November 30, 2016

The Most Powerful Man in NY is Gay so It Can’t be the Mayor

Alphonso David knows something about political instability, popular upheavals and the fear that comes after. David has served as Governor Andrew Cuomo's chief counsel since 2015 and has worked under the man in various capacities for almost a decade. But he was born in Liberia; his wealthy family, targeted for belonging to the doomed political establishment, fled the African nation when he was ten during a violent military coup. David has lived freedom — and had it taken away.

Donald Trump's presidency has much of the country unnerved, David included. He is a Democrat, after all, a black and openly gay man negotiating a new reality of triumphant white nationalism. But as the man tasked with turning Cuomo's ideas into law, David projects calm. New York — now a deep blue island in a sea of red — will be leaning on its local leaders to guard against the most savage incursions of a Trump administration, and it will be partially up to the governor’s cerebral fixer to get the job done.

“He brings a combination of intellectual firepower and political smarts which is not always common among lawyers in Albany,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who has worked closely with David.

David, 46, doesn't resemble your average Cuomo lifer — a burly, tough-talking, outer-borough operator like former executive deputy secretary Joe Percoco, who was likened to a member of the family before he was hit with federal corruption charges earlier this year. Close Cuomo aides are often brawlers, happy to berate lawmakers and reporters alike. David is every bit the bulldog Percoco was, but the resemblance stops there (one former aide described David, a yoga practitioner and fitness freak, as "ripped"). He comes with a law degree from Temple University, a clerkship with a federal judge, and experience as a staff attorney at Lambda Legal and running his own anti-addiction company in California. And unlike Percoco — and Cuomo — he's not going to scream at you over the phone. "He's very congenial," said Dr. Hazel Dukes, the president of the NAACP New York State Conference, “whether you agree with him or not."

In 2008, after his stint at Lambda, David joined Attorney General Cuomo's office as a special deputy AG for civil rights. At the time, Cuomo was waiting in a line for the governorship that had just gotten one shorter in the wake of Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal. With Spitzer gone and an ineffectual David Paterson in his place, it was only a matter of time before it was Cuomo's turn at the service window. After his boss’s election in 2010, David joined the administration as its principal adviser on civil rights; after Cuomo's second win, in 2014, David ascended to his current official posting as Cuomo's chief in-house lawyer — arguably the third most powerful position in Albany.

Over the past six years, Governor Cuomo has simultaneously thrilled and disgusted progressives. In 2011, the governor battled a Republican-controlled Senate to pass a bill legalizing gay marriage, an accomplishment that sent Cuomo's approval ratings soaring and increased chatter that he'd run for president someday. Still, there remained a segment of the left that was deeply distrustful of the governor: A Clintonian triangulator through much of his first term, Cuomo mocked the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy, bullied public-sector unions, and, far from continuing to provide a check against them, went on to empower Republicans in the Senate.

David hews more or less to the administration's overriding and often ruthless pragmatism, viewing himself as less an enforcer and more the man who takes the governor's will and makes it a reality — sometimes provoking the left's ire in the process. He was the brains behind an executive order that divested the state from all companies aligned with the BDS movement, a decision that drew heavy fire from Palestine activists. And on other issues, like granting clemency for prisoners, David has been Cuomo's steely ambassador, disappointing advocates who expected more from him. “He lacks empathy, and he's robotic," said Allen Roskoff, a clemency activist and president of the New York City–based Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a major fundraising organ for LGBTQ and other progressive causes.

But don't tell David that Cuomo isn't sufficiently progressive. "It's unfair," he said of the criticism. "If you look at the governor's record and compare it to anyone else's, not only the actual policies but the impact they have, there's no comparison."

That record has much to do with David himself: During the gay-marriage fight, he crafted legislation that helped tamp down the infighting between rival gay-rights groups that had plagued past efforts. And if a Cuomo initiative faces opposition from the left, he's the guy the governor calls in to "neutralize" it, according to one progressive insider. For instance, when activists pressured Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate instances of police-involved killings of civilians, David was the go-between. And when tenants'-rights activists accused Cuomo of not doing enough to protect them as rent laws came up for renewal in Albany, they met David. “If you're an advocate or a progressive leader — if you've done well or you've created a campaign seen as a threat to Cuomo — then you'll get a call from Alphonso," said the insider.

Whether Cuomo makes the decision to run in 2020 is uncertain. Just after the election, however, he claimed to stand in defiance of President-elect Trump's coming regime, anointing New York as a refuge for those who could come under attack. It could have been one of his occasional paroxysms of progressivism, or merely a play for position with the kingmakers of the Democratic Party — in a quote to the Daily News, the state's GOP chairman, Ed Cox, told "Andrew" to "give it a break." Whatever the ends of the governor's maneuvers, one thing is clear: David's role as the dogged right hand on the left's mobilizing issues under a hostile presidency. "We have a responsibility as public servants to ensure that our laws and our policies are fairly and evenly applied in this new world order," said David. “We have an even greater responsibility to make sure New Yorkers are not marginalized or targeted."


