Thursday, October 19, 2017

More Thursday Male Beauty

Virginia 2017 Elections - Political Endorsements

The following are excerpts from my column in the October, 2017, issue of VEER Magazine. (I write a monthly column)  To read the full column (and many other timely columns, look for VEER on news stands now. across Hampton Roads.  Here are the excerpts:
With Virginia's off year elections, LGBT Virginians find themselves confronted with crucial decisions at the ballot box every year.  But this year may be more critical than most given the war against LGBT Americans being relentlessly waged by the Trump/Pence regime in Washington, D.C.  On top of some of the already egregious measures - e.g., rolling back LGBT protections and intervening in a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to argue that existing federal civil rights laws do not apply to LGBT individuals - the Trump regime representative to the United Nations recently voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemns the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.  In voting against the resolution, the American delegation joined with Islamic countries such as Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.   One way to create a firewall against such anti-LGBT animus is to elect LGBT allied candidates to the offices of Governor, Attorney General and Lt. Governor on November 7, 2017.    As has become increasingly the case, the allies to the LGBT community in Virginia among elected officials are almost without exception the Democrat candidates.  
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR.   My endorsement goes to Democrat, Ralph Northam.  There are numerous reasons to endorse Democrat Ralph Northam over his challenger, former lobbyist Ed Gillespie, a/k/a "Enron Ed," but Dr. Northam's strong support for LGBT community and our civil rights, including our right to marry the person we love, certainly is a powerful factor.  No American citizen should have to worry one election cycle to the next about whether or not their civil rights will be abrogated or restricted based on the results of the coming election, yet that is the reality faced by LGBT Virginians, especially given the offensive being waged against us by the Trump White House.
 Just like the dishonesty and disingenuousness we see daily from the Trump/Pence regime, Ed Gillespie has tried to have it both ways and lied while speaking out of both sides of his mouth on LGBT rights and other issues.  Late last month, desperate to secure the endorsement of the Northern Virginia Business Political Action Committee, the PAC for the Northern Virginia Chamber, Gillespie privately promised to veto any anti-transgender bathroom that might come to him if he is elected governor.  Not surprisingly, that privately made promise is directly opposite of the many promises Gillespie, like Trump, has made to the evangelical Christians who wield huge influence within the GOP base in Virginia.  This Christian extremist influence is best embodied by The Family Foundation ("TFF"), a virulently anti-gay, anti-transgender organization that vigorously opposes any legal protections for LGBT Virginians and which, if given its way, would bring back the sodomy laws struck down in 2003 by the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.  Equally disturbing is Gillespie's repeated promises to Christian right extremists about his dedication to protecting their "religious freedom."  Sadly, this religious freedom ruse has become the standard Republican double speak which means Gillespie will protect the right of Christofascists' to discriminate against others based on real or claimed "religious belief." Stated another way, Gillespie supports license to discriminate laws veiled behind a smoke screen of "protecting religious freedom."  As icing on the cake, Gillespie believes in "traditional marriage" and is no fan or supporter of same sex marriage.
 In sharp contrast to each of Gillespie's positions, Ralph Northam has consistently supported LGBT rights initiatives, ran for the office of Lt. Governor on a platform that openly supported same sex marriage, and believes that real or feigned religious belief should not be a license to discriminate against or mistreat other citizens, be it in the form of refusing service to LGBT customers or refusing them housing. No one should be exempt from the scope of non-discrimination laws. If Gillespie's embrace of the larger GOP anti-LGBT rights agenda isn't enough to cause you to vote for Ralph Northam, then one should consider Gillespie's dangerous positions on health care, gun control and or fiscal responsibility.  . . . . Gillespie promises a 10% across the board tax cut if elected.  This tax cut would cause well over a $1.3 billion budget deficit for Virginia according to reports published by the Washington Post.  On his campaign website Gillespie claims that this would equate to a $1,300 tax cut to a family of four.  Like most GOP projections this claim does not seem to match mathematical reality.  My husband and I with our two wage earner incomes and CPA generated returns would see nowhere near this large of a cut in our annual state taxes.  One can only wonder what Gillespie considers to be a "typical family.”  By my calculation it would mean only those families making over perhaps approximately $200,000+ per year would realize the tax cut Gillespie promises. The very wealthy would be the big winners. 
On gun control, Ralph Northam is again the better candidate.  With America still reeling from the mass murder in Las Vegas earlier this month and the Pulse night club massacre still in the minds of many in the LGBT community, it is important to be aware of Ed Gillespie's opposition to sensible gun control laws.   In fact, earlier this year, Gillespie (and GOP Attorney General candidate John Adams) bragged about his top ratings from the NRA.  In sharp contrast to Gillespie, Ralph Northam received an "F" rating from the NRA, an organization that is little more than a front for gun manufacturers.  As a former military physician, Northam knows all too well what automatic weapons can do to the human body in the wrong hands and supports both a ban on the sale of assault weapons and other common sense legislation to reduce the carnage  from gun violence.  Remember those ratings when you vote in November and vote for Ralph Northam (and Mark Herring who is similarly disliked by the NRA). On healthcare, Gillespie is a supporter of the failed Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and despite promises to the contrary sees no problem with thousands of Virginians losing health insurance coverage.
OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL: My endorsement goes to Democrat, Mark Herring.  Since taking office in January, 2014, Mark Herring has been a steadfast supporter of the constitutional rights of all Virginians, including LGBT Virginians, as evidenced by his refusal to defend Virginia's unconstitutional ban on same sex marriage, a ban based on far right religious belief rather than the concept of equal protection under the law.  Similarly, Herring has opposed Republican efforts to employ voter ID laws to disenfranchise minority voters.  Herring's opponent, John Adams hypocritically whines that Herring has allowed "politics" to influence his actions as Attorney General, yet Adams, if elected, would bring back a religious right and white supremacist political agenda not seen since Ken Cuccinelli left office.   Adams would do all in his power reverse the McAuliffe/Northam/Herring effort to "make sure that Virginia is business-friendly and welcoming to all."
 Demonstrating Herring's effectiveness over the last almost four years, in endorsing Herring, the Northern Virginia Business Political Action Committee stated “General Herring has ably served the Commonwealth, just as he did serving Northern Virginia in the Senate and Loudoun County on the Board of Supervisors,” . . . . “He has a record of leadership on a host of key business issues important to the Northern Virginia Chamber, including his unwavering support for the landmark HB2313 transportation plan, and his commitment to modernize Virginia’s regulatory framework to prepare the Commonwealth for the emerging technologies that will lead private sector growth in the 21st century.”
 Adams' attacks on Herring simply are not true and ultimately reflect his own bias against equality for all Virginians, those who are LGBT in particular.  Adams supports a ban on same-sex marriage and has stated that "“I have a religious faith that tells me that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. That’s what I believe.”  As the Washington Post this past summer noted, Adams even longs for a Trump packed Supreme Court that can reverse the 2015 ruling in Obergefell.  He also supports voter ID laws that have little or nothing to do with perverting voter fraud, but which instead, are aimed at stopping "those people" from voting, so draw your own conclusions as to whether the label "racist" applies to Adams.   
Like Ed Gillespie, Adams is also very big on "religious freedom" laws and the myth that American Christians are being persecuted.  Adams' vision of religious freedom does NOT include religious freedom for gays, Muslims, Hindus or other non-Christians despite his dishonest posturing that he would represent all Virginians.  And yes, he supported the toxic Hobby Lobby decision (he worked on the case for free of charge Hobby Lobby when it opposed contraception coverage in health care plans).  It goes without saying that Adams counts as friends and endorsers a veritable who's who of right extreme wing Republicans. Vote for Mark Herring on November 7, 2017. OFFICE OF LLIEUTENANT GOVERNOR:  My endorsement goes to Democrat Justin Fairfax.  Justin Fairfax, the Democrat candidate, tracks the positions of Ralph Northam and Mark Herring: expand healthcare coverage to poor and working class families, common sense gun control laws, increased efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay and policies to address climate change and rising sea levels.  He also backs common sense women's reproductive rights policies, equal pay for equal work, and marriage equality and non-discrimination protections for hard working LGBT Virginians. Fairfax opposes Republican efforts to dismantle America's healthcare laws and leave hundreds of thousands of Virginians without health care coverage.
 Similar contrasts exist between Fairfax, and Republican, Jill Vogel, as note in the other statewide races. Like Adams, Vogel is an extremist and was the sponsor of one of the bills (SB484) during the McDonnell governorship that would have forced women seeking abortions to undergo forced invasive trans-vaginal ultra sounds.  This effort subjected Virginia to national and international ridicule and proved that Vogel is no moderate despite the deceptive effort on her campaign website.  A review of Vogel's "issues" are a warmed over version of those of Gillespie and Adams and appear aimed at deceiving voters from realizing her true right wing, reverse Robin Hood agenda, best embodied by Gillespie's tax cut promise that will disproportionately reward the very wealthy while bankrupting Virginia.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 underscores the dangers of not voting and the danger posed by Republican government control of all branches of government. We cannot allow a similar disaster to happen in Virginia.  

