Saturday, August 06, 2016

Saturday Afternoon Male Beauty

Trump's GOP Enablers Need to Be Held Accountable

As noted in several posts that have compared 2016 America with 1933 Germany, both Hitler and Trump have rose in power and respectability thanks to self-serving politicians who foolishly thought that they could control the demagogue that they believed would increase their own power and/or wealth.  The Germany enablers proved to be terribly wrong and Germany and the world paid a terrible price.  Here in America, there is still time to stop Trump and his racist and fascist agenda.  A column in the New York Times by a long time GOP apologist calls on Trump's enablers to take a stand and put the nation ahead of partisan ship and self-aggrandizement.  Would that this columnist and others would have condemned the GOP over the last 20 years for the hate, racism, homophobia and general misogyny that were used with great calculation to win elections.  Here are column excerpts:
Up through the convention there were all sorts of Republican officeholders who weren’t really for Trump, but they weren’t really against him. They sort of endorsed him implicitly, while trying to change the subject.
They had all sorts of squirrelly formulations about why it was O.K. to ride the Trump train: He can be tamed or surrounded and improved. Sure, he’s got some real weaknesses, but he’s more or less a normal candidate who is at least better than Hillary.
Over the past few days, Trump has destroyed this middle ground. He’s exposed the wet noodle Republicans as suckers, or worse. Trump has shown that he is not a normal candidate. He is a political rampage charging ever more wildly out of control. And no, he cannot be changed.
He cannot be contained because he is psychologically off the chain. With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania in more disturbing forms: inflated self-esteem, sleeplessness, impulsivity, aggression and a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about.
Trump insults Paul Ryan, undermines NATO and raises the specter of nuclear war. Advisers can’t control Trump’s brain because Trump can’t control it himself.
He also cannot be contained because he lacks the inner equipment that makes decent behavior possible. So many of our daily social interactions depend on a basic capacity for empathy. But Trump displays an absence of this quality.
Republicans are not going to be able to help the 70-year-old man-child grow up over the next few months. Nor are they going to be able to get him to withdraw from the race. A guy who can raise $82 million mostly in small donations has a passionate niche following.
But they can at least get out of the enabling business. First, they can acknowledge that they are being sucked down a nihilistic whirlpool. Second, they can acknowledge the long-term damage being done to the country and to themselves.
Amid the chaos, all sorts of ugliness is surfacing. See the video of the horrific things shouted at Trump rallies compiled by Times reporters. Moreover, Trump is permanently tainting the names of conservatism and the Republican Party and the many good men and women who have built and served it.
Events are going to force Republicans off the fence. For the past many months Republican leaders have been condemning Trump’s acts while sticking with Trump the man. Trump is making that position ridiculous and shameful. You either stand with a man whose very essence is an insult to basic decency, or you don’t.
Those who don’t will have to start building a Republican Party in Exile. They will have to tell the country what they honestly think of Donald Trump. They will have to build a parallel campaign structure that will survive if Trump implodes, a structure of congressional and local candidates.
There comes a time when neutrality and laying low become dishonorable. If you’re not in revolt, you’re in cahoots. When this period and your name are mentioned, decades hence, your grandkids will look away in shame.

Sadly, I am not holding my breath to see what Brooks calls for to happen.  The GOP sold its soul long ago to Christofascist, racists, and white supremacists.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Olympic Hotie

Olympic swimmer - China

More Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Trump and a Sore Loser Uprising

