Saturday, October 28, 2017
Things apparently going to get interesting as early as Monday when those charged in the first indictments in special prosecutor Robert Mueller's may be taken into custody. Obviously, we need to be prepared for a twitter orgy flowing from Der Trumpenführer and fake news outlets like Fox News, a/k/a Faux News, and Breitbart which will ramp up obfuscation campaigns to distract the ignorance and conspiracy theory embracing base of Trump supporters. The names of those indicted have not yet been released as arrangements are being made. CNN looks at this development. Here are excerpts:
A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.
The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are. A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.
Under the regulations governing special counsel investigations, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight over the Russia investigation, would have been made aware of any charges before they were taken before the grand jury for approval, according to people familiar with the matter.
On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the court room at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation.
Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.
Mueller's team has also examined foreign lobbying conducted by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and others. His team has issued subpoenas for documents and testimony to a handful of figures, including some people close to Manafort, and others involved in the Trump Tower meeting between Russians and campaign officials.
One can only hope that the indictments will cause those indicted to spill their guts and, with luck, implicate Trump, Pence and others in activities colluding with Russia and/or obstruction of justice.
We had a great time yesterday afternoon and evening with the high point being seeing Hello Dolly with Bette Midler. We had dinner in the theater district before the show and came across an interesting looking restaurant for dinner tonight. After the show last night I had a chance to talk briefly with Gavin Creel - one of the cast members - as a collection for Broadway Cares (Creel is on the board of trustees) was taken up. We finished the evening with drinks at the Monster Bar located 1/2 block up the street from where we are staying.
Today's agenda includes shopping, including some consignment shops where we have found great cowboy boots - we like them in the winter months - vintage formal wear and accessories. This afternoon we are meeting the daughter of one of the husband's clients who lives here in NYC and works in the fashion industry. Then it will be dinner followed by a gay themed off Broadway show. Odds are we will end the day at the Monster Bar where there will likely be creative Halloween costumes based on what we saw last night (a guy in full Maleficent regalia was over the top).
|Vote for Ralph Northam on November 7, 2017 (as well as the rest of the Democrat ticket)|
I left the Republican Party shortly after I came out. It was obvious to me at the time that the Christofascists were ascendant in the Party and that there was no place in the GOP for anyone who believed in the separation of church and state - something I stated in my letter of resignation - much less for anyone who is LGBT. Things have only worsened in the years since that time. Today's Republican Party is only welcoming to white, heterosexual, ultra-conservative Christians who use the Bible daily to condemn members of the LGBT community and, in my view, justify the separation of the races with whites being the only ones entitled to full civil rights much less treatment as fully human. In the current statewide races, gays and minorities are being demonized by the Republican ticket with Ed Gillespie running deliberately untrue ads that pander to racists. Meanwhile, AG candidate is an anti-gay extremist who is just as hysterically anti-gay as Ken Cuccinelli and Rick Santorum (both of whom I believe are closeted gays since they are a tad too hysterical about gay sex to be straight men secure in their own sexuality). A column in Huffington Post looks at the disturbing tactics of Gillespie and Adams who are both running campaigns fueled by hate and bigotry. Here are excerpts:
No 14-year-old kid should live with these crippling fears, yet that is the reality facing thousands of high schoolers across the country. For undocumented students, every deportation they see on the news is a daily reminder of their precarious legal situation. Every act of violence against an LGBTQ friend or neighbor reminds them that their safety is constantly at risk just for expressing who they are and how they love. And since last November, the stakes for people of color, immigrants and LGBTQ Americans have never been higher.Virginia’s gubernatorial race makes it clear that these threats aren’t just coming from the White House, but are right here in the Commonwealth. Following in the footsteps of Donald Trump, Ed Gillespie is running a xenophobic and homophobic campaign that makes it clear how much we have to fear from a Gillespie administration.
Throughout his campaign, he has aired hateful, fear-mongering ads that criminalize people of color and make erroneous links between immigrants and MS-13 gang violence. He has also consistently opposed LGBTQ rights, from opposing marriage equality to supporting anti-trans legislation. John Adams, who is running for attorney general, is just as dangerous. During his campaign, he has spread lies that all undocumented students are getting in-state tuition benefits in Virginia or that the Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality is “totally made up.”
No matter what Gillespie says, hate is not a Virginia value. His opponent, Dr. Ralph Northam, is the only candidate for governor who has Virginia’s true values at heart ― values like opportunity and justice for all. Instead of working to divide us by our differences, Northam has fought his entire life to make Virginia a more supportive, welcoming place for all people, no matter their color, race, sexual orientation or immigration status. Now more than ever, we need a leader for our state who will be steadfast defense against the discriminatory policies emanating from the Oval Office, as well as a fearless advocate for LGBTQ and immigrants’ rights. Ralph Northam is that leader.
October 11 marked National Coming Out Day, an annual reminder of the journeys many of us have taken to come out . . . . I reminded people why it was important to vote for Ralph Northam, along with Justin Fairfax (candidate for lieutenant governor) and Mark Herring (candidate for attorney general).
What did I tell them? No matter your politics, we can all agree on one thing: no one should ever have to live in fear.
No one should have to live in fear. I hope that "friends" as well as my clients and the husband's clients who voted for Trump - who is aggressively attacking the LGBT community - will take the opportunity this November to make amends and vote to protect our civil rights and lives by voting for Ralph Northam, along with Justin Fairfax (candidate for lieutenant governor) and Mark Herring (candidate for attorney general). Again, no one should live in fear and see their civil rights and basic humanity under attack.
