Sunday, January 21, 2018

More Sunday Male Beauty


Poll: Half of Americans Question Trump’s Mental Stability


With the federal government in a GOP forced shut down and Donald Trump continuing to be the least popular president in the history of polling, congressional Republicans nonetheless continue to prostitute themselves to Trump.  Meanwhile just shy of half of Americans believe Trump is mentally unstable despite the bizarre press conference by the White House physician which seemingly added to Trump's height, downplayed potentially serious heart attack risks, and would have one believe that Trump is cognitively normal.    ABC News has the details of new poll results which ought to terrify Republicans in advance of the 2018 midterm elections which many see as the only meaningful way to limit Trump's ability to do lasting damage to America.  Here are poll findings that indicate that Trump and Republicans are on the wrong side of virtually every issue:
A year in the presidential spotlight hasn’t been kind to President Donald Trump: His approval rating is the lowest in modern polling for a president at this point, with deep deficits on policy and personal matters alike. Strikingly, the public divides evenly on whether or not he’s mentally stable.
[A] lopsided majority, 73 percent of those polled, rejects Trump’s self-assessed genius.
Seventy percent say he fails to acquit himself in a way that’s fitting and proper for a president.
Two-thirds say he’s harming his presidency with his use of Twitter.
And 52 percent see him as biased against blacks -- soaring to 79 percent of blacks themselves.
Just 36 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent disapprove, essentially unchanged since midsummer. Next lowest at one year was Gerald Ford’s 45 percent in 1975; average pre-Trump approval -- since Harry Truman’s presidency -- is 63 percent.
Women are especially critical of Trump in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates: A mere 29 percent approve of his work, vs. 44 percent of men. And a remarkable 55 percent of women doubt Trump’s mental stability.
Trump’s signature achievement, the new tax law, is unpopular; 60 percent say it favors the wealthy (even most well-off Americans say so), and the public by a 12-point margin, 46 to 34 percent, says it’s a bad thing for the country. At the same time, a majority celebrates his most prominent failure, on Obamacare; 57 percent say the program’s continuation is a good thing.
A vast 87 percent support the DACA immigration program that Trump ended and whose fate in Congress is uncertain -- including two-thirds of strong conservatives, three-quarters of evangelical white Protestants and as many Republicans, core Trump groups.
And 63 percent overall oppose a U.S.-Mexico border wall, essentially unchanged since before the 2016 election.
As reported Friday, Trump -- and his party leaders -- also are at greater risk in the government shutdown, with Americans 20 points more likely to say they’d blame Trump and the Republicans in Congress than the Democrats in Congress.
[H]alf of Americans think members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia to try to influence the election. About as many, 49 percent, think Trump himself obstructed justice in the Russia investigation.
Fifty-eight percent say the economy is in good (or even excellent) shape, the most in 17 years. But just 38 percent say the Trump administration deserves credit; many more, 50 percent, credit the Obama administration.

One has to ask why Republicans seem to have a death wish and continue to basically flip a majority of citizens the middle finger.  Let's hope that get a return hand gesture at the polls in November, 2018.

