select committee because the regular order is not working,” Graham told reporters. “They’re about to screw up big time if they keep running to the Intel Committee and not answer that letter.”
Whitehouse appears more optimistic that he and Graham will get answers. In an interview with POLITICO, he said the senators got some clarity on the FBI probe after meeting with Comey privately earlier this month . . . . “I think he implicitly confirmed that they are looking at this and he said he’d get us a clearer explanation by [the Wednesday hearing]. That was satisfactory to both of us.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated Tuesday he would not object if Graham’s panel decides to issue subpoenas to force the FBI to turn over the requested information.
In an interview, Whitehouse said there are key advantages to his joint investigation with Graham, more limited though it may be. For one, their subcommittee can operate in public, freed from the constraints of dealing with classified information. And the scope of their investigation is broader than it may appear at first blush, considering the FBI’s central role in federal probes looking into Russian connections.
“I do think it’s important that there be a public effort so that people can understand that Congress is in fact doing its job, and there is a forum where an investigation or information that can be discussed publicly has its day,” Whitehouse said. “We have oversight over the FBI and the FBI is all over this. So wherever they can go, we can go.”
The South Carolina senator has emerged as one of Trump’s top GOP critics on Capitol Hill, along with his close friend, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.). . . . Graham is not up for reelection again until 2020, so he has no need to fear a primary challenge any time soon.
“I know that these kinds of — if the word is right, scandal — these kinds of investigations always lead to more information,” McCain said. “I just think there are more questions out there that haven't been answered.

 As the investigation proceeds, one can expect crazy statements/behavior from Trump as he tries to change the subject and distract the media.  I hope Graham stays on target and takes down Trump - and many in the GOP potentially who have tried to protect his foul regime. 

Gutting Healthcare for the Poor to Give Tax Breaks for the Rich

Unlike Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, I no longer belong to the Catholic Church and make no claims about my religiosity and loyalty to the Church - even as Ryan backs policies opposed to both the Gospel message and the Church's social gospel teachings.  I'd go even further and say that I don't even like to be called a Christian because of the negative connotations that term now carries thanks to the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians and their hate and bigotry fueled beliefs.  Yet I can recognize the moral bankruptcy of the GOP healthcare "reform" plan that will deprive millions of health insurance coverage in order to fund massive tax cuts to corporations and the most wealthy individuals.  Paul Ryan's "freedom to choose" coverage is simply a total lie since millions will have no choice and no financial ability to purchase coverage, including the elderly.  Both Ryan and his plan are despicable.  Here are highlights from a piece in The Atlantic:
If the terminology of Republican Medicaid policy—“per-capita caps,” “block grants,” “inflation targets”—seems a bit arcane, Monday’s release of the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the GOP’s repeal-and-replace bill makes it pretty simple: The current health-care proposal is about rationing care to fund tax cuts for the U.S.’s highest earners.
In the past, accusations of care-rationing have been a favorite attack on the Affordable Care Act by Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Yet Republican efforts to cap and cut Medicaid make pretty clear that the strategy is to pay for tax cuts that largely benefit the highest earners by forcing governors to become rationers-in-chief—making painful choices regarding how to best ration or deny health care to those in nursing homes, with disabilities, and/or near the poverty line (and that’s in addition to the 14 million Americans who are projected to be completely denied Medicaid coverage over the next decade under the Republican proposal).
[T]he current Republican bill would lead to painful limits on treatment that would “force states to ration care and deny some Americans lifesaving treatments or nursing home care.”Rationing care to fund high-income tax cuts is not just the byproduct of the Republican Medicaid plan, but rather at the heart of it. The motivation of nearly every GOP health-care proposal past and present—to end the guarantee of coverage for those eligible for Medicaid, and replace it with spending caps—has always had more to do with supply-side fiscal policy than health-care reform.
[T]he AHCA seeks to accomplish the GOP’s long-sought goal of undermining Medicaid’s guarantee of necessary health care for all those eligible through an effort to artificially cap and constrain spending. This time, Republican congresspeople have modified the vehicle for capping Medicaid spending, opting for what’s called a per-capita-cap (PCC) over block grants, which are lump-sum transfers from the federal government to states. The PCC limits federal contributions to states based on the number of people in five different categories of health-care needs. Like a block grant, the per-capita cap offers no flexibility for unexpected costs, which will put governors in the position of having to ration care anytime there are spikes in health-care costs—even if they occur due to reasons beyond any state official’s control.
On virtually every measure, Medicaid is far more efficient than any other part of the American system. A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, after adjusting for differences in health status, Medicaid costs 22 percent less per adult beneficiary than does private insurance. And its growth rates have also shown an effective use of funds. So, it’s misleading to suggest that Medicaid should be targeted because it’s inefficient.
A likelier motivation is that while Medicare and Social Security have more funding and thus are larger spending-cut targets for supply-siders, many Republicans (perhaps including Donald Trump) fear a middle-class backlash if either of those programs are tinkered with. But many Republicans seem to believe they can mislead middle-class families into believing that Medicaid is only for the poor, and cuts to it would not impact them.Yet those making such a cynical calculation might come to regret it.
First, there has already been significant backlash against pulling back from the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act.
Second, even beyond that expansion, Medicaid is a lifeline for about 70 million Americans—a little more than 20 percent of the population—many of whom rely on it for long-term health services. For instance, nearly two-thirds of all Americans in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid. And Medicaid covers 44 percent of all children with special health-care needs, as well as half of all women with serious disabilities.
Third, the program has made care more equitable for children: Under Medicaid, over 40 million children are eligible for guaranteed comprehensive health coverage—including access to physical and mental-health therapies, dental and vision care, and medical equipment—so that childhood health conditions can be discovered and treated before they become serious or disabling.
And finally, many, many Americans care deeply about the hardship such Medicaid cuts would bring to their country’s poorest citizens. Which leads to the question: Since Medicaid is already among the most efficient uses of health-care dollars, what crucial services will be rationed to cut projected spending by 25 percent in 2026?  
Obviously, Paul Ryan and the GOP care nothing about the poorest Americans who they seemingly wish would simply just die.

Utah Senate Votes 24 to 1 to Repeal Its "No Promo Homo" Law

While most Republican controlled state legislatures are pushing to enact anti-gay legislation, Utah may become an exception.   Back in the midst of the AIDS crisis during the 1980's, many conservative states - and even some liberal states such as California - passed anti-gay laws that sought to limit if not outright ban any positive public school support for LGBT students. California struck down its anti-gay law in 20013, Now, pending the signature of Utah's governor, Utah is set to join the states that have eliminated laws that ban support for LGBT students.  Sadly at least 19 other states continue to have such laws.  The result is more bullying of LGBT students and all of the negatives that come from such bigotry.  Indeed, a spike in student suicides seems to have been the catalyst for action by the Utah legislature despite the general virulent homophobia of the Mormon Church.  (The Salt Lake Tribune has details here) Here are highlights from Salon:
Utah could become the first Republican-dominated state to strike down an anti-LGBT law that prevents teachers from addressing topics related to homosexuality in schools. Last Wednesday the state’s Senate voted 24 to 1 to repeal its “no promo homo” legislation, following a similar 68-to-1 vote in the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 196, the proposal to repeal the old law, now sits on Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk. Despite his opposition to marriage equality and belief that homosexuality is a choice, Herbert is widely expected to sign the bill.
This is the second time in three years that advocates have passed legislation in support of the LGBT community in one of the country’s most conservative states. Both houses of the Utah legislature are controlled by the GOP and more than 85 percent of representatives are Mormon, a religion with a leadership that has claimed homosexuality is a “grievous sin.”
But two years ago conservatives worked with LGBT leaders on the state’s first milestone toward equality: Utah became the only legislature with a Republican majority to pass nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community. That law, enacted in 2015, prevents people from being fired or evicted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation (although a healthy religious exemption remains for faith-based groups). The nondiscrimination effort was backed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and represents the first time that religious group has publicly expressed support for pro-LGBT legislation.
The challenge to the state’s “no promo homo” laws began last year when Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a lawsuit on behalf of three students who allege that the legislation prevented them from being treated equally in schools. One student, referred to as “John” in the suit, claimed in court briefings that a classmate “held [his] hand to a hot metal slide” and burned it. “He screamed for help and the boy finally let him go,” according to the documents. The suit asserted that because he was gender nonconforming, his teacher denied him first aid. The teacher allegedly felt that helping this injured student would send a message it was OK to be like him.  John was 5 years old.
Rather than making the school district safer for other students like John, the lawsuit alleges, the district doubled down on discriminating against gender nonconforming students. The boy wanted to go to school dressed as Cinderella for Halloween, and after John’s parents pulled him out of his classes, administrators adopted a regulation saying that no students would be allowed to dress up as someone of the opposite gender for the holiday. If they did, they would face suspension.
Williams noted that these sorts of incidents happen all the time in Utah. “Another one of our plaintiffs was simply holding hands with her girlfriend and was called into detention for public displays of affection, while her straight counterparts hold hands in the hallways all the time,” he said. “Time and again, we’re seeing ways in which queer-identified students are singled out and treated differently.”
“No promo homo” legislation was enacted in the early 1990s in the wake of the AIDS crisis. . . . conservative parts of the country either didn’t teach about homosexuality at all or students would only “learn bad things about it.”