Big Pharma - Drug Dealers in Lab Coats

Last weekend the Washington Post and “60 Minutes” did a major public service and reported that pharmaceutical lobbyists had manipulated Congress to hamstring the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Just as frightening, Donald Trump intended to name big Pharma's point man in Congress to be his new drug czar until the scathing coverage derailed that effort and Pennsylvania Republican Tom Marino, withdrew his name from consideration.  The crisis of deaths from opioids is a prime example of why strict government regulation is needed because sadly in too many corporate board rooms the only thing that matters is money - even when it comes from actions that lead to needless deaths. Rather than rail against petty anti dealers and increase the arrests on users of small amounts of marijuana, Trump and the ever despicable Jeff Sessions need to go after big Pharma which not only has become a merchant of death but also overcharges everyday Americans on virtually a daily basis.  A column in the New York Times looks at the underlying cause for the opioid crisis.  Here are highlights:
For decades, America has waged an ineffective war on drug pushers and drug lords, from Bronx street corners to Medellin, Colombia, regarding them as among the most contemptible specimens of humanity.
One reason our efforts have failed is we ignored the biggest drug pushers of all: American pharmaceutical companies.
Our policy was: You get 15 people hooked on opioids, and you’re a thug who deserves to rot in hell; you get 150,000 people hooked, and you’re a marketing genius who deserves a huge bonus.
Big Pharma should be writhing in embarrassment this week after The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” reported that pharmaceutical lobbyists had manipulated Congress to hamstring the Drug Enforcement Administration. But the abuse goes far beyond that: The industry systematically manipulated the entire country for 25 years, and its executives are responsible for many of the 64,000 deaths of Americans last year from drugs — more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam and Iraq wars combined.
The opioid crisis unfolded because greedy people — Latin drug lords and American pharma executives alike — lost their humanity when they saw the astounding profits that could be made.
Today, 75 percent of people with opioid addictions began with prescription painkillers. The slide starts not on a street corner, but in a doctor’s office.
That’s because pharmaceutical companies in the 1990s sought to promote opioid painkillers as new blockbuster drugs. Company executives accused doctors of often undertreating pain (there was something to this, but pharma executives contrived to turn it into a crisis that they could monetize). The companies backed front organizations like the American Pain Foundation, which purported to speak on behalf of suffering patients.
The opioid promoters hailed opioids as “safe and effective,” and they particularly encouraged opioids for returning veterans — one reason so many veterans have suffered addictions.
Drug companies employed roughly the same strategy as street-corner pushers: Get somebody hooked and business will take care of itself. So last year, Americans received 236 million opioid prescriptions — that’s about one bottle for every adult.
[T]he Sackler family, owner of the company that makes OxyContin, joined Forbes’s list of richest American families in 2015, with $14 billion.
It’s maddening that the public narrative is still often about an opioid crisis fueled by the personal weakness and irresponsibility of users. No, it’s fueled primarily by the greed and irresponsibility of drug lords — including the kind who inhabit executive suites. The Washington Post quoted a former D.E.A. official as referring to pharmaceutical company representatives as “drug dealers in lab coats.”
Our pattern of opioid addiction points to a tragedy, driven by the greed of some of America’s leading companies and business executives, systematically manipulating doctors and patients and killing people on a scale that terrorists could never dream of.
There’s a lot of talk in the Trump administration about lifting regulations to free up the dynamism of corporations. Really? You want to see the consequences of unfettered pharma? Go visit a cemetery.

