Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The GOP is Becoming the Party of Putin

As a history major in college with an emphasis on Russian history - I even had the late Anna Anderson as a neighbor in Charlottesville for two years - I have never feared or disliked the Russian people.  Their leaders for close to the last 99 years, however, are another matter and the nation's current dictator, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative, is in many ways just as frightening as Josef Stalin who murdered millions of his own people. Add to this the fact that other than during the interlude of World War II, Russia has not been an ally of America since the fall of Nicholas II and then the Provisional Government.  Instead, Russia - because of its leaders - has been a consistent devious and manipulating enemy of America and American interests.  Yet, we know see Donald Trump praising Putin, a man who has allowed cronies to financially rape Russia and who is believed to have had political opponents murdered and rigged election.  Worse yet, Trump has suggested that America might ignore or revoke treaties with European allies and others.  Frighteningly, many in the GOP base seem utterly fine with this insanity and ignore the fact that Trump may see Putin's leadership methods what he'd like to adopt if Americans are insane enough to put him in the White House.  A piece in Salon looks at this bizarre situation.  Here are excerpts:
After telling a room full of military veterans during NBC News’ “Commander-in-Chief Forum” that their current commander in chief is a weaker leader than Russian President Vladmir Putin (citing the dictator’s high approval rating), Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared on the Kremlin-funded news outlet Russia Today. There he defended the former KGB officer from allegations of hacking into the Democratic National Committee — and now many of his most prominent campaign surrogates are following suit.
“I think it’s probably unlikely,” Trump told RT America’s Larry King on Thursday, suggesting that “maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows?” Putin has called the hacking of Democratic officials’ email accounts a “public service” but has denied Russian involvement.
In July, Trump had said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
And while Trump has certainly made no secret of his admiration for the Russian strongman — “He’s been a leader far more than our president has been a leader,” he told moderator Matt Lauer on Wednesday — he’s managed to add some of the Republican Party’s most conservative voices to the baffling praise of Putin.
“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said, echoing his running mate on Thursday.
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski also repeated the seemingly Kremlin-assigned talking points: “I think that for his people, Vladmir Putin has been a fighter”

Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa argued that the Russian leader was a far superior leader to the American president, citing the nationalism incited by the Sochi Olympics.
Of course, Putin extinguished Russia’s nascent democracy, persecuted and murdered Russians and embarked on needless wars to assert dominance in the region, but conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt still argued he has “served his country’s national interest better” than President Obama. 
To be certain, Trump’s overt praise of the Russian strongman is hardly a new tone for modern conservatives, who have for years lauded Putin in an effort to attack President Obama.

Trump Promises to Force Taxpayers to Underwrite Political Activities of Churches

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution bars the establishment of and religious denomination, the original intent being that no citizen should be forced to provide financial support to a church to which they did not belong or believe in.  Over the intervening years, however, American taxpayers have been forced to indirectly support churches through the tax-exempt status afforded under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code under the ruse that churches are charitable institutions that do charitable works benefiting the general public.  One of the trade offs for such forced indirect taxpayer support has been that churches cannot engage in political activity or endorse candidates.  The sad reality is that studies have shown that most churches spend tiny fractions of their revenues on true charitable works.  Likewise, despite the ban on political activity, many churches and clergy engage in blatant partisanship activities and/or endorse candidates. As bad as all this is, Donald Trump has promised those gathered at the hate fest known as the "Value Voters Summit" that he would remove all restrictions on political activities by religious organizations.  Thus, taxpayers would be further forced to subsidize churches actively working against their interests and, in the case of LGBT citizens, their very civil rights.  Here are highlights from the Wall Street Journal on Trump's promises to the Christofascists:  
Donald Trump on Friday pledged to a raucous room of social conservatives that, if elected, the nation’s Christian heritage “will be cherished, protected, defended like you have never seen before.”
Appearing on Friday afternoon at the Values Voters Summit, Mr. Trump offered a menu of policy proposals aimed at winning over social conservatives who would otherwise seem an ill fit in the thrice-married New York gambling magnate’s coalition.
The Republican presidential nominee vowed to repeal a 62-year-old measure in the tax code known as the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt entities including Churches from making political endorsements. He said he would direct federal education aid to religious schools, condemned the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, praised the “unbreakable faith and spirit” of the black church, and said politicians had “abandoned” Christians.
 “The Johnson Amendment has blocked our pastors and ministers and others from speaking their minds from their own pulpits,” he said. “If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach, if they want to talk about politics, they’re unable to do so… If they want to, they take a tremendous risk: that they lose their tax-exempt status. If I become president, we’re going to knock out the Johnson amendment.”
The Family Research Council, the event’s organizer, said Mr. Trump’s speech and his running mate Mike Pence’s appearance on Saturday mark the first time a GOP presidential ticket has addressed the conference in its 11-year history.
Mr. Trump is the first GOP nominee to make the Johnson Amendment a major campaign issue. Many pastors already flout the tax law, all-but-endorsing both Republican and Democratic candidates from their pulpits by inviting them to their churches and singing their praises. They do so largely with impunity.
Mr. Trump used much of the rest of his speech to connect campaign promises to Christian priorities. Referencing a policy proposal to strengthen “school choice” that he unveiled the day before, Mr. Trump said he wanted to empower religious families to educate their children in their faith. He sought to blame Mrs. Clinton for the flourishing of ISIS, a group which, he pointed out, has massacred Christians in the region.
Many of the conference’s attendees expressed enthusiasm at Mr. Trump’s appearance, conveying little of the hesitation to embrace him seen during the Republican primary campaign, when many evangelical voters chose Ben Carson and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“I’m a gun-toting, Bible-thumping Christian. I know he’s not,” said Roy Wagers, an accountant from Novi, Mich., who supported Mr. Carson in the primary. “But I think he hasn’t been bought out like the rest of Washington.”
What Trump proposes is the direct opposite of what is needed.  The tax-exempt status of churches needs to be fully revoked.  To the extent a church or religious organization actually engages in true charitable work of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and providing shelter to the homeless and similar activities, those specific operations should be tax-exempt.  Other than that, church property and revenues need to be taxed just like every other business.  Yes, without forced public support via tax-exempt status, many churches would be forced to shut down or consolidate with other churches - just like any other business that peddles a product for which there is lack of a public demand.  For those who want the "fellowship" they find at church, join a club or fraternal organization.  It would likely cost them less and give them the same social opportunities.  I for one am sick and tired of being forced to indirectly support parasitical institutions .

As for the sponsor of the confab of haters Trump addressed, the main organizer is Family Research Council, a certified hate group with strong white supremacists overtones and ties.  That Trump and Pence spoke there shows the lengths to which they will prostitute themselves to gain power.  But then again, during his rise to power, Hitler co-opted many of Germany's churches, so perhaps we should not be surprised.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Friday, September 09, 2016

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Russia Could Spark a U.S. Electoral Disaster

I suspect that the Founding Fathers - except perhaps Thomas Jefferson - could never have imagined the Internet and cyber warfare.  Or that the presidential candidate of one of the nation's main political parties would be praising a ruthless foreign dictator and inviting attacks on American organizations. Yet, that is where we find ourselves with the 2016 presidential election and Russia's (or more to the point, Putin's) apparent desire to rig an American election in favor of a bombastic narcissist whose level of egomania is only exceeded by his ignorance.  Of course, if America had a responsible media and a better educated populace, there would have been far less fertile ground for the rise on a toxic individual like Donald Trump.  A column in the Washington Post outlines what Putin may try and the negative consequences for America.  Here are highlights:
U.S. investigates potential covert Russian plan to disrupt November elections.To those unused to this kind of story, I can imagine that headline, from The Post this week, seemed strange. A secret Russian plot to throw a U.S. election through a massive hack of the electoral system? It sounds like a thriller, or a movie starring Harrison Ford.
In fact, the scenario under investigation has already taken place, in whole or in part, in other countries. Quite a bit of the story is already unfolding in public; strictly speaking, it’s not “secret” or “covert” at all. But because most Americans haven’t seen this kind of game played before (most Americans, quite wisely, don’t follow political news from Central Europe or Ukraine), I think the scenario needs to be fully spelled out. And so, based on Russia’s past tactics in other countries, assuming it acts more or less the same way it acts elsewhere, here’s what could happen over the next two months:
1. Trump, who is advised by several people with Russian links, will repeat and strengthen his “the election is rigged” narrative. The “polls are lying,” the “real” people aren’t being counted, the corrupt elites/Clinton clan/mainstream media are colluding to prevent him from taking office.
2. Russia will continue to distribute and publish the material its hackers have already obtained from attacks on the Democratic National Committee, George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, former NATO supreme commander Gen. Philip Breedlove and probably others. The point will be to discredit not just Hillary Clinton but also the U.S. democratic process and, again, the “elite” who supposedly run it. 
3. On or before Election Day, Russian hackers will seek to hack the U.S. voting system. We certainly know that this is possible: Hackers have already targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona, according to The Post, and the FBI has informed Arizona officials that it suspects Russian hacking teams. Possible breaches are being investigated in several other states, and it’s not hard to imagine that many are vulnerable. The U.S. election system is decentralized and in some places frankly amateurish, as we learned in Florida in 2000.
4. The Russians attempt to throw the election. They might try to get Trump elected. Alternatively — and this would, of course, be even more devastating — they might try to rig the election for Clinton, perhaps leaving a trail of evidence designed to connect the rigging operation to Clinton’s campaign.

5. Once revealed, the result will be media hysteria, hearings, legal challenges, mass rallies, a constitutional crisis — followed by confusion, chaos and an undermining of the office of the presidency. Trump might emerge from the process as president after all. He will then go on, as promised at so many rallies, to “lock her up,” and of course to open a broad relation with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, the only foreign leader he seems to truly admire. Even if Clinton remains as president, she will be tarnished.
6. More likely, the hack will fail, or never even get off the ground. But what’s the downside in trying, or even in letting it be known that it was tried? Rumors of election fraud can create the same hysteria as real election fraud. Already, Russia’s propaganda wire service,, has speculated that The Post’s article on Russian electoral manipulation is a clever plot to “to hide the actual efforts at electoral manipulation” and a “good cover for vote-rigging.” That thought will be tweeted and posted and shared by a whole ecosystem of professional trolls and computer bots, over and over again until it finally shows up on authentic pro-Trump websites.
7. And what’s the downside for Trump? If he wins, he wins. If he loses — then there are all kinds of ways to make money from the “election was rigged” narrative.
Whatever happens, the political process is undermined, social trust plummets further and the appeal of American democracy, both at home and around the world, diminishes. And that, of course, is the point.

Be very afraid.

Matt Lauer’s Gift to Donald Trump

I often complain about the laziness and incompetence of much of the mainstream media.  Indeed, I continue to believe that had the media done its job, the Iraq War might have been avoided. Wednesday night we saw another glaring example of media incompetence when Matt Lauer - whom I have never thought much more than an empty suit - disastrously moderated the supposed forum on national security between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Based on his performance - which thankfully has been widely condemned - Lauer should never, ever again be allowed to report on anything other than inane fluff pieces on weekday afternoon shows.  Rich Lowry has perhaps the best take down of Lauer and NBC for having a "pretty" faced cretin (I don't even think he's that pretty) moderate a serious forum.   Here are excerpts from Lowry's take down in New York Magazine:
Before Wednesday night’s presidential forum had even ended, reporters and fact-checkers were picking apart Matt Lauer’s failure to challenge Donald Trump’s false statements and attacking the parity of his questions. What should the moderators of the upcoming debates take from this?
The moderator of the first presidential debate on September 26 is Lester Holt — like Matt Lauer, an NBC News anchor. If he arrives onstage as poorly prepared as Lauer, and behaves as boorishly toward Hillary Clinton as Lauer, the first debate, likely to be the most-watched presidential debate in the history of broadcasting, is going to be a debacle for the country.
Much ridicule, all deserved, has been aimed at Lauer’s laughably empty reservoir of facts, particularly when questioning the fact-free Trump. (“Questioning” may be an overstatement in this context; Lauer didn’t question Trump so much as feed him anodyne cues to spew any hooey he wanted.) The most widely panned example of the moderator’s failure is particularly galling: Clinton herself said in the forum’s opening round that Trump was initially in favor of the Iraq War, having said so on Howard Stern’s radio show in 2002. But Lauer didn’t even listen to her. When Trump said just minutes later that he had been against the war from the start — and cited a 2004 Esquire article as proof — Lauer not only failed to challenge the conflict between what he said and the truth cited by Clinton but seemed oblivious to the fact that the Iraq War began in 2003.
And let’s not forget that interlude when Trump was claiming that Vladimir Putin is a superior leader to Barack Obama — an outrageous argument that Lauer never challenged. To prove his point, Trump cited “polls” that give Putin an 82 percent approval rating. What polls? Lauer didn’t ask. I dare say Trump could have cited Chinese polls from the 1960s that gave Mao a 100 percent approval rating, and this moderator would have just nodded and moved on to the next topic on his crib sheet.
Lauer came armed with a lot of follow-up questions about Clinton’s email server — fair enough, if he had also brought along follow-up questions for Trump. But he didn’t. When the former Marine officer and National Book Award–winning author Phil Klay (Redeployment) asked Trump how he’d handle the postwar aftermath of deploying American troops overseas, Lauer (who seemed to have no idea who Klay was) let Trump skate off with a bunch of nonsense about grabbing Iraq’s oil rather than ask a follow-up or permit one from the better-informed Klay.
But the problem here wasn’t just that Clinton was grilled and Trump was not. There was a rudeness to Clinton on Lauer’s part reminiscent of Rick Lazio’s paper-waving performance in his debate with Clinton during the 2000 Senate race in New York. Repeatedly, Lauer nagged Clinton to speed up and keep her answers short — a demand he never made of Trump. And during much of Clinton’s half of the program there was the added distraction of people roaming around in the back of the shot while she was speaking. In Trump’s half, the room seemed still, the visual framing of Trump tightly focused. This subtle shift in presentation was an implicit endorsement of the strategy of Trump’s candidacy: that by acting the role of commander-in-chief with alpha-dog bluster and cartoonish command, he can bamboozle voters into believing that there is some content to go with his performance of “leadership.”
Is Lauer a Trump supporter? I doubt it. But his incompetence and double standard have handed Trump a big post–Labor Day gift just as the polls are tightening.
One may believe that the debate over the Clinton Foundation’s transactions with corporations and potentates seeking entrĂ©e to a Clinton State Department or White House is overblown. One may feel the same about the questions surrounding Clinton’s unprofessional and irresponsible handling of her emails. But what is not ambiguous is this: Most Americans, including many Democrats and independents, don’t trust Clinton, and no matter how many examples surface of Trump’s bottomless record of scams and corruption, his malfeasance is not going to translate into more trust for Clinton. She’s going to have to improve her standing by making herself more available to the press and public in unscripted settings and by taking responsibility for her mistakes in human language rather than the lawyerly boilerplate she used again in last night’s forum. In the coming battle over whose supporters turn out on Election Day, she needs voters to feel motivated to vote for her, not just against Trump.
[A]s I first argued in 2014, liberals and Democrats should stop worrying so much about Fox News; its monochromatically white and increasingly geriatric viewership is large (by cable news standards, not overall television standards) but dying off. It is the GOP base, and it will remain loyal to the party even if Fox News were to change its ideological stripes tomorrow or vanish altogether. It’s not too likely that many Americans who don’t watch Fox News might stumble innocently into its confines, watch Sean Hannity, and suddenly become right-wing zealots. Fox is far better at preaching to the converted than making converts out of nonbelievers.
Fox News can’t tilt the 2016 election toward Trump. But as we saw in last night’s farcical forum, NBC News, parent of the liberal-leaning MSNBC, just might do so if it doesn’t get its act together by September 26. 

Lauer epitomizes so much of what is wrong with today's mainstream media.  Perhaps he needs to go back to doing fluff pieces for some backwater local TV market.

Friday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Thursday Evening Male Beauty

Trump to Address Virulently Anti-Gay Hate Groups

Donald Trump and a small percentage of gays who seemingly cannot shake their internalized homophobia continue to presidential candidate for protecting gays.  As noted before, however, Trump's actions tell a far different story than Trump's claims (indeed, Fact Checker has found that at more than 70% of Trump's statements on almost any issue are untrue).  Now, Right Wing Watch ("RWW") reports that Trump - and Mike Pence - will be appearing at Family Research Council's right wing hate fest "Value Voters Summit."  As RWW reports, the gathering is sponsored by the most extreme anti-LGBT groups in the nation (some are certified hate groups) that have actively opposed civil rights for LGBT Americans and have in some case argued for criminalizing homosexuality.  Here are report excerpts:

Donald Trump is scheduled to speak this week at the Values Voter Summit, the annual confab hosted by the Religious Right powerhouse the Family Research Council. While Trump has claimed that he will be a better “friend of LGBT Americans” than Hillary Clinton (just “ask the gays”), his appearance at VVS shows the extent to which he has cozied up with some of the country’s fiercest opponents of LGBT equality, going so far as to offer them their pick of Supreme Court justices. 
Many of the summit’s organizers and speakers have a long history of anti-LGBT rhetoric and promoting anti-LGBT policies, from denigrating gay and lesbian armed service members to falsely linking homosexuality with pedophilia. In fact, a glaring number of VVS participants have defended laws criminalizing homosexuality in the U.S. and around the globe.
While the Religious Right has changed its messaging in recent years to claim that conservative Christians in the U.S. are facing persecution from LGBT rights activists, it was not long ago that many of the same groups were fighting to preserve laws that made gay people criminals—and some still support enacting these policies at home and abroad.
The Family Research Council, which is the chief organizer of the conference, is a case in point. In 2003, when the Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of Texas’ ban on “sodomy” in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case, the FRC filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state. When the court ruled against Texas in the case [Lawrence v. Texas], the FRC called it “a direct attack on the sanctity of marriage” and the group’s president, Tony Perkins, declared, “What’s at stake here is the very foundation of our society, not only of America but all Western civilization.”
Not only has Perkins defended state laws criminalizing same-sex relations, he once defended a notorious anti-gay bill in Uganda that at the time he discussed it proposed life in prison or even the death penalty for people who have sex with someone of the same sex. Perkins lauded this bill as an effort to “uphold moral conduct that protects others and in particular the most vulnerable,” criticizing President Obama for opposing it. The FRC even spent $25,000 to lobby Congress about a resolution denouncing the Ugandan bill—the group later claimed that it didn’t oppose the resolution, it just wanted to make its language less friendly to gay rights. In 2011, FRC asked its members to pray to give Malawi the “courage to withstand U.S. coercion” and maintain its ban on homosexuality.
The American Family Association, another sponsor of the Values Voter Summit, likewise backed Texas in the Lawrence case, writing in the amicus brief that a law like Texas’ could prevent the “injury caused to the public by same-sex sodomy” and would even protect the gay people it targeted by sparing them “illness, disease and death resulting from [their] conduct.” That same year, the AFA published an essay lamenting that the disappearance of sodomy laws showed that “Judeo-Christian views” were being abandoned in favor of “moral relativism.” In 2011, then-AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer said that homosexuality should be a “criminal offense.”
First Liberty, another sponsor of the event, likewise backed Texas in the Lawrence case (under its previous incarnation as the Liberty Legal Institute), with the group’s leader Kelly Shackelford—also a speaker at this year’s VVS—declaring that there is “no constitutional right to engage in homosexual sodomy.” Other figures at the Values Voter Summit have also supported criminal bans on homosexuality.
Other figures at the Values Voter Summit have also supported criminal bans on homosexuality.
Many Religious Right leaders have rallied behind Trump because he has promised to give them their ideal Supreme Court justices and lower court judges. Very recent history shows that these groups aren’t just interested in using the courts to reverse marriage equality—which would be harmful enough on its own—but also to severely roll back years of hard-won legal protections for LGBT people.  

Any LGBT American who believes Trump or, worse yet, votes for him - or almost any Republican, for that matter - needs to have his or her head examined.  They obviously have severe problems and mental deficiencies.

Republicans Seek Distance From Trump's Fondness for "Murderer and Thug" Putin

Many in the Republican Party have either (i) held their noses and supported Donald Trump out of (A) fear of retribution from Trump's deranged supporters or (b) shameless self-promotion, and (ii) put their loyalty to the GOP ahead of the best interests of the country.   Now, many are finding out that self-prostitution for whatever motivation can indeed carry a cost as many in the GOP seek ways to try to explain away Trump's bizarre fondness for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin or put distance between themselves and Trump's praise of Putin.  A piece in The Guardian looks at the GOP tap dance to move away from Putin who is suspected of having had political opponents murdered and consorted with Russian Mafia types.  Here are highlights:
One day after Donald Trump reiterated his admiration for Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian president was a better leader than Barack Obama, Republicans on Capitol Hill struggled to explain why their party’s presidential nominee was enamored with a man they have long cast as one of America’s primary foes.
Many Republicans who returned to Washington this week after the summer recess expressed confidence that Trump was improving as a candidate in both tone and message. But on Thursday, they found themselves in the familiar routine of distancing themselves from Trump’s comments – the latest being his praise for Putin in an NBC News national security forum held on Wednesday.
If you’re running for leader of the free world and you’re expressing admiration for Putin, well then you’re losing me,” Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carolina and former Republican presidential candidate, told reporters.
“I think Vladimir Putin is a thug, a dictator, an autocratic ruler who has his opposition killed in the streets of Russia. He has dismembered his neighbor.”
“This whole idea of admiring Putin is the biggest misunderstanding of a relationship in a person since Munich,” Graham said.
Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida who made his opposition to Putin a central tenet of his own presidential campaign, similarly disagreed with Trump’s assertion that the Russian president was a better leader than Obama.
“Look, I have tremendous policy disagreements with President Obama, but Vladimir Putin is an authoritarian thug who is accountable to no one,” Rubio told the Guardian.
“I don’t think what Vladimir Putin exhibits is leadership. I think what he exhibits is thuggery … and we should be clear-eyed about that,” he added, noting that Putin controlled the media, the military and often his political opponents were either imprisoned or found dead.
While Trump’s habit of making pro-Russia statements is not new, his refusal to adopt the GOP’s hard line against Putin has become a source of discomfort for Republicans.
But Trump, since becoming the nominee, has both continued to extol Putin’s leadership and even called on the Russian government in July to hack Clinton’s emails. While drafting the GOP platform at the Republican national convention in Cleveland, the Trump campaign also fought to eliminate language around arming Ukraine in its fight with Russia – bringing further scrutiny to the ties between Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and pro-Russian interests. (Manafort was let go from the campaign last month.)
The paradox was palpable as many Republicans approached in the hallways of the Senate declined to address Trump’s latest string of pro-Putin comments.
Earlier in the day, the House speaker, Paul Ryan, faced several questions pertaining to Trump’s appearance at the foreign policy town hall. The nation’s top Republican dubbed Putin as “an aggressor who does not share our interests” and suggested Russia was behind state-sponsored cyber-attacks “on what appears to be [the US] political system”.  But Ryan, too, reached his limit while fielding repeated queries about Trump. “I’m not going to stand up here and do a tit-for-tat on what Donald said last night,” he said.
 When looks at those like Paul Ryan and others in the GOP endorsing Trump, the take away is that the nastiest whore has more integrity and moral backbone than most of today's GOP.  If nothing else, the whore is honest in comparison. 

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Dallas Morning News Endorses Clinton, the First Democrat in 75 Years

The last time the Dallas Morning News endorsed a Democrat candidate for president of the United States was over 75 years ago.  That changed yesterday when the newspaper endorsed Hillary Clinton.  Earlier in the week it issued an editorial taking Donald Trump to task and arguing that he was not even a real Republican, noting as follows:
Individual liberty? Trump has displayed an authoritarian streak that should horrify limited-government advocates. This impulsive, unbridled New York real estate billionaire and reality-TV star wants to deport people who were born in the U.S. and don't meet his standard for loyalty. He has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the country, even those escaping Islamist rule, and won't rule out creating a database of Muslims already living here. His open admiration of Russia's Vladimir Putin is alarming.
Trump doesn't reflect Republican ideals of the past; we are certain he shouldn't reflect the GOP of the future.  Donald Trump is not qualified to serve as president and does not deserve your vote.
While that editorial trashed Trump and made the case as to why Republicans and conservatives should not vote for him, yesterday's editorial made the case for voting for Clinton.  Here are editorial highlights:
There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November. We recommend Hillary Clinton.
We don't come to this decision easily. This newspaper has not recommended a Democrat for the nation's highest office since before World War II — if you're counting, that's more than 75 years and nearly 20 elections. The party's over-reliance on government and regulation to remedy the country's ills is at odds with our belief in private-sector ingenuity and innovation. Our values are more about individual liberty, free markets and a strong national defense.
We've been critical of Clinton's handling of certain issues in the past. But unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy.
Resume vs. resume, judgment vs. judgment, this election is no contest.  
In Clinton's eight years in the U.S. Senate, she displayed reach and influence in foreign affairs. Though conservatives like to paint her as nakedly partisan, on Capitol Hill she gained respect from Republicans for working across the aisle: Two-thirds of her bills had GOP co-sponsors and included common ground with some of Congress' most conservative lawmakers.
As President Barack Obama's first secretary of state, she helped make tough calls on the Middle East and the complex struggle against radical Islamic terrorism. It's no accident that hundreds of Republican foreign policy hands back Clinton. She also has the support of dozens of top advisers from previous Republican administrations, including Henry Paulson, John Negroponte, Richard Armitage and Brent Scowcroft.
Those are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups.
We reject the politics of personal destruction. Clinton has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment, but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent's.
Trump's values are hostile to conservatism. He plays on fear — exploiting base instincts of xenophobia, racism and misogyny — to bring out the worst in all of us, rather than the best. His serial shifts on fundamental issues reveal an astounding absence of preparedness. And his improvisational insults and midnight tweets exhibit a dangerous lack of judgment and impulse control.
For all her warts, she is the candidate more likely to keep our nation safe, to protect American ideals and to work across the aisle to uphold the vital domestic institutions that rely on a competent, experienced president.
Hillary Clinton has spent years in the trenches doing the hard work needed to prepare herself to lead our nation. In this race, at this time, she deserves your vote.

Trump Praises Putin at National Security Forum

Last night's National Security Forum seems to have revealed little new other than a re-enforcing of the Trump-Putin bromance and that Trump wants to sharply increase military spending - at the unspoken expense of social and infrastructure spending.  Trump again lied about his support for the Iraq War notwithstanding recorded evidence to the contrast.    With respect to Putin, I suspect Trump would love to emulate Russia's corrupt and oppressive regime, particularly Putin's control of the press and airwaves, the murder of Putin's political opponents and the manner in which Putin cronies rape and pillage Russia to enrich themselves at the expense of the Russian people. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the events at the forum.  Here are highlights:
Donald Trump defended his admiration for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at a forum here Wednesday focused on national security issues, even suggesting that Putin is more worthy of his praise than President Obama.
The Republican presidential nominee said that an alliance with Russia would help defeat the Islamic State, and when asked to defend some of Putin’s aggressions on the world stage, he asked, “Do you want me to start naming some of the things Obama does at the same time?”
Trump also said he appreciated some of the kind words Putin has had for him. “Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I think I’ll take the compliment, okay?”
Clinton offered herself as a model of “absolute rock steadiness” on foreign policy, and Trump promised to be a disruptive force for improvement, saying that under Obama even the military’s generals have been “reduced to rubble.”
He reaffirmed his view that having men and women serve alongside one another is the root of the military’s sexual-assault problem. He said recent intelligence briefings have convinced him that Clinton and other Obama administration officials did not heed the advice of experts. And he praised Putin, noting among other things the Russian president’s “82 percent approval rating.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s forum, Trump delivered a speech in Philadelphia in which he called for a robust expansion of U.S. military capabilities and an end to budget sequestration on defense spending.
Trump said he was not a fan of the Russian system of government but predicted continued good relations with Putin, saying: “I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin, and I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia.”
Trump denied that mutual admiration between him and the Russian leader would benefit Russia in its dealings with the United States. 
Trump leads Clinton by 19 points — 55 percent to 36 percent — among voters who are serving or have served in the U.S. military, according to the NBC News/SurveyMonkey tracking poll.
The demographics of military veterans align closely with Trump’s strongest sources of support. More than 9 in 10 are men, and about 8 in 10 are white. In 2012, among military veterans, Republican Mitt Romney bested Obama by about 20 points, according to exit polls.
On Tuesday, Trump announced that he has been endorsed by 88 retired senior military officials. Not to be outdone, Clinton released a list Wednesday showing the support of 95 retired generals and admirals, more than any recent nonincumbent Democrat, her campaign said. Meanwhile, Clinton noted that Trump’s endorsement figure was more than 400 shy of the last Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Thursday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Trump’s Mind-Boggling History of Corruption

One of the most maddening things about much of the news media is that it has become merely an echo chamber for what political candidates say without ever bothering to verify whether the statements are true or not.  Similarly, in the quest for false equivalency, the actual past and/or behavior of a candidate gets glossed over.  A case in point is Donald trump, a man with a sleazy history of corruption, what amount to political bribes, and business practices that in anyone else would be condemned as unethical and best and outright dishonest in fact.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at the idiocy of the meme that Hillary Clinton is corrupt while Trump continues to get somewhat of a pass on his shady background.  Here are excerpts:
In the heat of a presidential campaign, you’d think that a story about one party’s nominee giving a large contribution to a state attorney general who promptly shut down an inquiry into that nominee’s scam “university” would be enormous news. But we continue to hear almost nothing about what happened between Donald Trump and Florida attorney general Pam Bondi.
I raised this issue last week, but it’s worth an update as well as some contextualization. The story re-emerged last week when The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold reported that Trump paid a penalty to the IRS after his foundation made an illegal contribution to Bondi’s PAC. While the Trump organization characterizes that as a bureaucratic oversight, the basic facts are that Bondi’s office had received multiple complaints from Floridians who said they were cheated by Trump University; while they were looking into it and considering whether to join a lawsuit over Trump University filed by the attorney general of New York State, Bondi called Trump and asked him for a $25,000 donation; shortly after getting the check, Bondi’s office dropped the inquiry. At this point we should note that everything here may be completely innocent. Perhaps Bondi didn’t realize her office was looking into Trump University. Perhaps the fact that Trump’s foundation made the contribution (which, to repeat, is illegal) was just a mix-up. Perhaps when Trump reimbursed the foundation from his personal account, he didn’t realize that’s not how the law works (the foundation would have to get its money back from Bondi’s PAC; he could then make a personal donation if he wanted). Perhaps Bondi’s decision not to pursue the case against Trump was perfectly reasonable.
But here’s the thing: We don’t know the answers to those questions, because almost nobody seems to be pursuing them.
[T]he comparison with stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation is extremely instructive. Whenever we get some new development in any of those Clinton stories, you see blanket coverage — every cable network, every network news program, every newspaper investigates it at length. And even when the new information serves to exonerate Clinton rather than implicate her in wrongdoing, the coverage still emphasizes that the whole thing just “raises questions” about her integrity.The big difference is that there are an enormous number of reporters who get assigned to write stories about those issues regarding Clinton.
When it comes to Trump, on the other hand, we’ve seen a very different pattern. Here’s what happens: A story about some kind of corrupt dealing emerges, usually from the dogged efforts of one or a few journalists; it gets discussed for a couple of days; and then it disappears. Someone might mention it now and again, but the news organizations don’t assign a squad of reporters to look into every aspect of it, so no new facts are brought to light and no new stories get written.
The end result of this process is that because of all that repeated examination of Clinton’s affairs, people become convinced that she must be corrupt to the core. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of negative coverage of Trump, because of course there is, but it’s focused mostly on the crazy things he says on any given day.
But the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering. Here’s a partial list:
  • Trump’s casino bankruptcies, which left investors holding the bag while he skedaddled with their money
  •  Trump’s habit of refusing to pay contractors who had done work for him, many of whom are struggling small businesses
  • Trump University, which includes not only the people who got scammed and the Florida investigation, but also a similar story from Texas where the investigation into Trump U was quashed.
  • The Trump Institute, another get-rich-quick scheme in which Trump allowed a couple of grifters to use his name to bilk people out of their money
  •  The Trump Network, a multi-level marketing venture (a.k.a. pyramid scheme) that involved customers mailing in a urine sample which would be analyzed to produce for them a specially formulated package of multivitamins
  • Trump Model Management, which reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials and work in the U.S. illegally, and kept them in squalid conditions while they earned almost nothing for the work they did
  • ·Trump’s employment of foreign guest workers at his resorts, which involves a claim that he can’t find Americans to do the work
  • ·Trump’s use of hundreds of undocumented workers from Poland in the 1980s, who were paid a pittance for their illegal work
  •  Trump’s history of being charged with housing discrimination
  •  Trump’s connections to mafia figures involved in New York construction
  • ·The time Trump paid the Federal Trade Commission $750,000 over charges that he violated anti-trust laws when trying to take over a rival casino company
  • ·The fact that Trump is now being advised by Roger Ailes, who was forced out as Fox News chief when dozens of women came forward to charge him with sexual harassment. 
To repeat, the point is not that these stories have never been covered, because they have. The point is that they get covered briefly, then everyone in the media moves on. If any of these kinds of stories involved Clinton, news organizations would rush to assign multiple reporters to them, those reporters would start asking questions, and we’d learn more about all of them.
[I]t means that to a great extent, for all the controversy he has caused and all the unflattering stories in the press about him, Trump is still being let off the hook.

A Final Repudiation Of Phyllis Schlafly

I noted briefly a few nights ago that long time foe to equality Phyllis Schlafly had died.  As one might expect, many right wing and Republican outlets are praising her and some even stating that she "will be missed."  I for one will not miss her and, while I won't be drinking a champagne toast to her passing, I do think that the world became a slightly better place with her toxic message of division and hate with one less voice.  A piece on the Americans United for Separation of Church and State takes a retrospective on Schlfly and the misogyny she so long peddled.  She is a woman who wanted to re-criminalize homosexuality even though she had a gay child herself.  Not exactly a pillar of loving motherhood.  Here are some highlights from the retrospective:
“Today, Phyllis Schlafly died like she lived – with dignity and a smile,” wrote Ed Martin, president of the Eagle Forum, a group Schlafly founded. “Surrounded by her family, Phyllis passed away and entered her reward with the Lord. Her family, friends and staff will miss her. Her nation will be eternally grateful.”
Schlafly was best known for defeating the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the 1970s, but her larger  mission was one of seeking to deny people their rights – just because those people failed to live up to her religious ideals.
In recent years, Schlafly’s Eagle Forum turned its ire on the LGBT community, with a flood of hysterical op-eds and articles. At one point, Schlafly even proposed impeaching judges who upheld marriage equality and called on Congress to cut off all federal aid to any state that permitted the practice.
Her nation will be eternally grateful? Sorry, but I have to disagree. Schlafly’s vision of America was one where right-wing Christians of her stripe – she was a traditionalist Roman Catholic but often sounded like a fundamentalist, Religious Right-style evangelical – ruled the roost. Others were second-class citizens. Most Americans aren't grateful for her tireless work to roll back women’s reproductive rights or the hate she spread against those Americans she derisively called “the gays.”
Firmly grounded in an “Ozzie and Harriet” mythology, Schlafly was clueless about the realities of modern life. In 1981, she told a U.S. Senate committee that women who are sexually harassed have only themselves to blame. Lecherous bosses, said Schlafly, “hardly ever ask sexual favors of women from whom the certain answer is ‘No.’ Virtuous women are seldom accosted by unwelcome sexual propositions or familiarities, obscene talk or profane language.”
She opposed equal pay for women, fought efforts to make child care more affordable and plentiful and opposed programs to give young people sex education in public schools. (Sex ed., she once opined, is “a principal cause of teenage pregnancy.”)
Schlafly’s views belong to an America of the past. They’re anchored in the America she idealized – the fake 1950 vision of a white, Christian nation where school kids prayed on command and God gave us nuclear weapons to scare off the Reds.
Schlafly’s Potemkin Village of 1950s nostalgia collapsed long ago. It collapsed when some Americans had the temerity to point out that the vision didn’t include them – and noted, by the way, the 1950s weren’t so great for lots of people: blacks living in the Jim Crow South, women fighting in court for the right to work in certain professions, Jewish families seeking the right to live in neighborhoods that sought to exclude them and atheists daring to speak against the “God and country” rhetoric of the Eisenhower Era, to name a few.
Phyllis Schlafly does not represent the future. Her vision is firmly grounded in the past, and, with luck, the nation will continue speeding past it so rapidly that soon none of us will even be able to see its vague outlines.
If you doubt that, simply look at the world around you. You will see that Schlafly’s vision has been repudiated. It was repudiated this morning when millions of women suited up for work in a myriad of professions. It was repudiated all over the nation by same-sex couples, now legally married, who woke up and started another routine day.
You can see the repudiation in the eyes of immigrant families working hard to make the American Dream real for them. It’s reflected in the faces of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist and Wiccan public school students who long ago decided they won’t accept second-class status.
Schlafly dreamed of an America based on rejection and exclusion. That is not our America. Our America is better than Phyllis Schlafly.  . . . The story of America is not the story of Phyllis Schlafly. We have repudiated her narrow and mean-spirited vision. We know that it’s a relic of a nastier, more unpleasant time.  We won't go back there.
Yes, Phyllis Schlafly helped defeat the ERA. But she lost the larger cultural war. And for that, we can be truly grateful.
As one reader noted in an e-mail to me, Bette Davis is reported to have said about Joan Crawford: Joan Crawford's death "you're only supposed to speak good of the dead... so she's dead ~ good! Phyllis Schlafly is dead. Good!  It is far past time that Schlafly be recognized for the toxic individuals that they are and for good and decent people to call them out for what they are.  Schlafly damaged many lives and enriched herself in the process.