Friday, December 09, 2016
During the presidential campaign there were some journalists - albeit far too few - who sought to shine a spotlight on Donald Trump's potentially precarious business empire, including Trump's rumored dependency on Russian money and/or loans from the Bank of China. Sadly, these stories never got the traction they deserved and Trump's vulnerability to Russian extortion remains an open question. Now, with critics demanding that Trump divest his business interests to avoid conflicts of interest and violation of the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clause, Trump is refusing to do so. A piece in Talking Points Memo suggests that he cannot do so because he is too "underwater" to divest. If such is the case, it underscores that Trump is not the business success he claims. Here are column highlights:
Since Donald Trump's surprise election one month ago, there's been a bubbling conversation about the mammoth conflicts of interest he will have if he is running or even owning his far flung business enterprises while serving as the head of state. I've suggested that the whole notion of 'conflicts of interest' doesn't really capture what we're dealing with here, which is really a pretty open effort to leverage the presidency to expand his family business. But a couple things came together for me today which make me think we've all missed the real issue.Maybe he can't divest because he's too underwater to do so or more likely he's too dependent on current and expanding cash flow to divest or even turn the reins over to someone else.
Late this afternoon we got news that Trump will remain as executive producer of The Apprentice, now starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. That is, quite simply, weird. The presidency is time consuming and complicated, even for the lazier presidents. Does Trump really need to do this? Can he do it, just in terms of hours in the day? Of course, it may simply be a title that entitles him to draw a check. But does he need the check that bad?
The idea that Trump is heavily leveraged and reliant on on-going cash flow to keep his business empire from coming apart and collapsing into bankruptcy was frequently discussed during the campaign. But it's gotten pretty little attention since he was elected.
After Trump got into that scuffle with Boeing, reporters asked about his ownership of Boeing stock. Trump replied that he'd already sold that stock. So there was no problem. But there's a bit more to it than that.
According to his spokesman, Trump sold all of his stock back in June, a portfolio which his disclosures suggest was worth as much as $38 million. Trump told Matt Lauer that he sold the stock because he was confident he'd win and "would have a tremendous ... conflict of interest owning all of these different companies" while serving as President.
Now, c'mon. Donald Trump sold off all his equities more than six months before he could become president because he was concerned about conflicts of interest? Please. That doesn't pass the laugh test.
But consider this. During the primaries Donald Trump loaned his campaign roughly $50 million. Over the course of the spring, as it became increasingly likely he'd be the nominee, that loan became increasingly conspicuous.
It was only in June that Trump finally gave in and forgave the loan; this was confirmed in the June FEC disclosure that came out in late July. Who knows why Trump sold off all his stock holdings? Maybe he just had a feeling. Maybe he thought the market was too hot. Maybe he just had a spasm of prospective ethical concern. But let's be honest. The most obvious explanation is that forgiving that debt from his campaign required him - through whatever mix of contingencies - to free up more cash, either for the campaign or personal expenses or perhaps to have a certain amount of cash on hand because of terms of other debts. It does not seem plausible at all that the timing is coincidental.
Since we don't have Trump's tax returns, there's just a huge amount we don't know about his businesses. What we do know is that Trump appears to wildly exaggerate the scale of his wealth and exhibit a stinginess that is very hard to square with a man of the kinds of means he claims. A heavily leveraged business, one that is indebted and dependent on cash flow to keep everything moving forward, can be kind of like a shark. It has to keep moving forward or it dies.
This is all necessarily speculative because Trump has kept the details of his business empire hidden from the public. But behavior, circumstantial evidence and lots of evidence of tight reliance on cash flow to service debts of various sorts suggest that Trump may not be able to divest or separate himself from his business. Why doesn't he? Why does he court all this controversy? Because he can't.
If all this is true, the peril of Trump's foreign deals is larger than we may realize. It's not just a matter of hitting the billionaire big time. It could be a matter of staying afloat at all.
I continue to encounter "friends" who voted for Donald Trump some of whom continue to defend their vote by claimed ignorance of Trump's anti-LGBT stances during the election campaign and/or Trump's over the top self-prostitution to some of the foulest elements of the radical Christofascists. For such individuals I hold little sympathy and take the position that if you were too lazy to educate yourself about with whom Trump was climbing in bed with, why should I simple forgive you for putting my civil rights and safety at risk? If you don't know the positions of a candidate and/or who they have aligned them self with, I recommend not voting. Others seem to realize the stab in the back they have given to their LGBT friends and neighbors and are trying to make amends through extra friendliness. Sadly, such efforts will not undo the damage that has been done. A final group justify their betrayal by saying they merely voted for "change." Putting a pistol to one's head and pulling the trigger would also usher in "change," but not a positive one. Metro Weekly has a piece that compiles all the reasons that LGBT Americans should be terrified by the oncoming Trump administration. "Friends" who voted for Trump need to read the entire piece. Here are excerpts that look at five (5) of the scariest Trump nominees:
It’s a tale of two Donalds, or perhaps a strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, when it comes to the president-elect’s stance on LGBT rights.During the campaign, Trump tried to position himself as a more reliable defender of LGBT rights than Hillary Clinton. In 2015, he said that sexual orientation shouldn’t be a reason to be fired. He said that he’d allow transgender reality star Caitlyn Jenner to use whichever bathroom she preferred if she were to visit Trump Tower. He vowed to keep LGBT people — along with other Americans — safe from the threat of ISIS. He even waved a rainbow Pride flag given to him by a supporter at one of his rallies as a show of support for the LGBT community.
Yet for all his pandering, Trump has also catered to the Religious Right, courted evangelical voters, and touted his opposition to same-sex marriage and reproductive rights. He supported North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory when he tried to justify signing the anti-LGBT bill HB 2. And Trump has referred to allowing LGBT people to serve openly in the military as “political correctness.”
That’s why so many eyes are fixed on his selections for various cabinet positions — and why some observers are getting close to hitting the “panic” button.
The first warning signs came with Trump’s selection of his close advisers, none of whom require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the alt-right website Breitbart News, has a history of expressing anti-gay sentiment and promoting stories with anti-LGBT viewpoints. Reince Priebus, the outgoing head of the Republican National Committee, has spent the past few years leading a party that enshrined anti-LGBT attitudes into its official platform. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn opposed allowing openly gay service members in the military, and criticized the Obama administration’s decision to lift the ban on transgender service members . . . .
Several of Trump’s other picks — who must be confirmed by the Senate — pose a much greater threat to LGBT rights. Here, from most severe to least, are Trump’s confirmable (or rejectable) nominees that every LGBT person should be watching closely.
Jeff Sessions - Position Nominated For: Attorney General
LGBT Record: As senator from Alabama, Sessions opposed same-sex marriage, employment nondiscrimination legislation, partner benefits, lifting the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and adding LGBT people to protected classes under the nation’s hate crime laws. When he was Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions attempted to use his office to stop the University of Alabama from hosting an LGBT conference, even taking the university to court to defend a law that prohibited using public money to fund, in any way, a group that promotes “actions prohibited by the [state’s] sodomy and sexual misconduct laws.”
As Attorney General, it’s doubtful whether Sessions will enforce the nation’s hate crime laws in instances where people have been victimized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Other concerns involve the government’s future position on court cases revolving around LGBT rights.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
LGBT Record: Price, a conservative congressman from the Atlanta suburbs, has accrued a vehemently anti-LGBT voting record during his six terms in Congress. He boasts a 0% rating for his voting record on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard. He’s voted against an LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act, against workplace protections for LGBT employees, and LGBT-inclusive hate crime protections. He has been a vocal supporter of state bans prohibiting same-sex marriage.
He has suggested that any social legislation, such as bills to advance LGBT rights, not be passed until a thorough examination has been completed of the cost of potential health problems that could arise from “promoting” homosexuality.
As head of Health and Human Services, Price could be influenced by his extreme views and place LGBT-related research or HIV-related research on the back burner. Issues of whether insurance companies must cover certain surgical procedures may also come to a head under a Price-led HHS department. Lastly, Price is a fierce opponent of the Affordable Care Act and has called for its complete repeal. This could be problematic for LGBT people with pre-existing conditions or low-income people who get their insurance — and subsidies to pay for it — through the Obamacare health exchanges.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
LGBT Record: As a presidential candidate, Carson established himself as a doctrinaire social conservative with anti-LGBT views. Among Carson’s more inflammatory statements are that same-sex behavior by prisoners proves homosexuality is a choice, that gay marriage was responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire, and that transgender people cannot change their assigned sex at birth anymore than they can change their ethnicity. He has compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, compared gay people to pedophiles, and said that same-sex marriage is a Marxist plot to destroy America’s moral foundations.
[O]ne of the likely targets of a Carson-run HUD may be a recent update to the Equal Access Rule for shelters. Under the rule, adopted in September, shelters that operate single-sex facilities or sex-specific projects must provide all individuals, including transgender and gender nonconforming people, with access to programs, benefits, services and accommodations based on their gender identity. . . . If Carson is given free reign, these protections could be repealed.
Director of the CIA
LGBT Record: During his three terms in Congress, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo has largely been opposed to LGBT rights. . . . . He is a supporter of legislation that could potentially allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people under the guise of “religious freedom.” He also voted against an LGBT-inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act.
Secretary of Education
LGBT Record: DeVos . . . and her husband have donated to Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group that opposes LGBT rights. Focus on the Family also promotes conversion therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation or curbing the behavior of LGBT people and those with same-sex attraction. Other members of her extended family have donated to other anti-LGBT causes . . .
The chief issue with a DeVos-run Department of Education would likely be the position that the department adopts with respect to transgender students and whether they are protected under Title IX. DeVos’ position on the Obama administration’s current guidance for school administrators is unknown, but her ties to right-wing groups have led transgender advocates to call on Trump to rescind her nomination. Another issue that may arise would be the use of federal education funds, in the form of vouchers, to support private schools that encourage conversion therapy for LGBT-identifying youth.
For my white, heterosexual Christian "friends" I would ask that for a moment they put themselves in the shoes of LGBT citizens who now have to worry about their rights being attacked or rescinded. Remeber, some of these nominees support groups that would re-criminalize being gay. Would you be sleeping well at night? I doubt it.
Thursday, December 08, 2016
Yes, Donald Trump and his Cabinet nominees to date are very frightening individuals. Never in my life time with the possible exception of Richard Nixon have such delusional and/or extreme individuals been about to take power in America. I remain convinced that the results will be disastrous for many citizens, including the angry white cretins who voted for Trump and the GOP to protect their white privilege without realizing they were cutting their own economic throats. But just as scary, in my view, is Paul Ryan who has cultivated a reputation with a press corps that is just as vapid and easily fooled as Trump's angry white voters. The man often wears his Catholicism on his sleeve, yet other than his opposition to abortion and gay rights, Ryan's goals and policies are diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church's social gospel. He wants to take away health care coverage for millions, he wants to gut Medicare into an inadequate voucher program, he wants to gut Social Security, and he's in bed with Christofascist extremists many of whom are anti-Catholic. Yet the idiots in the media still project an image of Ryan as principled and thoughtful. Compatred to what? One of Hitler's henchmen? A column in the New York Times rightly takes Ryan to task. Here are excerpts:
Paul Ryan has long been cast as Congress’s Boy Scout: earnest, honest and brimming with the best intentions, whether you agree with his proposals or not.Donald Trump is putting an ugly end to that.
Or, rather, Ryan himself is, with his example of utter submission to Trump. Other Republicans are looking to the speaker of the House for guidance on when to confront the president-elect and when to let his craziness go unchecked. And Ryan is charting the wrong course.
I’m referring to his recent “60 Minutes” interview, the apotheosis of all of his tongue biting and conscience snuffing to date. In particular I mean the part when he was asked about Trump’s reckless — and wholly unsubstantiated — tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.
“I’m not really focused on these things,” Ryan said, all too blithely. Then: “I have no knowledge of such things. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Such things? Was he at a tea in the Cotswolds, discussing the pesky upkeep of the carriage house?
Doesn’t matter? No, I guess a president-elect’s effort to undermine Americans’ confidence in our political system — and, beyond that, his attachment to conspiracy theories — aren’t pressing concerns. My bad for assuming otherwise.
Ryan’s answer was marginally better than the one given on the ABC News show “This Week” by Mike Pence, who described Trump’s tweets as “refreshing.” An adjective’s connotations can change from era to era as a language evolves, but I still associate “refreshing” with lemonade and dips in the sea, not wild accusations of voter fraud.
Pence, of course, is Trump’s designated sycophant. That’s practically written into a vice president’s job description. Ryan has no similar duty, just a growing willingness to part ways with principle.
But they can’t afford to stay mum when Trump, merely to stroke his own ego and assert his potency, tells a lie about election results, calling Clinton’s advantage in the popular vote a sham. Certainly Ryan can’t, because he’s a role model and because this lie epitomizes Trump’s demagogic tendencies and legitimizes fake news, the dark consequences of which are becoming ever clearer.
The disregard for truth — and indulgence of fantasy — among people at the pinnacle of power right now is chilling. Beyond Trump there’s Michael Flynn, his nominee for national security adviser, who has tweeted pure bunk about Clinton’s ties to pedophilia and money laundering.
On the subject of Trump, Ryan has spoken out of so many sides of his mouth that it’s less an oval than an octagon at this point. Last spring he even affirmed his endorsement of Trump while calling him out for racism. Behold leadership at its most gelatinous.
Trump is giving a green light to kooks and the finger to the dignity that Americans rightly expect of a president and that Ryan should demand of him.
Ryan is sacrificing too much for too little, and it’s time he rummaged through his wobbly endoskeleton and made fresh acquaintance with his spine.
Tickets are still available for the fundraiser this evening to support Raplh Northam's gubernatorial campaign. Given the threat - at least in our view - that Donald Trump and a Republican congressional majority pose to LGBT rights and civil liberties in general, it is all the more important that we elect Ralph Northam as Virginia's next governor. We need a firewall against some of the worse extreme policies that may be forth coming, especially given some of Trump's anti-LGBT appointees to date. The husband (Barry D. Menser) and I know Ralph and his wife personally and we believe it is absolutely critical that we do all we can to support his election effort. Hence, we are on the host committee for a fundraiser on December 8, 2016. We encourage you to join us at the event (if you cannot attend, we will be hosting an event in our home at a later date). The details are below:
Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam
Jimmy R. Chisman | Jerri & Frank Dickseski | Duncan & Diana Garnett
Barry Menser & Mike Hamar | Jay & Tara Joseph | Mamie Locke
Monty Mason | Jim McNider | Ross & Martha Mugler
Leonard A. Bennett & Dr. Drina A. Northam
BJ Roberts | Molly & Forrest Ward
Northam For Governor Hampton Kick-Off
Thursday, December 8, 2016 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm
At the home of Molly and Forrest Ward
801 Park Place | Hampton, VA 23669
801 Park Place | Hampton, VA 23669
Host - $5,000+ | Co-Host - $2,500
Sponsor - $1,000 | Benefactor - $500
Supporter - $250 | Guest - $100
You may also call 804-397-9877
Wednesday, December 07, 2016
All of my children attended the Virginia Beach public schools and for a time I was a pro-education activist striving to see programs that the city now boasts about put into place. To say I was hated by some on City Council and the Virginia Beach School Board is probably not an overstatement. Frighteningly, some of the same players who in my opinion consistently put the best interest of students, especially those who were different, last are still on the School Board - Board Chairman Dan Edwards being a prime example. Now the Board has gotten itself embroiled in seemingly anti-LGBT controversy which is garnering national and international attention via the Washington Post and numerous LGBT blogs and news outlets. Virginia Beach likes to see itself as a first class city, but until small minded individuals like Edwards are removed from positions of governance, the city will remain petty ante at best. What I find most disturbing is that the mealy mouthed excuse given for cancelling a long scheduled gay-straight alliance assembly is that it suggests to me that the School Board may be cowering before demands of Christofascist within the city who are likely emboldened by Donald Trump's naming of anti-gay zealot Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. The disturbing and to me telling part of the excuse is as follows via the Virginian Pilot:
Cox, a school division spokeswoman, said the event was postponed “ in order to give school organizers, led by school counselors, an opportunity to involve a variety of student and community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”
“The decision to postpone was made in an effort to be more inclusive of all groups and students, not to marginalize any particular student, group or organization,” Cox said.
If you haven't followed the activities of the Christofascists around the country - or even in Gloucester County where a pastor began the lynch mob mentality against Gavin Grimm's restroom usage - you might not catch the language that parrots their favorite excuse for torpedoing anything that might suggest that LGBT students have equal rights and should be free from bullying. The language: "community groups interested in being part of the conversation about tolerance and acceptance for all people.”
Translated, this means that the Christofascists - be they from Regent University, The Wave Church or other "Christian" groups dedicated to making life Hell for LGBT individuals as they force their beliefs on all - want to be involved to (i) kill any pro-LGBT activity, and (ii) argue that "tolerance" includes allowing them to persecute other citizens who do not share their beliefs.
I hope this story continues to get much media coverage and show Virginia Beach for the back water that it remains. As the Virginian Pilot reports, there is growing blow back from citizens, including my friend Janet Wren Moore who addressed the School Board:
Hours after the school division announced that an assembly hosted by Cox High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance has been rescheduled for an evening in January, pushback from the community continued Tuesday night.The assembly scheduled for Monday during school hours was to have included a speech by the president of Hampton Roads Pride and a question-and-answer panel hosted by students. School administration decided Sunday to postpone it.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Tuesday said it was looking into the postponement.
Speaking before the School Board, Janet Moore, a Hampton Roads Pride board member whose son came out as gay while attending Tallwood High, said the worry is that some students will not be able to attend the January event because it begins several hours after school ends.
She condemned the administration for making its decision to postpone the assembly less than 24 hours before it was scheduled, saying the students who planned it for months “didn’t have any time to regroup.”
“It’s unfortunately encouraging misunderstanding and mistrust – a fertilizer for bullying,” she said of the last-minute decision.
She wasn’t alone in her disappointment at the administration’s actions.
Nearly 200 people have signed an open letter [authored by friends' now adult daughter] in solidarity with Cox High’s Gay-Straight Alliance, many of them Virginia Beach parents or former students of the division.
The ACLU has requested access to or copies of records on speakers at school assemblies at the 12 high schools in the city dating back to September 2014.
“Students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door, and content-based distinctions by the school division in the regulation of student speech would raise significant legal concerns,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director.