Trump Shouldn’t Be President

One of the standard bloviating points for Republicans is to talk about "supporting our troops" and "supporting our men in uniform."  When it comes to putting words into action, with a few exceptions Congressional Republicans never follow through.  Be it sending troops to war without proper equipment and armor as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan or cutting veterans' benefits (or somewhat similarly cutting funding to the State Department for security and then whining and throwing conniption fits over Benghazi), Republicans time and again confirm the old axiom that "talk is cheap."   Of course, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, has taken dishonesty and disrespect for our members of the military to new heights as he displayed utter callousness toward the widow of a young soldier, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed in an ambush in Niger - for Fox News viewers, Niger is a country in West Africa.  

Perhaps I take such things more personally than Der Trumpenführer who never served in the military (thanks to questionable deferments) or ever had family members in the military.  While, thankfully, I did not lose a family member, we came very, very close when one of my sons-in-law was badly wounded in Afghanistan on his THIRD deployment to that hell hole.   He languished for three days at Bagram Airbase before he was finally flown out to Germany (and then to Texas) to receive much needed medical care only after Democrat U.S. Senator from Virginia, Mark Warner's office got involved at my request.  Frankly, I am over the lying and dishonesty of the majority of Republicans when comes to supporting and respecting our men and women in uniform.  Der Trumpenführer could whine and tweet about NFL players "disrespecting our troops" yet his callousness and broken promises toward gold star families speaks volumes.  

A piece in the Washington Post looks at the situation of Sgt. Johnson after Trump lied about his unacceptable behavior.  Here are highlights: 
The mother of a soldier killed in an ambush in Africa said Wednesday that President Trump “did disrespect my son” with remarks in a condolence telephone call.
Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Washington Post that she was present during the call from the White House on Tuesday to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson. She also stood by an account of the call from Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) that Trump told Myeshia Johnson that her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”
“President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband,” Jones-Johnson said.  Trump lashed back at Wilson. He denied her account in a Twitter message Wednesday.
But as is always the case with Trump, the family of Sgt. Johnson are not alone in the disrespect and mistreatment they have received at the hands of the foul individual in the White House.  A piece Talking Points Memo looks at Trump's broken promise to Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, killed in Afghanistan.  Here are excerpts:
Another simply bizarre new thread in the Trump bereavement call story. The Post called the families of service members who’ve died in the line of duty since Trump became President. There were some good stories, some bad; some had never heard from the President. There were a lot of what you might call Trumpian moments. But the really bizarre story was his conversation with Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, killed in Afghanistan. 
Trump told him he’d send him a personal check for $25,000. Not standard and complicated, inasmuch as presumably the President isn’t going to cut everyone a check. But it’s not unprecedented. I believe I remember that there are records of President Obama sending sums of money to private citizens who were struggling.  But then Trump forgot about it.
Trump apparently told Baldridge he’d have the White House staff set up an online fundraiser for Baldridge too. But then nothing happened.
So it certainly sounds like the check was sent after the Post started asking questions, in other words, sort of like how the Niger calls shook out.
The bottom line is that Trump is unfit for his office in so many ways that it is difficult to count them all.  Worse yet, as these stories underscore, he doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself.  If working class whites who voted for Trump think he gives a rat's ass about them, they are utter and total fools.   When Trump attacked Khizr Khan before the 2016 presidential election, anyone decent and moral should have known all they needed to know about Trump and should have voted for anyone other than Trump.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Click on image to enlarge

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Quote of the Day - What's Wrong With Republicans

