Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump's "Hitler Youth" Speech to Boy Scouts

Most American presidents are invited to the Boy Scout National Jamboree, but while many attend the event and speak, a significant do not.  Would that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der  Trumpenführer, had passed up the invitation.  What ensued when Trump addressed the Scout gathering sounded more akin to Adolph Hitler addressing a gathering of Hitler Youth members.  Rather than being uplifting and talking about good citizenship and living by the Scout Law, Der  Trumpenführer attacked the mainstream news media, sought to illicit boos against Barack Obama, and made the speech into a political case of verbal diarrhea aimed at harming anyone not swearing fealty to "Dear Leader." While cheers were heard on the audio of Trump's rant, many in attendance and others with strong ties to the Boy Scouts were not happy and the supposedly non-partisan non-profit organization felt compelled to distance itself from Trump's political and personal attacks.  Coverage in the Washington Post looks at this vile and inappropriate screed by a man who sounded more like a peevish child that the president of a global super power.  Here are highlights: 
Trump’s speech at the Jamboree in Mount Hope, W.Va., broke with years of tradition — presidential traditions and Scouting traditions both. Past presidents had used these moments to extol American exceptionalism and civic virtues — such as service and honesty — that have long been pillars of the Boy Scout ethos.
Trump did a little of that before veering into a speech about his own exceptionalism.
“It pivoted to essentially a typical Trump rally. And it was not a campaign-rally audience. It was an audience of young boys and young men, who’ve come from around the country to celebrate Scouting,” said Robert Birkby, a former Eagle Scout who wrote three editions of the Boy Scout Handbook. “He did not share in the event. He shared of himself.”
By Tuesday, Trump’s speech had prompted a backlash from many current and former Scouts and their families, who say it was not only inappropriate but also undermines efforts to diversify and modernize the century-old organization.
On social media and in interviews, many said they thought national leaders should have cut short or condemned the speech, which included strong language — “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” — and a reference to cocktail parties attended by “the hottest people in New York.” Trump at times tried to raise issues more traditionally discussed at Boy Scout gatherings, such as character and perseverance. But he also lingered on his campaign fight against Democrat Hillary Clinton and seemingly joked about firing his health and human services secretary over Republicans’ inability, so far, to pass health-care legislation.
By midday Tuesday, the organization’s Facebook page included hundreds of comments from former Scouts and parents of Scouts, calling for the organization to make a stronger statement condemning the speech. Many threatened to pull out of Scouting.
The controversy comes as the venerable organization, which has promoted civic engagement and character development among children since 1910, strives to stay relevant and appear inclusive. Membership in the Boy Scouts has dwindled by a third since 2000, to just more than 2 million as of 2016.
The organization has sought to reach out to Hispanics through its Valores para Toda la Vida (Values for Life) program. It founded its co-ed Venturing program, which focuses on outdoor exploration for teens and young adults, in 1998 and has opened some of its other programs to girls, though so far not its prestigious Eagle Scout program. The organization rescinded its ban on gay members in 2014 and in January announced that it will allow transgender members.
The efforts have in part been an effort to keep from driving away parents and students in more liberal areas of the country, said Alvin Townley, a Georgia-based author who wrote “A Legacy of Honor,” a history of the Eagle Scouts, who have earned the highest level of achievement in the organization. He suggested that the political nature of Trump’s speech undermines that goal.
“No president has used the Jamboree as a backdrop to advance a political agenda. . . . . And Scouting’s vitality relates directly to its inclusion of people from different backgrounds and different perspectives.”
Trump’s remarks were the last straw for at least one former Scout. Eric Styner, 31, who works in quality assurance at a technology company in Seattle, said Tuesday that he had decided to renounce his status as an Eagle Scout.
Styner said he gradually became alienated from the Scouts, beginning at age 14, when he was rankled by the requirement that a Scout profess a belief in God to pass his Eagle Scout Board of Review. He was further disillusioned when the Scouts held fast to a gay ban even after many states had legalized same-sex marriage. Trump’s speech clinched it, he said.
Some defended the organization, saying that it did the right thing by inviting Trump. The problem, they said, was Trump.

For the record, I was a scout as was my son.  That said, I have become increasingly disillusioned with the Boy Scouts which seems to aligned with Christofascists and pushes an anti-gay, anti-minority agenda.  That Trump was allowed to engage in such an inappropriate and dishonest rant makes me more resolved to make sure that my grandsons are not scouts.  