While thankfully the polls suggest that Donald Trump - and, if we are lucky, many others in the GOP - is headed toward electoral disaster in November (a poll has Hillary up 4 points in GEORGIA), Trump seemingly remains set on trying to destroy American democracy.  If he fails to win and cannot take the country down the road to fascism and open racism, then he appears to want to fan the flames of resentment or even violent confrontation among his increasingly ugly base which the New York Times effectively revealed with video clips from his rallies.  It is as if we are reliving a 2016 version of 1933 Germany.   A column in the New York Times looks at how Trump, but more importantly, his mindless, hate-filled followers pose a grave threat to America.  Here are excerpts:
After a week in which Donald Trump insulted babies and their mothers and war heroes and their families, and threw in fire marshals for good measure, the scariest thing to come out of his team of thugs and political mercenaries is this: the suggestion that civil unrest could follow if he’s denied the presidency.
When the Supreme Court handed George W. Bush the White House in 2000 even though he lost the popular vote, Al Gore graciously conceded and faded away. When Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama four years ago although his internal polls showed a Republican triumph, he congratulated the winner and went off to rediscover his many grandchildren.
But this year, facing a likely trouncing in November, Trump has signaled that he will try to bring down our democracy with him. His overlooked comment — “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged” — is the opening move in a scheme to delegitimize the outcome.
Because Trump is consistently barbaric and such a prolific liar, it’s hard to sustain outrage over any one of his serial scandals. But his pre-emptive attack on the electoral process is very troubling.
To understand what Trump is up to, listen to his doppelgänger, the veteran political operative Roger Stone. He will say things that even Trump will not say, usually as a way to allow Trump to later repeat some variant of them.
It was Stone who called a CNN commentator a “stupid Negro” and accused the Gold Star parents of Capt. Humayun Khan of being Muslim Brotherhood agents. And it was Stone who threatened to give out the hotel room numbers of unsupportive Republicans at the party convention, the better for the Trumpian mob to find them.
Picking up on Trump’s rigged-election meme, Stone told a right-wing news outlet that the electoral fix was already in: “The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in.” The outcome is fair only if Trump wins.
“If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience,” he said.
It would be laughable if the campaign were simply laying down the grand excuse for the label that will follow the tyrant from Trump Tower after Nov. 8 — loser. But Trump has crossed all barriers of precedent and civility, from waging an openly racist campaign to loose talk about nuclear weapons. He has challenged the independence of the judiciary system, and called for a religious test for entry into this nation. With this latest tactic, he’s trying to destabilize the country itself after he’s crushed.
Let’s talk about the basis for his sore loser uprising — the gaming of the system. . . . there is virtually no evidence of modern American elections being fixed.  Studying national elections from 2000 to 2014, and looking at 834 million ballots cast, Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School found a total of 31 instances of credible voter fraud. Yes, 31.
Trump’s evidence? “I just hear things and I just feel it.” Yeah, he hears things. Like Russia not actually taking over Crimea. Like President Obama not being an American citizen. Like the N.F.L. writing him an imaginary letter. “The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development,” he said this week. “We may have people vote 10 times.”
Nationwide rigging, though difficult to do in a system with more than 9,000 voting jurisdictions, is more likely to come from Russian efforts at hacking voting machines, given Vladimir Putin’s apparent attempt to tip things in favor of his fellow authoritarian, the unstable Donald Trump.
With his inability to process basic information, Trump has gone down this road before. After the 2012 contest, which Romney lost by nearly five million votes, Trump said: “This election is a total sham and travesty. We are not a democracy.” The last statement, judging by the groundwork he’s doing for this November, looks more like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
 Be afraid - very afraid.  If you care about America, get out and vote AGAINST Trump come November.  The future depends on it. 

The GOP Has Become an Identity Movement, Not a Political Party

One of the milestones to the Republican Party's journey to the  foul movement that it has become was the rise of the Tea Party largely in reaction to the election of first black (actually, half black) president.  The seething hatred and fear that the Christofascists had brought to the GOP began to truly metastasize.  The Tea Party (which identity wise was 85% conservative Christian) claimed to be all about reining in big government and reducing government spending, but beneath the surface it was really about reimposing white evangelical Christian control of the nation.  Targeted spending always fell on programs viewed as aiding minorities while huge government handouts to large corporations was just fine.  As was ever increasing military spending.   A piece in Salon looks at the reality of the Tea Party and the identity politics of today's GOP - something that was stupidly ignored by the media for too long.  Sadly, it took the ugliness of Donald Trump to finally jar some folks to open their eyes. Here are some highlights:
In 2009, shortly after America elected its first African-American president, the Tea Party was born. The movement was sold as a grassroots explosion of conservatism. Middle America had had enough. Big government spending was out of control. The debt was a national crisis. We were bankrupting future generations of Americans. That none of these people were troubled by the previous 8 years under George W. Bush was more than a little suspicious. After all, it was Bush who dumped trillions of dollars into unwinnable wars. It was Bush who added nearly $6 trillion to the debt. It was Bush that signed the first bank bailout.
But when Obama was elected, fiscal conservatives found religion.
It was always clear the Tea Party had nothing to do with policy or ideology. It wasn’t about spending or ObamaCare care or entitlements or state tyranny. This was a myth propagated by the silent financiers of the movement. The Tea Party was mobilized by the groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, both of which were financed by the Koch brothers. Indeed, these groups were formerly a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was founded in 1984 by the Kochs.
The Kochs created the first national website for the Tea Party and used the group to promote their Randian free market fetishism. But the movement itself had almost nothing to do with economics. On the ground, it was obvious this was about something broader, more fundamental. These were mostly white people (89 percent, in fact) reacting against cultural change. 75 percent of Tea Partiers were 45 years old or older, and 60 percent were men. They were united by a nebulous cocktail of ethnocentrism and white nationalism. A black man was president and they suddenly wanted to “Take the country back.”
The sentiments let loose by the Tea Party never went away. They’ve festered for eight years. Last year, Donald Trump read the political winds and set sail on this sea of cultural angst. Lest we forget, he launched his campaign by embracing birtherism, and he rocketed to the top of the Republican polls. “This is the day we take our country back,” he told supporters back in February. It was never explained what that phrase meant, but the slogan implied the answers. For the “silent majority” at least, it was well understood.
Trump’s nomination has brought the GOP’s race problem to a head. The Tea Party is the Republican Party. The fringe is now the base, and the base is neither conservative nor ideological. As I noted Thursday, political science research shows that Republicans, despite being more likely to hold racist beliefs, have rarely voted on the basis of those beliefs – not consciously in any case. But that changed with Trump. Racial enmity appears to be the motivating factor among his supporters. The only other comparably strong predictor of Trump support is anti-Muslim attitudes. There is, in other words, no pretense of conservatism. Trump voters are impelled by race and nativism.
If you’re not convinced ideology is irrelevant, consider Trump’s new infrastructure plan. As my colleague Simon Maloy pointed out, it’s a trillion dollar government stimulus program. Conservative writer Jonathan Tobin rightly compared it to Obama’s stimulus package, only bigger and, presumably, more socialist.  . . . . You won’t hear Trump voters complain about it and you won’t hear his Republican apologists calling him a liberal statist. Once again: ideology has been reduced a prop.
Trump’s ideological heresy goes beyond spending. Recall his open hostility to free trade, a sacrosanct principle among conservatives. If Trump wasn’t riding this wave of racial resentment, I suspect we’d hear a lot more about his protectionism. But the base hardly noticed it. They don’t care about free trade any more than they do limited government, which is to say they don’t care about conservatism. Trump may be ideologically incoherent, but he’s signaled that he’s with his supporters on the cardinal issue – racial identity. Everything else is noise.
Now the Republican establishment has a crisis it can’t contain. By bringing the racial resentment out into full view, Trump has cut through the veneer of conservatism that concealed the driving force of Republican politics.  The cultural hysteria is all that’s left.
To race and nativism, I would also add a huge dose of religious extremism.  It's no coincidence that the 2016 GOP platform is the most anti-LGBT in history.  Anything that challenges the GOP base's mythical view of the real America - including that it was founded as a Christian nation - is to be opposed.  Hence Trump's promise to "family values" hate groups that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would over turn the Court's same sex marriage ruling.  The entire movement ultimately is restoring white conservative Christian control of the country - even if it takes a thrice divorced adultery who is the antithesis of Christ's message to do so. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Friday, August 05, 2016

Sanders Endorses Hillary in LA Times Op-Ed

In a lengthy Los Angeles Times op-ed, Bernie Sanders made the case for his supporters to rally to and vote for Hillary Clinton.  While Sanders does not explicitly say this, staying home or voting for a Libertarian Candidate or Green Party candidate is a de facto vote for Donald Trump, a man whose policies, if elected, would be the antithesis of what Sanders has fought for - not to mention the Gospel message that Republicans claim to worship.  Hopefully, Sanders still disgruntled supporters will listen to Sanders and mobilize to make sure that Trump and the GOP go down to a crushing defeat in November.  Here are op-ed highlights:
Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and I will vigorously support her.
Donald Trump would be a disaster and an embarrassment for our country if he were elected president. His campaign is not based on anything of substance — improving the economy, our education system, healthcare or the environment. It is based on bigotry. He is attempting to win this election by fomenting hatred against Mexicans and Muslims. He has crudely insulted women. And as a leader of the “birther movement,” he tried to undermine the legitimacy of our first African American president. That is not just my point of view. That’s the perspective of a number of conservative Republicans.
In these difficult times, we need a president who will bring our nation together, not someone who will divide us by race or religion, not someone who lacks an understanding of what our Constitution is about. 
On virtually every major issue facing this country and the needs of working families, Clinton’s positions are far superior to Trump’s. Our campaigns worked together to produce the most progressive platform in the history of American politics. Trump’s campaign wrote one of the most reactionary documents.
Clinton understands that Citizens United has undermined our democracy. She will nominate justices who are prepared to overturn that Supreme Court decision, which made it possible for billionaires to buy elections. Her court appointees also would protect a woman’s right to choose, workers’ rights, the rights of the LGBT community, the needs of minorities and immigrants and the government’s ability to protect the environment. 
Trump, on the other hand, has made it clear that his Supreme Court appointees would preserve the court’s right-wing majority.
Clinton understands that in a competitive global economy we need the best-educated workforce in the world. She and I worked together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family in this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less – 83% of our population – will be able to go to a public college or university tuition free. This proposal also substantially reduces student debt. 
Clinton understands that at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, it is absurd to provide huge tax breaks to the very rich. 
Trump, on the other hand, wants billionaire families like his to enjoy hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax breaks.
Clinton understands that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is one of the great environmental crises facing our planet. She knows that we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and move aggressively to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. 
Trump, on the other hand, like most Republicans, rejects science and the conclusions of almost all major researchers in the field.
Clinton understands that this country must move toward universal healthcare. She wants to see that all Americans have the right to choose a public option in their healthcare exchange, that anyone 55 or older should be able to opt in to Medicare, and that we must greatly improve primary healthcare through a major expansion of community health centers. She also wants to lower the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs. 
And what is Donald Trump’s position on healthcare? He wants to abolish the Affordable Care Act, throw 20 million people off the health insurance they currently have and cut Medicaid for lower-income Americans.
I understand that many of my supporters are disappointed by the final results of the nominating process, but being despondent and inactive is not going to improve anything. Going forward and continuing the struggle is what matters. And, in that struggle, the most immediate task we face is to defeat Donald Trump.

Former CIA Director Endorses Hillary Clinton

While much of the GOP base is about as sane as a dog with rabies, more and more rational people of all political affiliations are coming to the conclusion that Donald Trump in the White House constitute a serious danger to the nation.  A case  in point is former CIA Director Michael J. Morell who endorsed Hillary Clinton in an op-ed in the New York Times.  In it, Morell states "Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security."  Personally, I agree with that assessment 100%.  Note that Morell has worked under 6 presidents, three Democrat and three Republican,  Here are op-ed excerpts:
During a 33-year career at the Central Intelligence Agency, I served presidents of both parties — three Republicans and three Democrats. I was at President George W. Bush’s side when we were attacked on Sept. 11; as deputy director of the agency, I was with President Obama when we killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
I am neither a registered Democrat nor a registered Republican. In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties. As a government official, I have always been silent about my preference for president.
No longer. On Nov. 8, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. Between now and then, I will do everything I can to ensure that she is elected as our 45th president.
Two strongly held beliefs have brought me to this decision. First, Mrs. Clinton is highly qualified to be commander in chief. I trust she will deliver on the most important duty of a president — keeping our nation safe. Second, Donald J. Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.
I spent four years working with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, most often in the White House Situation Room. In these critically important meetings, I found her to be prepared, detail-oriented, thoughtful, inquisitive and willing to change her mind if presented with a compelling argument.
I also saw the secretary’s commitment to our nation’s security; her belief that America is an exceptional nation that must lead in the world for the country to remain secure and prosperous; her understanding that diplomacy can be effective only if the country is perceived as willing and able to use force if necessary; and, most important, her capacity to make the most difficult decision of all — whether to put young American women and men in harm’s way.
I never saw her bring politics into the Situation Room. In fact, I saw the opposite. When some wanted to delay the Bin Laden raid by one day because the White House Correspondents Dinner might be disrupted, she said, “Screw the White House Correspondents Dinner.”
In sharp contrast to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has no experience on national security. Even more important, the character traits he has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.
These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.
The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.
Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.
My training as an intelligence officer taught me to call it as I see it. This is what I did for the C.I.A. This is what I am doing now. Our nation will be much safer with Hillary Clinton as president. 