2018 Women's Marches Need to Lead to Voter Turnout Surge

2018 crowds in Washington DC
On the anniversary of the inauguration of the most vile and unfit individual to ever occupy the White House, hundreds of thousands of protesters against Trump/Pence and the GOP turned out in cities across America.  The message they seek to send is lost on that individual and the congressional Republicans who have forced the federal government into shutdown through their high handed demands and noxious policies.   While it is encouraging to see that the resistance to the foul forces embodied by Trump/Pence and today's GOP is alive and well, the true test will be whether the energy can be successfully translated into a voter surge in November that will send countless Republicans to defeat at the polls at all levels of government.  Only a GOP electoral bloodbath can reset the direction of the nation.  In Virginia, Republican suffered a massive defeat last November, but it may take more than one election cycle to turn the corner - Virginia Senate Republicans are continuing their toxic policies and need to be decimated in the 2019 election cycle.  The Washington Post looks at some of the huge turnout across the country:
From Beijing to Buenos Aires, from Denver to Dallas, from California to the Carolinas, hundreds of thousands of activists once again took to the streets to protest the policies and presidency of Donald Trump. The number of participants might not have eclipsed the millions who marched in cities a year ago, but the “resistance” still brought out swarms of people from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.
Saturday’s march made clear how a movement that began as a protest has evolved. A year of the Trump presidency, coupled with the galvanizing experience of the #MeToo moment, has made activists eager to leave a mark on the country’s political system. As a result, a key component of Saturday’s demonstrations was an effort to harness the enthusiasm behind the Women’s March and translate that into political sway at the polls this fall.
“Last year it was about hope. This year it’s about strength,” said Diane Costello, 67, a retired teacher and member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that advocates for gun violence prevention, said as she marched through Manhattan.
“2018 is going to be a great year to get more progressive people elected,” said Julie Biel-Claussen, 59, executive director of the McHenry County Housing Authority in northwest Illinois, as she marched through a chilly Chicago morning.
Outside Washington, one of the biggest demonstrations on Saturday unfolded in New York.
Nearby, demonstrators gathered near the Lincoln Memorial and along the still-frozen reflecting pool on the National Mall. The group heard from speakers such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who told the crowd, “It is women who are holding our democracy together in these dangerous times.”
Although many protesters were returning for a second year, many came for the first time — some so young they had not been able to vote in the 2016 election.
Across the river in Morristown, N.J., a line of charter tour buses unloaded marchers behind the town hall, an overflow crowd that Police Chief Peter Demnitz estimated had reached 15,000 by 11:30 a.m., along with some counter protesters.
Organizers say they chose Morristown because of its Revolutionary War history as the winter encampment site of George Washington’s army. Last year’s event in Trenton drew an estimated 7,500.
By late morning, crowds in Chicago stretched from Jackson Street two blocks south to Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, and clogged Congress Parkway to Michigan Avenue. Organizers claimed to have eclipsed the 250,000 marchers from last year, despite only 40,000 signing up online.
The majority of signs protesters carried through Chicago focused on the Republican Party and Trump. Among them: “Ikea has better cabinets,” “The GOP is responsible for making America hate again” and “GOP, OMG, WTF.”

All this energy needs to be harnessed and used to turn out a huge surge in the minority and Millennial vote in November.  If this happens, the marches will have really accomplished something lasting.  Virginia showed that it can be done.  P.S. Our new Governor joined the marchers in Richmond:

Elizabeth Melson (left) holds a banner with recently elected Governor Ralph Northam on their march through Carytown on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Trump, Perhaps the Worse President Ever

The narcissistic Donald Trump likes to think of himself as exceptional in ever way.  A column in the New York Times by a historian at Princeton makes the case that Trump is indeed exceptional: based on his first year in office, he is likely the worse president in American history and that the coming year holds only promise for the further debasement of the office of president and the image of America in the world.   All of this, of course could have been avoided had the Electoral College fulfilled the Founders' design and refused to certify his election given his unfitness for office.  Alas, the Electoral College electors had the spines of jelly fish and no regard for the solemn duty.  The nation has suffered ever since.  Here are highlights from the column that looks at some of the worse presidents over the course of the nation's history and the conclusion that Trump is likely the worse:
Historians have long looked to a few key criteria in evaluating the beginning of a president’s administration. First and foremost, any new president should execute public duties with a commanding civility and poise befitting the nation’s chief executive, but without appearing aloof or haughty. As George Washington observed at the outset of his presidency in 1789, the president cannot in any way “demean himself in his public character” and must act “in such a manner as to maintain the dignity of office.”
New presidents also try to avoid partisan and factional rancor, and endeavor to unite the country in a great common purpose. In line with their oath of office, they dedicate themselves to safeguarding and even advancing democratic rights and to protecting the nation against foreign enemies. They avoid even the slightest imputation of corruption, of course political but above all financial.
Donald Trump, in each area, has been a colossal failure. The truest measure of his performance comes from comparing his first year not with those of the best — Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt — but with those of the worst.
What do these bad presidents’ first years tell us about Mr. Trump? Some performed reasonably well at first, only to slide into disaster later. Might Mr. Trump grow in the job, making us forget his rookie-season bumbling? Or should we expect more of the same through 2020?
I expect the latter. Mr. Trump’s first year has been an unremitting parade of disgraces that have demeaned him as well as the dignity of his office, and he has shown that this is exactly how he believes he should govern.
Most important, he is the first president to fail to defend the nation from an attack on our democracy by a hostile foreign power — and to resist the investigation of that attack. He is the first to enrich his private interests, and those of his family, directly and openly.
He is the first president to denounce the press not simply as unfair but as “the enemy of the American people.” He is the first to threaten his defeated political opponent with imprisonment. He is the first to have denigrated friendly countries and allies as well as a whole continent with racist vulgarities.
George Washington warned that the actions of a president “may have great and durable consequences from their having been established at the commencement of a new general government.” If history is any guide — especially in light of the examples closest to his, of Buchanan and Andrew Johnson — Mr. Trump’s first year portends a very unhappy ending.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty


Saturday, January 20, 2018

For Love of Country, and Each Other


A piece in the New York Times looks at a happy ending wedding story, something much needed by the LGBT community in the age of Trump/Pence.  Frankly, it is difficult at times to be optimistic if one is an LGBT American.  Over the last year, the Trump/pence regime has waged an unrelenting war on LGBT rights and, now, any day regulations will be released that will permit health care providers to refuse to treat and serve LGBT patients under the smoke screen of "religious freedom."  Meanwhile, here in Virginia, Senate Republicans seemingly are ignoring the message from voters last November when 15 house of delegates  seats flipped to Democrat.  Just this week a second Senate committee killed a pro-LGBT bill on a straight party line vote.  The bill would have banned "therapists" from subjecting minors to "conversion therapy" - something condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America.  The Washington Blade provides details:
The Virginia Senate’s Health and Education Committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy to minors in the state.
Committee members struck down Senate Bill 245 — which state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) introduced — by an 8-7 vote margin.
State Sens. Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Charles Carrico (R-Galax), Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico County), Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg), Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) and Dave Suetterlein (R-Roanoke County) voted against SB 245.  
State Sens. George Barker (D-Alexandria), Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County), Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack County), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) voted for the bill. 
Take note of the names of the Republicans and give serious thought to supporting whoever runs against them in the next election cycle.

But back to the happy story which features the wedding of  Captains Daniel Hall and Vincent Franchino, both Apache helicopter pilots, who were married at the Cadet Chapel at West Point.  The article is lengthy but worthy of a full read, especially by those not living in communities with large numbers of military personnel.  Here in Hampton Roads, the military surrounds us and many same sex couples are within the ranks and put their lives on the line daily for their country - even though their country has historically mistreated them.   Here are article highlights:
Apache helicopters — the kind of aerial weaponry immortalized in Hollywood tough-guy films such as “Rambo” and “Black Hawk Down” — are among the Army’s most revered killing machines, and those who fly them across enemy skies “have an attack mentality,” said Capt. Daniel Hall, a 30-year-old Apache helicopter pilot based at Fort Bliss, in Texas. As he spoke, Captain Hall was flanked by Capt. Vincent Franchino, a 26-year-old fellow Apache pilot who is also stationed at Fort Bliss, where they are both a part of another community: the group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers who serve there. “It’s been a bit of a bumpy road for us,” said Captain Franchino, who married Captain Hall on Jan. 13 in the Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where they are believed to be the first active-duty, same-sex couple to exchange vows at the legendary Army post.
The couple, beaming in their own immaculately pressed blue mess uniforms, the most formal threads in the Army’s wardrobe, were celebrated by a saber-arch salute as they departed the chapel.
“We’ve experienced everything from people feeling awkward around us to being called faggots while holding hands and walking down the street, stuff like that,” said Captain Franchino, who was born and raised in Stony Point, N.Y., the youngest son of Holly Franchino, a retired pharmacist, and Robert Franchino, a retired sergeant with the Police Department in Clarkstown, N.Y.
“But despite what we’ve been through,” Captain Franchino added, “nothing was worse than having served during the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ years.”
The emotions and romantic feelings felt by Captains Hall and Franchino, as well as scores of others from the L.G.B.T. military community, were hamstrung by “don’t ask, don’t tell,” . . . . “It’s really frustrating when two people have feelings for each other but are not allowed to act on them,” Captain Hall added. “We were serving under a policy that was telling all of us — perfectly capable soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — to lie about ourselves.”
In January 2010, they selected each other as a partner in a mentorship program that allowed seniors to offer instruction to freshmen who were following similar career paths.  By April of that year, it was clear to their fellow cadets that a spark had been ignited, but under the rules, there could be no flame.
But in September 2011, it was that way no longer. Congress repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and Captains Hall and Franchino were soon celebrating their new sense of freedom.
“We’ve just grown accustomed to being apart at times,” said Captain Franchino, who spent all of 2017 deployed in Germany and several countries in Eastern Europe. “It’s a part of who we are, a part of what we do, so we simply accept it.”
Captain Hall, who said he plans on “leaving the Army after spring,” also said that his military stint, especially the time he spent in the cockpits of Apache helicopters, “has brought a lot of excitement to my life, and so has Vinny.”
But when pressed, Captain Hall refused to say which of the two has brought him more excitement. “Don’t ask,” he said with a wink and a smile. “I won’t tell.”
One does not choose to be LGBT.  It's something you are born with and that is unchangeable despite how hard one might try (I tried for 37 years without success).  We are no different than others and in most cases are productive citizens, pay our taxes - the husband and I pay plenty - and are responsible neighbors.  It is time that religious based ignorance and bigotry be thrown on the trash heap of history where they belong. 