I typically disagree with almost everything columnist Ross Douthat says and believes, not the least because he sees religion, especially "conservative" Christianity,  as a positive good, whereas I see it as a net evil.  Much of the success of the Republican Party has been because of playing upon the hatred and bigotry that I see as being synonymous with right wing Christianity in America.  While Douthat still hasn't woken up to the reality of the negative effects of religion, he seems to have woken up to the evils of today's Republican Party under Der Trumpenführer: 
Thirteen years ago, in the midst of a different Republican administration, the liberal book of the moment was Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” In answering his title’s question, Frank argued that hardworking heartland Americans were being duped by a Republican Party that whipped up culture-war frenzy to disguise its plutocratic aims. Middle-class and working-class Republican voters, he insisted, were voting against their own economic self-interest and getting worse than nothing in return.
Trump has essentially become the Frankian caricature in full, draping the rhetoric of populism over an agenda that so far offers little or nothing to the middle class, making appeals to the religious right that are notable in their cynicism, and rallying his base through culture-war controversies distinguished mostly by their ginned-up phoniness.
What’s the matter with the Republican Party? Many things, but right now above all this: Far too many Trump supporters, far too many conservatives, have seen the then-inaccurate caricature that Frank painted 13 years ago brought to blaring, Technicolor life by Trump — and they’ve decided to become part of the caricature themselves, become exactly what their enemies and critics said they were, become a movement of plutocrats and grievance-mongers with an ever-weaker understanding of the common good.

McCain and Biden Form Alliance Against Trumpism

Sadly, many Republicans refuse to recognize that the betrayed America's core values when they voted for the Donald Trump/Mike Pence ticket almost a year ago.  Honesty, decency, a respect for the rule of law and the rights of all citizens were thrown on the trash heap by Trump supporters.  The ravings of a malignant narcissist via Twitter are now a daily occurrence.  Meanwhile, Pence is pushing a theocratic agenda that exalts the rights of Christian extremists while denigrating the rights of religious freedom for everyone else.  Ignorance is embraced, science and objective fact are rejected, and America no longer is respected and looked up to by the rest of the world. Traveling in the United Kingdom, the husband and I experienced just how low America has fallen with an unfit madman in the White House.  A few Republicans are speaking out and belatedly resisting the ugliness that is Trumpism.  John McCain, who admittedly has made his share of mistakes over the years, including picking the idiot of Wasilla, Sarah Palin as his VP running mate, is one such Republican.  As the Washington Post reports McCain and other true patriots are forming alliances to resist the evil that is the Trump/Pence regime.  Here are story highlights:
John McCain and Joe Biden have been on opposite sides of many crucial national security debates over the past 30 years.
From Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria, the Arizona Republican and the Delaware Democrat clashed over the scope of the American military mission and the efficacy of reaching for diplomatic resolutions for these war-torn nations. They maintained a genuine friendship through 22 years of service together in the Senate and then Biden’s eight years as vice president. Yet theirs was a fierce, principled rivalry.
On Monday night, in the cradle of liberty, those disputes disappeared as Biden presented the Liberty Medal to McCain at the National Constitution Center, a nonprofit organization that touts bipartisanship and sits across the street from Independence Hall.
Another reality has also brought them together: President Trump, whose global outlook has helped crystallize just how closely aligned these two elder statesmen really are.
“We believed in our country, and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity,” McCain said, growing unusually emotional at times during the address.
McCain pivoted into a full-frontal attack on those who “refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last, best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism.” He did not mention Trump by name, but the implication was clear, and it brought a standing ovation from a crowd that included Democratic and Republican members of Congress from the region.
Now, McCain and Biden are on the same side, battling the isolationism that Trump has avowed and that has been most clearly articulated by his onetime chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.
In his first nine months in office, Trump has withdrawn the United States from a Pacific Rim trade deal, the Paris climate accords and a cultural organization at the United Nations, while also signaling opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and new sanctions against Moscow.
[O]verall they reveal Trump’s broad intention to live up to his “America First” presidential campaign of 2016 — a repudiation of all that McCain and Biden have pressed for 40 years.
The speech prompted the president [Trump] to issue an immediate threat: “People have to be careful because at some point, I fight back,” Trump said in an interview Tuesday with WMAL, a D.C. radio station.
McCain wiped away tears as Biden spoke of his son’s adoration for the Arizona senator, a symbolic forging of their alliance. They will, for now, set aside their old disputes on how to engage the world and instead take up a mutual fight against those who want to withdraw from global leadership.
Biden read from an old McCain speech to sum up the new approach, saying that the United States should always be an “international beacon of liberty and a defender of the dignity of all human beings, and the right to freedom and justice.”  “That’s what it’s always been for four decades,” Biden said.
 Yes, you noted correctly that I will not give Trump the title of president.  He's NOT my president and is the antithesis of what a president - or any decent human being - should be. Kudos to McCain and Biden.

The GOP Is No Party for Honest, Honorable Men

A column in the New York Times hits a home run in my view when it comes to looking at the rank dishonesty and moral bankruptcy of today's Republican Party. There was a time when the Republican Party prided itself on honesty, education, respect for science and honorable behavior.  That was the Republican Party of my grandparents and parents and even my days as a GOP committee member.  Now, neither I nor my ancestors simply would recognize today's Republican Party compared to what it once was.   What happened? As I have noted many times before, the defining change in the GOP took place when the evangelical Christians - the Christofascists, if you will - hijacked the party base.  Numerous studies have found that the Christofascists lie with abandon and take the view that anything that furthers their theocratic agenda is justified, including lying constantly and deliberately.  

Now, that mentality permeates the Republican Party.  Donald Trump and Mike Pence personify this deliberate dishonesty. Sadly, many other Republicans, including Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have also embraced outright lying and dishonesty.  But the dishonesty is not limited to the Republican Party at the national level.  In the current Virginia election campaigns, all three of the Republican statewide candidates are lying  and know full well that they are lying.  Ed Gillespie whines about the cost of Confederate monument that will cut funds for public education, but totally ignores his proposed tax cuts that would leave Virginia with a 1.4 billion budget deficit which would be catastrophic to public education funding.  As long as the wealthy get a huge tax cut, trashing public education is perfectly fine with Gillespie.  GOP Attorney General candidate John Adams is no better than Gillespie.  It recent ads, Adams whines that Democrat Mark Herring is lying about him even though Herrings ads about Adams' shady clients is 100% accurate.  The same dishonesty plagues GOP Lt. Governor candidate Jill Vogel.  Like the leaders of Christofascist "family values" organizations, nowadays, if a Republican's lips are moving, the safest assumption is that they are lying.   Here are column highlights:
According to a new CBS News poll, almost 60 percent of the American public believes that the current Republican tax plan favors the wealthy. Some people see this number as a sign that the plan is in trouble; I see it as a sign that Republican lies are working far better than they deserve to.
For the plan does indeed favor the wealthy — overwhelmingly, undeniably. It’s shocking that as many as 40 percent of Americans don’t realize this.
It’s not difficult to see how the plan is tilted toward the very top. The main elements of the plan are a cut in top individual tax rates; a cut in corporate taxes; an end to the estate tax; and the creation of a big new loophole that will allow wealthy individuals to pretend that they are small businesses, and get a preferential tax rate. All of these overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, mainly the top 1 percent.
There are also some measures affecting middle-class families, but they’re relatively small change — and some of them would actually raise taxes. Over all, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that by 2027 almost 80 percent of the gains from the plan would go to the top 1 percent, just 12 percent of the gains to the middle 60 percent of Americans — and that more than a quarter of middle-class families would actually see their taxes go up.
The questions we should be asking instead are why Republicans are pushing this so hard, and how they can hope to get away with it.
Bear in mind that there is essentially no popular constituency demanding tax cuts for the rich. By a large margin, the general public wants to see taxes on corporations and the wealthy go up, not down; even Republicans are divided, with only a modest margin in favor of cuts.
Yet tax cuts for the rich are the overriding objective of the modern G.O.P. They were the principal motivation for the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, since that would also mean repealing the high-income taxes that pay for it; from Republicans’ point of view, depriving millions of health care was just a minor side benefit. And now tax cuts for the wealthy are pretty much the only thing left on the G.O.P.’s legislative agenda.
In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the hope for tax cuts is the main thing keeping congressional Republicans in line behind Donald Trump. They know he’s unfit for office, and many worry about his mental stability. But they’ll back him as long as they think he might get those tax cuts through.
So what’s behind this priority? Follow the money. Big donors are furious at missing out on the $700 billion in tax cuts that were supposed to come out of Obamacare repeal. If they don’t get big bucks out of tax “reform,” they might close their pocketbooks for the 2018 midterm elections.
[H]ow can an administration that pretends to be populist, to stand up for ordinary (white) working people, sell such elitist policies?
The answer is a strategy based entirely on lies. And I mean entirely: The Trump administration and its allies are lying about every aspect of their tax plan.
I’m not talking about dubious interpretations of evidence or misleading presentation of the facts — the kind of thing the Bush administration used to specialize in. I’m talking about flat-out, easily refuted lies, like the claim that America has the world’s highest taxes (among rich countries, we have close to the lowest), or the claim that estate taxes are a huge burden on small business (almost no small businesses pay any estate tax).
[C]an they really get away with this? A lot depends on how the news media handles it. If an administration spokesperson declares that up is down, will news reports simply say “so-and-so says up is down, but Democrats disagree,” or will they also report that up is not, in fact, down? I wish I were confident about the answer to that question.
One thing we know for sure, however, is that a great majority of Republican politicians know perfectly well that their party is lying about its tax plan — and every even halfway competent economist aligned with the party definitely understands what’s going on.
What this means is that everyone who goes along with this plan, or even remains silent in the face of the campaign of mass dissimulation, is complicit — is in effect an accomplice to the most dishonest political selling job in American history.
Do not fall for Republican lies at either the national level.  Instead, send a loud message to the GOP. Get out and vote a straigh Democrat ticket on November 7, 2017 - Ralph Northam for Governor, Mark Herring for Attorney General, and Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor.  Then follow through and vote Democrat in the 2018 mid-term federal elections. 