Friday, October 27, 2017
Looking forward to a fun weekend in NYC, starting with Hello Dolly tonight with the divine Bette Midler. Once again, we are staying at a friend's apartment at 30 Christopher Street in the West Village. Posting frequency may be down as we see friends, family that live here in NYC, and some of our favorite haunts. On the home front, the Ralph Northam staffer that we have been housing since July 4th weekend will watch after the house and the two Chihuahuas who have become very attached to him. The photos are of the view flying in earlier today!
Since November 9, 2016, I know that I have felt more stress and anxiety as civic discourse has coarsened and LGBT citizens have become increasingly a target for mistreatment by the federal government under Trump/Pence. I have also come to realize that some who I thought were friends may, in fact not be my friends and may even support discrimination against me and others in the LGBT community not to mention against members of racial minorities. And I am an educated white male with a career that would allow me to reopen my own law firm if things ever came to that. Not everyone has that safety net. Thus, I can only imagine the the stress and increased anxiety that racial minorities must be experiencing as the occupant of the White House continues to fan hate and bigotry and the Justice Department takes actions to allow open discrimination against people like me and others. One venue where hate and bigotry is not easily avoided is in America's high schools where the situation shows how much damage is being done to younger generations. The Virginian Pilot reports on the findings of a new study that ought to disturb decent, moral people (which, in my view, excludes Trump supporters). Here are highlights:
Student anxiety and hostility on public high school campuses has worsened since Donald Trump became president and is affecting student learning, according to a new UCLA report.
More than half of public high school teachers in a nationally representative school sample reported seeing more students than ever with "high levels of stress and anxiety" between last January, when Trump took office, and May. That's according to the study, "Teaching and Learning in the Age of Trump: Increasing Stress and Hostility in America's High Schools," by John Rogers, director of the Institute for Democracy, Education and Access at the University of California at Los Angeles.
[N]early 80 percent said some students had expressed concern for their well-being because of the charged public conversation about issues such as immigration, health care, the environment, travel bans and LGBTQ rights, it said. Furthermore, 40 percent said concerns over key issues - such as Trump's ban on travelers from eight countries, most with Muslim majorities; restrictions on LGBTQ rights; and health care - are making it harder for students to focus on their studies and making them less likely to come to school.
"I had students stand up in the middle of class and directly address their peers with racial slurs," the report quoted Ohio social studies teacher Aaron Burger as saying. "This is not something I have seen before."
Here are key findings from the report:
- Stress and concerns with welfare have increased, particularly in schools enrolling mostly students of color.
- Polarization, incivility and reliance on unsubstantiated sources have risen, particularly in predominantly white schools.
- A growing number of schools, particularly predominantly white schools, have become hostile environments for racial and religious minorities and other vulnerable groups.
- While some school leaders avoided issues related to the political environment, others moved proactively to create a tolerant and respectful school culture. When leaders did not act, student behavior grew dramatically worse.
- As the national political environment has become more threatening, bellicose and uncivil, more young people are subject to adverse socio-emotional and academic consequences. These changes also undercut the democratic purposes of public education.
- Educators can mitigate some of these challenges, but they need more support. Ultimately, political leaders need to address the underlying causes of campus incivility and stress.
The policy issue that concerned students the most was the Trump administration's statements about immigration, including the deportation of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and are known as "dreamers." Jeff Seuss, a social studies teacher and coach in Nebraska, reported that some of his student athletes now live in "survival mode," never knowing if they will be deported to a country they never lived in.
79 percent of teachers reported that their students have expressed concerns for their well-being or the well-being of their families associated with recent public policy discourse on one or more hot-button issues, including immigration, travel limitations on predominantly Muslim countries, restrictions on LGBTQ rights, changes to health care, or threats to the environment.
"Many teachers described how the political environment 'unleashed' virulently racist, anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic or homophobic rhetoric in their schools and classrooms. An Indiana English teacher explained: 'Individuals who do harbor perspectives on racism and bigotry now feel empowered to offer their views more naturally in class discussions, which has led to tension, and even conflict in the classroom.'
Sadly, this is precisely what Trump voters wanted: to make those the deem to be "other" fearful and threatened. It is a testament to just how toxic conservative "Christian values" have become.
Last week in a post I noted the rising tide of homophobia around the world, including here in America under the regime of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the latter of whom is a Christofascist himself. Now a piece in the New York Times looks specifically at the growing anti-LGBT zealotry in Egypt, a country where technically homosexuality isn't illegal, but where thuggish rulers and religious fanatics are scapegoating gays as (i) a means to distract the populous form the failures of both groups to bring prosperity and freedom to the country, and (ii) a way to fabricate an external enemy - western tolerance - to rally support for leaders who could care less about the best interests of the populace. Ironically, these are similar to the tactics Der Trumpenführer is employing to bolster his support among evangelical Christians and outright Christofascists here in America. Stated another way, America's would be strong man is mimicking the tactics of real life strong men. Here are highlights from the article:
On Oct. 21, militants fired rockets and detonated explosives in the desert southwest of Cairo, killing at least 59 Egyptian police officers and security officials in the worst assault on security forces since 2015. The shocking attack is the latest reminder of the very real threat that armed militants pose to Egypt’s security forces.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi seems incapable of quelling this menace. . . . So with such a real and present danger, why would Mr. Sisi’s government, aided by a team of media personalities and religious authorities, spend the past month whipping up a frenzy over another kind of “threat” altogether?
As part of what can best be described as hysterical homophobia, more than 65 people, mostly gay men, have been arrested in the crackdown against L.G.B.T. Egyptians. At least 20 people have received prison sentences, ranging from six months to six years.
This wave of arrests and raids began after gay-pride rainbow flags were flown at a concert by a Lebanese indie-rock band, Mashrou’ Leila, whose lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay. It was not the first time fans displayed rainbow flags at a Mashrou’ Leila concert, a gay friend who has attended some of the band’s previous concerts in Cairo reminds me. He also reminds me that rainbow flags were flown in Tahrir Square during the 18 days of protest that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Same-sex relationships are not illegal in Egypt, but gay men are arrested under “debauchery” laws. So why now? Why the parade of men “confessing” to being gay and “repenting” on TV talk shows, and the psychiatrists touting “conversion therapy”?
It would be easy to label the crackdown a distraction. There is much that Egyptians need distracting from: disastrous economic austerity policies, the insurgency in Sinai, 60,000 political prisoners.
And it does make for a convenient topic. Egypt’s political parties might disagree on how to remedy any or all of those issues — but homophobia cuts across disagreement. . . . . my friend told me. “Some people think gay people should be stoned, others recommend burning them after stoning, while some sheikhs are saying their hands and legs should be cut on opposite sides of their bodies, and ask in the softest of voices for their imprisonment or deportation.”
But there is more than just distraction at play. A talk-show host who suggested that both terrorism and homosexuality were being used to “ruin our youth” by a nameless external enemy offered perhaps the most honest explanation for this vicious round of homophobia in Egypt: the conflation of a security threat with a “moral” threat.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, increasingly bold expressions of sexual freedom are clearly unsettling regimes accustomed to being guardians not just of “national security” but also of our bodies and sexualities. Mr. Sinno is unapologetically “brown, queer and from a Muslim family” by his own description. . . . . Armed with social media and audacity, more people are questioning taboos around religion and sexuality.
Egypt, of course, is far from alone in its witch hunt. From Chechnya to Azerbaijan and from Tanzania to Indonesia there are similar crackdowns by governments obsessed with policing people’s sexuality. (And let’s not forget that President Sisi’s booster, President Trump, is no friend to L.G.B.T. rights.)
Morality crusades unite military regimes and religious zealots alike. Mr. Sisi, a former army general who became president after forcing out Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, understands the potency of connecting the catchall “national security” to “inciting debauchery” as a deliberate reminder that the Islamists do not hold the copyright on piety.
On Oct. 19 — a day of global solidarity with L.G.B.T. Egyptians — I saw Mashrou’ Leila in concert in Montreal. That day, a protest had been held outside the Egyptian Consulate there. Some concertgoers flew an Egyptian flag alongside a rainbow flag. Mr. Sinno told the audience that the best way to fight the crackdown in Egypt was to keep up international pressure. He understands the importance of visibility — for safety and for solidarity.
Human rights around the world used to be a concern for America. Now, under Trump/Pence, not so much. Indeed, America voted against a United Nations resolution that condemned the death penalty for gays due to their involvement in consenting relationships between adults. America has indeed fallen and will likely only increase in ugliness under the current misrule.
If you think about how small children when caught misbehaving or telling untruths will try to throw a distraction into the equation or try to blame someone else for bad behavior, then you are seeing the playbook being utilized by Der Trumpenführer and leaders in the Republican Party. The good news is that polls suggest that most Americans - like most parents and/or teachers dealing with such disingenuous children - are not falling for the Trump/GOP lies. This is what happened when the GOP tried to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Health Care Act. It may be now happening with the GOP's fraudulent effort to market "tax reform" which most sentient individuals realize are an effort to give massive tax cuts to the very wealthy. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the phenomenon. Here are highlights:
Blue America’s greatest fear about the Trump-era (after nuclear annihilation, anyway) is probably that the president and his party are going to get away with all of it: trying to make health care more expensive for much of their own base; letting banks fleece their customers and coal companies contaminate their neighbors’ water; the callous, inept response to Puerto Rico; coddling white supremacists; betraying core U.S. allies; running the EPA as a fossil-fuel-industry think tank; insulting war widows; selling their legislative agenda to the highest-bidding libertarian billionaire; elevating cruelty toward the vulnerable into a patriotic duty — and at the end of the day, they won’t face consequences for any of it.
This dire assessment may yet prove correct. But it’s worth noting that a growing body of polling data suggests that it won’t.
Last week a CNN poll found that Americans want Democrats to take over Congress next year by a 14-point margin. On Wednesday, a Fox News poll put the Democrats’ lead at 15.
The latter survey also found President Trump’s approval rating hitting an all-time low (in Fox’s polling), with just 38 percent of respondents viewing the president favorably. That drop was driven by declining support for Trump among his core constituencies. Last month, Fox had 68 percent of white men without college degrees approving of the president — now, it puts that figure at 56 percent. At the same time, Trump’s approval fell eight points among Evangelical Christians, from 74 percent last month to 66 percent today.
This poll could be an outlier. But poll aggregators FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics both show that Trump’s average approval rating has fallen significantly since mid-September — while the Democratic Party’s advantage in the generic congressional ballot has increased over the same period.
