Wednesday, April 26, 2017
The title of this post tracks that of a piece at Salon that reacts to a new ABC News poll that shows that far too many Americans remain enamored with Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, despite the lack of any accomplishments in his first 100 days in office and his continued lining of his own pockets with taxpayer funds. Just ending his weekly travel to the "Florida White House" over the course of a year could fund many items he seeks to cut from the federal budget. Sadly, the take away from the poll findings is that yes, many American voters are just plain stupid and utterly uninformed, especially those who limit their news sources to scandal plagued Fox News. Just as frightening, Trump's and the GOP's calls to racism explain much of the continued Republican support for policies that are in actuality directly against their own financial interest. Legitimizing these people's prejudices seeming matters more than policies that would improve their economic lot. Highlights from a piece in Salon look at this disturbing picture. Here are highlights:
Are tens of millions of Americans really this stupid? If the findings from a new poll are any indication, then the answer is yes:There’s no honeymoon for Donald Trump in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll but also no regrets: He approaches his 100th day in office with the lowest approval rating at this point of any other president in polls since 1945 — yet 96 percent of those who supported him in November say they’d do so again today …
Among those who report having voted for [Trump] in November, 96 percent today say it was the right thing to do; a mere 2 percent regret it. And if a rerun of the election were held today, the poll indicates even the possibility of a Trump victory in the popular vote among 2016 voters.
This is despite all the lies Donald Trump has told and all the campaign promises he has betrayed: He has not “drained the swamp” of lobbyists and corporate fat cats, has not built his “huge” and “amazing” wall along the Mexican-American border, has not returned jobs to the United States and has not repealed the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, as of day 100 of his presidency Trump has fulfilled few of his main campaign promises.
Moreover, that 96 percent of Trump’s voters would make the same decision again despite overwhelming evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of installing Trump as a puppet candidate raises many troubling questions about how tens of millions of American voters were “flipped” by a foreign power to act against their own country.
The findings from this new poll are troubling. But they should not come as a surprise.
Political scientists and other researchers have repeatedly documented that the American public does not have a sophisticated knowledge of political matters. The average American also does not use a coherent and consistent political ideology to make voting decisions. As Larry Bartels and Christopher Achen demonstrate in their new book “Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government,” Americans have identities and values that elites manipulate, which voters in turn use to process information — however incorrectly.
American voters en masse are not rational actors who seriously consider the available information, develop knowledge and expertise about their own specific political concerns, and then make political choices that would maximize those goals.
These matters are further complicated when considering right-wing voters. While Trump may have failed in most of his policy goals, he has succeeded symbolically in terms of his racist and nativist crusade against people of color and Muslims. Given the centrality of racism and white supremacy in today’s Republican Party specifically, and movement conservatism more generally, Trump’s hostility to people of color can be counted as a type of “success” by his racially resentful white voters.
American conservatives and right-leaning independents are also ensconced in an alternative news media universe that rejects empirical reality. A combination of disinformation and outright lies from the right-wing media, in combination with “fake news” circulated online by Russian operatives and others, has conditioned Trump voters and other Republicans to make decisions with no basis in fact. American conservatives do however possess a surplus of incorrect information. In that context, their political decisions may actually make sense to them: This is a version of “garbage in, garbage out.”
This is a crisis of civic literacy that threatens the foundations of American democracy. . . . This is but one more reminder that Donald Trump’s victory was not a sudden crisis or unexpected surprise. The neofascist movement that Trump represents was an iceberg of sorts — one that was a long time in the making. If this new poll is correct, many millions of Americans would make choices that would steer the ship of state into that same iceberg all over again. Such an outcome is ominous. The thought process that would rationalize such a decision is deranged.
Yale historian Timothy Snyder has argued that a democracy has approximately one year to reverse course if it has succumbed to fascism and authoritarianism. America’s civic literacy crisis may mean that the country has even less time than Snyder’s prediction suggests.
|Trump and Flynn - laugh over all the Russian money?|
Even as the White House is refusing to turn over requested documents to Congressional investigators Politico has broken a story that suggests that payments received by former Trump BFF, Mike Flynn, ostensibly from Turkey may have in fact come from Russia. Flynn received these payments while involved in the Trump campaign and failed to register as a foreign agent of Turkey, much less Russia. Indeed, the smoke is becoming thicker and thicker and suggesting that there indeed is a fire that could take Mike Flynn, Der Trumpenführer, and many others down, if not put them in prison. No wonder Flynn is seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony about the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Here are excerpts from Politico (there is much more and the rule to remember is "follow the money back to its source"):
The Turkish man who gave Mike Flynn a $600,000 lobbying deal just before President Donald Trump picked him to be national security adviser has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin, according to court records.The man, Ekim Alptekin, has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri “David” Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government, according to three people with direct knowledge of the activities.
This unusual arrangement, in which Alptekin and Zaikin have helped steer Turkish lobbying through various groups since at least 2015, raises questions about both the agenda of the two men and the source of the funds used to pay the lobbyists.
the hiring of Flynn by Alptekin came at a time when Flynn was working for Trump’s campaign and Putin’s government was under investigation for interfering with the U.S. election.
Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner, declined to comment. In a filing with the Justice Department, Flynn said he relied on assurances from Alptekin that he was not directly or indirectly funded by a foreign government. But shifting explanations and a web of business ties raise questions about the arrangement.
Flynn has offered evolving accounts of his lobbying work for Alptekin. In September, Flynn reported his client as a Dutch shell company owned by Alptekin. After being forced to leave the White House — reportedly because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations during the transition with the Russian ambassador — Flynn filed new paperwork in March acknowledging that his lobbying work “principally benefitted” the Turkish government.
The revelation of Russian business ties to the man who hired Flynn threatens to complicate the White House’s struggle to escape the shadow of the FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents.
His original White House ethics disclosure failed to include payments from Kremlin propaganda network RT and two other Russian companies. The RT payment was for a paid speech Flynn gave at a Moscow gala where he sat at the same table as Putin.
A White House spokesman declined to comment.
Alptekin, in an interview, said he hired Flynn with his own money and did not coordinate any lobbying for the Turkish government.
Siberian Energy Group’s dealings under Zaikin were characteristic of the equity trades, offshore financing schemes and consulting agreements that Putin’s allies have used to protect and hide assets.
Der Trumpenführer seemingly has never heard of the saying that if you don't have anything to hide, then don't act as if you do. With Russiagate continuing to haunt him - and rightfully so - Trump increasingly has Congressional Republicans beginning to protest obstruction efforts by the White House. A case in point is the White House refusal to turn over requested documents relating to former Trump BFF Mike Flynn and payments made to Flynn by Russia. Marco Rubio and Jason Chaffez have joined the chorus of those criticizing Flynn and/or the White House. I continue to believe that there is more than just smoke surrounding the evidence suggesting possible collusion between the Russian intelligence officials and the Trump campaign. Of course, the release of Trump's tax returns could also shed light on the role of Russian money in Trump's financial situation. Mother Jones looks at the White House's attempt to strong arm Congressional investigators. Here are excerpts:
The White House is refusing to provide congressional investigators with some of the documents they're requesting as part of an investigation into potential Trump campaign connections to Russia, and whether former national security adviser Mike Flynn disclosed payments from Russian companies when applying for his security clearance.
The news comes as Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced Tuesday that Flynn might have broken the law by failing to disclose the foreign payments on official documents filed as part of the security clearance review process. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is conducting one of two congressional investigations into links between the Trump campaign and Russia. (The Senate intel committee is conducting the other.)
"I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law," Chaffetz, the chair of the committee, told reporters Tuesday.
Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the White House is refusing to provide documents related to Flynn.
"Despite all of these very troubling developments…we received a response from the White House refusing to provide any of the documents we requested," Cummings told reporters Tuesday. "So we received no internal documents relating to what Gen. Flynn reported to the White House when they vetted him to become national security adviser, and we received no documents relating to his termination as national security adviser for concealing his discussion with the Russian ambassador."
CNN reported Tuesday morning that White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short told the House committee in a letter that some of the documents originated with other agencies and therefore would have to be provided by them. He added that concerning the relevant White House documents, "we are unable to accommodate" the request.
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Mother Jones.
I am of an age where I remember the Watergate hearings. As now, Nixon's unraveling and eventual resignation from office likewise began with acts like these now taking place. If Trump has nothing to hide, he should release the requested documents and his tax returns as well. The longer he fails to do so, the more many will believe he is guilty of collusion with Russia, if not outright treason.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
|With Ralph Northam, the right Democrat candidate for Virginia|
As noted in a prior post, nearly 60% of Tom Perriello's campaign funds raised to date has come form sources outside of Virginia. So have his major endorsements, including Senator Elizabeth Warren who frankly just lost my vote should she run for national office. Virtually all of Virginia's major domestic Democrats have endorsed Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in the coming Democrat primary. Why? Several reasons, in my view. First, because Northam is a steady candidate with years of experience unlike Perriello, a two year flash in the pan, despite Warren's efforts to fluff his resume. Second, Northam has been in the trenches for years and has helped other Democrat candidates and worked with the party's grassroots, if you will. The husband and I have been in those trenches, have been on host committees and given money over and over again. Perriello has been nowhere to be seen. Third, Northam is right on the issues - including LGBT rights which Perriello barely mentions - and brings the much needed perspective of a physician into play.
Perriello's entrance into that contest is serving only three purposes: (i) to divide the party in Democrat Virginia - much as Bernie Sanders did in the 2016 presidential race, (ii) to divert funds that would be better spent on the general election against the eventual Republican opponent, and (ii) fan the vanities of Perriello and his out of state endorsers. If the Republicans should win the governor's mansion in November, 2017, the consequences for many Virginians will be horrific. LGBT rights, women's rights and minority rights will have to firewall to stop the ugliest efforts of the currently Republican controlled house. Look no farther than North Carolina to see what GOP control of the governor's mansion could mean. All so that Perriello, Sanders and Warren can satisfy their egos?
While Virginia has "gone blue" in the last three presidential race, many Virginia Democrats continue to be somewhat conservative by national standards. A so-called ulta-progressive candidate - which is what Perriello labels himself as despite no efforts to attract involved LGBT supporters - will likely not fare as well as one who is a bit more traditional. Let's not forget that Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 228,404 votes in the 2016 Democrat primary. She went on to beat Donald Trump in Virginia by 212,030 votes in the general election. "Traditional" candidates who have evolved on key issues win in Virginia. Bernie Sanders himself proved this. I do not believe that Perriello can win against someone like the heavily funded Ed Gillespie and, if that happens, the outcome will harm Virginians and Virginia's economy for years to come.
Please vote for Ralph Northam on June 13, 2017. Don't be fooled by out of state endorsements driven by other agendas.
When Der Trumpenführer won the presidency due to the failure of Electoral College electors to adhere to the intent of the Founding Fathers and protect the nation from a dangerous demagogue, the one consolation that I clung to was that perhaps Trump would go down in failure - and hopefully, impeachment - and in the process destroy the Republican Party. Much can change between now and November, 2018, but Congressional Republicans sounding alarm bells warning that the GOP could pay dearly for Trump's failure and his dysfunctional regime. Republicans at all levels sold out their principles and morals (at least what was left of them) to support Trump and they need to pay for their betrayal of decency and integrity. Personally, I hope that the alarm bells greatly understate the damage being done and that 2018 is a true massacre for the GOP. Politico looks at the grow hysteria across the GOP. Here are excerpts:
Republicans say President Donald Trump needs to turn things around fast — or the GOP could pay dearly in 2018.
With the party preparing to defend its congressional majorities in next year’s midterms, senior Republicans are expressing early concern about Trump’s lack of legislative accomplishments, his record-low approval ratings, and the overall dysfunction that’s gripped his administration.
The stumbles have drawn the attention of everyone from GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who funneled tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s election and is relied on to help bankroll the party’s House and Senate campaigns, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Adelson hasn’t contributed to pro-Trump outside groups since the inauguration, a move that’s drawn notice within the party, and McConnell is warning associates that Trump’s unpopularity could weigh down the GOP in the election.
Potential GOP candidates whom party leaders want to recruit are afraid of walking into a buzz saw, uncertain about what kind of political environment they’ll be facing by the time the midterms come around — and what Trump’s record will look like.
[I]nterviews with more than a dozen top Republican operatives, donors and officials reveal a growing trepidation about how the initial days of the new political season are unfolding. And they underscore a deep anxiety about how the party will position itself in 2018 as it grapples with the leadership of an unpredictable president still acclimating to Washington.
I have absolutely no sympathy for these immoral, self-aggrandizing at any cost people.
Monday, April 24, 2017
With no legislative accomplishments in the first almost 100 days of the Trump/Pence regime despite Republican control of Congress and the White House, a move is again afoot to push through a falsely described "religious freedom" executive order which would, in effect, allow right wing Christians to ignore non-discrimination laws and target members of the LGBT community and perhaps cohabitating unmarried couples, women on contraception and even non-Christians for discrimination. The movement underscores the bankruptcy of Trump/the GOP that a rushed executive order to legalize discrimination - at least until a court strikes it down - would be viewed as an "accomplishment" by Christofascists and the core of the GOP Base. A piece in USA Today looks at this latest foul effort:
Dozens of Republican lawmakers are asking President Trump to scale back Obama-era protections for gays and lesbians in order to make good on a campaign promise to protect religious liberty.
In early February, Trump was reportedly considering an executive order that would reverse former president Barack Obama's orders prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in the federal workforce or by federal contractors. But the order was never signed.
A group of 51 members of the House wrote to Trump this month to "request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty, as reported by numerous outlets on February 2, 2017, in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years." The letter has not been publicly released but was obtained by USA TODAY.
[O]n Monday, a senior White House official told USA TODAY that some sort of policy to protect religious liberty is still in the works, but that the president is trying to find middle ground. The official did not want to publicly discuss a policy that is still under development.
Beyond the workforce protections, the widely circulated draft order would have eliminated the contraceptive mandate that requires religious institutions to provide health insurance for birth control. Republicans lawmakers are also pushing for the order to allow for doctors to refuse to perform abortions based on religion. They also want to see protections for religious non-profits to be able to express political opinions without losing their tax-exempt status.
The letters signatories, all men except for Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, include some of the Republican caucus’ most conservative members. A similar letter was sent by Senate Republicans earlier this month.
[N]ot everyone sees religious liberty protections as necessary or even positive. Laura Durso of the progressive Center for American Progress told USA TODAY that freedom of religion is already protected by the First Amendment and any efforts to get additional protections will create "a license to discriminate across a wide range of federal programs."
JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said if Trump went forward with the leaked order it would “allow an unprecedented expansion of tax-payer funded discrimination.”
As I have sad before, if one is LGBT and votes Republicans, it's akin to a early 1920's German Jew voting for the Nazi Party. It is insanity and self-destructive. If I am hurting feelings, I am not sorry. It is far past time for "gay Republicans" to stop deluding themselves and focus their votes and money on defeating every Republican elected official.
Donald Trump is sticking with his "build the wall" con which his ignorant voters fell for during the election. Missing, of course, from the carnival barker's calls is any serious recognition of (i) the true cost, or (ii) just how long any construction would take given the need to first go through lengthy and time consuming condemnation proceeds to acquire the needed land in many border areas. Seemingly, even some Republican members of Congress recognize the impracticality, true cost and time line of Der Trumpenführer's wall along the Mexico border even if his cretinous supporters do not. Now, signs are that a federal government shut down may occur if Trump continues to demand funding for his exercise in placating racists. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the possible show down. Here are highlights (don't believe Trump's 3.5 year construction schedule since condemnation cases, if appealed, alone could take longer):
President Trump and White House officials pressed congressional Republicans on Sunday to use the looming threat of a government shutdown to win funding for a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, a top priority for the administration as it nears the symbolic 100-day mark.
Trump wants funding to be included in a spending measure that would keep the government open past April 28, a determined effort that has prompted a possible standoff with lawmakers in both parties, who hope to avert a federal closure next weekend.
Trump’s push for fast action on his pledge to build the border wall is part of a mounting and, at times, tense scramble inside the administration to kick-start the president’s agenda, even if it risks dire political consequences.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said in an interview Sunday with The Washington Post that the president and his advisers remain “strong” in their commitment to securing funding for border security and a wall.
“This is what the president ran on,” Priebus said. “We want to get to a place this week where border-security money is being directed to the Department of Homeland Security so that we can begin surveillance and preliminary work, and then we will keep working on getting DHS what it needs for the structure.”
The Senate returns Monday night, and the House returns Tuesday from a two-week recess, leaving just three days when both chambers will be in session to wrangle out a funding agreement. Negotiators worked throughout the break, but thus far a deal has not been struck.
The wall, which experts say would cost $21.6 billion and take 3½ years to construct, has emerged as a crucial sticking point for the White House, with the president insisting privately and publicly that progress toward its funding and eventual construction must be showcased this week.
It remained unclear Sunday whether moderates within the GOP could persuade the White House to avoid a shutdown. Democrats have insisted that they will not vote for any spending bill that gives the White House money or flexibility to begin construction of a border barrier. They believe that the GOP will have to either abandon Trump’s demand or assume political responsibility if a shutdown occurs.
“The burden to keep it open is on the Republicans,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Building a wall is not an answer.
The tweets did little to assuage concerns created earlier in the day when White House budget director Mick Mulvaney suggested that Trump might not sign a spending bill that does not meet his demands.
Democrats believe that voters will blame Trump for a shutdown, particularly if congressional leaders omit wall funding from a spending deal. Democrats and GOP leaders appeared to be nearing a spending agreement last week before Trump ramped up his demands.
Democrats and Republicans maintained common ground. One clear area of agreement was not to include border funding in the stopgap budget. Democrats agreed to include other border-security measures, including money for new drones to patrol the border, but it was agreed that the wall itself should be debated separately, after the government is kept open.
Mulvaney’s hard-line stance is also odds with a White House faction convinced that a government shutdown would be cataclysmic for an administration already struggling to prove its ability to govern, according to GOP aides in the White House and Congress who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks.
Republican leaders have signaled that they will concentrate this week on keeping the government open, even if that means ignoring White House calls for action on other major priorities, such as rewriting the tax code and overhauling the ACA.
If federal workers end up staying home next week, the blame will be on Trump and the GOP. The GOP controls all branches of the federal government and still cannot get anything done. Mexico may be laughing loudly this time next week.
Other than his use of executive orders to reverse Obama era regulations that will make the nation a more polluted, less safe and more discriminatory place for Americans and their children, Donald Trump has accomplished little during his almost 100 days in office. Of, yes, he claims that he has done much, but would one seriously expect anything less from a man who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder? Objective facts mean nothing to the man. And in terms of the economic miracle that he promised to angry white voters in the rust belt and the backwaters of the Bible Belt, little or nothing has happened and likely never will. At least for the non-wealthy. As a column in the New York Times lays out, Trump's economic plans will bear a striking resemblance to that of Republican presidents from Reagan on forward: tax cuts for the wealthy and trickle down economics - voodoo economics, if you will, that have not worked once during the last 37 years. Here are column highlights:
It’s important to note just how little the tweeter-in-chief has managed to achieve; but we also need to focus on what, exactly, it is that he hasn’t achieved.
For Mr. Trump sold himself to voters as unorthodox as well as effective. He was going to be a different kind of president, a consummate deal-maker who would transcend the usual ideological divide. His supporters should therefore be dismayed, not just by his failure to actually close any deals, but by the fact that he evidently has no new ideas to offer, just the same old snake oil the right has been peddling for decades.
We saw that on Trumpcare, where the administration outsourced its policy to Paul Ryan, who produced exactly the kind of plan you might have expected: take insurance away from millions, make it worse for the rest, and use the money to cut taxes on the wealthy. Populism!
And now we’re seeing it on taxes. Mr. Trump has promised to unveil a “massive” tax cut plan next week. This announcement apparently came as a surprise to his own Treasury officials, who obviously don’t have a plan ready. Still, one thing is clear: Whatever the details, Trumptax will be a big exercise in fantasy economics.
Last week Stephen Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told a financial industry audience that “the plan will pay for itself with growth.” And we all know what that means.
Back in 1980 George H. W. Bush famously described supply-side economics — the claim that cutting taxes on rich people will conjure up an economic miracle, so much so that revenues will actually rise — as “voodoo economic policy.” Yet it soon became the official doctrine of the Republican Party, and still is. That shows an impressive level of commitment. But what makes this commitment even more impressive is that it’s a doctrine that has been tested again and again — and has failed every time.
Bill Clinton provided a clear test, by raising taxes on the rich. Republicans predicted disaster, but instead the economy boomed, creating more jobs than under Reagan.
Then George W. Bush cut taxes again, with the usual suspects predicting a “Bush boom”; what we actually got was lackluster growth followed by a severe financial crisis. Barack Obama reversed many of the Bush tax cuts and added new taxes to pay for Obamacare — and oversaw a far better jobs record, at least in the private sector, than his predecessor.
[A]nd let’s not forget recent experiences at the state level. Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, slashed taxes in what he called a “real live experiment” in conservative fiscal policy. But the growth he promised never came, while a fiscal crisis did. At the same time, Jerry Brown’s California raised taxes, leading to proclamations from the right that the state was committing “economic suicide”; in fact, the state has experienced impressive employment and economic growth.
Donald Trump was supposed to be different. Guess what: he isn’t. . . . . We might also note that a man who insists that he won the popular vote he lost, who insists that crime is at a record high when it’s at a record low, doesn’t need a fancy doctrine to claim that his budget adds up when it doesn’t.
Still, the fact is that the Trump agenda so far is absolutely indistinguishable from what one might have expected from, say, Ted Cruz. It’s just voodoo with extra bad math. Was that what his supporters expected?
The self-satisfaction derived from being emboldened to discriminate others and indulge in open racism will not pay the bills or put money in the bank. Once again, Trump and the GOP have pandered to baser instincts to get people to vote against their own economic interests. Those who fall for this time and time again deserve the economic calamity that will and has over take them.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
In the wake of the Pulse night club massacre last June, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, lied and said that he would be an ally to LGBT Americans and would defend them from anti-gay Islamic extremists (in France, Marine Le Pen is making similar false claims). That same month, of course, he sold the LGBT community out when he promised an anti-gay jihad to a gathering of Christofascist in New York City. Then there is the treatment of gays by Trump's BFF, Vladimir Putin of Russia who has sponsored the equivalent to anti-gay pogroms and legislation that criminalizes sexual orientation as a means to gain support from the historically anti-gay Russian Orthodox Church. Add to this poisonous mix, Trump's reversal of LGBT protections and was on transgender Americans and it becomes clear to all but the willingly blind, that Trump is menace to LGBT Americans. All of it represents an assault of liberal democratic values. It bodes ill for the future and not just for members of the LGBT community. A piece in Huffington Post makes this argument. Here are excerpts:
“The beatings begin as soon as you’re brought in. The electric shocks, being beaten with plastic pipes. They said that we were ‘dogs who have no right to life.’” This is a firsthand account of the torture being suffered by gay men in Chechnya, a conservative Muslim republic in Russia’s Caucasus region. Reports of Chechen authorities launching a violent crackdown on suspected gay men have circulated widely in recent weeks. Men as young as 19 are reportedly being abducted, and shoved into overcrowded cells in secret prisons where they are brutally tortured, and sometimes beaten to death.
In a virulently homophobic society such as Chechnya’s, where persecution of homosexuals is policy, gay men go to extraordinary lengths to keep their sexual orientation hidden. One dangerous consequence of being detained on suspicion of homosexuality in such homophobic societies is that your orientation is revealed to your family. In one case, a gay man in his early twenties was returned by Chechen officers to his family, only to be killed by his uncle.
Chechen authorities often set up traps for men they suspect of being gay, and abduct them without releasing any information on their whereabouts. Those detained are then tortured until they release names of gay friends and acquaintances.
But none of this appears to have moved Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who made no public remark on the matter during his visit to Moscow last week, ignoring a letter signed by 50 members of Congress to do so. In fact, there appears to be no indication that Tillerson even raised the abuses in Chechnya in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite a message of condemnation from the State Department prior to Tillerson’s Russia trip.
Regardless of the disdain for LGBT rights openly displayed by the Trump administration, it is a grave error to allow Russia to get away with flagrant human rights abuses on its own soil. What is at stake here is the very notion of universal human rights, in the specific context of how citizens are treated within their national borders.
What Russia does to its own citizens resonates in the rest of the world. As one of the world’s major powers, Russia enjoys a privileged status in the international hierarchy of states – see, for example, its veto-wielding permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Allowing Russia to lower those standards provides a carte blanche for smaller countries to follow suit. If Russia can get away with torturing and killing LGBT persons, why can’t Uganda? Or Saudi Arabia? Or Iran? If Russia can get away with persecuting LGBT persons today, who will they persecute tomorrow?
As part of its effort to undermine American power (both hard and soft), Russia aims to present an alternative for the world’s nations. That alternative includes tolerance for kleptocracy, the assassination of political opponents, the intimidation of journalists, and the persecution of “unwanted” minorities. Russian authorities have continuously targeted the LGBT community for over a decade (and not only in Chechnya). Chechnya’s abuses are not an isolated blemish. They are a symptom of the neo-fascist Russia that Putin has systematically cultivated.
When Moscow allows one of its local cutthroats to go on a killing spree of vulnerable minorities, it is effectively advertising to the world that countries no longer need follow the liberal democratic model of the United States. . . . . We should think long and carefully about the risks of giving up support for such values. The price for abandoning them will be high.
Internalized homophobia is a horrible thing. It impacts individuals in varying ways: (i) it causes some individuals to be overwhelmed with self-hate and resort to suicide, (ii) others lash out against others in the LGBT community by embracing anti-gay politics and religion, and (iii) others take desperate steps to conceal their "secret." New reports indicate that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who hung himself in his solitary jail cell, took deadly action and killed a one time friend to prevent being "outed." A sad end to a sad story and life. Tainted because of religious fueled homophobia and the internalized self-hate that it causes in so many LGBT individuals. Science tells us that sexual orientation is not a choice, is set before we are born, and is a normal aspect of biology. Yet, ignorance embracing religion demonizes same sex attraction and continues to destroy lives across the world. The Advocate looks at Hernandez' disturbing tale. Here are excepts:
Newsweek confirmed that Hernandez, 27, left a suicide note for his female fiancee, his daughter, and the boyfriend he met at the Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass, where he was serving a life sentence for murder. Hernandez's boyfriend, who has not been named by the media, is under suicide watch.
Hernandez was convicted for the murder of his one-time friend, Odin Lloyd. A motive for the 2013 killing was never clear, but Newsweek and other outlets reported that Lloyd was aware Hernandez was bisexual and had carried on a long-time affair with a male friend from high school. At the time of his death, Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee; it's believed Hernandez was fearful word of his bisexuality would reach his fiancee.
Lloyd also allegedly called Hernandez a "smoocher," which the football star believed was an antigay slur. Later, a man accused of helping Hernandez attempt to conceal Lloyd's murder told his girlfriend he would not have helped him had he known he was a "limp wrist."
Hernandez, born in Bristol, Conn., in 1989, lost his father at the age of 16. Even with a promising football future at the University of Florida, Hernandez could not escape a life of crime and violence. He was accused of taking part in a 2007 double-shooting that left two men injured in Gainseville, Fla.; he was not convicted. Five years later, he was connected to a shooting in Boston that left two men dead, but was found not guilty of that crime five days before he committed suicide.
When Hernandez's body was discovered this week — the same day his former teammates traveled to the White House to celebrate their Super Bowl win in February — he had a Bible verse scrawled on his forehead and red ink on his hands and feet, imitating the stigmata.
With a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing him to be the least popular president in modern history and no legislative accomplishments as he nears the first hundred day benchmark, Der Trumpenführer is doing what he does most: lying and engaging in fact free claims as his fragile ego grapples with the fact that a majority of Americans hate him. This reality should come to little surprise given that less than 30% of registered voters supported him and that Hillary Clinton garnered nearly 3 million more votes in the past presidential election. But Trump lives in a fact free world dominated by his own narcissism and egomania. Here are some highlights from the poll findings from the Washington Post:
President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, . . .But the president’s balance sheet overall tilts toward the negative. Majorities of Americans say Trump has not accomplished much during his first months as president. Meanwhile, he shows little improvement on his temperament and honesty, and while he’s gained ground on empathy, over 6 in 10 still say he does not understand the problems of people like them.
Trump and others in his administration have attacked the courts, accusing them of overreach, but nearly 6 in 10 people see their actions as a legitimate role for the judicial branch.
The president’s approval rating stands at 42 percent, the lowest recorded at this stage of a presidency dating to Dwight Eisenhower. Trump’s 53 percent disapproval rating is 14 percentage points higher than Bill Clinton’s 39 percent disapproval in April 1993, the worst before Trump. Eight years ago, then-president Barack Obama’s approval was 69 percent, his disapproval 26 percent.
The Post-ABC poll finds 43 percent of Americans said they strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance. That’s also the worst by far of any president since George H.W. Bush by more than double.
Of those who say Trump has not accomplished much, 47 percent pin the blame on him while about a quarter blame congressional Republicans. Only 7 percent say Democrats are to blame.
One of Trump’s biggest deficiencies compared with other presidents is whether he is honest and trustworthy. Fewer than 4 in 10 (38 percent) say he is. At this point in their presidencies, 74 percent said Obama was honest, 62 percent said George W. Bush was honest and a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed 61 percent said Clinton was honest.
Another gap is on the question of whether Trump can be trusted in a crisis. The poll finds that 43 percent — about the same as Trump’s approval rating — say he can be trusted; 73 percent said so for Obama and 65 percent for George W. Bush at this point in their presidencies.