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

The Extremist Danger of a President Pence

Admittedly, living with Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, in the White House has caused many Americans to feel as if they are living with a never ending case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When in recent decades has one had to worry that the next morning might find them facing a nuclear war started by a petulant, malignant narcissist with the nuclear codes? In my pre-teen years, the threat of a Russian launch nuclear war was a constant, but now the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could be the culprit.  Because of this non-stop drum beat of stress, some would like to see Trump either, resign, be impeached, or removed pursuant to the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The down side of that eventuality is that America could be faced with Mike Pence as president.   While perhaps not as totally batshit crazy and unstable as Trump, Pence poses a whole different set of dangers to the nation and constitutional government.  A very lengthy piece in the New Yorker looks at the dangers a President Pence would pose, especially given his off the charts religious extremism. In his own way, Pence is just as insane as Trump (here in Virginia, John Adams, the GOP attorney general candidate is a would be Mike Pence clone).  Here are lengthy article excerpts which underscore that Pence denies the theory of evolution, denies climate change, is in bed with the Koch brothers, and would inflict his extreme religious beliefs on all Americans:
On September 14th, the right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, who last year published a book titled “In Trump We Trust,” expressed what a growing number of Americans, including conservatives, have been feeling since the 2016 election. . . . She soon added, “If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.”
After Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, Gail Collins, the Times columnist, praised Vice-President Mike Pence as someone who at least “seems less likely to get the planet blown up.” This summer, an opinion column by Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, appeared under the headline “ ‘President Pence’ is Sounding Better and Better.”
Pence, who has dutifully stood by the President, mustering a devotional gaze rarely seen since the days of Nancy Reagan, serves as a daily reminder that the Constitution offers an alternative to Trump. The worse the President looks, the more desirable his understudy seems. The more Trump is mired in scandal, the more likely Pence’s elevation to the Oval Office becomes, unless he ends up legally entangled as well.
If the job is a gamble for Pence, he himself is something of a gamble for the country. During the tumultuous 2016 Presidential campaign, relatively little attention was paid to how Pence was chosen, or to his political record. And, with all the infighting in the new Administration, few have focussed on Pence’s power within the White House. Newt Gingrich told me recently that the three people with the most policy influence in the Administration are Trump, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Pence.
Trump and Pence are misaligned politically, too. Trump campaigned as an unorthodox outsider, but Pence is a doctrinaire ideologue. Kellyanne Conway, the White House counsellor, who became a pollster for Pence in 2009, describes him as “a full-spectrum conservative” on social, moral, economic, and defense issues.
Pence has taken care to appear extraordinarily loyal to Trump, so much so that Joel K. Goldstein, a historian and an expert on Vice-Presidents who teaches law at St. Louis University, refers to him as the “Sycophant-in-Chief.”
This summer, I visited Pence’s home town of Columbus, Indiana. Harry McCawley, a retired editor at the Republic, the local newspaper, told me, “Mike Pence wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb.” Pence exudes a low-key humility, but, McCawley told me, “he’s very ambitious, even calculating, about the steps he’ll take toward that goal.”
Columbus, which has a population of forty-five thousand, was dominated by a major engine manufacturer, Cummins, and escaped the economic woes that afflicted many other parts of the region. But McCawley, the newspaper editor, told me that, while Pence was growing up, Columbus, “like many Indiana communities, still had vestiges of the Ku Klux Klan.” The group had ruled the state’s government in the twenties, and then gone underground. In Columbus, landlords refused to rent or sell homes to African-Americans until Cummins’s owners demanded that they do so.
Mike Pence attended Hanover College, a liberal-arts school in southeast Indiana. On a visit home, he told his father that he was thinking of either joining the priesthood or attending law school. His father suggested he start with law; he could always join the priesthood later. Shortly thereafter, to his family’s surprise, Pence became an evangelical Christian. His mother said that “college gave him a different viewpoint.” The story Pence tells is that he was in a fraternity, and when he admired another member’s gold cross he was told, “You have to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” Soon afterward, Pence has said, he attended a Christian music festival in Kentucky and “gave my life to Jesus.”
His conversion was part of a larger movement. In 1979, during Pence’s junior year in college, Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, to mobilize Christian voters as a political force. . . . The Moral Majority’s co-founder, Paul Weyrich, a Midwestern Catholic, established numerous institutions of the conservative movement . . . Weyrich condemned homosexuality, feminism, abortion, and government-imposed racial integration, and he partnered with some controversial figures, including Laszlo Pasztor, a former member of a pro-Nazi party in Hungary. When Weyrich died, in 2008, Pence praised him as a “friend and mentor” and a “founding father of the modern conservative movement,” from whom he had “benefitted immeasurably.”
While in law school, at Indiana University, Pence met and married Karen Batten, a schoolteacher whom he had noticed playing guitar in a church service. . . . Pence’s friends have called Karen his “prayer warrior.” . . . Pence also began observing what’s known as the Billy Graham rule, meaning that he never dined alone with another woman, or attended an event in mixed company where alcohol was served unless his wife was present. Critics have argued that this approach reduces women to sexual temptresses and precludes men from working with women on an equal basis. A Trump campaign official said that he found the Pences’ dynamic “a little creepy.”
In a 2008 speech, Pence described himself as “part of what we called the seed corn Heritage Foundation was spreading around the country in the state think-tank movement.” It isn’t fully clear whose money was behind the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, because think tanks, as nonprofits, don’t have to disclose their donors. But the early funders of the Heritage Foundation included some Fortune 500 companies, in fields such as oil, chemicals, and tobacco, that opposed health, safety, and environmental regulations.
Even as Pence argued for less government interference in business, he pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. In the early nineties, he joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals. And, while Pence ran the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, it published an essay arguing that unmarried women should be denied access to birth control. . . . Vi Simpson, the former Democratic minority leader of the Indiana State Senate . . . believes that Pence wants to reverse women’s economic and political advances. “He’s on a mission,” she said.
In 2000, when a Republican congressman in northern Indiana vacated his seat, Pence ran as the Party favorite, on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He won, by a twelve-point margin.
Michael Leppert, a Democratic lobbyist in Indiana, saw Pence differently. “His politics were always way outside the mainstream,” Leppert said. “He just does it with a smile on his face instead of a snarl.”  Pence served twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill. His sights, according to Leppert, were always “on the national ticket.”
“He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth,” Mike Lofgren, a former Republican congressional staff member, who has become a Trump critic, told me. “But he never really put a foot wrong politically. Beneath the Bible-thumping earnestness was a calculating and ambitious pol.”
Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion. (Later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus; the bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge recently found the law unconstitutional.)
Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. . . . the pledge marked a pivotal turn in the climate-change debate, cementing Republican opposition to addressing the environmental crisis.
Peterson said that the Checks & Balances Project hadn’t detected “much money going from the Kochs to Pence before he promoted the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge.” Afterward, “he was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since.” Peterson went on, “He could see a pathway to the Presidency with them behind him.”
[I]n 2012, after mulling over his national prospects, Pence ran instead for governor of Indiana. “The conventional wisdom is that he ran for governor so he could check that box, get some executive experience, and then run for President,” Downs said. Pence won the governor’s race, but with only forty-nine per cent of the vote. “He was scary to the center,” Bill Oesterle, a co-founder of Angie’s List, an Indiana company that collates user reviews of local contractors, said.
Pence’s tenure as governor nearly destroyed his political career. He had promised Oesterle and other members of the state’s Republican business establishment that he would continue in the path of his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, a well-liked fiscal conservative who had called for a “truce” on divisive social issues. “Pence was very accommodating,” Oesterle said. But after he was elected he began taking controversial far-right stands that, critics believed, were geared more toward building his national profile than toward serving Indiana voters.
At first, Pence highlighted fiscal conservatism. In 2013, he proposed cutting the state income tax. . . . Eventually, the legislature went along with what Pence often describes as “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history,” even though Indiana already had one of the lowest income taxes in the country, and had cut it only once before.
In the spring of 2015, Pence signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he presented as innocuous. “He said it protected religious freedom, and who’s against that?” Oesterle recalled. But then a photograph of the closed signing session surfaced. It showed Pence surrounded by monks and nuns, along with three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state. The image went viral. Indiana residents began examining the law more closely, and discovered that it essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.
The outcry over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enormous. Gay-rights groups condemned the bill and urged boycotts of the state. Pete Buttigieg, the young gay mayor of South Bend, who is a rising figure in the Democratic Party, told me that he tried to talk to Pence about the legislation, which he felt would cause major economic damage to Indiana. “But he got this look in his eye,” Buttigieg recalled. “He just inhabits a different reality. It’s very difficult for him to lay aside the social agenda. He’s a zealot.”
In an effort to quell criticism, Pence consented, against the advice of his staff, to be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on his Sunday-morning show on ABC. Stephanopoulos asked him five times if it was now legal in Indiana for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals, and each time Pence was evasive. Pence also sidestepped when Stephanopoulos asked him if he personally supported discrimination against gays. “What killed him was his unwillingness to take a clear position,” Oesterle said.
Alarmed business executives from many of the state’s most prominent companies, including Cummins, Eli Lilly, Salesforce, and Anthem, joined civic leaders in expressing disapproval. Companies began cancelling conventions, and threatening to reverse plans to expand in the state. The Indiana business community foresaw millions of dollars in losses. When the N.C.A.A., which is based in Indianapolis, declared its opposition to the legislation, the pressure became intolerable. Even the Republican establishment turned on Pence. A headline in the Star, published the Tuesday after the Stephanopoulos interview, demanded, “fix this now.”
Within days, the legislature had pushed through a less discriminatory version of the bill, and Pence signed it, before hastily leaving town for the weekend. . . . the owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal, who is a Republican but not a hard-line social conservative, said, “It just exploded in his face. His polls were terrible. I bet he’d never get elected again in Indiana. But he went from being a likely loser as an incumbent governor to Vice-President of the United States. We’re still reeling!”
Clere, a Christian who opposes abortion, told me that he now finds Pence’s piety hypocritical. “He says he’s ‘pro-life,’ ” Clere said. “But people were dying.” When Clere was asked whom he would rather have as President—Trump or Pence—he replied, “I’d take Trump every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.” . . . . He talks all this God stuff, but he’s biased. He hates Muslims, he hates gay people, and he hates minorities. He didn’t want to be the first white man in Indiana to pardon an innocent black man.”
Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman at that point, arranged for Trump to meet Pence, and urged Trump to pick him. Pence was seen as a bridge to Christian conservatives, an asset in the Midwest, and a connection to the powerful Koch network.
Trump began to appoint an extraordinary number of officials with ties to the Kochs and to Pence, especially in positions that affected Koch Industries financially, such as those dealing with regulatory, environmental, and fiscal policy. Short, who a few months earlier had tried to enlist the Kochs to stop Trump, joined the White House as its director of legislative affairs. Scott Pruitt, the militantly anti-regulatory attorney general of Oklahoma, who had been heavily supported by the Kochs, was appointed director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, in turn, placed Patrick Traylor, a lawyer for Koch Industries and other fossil-fuel companies, in charge of the E.P.A.’s enforcement of key anti-pollution laws.
The pattern continued among lower-level political appointees, including in Pence’s office, which was stocked with Koch alumni. Pence reportedly consulted with Charles Koch before hiring his speechwriter, Stephen Ford, who previously worked at Freedom Partners. . . . Senator Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat, believes that the Kochs “will stick one hundred of their own people into the government—and Trump will never notice.”
On November 17th, after little vetting, Flynn was named Trump’s national-security adviser, one of the most sensitive posts in the U.S. government. There is no indication that Pence raised any objections about Flynn to Trump, even after Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent Pence a letter warning him about Flynn’s questionable ethics . . .  Pence soon delivered a series of misleading statements about Flynn.
Several law professors have argued that the Vice-President could be vulnerable to charges of obstructing justice, or “misprision of a felony,” for participating in a meeting about shutting down the federal investigation and then providing a false cover story to the public. . . . Laurence Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, tweeted, “The VP appears to me to be in what we lawyers have been known to call deep doo-doo.”
“Trump thinks Pence is great,” Bannon told me. But, according to a longtime associate, Trump also likes to “let Pence know who’s boss.” A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”
There have been other evangelical Christians in the White House, including Carter and George W. Bush, but Pence’s fundamentalism exceeds theirs. In 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design . . .
Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger. In 2004, Drollinger, whose organization, Capitol Ministries, specializes in proselytizing to elected officials, stirred protests from female legislators in California, where he was then preaching, after he wrote, “Women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger describes Catholicism as “a false religion,” calls homosexuality “a sin,” and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband.
Harold Ickes, a longtime Democratic operative, argues that—putting aside the fear that Trump might start a nuclear war—“Democrats should hope Trump stays in office,” because he makes a better foil, and because Pence might work more effectively with Congress and be more successful at advancing the far right’s agenda.
Both Trump and Pence need to be removed from office.  Both are a threat to a majority of Americans, not to mention the rest of the world. 

