Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The GOP’s Suburban Nightmare

While there is much to be discouraged about if one holds progressive values, rejects the view that the poor are refuse to be disposed of, and believes in religious freedom for all, not just Christofascists, there may be some good news from the recent special elections in Georgia and South Carolina: the narrowness of the Republican victories and the GOP's dimming support in suburban areas, especially those near larger cities.  If the GOP decline in support in suburbia continues, along with the nation's changing demographics, it could mean the GOP's triumphal attitude may be short lived.  A long piece in Politico looks at what hopefully comes to mean the death knell for many Republican elected officials. Here are story highlights:
Surveying the Democratic wreckage after a disastrous 1952 campaign, Robert Taft, the typically taciturn Ohio Republican senator, made a bold prediction about the opposition. “The Democratic Party,” the onetime Senate majority leader asserted, “will never win another national election until it solves the problem of the suburbs.”
Taft wasn’t exactly right, but he wasn’t wrong either. The millions of voters fleeing overcrowded cities to seek the American dream would ultimately power Republicans to victory in six of the next nine presidential elections, and in the process, reshape the GOP’s postwar image as the party of the suburbs.
But that Republican Party is now gone, and suburbia is no longer its trusted wingman. Although Donald Trump managed to win the suburbs narrowly in 2016, 49 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 45 percent, a little over half of suburbia voted against him, according to exit polls. This marks the third presidential election in a row in which the GOP nominee failed to crack 50 percent of the suburban vote.
Once the Republican Party’s stronghold, suburban America threatens now to become its nemesis. A combination of demographic change and cultural dissonance is gradually eroding its ability to compete across much of suburbia, putting entire areas of the country out of the GOP’s reach. It’s a bigger crisis than the party acknowledges, a reckoning that threatens Trump’s reelection and the next generation of Republican office-seekers.
Karen Handel’s Georgia special-election victory Tuesday enabled the GOP to kick the can down the road, but not for long. The same Atlanta suburbs that once produced Republicans like Newt Gingrich voted for Clinton in November. They followed up a few months later by nearly sending a 30-year-old, first-time Democratic candidate to Congress. Republicans may be gloating now, but it’s an ominous sign for the 2018 midterm elections. . . 
Trump won the 2016 election, of course, boosted by the margins he ran up in smaller cities and rural areas. But he lost the populous close-in suburbs of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., home to the precincts that first heralded suburbia’s arrival as a political powerhouse. That wasn’t the real story, though. He was also defeated in other, later-blooming suburban giants, including Atlanta’s Cobb County and Southern California’s iconic Orange County, both onetime exporters of Sun Belt conservatism that occupy storied roles in the formation of the contemporary Republican Party.
There’s a reason Ronald Reagan once said Orange County was the place good Republicans go to die—before 2016, it had last voted Democratic for president more than 80 years ago.
He [Trump] also barely squeaked by in traditional GOP stalwarts like Richmond’s Chesterfield County—the most populous in the state outside Northern Virginia—and Johnson County, the wealthy Kansas-side suburb of Kansas City. In many of the rock-ribbed Republican suburbs where Trump won easily—places like Waukesha County outside Milwaukee, and Hamilton County, on the outskirts of Indianapolis—he trailed well behind Mitt Romney’s 2012 pace.
But the truth is that Trump arrived in what was already the twilight of the GOP’s suburban era.
In the decades following World War II, the suburbs formed the electoral backbone of the party, providing a reliable counterweight to big-city Democratic margins.  . . . For suburbia, the GOP functioned not just as a validator of its lifestyle but also as a guarantor. It was the party of growth, low taxes and law and order. Just as important, it served as a bulwark against racial integration. . . 
The Northeastern and Midwestern suburbs were the first to go wobbly on the GOP, turned off by the culture wars waged by an increasingly Southern and socially conservative party.
Other subtle but important changes began to loosen the GOP’s grip. As the suburbs aged, they began to experience more and more of the pathologies previously associated with the cities—among them increased crime, poverty and crumbling infrastructure. At the same time, America’s great cities began to return to relative health.
Perhaps the biggest change of all: The suburbs themselves grew far more diverse. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of racially diverse suburbs increased by 37 percent, growing at a faster clip than majority-white suburbs, according to one study. . . . . there are 106 counties—with a combined population of 66.5 million—that include the near-in suburbs of most major cities and display many big-city characteristics. In 2016, Trump lost 89 of them. That’s a dramatic departure from Ronald Reagan’s 1984 performance in those places—he won 92 of those 106 . . . .
What happened in between Reagan and Trump? These suburbs gradually came into political alignment with their neighboring cities, moving the longtime antagonists toward something like a metropolitan alliance. At roughly the same time, the GOP largely gave up on competing among minorities and in the most densely populated areas.
The new GOP iteration differs in at least one important way from the one that dominated the suburbs in the Reagan years: It is now a conservative party that rejects metropolitan values, rather than a metropolitan party that embraces conservative values.
New York state stopped being competitive around the same time the populous New York City suburbs began going blue. The days when the GOP could carry Maryland ended when Baltimore County left the fold. Colorado and Virginia are likely to be the next dominoes to fall. Colorado’s Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, home to roughly 1.3 million residents, voted Republican in eight consecutive presidential elections through 2004. But since then, they’ve voted Democratic in the past three. In November, Trump bottomed out at 39 percent of the Arapahoe vote.
Trump’s coalition relied on several factors that won’t be easy to replicate going forward, though. First among them: Trump’s opponent. No matter the place designation—urban, suburban or rural—Clinton ran behind Obama’s pace, according to exit polls. And in the suburbs, she was outperformed by Obama, John Kerry and Al Gore.
Trump’s victory was also rooted in the strongest rural performance by a presidential nominee in decades—he won 61 percent amid a huge turnout. That’s where the GOP’s math problem comes in. To win reelection, Trump will need another gangbusters rural showing and to improve or at least maintain his 2016 levels in the suburbs, where roughly half the vote was cast last year. There’s little margin for error: Amped-up turnout in just three big cities alone—Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia—could have flipped the 2016 election.
Three years is a long time, but it won’t be easy for Trump to win over his suburban detractors. Recent history suggests that once these big suburbs go blue, they don’t come back. . . . . The president need only gaze across the Potomac to get a close look at the problem. Northern Virginia’s suburban behemoth, Fairfax County, flipped in 2004—by 2016, Trump could manage only an anemic 29 percent there. In nearby Loudoun and Prince William counties, the tipping point came in 2008.
No Republican has won the presidency in the postwar era without winning the suburbs. Trump will put that to the test in 2020. And with that, the GOP’s suburban era may come full circle . . . 
Hopefully, the GOP decline in the suburbs will only accelerate.

5th Circuit Allows Anti-LGBT Law to Go Into Effect

Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, a number of Republican controlled state legislatures rushed to pass falsely named "religious freedom" laws that would allow open discrimination against LGBT citizens.  Backward hell hole, Mississippi was among the first states to pass such a bill (a less hideous bill in Virginia was vetoed by Democrat Governor Terry McAuliffe).   Now, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Thursday ruled that Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.  The ruling reversed the District Court ruling that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.  How the Court believes that openly targeting a minority for mistreatment will pass muster under Supreme Court rulings such as Romer v.Evans is baffling.  There has never been much reason to visit Mississippi, now there is even less reason to do so.  To my "friends" and acquaintances who have said that I and other taxpaying LGBT citizens have nothing to fear under Trump/the GOP, my comment is this: when are you going to pull your head out of your ass and wake up to reality? Blogger friend Joe Jervis looks at this disturbing development.  Here are are excerpts:
A federal appeals court says Mississippi can start enforcing a law that will let merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a judge’s decision that had blocked the law before it could take effect last July.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves had ruled that the law unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for LGBT people. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and other supporters say the law protects beliefs that marriage can be between only a man and a woman, and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.
Via press release from Lambda Legal:
Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the injunction against Mississippi House Bill 1523, the discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation challenged in Barber v. Bryant, the federal lawsuit brought by Mississippi civil rights attorney Robert McDuff, the Mississippi Center for Justice and Lambda Legal.  The advocates will continue to fight this discriminatory law. 
Overruling the lower court decision, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit denied that LGBT Mississippians are subject to imminent discrimination by HB 1523 and ordered the block to the law lifted because the plaintiffs—a group of ministers, LGBT residents, community leaders and activists—lack standing since they cannot claim a specific harm caused by the law that has yet to go into effect.
“We had to put guards in front of our church after the bill initially passed because there was a truck with a swastika parked across the street and just this week the Christian Knights of the KKK distributed flyers throughout the Hattiesburg area. Today’s ruling leaves us more exposed, so we will have to be more vigilant than ever before to protect our church, our families and our dignity,” said Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, Barber plaintiff.
Note: government employees can now discriminate.  So much for equality under the law.  The Christofascists want nothing less than an established religion in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  Political whores in the GOP are only too happy to prostitute themselves to these foul people. 

Trumpcare: The Face of Republican Evil

Yesterday the GOP Senate healthcare bill saw the light of day and what could be seen was hideous if one feels any concern for children, the non-wealthy elderly and people with disabilities.   When disabled protesters in wheel chairs massed outside the office of GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to protest the bill, as reported by Think Progress and many other news outlets, Capitol police dragged them out of their wheel chairs, handcuffed and arrested.  Perhaps such treatment of the disabled is just a glimpse at what many disabled will suffer if the GOP Senate "healthcare reform" bill is enacted.  This bill is nothing than a humanitarian disaster to quote several critics.  Not surprisingly, the American Hospital Association has been quick to condemn it, recognizing that it would be a catastrophe for many hospitals, especially those in rural areas.   As explained below, this is very personal to me.  A piece in the New York Times looks at what we now know Republicans seek to inflict on millions of citizens in order to give massive tax breaks to the very wealthy.  Here are excerpts:
The bill is aligned with long-held Republican values, advancing states’ rights and paring back growing entitlement programs, while freeing individuals from requirements that they have insurance and emphasizing personal responsibility. Obamacare raised taxes on high earners and the health care industry, and essentially redistributed that income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades.
The draft Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would jettison those taxes while reducing federal funding for the care of low-income Americans. The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. The bill preserves many of the structures of Obamacare, but rejects several of its central goals.
Like a House version of the legislation, the bill would fundamentally change the structure of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to 74 million disabled or poor Americans, including nearly 40 percent of all children. Instead of open-ended payments, the federal government would give states a maximum payment for nearly every individual enrolled in the program. The Senate version of the bill would increase that allotment every year by a formula that is expected to grow substantially more slowly than the average increase in medical costs. States would continue to receive extra funding for Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to more poor adults, but only temporarily. After several years, states wishing to cover that population would be expected to pay a much greater share of the bill, even as they adjust to leaner federal funding for other Medicaid beneficiaries — disabled children, nursing home residents — who are more vulnerable. High-income earners would get substantial tax cuts on payroll and investment income. Subsidies for those low-income Americans who buy their own insurance would decline compared with current law. Low-income Americans who currently buy their own insurance would also lose federal help in paying their deductibles and co-payments.
The bill does offer insurance subsidies to poor Americans who live in states that don’t offer them Medicaid coverage, a group without good insurance options under Obamacare. But the high-deductible plans that would become the norm might continue to leave care out of their financial reach even if they do buy insurance.
Under the bill, states would be able to apply for waivers that would let them eliminate consumer protection regulations, like rules that require all health plans to cover a basic package of benefits or that prevent insurance plans from limiting how much care they will cover in a given year.
States could get rid of the online marketplaces that help consumers compare similar health plans, and make a variety of other changes to the health insurance system. The standards for approval are quite permissive.
Americans with pre-existing conditions would continue to enjoy protection from discrimination: In contrast with the House health bill, insurers would not be allowed to charge higher prices to customers with a history of illness, even in states that wish to loosen insurance regulations.
But patients with serious illnesses may still face skimpier, less useful coverage. States may waive benefit requirements and allow insurers to charge customers more. Someone seriously ill who buys a plan that does not cover prescription drugs, for example, may not find it very valuable.
Subsidies under the bill would help middle-income consumers buy insurance that pays 58 percent of the average patient’s medical costs, down from 70 percent under Obamacare; it would also remove a different type of subsidy designed to lower deductibles further for Americans earning less than around $30,000 a year. Out-of-pocket spending is the top concern of most voters. The insurance they would buy under the bill might seem cheap at first, but it wouldn’t be if they ended up paying more in deductibles.

To me, this displays complete moral depravity - by those who claim to embrace "Christian values" and their supporters like evangelical Christians.  A piece in  Salon looks at how the GOP got this morally bankrupt.  Here are highlights:
In the hellish months since Donald Trump’s inauguration, a dark parlor game of sorts has cropped up in liberal circles that I like to call “Would an Impeachment Even Be Worth It?” With the full acknowledgment that it’s unlikely to happen as long as Republicans are in charge, participants still sip cocktails and ponder out loud the question of whether booting out Trump on his butt would be enough to save our democracy, considering the fact that the Republican slimeball taking his place would invariably sign a bunch of retrograde legislation setting back this country decades.
These discussions break down into two camps: those who think Trump presents a unique threat to our democracy and replacing him with someone in the succession line, like Vice President Mike Pence or House Speaker Paul Ryan, would at least preserve our democratic norms; and those who think the corruption started long before Trump and has spread throughout the Republican Party, rotting it from the inside out.
[M]y view that the Republican Party as a whole is irredeemably antidemocratic has been borne out, yet again, in the process that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has put into motion to destroy the Affordable Health Act, a process that will likely take out the U.S. health care system as we know it. One could even argue that bog-standard Republicans, under the leadership of Ryan and McConnell, represent an bigger threat to our democracy than Trump, possessing as they do more competence and cunning than the TV-addled overgrown toddler in the White House. McConnell has arranged to have the Senate version of the House’s American Health Care Act . . . . written in secret, with no hearings, no public discussion and no real debate. Republicans are barely even pretending the reason is anything other than the obvious: The bill is so terrible that it defies the will of people of all political stripes and sensibilities, whom legislators supposedly were elected to serve. McConnell’s contempt for the processes, much less the defining principles, of democracy couldn’t be more apparent. But he doesn’t really care. No doubt the election of Trump helped confirm the rising sense among Republicans that they can wipe their collective butts with the Constitution, flip the bird at their constituents and not really worry about losing many seats. Republican voters might not like it, but they like liberals, black people and feminists even less, so they will show up and dutifully vote against the Democrats every time. Losing health care access isn’t great, but for conservative voters, admitting that liberals might have a point is a hell from which there is no escape. . . . bedrock conservative voters don’t care about niceties like the rule of law or government by the people. They just want to punish women for having sex and gripe about “Obama phones,” and don’t care if the price paid is the ultimate ruin of this country.

In 1999/2000 one of my children was stricken with bacterial meningitis.  We were lucky, had purportedly "excellent healthcare coverage"  and my child had a miracle recovery (even if it wiped us out financially).  A key part of her survival was being in close proximity - less than 10 minutes - to a first rate hospital that could stabilize my child before a transport to a world class children's hospital.  If rural and inner city hospitals close thanks to Trumpcare, people will literally die for lack of close proximity to a hospital.  Mere minutes can make a life and death difference.

More recently, one of my grand children was born 2 months early.  He ended up staying in the hospital for a month.  A month earlier, my daughter had been ordered to do bed rest to try to delay his birth. Since Virginia and the USA do not have mandatory paid maternity leave, my daughter lost her heathcare coverage.  Thankfully, she signed up with Medicaid and my grandson had coverage. Without it, he may have died.

Sadly, average Americans simply no longer matter to the GOP, especially those like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.   I'm sorry, but to me, voting Republican is now synonymous with moral bankruptcy. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Donald Trump Is a Crook

A piece in New York Magazine cuts to the chase and addresses what his racist, white supremacist, knuckle dragging supporters - and the Vichy Republicans - simply want to ignore: the man is a crook and has been for years.  Indeed, Trump is a profiteer who is openly abusing his office to enrich himself and his family much in the style of third world despots and Vladimir Putin if on a much lesser scale.  The fact that none of Trump's profiteering bothers the Congressional Republicans underscores just how morally bankrupt the GOP has become. Stealing from the poor to give the very rich now stands side by side with turning a blind eye to Trump's violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution and business practices that only a few years ago would have driven a president from office.  Here are column highlights:
On November 17, 1973, President Richard Nixon delivered a speech that became famous for his self-defeating boast, “I am not a crook.” The windup to the infamous phrase consisted of Nixon defending his aggressive, but legal, tax-avoidance strategies. “I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service — I have earned every cent,” he insisted. (This was perhaps half-true.) “And in all of my years of public life,” he continued, “I have never obstructed justice.” (This was not true — the year before, Nixon had tried to get the CIA to quash the FBI investigation into Watergate.)
Like Nixon, Donald Trump denies having engaged in obstruction of justice, even though he plainly has (both by asking intelligence agencies to push back against the FBI, according to reports, and by firing the FBI director over the Russia investigation, by Trump’s own admission). Unlike Nixon, Trump does not deny profiting from public service. He does it brazenly and flamboyantly.
If he were a normal president, rather than one who produced calamities at an unprecedented pace, Trump’s open profiteering would receive five-alarm media coverage and threats of impeachment. The Washington Post recently reported that Trump’s budget slashes funding for a wide array of low-income housing programs, the one notable exception being a program that his own firm benefits from. The story connects this shady decision to an even shadier one: Trump’s appointment of Lynne Patton — a wedding planner close to the Trump family who possesses zero relevant experience and who has falsified her résumé — to oversee the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s programs in New York City. That is, Trump is using his budget to suspiciously single out for favoritism a program from which his firm benefits, and then installing a wildly unqualified personal loyalist in a position where she could protect his funding stream. This scandal alone could shake a non-Trump presidency to its foundations.
That it has caused barely a ripple helps to explain why Trump feels emboldened to locate the first fundraiser for his reelection campaign at his hotel in Washington. Trump’s Washington hotel has already raked in cash from lobbyists and government officials, foreign and domestic, seeking to curry favor with the First Family. Trump has gotten away with it because his party has evinced zero interest in restraining him. The GOP Congress has quashed investigations of his profiteering or demands that he produce his tax returns. Now the party elite will literally be suborned at an event conjoining his public duties and the fattening of his own wallet.
History has mostly forgotten what Nixon said after his famous line: “I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.” The premise of that statement was that a president who enriches himself through office is a crook. So, what does that make Donald Trump?