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Salvation Army Drug Clinics Rejecting Transgender People

Every year when the holiday season arrives I encourage people to walk on by the Salvation Army kettles without putting in even a dime. Why, because the organization continues to be stridently anti-LGBT despite many mealy mouthed statements aimed at hiding the truth that the organization remains a right wing religious body that is in some ways little better than the "family values" hate groups.  As Think Progress is reporting, in New York the Salvation Army has been caught discriminating despite that state's non-discrimination laws.  There are plenty of worthy charities to which contributions can be made.  The Salvation Army is not one of them.  Here are highlights on the situation in New York:
The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) announced last week that it was charging four different substance abuse centers, one of which is run by the Salvation Army, with discriminating against transgender patients in violation of city law.
[T]he violations found included:
·        Refusing to accept transgender people as patients or tenants
·        Assigning trans people rooms based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their lived gender identity
·        Unwarranted physical examinations to determine if trans people are on hormone therapy or have had surgery
·        Segregating transgender patients into separate rooms.

The discrimination was found through a testing process after the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) tipped off the commission that mistreatment was happening. One of the clinics told the testers outright, “No, we don’t [accept transgender patients].” Another clinic’s representative said, “People with moving male parts would be housed with men.”
The NYCCHR has the authority to fine violators up to $250,000 and can also require trainings, policy changes, community service, and mediated apologies.
Two of the clinics found to be violating city law have religious affiliations. The Addicts Rehabilitation Center was founded by a church, operates a gospel choir as one of its programs, and is currently run by Rev. Reginald Williams, a baptist preacher.
The Salvation Army is itself a church with a long history of discriminating against LGBTQ people. While that history has mostly focused on its rejection of homosexuality, a Salvation Army-run homeless shelter in Texas was also accused of anti-transgender discrimination in 2014. Their public relations campaign to improve their LGBTQ image has rung rather hollow.

The recent U.S. Trans Survey found that 22 percent of trans people had been harassed or denied treatment when trying to access services from a drug or alcohol treatment program.

Is GOP Support for Trump Starting to Crack?

Having grown up in a family that always discussed politics around the dinner table and at family gatherings - and usually voted Republican - I've heard about politics since I was a child.  Never in my recollection, however, do I recall as much concern about a lawless president who frankly appears to be mentally ill.  Not even during the height of Watergate was there the level of concern that seems to increase daily with Trump as he makes it increasingly clear that he views himself above the law.  His suggestions that he wants an FBI that reports directly to him and, by implication, is loyal only to him smacks of being the beginning of a secret police that would protect Trump at all cost and intimidate citizens and other elected officials. The level of his desperation over the Russiagate investigations increasingly suggests that money laundering and other serious crimes must have occurred.  One simply does not act this way if there is nothing to hide.  And then there is the issue of the company Trump has kept: Mafia figures, Russian mobsters, and Russian oligarchs.  One has to wonder if and when Congressional Republicans will cease averting their eyes to the Frankenstein monster in the White House.  A column suggests that perhaps support for Trump is beginning to crack.  Here are excerpts:
Again and again over the past year, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have had to decide what kind of behavior they are willing to tolerate from Donald Trump. Again and again, McConnell and Ryan have bowed down to Trump.
They have mumbled occasional words of protest, sometimes even harsh ones, like Ryan’s use of “racist” last year. Then they have gone back to supporting Trump.
The capitulation of McConnell and Ryan has created an impression — especially among many liberals — that congressional Republicans stand behind the president.
But don’t be fooled: Republican support for the president has started to crack.
Below the leadership level, Republicans are defying Trump more often, and McConnell and Ryan aren’t always standing in their way. You can see this defiance in the bipartisan Senate investigation of the Russia scandal. You can see it in the deal on Russian sanctions. And you can see it in the Senate’s failure, so far at least, to pass a health care bill.
I think many political observers are missing the ways that parts of Trump’s own party have subtly begun to revolt.
Just listen to Trump himself. “It’s very sad that Republicans,” he wrote in a weekend Twitter rant, “do very little to protect their President.” In a historical sense, he is right. Members of Congress usually support a new president of their own party much more strongly than Republicans are now.
They typically understand that a young presidency offers the rare opportunity for sweeping legislation — like the Reagan tax cut, the George W. Bush tax cut, the Clinton deficit plan and the Obama stimulus, health bill and financial regulation.  . . . . partisan loyalty is the norm.
Matt Glassman, another political scientist, is one of the sharper observers of the White House-Congress relationship, and I asked him to put the current situation in context. Glassman said that many progressives have made the mistake of comparing how they want Congress to treat Trump with what it is doing. The more relevant yardstick is how Congress’s treatment compares historically.
“The current congressional G.O.P. seems less supportive and more constraining of the Potus than basically any in history,”
Many of today’s Republicans avoid going on television as Trump surrogates. They mock him off the record, and increasingly on the record, too. In recent weeks, eight senators have publicly stood in the way of a health care bill. Republican senators are also helping to conduct an investigation of Trump’s campaign and have backed the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel.
One reason is that they don’t fear Trump. About 90 percent of Republican House members won a larger vote share in their district last year than Trump did . . . . Since he took office, Trump’s nationwide net approval rating has fallen to minus 16 (with only 39 percent approving) from plus 4.  So it’s not just Republican politicians who are inching away from Trump. Republican voters are, too.
None of this is meant to suggest that congressional Republicans have been profiles in courage. They haven’t been.
In the months ahead, unfortunately, that level of resistance is unlikely to be sufficient. Trump has made clear that he isn’t finished trying to take health insurance away from millions of people or trying to hide the truth about his Russia ties. “The constitutional crisis won’t be if Trump fires Mueller,” as the A.C.L.U.’s Kate Oh put it. “The constitutional crisis is if Congress takes no real action in response.”