When Comey Pulled Out Thumb for the Election, Trump Might Have Been a Target

Just 11 days before the U.S. presidential election, FBI Director James Comey wrote a letter to Congress letting them know that the agency had found additional emails that “appear to be pertinent” to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

It was extremely unusual for the bureau to be so forthcoming about an investigation, and the move drew harsh criticism from both Democrats and Republicans who accused Comey of deliberately trying to turn the election in Trump’s favor.
Ten days after the election, the FBI responded to a longstanding VICE News Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, revealing that the bureau may very well have been investigating Donald Trump, too.

In September, VICE News and Ryan Shapiro, a doctoral candidate at MIT and research affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, filed the FOIA lawsuit against the FBI demanding documents connected to a pair of incendiary comments Trump made on the campaign trail over the summer. In July, he called upon Russia to track down “30,000 emails [from Hillary Clinton’s private email server] that are missing.” And at an August campaign rally in North Carolina, he made a statement that was widely interpreted as calling for the assassination of Clinton.

We sought this information from the FBI after receiving a tip that the bureau, in addition to the Secret Service, was probing the incidents. We asked the FBI to grant us expedited processing because there was an urgent need to inform the public before they went to the polls on November 8.

But the FBI refused to respond to our request before the election, instead dating it Nov. 18; we received it in the mail Nov. 28.

“The nature of your request implicates investigative records the FBI may or may not compile pursuant to its broad criminal and national security investigative missions and functions,” said the bureau’s response, which is embedded at the end of this story. “Accordingly, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of any such records about your subject as the mere acknowledgment of such records existence or nonexistence would in and of itself trigger foreseeable harm to agency interests.”

This is what’s known as a Glomar response, a term that came into use after the CIA denied a reporter’s request in the 1970s for information about a CIA ship, the Glomar Explorer, designed to recover a sunken Russian submarine. The agency refused to either confirm or deny the ship’s existence.

The FBI’s response states that any records the FBI has must be withheld because disclosure would interfere with enforcement proceedings and disclose information vital for effective investigations. This response is highly suspicious.

‘If the FBI is going to break from precedent, it cannot do so for one presidential candidate and not the other.’
For one, it is extremely rare for the FBI to issue a Glomar. I’ve filed thousands of requests with the bureau and I cannot recall ever receiving a Glomar. Typically, when a FOIA requester seeks information from the FBI on anything the bureau might be investigating, the FBI has explicit authority to deny the request, citing a pending investigation. However, because using that exemption would itself confirm to a requester that there’s an ongoing probe, the FBI has the authority under the FOIA to essentially lie and say it doesn’t have any documents — even when it does.

But the bureau did neither of those things. Instead, it said it could not confirm or deny that it has any documents concerning an investigation into Trump and/or his comments about Clinton.

Had the FBI released this letter to us prior to the election, our subsequent story would have noted that Trump may be under investigation over his comments — and that no doubt would have attracted widespread media attention. The FBI may have been aware of this and chosen to delay disclosure until after Election Day.

The fact that Comey revealed to the heads of eight congressional committees that FBI investigators located emails potentially pertinent to its probe of Clinton before Election Day is a potential double standard not lost on Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“It is extremely difficult to understand the FBI’s position,” he told VICE News. “On one hand, they are refusing to provide any information whatsoever in response to these FOIA requests relating to Donald Trump, yet at the height of the presidential campaign, the FBI director personally disclosed details about the investigative steps the FBI was taking with respect to Secretary Clinton — even though there was no finding of criminal activity. I have said repeatedly that if the FBI is going to break from longstanding precedent, it cannot do so for only one presidential candidate and not the other. I believe this approach has done great harm to the public’s trust in the FBI.”

A spokesperson for Clinton has not responded to a request for comment

It’s unlikely the FBI launched a full-blown investigation into Trump’s comments. Instead, an agent likely raised it as an issue and opened a file that probably contains a few sheets of paper. But that itself would be newsworthy.

Nate Jones, the director of the FOIA project at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, told VICE News the FBI’s response to our requests is troubling on a number of other fronts as well.

“It appears clear that the FBI is placing its interest on not performing a FOIA review of the documents — or even stating if they exist — above the very large public interest in this case,” he said. “It’s another important example as to why agencies should not be given the ability to issue blanket ‘non-denial’ denials in response to FOIA requests…. Hopefully, in this case a judge will compel the FBI to do just this.”

Jeffrey Light, the FOIA attorney handling our case, said VICE News will challenge the FBI’s response in court. But before we proceed, we need the Secret Service to respond to an identical FOIA request. The Secret Service had already stated publicly that it was looking into Trump’s comments about “Second Amendment people” and Clinton. But they’re now in an awkward position: It is their job to protect President-elect Trump.

A word from the publisher:

“Just Like in the days of JEdgar Hoover except he did it quietly: Having friendly candidates to the FBI elected.  You are free to speculate about the FBI after a Presidential election was tilted. The polls were not wrong, they just did not have the time to recover in three days after Hillary was let off the hook by the same guy that put her out to dry 11 days before the election.”