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Special Prosecutor Working with Large Number of FBI Agents

With new reports out that Russia hacked the election systems of 39 different states and may have targeted large Democrat voting cities, Der Trumpenführer continues to rant that it is all "fake news" and a "witch hunt."  Clearly special prosecutor Robert Mueller and the FBI believe otherwise based on the testimony of acting FBI director Andrew McCabe yesterday.  In fact, McCabe made it clear that the FBI is providing a large amount of man/woman power to Mueller's probe of Russiagate.  Meanwhile, other news reports suggest that Trump may have been involved in money laundering efforts with Russian oligarchs and mob figures.  He certainly has ties to known criminals and unsavory figures.  Politico looks at McCabe's testimony before Congress.  Here are excerpts:
The acting head of the FBI said Wednesday that his agency is providing a substantial number of personnel to support the special prosecutor appointed last month to look into alleged Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, including possible connections to the Trump campaign.
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who took over after President Donald Trump fired FBI chief James Comey on May 9, told a House appropriations subcommittee that the FBI is giving special counsel Robert Mueller all the help he needs.
"We have a great number of folks that have already been detailed to that team and I have assured Director Mueller that we will do everything necessary to deliver the resources and meet the needs that he has to do that work," McCabe said.
McCabe, temporarily elevated from the position of deputy FBI director, said discussions to coordinate the FBI's assistance to Mueller are ongoing.
"I've had many, many interactions with the special counsel and his representatives. In fact, we are meeting in the next 24 hours to discuss exactly that," McCabe said.
The FBI official stressed that Mueller isn't taking over all the FBI's counterintelligence work, or even all such work related to Russia.
"The FBI continues to maintain responsibility for counterintelligence issues write large against all of our foreign adversaries. We still do work in the Russia counterintelligence space but we’re careful to leave for the special counsel what is the special counsel’s," McCabe said.
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) asked McCabe whether he'd been asked for a loyalty oath by Trump, as Comey has said he was, and how he would reply.
"I have taken an oath already to the United States of America to protect and defend the Constitution. That is the only oath I will take, so that's really not an issue for me," McCabe said. He added that it wouldn't be appropriate "in this forum" to discuss his conversations with the president.
As in past testimony, McCabe did dispute claims by Trump and other officials that morale at the FBI suffered under Comey.
"Director Comey enjoyed a great relationship with the men and women of the FBI. So, his removal took many many people by surprise. It was a shock. It's something that we’ve all had to come to terms with," McCabe said.
"We understand it is the president's privilege to remove the FBI director or any appointee, whenever he chooses to do so. ... It's been my challenge to keep people focused on the mission during this time of transition."
Most disturbing is the fact that most Congressional Republicans remain indifferent to Russia's attack on America's electoral system.  Remaining in power is all that matters to them, the interest of the nation and the Constitution be damned.

GOP Senate Bill Expected To Make Massive Cuts to Medicaid

The elderly and children - main targets of GOP healthcare cuts
While much secrecy continues to surround the "healthcare reform" bill being drafted by Senate Republicans, some of the information that has leaked so far indicate that it will make massive cuts to Medicaid - the life line for millions of children, elderly, pregnant mothers and those with physical and intellectual disabilities.  Sadly, it is part and parcel with the GOP agenda of taking from the poor and middle class and giving to the very wealthy.  It is also in keeping with the GOP hypocrisy drenched claims that it is the party of Christian values even as it adopts policies that are the absolute opposite of the Gospel's social agenda.  And make no mistake, if enacted the GOP bill will harm the lives of millions of Americans, both young and old. A piece in the New York Times looks at the leaked details to date.  When you see your Republican friends, ask them if they support ending medical care for children or throwing elderly patients out of nursing homes.  When they say they do not, throw it in their faces that, yes the do if the voted for Trump/the GOP candidates last November.  Here are article highlights:
Tucked inside the Republican bill to replace Obamacare is a plan to impose a radical diet on a 52-year-old program that insures nearly one in five Americans.
The bill, of course, would modify changes to the health system brought by the Affordable Care Act. But it would also permanently restructure Medicaid, which covers tens of millions of poor or disabled Americans, including millions who are living in nursing homes with conditions like Alzheimer’s or the aftereffects of a stroke.
The results, according to independent analyses, would be major reductions in federal spending on Medicaid over time. States would be left deciding whether to raise more money to make up the difference, or to cut back on medical coverage for people using the program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the changes would lead to a reduction in spending on Medicaid of more than $800 billion over a decade. (That figure also includes additional cuts to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.)
About half of all births in the country are covered by Medicaid, and nearly 40 percent of children are covered through the program. Medicaid covers the long-term care costs of two-thirds of Americans living in nursing homes, many of them middle-class Americans who spent all of their savings on care before becoming eligible.
It covers children and adults with disabilities who require services that most commercial health insurance doesn’t include. It covers poor women who are pregnant or raising young children. Those populations were all included in the program before Obamacare became law.
It also provides insurance for poor adult Americans, and recent evidence shows that its expansion under Obamacare has given more poor people access to health care services and reduced their exposure to financial shocks.
“While details remain elusive, this is shaping up to be the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk in our country’s history,” said Matt Salo, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, in an email. Mr. Salo said that some of his directors would welcome caps if they came with more program flexibility, but said the current approach amounted to a funding cut.
Most researchers who study the program closely say that it is already quite lean. Major savings, they say, will be hard to achieve without reducing medical benefits or cutting higher-cost patients from the program.
Trump administration officials and Republican members of Congress have argued that the Medicaid changes won’t cause anyone to lose insurance coverage directly. That statement is true in only the narrowest sense.
Because the funding cuts would fall to states, it is state officials who would decide whether to save money by raising taxes, reducing payments to nursing homes oreliminating benefits like home-based care for disabled beneficiaries, a few available options under the law.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that enrollment in Medicaid would decline substantially over a decade, as states pursued a variety of strategies to save money, some of which would push people out of the program.
Several Republican senators have expressed concerns about changes to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which broadened the program to include more low-income adults in 31 states.
Others worry about changes to private insurance subsidies that would make insurance less affordable to older, middle-class Americans. Fewer have spoken out about the cuts to Medicaid’s legacy beneficiaries. That means that, as the Senate works out final details, the forced diet for Medicaid is likely to stay in the bill.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Poll: Opposition to GOP Healthcare Bill is Rising

GOP Senate leader, the always despicable Mitch McConnell

As Senate Republicans meet in secret to draft their  "healthcare reform" bill - secrecy is admitted to be needed given how harmful the bill will be to millions of Americans and is aimed at leaving opponents with out time to educate the public on the toxicity of the bill - a new poll shows that public opposition to the GOP is rising.   I don't quite understand the mindset where passing something horrible and harmful to millions with little time for any public review is supposed to lessen the ultimate political fallout.  The details will get out either before or after a Senate vote, and those who voted to harm millions will not go un-wounded  once their constituents understand the extent of the betrayal.  A piece in Politico looks at the already rising opposition to Trumpcare.  Here are highlights:
As the GOP-led Senate prepares to take up the measure, only 35 percent of voters surveyed approve of the bill passed by the House last month. Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, disapprove of the bill. The other 16 percent don’t know or don’t have an opinion, the poll shows.
POLITICO/Morning Consult polling indicates the bill has become less popular since the House advanced it in early May. Immediately after the bill passed, slightly more voters approved of the bill, 38 percent. Opposition to the bill was lower, too, immediately after the House passed it: 44 percent.
The poll underscores the risks Republicans face in pursuing legislation for which opposition is creeping toward a majority of voters. The Senate’s so-far behind-closed-doors drafting process also complicates Republicans’ efforts to sell the proposal to their own voters — and there’s some evidence of slippage among the GOP base on the party’s Obamacare repeal bid.
Among Republican voters, 30 percent disapprove of the GOP health care bill. That is up from 15 percent of Republicans disapproving in early May.
Moreover, independent voters disapprove of the bill by a 2-to-1 margin: 26 percent approve, versus 53 percent who disapprove.
Other measures similarly show few voters are cheering for the legislation’s passage. Only 27 percent think it will make the U.S. health care system better, compared to 41 percent who think it will make the system worse. Just 17 percent think it will decrease costs for them and their families, while 46 percent think costs will increase.
And while voters haven’t heard much about the Senate’s progress, they want the GOP to work with Democrats on the final bill. Nearly two-thirds of voters, 65 percent, say they want Republicans to “compromise with Democrats to reach bipartisan reforms.” Only 18 percent want the GOP to “work only with other Republicans in Congress to achieve reforms.”
Even among GOP voters, a 54-percent majority wants the party to work across the aisle on the final product.
And Republicans are on perilous political ground, according to the poll's generic ballot test. Forty-three percent of voters say they would support the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district, compared to only 37 percent for the Republican candidate. Among voters who say their most important issue is health care, the Democratic candidate leads by 38 points, 61 percent to 23 percent.

Are giving huge tax breaks to the very wealthy that important to the GOP that depriving millions of coverage - including children and the elderly - outweighs all else?  The GOP is morally bankrupt and so are the evangelical Christians who vote Republican.

Court: Russia's "Gay Propaganda" Ban Violates International Law

With Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, seemingly seeking to emulate the authoritarian ruling style of Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, including Putin's anti-LGBT policies, it is worth noting that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled (with only one dissent by a -surprise, surprise - Russian judge) that Russia's "anti-gay propaganda law violates international law and conventions to which Russia is a signatory.  As noted previously, the law is part of Putin's effort to (i) scapegoat target minorities to distract the Russian public from the economic disaster Putin has brought to Russia and (ii) pander to the vitriolically homophobic Russian Orthodox Church the support of which Putin has needed to bolster himself politically.   The parallels between Putin's motivations and those of Trump who has prostituted himself to American Christofascists and scapegoated minorities are stunning.  BuzzFeed looks at the Court's ruling against Russia.  Here are excerpts:
Europe's top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that Russia's so-called "gay propaganda" ban violates international agreements protecting free speech and prohibiting discrimination.

Some regional governments in Russia adopted versions of this legislation beginning in 2003, and it was enacted nationwide in 2013, setting up a showdown over LGBT rights ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The law technically prohibits "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors," but authorities have also used the rule to justify shutting down LGBT rights protests, and to fine a newspaper for reporting on LGBT issues.
Tuesday's ruling came in a lawsuit brought by three LGBT rights activists, who were fined under local versions of the ban for protests staged between 2009 and 2012 at venues including a building used by the city administration of St. Petersburg, a children's library in Arkhangelsk, and a school in Ryazan. After losing appeals at Russia's Constitutional Court, they took their case to the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR enforces a human rights convention ratified not only by all EU member states, but also by Russia and 18 additional countries.
The ECHR ruled that the ban violates international law, and rejected all the Russian government's justifications for the provision.
"Above all, by adopting such laws the Court found that the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values – of equality, pluralism and tolerance – of a democratic society," the ECHR wrote in an opinion agreed to by six of the seven judges who reviewed the case.
The ECHR also dismissed the Russian government's claims that inappropriate material could "convert" children to homosexuality.
"The Court found that the Government had been unable to provide any explanation of the mechanism by which a minor could be enticed into '[a] homosexual lifestyle', let alone science-based evidence that one’s sexual orientation or identity was susceptible to change under external influence," the judges wrote. 
The lone Russian judge on the panel, Dmitry Dedov, dissented from the ruling in an opinion that said "positive image of homosexuality adversely affects the development of children and puts them under risk of sexual violence."
The decision orders the Russian government to pay €49,000 to the activists who brought the suit.
The Russian Ministry of Justice vowed to appeal the ruling, which is supposed to bind the courts of Russia under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights. But Russia has repeatedly thumbed its nose at the ECHR's authority in recent years, including adopting legislation in 2015 allowing for ECHR rulings to be ignored when they contradict the Russian Constitution.

