Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Amazon to Split New HQ Between Crystal City, Virginia and Long Island City, New York

Long Island City, New York
Crystal City, Virginia
It is expected that Amazon will announce today that its new headquarters will be split between Crystal City, Virginia and Long Island City, New York, handing Virginia governor Ralph Northam a major economic victory.  The other victor is the Long Island City portion of New York City which has already seen amazing redevelopment and gentrification over the last 20 years.  When the announcement comes, it will underscore the reality that red states are making themselves increasingly unattractive to progressive corporations and businesses that want educated populations that are welcoming to a diverse work force.  A piece in the New York Times looks at Amazon's decision and its likely economic impact.  Here are highlights (the Washington Post also has a piece here): 
After conducting a yearlong search for a second home, Amazon has finalized plans to have about 50,000 employees in two locations, according to a person familiar with the decision-making process.
The company has decided to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, and to the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb, the person said. Amazon, which plans to officially announce the decision on Tuesday, already has more employees in those two areas than anywhere else outside of Seattle, its home base, and the Bay Area.
The need to hire tens of thousands of high-tech workers has been the driving force behind the search, leading many to expect it to land in a major East Coast metropolitan area. Many experts had pointed to Crystal City as a front-runner, because of its strong public transit, educated work force and proximity to Washington.
About 1,800 people in advertising, fashion and publishing already work for Amazon in New York, and roughly 2,500 corporate and technical employees work in Northern Virginia and Washington. Amazon announced plans for a second headquarters in September 2017, saying that the company was growing faster than it could hire in its hometown, Seattle. The company said it would invest more than $5 billion over almost two decades in a second headquarters, hiring as many as 50,000 full-time employees that would earn more than $100,000 a year on average.
HQ2 would be the “full equal to our current campus in Seattle,” the company said. Picking multiple sites allows it to tap into two pools of talented labor and perhaps avoid being blamed for all of the housing and traffic woes of dominating a single area. It could also give the company greater leverage in negotiating tax incentives, experts said.
The HQ2 search sent states and cities into a frenzied bidding war. Some hired McKinsey & Company and other outside consultants to help them with their bids, investing heavily in courting Amazon and its promise of 50,000 jobs. Even half of that would amount to one of the largest corporate location deals on record, according to Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, which tracks corporate subsidies. “These are very big numbers,” he said.
As Amazon’s search dragged on, residents in many of the 20 finalist cities worried about the impact such a massive project could have on housing and traffic, as well as what potential tax incentives could cost the community. The decision to split HQ2 into two sites could alleviate some of that resistance.
Seattle has been one of the fastest growing cities in the country, in part because of Amazon’s growth. The company has about 45,000 employees in the city, and the company said it needed to hire more employees than the city could attract or absorb.
The piece in the Post notes as follows:
The choice of Crystal City in Arlington County as one of the winners could cement Northern Virginia’s reputation as a magnet for business and potentially reshape the Washington region into an eastern outpost of Silicon Valley over the next decade. The decision hands Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and local leaders the largest economic-development prize in a generation — one promising billions of dollars in capital investments alone — but could also put pressure on the region’s already steep housing prices, congested roads, and yawning divide between wealthy and low-income residents.
It also would represent a victory for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who had joked that he would change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” if necessary to land the project.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