Did Jared Kushner Throw Trump Jr. Under the Bus?

Human nature - especially when immoral and unethical individuals are involved - is such that when the issue comes down to saving one's own ass versus throwing under the bus, many will opt to save themselves and allow purported friends and even family members to go down in flames.  In his prepared statement and testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jared Kushner seemed to perhaps signaled that if it came down to him or Donald Trump, Jr., and perhaps even Der Trumpenführer himself, Kushner would look out for himself first and foremost.  Of course, given Kushner's past lies and convenient memory losses, all of Kushner's song and dance may yet to prove to be false and could backfire and lead to criminal prosecution - something he seemingly is trying desperately to avoid.   A column in the Washington Post looks at Kushner's apparent willingness to throw  Donald Trump, Jr., under the bus.  Here are excerpts:  
Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning, and what is striking about his extensive opening statement is the degree to which it seeks to insulate Kushner himself from any culpability or responsibility for the problematic known facts about the Russia affair — particularly the known facts that concern Donald Trump Jr.
Kushner’s statement takes exceptional care to separate him, with scalpel-like precision, from the now-notorious meeting that Trump Jr. arranged with a Russian lawyer — a meeting that Trump Jr. had been informed would furnish the Trump campaign with information about Hillary Clinton supplied by the Russian government. Here is what Kushner’s statement says about the meeting (emphasis added):
 In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. . . . . He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. . . . . I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting.
 [I]n looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.” . . . . No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted. 

 It’s not entirely clear that the “long back and forth” that Kushner claims he “did not read at the time” is the email chain that Trump Jr. released, under duress, which demonstrated that the meeting was taken with the express purpose of getting information advertised as coming from the Russian government. But it seems clear that this is what he is referring to. Note that Kushner does not say one way or the other whether he had been sent this email chain before. What we do know, however, is that Kushner says he never read it. And if Kushner is to be believed, he agreed to, and showed up at, this meeting without having any idea why it was being held. This, even though Trump Jr. was quite excited about what this meeting might yield (“I love it,” Trump Jr. exulted in the email chain), and even though Trump’s then-campaign chair Paul Manafort was also present. Also note the exceptional care that went into Kushner’s characterization of the meeting. He claims he arrived just late enough to miss the incriminating part of the meeting. Trump Jr. admitted in his second statement that the Russian lawyer brought up the campaign. . . .
 Kushner’s statement does not deny outright either that the meeting did address the campaign or that any documents had been offered to the Trump camp, which the email chainappears to confirm. All it does is insulate Kushner from those facts. [W]hatever the truth turns out to be on those fronts, what Kushner’s statement does not do is contest any of the known facts about that meeting — known facts that are deeply problematic for Trump Jr. and even for Trump himself. The meeting, at a minimum, shows that Trump Jr. was eager to collude with the Russian government, which, he had been told, was trying to get his father elected president.  Kushner’s statement denies any collusion on his own part, and claims no awareness of any other collusion . . . .
 President Trump himself reportedly signed off on that initial false statement
, which means the president actively participated in an effort to mislead the country about his own campaign’s eagerness to collude with Russia to help him win. Kushner’s statement offers nothing to challenge these underlying facts. It just separates him from them.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Don't Cry for Sean Spicer