As Trump's approval levels continue to plummet, expect more anti-LGBT efforts on his part to solidify his toxic evangelical Christian base. 

New Studies: Swing Trump Voters Motivated By Racism and Religious Bigotry

I have taken a lot of abuse by "conservatives" and Republican friends/acquaintances for my continued position that racism and its first cousin, religious based bigotry, were the key components in Trump's Electoral College win, despite his almost 3 million loss in the popular vote.  Trump as seemingly been a racist for most of his life going back decades ago here in Norfolk, Virginia when the Trump companies were sued by the Justice Department for anti-black housing discrimination.  Thus, who better than Trump to play to closet racists who had voted for Barack Obama because of their economic concerns which overrode their racism and religious bigotry.  Two new studies indicate that - as I have consistently argued - Trump/the GOP played their cards to appeal to these voters' racism/religious animus to swing a critical number of Obama voters to Trump.  Specifically, Trump lies to these voters on what he intended to do on healthcare and other issues when, based on what the GOP has attempted to date, these promises were never going to be realized.  A piece  in Slate looks at the study findings:
. . . . .[v]oters who supported Barack Obama in 2012 only to back Trump in 2016. Its lessons have far-ranging implications not only for diagnosing Trump’s specific appeal but for whether such an appeal would hold in 2020.
Two reports from the Voter Study Group, which conducted the survey, give a detailed look at these vote switchers. . . . . One, from George Washington University political scientist John Sides, looks at racial, religious, and cultural divides and how they shaped the 2016 election. The other, from political scientist Lee Drutman, takes a detailed look at those divides and places them in the context of the Democratic and Republican parties. Starting in different places, both Sides and Drutman conclude that questions of race, religion, and American identity were critical to the 2016 outcome, especially among Obama-to-Trump voters.
Whether or not they identified with a party, most people who voted in the 2016 election were partisans. “Approximately 83 percent of voters were ‘consistent partisans,’ ” writes Sides. In other words, they voted for the same major party in both 2012 and 2016. This is the typical case. But about 9 percent of Donald Trump’s voters had backed Obama in the previous election, equivalent to roughly 4 percent of the electorate. Why? The popular answer, or at least the current conventional wisdom, is economic dislocation. But Sides is skeptical. He concludes that economic issues mattered, but no more or less than they did in the 2012 election. The same goes for views on entitlement programs, on trade, and on the state of the economy in general.
What changed was the importance of identity. Attitudes toward immigration, toward black Americans, and toward Muslims were more correlated with voting Republican in 2016 than in 2012. Put a little differently, Barack Obama won re-election with the support of voters who held negative views toward blacks, Muslims, and immigrants. Sides notes that “37 percent of white Obama voters had a less favorable attitude toward Muslims” while 33 percent said “illegal immigrants” were “mostly a drain.”
Nonetheless, writes Sides, “the political consequences in 2016 were the same: a segment of white Democrats with less favorable attitudes toward these ethnic and religious minorities were potential or actual Trump voters.”
Drutman plots the electorate across two axes—one measuring economic views, the other measuring views on identity—to build a political typology with four categories: liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and populists. Liberals, the largest single group, hold left or left-leaning views on economics and identity. Libertarians, the smallest group, hold right-leaning views on economics but leftward beliefs on identity. Conservatives are third largest, with right-leaning views on both indices, while populists—the second largest group—are the inverse of libertarians, holding liberal economic views and conservative beliefs on identity.
Most populists, according to Drutman, were already Republican voters in the 2012 election, prizing their conservative views on identity over liberal economic policies. A minority, about 28 percent, backed Obama. But four years later, Clinton could only hold on to 6 in 10 of those populist voters who had voted for Obama. Most Democratic defectors were populists, and their views reflect it: They hold strong positive feelings toward Social Security and Medicare, like Obama voters, but are negative toward black people and Muslims, and see themselves as “in decline.”
This is a portrait of the most common Obama-to-Trump voter: a white American who wants government intervention in the economy but holds negative, even prejudiced, views toward racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. In 2012, these voters seemed to value economic liberalism over a white, Christian identity and backed Obama over Romney. By 2016, the reverse was true. . . .
[T]here’s another way to read the data. Usually, voters in the political crosscurrents, like Drutman’s populists, have to prioritize one of their chief concerns. That’s what happened in 2008 and 2012. Yes, they held negative views toward nonwhites and other groups, but neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney ran on explicit prejudice. Instead, it was a standard left vs. right ideological contest, and a substantial minority of populists sided with Obama because of the economy. That wasn’t true of the race with Trump. He tied his racial demagoguery to a liberal-sounding economic message, activating racial resentment while promising jobs, entitlements, and assistance.
The good news for Democrats—and the even better news for the populist left—is that unless Trump makes a swift break with the Republican Party, his combined economic and identity-based appeal was a one-time affair. In 2020, if he runs for re-election, Trump will just be a Republican, and while he’s certain to prime racial resentment, he’ll also have a conservative economic record to defend. In other words, it will be harder to muddy the waters. And if it’s harder to muddy the waters, then it’s easier for Democrats—and especially a Democratic populist—to draw the distinctions that win votes.
The bottom line?  If you want to see a likely racist and religious bigot, look a Trump voter in the face. Don't be fooled by their feign religiosity or  adherence to "Christian values." The truth is that they are morally bankrupt.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The GOP's Limited Options to Destroy Trumpism

For decades now the so-called GOP establishment held its nose and closed its eyes as it cynically and short shortsightedly welcomed one ugly constituency into the party base, always believing that the establishment could control the unwashed welcomed in in order to win short term electoral victories.  First came the Christofascists, next the white supremacist, and now the Al-Right and downright insane. The end result is the presidency of Der  Trumpenführer and a party base where truth, knowledge and objective facts are ignored - indeed, they are condemned, both by the occupant of the White House and the knuckle draggers of the base.  How this cancer is removed without the death of the GOP itself is a difficult question, with no easy solutions.  A column in the Washington Post looks at  some of the limited options.  Here are column highlights:
Nearly 150 days into the Trump era, no non-delusional conservative can be happy with the direction of events or pleased with the options going forward.
President Trump is remarkably unpopular, particularly with the young (among whom his approval is underwater by a remarkable 48 percentage points in one poll). And the reasons have little to do with elitism or media bias.
Trump has been ruled by compulsions, obsessions and vindictiveness, expressed nearly daily on Twitter. He has demonstrated an egotism that borders on solipsism. His political skills as president have been close to nonexistent. His White House is divided, incompetent and chaotic, and key administration jobs remain unfilled. His legislative agenda has gone nowhere. He has told constant, childish, refuted, uncorrected lies, and demanded and habituated deception among his underlings. He has humiliated and undercut his staff while requiring and rewarding flattery. He has promoted self-serving conspiracy theories. He has displayed pathetic, even frightening, ignorance on policy matters foreign and domestic. 
Trump has made consistent appeals to prejudice based on religion and ethnicity, and associated the Republican Party with bias. He has stoked tribal hostilities. He has carelessly fractured our national unity. He has attempted to undermine respect for any institution that opposes or limits him — be it the responsible press, the courts or the intelligence community. He has invited criminal investigation through his secrecy and carelessness. He has publicly attempted to intimidate law enforcement. He has systematically alarmed our allies and given comfort to authoritarians.
For many Republicans and conservatives, there is apparently no last straw, with offenses mounting bale by bale. . . . He is the general, so shut up and salute. What, after all, is the conservative endgame other than Trump’s success?
[H]ope for a new and improved Trump deteriorates into unreason. The idea that an alliance with Trump will end anywhere but disaster is a delusion. . . . . Both individuals and the Republican Party are being corrupted and stained by their embrace of Trump. The endgame of accommodation is to be morally and politically discredited. Those committed to this approach warn of national decline — and are practically assisting it. They warn of decadence — and provide refreshments at the orgy.
So what is the proper objective for Republicans and conservatives? It is the defeat of Trumpism, preferably without the destruction of the GOP itself. 
Creating a conservative third party — as some have proposed — would have the effect of delivering national victories to a uniformly liberal and unreformed Democratic Party. A bad idea.
A primary challenge to Trump in the 2020 presidential election is more attractive, but very much an outside shot. An unlikely idea.
It is possible — if Democrats take the House in 2018 — that impeachment will ripen into a serious movement, . . . . A theoretical idea.
A Democratic victory in the 2020 election would represent the defeat of Trumpism and might be a prelude to Republican reform. But Democrats seem to be viewing Trump’s troubles as an opportunity to plunge leftward with a more frankly socialistic and culturally liberal message.
Or Republicans and conservatives could just try to outlast Trump — closing the shutters and waiting for the hurricane to pass — while rooting for the success of a strong bench of rising 40-something leaders . . . .  This may be the most practical approach but risks eight years of ideological entrenchment by Trumpism, along with massive damage to the Republican brand. A complacent idea.
Whatever option is chosen, it will not be easy or pretty. And any comfort for Republicans will be cold because they brought this fate on themselves and the country.
The last sentence is telling - all of this was self-inflicted.  The country is the real loser because of GOP irresponsibility.

New Subpoenas Issued to Manafort in Grand Jury Russiagate Probe

While Der Trumpenführer continues to rant that the Russiagate probe is a "witch hunt" it seems that prosecutors and grand jurors in the Alexandria, Virginia division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia may believe otherwise as the Washington Post breaks the news that a new round of subpoenas have been issued to Paul Manafort and his wife.  It appears that even as concerns were rising in America about Russian involvement in attacks on the U'S.'s election process, Paul Manafort continued to meet with his "friend" with ties to Russian military intelligence.  Here are excerpts from the Post story:
In August, as tension mounted over Russia’s role in the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, sat down to dinner with a business associate from Ukraine who once served in the Russian army.
Konstantin Kilimnik, who learned English at a military school that some experts consider a training ground for Russian spies, had helped run the Ukraine office for Manafort’s international political consulting practice for 10 years.
At the Grand Havana Room, one of New York City’s most exclusive cigar bars, the longtime acquaintances “talked about bills unpaid by our clients, about [the] overall situation in Ukraine . . . and about the current news,” including the presidential campaign, according to a statement provided by Kilimnik, offering his most detailed account of his interactions with the former Trump adviser.
[T]he previously unreported dinner was one of two meetings he had with Manafort on visits to the United States during Manafort’s five months working for Trump. The first encounter was in early May 2016, about two weeks before the Trump adviser was elevated to campaign chairman.
Kilimnik’s name also appeared this spring in a previously undisclosed subpoena sought by federal prosecutors looking for information “concerning contracts for work . . . communication or other records of correspondence” related to about two dozen people and businesses that appeared to be connected to Manafort or his wife, including some who worked with Manafort in Kiev.
The subpoena was issued by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia, where, until recently, Manafort’s business was headquartered. The subpoena did not specify whether it was related to the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election or a separate inquiry into Manafort’s business activities. Investigators in the Eastern District of Virginia have been assisting with the Russia investigation.
Before joining Trump’s campaign, Manafort had built a practice in Ukraine as an adviser to the Russia-friendly Party of Regions and helped elect former president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014 and fled to Russia. Manafort kept his Kiev office open until mid-2015.
Federal investigators have shown an interest in Manafort on several fronts beyond his work on behalf of Trump.  Subpoenas in New York have sought information about Manafort’s real estate loans, according to NBC News. Justice Department officials also are exploring whether Manafort should have more fully disclosed his work for foreign political parties, as required by federal law.
Kilimnik said he was trained in English and Swedish and spent the early 1990s serving as a military translator, including in 1993 on a trade mission of a Russian arms company. . . . Stephen Blank, a Russia expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, a Washington think tank, and a longtime former instructor at the U.S. Army War College, called the institute a “breeding ground” for intelligence officers.  Mark Galeotti, a Russia security specialist at the Institute of International Relations, a Prague-based foreign policy think tank, said the school is one of the “favored recruiting grounds” of the GRU.

The Trillion Dollar LGBT Market Niche

A portion of the crowd at PrideFest 2017
When I was fired from a large local law firm after I came out in mid-life - a gay partner it was said would offend the sensibilities of the firm's "conservative" client - I made a concerted effort to market to the sizable LGBT market.  Who better to address the legal concerns of LGBT citizens than a gay attorney who knew about bigotry and discrimination first hand (hence my win as the best attorney in Outwire 757 recent reader's choice awards).  As part of that effort, I was a founder of the local LGBT chamber of commerce, Hampton Roads Business OutReach ("HRBOR") In the years since, both locally and nationally, more and more businesses have discovered that smart business means marketing to the LGBT community and other minority communities, e.g. the Hispanic-American community. Some businesses have suffered the attempted wrath of Christofascists who regularly have called ineffective boycotts against national companies advertising to the LGBT market, but have been undeterred (and typically saw they earnings increase).  A piece in Inside Business underscores why marketing to the LGBT community makes sense.  The explanation is ultimately simple:  LGBT individuals make up a trillion dollar market and have money to spend.  Moreover, they are loyal to those who are LGBT friendly - locally, I can tell you which law firms to avoid if you are LGBT - and engage in word of mouth promotion of merchants and professionals that they respect.  Here are some article excerpts:
Rainbow flags [could] be seen on the streets of Hampton Roads as the region prepare[d] for a series of celebrations for the LGBTQ community, wrapping up a month of gay pride celebrations.
Hampton Roads PrideFest alone expect[ed] 25,000 to 30,000 visitors from across the Mid-Atlantic for Saturday's festival in Norfolk's Town Point Park. Many of these visitors have booked hotels for the weekend and restaurants, stores and other tourism-related businesses expect big business.
The estimated purchasing power of LGBTQ adults in the U.S. ranges around $1 trillion. Witeck Communications released a study last year that showed a four percent increase to $917 billion while the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce estimates buying power at $1.7 trillion.
The Hampton Roads region is no exception. In fact, a 2015 Gallup study ranked the Virginia Beach-Norfolk metropolitan area as 12th out of 50 metropolitan areas with the highest proportion of LGBTQ adults (4.4 percent of our population). Old Dominion University's 2016 State of the Region Report estimated the LGBTQ working-age adult's average income in Hampton Roads totaled $2.017 billion, about 4.8 percent of total income of adults between the ages of 25 and 64.
This large purchasing power isn’t because LGBTQ adults are earning more than their heterosexual counterparts. In fact, studies cited in the State of the Region show gay men and lesbian women earn about five and nine percent less, respectively, than their heterosexual male coworkers.   Rather, this purchasing power comes from large disposable incomes due to the fact LGBTQ households often have two full incomes without any children and related expenses . . .
Much of this disposable income goes toward travel, hence the interest of the tourism industries. Virginia Tourism Corporation data shows LGBTQ visitors stay longer and spend more than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.
The Downtown Norfolk Council emailed local businesses with a list of suggestions on how to make the most of the gay pride festival and potential customers. Suggestions included showing off rainbow clothes, flags, signs, drinks and food along with offering discounts to people who wear rainbow colors in support. The council even offered to distribute rainbow flags and necklaces for free.
Ryan Downey of the Hampton Convention and Visitor Bureau said although there is nothing in Hampton that is exclusively for the LGBTQ consumer, the bureau hosts occasional meeting of local business owners to discuss LGBTQ events and efforts.
Pride events have included a river cruise, in which all proceeds went to ACCESS AIDS, and a historical feature on growing up gay in Hampton Roads called “Our Story, Our Time” presented by the Hampton History Museum.
The Virginia Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau has produced an in-flight video for American Airlines featuring LGBTQ locals along with photos of LGBTQ couples, to market weddings at the convention center and the city's ViBe district.
The ViBe district boasts the Rainbow Crosswalk at 19th Street and Cypress Avenue. Virginia Beach leadership, all the way up to the mayor, has embraced this intentional, organic symbol by a local artist . . . .
Several organizations aim to help businesses overcome the marketing costs of advertising themselves as a destination for LGBTQ consumers.
The Hampton Roads Business OutReach aims to give local businesses national exposure. Tracy Skinner, the outreach group's president, encourages businesses to become certified as an LGBTQ business enterprise through the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in order to do business with larger corporations like Hilton and American Airlines.
Similarly, the Virginia Tourism Corporation urges business to add a free listing at Virginia.Org, which reaches 13 million annually. It also offers an extensive LGBTQ tourism resource guide. 
LGBTQ acceptance has been on the rise in the last decade since the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Although many are encouraged by the growing acceptance, tourism industries of competing cities have struggled to “break through the noise.” . . . "It’s not enough to just slap a rainbow flag on something and check the box.”
As the article notes, locally, the LGBT community is over a $2 billion market.  What savvy business owner would not want to pursue that type of market?

Winners of the 2017 Outwire757 "Best of" Awards