White Supremacists Celebrate Midterms as a Victory

Despite the fact that Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives in last week's midterm elections, white supremacists are puffing themselves up and claiming that they were the real victors.  Why?  Because what for years had been becoming an largely unspoken plank of the GOP agenda is now overt under Donald Trump: racists and white supremacists are openly welcome in the Republican Party.  (In Virginia, defeated GOP candidate Corey Stewart ran on a openly racist platform).  This reality, combined with the fact that Trump openly displays his racism and the re-election of some of the most racist GOP members of Congress - e.g.. Steve King - has white supremacists cheering.  The big question and fear is whether or not they will put their bigotry into action against non-whites.  A piece in CNN looks at this cancer on America.  Here are article highlights:
White supremacists are saying they were winners in last week's midterm elections.
They were already emboldened by the language used by President Donald Trump and senior members of his administration -- words like "nationalist" and "invasion" that have hateful dual meanings -- according to a review of sites frequented by white supremacists. And they saw Tuesday's results as a victory for white America with what they believe will be progress toward a border wall, an end to DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, and birthright citizenship.
 Memes and commentary on the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site bashed nonwhite candidates who did not win, as well as losses by Republicans not seen as Trump loyalists.
"This changed history. It cleared away any of the remaining fog of confusion about what exactly we are dealing with in this country," Daily Stormer founder and publisher Andrew Anglin wrote.
 Anglin was buoyed by the win of Rep. Steve King in Iowa, even after King was pilloried for meeting with a far-right Austrian group linked to Nazis and retweeting an avowed Nazi sympathizer. King, a Republican, says he was unaware of the Nazi links in both those instances, but he has used racially charged and anti-immigrant rhetoric for years.
 King still won with 50.6% of the vote in Iowa's deeply conservative 4th Congressional District. In Illinois, Arthur Jones, a self-declared Holocaust denier and former leader of the American Nazi Party tallied almost 56,000 votes, more than a quarter of the total, standing for the GOP in Illinois' 3rd Congressional District. "Steve King won," Anglin wrote. "If last night was a referendum on Steve King's white nationalism, as the Democrats were trying to frame it, then white nationalism won."
On the campaign trail for Sen. Ted Cruz fighting for re-election in Texas, Trump declared, "I'm a nationalist, OK? I'm a nationalist."   A commenter on the 4chan bulletin board joked Trump was winking at them.
Earlier, another poster declared Trump was venerated by white supremacists: "What Dems, all leftists and pundits do not understand is that TRUMP is patriots' and Western/American Heritage's CHAMPION." To Alcindor, Trump repeated two more times how racist the question was. But he also never flatly denounced white supremacists. They were overjoyed, calling the press conference "glorious," and "beautiful" on 4chan, with one commenter writing: "I am honestly in awe of this man as a leader." "It doesn't take an overt slur for these individuals to basically become emboldened and to recognize and be excited by policies that they see would further their goals," said Keegan Hankes, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. "When they hear [Trump] the President say things like, 'I'm not a racist,' they turn around amongst themselves and say, 'He just has to say that for practical reasons,' 'he just has to say that basically to get himself cover, to do the things that we want him to do,'" Hankes says. What is not clear is if any extremists will follow words with violence, as allegedly happened with Robert Bowers, who has pleaded not guilty to killing 11 people at a synagogue late last month, allegedly because he believed Jews were helping "invaders."
On places like 4chan, false talk of the migrant caravan as "invaders" has taken over on some of the message boards and become a popular meme topic. Analysts say "the browning of America" where whites become a minority is what the white supremacists fear most. There are threads with memes containing photos doctored to look like people breaking down walls at the US border with Mexico. There are jokes about how the traditional rush of Black Friday shoppers is nothing compared to what would happen next. In another thread on 4chan, commentators speculate about how many people would be shot as they come over the border. The thread appeared to reference Trump's comment that US troops on the border could fire on someone in the migrant caravan if the person threw rocks or stones. "All of them," one poster wrote of a possible casualty count. "Not enough," said another.
 The administration's approach to immigration in particular has "electrified" many racists, Hankes said, "to the point where they're begging their followers to go out and find ways to put Republicans in office." "They believe it will be easier for these policies to sail through," he said. "And these are things that they think are essential for creating a white ethno-state." Perhaps this election did energize white nationalists to vote, if they thought they had a champion in government. But there is also the fear -- and the example -- of men taking matters into their own violent hands.
 Bowers, the accused synagogue killer, echoed Trump talking points when he wrote on the free-speech forum Gab that "I have noticed a change in people saying 'illegals' that now say 'invaders'." The post, made six days before the shooting, continued, "I like this."