Quote of the Day - Michael Steele, Former RNC Chair

Former RNC chair, Michael Steele

With Republicans and the usual voices of right wing media - who would tell you it was raining on a bright sunny day if it fit their purposes - trying the blame the federal government shutdown on Democrats, a few responsible voices from the right are not buying it.  One is former RNC chairman, Michael Steele who I listen to often on satellite radio on my evening commute.  I sense Steele's frustration with what the Republican Party has become and his disgust with the current occupant of the White House.  Here's a quote from Sterele via Politico:
Despite the rhetorical effort to paste Democrats with “Schumer’s Shutdown” and to redefine what constitutes majority control of the senate (“60”? Really?), the fact remains that this shutdown rests at the feet of the GOP and it appears a majority of Americans agree. I don’t like it. It certainly could have been avoided, but the President wound up negotiating against himself by taking a potential agreement off the table, leaving Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to lament, “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.” That put Republicans in the position to spin their wheels right into another government shutdown. Pitiful.
Yes, 60 votes were needed in the Senate, so that means Republicans need to compromise.  Yet, that is something they are unwilling to do as is the lunatic in the White House who increasingly acts as if he is bi-polar and definitely not staying on his meds. One moment his conciliatory and then the next he swings back into obstruction.   believe that intelligent voters - sorry, but that excludes Fox News viewers - will understand that the blame falls on the GOP and Trump. 

More Saturday Male Beauty


Trump Will Cost Conservatives in the Long Run


As Donald Trump and the Republican Party become increasingly toxic in the eyes of Millennials - now the largest generation of voters - the long term prospects for the GOP are dimming notwithstanding the propaganda one sees on Fox News - viewing it from time to time, it's an alternate universe with little connecting it to reality.  Republicans have bet the farm on aging, racist and evangelical voters, all of which are slowly dwindling in numbers.  The fluke of the 2016 election has been interpreted as a mandate even though only something just under 26% of registered voters cast ballots fro Trump/Pence.   As for GOP policies, the quest to take from the poor and working class and giving to the rich and a refusal to reauthorize the CHIP program for children's health insurance and the refusal to fix the DACA situation show the ice cold hearts that are the norm among Republicans despite protests to the contrary.  Actions speak louder than words and the younger generations are watching and judging based on GOP actions.  Erick Erickson, a right wing conservative with whom I mostly disagree has a column in the Washington Post that looks at the long term costs that will eventually over take the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
Being a conservative who does not cheerlead President Trump can make one feel like the Prophet Amos. Amos went to Israel at a time of great prosperity to tell the nation God would destroy it for failing to care for its widows, its poor, its orphans and its refugees. Everyone looked around at the success, riches, and plenty and mocked the prophet. Like the people of Israel in a time of plenty, it is easy for conservatives right now to focus on the successes of Trump’s first year in office. But those on the right should consider the long-term costs.
Like many conservatives, I am delighted with a number of achievements in Trump’s first year. His administration has steered numerous good judges into the federal judiciary. . . . . Congress has passed a tax reform bill allowing U.S. businesses to repatriate tens of billions of dollars, give bonuses and pay raises to employees and invest in U.S. business infrastructure. These changes are inarguably good.
But there are many costs. Conservatives are reveling in their successes and increasing their immorality concurrently. The conservatives who 20 years ago wanted to chase President Bill Clinton out of town for having sex in the Oval Office are now trying to ignore the current president reportedly cheating on his current wife with a porn star. It has become far easier for conservatives to believe lies than believe truths, and it has become far easier for conservatives to turn a blind eye to injustices than speak up. More and more conservatives are modeling Trump’s bad behaviors. His vulgarity, his thin skin, his willingness to insult and demean, and his willingness to degrade his office are now reflected in conservative political leaders who increasingly see their goal as beating the other side instead of advancing ideas and sound public policy.
The party of small government is perfectly happy to grow government as long as Trump is spending the money. The party of limited government is perfectly happy to have a powerful chief executive as long as Trump is wielding the power. . . . . Trump now seems to revel in the idea of shutting down whole networks whose coverage he hates. Republicans who decried the left’s hostility to free speech in the Obama years now champion censorship of their opponents.
It is safe to say many of the president’s supporters have concluded that arguments and debates no longer work, so they will take what they can get as quickly as they can before the tide rolls in and washes this administration away. While perhaps an honest way of looking at things, those gains will be fleeting. The short-term gains of this administration, like those of the last, are being achieved by executive order and appointment. So too then can the gains of this administration be wiped out as easily as those of the last.
Conservatives have to worry about those in the middle who are persuadable. They have to worry about minority voters increasingly skeptical of the secular drift of the Democratic Party. They have to worry about younger voters. All of these people are not only increasingly alienated by Trump’s behavior but also by his defenders’ constant justifications for it.
At a time of growing hostility to people of faith in the United States and a collapse of morality, the evangelical embrace of Trump hurts their Christian witness and minimizes the number of sympathetic ears to their cause. It has become harder to make the case for family and morality as prominent evangelicals applaud and justify the bad behaviors of a thrice-married adulterer who believes immigrants should be judged based on their nation of origin, not the content of their own character.
Though many conservatives, myself included, have cheered the successes of this administration, most of them are easily reversible and, along the way, it will be harder and harder to separate the successes from the low character and behavior of the man whose name is connected to them. Conservatives may no longer care, but for most Americans, character still matters. At some point, those on the right will pay the price.

Pope Francis Fails the Test on Sexual Abuse


Pope Francis' visit to south America has not been well received by many.  True, large crowds of lemming like Catholics have turned out for his appearances, but many are unmoved by Francis' crocodile tears and false pleas of sorrow for the rampant sexual abuse that the Vatican and the Church hierarchy have allowed for many decades, if not longer.  There has been no real repentance and no real action to punish those who allowed this attitude that sexual abuse was a case of droit du seigneur for the hypocrisy filled priesthood.  In Chile, as CBS New notes, violence greeted Francis:

Overnight three more Catholic churches were torched, including one burned to the ground in the southern Araucania region where Francis will visit on Wednesday to meet with Chile's indigenous peoples. While not causing any injuries, the nine church firebombings in the past few days have marked an unprecedented level of protest against history's first Latin American pope on his home turf.

Sadly, no reform will come from within the Church and decent people should walk away.  If the fail to do so and continue to support the Church, they are complicit in abuse and continued cover ups.   An editorial in the New York Times rightly takes Francis to task for his continued failure to take decisive action.  Here are highlights:
 Pope Francis arrived in Chile with the right message: He was “pained and ashamed,” he said on Tuesday, about the irreparable damage abusive priests have inflicted on minors. Yet he refused to meet with victims of the country’s most nefarious sexual abuser, and when pressed about his support of a bishop linked to that priest, he dismissed the accusations as slander.
For all his professions of horror at the revelations about predatory priests whose activities were covered up by the hierarchy — and for all his other admirably enlightened and pastoral actions — it seems the pope has yet to fully appreciate that the abuse of minors is not simply a matter of a few deviant priests protected by overzealous prelates but of his church’s acceptance of a horrible violation of a most sacred trust: that of a devout and questioning youth and a spiritual guide.
Acknowledging and regretting the damage is not enough. If the Catholic Church is ever to lift the deep stain of child sex abuse, the pope must take every opportunity to reject not only clear violations but also the slightest appearance of tolerance for such behavior.
He missed that opportunity by attending the funeral last month for Cardinal Bernard Law, the powerful former archbishop of Boston who resigned after revelations that he protected abusive priests for years and became, in effect, the image of a hierarchy that concealed and thereby enabled sexual abuse. He missed it in the failure of the Vatican so far to appoint a new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors after the commissioners’ terms expired in December.
And Pope Francis missed it again in Chile. One of Latin America’s most staunchly Catholic countries, Chile had been shaken by revelations about the sexual crimes of Fernando Karadima, once one of Chile’s most respected and influential priests. It took years for the church to act on complaints about him, but a Vatican investigation in 2011 finally found Father Karadima guilty of sexual abuse and restricted him to a life of isolated penitence. A Chilean judge later determined that the allegations against the priest were truthful, but the statute of limitations had expired.
Among those accused of turning a blind eye to Father Karadima’s behavior was a priest and longtime member of Father Karadima’s entourage, Juan Barros Madrid. Yet Pope Francis made him a bishop in 2015 and, despite protests from victims of Father Karadima and from many priests and laypeople in the diocese, Bishop Barros participated in the pope’s official ceremonies in Chile. When reporters raised the subject on Thursday, Pope Francis answered sharply that there was “not one single piece of evidence” against the bishop. “It is all slander,” he declared. “Is that clear?”
Victims of sexual abuse may have only their tortured memories as evidence, and these have been dismissed for far too long as slander by a hierarchy intent on protecting the church’s reputation. Pope Francis has repeatedly pledged action to end the abuse and the cover-up, . . . . . . But too often he and his church raise doubts that they’re fully committed.