Last week Sean Spicer resigned as the press secretary for Der Trumpenführer.  Some have congratulated him for finally saying he would no longer prostitute himself for Trump.  Others have, in my view, rightly condemned him for every taking the position in the first place and put himself in the position of having to repeated Trump's lies and untruths on virtually a daily basis.  To me, Spicer embodies the larger problem with countless Republicans today: they are amoral - if not outright immoral - and will do anything to further themselves and/or hang onto power.   Each of us has to make decisions daily as to whether we put morality first or perceived self-advantage.  Perhaps I can't let go of my Catholic upbringing where somethings were simply wrong and immoral, but when in doubt I side on the side of morality.  Would that more Republicans, especially those in Congress did so.  A piece in Politico lays out what Spicer deserves no sympathy.  Read the piece and apply it to Trump supporting Republicans in general.  Here are highlights:
The White House attracts all manner of toadies, suckups and flatterers seeking the president's favor, but never did any staffer demean, degrade and humble himself to the chief executive the way outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer did. Abandoning the arts of both persuasion and elision that have served previous prevaricating press secretaries so well, Spicer flung barb-tongued lies in the service of President Donald Trump.
Starting with Trump’s inauguration weekend, which Spicer declared “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” through last week, when he lied that Donald Trump Jr.’s Russian meeting was about “adoptions,” Spicer never failed to fib when a fib would serve the president. Had Spicer’s White House Briefing Room comments been sworn testimony, he would face so many years in prison for perjury that a dozen Trump pardons couldn’t secure his freedom. Had his nose grown with every Pinocchio he uttered, it would have reached the moon.
What thanks did Spicer earn for his months of debasement in service to Trump? The early and steady drumbeat from the Oval Office that the president was “disappointed” in his performance, as CNN’s Jim Acosta reported in early February, and never-ending whispers that he would soon be sacked, which finally came true today. He gave Trump the red blood of his undying loyalty. Trump gave him the pink slip.
Reviewing Spicer’s tenure as press secretary, we find no Trump transgression so foul that Spicer would not grovel before it.
When Trump made the baseless allegation that millions voted illegally in the presidential election, Spicer defended him. He slammed the media in general for a “default narrative“ that was “always negative” . . . The one thing that kept Spicer from lying for Trump full-time was poor access to the Oval Office. The Washington Examiner and others have tallied the times Spicer couldn’t answer a reporter’s press briefing question because he hadn’t talked to Trump about the subject.
Professing ignorance became the safest of safe harbors for Press Secretary Know Nothing. It was probably the only time he wasn’t lying.
Spicer wasn’t born a liar. In an oddly predictive utterance, he volunteered in January as he boarded the Trump White House that he never lied because, among other things, lying destroyed credibility and rendered a spokesman useless. If he was being honest about not being a liar, his streak ended with that first press briefing, . . . And he lied so, so willingly.
By the end of his active tenure as press secretary—which we can date to June when the administration started platooning in Sarah Huckabee Sanders for on-camera briefings—Spicer had become the Lord Haw-Haw of the Trump administration. That’s a mighty harsh appraisal. Lord Haw-Haw was, after all, a British citizen who broadcast German propaganda into the UK from Hamburg during World War II.
Lord Haw Haw’s willingness to say everything and anything that would serve his masters finds its parallel, albeit cleansed of the unspeakable Nazi taint, in Spicer’s peacetime opportunism. Nobody took Lord Haw-Haw seriously. Like Spicer, he was just noise on the margins of the signal, a continuing joke that wasn’t very funny considering the stakes involved.

The Real "Gay Agenda"

One hears ad nausea from the Christofascists - who ARE seeking special rights to discriminate and be above the law - about the so-called "gay agenda."  These "godly folk" who are motivated mostly by hatred of others and a fear of modernity itself - science and knowledge that raise questions as to the truth of the myth based world view must be stamped out - project on gays what they themselves are guilty of.  For gays, all we want is (i) to have the same rights as others, and (ii) to enjoy the same level of safety from violence and bigotry that Christians have enjoyed for over two centuries in America.  There truly is no other "gay agenda."   A column in the New York Times by a transgender author looks at the aspects of this gay agenda as Christian zealots in Texas seek to enact a special anti-transgender law through a special session of the Texas legislature.  Read the piece and decide who is really seeking special rights.  It's not the LGBT community.  Here are excerpts:
My wife and I spent the morning riding our bicycles to the beach. It was a beautiful day. Seals dived in the surf, a couple played Kadima with their grandchildren, and Deirdre and I lay in the sun.
We celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary this summer. Our sons are in their 20s now. One is working as an actor. The other is an engineering student, researching the effects of lasers on glass. Both of them called us that day, to say hi, and that they loved us.
Meanwhile, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott opened a special session of the Legislature, during which Republicans will attempt to portray me, and transgender people like me, as sexual predators. The legislature is expected to vote once again on a bill to restrict which bathrooms transgender Texans can use.
Somehow, during my time in the ladies room, the republic had failed to collapse.
I hear a lot about the “gay agenda” in my work as an advocate for L.G.B.T. people. Sometimes I hear that we are agitating for “special rights.”
Which — let’s be honest — is true. I do want special rights.
I want the special right, for instance, to not be beaten or murdered by ignorant bigots. At least 15 transgender women have been killed so far this year for the crime of being themselves.
I want the special right not to be fired from my job. In 28 states, it’s perfectly legal to terminate an employee because you don’t like the gender of the person that he or she is in love with. In others, gay employees are protected, but trans ones aren’t. In some states, it is even illegal for local governments to pass or enforce anti-discrimination laws.
I want the special right to not be homeless. In this country, an estimated 1.6 million young people experience homelessness each year; 40 percent of them are L.G.B.T. A third of the homeless queer young people ran away from home because they faced physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
I want the special right to be able to turn on the television, or go to the movies, and see, maybe just once, a person like myself on the screen. I mean someone other than a murder victim in a crime show, or a straight, cisgender actor getting a trophy honoring his bravery for pretending — ineptly — to be someone like me, or trans people being interviewed on talk shows as if gender transition is something as distant as the moon . . . .
I want the special right to open up the newspaper and not have to read one more clever “think piece” in which the humanity of people like me is held up for public debate.
What I want above all, is the special right to be left alone, and to be considered half of just one more unextraordinary American couple — just as the two of us were as we sat at the bar watching the ocean and drinking our beers.
You’d think that most of this would be common sense — that protecting American citizens from violence and unemployment and homelessness would be something we’d all agree upon. You’d think that respecting the privacy and humanity of some of the country’s most vulnerable souls would be a common goal.
But then, maybe you didn’t know that in the last six months the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services have already withdrawn or revised policies or proposals meant to protect L.G.B.T. Americans. Maybe you didn’t know that the governor and lieutenant governor of Texas feel that the state is so endangered by the prospect of leaving transgender people alone that they felt it necessary to call a special session of the Legislature to enshrine discrimination against us into state law. Maybe you didn’t know that Vice President Mike Pence has said that gay parents like me bring about “societal collapse” and the “deterioration of marriage and family.”
But you should.
The number of Americans who continue to have no idea that 28 states allow gays to be fired at will simply for being LGBT is staggering.  Here in Virginia, the vast majority support unemployment non-discrimination protections yet every year bills that would add such protections are defeated by Republicans yielding to the demands of The Family Foundation, Virginia's largest hate group which masquerades as a "Christian" "family values" organization.  Are hatred of others and the desire to have the freedom to mistreat others "family values"?  When you hear the bleating of Christofascists about special rights, please remember that it is they, not the gays, who are demanding them. 