Meanwhile, a recent CBS News poll found that only 18 percent of Americans believe that Trump’s tax plan favors the middle class — despite the president’s incessant claims that it does. By contrast, 58 percent told the network that the president’s plan favors the wealthy. This is a problem for the GOP: . . . that poll found that fewer than a third of Americans who had heard about the Republican tax plan supported it.
Whether public opposition will derail Trump’s proposed tax cuts remains to be seen. But during the fight over Obamacare repeal, polls also found the president losing his war against reality: No matter how many times Trump promised that his health-care plan didn’t actually cut Medicaid or erode protections for people with preexisting conditions, voters understood that their interests weren’t being served.
We’re a long way from the 2018 election (let alone the 2020 one). Polls are just polls. But, for the moment, there’s reason to think that facts might still matter in this beleaguered little republic.
|The Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions
is seeking |
time to argue before the Supreme Court on behalf of an anti-gay baker.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
As noted in numerous past blog posts, Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, made a pact with Christofascist leaders in June of 2016, whereby he promised to wage war against the rights of LGBT citizens. While Trump has delivered on few of his campaign promises, he is delivering on his promises to the Christofascists. The latest proof is the effort by the Trump Department of Justice to intervene and file a brief in a case now before the U.S. Supreme that seeks to exempt Christofascists from complying with anti-discrimination and public accommodation laws. What those who are unfamiliar with Der Trumpenführer's anti-LGBT agenda may not understand is that the special rights that Christofascists seek are so expansive that it could be Muslims, Hindus, women using contraception, or unwed co-habitating couples who find themselves as the next targets of Christofascist discrimination. The Washington Blade looks at this unprecedented effort to support discrimination albeit under the smoke screen of "religious freedom.: Here are excerpts:
The U.S. Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is seeking a time slot of 10 minutes before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue on behalf of a Colorado baker who wishes to refuse the sale of make wedding cakes for same-sex couples.U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed the two-page request Wednesday before the Supreme Court in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The request says the Justice Department “has a substantial interest” in the case because the U.S. government has an interest in “the preservation of federal constitutional rights of free expression.”
The request also argues the U.S. government has an interest in the case because the scope of Colorado non-discrimination law, which bars anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations, is similar to Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As noted in the request, the Justice Department has already filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case arguing that baking a wedding cake is inherently an act of expression protected under the First Amendment. Therefore, the ability of a baker to deny a wedding cake to same-sex couples for religious reasons should trump any state non-discrimination law.
The case came about after Phillips refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a Colorado same-sex couple, in 2012 for their wedding in Massachusetts. An administrative judge ruled in favor of the same-sex couple — a decision the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld in 2015.
Although the Colorado Supreme Court had declined to review these decisions and let them stand, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari, or agreed to take up the case, in June. Oral arguments are set for Dec. 5.
Hmm . . . do you think Sessions would file a brief in support of me if I refused to prepare legal documents for Christofascists since I view them akin to the Pharisees condemned by Christ in the New Testament? I suspect not because Sessions believes only Christofascists have rights of religious freedom. The rest of us do not in the age of Trump.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
|Pope Francis and his past marriage equality foe, former president |
of Argentina, Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner. Sex abuse by
Catholic clergy claims are exploding in Argentina.
Is it a coincidence that the Roman Catholic Church is increasing its anti-gay messaging in Australia and elsewhere and A diocese in Wisconsin is barring funerals for gays just as more damaging reports on clergy sex abuse are being released, including damaging reports from Pope Francis' own Argentina? Personally, I suspect not. Just like Donald Trump, members of the Church hierarchy are trying to distract the sheeple still in the pews from the reality that the Church remains a complete moral cesspool. Also of interest is the fact that many of the new instances of sexual abuse in Argentina occurred AFTER 2001 and after the sex abuse scandal exploded in Boston in early 2002. Hence, the effort to blame the worldwide scandal on Vatican II and liberal priests simply does not wash. The International Business Times reports on many damning details coming out that show that little has substantively changed in the Catholic Church. Here are highlights:
Karen Maydana says she was 9 years old when the Rev. Carlos Jose fondled her at a church pew facing the altar. It was her first confession ahead of her first Holy Communion.
She blames the trauma of that moment in 2004 for a teenage suicide attempt. And yet she never spoke about it publicly until this year. After hearing that two women who attended her school in the Argentine town of Caseros were allegedly abused by the same priest, she joined them as complainants in a case that in July led to his arrest for investigation of aggravated sexual abuse.
The allegations are part of a growing trend: While Pope Francis struggles to make good on his "zero tolerance" pledge to fight clerical sex abuse worldwide, victims in his native Argentina are denouncing abuses in unprecedented numbers. An analysis by The Associated Press shows that the number of clerics publicly identified as alleged sexual abusers has increased dramatically in the last two years.
Experts attribute the spike to a cultural shift as victims feel more emboldened to denounce abuse, prosecutors are more inclined to investigate complaints of even decades-old abuse, the media are increasingly aggressive about reporting them and courts are willing to hand down stiff sentences.
In the U.S., confidential files on hundreds of pedophile priests have been released either through civil litigation, settlements or court order. The contents have revealed that top church officials worked behind the scenes to control the sex abuse scandal and keep it from authorities as well as parishioners.
"What is really remarkable here is that the survivors in Argentina don't have the same powerful legal tools that we see in other countries," Barrett Doyle said. "And yet, we're still seeing the significant increase in cases."
The AP compiled a list of 66 priests, nuns and brothers who have been accused since 2001 of abusing dozens of people, most of them children.
"In Argentina, the abuse crisis is just beginning," said San Francisco Bishop Sergio Buenanueva in Cordoba province, who leads a church council on clerical abuse. "I'm sure the Argentine church is going to face increasing numbers of these disclosures."
Some of the accused remain in the ministry. In several cases, no canonical or judicial investigation was carried out. Some were probed and dismissed. Others, especially in recent years, have led to arrests and convictions.
Advocates of priestly abuse victims question how Francis could have been unaware of the allegations against Corradi since he was publicly named by the Italian victims starting in 2009 and most recently in 2014.
Francis has pledged "zero tolerance" for abuse, but he has also said he never had to confront the issue as archbishop of Buenos Aires, where he served from 1998 to 2013. Recently, he has acknowledged that the church was "late" in recognizing the scale of abuse and the damage it wreaked on victims, and said the practice of cover-up and moving pedophiles around was to blame.
Many Argentine victims of abuse say they feel abandoned by the church. "You realize the complicity, the cover-up of the church hierarchy that goes all the way up to the Vatican," Anazco said.
It is helpful to remember that the Catholic Church in Argentina, including Pope Francis who was then a cardinal in Argentina, worked hysterically to block same sex marriage. Ultimately it was a speech made by the then president of Argentina, Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner, addressed to the Argentine Senate which referenced the Church's ugly history, including the Inquisition, that tipped the scales and caused marriage equality to be enacted.
An op-ed in Foreign Policy by a retired Army colonel who served in the infantry and special forces for 30 years and a member of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment looks at the recent failure by Mike Kelly, Der Trumpenführer's chief-of-staff in "apologizing" for Trump's mistreatment of a Gold Star widow. It helps put in context the danger that the Trump/Pence regime poses as it becomes reliant on generals to function and mitigate the chaos that now reigns at the White House. Here are highlights:
A thousand years ago when I was about to begin my military career, a wise old retired Marine colonel, a veteran of the carnage at Tarawa, gave me some advice. Paraphrased here, he said:So you want to be a career soldier? Good for you. But remember that the longer you stay in uniform, the less you will really understand about the country you protect. Democracy is the antithesis of the military life; it’s chaotic, dishonest, disorganized, and at the same time glorious, exhilarating and free — which you are not.
After a while, if you stay in, you’ll be tempted to say, “Look, you civilians, we’ve got a better way. We’re better organized. We’re patriotic, and we know what it is to sacrifice. Be like us.” And you’ll be dead wrong, son. If you’re a career soldier, you may defend democracy, but you won’t understand it or be part of it. What’s more, you’ll always be a stranger to your own society. That’s the sacrifice you’ll be making.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that old colonel in the aftermath of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s remarkable press conference the other day over the president’s call to the widow of an Army soldier killed in Niger. There’s been a lot of commentary about the general’s attitude toward civilians who hadn’t sacrificed — who weren’t of the “one percent” who had — and it seems to me that most of it misses the point. Masha Gessen’s New Yorker article, “John Kelly and the Language of the Military Coup,” comes close, given President Donald Trump’s tendency to hire retired generals who complement his own authoritarian leanings. Certainly we need to be alert for the next three years — having at Trump’s elbow a retired general who disdains civilians should raise some concerns.
But the larger point that strikes me, as a retired infantryman, is the self-pity in the general’s tone. Look at us; we’ve made sacrifices that you don’t appreciate. The only good American is one in uniform, or, ultimately, the ones under tombstones in Arlington. Sadly, this kind of sad, pitying flag-waving impresses too many of my fellow citizens the same way that the insubordinate Douglas MacArthur did in the 1950s — and MacArthur is said to be a favorite of Trump’s.
Let’s be frank. There’s nothing “glorious” or “sacrificial” about choosing to be a soldier. We give up personal freedom for the privilege of serving our country, and we enter a closed-off profession that is enormously satisfying, but can also be physically, emotionally, and intellectually demanding. We accept the risk that some of us get killed or wounded. In return, the country gives us decent pay, an early retirement — some bodies get pretty broken up in twenty or thirty years — and health care. It’s not a bad deal.
But the other sacrifice — the one the colonel talked about — is that few of us quite fit into the “dishonest, disorganized and glorious” mess is American democracy. That makes us good bureaucrats and maybe good chiefs of staff, but not someone who has a gut-level understanding of democracy — the role of a free press, for example, or the give and take of backroom dealing. We chose the life we lived. Being part of the “one percent” doesn’t make us any more entitled than any other citizen.
Kelly is understandably upset that Trump — acting on the general’s advice — publicly fumbled a call to a young widow. Part of the general’s problem is that he serves a president without empathy for anyone but himself. Another is that the same president has now politicized Kelly’s private grief.
But that odd press conference has exposed Kelly’s emotional, personal disdain for the citizens he served in uniform and still serves in a sensitive political post. His remarks lead me to wonder if he really understands that soldiers are the servants of democracies, not some special race apart. A MacArthur or a George Patton, disdainful or ignorant of democracy but close to the president is dangerous to the Republic and is unbecoming his distinguished service in a profession that doesn’t need anyone’s pity.
Perhaps I cannot totally escape my Roman Catholic upbringing despite the moral bankruptcy of the Church hierarchy as evidenced by the world wide sex abuse of children and youths and it's embrace of 12th Century knowledge. Or perhaps it was the views of my parents who saw things as clearly as right and others as clearly wrong. The follow through was that one did not associate with or support someone or groups who consistently engaged in wrongful behavior such as taking from the poor to give to the rich, failing to help the poor sick or needy, expressing open hatred for others and refusing to see their humanity. These values are what I deem true "Christian" values. Yet, for the vast majority of evangelical Christians and others who claim to be decent and moral, these values have been openly rejected by their support for Donald Trump and today's hideous incarnation of the Republican Party. They put their loyalty to a political party that makes misogyny the norm ahead of the values they pretend to support. Equally disturbing is their growing contempt for others who are different due to skin color, the country of their birth, their sexual orientation or their religious faith. Only white, heterosexual, right wing Christians are deemed to be fully human. This new orthodoxy of Republicans is frightening and dangerous. The common good no longer matters to them, nor do the less fortunate, including children. A column in the New York Times looks at the allegiance of the GOP base to Trump and its growing embrace of hate. Here are excerpts:
Last year, as it became clear that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination, analysts on both the right and the left speculated that millions of regular Republicans would be repulsed by his ethnonationalism and misogyny.Come Election Day, however, Republican voters did not abandon their party. . . . . This pattern has continued into the present and shows no signs of letting up. In recent days, prominent Republicans, including George W. Bush, Bob Corker, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have warned in various ways that Trump is leading their party and the country in a very dangerous direction. For the moment, however, it is the president’s critics who are butting their heads against a brick wall. The reality is that neither Flake nor Corker is seeking re-election, and both would have struggled to win renomination if they presented themselves as adversaries of President Trump.
In short, the Trump-Steve Bannon-Laura Ingraham wing of the Republican party is ascendant. As Mike Allen headlined his post on Axios Wednesday: “Virtually every Republican now a Trump Republican.”
Alex Theodoridis, a political scientist at the University of California-Merced, put the state of play in a larger perspective: “The real story of Election 2016 is that the vast majority of Republicans voted for Trump” despite the fact that he was an outlier candidate who “lacked the normal credentials in terms of experience, ideology and character.” “Republicans identify, at a deep psychological level, more strongly with their party than do Democrats,” according to Theodoridis: The evidence is rather clear that the modern hyper-polarization is far more characterized by tribal division than by ideological distance. The real story seems to be the growing us-versus-them, in-group/out-group dynamic.
Theodoridis summed up the conclusions he and his colleagues reached in a blog post in Scientific American in November 2016: Partisanship for many Americans today takes the form of a visceral, even subconscious, attachment to a party group. Our party becomes a part of our self-concept in deep and meaningful ways.
In other words, the assumption that many Republican voters would be repelled by Donald Trump turned out to be wrong; instead party loyalty — “a visceral, even subconscious, attachment” — takes precedence.
These expressive partisans also feel increased schadenfreude, a complex positive emotion, when they read about bad things happening to or reflecting poorly on a political candidate of the other party. They even feel this positive emotion in reaction to events that are clearly negative. . . . . voters “not only increasingly dislike the opposing party,” but are also willing to “impute negative traits to the rank-and-file of the out-party.”
The growing strength of the kind of partisanship that is widespread today — whether you call it visceral, expressive, affective or tribal — undermines the workings of democratic governance.
A number of questions present themselves to us as a nation, most notably: Where are we going? Off a cliff appears to be the answer for now, but who is going to help us climb back up? What can mitigate these developments except disaster? Over time, will we just swing back and forth between parties with no bipartisan achievements at all? What phoenix will rise from the ashes of our tribal partisanship?
Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to the United States. It is a worldwide problem, which is another way of extending the question. Germany, France and the Netherlands have one answer, still refusing to yield government control to right-wing populists despite the success of ethonationalist insurgencies in all three countries; Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have another answer — they are all currently swerving to the far right. Which path will we take?
The campaign of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie is having conniption fits because a Virginia Democratic Party mailer correctly links Gillespie to white supremacists. Having viewed many of Gillespie's ads that have definite racist undercurrent to them, combined with his refusal to condemn Donald Trump's apparent embrace of white supremacists in Charlottesville back in August, 2017, and his effort to court Corey Stewart supporters who rallied to Stewart's openly racist and pro-Confederate campaign, I believe that the mailer is accurate. No doubt some of my Republican "friends" who continue to stick their heads in the sand - or elsewhere where the sun doesn't shine, if you want my candid opinion - will whine and feign false outrage just like Gillespie, but the sad reality is that today's Republican Party IS a racist party and Gillespie - as are AG candidate John Adams and Lt. Governor candidate Jill Vogel - is pandering to white supremacists and religious extremist. He has no chance of winning without their strong support. Sometimes, the truth hurts and, if my Republican "friends" do not like being tied to white supremacists, they have two options on November 7th: stay home and do not vote, or vote for the Democratic ticket. It's really very simple. If you vote for candidates of a party with a racist, anti-minority agenda, then look in the mirror and face the reality that perhaps you are in fact a racist even if you are not donning KKK robes regularly. The Washington Post looks at the mailer and the GOP's feigned outrage. Here are excerpts:
Virginia’s heated election cycle is becoming increasingly nasty, with the statewide Democratic ticket sending out a new mailer linking Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie and President Trump to the torch-bearing white nationalists who descended on Charlottesville over the summer.
In August, violent clashes between white supremacists in Charlottesville rallying to defend a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and counterprotestors left one woman dead and two state troopers died when their helicopter crashed.
The mailer features images of both Republican men above a photo of the white supremacists with the text, “On Tuesday November 7th, Virginia Gets To Stand Up...To Hate.”
The back of the literature features a prominent image of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, along with Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring, with the message “This is our chance to stand up to Trump, Gillespie, and hate.” All three Democrats approved the ad, and the Democratic Party of Virginia paid for the mailer. Gillespie’s campaign condemned the mailer, which was first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Northam campaign spokesman David Turner countered that the mailer was fair because Gillespie did not explicitly condemn the president’s response to the Charlottesville unrest. Democrats pummeled Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, for not joining members of his own party, including Virginia U.S. Reps. Barbara Comstock and Scott W. Taylor, in directly criticizing Trump’s reaction. . . . Ed Gillespie should be willing to call out Donald Trump when he’s wrong and because he won’t, he gives voters a clear choice on Nov. 7.”
[I]n September, Gillespie began airing ads that aimed to link MS-13 gang violence to Northam, while using images of Latinos in a way Latino groups call racist and inflammatory. And another ad suggests Northam wanted to restore gun rights to violent felons. Both parties are also trading barbs over mailers targeting against Latina candidates.
Oh, and lit's not forget that the entire GOP ticket supports voter ID laws and other GOP efforts to disenfranchise minority voters under the lie of preventing nonexistent voter fraud. Gillespie, et all deserve the label given to the, plain and simple.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Yet another shoe seems to be dropped that further validates the allegations that the Trump/Pence campaign engaged in efforts to collude with Russia in order to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Naturally, as CNN and other real news outlets are reporting on Wikileak's confirmation that the Trump/Pence campaign made contact seeking documents stolen by Russian intelligence from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, Der Trumpenführer is launching into full obfuscation mode and is being aided and abetted by the fake right wing "news" sites who are working desperately to concoct faux counter scandals against Hillary Clinton. It goes without saying that the Fox News viewing, racist and Christofascist base of Trump supporters are eating up the lies flowing from Breitbart and Fox News even as Fox News is ignoring damning new evidence against the Trump/Pence, et al. It is sadly, all part of the right wing cover up effort for Der Trumpenführer. Here are highlights on the real news from CNN:
The head of a data analytics company linked to the Trump campaign contacted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 regarding thousands of Hillary Clinton's emails kept on a private server while she was secretary of state, according to four sources familiar with the outreach.
Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, sent an email to several people including top Donald Trump donor Rebekah Mercer, relaying that he had emailed Assange seeking access to emails from Clinton's private server to turn them into a searchable database for the campaign or a pro-Trump political action committee, two of the sources said.
Cambridge Analytica was hired in the summer of 2016 as part of the Trump campaign's three-pronged data operation, which was led by Brad Parscale and overseen by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
The attempt at collaboration raises fresh questions about the willingness of people associated with the Trump campaign to work with Wikileaks for political gain. The site, which publishes leaked documents, released hacked emails in July from the Democratic National Committee and in October from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. US intelligence has said the Podesta emails were stolen by Russia and handed over to WikiLeaks through an intermediary.
News of the email exchange comes amid federal investigations into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Parscale, the Trump campaign's digital director, was interviewed Tuesday by the House intelligence committee as part of that inquiry.
Assange confirmed the exchange in a post on Twitter Wednesday. "I can confirm an approach by Cambridge Analytica [prior to November last year] . . . .
Nix and Cambridge Analytica, which is backed by Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, did not respond to requests for comment. After the Daily Beast report published, the Trump campaign issued a statement by campaign executive director Michael S. Glassner: "Once President Trump secured the nomination in 2016, one of the most important decisions we made was to partner with the Republican National Committee on data analytics. Leading into the election, the RNC had invested in the most sophisticated data targeting program in modern American in history, which helped secure our victory in the fall. . . . . Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory are false."
The statement does not address contacts between Cambridge Analytica and WikiLeaks. . . . . Parscale downplayed the campaign's connections to Cambridge Analytica, one of the sources said.
He began working for the Trump Organization's digital team in early 2015 before Trump officially announced his plan to run for office. Parscale and employees from his firm, Giles-Parscale, incorporated some staffers from Cambridge Analytica into their data operation.
In July 2016, Trump called on Russia to find the emails. - "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens. That'll be next," Trump said in a news conference.
News of the outreach comes after an earlier disclosure that a Republican operative, Peter W. Smith, had been on the hunt for Clinton's missing emails during the campaign. Smith spoke to The Wall Street Journal in May, saying he and the colleagues he enlisted found five groups of hackers claiming to have 33,000 deleted emails from the private server Clinton used during her tenure as secretary of state. He [Smith] said that he determined two of the groups were Russian. "We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government," Smith told the Journal. Smith was found dead of an apparent suicide weeks after the interview. Steve Bannon, Trump's former White House chief strategist, was vice president and secretary of Cambridge Analytica until he stepped down to run the Trump campaign in August 2016, according to The New York Times. The Mercers are investors in Breitbart News, the far-right site where Bannon served as executive chairman before he ran Trump's campaign.
Political strategist Roger Stone, Trump's long-time confidant, had boasted during the campaign of knowledge about upcoming Wikileaks publication of damaging documents, at one point telling the Boston Herald Radio that he expected "Julian Assange and the Wikileaks people to drop a payload of new documents on a weekly basis fairly soon.