The time has come for my Republican "friends" to decide whether they are racists or not.  They cannot support a racist party any longer and then pretend that they are not complicit in its ugly agenda.  

Monday, November 12, 2018

Many Of The GOP’s Anti-Gay Bigots Defeated in Midterms

In the 2018 midterm elections some studies suggest that 82% of LGBT voters voted for Democrat candidates.  Given the homophobia and anti-gay animus that defines today's Christofascist dominated GOP, it should come as no surprise,   And, while the "blue wave" could have been far stronger and failed to wrest control of the U.S. Senate from Republicans - the projected GOP margin went down by one this evening as  Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema finally was called the winner against anti-gay extremist Martha McSally - many of homophobic Republicans lost at the ballot box.  Whether or not the GOP will get the message that its anti-gay agenda is a losing proposition outside of Christofascist circles and backwater red states remains to be seen.  Blogger friend Michelangelo Signorile has a piece in Huffington Post looks at the blood bath experienced by anti-gay Republicans last week.  Here in Virginia, the roster of the defeated includes soon to be former members of Congress David Brat, Barbara Comstock and Scott Taylor (I include Taylor because I believe he has never been truly gay friendly, but rather has tried to play the local LGBT community for fools).  Here are excerpts from Michelangelo's piece:

Dana Rohrabacher, the 15-term Republican incumbent washed away by Democratic challenger Harley Rouda when the blue wave came ashore in Southern California’s 48th Congressional District last week, isn’t your average homophobic extremist.
He is, in fact, an architect of the decades-long battle against LGBTQ rights and a politician, among many others, whose bigotry is partly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people from AIDS.
Rohrabacher was a lieutenant of President Ronald Reagan throughout his two terms as a speechwriter and special assistant, helping Reagan court the evangelical right, which Reagan has been credited with bringing into politics. Reagan, bowing to the zealots from whom he helped amass enormous power (power they still wield with President Donald Trump), was among the most anti-gay presidents in history, ignoring the AIDS epidemic until far too late.
Rohrabacher was . . . . was among a trio of California right-wing Republican congressmen ― including Bob Dornan and William Dannemeyer ― who demonized people with AIDS in that era, voted against efforts to stem the epidemic and battle discrimination and pushed legislation that was discriminatory against LGBTQ people. 
Now, after 30 years, this bigot has finally been booted. And he’s not the only one.
There has been much discussion in the aftermath of last week’s midterms about the rainbow wave, a record number of LGBTQ candidates elected in races across the country ― over 150 at last count. But on the other side of the coin, many ardent homophobes and anti-gay candidates were taken down too. 
In Minnesota, Rep. Jason Lewis, a Republican who equated gay couples with rapists, lost his House seat to Democrat Angie Craig ― the first lesbian mom elected to Congress.
In another case of poetic justice, openly bisexual California Democrat Katie Hill defeated Republican House member Steve Knight, who supported Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, and voted against banning “ex-gay” therapy during his time in the California Senate.
In Georgia’s now-famous 6th Congressional District, short-lived GOP incumbent Karen Handel, who said last year while running in a special election against Democrat Jon Ossoff that she didn’t support allowing adoption by gay and lesbian couples, was beaten by African-American Democrat and gun reform advocate Lucy McBath.