Monday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump's Mobilization for War Against the Rule of Law

Many Trump supporters say they voted for Trump because they wanted him to "blow up the system." They believed that part of that agenda would be punishing "those people" - blacks, Hispanics, gays, non-Christians, and non-whites generally - so that they could regain the privilege they saw themselves losing.  Never mind that some of their lost privilege tied directly to their own bad choices and lack of initiative and personal responsibility.  Never factored into the mix was the reality that Trump wanted to destroy the legal system and the checks and balances written into the United States Constitution and make himself above the rule of law.  One need only look to Nazi Germany, Chile under Pinocet, or Putin's Russia to see where that will lead.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at Trump's coming attempt to destroy the rule of law:
The legal conflict between Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is escalating rapidly. New reports in the Washington Post and New York Times are clear signals that Trump is contemplating steps — firing Mueller or issuing mass pardons — that would seem to go beyond the pale. Except: Trump’s entire career is beyond the pale and, in his time on the political stage, the unthinkable has become thinkable with regularity.
Trump’s actions are best understood in the context of the overwhelming likelihood he, his family members, and at least some of his associates are guilty of serious crimes. The investigation might not produce proof of criminal collusion with Russia’s illegal hacking of Democratic emails. (Though reasonable grounds for suspicion already exists in abundance.)
Where Mueller seems to be creating special pain for Trump is in his investigation of financial links between Russia, Trump, and other members of the president’s inner circle. . . . Trump is “especially disturbed” that Mueller will access his tax returns. Trump’s lawyers have stated explicitly what Trump hinted at in the interview: He regards an expanding of the probe as a red line that might cause him to fire Mueller. . . . . They are specifically holding up Trump’s financial dealings with Russians as out of bounds: “They’re talking about real estate transactions in Palm Beach several years ago,” Sekulow tells the Post. “In our view, this is far outside the scope of a legitimate investigation.”
The Palm Beach transaction is a source of longtime suspicion. Trump purchased a property for $41 million and then, after improving it, sold it just two years later to a Russian oligarch for more than twice as much. This is a completely natural area for investigation. If the Kremlin wanted to finance Trump, overpaying for a property would be an obvious way to do so.
Why has Trump adamantly refused to disclose his tax returns, even at a significant cost to himself? And why does he appear to be so terrified at Mueller looking under these rocks? The simplest explanation is that he is probably hiding something deeply incriminating.
Trump has shown himself immune to widespread warnings that certain steps are simply not done. His hiding of tax returns, firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (who was investigating Russian financial crimes when he was let go), and ousting of FBI director James Comey were all steps that would seem to immolate his career. Ordering the Department of Justice to fire Mueller, or pardoning the targets of his investigations, would be an open announcement that Trump considers his financial ties to the Russian underworld and state to be beyond any legal accountability. The ominous threats emanating from the White House are that of an administration mobilizing for war against the rule of law.
Of course, once the rule of law is dead, many Trump supporters could well find themselves losing rights along with the people they view as "those people."  Trump's only real concern is for himself and to a lesser extent his family.  The rest of us - including those stupid and/or bigoted enough to have voted for Trump - simply do not matter.

Donald Trump’s Napoleon Complex

Donald Trump may have a Napoleon complex, although he is certainly no Napoleon, with nowhere near the intellectual brilliance or leadership skills.  Likewise, Trump is not diminutive in height, although he has small hands and so have alleged small other parts.  The only true parallels is that Russia may be a shared undoing of both.  In Napoleon's case it was the Russian winter that destroyed the Army.  With Trump, it will more likely be money laundering, endless lying about Russian ties and collusion with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.  New intelligence releases for example confirm that Jeff Sessions lied about not communicating with any Russian but in fact was inn communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  A piece in Politico looks at Trump's endless Russia problem which, with luck will be his undoing and that of Mike Pence as well.  The only constant with the Trump regime is that everyone in it seems to be a pathological liar.  Here are article excerpts:
You could say that President Donald Trump dropped his guard to the New York Times while speaking to three of its top reporters at midweek. Restrained only by White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks—which amounted to no restraint at all—he riffed about his exasperation with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from all Russia matters, and came inches from accusing former FBI Director James Comey of blackmail.
But the big reveal came when Trump’s subconscious coughed up the subject of Napoleon as he unloaded about his recent Paris trip. Emptying his gullet of what might be his greatest living fear, he recounted the story of Napoleon stranded in Russia, cut off from reinforcements, frozen in by winter, and fighting to retreat.
The Times interviewers were mute on whether Trump shuddered when mentioning frigid Russia, but the prospect of an icy entombment of his own making can’t be far from his mind, especially with the Washington Post’s breaking news on Friday night that Sessions did talk about the Trump campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, despite his previous denials.
Manacled to Russian money, Russian financiers, Russian lobbyists, Russian condo clients, Russian lawyers, former Russian spooks, a Russian diplomat, Russian oligarchs, and Russian hangers-on, Trump dreams of escape from the Land of Putin. Pinned down by special counsel Robert Mueller, who employs lawyers seasoned in prosecuting money launderers, Trump lashed out in the interview, affirming that he would sack the special counsel if the investigation explored his family’s finances exclusive of Russian meddling in the election. Rather than going down with Emperor Donald, his officers and infantry have started to desert. First to peel off was Marc Kasowitz, his personal attorney, and legal team spokesman Mark Corallo. Then, on Friday, press secretary Sean Spicer called it quits after Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci White House communications director. The desertions aren’t likely to end there. An anonymous White House source told Politico that Scaramucci’s hiring “was a murdering of Reince [Priebus] and [Steve] Bannon” who had vowed “the Mooch” would get the “job over their dead bodies,” so the hire makes Priebus and Bannon short-timers. If Sessions had any self-respect, he would have surrendered his stripes weeks ago. Now, that intelligence intercepts indicate that he may have lied about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, the gentleman from Alabama is likely to find his stripes ripped from his uniform. Trapped by all things Russia, sheltered by only by his family and closest associates, Trump suffers from more guilt-by-association relationships than you can count without taking off your shoes and socks. In recent weeks the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, POLITICO, Bloomberg News, the New Republic, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post and other outlets have tried to diagram the cat’s cradle of Russian entanglements. So many names inside the Trump camp connect to Russia or Russian moneymen. As Mueller’s lawyers use subpoena power to track Trump’s paper trails and Junior, Kushner and Manafort make scheduled appearances for questioning on Capitol Hill next week, the same Moscow cold that defeated Napoleon may seep into Trump’s bones. What story will history write for him? Impeachment? Pardon? Or, like Napoleon, exile?

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ralph Northam Correctly Slams Gillespie on Trump/GOP Ties

In many ways, Virginia's 2017 gubernatorial election may prove to be a litmus test on Donald Trump's toxicity outside of knuckle dragging, Christofascist dominated red states. While the GOP candidate, Ed Gillespie, is trying to walk a tight rope and not directly attack Donald Trump while bloviating the same platitudes and snake oil promises that have been the hallmark of the GOP since 1980, the reality is that he is inseparably married to Trump.  This is especially so in light of Corey Stewart's near win in the June GOP primary during which Stewart campaigned on the same lies promises as Trump and openly courted and embraced white supremacists and bigots.  My July, 2017, VEER Magazine column described the face off between Democrat Ralph Northam and Gillespie in part as follows:
Northam and Gillespie are polar opposites on numerous issues ranging from women's reproductive rights, access to healthcare, LGBT issues, climate change, to rising sea levels, the later being something Hampton Roads residents are increasing concerned about.  To me,  it is difficult to adequately stress just how critical it is for a Democrat to succeed Terry McAuliffe as Virginia's next governor.  With a Democrat as governor,  there is at least some basic firewall against the most egregious initiatives of the Republican Party of Virginia - such as Del. Bob Marshall's 2017 horrific anti-LGBT HB 1612 that sought to outdo North Carolina's infamous HB2 - and Congressional Republicans' efforts to throw millions of Americans off of health insurance coverage (so as to give a $700 billion tax cut to the wealthiest Americans). Ralph Northam supports equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, quality and affordable healthcare for women and medically necessary abortions (as decided by a woman and her physician, not mostly aging men), Medicaid expansion, and an "economy for everyone" that makes Virginia a welcoming place for new businesses and all citizens, be they gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew. As a veteran himself, Northam supports programs that will assist returning military veterans in securing jobs in the private sector while also assuring that quality medical care is available to those who need it.  He also believes in common sense gun control measures and (i) cast a tie-breaking vote as lieutenant governor to block legislation that would have allowed Virginians to carry concealed weapons without permits, and (ii) fought legislation to allow people to bring guns into bars and other places where alcohol was served.  Simply put, guns and alcohol are a deadly combination.  To view all of Northam's positions, visit his campaign webpage at Ed Gillespie's campaign webpage contains many generalities that may sound good at first blush if one isn't familiar with the Republican Party 2016 platform. But on further examination, there are few details and little to show how Gillespie would deliver on his campaign promises.  Then there is the fact that he's never held elected office in Virginia or anywhere else - look to the White House to see how well placing someone with no experience has played out to date. Most troubling is Gillespie's pledge to reinstitute "conservative principles" which translates to banning abortion, pushing for even more lax gun control laws, slashing taxes for the wealthy, and most likely slavishly bowing to the dictates of The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group that parades as a "Christian values" organization while pressing for license to discriminate laws and disseminating untruths about LGBT citizens and racial and religious minorities. 
Also of great concern is Gillespie's razor thin victory over far right extremist, Corey Stewart, in the Republican primary last month. Stewart's campaign focused on everything that Donald Trump has championed which decent, moral people find abhorrent: religious extremism, unlimited gun rights, propping up the moribund coal industry, and personhood status for fetuses, thereby banning most forms of contraception. . . . .  Gillespie will be under immense pressure to court Stewart supporters (and The Family Foundation) in the run up to the November election by making similar promises to far right voters. 

A piece in the New York Times has picked up this narrative and looks at Gillespie's effort to sell himself as something different from what he truly is and to distance himself from Donald Trump's poisonous agenda and persona.  Here are highlights:
HOT SPRINGS, Va. — Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam of Virginia on Saturday used the first debate of the state’s race for governor to assail President Trump as a liar and a “dangerous man,” wagering that the growing backlash against the president will overwhelm Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, in a state drifting to the political left.
Mr. Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee with deep roots in the party’s establishment, sought to strike a delicate balance when pressed about Mr. Trump, who is highly unpopular here. He refused to say Mr. Trump’s name, but warned that Mr. Northam, a Democrat, risked hurting Virginia’s economy — which relies greatly on the federal government — by attacking the president so fiercely.
“If the shoe fits, wear it,” Mr. Northam, a neurosurgeon, shot back, adding that his assessment “comes quite close to an accurate diagnosis.”
The Virginia governor’s race is the country’s marquee election this fall, and it is already drawing millions of dollars from both national parties.
Mr. Northam, a low-key Army veteran who twice voted for President George W. Bush before entering politics, is hardly the picture of the so-called liberal “resistance” to the president. But as he attempts to succeed Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a fellow Democrat who, by law, cannot seek consecutive terms, Mr. Northam is using strikingly caustic language to galvanize Virginia voters who are appalled by the president, but may be reluctant to vote in an off-year governor’s race.
“As we say on the Eastern Shore, he lies like a rug,” Mr. Northam, who grew up across the Chesapeake Bay, said of Mr. Trump in his thick Tidewater drawl.
Targeting the president on the health care proposal of congressional Republicans — which he called “Trumpcare” — and on climate policy and abortion rights, the lieutenant governor said his rival, Mr. Gillespie, had “stood there and said nothing.” Mr. Gillespie is in something of a political vise. On one side are the more centrist voters in and around Virginia’s cities. On the other is the president’s loyal rural base, voters who overwhelmingly supported Corey Stewart, a surprisingly strong rival in last month’s Republican primary. Mr. Stewart has refused to enthusiastically back Mr. Gillespie, . . . . Mr. Gillespie’s challenge, beyond the specter of Mr. Trump and the state’s increasingly blue tint, was made clear in the headlines that greeted Virginians on the morning of the debate: The state’s unemployment rate is now 3.7 percent, the lowest it has been in more than nine years.
Mr. Northam sought to link himself to Mr. McAuliffe, the popular governor, by trumpeting the “new Virginia economy,” while criticizing Mr. Gillespie for talking down the state’s progress since the Great Recession.
Mr. Gillespie [falsely] repeatedly claimed that Virginia ranked 39th of 50 states in economic growth and was on the verge of becoming closer to the “rusty” states of the northeast than it was other Sun Belt dynamos.

I have one word to categorize Gillespie: LIAR.  When it comes to truth and veracity, I place Gillespie in the same league as Trump: if his lips are moving, then he is most likely lying.  As with the Christofascists, Republican candidates feel free to lie in whatever ways that are helpful to their divisive and exclusionary.  As a former GOP national chair, Gillespie is a consummate liar.  His smooth talking should not be confused for honesty and truthfulness. If you want to know what Gillespie really stands for, look no farther than Trump and Corey Stewart.  Gillespie must be defeated in November. 