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Monday, October 16, 2017

More Monday Male Beauty

The Trump/Gillespie Agenda Haunts the Virginia 2017 Elections

Ed Gillespie lies just like Trump

In much of Virginia's so-called urban crescent which, if voters turnout on election day, can thankful out vote the ignorance embracing, reactionary rural areas of the state, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer,  is viewed as nothing less than toxic.  For Ed "Enron Ed" Gillespie, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, this is a problem since the policies he is pushing make him largely a "mini me" version of Trump.  All that is lacking is boasting about sexual harassment of women.  Otherwise, the tax cuts, subtle but deliberate calls to racism and religious extremism are more or less a carbon copy of the ugliness that are Trump trade marks, with Gillespie revealing that he's just as big of liar as Trump.  If Trump "lies like a rug" as alleged by the Democrat candidate, Ralph Northam, so does Gillespie.  Of course, with his sleazy lobbying history, Gillespie has made it very clear that his interests do not lie with average Virginians and that he will lie for the highest bidder.  The contrast with Northam, a former military doctor and pediatric neurologist is stark.  A piece in the New York Times looks at how the revulsion toward Trump is impacting the 2017 Virginia elections.  Here are highlights:
Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, deployed just about every tactical evasion he had learned from a lifetime in politics as he dodged questions about President Trump.
Mr. Trump has so overwhelmed a campaign waged by a pair of bland candidates lacking signature proposals that, much the same way he does across the Potomac, he has made himself and his incendiary style of politics the central issue.
With the president rampaging through news cycles seemingly every day, the biggest question looming before Mr. Gillespie is whether it is worth the risk of trying to harness Mr. Trump’s total-eclipse-of-the-sun attention-getting skills to rouse conservative voters.
His campaign and the Republican Governor’s Association signaled to the White House at a meeting this spring that they preferred the reliable hand of Vice President Mike Pence, who campaigned with Mr. Gillespie on Saturday, over Mr. Trump in a state where the president is loathed in the vote-rich population centers but well-liked in many rural areas.
But trailing in every public poll, Mr. Gillespie is now engaged in a robust debate with his advisers about whether he should ask the president to stump with him, according to multiple Republican officials familiar with the conversations.
But the camp urging Mr. Gillespie to keep his distance from Mr. Trump counters that it would be malpractice to embrace a polarizing president who failed to win even 30 percent of the vote in Fairfax County, the most populous jurisdiction in the state and once a suburban battleground.
As they consider their options, Gillespie supporters have an object lesson: Mr. Trump’s ill-fated rally for Senator Luther Strange in Alabama, where he could not resist veering off-message. At that rally, Mr. Trump started his feud with the N.F.L. while offering a backhanded endorsement of Mr. Strange’s rival, Roy Moore.
Then there is the president’s calculation: Would he even want to risk attaching himself to a potential loser so soon after the Alabama race, in which he felt burned, according to White House officials. West Wing advisers say Mr. Trump is willing to record automated calls for Mr. Gillespie but is not clamoring to fire up Air Force One for the trip to Roanoke.
Yet whether Mr. Trump sets foot here or not, his success at motivating voters with culturally and racially tinged appeals has worn off on Mr. Gillespie. Once one of the loudest voices in his party for an inclusive message, Mr. Gillespie is now assailing Mr. Northam over the Democrat’s opposition to a state measure that would have banned “sanctuary cities” and targeting him for supporting the removal of the state’s many Confederate statues.
The Republican chafes at questions over whether he is adopting a Trumpian message and forgoing his own advice in 2006 that Republicans should resist the “siren song” of anti-immigration rhetoric, insisting he is running as “who I am and what I believe in.”
But his advertising reflects what he thinks will actually move the electorate: He is spending the bulk of his money on commercials focused on the statues, which make no mention of his view that the South was “on the wrong side of history,” and illegal immigrants. One of his immigration ads features amply tattooed Salvadoran prisoners meant to be members of the menacing gang MS-13, a target of the president’s.
After winning his primary partly on the strength of a heavily aired commercial in which he called the president “a narcissistic maniac,” Mr. Northam, who is running to succeed Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, used the first debate of the general election to call Mr. Trump a dangerous man who also “lies like a rug.”
But at the final debate last week, held in a pro-Trump enclave of Southwest Virginia, Mr. Northam, who will campaign here this week with former President Barack Obama, made no mention of Mr. Trump.
“It’s definitely a change in tone from the primary,” said Lowell Feld, a well-read liberal Virginia blogger, while conceding that “firing up your base while not turning off others is tricky.”
But, Mr. Feld added, “Trump doesn’t make anything easy.”
If you live in Virginia, make sure you register to vote - today is the last day to do so - and be sure to vote "No" to Trump and all that he stands for by voting for Ralph Northam for Governor, Mark Herring for Attorney General, and Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor.