Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Democrats Win the Convention Contest

Perhaps I am biased, but having followed both the GOP and the Democrat conventions, I believe the Democrats hit a home run - especially when their convention is compared to the hate fest and extremism that defined the GOP convention and the GOP nominee, Donald Trump.  Even New York Times columnist David Brooks - who for far too long acted as a GOP apologist even as hate-filled Christofascists and white supremacists hijacked the party - concedes this reality.  The issue will be whether sane, decent and rational Americans can see the existential threat that Trump and his party now represent to the nation and democracy and stir themselves to vote in November. A vote for Hillary is a vote to preserve what is best about America.  A vote for Trump is an invitation to take the nation down the road towards fascism.  The choice is really that simple.  Here are highlights from Brooks' column:
Donald Trump has found an ingenious way to save the Democratic Party. Basically, he’s abandoned the great patriotic themes that used to fire up the G.O.P. and he’s allowed the Democrats to seize that ground. If you visited the two conventions this year you would have come away thinking that the Democrats are the more patriotic of the two parties — and the more culturally conservative.
Trump has abandoned the Judeo-Christian aspirations that have always represented America’s highest moral ideals: toward love, charity, humility, goodness, faith, temperance and gentleness.
He left the ground open for Joe Biden to remind us that decent people don’t enjoy firing other human beings.
Trump has abandoned the basic modesty code that has always ennobled the American middle class: Don’t brag, don’t let your life be defined by gilded luxuries.
He left the ground open for the Democrats to seize middle-class values with one quick passage in a Tim Kaine video — about a guy who goes to the same church where he was married, who taught carpentry as a Christian missionary in Honduras, who has lived in the same house for the last 24 years.
Trump has also abandoned the American ideal of popular self-rule.
He left the ground open for Barack Obama to remind us that our founders wanted active engaged citizens, not a government run by a solipsistic and self-appointed savior who wants everything his way.
For decades the Republican Party has embraced America’s open, future-oriented nationalism. But when you nominate a Silvio Berlusconi you give up a piece of that. When you nominate a blood-and-soil nationalist you’re no longer speaking in the voice of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and every Republican nominee from Reagan to McCain to Romney.
Democrats have often been ambivalent about that ardent nationalistic voice, but this week they were happy to accept Trump’s unintentional gift. There were an unusually high number of great speeches at the Democratic convention this year: the Obamas, Biden, Booker, Clinton, the Mothers of the Movement and so on.
These speakers found their eloquence in staving off this demagogue. They effectively separated Trump from America. They separated him from conservatism. They made full use of the deep nationalist chords that touch American hearts.
[T]the extremist fringe that threatens to take over the Democratic Party seems less menacing than the lunatic fringe that has already taken over the Republican one.
This week I left the arena here each night burning with indignation at Mike Pence. I almost don’t blame Trump. He is a morally untethered, spiritually vacuous man who appears haunted by multiple personality disorders. It is the “sane” and “reasonable” Republicans who deserve the shame — the ones who stood silently by, or worse, while Donald Trump gave away their party’s sacred inheritance.
The Democrats had by far the better of the conventions.
It could be that in this moment of fear, cynicism, anxiety and extreme pessimism, many voters may have decided that civility is a surrender to a rigged system, that optimism is the opiate of the idiots and that humility and gentleness are simply surrendering to the butchers of ISIS. If that’s the case then the throes of a completely new birth are upon us and Trump is a man from the future.
If that’s true it’s not just politics that has changed, but the country.

Russian Hackers Attack Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

While Putin loving Donald Trump tries to walk back his invitation to Russian government hackers to attack Hillary Clinton and Democrat organizations - one of Trump's stooges tied to say Trump's statements were a "joke" - word comes that Russian Hackers have attacked the computer systems of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  To me, the fact that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin seemingly desperately wants to see Trump elected ought to send shivers down the backs of every American.  The Washington Post looks at this latest hacking which is being investigated by the FBI.  Here are article highlights:
Russian government hackers have breached the computers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to individuals familiar with the matter.
The intrusion appeared to be carried out by the same Russian intelligence service that hacked the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, the individuals said.
The FBI is investigating this breach as part of a broader probe into hacking of political organizations.
The revelation, first reported by Reuters, comes on the same evening that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was making her acceptance speech at the party’s national convention in Philadelphia.
“It’s definitely part of a much, much broader campaign that is yet to fully be publicly revealed,” said one of the sources, a cybersecurity expert familiar with the matter.
Hackers working for Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, were traced to the DCCC intrusion, the sources said. Also known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear, they are the group the FBI believes took a cache of DNC emails. The bureau is trying to determine whether those emails are the ones that appeared on the website of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Friday, setting off a firestorm that roiled the party in the lead-up to the convention.
The FBI also will try to determine whether APT 28 or an affiliated group passed those emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources said.
The concern is that Moscow may be attempting to meddle in the U.S. election, which would be an unprecedented and highly troubling turn of events. . . . The DCCC intrusion apparently is part of a much broader campaign of political espionage by the Russians. The FBI is also investigating targeting and potential compromises of the Clinton campaign, . . .
The full scope of the intrusions has yet to be revealed. News of the latest hack is sure to add to the already significant level of concern in the White House about potential Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process.