Given that more than three quarters of Trump's claims and statements have been documented to be untrue - lies in common parlance - I put little credence on anything Trump and his sycophants say to deflect attention from their underhanded dealings and possible treason.
|The embodiment of moral bankruptcy|
To date, only three Republican Senators have had the moral integrity to begin calling out Donald Trump for what he is in fact: dangerous, unfit, and a bullying demagogue. The rest prefer to remain silent as Trump trashes America's reputation on the international arena and dangerously escalates the possibility of war with North Korea and/or Iran. And even despite their growing unhappiness within the GOP Senatorial ranks, legislation and policy changes have moved forward that will harm many Americans ranging from rolling back Obama era regulations that would have allowed consumers to sue big banks to Betsy DeVos' moves to protect scamming private colleges and universities and dismantle special education policies and programs. Among the conservative pundit class and intelligentsia - assuming anything of the sort still remains - the trend is to quietly normalize the abhorrent and "go along to get along." Meanwhile, civil society and America's future are damaged, perhaps irreversibly, The question is whether more self-styled conservatives will say "enough" and stop being complicit in the misogyny that is the hall mark of the Trump/Pence regime and today's Republican Party. A piece in The Atlantic looks at the disturbing situation. He are highlights:
In his speech on Tuesday announcing that he won’t seek reelection to the Senate, Jeff Flake denounced the “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior coming from “the top of our government.” Earlier the same day, Bob Corker—also retiring—said Donald Trump “debases the country.” In the days to come, George Will will likely say something similar on MSNBC. Charlie Sykes may do so on public radio. Bret Stephens may pen an anti-Trump column in The New York Times.Notice a pattern? Plenty of high-profile conservatives still passionately denounce Donald Trump. But few still rely on conservative voters, conservative readers or conservative listeners for their livelihood. Anti-Trump conservatism has become a brain without a body. Intellectually, it remains alive; politically, it’s almost dead.
Eight months ago, I suggested that on the subject of Trump, you could divide conservative commentators into three categories. Category one were the Trump loyalists: Breitbart, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter. Their base is talk radio. They pride themselves on speaking for those plainspoken, dirt-under-the-fingernails conservatives who loathe not only Hillary Clinton, but Paul Ryan. Their chief enemies are globalism and multiculturalism, which they believe infect both parties, and are destroying America from without and within. Their ideological forefathers are Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan, . . .
Category number two were Never Trump intellectuals who worked for non-conservative publications: David Frum, David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Jennifer Rubin. For them, conservatism is about prudence, inherited wisdom, and a government that first does no harm; they see none of those virtues in Trump.
“In between,” I suggested, “are the conservatives who will tip the balance. Unlike Breitbart and company, they generally opposed Trump during the campaign. Unlike Brooks and company, they serve a conservative audience that now overwhelmingly backs him.” We now know what has happened to this third group. It has all but disappeared. The conservative commentators who could not stomach Trump have largely left conservative media. . . . . Now ensconced in liberal institutions, these commentators are free to condemn Trump with little fear of retribution.
If Flake, Corker, Will, Stephens, Kelly, and Sykes have chosen their principles over their constituents, a different set of conservatives have done the opposite. Take Ted Cruz. At last year’s Republican convention, he famously failed to endorse Trump. Now he’s so tight with the Trumpians that Steve Bannon has declared him the only GOP senator he won’t try to challenge in 2018. Paul Ryan has largely stopped criticizing Trump, too. The House speaker, who last June accused Trump of “textbook” racism for attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel, on Tuesday told reporters to “forget about” Corker’s attacks on Trump. According to Ryan, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman accusing the president of leading America “towards World War III” isn’t worth discussing.
Cruz and Ryan may be cowardly, but they aren’t dumb. They know that 80 percent of Republicans approve of Trump while less than 40 percent approve of Republican leaders in Congress. Which means that continuing their previous criticism of Trump would likely to cost them their jobs.
Many journalists and media personalities appear to have followed their constituents as well. Since the election, they’ve toned down their criticism of Trump. Last October, radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt called on Trump to exit the presidential race. But last month, Hewitt rendered a dramatically different verdict: “All in all, Trump has had a pretty good eight months.”
During the campaign, Glenn Beck compared Trump to Hitler and called him an “extinction-level event” for American democracy. Now Beck’s criticisms of Trump are fewer and milder.
National Review has softened its criticisms, too. Yes, the magazine publishes condemnations of Trump, some of them incisive and eloquent. But its editors have shied away from some of the toughest accusations they made during the campaign. In its January 2016 editorial urging conservatives to oppose Trump, the magazine’s editors warned that his brand of populism contained “strong-man overtones.” But on Sunday, its editor Rich Lowry declared that the Trump presidency has brought “no budding authoritarianism.”
Flake and Corker’s attacks on Trump as they prepare to depart the Senate are part of a larger transformation. Trumpism has taken over the Republican Party and the conservative media, making them less intellectual, more nationalistic, and more bigoted. And that takeover has sparked an exodus of more intellectual, less nationalistic, and less bigoted conservatives into the liberal political and journalistic mainstream. How they remake that mainstream—and are remade by it—will shape American public life in the years to come.
Far to many "conservatives" are placing remaining in power or assuaging their prejudices over decency and morality. Leading the way, of course, are evangelical Christians who, in my view, are the most morally bankrupt of the lot.