Star Trek{Discovery} Adds Gay Character and Other Surprises

The lock on the secrecy surrounding Star Trek: Discovery is finally starting to loosen, and new casting and character announcements have started hitting the web. In addition to confirmation of Michelle Yeoh's casting, two new cast members have been added to the highly anticipated show, one of whom will be making franchise history. Star Trek Discovery has cast Anthony Rapp as the first originally conceived gay character is the history of Star Trek in TV or film.

Anthony Rapp, star of films like Dazed and Confused and Rent, will be playing Lieutenant Stamets, an "astromycologist, fungus expert, and Starfleet Science Officer" aboard the titular starship Discovery. Stamets will also be an openly gay character, a first for the 50-year-old franchise. Former showrunner Bryan Fuller,who still holds executive producer duties, had previously said that there would "absolutely be a gay character on the show," and had expressed how far gay rights had come since his days working on Star Trek: Voyager.
While Rapp will be playing the first gay character to be originally conceived that way, he will not be the first gay character ever. Star Trek Beyond made headlines earlier this year when it revealed that its iteration of the classic Trek character Sulu is gay. This proved to be a controversial move with some franchise vets happy with the decision, while others didn't like changes being made to an established character. Original Sulu actor George Takei, who is gay himself, was of the latter opinion, believing that it would be "more impactful" to introduce an all new gay character who could be "fleshed out from scratch." Enter Lieutenant Stamets.
doug jones
Lieutenant Stamets won't be the only officer on board the Starship Discovery, as character actor Doug Jones was also announced to be joining the show. Jones will be playing Lieutenant Saru, an alien official whose species will be all new to the Star Trek universe. Jones is no stranger to disguising himself on set. He's held a number of makeup heavy roles such as HellboyPan's Labyrinth, and Falling Skies, to name just a few.
It was also confirmed that Michelle Yeoh has joined the cast, having previously been rumored to be playing a high-ranking officer. That is indeed the case, as Yeoh will be playing Captain Georgiou, the Starfleet Captain aboard the Starship Shenzhou, and not the Discovery leader that some were hoping.
These are just three characters, and there are plenty of more positions to be filled aboard the Starship Discovery and other ships. The show still hasn't announced the lead character, reported to be a female lieutenant, so plenty of more casting news is sure to come. Stick with CinemaBlend for all your Star Trek: Discovery news as we wait for the show’s 2017 premiere on CBS All Access.

Matt Wood
Posted on
Cinema Blend

November 29, 2016

Australian Boy 13, Takes His Own Life Due to Bullying

  Tyrone Unsworth with his mom

The bullying started when Tyrone Unsworth was just beginning to understand he was gay. (Warning: Some readers may find some language in this article offensive.)
He ignored the taunts as best he could. His favorite saying was "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me".

But a month ago, Tyrone was involved in a violent clash - allegedly with another student - outside school. According to his mother, Tyrone required surgery after being hit in the jaw with a fence paling. The attack left him afraid to return to school.

Then last Tuesday, Tyrone took his own life. He was 13.

Mother’s vow to help others

Amanda Unsworth said her son, a boy with bright blue eyes who dreamed of becoming a vet or a fashion designer, had been bullied about his sexuality for years.
Classmates at his high school in Brisbane, Australia, called him "fairy", "gay boy" and "faggot".
"I feel like these people who were bullying Tyrone are the cause of why he is not here any more," she told the Courier-Mail newspaper. “They pushed him to the edge."

Aspley State High School principal Jacquinta Miller said no claims of bullying had been made.
"Neither the student nor his family ever came to us to say there was a problem of any kind," she said in a statement. “If they did, we absolutely would have stepped in."

On Friday, Ms Unsworth posted to Facebook an image of herself holding a newspaper story showing Tyrone's face and the headline "bullied to death".
"We Love and Miss you so much Tyrone," she wrote.
“We will stand up and fight to get as much awareness help and support for others out there, SAY NO TO BULLYING."

‘Safe Schools' debate

Tyrone's story has ignited passionate debate since it was first reported and widely shared on Friday.
Much discussion surrounded the merits of a controversial Australian education program me, Safe Schools, that aims to stop LGBT bullying in schools.

According to its website, Safe Schools is designed to create “safe and supportive school environments for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse people by reducing homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination in schools".

In March, the Australian government made sweeping changes to the program me after Christian groups and conservative MPs said it raised sexual issues that were inappropriate for teenagers and young children.

One Safe Schools opponent, Queensland MP George Christensen, at the time said the programme had been "gutted of all its bad content".
However, advocacy groups have maintained it should be expanded, pointing out the suicide rate among same-sex attracted youths remains a cause for concern.

According to depression awareness group Beyond Blue, young LGBT Australians are six times more likely to take their own lives than their peers. Bullying and violence increase the risk of self-harm, it said.

‘Real lives are affected'

Writing in The Monthly in response to the tragedy, Sean Kelly said even a “glancing acquaintance with common sense" would show that children are influenced by the environments adults create for them.