Trump May Start Dragging GOP Senate Candidates Down With Him

In follow up to a previous post this morning, a piece at FiveThirtyEight suggests that Paul Ran may be justified in his fears of what awaits the GOP in November.  I for one sincerely hope that November is brutal to the GOP.  Here are article excerpts:
Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have a good handle on what’s going on in the Senate races this year. After previously predicting that Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona would lose in the fall (Flake isn’t up for re-election this year), Trump went after Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire this week, saying, “I’m beating her in the polls by a lot.” But Ayotte is running ahead of Trump in New Hampshire, earning a higher share of support in her race than Trump is against Hillary Clinton in the Granite State.
In fact, Republicans in most Senate battlegrounds are running ahead of Trump in their states. That may last, increasing the chances that the GOP hangs on to their Senate majority. But it’s also possible that Trump begins to drag down his party’s down-ballot candidates.
Right now, Republicans hold 54 Senate seats to the Democrats’ 46. In order to take control of the Senate, Democrats need to pick up four seats if Clinton wins the presidency and five if she doesn’t.  Of the 34 Senate seats up for grabs in 2016, here are the 10 that are closest to changing parties, according to the current polling averages: Arizona,2 Florida,3 Illinois,4Missouri, Nevada,5 New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvaniaand Wisconsin. All these seats, with the exception of Nevada’s, are currently held by Republicans,
 Trump is doing far worse in these states than the Republicans running for Senate in them . . . . The only state where Trump isn’t doing at least 3 percentage points worse than his party’s Senate candidate is Wisconsin, where he is still running behind Sen. Ron Johnson at this time. On average, Trump is running nearly 7 percentage points behind the Republican candidates for Senate.
 Unless Trump’s position improves, Republicans will be able to maintain control of the Senate only if enough voters split their tickets, voting Republican for the Senate but not in the presidential race. . . . . But all those Republican candidates are leading by 5 percentage points or less. In the last presidential election cycle, 2012, a number of Republican Senate candidates faded down the stretch, and some, such as Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, lost healthy-sized leads as the summer turned to fall. In an era in which fewer people are splitting their tickets, the advantages currently enjoyed by the Republican candidates for Senate aren’t secure. If Trump’s troubles continue or worsen, he could take down these Republican candidates with them. . . . . If that happens across the country and Trump continues to trail, it could lead to a Democratic majority in the Senate come 2017.

Monday Male Beauty - Pt 3

Did Paul Ryan Just Predict a Hillary Landslide

The lack of principle and decency that has come to define the Republican Party is disgusting as are those in the GOP who pretend to be "thoughtful" and "guided by religious belief" even as they press for a drastic reverse Robin Hood policy agenda that mocks the Gospel message.  Few are more despicable in my mind than House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Thankfully, Ryan faces a primary challenge by precisely the type of far right nutcase that the GOP has carefully cultivated.   Even if Ryan wins, I find it delicious that he is now the target of an effort that is reminiscent of what took down Virginia congressman Eric Cantor.   This embrace of ignorance and normalization of the insane is what set the stage for Donald Trump's candidacy.  Now, belatedly, some think Ryan realized a much deserved disaster awaits in November. Here are excerpts from a piece in the Washington Post:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) sent an urgent fundraising appeal Thursday evening that warned: “If we fail to protect our majority in Congress, we could be handing President Hillary Clinton a blank check.”
Whether or not it was intentional, the phrase “blank check” has a political echo — one that suggests a deep fear by congressional Republicans that a sinking presidential candidate could take their majorities in the House and Senate with him, and that they are getting ready to desert him.
It goes back 20 years, to an infamous chapter in internecine Republican politics. In the weeks before the 1996 presidential election, as it became clearer and clearer that GOP nominee Bob Dole would not defeat incumbent president Bill Clinton, Republican operatives began urging their struggling congressional candidates to begin making the argument: “Let’s not give Clinton a blank check.”
In late October of that year, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $4 million on television ads in 50 congressional districts where races were close. The final shot was of a blank check hovering over the Capitol dome. It was signed: “American taxpayer.”
For Dole, the implication that even his own party had given up on him was a devastating blow.
Ryan used the words “blank check” at least three times Thursday, as Trump sat below Clinton in the polls and continued to deal with the aftermath of controversies of his own making. This week, Trump refused to endorse Ryan in the Wisconsin Republican primary and praised Ryan’s underdog opponent, Paul Nehlen. It was a snub that angered many Republican leaders.
Katie Martin, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the historical comparison is unfair.  “There is no news here, nothing to read into, no secret message about the upcoming elections,” Martin said in an email. “The possibility of giving Hillary Clinton a Congress led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be an unmitigated disaster for the American people — as it was 8 years ago with President Obama.”
However, they also have a standard-bearer who is far more toxic. In 1996, Dole was viewed positively by most voters, even as he lost. Trump, on the other hand, has the most unfavorable ratings of any candidate ever to lead a major party ticket since the advent of polling.
When asked whether there would ever be a point at which he would abandon Trump, Ryan said of his endorsement: “None of these things are ever blank checks.”
The email is signed “Speaker Paul Ryan” and includes this P.S.: “We cannot afford to give Hillary Clinton a blank check if she’s elected president. We need a strong, conservative majority in Congress as our last line of defense.”

Trump is a Frankenstein monster of the GOP's own creation.  I for one hope he kills the GOP instead of vice versa.  The GOP deserves to die at this point.

Is Trump Alienating Military Communities?

Here in Virginia the key to carrying the state in state-wide elections is to win in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, the home of a huge military population.  Earlier in the Week the Virginian Pilot carried an editorial slamming Donald Trump's attacks on and slights to the military and individuals such as the Khan family who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.  Here are highlights:
[T]there comes a time when principle must take precedence over partisanship. That time is now.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan moved to the United States in the 1970s. He is a lawyer by trade, and they are now residents of Charlottesville. In 2004, their son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a native of the United Arab Emirates and a graduate of the University of Virginia, was killed while serving in Iraq.
The family’s sacrifice, like those of other fallen soldiers, is incalculable and can never be repaid, even by a grateful nation. But it might have gone unnoticed by most Americans were it not for the Khans’ decision to speak on Thursday evening at the Democratic National Convention.
In a powerful address, Khizr Khan took aim at Donald Trump, assailing the candidate’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States and questioning what he has done in service to this nation.  They were pointed words. And they found their mark, drawing the ire of the notoriously thin-skinned Trump.
Finally, when asked by George Stephanopoulos about Khan’s charge that he has sacrificed nothing, Trump responded, “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.
It’s despicable to compare difficulties in business to the loss of a loved one on the battlefield. And it’s unconscionable for a politician to malign a Gold Star family in order to deflect criticism.
[T]hose who represent Hampton Roads, home to so many men and women who willingly march into harm’s way on our nation’s behalf, cannot be silent.
If he wins in November, Trump will be commander in chief of the armed forces. He will be entrusted with the power to send troops into danger.
To treat one family’s sacrifice so dismissively and cavalierly calls into question his fitness for that role. A man who cannot summon the humanity to empathize with the Khans has no place in the Oval Office.
A piece in the New York Times suggests that a growing number of military families and voters may be reaching the same conclusion about Trump's unfitness for office.  Imagine an impulsive man, with no empathy for others recklessly putting the lives of our military men and women at risk on a whim. It's terrifying.  Here are highlights from the Times:
Mr. Trump’s grating comments about the armed services have plainly become an obstacle to courting voters he must convert if he is to overtake Mrs. Clinton in the polls.
For some Republicans and independent voters intrigued by Mr. Trump, his conduct around the military remains a sticking point. In Colorado Springs, near the Air Force Academy and the headquarters of the United States Northern Command, Marianne Quast, the mother of an Air Force veteran, said she had been drawn to Mr. Trump’s bluntness earlier in the campaign. Now, Ms. Quast said, she resents Mr. Trump’s disrespectful language about the military, including his response to the Khans and his joke about the Purple Heart. She said she trembled at the thought of her son serving under such a volatile president.
“I’d honestly worry about a third world war. All those poor kids still serving. God forbid we elect Trump,” Ms. Quast said. She added, “Clearly Trump has no respect for veterans, no matter what he says.”
Mr. Trump has continued to face reproach from prominent veterans in elected office this week. Mr. McCain released a searing statement on Monday invoking his own family’s long history of military service to denounce Mr. Trump’s comments about the Khans. On Wednesday, Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he could not vote for Mr. Trump.
Advocates for veterans have spoken out against Mr. Trump. The Veterans of Foreign Wars called his comments about the Khans inexcusable.
In some pockets of the extended military community, Mr. Trump has become a source of disagreement among friends.
In Portsmouth, Bill Pierson, a V.F.W. and American Legion volunteer, said he believed strongly in Mr. Trump and would give him the benefit of the doubt on a handful of ill-advised remarks.
But Phil Young, a 27-year veteran of the Army and the Marines, walking alongside Mr. Pierson, was uneasier about the Republican nominee, sharing reservations that underscore the roadblocks confronting Mr. Trump. Mr. Young, 61, said he was a registered Republican but was still undecided about his vote. “The Purple Heart thing didn’t endear him with me, and also what he said about John McCain being a P.O.W.,” Mr. Young said. He added, “I find what he says about the military interesting, considering that he never served.”

Let's hope a majority of military families in Hampton Roads decide that they do not want to put their lives or the lives of family members in the hands of a narcissistic madman. 

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The GOP’s Cynical Election Strategy is Imploding

4th Circuit Court of Appeals
As if Donald Trump's bizarre behavior isn't enough to rattle Republicans who support his Neo-Fascist approach to governance and open racism, last week several federal court rulings could torpedo the GOP plan to win swing states by disenfranchising voters.  As noted many times, these GOP backed laws purport to protect against voter fraud - even though such fraud is virtually non-existent - while the real goal is to limit minority voting so that the dwindling white voter base that is critical to GOP wins can still prevail not withstanding significant demographic change across the nation.  A piece in Salon looks at how this despicable plan seems to be imploding thanks to the federal courts.  Here are excerpts:
As Donald Trump enmeshed himself in a bitter fight with the parents of an American Muslim military hero — and Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and John McCain looked to put distance between themselves and their party’s presidential nominee — there’s actually worse news for Republicans.
Several important court victories for voting rights since Friday could dramatically remake the campaign for Congress and the White House, and this time, GOP leadership may have a harder time distancing themselves from un-American tactics.
When an outraged 4th Circuit Court struck down several North Carolina voting restrictions on Friday — including a stringent voter-ID provision, tough limits on early voting and an end to same-day registration — the panel of federal judges wrote that these “new provisions target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The judges stopped just short of calling the Republican legislators who crafted the laws racist, but condemned the racist result in unusually direct language. “We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.”
Meanwhile in Wisconsin, a federal judge issued a similar ruling Friday and struck a similarly appalled tone as he invalidated several recent efforts by the state legislature to tighten voter-ID requirements, limit absentee voting and shorten the windows for early voting. Judge James Peterson called the provisions a “wretched failure” and ruled, “A preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement.”
These judges — as well as those who knocked down similarly restrictive provisions in Kansas and Texas in recent days — might well have been ruling on the GOP’s very electoral strategy this decade. It is a concerted effort to grab control of state legislatures and the House of Representatives by the minority party, and it has been staggeringly effective.
First, Republicans used their big win in 2010 to radically gerrymander the House of Representatives and state legislatures nationwide during the decennial redistricting, using dark money and cutting-edge mapmaking technology to create a majority of districts that were whiter and more conservative, even as America as a whole becomes less white and less conservative.
Then these gerrymandered legislatures — unearned supermajorities in states like North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, for example, where Republicans drew such effective and unbeatable lines that they took veto-proof control of chambers despite winning fewer overall votes — pushed for new laws designed to make it even harder for minorities to vote and, ultimately, for Democrats to win.
These judges — as well as those who knocked down similarly restrictive provisions in Kansas and Texas in recent days — might well have been ruling on the GOP’s very electoral strategy this decade.
It is no coincidence that 17 states have enacted new voting restrictions just in time for the 2016 presidential election — or that 22 states have toughened access to the ballot box since 2010. Here are those 17 states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In North Carolina — home to perhaps the most gerrymandered legislature in America — the judges were even more emphatic as they connected the dots between the GOP-implemented voter-ID laws and the desire on behalf of Republicans to tamp down the turnout of minority voters unlikely to cast ballots for conservatives. Their ruling painstakingly dismisses any problem with voter fraud in North Carolina, and compiles voluminous evidence that “the ‘problem’ the majority in the General Assembly sought to remedy was emerging support for the minority party.” The legislature, according to the ruling, “unmistakably” sought to “entrench itself” by “targeting voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party.”
[I]n the last two weeks, the GOP’s crafty and cynical strategy of both remapping America’s legislative districts and suppressing minority votes officially imploded.
Republicans remain overwhelming favorites to retain the House for the rest of the decade. But suppressing the minority vote in 2020 — a presidential election year when more Democrats turn out, and also the next key year for redistricting — was essential to the GOP strategy of holding on to these gerrymandered gains for another decade.
Democrats still have to win, state by state, a majority of seats in districts algorithmically determined to ensure their defeat. That already uphill task, however, seems slightly less Herculean when these voter-ID bills are systematically thrown out by courts and seen for what they are: One party standing in front of the polls and trying to block minorities from exercising their most basic and essential American right to vote.
 Yes, Virginia is one of the states where voter ID laws were passed to depress minority voting.  Indeed, the Virginia GOP has become so racist that at times I have wondered when KKK robes would be handed out before the beginning of every city and county committee meeting. 