Oh, and as for Gillespie's negative comments about Virginia's economy, check out the following articles that underscore Gillespie's dishonest:  Here Where Virginia is ranked 13th), or here where increases in states GDP are compared, or here where increases in personal income are noted, or here where states' economic outlooks are ranked (Virginia is 11th).

Are There Three Republicans Who Put Country Ahead of Party?

U.S. Senate
The last post looked at the impeding constitutional crisis that Donald Trump is likely to trigger if he tries to fire Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller, who it seems increasingly is focusing in on the root cause of the Trump campaign's willingness to collude with Russia: illegal financial transactions with Russians and likely money laundering. Trump and his family are all most likely involved as is Jared Kushner and a number of Trump cronies. As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin notes in a column, "Why would he [Trump] do those things unless there was something really, really bad to find?"  You simply do not slander and undermine a special prosecutor and consider pardon powers if there is nothing to be found. In this situation, it will take three Republican senators to join with Democrat senators to stop Trump's demolition of the rule of law.  A piece in The Atlantic ponders whether and who those senators could be.  Will they put the nation ahead of their political party.  Here are article excerpts:
By midnight on July 20, 2017, it seemed increasingly likely that Donald Trump will fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Mueller embodies what is admirable in U.S. public service: a wounded and decorated Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, longtime prosecutor and U.S. Attorney under both Republican and Democratic presidents, 12-year director of the FBI under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, unconnected to scandal or partisan suspicions at any point.
Donald Trump embodies the reverse.
Yet for now Trump has the legal power, directly or indirectly, to dismiss Mueller, if the investigation gets too close to Trump’s obviously sensitive financial concerns. And Trump himself, unaware of history and oblivious to rules, norms, and constraints, has given every indication that this will be his next step.
What happens then? Brian Beutler, of the New Republic, has just put up a bleak scenario, arguing that there really are no guardrails—or, as we observed in Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented stonewalling of a Supreme Court nomination, that the constitutional system’s real protections have been norms rather than formal rules. Someone unconcerned by those norms—McConnell last year, Trump now—can in fact blast right through them. “At the moment there are no reliable sources of accountability,” Beutler writes. “None.”
There are 52 Americans who have it within their power to prove that dark assessment wrong. Really, it would take a subset of just three of those 52. With the 52-48 current party lineup in the U.S. Senate, a switch of three votes of conscience is all it would take to have this branch of government fulfill its checks-and-balances function.
With three votes, a Senate majority could issue subpoenas and compel sworn testimony from Administration officials. It could empower its own thorough investigation, even re-hiring Robert Mueller to lead it. It could compel Donald Trump to release the tax returns about which he is so evidently nervous. It could act as if America in fact possessed a system of rule-of-law, rather than whim-of-one-man.

Ben Sasse could be one of those three, if he were willing to back up his lectures and essays about ethical public life. Lindsey Graham could, since he and John McCain have kept making the case about Trump’s recklessness. Chuck Grassley, who would be 89 years old the next time he’d have to face the voters. Dean Heller, who is in trouble anyway in a state Hillary Clinton carried, and whom Trump demeans and insults. Rob Portman, who has served in “normal” Republican administrations and could ally himself with his state’s governor, John Kasich, as forces for a principled future GOP. Jeff Flake, who in speeches has positioned himself with appeals to a more moderate politics, and who could take up the Maverick mantle of his colleague John McCain. Of course, McCain himself. Lisa Murkowski, who originally won without Republican Party support. Susan Collins, who drew a line at the rushed health-care bill. Richard Burr, who has made more-or-less common cause with his Democratic colleague Mark Warner on the Senate intelligence committee. Ron Johnson, who has just won re-election  and appears to be mad at Trump. Rand Paul, also just elected, if he believed his radical limited-government pitch. Ted Cruz, if he had the courage of his anti-Trump stand at last year’s GOP convention. Even—let’s imagine here—the likes of Tom Cotton, if he were willing to roll the dice and elevate himself as a national figure, for the post-Trump leadership contest against the likes of Sasse, Cruz, and the rest. There are half a dozen other conceivable candidates.
It would take only three. Some—Grassley? Heller? McCain if he is able to vote?—might think: What do they have to lose? They might as well wind up with dignity. Others—Paul, Burr, Johnson, Murkowski—are so far away from re-election that a lot will happen in the meantime. And all of them are senators, part of a body self-consciously proud of its independence, its individual judgment, its role in defending the long-term principles of governance.
A country of 300-plus million people, with the world’s largest economy and most powerful military, should not rely for its orderly stability on the decisions-of-conscience of just three people. But the United States may soon be in that situation. These names will go down in history, depending on the choices they make.  
Sadly, the morality of Republican senators is not what it was back in the Watergate era. Be very afraid.