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Final Thursday Male Beauty

Trump and the Russian Oligarchs

Donald Trump continues to disingenuously claim that he has no ties to Vladimir Putin and his cirvle of cronies and oligarchs. Like so much o the drivel that comes out of Trump's mouth, these denials are lies.  Lies - something that are the norm with Donald trump.  A piece in Politico looks at the lie of such denials and protestations are in fact.  The reality is that Donald Trump is desperately dependent on Russian money - money that doesn't leave Russia without the blessing of Russian dictator Vladimir Puti - to keep his empire afloatn.  Here are article highlights: 
The house wasn’t built for a Russian oligarch, although it looked the part. The 62,000-square-foot, 17-bedroom mansion is a palace of new-money flash, featuring Greek fountains, tennis courts, trompe l’oeil murals, underground parking for dozens of cars, and a 100-foot swimming pool and hot tub overlooking the ocean. It even had a faux-aristocratic name: “Maison de l’Amitie,” or the House of Friendship. It was the trophy of a Boston-area nursing home magnate, until he lost his fortune in 2004. That’s when Donald Trump scooped it up.
After paying $41 million for the place in November 2004, Trump called it “the finest piece of land in Florida, and probably the U.S.” He vowed to upgrade the structure into “the second-greatest house in America.” (Second, of course, to his nearby Mar-a-Lago resort.) But Trump had no intention of living there. He intended to flip it for a quick—and huge—profit. His initial asking price, less than two years after buying it, was $125 million. By the time Trump listed the property, in early 2006, the real estate market was already cooling off. The property sat on the market for about two years as a frustrated Trump churned through real estate brokers and slashed his price 20 percent. It wasn’t at all clear who might pay Trump three times his buying price for a neoclassical palace amid a looming recession.
In the summer of 2008, Trump found a solution to his problem in the form of one of the world’s hundred richest men: a 41-year-old Russian billionaire named Dmitry Rybolovlev. Then with a net worth that Forbesestimated at $13 billion, Rybolovlev had made his fortune in the wild west of 1990s post-Soviet Russia. He’d spent a year in prison on murder charges (he was later cleared) and wore a bulletproof vest when his own life was threatened. He would pay Trump $95 million for Maison L’Amitie in what was widely described as the most expensive U.S. residential property sale ever.
The nature of Trump’s connection to Russia has exploded recently as a campaign issue, thanks to his friendly comments about Russian President Vladimir Putin; the ties that several of his advisers have to Moscow; his contrarian views on NATO and Ukraine, which happen to echo Putin’s; and his startling call on Wednesday for Moscow to find and release Hillary Clinton’s deleted private emails.
But the connection isn’t just political. Trump has repeatedly explored business ventures in Russia, partnered with Russians on projects elsewhere, and benefited from Russian largesse in his business ventures. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said at a real estate conference in 2008.
Why did a Russian billionaire pay Trump so much money for a house the new owner is believed never to have set foot in, which he has denied owning, and which he now intends to tear down? The answer offers an important window into Trump’s kinship with Russia’s oligarchs, and what he likely sees in them as business allies. It is also a story of a classic Trump deal: a lucrative flip, figures on both sides that don’t really add up, and at the center, a house that may not have been what either party claimed.
In an interview, Trump shrugged off the Maison de l’Amitie sale as a “small deal,” compared to his other ventures, the way some people might refer to a summer cabin in the woods. “That was a house I bought for fun,” Trump said. He also downplayed his personal investment in the place, saying that he only made minor improvements to the property. “I cleaned it up a little bit, but not too much,” Trump told POLITICO. “The primary thing was, I painted it.” The implication, of course, would be that the price differential between his purchase and sale was almost entirely profit.
Back when Trump was trying to flip the house at a dizzying price, however, he claimed to have done far more. “I bought the land and gutted the house,” Trump told a reporter in late 2005. After the property went on the market, Shawn McCabe, vice president of Trump Properties in Florida, told Forbes that Trump had put in at least $25 million of his own money.
Documents submitted in March to Palm Beach’s architectural commission by a private firm retained by the buyer suggest that the actual work was modest. They say Trump had the main house’s interior “remodeled, updating with a new kitchen and dividing a large room to create additional bedrooms and bathrooms,” along with “some minor interior alterations of doors, frames & windows.”
Perhaps Trump understood that the payoff he was demanding would have to come from outside the U.S. A new generation of ultra-wealthy foreigners had emerged in the previous decade, many of them Russians who had reaped mind-boggling wealth as formerly state-controlled industries were privatized, the spoils mostly shared among political cronies. By then, Trump had pursued or completed multiple deals with Russian partners. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” Donald Jr., said at that 2008 real estate conference.
Enter Dmitry Rybolovlev. Barely over 40 and worth a Forbes-estimated $12.5 billion in 2008, Rybolovlev was not exactly a familiar name on the Palm Beach social circuit. A former medical student who became a stock broker as the country transitioned from socialism to a market economy in the 1990s, he invested in heavy industry. In 1995, then just 29 years old, he was chairman of the Russian fertilizer giant Uralkali. Dubbed “the fertilizer king,” he would become one of the world’s wealthiest men, peaking at No. 59 on the Forbes 500 list.
Today, Rybolovlev is better known for other things. There was his record-setting purchase of an $88 million Manhattan apartment for his 22-year-old daughter; his ownership of Monaco’s pro soccer team; and recent accounts in the New York Times and The New Yorker of claims that an art broker who helped him purchase works by the likes of Picasso and da Vinci overcharged him by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Trump has much in common with Russia’s oligarchs—billions in wealth, supreme self-confidence, a taste for trophies and a love of flaunting riches—and in recent years, he has gravitated toward them. In 2013, he partnered with the Russian real estate mogul Aras Agalarov to bring the Miss Universe pageant, which Trump owned at the time, to Moscow. Trump later boasted that “all the oligarchs” had attended the event. While in Moscow, Trump discussed plans for real estate projects there.
It is hard to verify the claim Trump made this week that he has no investments in Russia and that his dealings with Russians are very limited. His company is private and is not required to disclose its finances. In a break from modern presidential norms, Trump refuses to release his personal tax returns.
“The big question is whether any hard evidence comes out about whether Trump has any financial interests linked to Russia,” says Democratic consultant Jeremy Rosner, who served on Bill Clinton’s national security council staff. “And that’s why it’s so important that he release his tax records. Otherwise, we could have a Manchurian Candidate with the keys to the Oval Office who is under the control of a foreign power. And voters deserve very clear evidence that that is not the case.”

Criminal Charges Against Cardinal George Pell Still a Possibility

Taking a brief break from political coverage, a piece in the Australian newspaper The Age brings back the reality that the Catholic Church hierarchy remains very much in favor of protecting sexual predator priests and throwing the victims of clergy sex abuse under the bus.  Personally, I would love to see Pell, the highest ranking member of the Catholic Church hierarchy in Australia, hit with criminal charges.  Here are story highlights:
Mr Ashton appeared on radio on Thursday morning responding to explosive allegations aired on ABC 7.30, as well as subsequent claims by Cardinal Pell of a "conspiracy" to pervert the course of justice.
Mr Ashton confirmed Cardinal Pell was the subject of an investigation by the Sano Taskforce that involved multiple allegations over a long period of time.
On Wednesday night, 7.30 aired detailed allegations made by former students of St Alipius primary school in Ballarat, who alleged Cardinal Pell would play with them in the swimming pool and molest them by touching their genitals under water. 
Mr Ashton said charges against the Cardinal were still a possibility and that detectives were waiting on an opinion from the Office of Public Prosecution on whether the inquiry should continue.
"It's been a long investigation ... there are a lot of leads that have to be followed up," he said.
Cardinal Pell has rejected the allegations, claiming that Victoria Police leaked the information to the ABC and compromised the judicial process.
The ABC obtained eight police statements from complainants, witnesses and family members who are reportedly helping the taskforce with its investigation. 
One complainant, Darren Mooney, spoke publicly: "He'd throw us off his shoulders ... he would grab you from – have his hands on your backside and then he'd push you off," Mr Mooney said.
Another alleged victim, Lyndon Monument, described the abuse as: "his hand touching your genitals and stuff on the outside of your bathers or shorts. And then that slowly became hand down the front of the pants or your bathers or whatever you call them."
[He would] grab you ... around the testes, around the anus ... very forceful around the anus," a third complainant,  Damian Dignan, told the program.
Other allegations aired on the program included:
·                      that Cardinal Pell would touch the genitals of children while swimming in a public pool in Ballarat in the late '70s.
·                      that he was naked in the change rooms on a regular basis in front of children.
·                      that he exposed himself to three young children in another change room, at the Torquay Surf Club in 1986 or 1987.
Cardinal Pell's office issued a furious statement and said he rejected all the allegations aired by the program.
Charges could still be laid against Cardinal George Pell over a string of allegations of child sex abuse going back decades, says Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton. 

Thursday Male Beauty - Pt 3.

Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan on Clinton Must be Supported

Writer and former blogger, Andrew Sullivan is no fan of the Clintons.  However, he neatly makes the case of why anyone who cares about America and American democracy must support Hillary Clinton to insure that Donald trump and his fear and hate based vision of America is stillborn.  Here's the quote from Sullivan's live-blogging at the Democrat National Convention last night:
"Readers know how I feel about the Clintons. But this is not about them or me. It’s about an idea of America that is under siege and under attack from a foul, divisive, dangerous demagogue. If you backed Obama, there is no choice in this election but Clinton. This is not a election to seek refuge in a third party or to preen in purist disdain from the messy, often unsatisfying duties of politics. It is an election to keep the America that Obama has helped bring into being, and the core democratic values that have defined this experiment from the very beginning: self-government, not rule by a strongman; pluralism and compassion rather than nativism and fear; an open embrace of the world, and not a terrified flight from it." . . . This is essentially a defense of democracy against tyranny. Which is the choice in this election.
He is 100% correct that a vote for a third party or purist disdain so evident in some Sanders supporters will only serve to elect Trump and take the nation down a very dangerous road. 

Trump’s Call for Russia to Hack the U.S. Might Be a Felony

If it wasn't clear before now, it should be obvious that Donald Trump thinks he is above the law and above the moral code that most Americans live by.  He lies incessantly, he cheats and screws people over in business, and now he thinks he can invite a foreign enemy to engage in cyber attacks on America, both to hurt his political rival and to keep himself in the news cycle - something his narcissism demands.  However, as a piece in The Daily Beast notes, Trump may have just committed a felony by inviting such a cyber attack.  The man is a menace and must be defeated in November. Here are article highlights:
Did Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump just call for a felony to be committed? On Wednesday, he urged a foreign government to hack an American citizen and release personal emails.
“Russia, if you're listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from emails that Hillary Clinton turned over to the State Department, Trump said in a lengthy press conference in Doral, Fla. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That will be next. Yes, sir.”
Trump himself has had financial interests in Russia.  He has also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and has said that if Russia were to invade NATO members, the United States might not come to their defense. 
Trump’s incendiary comments came on the heels of the theft and leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee, an operation that, as The Daily Beast first reported, U.S. official believe was carried out by the Russian government and may have been designed to help Trump in the polls.
Trump appeared to urge a U.S. adversary suspected of criminal activity essentially to go further and attack his opponent. The comments drew ire from  across the national security community.
Trump allies were at pains to explain the nominee’s plea for Russian intervention. Newt Gingrich said Trump had simply made a  “joke.”
A top Clinton adviser quickly condemned Trump’s comments. “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” aide Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, added that the call for illegal hacking “shows staggeringly poor judgment even for him.” 
“With so many unanswered questions about Trump’s ties to the Kremlin, it’s imperative that Trump immediately release his tax returns and disclose his financial ties to Russia,” Schiff added.
“It’s probably the most egregiously stupid thing I’ve ever heard a party nominee say ever,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in national security law. 
Moss believes that there’s a legal case to charge Trump for his comments, because he was calling for Russia to take “imminent lawless action,” which is speech not covered by the First Amendment.
Moss added that Trump could theoretically be charged as a conspirator under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“You could argue what Trump was urging Russia to do was hack Hillary’s server and release the contents to the media—conspiring with them to hack into a private server and release confidential information to the public,” Moss explained.
However, it’s unlikely, Moss continued, because the Department of Justice and FBI are unlikely to want to be “diving into a political nightmare.”
Now that Trump is the GOP presidential nominee, he will be eligible to receive classified intelligence briefings, something that top intelligence officials are sweating over, given Trump’s penchant for talking extemporaneously.
Not knowing his intent, such statements could limit the amount of classified information U.S. officials give to Trump, which he is entitled to as a presidential nominee, an official familiar with the process explained to The Daily Beast. Trump and Clinton will reportedly begin receiving classified briefings after this week’s convention.
As Trump called for Russia to infiltrate Clinton’s servers, some of his fellow Republicans were torching the Kremlin for the DNC hack.
"Every American, without regard to political party, must face this grim reality: While the Obama Administration idles with empty platitudes and fantasy resets, Mr. Putin’s Soviet-style aggression has escalated to levels that were unimaginable just a week ago,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said in a statement. “America is digitally exposed. The United States must take serious offensive and defensive actions now. Russia must face real consequences."
Trump’s cozyness with Putin and his advisers’ ties to Russia highlight a growing chasm within the Republican Party, which for the last 35 years has lionized Ronald Reagan’ as the ultimate cold warrior who stood up to Soviet expansionism and aggression.
Skepticism of authoritarian governments—and Putin in particular—has been a key feature among conservative foreign policy thinkers. Trump appears to be trying to drag the party toward Putin almost on his own, and traditional forces are pulling back.
The party of Lincoln and Reagan is dead.  Something nightmarish has replaced it.