Gay Republicans are Flocking to Hillary Clinton

I was a Republican for the majority of my adult life and came from a family of Republicans. However, having watched the GOP slide to hate and extremism for some time now - I resigned from my city committee seat years ago - I have argued for some time that unless one is (i) a self-loathing LGBT individual, perhaps still scarred by a fundamentalist religious upbringing, and/or (ii) an extremely wealthy, self-centered individual (such as billionaire Peter Thiel) whose wealth insulates them from the discrimination that the rest of us face, there is no way that someone who is LGBT can support the Republican Party or its candidates at any level of government, including the presidency. As Metro Weekly is reporting, some gay Republicans have seemingly "seen the light" - or pulled their heads out of their asses - and are flocking to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.  Here are some article highlights:
With three months until Election Day, Joe Swartz, a 32-year-old gay conservative, is doing the unthinkable: Supporting Hillary Clinton for president.
“I’m part of an organization called Republicans for Hillary. And we have been lambasted significantly by many Republicans about what terrible turncoats we are, how much we need to change our affiliation, and ‘My God, Trump is not great, but the alternative is Hillary,'” says Swartz. “And I say, ‘Exactly. The alternative is Hillary.’
“Imagine how low the bar of your candidates has to be,” he continues, “that people who have been on your side for 10, 20 years, people who have gone out and volunteered for Republican campaigns, are now voting for Hillary Clinton, someone they naturally loathed, because she has a modicum of normalcy.”
It’s a dramatic turnaround from 2015, when Swartz was confident Republicans would take back the White House. “We were gearing up to the idea that this is the end of eight years of Democratic rule,” he says. “It was really ours to lose.”
But then Donald Trump started winning primaries, and everything changed. After Trump had cemented his victory, Clinton became the only viable option for Swartz.
Swartz could be written off as a disgruntled Republican who can’t accept the result of the primaries, but as Trump becomes the figurehead of the GOP, several prominent Republicans and fiscal conservatives have begun to distance themselves from the party. And that means weighing the possibility of supporting Clinton for the presidency.
On Monday, Sally Bradshaw, a top advisor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a lifelong Republican, announced she was officially switching her party affiliation to independent, and refusing to vote for Trump. Bradshaw told CNN in an email that, if the race was close in Florida, she would be casting her ballot for Clinton.
“But,” she added, “we are at a crossroads and have nominated a total narcissist — a misogynist — a bigot. This is a time when country has to take priority over political parties. Donald Trump cannot be elected president.”
On Tuesday, Congressman Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) became the first Republican member of Congress to come out in support of Clinton’s candidacy. 
Jimmy LaSalvia, the former co-founder of the LGBT conservative group GOProud, is another Hillary convert. . . . Trump’s actions on the campaign trail and his vision for the GOP have forced LaSalvia to “shed his partisan loyalty” and leave the Republican Party. It’s made the unthinkable — voting for Hillary Clinton — a reality.
“Hillary Clinton has been the enemy my entire adult life,” he says. “I never thought I’d vote for a Clinton, but there’s just no choice here. And even for people who aren’t ready to admit they’re for Hillary, more and more people will start to consider her, even if they’d never considered voting Democrat before.”
Another Republican risking their political career is Yale Scott, a George W. Bush appointee who worked in the White House and the State Department. He’s as Republican as they come, something all but ensured by growing up in Oklahoma. But now, the 36-year-old is supporting Clinton, fundraising for her, and volunteering at campaign events.
“I definitely still align myself with a strong faith and being fiscally conservative, but this election is so important because Donald Trump is dangerous for our country,” says Scott. “I feel like he’s a loose cannon.