"Too often we forget that real lives are affected by political arguments," he said.
The Courier-Mail’s Lauren Martyn-Jones wrote that Tyrone's death was a reminder that homophobia can have tragic consequences.

“Tyrone Unsworth is just the sort of kid the Safe Schools programme was established to support, before it became mired in controversy and ended up as a whipping post for the right-wing, anti-PC brigade," she said.

In the Guardian, Dameyon Bonson wrote an opinion piece entitled: "I am Indigenous. I am gay. Unlike Tyrone Unsworth, I survived."
“We need to understand his life experience, and how political discourse may have challenged his hope," he said.

Cuba’s LGBT Dismal Treatment is being Painted Over

 In the Playa Cayito,Cuba a young man is being arrested after getting to close to his friend, particularly wearing a bikini, Cuba

If you’ve read Before Night Falls, the autobiography of gay Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, or seen Julian Schnabel’s wonderful film adaptation starring Javier Bardem, you have some notion of the dismal treatment of LGBT people in Cuba during the long reign of Fidel Castro.

Castro, the communist revolutionary turned dictator, died Friday at age 90, eight years after ceding leadership of his country to his younger brother, Raúl. This weekend, amid a slew of more conciliatory obituaries and remembrances, The Daily Beast published a piece chronicling Castro’s terrible record on gay rights. After taking power, we’re reminded, the leader treated homosexuality as an affront to the hypermasculine revolutionary ideal,  going so far as to intern gay Cubans in forced labor camps, and later, during the AIDS crisis, to sequester HIV-positive citizens in sanitariums that were tantamount to prisons.

In 2010, Castro finally acknowledged in an interview with a Mexican newspaper that these programs represented “a great injustice.” That shift, perhaps, reflected an understanding of changing times and norms. In the past decade, Cuba has started to accrue a new reputation as an increasingly gay-friendly nation, likely a leader among its Caribbean neighbors. In 2008, the government health service began to offer free gender reassignment surgery to transgender Cubans who qualified.

Much credit for these developments goes to Mariela Castro, member of parliament, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, and—if the surname didn’t already tip you off—niece to Fidel and daughter to Raúl. In a coincidence of timing, tonight HBO will air Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution, a new documentary directed by Emmy winner Jon Alpert (Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq) that follows the 54-year-old activist as she travels around her island home spreading a message of tolerance.
 Adela Hernandez(blond center)the first elected Transgender person to be elected to office in Cuba

At just 39 minutes, the film isn’t long enough to allow for more than a quick dip into the lives of its many interviewees. Alpert introduces his audience to a number of gay and trans Cubans whose prospects have improved in an era of reform but who still face challenges living in a country with a long history of state-endorsed homophobia. We meet Juani, a sexagenarian transgender man who triumphantly brags about “Pancho,” his fully operational penis—“I can penetrate a woman,” he boasts, “the best feeling a man can have”—then remembers the trauma of growing up in the wrong body with a brother who didn’t get it. There’s Luis Perez, who spent two years in a forced labor camp and shows us the line on his ID card that denotes his internment status, a designation that kept him from getting jobs and educational opportunities long after his release. Margarita Diaz, a former Cuban tennis champion, sidelined for her butch appearance, describes the feeling of being exiled from the sport that offered refuge from a sexually abusive home life. “When they threw me off,” she recollects tearfully, “they tore my heart out.” Later, we go to a mountainous rural region and meet Yanet and Mailin, a lesbian couple who refuse to hide their relationship. They’ve assimilated into their community, but at the hospital where Yanet works, a homophobic supervisor keeps her from being promoted, and her boss won’t acknowledge the discrimination.

These interviews are fascinating. The time we spend with Mariela is less so. The film’s main subject is chipper, jocular, breezy, and less than forthcoming about why she—straight, married, and a member of the family responsible for such draconian policies—has taken on this cause as her own. How does she feel about Cuba’s ugly history? How do her relationships with her uncle and her father affect her ability to promote change? How did she come to her progressive attitudes? Alpert doesn’t ask nor does he address in any way the negative press that dogs his subject. To her critics, Mariela Castro is not only a social crusader, but also an agent of the regime, whose state-sponsored, top-down campaigns leave no room for grassroots activism; she is considered by some to be a governmental puppet, one whose work supports a publicity push to improve Cuba’s standing around the world—and perhaps its popularity with tourists.

Having lived their entire lives under a government notorious for repressing free speech and tamping down opposition, it’s not surprising that Alpert’s interview subjects would show only reverence toward a member of the Castro family (“Mariela made me the happiest man in the world,” Juani says, displaying a photo of the activist at his bedside post-surgery). But Alpert is not Cuban, and he has no excuse to be so timid. Without his skepticism, his subject is free to unleash a torrent of anodyne sound bites that tell us little about who she is or how Cuba works. Whether or not she is actually a cog in the state propaganda wheel, this hagiography makes her seem like one. Among her limp assertions: “We need to have more discussion so the people can change their minds.” Later she briefly acknowledges her ground-breaking dissenting vote against a labor bill that failed to adequately address gay rights (Cuba’s parliament generally votes unanimously), then declares that her work reminds her of John Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love,” which she sings in thickly accented English. (That her uncle once famously banned the music of the Beatles, and later came around to John Lennon, gets no mention.) If we knew Mariela better, we might find this scene charming; with so little to go on, she seems flip.

Mariela Castro’s March opens with a shot of a trans woman who slowly raises her sunglasses to reveal that one of her eyes is milky and unseeing. It was mangled, we later learn, when a homophobic stranger viciously threw acid in her face. At one point the woman stares up to a night sky and an unusually bright full moon. A friend asks if she can she see the moon. “Not with my bad eye,” she replies, “but I know it’s there.”

It’s a poetic moment, a callback to an earlier scene in which Luis Perez remembers a friend from the labor camps who nearly lost his sight after being forced to stare at the sun for hours on end. But it’s also a fitting image for the problems with this film. Alpert’s documentary is a frustratingly thin gloss on an important and complex subject; with one eye shut he doesn’t expose much, but he does let in just enough light to suggest that there’s a pretty interesting story here that’s not getting told.

Brazil Soccer Team’s Plane Crashes in Columbia

 Brazil to Columbia, 76 dead

A chartered plane with Brazilian first division soccer team Chapecoense crashed near Medellín while on its way to the finals of a regional tournament, killing 76 people, Colombian officials said. Five people survived. Poor weather conditions were reported at the time of the crash and rescue operations were suspended overnight due to heavy rain.

The chartered jet operated by LaMia was carrying Chapecoense, a soccer team which plays in Brazil's top division.

It crashed at around 10 p.m. ET on Monday while on its way from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Medellin's international airport, which is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet.

Trump’s Cabinet-So Far

President-elect Donald Trump is set to announce on Tuesday that he has chosen Republican U.S. Representative Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon and vociferous critic of the Affordable Care Act, as health and human services secretary, two sources told Reuters.

Kentucky LGBT Community Feels Nov. Election have Put Gains in Jeopardy

Many communities in the commonwealth have moved to protect LGBT residents by enacting fairness ordinances, but one well-known Kentucky gay rights advocate says the November elections have put those gains in jeopardy.

Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman heads to the nation’s capital this Friday to report on the state’s role as a leader in organizing rural LGBT communities, but he says the meeting of the White House Rural Council will take place in a climate of trepidation for his group. 

"We're going to have a multifaceted, multi-front fight on our hands in the Kentucky General Assembly," he predicts.

Hartman first points to one piece of legislation he’s confirmed will make another appearance in 2017 – Senate Bill 180, permitting business owners to decline to provide services that conflict with their religious beliefs. The measure proved a non-starter in the Democratically-controlled House in March, but its chances would appear much improved when Republicans claim their supermajority in the chamber next January.

Although the upcoming session is short – just 30 days – Hartman anticipates a deluge of bills aimed at challenging the initiatives his group has championed over the years.

"States like Oklahoma this year faced 21 bills. Other states, Texas I think, had more than 40," he notes. "This year, Kentucky had more than half a dozen anti-LGBT bills."

The "anti-LGBT" descriptor is one that rankles many backers of the legislation.

In floor remarks before casting his vote for SB180 this year, Hazard Republican Brandon Smith told his colleagues, "My vote today is not out of hate. It's not directed toward any group whatsoever. It's to make sure that every single group, whatever their values is [sic], whatever their ideas are, that they're all the same and that they have the right to run their business without being threatened or put into a tough spot that goes contrary to their beliefs."

Sen. Albert Robinson, a Republican from London, has argued Kentucky law already shields business owners who refrain from delivering services that violate their conscience, telling WUKY last March that that SB180 simply "puts it there where it's easy to read, easy to see. And if they want to challenge [it], let the people challenge that law instead of the little business person."

But Hartman’s organization and its allies see other business interests at stake. They warn that passing the bill, and others like it, could make Kentucky the next North Carolina, a state which faced significant corporate backlash for overturning discrimination bans.

Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams aired the same concern during the 2016 session, saying she worried SB180 might have a "detrimental impact on critical and ongoing economic development efforts in my hometown of Louisville."

Other recent Kentucky bills have aimed to create separate marriage forms for straight and same-sex couples, usher in different marriage statuses, and mandate which bathrooms transgender students can use.

Though Hartman stops short of predicting the language that will emerge in future bills, he says GOP control of the legislature and the Governor's Mansion will put new pressure on gay rights groups.   

“While many Republicans do support us, some in the party are of a faction in which they have become more stringent on their anti-LGBT sentiments and their desire to create policy," he says. 