Not exactly supportive findings for a man who likes to claim his own magnificence. A piece in Talking Points Memo looks at the public tantrum on display. Here are excerpts:
We know that President is undergoing a major, public ego injury tantrum because he has failed to manage any major legislative accomplishments in his first 100 days in office. The scale of the failure is so total one would almost need a Kelvin Scale of fail to capture its full extent. But in addition to all the other panicked flailing, there’s this gambit that seems to have gotten fairly little notice.
President Trump has now at least opened the door to denying he’s not even at 100 days, that people are miscounting and that is in fact at only just over 60 days.
When asked about the situation with Obamacare Repeal and tax reform Trump told the Associated Press this (emphasis added) …
I’ve been here 92 days, but I’ve only been working on the health care, you know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I’ve been working on health care for 60 days. … we’re very close. And it’s a great plan … we have to get it approved.
In this exchange Trump doesn’t go the whole way to demanding a comprehensive new day score. For the moment he’s only creating a new carve out 60 count for repealing Obamacare since “health care started after 30 day”. But clearly he’s preparing a broader sort of 100 day truth movement to claim the measure should be taken from February 21st, 2017 rather than January 21st, 2017.
The same day as the interview, Trump initially claimed that the entire 100 day metric is artificial and stupid.
But Trump more than anyone has made it more central by insisting it was the metric against which he wanted to be judged. The new effort to demand a different count or the “30 day reset/handicap” proposed to the AP is likely a sign that he knows he’s shackled himself to the 100 day mast.
Not tears or sympathy for this horrible, amoral bastard from me.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Try as he might, Der Trumpenführer cannot escape Russiagate. Yesterday, CNN reported that intelligence sources indicated that Russia tried to use Trump's advisers to infiltrate the Trump/Pence campaign. Some, of course believe that the Russian efforts were successful. Most glaring in the CNN story is the following: "Intelligence analysts and FBI investigators who analyzed various strands of intelligence from human sources to electronic and financial records have found signs of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials." Personally, I suspect that collusion did take place. It would have been totally in keeping with Trump's history of ignoring laws he found inconvenient and involvement with Mafia and Russian mob figures to further his own interests. We are not talking about a man with ethical and moral standards. Here are highlights from CNN:
The FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials.
The new information adds to the emerging picture of how the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election, not only through email hacks and propaganda but also by trying to infiltrate the Trump orbit. The intelligence led to an investigation into the coordination of Trump's campaign associates and the Russians.
These officials made clear they don't know whether Page was aware the Russians may have been using him. Because of the way Russian spy services operate, Page could have unknowingly talked with Russian agents.
Page disputes the idea he has ever collected intelligence for the Russians, saying he helped the US intelligence community. "My assumption throughout the last 26 years I've been going there has always been that any Russian person might share information with the Russian government ... as I have similarly done with the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies in the past."
But the intelligence suggests Russia tried to infiltrate the inner-workings of the Trump campaign by using backdoor channels to communicate with people in the Trump orbit, US officials say.
Page is one of several Trump advisers US and European intelligence found to be in contact with Russian officials and other Russians known to Western intelligence during the campaign, according to multiple US officials. The scope and frequency of those contacts raised the interest of US intelligence agencies.
Carter Page's speech critical of US policy against Russia in July 2016 at a prominent Moscow university drew the attention of the FBI and raised concerns he had been compromised by Russian intelligence, according to US officials. They also feared that Russian operatives maintained contact with him both in the United States and Russia, US officials say.
His conversations with suspected Russian operatives are being examined as part of a large intelligence-gathering operation by the FBI and other US agencies that was set up to probe Russia's interference in the election. The officials would not say what the conversations were about.
The FBI had Page on their radar for at least four years, according to court documents and US officials.
The bureau also knew about Page from its 2013 investigation into a Russian spy ring in New York. One of the spies was taped saying he tried to recruit Page, and Page admitted meeting him. But Page says he didn't share anything sensitive and didn't know he was talking to a spy.
He also traveled to Russia frequently and interacted with officials that the FBI was concerned were acting on behalf of the government. His trip to Russia in July 2016 revived the FBI's interest, when he delivered a lecture at a graduation ceremony for the New Economic School. The university opened after the fall of the Soviet Union and is ranked as one of the best universities for economics in Russia. . . . . Page's lecture sounded different than what would be expected from most Americans. He parroted Kremlin talking points by chastising the West for prolonging "Cold War tendencies."
Shortly after Page returned to the US, he and other Trump advisers headed to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. On the sidelines of a convention-related event, Page and other Trump advisers, including JD Gordon and Jeff Sessions, met with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
Two months after Page's trip, the FBI sought and received a warrant from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor Page's communications.
When he returned to Moscow in December 2016, after Trump won the election, Russian state-run media widely covered and promoted his trip, including RT and Sputnik, which have been identified by the US intelligence community as tools for the Kremlin's propaganda. . . . Not only did Russian state-run media cover the trip, but a prominent government-run think tank involved in election-meddling efforts put out a press release heralding Page's visit.
The FBI and other US agencies have been combing through information obtained through that FISA as part of its ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's links to Russia.
Intelligence analysts and FBI investigators who analyzed various strands of intelligence from human sources to electronic and financial records have found signs of possible collusion between the campaign and Russian officials. But there is not enough evidence to show that crimes were committed, US officials say.
Part of the problem for investigators has been that they lost their opportunity to conduct the investigation in secret after several leaks last year revealed FBI was looking at people close to the Trump campaign. After those reports, people that the US was monitoring changed their behavior, which made it more difficult for US officials to monitor them.Let's hope the investigations dig deeper and document crimes and collusion. Treason, in short. Let's also hope it implicates Pence and perhaps other high ranking Republicans.
Some will immediately that offense with the title of this post and immediately mount an argument of why I am wrong in my point of view. But in my view, there are three traits common to Christian extremists and Islamic extremists: (i) hatred of others who are different, (ii) an unfounded sense of self-righteousness and piousness, and (iii) a fear, if not hatred, of modernity and modern knowledge. The only difference that in current times, Christian extremists have not been willing to resort to wholesale murder and violence. Such, however, was not always the case and one need only look at the genocide committed by white Christians against Native Americans, both in North and South America, the Crusades, Europe's wars of religion, the massacre of "Old Believers" in Russia, the murder of Muslims in Nigeria at the directive of an Anglican archbishop, or the relatively recent murder and destruction of Catholic versus Protestant in Northern Ireland to realize that the relative peacefulness (at least compared to past atrocities) of Christians is not the historic norm. In modern times, of course, gays are a favored group for attack by both Christofascists and Islamic Extremists. A piece in Patheos sums up what Christofascists think of LGBT individuals:
Baptist Church Senior Pastor Robby Gallaty told his large congregation that Christians should never stop discriminating against homosexuals, claiming that gays could choose to be straight if they only accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Gallaty explained why gays should be put to death:
God said that the sins of the people had infected the very land in which they live. So what happens to people who engage in this activity, this sexual immoral activity? Go to Leviticus 20, God gives us the punishment for engaging in these sins… ‘If a man sleeps with a man as with a woman, they have both committed a detestable thing. They must be put to death. And their blood is on their own hands.’
Pastor Gallaty tried to justify his Biblically inspired hatred for gays and lesbians by repeatedly trying to argue that being gay is a choice, and some sort of rebellion against his imaginary God’s divine plan.
And let's not forget that a number of the Republican presidential candidates last year attended a rally hosted by another "man of god" who supports the murder of gays.
Now, travel half way around the world to the Islamic Russian Republic of Chechnya where a pogrom to kill gays is underway. Like Pastor Gallaty, pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, views gays as an affront to Allah that need to be eliminated. Indeed, he has declared that gays will be eliminated from the republic by May 26, 2017, for the start of Ramadan. The New York Times looks at the horrors taking place. Here are excerpts:
GROZNY, Russia — It was supposed to be a night out. But for the young man who calls himself Maksim, as for scores of other gay men arrested in a pogrom this month in Russia’s Chechnya region, it pivoted into nearly two weeks of beatings and torture.
Maksim said it had started with a chat room conversation with “a very good old friend who is also gay,” and who suggested that they meet at an apartment. When Maksim arrived, however, he was greeted not by his friend but by agents who beat him. Later, they strapped him to a chair, attached electrical wires to his hands with alligator clips and began an interrogation.
“They yelled, ‘Who else do you know?’” Maksim said, and zapped him with current from time to time. “It was unbearably painful; I was hanging on with my last strength,” he added. “But I didn’t tell them anything.”
Gay men have never had an easy life in Chechnya. But the targeted, collective punishment of gays that began last month under its pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, is a new turn in the region’s long history of rights abuses.
The sweep has been widely condemned by Western governments, the United Nations and rights groups. Activists in Russia have set up an underground network to spirit the victims out of Chechnya and to protect them from potentially violent reprisals from their families and others. The victims use assumed names in their everyday dealings. Homosexuality is taboo in Chechnya and the mostly Muslim surrounding areas of the Caucasus region in southern Russia. “This society is highly homophobic,” said Ekaterina L. Sokiryanskaya, Russia project director for the International Crisis Group and an authority on Chechnya. “Homosexuality is condemned. It is believed Islam considers it a great sin.” Among the fatalities documented by the organization were one man who succumbed during torture and two others who died in “honor killings” by relatives after the police released them. In a televised meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday, Mr. Kadyrov characterized as “libelous” news reports that the security services in Chechnya had been persecuting gay men.
Two different religions, yet the same mindset. It should come as little surprise that Vladimir Putin is looking the other way in Chechnya since his anti-LGBT laws were enacted as part of his effort to win support from the vitriolically anti-gay Russian Orthodox Church.
Christofascists point to Leviticus as justification, even though it was written by ignorant, uneducated authors of over 2500 years ago and most of its other prohibitions are completely ignored by the "godly folk." In the case of Islam, the Koran was largely authored by an individual who in modern society would be placed in a mental institution. Religion is truly a curse on mankind.