That mindset led to the passage of extremely anti-LGBT legislation in states like Arizona, Louisiana and Mississippi, where “no promo homo” laws remain on the books. For example,  Alabama’s state code declares that “classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” . . . 20 states have anti-LGBT language in their curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12. 
“More than 25 million children — nearly half of all school-aged children in the United States — are attending public schools in these 20 states,” Rosky wrote in the appropriately titled “Anti-Gay Curriculum Laws.” “In half of these states, teachers are affirmatively required to teach anti-gay curricula in all public schools. In the other half, teachers may choose between offering students an anti-gay curriculum or providing no health, sex, or HIV education at all.”
“These laws say to students that they are not accepted and that they are invisible.”  This is a concern for people in a state like Utah, where Rosky claimed that the youth suicide rate “has quadrupled” over the past 10 years. Mama Dragons, a support group for LGBT youth, estimated that 32 young people took their lives from November 2015 to January 2016. While no one would claim that the “no promo laws” are solely to blame for this, Rosky said eliminating the legislation would mean there would “no longer be obstacles” to teachers supporting vulnerable LGBT students — empowering them to prevent harassment and treat all students equally, no matter their orientation.
Should Utah successfully repeal its “no promo homo” law, though, with the governor’s approval, it would be the second state to do so. Blue state California, which had passed an anti-LGBT curriculum bill in 1988, struck down its legislation in 2003.  No other states have announced a repeal effort.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Male Beauty - Pt 2

GOP's Steve King Confirm's He's a White Supremacist

Another thing that should surprise no one is the reality that Congressman Steve King is a white supremacists.  He has been making thinly veiled racist comments for years and his hatred of non-whites was on display again over the weekend when he said  "We can’t restore our civilization [white America] with somebody else’s babies.”  Like so many in the today's GOP, King is utterly unable and unwilling to recognize the common humanity of others of other skin colors, faiths, sexual orientations, and/or  national origin.  Indeed, the Neo-Nazi site, Daily Stormer, was lauding King's comments and urging that he be made Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Talking Points Memo looks at King's history of outright racism:
Today people are apparently finding out and being terribly surprised that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is a white nationalist and racist and has been that more or less openly for years. Before yesterday's paean to "culture and demographics", Steve King was saying that for every Dreamer who's a valedictorian there are a hundred running drugs. The list of similar statements is all but endless.
We've been on the King beat for years. You can go through our archives and find dozens of offensive, stupid and frequently outright racist comments from King. But there's something more specific about King. King frequently speaks in the language of white nationalists and neo-Nazis who speak of "white genocide" and America being overrun by non-whites.
"Cultural suicide by demographic transformation"—This is literally the kind of talk you can read from Richard Spencer and any day of the week. Note also that King is there with Wilders, the rightist, racist Dutch member of parliament and Frauke Petry, the rightist, nationalist leader of Germany's Alternative for Germany party. These are the parties Trump's top advisor Steve Bannon wants to help loft to power and ally with in a rightist, north Atlantic political movement.
This isn't just one "controversial" member of Congress. King is part of American white nationalist, far-right political movement. That's not a softer way to say "racist." He's also a racist. But there are plenty of racists who have more conventional politics. He's part of a movement. So is Bannon. So is Trump.

Trumpcare vs. Obamacare: Apocalypse Foretold

Not to beat a dead horse, but the CBO analysis of the impact of the GOP's "Trumpcare" proposal underscores the reality that today's GOP cares nothing about the majority of Americans.  Everything that the GOP does is aimed at one thing: tax cuts for the wealthy.  They claim to want to cut the deficit, but there's an easy solution to that issue: increase taxes on the obscenely wealthy.  Sadly, as long as the GOP controls the Congress and the White House, this will never happen. Worse yet, the GOP lead by Paul Ryan is out to gut Social Security and Medicare.  In short, the GOP goal is to destroy the social safety net and make wealth disparity even worse than it all ready is - the USA is now much like the banana republics of the 1950's where the masses will suffer while the wealthy live even more opulently.  A column in the New York Times looks at this reality that anyone sentient and not blinded by Fox News and other fake news sites should have seen coming.  The surprise is that anyone is surprised by the CBO's projections.  Here are column excerpts:
The Congressional Budget Office report on Trumpcare is out, and it’s devastating: 14 million people losing insurance in the first year, 24 million over time, with premiums soaring for older, lower-income Americans — in many cases, the very people who went strongly for President Trump. The C.B.O. thinks it would reduce the deficit, but only marginally, around $30 billion a year in a $19 trillion economy.
Let me offer one assertion and ask two questions.
The assertion is that something like this was to be expected. The C.B.O. came in even worse on coverage than most predicted, but it was obvious that the news would be terrible because that’s what the logic of the situation told us. Obamacare imposes a mandate to induce healthy people to sign up, offers means-tested subsidies to make insurance affordable and expands Medicaid to take care of people with really low incomes. Trumpcare eliminates the mandate, slashes subsidies overall and redirects them to those who don’t need them and sharply cuts Medicaid. Of course that leads to a huge drop in coverage.
Republican claims that they could do much better even while slashing funding so they could cut taxes on the rich were always obvious nonsense.
Now my questions: First, can this legislation still go through? I have learned never to underestimate the cravenness of Republican “moderates,” who may posture to the center but almost always cave to the hard right when it matters. But even so, it’s hard to imagine this act of cruelty getting 50 senators.
Second, what were Republican leaders thinking? Something like this C.B.O. score was a foregone conclusion; would it really have mattered much if it were 15 million losing insurance, not 24 million? How was this supposed to work out politically?
Again, I wouldn’t count out the possibility that this law will be rammed through regardless, with budget analyses relegated to the category of fake news. Democrats might even want to hope that this happens, so that there is no question about who to blame if insurance collapses. But the lemming-like way Republicans rushed into this disaster is still amazing.

CBO: Trump/GOP Healthcare Plan Will Increase Uninsured by 24 Million

If they had not realized that they were conned before, perhaps now that the Congressional Budget Office ("CBO") has released its analysis of the impact of the Trump/GOP healthcare replacement for Obamacare, millions of working class voters who (stupidly, in my view) supported Der Trumpenführer and Republicans in 2016 should be having that reality hit them full force.  Yes, Republicans are working shamelessly to try to undermine the credibility of the CBO figures, but even if off by 50%, that would still 12 Americans set to lose health insurance. The trade off is over $337 billion in reductions to the federal deficit - not that those losing coverage will give a damn about the deficit.  The truth is that anyone rational knew that the GOP replacement of Obamacare would ravage Trump's base which preferred to cling to lies and racism than open its eyes.  Both Politico and the Washington Post have coverage of the CBO analysis and the backlash that deservedly may face the GOP if this atrocity of a plan goes forward.  First, these excerpts from Politico:
The CBO projection finding the House Obamacare repeal bill would mean 24 million more uninsured may be politically toxic, but its conclusion the bill would cut the deficit gives Republican leaders a green light to press on with a plan they say will save the U.S. health care system by cutting taxes, regulations and entitlement spending.
The Republicans have cast themselves as hard-headed saviors of a broken system in which Americans are forced to buy coverage they don’t want and can’t afford. But the numbers CBO issued Monday won’t make for an easier sell. Moderate and conservative critics alike are sure to be emboldened by forecasts that directly undercut President Donald Trump’s repeated promise that everyone would be better off under the Republican plan.
Democrats trying to save their health care law will be sure to keep hammering away at that 24 million figure as proof Republicans are shredding an essential safety net.
Here are five important takeaways from Monday’s CBO report:
Trump voters would take a hit. Every piece of health care legislation has winners and losers. In this case, the CBO says the clear losers would be older, low-income Americans between 50 and 64, just below the Medicare eligibility age.  In other words, a lot of Trump voters.
The CBO report lays out a stark example of how older and poorer Americans would be hurt by the GOP bill. If Obamacare were still in place in its current form a decade from now, a 64-year-old earning $26,500, or just less than twice the federal poverty level, would pay $1,700 for premiums in a year after accounting for federal assistance. Under the GOP plan, a 64-year-old at the same income level would pay $14,600 in premiums for coverage that would also have higher out-of-pocket costs.
Medicaid bears the brunt of the cuts. The Republican plan would be paid for with an eye-popping $880 billion cut to the health entitlement for the poor, elderly and disabled over a decade. That’s sure to send a jolt to governors who rely on federal Medicaid funds to keep their programs going and their budgets balanced.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), among the most conservative Democrats, who is up for re-election in 2018, said on Monday the bill is “morally wrong.”  "To do what they're doing right now is absolutely unconscionable," Manchin said. “It's just awful … There's got to be a moral compass inside somebody.”
Employer coverage could decline  While the repeal bill primarily deals with the individual insurance market for people who don’t get coverage at work and Medicaid, the CBO projects that employer coverage would drop by 7 million over a decade.
Death spiral? What death spiral? The report provides a bit of good news for Obamacare supporters and detractors. Despite some instability in Obamacare's marketplaces, the CBO doesn't believe the health care law is facing a dreaded death spiral, in which premiums rise so high that only the sickest patients are motivated to purchase insurance.
Republican credibility took a hit On Sunday, HHS Secretary Tom Price said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he thinks coverage will expand and financial burdens will decrease under the GOP plan. That’s not looking so good in light of the CBO assessment. . . . In an added twist, it was Price, as a Georgia congressman and chairman of the House Budget Committee, who in 2015 lauded the selection of the CBO director whose analysis he tore into.
The Washington Post assessment is equally brutal.  The most ridiculous statement was that of Paul Ryan who continues to lie through his teeth.  Millions losing coverage, yet Ryan :said the legislation “is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford. When people have more choices, costs go down. That’s what this report shows.” The man is despicable and a liar!  Here are article highlights:
House Republicans’ proposal to rewrite federal health-care law would more than reverse the gains the Affordable Care Act has made in the number of Americans with health insurance, while curbing the federal deficit, according to a widely anticipated forecast by congressional analysts.
The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have coverage a decade from now than if the Affordable Care Act remains intact, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 percent to 19 percent. The office projects the number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year.
The 37-page report provides the most tangible evidence to date of the human and fiscal impact of the House GOP’s American Health Care Act. It also undermines President Trump’s pledge that no Americans would lose coverage under a Republican remake of the Affordable Care Act, which was enacted by a Democratic Congress in 2010.
Declaring that the plans would usher in “the most fundamental entitlement reform in a generation,” Ryan said the legislation “is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford. When people have more choices, costs go down. That’s what this report shows.”
Declaring that the plans would usher in “the most fundamental entitlement reform in a generation,” Ryan said the legislation “is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford. When people have more choices, costs go down. That’s what this report shows.”
Despite that sales pitch, early signs emerged Monday night that the Congressional Budget Office report was not helping to solidify GOP support. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) announced he would oppose the bill.
Wittman’s stance could represent a new front of dissent among House Republicans. A six-term member who leads a House Armed Services subcommittee and represents a district that favored Trump by 12 percentage points, Wittman is neither a hard-right firebrand nor a wary moderate from a Medicaid expansion state. Rather, he is the sort of mainstream conservative that Ryan is counting on to toe the party line and pass the bill.
Democrats used the report’s findings to continue excoriating the House GOP plan. “The CBO score shows just how empty the president’s promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans’ repeal effort.”