Another Trump Flip-Flop on the Election Count


Consider it another Trump flip-flop: back in October, Donald Trump told a crowd, "I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win."
Trump went on to decisively win the Electoral College, but now he is questioning the results anyway. In a tweet this weekend, the president-elect alleged — providing zero evidence — that "millions of people" voted illegally, and that that's the reason Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
On a Monday morning phone call, members of the Trump team tried to back up the claim when NPR's Tamara Keith asked them for corroborating evidence. However, nothing they cited really made that case.
Jason Miller cited two sources on the call, as transcribed by CBS's Sopan Deb:
"In particular, I'd point to the 2014 Washington Post study that indicated more than 14 percent of non-citizens in both in 2008 and in 2010 elections indicated they were registered to vote. ... Some numbers include the Pew Research study that said that approximately 24 million, or one out of every eight voter registrations in the United States[,] are no longer valid or significantly inaccurate. And in that same Pew Research study, the fact that 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state. So all of these are studies and examples of where there have been issues of both voter fraud and illegal immigrants voting. ..."
The two pieces of evidence
First, there is the "Washington Post study" that Miller cites. He was referring to a 2014 post from the Monkey Cage, a political science blog at the Post. In that piece, Old Dominion University professors Jesse Richman and David Earnest wrote about a study they conducted of data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, an operation that conducts ongoing surveys of voters.
Richman and Earnest indeed found that "14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples" they used said they were registered to vote. Not only that, but some of those respondents said they in fact did vote.
However, the results of that study were heavily called into question, as Deb pointed out. In fact, that Monkey Cage article prominently features a disclaimer at the top:
"Note: The post occasioned three rebuttals (herehere, and here) as well as a responsefrom the authors. Subsequently, another peer-reviewed article argued that the findings reported in this post (and affiliated article) were biased and that the authors' data do not provide evidence of non-citizen voting in U.S. elections."
That peer-reviewed article comes from a team of researchers that includes Stephen Ansolabehere, who developed the CCES. He and two colleagues wrote at the Monkey Cage that Richman and Earnest's findings were based on "measurement error." For example, 56 respondents (a tiny sliver of people) changed their citizenship status between 2010 and 2012, and 20 of those had changed from citizen to noncitizen.
That's "highly unrealistic," Ansolabehere and his colleagues wrote.
"The mistake that Richman and his colleagues made was to isolate this small portion of the sample and extrapolate from it as if it were representative of some larger population," they added.
Later on, the Washington Post's Fact Checker likewise gave this claim (when made by Eric Trump) four Pinocchios.
That's one piece of evidence Miller put forward. He also pointed to a 2012 study from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The numbers he cites are in fact correct: That study showed that 24 million voter registrations at the time were "no longer valid" or were "significantly inaccurate," and that nearly 2.8 million Americans were registered in more than one state.
That's a sign that states' voter registration databases could use some extra upkeep but it's not itself evidence of fraud, as Miller said it was.
One reason it's hard to keep registrations up to date is that each state has its own system, plus safeguards to make sure people don't inadvertently get unregistered.
"We have these 50 different systems and different databases on voter registration," said Lorraine Minnite, a professor of political science at Rutgers University and author of The Voter Fraud Myth. "And we have a federal law that was passed in 1993 to protect voters from being illegally purged from registration lists for political reasons."
That 1993 law is the National Voter Registration Act, and it sets out specific provisions under which a state can remove a person from the voter rolls. Because of those provisions, a person won't instantaneously be removed after moving to a different state or dying, for example. Getting a driver's license in another state could cancel a person's registration in the original state, but both states first have to communicate with each other.
"So what has happened is that this notion that voter registration lists can possibly be 100 percent accurate at any point in time is a complete fiction," she said. "It's not allowed under federal law to be that way."
So Trump in fact — however inadvertently — did draw some attention to what many consider a real problem.
"If you lined up people from all political angles, they would agree that we in the country have a lot of room to grow on that, and that voters and election officials would be better off if we made common-sense reforms to voter registration," said Myrna Pérez, leader of the Voting Rights and Elections project at the Brennan Center for Justice. But she takes issue with his allegations. "The answer is not to create panic and to make allegations that undermine confidence in our elections," she said.
Voter fraud happens, but it's exceedingly rare
Donald Trump and his team have repeatedly alleged voter fraud in this election, alleging that the outcome would be "rigged."
As NPR wrote last month, it would be phenomenally difficult to "rig" an election via voter fraud. Fraud does happen, though instances are rare. And there's not a massive, systematic effort behind it that could sway a presidential election, as voter fraud expert Rick Hasen explained to NPR's Terry Gross in October:
"We do have some instances of voter fraud. The most common kind of voter fraud we see [is] usually in a local election where maybe dozens or 100 ballots could make a difference, involving absentee ballots. Usually, it's absentee ballots that are bought or sold. I'll give you $20 for your absentee ballot and then I can vote it the way I want. Unlike impersonation fraud, when it's an absentee ballot, you can verify how someone voted because you have the actual ballot, so that does happen.
"And for The Voting Wars, I was able to find regularly in local elections — and certainly in some parts of the country there's been an unfortunate history of this, in parts of Kentucky, South Texas, parts of Florida. We have had this kind of fraud. But it's been in small local elections, never on a large enough scale, I think, to affect a presidential election and not the kind of fraud that Donald Trump is talking about to affect the outcome [emphasis added]."
Unfortunately, it's always possible to find some sort of instance of shady behavior in any given election — the Trump campaign provided NPR with a 45-page document listing instances of voter fraud, as well as instances of intimidation and registration fraud, going back more than a decade.
However, the Trump campaign has yet to provide evidence that widespread fraud — involving “millions of voters" — in fact swayed the results of the presidential election, as the president-elect said it did.

November 28, 2016

McFarland a Down on the Gutter Politician and that’s the Good Part About Her

This evening Fabian Brathwaite wrote on about Trump’s pick for deputy national security adviser. The story comes from NY Magazine and is very eye opening but it should not surprise anyone. The new policy on regulations comes to mind in which Trump says he wants for every new regulation to scrap two. We would be so lucky if it was like this for his appointments. For every good one two bad ones. In this case the bad ones ratio is going to be much but much higher.


In between Twitter claims that he lost the popular vote due to voter fraud instead of due to alienating over half the nation by being the dictionary definition of "The Worst," President-elect Donald Trump somehow finds time to fill out his staff with people you wouldn't trust to pick up dog shit. 
As the Washington Blade reports, Trump's pick for deputy national security adviser is basically a monster. Kathleen Troia “KT" McFarland, FOX News contributor and former Pentagon official during the Reagan administration, outed her gay brother, who was dying of AIDS, to their family. 
The Blade is referring to a 2006 New York Magazine article, when McFarland was gearing up to challenge Hillary Clinton for her Senate seat, which unearthed a 1992 letter to her then-estranged parents:
“Have you ever wondered why I have never had anything to do with Mike and have never let my daughters see him although we live only fifteen minutes away from each other?” she wrote. “He has been a lifelong homosexual, most of his relationships brief, fleeting one-night stands.”
McFarland tried to downplay the letter at the time, claiming it was a form of therapy to deal with abuse she and her siblings had suffered at the hands of their parents—abuse both her parents and at least one of her siblings denied.
“It’s a complete fabrication,” Tom Troia told the New York Post back in 2006 regarding his sister’s allegations. “If I had one word to describe my sister, it would be ‘evil.’” 
Well that's comforting, especially for someone who will play a hand in national security.
McFarland's questionable morality aside, we should also note the fact that homegirl has spent the last few years screaming into the conservative void over at Fox News and making spurious comments about Benghazi while her greatest accomplishments took place under Reagan. Of course, with Trump and company determined to roll back the progress of time, McFarland's expertise could come in handy. 
But with this latest addition—joining the Steve Bannons, the Jeff Sessionses, Michael Flynns and Mike Pompeos—Trump continues to build not only the least qualified administration in memory, but the most deplorable
Former Geroge W. Bush National Security Council member Peter D. Feaver told The Times McFarland's job is supposed to be "the place where bad ideas die," but as Donald Trump's other appointees make glaringly clear, there is no longer such a place.
All bad ideas are now up for grabs and assuming positions of power. 

Fed.Gov’t Will Become a Joke as Trump Makes Up His Own Untrue Facts

“There He Goes Again” (adamfoxie)

 Needs to be first! "Now I need to build the popular vote so I can win it too.
Election Over? No, they are still counting votes.”

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, President-elect Donald Trump said he won the popular vote in Nov. 8’s election if “you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

There has been no evidence of the widespread voter fraud that would have had to taken place to give Clinton millions of illegitimate votes.

While Trump won the presidential election overwhelmingly in the Electoral College, where the Republican collected 306 votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 232, the most recent tallies indicate that he lost the popular vote to Clinton by more than 2 million votes, according to NPR.

The winner of the popular vote has lost in presidential elections four times before, but some of Clinton’s supporters have argued that her large lead and likely victory in the popular vote should force politicians to reconsider the electoral college system. Several petitions asking electors to defy the results of their particular vote and vote for Clinton have garnered millions of signatures, though the likelihood of that happening is almost non-existent according to most political observers.

In the past week, Clinton’s campaign has said it will join in recount efforts in the state of Wisconsin started by Green Party nominee Jill Stein. While Clinton’s campaign said it had uncovered no evidence of voter fraud or illegal hacking, several cybersecurity experts and political advisers have urged the Democrat to challenge the election results in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to a New York Magazine report.

Trump, for his part, argued on the campaign trail that the electoral system was “rigged” against him and urged his supporters to take steps to fight voter fraud, including casting multiple ballots or registering as poll watchers on Election Day, leading some to fear there would be incidents of voter intimidation. However, most reports from Election Day indicated that the election proceeded smoothly, though there were a few instances of violence, per

In two follow-up tweets, Trump also argued that he would have won the popular vote “convincingly” if the Electoral College did not exist.

Trump-Pence Will No Longer Pursue International LGBT Rights

Gays hiding their faces in an Egypt jail for no other reason but for being accused of being gay

During the Obama administration, U.S. diplomatic pressure advanced LGBT human rights around the world quite a bit. The administration of President-elect Donald Trump is likely to reverse that. In many countries, this could seriously harm those whose gender identity and sexual orientation vary from the mainstream, as I will explain below.
Over the past seven years, the United States has thrown its weight globally behind LGBT rights
In 2009, Congress passed — and President Obama signed — a billinstructing the State Department to appoint “an independent officer to track violence [and] criminalization” in foreign countries on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The instruction went further, directing “diplomatic and consular missions to encourage foreign governments to reform or repeal laws” where consensual homosexual conduct was being prosecuted.
The United States was soon joined by the U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2011. That’s when, after considerable debate and lobbying, the UNHRC passed its first resolution condemning violence and persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity, bringing LGBT people a step closer to protection under international law and the Universal Human Rights framework.
Then in December 2011, the Obama administration similarly linked LGBT rights to human rights with a presidential memorandum directing federal agencies operating overseas to promote and protect the “human rights of LGBT persons.” The next day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated this idea in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva.
All these were powerful signals that the United States and the United Nations would throw their considerable power behind the rights of gender-nonconforming individuals, those in consensual, same-sex adult relationships, and the resulting identities. That’s a very big deal. It aligned the United States with a number of South American countries, South Africa and the European Union (which protects “sexual orientation” in its Charter of Fundamental Rights).
Not surprisingly, many nations and leaders resist recognizing those rights, often fiercely. The reason varies by nation, culture and religion. Some deny that any such subgroups exist or are in danger. Others claim a cultural right to repress or revile, if not prosecute or persecute, identities and behaviors that don’t fit the reproductive “traditional family,” however variably defined. The Trump administration may switch sides in this international effort
A Trump presidency will almost certainly change the game. Trump said at the Republican National Convention, a little more than a month after the June 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, that he would protect LGBTQ Americans “from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” (Although the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the massacre, no link has been found between the terrorist group and the shooter. Muslim-majority nations around the world condemned the shooting, even those who actively oppose LGBTQ rights.)
And yet Trump selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his vice-presidential nominee — and Pence’s stance on LGBT rights is similar to those of antigay countries such as Russia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s member states. 
Consider, for instance, that in 2009 as a member of the House, Pence proposed an amendment to Section 333 of congressional bill H.R. 2410. He wanted to remove all references to homosexuality — essentially gutting its meaning and force. Pence expressly said he did not oppose decriminalizing homosexuality internationally — but he did oppose identifying LGBT people as a legitimate group, and having the United States advocate for them internationally.
Pence, Putin and the OIC use the same reasoning against LGBT rights 
In Congress, Pence said that “in embracing the advocacy of changes in laws regarding homosexuality around the world, [this legislation] advocates a set of values that are at odds with the majority of the American people.” Several years later, in December 2013, here’s how Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized advocates for international LGBT rights:
The destruction of traditional values from above … is essentially anti-democratic, since it is carried out on the basis of abstract, speculative ideas, contrary to the will of the majority. … More and more people in the world … support our position on defending traditional values that have made up the spiritual and moral foundation of civilization in every nation for thousands of years.
Here’s how Pence’s ideas are like Putin’s
Putin’s comments came after Russia’s “gay and pedophilia propaganda”law was implemented earlier that year. Ostensibly, the law bans discussing or promoting “Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” in the presence of children. However, it also suppresses other possibilities for LGBT life, activism and advocacy, because public protest or visibility violates that law, and because gay parents can lose their children
In a number of interviews since the law was passed, Putin has emphasized that homosexuality is neither illegal nor prosecuted in Russia and that lesbians and gay men are not discriminated against in any way. All the law does, he insists, is protect children from being exposed to ideas contrary to his definition of the traditional family.
The law treats same-sex relations and pedophilia as equivalent. Although these laws are regionally rather than centrally enforced, LGBT activists nationwide report bolder anti-gay sentiment and threats.
Both Pence and Putin say that although individual gay people should be left alone, they should not be recognized as a politically organized subgroup that can advocate for protection. Putin considers such advocacy to be propaganda.
Either these leaders do not know, or do not mind, that violence is threatened against the many people who are gender nonconforming or attracted to others of the same sex (or both). If Putin or Pence acknowledged such persecution, they might have to support mandates to protect that minority.
Here’s how Pence’s positions are like those of the Islamic states
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation takes a similar position.
Consider the OIC’s response to the most recent U.N. Human Rights Council resolution condemning violence and persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, passed in June, mandating the appointment of an independent expert to monitor and advise on LGBT human rights violations. 
Egypt’s permanent delegate to the United Nations, Omar Ramadan, wrote that the OIC’s member states (except Albania) would boycott the mandate and would not “cooperate with it in any form or format.” Ramadan further wrote that, clearly, the new mandate wouldn’t be “restricted to combating violence and discrimination,” addressed by previous resolutions. 
Therefore, he said, “it is crystal clear that this resolution and the mandate emanating from it are designed for codifying new and distinct set of rights and protection for a specific group of individuals.” If Trump enables Pence’s attitudes toward sexuality and gender identity to prevail in U.S. foreign policy, it will shift the already precarious balance of power in the United Nations. The internationalization of LGBT rights will slow if not halt.
Samar Habib
Samar Habib is a writer, researcher and scholar who lives in California.

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