Texas GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, who claimed the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida ― the site of a 2016 gun massacre ― wasn’t actually a gay club (and who voted anti-gay every chance he got in his more than 20 years in Congress, garnering a score of zero every year from the Human Rights Campaign) was defeated by African-American civil rights lawyer Colin Allred. 
In a huge upset in Oklahoma, Republican Steve Russell, who in 2016 introduced a bill that would have provided religious exemptions to President Barack Obama’s executive order banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination among federal contractors, lost to Kendra Horn, the first Democrat to win the state’s 5th Congressional District in 44 years. 
Former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin took down Republican Rep. Mike Bishop in Michigan. He voted last year to deny transgender service members medically necessary transition-related health care and was an ardent opponent of marriage equality, seeking religious exemptions
In fact, the list of GOP House members opposed to marriage equality who came crashing down last week goes on and on: Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock in Virginia, Iowa’s Rod Blum, Illinois’ Randy HultgrenMike Coffman in Colorado and Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania.
In the Senate, GOP marriage equality opponent Dean Heller went down in Nevada against Jacky Rosen. And in Arizona, . . . .  Martha McSally, another equality opponent, could lose in [lost] the fight for the open seat to replace marriage equality opponent Jeff Flake ― to openly bisexual Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema.
Far-right Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who once compared homosexuality to polygamy, was stopped from taking the governor’s seat and continuing the Kansas GOP’s anti-LGBTQ agenda. Democrat Laura Kelly flipped the state and has already vowed to reinstate protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender government employees, which were rescinded in 2015 by then-Gov. Sam Brownback. 
In Wisconsin, anti-LGBTQ Republican Scott Walker lost his governorship to Tony Evers, after nearly eight years, in a major win for equality. 
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer flipped Michigan in its governor’s race, preventing Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette ― who rejected the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s expansion of state law to protect LGBTQ people ― from continuing GOP Gov. Rick Snyder’s hostile agenda.
And in the open governor’s race in Maine, Democrat Janet Mills flipped the state, ensuring right-wing extremist Gov. Paul LePage’s horrifically anti-LGBTQ agenda won’t continue under Shawn Moody, who similarly opposed marriage equality.
In many state legislatures, the blue wave washed away the hate last week. In Texas, where anti-LGBTQ Republicans in recent years introduced more than a dozen bills harmful to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people each session, Democrats flipped 12 House seats, in the biggest shift since 2010. In an upset, Ron Simmons, who authored an infamous anti-transgender “bathroom” bill ― which died in the Texas House last session but which conservatives vowed to bring back next year ― was defeated by Michelle Beckley.
Much work remains to be done and here in Virginia all in the LGBT community need to work to assist Democrats in retaking control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly so that bills that have been blocked for years - if not decades - by Republicans can be enacted. Virginia started the blue wave in 2017 and we need to complete the job in Virginia in November 2019.  

Monday Morning Male Beauty

Sunday, November 11, 2018

More Sunday Male Beauty

Is It Now Too Late to Stop Mueller?

Since he fired James Comey, it has been obvious to anyone not drinking the Trump/Pence Kool-Aid that Trump is desperate to kill the investigation into possible collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign and anything else that might come to light as a result.  As I - and others - have often noted, if one has nothing to hide, one does not act the way Trump has acted and ranted even as the number of indictments and guilty pleas have multiplied.  Now, with the firing of Jeff Sessions, Trump may be poised to make his most aggressive move to scuttle the Russiagate investigation and avoid exposure of what is likely a cesspool of money laundering and perhaps far, far worse.  A piece in The Atlantic argues that it may hopefully be too late now for Trump to stop the investigation and escape the consequences of his trail of lies and likely misdeeds.  Here are article highlights:

At the end of last month, with the midterms looming, I gave a talk before a small private audience in California in which I argued for optimism because—among other things—the moment for firing Robert Mueller had passed.
Eighteen months ago, I said, President Donald Trump had an opportunity to disrupt the Russia investigation: He had fired the FBI director and had rocked the Justice Department back on its heels. But Trump had dithered. He had broadcast his intentions too many times. And in the meantime, Mueller had moved decisively, securing important indictments and convictions, and making whatever preparations were necessary for hostile fire. And now Democrats were poised to take the House of Representatives. The window of opportunity was gone.
I am still, if only tentatively, of the belief that the prospects for interference are dimmer than fear and panic and another Trump-busted norm have us imagining. Here are 10 reasons to think that Whitaker may have less capacity to foil Mueller than the current moment—and his formal powers—may suggest.
 First, Mueller has spread the wealth around. The normal critique of special-counsel investigations is that they hoard jurisdiction, endlessly expand, and become personal roving inquests into their political subjects’ lives. The opposite is the case with Mueller. He has not merely referred to other Justice Department components matters at the margins of his investigation, such as the Michael Cohen situation in New York. He has also let other components handle matters involving core questions of Russian interference in the U.S. elections, such as the Maria Butina and Elena Khusyaynova prosecutions. The result of this strategic step is not just that Mueller is relatively invulnerable to the charge of any kind of power grab or mission creep. It is also that firing him or reining him in only does so much. If Trump imagines these investigations as a cancer on his presidency, they are a cancer that has already metastasized.
 Second, the investigation has already progressed very far. It is one thing to squelch an investigation in its crib. It’s another thing to squelch an investigation that has already collected important evidence and brought key cases. The effort to do so cannot take place invisibly, as a great many prosecutors and FBI agents will be aware of what is happening. None of them has to leak anything for that awareness to find its way to Capitol Hill, because the Hill is already aware of the problem and looking for signs. Mueller is by many accounts writing a report, a step that signals a completed investigation or a completed portion of an investigation. The effort to suppress that report could be politically galvanizing and, in its own way, as damaging for the administration as the contents of that report when they eventually become public.
 Third, Mueller does not have to remain silent. . . . . The day that Mueller holds a press conference or stands before cameras and declares that his investigation is facing interference from the Justice Department will be a very big day, perhaps a game-changing day. If the department suppresses his report, he has the capacity to, as James Comey did after his firing, testify before Congress about what happened. Mueller has not hoarded power or jurisdiction, but he has hoarded moral authority. If Whitaker or his successor seeks to frustrate the probe, Mueller can spend down those huge reserves of credibility.
 Fourth, the midterms matterand they mean investigations. . . . . The Democratic takeover of Congress means that key committees will be watching every move Whitaker and his successor make with respect to the investigation. It means subpoenas for any report they may try to suppress. It means an open and receptive forum for Mueller to testify should he have something to say. It means constant investigation. And it means that the threat of impeachment hangs over everything. This is a very big change, and Mueller is as aware of it as anyone. As a result of Democratic control of the House, he could, for example, write an unclassified summary of his report and conclusions with every expectation that major congressional committees would demand it and release it publicly. He could also, say, write an impeachment referral—if he thought he had evidence Congress needs to see—and dare Whitaker to prevent its transmission to Congress. If Whitaker were to do so, Mueller could resign and announce what happened and let Congress do the rest.
 Fifth, the confirmation process for the attorney general still matters. Whitaker is ultimately a placeholder. He can do damage while in office, but ultimately the president is going to have to name an attorney general, and the Senate is going to have to confirm that person. That means two big things: Trump has to name someone who can win confirmation, and the nominee has to personally face the Senate Judiciary Committee.
 Seventh, senior Justice Department officials, both career and political, can draw lines. This point is closely related to the previous one, but also distinct. One indication that the system has held so far is that we have not seen mass resignations or resignations in protest over matters of principle. That will change if Whitaker or his successor moves against the investigation in a fashion that officials regard as unacceptable
 Eighth, Whitaker will get briefed and assume responsibility for the department. It may sound naive to say that this will matter, but let’s at least consider the possibility that it will matter. . . . . Perhaps Whitaker will defy all of this, but it’s not an easy thing to do—and if Whitaker does it, he will do it knowing that he will go down in history as a John Mitchell figure. That should at least be food for thought on his part.
Ninth, the public actually cares. Thursday evening, tens of thousands of people around the country protested Trump’s move against Sessions. That’s before Whitaker actually does anything. . . . . Expect political pressures to grow proportionately to the increased threat to accountability. This public vigilance and anger is not just #resistance noise; it’s actively useful.
Finally, 10th, these points all work in tandem with one another. They are not discrete. They operate in an ineffable combination of bureaucratic maneuvering, congressional action, journalism, personality, and public pressure. And in this dangerous moment—and Whitaker’s installation does create a profoundly dangerous moment—the combined effects here will be a powerful defense against misdeeds.
For the sake of the nation, I hope the author is right.

Trump Shows his Contempt for the Military

Weather was no obstacle for the leaders of France and Germany for honoring the war dead.
Donald Trump avoided serving in the military during the Vietnam War using multiple deferments for "bone spurs' even as he went on to play on sports teams in college. It was the first of many actions demonstrating Trump's contempt for the members of the U.S. military despite disingenuous claims to the contrary.  Today is Veterans Day and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, a war that was the result of uncontrolled nationalism and ultimately was supposed to end all wars.  As western leaders gather to remember the millions of fallen soldiers in that brutal and totally avoidable war, Trump stayed away citing "bad weather" even though other leaders found the weather to be no obstacle to their attendance.  Trump's pretense of honoring the military is even worse that that of most Republicans who are trigger happy and always too eager to send members of the military to their deaths - perhaps why a record number of veterans ran for office this year as Democrats. A column in the Washington Post looks at Trump ongoing contempt for the members of the military.  Here are excerpts:
It seems that soldiers who were captured aren’t the only ones that President Trump doesn’t like. He also apparently doesn’t care much for the ones who died for their country.
On Saturday afternoon, the president was scheduled to attend a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where 2,289 U.S. soldiers are buried — a small part of the 116,000 Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion during World War I. It was the sort of solemn occasion that U.S. presidents have considered an integral part of their duty at least since the Gettysburg Address. But Trump couldn’t be bothered.
The White House explained that bad weather grounded the helicopters that Trump and his entourage were planning to take. Yet somehow bad weather did not prevent French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from attending outdoor ceremonies commemorating the end of World War I that afternoon. Somehow bad weather did not stop Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired general John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, from attending the very ceremony that Trump could not make.
Rather than make the hour-long drive (Aisne-Marne is only 55 miles from Paris), the low-energy president remained behind at the U.S. ambassador’s residence. It’s not as if he didn’t sacrifice anything, however. Odds are that his room didn’t have Fox News. So he was probably reduced to watching CNN all afternoon. If the New York dating scene was Trump’s personal Vietnam, this was his personal Verdun.
Trump is right that he and the Republican Congress have increased defense spending — it has gone from roughly $600 billion to $700 billion a year — but he’s wrong to blame Obama alone for the lower levels during his presidency. The budget-squeezing sequestration process was a bipartisan initiative designed to cut the deficit without tax increases. What Trump doesn’t understand is that showering money on the armed forces doesn’t mean that he respects or supports what they do.
Trump shows what he really thinks of the troops by using them as political props. He deployed 5,600 troops just before the midterm elections to guard against the supposed threat posed by a few thousand unarmed refugees hundreds of miles from the U.S. border. . . . . Conveniently enough, Trump and his friends at Fox essentially stopped speaking about the caravan once the votes were cast. But, as the New York Times reports, the troops are still in the field, without electricity or hot meals — or a mission. They will likely spend Thanksgiving away from their families.
Naturally, Trump will not bother to visit them, even though there is no risk in traveling to Texas. He still has not visited U.S. troops deployed to a war zone — although he has spent 72 days at Mar-a-Lago and 58 days at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club.
So much for Trump’s conceit that he is pro-military. It has about as much factual foundation as his claim not to know his newly appointed acting attorney general. He has no understanding of what soldiers do or the honor code by which they live. His idea of military service is marching in a parade — and he is peeved he couldn’t have one in Washington this Veterans Day. Through his words and deeds, the commander in chief shows his contempt for the men and women in uniform.
With many friends and neighbors in the military - and a son-in-law who was wounded in Afghanistan - I know first hand what members of the military do and live with.  Trump as no clue and no doubt sees these honorable individuals as "little people" who are simply beneath him.  Very, very disgusting - just like everything else about this foul and toxic individual.

P.S. The Atlantic has a series of poignant photos of WWI battlefields as they look today.  The images are here.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty